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What’s the Worst Play You’ve Ever Made?

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Last week William Jensen wrote an article putting the five biggest mistakes that he's ever made in a match on display. Some would say that it's not very productive to dwell on errors, but I'm inclined to believe that Huey became so great at the game in part by realizing that he was capable of pedestrian boneheadery, and using this to motivate himself to be better.

This article got me thinking about some of the bigger errors that I've made in matches. I Spell Pierced a Daze one time, and that's certainly one of the more humbling stories of my life, but there are two that come to mind that are far more compelling.


When the GP format in Minneapolis was Modern I was 6-1 playing Izzet Delver and I was paired against Merfolk. I won game one and was in great position for game two, with a Vedalken Shackles in play and a Lightning Bolt in hand. I was, however, at three and my opponent controlled a Master of Waves and a Mutavault. I drew a second Vedalken Shackles on my turn, and with five mana I had the ability to cast it and activate one Shackles. If I were playing for a long game, this play might have made sense as I would be getting the Shackles in under a counterspell. This game, however, would end the next turn. My opponent drew and played Lord of Atlantis and by playing the second Shackles I was unable to interact with two Islandwalking threats. It just didn't make any sense to play a second Shackles while the first was untapped, and I lost this game and later the match because of it.

The other big mistake that comes to mind stands out largely because of how I threw away a tournament when the deck I had designed was one of the best that I had ever brought to the table.

[deck title="Mono Blue Trading Post"]
[spells]
2 Phyrexian Metamorph
2 Wurmcoil Engine
3 Phantasmal Image
4 Snapcaster Mage
4 Ichor Wellspring
4 Pristine Talisman
2 Trading Post
2 Dismember
4 Mana Leak
3 Mental Misstep
4 Vapor Snag
4 Ponder
[/spells]
[lands]
16 Island
2 Buried Ruin
4 Phyrexia's Core
[/lands]
[sideboard]
1 Batterskull
2 Consecrated Sphinx
1 Phantasmal Image
2 Dissipate
1 Mental Misstep
1 Negate
3 Steel Sabotage
2 Cavern of Souls
2 Ghost Quarter
[/sideboard]
[/deck]

With an early game that consisted of copying whatever your opponent was doing or outright countering it while you gained incremental card advantage and Vapor Snagged or Dismembered whatever they were trying to do, and a late game that consisted of an endless stream of Wurmcoil Engines, this deck was a thing of beauty. The big downside was that the deck was often incredibly hard to play.

My big mistake with this deck came against Naya Pod. My opponent had just Podded into a Zealous Conscripts, and it was getting to be do or die time on my side of the table. On my turn I played a Phrexian Metamorph, copied the Conscripts and stole the Birthing Pod, using it to Pod into a Wurmcoil Engine. This was a pretty solid position, except I forgot one thing... I neglected to sacrifice my opponent's Birthing Pod to Phyrexia's Core. Things spun out of control from there as they tend to do when you face down an active Pod, and I lost. It was only round two or three or an SCG Open, but with how good this deck was I had let myself down probably more than any other match I have ever played.

These mistakes and others weight on me sometimes, but the most important thing is to use them as teaching tools, not reasons to get down on yourself.

So what's the biggest Magic mistake you've ever made?

10 thoughts on “What’s the Worst Play You’ve Ever Made?

  1. I died to a Karma, with no basic plains in play, with a disenchant in hand, while a conversion was changing my mountains to…plains. Yes this was a very, very long time ago. Yes I still remember it.

  2. The format was Saga / Masques Standard, I was playing a deck I had come up with myself with land destruction, bounce, Ports, basically anything I could find to keep my opponents mana screwed so that my Flailing creatures were actually good.

