Important Things for Tournament Success – Part 3: Improving Your Magic Environment


Hello everyone, it’s Tomoharu Saito.

Today I will be discussing the subject of “your Magic environment”.

Now, the conditions you play in are naturally important in determining how much you can accomplish. However, from a wider perspective reexamining the conditions themselves is what is really crucial.

I currently live in Tokyo. It competes in size with the world’s largest cities with around 10,000,000 people residing there. If you include Tokyo’s outskirts (Kanagawa prefecture, Saitama prefecture and Chiba prefecture where the World Championships will be held this year) this number becomes 35,000,000 people. In my estimation, in this whole region there are about 10,000 Magic players. Many card shops exist, and every weekend there are 100 player tournaments held in varying locations.

The Tokyo suburbs are a region considerably rich in Magic players. It is also clear that more than half of Japanese professional players live in this region. Usually when I play Magic, I play it here. Does this seem lucky to you?

But this does not mean that I began playing Magic in Tokyo. With the hopes of improving my own personal Magic environment, I moved to Tokyo when I was 18 years old, around the time I graduated from high school. Because there were many tournaments there and a large player population, there were also many skilled individuals. Having that kind of ability was the dream of young Magic players from rural areas.

And in truth, by entering a lot of tournaments I met a lot of players and came to play against many skilled opponents. When I think about the reasons I became a professional player, I think that this is largely the primary factor. By changing to a good environment and playing Magic there I began winning.

I don’t know what kind of tournament you would like to win, but in order to do so, playing in a good Magic environment is extremely important. I have many sports stories I could relate, but I like the following a lot. Once, a local team faced off with the “King Team”: a group of the most skilled players who had practiced with only the best equipment and facilities. Defeating the “King Team” required great effort and a lot of guts, and in order to win and become stronger competitors the local team needed to overcome the disadvantages of their native environment. Stories like that can teach us very important things. However, what would have happened if the “King Team” had done the same thing? I think that in many cases your original ability and environment, and moreover the advantages these two things can give you, can create an overwhelming difference.

Is this unreasonable? I don’t think so. As far as “winning a tournament” is concerned, I think the important things are all found within the individual games. If you would really like to become better at Magic, your own thoughts and actions are crucial. Today’s theme will be all the more valuable for individuals who feel they are playing in a poor Magic environment. In order to begin to improve this environment, there are certain courses of action you should take.

I have discussed my own thoughts and experiences about the importance of a good Magic environment. From here on, I think I would like to give a few examples of methods you can use to improve your own environment.

Suggestion 1: Live in a City with Many Players

It is easy to improve your skills in this sort of location. If this is what you desire, it is best to move to a large city to play Magic similar to my living in Tokyo. If you already live in a large city, please ignore the following. An environment with many players, tournaments and cards is ideal. This kind of environment provides what is needed for growth as a player and above all, is fun. In my last article I related my thoughts about the importance of feeling like you are having “fun” when playing Magic. This too will accelerate the improvement in your abilities as a player. However, realistically I think that for many people moving to a large city would be difficult. I am mainly recommending this for people for whom changing residence is not impossible, and for individuals who truly want to succeed at the Pro Tour level of play.

Suggestion 2: Live in a Place with an Excellent Magic Scene

Another possibility is to live in a place with a relatively large population of Magic players or one that is close to a card shop where players regularly gather. I recommend my first suggestion for those who wish to succeed at Pro Tours and Grands Prix, but if your main goal is to win area specific tournaments, PTQs and GPTs, this idea can be a suitable replacement. I think that it is highly likely that large cities are not the only environments that can foster this kind of success. But this is quite a difficult thing to achieve. It may still be alright however – there are even more possible solutions.

Suggestion 3: Actively Travel

Even if you are unable to change residence, there is also the method of using travel to compensate for your current environment. The well-known Shuuhei Nakamura has used this approach in a variety of ways. For a large amount of time before each tournament, he comes to Tokyo to practice. If you are unable to commit a great deal of time to this, I think that even using just vacations from work or school to travel will produce results. Provided that only a little time is spent traveling by car or train to a better Magic environment, using this method is effective.

Suggestion 4: Use Magic Online

Whenever, wherever you are, if you just have a personal computer and an internet connection you can play Magic as much as you’d like. You can smoothly and easily compete with various decks. Whenever you want to draft, 8 players are automatically selected for the event. In order to use Magic Online, you need only a credit card, a small amount of English ability and a computer that isn’t obsolete. Whatever kind of Magic environment you live in, you should put Magic Online to use effectively.

Suggestion 5: Improve Your Current Environment

While I believe that each situation is different, I also think that generally the friends and colleagues you have who play Magic and the place you play are your current Magic environment. I think there are various things you can do that, although simple, will improve this environment. For example: there’s a new person with a willingness to try the game and the potential to become involved. Do you proactively search for this type of individual? Naturally, the more good players you have, the better your environment becomes. What equipment is required? Are you using chairs and tables or similar things at tournaments? How about considering getting everyone to contribute money to purchase necessary items? Getting as much practice as possible in an environment similar to that of a real tournament is more effective.

I think that there are various other methods, but these are the main ones. The information you have available to you and your relationship to your fellow players are other aspects of your environment, but today I have talked thouroughly about that of everyday Magic.

“How much can I accomplish in my current environment?”

This kind of thought is a very important thing.

