Chasing Victory – How to Qualify for a Pro Tour

This article isn’t going to entirely be about me, but I figured my story is so similar to others that I’ve heard that I should share. Several of my friends have made the rise from “brand new player who doesn’t understand why card advantage is good” to Pro Tour player, and we’ve all gone through the same stages.

In the beginning, I was a young child who enjoyed comic books and console RPGs, and something about Magic just called to me. I don’t even remember how I heard about the game. I think I may have just seen it walking through the toy aisle at Target, but I bought a few packs of Portal. No rulebook, no one else to play with, no nothing.

Naturally, with no one to play with, Magic was a thing of the past for me. I started junior high and got a job, and one my coworkers, Adam Gunderson, brought up the fact that he played Magic, as it sounded like something I would be interested in. I told him that I had heard of the game and even had some cards, and he suddenly had a gleam in his eye and a wicked smile.

“You should come over to my house after work. Bring your cards,” he said.

Before I knew it, we were playing! He had a bunch of different decks and even built me an Elf deck out of his cards. Obviously, he wasn’t going to part with his cards for free, so he took a few of my cards in exchange, which I was more than fine with. Thankfully, the Portal Wrath of Gods not only say “Destroy all creatures,” but also “This includes your creatures.” I knew for a fact that I didn’t want to kill my own guys, so I happily traded it to Adam. My Priests of Titania would live, as would my [card]Thorn Elemental[/card]s!

My younger brother played Pokemon, and Adam built some decks out of my brother’s cards and we played some games of that. When we played Magic, I would win sometimes, but Pokemon was no fun. I lost literally every game. What a stupid game! To make matters worse, Adam’s turns took so long because he kept playing cards that drew more cards.

Afterward, he looked through my deck and asked me why I wasn’t playing any Bills or Professor Oaks. All of the spells in Pokemon are free to cast and you can play as many as you want per turn. Bill just reads “Draw two cards” and Professor Oak is Wheel of Fortune, but only for you.

I didn’t understand why I would want to discard my hand or why I wouldn’t just play more, different spells in my deck instead of Ancestral Recalls. You’re just going to draw those cards eventually, right? Thankfully, Adam was a good teacher and I quickly understood. After that, a million doors just flew open. I suddenly realized that there were a ton of theories and concepts that I had no idea even existed. Games like Magic and Pokemon were way more interesting now.

Adam told me about how he used to play tournaments, and that we should go to a local one. I had a “tuned” version of a net deck that I found, but didn’t win a match. I got cheated by a guy who took advantage of me not knowing the rules intimately, and I lost to Adam, but it didn’t matter. I wasn’t mad at either of them, I was mad at myself. Losing sucked, and it was my fault that I lost. Next time, I vowed to come more prepared.

I started attending FNM whenever I could get a ride, and from there I learned about PTQs, GPs, and the Pro Tour. I printed off articles in the school library (Mindripper was my favorite site) and read them during class, played a lot of games against my friends, and tried to absorb all the knowledge I could. I can only imagine what would have happened had I channeled all this energy into school, but that’s neither here nor there.

Eventually, I started winning FNMs regularly with control decks like Nether-Go and later, Psychatog, and I started becoming arrogant. After all, I was a big fish in a little pond. These guys were just no match for me. Part of this was that the control cards were very good at that time, but also, the players didn’t really care if they won or lost. They were just there to have fun, and didn’t have the same competitive drive that I did.

I needed to move up the stakes, and so I did. I had dabbled in tournaments like States and PTQs, and always got crushed. But it was just like the FNMs. If I were able to play more larger tournaments, eventually I would figure out what I’m doing wrong and correct it.

My first PTQ top eight came during the Invasion block constructed GP Minneapolis. I was FNMing at a bigger store, with better players, and I was learning everything I could. For the GP and the subsequent PTQ, I played a UWR aggro control deck that I got from local hero Noah Weil. It was a little different, as it had the full amount of Disrupts and zero Fact or Fictions. At the time, it seemed genius, as I would be able to play two spells in one with my lower mana curve, and when they cast their Vindicates or FoFs, I get a surprise two for one.

Thinking back, that doesn’t actually seem like the greatest innovation after considering just how good FoF was, but it made sense at the time. In the GP, I lost to a local who always beat me, and lost to two “Pros,” Jacob “Danger” Janoska and Billy Jensen. I wasn’t entirely sure if I was playing scared against those guys, but after my round one loss in the PTQ to another Pro, this time PTR, I was pretty sure that I had another problem I had to fix.

