Important Things for Tournament Success – Part 7: Other Lessons Learned

Hello, it’s Tomoharu Saito.  Today, I am returning to my series “Important Things for Tournament Success”.  In past articles in this series, I’ve covered various topics including the importance of concentration ability, having fun, and your play environment, but today’s themes are different.  I am going to talk about a few less commonly explored subjects.

Physical Condition Management

When you are in poor physical condition, your ability to think and concentrate decreases proportionally.  It is very important to manage your physical condition prior to a tournament.  Fortunately, I have rarely felt unwell when playing in a large tournament. I found that there were times when I practiced too much before a big tournament and overworked myself, or when I packed improperly for weather differences in a foreign country (a change of seasons or different air temperatures), and it is easy to understand how this impacted my physical condition.  If this is what you are dealing with, by heightening your awareness just a little, you will play in events in poor physical condition less and less.

Avoiding overworking right before a tournament, bringing appropriate clothes, eating a balanced diet, all of this common advice applies here.  Regularly exercising to get into good shape is also a good idea, but because of the time it takes I feel it is not cost-effective, as far as tournament success is concerned, and generally do not exercise right before an event.

Though this probably has no bearing on many people, jet lag is my number one enemy in terms of physical condition. I will mention once that I think not sleeping the day before your flight is best, because in recent years this method has enabled me to combat the problem of jet lag.  If you are extremely tired on the plane you can sleep through the flight and get nothing but rest.   After your arrival, make sure not to sleep until it is past 10 PM local time and to be in bed no later than 1 AM.   For me, sleeping on a plane is only about half as effective as sleeping in regular circumstances.  Even if you can sleep in economy class seats, the unsatisfactory conditions can still leave you feeling fatigued.  Not sleeping before a flight also allows you to sleep easily when you arrive at the tournament location. If it is the evening local time and you still cannot sleep, as a last resort you could drink alcohol to help you get some rest.

If you must play in a tournament in poor physical condition there is still one positive to note. When you are keenly aware of the fact that you are playing in poor physical condition, you may be more attentive and make fewer careless play mistakes.  I’ve heard some people say that, “You have a better chance of success at Magic when you’re feeling unwell,” but I think that people like that might generally make a lot of careless misplays.

However, being both attentive and in excellent physical condition is best. The morning of the event you should always eat breakfast.  This will reduce the number of so-called “fatigue mistakes” you make.  This is especially important for individuals like me who are not morning people. Since the act of eating wakes up your body and allows you to take in energy, it is important to eat on the day of the event.

Time Management

How long until sign-ups close?  How long until the tournament starts?  How long until the end of this round?  How long until the beginning of the next round?  When you don’t know the answers to these questions at a tournament there is always the possibility of having an unpleasant experience.  Being even a little late to a tournament can result in your being unable to enter, and being late to a round can result in a game loss.  Just one game loss can snatch away your chance at Top 8.  These things are completely avoidable, so being aware of the event or round’s start time and checking your watch are important habits.

Additionally, you need to be careful because being late to practice with your colleagues wastes their time and may decrease their desire to work with you.  For example, eight people are getting together for a draft and seven of them must wait for twenty minutes.  Seven people each waiting twenty minutes becomes 140 minutes in total that they are kept waiting.  In creating a better environment for yourself, you must reduce behaviors that decrease others’ confidence in you as much as possible.

Playing and Enforcing an Honest Game

To put it strongly, this is a game that allows for the possibility of all kinds of cheating. You could cheat or be the victim of cheating. However, you absolutely must not cheat.  Judges and players will catch you, and you will have to leave the tournament and will be banned from tournament play.  Cheating does not even provide you with the chance to win a tournament, and besides this it will spoil the satisfaction you get from playing.  Thinking of being banned from tournament play now is scary because I think that my day-to-day feeling of satisfaction and enjoyment would drastically decline. I am not saying this simply because I am a professional player, as I think that among my readers there are many that for whom this would be the case.  Even if you are aware of your loss, after you give up the chance to play in tournaments your day-to-day satisfaction will not return.

Approximately nine years ago, I was disqualified twice from tournament play and suspended for a year and a half.  It was not because I cheated but rather because I did not understand the rules as well as was necessary and at the Asian Championship I was disqualified as I was on the way to victory.  I misunderstood the rules regarding bribery (involving money or other prizes in deciding who wins a match), something that was not unusual at the time, and broke the rules.  I proposed this and then agreed to it, and as a result I lost my chance to play in the Top 8 and compete for the prize.  I remember feeling full of regret and very upset.  The second disqualification happened at Grand Prix Kobe.  I did not believe my actions would cause a problem, but I took advantage of my opponent’s mistake in an unsporting fashion and was disqualified from the event.  I wondered why I had expected nothing to go wrong and was very upset.  Following this, it was ruled that I should be suspended for a year and a half.  Thinking this was the end of my career, I sold all of my cards.  However, after half a year I realized I could walk to a card shop and play in drafts every day despite the fact that I could not play in sanctioned events.   There I became aware that I truly loved the game, and my resolve led to my success today.

However, during this whole time I could not play in tournaments and had to be temporarily inactive.  As a result, I think that my entrance onto the international stage came considerably later than it otherwise would have.  Upon my return, because of the bad impression some people had of me, my personal connections had decreased and during matches judges would often watch me closely and make it difficult to concentrate.

I don’t like to think about these past events, and I’d like it if you left them in the past as well.  Because of this I now take a strong stance in following the rules, and I recommend this to all of you.  Naturally there is the expectation that a “professional player” should set an example and help to protect Magic’s rules, but for me the root of this idea has come from my past experiences.  Know the rules and following them.  I think this is very important for tournament success.

It is not enough just to refraining from cheating, it is also essential not to let others cheat.  I’ve heard of many kinds of cheating: drawing twice, stacking your deck, picking up cards from your graveyard, concealing cards and then exchanging them with cards in your hand.  However, these are mostly things you can prevent by watching your opponent’s behavior, board and graveyard closely and confirming that the number of cards they are using is not strange.  Of course, playing fair is the norm, and although it might seem useless at first glance, I recommend paying attention so that you can detect someone forgetting to draw, forgetting effects of abilities, or making an error in paying for a spell, as it will also help encourage a healthy game.

Incidentally, despite what I have said above I think that the number of cheaters has considerably decreased over time.  This is because judges, players and Wizards of the Coast have made a great effort to prevent this over the years. However, I feel that when players are not vigilant there will most likely be cheaters who try to take advantage of them.

Play and enforce an honest game.  Please continue to enjoy Magic and succeed at tournaments.

Today I spoke about three issues: physical condition, time and cheating.  But, if you look only at the small issues, there are still many important things for tournament success that have not yet been discussed.  Certainly there are things I also do not understand.  I think that next time I would like to write more on this subject.  Until then, please look for methods that have been effective for you in your own tournament success.  I wish for you to be able to enjoy the game, which will lead to success in its own right.

From Tomoharu Saito, to Magic players throughout the world

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