Making the Leap From Magic Online to Pro Tour Star

Until last year, Terry Soh was just a kid from Malaysia who couldn’t get a draft in his home country. Now he’s a bonafide Pro Tour star, with two Grand Prix Top 8s, a National Team slot, and two Pro Tour Top 8s to his name. How did this leap occur? Terry thinks you can do the exact same thing he did, and he’s willing to give you the steps necessary to accomplish just that.

Hello to all the readers out there! Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Terry Soh, I’m 18 years old, and I’m from Malaysia. I currently have 2 Grand Prix Top 8’s (both in Limited) and 1 Worlds Top 8 to my name. I also recently added another Top 8 to my resume at Pro Tour: Nagoya, where I finished in third place. I had heard numerous rumors, both bad and good, said about me during both Worlds and PT: Nagoya. When players were looking at the standings, they were like, “Who’s this dude that pops out of nowhere from the East on top of the standings? ” Well, I did secure my Top 8 slot a round earlier then any other person in the tournament, while they were all required to play out an extra round in order to be in contention for Top 8.

Many people have been wondering how I managed to show such consistency in making Top 8 in back-to-back events, as I’m not formally associated with any top players in the world. There is neither free “tech” nor “advanced information” for me. I had no special advantages at all, but I did pretty well. I want everyone to know that you, yourself, make the biggest difference in your own game. Never be afraid to dream big, even if you are just a regular FNM player, just like I used to be. Of course it’s a luxury if you have access to better players who are willing to each you and guide you step by step to become a better player – but it’s entirely possible to win at a Grand Prix or Pro Tour without having a string of good players backing you up. If you don’t have the luxury of a team, you have to work things out yourself.

Today, I’m going to share my secret recipe of success with all the readers here. I hope it will help you move in the right direction for preparation. I will walk you through the steps that should be done before you attend a high level event.

Magic Online

If the game of Magic: The Gathering could be described as a subject in school, I would put that Magic Online as the tutorial session before classes. When you’re doing fairly poor during regular school hours, you have to do something about your failures. No doubt, your results ain’t getting nowhere without extra effort. That’s where the tutorial session helps – they improve your results by giving you extra practice. In Malaysia, we don’t often have the opportunity to draft as regularly the rest of the world, as most of the players here are reluctant to draft. Once in a blue moon, we have been able to gather eight men to get a draft going, but that isn’t the norm. No one was improving under these conditions.

Enter Magic Online.

I still remember the days during Odyssey block when I first played Magic Online. In one game, I played a first turn Timberland Ruins (you remember that card? It’s from that cycle of lands where you could sacrifice it for any color of mana). On the second turn, I untapped my Timberland Ruins, sacrificed it for a Green mana (yes, I was so bad that I sacrificed a Timerland Ruins for Green mana, when it already produced Green mana without the sacrifice effect), and used that mana to cast… Basking Rootwalla. Of course, I proceeded to lose the game and that match. At that point I was thinking “Those sac lands were meant to be sacrificed, so why I would not sacrifice it when I’ve got the chance?” Furthermore, I thought it was pretty important to get cards into the graveyard as quickly as possible, because it was pretty important to achieve threshold during that block.

Call me an idiot. Yes, I was. After that game, I started the practice of talking with my opponents after each match. Fortunately, most were kind enough to give me some good advice and guidelines about play. I listened to their words, and I started to play the game better. I improved from my mistakes time after time, but I’ll touch on that point later in this article.

Magic Online is a heaven made for Magic players who find difficulty in getting drafts going in their area. You get to draft intensively with the only limit on play being how often you can win packs in drafts or spend money on packs in the online store. If you would say that money is an issue to you, I would call that an excuse. Even in real life, you have to pay money to get the packs to draft and to play in a draft. You might have won some packs in a local tournament and plan to save it for a draft, but did you forget about the tournament fee that you had already paid? Money is money, and you have to spend money to draft in order to improve both offline and online. Please, if you’re serious about improving your play, register that Magic Online account right now. If you intend to compete at a higher level, the amount of playtesting you can accomplish with Magic Online is invaluable.


When you start to test a new format, especially a draft format, you tend to work out basic strategies with a couple of good buddies. You start by experimenting with certain archetypes or by trying out a few unorthodox cards in order to explore the format. Remember, though, that you are only drafting with a mere seven other men who are all from your society. Maybe you get the input from another group. Compare this to Magic Online, where you’re swimming in the seas of thousands of Magic players. Some of those players might just be a casual, and some might be more avid, but the most important factor is that you get exposure to strategies, decks, and cards – many of which you might not previously have been aware. You might find that you’re doing pretty well in your local draft, but that you’re getting destroyed in the same scenario when you’re drafting online with a more diverse field of players. That’s because you have recognized the strengths and weakness within your regular, local drafters, as they are the ones you have been playing with for months or years. However, when you draft in Magic Online, you almost always lose this advantage entirely. There are thousands of different personalities and playing style you might come across, which makes it hard for you to predict your opponent’s next moves.

Note that I said it is hard, but not impossible. The exposure to diversity online prepares you with the right tools to work with in order to post a good finish at a Grand Prix or a Pro Tour. Without practice against as many different types of players you can duel as possible, you most likely will be left far behind the curve of other competitive players. Your own boundaries will never expand and you’ll never reach your full potential. With this practice, you’ll slowly adapt to whichever environment you choose. You eventually come to a point where you can recognize virtually every style of play your opponent can throw at you. This allows you to adjust during game one and have an advantage for the rest of the match. I can hardly explain this, other than to say that it comes by with lots of experience and practice. Everyone has different mentalities, and the success line here is to always test out with as many different players as you need to make you feel prepared. At a premier event, you’ll be facing players from all around the world, and not just your local players.

