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MTG Pro Tutor - Insights, Tips & Advice from Magic: The Gathering Pros

MTG Pro Tutor is a top rated Magic: The Gathering podcast and here's why: professional Magic players and community notables share their origin stories twice a week (Tue & Fri) and impart actionable tips you can use the next time you sit down to play. Learn from the wealth of experience they've built through hours of practice and playing against hundreds of opponents and start seeing improvements in your own skill right away. Don't you hate feeling like you play and play and don’t improve? Surrounding yourself with better players is the best way to level up and the MTG Pro Tutor podcast is your way of doing that. Subscribe if you want to take your Magic: The Gathering skills to the next level while hearing cool stories and getting actionable advice from the biggest names in the Multiverse.
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Now displaying: March, 2016
Mar 29, 2016

 

Gabe Carleton-Barnes has played in 13 Pro Tours, with 12 day twos. He has 9 PTQ wins and 1 RPTQ top 4. He just got his first Grand Prix Top 8 in Vancouver 2016. His claims to fame in our Magic: The Gathering Community include founding Draft-PDX, hosting Card Talk: The World’s Greatest MTG Podcast, and Storytelling. Gabe lives in Portland, Oregon.

Click to Tweet: I got a ton of value from Gabe Carleton-Barnes when he shared his story on #MTGProTutor today! Click here: http://bit.ly/mtgprotutor-ep82

First Set

Revised Revised

Favorite Set

Odyssey Odyssey

Favorite Card

Psychatog

What makes Magic: The Gathering fun for you?

Despite taking multiple breaks Gabe has stuck with Magic because he loves games and competition. He feels that playing Magic never gets old because it keeps changing and forces you to continue to learn.

Gabe started going to tournaments early in his career and found that he was making friends with adults who treated him as a peer, not as a kid. He now befriends players of all ages and understands that there is always something to be learned from every player he meets.

Pro Tour & Grand Prix Experience

Gabe made it his goal to qualify for the Pro Tour, so he familiarized himself with the PTQ format. He stayed focused, refined his decks, and was able to regularly get the top spot in PTQs so he could attend the Pro Tour.

However, when the Pro Tour came around he struggled to quickly innovate and craft a deck that would work well at the tournament. He didn’t have a lot of help at first, and the time crunch put a lot of pressure on him to familiarize himself with new cards for the format.

In terms of GPs, Gabe would attend them intermittently and usually make Day 2, but never quite make it into the Top 8. Changing up his sleeping habits and altering his routine helped him follow through on a good start in order to finally make it to the Top 8 at Grand Prix Vancouver.

Heaviest Magic Moment

Gabe’s heaviest Magic moment came after he had played about 10 GPs and made Day 2 at all of them. He hit a Limited match at Grand Prix Boston and had a clever plan for how he was going to beat his opponent. With the game pretty much wrapped up, Gabe tried for a play to finish the match, but his opponent had the perfect counter and won on the next turn.

After the match a friend of Gabe’s who was less experienced pointed out that Gabe had a card in his hand that would have won the game instantly. This led Gabe to realize that even though he thought he was a really good player, he still made mistakes in how he approached the game. He started to keep an open ear when listening to players of various skill levels so that he could learn from as many players as possible.

Proudest Magic Moment

While Top 8ing his first Grand Prix is wonderful, the win that stands out to Gabe is making Top 8 at a specific PTQ held by Card Kingdom in Seattle. He made it into the Top 8 without a rare in his deck, and played against Jiachen Tao, who he beat with a subtle side board card choice. He faced off against Brian Wong for the final, and after an epic first match Gabe went on to win the tournament (and a trophy).

Draft PDX

Gabe founded Draft PDX based on similar groups in New York which were organized by Jon Finkel and other great players. In Portland they’ve formed a group that wants to be competitive, make it to the Pro Tour, and have fun with the game while fostering a healthy community spirit. They travel to events together and look out for one another by buying snacks or coffee for a busy teammate, or even giving them rides home if they miss their flight.

Best Format

Limited

How To Turn Limited From A Weakness To A Strength

Diving headfirst into Limited and playing it as much as possible with good players is one of the keys to mastering Limited.

When Draft PDX meets they start by drafting the best decks that they can, and then they split into two random teams before they build their decks. They discuss with each other what cards they might use and how to play them before coming together to play the other team.

The team that wins the Draft is the team that wins the most matches—this way players get to really learn how their deck performed instead of getting benched after their first loss. With the team setting players are encouraged to play their hardest even after a loss, as their next match matters just as much for the team.

Biggest Mistake Players Make

One of the biggest mistakes Gabe sees players make is when they let their emotions determine the value of their play. He knows that not blaming losses on luck and variance is great advice, but what he finds more valuable is looking back at matches he won to find the mistakes he made. If you only set out to learn from losses then you are missing out on a lot of opportunities to learn, especially since most wins aren’t achieved in the most optimal fashion.

To internalize mistakes you’ve made, realize that you most likely will make the same mistake again. What you can do to prevent that is to care about making the mistake, actively seek to recognize it, and find what mode of thinking led you to that mistake.

What Is The Deepest Thing Magic Has Taught You?

While Gabe sees himself as a competitive, achievement focused individual, Magic has taught him that he is more of a community focused player. His personal goals are important to him, but they aren’t as important as being good to people and his interactions with a healthy, thriving community of players.

What's in Your Tournament Bag

Dark Chocolate (for himself and distressed teammates)

Deck Box

Pens

Paper

Dice

Non-Magic Activities That Make You Better At Magic

Gabe plays basketball and finds that aerobic activity measurably affects his mental state and thought processes. Maintaining his physical health helps him from getting exhausted in long tournaments, and he finds that when he feels good he usually plays better. The brain is connected to the body and keeping both in shape is important to performing well in anything.

