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Friday, 19 August 2016 09:11

Road to Competitive Magic: Student’s Version

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Hello players! This week we will have a look at some of my personal experiences that I would like share to you all and also, sorry for the previous weeks hiatus on Modern 101. I’ll get back to you guys very soon when my practice sessions with my list of Modern decks are solidified so that I could give them a good write up.

If you guys don’t know, I’m still a student pursuing my Bachelor’s Degree at UTAR Perak and 1 year away from graduation. I’m happy that I’m introduced to Magic last year during Khans block thanks to Adrian (P/S: He’s also an ex-UTAR student) and Team Classroom. I believe starting the competitive career early at this age is beneficial, because we have more time to research, analyze and practice to gain experiences as compared to players who need to work.

However, I’d seen the same issue running around among majority of the players who are at the same age as me – budget. Not everyone has the money to go competitive. But I do believe that with proper financial planning and the patience to resist the temptation of trying to own EVERYTHING, it is possible to do so.

So, how did I make my way up to the competitive Magic scene?


1. Always, always, buy singles.
If you are reading this article now and you are also a student, yes my friend. Always buy singles no matter what. Imagine this:
- Buying a single pack of Dragons of Tarkir pack
- Target: Hitting Collected Company

• The sets total rare and mythic: 68
• Chance to hit Collected Company: 1/68

So, in order to get your COLLECTED COMPANY, you need to put your money (approximately RM13 per pack) and cross fingers hoping to hit that 1/68 chance. I don’t think that’s a really cool way of collecting components for decks. You might open good rare such as Kolaghan’s Command along the way … But are you really going to use it? If you sell it off, you are still going to crack packs until you hit 4, which isn’t economically sound, as cracking packs only won’t guarantee you a complete competitive deck.

2. Stick to a deck
The most disadvantageous fact for being a student is that we are always restricted financially, which stops us from playing whatever decks or cards that we want. However, there’s no need to OWN EVERYTHING in order to go competitive! Sure, it does help when you are “meta-gaming (Piloting the deck that beats the predicted majorities)” but it is not necessary. Hence, you should invest your available funds to one single deck that you really wanted to pilot – or at the very least, to the one that you liked most. It is going to be more economically sound this way.

However, the risk of doing so is that you might expose to meta-game shifts. For example, the recent UB Zombies that was brewed by the pros to beat Bant Company and GW variants suffered this issue because of shift of meta-game to Emrakul centric decks. Even so, Pro Tour builds are known to be unstable due to the little time they had to prepare.

This is where innovation comes in.

The good thing about sticking to a deck is that you know the deck more than anyone else – and this will help you to: Innovate, Improve, Invigorate. And hence, you should be able to adapt to the new meta-game with appropriate changes and new ideas being fused to your current deck choice and change the matchups you feared to become one of the best matchups you would like to face.

Like what Robin Sharma said: “Change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end.”

I’m sure when you find your way out and adapt yourself to beat whatever decks out there with your deck of choice, the end result will be extraordinary to you! It’s like beating a Grass-type Pokemon with Gekkouga, a water-type! Haha :) (P/S: Pardon me for the reference taken from Pokemon XYZ)

3. Fight your way up for WMCQ – Attending Major Events
Yes, you hear me. Fight for WMCQ (World Magic Cup Qualifier), because I believe that’s the best way to accumulate points for each and every season to stay competitive locally and find your way up to join the best local players to fight for the glory of your country, which I believe is a great honor to every player out there.

If you start fresh, fret not. Start off by attending few Game Days and Friday Night Magics to get yourself familiar with Constructed events. But don’t get dwelled into the casual environment of those events! The sole purpose is to make your way to even bigger events. Next, when you are comfortable playing, it is now time to shift to competitive REL (Rule Enforcement Level) events where I call them “Events with judges”.

Here, you will find there are 2 types of competitive REL events you can attend – GPT (Grand Prix Trial) and PPTQ (Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifier). GPT bears x3 Planeswalker Points while PPTQ bears x4 Planeswalker Points. To qualify for WMCQ, you will need a total of 200 points, and if you manage to finish at least 3 wins for every PPTQ you attend, you’ll only need a total of 3 or 4 PPTQs to reach 180+ points! Including your casual plays at FNMs, you will be hitting 200 easily.