Making mistakes

Take my advice from above, go out there and play a few dozen matches, and then come back here. Seriously! Go do it. All right, you’ve made a lot of mistakes. These mistakes probably number in the hundreds. That’s okay! You might be surprised, but making mistakes is one of the most fundamental parts of learning how to play the game better. Everyone makes mistakes. Kai makes mistakes, Finkel makes mistakes, I make mistakes – there are no exceptions to this issue. The most essential part of making mistakes is to LEARN from your mistakes.

A lot of players tends to be stubborn, and are reluctant to admit their mistakes due to their own pride and honor. These players are perfect examples of players that will never consistently make it big at the Pro level. When I make a mistake, I discuss it with a lot with people of all skill levels, from the average players to the top Pro players. I want as diverse a set of answers for every single mistake I’ve done. Then I analyze my mistake using those answers, and I judge for myself which bit of advice is the correct one to fix my mistake. I see what I could have done in order to achieve a better position in the previous game. I had made hundreds of mistakes in Magic Online. Some were due to not concentrating well enough on the game, some were from staying up way too late to the point where I could hardly keep my eyes can hardly open during the wee hours of the morning. The first piece of advice I’ll give you regarding correcting your mistakes is to only play when you can give your full attention to the game.

Undeniably, I’ve agonized over every mistake I’ve made, but the important part is that I’ve done my best to make sure never repeat the same mistake twice. While I’m playing, sometimes I’ll realize I’ve made the wrong play. I bounce up from my chair and suddenly I go from laid back to serious mode. I become determined that these mistakes are just not gonna happen again. I get mad at myself for making a foolish mistake and that keeps that mistake fresh in my mind. Going back to my point above, I’ll also have mistakes pointed out to me by my opponents post-match, and that makes me angry as well. If I encounter such situation again, I get a flashback on how foolish and angry I felt from making a mistake the last time. Next thing I know, I’m getting the play right this time since it’s so fresh in my mind.

Eventually you build up a catalog of mistakes to avoid, and you get the same plays done right at the Grand Prix or Pro Tour. Your familiarity with the format and the mistakes you’ve learned to avoid give you a huge advantage over other players, who often learn their mistakes the hard way. And by the hard way, I mean they are learning them during the big events, where every round means business. That’s why making mistakes early on and learning to correct them is so crucial if you want to get better at Magic. If you stamp out bad habits early, you’ll make fewer mistakes at the big events, and that’s when you reap your rewards.


There’s a proverb: “Practice makes perfect.” Most probably you’ve heard this saying a million times from a million people. Trust them. “Practice makes perfect” is nothing less than the total truth. Some matchups might seem unwinnable at first glance. Strenuous playtesting allows you to see new strategies every time you play, making these matchups more winnable. The more you play with your deck, the more you know how it works. Each time you play you learn something new – a new card interaction, a new way to battle an opposing strategy. You become closer to your deck. Alright, this might sounds like you’re forming a relationship with your cards, but hey, if you don’t love your deck, your deck won’t love you. You need to spend as much time as possible with it, so you understand more and more about how it functions. You need to know where it plays up to its strengths and where it falls to weakness.

Ask yourself as much as you can about your own deck. “Does my deck play the sufficient and appropriate amount of lands/creatures/spells?” “Does my deck require me to mulligan aggressively in order to achieve victory?” “Does it need to do this only against certain decks?” “How does my deck fare against the other 5-7 major decks in the field?” “How do I sideboard against these decks?” “Which decks do I have an advantage against and which am I weak against?” All the mystery within those questions can be answered after lots and lots of playtesting.

Unleashing your full potential only comes with playing as much Magic as you can. That’s one of the main reasons why some pro players could really devote their whole lives to Magic. They play a ton. They play daily, and they play many games a day. They play really, really tight, mistake light games. Even these players always have room for improvement – there will always be a new deck out there, or a new strategy to which you have to adapt.

Finally, here’s a little extra advice I’d like to leave you with today. Learn to always be aware of the life totals in the match, without looking at your scorepad. This is a skill you don’t learn from playing online, but in real life your opponent will likely know that there’s something up if you begin glancing at your sheet of paper. Board position is very vital in every format in Magic. As you practice, you’ll begin to understand the true meanings of tempo, card advantage, and board advantage. You learn these concepts by playing with them, even if it is intuitively. Be alert all the time. This is key – you might not want to let your opponent know that you’re alert, but bluffing a laid-back attitude is a whole other issue. Never be afraid to bring out the absolute craziest idea you can think of during testing, because you’ll never know when that idea might lead to brilliant tech.

Playtesting is the time of discovery and trial. After all, the deck that got me to Top 8 Worlds (the White/Green/Red Witness/Slide/Rift concoction) was just an idea in my head before I began to toy around with it. It wasn’t until my playtesting that I learned this deck actually worked.

I have listed out the important elements that have lead me down my path of success at the Pro level. Actually, the list of advice you could receive on how to improve your game is never ending, but I think that the advice I outlined above is far and away the most relevant and fundamental concepts that literally every competitive player should be aware of. If you take control of all these elements, I would say congratulations to you because you’re now that much closer to doing well at highest competitive play level of Magic.

Before I go for today, I would like to thank my mum and dad so being so supportive of me and for allowing me to travel to so many places in order to achieve my dreams. I’d also like to thank my friend who traveled with me for PT Nagoya, Mun Yip. His assistance on that trip was invaluable to me. I hope you all like this article and I’m looking forward to writing again. Until then, may you all achieve your dreams in the world of Magic.