Final Wisdom

Gabe’s final advice is to make sure you’re always trying to learn. Magic has taught him that he doesn’t know everything, and it has helped him connect and learn from many different people and situations. Never think you have it all figured out. When you win a big tournament use it as an opportunity to say, “This is a big milestone for me and I have a lot more left to learn.”

Magic Resource

Card Talk: The World's Greatest Magic: The Gathering Podcast

Gabe Carleton-Barnes at Back Fence PDX

MTGGOLDFISH

Decision Fatigue (New York Times)

Decision Fatigue (James Clear)

Connect With Gabe Carleton-Barnes

Twitter: @uncle_gcb

Like What You Hear?

If you like the show, head on over to iTunes and leave an honest Rating & Review.

Let me know what you like and what I can do better so I can make the show the best it can be and continue bringing you valuable content.

I read every single one and look forward to your feedback.

5 Star Rating

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Mar 25, 2016

Brock Mosley is 22 years old and has been playing Magic for about three years. He’s a member of team The Pizza Leagues and made his first ever Grand Prix day two AND top eight at Grand Prix Houston 2016.

Click to Tweet: I got a ton of value from Brock Mosley when he shared his story on #MTGProTutor today! Click here: http://bit.ly/mtgprotutor-ep81

First Set

Ravnica: City of Guilds Ravnica

Favorite Set

Innistrad Innistrad

Favorite Card

Stormbreath Dragon

What makes Magic: The Gathering fun for you?

Brock started his Magic journey while playing other board games like Diplomacy with his friends. His competitive nature drove him to take the plunge into Magic, where he could exercise his critical thinking and problem solving skills in the fun and competitive framework Magic creates.

Early Challenge

When Brock first started playing he was afraid of the mulligan process. He would just hold onto terrible cards and end up losing games that he could have potentially won.

Brock feels that he improved tremendously when he finally got over the fear of taking a mulligan, which he did by recognizing that the cards he drew simply weren’t working. He made a rule for himself that he would never keep a 1 land hand or a 6 land hand.

Level Up Moment

Brock’s greatest period of growth came when he and his friends founded their team, The Pizza Leagues. He started playing casually with his friends in college, but eventually Brock migrated towards playing with more advanced and competitively driven players.

In founding The Pizza Leagues Brock surrounded himself with other Magic players with similar goals to his, and he started to buckle down, play a lot, and improve as much as possible.

Proudest Magic Moment

Making his first Day 2 and his first Top 8 at Grand Prix Houston 2016 still has Brock in a little shock. For the last year his goal has been to try and make it to the Pro Tour, and he’s excited to get to play against the best players Magic has to offer.

Best Format

Standard

What Would You Say To A New Standard Player?

Brock believes one of the best things a new Standard player can do is find out what sort of strategy works for them. When starting out linear decks make a good entry point, and will help a player determine if they like that kind of play style.

Sometimes it takes playing a Mono-Red Aggro deck to realize you actually want to play a Control deck instead. Finding out what you like to play is crucial, because you need to like your deck enough to spend hours and hours practicing with it.

Biggest Mistake Players Make

Misattributing the reason why they won or lost a game is one of the most common mistakes Brock sees players making.

He finds that people are more comfortable with losing if they can assign the reason for it to something beyond their control. Some players don’t realize that their decisions in the game, and outside of it, have much bigger effects on the game than they think.

Brock combats this by looking specifically at what decisions he made, and not focusing on what cards his opponent drew. He is honed in on the aspects of the game that he can control, and doesn't let variance frustrate him and affect his play decisions.

How To Play Magic For Little Money

Brock was in college when he started and bought the pieces for a Red-Green Aggro deck online for about $30.

He played it for as long as he possibly could, and even went to his first Star City tournament with what he calls “The Jankiest Red Green Deck” that has ever been played.

He didn’t wait to have an incredibly optimized deck before pushing his Magic skills as far as he could. He believes that as you feel more comfortable playing Magic you can start to slowly build your deck and work on it over a longer period of time.

Improvement Suggestions

Brock uses Xmage if he can’t find other people to play with, as it is free and easy to use. When he plays a certain deck he will try swapping certain cards out to see how that affects his play. He essentially plays different versions of his deck to see how they hold up against certain matchups.

What's in Your Tournament Bag

Deck

Deck Box

Tokens

Playmat: The Pizza Leagues

Dice

Water

Pretzels

Binder

Pen & Paper

Dragon Shield Copper Sleeves

Final Wisdom

Brock knows that Magic is a game and is meant to be fun. However, he sees a lot of players not having fun with it at all. He would urge you to find a way to have fun with Magic, or find something else to take its place.

Magic Resource

Xmage

r/spikes

Star City Games

Channel Fireball

MTGGoldfish

Connect With Brock Mosley

Facebook: Brock Mosley

Like What You Hear?

If you like the show, head on over to iTunes and leave an honest Rating & Review.

Let me know what you like and what I can do better so I can make the show the best it can be and continue bringing you valuable content.

I read every single one and look forward to your feedback.

5 Star Rating

(Here's a 1.5 minute tutorial on how to leave a review if you don't already know. THANK YOU!)

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Mar 22, 2016

Cody Lingelbach is making 2016 his year as he’s already made Top 8 at 2 Standard Grand Prix’s. The first was GP Oakland in Jan. 2016 and the second was the following month in GP Houston.

Click to Tweet: I got a ton of value from Cody Lingelbach when he shared his story on #MTGProTutor today! Click here: http://bit.ly/mtgprotutor-ep80

First Set

 7th Edition

Favorite Set

Return to Ravnica Return to Ravnica

Favorite Card

Lingering Souls

What makes Magic: The Gathering fun for you?

