The best thing about Magic, the Gathering is that it’s both a great casual and competitive game. MTG in a casual sense is a great way to connect with friends and family, or just to pass time until your next class in college. You can pretty much build whatever you want with whatever budget you have and no one will blink an eye at you.
Competitive MTG, on the other hand, is almost a completely different game. Here, you’re playing to win for prizes and to best everyone else in a game of skill and luck. Sure, playing with your friends here is still fun just like it is in casual and you are still able to make new connections, but only one of you can move closer to victory.
So sleeve up your 60 card deck and let’s dive into how to get your feet wet in the competition.
Before you go to any tournament, you’ll need a DCI number. This is a series of numbers that represents your Wizards of the Coast account that will keep track of your progression at tournaments. You must first create an account, and you’ll find your number there once you’ve completed the sign up process.
The point of DCI is to give you something called Planeswalker Points. Get enough of these, and you can receive free “Byes” from certain rounds of a huge tournament and get an automatic win without having to play against anyone. You can also receive invitations to bigger events like Pro Tours, which is a stepping stone towards the World Championship.
The Planeswalker Point system also acts as an RPG. You can level up and earn achievements for doing certain things at a sanctioned event (Wizards of the Coast-recognized events that are ran by local game stores).
Picking a format and a deck
As I stated in my “Where to begin in Magic, the Gathering.” article, there are multiple competitive formats, but 3 are played the most across every competitive environment: Standard, Modern, and Legacy.
Standard is by far the one that is played the most, so you’ll be most likely playing this format when you start off. Let’s pretend that you really do want to play Standard, and now you want to make a deck in order to play. However, you’re not exactly sure how to go about this. There are two ways you can go about this.
You could make a home brew, but without experiencing what other people are playing (meta), it’ll be harder to do than just look at what is being played and making a deck off of that.
That leaves us with the other option: looking at the meta-game and picking a deck that you think will get you the best results that you want.
The best site to do this is MTGGoldfish. Just click on “decks” on the top, and then click on “metagame” in the drop down menu.
When picking a deck for the first time, my advice is to pick one that is easy to understand on what you are supposed to be doing with it. A perfect example of a deck in standard right now with a easy-to-execute plan is “Ramunap Red”. So let’s pretend that this is the deck you truly want to be playing in Standard.
When you click on a deck, the site will give you a complete list of the 60-card deck and it’s 15-card sideboard (which I will explain here in a bit). It also gives you a price tag on the cards and the deck as a whole, both in paper and MTGO. On the right, if you are intent on play the decklist presented to you, it’ll give you links to buy the deck from the select online stores. Do be warned that these stores won’t always have these cards available, so be prepared to dig a little bit to find what you need.
Playing Competitively on a Budget
The unfortunate thing about Magic is that it can be super expensive, depending on what you want to do in the game, and what you want to be playing with. However, this does not mean that you can’t play it on a budget.
There’s 1 of 2 ways you can go about this.
1: Research possible budget decklists on Youtube, Google, or even MTGGoldfish itself. The site has a series of articles that have budget decks that are ready to play.
2: Go to your local game store and ask players possible budget options (this is the exact thing I did back in 2011). Don’t go up to random people, however. Try to make a connection first, or just simply play the game with them.
Accessories You’ll Need
Once you’ve figured out what you want to be playing and have purchased the cards, you’ll also need to acquire a couple of things that you’re going to need help your games function properly and to keep your belongings protected and organized.
There are numerous things in the game that will require you to have dice, specifically a handful of six-sided dice, or d6s. You can also acquire a d20 spinedown life counter die to help keep track of your life total.
-To keep record of your life, you can also use a paper pad and a pencil to write down your life total and your opponent’s.
This is without a doubt the most important accessories that you are going to need. Sleeves will protect your cards from getting damaged at the table that you are playing at. My recommendation would be Dragon Shield, which gives you 100+ card sleeves for around $10.
-I would also recommend double-sleeving your deck, as air and particles can still get in from the opening of a sleeve and touch your cards. KMC Perfect Fits, will do the job perfectly.
Of course, you are going to need something to hold your cards in. There are many deck boxes out there that come in different shapes and sizes. The best deck box out there that I can recommend is the Ultimate Guard Flip Box. It will fit a 60-100 card deck perfectly and the magnets that hold the box closed have premium-level strength, meaning it won’t accidentally open on you or in your bag.
Playing Competitive Magic
Now that you are geared up and ready to go play your first tournament with your deck. The perfect place to start off in is Friday Night Magic. These typically start between 6-7 P.M and have a $5-$10 entry fee. Depending on how many people show up, these tournaments have 3-4 rounds, with prizes going to top 8 that usually involve booster packs and/or in-store credit.
To find the nearest local game store to you, head on over to Wizard’s store locator. It’ll tell you where you can locate your LGS and the events that are being played.
Once you’ve got your hands dirty in competitive magic, you can start looking into competing in larger events like a Grand Prix. Star City Games also have their own tournament series called the “Open Series”.
Winning the Grand Prix will get you an invite to the next Pro Tour, which is a larger tournament that can take place anywhere in the world. Either this, or you can compete in a Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifier, which are smaller tournaments that will get you an invite to the next Pro Tour. If you can’t find one near you, there are also Qualifier tournaments in MTGO. Either way, you will be able to have the chance to get into a Pro Tour no matter what your situation is.
Competitive MTG is a completely different and challenging way of playing the game that you love or are starting to love, but one that opens the door to travel and making new connections with people that play the same game that you do. Get on out there and start testing your mettle against other players in a world of MTG competition.
Thank you for reading! To keep up-to-date, you can follow my FB page and start reading new articles as soon as you can!
I know that I said I’d make another deck tech, but that will have to be next week. So to make up for lost time, expect TWO deck techs!
Until next time!