After my unspectacular finish in Columbus I found myself playing in a TCG Player sealed side event on day two.
It was there that I battled what was probably the rudest player I had ever played against.
He gave me a “you were dead next turn” after I beat him in game one (with no respect to my five cards in hand nor the fact that I would have played differently had he actually had any shot in that game) and very angrily flicked the match slip at me while giving me a death stare as I signed it.
Sure, my turn one Arbor Elf into turn three Chandra was pretty nuts, but welcome to sealed.
Now, it might be true that I made a called shot that I wanted to “ruin that kid’s day” at the very beginning of the tournament, and it also might be true that I giggled uncontrollably as I shuffled up for our match in round four, but I’m not trying to make myself out to be a hero here.
What I’m getting at is that there is a lot of rudeness going around in the world of competitive Magic and that it would be great for the game as a whole if we all worked harder at respecting our fellow competitors. I’ve frequently heard many players saying that they can’t stand the competitive nature of even an FNM, which is pretty much supposed to be casual Magic with promos.
Below I have compiled a non-exhaustive list of bad behaviors in which I regularly see players engaged. Some of these offenses are more absent-minded than rude, but I believe that all of these behaviors have some negative impact on Magic as a whole.
On Checking Pairings
This section doesn’t really apply to smaller tournaments at all, but it’s something that you’ll see all the time at Grand Prixs and SCG Opens.
Blocking the Pairings Board to Line up Your Pairing
This one feels like a no-brainer to me, but I always see somebody doing this. A player’s table number is listed about an inch away from their name. There is no reason that you need to use paper or a card to line the two up. All that you’re really accomplishing is making it impossible for people with names after yours to find their tables.
I apologize if there is some manner of visual impairment that makes lining up such objects especially difficult for some portion of the population, but I can match up my pairing from two or so feet away.
Yelling All of Your Friend’s Pairings
Listen, I know that you like your friends a lot. I’m sure that they’re great people and all, but they should have to wait in line just like everybody else. Not to mention that by turning around to call to them you are either taking up more space and preventing somebody else from seeing the board or yelling in somebody’s ear.
Riffling Your Opponent’s Deck
Or at least ask first if you really feel the need to. Even if they riffle their own deck, even if their deck is beat to hell because of it, you should still ask.
The reason for this being that there is no actual uniformity to riffle shuffling. Different players' fingers will fall on different places on the deck and apply different levels of pressure. I know multiple players who riffle in such a way that I can always tell which cards are theirs. If you had multiple such players riffle one anothers' decks, then they’d just end up a crumpled mess.
Of course, if you play a limited deck unsleeved then you should be aware that you are giving your opponent an invitation to riffle your deck. There is just no other way to reasonably shuffle unsleeved cards.
Flipping Your Opponent’s Deck Around
I’m not even sure how this one even happens, but it tends to happen to me at least once a tournament. When you pick up your opponent’s deck to shuffle it, you should make sure you put it back facing the same direction as when you picked it up. Honestly, I don’t know what part of shuffling has anything to do with changing the orientation of the deck, so this one is really baffling to me.
Shuffling Your Opponent’s Deck for in Game Shuffle Effects
This one isn’t especially rude, but it just eats time off the clock. If your opponent is a documented cheater then this is acceptable. I can also see doing it at very high level play when both players are otherwise playing at a crisp pace. For the most part, though, a simple cut should do the trick.
Pile Shuffling More than Once and/or Late in the Round
I strongly recommend that everybody familiarizes themselves with this piece by Michael Flores on pile shuffling.
Basically, the point of his post is that pile shuffling is inefficient, not random and only useful in terms of counting a deck. Performing two pile shuffles before one game is a fantastic way to eat clock and will increase the number of unintentional draws you receive overall.
Performing a pile shuffle after a long game is behavior that I would argue borders on stalling, though in most players hands I am willing to admit that it is probably unintentional. Do everybody a favor and share the above Flores post though. It is beneficial on multiple levels.
This is another thing that I don’t think is rude, per se, but it is ungodly boring to watch my opponent pile shuffle while I actually randomize my deck.
Why do people insist on doing this? Even if you don’t have the time of day for your mouth-breathing gorilla of an opponent, there is still going to come a time when the headphones are going to have to come off. Not everything can be communicated nonverbally.
