Competitive tournaments are held around the world for Magic: The Gathering. The largest tournaments offer cash prizes to top-performing players. Prize pools offered for the main event at Magic Fests range from $35,000 to $65,000. Players spend many hours playtesting to prepare for Magic Fests. Players also need to fill out decklists forms accurately, sleeves are in playable condition, etc. How can players ensure they do not miss a necessary step when preparing for a tournament? What if using a checklist could reduce mistakes and mitigate risk for players without having to improve at playing MTG.
What is a Checklist?
A checklist is a tool used to follow steps for a process, assist with a job, or serve as a reminder. They typically contain a list of steps done in sequential order. A checklist may be used for onboarding a new employee, packing for a vacation, or planning a birthday party.
Benefits of a Checklist
In the book, Checklist Manifesto, Atul Gawande talks about the importance of checklists in the medical field. As a surgeon, Gawande uses a checklist for each operation. The checklist helps Gawande avoid errors when operating on patients. Gawande mentions simple things like double-checking a patient's name or the anesthesia label can save lives. Humans can make mistakes, even when repeating the same process hundreds of times.
Gawande also mentions that checklists help mitigate risk. He references pilots using checklists before takeoff to ensure the safety of the plane and its passengers. Pilots also use checklists during emergencies to avoid fatal crashes. These checklists are designed to ensure the highest chance of success while flying airplanes.
The third benefit of checklists is that they do not require additional skills to execute. Gawande illustrates this benefit through an interview with an anonymous investor named Cook. Cook used checklists to avoid errors in evaluating a business's financials. The checklists saved Cook from investing in a business that seemed promising but had underlying issues. The issues were found by following a checklist used to examine financial statements. The checklists served as tools for improving potential outcomes without the need for any additional skills (Gawande, 2011).
Applying Checklists to Magic: The Gathering
The steps taken to prepare and play in an MTG tournament are sequential. Checklists could be used to simplify tournament preparation and reduce play mistakes. The following situations could happen to any MTG player.
Written sideboard guides are allowed in MTG. Players can review a piece of paper between games containing sideboard strategies against various archetypes. Players can also use sideboard guides for online tournaments such as the Arena Open or Magic: The Gathering Online Qualifier. A sideboard guide functions as a checklist to help players avoid unnecessary mistakes. The below sideboard guide was used in Standard for Mono Blue Tempo.
Players traveling to Magic Fests or Star City Games Opens can order cards in advance for pickup at the venue. The SCG booth can become busy on Saturday morning as players pick up the remaining cards they need for the main event. This also means that players have to pick a deck days before a tournament begins. Here is a checklist example for ordering cards the weekend before a tournament.
A Checklist for Every Occasion
Checklists can be modified to fit the needs of the user. As processes change and continue to evolve, so should checklists. For example, a sideboard guide will change with deck selection and format evolution.
When creating a checklist, ensure that it is easy to understand and use. Try to keep the contents brief and specific. Think of how to use checklists to mitigate risk, reduce errors, and improve outcomes without any additional skills. Checklists can be a game-changer for the aspiring MTG player.
Gawande, A. (2011). The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right. London: Profile Books.