Taking the Next Step – by Jeff Lagios
Maybe you’ve been playing casually with your friends for a while, and you would like to try your hand at Friday Night Magic. Perhaps you’ve been playing FNM’s and feel you are ready to try a SCG, TCGPlayer, or a Grand Prix. Either way, it can be intimidating to take that next step. What can you expect, or what do you need to do to be prepared?
Before the Tournament
There are some things you can do before the tournament to be sure that things go smoothly.
Verify the Format
This is very important. You don’t want to show up expecting draft and it be constructed night, or bring a modern deck to a standard tournament. You can look up the format for larger tournaments online, or call your local game store to find out the format for this week’s FNM.
If you are unsure if your deck is legal for the format, ask your friends, or you can look up the cards on a site such as http://magiccards.info, or http://gatherer.wizards.com/
Know Your Deck
If you are playing in a constructed format, play the deck you are most familiar with. You can use your sideboard to adjust for the decks you expect to play, but you will be excited and nervous. You will have a better time playing well with a deck that may not be the top deck, than you will playing an unfamiliar deck and making play mistakes. If you are going to a larger tournament and feel confident changing your deck for what you expect to face, playtest it. You don’t want to have to think about how your deck works under the pressure of the tournament.
Sleeves and Other Supplies
For smaller tournaments like FNMs, this isn’t quite as important, but it is never bad to resleeve your deck before going to a tournament. Worn sleeves or bent sleeves can be considered a form of card marking, so it’s best not to take chances. I recommend resleeving a day or two before hand so you can shuffle your deck, including the sideboard, to make your sleeves less slippery. Shuffling with brand new sleeves can be tricky, so make sure you are comfortable. Be sure to have a few extra sleeves, just in case some get damaged or rip.
Other supplies you will want to bring are:
Playmat – This can be personal preference, but not all tables are clean and covered in tablecloths.
Dice – At the very least I recommend six-sided dice for determining who plays first and for counters. Some players like spindown dice for life counters, however I recommend…
Pen and Paper – You will want to track both your life total and your opponent’s. You may also want to make notes of plays or how you sideboarded for a game. Spindown dice can get knocked over, so it is best to use pen and paper.
Cards for Trade – This isn’t a necessity, but can be extremely fun and helpful. You may be looking for things to do between matches, and trading can help you improve your decks.
Your First FNM
So, you are prepared, ready to go, and it’s Friday afternoon… now what?
You will want to arrive early and get a DCI card. Your DCI number is how you track your planeswalker points, as well as how you register for tournaments. Your FNM location should have the forms available, but you won’t want to be rushed to get it done. Arrive early and let them know it is your first FNM and you need to get a DCI card. They will help you out, and be much happier to assist if they aren’t rushed trying to get everyone registered for the FNM.
Let the Games Begin!
Once round 1 pairings have been announced, find your opponent and where you are sitting. Introduce yourself and get your opponent’s name. You can let them know that this is your first FNM. Wish them luck if you want and ask how they would like to determine play / draw. Some players prefer rolling a D20 (not a spindown counter) or two D6′s. Shuffle your deck thoroughly and offer your deck to your opponent to shuffle and / or cut. Seeing your opponent shuffle your deck can be unintentionally offensive to some players if you aren’t prepared for it. This is legal and in fact, I recommend shuffling your opponent’s deck. A good rule of thumb is to treat your opponent’s deck like you would a deck of your most valuable cards. Treat them with respect, as some decks are worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
If you have a question about a card or interaction, you may ask your opponent to read a card. Always wait for them to say okay before picking up a card. If you are still unsure, don’t be afraid to ask for a judge. Enjoy yourself, and win or lose be a good sport.
Your First Big Tournament
Larger tournaments are a different animal than FNM’s. More players, higher-level competition, and more pressure. You may be traveling to a new area. This requires some extra preparation for everything to go smoothly.
Learn the Area
If you are traveling, find out how far you are staying from the tournament location, where you can park, and places to eat nearby. Even if the tournament is close enough that you are driving there, you will need to park and eat at some point.
Get a Good Night’s Rest
This is quite possibly the most important thing before a big tournament. You can expect to play up to 12 hours of Magic with very little time between matches. It is mentally exhausting. If you are tired it will affect your decision making.
Bring a Bag with Snacks, Drinks, and Supplies
You will be playing up to 10 or 11 rounds of magic with only a 15 minute break between rounds. If you are playing a control deck, you may go to the time limit every round. There are no breaks for lunch or dinner, so you have to grab something when you can. I recommend packaged snacks, drinks, Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen, hand sanitizer, and some change or money. You can also keep your trades if you have them in your bag. Keep your bag with you at all times, and when you are playing put the loop around your foot. There are some thefts at larger tournaments, don’t let it happen to you.
Go Early and Register Your Deck
This is pretty self explanatory. Unlike some FNM’s you will probably have to submit the deck list of the deck you will be playing. Go early (some tournaments you can register the day before play) and register.
Learn How and Where They Announce Pairings
Some tournaments will split up pairings by last name and have them posted at different places. Some tournaments will post them online. With only 15 minutes between rounds you need to be efficient with your time and don’t want to be searching for your pairing.
Practice Good Hygiene
Don’t be that guy / girl. Bathe, and use deodorant.
Don’t Be Afraid to Call a Judge
If you are unsure about something, you can call a judge. Raise your hand and loudly and clearly call “Judge!” It happens often throughout the day, and there will be several judges on hand.
Be a Good Sport and Have Fun
See the FNM pointers. Shake your opponent’s hand, ask their name, tell them good luck / good game, and be a good winner or loser.
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