Cody recognizes that he's a very competitive person and the thrill of competing at the highest level is a major component of why he plays Magic.

He finds that he likes complicated things, and the depth and complexity inherent in Magic fits perfectly into his competitive drive. While he loves playing Poker as well, he has shifted his attention to focus more on Magic because of its added layers of strategy.

Early Challenge

When Cody was first getting into Magic he found it difficult to figure out what cards his opponent had. He would play matches solely based on what was in his hand and hope for the best. Playing Poker made it easier for Cody to decipher what cards a player was holding based on their behavior and board decisions.

Cody also started testing with a local group called Draft PDX which was started by Gabe Carleton-Barnes. He’s discovered that there are some things in Magic you can’t do by yourself, and talking to other players about the game has helped him develop the skills needed to take on tougher tournaments.

Level Up Moment

Cody feels that his greatest period of growth manifested in making Top 8 at his first Legacy Open event.

Heaviest Magic Moment

At a SCG Invitational in L.A. Cody lost 3 Win and Ins in a row.

The event was a split format with Legacy and Standard. He went undefeated in Legacy on Day 1, but when he came back to the Legacy portion his Angel Reanimator deck was crushed by the Soul Tithe decks all of the pros were playing.

He learned that the tournament itself exhausted him, and that playing a Magic tournament takes more than just playing the game. Preparing mentally and physically for the event wasn’t something he had considered before and playing match after match all day long wore him down.

Now he tries to stay even keeled during tournaments by hydrating and eating properly to maintain his energy and focus for the duration of an event.

Proudest Magic Moment

Cody made the Top 8 of Grand Prix Oakland, and then just one month later made the Top 8 again at Grand Prix Houston.

He found it difficult to do well in the old PTQ system, and while he had success at various Invitationals and Opens he still had trouble breaking through in the Grand Prix circuit. Theory crafting and discussing his ideas with friends and the players in Draft PDX has helped prepare him to tackle bigger tournaments.

Cody sticks to playing paper Magic, Drafting once a week with PDX while trying to squeeze in another day or two of play during any given week.

Best Format

Legacy

What Would You Tell A New Legacy Player?

Cody’s advice for players trying to break into Legacy is to learn your deck and how it plays. He sees some Legacy players that simply look at what decks are cool and have a good win percentage in the meta game.

However, Cody finds that if a deck doesn’t fit your play style then it can be much more difficult to learn, and he guarantees that your opponent in Legacy will know their deck extremely well.

Biggest Mistake Players Make

Chump blocking, especially in Limited, is a mistake Cody finds a lot of players making.

He feels early blocking comes from overvaluing life. Using life as a resource can lead to gameplay mistakes and prevent you from drawing other cards, like kill spells or a better creature, that could give you a much better advantage than blocking would have.

While you have to be careful about taking direct damage, you’re not in huge trouble even at 9 or 10 life.

How To Play Magic For Little Money

Cody would point players that are low on cash towards Magic Online. MTGO can be much cheaper than paper Magic, and you can play games no matter what your weekly schedule is like.

MTGO WikiPrice is great for Magic Online, as it allows you to search for cards and find what bots you can buy them from along with their cost.

A strategy that works for Cody is to find 5 bots that he regularly buys from, which makes it easier to check prices and also allows him to accrue some credit for future purchases.

Improvement Suggestions

Talking to other players is one of the major practices that helps Cody succeed in Magic. He can’t play every day of the week, so he will send messages to friends and groups to help keep him mentally engaged with the game. Constantly following all the changes in Magic from week to week is exhausting, so having friends to talk to makes monitoring the meta game more fruitful and enjoyable.

Magic Resource

Time Vault Games

MTGO WikiPrice

Star City Games

Channel Fireball

Connect With Cody Lingelbach

Twitter: @LingelingSouls

Facebook: Cody Lingelbach

Like What You Hear?

If you like the show, head on over to iTunes and leave an honest Rating & Review.

Let me know what you like and what I can do better so I can make the show the best it can be and continue bringing you valuable content.

I read every single one and look forward to your feedback.

5 Star Rating

(Here's a 1.5 minute tutorial on how to leave a review if you don't already know. THANK YOU!)

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Mar 18, 2016

Martin Dang is a Platinum Pro Level Magic player, who lives in Aarhus, Denmark with his lovely girlfriend Tina Dahl. He makes his living by playing every Pro Tour and every Grand Prix in Europe. Martin has 1 Pro Tour Top 8 where he won at Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir in Brussels 2015! He also has 2 Grand Prix top 8s - including a win at Grand Prix Liverpool in 2015, a top 8 finish in the World Magic Cup and is a proud member of Team EUreka.

Click to Tweet: I got a ton of value from Martin Dang when he shared his story on #MTGProTutor today! Click here: http://bit.ly/mtgprotutor-ep78

First Set

Revised Revised

Favorite Set

Revised Revised

Favorite Card

Jace, the Mind Sculptor

What makes Magic: The Gathering fun for you?

Martin finds Magic to be a good way to relax while also exercising his competitive urges, but like most long time players, he still had to take a break from the game. He wasn’t getting to where he wanted to be with the game, but after a while he started working at a game store. Working in an environment surrounded by Magic had him Drafting twice a week and rekindled his desire to enter tournament Magic again.

Early Challenge

The biggest enemy Martin faced in his early days of Magic was himself.

At tournaments he would be nervous in every match he played, as his opponents appeared to be better, older, or just different. This led him to play the game by their principles instead of his own, and he felt as though he was just losing to himself in these matches.

