Patriot Games

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Your personal 10 step plan (part 1)

Firstly let me apologise if you found your way here thinking it was going to help you deal with addiction unless that particular addiction is to the "cardboard crack" commonly known as Magic the Gathering!  I'm pretty sure the alcohol thing is a 12 step plan anyway so this would be missing a few.

Secondly, I need to apologise for stealing the Daily MTG format of cutting things into multiple parts.  I had originally intended to put all ten steps into one blog but on reflection I thought it would be better to cut it into bite size pieces for you to think about and hopefully use.  It is also very "wordy" for one of my blogs - we are not talking about cards or a particular strategy here but fundamental game concepts to becoming a better Magic player.  I have referred to Sam Stoddard's article from Star City Games about "Creating a Fearless Magical Inventory".  This has had the singular most positive impact on my personal game out of anything I have read.  I would strongly suggest reading it in full.

Before we get started though the second Planeswalker has been spoilt this morning from Return to Ravnica.  I realise you may well have see her already (ironically), but I wanted to bask in the glory that is Vraska the Unseen for just a minute.

I do not have the words to describe how much I love this card!

There are certain things you cannot influence with regards to Magic the most important of those being how much money you have to spend on cards.  If you can only afford one booster per week that is all you will be able to get.  However, with something like FNM Relax for the price of a booster (in fact slightly less at £3) you get a booster and a tournament.  This is a better way to spend your money but we will talk about that as we go on.  these ten points are based on my observations, things I have read and personal experience from playing Magic for quite some time (even if I did have 8 years off).

Step 1 - Be honest with yourself.  Patrick Chapin is one of the all time great Magic players and becomes a Hall of Famer this year.  He wrote a book about playing better magic called "Next Level Magic" (it is available here).  His first point is this and is illustrated by this article on Star City Games.  You need to be honest about where you are now with regards to Magic, admit to your mistakes and the things you do badly.  Make a list of those things and tell people about those weaknesses.  Having told other players and friends what you are prone to do wrong you will have an incentive to stop doing it and change your habits.  If you don't your opponents will be able to take advantage of them.

Step 2 - Read the cards.  Make sure a card does what you think it does, even in the middle of a top level tournament you have the option to ask the judge for clarification on the cards text.  This also goes for your opponents cards, if they play something and you are not 100% certain of what it does take a second to read the card.  Look for the little bits of information on the cards, if it says "attacking creatures get +1/+0 and first strike" don't play it when you are the defender!  Wizards have tried very hard to make the cards as clear as possible but they cannot continue to push the envelope with card design and make everything as clear as everyone would like.

Please note, this card cannot be used defensively!

Step 3 - Read the internet.  Obviously not all of it, that would be silly.  However, there are many great resources available on the internet: Daily MTG is always a good place to start.  As mentioned above there is Star City Games but they charge you for their premium service.  On the other hand Channel-fireball have much the same thing.  Not forgetting of course this blog which will do its best to bring you the things you really need to know.  Look at the decks which are winning and take inspiration from them, but always try to develop your own twist on an idea.  Pro Magic players are human and they are not infallible, there is always the chance that their ideas can be improved on.

Step 4 - Discover your play style.  What do you enjoy doing?  Do you like to ramp into huge gribbly creatures that crush your opponent and any puny men he has played?

Hulk smash puny, oh sorry wrong game...

 Do you prefer to grind your oposition down with discard and counter spells before drawing half your deck and killing them by disgarding your lands to Seismic Assault?

Throwing mountains at people is always fun.

Find out what you like to play and play it.  There is time later to worry about what is and isn't top tier.  Any card player will tell you that they would always rather face a bad player with a good deck than a good player with a bad deck and you will be a better player if you are enjoying what you are doing.

Step 5 - Know your deck.  There is a tendency for players in Magic to change their deck more often than they change their underwear and this is not actually a sign of poor personal hygiene.  Watching the weekly swing of the meta game in MTGO and at SCG opens can have you reaching for a new set of cards every week.  This can be effective if everybody is following the same meta.  A more effective way of playing is to find a deck you like and playing it constantly - tweak the main deck and the sideboard to go with the meta.  This form of commitment to one deck will pay off, you will find you develop a kind of sixth sense with the deck (no you wont see dead people) and you will "know" what you are about to draw before you draw it.  You will also get to instantly recognise a hand you can keep against one you really should not!

I hope you have got something from this and I will put up the next five steps next Wednesday.  Don't forget that this Saturday 8th September 2012 is Magic Celebration day at Patriot Games Sheffield when you can play booster wars for free - yes free, as in free boosters!  I will be back with my farewell to scars block standard deck on Friday and I look forward to seeing you at Extended this Friday for FNM Relax.


  1. Yo, bit random to comment on an old blog post but I just came across your blog and pulled out the interesting looking articles.

    Question: What booster do you get with FNM Relax? Any old set, current standard, or RTR itself?

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Hi William, sorry just got your message. The booster in prize support is always from the most recent set so at the moment it is RtR.

    3. Sweet, thanks, I might turn up some time...