Having a Successful Magic Tournament

I had a great time at Grand Prix Liverpool last weekend. Thanks to all the competitors and everyone who was involved and making it happen. The tournament was a successfully run event by ChannelFireball, and a personal success for me.

Today we discuss a very simple yet subjective topic: the keys to having a successful Magic: the Gathering tournament every time. This isn’t the only way or the best way to do this but it is a way that works well for me and perhaps it will help you in future events.

What Are Your Tournament Goals?

What are your tournament goals?

Is your goal to win the tournament, to win every round of the tournament, or just to win next round?

Let’s take a look at what goes into winning a round of Magic: the Gathering. Your deckbuilding and how you play make up maybe 40% of deciding the outcome. Your opponent’s deckbuilding and play make up another 40%. The last 20% (more or less) is decided by the heart of the cards.

If your goal is specifically to win then you are leaving your goals up to chance, at least somewhat. This opens the door to failing to achieve your goals due to a majority of factors that are outside of your control. Failure to achieve your goals can result in a variety of negative emotional reactions, which may lead to undesirable social situations.

Victory-specific goals create the likelihood of failing at your goals at each tournament and the possibility of failing at your goals every round.

Consider this alternative goal:

My Goal at Grand Prix Liverpool

• Try my hardest to win every round honorably, and win and lose with grace.

With this goal it’s possible to achieve success at every round of every tournament we ever play in. Did I try my hardest to win honorably? Did I handle winning/losing with grace? If yes, then I had a successful round.

Effort-based goals leave winning as a bonus. Winning still feels good, and we should enjoy that, but winning and losing is perhaps 60% outside of our control, so it doesn’t make a big difference either way.

This isn’t the only way, but it’s a way to consistently have successful rounds and successful events.

“How Are You Doing?”

In most social situations, “how are you doing?” is a casual conversation starter.

“How are you doing?” You could either be doing well, or you could be doing not so well.

For myself, I try to always answer “I’m doing well thanks, how are you doing?”

For a casual conversation this is a positive way to move the conversation. If I’m looking for comfort in venting about personal anxiety or concerns I might answer different, but as a general rule I am always doing well, thank you.

At a Magic: the Gathering tournament “How are you doing?” is framed in the same way, but is usually code for “what is your record?”

The answer options are the same: you could either be doing well, or you could be doing not so well.

Through effort-based goal setting it’s possible always to be doing well. Our emotional state is totally dissociated from our tournament record. So the answer may always be, “I’m doing well thank you, how are you doing?”

Answering “how are you doing?” with a tournament record may communicate that you are not doing well. It opens comparisons, congratulations, or condolences, which may or may not be what you want.

Sharing your record may frame your emotional state as negative, so you may find you have a better time between rounds by always giving a thumbs up and an affirmation of positive state.

This is just one option. If you are looking for comparisons, congratulations, or condolences you can, or if you are uncomfortable deflecting questions you can answer “how are you doing?” with a tournament record.

But it’s possible to be always doing well at a Magic tournament, and I am personally a fan of this method.

Having a Successful Magic Tournament

I have found that the keys to having a successful Magic tournament are setting goals in something I can control: My goals are to try my best to win honorably, and win or lose with grace. With this approach it’s possible to dissociate your emotional state from the match slip result and to always have a good time.

Winning is still a desire, and we should still enjoy it, but it may only be 40% under our control, so winning or losing is not a big deal so long as we put in a good effort.

Again, this is not the only way but just one way. If you are a tournament grinder and it is very important to win as much as possible, you may want to set winning as a goal—but it may set you up for failure at achieving your goals, resulting in negative emotional state and the possibility of undesirable social situations.

Whatever you choose to do, I hope this article offers you some insight in the possibility to ALWAYS find success every round of every tournament.


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