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Having a rival is a wonderful thing for plenty of reasons. In the context of card games like Magic: The Gathering (MTG), I think of it as a necessity in order to take your skill to the next level. Developing a friendly rivalry between yourself and another player creates a special rapport only true competitors understand.


Playing with “starter” cards really gave me a foundation when playing against rivals with stronger decks at the time.

By all means, I am not advocating for anyone to make someone hate you or anything like that. Ideally, a proper rivalry is one that occurs by chance, through sheer respect of each other as players. Strive to become friends with your rival(s) rather than enemies. The way I see it, having a rival just brings out your best, motivating you toward that next skill threshold again and again.

When I first got into MTG, I was not a natural or anything like that. If anything, I can safely say I was on the bad side. I really sucked during the early stages. However, I improved because I came across my share of rivals. These days, I attribute everything about myself being a decent-and-up player because of my various rivalries.

It would start with me getting stomped because my deck was weak. This is normal when you are beginning in any card game. By losing a lot to would-be rivals, I eventually understood why this and that would occur. Gradually, I began to figure out how to improve my deck and make superior plays against my opponent. With helpful advice from some rivals, all of this definitely aided in the learning process. Sooner or later, I would consistently be able to beat them, or at the very least go toe-to-toe.

Think of it as a trial-and-error type of deal, but you get to play a lot of rounds of card games instead.

For instance, I have a very strong player as a rival in town I respect. Because he and I often have intellectually stimulating matches together, it makes the individual games more worthwhile. During one especially intense Friday Night Magic event, my rival and I ended up facing each other in the finals. The games came down to the wire. They were neck-and-neck clashes between our very different deck strategies.

We had to utilize every trick we had up our sleeve, we had to use all of our MTG wits and I even remembered the key card that proved the difference between victory and defeat.

Divine Favor

In close games, gaining a few extra life here and there is a big deal.

My completely random use of this common card from the sideboard ultimately won me first place for this tournament. After everything was said and done, my rival and I politely said “good game” to each other, we shook hands in the name of sportsmanship and that was that.

Kaiba and Yugi

In all seriousness, having that one special rival is always inspiring. They can and will make you step up your game as a player. Yu-Gi-Oh! image belongs to “Yu-Gi-Oh!” new film project site that was found on Crunchyroll.

The point being – this particular match entailed more than winning the tournament. It led to the creation of a memorable experience any gamer would want. After all, card games are more than just the cardboard you lay out onto a table. The social aspect between your face-to-face opponent adds a different dynamic to it all. So when you and your rival can make card game magic happen, it is truly a neat sight to behold.

The best part about having a great rival? Regardless of who wins or loses during a given match, you can always be friends afterward. My rival and I always play games together at the shop, trade cards and all of that jazz. We have had our share of back-and-forth showdowns because we love the thrill of competition in MTG. Rivalries should form a special bond between its players. I am a stronger player to this day because my rivals encourage me to be better.

In other words, find a rival or two who will compel you, especially if it is someone who you will respect as both a friend and fellow MTG player. Competent, competitive MTG between two people is always fun.

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Magic: The Gathering images belong to Wizards of the Coast.

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