Innovations – Magic Etiquette 101 and My States Deck

Claim your territory at The 2009's State and Provincial Championships!
Monday, November 30th – Etiquette in Magic has always divided opinion. Something as simple as offering your vanquished opponent a “Good Game” is loved and hated in equal measure. Today, Patrick discusses a variety of aspects of Magic Etiquette, from respecting your opponent to asking for a concession. He also shares his Standard deck for the upcoming State Championships!

There are countless articles about current decklists, how to sideboard, how to metagame, how to figure out what plays to make in game, and more, but there are not that many articles on Magic etiquette. I can come nowhere near an exhaustive tome today, but hopefully some of the ideas that I present today will spark some ideas. If any of this resonates with you, or even just gives you some food for thought, perhaps it will be worth it. Maybe it isn’t even for you, so much as it is to help give you ammunition for helping improve the etiquette of those around you. Also, my States list is hidden somewhere in here…

Let’s start with a big one. If someone wants to shake your hand after a match, generally, give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they are actually showing you a sign of respect and not just trying to run the savage rub-ins. Likewise, if you want to shake someone’s hand after a match, feel free, because the only people who are going to be pissed aren’t worth worrying about anyway. Keep in mind that if you have been a jerk to the person in some other way, all bets are off. If you have been totally cordial, then it takes a fairly immature player to be angry at someone wishing them good luck the rest of the day and thanking them for a good match.

Yes, this includes if you were horribly mana screwed. You know I know how tempting it is to say, “Not really, I didn’t play a land on turn 2.” Seriously though, what are you trying to accomplish? What do you want them to do about it? You got mana screwed, or they had a lucky top deck… whatever. I mean, even if they were totally awful and you played brilliantly, and you still lost on account of some horrible string of unfortunate and unlikely events, think about what the other person is saying.

“Good games.”

Do you think it is possible, maybe, just maybe, that they are saying “good games” as in, “thanks for not cheating or being shady in our games,” or some such? I mean, personally no matter how mana screwed I am, not matter how bad the player who just beat me, I always consider games without cheating to be much better than ones that involve it. Would it have been a better game if you weren’t mana screwed and you got a game win because your opponent did something shady in game 1 and got caught, but then he has awesome draws in game 2 and 3, and you lost game 2 quite possibly on account of whatever other shady things he was doing?

Sure, they might be in some way just trying to be a jerk by mocking you and saying good games to rub it in, but I promise you, the vast majority of the time this is not the case. That slim percentage of the time it is, the person just wants to irritate you. If you let them bother you, you have given them what they wanted. If you give them the benefit of the doubt and wish them good luck, they will have failed to annoy you and deprive them of all of the pleasure they’re seeking there. In addition, sometimes a little positive energy can start a chain reaction.

Maybe someone had been mean to them, but with your positive energy, they soften up a little for the rest of the day. The next person they would have been a jerk to (potentially ruining that person’s day), they instead bring a little more positive energy (potentially leading to one more person attending a tournament the next week).

On the other hand, let’s say that they were being genuine in their comment of it being a good game. If you are cordial back, perfect; it increases the energy in the room, and everyone is happier. On the other hand, if you refuse to shake their hand and say “Not really, I was SO mana screwed,” what have you gained? You are no better off, and now that person feels worse about the day, the round, Magic, everything.

Why should you care? Even if you don’t care about Magic culture and seeing other Magic players have a good time, you still want your tie breakers to be better, and if that person does well they will improve. In addition, how do you know that he won’t be the guy you face at the GP next week, they that gets paired down against you and can scoop you in?

Obviously there are some adolescent boys, and sometimes even grown men (or women), that will be so fixated on their own emotional response to the match that they might take offense to someone shaking their hand. Usually, these are the types of people that are self-conscious because they know in their hearts that if the roles were reversed, they would be saying “good games” to hurt the other person.

While I think there is nothing wrong with shaking these people off, something I have found useful to do is offer my hand with the following words, “Thank you for the match. Good luck the rest of the day.”

This removes most of the potential for miscommunication, and is so obviously positive and genuine that it can have a positive impact on even the most angst-filled opponent. Why don’t I say “good game”…? I do sometimes, but I generally only say that when the match was particularly close and interesting. I know this is how many of you would have people use it, but the key to what I am saying is that not everyone is as versed in Magic culture and etiquette as you, so give them the benefit of the doubt.

You know that guy you played last week that made no less than five absolute blunders but still managed to beat you when you mulliganed to five, twice, and that was only because he Bloodbraided into Blightning twice? Put yourself in that guy’s shoes for a minute. If he made five absolute blunders during your match, maybe he is not that good at Magic.