Despite the round one loss, I was able to win five in a row, and then with a little ID math from Jack Stanton (which I desperately needed, considering I had never been in that situation before) I was sitting down for my top eight match against PTQ ringer, Walter Egli.

My matchup was a virtual bye, but there I was, full box of Apocalyse and PTQ top eight pin in front of me, with a few of my friends watching. I played a turn two Meddling Mage, couldn’t think about what to name and eventually said “Undermine,” a card not even in my opponents deck. After my next three threats were Vindicated, I thought about how bad my play was.

But I didn’t care. My goal before the tournament was to make top eight, and I achieved that goal. As far as I was concerned, the tournament had ended already, and the rest was a formality. I literally had no chance to win a match in that top eight.

I realized what I had done a bit later, and decided that t8 was no longer good enough, despite proudly wearing my pin on my backpack. I wanted to play in the Pro Tour and get over my “Pro fear.”

I continued attending as many big tournaments as possible, thanks mostly to Ken Bearl, but didn’t quite have that breakthrough I was looking for. I made a lot of good friends by FNMing and especially by playing in a team PTQ at GP Milwaukee. We had a lot of fun in the PTQ, eventually losing in t4 to our local store owner, and we exchanged AIM screen names.

A few days later they told me about Magic Online and I was hooked. I borrowed two draft sets from my friend, and that was all I needed. I lost my first two drafts due to misclicks and not having the right stops, but after that, I never spent another dime on MTGO.

The drafts were all 8-4s, and the majority of them were incredibly soft. You could see who you was waiting in the queue and check their info. You can bet that if BenS007 joined the queue, I was leaving. Playing against pros online didn’t help me get over my supposed fear, as all I could see was a name. For all MTGO was concerned, it was about my bottom line, and I learned to pick my battles.

I didn’t get to draft in real life very often, but I quickly fell in love. Homework, girlfriends, and chores were neglected because there were seven in the queue. Who was I to disappoint those seven individuals who needed a fix? Hell, I’m only about a fourth of the way through this article and I’m opening MTGO right now.

Constructed was something that I didn’t get into for a while, mostly because I didn’t know how profitable it was until I physically looked at the payouts. I bought most of the [card]Psychatog[/card] deck with my draft winnings and borrowed the rest.

Once I was immersed in Magic Online and playing both formats regularly, all the while looking for my mistakes, my comprehension of the game grew tremendously. I cannot pinpoint the exact date I went from fish to above average, but it was definitely sometime during OOT/OTJ.

I won a team PTQ with Ken Bearl and Tim Bulger in OOT limited sometime in there. It was probably the easiest tournament I’ve ever played in, probably because Tbulge and I were MTGO fanatics while Bearl drafted live once a week and dabbled in MTGO. We all knew the format well and it showed.

The Pro Tour hit us hard. We managed to make day two on the back of our team sealed skills, but quickly realized we had no idea how to team Rochester draft. We didn’t win a match. It didn’t help that Bearl was star struck when he played against Brian Kibler, Patrick Mello, and Jon Finkel.

However, not all was lost, there was a PTQ on Sunday, which I won. I played a bad midrange UB Braids deck, but almost every round I defeated someone who had a Grand Prix top eight.

I developed an affinity for midrange decks almost on accident. I showed up to the first Extended PTQ of the season with my trusty Psychatog deck. However, GP Reims had just finished, and a lot of the players in the PTQ were packing net decked versions of Sui Black and RDW, matchups that I wasn’t comfortable with.

My traveling partner, Steve McKenna, was playing Rock and I decided to audible into that as well. I couldn’t find all the [card]Ravenous Baloth[/card]s I needed, as Steve was already borrowing mine, but it didn’t matter. I didn’t lose a game until top eight, but still won my top eight and top four matches.

I sat down for a mirror match in the finals, and this time, I had my eye on the prize. Nothing else but qualifying mattered, and I let my opponent know it, but he told me that he also wanted the slot. I told him to shuffle up, and he blurted out, “I’ll give you all the money and all the prizes!”

After considering that for a moment, I took him up on his offer, made top eight the next week (eventually losing to a huge punt on my part), but then won the PTQ the next weekend.

It all seemed so easy. Magic Online was going well, I had a plethora of packs and tickets, almost every deck in Standard, and I was repeatedly qualifying for the Pro Tour. Despite the PTs going poorly, and the fact that I could reflect and easily see that I had one of the worst decks in the tournament, it didn’t matter. I was winning far more than I was losing, and the arrogance set in.

