Card advantage is a very basic concept in many card games. The term describes the upper edge that players have in a game when they’ve gathered more resources to work with than their opponent. This usually leads to the player having more options when compared to his/her opponent, which means that he/she is favored to win the game. In a normal 1vs1 match of Magic, it’s easy to spot which player has card advantage. Simply check the number of cards in both players’ hands and/or count the number of permanents on each side of the battlefield.
However, in multiplayer games, it gets a bit more tricky than just counting the number of cards. This effect is compounded in EDH games. Let me present an example: in a four player game, player A casts a removal spell to destroy one of player B’s creatures. That might look like an even trade, but in essence, player C and D are rid of a removal spell and a threat, all without doing anything.
Let’s dive deeper into the topic of acquiring and keeping card advantage in EDH.
Board-wipes are the easiest way to trade multiple cards for one. When you cast Wrath of God to take out seven opposing creatures and lose only one or two of your own, it’s definitely worth it. With the EDH staple Cyclonic Rift, not only do you save yourself from a lethal alpha strike attack, but you also bounce your opponent’s board at the end of their turn, best after they just spent all their mana to cast stuff - your opponent just lost tempo. Now they’ve got a grip full of cards and are forced to discard down to the maximum hand size of seven, giving you card advantage.
Another way to get ahead is by using every bit of value that your cards provide. In a Karador, Ghost Chieftain EDH deck, you can cast the same big creatures from your graveyard every turn. Meanwhile, your opponents are spending cards from their hands to deal with your recurring threats - you don’t lose any cards in those trades.
In this case, you’re advancing your range of options by using the graveyard as an additional resource - almost like an extension of your hand. On the same level, Life from the Loam gives you all you need. It assures that you hit land drops, it gets back powerful lands and it fills your graveyard for more synergy, like casting cards with Flashback.
And of course drawing cards gets you ahead in the game! A neat way of regaining dominance is through casting Recurring Insight. Should one particular opponent be way up on cards in hand, you can catch up first, then thanks to the Rebound clause, pull ahead on the next turn.
Isperia, Supreme Judge is also a very interesting card, as she lets you draw cards each time a creature is swinging your way. This may actually stop your opponents from attacking you at all. You don’t net any cards, but that’s just fine because when creatures aren’t attacking you, they’re likely heading into another player’s direction! And when two opponents hit each other and trade creatures as well as combat tricks, you obtain virtual card advantage.
There are many other ways of getting card advantage and you can spot them yourself. In your next EDH game, keep an eye out on how many cards your opponents have compared to how many you have. Keep in mind which cards swing the favor toward you and which cards your opponents play that swing favor towards them. By wisely using your cards, you can gain the upper hand and eventually win the game.
One last thing: keep in mind that even if someone has all the cards and options, that advantage means next to nothing when they can’t effectively use them.
Written by Malte Smits