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Remember Occam’s razor

November 30, 2011

A principle that is a common guideline in many professions and areas in life is a principle called Occam’s razor, which one should also apply when playing Magic.

You probably heard of this principle at least once in your life but probably in a much simpler form, maybe something like this:

The simplest answer is often the best one.

All competitive players dream of making the convoluted plays that can salvage games that already seemed lost or the plays that makes your opponent look like a donkey. Being able to pull off plays of that level is somewhat of a hallmark about how good you are as a player.

But too often people are getting too cute or trickier than their own good. I think it’s a common characteristic you often find on players that are “good” and are striving towards getting “great”. They simply out thinks themselves a lot and would have been better of with just going for the clean and precise play. As Occam’s razor suggest, those play often have a higher expected value.

A common example of this how people play with instant speed removal. We all have some fundamental programming in our backbone that tell us to wait as long as possible to play our instants. But you know what, playing that Doom Blade on your opponents Lord of the Unreal while your opponent is tapped out is usually a lot better to do on your mainphase than passing it back before playing it. He could have countermagic, bounce or even present another factor that makes the whole scenario a lot more complex for you.

Brainstorm is another great example. It’s an instant, sure, but the fact that you *can* play it on your opponents turn doesn’t mean it’s better to do so. Partially due to the increasing of Legacy exposure due to the SCG Tour, that fact has really spread out across the playerbase and at least I for one see and hear a lot more about mainphase Brainstorms than I used to.

With all that said, it’s important to notice the “often” part of Occam’s razor. While the simplest and most straightforward route of play is often the best one, it’s not always the best one. Not only being able to make complex plays but more importantly knowing *when* the convoluted line of plays is the one with the highest expected value is a hallmark of those we call the “masters” of this game.

As a closing note I want to apologize for the relatively seldom updates I have done on the blog for the recent weeks. It’s a combination of a lot of things that have prohibit me from posting more. Among others things my column on Blackborder.com takes a lot of the material I used to post here, I’m having a particularly intense period in my studies up until Christmas as well as having a bit of a dry spell on topics I find worth mentioning here. It’s not going to get better over night but I just wanted to say that I haven’t forget about you, dear readers. The blog is not dead my any means.

I do ocationally post stuff on my Twitter account, so if you aren’t following me (@bzander) on Twitter I suggest you do.

Until next time…

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One Comment leave one →
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