In order to become comfortable playing Magic, Martin continued to play more and against different people and eventually eased into the competitive scene. He found that playing more helped him meet more friends, and that if he stuck to playing by his own principles things went pretty well for him in matches.

Level Up Moment

Martin’s biggest period of growth came when he started working at his local game store. Before that he was playing Magic less frequently, but after working at the game store he was playing almost every day. He believes the key to getting better is playing as much as you can against as many different types of people as you can. Playing more pushed him into formats he wasn’t comfortable playing, and that helped him become a well-rounded player.

Proudest Magic Moment

Martin cites winning the Pro Tour as his proudest moment in competitive Magic. It was his first Pro Tour in over 5 years, so he didn’t have high expectations for his performance. After winning it took months for him to fully grasp the reality of winning the tournament. He started to receive a large amount of recognition from the community and other players.

This acted as a confidence boost that has helped him power through other tournaments as well. His Pro Tour win helped establish team Eureka, as before they were just a bunch of loosely affiliated guys who tested for that one event. Now they get together and test for all of the Pro Tours.

Heaviest Magic Moment

After winning Nationals in 2010 he got to go to the World Championships, but didn’t do as well as he liked. He placed in the 40’s, and felt that he had made a lot of errors in his matches. This led Martin into a down period where he felt as though he couldn’t focus on the game enough, so he distanced himself from tournament play for a while.

After reflecting he started to see that he hadn’t prepared adequately for the tournament. This has pushed him to prepare more going forward, and has helped him form a team which was something he didn’t have before.

Best Format

Limited

What Would You Tell Someone New To Drafting?

Martin has noticed that players will show up to their first Draft not understanding anything about the format. Even if you’ve played a lot of formats, you can’t expect to sit down for a Draft and end up doing well. Learning the cards and their synergies is one of the first steps to understanding the format.

You want to go into the draft with a plan, ideally three strategies that you can be flexible with. Try and stay open minded, and look at spoilers to see what certain colors and cards actually do. After the match ask the other players what went wrong with your deck and why it didn’t work like you had hoped.

Biggest Mistake Players Make

Players can often be too settled in the way they play Magic, and this is an attribute that Martin thinks gets a lot of players stuck early on. They will come to the game store for the first time, not having played much, and are thrown off by other’s play styles and the faster tempo of play. Having a mindset that lets you absorb these new experiences will help you adapt to game store play, and eventually tournament Magic.

Deepest Thing Magic Has Taught You

Martin really loves to win in Magic, but he doesn’t take losses so heavily anymore. Losses used to haunt him for days, if not months afterwards. While he still thinks about his losses now, it’s in terms of what could he have done better instead of beating himself up over them.

How to Effectively Prepare for a Big Event

Training for Grand Prix’s differs from event to event, but he doesn’t practice so much for the Limited portions, as he has a good grasp of the format and plays a lot at his store.

Pro Tours are different.

Team Eureka will set up a forum and Facebook group 3 months ahead of the Pro Tour, and anytime one of them has an idea of something to test they will post it there. They basically prepare for the full gap between Pro Tours. Two weeks in advance of the tournament they meet up and grind out games all day long.

The preparation is grueling; they pair decks against one another and will play ten games pre sideboard, and then twenty games post sideboard. They will discuss the games, add new sideboard cards, tweak decks, and start all over again.

They hold daily meetings where they discuss the matchups, what cards were good, but they also talk about how they felt about their decks, not just the results.

What's in Your Tournament Bag

Pen

Paper

Deck

Snacks

Water

Dragon Shield Sleeves 

Final Wisdom

Martin wants to emphasize that there are no shortcuts in Magic.

You have to practice a lot if you want to improve, so get out into the world and play, and don’t be afraid to seek advice from everyone else out there.

Magic Resource

MTGMintCard

Connect With Martin Dang

Facebook: Martin Dang

Twitter: @MagicMartinDang

Like What You Hear?

If you like the show, head on over to iTunes and leave an honest Rating & Review.

Let me know what you like and what I can do better so I can make the show the best it can be and continue bringing you valuable content.

I read every single one and look forward to your feedback.

5 Star Rating

(Here's a 1.5 minute tutorial on how to leave a review if you don't already know. THANK YOU!)

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Mar 15, 2016

Oliver Tiu has 1 Grand Prix top 8 and 1 Pro Tour top 16 on his record. He’s also won a MOCs final, and cashed both of the PTs he’s played in. He loves Magic and plays as much as he can - mostly on Magic Online. Oliver is 18 years old and is always striving to become a better player and staying open to learning more.

Click to Tweet: I got a ton of value from Oliver Tiu when he shared his story on #MTGProTutor today! Click here: http://bit.ly/mtgprotutor-ep78

First Set

Time Spiral Time Spiral

Favorite Set

Innistrad Innistrad

Favorite Card

Jace, the Mind Sculptor

What makes Magic: The Gathering fun for you?

Oliver finds it difficult to pinpoint a specific aspect of Magic that has him hooked. He loves how no two Magic matches are the same, and when he plays he is on full competitive burn aiming to win.

Early Challenge

While he feels he always had a good grasp on Constructed, Limited was challenging for him to dive into. Oliver improved mostly through playing Magic Online, since the wealth of great players helped him learn quickly from his mistakes.

He also watches streamers, like NumotTheNummy, which helps him see other player’s choices and thought processes. Talking to other players about the format is good help, but he has realized that while talking about rares is fun, it is usually more fruitful to have conversations about commons.

Level Up Moment

Oliver found his Magic skills vastly improved when he qualified for his first Pro Tour after making Top 8 at Grand Prix Providence. He found a deck that was played in a Japanese Grand Prix that was an excellent match up for the Abzan deck, which was the most popular deck in the format at the time.

