Here I Ruel – 10 Simple Tips to Play Better Magic

Improving your skill isn’t an easy thing. A good portion of that process requires a strong level of self-investment, but investing your time is not necessarily enough. Indeed, if time and a strong will are the best ways to improve your game, you need a strong methodology in order to optimize said time and will.

Today I’m going to tell you about 10 conditions which will make you a better player if you can fulfill them.

1) Be aware of your physical condition

Sane mind lives in a healthy body. Of course I’m not telling you must must necessarily be aware 24/7 what you’re eating, how much exercise you’re getting, how much you sleep at night, etc. You may not have the will or the time to care about such things in the everyday life, but try at least to pay attention to your body on the days before and during a tournament. You might be able to play your best in a FNM while you have only slept a couple of hours the night before, but in the case you play a ten hour long tournament (mostly Grand Prix and PTQs), your body won’t support your mind as much as you would have wanted and your plays will be affected. This is even more true if you consider the last rounds of a tournament are usually the most stressful ones, which contributes to pile on the fatigue.

Also, when playing in a tournament, you should make sure not to skip any meal, and to eat even if you’re not hungry when you start getting tired, so you can get some energy back.

In case you are traveling abroad for a tournament, you must take jetlag very seriously. In case you are facing 5 or more hours of jetlag, I would recommend to try and land at least 48 hours, if possible 72 hours before the tournament starts. Then, when you’re there, the first thing you should wonder is how to get your body used to the new time as fast as possible, which mostly means deciding in advance at what time you’ll go to bed, and not to go earlier if you’re tired, nor later if you’re not.

2) Organize your board correctly

When you are playing, you should be focusing on the game situation and not on anything else. In order to be inside your game from the very beginning, you should first always have a pen and a notepad, or anything you can write the life totals on. Then you should always try and have dice and/or tokens, so the counters are clearly indicated.

I’d also recommend to systematically sleeve your deck. It makes the card look better, and it makes them feel more comfortable to shuffles as well as to hold in hand. Then always put your deck, graveyard, and exile piles in the exact same place so you never have to wonder, not even for a second, where they are. You should also keep lands close to you and your other permanents closer to the opponent’s board, and tap them at 90% (or close to).

The better you organize your board, the easier the games situations will be to analyze.
All those little things may look like small details, but it is actually the care for every single detail which will end up making you progress.

3) Attend tournaments

Practicing is necessary in order to sharpen your skills, but nothing replaces the taste of competition. The experience you get in official tournaments is priceless. Indeed, you can face stronger players, new plays or strategies you had never thought of, play in front of spectators, play for prizes, and all those things a game at home can’t replace. Concerning the fact to have other players watching your games, I know how frightening it can be, but it is important not to let it get to you.
You can wonder if you have made a correct decision, and ask the spectators their opinion about it at the end of the game, but you should never let this kind of consideration get to you in the middle of a game. It pretty rare, even for a pro, to play a full match without making any mistake, so you don’t need to fill your mind with anything necessary. You should focus on your game and your opponent, and that’s about it.

4) Testing seriously

They don’t replace competitive games, but practice games are absolutely needed. If you don’t show up to tournaments with the right level of preparation, then you won’t gain as much experience. Therefore, it is important to be serious about your preparation. It concerns of course the decks you are practicing with, but more importantly the application you put in every game you play.
The more focused you are on every play you make in practicing, the more easily you will be able to play at your best level when you need it the most. If you can manage to put a lot of concentration in casual games, then you will grow faster and you will feel a lot less the effects of exhaustion in the late games of a tournament.

5) Question yourself

There is a huge random part in Magic. That’s sad, but that’s the way it is. Then what should you do when you lose several consecutive matches? Most players will notice how lucky (they consider) their opponents have been, how drawing a spell on the last turn would have made them win, or they will choose to focus on one supposed topdeck from the opponent which they consider was the turning point of the game. However, if you keep on thinking on what went wrong and not on what you could have done to make things go better, you’ll face huge problems. At first, you won’t enjoy the game anymore and you’ll enjoy it less when you win. Then, by not questioning yourself you put up a huge barrier between the current you and the better player you hope to become.

Realizing your mistakes and your imperfections as a player is the first step toward not making them again. Then, by wondering what you could have done in order to win, you will put more concentration into the next games and it will help your game.

