Advice for grinding Magic

Oliver Polak-Rottmann

Oliver Polak-Rottmann

Hello fellow readers, I am happy to welcome you to my latest article!

This time I will be talking less about a specific deck or format, but more about the general challenges that you have to face as a professional Magic player. I came up with the idea for this article when I went over my travel schedule and realized that I planned to participate in seven major tournaments over the course of eight weeks. Not only is this a lot of Magic and travel in general, but I also had to cover all possible formats over this time period and the tournaments were taking place in Europe, Japan and the United States.

Draft, Standard, Team Limited, Modern, Legacy and Standard is the line-up for the different formats in these tournaments and being able to prepare and pick the right deck for each of them is a real challenge. Having faced situations like this time and time again already over my career as a professional Magic player, I will try to give you tips on how to properly prepare for such a massive amount of tournaments.

1.) Plan your trips with enough spare time in between and book them well in advance.

In my opinion this is the most important point when you are facing such a tight schedule. You really should invest some time to organize good flights, hotels or AirBnBs. You are on the road basically all the time, so you should like the places you stay at and if you plan in advance you can get really good deals and save a lot of money.

This is especially relevant for AirBnBs and flights where you can sometimes save as much as 50%. I know this doesn’t relate to Magic directly and will eat up quite some time, but dealing with flight- and hotel reservations is a good skill to develop for future non-Magic life scenarios as well as the upcoming trips themselves. You need time to relax and treat yourself in between flights, especially on long trips, so don’t try to save here otherwise you will get bored or annoyed of travelling pretty soon.

2.) Don’t expect to win every tournament and don’t get frustrated over every bad result

Even if you are one of the better players in the game overall or even just in your local group: Don’t think you can always win. Sometimes you will show up to a tournament, predict the metagame wrong and lose. Sometimes you will take the wrong line in a game and lose. And sometimes you will even take the right line but get unlucky and variance makes you lose. You can’t win all the time.

When you focus hard enough and can put up a good performance luck will even out over the course of your games, so don’t start blaming bad luck for every bad performance. Sometimes jetlag or bad travel preparation can ruin your whole weekend (see point 1). If you are faced with such a situation you’ll just have to accept that and make the best out of it.

Hapless ResearcherMisfortune

This happened to me at GP Warsaw where I just arrived in the city on Saturday 3a.m. and was still heavily jetlagged from Hawaii/North America. As you would expect, that tournament did not go too well for me as I was literally falling asleep during matches and could not push myself to perform and concentrate anymore. I just went to bed in the evening and mastered my next day by winning several Chaos Drafts at the venue (which by the way together with Highlander is my favourite casual format).

3.) Pick the decks you like the most and have the most experience with

When you plan to play in that many tournaments you eventually will pick up a bad deck at least once in a while. Or you pick a deck with which you have no experience at all and screw up several times over the course of the tournament and that will cost you. To be fair you will not be able to prepare for every tournament, especially if the format changes from week to week as traveling and private life will consume a fair amount of spare time as well.

My way to get around this is to play decks I have already played in the past, even though they might not be the best deck in the format right now. For me this is Infect in both Legacy and Modern (where coincidentally it actually is the best deck at the moment). The deck basically plays out the same in both formats.

Here is the Modern decklist I played at the World Magic Cup.

Oliver Polak-Rottmann – Infect
World Magic Cup 2016

3《Misty Rainforest》
3《Verdant Catacombs》
3《Windswept Heath》
4《Inkmoth Nexus》
3《Breeding Pool》

-Lands (20)-

4《Noble Hierarch》
4《Glistener Elf》
4《Blighted Agent》
1《Ichorclaw Myr》

-Creatures (13)-
2《Distortion Strike》
4《Gitaxian Probe》
4《Mutagenic Growth》
2《Blossoming Defense》
4《Might of Old Krosa》
4《Vines of Vastwood》
3《Become Immense》
2《Apostle's Blessing》
2《Spell Pierce》

-Spells (27)-
2《Twisted Image》
2《Spell Pierce》
2《Grafdigger's Cage》
2《Viridian Corrupter》
3《Natural State》

-Sideboards (15)-

As the format was Team Unified Modern some cards might be a little out of place and some numbers should be changed. If I was to play Infect in an individual Modern tournament right now I would change the following:

