Leveling the Playing Field

    Many of the top pros had to start out somewhere.  They were each a
beginner.  They each once had the mad urge to open up packs.  Most of the
regulars I play with can even remember not wanting to trade their Shivan
Dragons for a Forcefield.  This is well off of my topic for today though.  I
want to lay out a few ideas on ways we can make new players more competitive.

    Tournaments are fun for the competition.  No one likes just completely
running over their opponents.  Those game are unrewarding and don't prove
anything.  Who wants to spend 19 hours building and playtesting a deck only
to play in a tournament and obliterate his opponents every round with minimal
effort.  If nothing else, it would just make you a lazy and bad player. 
Honestly, if you do like a lack of competition and easy tournaments, you
might as well stop reading.  I personally believe that if you are one of
those people that like that type of tournament, you are just lying to
yourself.  You just like being a bully and stroking your ego and you probably
have larger underlying problems.

    My job today is to help level the field.  Help give you guys a few tips
to help increase everyone's playing skill as a whole.  You don't get better
practicing bad habits with bad players.  Everyone's knowledge within your
group has to be constantly expanding.  You all need to be learning everything
from deck construction to tournament play to general rules knowledge.  Some
of this requires the experienced players taking new players under their wing
to teach them the ropes.  But let's start with the most important item: deck

    Granted, I am by no means a deck building expert.  I'm just pretty solid
at predicting the metagame and coming up with solid cards against them. 
Regardless, one of the most common problems that people have is they lack
focus.  A lot of times beginners put in too many cards that do too much. 
They are trying to cover all the bases instead of building their deck to flow
along one central line.  Deck cohesion is probably THE most important part of
deck construction.  If the cards don't work together, you are going to have a
hard time getting anything rolling.  Also, having Disenchant, Aura Mutation,
and Aura Blast all in the same deck is a bit much.  You can't have too many
cards that do the same thing. 

    Another part of deck construction which is also important is
understanding a card's worth to the game.  Some cards generate greater card
advantage than other.  Cards like Massacre and Wrath of God can create large
amounts of card advantage.  They give you the ability to kill many cards with
your just having to expend one.  For some decks, usually various forms of
control, this is a very important aspect for card selection.  Another thing
to consider is card efficiency.  How much mana does the card cost you?  How
much is this card going to help you towards your purpose once it hits the
board?  These are very important questions to take into account.  You also
need to consider how great the effect of the card will be over a series of

    Next, you need to have a decent knowledge of the game.  I am not saying
to know everything perfectly.  Of course that will help your game immensely,
but I don't believe it is necessary.  I do believe that you need to at least
know all of the basic phases.  Learn when you have priority to play spells. 
A better understanding of the rules will help you when playing, the main
reason being is it eliminates a large amount of the confusion during play. 
It can also make game play more interesting when both players are able to
utilize the rules to their full advantage to outsmart each other. 

    One of the most wonderful thing about the game of Magic is "the stack." 
When Sixth Edition hit the shelves, many were skeptical as to how well this
new game mechanism would work.  Admittedly, I myself was curious as to how
well this "stack" was going to work out.  As I got to messing around with the
new Sixth Edition mechanics I started to realize how great it was.  Many new
players still don't realize that you can add effects to the stack after EVERY
item on the stack resolves.  This alone is a huge aspect of the game.  Also
understand that every effect, every ability, and every spell enters the stack
and resolves top to bottom.  One of the best parts about the stack is that
you can make a physical stack on the table to help represent all the spells
as they resolve to help prevent confusion.  I think if new players understood
this element, their games would be raised to a whole other level.

    Now of course knowing the rules isn't going to win you all your games. 
You need to have real playing skills.  Most of these fall into what I like to
call the Three P's: Persistence, Patience, and Pay Attention.  Persistence is
really important in deck construction and deck testing.  More often than not,
a lot of people give up on a deck early on in playtesting.  You have to try
different cards and different ideas to get the full effect of your deck.  You
can't just give up immediately.  Even if you don't end up playing the deck,
you can at least learn the intricacies of that deck.  This is key when
playing against it.

    You have to remember to be patient when playing.  I am not saying to play
slow.  Set the rhythm you need to during game play.  Just take your time. 
Don't over commit.  Don't be in a hurry to kill your opponent and end up over
committing on the attacks.  You have to know when to pass the turn and take
the time to assess the entire board and game situation.  Patience can
definitely be a virtue in this game.
    Last but not least, pay attention.  I have watched hundreds of games in
my store.  Maybe even thousands.  I honestly cannot tell you how many times I
have watched a game slip away from a player because he or she was not paying
attention.  Watch your opponents life total.  Be wary of the number of
attackers or blockers that your opponents have.  Don't be afraid to cast your
Chimeric Idol if you can look in his graveyard and see that he has already
used all four Disenchants.  More often than not, new players psyche
themselves right out of the game.  They get nervous and forget the basics. 
Just simply pay attention to the board situation at all times.

    In closing, I am not saying that these things alone will make you a pro
player.  I would almost guarantee, however that people will fear your playing
skills more if you brush up on the previously mentioned aspects.  You can
easily become competitive following the simple guidelines outlined above. 
As always, have fun and enjoy playing.

Hasta la bye bye,

DeQuan Watson
a.k.a. PowrDragn