Photo via Airman 1st Class Kyle Gese

This is part II. To read part I, click here.

I read this article not too long ago about why women need to go into the mountains with other women. It got me thinking not just about mountain trips, but what kinds of things could I do with other women that I used to think were just for guys. (This may or may not have to do with the fact that I live in the land of 10,000 not-mountains.)

Well, I haven’t been to a magic tournament with other women (yet), but it sure would be fun someday. And just like mountaineering, it’s important to plan and pack correctly if you want to have fun.

So get ready to grab a backpack and some girlfriends. This is how to do a Magic: The Gathering tournament.

You will be playing 8-10 matches of Magic, which could be 2-3 games each. Since each match is timed for 50 minutes at least, that’s over 7 hours of sitting in hard, budget folding chairs with only 3-10 minutes between each round to do stuff. Timing is everything.

1. Bring snacks you can eat quickly that won’t get grunge on your fingers. Remember: you may be handling pieces of cardboard that are worth more than a couple hundred bucks. I know they’re in protective sleeves, but you also don’t want to gum up the sleeves. It could mess up how they shuffle.

2. Bring a bottle of your favorite electrolyte replenishing sports drink. Upon first entering the space you will be playing in, look for where the water fountains are. After you finish off your drink, keep the bottle and refill at the fountain. Of course, if there are vendors nearby you may be able to buy water and other snacks. Which reminds me…

3. Bring cash. Whether you find an awesome deal on a rare card you’ve been hunting for, or just decide that the $6 hot dog suddenly looks better than the lunch you brought with you, almost everything at a Magic tournament is cash only. Even the registration fee. I usually try to bring enough for my registration, a $20 for food, and an extra $20.

4. Bring a prepared deck list. It will save you time and keep you from being frazzled if you are late.

5. All new sleeves. Put new sleeves over your cards the night before. No matter how spiffy your current sleeves are, you don’t want to be accused of having marked cards. Trust me, the cost is worth the peace of mind, knowing that if you play someone who likes to win by disqualifying others on shaky grounds, they will find nothing to accuse you of.

6. Pen & small notebook to keep track of life total points. I know, I know. Dice are so much cooler and you have an overabundance of them in your house, so why not use them? In a tournament, it’s important to keep track of life point history in case there is a dispute. Also, dice can get knocked over easily. It’s just better to play it safe.

7. Don’t put extra cards in your deck box. Nothing except your deck, your sideboard, and unsleeved tokens that your deck may need is acceptable. If a judge does a random deck check on you, it needs to be clear that you are playing fair and have no cards that could get accidentally shuffled in. If you plan on buying cards at the tournament, bring along an extra deck box if you must keep them safe, and keep that in your bag.

8. Always read the seating chart for yourself. Repeat it out loud, even take a picture with your phone if you can. Getting the wrong seat can mean a game loss if you are even a few seconds late to sitting across from your opponent. Even later and you may risk an entire match loss. The only time I’ve ever had a major tilt was when I mistakenly read my seat number and got to my opponent late. I had to take a game loss, and it put me on edge the entire rest of the tournament.

9. Calculate how many losses you can take before it’s impossible to win a prize. Even if you are playing for fun, there may be a side event you wish to play in, and knowing whether you can still win a pack or two will help you make that decision. It’s also good to know for when a friend comes up between rounds and says “6 & 2!” whether you should be excited for them or commiserate with them.

10. Between every round, do these 3 things: Go to the bathroom, drink some water, eat something. In that order of importance. There is nothing worse than trying to concentrate on how to deal with a 6/6 death-touching, life-linking Wormcoil while you’re trying not to pee. Also, stretching is a good idea, or talking a walk around the venue.

11. Optional: Bring a playmat. While most venues will have clean tables, you can’t always guarantee this. Especially if you are playing in the food court of a mall (worst place ever for Magic). To protect your expensive cards and to keep your sleeves from getting sticky on them, you can bring a playmat, which is basically just a large mousepad. There are a lot of fun options, and even custom made mats you can find on etsy. One of my favorites is this Doctor Who one.

Card artist Jeff Miracola adding airships to my custom art playmat

12. Whatever you do, do not ever place your drink on the table, whether it has a tightly secured cap or not. Condensation happens and can ruin someone’s cards if they don’t see that your drink has left a lovely little ring of frustration for them.

13. If you happen to have spare time after doing the 3 things you should always do between rounds, check out the other stuff going on. There are vendors selling and buying cards, artists that will sign your cards or draw on your mat for a bit of cash, side events, and other magic games to watch. Feel free to watch others play and try to soak up some tips. Just don’t distract them, and make sure you are front and center to see the seating chart when it goes up.

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2 thoughts on “How to Survive a Magic Tournament: Part II

  1. Nice list. I would add on the snack/food one -make it healthy options that’ll leave you feeling full and not crummy from eating too much salt or fat.
    Also, during rounds, put your bag between your feet with one of the straps around your leg. This ensures your belongings stay with you -sadly, there are scum bags at big tournaments.
    It’s a personal choice, but I normally decline extra “friendly” matches between round. 7-10 rounds it way more than enough Magic in a day, so take the time between rounds to refresh like you said -mental exhaustion is a thing 😉


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