"Questions – Always Questions" You know, people often say to me: "HEY! YOU! WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN MY GARDEN?" …or sometimes: "PUT THAT DOWN! DO YOU WANT ME TO CALL THE POLICE?" …and occasionally they might enquire: "WHAT DO YOU EXPECT – A TOFFEE MEDAL?" The question, however, that I am asked to most…

"Questions – Always Questions"
You know, people often say to me:


…or sometimes:


…and occasionally they might enquire:


The question, however, that I am asked to most is:


Well, to be truthful – I don’t think you’d believe me if I told you*. So, let us quickly away to the next paragraph before anyone notices…

Pointless Paragraph Heading


Anyway, you may remember Prof. Gabriel Sneeeeep** from the Principia Gatheringae Lecture Tour; quantum Magic player, Master Baker (I said BAKER), and ornamental confectioner, the Professor has been extraordinarily busy since his ovens were repossessed and powered-down. I recently bumped into him at a Bring-A-Bottle fundraiser for my local Lentil Sanctuary (Bald Carnivores With Low Self-Esteem Against Vegetarianism). Suffice it to say that the heathen swine brought along some nut cutlets and a sprig of Parsley to provoke conflict, and tried to hijack the event by entering the village hall astride a pair of demerera-dusted, salt-dough dolphins cresting atop stylised, foaming waves of blue-stained Madeira cake fringed with butter curls and Belgian, white chocolate nuggets.

It was quite a sight, I can tell you.

Anyway, once he’d dismounted this elaborate gastronomie (and stabled it by the ‘Tower of Chick-Peas’), he strode across the polished flooring waving a thick wad of A4 papers at me: "Boydell!" he cried, thrusting the papers into my face, "Take a look at it – go on, don’t be shy!" He continued to slap at my be-stubbled cheeks until I grabbed the proffered documents and sat, reading. It was titled:

MAGIC: THE BOTHERING (or How To Subvert Tournament Opponents with the Sole Intention of gaining some Psychological, and therefore Game, Advantage)


This document offers a selection of techniques with which to disturb, unnerve, annoy, and just plain "piss off" an opponent within a Magic: The Gathering tournament environment. Please note that these techniques are treading on dodgy moral and ethical grounds and you should accept the fact that you become ‘fair game’ in return.

Disclaimer: It is not the intention of the author to provoke actual, physical conflict through the application of these methods – but send me the photos if it happens as I’m keeping a scrapbook.

Technique 1: Use of Props, Tools, and Other Sundry Objects

Never under-estimate the power of a good Prop to inflict maximum mental discomfort to any potential opponent, though try to remain subtle in both selection and application of these tools (for fear of expulsion, arrest, or even full-on, bloodied-glove criminal prosecution!).

Example A: Dark Glasses

In simple terms, you wear exceedingly dark glasses throughout the tournament regardless of weather conditions or the time of day. Once a game commences, level your head so that it looks as if you are staring right at your opponents face ALL OF THE TIME – though behind the glasses you are free to close your eyes, look at your hand, look at the playing area etc.

You should note that mirrored glasses are not advised because they reveal your cards, and that clear glasses are just plain silly because this renders the ‘staring at me all the time’ impression worthless – especially if you’ve gone cross-eyed looking at a fly on the end of your nose.

Example B: Rancid Vegetable Matter

Cabbages are particular effective, as is a portion of week-old, cooked cauliflower, but nearly any rotting vegetable will do. Place the decaying flora between your feet underneath the playing table and let the odours rise. If your opponent should draw attention to the smell, tell him you have a foot infection or that you have just farted etc. Should you be ‘discovered’, simply respond that it’s your lunch and take a bite…

Example C: Cattle-Prod Magic

Whereby, you sting yourself with an Industry-grade cattle prod each time a point of damage is inflicted to you in the game sense. After a short while, odds are that your opponent will become so concerned about your physical well-being that they cease to damage you further – and then the match is yours!

Recommendation: Do NOT play WORSHIP or ALI FROM CAIRO decks while implementing this approach – unless you’re a raving masochist, of course.

