R-E-S-P-E-C-T, THAT’S WHAT MTG MEANS TO ME

When I think about how I view the Magic community, I see us as a convergence of individuals with different goals, different backgrounds, and different experiences enjoying a game that has enriched our lives in a myriad of ways. Our interactions with the game come from a variety of perspectives. We are comprised of players and judges, both operating at various levels of experience and within a diverse range of ages. Many of us started out as kitchen table players and have since graduated to participating in the SCG Tour and Grand Prix tournaments. There are times that I feel the respect level for opponents and judges goes down as our competitive nature increases and our own self-doubt sets in while piloting our decks to a hopeful victory. While taking pleasure in the game we love so much, I think it is important to consider our treatment of the people we interact with within our microcosm; from the newest of players to seasoned veterans of the game.

At events I try to be the player that exceeds expectations and helps someone feel like they have, ‘found their tribe’. I have had the pleasure of meeting some really talented people playing this game. Some of them have gained notoriety as players to be reckoned with in the area and others have won major tournaments. The important thing to remember is no matter how proficient we become slinging spells, we all started out as the new kid on the block.

On more than one occasion I have seen practiced spell-slingers be unkind to their fellow players and even judges; especially younger, budding, or returning players. Playing these opponents can be frustrating as more experienced players and somewhat time consuming, but our behavior toward them can make an impact on their future with Magic: the Gathering. We can also become less than enthused about a ruling from a judge call and act out of character to those who are only trying to help us. This is my personal plan for how I conduct myself at the tournaments I attend, and it works well for me:

  1. Assess the type of event and what the REL (Rules Enforcement Level) is. This sets the stage for interacting with my opponents and judges.
  2. Feel my opponent out by noticing their body language. If my opponent does not seem very talkative, I will let them decide when they want to communicate with me outside of the game, but present myself as friendly but focused.
  3. If they seem unsure of anything or seem new to the game, I will remind them that the judges are there to help, not to be intimidating. Younger players especially can be concerned about this if they have not played in many higher level events. I hope to be judging in the new future and I want to make sure that my opponents are aware that the judges are approachable and there to assist in ensuring the matches and events run smoothly.
  4.  Judges are the backbone of the tournaments that we play in. There are times that I feel that they are under appreciated or spoken to poorly by other competitors. I have witnessed rulings that were not very complicated and did not need to be escalated and others in which the Head Judge had to become involved. Without floor judges to assist us with our questions and concerns during tournaments, we would be lost. We should always speak to them courteously and respectfully, regardless whether we like their or the Head Judge’s final ruling.
  5. Make sure our lines of communication are open and clear. Communication and clarification with my opponent during the game is very important to me and I always want to make sure we are on the same page with life totals and both understand at what point actions are occurring.
  6. Show kindness and be helpful where I can while playing at a normal pace. I have seen and witnessed many older players talking down to younger players or not take them seriously. My friend used to bring his daughter to FNM at our old LGS and I remember the first time I was paired up against her. Her previous opponents had not been very friendly or helpful, treating her as if she were an easy win. I remember she was piloting Slivers and I helped her see she had many decisions she could potentially make before quickly making plays.  While some were not advantageous to me, I wanted her to know the options she had and may not have realized. Slivers were victorious over me out of 3 games and I will never forget the look on her face and her excitement when she ran up to her Dad to tell him that she had finally won a match. I did not help her beat me, nor did I take it easy on her by far, but I showed her kindness and helped out someone with less experience than myself.

Another example of this was at SCG Milwaukee this year. I was paired up against an opponent that was returning from a long sabbatical from the game and he was on G/R Ramp in the Standard Classic. At the time, I was piloting my U/R Artificer deck and looking for some sweet games. He ended up beating me out of 3 games and was super psyched about being able to mill me out with Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. At the end of our match, he thanked me for being so nice and friendly toward him. This tournament was his first big event outside of playing at home with his friends and he wasn’t sure what to expect. We had an awesome time and I invited him to come down to my LGS since he lived in the area. It has been said that first impressions are everything and we should leave a lasting one on our opponents that makes me them want to walk the planes with us.

While I try and always be wary of how I speak to my opponents, I am not perfect, but I am always improving myself. Once I was playing Modern vs. an Affinity player at an SCG Open who was giving me a real throttling. I lost my cool momentarily and swore out loud, it was not directed at my opponent, but still could be heard by him. In that moment I changed our dynamic and I hope that my poor behavior hasn’t discouraged him in any way. There have been events where I have observed players treating their opponents less than favorably. This past weekend at a PPTQ I experienced two brothers playing each other in Top 8 and one of them swore when he lost and complained how his brother always beats him. The judge called him out on his swearing and he apologized, but then proceeded to go on and on about how his brother always has an out when they play and it has been that way for their 15 years of playing the game. This person appeared to be doing this in an effort to shame his brother into a concession, which unfortunately worked. Last month I watched a fellow competitor face two opponents who were super agitated and let their emotions get the better of them. It is hard sometimes to not take someone’s frustrations personally and I congratulate him for dealing with everything so calmly and professionally. Tilt is a real thing and whether a person means to inflict their internal torment on another player or not, we need to not take it out on the person who had just crushed us in a game of Magic. Our bad draws are not our opponents fault, and our lack of lands have nothing to do with them either. Variance is a potential enemy lurking within our decks, our community with who we explore this vast and massive multiverse should not be.