Strictly Level Up–Play Better Players

I wanted to take a moment and offer you something slightly different than normal.  Most of my posts so far have been around trading and shipping habits, but I also get a ton of general Magic questions.  The most frequently asked question (that is unrelated to collection building and trading) is ‘How do I get better at MTG?’ This question used to make me uncomfortable because I know when it comes to actually playing the game I have so much more to learn and compared to most players. After all, I am just strictly average.  One compliment that I’ve gotten from my peers (in my playgroup) is my how fast I improved once I decided to get serious about playing better.

Before I started trying to improve my game, I was plain bad.  My entry fees into events were more of a donation to the better players. The only time I’d ever benefit financially from an event was when I’d get money rares from a draft.  Due to some unfortunate events in my personal life (I got shit canned from my job), I was forced to take a break from the game.  When I came back to the game, I didn’t have the luxury of donating entry fees or sinking tons of money into singles. I had to start actually caring about winning events. One of the best pieces of advice given to me from my MTG mentor and friend (Dylan, the co-creator of Strictly Average) was to simply play better players.

At first this concept sounded silly.  I wondered how losing would make me better. Then a lightbulb flickered on.  Instead of treating matches against better players as instant losses, I decided that I’d try to learn something from the matches.  I started paying attention to what they played, how they played cards, and the play lines that they took. I began to ask questions (not during a match, but after) about how they would have played a certain scenario, or what card choices they thought were best.  Instead of being an askhole (someone who asks for advice and ignores it) I was a sponge, taking in all I could from better players.


In my free time between rounds at FNM or after events were done, instead of just playing for laughs with friends, I would try to get matches in with the better players.  This is how I improved so rapidly. Even playtesting with someone who is better than you will help you improve.  Talk through decision points with them.  Also, try to learn from the mistakes other players have made, so that you don’t make the same ones.

I’ve found that surrounding myself with players far better than me gave me access to much of their knowledge. Before I knew it, I had improved.  Suddenly, players that I was beating in matches were coming to me for advice on what they should have done.  I may not have become amazing at the game, but when it comes to improving, I’ve had people ask me how I got better so fast.  My go to response is for them to play against better players.  Attend events at locations that you aren’t gonna win every week and force yourself to play better to win.

As with trading and finance, there is no one simple key to success.  Everyone needs to find their own path to success. The way that I learn, and have improved over time will not be an exact road map for success for everyone.  This is the first in a series of posts that will cover methods I have used to get better at this game we love. The posts regarding improving your MTG game will be titled Strictly Level Up posts.

Try to have fun, and don’t forget to Drive a Tranquil Bargain Friends.

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