Playmats and Preliminaries – Spread the Sickness by Grant Hislop

5 Things Magic Players Need To Think About At MTG Tournaments by Graeme McIntyre

I hate playmats.

Not due to any negative connotations regarding playskill that should really, by now, have disappeared. It used to be the case that people using playmats were considered free wins, regardless of how many Top 8 pins (RIP) that they’d adorned it with.

I understand the argument for them – ‘These tables are dirty, and I want to protect my cards‘. That doesn’t really wash with me though, as that’s what sleeves are for, and I’m far less sympathetic to an ‘I want to protect my sleeves‘ position.

Mostly, what I hate about them is the people who think their playmat means that they’re entitled to at least that much space on a table. This should be a reasonable expectation, as the average playmat offers a decent play area, assuming the tables are able to accommodate it. Sadly, this amount of space is not always available. In my experience, your average playmat user is not willing to scale down their expectations of the amount of space they have access to.

The absolute pinnacle of frustration for me is the guy that sits down next to me, moves the table number to smooth out his playmat, then doesn’t complete the vital final step of putting the table number back in the position it was. What I’ve noticed, is that when all players at a table have a playmat, basic space decency is observed. They’ll go out of their way to ensure that each of them has a reasonable amount of space, and generally that the playmats don’t ovelap. We need to start enforcing this when the neighbour doesn’t have one as well.

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At the WMCQ in Edinburgh a month ago, we were sitting six to a table that would have comfortably sat four. In round two, I was sitting in the middle, sandwiched between two larger gentlemen whose playmats both encroached into my playing area, leaving me, in the middle with less than a foot to conduct my attempts to play the match. I called a judge, and asked to be moved, rather than address the issue. I think this was an error.

Yesterday, in Dundee’s WMCQ, I had to ask two of my neighbours to move their playmats so that I could get a reasonable amount of space to play. I also had to ask one guy to move his sideboard, as the way he’d splayed out had him taking up more than two thirds of the table. Full disclosure though, that guy didn’t have a playmat, he was just either blissfully unaware of how much space he was taking up, or completely oblivious to other people, and happy as a pig in excrement about it. It didn’t help that he shot me a look akin to the one I’d give someone who defecated in the middle of my living room, and his opponent helpfully, sarcastically chirped up with ‘That’s you told‘.

Essentially, I’m sick to the back teeth of the piss poor tournament etiquette, and complete lack of concern for others that come from your average UK Magic user. If you want to use a playmat, that’s fine, but don’t make your neighbour’s experiences worse so that you can stare at a mass produced picture of a Magic card all day.

Game Day Champion

I heard a story the other day that really tickled me. A friend of mine was playing an FNM level event against a guy who sat down, unrolled a Game Day Champion playmat, and actually said to him ‘Don’t be intimidated that you’re playing against a Game Day Champion‘, and our hero, GP Top 8’er and multiple time Pro Tour competitor got up, said ‘I need a minute‘, walked away from the table to tell his pals behind the counter, and returned to easily 2-0 the match while uproarious laughter sounded his approach.

Do playmats serve a legitimate purpose? Sure. Are the multiple breaches of basic decency worth it? That, I’m not so sure about.

It seems to me, a grizzled veteran now (groan), that playmat culture introduces a vicious circle of rudeness. Your hypothetical tournament newcomer attends an event in which playmats encroach on their play space. They look around, only to see the same situation mirrored across the room. Everywhere they look, the see people with playmats taking up more than their fair share of room. ‘That’s what I need to do, if I want to get half the table, or more. I need to get myself a sweet ass playmat‘, and the cycle continues.

The WMCQ’s have meant that I’ve played far more live Magic in a shortish space of time than I usually do. Working, as I do, antisocial hours means that my usual Magic outlet is online, so this sort of thing doesn’t come up all that often for me. Playing three largeish tournaments in four weeks has entirely eroded my tolerance for this unacceptable behaviour, and I’m not going to let it impact my tournaments in a negative way anymore.

I’m not going to be a dick about it, unless my neighbour reciprocates in that way, but it’s lovely to have the moral high ground on my side, for a change. I’m optimistic that having someone mention just how rude they’re being will cause them to modify their behaviour when people aren’t watching them, or have the stones to mention that the way they’re conducting themselves is having a negative impact on someone else’s tournament experience, but realistically, I’m not hopeful. I expect that that’s just going to be part of my live tournament experience now, having to politely ask if my neighbours wouldn’t mind possibly not taking up my designated area, while thinking ‘what a colossal scrotum‘.

Please, playmat users, prove that you’re not the feckless idiots that people used to assume that you were, and be cognisant of the impact that you getting to stare at a stylised picture of Angel of Despair all day has on those around you.

That said, I’ve got heaps of PTQ, WMCQ Top 8 playmats, and several GP ones kicking around, and if anyone wants to trade cards that will actually impact how my tournament goes for them, please feel free to message me on Facebook, as long as you plan on using them in a respectful way.


On a lighter note, Khans of Tarkir looks like an amazing set, and I’m keen to get back to writing about Magic again. My computer blew up a few months ago, and while Magic Online’s discontinued compatibility with Windows XP was about to necessitate an upgrade anyway, I wasn’t quite in the position to make the transition at the time it was required, causing somewhat of a hiatus in my Magic playing and writing.

Now that I’m cruising the information superhighway on Windows 8, like those coolish kids that use computers for things other than Facebook, pornography and Googling pictures of funny cats, I should be able to (triumphantly?) return to telling stories about how crap my neighbours are, that time I pooed myself and attempting to loosely tie it into something vaguely around the fringes of Magic content as well.

I’m like a chubby Terminator, relentlessly chasing down John Connor to tell him poop stories. What a treat.

MSI Dark Challenge Tournament

In the time I’ve been away, there’s been some pretty big changes announced regarding PTQ’s, and at the risk of rehashing things that have already been said, I’m very much in favour of them. It improves the quality of players qualifying by this method, which is a very good thing, and for me, the only negative is that I’ll get to see my English friends far less than I do currently, as the incentive to drive five hours to a PPTQQ, or whatever the accepted abbreviation for the tournaments that should just be called ‘Preliminaries‘ is, just won’t be there, when I’m likely to have seven or eight a season within a couple of hours from my house. This isn’t nothing, and over a few years of attending these tournaments regularly, I’ve built up a lot of relationships that are likely to be consigned to Euro GP’s, the PTQ’s themselves and online now. I feel sorry for the hypothetical newcomer, as not only have they been put out by playmats today, but they likely won’t have the infrastructure to mirror my experiences.

This is probably a bigger negative in countries like the UK, where several parts of the community are already operating in isolation. I don’t think I could pick out any of the London playgroup at a tournament, for example, and I could drive there in seven hours, if the fancy took me. This new structure disincentivises travel, and interaction outwith ones immediate playgroup, which I don’t think is particularly healthy for the non-established players among us.

For me, personally, it’s great, as I get to play in loads more tournaments, and they’re generally going to be in a softer field. In addition, I never have to get up at four am, drive six hours, get vomited on, and 0-2 drop ever again. Now, just replace ‘six‘ in the previous sentence with ‘one‘, and we’re looking at a pretty nice little Saturday.

That’s all I’ve got for today folks. Please, don’t be an asshole to your neighbours at Magic tournaments, or anywhere else for that matter.

Anyway, I’ve finally got that off my chest, whats your view on playmats and tournament etiquette? Let us know below.

Stay classy, mtgUK


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