So, you want to win a magic tournament.

This article is going to make a couple assumptions. The first of which is that you aren’t on the Pro Tour or insanely talented at Magic. You’re just an above average player trying to capture that trophy for yourself. You are tired of SCG top 64s and and GP Day 2s.

It’s time to win.

So here is how you do it…

In 4 simple steps.

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Step 1: The Best Deck is the Worst Deck: Divergent Strategies

If you go and play the best deck and acknowledge that it will be one of the most popular in the room, then you are ceding the fact that you know there will be a significant amount of other players in the field who have equal or higher prowess than you with the deck. This implies that you are just relying on getting lucky to make a run at the grand prize. If you aren’t either the best player or the worst player and you want to win the tournament then playing the single best deck probably isn’t the way to go. Rather, you want to play the most divergent strategy that doesn’t capsize most skill tests in Magic. When I won a SCG Open in New Jersey in 2014, I won it not because I was even close to the best player in the room, but because I made an insanely good deck choice. Many others will tell you the same story, so if your goal is to get first place, this step is a must.

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Step 2: Dedication is More than a Thought

This concept is a little more complicated. Many people think of dedication as some arbitrary number of hours, amount of practice, or money spent on drafts. In reality, dedication means not giving up, never taking anything as a given, and refusing to let yourself be your own worst enemy. Many people claim to be dedicated to doing well at Magic tournaments, but then don’t take care of themselves. May players go out and drink the night before day 2 or get limited amounts of sleep and compensate for their lack of sleep by drinking energy drinks all day. So the tip to take away from this is that dedication and practice doesn’t all come before the tournament. Take care of yourself, eat, sleep, and drink a lot of water. This sounds like such a mom thing to say, but you can get a large competitive advantage. You might be able to get a good finish without heeding this advice, but you probably can’t win the tournament.

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Step 3: One Round at a Time

Do not count your chickens before they hatch. Don’t look at the standings before the second to last round of any given tournament. It will distract you, I can guarantee it. Don’t even use swiss triangle to see what records will make the elimination rounds or get prizes. This takes your eyes off of the ultimate prize. Maybe you will still put up a good finish, but focusing on the details of your potential victory in your mind is going to throw you off your game whether you know it or not. People have gone 12-0 into 12-3 at GPs many times before. People have played massive advantages away and lost, so just take the time to be present and play in the moment. If you don’t do this, you aren’t going to be able to win.

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Step 4: Prizes are Irrelevant

If 100$ or 30 booster packs are really important to you, then you aren’t ready to win a Magic tournament. Focus on the only important prize the entire time: the trophy. There isn’t much to say here, if you want first place you need to be playing for first place not for some packs or dollar amount. In fact, most times if you are playing in the top 4 of a tournament, the prizes will have been split already by you and the other players.

Those are the 4 most important tips if you want to win a Magic tournament. These are not necessarily tips to improve your game as a whole, but rather guidelines for a single tournament.

For an analysis of vehicles in Kaladesh and a look at the importance of heuristics in Magic and how they will improve your game, read this article from Ryan Saxe.

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