A Better Board State

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A better board state: Improving by supporting and coaching your local players

Hello everyone! It’s lovely to have the opportunity to write about Magic once again, and on such an excellent site. The owner of this new business endeavour was in some ways the inspiration for this article, which is on something that should be dear to all Magic player’s hearts: supporting and coaching your local players.

I come to this article from a fairly unique perspective, that of a secondary school teacher. In education there is nothing considered more important than to see your students making progress, to get better at something, and to achieve their potential. It is this on which what schools and teachers are assessed. The inherent reward of seeing your students do well is what draws and maintains the fascination of so many in teaching. By preparing lessons and giving feedback, I improve my knowledge and understanding of my subject and how to teach it in the future.

You see; the educational relationship and sharing of learning between student and teacher is symbiotic; both benefit from the experience and improve as a result. To become better at something requires practice and critical feedback. It doesn’t matter whether you are a student or a teacher; improvement is directly linked to making mistakes, learning from them and implementing your newfound wisdom in the future. In an educational environment, teachers are encouraged to reflect on their learning through peer observation.

Not all observations model good teaching practice. Some are more akin to watching a slow motion car crash than a well-oiled and practiced teaching machine. But which do you learn more from? Watching and recognising mistakes, and helping somebody to improve, or copying? The answer is both. How does this relate to Magic? Many of you will remember the first time that you walked into a shop with Magic players and saw what they were playing for the first time. For me, that was during the Shards of Alara set release. I had little prior experience with the game aside from floor battles with my brother in our living room around Urza’s Saga, but that was pretty much it. I wanted to see what they were doing so I wandered over to have a chat. Neither player seemed particularly interested in explaining what was going on and were a bit abrasive. It was only by good fortune that my friend Alex convinced me to buy a starter pack so that we could play.

It turned out that I loved it and gone on to get a bit better at the game whilst making some wonderful friends around the world. I have had the opportunity to support new players of the game and watch them improve. By helping them with their game, I recognised flaws in my own that I have been able to correct; whether it’s about tapping mana, playing at speed or my ability to be more sporting.

The rewards of supporting other players are tangible. But what if my friend Alex hadn’t been there to coax me into playing? I probably would have walked back out of the shop and that would have been it. I wouldn’t have met some of my best friends, nor would I have driven across the country to ferry our motley crew to tournaments, or watch with pride as they qualify for the Pro Tour or make the top 8 of a Grand Prix.

The impact of mutual support spreads through local communities and player bases as well. Friends are willing to loan cards, make up the last person in a testing pod and share their ideas. Perhaps you have been playing for a while, or maybe you only took up the game last week; that doesn’t matter. What matters is that you encourage others to succeed. That player in the corner who comes to FNM every week who nobody speaks to? He or she could be a Pro Tour champion one day with the right guidance and the right support, you never know. Even if he or she is only playing the game a little longer, the encouragement you give them goes a long way.

Going on that journey with friends, old and new, is what continues to make Magic what it is today. Helping people improve is what motivates me in my career. New players are the lifeblood of the game and you can take a role in that development. I’m not asking you to be the next Yoda or Mr Miyagi, but I would ask you all to encourage and support your local players. I guarantee that both you and those players will see meaningful results in your play and experience.

Thanks for reading, George Newbould .