Individual and Community Goals in Magic the Gathering – Wisdom Fae Under the Bridge by Graeme McIntyre

Individual and Community Goals in Magic the Gathering – Wisdom Fae Under the Bridge by Graeme McIntyre

You’ve got to know what you want. This is central to acting on your intentions. When you know what you want, you realize that all there is left then is time management. You’ll manage your time to achieve your goals because you clearly know what you’re trying to achieve in your life.” -Patch Adams.

This is easily the most apt quote I’ve used since I started using quotes on this site. Of course, working out what you want is far from simple, and even once you have it you might find that you’re fighting with other people who are trying to accomplish their goals. I’m going to write the article from the perspective of people who want to win PTQs because I’m in a better position to write that than I am to write from another perspective, but I think that it ought to be possible to apply what I’m saying to other goals too.

Individual Goals

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There is a lot of advice about how you might improve your game on the internet. Playing loads of Magic online, reading articles, forming a play test group, testing, playing tournaments regularly, watching streams, listening to podcasts, doing your own streams and pod casts, theory crafting and teaching others are all good ideas, but they all take time too.

You more than likely have other things than Magic in your life to consider too and it can be hard to fit everything in, and it’s probably a bit overwhelming to work out what the best thing to do is. I’ve not been playing loads of MODO recently, although that’s well worth doing and I intend to start again. I’d also quite like to podcast, stream and teach people locally, but these are commitments I can’t realistically honour and keep my other goals in check… but I’m getting ahead of myself a bit.

One way or another it’s important to work out what you want, then a plan for how to get it., then be aware of your goals as you live your life, and act accordingly. I’m going to discuss how I do this personally, but I realize it’s a bit on the crazy, anally retentive side. So if you think you have this bit down, and the next bit makes you think I might need sectioned, skip to the community goals section.

I’ve got two whiteboards in my house. One has over all plans which need dealing with e.g. get a part time job, apply for PHD, work on fitness, paint High Elves and push Magic. The other is all the weekly stuff e.g. re-heel shoes, war gaming on Tuesday, post Ebay stuff and change banks. The first one is the strategic element of my plans, the second one is the tactical element.

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I also have a note book which has a list that looks like this:

Hours per week 168
Hours sleeping: 56
Hours on PDH: 25
Hours working: 20
Hours playing: Magic 14
Hours Exercising: 3.5
Hours Eating/showering/getting ready/travelling: 16
Hours with Kirsty: 20
Hours Wargaming: 3.5
Hours Playing Blood Bowl: 1
Hours Painting: 8

Hours writing: 3

This is what I’m planning my life to look like to January. It’s pretty tight time wise, but there is some overlap. Kirsty wargames too, so some of the time we spend together is actually both categories, and this will allow me a bit of slack to play computer games. It might be that the PDH is more demanding than I’m expecting and I have to cut back on some stuff, or just not bother at all.

I know that allocating time out like that is not for everyone, but I have found that when my life is organized like that I am drastically more productive. It makes it really easy to work out if I can commit to something because things I commit to basically have to fit into one of the things on the chart one way or another, or I need to be willing to sacrifice one of the less important things that week. Or perhaps there is a tournament one week, and I want to play more cards, so I might cut back on other things that week, then not play magic the following week to make up for it. The point is that I am putting in realistic amounts of time into the goals I want to attain (or at least, I think I am at the moment).

Community Goals

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These will often be the goals of the local store, so growing the player base, running events, accommodating a wide range of people who play Magic, and people who play other games in terms of space and opportunities to run their own events. It’s also about individual Magic players meeting up and trying to accomplish their own goals.

The big rule here is that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Communities have been crucial to humanity since the point when the first cavemen realized that he couldn’t fight a bear, and asked the second to help. Don’t go to the card shop to form a bear hunting team though, you’ll only be disappointed (bitterly…), but it’s a good shout for people who have the shared (difficult) goal of winning a PTQ.

The Clash

While games shops are a great place for people who know their goals and want to find likeminded individuals, it’s more difficult to find comrades to team up with for an unknown goal. If you have a number of competing, discordant goals you will likely be frustrated yourself, which you will be aware of, but you might not be aware of the impact of your actions on others. Accomplishment in Magic generally requires teamwork and teamwork requires unity of purpose (shared goals). So when you are working together with someone on something, and then do something in aid of a competing goal, you’re throwing a bit of a curveball, and messing the other person about a bit.