Oh, and you look like a giant tool when you play with your headphones in.
Not Confirming Life Totals
This is something that is especially relevant in eternal formats. People near-constantly miss the life loss from fetchlands and Force of Wills. It takes all of two seconds to confirm life total changes as they happen.
I played against an extremely unpleasant individual piloting Merfolk when last I was in Indianapolis and he would never confirm when I stated life totals aloud. I don’t know if his intention was to tilt me or if he was just otherwise being a curmudgeon, but it made the entire match miserable.
Belittling Your Opponent
This one comes in all shapes and sizes. There is no reason to be ill-tempered with your opponent when they nut you out. It’s not like you’ve never done the same. Take your beating in stride and get on with it.
One of the more bothersome exchanges that I’ve seen happened at the most recent SCG Invitational. Michael Jacob was playing against some kid and the kid wasn’t sure what happened when his Gilded Drake died in response to its trigger. MJ explained that the exchange wouldn’t happen and the kid decided to call a judge. You know, like you’re supposed to.
To this, MJ responded by stating, “I know how Magic works, but whatever.” I couldn’t really believe what I was hearing. The very purpose of having judges is to clear up such questions. And you’re not supposed to trust your opponent in the first place. MJ was attacking his opponent for engaging in exactly the type of behavior that he should be expected to engage in.
Another thing that bothers me is when people accuse their opponents of slow rolling when their opponent clearly just didn't see the play. This happens to everyone. For instance, it takes me significantly longer to pilot a deck filled with tutors than it does for me to pilot one without.
Additionally, sometimes your opponent is just less experienced than you are. Just chill out and give the kid a break. When somebody is actually slow rolling you, it should be obvious.
Pace of Play
Your pace of play isn’t only important to you and your opponent. When you go to time, you cost everybody in the event hall a chunk of their day as well. Fifty minutes should be more than enough time to finish three games the vast majority of the time. If you’re going to bring a deck like lands to an event, then do everybody a favor and make yourself immensely familiar with the deck.
Not Acknowledging When You’re Drawing Dead
I cannot tell you how many games I’ve watched drag on for tens of turns despite one of the players drawing to a no-outer. Most often this happens in limited games at small shops. I know that it sucks, but you should really just be honest about it and scoop when your opponent lands that unbeatable Akroma's Memorial. You’re not going to have any fun playing the game anyway.
I understand that there is some merit to playing unwinnable game ones for a few extra turns to try to see more cards or to try to make your opponent think you have outs, but there is generally no reason to drag out the last game in a match.
Don’t play Turbofog. It’s bad, and if it’s the type of deck that you enjoy playing you should feel bad. You are worse than the guy playing Battle of Wits. At least they can win in turns.
Post Game Etiquette
Not Extending the Hand
It is my firmly held belief that the loser should always extend the hand in order to concede. Even when your opponent’s sealed deck has 15 more rares than yours. Even when your opponent made a thousand more misplays than you did. Just do it. It’s a sign of integrity and it shows that you have respect for the game. I’m not perfect in this regard, but it’s something that I do far more often than not.
And don’t forget to give a good handshake. Limp handshakes and cutting your opponent off are not acceptable.
Showing Your Opponent How You Sideboarded
There is no greater way to dagger your opponent than to show them how wrongly you sideboarded after you beat them. If you lost then it’s perfectly acceptable to ask what you did wrong. Most players mean well when they win and do this, but it really just translates to rub-ins.
Additionally, showing your opponent what you still had in hand (aka, still had all deez) is extremely rude.
Geordie Tait’s “GG” is another piece that I recommend that everybody reads. The simple fact of the matter is that saying “GG” when the Gs were in fact not G, but were, rather B is another form of rub-ins. Geordie covers the intricacies of this very well.
I understand that, no matter how much is written on the topic, bad behavior in the community will persist. That said, I’m of the belief that there is intrinsic value in acting as a respectable human being. Magic is a great game, and acting in ways that cheapen the experience for others is pretty shameful behavior.
Personally, I stew over my own bad behavior just as much as I stew over misplays that I make. I treat each event as one more step towards reducing the instances of both, and I think that Magic would be a lot better if everybody did the same.