When I first got into Magic I was always very anxious and excited about meeting new players at card shops and playing in tournaments. Something I always thought was great about the game was that many ages play it, from the Youth ( which I was ) to the Young Adult and Old-School ages. My innocent, happy-go-lucky attitude diminished fairly quickly after a few tournaments, though, because I realized that a lot of players, young and old didn't have something... it's called class.
It wasn't uncommon as a younger player to be shrugged off as a 'non-match'. Opponents would find more time to talk to their friends at adjacent tables or simply act uninterested and arrogant no matter what the board position was. It's a really lowly feeling, one that made me feel insignificant and unwelcome. As I grew up, I found that players still did this - it wasn't just my age, it's simply an attitude a large portion of the Magic community had, or has. Even worse, I noticed I began to do it too. ( Gasp!? ) Players who made good plays with 'substandard' cards in limited or even constructed matches would immediately hear my mouth. Younger players who might beat me out in a tournament would get the 'lucky top deck' line. The excuses and the complaints are sometimes never-ending.
Are you starting to hear yourself now? If not, listen closer, denial is standing in the way.
The first step to resolving a problem is being aware of it and admitting it, though, right? My AA instructor told me that, if it's not true then you'll have to take it up with him. ( I'm just kidding, rehab's for quitters. ) So, if we know we do it - the first question is...
Well, first of all, no one likes to lose. That's simple. But lose, and learn, folks. You will not win every game. You will get a bad draw. You will get a bad draft pool. You will get unlucky and you will lose to someone with a lower DCI rating than you.
Get over it. Tough words huh? It's reality though. Even worse, being a 'good sport' is something your parents tried to teach you years ago and you still haven't got it down.
Another reason why people do this is because of insecurities. It's hard to lose to a little kid, hard to lose to a girl for some people, or a boy for that matter. It's hard to lose to a kid with no DCI card when you're working on 1900 with Player Rewards overloading your mail box. Be secure with yourself; it's okay to lose. I didn't say it was fun, I said it was okay - because we all have to lose sometimes to win the rest. You aren't a lesser person for losing to a 12 year old as you de-sideboard, 29 years old with as much years of experience as your opponent had candles on their birthday cake. Okay?
You also aren't any less of a person for getting upset, and wanting to act rude, or make rude comments. It's natural to get irritated and/or frustrated at yourself, your opponent, the draw, whatever it is - we all know how it can be. It's how you choose to handle it that defines you as a player and a person to your local community. Different people work in different ways, maybe you need to get some fresh air, breathe, go talk to a friend, get a drink, whatever it is - try something before you make a fool of yourself.
I know, this sounds like therapy or something, but realize it's really just being an adult. Handle your emotions and be mature. If you don't, you not only ruin your own time, but those around you. People notice when you're face gets red after losing, when you make rude comments or have a bitter, and/or arrogant attitude. It can be somewhat annoying. If you lose, you lose - it's forgotten within the hour. If you act in a way that embarrasses yourself, people will remember it and you, not just that FNM, but the next few and maybe the next few after if it keeps up. Keep this in mind the next time you're about to make an immature comment.
Let me take you down memory lane...during a time when I was defeated by a female opponent, a less than attractive one at that, and her army of Helium Squirters that caused me to act completely classless.
Ravnica Block was hot, but I struggled in its limited environment. I suppose the multi-color thing was a bit over my head limited head, as I had just started to play the format in the last year. ( I've been a constructed player my whole life ) Drafting 3 guilds that had synergy was something I just couldn't quite get the hang of, for some reason. And so, I lost, a lot.
The Dissension pre-release at my local shop was an all-night event. My first draft I went 1 - 2. Anxious for the next I went with a low-powered Green/White/Red combination which was utterly terrible. I lost my first game against a strong opponent only to be matched up with a hideous-looking woman who I'd seen from time to time at local events. Our first game went okay. Although I lost, I saw that she did not have much power and that I could probably beat her with a better hand and draw. Game 2 came only to face 2 Helium Squirters which I had absolutely no response to. No fliers to intercept with and no chance of winning.
And so started my mouth...
"Wow, I can't believe I'm losing to your garbage deck. You randomly picked Helium Squirters, probably for the picture and probably because no one else wanted that nonsense and now you're going to win with them. Just my luck."
She just laughed and shrugged it off.
My mouth continued...
