Serj spun around attempting to dodge the blow from the Urchin’s summoned Wingsteed Rider. The Pegasus rider still managed to strike him, Serj’s creatures nowhere to be found from the previous attack. in anger he tossed a blue orb from his hand and a Frost Lynx appeared, encasing the Rider in ice, rendering it helpless for the following assault.
The Urchin laughed as he tossed a red orb into the fray, the Rider broke free just enough to slam a hammer down upon Serj’s lynx, killing it dead. As the hammer fell, the rider gained even more incremental power and in time would soon be attacking twice as hard.
“Tempo” the dirty boy offered with a filthy grin.
Hello again Magic beginners! Today’s topic will involve a very important aspect of the game, Tempo. Tempo is a term to describe any advantage a player can gain from a typical turn in the game. This advantage can be gained in various ways including card drawing and spells with mass effects. In the example above, the Urchin plays Fall of the Hammer on a Heroic creature to not only kill Serj’s Lynx but increase his creatures power as well for a two for one effect.
Let’s take a look at even more examples of tempo.
When I first started playing one of the meanest kids on the block was a deck called “Land Trash”. This deck was built to destroy an opponent’s lands and make sure that no high costing and more powerful spells could be played. Rarely would you have more than one land in play when playing against this deck. The deck was mean and in result spells that destroy land have been raised in cost and are now virtually unplayable. This was a prefect example of tempo. By playing Land Trash, you dictated the speed of the game.
Mana destruction has now comes in the form of spells like Propaganda. This has been one of my favorite cards since it’s printing. It offers multiple instances of tempo with every creature that attacks each turn. this advantage becomes huge as the game goes on and I’m free casting while my opponent is debating with himself whether casting a spell from his hand or attacking is more important. Another favorite cards spell of mine is Suppression Field. This spell single handedly won me a few games in Modern vs Birthing Pod and Splinter Twin decks and has been a thorn in the side of any creatures with activated abilities.
Gaining an advantage on an opponent through the use of lowered spell costs or creatures that have mana abilities have been around since Magic’s golden age. Creatures like Llanowar Elves and Birds of Paradise fueled decks for years. In the modern era of Magic, cards with abilities like Convoke have decreased mana costs of spells as well as some tribal creatures like Ragemonger for example. Small incremental advantages with reduced mama costs create massive advantages long term. For instance, if a spell with a casting cost of three is reduced by one, the third time you cast it that spell would in effect, be free. That’s advantage.
Making sure your deck has a good mana curve is essential in gaining tempo. We have all been the guy that has sat facing our opponent, high casting cost spells in our hands and doing nothing but playing lands while getting punched in the face by a faster deck. Decks that have spells of various casting costs enable us to be able to play something every turn if need be. Decks that enabled this form of tempo best were decks like Mono Red Aggro or Mono Green Aggro.
Want to know what’s better than killing one creature with a spell? Killing two creatures with a spell. As long as I have been playing Magic, spells like Wrath of God have been feared. Why? because they can kill any battlefield advantage you may have gained with a tap of just a few mana. What makes it even worse is this advantage is gained by killing multiple creatures with a single card. Trading one card for multiple cards will always gain you an advantage.
Card advantage can also be gained in the form of discard and card drawing spells. Casting a one casting cost discard spell to force a player to discard a three casting cost spell creates an incremental card advantage. That one mana discard spell has kept a creature form attacking you later in the game or a spell from dealing you damage or a similar negative effect. Drawing additional cards also helps tempo. Casting one spell to draw two cards speeds up the deck a tiny bit to get you the cards you need to win or additional lands to play later.
Players know that gaining multiple turns get you wins. It paralyzes the opponent and causes tempo, simple as that. These spells gain so much advantage that they are rarely ever printed and are now more difficult to cast than ever.
An opponent plays aa Akroan Skyguard that you can kill with a Doom Blade in your hand. you wait, a few turns into the game your opponent now casts Armored Ascension on that 1/1. By waiting to cast the Doom Blade, you have caused your opponent to waste not only mana for the Skyguard, mana for the Armored Ascension as well as losing two cards to your one. Another perfect example of tempo by playing strategically.
Trimming Your Deck
Over the years, some spells have been made obsolete by the printing or better and more efficient spells. For example, Scathe Zombies has been around for a long time and has been printed in quite a few sets. With the printing of Innistrad, Walking Corpse has made Scathe Zombies worthless. Look through your decks and make sure no better versions of your cards haven’t been printed.
With time and experience you will be able to see card advantage and tempo firsthand and in realtime. Watch a few games your friends may be involved in. Watch how advantage sways in a match. Take note how players with the most advantage win games.
Aiokii, when not getting something he really wanted as a child, had been known to have something called a Tempo Tantrum. Contact him on Twitter or Facebook or message or post in the comments below. Also take the time to check out Reddit Budgetdecks for cheap Magic goodness.