Let that sink in for a minute.

Should we try to hurt people who are not good at Magic? Remember, good is relative. Do you think Yuuya Watanabe thinks you are good? Would he try to make you feel bad about it?

This opponent of yours might not be that good. Maybe they don’t do that well in PTQs, maybe they went on to lose the next three rounds in a row. So what? What is there to gain from taking away from their accomplishment against you? Why discredit them?

Maybe the greatest accomplishment of their Magic playing career is that they played against a 1900 ranked player and managed to edge out a victory when they thought all was lost. Do you really need to take that away from them? This is definitely one of those times that it might be okay to be the bigger person, you know?

I guess a corollary to all of this is that sportsmanship is not just clean play and non-offensive language. Good sportsmanship in Magic means behaving as a champion and an ambassador of the game, even when you are losing, and even when you are interacting with someone that you will probably never see again.

Everyone takes bad beats.

A champion doesn’t whine about mana screw.

While we are on the topic, let me fill you in on something. Very rarely does anyone care about your bad beat. Whatever happened in your match, it probably actually wasn’t that interesting. Don’t get me wrong… it might have been. I mean, this isn’t poker (which only has one good bad beat story ever, which I will detail in the forums). Magic does have a few bad beat stories that are actually interesting, but yours probably isn’t.

If someone asks you what happened last round, it is sufficient to say that you lost, or even that you didn’t play a land on turn 3. If you start telling me about your opening hand, and the first few turns, and you take three minutes only to end with a punch-line of “So I didn’t get there” … get over it.

Hearing about someone’s mana screw game in detail is about as interesting as hearing that guy two tables down, registering his sealed deck, that feels the need to tell everyone around within earshot about the two fetchlands he’s registering… saying things like “Wow, talk about a nice consolation prize,” or “Two Vampire Nighthawks? Hello, a free pass to Top 8 to the lucky person that gets my pool.”

No one cares. Don’t be that guy. You are better than that.

Here are some other helpful suggestions…

If you see Luis Scott-Vargas, Olivier Ruel, or Sam Black at a tournament (or anyone else you may have heard of), feel free to introduce yourself. Feel free to thank them for their contributions. But please, please remember, you are not entitled to a monopoly on their attention. There is nothing wrong with asking for help – in fact, it is highly encouraged – but you would be amazed at the number of people that seem to feel a sense of entitlement, some even getting offended that Kibler has a tweet to Twitter, or that Shuhei has a team draft to lose to an American, rather than discuss sideboarding advice with someone they don’t know for the second time at a Sealed GP.

(I’m definitely getting no mail this week…)

If you see someone cheat – actually cheat, not just do something you don’t understand, or that seems weird – tell a judge. Be mindful to not overly project yourself into their business if there is the possibility that you just don’t realize something about the game state (like that there is a High Tide in effect that was shuffled back in by Time Spiral), but if you see someone legitimately cheat, not to say anything makes the situation of cheating in Magic worse. If you are unsure, tell someone whose opinion you trust, and ask their advice. Most people don’t want to get someone in trouble, but think about what a cheater is doing…

They are stealing from you and everyone else at the tournament. They aren’t just stealing money either. They are robbing you of experiences. It is only by diligent work from players like Chris Pikula and David Price, and judges like Sheldon Menery and Scott Larabee, that we have been able to change the Pro Tour climate to that of a more professional battle between gentlemen. I know it doesn’t always seem that way, but compared to the early, Wild West years, there have been leagues of progress made.

Sometimes you won’t be in a position to tell a judge, and sometimes you won’t want to. Tell someone, because that is how these sorts of things work their way out. Eventually the right people hear enough of the right things, and the right people get watched. You don’t have to be undercover DCI, but seriously, are you going to stand around and watch someone piss on your food, your culture, your wife, your children, or anything else you love?

When you sit down to a match, confirm that you have an understanding before rolling a die to see who is choosing. Don’t just pick a die and roll it. High roll is pretty standard, but if you don’t have an understanding, you are asking for problems.

When you are being interviewed by a judge, TELL THE TRUTH. Being deceptive to a judge is one of the worst things you could possibly do. If you have a problem, call a judge. If you don’t call a judge when your opponent does something shady, you have very little room to complain (not that complaining is that productive anyway, but so many people don’t call a judge about something they imagine to be shady, then complain about it later… Most of the time it wasn’t actually a bad situation, and if the judge would have been called, everything would have gotten resolved…)

Take a shower. Wear deodorant.

