Hamilton Magic Central - Articles


Written by Tony Wootton

For 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.

I 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.

And 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 dead cards.

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 just saw.

And lastly,

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 favourable venture.

Hope to see y’all at the Nats!


Tony Wootton


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