He refined the deck by playtesting and analyzing which cards over performed or underperformed; his philosophy on playtesting is not to necessarily focus on winning, but finding out what cards in his deck are doing what they should, and which ones aren’t.

Heaviest Magic Moment

A few years ago Oliver felt as though he couldn’t win anything. He was losing multiple PTQs and tournaments, and decided to take a break. This helped him shake off some of his frustration with the game, and gave him the space and perspective to learn from his old mistakes. He learned that while he was playing a lot of Magic, he wasn’t actually learning from his matches.

Proudest Magic Moment

For Oliver, making top 16 at his last Pro Tour stands as his crowning achievement in competitive Magic at this point in his career. He played against Sam Pardee, and managed to beat him due to a weak hand in their third match. Oliver made Silver level pro, which has qualified him for the next 3 Pro Tours: Pro Tour Madrid, Pro Tour Sydney, and then Pro Tour Honolulu.

Best Format

Standard

What Should A New Standard Player Focus On?

Oliver's advice for a new Standard player is to adapt to the metagame. If you want to perform well at tournaments your deck needs to be able to adapt to the most popular decks being played. Keeping an eye on Magic Online is a good way to see what's being played leading up to any major tournament, and Oliver generally tweaks his decks as opposed to outright brewing them.

Biggest Mistake Players Make

Before Oliver took a break from Magic he was blaming all his losses on luck. This is one of the biggest pitfalls he finds players, including himself, trapped in. He was unable to see that he was making mistakes in his play or deck building. In terms of actionable advice, Oliver found that ignoring the luck aspect all together helped him focus on the things he could control such as his play style, sideboard and deck building.

Sealed & Draft Tips

Sealed : Oliver separates his cards by color and which cards are unplayable. It takes a while to know what’s unplayable, but it can come from experience playing previous formats and what types of cards worked well in them. Watching other players helps give you an idea of what is playable and what isn’t as well. It’s important to know what type of deck you are trying to build as well. In Control Decks it is generally less important to have two drops, but you will still want defensive creatures to play early on, however in Aggro decks you will want a lot of two drops.

Draft : Focusing on learning what cards are good and what cards aren’t are what Oliver finds a new player should focus on. He sees many new Drafters put un-impactful cards in their decks. While there are other things you could focus on, like pinpointing when you should change colors and how to balance removal spells in your deck, for a brand new drafter the first step is card evaluation.

How to Effectively Prepare for a Big Event

In preparing for larger events, Oliver identifies which decks are popular and then meets up with a bunch of friends to assign decks and playtest. They will stop and identify what is working best, what sideboard cards are functioning well, and investing time to understand the metagame.

He prepared with a team for the last Pro Tour, but he found that it wasn’t as helpful as it should have been. While they played a lot of games, he felt the team's effectiveness was hindered since they didn’t take time to reflect and discuss their matches.

What's in Your Tournament Bag

Dice

Notepad

Pen

Deck

Playmat (if you think the tables will be dirty)

Final Wisdom

While it may be tempting to go beat up on new players, Oliver understands the best way to improve is to learn from better players. Ask them if there were any obvious mistakes you made in the match after the fact, and don’t be afraid to ask them for advice and their thoughts about your game.

Magic Resource

MTGGoldfish

MTGO WikiPrice

Sam Pardee MTG Pro Tutor episode

Kenji "Numot the Nummy" Egashira MTG Pro Tutor episode

Connect With Oliver Tiu

Twitter: @TiuChainz

Like What You Hear?

If you like the show, head on over to iTunes and leave an honest Rating & Review.

Let me know what you like and what I can do better so I can make the show the best it can be and continue bringing you valuable content.

I read every single one and look forward to your feedback.

5 Star Rating

(Here's a 1.5 minute tutorial on how to leave a review if you don't already know. THANK YOU!)

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Mar 11, 2016

Mike Turian has participated in a staggering 32 Pro Tours, 5 World Championships, 6 National Championships and numerous Grand Prixs. He is the Champion of Pro Tour New York in 2000 and Grand Prix Montreal in 2002. He has a top 8 finish at Worlds Toronto in 2001 and Pro Tour Amsterdam 2004. Mike also finished in the top 4 of Pro Tour Boston in 2003 and Pro Tour San Diego in 2004. Mike has amassed 234 Pro Points over his career and currently the Digital Business Manager at Wizards of the Coast in charge of Magic Duels.

Click to Tweet: I got a ton of value from Mike Turian when he shared his story on #MTGProTutor today! Click here: http://bit.ly/mtgprotutor-ep77

First Set

Revised Revised

Favorite Set Played

The Dark The Dark

Favorite Set Worked On

common expansion symbol Scars of Mirrodin

Philosophy On Making Planeswalker Points

Mike was one of the Wizards who helped make the competitive score tracking transition to Planeswalker Points. He saw how the old system made players hostile when they sat across from one another at competitions, dreading losing the match and losing points.

Making the shift to a system where playing Magic was good, and winning at Magic was better, was Mike’s goal in fostering a healthier competitive scene. He wanted the community to be more inclusive, less hostile, all while recognizing the achievements of players who strived to be the best. At the end of a match Mike wants you to shake your opponent’s hand and say good game, not run off deducting points from your score.

Heaviest Magic Moment

Losing in the Top 8 of the World Championships in Toronto stands out as a sore moment in Mike’s career. At the time there was no Hall of Fame and taking the crown at the World Championship had been his dream since his early days playing.

Unfortunately, Mike got out played and out sideboarded, and ended up walking away from the match feeling like he could have done much more. While it remains a high point to even make the Top 8 at Worlds, he still feels as though he lost an opportunity he can’t get back. Being even keeled is a character trait has helped Mike appreciate the loss and push him to practice more.

