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Major Tournament Prep and the Mantra of Respect

It's tournament time in Aria, and I want to make sure that you are prepared for the trials ahead!

The article today is going to focus on tips for tournament success. I remember when I was a wee lad, headed to my first all-day tournament- I did not know what I was in for! Sometimes it felt like there wasn't a place for me at the table, that I was extraordinarily out of my league- even though I had been to local tournaments before.

So, let me pull out a seat for you and share some tips for victory that stretch well beyond the tabletop.

The Top (and Bottom) Line is Respect

Respect is key, and if you keep it in mind, it can guide you towards victory.

  1. Respect yourself.
  2. Respect other players.
  3. Respect the venue and it's staff.
  4. Respect the tournament and it's staff.

Respect Yourself

In order to make it through the long day of a tournament, you are going to have to recognize and respect your human form. This means getting good sleep, eating good food, and taking care of your mental state.

Getting enough rest the night before a big tournament is absolutely paramount. You just don't perform at your best when you're sleep deprived. The night before a big tournament can be very exciting, but you've got to conserve your energy for the day itself.

If it's going to be a multi-day affair, be sure to get good rest on the nights in between tournament rounds. Huge tournaments are a marathon, not a race: you're going to be at this for a while, so be sure that you aren't running on little to no sleep.

Food is another factor that you are going to want to consider. Make sure that you have a good breakfast, and plan for a good meal around lunch or dinner (or both) as appropriate. It can be a good idea to bring a meal to the tournament venue, or at a bare minimum take a look at nearby meal options ahead of time. Keep time in mind- you don't want to be late getting back to your next round because you were waiting on your food! I also encourage you to bring a healthy snack, like nuts, fruits, or something like that: you really don't want to be snacking exclusively on junk.

Water yourself. Bring a water bottle, or make good use of whatever water is available to you. It can be very difficult to make good decisions while dehydrated, so I highly recommend that you stay hydrated. Start hydrating the day before by having water throughout the day, and continue to hydrate with water during the tournament day. If you have to use the restroom at an increased rate, be sure to call for a judge to get an extension on your time before you get up from the tournament table. (You'll have to leave your phone behind with the judge if it's a large event, as you're restricted from taking your phone with you to the bathroom by the tournament rules.)

Know and respect your capabilities. Or in simpler terms: play the deck that you are comfortable with- or at least, probably don't play a deck that you are not familiar with. You are going to be at this activity for several hours, and you definitely don't want to be coming at it all brand new.

For me, I practice my deck incessantly: I'm always trying to understand it, and the matchups that I could get in to. This helps me understand what the deck is capable of, and it helps me become capable of piloting the deck to victory. You might find that you gain an understanding of your deck much faster than I do mine, but nevertheless you should seek out that understanding before taking a deck to a big tournament. It can be very taxing to figure out a deck while playing for a strong placement.

Take good care of your mental state. Some players do this by talking about the match after it's over; some people take a short walk after packing up post-game; some players read a quick page or two from a novel to get their mental reset. Whatever it is, find it and do it! Create a between-rounds ritual that works for you, to prepare you for the next game. Personally, I do a little bit of it all. I'll take a little walk, use the restroom, get some water and have a little snack, talk with my friends about the round, check my phone, crack my knuckles... anything to step out of the tournament for a second or two and just relax. So long as you aren't hurting or distracting other players, your between-rounds ritual is just for you. Do what you need to!

When developing your rituals, it's important to be realistic. If you're playing a slow, controlling deck with complicated interactions, you're unlikely to find yourself with much time between games. You'll need a fast and effective way to recharge and clear your mind! If you're playing more aggressively, your down time may be more than you need, and you'll need to find good ways to stay in the zone during that gap.

Respect Other Players

I expect that we all know how to respect each other as human beings, but there are just a few things that I really want to touch on. Respecting each other can actually take a few more forms than one might expect! Not only should we verbally and physically respect each other, there are other considerations to be made.