    I eventually get a Flailing Manticore out and at the end of my turn my opponent confidently taps all his lands, I respond by tapping some of mine, only to find out he was actually 1 mana short of killing it so I shouldn’t have tapped any. He then proceeds to kill it on his turn, when I am 1 mana short of keeping the Manticore alive…

  3. I was playing top 8 in a Modern PTQ with Jeskai Isochron Scepter (Leak, Bolt, Helix, Path, Silence). My opponent was on GW beatdown, and I resolved a Scepter with Path on it on turn 2 in game 3. Then he played Thalia.

    Thalia made me pay 2 + 1 to cast spells off Scepter, and was causing me such a headache. I was trying to think 2 turns ahead, considering Thalia math, and how I could stabilize. I was pathing guys every turn, but eventually I just got beat down.

    After the match, a judge friend, who watched a lot of the game in question simply asked, “Why didn’t you just Path Thalia?”

    Good freakin’ question… I just formed this idea in my mind that Thalia was this gigantic problem that I couldn’t solve, and didn’t think of Pathing her. What a doofus I was.

  4. I’ve got the best one by far. Top 8 of an Open trial at SCG. I’m playing Junk pre Treasure cruise era. I cast turn 1 thoughtseize, he reveals his hand to be Obstinate Baloth, and miscellaneous scapeshift pieces. So my thought process was, I don’t want him being able to play that Baloth for free off my Liliana, I should get rid of it now…Yea needless to say, even though I won the round I absolutely lost to my opponents Turn 0 Free Obstinate Baloth…

  5. PTQ finals in zendikar/scars era. I was facing down a raging ravine, taking 3 damage a turn, constantly casting tumble magnets. I never once activated a magnet, and ended the game with 3 of them on the board. I still remember that game, single worst game of magic I have ever managed to play. I still have the deck. It was designed primarily to beat caw-blade (and beat a number of them that day), but also had decent match-ups against most of the other random decks. Sad I didn’t have a chance to go to Pro-tour and show it off.

  6. It was game 3 of the finals of the 2010 Connecticut states tournament. I was playing a Temur Fauna Shaman/Vengevine concoction that also featured Trinket Mage/Basilisk Collar/Cunning Sparkmage and Jace, the Mind Sculptor. I was playing against Eldrazi Green (Joraga Treespeaker, Overgrown Battlement etc. into Primeval Titan/Eye of Ugin/Ulamog/Emrakul).
    The game had gotten to a state where I was pressuring his life total, but was a turn or two away from developing a lethal board presence. I had an active Jace and Fauna Shaman, but needed a few more creatures to finish punching through his array of defensive creatures. I also had Sparkmage/Collar active, so if he didn’t find a non-Ulamog threat his mana would start to dwindle and I’d be able to punch through.
    He had an Eye of Ugin in play and enough mana to activate it at the end of my turn and then cast Ulamog. I decided to tap my Sparkmage on my turn to kill a mana creature. Instead of activating Eye of Ugin in response, he cast his last card in hand, a Summoning Trap. In true slowroll fashion, the first six cards were whiffs and the seventh card was Emrakul.
    I could have achieved my same desired play by simply waiting until he used his mana on the Eye of Ugin activation. The Sparkmage would have been available to shoot down the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and I would have taken home the title. Instead, I had half of my permanents annihilated and was unable to mount enough of a comeback to kill him before dying to Emrakul.

  7. I played a Tezzeret, but forgot that my Inkmoth Nexus had already been in play a turn and my opponent had no flyers.I could have turned it into a 5/5 with infect and ended the game. He also was not playing much effective removal that I can recall, but was able to stall out the game until he came up with a way to win. I could have won, but effectively forgot to attack. I would have FNM that night. (I’m not much of a serious competitor outside of “FNM.”)

  8. PTQ finals, opponent at 5 life, taps Underground River for blue to cast Illusions of Grandeur, I’m holding Fireblast and said sure. He goes to 24 life and wins the match.

    1. I’d say that this is the roughest, mostly because it’s a PTQ finals. Was there a moment where you both confirmed him at 4 with Illusions on the stack? I’m not sure if that would make this worse or better.

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