Level Up Moment

For Mike, getting a car led to a long period of growth in Magic. Being able to travel and extend his Magic intake beyond local tournaments helped open up the world for Mike.

He made an 8 hour drive to a New York Pro Tour and got to play against, and defeat, Mike Long in a side event. This confidence booster helped Mike take steps to push himself further into Magic’s competitive realms.

Proudest Magic Moment

Mike points to winning his first team Pro Tour as one of his most memorable moments playing Magic. Playing as part of a team made for a communal experience that helped Mike feel as though he was part of something greater than just his one-on-one matches, even though he wasn’t the hero that outright clinched the win for his team.

Mike had a conversation with Jon Finkel on the topic of teammates, and what Finkel said is that it’s hard to see your true self when looking in the mirror. What great friends and teammates do is help you look and see who you are.

Best Format

Draft

Tips For New Draft Players

Mike’s tip to new Drafters is establish your colors clearly. He doesn’t like to focus so much on reading other player’s signals, but rather approach it from an angle of “What am I going to accomplish in this draft that will give me flexibility and a line of play towards winning?”

He has noticed many new players don’t understand their play style well enough to bring it into their drafts. Getting consciously comfortable with your style is a great area to focus on, as it’s a tough concept to grasp since it isn’t something totally tangible.

Biggest Mistake Players Make

Mike has noticed that some players simply don’t play enough magic. If you want to succeed and get better, you really have to put in the time to do extra drafts and put in your reps.

Players actively striving to rise to the top tier of Magic players often put in 35 to 40 hours a week. While that’s clearly not an option for many players, what you can do is actively incorporate Magic into your life more fully.

Go play Magic, and afterwards go somewhere and hang out while talking about your matches. Think about the game in your day to day life until you get to the point Mike was at when he was muttering “Ancestral Recall” in his sleep.

Deepest Thing Magic Has Taught You

One of the things Mike learned about himself through Magic was that he cares deeply about winning. He doesn’t outwardly express his craving for victory like some other players; his demeanor conceals that desire.

Mike generally views himself as laid back and easy going, but Magic has shown him that version of himself only applies in some scenarios. When he becomes engrossed in a competition he can focus on winning 100%.

Reader Question: How Do You Tell When A Card Is Good Or Bad?

A big area of focus for Mike is understanding the casting cost to power ratio. Look at the cards and see what their drawbacks are, and even more importantly, see how or if those drawbacks can be turned into an advantage. Removal spells are always going to be excellent in Limited.

One of the most important lessons Mike has learned is not to get trapped holding onto an awesome card when your opponent plays a bad or low level card, especially early on. Having the mindset that you don’t want to drop an amazing card on something weak can come back to destroy you later on in the match.

Final Wisdom

Mike believes the key to getting better on your Magic journey is to make sure you are having fun every step of the way.

Magic is a game, after all. It’s supposed to be fun. Enjoying the game is the only way you are going to be able to play over and over again in the years to come and stay engaged with the game.

There are thousands of other players pouring their whole lives and hearts into the game, so don’t go approaching Magic halfheartedly and expect to rise.

Connect With Mike Turian

Twitter: @mturian

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Mar 8, 2016

Darwin Kastle has an impressive Magic record, with 8 Pro Tour top 8s - including becoming the Champion of Pro Tour Washington DC in 1999, 6 Grand Prix top 8s - including 1 win, and a win at the 1998 Invitational it’s no wonder he was inducted into the Magic: The Gathering Hall of Fame with the inaugural class in 2005. Darwin Kastle is Mr. Avalanche Riders himself and lives in Massachusetts.

Click to Tweet: I got a ton of value from Darwin Kastle when he shared his story on #MTGProTutor today! Click here: http://bit.ly/mtgprotutor-ep##

First Set

RevisedRevised

Favorite Set

Any Set With Avalanche Riders

Favorite Card

Frenetic Efreet

What makes Magic: The Gathering fun for you?

Magic taps into different levels of strategy that have kept Darwin actively engaged with the game. He was originally drawn to Magic as it combined the skill and strategy aspects of chess along with a fantasy theme. Most of his best friends were made through playing the game, and once he discovered tournaments Darwin became permanently hooked.

Early Challenge

Darwin encountered a major hurdle when Sealed was first introduced, and did so poorly in the format that he didn’t qualify for nationals (despite being undefeated in Constructed).

This introduced a point in his Magic career where he realized he was going to have to master new formats in order to stay competitive. He accomplished this by attending every Sealed tournament he could, and even once managed to play a different tournament for 4 days straight in 3 different states.

Level Up Moment

The period where Darwin added Limited to his skillset stands out as a major growth spurt in his career. Another stretch of development came after the first Pro Tour, where Darwin did poorly in large part to a stagnant testing group. His performance led to him rededicating himself to advancing his skillset, and he dove headfirst into the newly announced Booster Draft format and had ample time to prepare.

Proudest Magic Moment

Darwin’s proudest moment came when he and his two friends (and future Hall of Famers), Dave Humphreys and Rob Dougherty, won the first Pr Tour in DC. When the Team Draft format was first announced Darwin knew he and his friends were tailored made for the tournament.

Darwin was matched up against Jon Finkel twice and was able to take him down both times. Rob was so sick that at one point a judge found him lying beneath a table while Darwin and Dave were helping with his deck. The experience stands out as it was the first Pro Tour win for all three of them.