You all know the type. The local ringer with a couple PT finishes who is probably the best in his state. The locals fear getting paired against him and are resigned to their fate before the match slip is even signed. He might be likable, but he certainly thinks very highly of himself.

He also won’t get any better at Magic. If he loses, it’s because he got unlucky, not because he got outplayed or made a mistake. After all, he was much better than his opponent, what else could he lose to besides luck?

I was still able to win on the local level, but I consistently had failures at Pro Tours. Finally I decided to reflect on how I got to where I was, and realized that when I was at my peak, I was extremely hard on myself. If I lost a close match, I would watch the replays on MTGO and see if I could find something that I should have done differently. Generally I would have a bad feeling in my stomach if I knew something was wrong or at least wasn’t quite right. I had missed something and I had to know what it was.

Once the arrogance overwhelmed me, that no longer became necessary. I was Gerry MFing T, I only lose to luck! Why bother watching my replays? I am so amazing that I never do anything wrong.

Once I snapped out of it, I made my first Grand Prix top eight. I was in a tough seat for the Rochester draft, and tried to maneuver into better colors a few points, but it didn’t work out. I made the last pick of the draft, and Antonino, who was on my left, stood up and said, “That was the best pick you made all draft.”

I quickly lost, while Ant won the tournament.

I made some mistakes, and I think I wanted to win, but I had the same “I’m just happy to be in top eight” mood that I had for my first PTQ top eight.

Still, my goals didn’t really shift. I had to make another top eight to prove that the first wasn’t a fluke, and I did. Again, my goal was to make top eight, not win, and I suffered another top eight exit.

So, to recap:

1) Don’t be arrogant. This might sound hypocritical coming from me of all people, since I get a bad rap for telling it how it is, but I don’t think arrogant is really the right word for what I am.

I write about what I believe is true, therefore I write in absolutes. If I don’t know much on a subject matter, I simply won’t write about it, as I don’t presume to know about everything.

Anyway, there is always someone better than you, no matter what you’re doing. You can also always improve. I suppose it depends on what your goals are. For example, if you are fine with being the best player in your store, you can be as arrogant as you want as long as you are actually the best.

However, I’m always striving to be the best. I’m just not content with top eight anymore, or even second place, I want that trophy.

2) Learn from your mistakes. If you can’t tell what you’re doing wrong, ask someone who is better than you. If you don’t think you’re making mistakes and are losing anyway, that is part of the problem. You are making them, whether you want to believe it or not.

3) Set your goals high. If you just want to finish in the money at a GP, it’s extremely difficult to do better than just 32nd. If you meet your goals, re-evaluate. Is this really what you still want, or can you do better?

As far as general advice is concerned, you should be willing to do whatever you need to do to qualify. In my day, the closest PTQs were Wisconsin (6 hour drive), Chicago (8 hour drive), Nebraska (6 hour drive), and sometimes Winnipeg (7 hour drive).

I didn’t miss a single PTQ if I could help it. There is absolutely no way you can complain about not qualifying if you are skipping PTQs. I don’t care if you think it only takes you two attempts to qualify, or that you “should” have won the first PTQ you played in. If you didn’t go to every qualifier you could have, then you didn’t even try.

I hear a lot of people complaining about having to drive 3 hours for a PTQ, and that’s just absurd. A PTQ only 3 hours away is a blessing.

What do you think is easier? Winning an eight round PTQ (by going 9-1-1, but usually 10-1) or making top 16 at a GP (with a 12-3 record, but maybe less considering byes and that some 11-3-1s make t16 at smaller GPs)? Without a doubt, making top 16 at a Grand Prix is easier. You can get THREE losses and still qualify. If you’re on your game, there’s no reason you should lose more than three matches in a tournament. You still only have to win the same amount of matches in a PTQ.

In addition, GPs give you necessary experience and allow you to network with better players.

People who skip GPs are not allowed to complain about not being qualified.

Learn how to play your deck. If you are changing decks every week trying to keep up with the metagame, you are probably making a mistake. For one, a PTQ metagame is usually regional and hard to predict. Second, I would gladly put money on the guy who played the same deck in six PTQs without a top 8 before I put money on the guy with two top 8s with different decks.

