those who have never played NZ Nationals or
Nationals side events before, the Nats are NZ's
most premier event. One of the high points of
the Nationals is that it is one of the only
times of the year where the best (and worst)
players in NZ are gathered together and exposed
to a gruelling 12 rounds minimum of magic. For
anyone wanting to improve there game this is a
prime opportunity for it. Not only will you get
to play (and possibly defeat) some of NZ's
finest but you will also experience the thrill
of playing a high-level event and learn some
valuable lessons along the way.
Nationals time can be a time of utmost
excitement and achievement for even the most
seasoned players and for the newer players it
can harbour these things as well as nervousness,
intimidation and confusion.
have lost count of the amount of times I have
heard newer players state that they were not
attending a tournament e.g. Regionals or
Nationals because there were going to be too
many “good” players there. The way these players
became “good” was by attending these tournaments
and being beaten by better players. Let’s face
it no-one started playing Magic at a Pro-tour
level. We were all novices at one time. Some
still are and some got better.
we don’t learn much by trouncing our opponents.
The games I learn from are the tight games where
I am being beaten and I am having to think my
way to either staying alive one more turn or
ultimate victory. Players of magic, like any
other game, develop and improve as they practice
and compete. We all have to start somewhere!
Below I have listed some pointers for both the
player who wants to get the most out of their
time at Nationals and any non-Nationals player
who wants to improve their game in general.
1. Watch how your opponent plays. Your
opponent is your tutor. He/she will teach you
(without knowing) about timing, deck
construction and phase and stack play. Your
opponent is your friend! Treat them like that!
2. Don't let the fact that you are
playing at the Nats or against the 2003 NZ
Champion freak you out. If you find that your
nerves are getting the better of you, change
your train of thought and pretend that you are
playing a small shop event or that Gracey is an
8yr old newbie from your school. Nerves can
affect your judgement, cloud your decisions and
distract you into making mistakes that could
cost you the game.
3. Read! Read the rules and learn them, read
the Inquest, read any article about Magic you
can get your hands on. You will be sure to learn
valuable lessons. Information is Power!
4. Talk to people. Talk to as many people
(Magic players) about Magic whenever you can.
Talk about the metagame, combos, cards you fancy
etc. Don't be afraid to ask your opponent
questions about his deck after your match, that
is! It's a bonus if he tells you before your
match though! As with #3 information is great!
5. Form a magic team or playtesting group.
This helps immensely as you can share ideas,
cards and most of all you can test your deck
against other builds.
6. Memorise all the decks. Look at each deck
that is currently being played and see what
their win conditions and weaknesses are. Learn
how to beat them! A good player can often
recognise what their opponent is playing after
only one or two cards are played. And if you
know what your opponent is playing then you will
know what you have to do to beat him.
7. Further to #6, websites like Brainburst
have decklists available as well as results from
previous tournaments. Sift through and see what
won the PT or the US Nats and what their build
was. It's all invaluable.
8. Build a versatile sideboard. The 15 cards
in your sideboard are the most important cards
in your deck. You play 2/3 of your games with
those cards and they are what will win you the
game. Include cards to combat all of the tier 1
decks. Make every card count as you only have 15
spots and you can't afford to waste spots with
9. Get yourself a trade folder. Trading
cards is an important part of Magic. Not only do
you get the cards you want for your sets (if you
are a collector) but you can also get the cards
you need for your decks. Newer players don't
have many cards initially but the more cards you
put in your folder the more chance you have of
the other person wanting something you have got.
Try not to fill your folder up with rubbish
cards or commons (unless they are cards like
Rancor & Lightning Bolts).
10. Stay on top of the cards. As new sets
are released, read the spoilers as they come out
and read the cards. Learn what they do and then
you can tell if they will fit into the deck you
are building or combo with another card that you
11. Try to keep cards in your hand. If you
have no cards in your hand and you draw a land,
DON’T play it unless you really have to or it is
going to win you the game. Why? A player with an
empty hand poses no threat to their opponent.
Your opponent will be able to cast anything they
please knowing that it can’t be countered,
stifled or disenchanted. So when you draw that
land hold on to it and bluff your opponent into
thinking it is something good.
Because the game of Magic is not constant and is
ever changing with new cards being released all
the time even the Finkels and the Zvis are
learning the game on a daily basis. Like any
game, you stop practicing and you will become
sloppy and unfit. In Magic you will become
mentally unfit without practice so play every
opportunity you can. You can only get better!
Hopefully some of these pointers will help your
game to improve slightly or in leaps in bounds.
Either way they should point you in the right
direction and make your magic playing a more
Hope to see y’all at the Nats!