Heaviest Magic Moment

At the 2001 Pro Tour in New Orleans Darwin matched up against Kai Budde, playing a deck focused on reanimating giant creatures from his graveyard. Kai played a deck that had Illusions of Grandeur, which required a cumulative mana upkeep in order to maintain plus 20 life. Darwin kept Kai on his heels turn after turn, but through a miracle play Kai passed Illusions to Darwin with Donate. Darwin was one mana short of the upkeep, lost the 20 life and died instantly.

Biggest Mistake Players Make

Darwin finds that many players don’t realize how though their competition is and what it takes to be an elite Magic player. The amount of work that needs to be put in is incredible, and you have to be in the right mental state in order to advance properly.

It can be easy to attribute a loss to luck, but the reality is that thousands of other players are vying for the crown and pouring their hearts into preparing for tournaments. Testing competitively and at tournaments can help a player progress their skills, as preparation and training are aspects of the game you have direct control over.

Deepest Thing Magic Has Taught You

In terms of playing Magic, Darwin learned that he is a completely different player when the stakes are high as opposed to playtesting. While he may be more relaxed when practicing, he feels that he is able to rise to the occasion during high pressure situations.

One of his biggest takeaways from Magic was that the skills he had developed could apply to his life outside the game. His ability to build great decks in Constructed and Limited helped him greatly as a game designer. Many of the same thought processes translated well to evaluating if a card was too good or not good enough in the games he was designing professionally.

Playtest Tips

You don’t have to be a part of Channel Fireball to have a successful team. Darwin believes forming a successful team involves finding individuals who are committed to putting in the time and effort needed. Find out what format you want to prepare for and play decks that make sense for that format. See what they all have in common and find their strengths and weaknesses. From there you can begin to innovate and create new decks.

Final Wisdom

Darwin believes that if you are going to get serious about Magic, you need to do it for the right reasons. He knows it may take a while to figure out what the right reasons are. But going to Grand Prixs solely seeking Pro Tour fame isn’t a good reason. You should go because you love the game, you love the competition, and you love being surrounded by a large community of players that feel the same way about the game as you do.

Magic Resource

White Wizard Games 

Epic Card Game

Star Realms

Connect With Darwin Kastle

Twitter: @DarwinKastle

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Mar 4, 2016

Gabriel Nassif has a long and storied history with Magic: The Gathering. His accomplishments include 6 Grand Prix Top 8s, one of which was a win in 2009, and 9 Pro Tour Top 8s! Three (3) of those were 2nd place finishes and 2 of them were 1st place finishes! His first championship was in 2005 at Pro Tour Atlanta and the second was in 2009 at Pro Tour Kyoto. He also has 3 Worlds Top 8s for good measure.

Gabriel has been recognized as one of Magic’s greatest players and was inducted into the Magic: The Gathering Hall of Fame in 2010. Gabriel lives in Paris, France with his wife.

Click to Tweet: I got a ton of value from Gabriel Nassif when he shared his story on #MTGProTutor today! Click here: http://bit.ly/mtgprotutor-ep75

First Set

Ice Age Ice Age

Favorite Set

Tempest Tempest

Favorite Card

Crystalline Sliver

What makes Magic: The Gathering fun for you?

In his years playing Magic, Gabriel made a good many friends which helped keep him in the game. His ability to compete at a very high level, and Magic’s ability to stay interesting and fresh from year to year are also reasons why Gabriel has stuck around for so long. While he has continually competed in Pro Tours, he finds that renting a house before the tournament and training with his friends is almost more fun than the Pro Tour itself.

Early Challenge

In his early days of playing Magic Gabriel found himself not valuing cards correctly. Like many players, he would trade cards based on what seemed cooler as opposed to their tactical value. It took hours of playing the game and thinking about Magic while scribbling deck lists in his notebook at school for him to hone his evaluating skills.

Gabriel also acknowledges getting into the game at a young age helped develop his Magic intuition, as he was able to fully immerse himself in the game and absorb all of its facets.

Level Up Moment

Gabriel’s level up moment came when he first started playing Magic, as there was the most room for improvement then. He finds that once you get closer to the top it’s much harder to keep ascending.

When he was growing up he frequently played at his local store and was lucky to learn from the many excellent players that lived in Paris. This was back when deck lists weren’t on the internet or shared in many magazines, and Paris Magic players were notorious for being brutally good at the game. They often joke that if Magic Online hadn’t come about Parisian players would have dominated the world.

Proudest Magic Moment

Gabriel has had an amazing Magic career and can cite a dozen great moments that stand out to him. In his early days of Playing Magic he managed to win a Black Lotus at his local shop in Paris.

At his first Grand Prix in London he made it to Day 2, and was convinced his opponent who flew in from the United States, Brock Parker, was a big cheater. Gabriel end up crushing him in their matches and realized Brock was just another player who loved the game just like he did.

Heaviest Magic Moment

Losing to luck or variance doesn’t bother Gabriel much, it’s the losses he takes due to his own mistakes that get to him. He notes that back in the day he was an excellent deck builder, but made a lot of sloppy mistakes in play which took him a long time to mentally recover from.

Magic was his entire life, and losing a Pro Tour left a wound that took him almost an entire year to heal. When he was getting really good at the game he didn’t realize he’d become a little arrogant and wasn’t treating his friends well. He even threw his deck through the air after losing a feature match at a Pro Tour. It took one of his friends calling him out on his behavior for him to reel himself back in.

On Cheating

While cheating isn’t nearly as rampant as it was years ago it can still rear its ugly head from time to time. Gabriel says if something happens to you in a match, even if it just looks like sloppy play or an accident, you should always get a judge involved so a record can be made. Someone may have accidentally flipped your card over while shuffling your deck, or they may have made it look like an accident but actually have a record of doing it.

Biggest Mistake Players Make

Gabriel thinks one of the hallmark mistakes new players make is blaming their losses on luck. Be honest with yourself and take the time to analyze your deck in a meaningful way.

