Hi everyone! A question I’ve been considering more and more as I advance in the game is what are some player mannerisms and what can they tell us about a given game state?  My curiosity on the subject peaked during the last PTQ I attended, when I had an opponent put his hand down and slump. Since I was repeatedly swinging in the air with a flyer, I assumed he felt dejected since he didn’t have an answer. In an attempt to reduce the clock and his chances of drawing into an answer, I enchanted it confidently. In response, he used a Plummet that (I find out after the fact) he had been holding on to for the perfect moment. He was bluffing and I fell for it.  I recently went back to the streets of New york to ask some Magic players their take on player tells. Here’s what they had to say.

20 #6

“I put my cards down when they are just lands (though I am more apt to do so when I have superior board position). Also, when I am only getting horrible draws, I do get a little shorter tempered and show it on my face.”—Sean

“Apparently I slump and look super dejected if I’m behind on board, spin my top, and all I see are blanks with no shuffle effects. Lowry actually “yelled” (not actually yelling) at me for this before, saying that my body language was telegraphing REALLY hard that I had nothing.”—Tim

“I snap my fingers when I don’t draw what I need, a residual habit from when I tried to reign in my potty mouth back in the day. Along a similar vein, I hold onto lands if I don’t need the mana to make my opponent think twice in their gaming (bad pun intended).”—Lewis

“I rarely go by tells since I so frequently misconstrue them, but I have recognized a number of tells that I and my opponents make. The most famous one is the pen trick where, when a player is entering the attack step, their opponent will get ready to jot down the new life totals (usually by uncapping their pen and moving their hand over their life pad). This can either indicate that they are not going to block/have tricks or it could be a bluff to get the attacking player to think the coast is clear. I will also sometimes shift my creatures around to make room for another play before attacking, etc. This tells my opponent that I’m planning to play a creature/permanent and thus gives them more information prior to my attack.”—Josh

20 #4

“Often if I draw a land, I will shuffle it into my hand.  If I do not have a land in hand and do not draw a land, I do not shuffle at all.  It’s something I am working on.”—Will

“The ‘ol top deck Snapcaster Mage, look at my graveyard/fan it out.”—Mike

“I put my hand down if I need to use the bathroom. My tell is that I start to talk a lot. This happens if I have nothing else going on. If I know I have ways to win but need a little wiggle room Ill begin making sub optimal plays that make my opponent react with “correct” plays. This throws off timing and can swing the game in my favor over the course of three turns. For example: I cast Sphinx’s Revelation during my main phase knowing that you’ll have a full turn to do whatever you like. Generally, I have several board wipes in hand and want to see some action.”—Zac


20 #2

“I tend to put my cards down when I know my lines of play. This can either be good for me (I am going to kill you and there’s not much you can do about it) or bad for me (I am sandbagging three lands and I don’t have any way to interact). Sometimes, though, it just means the board state isn’t particularly complex.”—Jess

“Someone told me that laying my cards down is often a tell that I have nothing, so now, I actually intentionally lay them down when I want my opponent to play into a counter. Just another reason why they call me evil =)”—Tim

“If I have an answer I usually set my hand down on the table to keep me from staring at it!”—Giaco

“I think tells are over rated. It’s more about playing the percentages when you are trying to figure out what removal you have to play around and what permanents you have to save your removal for. Analyzing their plays during the prior turns, looking at their graveyard and counting the number of cards in their hand are all more important than to catch a tell. I mean if you haven’t played anything for a couple of turns, you don’t have to put your hand down for your opponent to figure out that you are holding a fist  full of lands”—Joe

20 #5

Have another one to add? Comment below!

Monique Garraud is a Brooklyn native who started playing Magic in 2011. “Grinding It Out” is her weekly take on the trials, tribulations, and joys of being a competitive tournament player

Don't Miss Out!

Sign up for the Hipsters Newsletter for weekly updates.