One reason: the guy who’s been playing the same deck forever is probably going to make less mistakes than the other guy. Consistently playing well is far more important than being a minute step ahead of the competition. All of the decks are great nowadays, and each of them is pretty powerful, so it’s hard to get a significant edge in deck selection. Just play something that you’ll play well and you should do fine.


61 thoughts on “Chasing Victory – How to Qualify for a Pro Tour”

  1. I really enjoyed reading your article. It was very honest and informative. Since I’m trying to reach the upper echelons of the sport, this couldn’t have come at a better time.

    I can relate to your point about not changing decks because that’s what happened to me. I won two Alara Block Constructed tournaments with the same deck because I knew it inside and out. Committing less mistakes, I beat people even when I didn’t have powerful cards.

    Thank you.

  2. Inspiration at 1 in the morning is usually hard to find. Inspiration at 1 in the morning when reading a GerryT article is a bit easier to come by. Brilliance.

  3. Gerry: great article! I was at that point to where I thought of myself as ”a great player” because I was winning locals all the time in Ottumwa IA. I realized after Cheeks basically said I was dumb thinking that I played states perfectly that I had alot of holes in my game. Mtgo has done so much for me and also going to nats and seeing how the big dogs do it. My goal is to be on the tour train by the end of next year. I am hitting up every GP, PTQ and am going to travel to the PT’s even if I dont Q. Your article will push players that are in the ”im so great” position to hopefully ”i can learn alot more” position in thinking.

    I look forward to playing you and other pro’s at future tournaments.

  4. This was an amazing article. I am going to be showing people this one for a long time to come. This actually tells people how to get better at the game, without actually telling them things like “get better at technical play.” In other words, you showed us instead of told us, which is what pushes this article over the top for me. Great article, Gerry!

  5. One hell of an article, and a reminder that I need to refocus my efforts on what really matters. Well, once I have time to devote to competitive Magic in a couple of months, anyway.

  6. I had the same exact story regarding my first PTQ Top 8. It was the Alara Sealed event where I played you in the top 8, and I was just happy to be in the Top 8 for once. My mind was not even close to being set on me winning the match vs. you, as you could definitely tell. The play mistakes that came in that match really taught me that I shouldn’t settle for less ever. That’s how my mind has always worked, so it was really weird to see me in that state while playing against you.

    Great article.

  7. Sorry but I didn’t like this as much as other readers. I was expecting more “how” and less “what.”

    “How do I get better at Magic?”

    It’s true, but it doesn’t really guide you there.

  8. Well a problem is that in the past it was a lot easier to qualify as the number of real players was smaller , so right now you have giant differences in PTQ’s as some have maybe 6 real good players , and if lucky they get some random loses.

    Keep trying till you qualify is ofcourse correct, but its really a hard choice to go for 6+ hours just to play a PTQ , doing that often is something not everyone is able to do, especially as thats 6 hours x2 and playing will eat 8 hours, thats a freaking 20 hours day.

    So a extra fact:

    Keep trying, but don’t overdo it, spend some time for real life aswell and don’t invest “too much” in your hobby, which is actual a “hobby” and not your full time job (unless you are a crack, and thats the smallest part of players).

  9. wheel of armageddon

    I don’t think “practice” is the only answer in Gerry’s article. I think if you said “practice, determination and self-evaluation” you might be a little closer. However, having said that, boiling the article down to that is rather unfair to the writer, especially considering how much of his own experience he walked us through. Other posters used the word “inspiration” and I can see why an article like this would be inspirational. Gerry does go into quite a bit of detail.

    Although I do agree it would have been nice to see more on the “how” side, I’m not quite sure that one article writer can tell you exactly how you can do it. The writer may be able to give you guidelines on what is good in what meta and so on (a la Mike Flores on the WotC site) but considering the amount of decisions in any game of Magic giving explicit directions is rather more difficult. As an example I will talk about my Jund Control deck I love playing. I tested it thoroughly online in tournaments using magic league/MWS and crushed pretty much everyone, especially the 5-color cruel/baneslayer decks that were so popular. So I sleeved it up and took it to M10 game day…and went 0-4 because almost no one in that meta was playing 5cc. Why did I lose with a deck I knew so well? Because the decks my opponents were playing were completely unexpected and foreign to me. I even ran into a guy was able to mill me down and THEN haunting echoes me. I had no sideboard prep for what I encountered. Talk about embarrassing!

