Define This: Jedi Mind Tricks
In this new set of the Define This series, we will be going into specific notions regarding Magic vocabulary. While some words are easy to define, others have a sturdy theoretical background or are simply not easy to describe. In this latest chapter, we will be reviewing what some call Jedi Mind Tricks.
A Word of Caution
A Jedi Mind Trick is an act outside the game that tends to influence your opponent's plays. As such, they are manipulation techniques – meaning, if you feel wrong about manipulating people, then you probably shouldn't use these. These tricks are in a morally grey area. They are, however, absolutely tournament legal, implying that if you get caught doing one of these, the judge will tell you to be more careful next time.
Please keep in mind that I, for one, do not believe that it is wrong to use these tricks. In a casual game of Magic, I find it fun to look back at a time when I or my opponents fell for a silly trick. In a competitive match, I have no remorse exploiting one of my opponent's weaknesses, who probably will (or should) do the same thing to me whenever possible. However, I do reckon that we are talking about shady actions here, and not everyone might appreciate the psychological game in Magic.
With all that said, let's get into it! I am going to go over the most famous mind tricks players come across. There are probably many more, but these are the ones I was able to gather from my discussion with friends and teammates. These should cover the vast majority of what you'll encounter.
The Pencil Trick
The Pencil Trick is probably the most famous Jedi Mind Trick of them all.
This trick is meant to have your opponent launch a reckless attack. For example, let's say your opponent has one big creature and you have several small ones. As your opponent starts to think about his or her next combat step, you pick up your pen as if you're ready to note your new life total. Of course, you have no idea what your life total will be because it's a tricky combat step. However, your opponent might perceive that as you not willing to block should he chose to attack with his one big creature. If you adopt an attitude of aggressively (not in a rude manner, more in a hurrying manner) asking your opponent if you fall to X, your opponent is likely to not take the time to think about the attack and go all out. You can then create a blowout with a combat trick or win on the crackback.
Given how famous this mind trick is, it has been a while since I have seen or heard of anyone falling for it. However, this trick is not to be underestimated just because you know about it. It has some subtle variations on other parts of the game. One example is during a selective discard. If you cast Thoughtseize and your opponent reveals his or her hand while clearly signaling you to take a good card, make sure you are not being tricked into taking the second-best card from that hand. I know I have done that on several occasions while playing decks like Grishoalbrand, which are widely misunderstood by many players. It doesn't always work, and I always mention it when they take a wrong line after the match. But as I have said before, I believe this is still fair play. This is a very slippery grey area, so keep in mind that some nice people might not be on the right side of that line and mind tricks can be anywhere.
The Oops Not That One
This one is probably the one I see the most around me, probably because people don't know about it. This trick is meant to have your opponent fight over something they will eventually lose once you have twice the same card in hand. Let's take an example.
Imagine Player A has two cards in hand: two Fatal Pushes. Player B also has two cards in hand: a Negate and a Glint-Sleeve Siphoner, with about a million energy counters. Player A knows, however, that Player B is holding a Negate from a previous Duress. The name of the game becomes: Get rid of the Negate.
The mind trick proceeds as follow: Player B plays Siphoner. Player A lays out his cards in front of him, takes time to think, then lifts one of the Fatal Pushes. Player A then acts as if it wasn't the right card, puts it back down, then takes the other Fatal Push and casts it on Siphoner.
The trick here is to pretend you only have one Push for that threat, prompting your opponent to think that, much like in Mulan, the Siphoner is worth fighting for. Thinking that he can win this fight, Player B then proceeds to counter the spell with Negate. Player A can then swoop in with the second Fatal Push to wipe the board and hand of Player B.
This trick is almost as common as it is unsuccessful. I know I've never fallen for it, but I know some of my teammates and ex-teammates still use it during Pro Tours. I guess you could give it a try as well. Try to find a spot wherein, much like Napoleon at Austerlitz, if your opponent retreats, you lose and you also have twice of the same effect in hand. Prompt them to fight a fight you know they'll lose.
The Text Trick
This one is really sneaky. This happens when one of the players wants to know if a certain card is in the opponent's hand.
Let's say Remi and Johnny are playing a game of Amonkhet Draft. Remi knows that Johnny has a Samut, Voice of Dissent in his deck, so he can't really attack into five mana up. However, if he attacks with everything, Samut is the only thing that can stop the attack from being lethal. Should he attack or not? Pretty hard to tell. Remi then asks an innocent question:
"Could you please remind me of Samut's text?"
Remi knows perfectly well the text on Samut, but that's not what he's after. At this point, Johnny is struggling not to look at the Samut in his hand. The slightest move in his eyes will tell Remi the entire and ugly truth… and harnessing that reflex not to look is actually very hard. Any sign of struggle will also reveal the presence of Samut in Johnny's hand. There's no way out if you're unprepared.
This particular example happened between two of my teammates during a testing session. One of the most efficient ways I have found to fight this trick is to put your hand down and lean back before thinking about anything else. Regardless of whether you have it or not, your eyes won't betray you if there's nothing to watch.
Be careful with this one. As I've mentioned, this trick is sneaky and extremely efficient on unaware players. I, myself, never use it. It just doesn't feel right. (Even though it's perfectly legal to talk to your opponent.) I guess that think line is something even I wouldn't cross.
And there you have it! As I have already mentioned, while these techniques are a bit shady, they are absolutely tournament legal, so you must watch out for them. I do believe that mind games, such as the ones I've discussed, are an intricate part of Magic, and is one of the many reasons why pixels will never truly replace paper Magic. You can either chose to turn to the Dark Side and become a Sith Lord or remain true to your morals and values and remain on the bright side of Jedi Mind Tricks. But where you draw the line is entirely up to you.
As always, remember to not let the fear of the lingo get to you. Take your time to understand concepts; ask questions when there is something you don't know or understand. Your life will become much easier. Understanding Magic to its fullest leads to bliss one can only dream of but is only possible if you understand what's going on. Until next time!
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.