Abbi Marie | 25th September 2018
I’ve been deciding whether to do this post for a couple weeks now because I don’t get to play competitively often, it’s just mostly FNMs, so who am I to tell you how to play more competitively? Well, I’m someone who wants to follow these tips too. I recently entered my first proper tournament and these are some wholesome tips from my point of view. I would like to get myself into a position where I feel comfortable and knowledgeable enough to enter something bigger like a Grand Prix. So naturally I am planning to enter a GP in Liverpool in December, so now is the time more than ever to brush up on becoming a pro! (No pressure. I mean I’m not like having heart failure already or anything hahaha-oh my god)
So while I’m having to do this research and learn for myself anyway, I may as well share it with anyone who may be in the same position! Or just an excuse to blabber on to anyone who will listen.
It shouldn’t be scary, even though it is, obviously, and you shouldn’t ever put off entering something competitive because you don’t feel you’re good enough, BUT what you also shouldn’t do is go in unprepared (You’re talking to the Queen of unprepared, so heed my warning). SO that’s what I’m here for, the pep talk. Don’t laugh guys, I’m being 100% serious
So here are my top 10 tips for the casual player looking for something more challenging.
Prepare For An Ass-whooping
I mean, I don’t want to put you off completely on my first tip, but this is a big one. You WILL lose games to begin with, especially if you’ve been playing the same people at FNM every week for as long as you can remember. It’s a whole different world, and people do take it very seriously, understandably as there can be more at stake. You can’t let this get to you though, and trust me it’s easier said than done, there’s nothing more heart wrenching than the build-up to a tournament and the excitement to then go 0-4 straight off the bat. Instead use this to reevaluate your gameplay, pick out the weaknesses in your deck, what did it struggle against? What did you hold your own against really well? Did you make a poor side-boarding choice? All these things added up can make a massive difference to your end results.
Accept The Bad Luck.
This may sound utterly horrible, but there will be the odd occasion where you lose your match and it was 100% not your fault. I’ve had matches where I’ve had to mulligan down to 4 for two games, I mean how do you come back from that?? I know I didn’t. You may not either and that’s fine, it happens, just don’t carry that with you into your next match, you’re gonna have spells of bad luck sometimes, but everyone gets it. It shouldn’t stop your enjoyment or desire to play.
Know The Meta.
This is a simple thing that can make a world of difference, it’s a fact that anything in life is easier to deal with if you see it coming, and it’s no different for Magic. When your opponent plays their first land, whatever they, play or fetch for, should tell you immediately what they’re playing 90% of the time. Your knowledge needs to be so up to scratch, because your opponents most likely will be, and you don’t want to give them any kind of upper hand. Research the meta, know the decks, know YOUR deck, and what your strengths and weaknesses are against the meta, as well as your best game plan for dealing with them.
Know your Deck
An obvious one, of course, but a big one nonetheless. You need to know your deck as if you designed the cards yourself. It’s all well and good knowing what cards are in your deck and how many of each, but you’ve also gotta know your best and worst matchups. How do certain rulings affect your deck? For example, my deck revolves around Phyrexian Unlife and Solemnity, which is a weird combo, so I took the time to learn all the rulings around it and how the combo actually worked. The difference between loss of life and damage, someone swinging at me, targeting me, targeting the enchantments etc. Of course, you can always ask a judge if you’re unsure, but the more you know about the rulings for your own stuff the better position you’re in. Although there will always be interactions you’re not sure of now and again.
You also need to know what answers you have for certain things, do you actually have anything in your deck that can deal with that? what about your sideboard? Knowing your sideboard and exactly what you’d sideboard in and out against certain decks before you’ve played them. What are your answers to Tron? Humans? Burn? What do you take out? Put in?
Being on top of all these things will put in in a much more comfortable position when playing.
Treat Every Game Like It’s Your First
Even if you’re on your biggest losing streak ever, you’ve made mistakes, had horrible opponents, and you’ve played decks you’ve had no answers for, remember when you sit down opposite your new opponent that this is a brand new game and a brand new person to play against. No matter what happened last game, you sit down for your next match with a clean slate and a clean mind. Your gameplay will be 100% better for it I promise.
Stand your ground
DO NOT be afraid to ask questions. DO NOT be afraid to call a judge. DO NOT be afraid to call someone out. DO NOT let someone intimidate or bully you out of a win. Its a shame this tip has to be pointed out, but it does happen. Some people may move too fast, not explain their moves properly, or give you time to respond, or on the rare occasion, they will even cheat. You should NEVER be afraid to call them out on it, tell them to slow down or call a judge on them if you’re not sure of anything or suspect a foul play. If you read my latest blog post you’ll have read all about my judge call incidents, but all that aside it is better to be safe than sorry if you are unsure, or suspicious of anything. You should also never feel embarrassed or worried about having a judge called on you, or calling for one.
Call me silly, this bad boy should be at No.1 because OH MY GOD will you get hungry. I mean, you know it’s like 9 hours of straight up Magic… but did you know it’s like 9 hours of straight up Magic?!?!?! And If you play a slow deck like mine, you may not get a lot of break time in-between rounds to go get food. So bring sandwiches because you will be shoveling them in sideways every chance you get. (And plenty of water please guys gotta keep that brain hydrated xoxox)
Practice. Practice. PRACTICE. Even if it’s on the kitchen table against your friends one deck for 3 months, it’s still helping you get to grip with your deck, finding out what a good hand is, when to mulligan, if any cards don’t quite work like you thought they would, land distribution etc. Then any chance you have to go to an FNM or small local tournament go! And most importantly stick with your deck, keep practicing, it’s so easy to build a deck, lose your first few games and immediately think omg this is awful I’ll have to build something else. While sometimes trial can judge whether your deck is good or not, you will also naturally get better with time and knowledge. My results with my Mono-white deck now compared to when I built it the first time around is completely different, simply because I’ve played it more, stuck with it, and played it whenever I got the chance, even against my friend’s decks I lose to over and over, because it’s still giving me that experience, and constantly giving me feedback and ideas for improvements.
Give Your Opponents As Little Information As Possible.
This one can actually come with more practice and familiarizing yourself with the game, competitive environment, and your deck. As with most things, the less information you have on something, the harder it is for you to deal with it. So the less your opponents know what’s going on or what you’re doing, the harder it is for them to win. A massive reason KCI got so big so fast for a short while was actually that people didn’t really know how it worked or how to deal with it. When people started researching it and figuring out how to deal with it, it became less of a menace to the meta. That was all due to lack of info. So you’ve got to try and think about this when you’re playing, how certain things can maybe give your opponents more info than necessary. Like what mana you’re tapping, when you’re playing certain cards, etc.
THE most important one! At the end of the day, Magic is just a game (Sorry guys truth hurts) and you should play it because you love to, no matter what anyone else has to say or think. If you’re having a good time that is all that matters. Tournaments are great for seeing new decks and meeting amazing people, so don’t let the odd thing ruin your time. Just enjoy the experience, no matter what format or deck you like playing.
So I hope these tips are helpful, and obviously, there will be 100 other things you can do to help yourself prepare for competitive play, but I felt these tips were extra important! They’ll definitely be helping me become mentally ready for Liverpool GP, wish ya girl luck ’cause she’s freaking out!