How to become a better tournament player

DreamsOfAshiok
05/04/2022 · 9 min read

Tips to become a better paper MTG player

Hello, my name is Ash but I go primally by Ashiok/DreamsOfAshiok and during this article, I hope you learn something to help you become a better magic player. Throughout this article, I'll be going over how to prepare for your local comp rel tourneys for you to better succeed. If you have any other questions feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @DreamsOfAshiok

Before the Event

One of the things people stress about for big events is being prepared.  Deck selection is often regarded as the most important choice before the event however I have a different opinion on this topic. Deck selection is only half the battle, in modern currently there are plenty of playable decks. Each deck offers its own unique playstyle which can play to your strengths as a player. Finding the style of deck you like playing helps to find similar decks to play, these roles are control, aggro, midrange, and combo. Remember magic is about having fun so that should be your number one priority when picking a deck, if you're not going to enjoy playing that deck for 5+ hours then pick something else. The only other suggestion I can give is to play the deck you know best. Something you are able to learn when having enough games played with your deck is learning its role in a certain match-up. Let's say you choose the elementals deck that I won with as your deck. You'll play the deck differently against Control as you would against Burn. Learning your role in these matchups will let you better know how to use your resources efficiently. I never recommend last-second audibles as they are often stressful for newer players to play as they don't know these ins and out’s an experienced player of the deck would know.

Getting your Deck Ready

On the topic of decklists, the night before you should lay out your deck and make sure everything is written correctly. There are websites like www.decklist.org that you can use so you don't have to worry about any bad handwriting. Something to remember for your deck is to check to see if you have any foils in your deck that are warped. The reason for this is it can be seen as a marked card by judges or your OP and they'll ask you to replace it. If this is a lightning bolt it won't be an issue as you can buy one cheap at the event but if it's over 50$ it'll feel silly having to buy another copy. Another thing to look at is the quality of your sleeves. If they are rough replace them as again a judge can consider them marked. These are just silly errors you shouldn't have to worry about.

Basic Accessories

Prepare a checklist with things to bring to the event so you can ensure you have everything you need. What I personally bring that is magic-related is the following:

  • My deck box (make sure your deck is inside it, long story)
  • Decklist
  • Dice
  • Tokens that are relevant for your deck
  • Playmat
  • Life pad
  • 2 pens/pencils
  • Some spare sleeves
  • An extra deck box to hold any cards you may get at the event

Something else magic-related that you can bring with you is your own decklist with some notes about how to sideboard, just make sure you show a judge beforehand so they can approve it if you have any concerns.  

Taking Care of Yourself

Snacks and Liquids

Some of the things that may not be as obvious to bring are snacks and liquids. You will be playing magic for a long amount of time with very few breaks. Please make sure you are taking care of yourself, bring water bottles and granola bars or whatever your preference is. If you bring extra snacks there is a good chance you can make friends with someone who forgot.

Deodorant and Layers

Another underrated item is deodorant. The last thing you want to do is perpetuate the meme that magic players smell so you might as well do everyone a favor and smell nice. Another thing to consider is layers, for example, in Canada, since it has plenty of temperatures you should bring a sweater in case the venue is cold because you'll end up playing your best when you're comfortable so make sure you take care of yourself. Also, remember to take consistent bathroom breaks during the event.

During the Event

Communication

When playing events it can get super loud and confusing, make sure you clearly communicate with your opponent so you both understand what you’re doing. Don't be afraid to check in with your opponent (OP) about life totals or anything about the board state and if something isn't clear call a judge. The number one thing I stress at events is don't be afraid to call a judge. They are there to help you have a fun and safe time at events, judges are your friends. You can ask the judges for help with rules and interactions or if you need a bathroom break mid-round. They are there to help as a middle party to make sure neither player is taking the short end of the stick. If you’re still scared to talk to judges I would suggest asking around at your FNM as there will likely be an L1 judge to talk to you about it so they can calm your nerves and tell you the same thing I will, judges are your friends.

