Important Things for Tournament Success – Part 2: Having Fun


“This is fun!”

Your effectiveness as a Magic player will increase significantly when this feeling is something you strive towards.

Individuals who have fun while doing something are easily able to generate positive results, whether this is at work, in relationships, or through the activities of a club. I earnestly believe this to be true. Conversely, if you think the task at hand is boring and perform it without enthusiasm, positive results will be very difficult to achieve.

I believe that many individuals today have a basic understanding of these things and that similarly many people in the world have discussed them, but none have talked about this topic in depth.

Today’s theme is “The importance of having fun in tournament Magic.”

Having Fun When Preparing For a Tournament

First of all, in most cases tournament players like entering tournaments and feel that they are enjoyable. Additionally, a large number of these players are playing to win. However, if this desire is widespread, as a matter of course players gradually become more serious in working towards this goal.

Working hard in testing, making, or selecting a deck as well as when practicing playing it allows you to avoid misplays at a real tournament. And, when doing this it is important to have fun. In order to succeed at Magic tournaments, the amount of good practice you are able to get is more essential than your play or strategy at an event itself. In short, whether you are able to enjoy your practice period is very important.

In considering the idea that there was nothing to support this, I realized there actually was.

“This environment is terrible!”

Sometimes, this sort of negative comment is made about a format. Haven’t you heard this sort of remark? I have heard it many times. I have also said it many times myself. In looking back at the tournaments around those times, my results were generally poor. Practically speaking, nowadays even if there are times when I think to myself “That event was great!” or “Wizards has done it!”, there are still a few times when I think a format is awful.

But as far as the goal of winning a tournament is concerned, saying “This environment is terrible” offers no gain to a player. If you do say this, your enjoyment of the game will rapidly decrease and your own motivation will be reduced, perhaps even influencing the motivation of your friends. So I don’t say this anymore.

At those times it would be better to think “If anyone discovers a solution to this terrible environment, things would improve greatly! So, let’s get to it!” or “This is a very difficult format. This could be fun!” The important thing here is the way you capture these ideas in order to better enjoy the game.

Also, in the event that you are unable to make a good deck, you can say the same sort of things. Despite the feeling that being unable to make a good deck is a pain, altering your thinking such that “Difficult” = “Fun” is very beneficial.

Having Fun at the Event

Once you are able to have fun while getting good practice at the same time, all that remains is to demonstrate your skill at the tournament itself. It is equally important to have fun at the main event. This is not to say I think it is necessary to always smile. The feeling of mental strain when playing a match is a large element in influencing both you and your opponent’s play. This is because in overthinking your next move it becomes easier for you to make misplays, and as a result your opponent will relax and their play will improve instead.

What I would like to talk about here is the idea of whether or not you are really able to have fun on the inside. I touched on this also in my last installment in this series “Concentration“: the idea that losing hope in difficult situations is truly a bad habit for a player. When trouble continues and you inevitably make a misplay, your ability to have fun in tough circumstances is important. On the other hand, training your ability to enjoy yourself is difficult. In any case, if you continue to find that there are things you need to work on, I will suggest a more efficient method:

No matter what sort of things you encounter, you can put together a formula in your own mind to make them “positive”.

For example, in the unfavorable circumstances in which your physical health is poor going into an event, start by thinking “Poor physical health = Positive” and then during the event alter your thinking by inserting reasons why you are enjoying yourself.
“Poor physical health = Winning the championship in these circumstances would be awesome! = Positive.” Or, “Poor physical health = Time to practice in these circumstances is precious = Positive.”
This sort of idea.

And also,

“I made a misplay = This means I still have room to improve = Positive.”
“I missed Top 8 = I can still make Top 16 = Positive.”
“I got a game loss for tardiness = If I learn from this, at more important times things will be OK = Positive.

Other ideas like this are all excellent. Thinking positively becomes easy even with more difficult reasons if you put them into the “Positive Equation”. Moreover, this invites fun into your tournament day. Please give it a try.

Having More Fun

One piece of advice for having fun at Magic tournaments is to compete with friends and colleagues of about the same skill level over match wins. Because of my fellow competitor and rival Katsuhiro Mori, I think I am at this point in time fully involved in Magic and have become a stronger player. Also, paying attention to your rating or pro points and observing a steady increase can also be an effective way to have fun.

Incidentally, I really like the progression from the practice period to the end of a tournament. This is because Magic has a lot of depth to it.

Even now, for me few Magic tournaments allow for perfection: “100%”. Disregarding luck, your personal “perfect score” is defined by your perception of your own capabilities as a player. Countless choices are regulated entirely by this, and someday I would like to try to win a tournament and feel like I got a “perfect score”. I think succeeding at this would be really fun.

I think getting a perfect score on school tests many, many times would be similarly difficult. It is no mistake to say that the concept of a perfect score has become a great motivation to me.

