Have you ever been at your local card store/comic book store looking for a game of Magic the Gathering? Ever see a group of people with their skyscrapers of binders laid out in front of them yelling out prices to each other and the only response is a shake of a head or a nod? These are the more competitive players that you either love, or hate. I happen to be one of these players, but I wasn’t always one. I went into the store I usually go to with my own “rig” built out of my shoe-box full of cards, and I thought I was going to stomp everyone there. Little did I know, there were formats, and bannings, and rules, and terms… did I mention rules? Lots, and lots, of rules. But that’s a story for another day. The terms these people were using, I had no clue what they were saying; it was like another language. Luckily, you won’t be that “noob” at the counter going “What does that mean?” every three seconds.

Ever watch a game and one player has 12 lands out and 3 creatures, while the other only has 2 lands? That’s what we call in the magic biz, a blowout. Blowouts happen to all of us, but learning to deal with the eventual blowout is something entirely new. The first time you get blownout, you might not even know it happened. Just take it in stride, you are going to get angry. Don’t let it show though. Shuffle back up, and play games 2-20000 with the confidence that you will never let that happen again. BUT, on the other side, delivering your first blowout will feel like you’ve opened a whole world full of opportunities. Don’t try and blow out all your future opponents, you will let your guard down, and you will lose. It happens; karma, like a honey badger… doesn’t care.

Related to the blowout is the “scoop” also known as “scoop phase“. As we might know, Magic the Gathering has phases. Untap, upkeep, draw, main phase 1, combat step, main phase 2, end step. At any time in this process one can add the optional “scoop phase” this is when you pick up all your cards and concede. This can not be responded too, and does not use the stack. You can also respond to scooping, by scooping again. The card “Time Stop” does not work either (Thank you Jake).

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Blowouts and scooping will teach you about the place called “Blowout City”. After your eventual blowout you will become the honorary mayor of Blowout City, unfortunately this is not an honor. But time will pass, and you will resign, then you can ask people “So you’re the new Mayor of Blowout city?” then laugh about it. Don’t be too mean. You want to have fun, and make friends. Though Blowout City is an interesting place! One tends to learn quite a lesson there- “I will never make that mistake again.”

Being a scrub isn’t something you want to be called. It generally means someone who is bad at Magic, or someone who is new (leading them to probably be bad). Scrubbing out is when a good player does badly in a tournament. I am VERY familiar with that term because of how often I tend to scrub out. But hey, it happens. I’m currently the Mayor of Blowout City for punting a game that I had won. “Punting” is another term that is thrown around the card-slinging community. To punt is to lose a game that you were favored to win. It’s a terrible feeling, punting is similar to the idea of a blowout. But blowouts are usually out of your control. Punting entails a huge mis-play or something you didn’t see because you didn’t “RTFC”.

Read The Freakin’ Card. This statement is SO true. There are times where I’m using my tournament deck against a super-casual player and I lose because I didn’t read a card. All magic cards have a use, they can be used to win games, or lose them. Just because some cards aren’t viable in tournaments doesn’t mean that they can’t win games on the kitchen table. I am a firm believer in that, but sometimes it’s easy to forget that. I am constantly asking “What does that do?” and reading the card, thinking to my self “how the heck am I going to beat this?” This is where reading cards ahead of time is important. This also is a skill-test, something that weens the good players from the bad.

I want to finish on a very important note. Sometimes there are games in which you need a miracle. You’re dead next turn, and you need to draw the one card out of your 60 that helps you win/survive. In a final act of desperation, you look not at your opponent, but straight up and say aloud “One time, just one freakin’ time”. You rip “the nuts” and draw what you need. That is your “one time”. The nuts is basically like saying “I couldn’t have asked for anything better” and using your one time is like pitching a perfect game in baseball. The ‘one time’ should be used only in emergency’s and should be used frequently. Let it wait, there will be a time where you want something more. That right there, is the most important thing I can teach about Magic. Asking for miracles for when you don’t need them, ruins it for when you do.

So, as you assumed through reading this article, I’m a competitive player. If you’re a competitive player reading this article, you probably know all this already. But to the casual player, this hopefully amuses you and makes you want to become a more competitive player. That’s my goal. I’m trying to help the person looking to go from kitchen table, to Friday Night Magics, Pro Tour Qualifiers, Grand Prix’s, and Pro Tours (that would be awesome). I’m looking to help that player understand magic better, learn the different formats, and teach them how to play to the best of their ability. I’m not Pro Tour winner, or a Pro for that matter. But, I’ve been in the position on looking where to start, and I think I’ve done pretty well from where I started. Future articles are going to be answers for questions provided by… you. Hopefully I can help you out, and get you started on the right foot. NOW, go send me questions, stories, criticisms, anything really.

Keep Shuffling,

Neal Kleinman