Saturday, April 9, 2011

First-ever Friday Night Magic Tournament - a total newbie perspective

I've been intrigued by Magic: The Gathering for many years, but always hesitant to try it. With  no idea how to approach the game as a complete beginner, I was just afraid to jump in. Because seriously - who wants to purchase cards, then walk up to strangers and risk feeling foolish for not knowing how to play?

Well guys, I'm here to tell you, it isn't like that at all. I had a short learning session at  Comic Con in New Orleans back in January and took home a few promo decks, but I still wasn't quite ready. My fellow blogger and good friend Jackalope has been playing a lot lately, though, and encouraging me to try. After his last post, I decided to go for it. Oh, not at our ToyWiz retail location in NY, but down in Albany, LA at a shop called Chuck's Field of Dreams. Yes, a nice anonymous place to go embarass myself, I thought.

Just so you know, I'm a friendly, but cutthroat player in any game I pursue. Maybe I'll post another day about my history with MMORPGs, for example, but suffice it to say that I probably blow away any stereotypes you might have about female gamers! So jumping into something new is a big deal for me  -  There's no way I'm playing anything without making a serious effort to master it and to be a fierce competitor.

But when I decide to do something, I go all the way: I entered the local Friday Night Magic Tournament as my first step after barely learning how to play a couple of games! Why? I have no idea. I'm just impulsive like that.

I shouldn't have been so self-conscious! Everyone was extremely nice, especially my new friend Steven, who took the time to help me put together a deck for my first-ever tourney, give me a refresher on the basic rules, and a lot of pep talk to assure me that I'd be just fine playing with the regulars. Thank you so much Steven, I had a blast!

[caption id="attachment_786" align="alignnone" width="150" caption="This man knows MTG...and has the patience to teach a newbie, too!"]This man knows MTG.[/caption]

Getting started with a tournament-worthy deck was far easier and less expensive than I imagined! Two boxes of this Mirrodin Besieged Theme Event Deck did the trick. Why two? To double up on the better cards, of course! This let me build a 60-card deck for the tourney.

[caption id="attachment_787" align="alignnone" width="150" caption="Magic: The Gathering Mirrodin Besieged Theme Event Deck: Into the Breach"]Magic: The Gathering Mirrodin Besieged Theme Event Deck Into the Breach[/caption]

The first round I played against the nicest guy, who had the most wicked set of cards. He blew me away pretty quickly and helped educate me on a few beginner mistakes I made right off the bat. After the second hand, I was already feeling better and he was nice enough to tweak my deck a bit to make it a touch stronger. Steven answered a few more questions and did a quick practice run with both of us playing from my deck between rounds. He also showed me how to play certain cards together for maximum impact. That's when everything clicked into place. All at once, I got it.

[caption id="attachment_788" align="alignnone" width="150" caption="This is the nicest guy ever to completely obliterate me in a game."]My first opponent[/caption]

So Round 2 went swimmingly. Oh, I still lost twice! But I had a strategy and a little more confidence. Again my opponent was glad to see a new face at the local tourney, patient and helpful with a few questions that popped up, mostly about his cards that I'd not yet encountered.  And seriously, he was a great player with a strong deck, but I almost had him at one point! If he'd taken just one more point of damage, I'd have dropped instants to end the game. But alas, the cards didn't turn my way. I realized too that the red deck won't allow me to play deep - once he had enough creatures on the board, I just couldn't burst past them to take another hit off his life. He was at 7 and I had instants in my hand that would have taken 6. Just one little point! That's all I needed! Curses!

[caption id="attachment_789" align="alignnone" width="150" caption="Don't be deceived by how nice he looks...this guy is a ruthless player!"]My second opponent[/caption]

But on to Round 3, I'd finally gotten a much better feel for the cards. I won 2/3 against a very nice, experienced player, and that was certainly a great way to end the night!

Here's the deck I made (with a lot of help!) and played with for my first-ever FNM Tourney:

  • 1 Tribal flames

  • 4 Lightning Bolt

  • 4 Orthinopter

  • 4 Goblin Guide

  • 4 Kuldotha Rebirth

  • 3 Goblin Wardriver

  • 4 Panic Spellbomb

  • 4 Goblin Bushwhacker

  • 3 Signal Pest

  • 3 Galvanic Blast

  • 3 Memnite

  • 2 Devastating Summons

  • 1 Thunderscape Battlemage

  • Land cards

This deck is a fast and furious, so if you try it out, play aggressively. With lots of low mana-cost cards, you'll be able to chip points off your opponent probably from your opening move. Once he's within reach (down to 6-7 points), a few good draws for instants will allow you to suddenly knock him to zero before he can get enough strength on the board to do anything about it. I found that some opponents were trying to think a few moves ahead, not realizing that I had no intention of letting them get that far. This deck is great against someone who expects to play deep.

On the downside, if you can't get them early, it gets a lot more difficult to win when you're forced to keep playing while powerful cards are being stacked against you. So if you decide to give this deck a try, be ready to play aggressively and push hard and fast for an early victory. And if you get drawn into a defensive position, roll with it. At least you'll have lots of low damage cards to sacrifice and some sweet instants to help push back.

And if you've thought about playing but don't know how, who to play with, or where to go, head to your local card shop's FNM Tourney and jump in. Call ahead to ask when someone can help teach you - you'll be good enough to play with about 30 minutes of instruction and a few practice rounds. But definitely don't think you've got to be experienced to play in one of these things - I've found that MTG players are some of the nicest people around, and they're glad to see new people taking an interest. If you're near Nanuet, we'd love to see you at our store. The guys will be glad to help, and we host Friday Night Magic and other MTG events weekly! 253 West Route 59, (845) 624-2224 or click here for event times and driving directions.


Grapadora said...

Great post. You really make playing Magic sound like fun & alleviated a lot of the fears I had about just showing up at a FNM event. I like the look of that deck you used - I may give it a shot myself.

ToyWiz said...

Fantastic post!
Great job, great read, great everything.