There’s a famous quote by Yogi Berra: “Baseball is 90% mental. The other half is physical.” Magic was not around when Yogi said this, but I think it applies well to the competitive scene. I have seen a lot of talk about how to stay mentally fresh throughout a tournament. Over the last decade of competitive Magic, I have figured out some key things revolving around sleep, food, and mental exercises throughout the day that help keep your mind fresh.


Sleep seems like the biggest no-brainer on the list, but it is easily overlooked. Let’s analyze some of the reasons why you may not be able to sleep. Sometimes people get pre-tournament jitters or nerves and have a hard time getting to bed. I try to get past this by doing something to relax. Playing games or watching TV in bed helps me calm my mind to fall asleep at a decent hour. It can also be difficult to fall asleep when you are away from home in a strange bed. Try bringing your pillow from home. That has helped me feel like I am sleeping at home, and it has really helped me fall asleep.

Traveling to an unfamiliar city can excite you or keep you busy the night before a tournament. Every time I am in a new city I get a sense of wanting to explore it instead of trying to sleep that Friday night. Try making plans to explore Saturday Night instead. But it is important not to oversleep either. If your body is used to getting seven hours a night, aim to get that much sleep. Too many hours of rest can leave you just as groggy the next day.


Like the doctors said growing up, breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  Getting a decent size meal in the morning will give you energy for the first nine rounds of the tournament. After a solid breakfast, you have about ten hours of Magic ahead of you. Keep snacks and water in your bag.

Caleb Scherer is a perfect example. He is known to eat multiple bags of Planters Peanuts throughout the day. That’s his specific brain food, but it is a good choice. Peanuts provide plenty of protein for all-day energy. Try to avoid greasy or fried foods. Those will cause you to be more sluggish and lead to a late-day crash. Plan healthy snacks before the tournament and bring them with you—or take a short excursion to stock up the night before. And keep drinking water!

Mental Exercises

Why would you do mental exercises if you are trying to keep your mind focused on the event? I do not like to play Magic in between tournament rounds, but it is helpful to keep your mind occupied in some way. Playing small games between rounds helps me keep my head sharp. This is especially helpful when you have a long wait between rounds.

While you pass the time playing games such as Love Letter, you are giving your Magic mind a second to relax and process the previous round without fixating too much. Getting your mind off you errors will help you bounce back and stay refreshed. If you prefer solo activities, try crossword puzzles, sudoku, or even coloring books. Analog mental exercises help preserve the battery life of your phone as well.

Hopefully these methods help you mentally prepare for an event alongside playtesting.  I am curious to know if these help you grind through all fifteen rounds of Magic in a weekend. What works for you?

Zack is a SCG grinder with one ultimate goal: getting to the Players Champ. Based out of NYC, you can find him in other cities every weekend trying to hit that goal.  When he isn’t traveling he streams. Follow his journey on Twitter!

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