I strongly recommend you guys to join PPTQs, because this is where you get to play against the best deck that people came up with, which is your best chance to learn and gain valuable experiences, and this is true for players who stay far away from states that don’t have frequent competitive Magic events. GPTs might be people’s place to play test their “serious brews” because not everyone could fly to different countries and attend Grand Prix. But PPTQ is different. You get a chance to be invited to RPTQ (Regional Pro Tour Qualifier) which will be held nearby to your region! If you are on fire and could make it to the Top brackets of RPTQ, hey man, YOU’RE IN PRO TOUR!

Also, it is more economically sound to play in PPTQs than GPTs due to the multipliers of points that you could get. It is also a great chance for you to get recognized because in Magic, Top 8-ing a PPTQ is a great starting point to become a good player for your region and country.


1. Practice with a purpose and schedule
Being competitive is not just about playing games over and over again. As a student, your primary responsibility is to do well in studies. But that doesn’t stop you from playing Magic as well. Hence, every time you practice, practice with a very clear purpose. For example, you are currently piloting GB Delirium for standard, and you have issues going against Emrakul decks. Whenever you practice, grab your closest friend to help pilot any Emrakul centric decks (Emerge variants, Ramp variants) with proxies to fight against you. You can also pilot the decks by yourself to find out what’s happening when the deck is in the run! Here’s a rule I always use when I practice:

At least 5 games each for main and sideboard for each of the deck I’m aiming to discover. Play seriously.

The process is going to be very intense and exhausting. But remember, once you get the key aspects of the matchups down, you are in better shape compared to those players who don’t prepare at all. You will save side-boarding time, save decision making time, and spend your thinking process more towards crafting your winning game plan during the game. Magic is played over a time limit of 50 minutes, and a draw is equivalent to a loss at a lot of times, so you would want to avoid wasting your time thinking over puzzles that could be solve if you practiced enough.

Then, you would want to plan a schedule for practice as well. Good students know their priorities and stick to it. And you wouldn’t want to give up your studies just because you want to play Magic. Unless you made it to the Pro Tour, that’s a whole different story then. Practice during night time or during your casual hours should be the best. Spending your Facebook surfing hours to read articles from Magic related websites will also help. So, stop FACEBOOKING! (Nah, just kidding. xD)

2. Practice Online
Sometimes your friends might be unavailable to help you practice, and here’s where the online applications kick in. You’ll find that MTGO (Magic: The Gathering Online) is NOT free and constructing a deck in real + on the net could be very expensive. But don’t worry, there is always alternative to it (Even though MTGO is the best).

Websites such as or downloadable applications such as Cockatrice (The one I’m using when I started) are good alternatives to help you practice online. However, in online games you will more likely to run into rogue decks, rude players and a lot weird issues. Hence, always set your own game room, and set the description to “Competitive Tier 1 decks”. This will help to attract players that are serious to join in and have a game with you. You can also invite your friends to join in and play test new brews online together before you want to get your hands to them on paper, which will save you a lot of time to make proxies.

But, if you could play on MTGO, then by all means, get yourself a good deck that can help you get X-1 consistently in any Constructed leagues and grind them.

3. Review your games
The thing I liked about Magic is the aspect it shares with Chess – The strategy crafting and the thinking process. Despite the luck we need to win, Magic is still a strategic game, and that one wrong move could cost you the whole game. Hence, the games we played are reviewable to find out the flaws and strengths we hold. Remember, always look back at games you played with your friends, or through recorded videos, diaries, and online auto playbacks. I found this to be very productive in practice, because I get to know what exactly happened and how I should improve for my next game. That is why professional players will stream their games online (treat it as a review process), not just to get more views, but also to gather intellects from different people to discuss about the games and decks, which is beneficial in every single aspect, to the viewers, players, and also the game itself.

Well, that’s all for this time around. All the points I mentioned are the things I feel fundamental for a student to get into the competitive scene. If you have better suggestions to add up, feel free to comment below! I would love to hear feedbacks from you guys! Until next time, ciao~

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