GIT GUD! – A Journey In Magic The Gathering

Hey guys! It is time for another Magic The Gathering (MTG) piece by yours truly.

Like most of my previous articles, I will be catering more towards the newcomers and beginners out there who are just starting to pick up the game. As the title suggests, this article will be discussing about how to Git Gud! or in laymen terms, get good.

Now, I’m not going to talk about complicated strategies and methods to be better like most of my articles do (although I will still be doing that in the future). Instead, I am going to talk about my personal journey in playing MTG and my struggles to become a better player in this game I have grown to love and hate.

Let’s start from when I was a wee little lad who loved playing Pokemon and just found out that there was a card game based on these cute monsters. I spent a month’s allowance to buy two starter decks to play with my little brother, and we would play very often together.

Since I won my brother most of the time, I started to get cocky and decided to go to the Pokemon League in the local card shop on Saturdays. And I got stomped, by Charizard, Blastoise and all kinds of other pimped out decks and it was not pleasant at all (well I was only using the starter deck). That experience discouraged me and I stopped playing for awhile, but it did not deter my interest in card games in general. I moved and tried various other card games like the Harry Potter TCG, Yugioh and other games, but I was never really hooked to it.

It was during my high school years that I first saw a MTG game during lunch break being played by seniors. I stuck around to see their game and grew interested in the interactions it created and was engrossed when I was shown how to play the game. From then, I bought cards and had a blast playing casually with some friends who found the game interesting (mostly high school friends).

It was during the Kamigawa-Mirodin block when I first went to the local shop to buy some cards on a Sunday that I saw people gathered to play MTG competitively. I found out that there were tournaments where you can win various prizes. Elated and ignorant simultaneously, I asked when the next tournament was. Luckily enough for me, it was only two weeks away.

I was really excited. I wanted to test myself in this next tournament and make a name for myself. So, I gathered the cards I had from my small collection to make a mono black deck (focusing on discards and kill spells), buying whatever cards I needed (and what my allowance afforded me) to complete the deck.

Then came the day of the tournament. I registered myself, and on the first round, I fought against a seasoned veteran. Excitedly, I shuffled my deck and started to play, only to lose horrendously that round and all subsequent rounds. It was the first time I learned what a top tier deck was and what playing competitively meant. That was my first lesson about the competitive scene, that there was a difference between playing casually and playing good. I made mistakes, I had to read cards, I was slow in playing and worst of all, I did not understand the rules entirely.

Image source: Geekspodcast

I held off playing MTG after that, not because of my loss of interest, but because my love for it began to grow. It was the beginning of my college days and the lack of income was what put me off the game as I focused more on my studies (go to school kids, its important) and I  tried to save up as much as I could to play sparingly.

After my university days, I started working and finally I had a stable income that allowed me to restart my great interest in MTG but this time, I prepared myself well. Through technology’s greatest gift to mankind, the internet, I read all I could on MTG. The rules, the strategies, the best way to start as a beginner and everything in between. It was then that I read that the best step to take for a MTG beginner was to draft.

So like a new-born baby duckling, I went to the nearest card shop to learn about drafting. There was a person kind enough to teach me how to draft at my own expense (you can read about drafting in my previous article, self-advertising win!).

As expected, I lost in my first ever draft. That did not deter me, instead it strengthened my resolve to be better. In the pursuit of playing better, I went looking for a shop that was nearer to my work place in order to draft after work. Luckily enough, a new shop was opening nearby and was on my route back home.

Thus, began my draft training every fortnight and my strings of defeat. Still, my defeats were not without its lessons, as I learned more about things such as deck building, mana curves, card advantages, the right cards to play and mistakes to avoid. Fortunately, the environment at the new shop was competitive and unforgiving, meaning I learned faster since defeat was crushing, disappointing and unsatisfying.

As I began to hone my play style, I started winning games. Finally at one point, I won first place at the local shop’s tournament. The feeling of accomplishment and achievement was indescribable. I have finally reached what I thought I wanted in drafting.

I thought to myself, it is time now. It is time now for the standard constructed format.

Unfortunately, my wages and my finance minister (my wallet) did not agree with me, and neither was the collection of cards I picked up during drafting particularly good (you get to keep the cards you draft at the shop). Still, I recalled that in my novice training journey, I read about a one-of deck, where a deck consists of only one copy of each card except for basic lands.

Since my card collection was small and none of them were a play set (four of the same card), I tried to build one from my limited knowledge of deck building. Luckily, the cards provided in the current block I was playing in allowed mana bases that could cope with all five colours. Hence, I built a five colour deck of one-of cards and began the second phase of my journey.

There is a weekly tournament called Wednesday Night Magic and Friday Night Magic at local card shops. When I had some free time after work (I used to work until night), I played at these small tournaments to gauge my capabilities and how much have I learned as a player. As I played more often and coupled with my experience in drafting, I understood the gameplay better than I did years ago.

Image source: Dave and Adam’s Card World

The one-of deck thought me to manage my limited resources well, and I began to appreciate the meaning of card advantage. Each spell I cast had be thought out deliberately and each play I made had to create impactful value. Every wrong decision I made was punishing and every right play I made was rewarded through game victories. These small tournaments were like an arena that forged and tempered me as I learned more about the game I adored.

As I learnt more, I got good in the game. And things started looking up for me…

My story about getting good will continue next time as I tell you all the tales of the competitive standard scene. Here’s a short recap for all your aspiring players out there.

Firstly, drafting is a great starting point to learn about the game as it teaches you a lot of the basics. Secondly, never stop reading articles on decks and strategies as you might come across something that may help you in your game. Thirdly, never give up. Always keep pushing forward. A loss is a lesson and winning is an experience. There is always a lesson in every game, whether you win or lose.

Finally and most importantly, have fun playing the game, be it casual or competitive. Remember, it is a game, it is meant to be fun and if it is not, you are playing it wrong.


Until next time, sling those spells and Git Gud!

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