    Experience is one of the most important keys to improving your game. Experience with not only your deck but what decks are in the field and how to play your deck against theirs. Again going back to Flores and his “Who’s the Beatdown?” article (which has been helpful to me) is useful here. Reading articles about Magic and how to make decisions is also helpful, this one included. The point about not becoming arrogant and evaluating your mistakes (even when you win) is another relevant, critical part of improving your game.

  10. Easily your best article to date, Gerry. Really.
    I think it generally just conveys part of what it’s like to have that fire, which is hard to do in writing. Very encouraging, and very informative.


  11. Guys, it isn’t just practice… but PURPOSEFUL PRACTICE. Anyone can waltz through a 100 games of Magic in a day and not gain any skill. Or one could play 10 games and reach a new pinnacle of ability. Just step away, get motivated, and make every game count. Gotta recognize when your game is getting weak in a particular testing session and then just back away from the cards. No reason to reinforce the bad habits. Just step away.

    This is part of what Gerry is saying and I think it’s the most beneficial method for testing and increasing a players performance. Once burn out has been reached or you feel yourself unable to focus on crushing an opponent, then stop and reflect. Otherwise the testing is for naught and a hole will be dug that takes awhile to step out of.

    And the nerves thing is huge. Playing against opponents one believes are better is the quickest way to a loss. So many games have been punted because of the fear. Well f*** the fear and realize that you MUST master yourself and your thoughts. Anyway

  12. I once did everything that Gerry said to do in his article (other than the whole multiple GP T8 thing). Then I got burnt out.

  13. “I hear a lot of people complaining about having to drive 3 hours for a PTQ, and that's just absurd. A PTQ only 3 hours away is a blessing.”
    Absolutely. I would never have considered doing such a thing until I moved to Madison and people started asking about rides to Des Moines (5 hours) or Minneapolis (4.5 hours) for a one day event. When I went to those PTQs, I probably gained more about playing competitive Magic than in the past 6 or so years of FNM drafts. It also takes a huge amount of commitment and desire to wake up at 3 AM (if indeed I went to sleep at all) for a PTQ, but I know that taking every opportunity is necessary to qualify.
    Thanks for the great article, I’ll need the inspiration in a few weeks I’m sure.

  14. How funny. Yesterday I got an email from someone who wanted to know how best to get to the level where they could get on tour. I sent back a bunch of thoughts including a suggestion to read Channelfireball.com. Hope he does.

  15. Well you talk about not being arrogant but what is a big trap too for players with less confidence is denying the fact that you became better. If you put up a couple of good finishes you might actually be above average but if you keep telling yourself everybody can beat you and you are not better than anyone you will get sloppy and lose the urge to succeede. It happened to me after I finished well in a PT. I just didn´t want to become arrogant and what i became instead was extremely self-conscious. I started to become indifferent wether i was winning or losing. That is the first step to complete and utter failure.

    I know most players tend to become arrogant and full of themselves but you need to keep a healthy balance between over- and underestimating yourself because both affect your game in a very negative way.

  16. Great article! I can relate to the passion and fire you discussed that brewed up causing you to take things more seriously. I’m in Columbus surrounded by a ton of great players who I’m friends with (thankfully) and decided during this most recent standard season to take things a lot more seriously. Previously I essentially just played limited so this was semi-new to me, at least on the competitive front. Needless to say I didn’t t8 any ptq’s or anything BUT I did get the opportunity to see Swearingen win the ptq here in c-bus and that showed me a whole lot as far as upping my level of play, cutting back on mistakes, etc. I’ve noticed a vast improvement over the course of the past few months in my standard game and I think that is a testament to who you surround yourself with and play with. Make sure your play group isn’t just a bunch of really good players and some pro’s if they aren’t actually going to talk or help. Speaking through a match and during a match is great and pointing out misclicks as they happen can really help, although this doesn’t mean takebacks. Whatever is most comfortable. Anyways, great article Gerry and I must agree it is very inspiring to continue pushing.

  17. If people like the article (and they clearly do) that’s good enough, it doesn’t have to speak to me. But continuing to play devil’s advocate:

    If you go to a PTQ every weekend with a substandard deck (let’s say Jund Ramp), and you practice over and over again but keep making the same mistakes (Thoughtseize the wrong card, play things in the wrong order, don’t read the opponent’s hand, etc), then I don’t care how much confidence and deterimination you have, it’s not going to qualify you.

