As you all well know, in a Magic the Gathering game, Tempo is very important. I have in my many previous articles stressed on the importance of Tempo and how certain cards become good because it provides tempo in one way or another. Tempo can be provided either by Card Draw, Removing permanents or even discarding cards in your opponent’s hand.
Today though, we are going to talk about the Turn that Matters. In my experience of playing Magic the Gathering throughout the years, there was one thing that I noticed, which is the Tempo on Turn 4.
The 4th turn of every game is when you make or break, and where Tempo really matters. What this means is that if your opponent is too far ahead and there is no way you can recover to cushion your life points, the game would most of the time be over in a few turns later. This applies in all terms, be it the amount of permanents, cards or even life points that you or your opponent is ahead.
Its easier if we have a look at some of the best 4 cost cards in the Constructed format.
All the cards above has impacted the Standard format in one way or another. The Tempo that each card provides either puts the player overwhelmingly ahead or recovers enough that the player is cushioned. The cards above when played at Turn 4 would effect the board tremendously be it wiping the board off any creatures, stabilizing the board state with two creatures and gaining 2 life or being ahead in cards and permanents.
What is more frightening is being able to cast out these cards at Turn 3 either via Ramping (like Rampant Growth) or Mana Creatures (like Elvish Mystics). The amount of Tempo that the above cards generate (maybe except Supreme Verdict) is tremendous and will out pace whatever the opponent has played during the previous three turns.
To have a better look on how good Turn 4 cards are, and how important the Tempo on Turn 4 is, let’s have a look at a few cards that are almost equivalent but 5 Mana Costs instead.
Yes, I know that Jace, Unraveler of Secrets and Regisaur Alpha pales in comparison to Huntmaster of the Fells and Jace, the Mind Sculptor but they do the same thing (almost). The cards provide Tempo via either cards, permanents or even straight power. The difference is that these cards costs 5 Mana which is a turn later and may be a turn too late.
If say your opponent drops a Goblin Guide which deals a total of 10 damage, not only would you have to deal with that, but you would also have to deal with their other threats until up to Turn 5. A deck that plays on curve would drop threats after threats with each forcing you to answer either independently or by a card that would impact the board as a whole, and Turn 5 maybe just too late to drop a striking card.
Thus, the next time that you build a deck or play a game of Magic the Gathering, keep in mind the Tempo and the turn that matters. Turn 4 is the decisive turn can help you either stabilize the board enough to pull you back in the game, or to end up further back and may not be able to recover to win the game.