Getting Competitive: Casual Tournament


The third and final game to decide who made the cut to the top four was coming to an end. Once my opponent passed his turn, I’d be able to swing for lethal, despite any blockers he might have. At this point there was only one card that would allow my opponent to kill me this turn and take the match. Luckily, he didn’t have any left. Or so I thought.

My bid for top four was soon over as my opponent tapped two lands and played his out: Seismic Stomp. I watched helplessly as he turned his creatures sideways for the game and match victory.

Usually, missing out on the finals a tournament by one turn like that would be a little devastating, but that wasn’t the case this time. There were no Planeswalker Points, invitational qualifiers, or cash prizes on the line, only a few underwhelming packs of M14 and—most important of all—bragging rights.

Blurring the Lines of Casual and Competitive Magic

After playing magic competitively for a while, casual games can lose their luster. However, casual games can be the best way to bring new players into the game and spend an evening with friends. With this being the case, is there a way to play casually while maintaining a competitive edge so that it doesn’t become stale after a few games?

That was the task given to my group of friends and me when we decided to get together for a night of Magic the Gathering. We wanted to have a tournament setting with the 10 confirmed people, but not even half had played Standard before and a few were very new to the game, only picking up and playing with borrowed decks.

We did have enough Constructed decks to go around, but newer players would still be at a disadvantage even if they were playing with more unified cards and strategies. In order to make the tournament fun for everyone, we needed to level the playing field as much as possible. The only question left was how?

It was down to playing either draft or sealed. In the end, sealed won out. That way, the newer players could look at all of the available cards in front of them and make an informed decision while building their deck. It also allowed the more experienced players to lend a helping hand.

We were able to pick up some M14 for a very reasonable price and have packs left over for low-stakes prizes. This is how it was organized:

M14 Extravaganza!

The Format: M14 Sealed


1st – 3 packs and bragging rights

2nd – 2 packs and the disappointment of losing in finals surrounded by heckling friends

3rd – 1 pack and the joy of winning your last game of the night

4th – The realization that you didn’t belong in the playoffs

Tournament Structure: Cut to top four after three or four rounds depending on the time.

This seemed to work perfectly. There were prizes to add a bit of a competitive edge, but they weren’t lucrative enough to get anyone too bent out of shape over losing. M14 is also a fairly basic set so the players who weren’t as familiar with the rules wouldn’t have a hard time with complicated mechanics.

Being the most experienced tournament player, I was in charge of setting up the pairings and keeping track of results and standings. I had fun with in role but probably not as much as the guys did reporting the results. One particular result that stuck out in my mind came after my oldest friend, whom I regularly attend FNM with, 2-0’d me. After I scooped, he looked up from the table, stone faced, and said “So just reporting: Travis 2-0 over Chris.” Thanks bud.

After the second round, we were sitting at 9:30 on a Tuesday night so we decided to cut to top four after the third. The format proved to be newbie friendly, as the guy who was least familiar with Magic narrowly missed his win-and-in after losing in three games. Only one regular tournament goer ended up in the top four along with casual Commander players.

This led to one final question for the night, and by far the most important: what to do with the other six players? There could be only one answer—a triple threat tornado tag!

What the heck is a triple threat tornado tag?!

To answer that, you need to look back to your childhood. Most of us have followed professional wrestling at some point as a kid or teenager. In wrestling, a triple threat tornado tag is a match that puts three teams of two wrestlers against each other.

Three teams of two Magic players (of whom the majority of which aren’t competitive players) with questionable M14 sealed decks in an all out war where nobody cares about the outcome. What could possibly go wrong?

As it turned out, the spectacular to end the tournament was the highlight of the night. Names were called, poor decisions were made, and alliances were created only to be broken minutes later. These things usually happened because one team was forced to go over the top of another because the defenders were unfortunate enough to not have a game breaking card, such as Griffin Sentinel, in play.

Once the Magic-mania match was in the books and the top three had opened their prize packs, the trading and selling gates opened, flooding the Standard players’ M14 collections. The only thing of value pulled from the prize packs was a slightly damaged Scavenging Ooze, which was promptly sold for $10.

As luck would have it, the best cards were opened by non-competitive players, so those of us who needed anything left with lighter wallets but heavier deck boxes. The casual players left happy with their night paid for through card sales.

What’s the moral of this story?

There are a lot of benefits of running a casual tournament with friends. It helps newer players get into the game and learn the differences between playing a kitchen table, multiplayer game and a tournament match.

It also offers a nice break from grinding tournaments. You still feel like you’re playing for something, but you aren’t worried about the outcome at all.
I suggest that everyone tries to get in the habit of doing something like this on a semi-regular basis. If anything, it will help you remember why you got into the game in the first place. I guarantee you will find yourself feeling refreshed when you attend your next tournament.

Deck Tech

Unfortunately, because of a hectic work schedule, I wasn’t able to attend my local FNM last week. Seeing how I wasn’t able to give the latest list a go, I’ve decided to bank this week’s budget and roll with the deck as is this week.

Here’s what I’ll be running:

Adding this week’s budget to the bank, I now have $40 available. Looking forward, if I don’t cash out at the next FNM, I will have $65 burning a hole in my pocket. Keeping rotation in mind, what can fit into this deck? Archangel of Thune fits the five drop spot nicely and could work well in this deck. Also, Kalonian Hydra is a good finisher, but I feel it’s better suited for a green-red deck thanks to Ogre Battledriver.

Alternatively, I will have the capital to add some more dual lands and maybe push the deck into three colours or even move into different colours all together. There are plenty of possibilities! What would you guys do?

To finish things off this week, I hope you enjoyed the M14 sealed extravaganza tournament report. It ended up being a great way to bridge the gap between experienced players and those new to the game. When trying to bring players into magic, what do you think is the best approach?

As always, thanks for reading!