One of the typical questions I get from people working to build up their local meta is: If I am playing only with new players how I am going to get better on a highly competitive level?
With Store Championship season now in full swing (and Regionals right around the corner) many players are ready to move from “building” mode to “winning some swag” mode. The good news is that these are not mutually exclusive goals. You can get yourself ready for the next tournament and help new players in your meta get better at the game.
Here are a few suggestions for some ways to change up how to play with folks at your local game night that may help you prepare for the next Store Championship or Regional while also helping newer (or less skilled/experienced) players improve their play.
Do Not Play Just to Win: This goal may seem counter-intuitive, but when you’re in this situation your primary goal should be to learn about the deck you’re playing and its matchups in the meta. Smashing newer or less experienced players is not the point – save that for the tournament itself. Obviously, you still want to win to games, but you want to do so in the context of learning rather than just racking up victories (again, save that for the tournament itself).
Allow Take-Backs: This concession, too, may seem a bit odd, since take-backs are not allowed in most tournament settings. But when you are practicing or preparing for a tournament, you want to play against players making optimal decisions. New players might not be in a position to know exactly what the best play in a given situation may be or won’t figure it out until after they’ve made their choice. Allowing your opponent to roll back a bad or less optimal play brings about a couple scenarios: first, you’re playing a game from which you’re actually going to learn something rather than just owning a new player for its own sake; second, your opponent learns something, since they will now understand what the better play was in their situation. This makes them a stronger player long-term.
Talk Through Your Plays: This practice builds on the aforementioned points. It might be a good idea to explain what you’re doing or talk through your options with your opponent; you and your opponent stand to gain quite a bit. Often, talking through things helps your own thought process – perhaps the initial line of play you were considering isn’t the optimal one. Your opponent will learn more about the game as you explain your choices. Both players are sharpening their play – win/win. In such games it is often a good idea for both players to talk through their plays to make sure both decks are running at optimal levels. Playing this way is also a good way to build rapport with the other player, building friendships and your meta in the long-term.
If you follow these suggestions you’ll find your own play steadily improving and that of your fellow meta mates. By making games in the run-up to a tournament an educational experience – for both yourself and your opponent – you turn the disadvantage of playing in a group of largely new players into an advantage for everyone involved.