Let's start with verbal respect. It can be fun to trash talk with your friends, but a tournament is absolutely not the place to bring out your verbal game. If you trash talk your opponent, you can expect a judge call to come shortly thereafter. Just don't do it.

At the Calling events in Vegas and Orlando, foul language had been prohibited. You can bet that I use my whole vocabulary, but when I'm at a tournament, nobody wants to hear swear words- even if you are in company that normally might swear. Respect that your opponents might find objectionable language, well, objectionable, and try to navigate the public space of the tournament in such a way that people don't object to.

Don't put people down, and don't make fun of other people's choices, and don't yell at people. Do not threaten anyone, or intimidate them, or make fun of them. I know that for a lot of us, this stuff seems obvious, but nevertheless it should be said for anyone who was wondering. We are all here to have a great time playing great games, and that does not have to come at anyone else's expense.

Physical respect comes down to touch. Don't touch things that are not yours! Always ask if you can pick up an opponent's card, or tokens, or any such things- do not just presume to touch things that do not belong to you without first receiving permission.

Obviously, don't physically assault other players! Don't overturn the table or yank the tablecloth or indirectly mess with other people's cards, especially those of strangers. Plain and simple, respect other people and their property.

It is, of course, fine to go for a fist bump after a match- but even then, don't force that on someone who doesn't want it. It isn't disrespectful to decline the handshake or fistbump in a pandemic, so don't feel bad if you want to decline that contact: there are other ways to intone “good game” after a good game.

There are other senses to consider too.. Sight is one: you cannot wear offensive clothing or bring offensive playmats or sleeves. This includes obscene phrases and imagery; and like it or not, in the public space of major events, this also includes “sexy” images.

Arrive at the tournament in a state of cleanliness, and don't carry an odor offensive to others. This hasn't always been among the mores of gamer culture, but after years of smelly players it was codified in YuGiOh in April of 2019. Flesh and Blood included this in their tournament rules from release. And please, wear pants that fit: nobody wants to see the crack of your ass at a tournament.

Finally, knowing the rules of the game is a huge sign of respect to your opponent. Putting the burden of knowledge of the game entirely on their shoulders is not only unfair, it shows a lack of respect for both the game and the opponent. Plus, you wouldn't want someone to be able to take advantage of you just because you didn't bother to learn the game that you showed up to play. That means learning the combat steps as a Wizard, for example. You don't have to know all of the minutia, all of the everything in order to play a game of Flesh and Blood; but at a tournament, you should be prepared to play your deck properly, and not rely on the other player to know how your own deck runs. You should be able to communicate clearly your board state and what actions your are taking, and understand what rules support your actions.

Respect the Venue

If you are going to a tournament at a game cafe, for example, you might want to make sure that they allow for outside food or drink before planning to bring any into the venue. One place that I attend tournaments at does not allow outside food or drink (save water bottles, of course); when I go there, I plan to either eat their food, or eat off-site- even if that's just in my car.

Often, when I am going to a tournament at a new location, I bring some extra money to spend at the shop. These places sometimes open their doors to us for 10+ hours at a time, especially for big tournaments. I always plan to buy a pack of sleeves or dice or just something small, as a show of respect and appreciation to the venue for hosting our big events.

No matter the size or state of the venue, treat the physical space with respect. Don't leave your trash lying around, and don't destroy any part of the venue. If something does break or run out while you're using it, tell the venue staff right away.

As always, show respect to the venue staff. At big events, the staff are often overworked and undermanned, meaning that there can be long lines or delays in process. You can generally trust that they are working hard to make sure you have a good time, and are already making efforts to shorten lines, to reduce delays, and to facilitate a good event. Give the staff a little bit more grace than you normally might.

Respect the Tournament

Finally, be sure to show due deference to the tournament and tournament staff. This might take more forms than you'd expect, actually!