Example D: Use of Clothing

Options include: a) not wearing any, b) wearing so much that you look like an enormous fabric cat toy, c) removing an item of clothing each time damage is inflicted, or d) wearing a low-cut, evening dress with pearls, fishnet stockings, and stilettos (the latter is particularly effective if you are a woman).

Technique 2: Feigned Disability

Warning: Do not attempt this series of techniques if you are at all prone to being POLITICALLY CORRECT.

Example A: "The Persistent Nostril Blockage Scenario"

Picking your nose throughout the match, and especially before you pick up and examine an opponent’s permanents (which you will do with great regularity as part of this technique). Ultimately, your opponent will become so repulsed by the idea of touching his ‘soiled’ cards, that he will avoid declaring attacks or tapping land for mana – hence, the match is yours!

A variant of this scenario, for the more confident, is the "Itchy Anus".

Example B: "The Deaf-As-A-Post Scenario"

Pretend that your are severely hard of hearing (stuff cotton wool into your ears to get into "the method") and, if possible, borrow Grandpa’s hearing aid for the day! Chaos will ensue as your opponent must declare every action in an overly-loud and slow way! Heighten the effect by either asking him/her to repeat what they just said (but louder!), and/or writing their intentions down!!!

Example C: "The Blind-As-A-Bat Scenario"

This refers to being almost Guinness-book-of-records-ingly myopic and NOT attempting to map one’s surroundings by emitting high-pitched beeps and squeals (although this could sit happily as a technique within (1) Use of Props – if the beeps were produced by military-standard Sonar arrays – or (3) Distraction Tactics).

Every card that either you or your opponent plays should be picked up and examined within a micrometre of the end of your nose. Punctuate the annoyance factor by squinting in the general direction of your opponent, pointing randomly at the card text and asking "what does this word say?"

Technique 3: Distraction Tactics (Humming a tiresome Song)

Hum the offending melody constantly – candidate material includes: THE BIRDIE SONG, MAN I FEEL LIKE A WOMAN, or LAND OF HOPE AND GLORY. With a bit of luck, the victim will end up humming the tune themselves, thereby preparing future opponents for the ‘kill’.

Technique 4: Veiled Abuse (General Principles)

Example A: Sniggering

The process of smirking, snorting, or stifling a soft giggle, every time your opponent makes a considered play.

Example B: Offering the chance to "Revoke"

Make your opponent think again by occasionally offering him/her the chance to ‘take that back if you want to; I don’t mind" – the less sure they are about their decisions, the closer you get to victory.

Technique 5: Cheating

This technique should be avoided if at all possible, even though it exists as a possible weapon in the N.M.M.N.G*** armoury. In extensive laboratory studies performed on chain-smoking beagles in the boot of my car, I discovered that they will tolerate all manner of trash-talk and distraction methodologies BAR ONE – that of bare-faced cheatery. The beagles grew particularly restless (and aggressive, as I found out to the cost of at least 3 assistants) when presented with deck-stacking, refusal to pay appropriate mana costs, palming cards, misrepresenting life totals, and handing in false results etc

Technique 6: Being a Rules Lawyer

This is such a powerful role that it merits a ‘technique’ all of its own! Persistently picking up on an opponents short-comings, genuine omissions, mistakes etc with an ominous cry of "Judge!" is in a different league of antagonism!

Be aware, however, that your knowledge of the rules should be anal in the extreme.

At this point Prof Sneeeep, aware of approaching security guards, snatched the manuscript from my hands, unhitched the pastry porpoises, and sailed with the Trade Winds through the oak doorway and into the warm, scented evening of an English Spring day.

Now, if you will please excuse me, I have places to see, people to be done, and work to go.

God Bless,

Tony Boydell
[email protected]

* It involves Gnomes at the bottom of my garden, token payments of liquorice in a brown, paper bag and mushrooms, lots of mushrooms. That’s all I’m telling for now!

**Prof Gabriel Wednesday ‘Of The Apes’ Sneeeeep, proposer of the Scrubon (the elementary building block of Magic: The Gathering)

***No More Mr Nice Guy