I must admit, I am not very good at Magic. The game is too complex for my brain. If the board state becomes too complex I will make mistakes or if there are many decision trees I will choose the wrong one.
Why am I winning you ask?
The game is not only about what is going on in the actual game. Preparation and the small edges you can get outside of “playing” your cards are my secret.
When preparing for a tournament, one, two, or three weeks before a tournament, there is a ton of work to do. List the reasonable decks in the format. MTGO is your best friend. You will find decklists of dailies and premier events or PTQs. If an archetype has not done well in the past week or two, it shouldn’t be in your list.
Take the time to know how every deck works. I personally have played a lot of different decks in my life, knowing exactly what they are doing helps you to be able to disturb an opponent’s plans. Not only does it help your game but it helps in finding problems with your potential deck. You may notice that three or four decks are using the same playstyle; as a result you will choose to play a card because it is good against these three to four playstyles.
It may not always be possible depending on the tournament you are attending and how well you know the area, players, and their play skill. If you know what to expect, then try to guess the percentage of each archetype. Balancing your sideboard and/or some maindeck slots based on this percentage is going to give you a big edge instead of trying to go to the tournament blind.
Have your sideboard notes written, make sure your plans work against every matchup (taking out and putting in the correct amount of cards). That way you will find some cards that you don’t board in frequently and should be replaced to fit more efficient options (the exception is when a very bad matchup has important needs).
I could tell you to sleep well and other smart stuff, but I’m not a good example. Hey! This is about taking notes. Next step:
Use a lifepad with a lot of space on it, I used to play with whatever I found in the morning, but realized I didn’t have enough room for everything. Either use a piece of paper, a store’s life pad without infinite logos on it or my own custom life pad. Here’s the sketch:
This is close to what I do. It seems excessive but it is not. There are not rules violations for having lots of notes, so take advantage of that.
Keep track of EVERY life change with a mark next to the numbers. ATK=Attack, L.Gain=Life Gain, F+Dual=Fetch+Shockland untapped etc. Use a few letters to name the source (Bolt=Lightning Bolt for example).
I hope everyone reading this was already doing this, but if you ever see a card from your opponent’s hand, either because he dropped it, loosely showed a couple cards in his hand or you played a Duress effect of some sort-Write it down!
“Deck (opponent’s)” this will be used differently depending on if it’s limited or constructed.
Constructed: Write down everything your opponent plays that is not in a usual decklist for the archetype he/she is playing. Why? It will help you remember that you have seen it in a decklist somewhere and help figure out the rest of the list. It will also remind you that he’s playing that card. Duh…
Limited: This is when you’re going to need lots of space. Write down every card (including lands) and how many you see. You may not want to spend too much time doing that. Do it on your opponent’s turn or whenever your opponent is thinking. Remember, every edge you get is a step towards winning.
I personally write them in a casting cost order and lands somewhere else. Why? Sideboarding is, I believe, the most underrated part of limited. If you have your opponent’s deck written in front of you when you sideboard, you have an idea of their strategy, curve, and tricks. This will help you fix your deck to beat them. I often switch about 4-5 cards from my maindeck every match! Either to change your strategy based on what he is playing or simply to adjust to beat some of their cards.
Having the cards in his deck laid out in casting cost orders makes your plays easier and much better.
Example: You were on the play, you are on turn 3, deciding whether you play your 4/1 or 3/2. You have seen three of their drops that are all 2/4s. Now you know you want to drop the 4/1 to potentially trade with their next play.
Round is done? You still have work to do. Scout the top tables; write down what everyone is playing and if they have unusual cards. If you don’t their names then give them nicknames on what they look like (Yes, I do this. It even makes me laugh alone sometimes…). Starting a match knowing your opponent’s deck is a huge bonus, you could keep a hand that is a mulligan against 90% of the decks, except now you know you are against the 10%. This could be a free win on Game 1.
You now have a handful of information. What did you like or not in your deck? What could have been done differently? Would you play your deck again? Etc. In my IPhone I keep track of every deck idea or some cards that would be good in a certain deck I think about. You can do so wherever you want, it’s very useful to brew decks or just refresh your memory.
I hope you enjoyed this educational look at notes!