Welcome back to another episode of Delving with Devin. Today we will be talking about the other opponent in any tournament match of magic. Thats right, we will be talking about the clock!
In any round of swiss in a magic tournament, the round has a 50 minute timer before the match is just over. If the time runs out, the player who is up a game wins the match, however if the match is sitting at 1-1 then it leads to an unintentional draw. Getting even one draw in a tournament can spell disaster. It is basically a loss, as the 1 point you get from a draw often times isn’t enough to matter to get you into the prizes.
Early in my magic career I often faced draws, due to many reasons. As a way to improve my tournament results, I tried to cut down on the number of draws I was getting. I’m going to go over some things that you can do to help if your having these same problems.
First of all, something I’ve noticed is my opponents are often paying way to much attention to what’s going on in the games next to them. Often times there is a judge call in the game next to us, and my opponent will actually stop playing to see what’s going on in their game, and listen to what the judge’s ruling will be. Why are they doing this? Curiosity killed the cat, and it gave us an draw. When playing, keep all of your focus on the game, and the decisions at hand. If you notice your opponents attention is wandering, ask a question to get their focus back on the game. Are you done? Is it my turn? Go to damage?
The next way to save time during a match, is to stop pile shuffling! This is something that I used to do in between every single game, and let me tell you it really takes away game clock and also does nothing to randomize your deck. It’s actually a form of stacking your deck. Instead of doing this, just shuffle your deck normally. If you do 7 over hand shuffles your deck should be sufficiently randomized. Some people will say, “I’m just counting my deck to make sure theres 60.” Well an easier way to do this, is to count your sideboard, if there are 15 cards there then you are good. unless for some reason you dropped cards on the ground without noticing. But this is very very very unlikely, and you are much more likely to get a draw by wasting time every round counting to 60 before every game.
Another way to remove going to time from your game, is to be prepared to sideboard. There are a few ways you can do this. The first is to have a good understanding of your deck and sideboard plan vs the most popular decks in the format. If at the start of side boarding you are literally trying to come up with what sideboard plan your going to use, this can cost minutes off the clock. If you know exactly what your plan is however, side boarding can seconds instead of minutes. Another way you can make sideboarding quicker, is while your opponent is taking up some time thinking in game one, check your sideboard and bring the cards that you will be bringing in to the front so when you do go to side boarding the cards you need are at the front ready to go.
Practice your mechanics. I had the privilege of watching Yuuya Watanabe play at a Grand Prix, and his game actions are so quick and precise. The amount of time he saves by playing briskly I am sure has helped him squeeze out some wins that otherwise would have been a draw. Practice makes perfect, and getting in reps with your deck can help with this. If you take extra time to draw your card every turn, extra time to un-tap, extra time to re organize your graveyard every 3 seconds, and extra time to flick around your cards as you make other game actions, this will all add up, and keep you away from the top tables and in the draw bracket.
If you’re playing with fetch lands, another tip you can use to save time, is to run white bordered basics. The difference between searching for a black bordered land and a white bordered land can mean saving 30 seconds to a minute in each game, which when added with other time saving techniques can really add up. Something that I feel some players over do, is try to represent everything. This is something that was ingrained in old school players minds as something to do when Force of Will was legal in standard. You always had to think about every spell your opponent played in order to represent the Force of Will.
If you didn’t represent the Force of Will on every card played, then your opponent will know that you don’t have one! Well I have news for you, Force of Will isn’t legal in most of the formats you’re playing, and even if you’er trying to represent having a Negate, the value you’re getting from representing it is probably minus EV when you go to time and get a draw. If you want to rep an effect, sure spend 3-4 seconds to think about it, but don’t spend 15-20 seconds on every spell cast in order to represent that you have the Doom Blade or whatever other effect you are trying to represent. A final tip to save time and help you not get draws, is to know when you have no chance of winning, and concede! I know so many players who have a never concede attitude, and force the opponent to play it out to the end.
This is fine if time isn’t an issue in the match, or if you still have some outs to win. I am talking about games where your opponent has you under a Stasis lock, you have zero permanents untapped, and you have no cards left in your deck that can get you out of the situation. Your basically waiting for your opponent to deck you before moving onto the 2nd game. If you are already down a game, and conceding costs you the match, sure play it out incase they somehow screw up and don’t pay the upkeep cost on their Stasis. But if you’re up a game, or in game one, and you know you will need as much time as possible to win 2 games, then it’s actually to your benefit to concede game one to ensure you’ll have enough time to win the match. By playing it out, and leaving only 10 minutes left in the round by the time your opponent has had their way with you, you essentially conceded the match!
A final note, is if your opponent is playing slowly, call a judge!
By using these tips, I cant even remember the last time that I got a unintentional draw (Editor’s Note_ I remember a time when Devin was 2-0-3 in a Legacy tournament), and I am sure tips can help your game too! Post in the comments the things you do to make sure your matches decide a winner!