3 Ways to Prepare for Your RCQ

Mason ClarkEvents, Strategy

The first RCQ season is coming up, and Mason is here to give some advice on how to prepare for the mental game that is tournament Magic.

Regional Championship Qualifiers start this weekend for Atlanta. Being the first big paper thing back that people can qualify for from Wizards, thousands of Magic players will start going to their local LGS in order to qualify for the RC. We have an article going over all that, so if you haven’t heard, check out this article.

With these events starting up I thought it would be best to go over some things that will help you qualify:

Draw Good.
Play Good.
Get Lucky.

Well I hope this week’s article was helpful! I will see you all next week for another informative article!

Okay jokes aside, what can we be doing to help improve our chances this RCQ season?

What Are Your Goals?

This is one of the biggest things in Magic that no one talks about but everyone should be. When starting up the season take a minute and think what is your goal for this season? There are no wrong answers here. Your goal could be to get to Atlanta above all else. Maybe your goal is to get there, but not sacrifice having fun on the way. Maybe you just want to test your skills versus others and if you make it, great, if not, no worries.

These are ALL valid and legitimate goals. You cannot choose a wrong one, but you do need to be honest with yourself and figure out what the answer is. It’s okay to sacrifice some percentage points in the event if you’re going to have more fun playing a deck like Mono-Red Prowess instead of Living End. If your goal is winning above all else then that’s also valid. People in Magic are too quick to be dismissive of others’ ways to engage with the game. Figuring out how you want to engage with this process will lead to the best results, since it will be a frame of reference and mindset when getting ready for events. You can remember that Atlanta is the goal, and that’s what you want. So even though you haven’t got there yet, you’re going to play the deck that gives you the best chances of that.

Figuring out what you want from Magic is pivotal for success and happiness. So if you haven’t figured it out yet, take some time and ask the question. What are my goals with Magic? No wrong answers 🙂

Practice Outside of Playing Games

Playing games is the tried and true method of practicing Magic, and to some extent it can’t be replaced. But it’s not the only or the always the most efficient way to improve at Magic. If you’re reading this article, you’re probably already fairly plugged into this idea. There are plenty of other ways to practice and learn so that you don’t have to be a shut in, only playing MTGO all day every day.

The first and easiest thing is listening to podcasts. Podcasts are a great way to hear thoughts of players and see what they are saying and thinking about with the metagame. All while driving or doing some other activity that would make playing the game of Magic impossible. There are a lot of great podcasts out there to listen to. From Constructed Criticism, Dominaria’s Judgment, to Arena Decklist. There are many more, but that’s just a place to start and get a sense for what’s going on in the world of Magic.

The second way is watching streams. Streams are a great way to see some games played with your deck and ask the streamer some questions. Most streamers will answer questions you have. So you can hop into the chat, ask a question or two, and get an idea where this player is coming from with the deck. This is a big perk over something like YouTube or VOD review, because getting that realtime response can be very valuable.

Another great way to practice is to watch YouTube videos of someone playing the deck. Unlike a stream, you can actually do some pretty cool stuff with YouTube content. For starters, it is always there, so if you need to walk away you won’t miss anything. When it comes to gameplay specifically you can pause the video at the start of the turn and think about what you would do with the information, then unpause and hear the person explain why they are doing their play. They might have the same play but have another reason you didn’t think of, and that is then added to your repertoire of things to keep in mind when playing the deck. Maybe they disagree and do another play altogether. You can stop and try and figure out what exactly is the benefit of both plays and learn from what they are doing. It’s very possible that they didn’t make the best play possible, but now you get a chance to learn from them. 

Finally a great way to practice is thinking through scenarios in your head. Very often when I am thinking about a deck for an event I will spend a lot of time putting myself in a situation and thinking about what I would do, then changing a few factors and thinking again. A classic example of this for current Modern is with solitude decks and thinking about what cards I am wanting to save in the matchup versus what cards I can afford to pitch.

Thinking doesn’t have to just be playing games in your head though. It can also be figuring out what matters in a match up. A skill many players don’t work on is being able to look at a decklist and figure out what matters in their deck and what cards are at a premium in your deck for this match up. Figuring out what matters and how games play out without having to actually play games is a skill that you can learn and hone with time, but you have to practice it. You won’t get it right everytime and definitely not at first, but starting to think about Magic cards and how they interact with one another and less about how strong they are is a great way to improve, and something that allows you to practice while on your lunch break just looking over decks from the last weekend of results. 

Focus On Long-Term Growth

Let’s be honest, there is a lot of FOMO (fear of missing out) about the first RC in Atlanta, but ultimately if you don’t make it, that doesn’t mean you wont ever make it, and there will be one of these every few months going forward for the foreseeable future. There are more people who will read this article then compete in the RC. So if you’re trying to make it your goal should be improving to consistently make yourself a better player. If you’re always pushing yourself to be better than the you who played the last tournament, you will see growth and success.

Qualifying for one of these events is something that often takes lots of weekends and shots. Most of the events only qualify one player so if your mindset is all or nothing on qualifying, you’re going to be setting yourself up for defeat.Todd Anderson once wrote that “Magic tournaments churn out losers.” I think that’s only true if you allow it to be. Focusing on and keeping the mindset of improving and being a better player then the last event you played, even if just by a small amount, will snowball over time and will put you in the position to make qualifying for these events much easier and more rewarding.

While I can’t promise that looking at Magic in this way will make the game more rewarding and fun for you, I do know that myself and many people I know who have succeeded adopted and lived by this mindset. It might seem like a silly thing to not hyper focus on results but if you’re worried about playing good Magic, learning from others, and improving, you will find results.

Remember, it’s a marathon, not a race.

I hope to see a bunch of you all in Atlanta for the Regional Championship! It’s going to be an exciting time coming up in Magic and I hope this article was both informative in some non-conventional practice, but also in giving you the mindset to succeed long term.