He finds that when players first start building decks they are prone to not playing enough lands. Building your deck and playing it is how a player determines what needs to be adjusted, and looking at deck lists similar to your deck will help fine tune how many lands should be included.

Listener Question: Do You Think There's A Herd Mentality When It Comes To Deck Building?

Following deck trends is a phenomenon that Gabriel concedes very well might be affecting the Magic community at large.

He misses his early days of playing Magic, as there weren’t deck lists online to influence players. Showing up to a tournament with a carefully brewed deck could give a player an amazing edge.

Gabriel sees how a herd mentality affects how players prepare for events like the Pro Tour, as everyone now looks to see what decks are placing well in tournaments. This can be detrimental and hinder deck creativity. Gabriel notes that the Eldrazi decks he saw while playing Magic Online influenced his deck in a negative way, as they weren’t representative of what he faced in the last Pro Tour. If he had more of a clean slate Gabriel thinks he may have crafted something much more effective.

Final Wisdom

Gabriel’s advice is simple: try to play with people that are better than you, work on making friends in the Magic community, and love the game until you can talk about it for hours on end, just like him.

Magic Resource

Channel Fireball

Connect With Gabriel Nassif

Twitter: @gabnassif

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Mar 1, 2016

Marshall Sutcliffe is a man who needs little introduction. If you’ve watched any amount of coverage for Magic: The Gathering events you’ve seen him as he does play by play commentary for Wizards of the Coast all over the world. He’s a self proclaimed draft junky and the host of Limited Resources, the number one Magic related podcast. Marshall lives in Washington state.

Click to Tweet: I got a ton of value from Marshall Sutcliffe when he shared his story on #MTGProTutor today! Click here: http://bit.ly/mtgprotutor-ep74

First Set

Tempest Tempest

Favorite Set

Innistrad Innistrad

Favorite Card

Man-o'-War

Early Challenge

Marshall found that when he first started playing Magic he wasn’t looking for a clear path to victory. He sees it in other players as well. There is a tendency to sit down and play your cards without actually formulating a clear plan that will let you win. He finds that the first step to correcting that behavior is to be aware of it.

Marshall recommends that players imagine pushing a button which stops time, and lets a great Magic player look over their shoulder in the middle of a match and ask the question “What is your plan?”

If you find that you can’t answer that question, then there is an issue that needs to be confronted by assessing the board state and contemplating what needs to be done to keep you in the game.

Level Up Moment

Marshall likes to approach gameplay problems with a scientific mindset, methodically looking at an issue and approaching the solution through a method and process.

He experimented with disregarding the board state in his matches and simply casting as much as he could. This led him to disregarding cards that were only beneficial to his deck 1 out of 5 times, and left him with cards that would actually affect the board and help him formulate a plan to win.

Proudest Magic Moment

For Marshall, being able to commentate the Pro Tour finals is an amazing experience to be a part of. He gets to announce the Top 8 at the tournament, which isn’t a huge deal in and of itself, but being able to see the looks on the player’s faces is an incredible feeling for him.

Knowing that those players have devoted huge chunks of their life to the game makes it all the more special when he gets to be a part of moments like that in their careers.

Heaviest Magic Moment

Like many players, Marshall found himself plateaued at a point where he wasn’t improving. It took him a long time to realize he was at that stage.

There’s nothing wrong with being content with how well you are playing, but if you stop actively trying to improve and don’t progress it can be incredibly frustrating. For Marshall, it took a level up moment where he discovered there was a whole lot more to Magic that he could improve upon, and that he was fully capable of doing so.

Worst Commentating Moment

While there have been moment’s where Marshall accidentally said a low level swear word when he thought he wasn’t on the air, that’s not what affects him the most while commentating.

Making a mistake about an unfolding match is what bothers him the most. Sometimes he will misread a card or forget there is a static effect on the board, and when he slips up people jump on him immediately. While Marshall has accepted that is going to happen, it is still difficult for him, as he wants to do the best he can and offer the best insight into the game.

Personal attacks on him and his ability as a broadcaster is something he continues to work through, even though the majority of the time he has an excellent experience commentating on matches.

Biggest Mistake Players Make

Evaluating choices in Magic is something Marshall sees players struggling with. It takes dedication to properly take the time to apply all the factors that go into making a single decision in a match, and even before the game has begun.

Spending time analyzing your decisions helps establish a background of thinking and accrue habits and behaviors that eventually become a player’s Magic intuition. No one calculates out percentages to their full value in the heat of a match, it just comes to players who have spent the time building up the right experience and play habits.

However, building this intuition can be detrimental as well. If a player uses bad logic and improper tools they will repeat mistakes while assuming that they are correct.

Deepest Thing Magic Has Taught You

Marshall never had to work through tilt or the concept of variance in Magic because he had worked through them in playing poker. What Marshall discovered about himself came through his interactions with the Magic community and starting Limited Resources.

Starting the podcast helped open up a side of his personality that he never was able to express in a professional manner. Helping players improve and excel in Magic is one of the most important things in his life now, and he always approaches his show in a way that will best help his listeners.

Final Wisdom

Marshall emphasizes that you shouldn’t be afraid to put in the extra work to truly excel in Magic. Take the time to snap a picture of your board state mid-match and analyze it in depth later. Have a friend sit down with you and look at the board seriously. It doesn’t take long before you’re able to see parts of the game that you had missed before.

Magic Resource

The Third Power Podcast

Limited Resources

Constructed Resources

Connect With Marshall Sutcliffe

Twitter: @Marshall_LR

Like What You Hear?

If you like the show, head on over to iTunes and leave an honest Rating & Review.

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