I want to take the time to give everyone some advice for the upcoming Grand Prix. And, by everyone, I really mean myself. A tournament like a GP or a StarCity Open in your home town is a big deal - especially if, like me, you don't get the opportunity to travel very far very often for Magic. I want to put my personal plan out there in the hopes it can help someone else achieve the success level I am striving for.
- Test your deck
I have been testing and tuning a deck for over a month now. And, while it hasn't worked out how I would have liked, at least I know that going in instead of getting steamrolled when it actually matters. I am now able to audible and still have time to re-familiarize myself with an old friend.
- Test the Matchups
Luckily, the deck I am switching to is a deck I've ran a good bit in the past. Unfortunately, I don't know how it plays against some of the newer decks. This is why I'm arranging for a huge day of testing on Friday with a group of folks coming to my place to grind out as much experience against the field as possible. I will be ready with proxies of every major deck so I will go into the event knowing how I should act and react to certain decks.
- Prep Your Sideboard
Don't just have an extra 15 cards in your deck box that seem like they'd be good. Know why they're there, what matchups they shore up, and what they come in for.
- Don't Keep Loose Hands
This is something I struggle with all the time. Imagine the following hand for a Mono Black Devotion deck against an unknown opponent: Swamp, Swamp, Swamp, Thoughtseize, Underworld Connections, Hero's Downfall, Gray Merchant of Asphodel. This hand has a solid ratio of lands to spells and has, arguably, some of the most powerful cards in the deck. The trouble is, it has very little in it to actually win with. You're hoping to draw into a Pack Rat, Nightveil Specter, anything that can actually present a clock to your opponent. Don't be afraid of the mulligan.
- Kinda 4a. Respect Thoughtseize
Going back to my previous point, Thoughtseize will punish you for keeping a hand with only a singular threat. There's a reason it's considered the most powerful card in Standard and sees staple-level play in Eternal formats. If you don't know what you're playing against, give your opening hand the Thoughtseize test and ask yourself whether a turn one Seize completely wrecks you. If it would, the hand is probably too loose to keep anyways.
- Double Check Your Deck
Deck registration errors are fairly common and completely avoidable. Don't write your deck down from memory. Lay it out in front of you and go card by card.
- Respect Your Opponent
Your opponent is a real person. They're likely at this event because they too love cardboard chess. The Golden Rule can never be overstated.
- Don't Go On Tilt
As serious as I take Magic, I pride myself on almost (Sorry, Roman) never tilting. Magic is a game, and more so, a game with an inherent amount of variance. Yes, it sucks that you could never hit that second white source for Supreme Verdict, or you saw five straight lands when both players were top-decking, or you used the wrong removal spell and now can't deal with another threat, but it's not worth raging over. Losing your cool is the quickest way to ensure losses in future games. Magic requires you to be level-headed and be able to think multiple moves and counter-moves ahead. Don't beat yourself up over a misplay. Use it to learn and move on knowing you're a better player because of it. Similarly, don't let luck get you down either. Try to remember your perfect topdecks (Fanatic of Mogis, anyone) when thinking of the ones that didn't pan out.
- Personal Hygiene
Seriously, take a shower, use deodorant, and pull up your gorram pants. We were all shamed by Crackgate, whether we were involved or not. Let's not have a repeat and end up on Time magazine's webpage again.
- Get Some Sleep
High-level tournaments are a long, slow grind. In order to function at top performance after 12+ hours of strenuous mental activity, you will need to have had a good night's sleep. There's a reason pro players pay for the sleep-in special, and it's not because they're divas (not all of them, anyways).
- Stay Hydrated
Make it a point to drink some water in between every round. Whether it's from a drinking fountain, the concession stand, or from a home-packed bottle. I, myself, will be packing a few bottles and refilling them as needed. You need to be at peak performance to keep up with the competition.
- Eat Real Food
Emphasis on REAL. Eat a solid breakfast, preferrably not from a fast food chain. Pack snacks like nuts and crackers to eat during and between rounds. Hunger-driven tummy grumbles can really distract you in the later rounds.
These tips are as much for my benefit as they are for everyone else's. I want to be the best Magic player I can be, as I know that's what I'll have to be in order to win. I wish everyone going the best of luck. If you're attending, but not playing, look me up in the pairings and come say hey.