Guidelines for The Play’s The Thing Submissions

Posted in Feature on September 27, 2005

By Zvi Mowshowitz

These are the guidelines for sending in play situations for my column, The Play's The Thing. I appreciate everything that has been sent in and have read all your feedback, but often the situations sent in turn out to be unusable, and normally that's because there is important information missing. To make sure that players sending in scenarios have the best chance of getting chosen to be included in the column, I've put together this short list of guidelines so that you'll know exactly what you need to send in a situation and have a good chance to see it up on the site.

Before I get to the exact guidelines, I'll point out that the crucial factor underneath all this is that I need to know the full details of the situation to do a proper analysis, and the readers need the full details to be able to follow along and do their own analysis. In addition to making sure you have all of the information, these guidelines should help tell you if the situation you were in would be a good fit for this column.

For a good example, let's take a look at the scenario that was sent in and then used in "The Last Gasp"

Your opponent is the best player at your local store. Rather than win as often as he can by using standardized decks, he instead chooses to play strange builds in order to keep himself challenged and keep it fair. You're both playing monoblue decks, and the end is near. He only has four cards left in his library, and you've got him down to three lands in play and four life points, but you're at only one life. The format is Legacy, so your opponent could be running almost anything. What you do know is that he is playing a deck heavy on counters including Force of Will and Thwart. He also has an unknown amount of bounce in his deck. We don't know where all the other lands went, but for now assume that Upheaval is responsible but that your deck doesn't contain any more copies.

It is currently your precombat main phase.

YOU (1 life): in play - Isochron Scepter (imprinted with Counterspell), Island x9 (three with Annex enchanting them); in hand - Counterspell, Phantom Warrior, Evacuation, Echoing Truth, Reins of Power; in library - 20 cards
OPP (4 life): in play - Island x3, Vedalken Shackles (tapped, stealing Fatespinner), Ophidian (tapped); in hand - 7 cards; in library - 4 cards
--Benjamin Visger

I paraphrased the description that was sent in, but there's a lot of good information there and it is vital to the situation at hand. In this case, it is vital to know what cards are in your opponent's deck and the exact contents of his graveyard; this would have been an even better example if we had known more about the opponent's graveyard. The important things are that we know the life totals, we know all the cards in play, we know how many cards each player has in hand and we whose turn it is and which part of that turn they are currently in. If any of that information is missing, I'd have to make something up that seemed to fit. In this case, the number of cards in each library is highly relevant and also needs to be included. If it is not included, the assumption is that both players have a large amount of cards in their library and no one is in danger of running out of cards.

Any other facts about the game need to be included. What type of tournament was it, or was it a casual or playtest game or even a hypothetical situation you were talking about with your friends? What format are you playing (even if it seems like it should be obvious)? Who is your opponent, and what do you know about him and his deck? What happened in any previous games? Do you know any of the cards in his hand? Often there will be information that is vital to a decision and it might not be obvious that it is important. The most common example is whether an opponent had an opportunity to play a card you're worried is in his hand – if you're worried he might have a Shock, the game where he has had no reason to cast one the entire game is very different from the one where he would have used it last turn.

So with all that I mind, here are the guidelines. Please submit in the following format by substituting the information accurate to your game for the descriptions in italics.

Format and any background information
Whose turn it is, and what part of the turn (e.g. It is your opponent's upkeep)
YOU (Your life total): in play – Your cards in play; in hand – Your cards in hand.
OPP (Opponent's life total): in play – His cards in play; in hand – His Number of Cards in Hand, and anything you know about them.
Any additional information.

I will continue to update the guidelines as the column evolves. The other important thing to know is what will normally make a good play situation, that way you can avoid sending in situations that can't be used and be on the lookout for good ones that happen in the future. Make sure it passes these tests:

  1. Understanding the situation can't require extensive knowledge of the format you are playing, even if it is Standard. A few sentences describing both decks will have to be good enough to get readers the information they need to know.
  2. You need to have complete knowledge of the situation, or close enough to complete knowledge that you can fill in the blanks without changing the situation, in which case you should fill in those blanks.
  3. There has to be a strategically interesting decision to make. There is a lot to be learned from studying your own mistakes, where you make what is obviously the wrong decision and make sure that you never do it again. There can even be a lot to be learned from figuring out why someone else has made a terrible mistake. But this is not a column about forgetting to attack, not playing a land on turn two by mistake or other obvious blunders. Note that you need to make sure that the decision doesn't rely too heavily on in-depth knowledge of the format that can't be passed along quickly (see #1).

If all of that is ok and you want me to use your situation in my column, then please send it in using the email link below!

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