During the course of your Magic career, you very well may find yourself in the situation of asking for a concession, or maybe giving one. It is somewhat strange to discuss in frank terms, but the truth is that Magic is a game that has a lot of concessions, due to the highly regular occurrence of matches where one person stands to gain a lot more than the other, and conceding is legal.

The first part of this… are concessions shady? Not really, no. They are not even frowned upon. The key is to observe the proper etiquette. It is a fine line between collusion and a friendly concession.

If anyone ever ask you to concede and you don’t want to, DON’T. You are never under any obligation to concede to anyone, and even if they gain $20000 to your 3 DCI ratings points, it is your right to “come to play.”

If you would like to ask your opponent to concede, you can point out what you have to gain (I would get Level 6, I would make Top 8, I would qualify… whatever). You can ask what the other person has to gain (What are you playing for? What is on the line?). You can ask for the concession, but you can’t promise the other person anything. A standard line could be: “I can’t offer you anything. All I can do is ask if you would concede.”

If you want to scoop to a friend, go for it. If someone scoops you into the Top 8 of a GP, by all means look out for them. Just don’t mess around with making some business deal, such as “I will give you $400 if you scoop.” I am sure this whole section is going to make a lot of people unhappy, but I am just trying to give some honest advice with dealing with this (at times ugly) part of the “game.”

If there is any doubt – any doubt at all – in your mind, call a judge. There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking a judge what you can or cannot say in a situation. Be honest with the judge and stay within the framework of the rules. As long as you are committed to staying within the framework of the rules, than your actions are, by definition, legal.


Don’t bribe people.

Don’t ask for bribes.

Ask a judge if you have any question whatsoever.

Don’t put someone in an awkward position by asking them to do something wrong.

If you are uncomfortable or something feels wrong, trust your gut.

No one is ever obligated to concede to anyone.

Obviously, this is a somewhat controversial topic that has shifted back and forth at times, with the pendulum currently appearing to be somewhat lenient, but remember, leniency does not mean softness. If you break the rules, the judges are not afraid to take unpopular or difficult stands. The rules are the rules for a reason.

Remember, just as tight technical play decides more matches than all other factors combined, and playing mind tricks not as important, this sort of thing is a whole order of magnitude less important still. If you are trying to get your game up, this aspect of tournament Magic is not going to be your focus, and 99.9% of players will never have this matter at all. I am merely saying a few words because there is that 0.1% that has to hear from somewhere, and no one ever writes about it because of the uncomfortable nature of the subject. Remember though, as long as you stay within the framework of the rules (what they actually are, not what you think they are), then you have no need to be uncomfortable about any of it.

The State Championships are finally upon us, with Saturday December 5th being the big day. If you’ve been reading my column, then you know my feelings on States and why it is a good part of Magic culture to support. There is a lot of history there, and it crosses over to a slightly different slice of the players than PTQs. There is a prestige that resonates with non-Magic playing friends and family. Plus, free admission to premier tournaments for a year is a pretty sweet bonus prize, which I believe every State Champion will receive. I Know PES is doing it with all of theirs, and hopefully someone in the forums can verify if the same is true elsewhere.

I think I have settled on playing my update of Wafo-Grixis. I have been testing it, and while I do not love it, I do at least like it. Going undefeated at FNM is hardly a ironclad guarantee of a tournament powerhouse, but I did face two White Weenie decks (a true test of Flashfreezes main), a Boros, and a Jund, among others.

Here is my current list, which is very similar to Wafo’s, though Countersquall has been pretty clearly better than Negate. Maybe I will go to 3+2 instead of 4+1, but there are so few lands that don’t cast Countersquall, and I have been finding the incremental damage has been clutch.

Something else I would like to add is that Malakir Bloodwitch has been my MVP. That card is so good against White decks that are not Boros. I laughed when Wafo told me this, because I thought “what are people really playing that is White besides Boros?”

As it turns out, there’s White Weenie, Mono-White Control, Naya Lightsaber, Bant, G/W Tokens, and more. Verdict: Malakir Bloodwitch is vital.

People have been asking me if I recommend this deck? No, I do not. I recommend Jund. If you don’t want to play Jund, play Dredge or some Baneslayer deck, but this deck is the sort of monstrosity that I think is piloted only by people who really want this that bad. I think Jund will continue to perform extremely well, despite being so heavily played and “hated on.” (Very rarely have I seen a deck where so many people “hate out” a deck by showing up with decks that lose to it. A lot of decks people say are “built to beat Jund” don’t actually do so, even if they won a tournament and beat it once, twice, or three times.)

Good luck this weekend!

Patrick Chapin
“The Innovator”