How to Successfully Prepare for a Magic Tournament

I wasn’t planning on writing another article so soon after the double-Worldwake prereleases over the previous weekend, but I received a twitter message from @thephoenix5 asking if I had a sort of “event checklist” to ensure that I didn’t forget anything when I went out to a tournament. While I consider most of this to be second-nature, I understand that forgetting something can ruin what would otherwise be a good day of Magic.

The first thing I’d like to address is the variety of events that are out there. I will pack differently for a prerelease than I would an FNM, which would still be different from how I would pack for a PTQ. However, there are some fundamental things that one should always bring to a tournament, regardless of type.

Zak’s Universal Magic Checklist
[ ] If the event is constructed, a deck, sleeved, with sideboard. If the event is limited, enough sleeves to sleeve a limited deck.
[ ] Extra sleeves. If a sleeve breaks or you end up playing a 41 card draft deck or something like that, it can’t hurt.
[ ] If the event is constructed, sideboarding notes. These have recently been allowed so that you may make your sideboard choices quickly and effectively.
[ ] Pen/Pencil/Paper. After getting into disputes over life totals when my opponent and I used dice or other life counting methods, I’ve decided to go the old fashioned way. Also makes a great place to take notes, say after resolving a Duress.
[ ] Dice/Beads. It is imperative that both players are aware of the number of counters on cards, and should your opponent forget, you’ll always be there with dice so as to avoid misrepresenting the game state.
[ ] If the deck you are playing calls for them, bring tokens. For limited events, I use a set of generic Power 9 Pro tokens that can act as whatever I want. If you need generic tokens, You can try erasing a basic land and drawing a little picture on it, which always makes for fun times. I dislike using beads/dice for tokens because they are easily overlooked, and cannot easily be seen as tapped/untapped.
[ ] Wallet. This is self explanatory. Have enough cash to cover event costs and other purchases you might make.
[ ] DCI number. If you don’t have it memorized, bring your card with you. It saves organizers tons of time if they don’t have to look up your number in the reporter software.

All of the above fits nicely into a Dragon’s Egg, which is now on sale at its lowest price yet.

However, there is one thing which I don’t auto-bring to ever tournament, and that is my binder of cards for trade. This is because a large binder is bulky and annoying to carry around, and I find that at my local shop, everyone has done all the trades they want, because we see each other so often. Thus bringing a trade binder to small, local tournaments is often fruitless. Of course, you could just fill deckboxes or other Dragon’s Egg compartments with traders, but I don’t like having other players rapidly flipping through my cards – the risk for damage is simply too great. On the other hand, if the tournament is larger such as a PTQ, Regionals, or even a local prerelease, I always bring the binder because there are more people with whom I have not traded with.

If you envision a big turnout at the tournament, it is prudent to have something to do between rounds. Personally, I like to bring a DC10 stack so that as many people can play without needing to bring their own decks. This is a great way to make friends and have fun during slow periods.

Unfortunately, the biggest tournaments also have a knack for attracting n’er-do-wells and thieves who would gladly take your $1000 trade binder off your hands. Thus, if the tournament is standard, I only bring a binder with standard cards, likewise for extended, etc. In short, don’t bring more stuff than you can reliably keep track of.

I hope you enjoyed this brief primer on how to pack for an event, and it just goes to show how a single reader can have an effect on articles. So if you have an article you’d like written, email me at zak -AT- or via my twitter feed at

Cheers, and I hope everyone has a great Worldwake Launch Party!

4 thoughts on “How to Successfully Prepare for a Magic Tournament”

  1. Nice article Zak.

    One quick tip, take out your sideboard at the start of every match. You wouldn’t want to get a penalty for leaving it in your Dragon’s Egg with your DC10 cards or traders.

  2. I would suggest having a little first aid kit in your card. Serious. Pepto Bismol or something similar and aspirin at a minimum. You do not want to go into the top eight of a tournament with a headache or an upset stomach.

    I would bring some snacks as well. Bottled water and peanuts are good. You never know how much that crap will cost at the tournament site (they may not sell snacks at all) or if you will even have time to buy anything between rounds. And eat in moderation. You never want to be hungry during a match but stuffing yourself between rounds is a bad idea, too.

  3. All good ideas. The 1st aid thing has never crossed my mind, but I usually don’t go to tourneys if I’m in any way sick. Amen to the snacks though!

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