So let’s apply this to the competitive player and the discordant player. This might most easily manifest in something like having “favourite” cards in draft and taking them disproportionately highly because you like them (as opposed to the action which promotes the goal of winning PTQs – taking the card that you perceive to be correct), or turning up to testing the Wednesday after the pro tour with your build of UW instead of the one that won. In doing these things you are harming the collective chances of the group to accomplish its goal.

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In my experience these players often fall into one of the following Four camps:

  • The genuinely confused player. Clearly, I have the most time for this group. It’s totally ok not to be sure what you want out of the game, but it’s important to be trying to work it out. This is the largest camp by miles.
  • The player who wants it all. Quirky combo? Check. No one else is playing it? Check. Often busy on testing day, but there with their brew harming other people’s goals often enough that it matters? Check. Not willing to listen to advice, because they want to stick it to the man (in this case, you)? Check. Frustrated when they don’t win the PTQ despite getting loads of advice not to play what they played? Check.
  • The pedantic player. This is the guy who argues that there are 10000 decks in the metagame because they saw each deck at some point, somewhere on the internet, over the last 6months. The guy who can’t help but put “best deck” and “pros” in parenthesis, as if this constitutes an argument in and of itself. The guy who bogs down every conversation by pointing out that whatever you said isn’t true in 100% of instances (even if it *is* true in 99.999999% of instances).
  • The perceived clique player. This is the guy who just wants to be involved because they think the good players are the cool kids, and either they’re in, or you’re all cliquey, snobby, elitists.


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Don’t try to part the red sea; you’ll just drown. I’ve tried to get people to be what I needed them to be before, failed and became frustrated, and kept trying. Eventually, if you keep pushing people you’ll alienate yourself from your community, and you’ll be stuck duking it out with bears on your own.

The most obvious solutions are both pretty poor. You can just accept that the people in question are not 100% on the same target as the group, and that they will dilute it somewhat, or you can get rid of them. Either the group suffers, or the individual does. I’ve done both of these things, one was frustrating, and the other was just a pretty horrible thing to do.

You can also just confront them about it constructively. This is probably the first port of call, and if you’re diplomatic about it, and they’re a reasonable person, it oughtn’t to be too big a problem.

Group goals will also help. If you make it explicitly clear what the group is about (Facebook is great for this because you can just write it in the description without it being a lecture.), then people can opt in and out, and if they stay and keep doing this stuff, then at least it will make confronting them easier.

If you have a reasonably sized group it’s pretty easy to pair people up so that it works out well. if you put the two guys who are 80% on target together, and the four who are 100% together, everyone is getting back what they’re putting in (in this simplified example). It’s less good for the two guys putting least in, but the lesson there is that they need to alter their behaviour to get the most out of the group.

It’s also ok to have two separate goals which compete, so long as they don’t clash. So if they have the goal of doing well at PTQs and the goal of messing around with a rogue deck, they can take their rogue deck to FNM, and play the other decks in testing.


I’ve had it suggested to me that this is a selfish way to operate, and I suppose it is. In my defence, though, I do manage to make time to do a good job of looking after the people I care about. But the bottom line – to my mind – is that you have a responsibility to yourself and your own goals, and you ought to be gravitating towards people who have similar goals, so the damage you do by relentlessly perusing the things you care about is minimal. You can often help people out by hooking them up with connections, rather than taking the time out yourself.

That’s it for this week! Hope you all had fun at the pre-releases.

Graeme McIntyre

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Graeme McIntyre
I've been playing magic since the end of Rath Block, and I've been a tournament regular since Invasion Block. I'm in the proccess of writting a Sociology PhD application, with the intent of starting in January 2017. I was born In Scotland, but moved to Nottingham two years ago, seeking new oppertunities both academic and magical. I play regularly with David Inglis, Matt Light and Neil Rigby. I've been on 5 Pro Tours and European Championship, but what I really bring to the table is experience. I've played 136 Pro Tour Qualifiers, 18 Grand Prixs, 11 National Championships, 11 World Magic Cup Qualifers, 34 Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifiers and more little tournaments than I can remember. More than anything else, my articles are intended to convey the lessons of this lived experience. Likes - robust decks, be they control, midrange, beatdown or combo. Cryptic Commands, Kird Apes and Abzan Charms. Dislikes - decks that draw hot and cold. Urza's Tower, Life From the Loam and Taigam's Scheming.