Let's start with the tournament itself. How can you respect a tournament? Well, for starters, don't cheat. Don't intentionally break the rules of the tournament, or manufacture ways for others to break the rules of the tournament.

Do show up on time, and prepare your decklist either ahead of time or arrive with enough time to prepare a decklist.

Know your deck and your interactions, enough that you wouldn't have to call a judge to adjudicate common circumstances that your deck creates.

Have a familiar understanding of the tournament rules, such that you know where to be and when. Every tournament is a little bit different, so be cognizant and aware of your surroundings as you navigate the space.

Prepare your deck for easy verification. If you're sleeving your deck- and you really should- make sure your card sleeves are in excellent condition, and have an extra pack of sleeves along to fully re-sleeve your deck upon request. Carry your deck in a deckbox solely containing the cards you're using in the tournament- and not in a larger box with other decks, or those cards from the draft you just finished. This makes the job of validating your deck easier on judges, and avoids any unintended penalties that can start your tournament off on the wrong foot.

If the tournament is using digital reporting, be sure to report your matches digitally right away. If the tourney is making use of match slip reporting, be sure to sign your match slip and decide on who's turning it in once the match is over.

Respecting tournament staff is tantamount to respecting the tournament itself. These are people who have volunteered (or are being paid) to make your event run in accordance with the rules of the game and the parent company Legend Story Studios. If they are a judge, their understanding of the rules is not to be questioned. You can appeal a judge's decision once you have received it, and that is not disrespectful in and of itself. You cannot appeal the Head Judge's decision, regardless of how you feel about it. Even if they make some human error, you must respect the decisions of the Head Judge- if you cannot, then you might consider leaving peacefully, and not disrupting the tournament for the other gathered players.

Tournament Prep Checklist

  1. Find a deck that you like
  2. Become comfortable with that deck
  3. Tweak and tune it for your meta (optional)
  4. Make a sideboard/matchup guide (optional)

  1. Get a good night's rest before the tournament
  2. Pack a bag with snacks, water, deck(s), playmat (optional), life pad and pen/pencil, and any necessary tokens

  1. Show up at least a little early (you're either early or you're late: pick one)
  2. Respect yourself, your opponents, the venue, and the tournament

As I have said throughout the article, I know that a lot of this stuff may seem obvious to you, dear reader, but I wanted to cover all of the bases I could. Who can imagine players being so disrespectful? I can say this: a lot of these regulations are written in bruises and blood. For some, not having it codified in the rules that you must be clean and showered and not offensive to the senses, meant that it was okay to show up after a week of not showering. Not having it in the rules to not wear or display offensive or objectionable artwork was an invitation to do exactly that. For some, not being told that they shouldn't shout obscenities is a clear go-ahead.

An all-day tournament is a massive affair, and if you are preparing for one then I hope that this guide has given you some good pointers on how to navigate your way through. If you're here for just a quick refresher, I hope this has been on some help to you. It can always be good to go over the basics, no matter how many laps you've had around the track! Good preparation is key to a good performance, after all.

Discussion (5)

Author Tommy

Tommy Mains

2 years ago
Wonderful article. One of the things that helped me fall in love with Flesh and Blood was the adult level of respect and cleanliness that this game had at tournaments.


2 years ago
Great article with lots of fantastic advice, but did you really need to link to the body shaming dude that got banned over that thread? It's pretty disappointing to see it in an article that talks about respecting you think the folks in those pictures feel particularly respected?


2 years ago
Flesh and Blood: the community where we cover our asses after we wash them
Author Mark

Mark Chamberlain

2 years ago
@hinomura, you make a great point. I'll get with my editor, and we'll change that.

Chris Sandage

1 year ago
The first (and last) tournament I went to was a Magic tournament in 2005. The horrible smell was enough to put our play group off from ever doing that again, and many of the players gradually tapered off after having seen “what Magic players are like”. I’m really glad they made basic hygiene into a rule.

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