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Card Advantage. It’s a term that we hear thrown around in games of Magic, particularly during coverage at Pro Tours or other competitive level tournaments. Most of us have a general idea of what Card Advantage means, but it’s not always clear what the specifics are or when it’s appropriate to use the term. So instead we nod and smile and hope no one catches us out.
Today, we’ll be putting an end to those moments of doubt by covering the major aspects of Card Advantage. We’ll be going over what Card Advantage means, what it isn’t, and when to use it. We’ll also be covering Card Advantage versus Board Advantage, and take a look at what slices of the color pie yield the most Card Advantage.
We’re not n00bs anymore, but we’re not yet at the Pro Tour yet! This is for people who already play at Friday Night Magic but want to imrpove and get better. This is for intermediates, and this is Tolarian Tutor!
Defining Card Advantage
So what is Card Advantage? The best way we can define Card Advantage is:
A game action that either generates more quantifiable benefits or resources to you than it costs, OR
A game action that takes away more quantifiable resources from your opponents than it costs.
Game actions in Magic are usually playing cards, which are your main resource in the game. Remember, Card Advantage is Resource Advantage in Magic, so when we evaluate cards to see if they can give you Card Advantage, you’ll need to ask yourself three questions:
How many cards did this cost you?
How many cards did this make your opponent lose?
How many cards did this gain you?
Let’s take a look at Divination. Divination is a sorcery that costs 2 and a Blue, and says: “Draw Two Cards”. So for the cost of one card – casting Divination – you gain two cards. This is what many players call a “Two For One”. You’ve basically come ahead by one card, which gives you more resources – therefore, more Card Advantage.
You can also gain Card Advantage without having to draw cards. For example, say your opponent has a Sanguine Glorifier with the enchantment aura Mark of the Vampire attached to it. You’re able to kill it using an Impale, getting rid of two of their cards using a single card. Again, this is a “Two For One” situation, but instead of coming ahead by a card, you’ve pushed your opponent back and deprived them of two resources.
Discard effects, like Mind Rot, also gain you Card Advantage by depriving your opponent of resources. For 2 and a Black, you force your opponent to discard two cards from their hand – cards that they could have used to establish board presence or hurt your resources. Again, this is a “Two for One”, and you’ve pulled ahead.