But before this, I would really like you to try to think:

“How can I improve my current environment?”

Incidentally, in today’s Magic world I don’t think there are many players who, like the local team, strive to overcome the circumstances in which they play through hard work and great effort. So, don’t worry and try your best! Professional players also each have their own scope of ability. I don’t think that anyone can exceed their own limits as a human being. The situation is such that there are people who have great ability, those with an average amount of ability and then those who have less.

In other words, if you are looking to win tournaments and you live your life by constructing your own environment you will have as many chances to succeed as you like.

I hope that everyone is able to play in a better Magic environment!

From Tomoharu Saito, to Magic players throughout the world

19 thoughts on “Important Things for Tournament Success – Part 3: Improving Your Magic Environment”

  1. Building your own community is possible even when faced with the possibility of Pokemon police raids (not a joke).

    In order to achieve this goal, I established the Magic scene in Dubai. Initially when I arrived there was a scene, but the the Judge who was the TO left and everything fell a part. Frustrated at living without Magic, I began by posting a letter in the paper, and slowly built up playing community. It did involve many nights where we drafted with no more than 4 people but in the end, stubborness bred its own success. Today there is a lively Magic scene which hs lived past several TOs leaving and has enough players for a Nationals, although Wizards has still not granted this.

    The biggest challange was that at any time, if we had upset the wrong local, we could have been kicked out of the country or been thrown in prison for playing Magic. Funny it may seem, until you have faced that sitution. Afterall there neighbour Sharjah did have a police crack down on Pokemon.

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  3. awesome advise, I have been already trying this. I like to play with people at the shops in my town that I know are better than me. I have been improving my game a great deal by just doing this.

  4. I don’t think I’m a fan of this series… I feel like Saito doesn’t actually “say” anything in these articles other than what’s so obvious. I mean I guess this article is fine but if you actually think about it this article has no actual depth and only says “move to a place with a lot of people playing magic”. I would never have thought of that.

  5. Great article as usual from Saito, it should be a ‘must read’ for every Magic player that want to have success

  6. ravenousratsftw

    I liked the simplicity of it. Not every article needs to be horrendously long… with deck lists and reports.

  7. This series is great. There are a bunch of sites to find decklists and tournament reports, but a chance to actually hear one of the games best players thoughts and theories is a rare gift and shouldn’t be discarded so lightly.
    Excellent article, thank you.

  8. @bob: What is obvious to some may not be obvious to others. Also, the obvious things often have to be repeated because as human beings, we tend only to pay attention to the exceptional.

    Like with any skill, the hardest things to master are the basics, because after we learn them, we feel like there is no more need to improve them because they are, well, the “basics.” Granted, advanced technique is necessary and takes great effort, but if you do not continue to work on the fundamentals, we will always be limiting ourselves.

    Your environment is one fundamental that is often overlooked, mostly because people tend to focus only on playing. Maybe you’re blessed with the opportunity to play in a great environment without having to work at it. Maybe you were born in New York or Tokyo. Many people are not, and many of them do not stop to appreciate the options they have at their disposal. Plus, even if you have a great environment, as Saito points out, you can still continue to improve it. Every little bit matters.

  9. @ David Brannon

    “Pokemon police raids (not a joke).”

    wait what? please elaborate.

  10. things are always lost in translation. sometimes the obvious needs said. dedication can mean relocation.

    anyway i definitely agree when he says to be open to travel. playing a local tournament and playing a ptq and playing a gp are all entirely different experiences, and you really need to learn from all those experiences

  11. I agree with Bob. There is nothing here. Saito is a great player and no one is debating that but the articles he’s produced thus far are more than lacking. The language seems fine overall so translation seems to be going well. You would be hard pressed to find someone who needed a whole article dedicated to such obvious advice as the above. Perhaps a bit more effort in your next article would produce something worth reading…..

  12. Jake and Bob, take off those USA-glasses and try to look at the world from a different angle.

    I really like these articles for the same reasons like “Eln”.
    You can find articles about decks and how to draft all over the web, but articles like these is what makes me come back to channel fireball every day.

    So yea, big thx to Saito san and the channel fireballcrew for this kind of article.

    Keep up the good work people

    looking forward to the next one

  13. Well you made me consider going back to Porto Alegre or another city to be closer to some good magic scenes.

  14. Playing on MTGO is super important. For any number of personal, logistic, and professional reasons, if you can’t make it to a sanctioned regular tournament in a city with a healthy MTG scene, you have to get online.

    You are more likely to see the deck you might lose to at the next PTQ online. You are more likely to meet the people who build and test winning decks online. If you’re into limited, then MTGO lets you review your draft or sealed picks and deck building skills over the course of several tournaments. You can use this to get better.

    MTGO beats other online programs because the rules are programmed into the game. Your game rules knowledge and awareness of steps, phases, and priority is reinforced with every game you play online. It makes you a better, more rules conscious, and more aware player.

    This should probably be higher on the list than it is, for these reasons. Don’t get me wrong – I’m no shill for MTGO. I don’t play magic online at all, I am busy with family and career and rarely play anymore. I’m also blessed to live in a very large city with a large and active IRL tournament and casual scene. But if I wanted to get serious about competitive Magic, no matter where I lived I would start playing online.

  15. Nice articles man!!!
    Hey man i will play my nationals with ur urw list and would like to know if u can send me ur sb plans againt tier 1 decks of ur uwr deck from the last gp?

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