You’re on your way to a tournament, but it’s not just any tournament. It’s Regionals time! With that comes extra anticipation and nerves. You’ve spent hours play testing your deck, making it just right. Round One is about to begin, you’re shuffling up and looking over at your opponent. What does the tournament bring?
We’ve all been there. Preparing ourselves for that big tournament moment. One thing goes largely unspoken about when it comes to tournament play. How do I ensure I give myself the best chance to meet my potential? A good decklist plays a large role in how anyone will fare over the course of a tournament. But what about a player’s style, attitude and mental toughness. Where does that come from, and how can we improve it?
Weigh up your opponent
You can tell a lot about an opponent from when they sit down with you and start their pre-game routine. Take the time to analyse your opponent on face value. Look at the combination of personality and mastery and start to piece together a picture of the potential match up ahead. But then look at your opponent themselves. Are they showing any signs of nerves, or are they talking up a big game? The way they compose themselves before the game will tell you a lot about how they are likely to play during the game.
But the most important part of any pre-game routine is three questions:
- What is my opponent’s objective?
- How are they going to achieve it?
- How do I stop it?
Your deck determines how you’re going to win the game, so it is up to you and how you play that determines whether or not your opponent gets to their objective first.
Speed of the game is how many players like to control the way in which a game pans out. Is your opponent rushing, and making you feel rushed at the same time? Are they stalling when they clearly only have one or two options to consider? While stalling out a game is always considered an infraction on the game, slightly altering the tempo of a game is a legitimate strategy used to help put yourself back into the driver’s seat.
To protect yourself against this, and to ensure that you play at a tempo that you are comfortable with, you need to make sure that you have thought out your own moves and anticipated your opponent’s moves. Pay close attention to your opponent’s hand and where they position their cards, both when in attack phase, and both in their defensive phase. This will help give you an idea after watching their play a few times, to make an educated guess as to how many attacks, blocks or dead cards they are holding.
Be prepared to change
As a game ebbs and flows, it’s important to realise the tactics that you successfully used early game might not match the state of play end game. Sometimes if you have been sitting back and building board control, your opponent might end up in a situation they don’t like. Maybe they just finished a combat and have no cards in hand, and you still have one and you move onto your own turn. Sometimes it’s important to press an advantage. The idea behind this is to keep your opponent guessing. The more you create doubt in their mind, the more likely they are to make a play error. By making your opponent make the decisions, it can help force their hand and change their own plans.
Last but not least, always keep an eye on the game state. Sometimes you can get so focused on your own plays and cards that you lose sight of your opponent’s plans. It’s important to read the future potential of your opponent’s plans at all times so that you can make a sound judgement. When a whole game can rest on the outcome of 1-2 plays at the right times, the extra few seconds it takes to size up your opponent’s options can make all the difference.