Mr. January’s Key Notes – The Way to Succeed in Magic

Last time I talked about my dismal SCG Open in Phoenix and how I as a player have improved. Well, I have improved and finished with an 11-4 record through four tourneys at Amazing Discoveries. First I went 3-0 on Wednesday in Standard, 2-1 in Legacy the next day, then 2-3 at FNM, and finished 4-0 in Legacy on Saturday. The FNM was a minor hiccup where I will try and not let that happen again. I made a huge play mistake in the first round and my tourney went downhill from there. But I still finished the week with a great record and a lot of info.

Today is about winning. Most people say winning is the greatest thing about anything. This is true. What comes out of losing? If it was a play mistake, then it is clearly your fault and no one else. If it was because you got land flooded or screwed it’s a combination of two things: your manabase sucks or you have terrible luck. If you opponent is just better than you, then you learned something and you have to work harder. Knowledge is the name of this game. The basic skills for Magic I have noticed are obviously math, but what else do you have to be good at? Well let’s make a list.

  • Math
  • Memory
  • Focus
  • Poker face
  • Weapon


This is the number one most important thing in the game. From counting how many cards they have in their hand and life totals, the numbers can make anyone confuzzled. Guess what? The biggest play mistakes happen in the math area. From counting damage or mana available, it can cause a lot of players the match when they screw this up. I can’t really help you out with this too much because I am not a math teacher, but most of us graduated from the 3rd grade, right? I guess the harder parts are the stats and probabilities that I’m not even a pro at yet. For instance, you have played 2 Snapcaster Mages and have one in hand. You don’t want to use it because you want to save it for that last little push to get through for the win. Well, say your opponent just played a card that can screw up your plans so you may have to use your Snapcaster Mage. Try to figure your chances of drawing a Snapcaster Mage in the next two turns with 33 cards in your deck left. So you try and figure that out and give me the answer in the comments section below.


This is pretty basic on what is in the deck your playing with and against. First off, if you don’t know what’s in your deck then you’re already screwed. But your opponent is playing Wolf Run so you already know that they have four Primeval Titans and four Huntmaster of the Fells so it’s more than likely they have one in their opening hand. But memorizing decklist and what you’re facing is a huge upper hand. For Legacy, it is really important, because let’s say a Storm player is playing Tendrils and you somehow survive one storming by then you should know they don’t have another one but they have Burning Wish and Empty the Warrens to still win the game. The knowledge is a top-notch weapon against your opponent.


I mentioned this in my last article and like to emphasize on what I was talking about. When you walk into a room of 400 players playing for first place, it can get overwhelming. Things going through your head are: how am I going to beat this many people, wow that money should would be nice, I’m not as good as the rest of these players (vice versa), I picked the wrong deck, etc…. These things happen to everyone and if they don’t or haven’t, then you’re lying. You should have your deck picked before the tourney, so if you’re still thinking about that then once again, you’re kind of screwed. Something I learned recently is that you went to this tourney to play Magic and play Magic to your best capable ability. If you can sit down and say I’m going to play the best Magic I can, you’re more than likely going to get to that pinnacle you wanted out of this game; be it a fat cash prize, to a Pro Tour invite or just that you played one of the best Magic games you ever played. This is what Brad Nelson calls “The Fire.” It’s a common phrase to a lot of competitors and used by the greatest. So far, this has been very helpful since SCG Phoenix.

Poker Face

Intimidation can be a very bad thing for us middle class players. When I used to sit across from really good players at my local FNM, I was always down and out of the match already. If you beat that player, it feels like you got lucky; well you probably did or he/she got unlucky. Once again, it goes back to The Fire I mentioned. If you sit and play the best Magic you can play, then you have nothing to worry about because most good players will say that was a tough match or that you really gave them a run for their money. So if you keep playing to your fullest potential then you can start using that intimidation factor on those other players that are “better” than you.


My fiancé told me a story about how her best friend asked her about Magic and she replied, “It’s when two people have these decks, also known as their weapons, and fight each other with them.” This is one of the best descriptions I have ever heard about Magic. It is so true. Picking your deck for a tournament and knowing every possible play that can happen with it can be someone’s greatest weapon in a tourney.  We pick our decks because we fell they give a best way of winning. It’s like if I were to pick up a huge sword and Jason Abong is to pick up the same sword that weighs three times his weight, it’s going to be no contest. Picking the deck that’s for you and play testing the hell out of it is the best way to win in magic.

So this concludes another article by yours truly. And I hope some of these insights help you as a player. Next time I write it will be about the new set and my top cards that should make splashes or tidal waves in Standard and Legacy. So until next time, may the force of will be with you.


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