In an individual Modern tournament


Groundswell Groundswell
Twisted Image
Viridian Corrupter
Dryad Arbor


Apostle's Blessing Apostle's Blessing
Blossoming Defense Blossoming Defense
Ichorclaw Myr
Breeding Pool


Nature's Claim Nature's Claim Nature's Claim
Ravenous Trap


Natural State Natural State Natural State
Viridian Corrupter

I haven’t played a single game of Modern since GP Bologna in March earlier this year in advance to the World Magic Cup (apart from testing obviously). I just took my old decklist and adjusted it with 《Blossoming Defense》, but after having played with it I honestly think this card is not good enough for the deck. I just played it as every other list I saw ran it, but my initially thought that this is not a great card as it does not do enough damage proofed itself to be true and therefore I would switch them out for 《Groundswell》 again.

There was not enough time to test my deck properly as I had to make sure we have a good setup for the Modern portion of the tournament and therefore I tested several other decks in case we would not have been able to play Infect at all. Next tournament I would play my adjusted list, even though there might be some change to Modern in the near future as Infect, Death’s Shadow Aggro and Dredge are very dominant in the current format.

《Death's Shadow》 was barely played at the WMC as it would have taken away too many cards from other decks to still be able to run a solid three deck setup. This weekend I will be attending GP Chiba and my list for that Legacy tournament will look something like this:

Oliver Polak-Rottmann – Infect

4《Tropical Island》
4《Inkmoth Nexus》
2《Windswept Heath》
3《Verdant Catacombs》
3《Misty Rainforest》

-Lands (20)-

4《Glistener Elf》
4《Blighted Agent》
4《Noble Hierarch》

-Creatures (13)-
1《Sylvan Library》
1《Become Immense》
1《Crop Rotation》
2《Spell Pierce》
4《Gitaxian Probe》
3《Force of Will》
3《Vines of Vastwood》

-Spells (27)-
1《Bojuka Bog》
1《Viridian Corrupter》
1《Surgical Extraction》
1《Rest in Peace》
1《Krosan Grip》
3《Swords to Plowshares》
1《Seal of Primordium》
1《Crop Rotation》
1《Force of Will》

-Sideboards (15)-

I think the most interesting thing about this list is my splash for white for some sideboard cards, which might not be necessary but I prefer to have overall stronger cards in there like 《Swords to Plowshares》 and 《Rest in Peace》. They are not usual sideboard cards for Infect in Legacy which might catch people off guard and I like that extra element of surprise.

Gitaxian Probe

The only interesting thing in my main deck is the fourth 《Gitaxian Probe》 that I run. I really can’t understand why everybody is just running three copies as I was always very happy with having four. It’s a card you can pitch to 《Force of Will》 that helps you set up your kill more easily because you know what you are up against. I would probably never run less than four, but if you have a good explanation why three is the better number please feel free to explain it to me on [Twitter] or [Facebook]!

4.) Eat healthy and stay hydrated during tournaments

This may sound like an advice from your mother but she knows what’s best for you! You need a lot of water during a tournament or you will get a headache sooner or later! Don’t eat stuff like Burgers or fatty Pizza as it takes away a lot of energy to digest and therefore you will get tired and out of focus pretty fast.

ParchFruit of the First Tree

Much rather have a banana or an apple or bring a chocolate bar to keep your sugar level at the right point.

Some people might have other preferences on what to eat and how to keep themselves hydrated and this is obviously something where people have different tastes, but you better find your perfect diet for a long GP Weekend because it will come in handy more often than you might think.

Last but not least:

5.) Try to find friends you enjoy traveling together with

When you are on the road for a long time or several times a week, it’s a nice thing to not always having to switch roommates but instead being able to stick with one person as you kind of get used to one another. Traveling together often means you will have an easier time because you won’t have to debate about general things like personal needs, hotel price, eating habits and so on every single time.

Heroes' ReunionShield Mate

It’s really hard to find great travel buddies so once you have them, always try to ask them if they’ll join you before you start planning your trips. It will most certainly improve your experience! For me my Magic year is almost over with “only” 2 more events to come this year. GP Chiba this weekend in beautiful Japan and next weekend GP Madrid in Spain.

Sadly Standard is feeling a bit boring with all this Delirium running around, but maybe there is a chance to break the format without me knowing it yet.

If you are at one of the events please drop by and say hello!

So far that’s it for this article and I hope I have new content available for you again pretty soon.

Oliver Polak-Rottman

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