From zero to Top Deck Hero: Lessons Learned

Hello everyone!

My name is Mike. I have been playing magic on and off again since 1995. Ever since M10 came out I have been playing on a regular basis. I have to admit this is not the same game it once was for me. Back in the day it was throw together some cards and some lands and have some fun. Even a few years back My best friend and I had just got back into magic and were thinking we had a great grip on the game because we knew a few combos here and there. Something changed over the last couple of years however. We discovered the massive amount of magic resources on the internet.

Now we are on a “quest “ to become better magic players. We have both picked formats that we want to improve on and we are concentrating on them. His are standard and commander. (I know that commander is not a competitive form of magic but meh). For myself I picked standard and draft. I have decided to talk about at least my side of our quest here. Why you might ask? Well the answer is simple people learn from mistakes. Please learn from mine so you don’t make your own.

Today what I will be discussing is the massive amount of work it takes to actually go to a semi-pro event. I will be referencing experiences I had while attending Star City Games Orlando.

First thing is prep work. Once you know what event your going to be attending you need to start having an idea what deck your going to be playing and more or less what side board you will need. Side boarding is tough until you can get a feel of what decks you will be seeing at the event.

For me this was hell. The SCG Orlando event was on the weekend that New Phyrexia came out. That means cards are going to be needed that you do not have yet and you will have to pick them up that morning at the event more than likely. Also you will be play testing with proxy cards. Not only for your own deck but also for the gauntlet you will be building to run your deck against.

Did I do any of this….no. More on that later.

Second thing on our list would be trip arrangements. Things to keep in mind when thinking of this part is where the event will be at, do you have friends that live in the area, are you going to do anything else during the weekend that you are there, and how much you really can spend on the hotel room.

In my case most of the time when I go to Orlando for an event I stay at a friends house. This is sometimes good and sometimes bad. Its cheap but it can sometimes be a headache when you need quiet time to work on your deck or even getting to bed early.

You might want to stay close to where the convention center is. Or maybe slightly farther away for a cheaper hotel. All these things are personal choice. Just remember most of the time you can get a great deal on a hotel if you book in advance. Figure out what will work best for you and make sure you stick to it because if your the kind of person that needs that sleep then you had better have it when you get to the convention center.

Did I do any of this….no. I let other people plan where we were staying and who was staying with us. I was over 45 minutes from the convention center and had people with me that decided to party all night long. (facepalm)

Third, once all that is settled you still have hopefully one or two weeks of practice left. Important if you are testing a new deck either your own creation or a deck a pro mentioned in a article don’t waist to much time pushing that deck if its not working for you. You want to have plenty of time playing with the deck your going to end up playing there.

Did I do this…No I didn’t. What? DON’T JUDGE ME! (I’m an idiot).

Fourth thing on my list is final prep for departure and I’m not just talking about making sure you have enough underwear. Make sure you have your deck and money and everything else ready to go the night before. Double and triple check that stuff. You don’t want to be an hour down the road and then need to drive back an hour because your deck is sitting on your desk where you were last testing it.

Did I do this…Yeah…FML

Fifth this should be easy but some people can mess anything up. Arrive at your hotel check in and sleep early. You might not want to get to the destination at 10:30 at night and then decide its a great idea to go to Downtown Disney to get ice cream. That might be a bad idea….you don’t want to do it….really I wouldn’t do that….or would I…..That ice cream is really good….aaaahhhh Ghirardelli…..

Did I do this…Yeah….(I’m a moron).

Ok on to the sixth thing on my list. Get to the event local early. God this is important. You will need to write up your deck list, buy whatever cards you may not have for your deck, and let yourself get calmed down. You don’t want to be on tilt going into your first match because you were late and almost didn’t make it into the competition in time.

Did I do this….Yeah….wait what???? I did something right?

Seventh. Food and WATER. Yes believe it or not this is very important. This is the stuff that actually keeps our bodies going. Water especially. These semi-pro events like a SCG open run long. I didn’t have water at one last year and that is a mistake I will never make again!

Did I have water….bet your ass I did….oh oh two things right.

Eighth thing on my list is audible or not to audible. Most of the time I would say don’t do it. However, if you are there and are seeing that this was the biggest mistake of your Magic career and have your trusty red deck with you go ahead and change up. You should know your back up deck as well as you do your main deck.

Did I have my back up deck….no…..It was at the hotel…..should I have had it….yes…and I may have done a lot better.

Ninth thing on the list. Game On time. Shuffle up good. Make sure you pile shuffle and don’t be in a rush. You don’t want to start losing rounds over mana flood. Watch every move you make and try to keep stupid play mistakes out of your game. Watch your triggers and take it one match at a time from there. Remember your now at the little big show. People play a lot different here than they do at your local shop. They are watching everything and you should be to.

Did I play well….yeah I can actually say I did…..I got hammered…..but I played the best I would with the terribad deck I made and took…I’m not even going to bother saying what my record was but lets just say I had an early lunch.

Here is the thing guys. I am going to be putting my self through a process for this project of mine. I am going to make myself a better magic player by the end of this. I already know the next semi decent event I will be able to go to this year will be States. I will be writing here each week about my adventures in standard and draft at my local shop and at Coolstuffinc south Florida.

Follow along on my quest from Zero to Top Deck Hero.

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Posted on May 30, 2011, in Articles, From zero to Top Deck Hero. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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