"No offense but, why do you even play this game? I never understood why girls played Magic. I suppose it's because the 'cool' guys don't like them so they figure they can hook up with the nerdy ones. Oh well, I guess that's a plan."
Now she looked upset, and hurt.
I didn't stop there, though...
"I mean, honestly, it's sorta annoying. You win a round here or there but you'll never win a tournament and you randomly ruin the draft pool and give terrible signals because of it. It'd be better if there were just 7 people without you, but now I'm losing to you, what does that say about me? Whatever, I'm done."
She swung for lethal damage. I didn't even sign the slip. I just scribbled trying to be a smart ass, face red and ego shattered into pieces.
This is not the way to handle a loss, to a girl, a guy, a little kid or an older person. It's no way to act at all, really. I'm guilty of it; some of you may be able to relate to the situation, on one side or the other. It's not fun either way and it takes the enjoyment out of the game. There's things one can do to be sure that games are always fun, or at least enjoyable and respectable. These are the things I want to convey to you in this article.
And so, here is my checklist to being a classy tournament player:
1. Introduce yourself. "Hi, I'm JayC, nice to meet you." Put your hand out there and let them introduce themselves back. Shake hands. To some of you, this is probably a given, to others, it might seem ridiculous - maybe too 'lame' or 'square' - but trust me, it goes a long way. Older players will appreciate it, and younger ones will probably follow by example. Even if someone shrugs it off initially, they'll remember it - guaranteed.
2. Ask how they'd like to decide who goes first. Don't just throw a dice out there like it's perfunctory - interact a bit, make the decision with your opponent, not for them. Once you've decided that, take a look around. Do they have a play mat? Do they have a way to keep track of their life? Do they have counters? It's always nice to share what you can, there's no reason not to - this is again something that will go a long way - something people will remember, not just for the night, but the next FNM, and so on.
3. "Good luck". Sincerely, say good luck. What a concept, huh? This phrase means a lot, as simple as it seems. There's no reason not to wish your opponent good luck, and as many of the other things I mention in this article - it goes a long way. Even in the most cutthroat environment, this should always be a part of beginning a game.
It's sometimes debated whether or not saying 'good luck' is actually an appropriate thing to say - there have even been articles written on the subject stating that it's not right because you essentially don't mean it. I suppose if you don't mean it, you shouldn't say it - this should be something we practice in all facets of life. If you can't wish your opponent a sincere good luck, then I suppose you shouldn't. You can read Hello and Good Luck by Tim Aten of StarCityGames for a more in-depth view of why some players believe saying 'good luck' is unnecessary.
4. Pay attention to the game. Don't be somewhere else - you're playing a game against your current opponent - and since you're in a tournament, you're obviously playing a game you are somewhat serious about. Your cell phone, friends standing around you or across the room, none of that should have your attention - this can be quite rude to do to someone.
5. Have a mature and respectable attitude. No one likes a cocky, annoying, whiny brat of any kind. If you are upset about something, keep it to yourself until after the game. But what if your opponent is not giving you the respect you are giving them? The world isn't perfect - and two wrongs don't make a right. Be the adult and play it out as one, then you walk away from that table the better man/woman - win or lose.
6. Win with class. It's just as satisfying and you won't create a weird tension between you and your newly defeated opponent. "Good game". Sincerely, say good game. It doesn't matter if they played well, or if you played well. It doesn't matter if you made mistakes or they made mistakes, say it. If your opponent is okay and wants to talk about situations, great. You might be able to make suggestions for one another on card choice, play choice, etc. If your opponent doesn't look talkative, be perceptive and let them be. Sign the slip and turn it in.
7. Lose with class. It's hard as hell - but it'll make you a better person and a better player. Well, it might not make you a better player, but it'll make you more friends than enemies. Again, "Good game". Sincerely, say good game. Just because you lost doesn't mean you can't be decent enough to say good game to your opponent. They didn't build your deck and make your play choices, you did. They didn't dictate your shuffle, your draft pool or your land screw - they did what they had to do and that's it. If you wanna talk to your opponent after the game, great. Again, they might be able to suggest things or vice versa - so be it. Tim Aten also wrote an article on this subject.
In my experience, these seven suggestions have made tournaments into a much more enjoyable experience. Being a nice person makes you feel good about yourself, it makes winning great, and losing okay. No matter the outcome of the match, you leave the table and your opponent with a good impression of you as a person, despite how things played out in the game.