Handling Missplays

The next thing I’d like to talk about is likely the most important thing every magic player will face during a tournament, tilt. We are human and we are bound to make a misplay at some point during 7 rounds of magic. Something that's easy to do is dwell on the misplay and get in your own head about it and eventually, you'll only be focusing on that misplay then you'll make another because you were too busy focusing on your last misplay. My advice for how I deal with tilt is to just remember that what I stated previously will happen if you continue to dwell on it. So I take a few deep meditative breaths and move on with it. I also write a note on my life pad about the mistake I did so I remember not to do it again. You should always take your misplays as a learning opportunity, Was it really a misplay, or did what you play around not turn out. Just take it as a lesson and become a better magic player. Another thing to remember is if you or your OP is tilting just remember you're both human beings here to have fun. There is no reason to take out your frustrations on one another. Wait until after the match and hit your friend with an “I made such a bad misplay I did….” then you'll feel better…. Hopefully.

Making Friends

Speaking of friends magic is a great way to meet lifelong friends at events. At f2f Edmonton when I was 6-0 I got paired against the other only 6-0 and we drew into the top 8. Since we now had 50 minutes on our hands and we were starving we went to go get a meal together and bring food to my friends who were still battling it out in the x-1 bracket. We both got in my car and we had a very meaningful conversation. I learned about his life and where he is at and we both related to each other. I never knew this guy going into the event and now I plan on inviting him to cube nights before big events. This is a prime example of something you can do at these bigger events. Just be there to make friends, have fun, and enjoy magic. Also while you are there cheer on your own friends you hopefully made at your local game store (LGS). It's always nice to talk to people in between rounds so being able to tell your friends about how you made a really cool play, or how unlucky you got lightens the mood so I highly suggest making friends before and during the event. (I know it's hard but just talk about your pet card/deck I guarantee someone else likes it. I saw two UW Emeria players connect at F2F Calgary and it was beautiful)

The Mental Game

Circling back to tilting it's easy to tilt after a loss even if it was close and you feel like you could have made different choices. It's harder to deal with the loss of a close game vs losing a lopsided game. Something I try to focus on is taking each game one at a time. It's really easy to look at your 3-0 record and get really worked up then set yourself up for failure. Remember it's a marathon, not a sprint. During F2F Edmonton I remember as early as the start of round 5 people were asking if they can top 8 with an x-2 record or if they have a chance with their breakers. It's so silly to get so focused on 3 games down the road when you need to focus on your next match. Your mental game in magic is what makes you win games, make sure you take care of it.

Short-cutting

The last thing for during the event advice is something you can practice at your LGS during FNM, it requires having good communication but it can increase the pace of play, which is short-cutting. If you become good at short-cutting long random tasks you can save 5 minutes during the match that would be spent waiting for one player to finish shuffling. Short-cutting means telling your opponent exactly what you're going to do so they may take their turn. For example, if you need to fetch turn 1 to cast Ragavan announce to your OP “I'm going to crack scalding tarn for steam vents taking 3 to cast a Ragavan you may go while I shuffle my library” as opposed to you fetching and saying nothing and your OP waiting for you to finish shuffling. Short-cutting is most useful when you already know what you’re doing so you can tell your OP, if there is any variance that may happen you will need to do the time-consuming route IE casting an oath of Nissa where the OP can gain relevant information which he may change his play with.

After the Event

Self-care is most important. Regardless if you win the event or 0-2 drop you should make sure after the event to reflect on what could've been done differently than celebrate. Hopefully, you followed the steps and made friends so going to dinner after a big event will help create memories and will give you something to look forward to regardless of the outcome of your matches. If you didn't make any friends, treat yourself regardless. Just always remember that the more matches of magic you play the better you get. Any progress is progress regardless.

DreamsOfAshiok
Pioneer God ,Best e tron player and NA Goose hunter
My name is Ash but I go primally by Ashiok/DreamsOfAshiok

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