First Tournament Jitters and You

While I’ve been to a few events here and there with the occasional pre-release or Friday Night Magic, I am far from a constant in local magic circles. I am not sure if this comes from getting my face pushed in too many times and just generally avoiding it, or because I just don’t have the time to dedicate to be up to snuff. But there is one thing that we have all experienced, or are thinking about if you’re reading this. That foreboding first tournament feel, those sweaty palms, dry throat, and sinking feeling in the stomach that the deck you put together from your most recent Christmas haul of booster packs won’t be good enough to compete with the guys at the local gaming or comic store. But fear not kids, this is a feeling that everyone has, and there are a few ways to go about calming those jitters.

While many of the readers at are seasoned players who have embraced the tournament lifestyle, a good percentage of the remainder is a somewhat nervous and unsure crowd. I feel at this point I’ve made my way somewhere in the middle of these two groups, so to those on the beginner side of the fence, don’t worry. Most of the people you will be playing against are just as nervous as you are.

The guy doing the two card shuffle with his hand? He’s trying to figure out if he should counter that creature you’re dropping in the first main phase because you’re still learning, or if it’s a bluff and you have something coming later.

The guy staring at the board for two minutes during the combat phase? He’s triple checking his math to make sure the buffs in his hand will be enough to finish you off.

The guy who’s eyes are dancing across the draft table? He’s trying to figure out how people are able to tell what others are drafting and is about to say screw it all and rare draft.

So how to do we get over these pre-event anxieties? In reality, it’s pretty simple. Just remember these few things.

1.) They’re nervous too. Most players going into a tournament have the jitters, one way or another. Don’t think it’s you against the world.

2.) Be friendly. People get this idea in their head that tournament players are some elite cadre who look down on others for not being as good, when that couldn’t be any further from the truth. Some of the best players, are the ones that will stop and explain a new rule or mechanic to a newer player.

3.) Ask questions. This one is big. Too many times do I see new players just wandering about, or looking at draft packs wondering “what’s next?” If you aren’t sure what’s going on, where you should be, or if you’re doing it right, ask another player or a judge.

4.) Watch and learn. Just because you are losing a match, don’t think it’s all over. Play out the match the best you can. You may pick up a trick or two from your opponent. Take on each opponent as a chance to learn, whether you win or lose.

5.) Have fun! This is by far the most important thing to remember. Magic is competitive in nature, but it’s still a game. Win with grace and lose with honor, and you will have a great time at any tournament out there.

So whether you plan on gunning for the pros, or you want to just hang out at your local Friday Night Magic and play a few rounds, Magic is a game of community and competition. So go out, kick ass, and have fun!

Signing Off,

Bud Lewis