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An important part of any competitive Magic player’s success is the group of people that he or she does their practicing with. Typically people who practice together form a group of friends. Because of the fact that these people will be playing in the same events as you, it is important to have an understanding of how you will treat each other when you eventually get paired up. The stress and pressure caused by trying to win will frequently cause friction between two competitors. This is not usually a big deal. It can, however create major problems for a play-testing group.
When two people from a play-testing group are paired, there is usually an unspoken and mutual agreement that the match will be somewhat more relaxed than usual. This is not to say that either person will try any less. It also doesn’t mean that players should let each other take back moves. It does mean that neither person will try to “cheese” a win off of their friend. This includes such actions as quasi-misrepresentation and rules-lawyering. Recently, at a team qualifier, an incident occurred that might mean the dissolution of my play-testing group. Someone in that group rules-lawyered my teammate. Because of the complexity of the game of Magic, shortcuts are needed. Rounds would need to be three hours long if you had to verbally check priority at the upkeep, draw, first main, pre-attacker attack, pre-blocker attack, before damage attack, after damage attack, second main, pre-cleanup effects end, and end phases. Occasionally, too many shortcuts are taken.
When this discrepancy occurs it is usually resolved quickly. Players can simply back up or in most cases realize that any sane person would be attempting to do something at a certain time. This person who was trying to cheat my teammate engaged in more tactical bickering over someone’s phrasing of a sentence than I have ever seen in any of my mock trials. My teammates and I are usually more prepared to be ambushed in this manner, but were not expecting it from someone who has previously been working with me. I encourage people to work with only those people that they can trust and to verbally clarify that people in their play testing groups should act especially sportsmanlike towards each other. I remember several years ago when I spent at least an hour every tournament arguing over the rules. I hope I don't ever have to do that again. Everyone knows how the game is supposed to be played.
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