Rule One: Be a Good Opponent

Long ago, when I first sat down in my friend’s parents’ unfinished basement and asked him to teach me how to play this cool game called Magic, he raised his index finger and proclaimed, “Rule one: Be a good opponent,” and continued to laugh and gallivant as he explained the basics to me. Whether he meant it as a joke or not, that rule resonated with me a lot as I continued my Magic career. If any of you have seen me play in person, you know I am very animated and try my best to have fun and provide a positive experience for each of my opponents. There is a very specific type of opponent I believe is the best kind to be, both for the gameplay and the community: You want to be someone who people think they have to be at their sharpest to play against, but not so cutthroat that you’re playing Lawyers: The Gathering instead of Magic: The Gathering; you want your opponent to have had a positive experience from your match whether you win, lose, or draw; and, lastly, you want to be someone who your opponent knows will be a fun match.  Here are some ways we can all try to be the kind of person that people are excited to play against.

1. Make light humor.  This does not mean talk on your opponent’s turn, because this can be seen as distraction, and likewise on your own turn, where you wouldn’t want to be distracted.  However, during dead time of the game, like shuffle effects  and procedural plays that are face up on the table (tapping a Grove of the Burnwillows and two lands to recur a Punishing Fire, or tapping a Deathrite Shaman and pointing at a target), make light jokes almost at your own expense and never at your opponent’s. An example would be: If you’re shuffling your deck from a fetchland and you’re obviously flooding, do make a comment about how you’re going to start a real estate company with all this land property you are acquiring.  Don’t sigh hard, heavy, and loud, as if to say, ‘Jeez, another one?’. Another example is activating a Grim Lavamancer and exiling two lands: smile and tell your opponent, “I guess I’ll play into your Oblivion Sower,” even if there is no chance that card is in their deck.  It is very important you never make a joke at your opponent’s expense; this can be seen as ‘rubbing it in’, which is something you never want to do.

2. Smile a lot and often. We all know the harsh burn that comes with losing, especially those that come from non-Magic games, i.e., mulligans into oblivion and mana issues. If you have won your match, do smile and tell your opponent you look forward to your rematch in the near future and hopefully Problem X or Y will not happen again.  Do not apologize for things that you cannot possibly control. Everyone has that story where someone ran them over in a game and then frantically said sorry until they walked away from the table because they felt bad your deck didn’t function well. Do not be that person. On the other side of this coin, we have: If you have just lost a match that either meant a lot or came to a conclusion through non-Magic means, or possibly both, do extend your hand, smile, and tell your opponent, “Good games!  I look forward to our next match, and I’m gonna put up a lot more fight, so be ready!” Do not reject handshakes, slam things, remark at your luck, scoff, mention how you deserve things, or display similar behavior. Nobody wants to hear that. Heck, you wouldn’t want to hear that if you weren’t the person saying it. Grace in victory, as well as in defeat.

3. Play nice, but do not play easy. At the end of the day, you are still their opponent. It is not a mean thing to do or rude if you don’t let your opponent take back a play. If your opponent Remands your Abrupt Decay, tell them it resolves and they may draw their card if they just missed that Abrupt Decay was uncounterable. You are not a bad guy for keeping your opponent to the standard of knowing what all the cards do. If they have a question, they can ask a judge, or even you.  You can tell them to ask a judge, or, if it’s something  simple and you want to help them, you can; but do not let anyone make you feel bad that you didn’t allow them to take their land drop back. You want to be the kind of player that people have to be on their best game against. There is a happy median between playing Gotcha! and being walked all over. If a game action has taken place since the play in question, stand your ground. If the judge feels differently, then comply. However, if someone activates a Lotus Petal and says, “Make blu—black. Make black,” or even if they just say, “Blue,” look at their hand, and say, “I mean black,” nothing has changed since the Petal was activated, and you are not being weak if you let your opponent have the black mana.

4. Not everyone will want to have a party with you. We all know the opponent who, when you ask where they’re from, they don’t respond; or you say, “Good luck!” and they just nod; or afterward you say, “Good game!” and they’re silent. Some people do Magic as their work and you just have to see them as being in their office at work, as in they’re all business. While you may not have much dialogue with this type of opponent, being courteous and smiling are simple, nonverbal things.  Never comment on their lack of interaction with you, and don’t think they are being rude when they don’t respond: We don’t know what’s going on in their lives, it could be a language barrier, they could have had a terrible week at work, or they might just be feeling a little under the weather. Win, lose, or draw, tell them it was a pleasure and you wish them luck in the future.

I’ve always proclaimed half of the reason anyone should play Magic is for the community. I believe if we see these small behaviors pick up, our community would grow faster, and it would be a more enjoyable place to spend all of our weekends.

I would personally like to give fanny packs a shout-out. I highly recommend acquiring one for tournament Magic.  Here are some of (but not all of) the benefits of wearing a fanny pack.

  • Carries deck box, dice, life pad, and pen, all in one place. No stuffed pockets!
  • You won’t have to develop crippling scoliosis from carrying a heavy backpack all day.
  • No one asks you for cards because all you have on you is a fanny pack.
  • It is a place to rest your arms when standing, or to hold your bottled drink.
  • It will be very hard for someone to steal from your fanny pack without you noticing.
  • When walking between aisles of players, you no longer have to worry about the bulkiness of your bag on your back.
  • People can more easily get around you and you can more easily get around others.
  • You are automatically 50% more stylish and hip. I checked with a teenager to confirm this fact’s validity.

If nothing else, I implore you all to at least consider the eighties belt bag of yesteryear for your tournament purposes. After you try it once, I think you’ll all be believers as I am, for once you go pack, you never go back.

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