    The devil is in the details, and if people who keep making the same mistakes don’t have some way of realizing that, they won’t be able to get past them. Gerry had a friend who taught him card advantage, and that was a huge turning point for him. Learning CA and Tempo and when to play around cards – those are actual lessons. Another concept like that and I can’t wait to learn it. But this? Well I hope it helps people but it’s too broad for me.

  18. I really enjoyed this article–after playing for 15 years, I’m finally learning how to enjoy the game and play it at a high level–i had to humble myself a lot to get to that point, and the modicum of success I’ve enjoyed has been dwarfed by the fact that i enjoyed playing each match because Magic is and should be fun, as should winning. They aren’t mutually exclusive.

    Keep up the excellent work GT.

  19. @”I’ll give you all the prizes and cash” – Just to clarify, I’ve been and split various PTQ / etc prizes, but it this legal according to the floor rules? I usually talk about the split outside/ away from the judges, as I had been led to believe prize splits were not allowed formally by the floor rules, even though they are common practice.

    @Adam P – Given you’re “infinite” in modo, can you really say your “burnt out”?

  20. Oh, and I lol’d @ GerryT ducking away from BenS at draft queue’s… lolol. We should compile a list of known shark / level 5+ mages on MODO for everyone to duck… hahaha.

  21. “@"I'll give you all the prizes and cash" – Just to clarify, I've been and split various PTQ / etc prizes, but it this legal according to the floor rules? I usually talk about the split outside/ away from the judges, as I had been led to believe prize splits were not allowed formally by the floor rules, even though they are common practice.”

    Before a plane ticket, the prize for winning a PTQ also included a “travel award” ($250 for domestic PTs and $500 for international, I believe, which is ridiculous because $500 will get you to the middle of the Pacific if you’re trying to fly to Japan from the US). It was legal to split the travel award as part of the final prize.

  22. A couple people have talked about striking a balance in the playing vs “real life”. Keep in mind it’s all about what you want out of the game vs time you can put in. Most people, especially if you are reading articles to get better are not going to be able to put in a small amount of time and get better. As an example, I’ve top 8’d a GP, and have played on the PT a couple times. When in full PTQ/GP/PT prep mode I do at least 3 irl drafts a week, a couple MOL drafts in a week, and if there is constructed to worry about another 2 nights during the week set aside to playtest. In addition as Gerry said I’m willing to travel to any PTQ within 6 hours without thinking about it, and am willing to go further if there is some planning, this year I also am hitting up every American GP. I’m lucky to have a g/f that doesn’t mind that time investment on my part and I don’t have kids. I know many people don’t have that luxuary.

    There is a reason that the vast majority of the PT is made of up of single (or at least unmarried) guys in their 20’s. They have the extra time to devote to actually get good. This game is hyper complex, and is all about small edges. If you don’t stay mentally sharp you’re just going to start missing your small edges, and for most of us mere mortals this means playing an insane amount.

    I guess all I’m saying is there is a line, you can end up burned out on Magic if you spend too much time with not enough results, and at the same time you can wreck the rest of your social life. But at the same time if you are someone that only has one 4 hour night a week to devote to Magic and can only go to PTQs that are less than an hour away, then you’re a very long shot to qualify or get better no matter how much potential you might have.

  23. You PTQ’ed in Winnipeg? I don’t remember ever seeing you at any of our PTQ’s… I mean I did pause a while during Affinity block and what not but I still went to PTQ’s (I sold off all my cards to be able to pay tuition, bad beats!) to hang out with friends.

    But yeah people who complain about having to drive 3 hrs to a PTQ are def. spoiled. I’m pretty stoked because Fargo is getting a PTQ this season which I’ll def. attend. Going the 8hrs to Minneapolis etc isn’t the biggest problem ; the biggest problem is getting it through the better half. Fargo isn’t too hard to get thumbs up for though.

    Oh yeah great article btw 🙂

  24. This is all fine and good, and the need to succeed is at the top of my list. But I want the pro tour, and I want it now. . . Article’s fine, and has good substance, but we’re about to walk into a sealed season, and I, personally have no idea how to prepare for something of that nature. ‘Know your deck?’ good advice, but 100% useless right now.

  25. Less useless than you might think, B19. In a format where you have no control over the deck you end up with, the only way to “know your deck” in advance is to know as many decks as possible, ie jam it, which he said.