Having fun takes you closer to winning

So now more than just having fun, the task is coming up with a plan of ways to better enjoy yourself. I think I have come to understand that this is a better way of doing things.

Even still, there may be times when you are unable to enjoy yourself. There could be a continuing unlucky streak resulting in your being unable to win or a time when you play exceedingly poorly that could put you in an unpleasant mood. When things are too tough, you may feel all the more the desire to quit Magic completely. In actuality, about five years ago due to a series of losses and a lack of enjoyment, I quit Magic. After quitting that time I have played Magic consistently, but during that period while drinking with friends I played some other games. The result? Just two weeks later, I made my return to Magic. Even though I quit, finding something more interesting than Magic proved to be far from simple. After my return, the fun of Magic became clearer to me and to this day I think that quitting was a good thing because I found a greater love for the game through it.

I often think that quitting tournament Magic but not quitting Magic itself and trying casual Magic would also be alright. No matter what though, it would be distressing to try and be separate from the tournament scene.

For those of you who wish to win tournaments, have fun while doing so.

In the future, I wish for you to be able to share the fun of Magic with others and make many friends through the game.

Let’s do our best to have fun!

From Tomoharu Saito, to Magic players throughout the world

23 thoughts on “Important Things for Tournament Success – Part 2: Having Fun”

  1. This article deserves serious praise. Its not every day you get a chance to see someone talk about enjoying the game without talking about actually playing. And I think this is something that might make this article seem off topic or unimportant to your game, but man it speaks volumes about success I think and why you see certain players maintaining such amazing careers in the game. Thank you Saito for letting us see into what makes you one of the most successful pros.

  2. I’m glad to see that there are professional players like yourself writing these kinds of articles. I have seen SO MANY people blow up because they lost a tournament or even a game. It makes me sick thinking that there are people who take this game way too seriously. My philosophy is that if magic isn’t fun even when loosing then they should stop playing.

    Thanks for writing the article. I think people need to hear this message more often.

  3. Saito manages to clearly and concisely cut to the heart of the subjects he discusses, his advice is always valuable. Thankyou

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  5. Arigato Tomoharu, great article as always. Too many people forget that first and foremost, this is a game that we love to play.

  6. Excellent article.

    It’s worth noting that this is not a Magic-only lesson. Apply it to all aspects of your life.

  7. The article only applies if having fun produces success. Perhaps it is the success that produces the fun?

    I believe that Saito is correct in that enjoying your task makes it far more likely that you will do it well, but that is just a belief and I don’t have anything that will back up the causation.


  8. Excellent words of wisdom, about reframing seemingly negative things in positive ways.

    And, fun is fun!

  9. @Bruce

    But beating yourself up and your opponent for losing is not only pointless but a total douche move. It does not improve your game in any way and might cause frustration misplays. I think this is the point he is trying to make. I’ve seen a few players blow up when I beat them and they just seem pathetic to me. If you cant have fun while playing magic, why even play at all?

  10. This article raises very good points. I’ve had practically no success with RotE limited after a few weeks of my opponents having seemingly infinite removal spells + one bomb creature against me, and even building a reasonably solid deck would see me getting terrible draws. I found myself going to FNM with a feeling of “oh here we go again” and sure enough, I lost both my matches (before dropping). Am I losing so badly because I’m not having fun, or vice versa?

  11. This article, as do all your other articles, raises a great point about magic and tournament success that I have not seen other write about. Nice topic and many insightful points.

  12. I love how concise and no nonsence Saito’s articles are. As someone who’s read some personal development books the whole postive thinking approach is something I’ve heard a lot. Please keep these coming!

  13. Our generation (even in Magic) lives in the middle of a paradox: we like to hear good advice on how to achieve our goals but walk away if someone even dares to sound like a sales rep or, worst yet, a self-help writer. We will only listen to someone who conveys wisdom without echoing arrogance, and Saito pulls it off easily. And like all good things Japanese (think Zen, Origami or Go for small examples) his advice is simple in concept yet difficult to master. We better get started…

  14. Understanding how your own happiness and attitude can affect tournament play is a huge deal. I’ve been fighting with it as of late, trying to get my mind in just the right place. I feel I have accomplished it finally, after having two very successful tournaments in a row, but it was tough to get there. I try to focus not on the results of my match, but on making correct decisions given the context and my available knowledge. It always works our for the best. Another easy thing to master is to base your decisions largely on the attitude you get from your opponent. Based on the plays they make, you can learn an absolute ton about their hand, and find your way to victory.


  15. Destructor Dan

    Nice article! It was fun playing drunken cricket in Auckland! Come back to NZ!

  16. “Also, paying attention to your rating or pro points and observing a steady increase can also be an effective way to have fun.”

    Create a personalised DCI Ratings page to track the ratings of you and your playgroup here: http://www.dciratings.com

  17. Pingback: » Hall of Fame 2013 Candidates – Tomoharu Saito

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