Tuesday, March 08, 2005

What Is An 'Insider?' And How Can Being One Accelerate Your Understanding Of Magic

Last night I couldn’t sleep.

I had been up most of the last three days working feverishly on a ‘top secret’ MTG project (details to come), and something was troubling me…

I wondered if my audience understood what it was to be an ‘Insider.’ The word might conjure ideas of secret information, unusual and even radical strategies, brotherhood and trust, and who knows what else.

And being an MTG Insider means all of these things—but there’s a very important idea that I wanted to convey when I created www.mtginsider.com.

Let me explain…

I’ve been asked by a lot of people how it was that I was able to help build ’Tongo Nation,’ my Pro Tour team back in the late 1990s and early 2000s which compiled over ½ a million dollars in prize money, and how I was able to help lead the US National Team to 3 Magic World Championships in 4 years…

If I had to name a single most important factor (and of course there were many) I would have to say the attitude of the ‘Magic Insider.’

When I sit down to build a new deck, or even to draft or playtest, I have a very special way of representing the people sitting across from me. Adversary? No. Foe? Not even close. Enemy? In fact, it’s totally the opposite…

When I sit down to play Magic, whether in playtesting, drafting or deck building, I consider those I’m interacting with to be close trusted friends, confidants… My goal with any situation is to forge a tight knit mastermind group for the purposes of understanding and mastering Magic.

Sound simple?

Well I’ve seen many others acting quite opposite to this idea, and I myself have made the ‘mistake’ of violating this rule. And it always leads to ruin…

For instance, when I was playtesting for US Nationals in 1996 one of my friends introduced me to Turbo Stasis. I quickly found myself working with my now long time friend Matt Place.

Now I’d never worked with Matt before then, but the hours before the event began were short and we needed to work quickly to stitch together this new deck concept…

We also worked with Derek Rank and Mike Dove and during the hours of the event the four of us constantly huddled and chatted.

And low and behold 3 of us made top 16 of the event (Derek made top 32), and both Matt and I made top 4 and got to represent America as members of the US National team…


When we got to worlds, I found myself feeling strangly guarded, not wanting to share information with Matt. We traded deck ideas of course, but despite Matt’s recommendation that I played his Green White control deck in the all important Type II format, I ran off with a group of Canadians and chose to play their deck…

The result? Matt went 6-0 and I went 3-2-1, all but ending my chances of making top 8!

We regrouped and Matt helped me with my build of my 1.5 deck—this time I wasn’t so hasty to turn down my friend’s advice…and I roared back going 5-1 and managed to make top 16 and help Matt lead our team to the team world Championship.

It was a critical lesson that I didn’t want to let go of…

In fact, I’ve taken this lesson so far that I typically view my opponent at tournaments, even pro tournaments, as my allies in learning and understanding. I frequently ask questions to almost any player I come into contact with, and I share information freely with those willing to work with me.

The result? Because of this ‘insider attitude’ I’ve had the great fortune to work closely with and make great friendships with players from France, Germany, Russia, Japan, Denmark, Australia, Hong Kong, Mexico, Brazil, Canada, Kuala Lumpur, Sweeden, Switzerland, Italy and many other countries…and of course players from all over the US.

Working as an 'insider' takes advantage of the same concepts that super power your 'Mastermind Group' but being an 'insider' works no matter what. Even if someone 'steals' your deck idea some time and shares it with someone else you didn't want them to... Don't worry about that, just look for constant gain in your game! If you do that and try to help those around you constantly gain, your growth in Magic will be automatic and it will be POWERFUL.

I’ve learned so much about this game, from foundational concepts that work set after set, to cutting edge advice on brand new cards—even cards from Betrayers of Kamigawa!

Can you think of a time when you turned down the opportunity to work with another player or group of players? Maybe you thought they weren’t as good as you. Maybe you didn’t’ know them as well… Who knows why.

I’ve been their and all I know is that’s a mistake that I’ve happily left in the past by moving forward as an MTG Insider.

I hope you’ll join me too:-)


Mike Long


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