    If “I want the pro tour, and I want it now” is a reasonable expectation for you as a player, then “go to the prerelease and play as many flights as possible, discuss sealed pools – general and specific – with players better than you, go to every PTQ/GP, blah blah blah etc” should be advice so basic it’s inane to tell you. There’s no secret beyond that, though. Everyone who succeeds consistently on the tour is brilliant or worked really hard to get/stay there or both. That’s it. Do you want him to expand further on “work really hard”? Do you want highly speculative Zendikar-specific sealed advice?

  26. Hey Gerry,

    I won a PTQ and am heading to Austin! I am just re-easing into magic online, and I gotta say- it’s expensive. I can consistently do well in 8man drafts, but the return there is minimal, mostly loss I find. I used to play before when Psychatog was in, when you played. The monetary gain there was ridiculous. Also, the playerbase wasn’t the greatest either. Now, online play seems mostly top notch minus the odd person you play again.

    My question is- how should I get into magic online on the rotation? Should I play in limited formats? Should I shell out the 100-200$ it will cost for a deck (assuming Baneslayer?) and play constructed?

  27. From those of us still trying to top 8 anything, we salute you. Great article.

    Those of us in Iowa (still, though I’m sure Montana is similar) just need to find other people willing to play! Can’t goldfish all day… although I may have before…

  28. I’d like to see more about attitude and beliefs. I understand that going to as many events as possible will maximize your changes, but what should happen once I arrive at the site?

  29. Hi Gerry, great article and very honest too.

    Here in my country (Chile) we don’t get as many PTQ’s or GP’s as you have there in the states, but I try to attend to everyone.

    Now I consider myself an average player, making good appeareances but not getting as many top 8’s as I want to. These article has put some things together in my head, and I hope it to be of some help to improve.


  30. Great freaking article man! As someone that is seriously working towards the PT I found that to be an awesome read. I am still very early in my magic career, and at times it does feel like it will be impossible to catch up to those players that are 10+ years ahead of you in magic experience. It helps to see that we all have to make the climb. I also wanted to agree with you regarding arrogance. I pride myself in my personal arrogance, but that applies to life in general and me being freaking awesome. As a very competetive person I have learned to not let my arrogance get in the way of my competetive nature. The bigger the ego the harder it falls. If you want to be the best you need to humble yourself and be willing to admit you don’t know everything. That will enable you to gain from your experiences. Also, there is no excuse for bad sportsmanship. Being a man and respecting your opponent, whether you win or lose, is a huge character builder.

    Keep up the great work!

    —Tangent was here…

  31. Gerry,

    Let me chime in with a “Great Article.” Great article. You have earned multiple “Get Out of Disagreements With Anything I Believe Free” cards with this one–I mean, you really, really have gained a lot of credibility in my mind as a reader. Well done.

    Jeff Stewart

  32. No, wild speculation isn’t useful, nor is rewriting ‘work harder’ over and over to get a point across. I’m just saying that this article isn’t what people trying to break into the pro-tours need right now. The article is fine, like I said, and I personally enjoyed the story of, “The Rise to ‘Pro-wer.”

    That being said, I think what those of us that read these articles for gain need right now is talk about what to do walking into a sealed event. It could be as easy as giving a pro’s viewpoint of what it was like walking into shards pre-release, expectations of the game there, and how they’ve changed looking back. Gauging meta-game, understanding how ‘good’ a card really is, things of that nature are things that pros do well. And its those kinds of lessons that could help advance our play right now, preparing for a new format.

  33. @B19 it may be true that there are some specifics that would be beneficial to you, but most of the things you mentioned aren’t something I need to know. IMO they are trivial. His article was far from just stating the need to work harder, but leaned more towards one of the hardest things in any competetive event… Don’t become complacent or even arrogant. Hard work is a no-brainer, but we all forget the fundamentals of not taking things for granted. We all can lose to an over-inflated ego.

    —Tangent was here…again…

  34. There are a few magic articles that really stand out and continue to be relevant over long periods of time. I feel this this could be one of those. I started magic the week that Urza’s Legacy came out and played nothing but casual until Ravnica. Then I didn’t play constructed until Shards. This article makes me feel like the only thing standing between me and the pro-tour is my will to go and play. I guess getting addicted to mtgo would help to.

  35. I’m surprised you didn’t mention how good looking Adam Gunderson is, he is easily the best looking guy in all of MN.

  36. Great article. My goal is to qual for PT San Diego and this is exactly the kind of article I needed to motivate me to drive to all of the PTQ’s surrounding SLC. Thanks!