People who have attended Pro Tours and Grands Prix may have noticed this, but the percentage of humble players is higher on the pro circuit than it is at PTQs. The reason for this is simply that the players who are the more aware of their own limits are those who can make the better use of their potential.

6) Never give up on a game

A game is never over until you’re at 0 life or you can’t draw from your library anymore. That’s pretty much the first thing you’re being taught when starting into the game, but you tend to forget it pretty fast. The more knowledge of the game and experience you pile up, the more you are able to know who has the upper hand, and when the game is nearly over.

From there, you must try and reach the next step, which is to know how to turn the tables in a complicated game. Of course, it is pretty complicated technique to see the small glimpse of hope and try and play in order to optimize this very small chance, but it doesn’t mean it is a technique which is out of reach. It does require skills, but these skills can be acquired through practicing, and they are not as important as having a strong spirit.

It takes a lot of concentration and as well as a lust for victory not to give up on games which are 99% over, and if you have those qualities, you will definitely improve.

7) Collect as much information as possible

Anytime you can have free information, you should take it and see if it’s relevant before taking any decision, no matter how obvious they would be.

Let’s say for instance you are playing a Scars of Mirrodin draft game, you have Panic Spellbomb and Hoard-Smelter Dragon in hand with eight lands on the table, while your opponent only has a pair of mana Myrs and one card in hand. Are you going to play the dragon this turn? Most likely, but it still shouldn’t be your fist play. You should play the bomb first, sacrifice it, and then make a decision. What will it change? 99% of the time nothing, but in case you draw another good creature maybe will you want to cast that second creature as a bait in case your opponent has an answer for it, so the dragon has better chance to survive and end up winning the game.

The first thing one must do before taking a decision is to take information where you can get it. Your opponent has searched for a Forest with Horizon Spellbomb? Then you’ll have to check when he plays a Forest if it’s the one with the same picture. Your opponent has conceded when you have played Worship? Then you will know for the next games (if he doesn’t sideboard) he probably has no enchant removal, bounce spell or mass removal in his deck.

A game of Magic can reveal a lot of information if you know what to look for, so try and not miss them.

8 ) Try to innovate

Net decking in Constructed and playing the more obvious archetypes in Limited is usually the best way to get the best results over a short-term period. However, what will make you grow as a deckbuilder and as a drafter is to be able to think of new archetypes and strategies. What is played in the Constructed format you’re interested in? Are some cards good against the best decks? Are they good in synergy with other cards efficient against those? What are the best cards existing in the format to take advantage of the cards you identified? How can you make your mana work? If you can answer those questions, then you can probably think of something interesting.

But while most players try this kind of thing in constructed, few are those who experiment new strategies in Limited. A Limited deck should be, just like a Constructed one, not seen as an collection of strong cards, but as the union of synergic cards. For instance, in Scars of Mirrodin draft, being innovative could be to try and make cards like Furnace Celebration, Throne of Geth, Golem Foundry or Genesis Wave work. I mean some of those cards can be good on their own (or very good in the case of the Wave), but you can’t exploit their true potential without picking the right cards to associate them with.

Building your deck doesn’t start at the moment you have drafted your 42 cards, but at the moment you have opened your very first pack.

9) Put your pride aside

Even though experimenting is good, the more you do it and the more you risk to end up making bad decisions. Playtesting a new constructed creation or refusing to draft an archetype because it’s not fun are understandable on the first hand, but if you can’t find anything better that those, you will have to go with the flow and run them. Even though it’s frustrating, it will help you save you from sacrificing tournaments.

Guillaume Wafo-Tapa is the best example I know of number 8 as well as the worst at number 9. He loves playing control all the time, and he’ll draft control decks all the time, (that being the decks that have the most possibilities and choices). This tendency to always go for the slow card advantage + removal decks made him a great drafter and deckbuilder when it comes to control, but on the other hand, Guillaume is sometimes so focused on his creations that he will stick to them even when pretty much any other deck in the format is better. To give you an example, Guillaume was the kind of person to try and draft control in Zendikar, and not wanting to play decks with no Island made him miss several good finishes.

10) Set goals for yourself

When investing time into Magic, it is important to set yourself goals in order to keep yourself motivated. It can go from how many hours or how many drafts you want to play a week, to something more mid-term or long-term, such as making a PTQ Top 8, getting 3 byes for a GP and attending it, or actually attending a Pro Tour. Every step you will reach will give you more motivation for the next one, and every step you won’t be able to reach will help you defining what you can do in order to get better.


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