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Almost every successful Magic deck is built to be able to curve out. It's the goal of any opening hand, which allows you to spend all of your mana every turn to avoid wasting any resources and allow yourself to get as far ahead as the game rules allow. Despite that, sometimes it's better to do nothing than to use your mana on any given turn. In fact, the easiest way to identify a newer player is to see if they cast spells they don't need to that they could get more use out of later.
The first lesson comes with Shock.
Last week, I was at my local game store, and two guys who had never played Magic came in and asked about it. The store set them up with a table and some Learn to Play decks, taught them the basic rules, and left them to do their thing, so I tried to watch to make sure they understood the rules and to answer any questions. Sure enough, the first thing that happened, the player with the red deck used Shock to put his opponent down to eighteen on the first turn.
I expect that everyone reading this is at the point where they know why that probably wasn't the best play. This player wasn't stupid. Far from it. He just didn't know how games played out, and when you're just starting out, it's hard to know why doing nothing can be better than doing something.
I know card games pretty well, and I recently started playing Plants vs. Zombies Heroes because a friend was playing a lot. What's the first thing I do when I start playing? Lava Axe my opponent on the first turn. Why? I don't know, I should know better, but five seemed like a lot of damage, and I didn't want to just do nothing…
Every time I learn a new game, I have to relearn the pacing of the game to see if I usually have time to use all my spells if I take a turn off at some point. It's still a lot more natural for me to hold onto a spell and do nothing in a turn of Magic than Hearthstone, just because I know Magic better. I think it'll always be a little counterintuitive that doing nothing can be the best way to accomplish something.
So we all know not to use a cheap burn spell on our opponent in the early-game. We might want to use it on a creature (we almost always will), and even if we don't, we'll have the ability to cast it later if we need to damage the opponent, and we'd rather they didn't know that they had less life. Great, that makes sense.
The next lesson we learn is to use removal judiciously. I have a Doom Blade and pass with two mana. My opponent casts a Grizzly Bear. I choose not to kill it because I'm about to play a Hill Giant, so the Grizzly Bear won't matter and I'll be able to answer a more important creature later. I wasted two mana, but I got to keep a Doom Blade in my hand, and I'd happily give my opponent a 2/2 to get a Doom Blade in my hand.
For those of us who draft, we know how highly we take removal spells, and we know how valuable they are. Sometimes it's easy to think about things in terms of trading our first pick for their tenth pick, and how that's obviously not a great trade. This can help us learn to value and hold onto your removal, but sometimes it goes too far and you refuse to use removal on a creature you should answer, maybe a cheap creature that you won't be able to block soon, or sometimes a large but overcosted threat that you have coded as a "bad card" that you don't want to waste removal on, even though you'd normally be happy to kill a five mana creature.
After that, we learn more nuanced lessons about making our plays by thinking about what the opponent could do and playing around their cards. The most obvious step here is the idea of not overextending into a sweeper; at the extreme, if you have four creatures and your opponent has none, and each of your creatures is lethal, the only realistic way you're not winning on the following turn if is your opponent does something that affects all creatures, so casting another creature doesn't do anything, and you're best off holding anything you have as a follow-up in case they answer everything you have on the battlefield.