  37. When I claim my blue envelope in Illinois on Oct. 10, I’ll be sure to mention you in my acceptance speech.

  38. Quick question re: “I never spent another dime on MTGO”. I’ve never played MTGO, but I’m confused as to how this worked.

    AFAIK you have to buy your 3 packs for a draft even online right? Were you just able to convert your prize boosters into draft entries? Am I missing something trivial?

    I’m a fairly new player to magic, and this bit about mtgo caught my eye. Thanks for the article!

  39. Dude, you are now my mecca. I am in the West Coast, so I will face east during my lunch breaks, set a yoga mat down, and begin praying to Gerry “MF’in T”.

    In other words, good work.

  40. The story part was a good read, but I have to agree with Amarsir.. I was hoping for a little more “lesson” in the end..

  41. ..Not that the lessons were bad, and they would definitely be helpful to those who are starting out or maybe even looking to top 8 a ptq, but I thought there would be a little more insight for the more advanced players who are still struggling to qualify.

  42. 50+ comments are something for the ego.

    anyway, in my country you dont count the travelling hours by car, but by plane.
    Since there are around 3 PTQs in my country, which is a big country, you dont have much to choose. In SOUTH brazil however, we consider the option of going to argentina to chase for the blue envelope.

    any ptq for 6/8 hours travel by CAR would be insanelly awesome.

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  44. While this was more fluff than crunch, I think it was something I needed to read. A series of “being in the right place at the right time”s has recently reopened magic to me as a competitive game. Right now I am at an impasse: I have no reasonable way to practice limited often. I just don’t have the money for MTGO. I can (and will, funding permitting) make every california PTQ this year.

    How exactly does one become addicted to MTGO and yet never spend a dime on it? Selling cards for tix? Right now the best I can do is simulate sealed on MWS.

  45. Amarsir: I did about as much guiding as I could, and I also said a lot more than just "practice." I have written previous articles on "how" to go about playtesting and such, and can be found on this site (Proper Playtesting).

    RandomB: Agreed on all counts. However, for people really trying to make it to the PT, driving six hours is a sacrifice they might have to make. It all comes down to how badly you want it and what you are willing to give up for it.

    I loved Magic, I lived Magic, and I wanted to be deeply involved in it, so I made a concentrated effort to get to where I wanted to be. I am NOT a naturally good player, as is evident by reading the article. Everything I have achieved (while not spectacular, but certainly nothing to scoff at) can probably be accomplished by anyone willing to put their mind to it.

    Real life? Screw it, I wanted to game.

    Prosak: I hear you man.

    Kenshin: Definitely. There is a huge difference between confidence and arrogance. LSV is always confident and never arrogant, but sometimes people just want to blur those lines.

    Gwendly: I think I played in exactly two Winnipeg PTQs, one with Miracle Gro and another with BU Braids.

    Vince: Congrats man! Honestly, I'm a little out of the loop as far as MTGO goes. Constructed is always a great way to win some dough, but the sealed Pes were solid as well. I just don't know what they've done to those payouts or if they only have the four round Pes or whatever. I know they have big Pes on the weekends, and those are a great way to make money, because you can't bleed it away quickly, and if you win one of those, you are set for a while.

    You definitely shouldn't be making any poor investments like buying cards before they rotate, but you should be willing to pay 100-200 to get set up for the almost the entire next constructed season.

    Adam (not Prosak): I don't usually do anything special. I hang out with my friends, maybe do a draft or something, but I definitely try to stay calm and focused. If you're too excited, agitated, or nervous, you're going to be off your game. If you need to take a few minutes, smoke a cigarette, listen to some music, whatever, then you should do it.

    Set realistic goals and if you reach them mid-tournament, re-evaluate your situation and set new goals.

    Aoret: I would use three packs and two tickets (basically MTGO dollars) to enter a draft, win 8 packs, sell off whatever packs I didn't need for tickets and repeat. Occasionally, I would sell off cards for tickets also.

    Quelian: Basically, the above. Keep winning. Find the formats with the highest EV so you can build a bankroll. If you know of some insane deck, invest in some copies of the cards. I've done this with Ichorid, Lord of Atlantis, Swans of Bryn Argoll, etc and it's good way to just make a quick 100, assuming you have the liquid.

    I've paid multiple months of rent by selling tickets via Paypal. Not that I was making much, but it was enough to live and I got to do what I love.

    Everyone else: Thanks a ton! I’m glad the article was well received. It was something along the lines I wanted to write for a while, but didn’t know how much people would like it.

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