Magic players must be the most nervous people on the planet. You can tell just watching them play, they flap their cards against each other, rearrange their hand a thousand times per turn, and tap their pens rapidly. When you’re at the next event (it’s Friday, so FNM time!) watch your opponent and you’ll see what I mean. I’ve observed many “ticks” from many a Magic player during play that show either an extreme amount of nervousness or some sort of brain disease. After the flap, I’ll talk about the five mannerisms I’ve seen most frequent.
1. Card Flapping – This mostly happens when the player has three or less cards in their hand, and involves slapping cards against each other, but not actually rearranging their hand in any meaningful way, just sort of passing the time and making noise. When done in un-sleeved cards it appears that the player is bending the cards, and it can’t be good for the longevity of sleeved cards either. You know what I’m talking about, it’s the equivalent of poker players shuffling their chips in their hands while they wait to make a move. This is annoying for two reasons: first, it’s an obnoxious sound (whap whap whap), and second, it’s too hard to tell how many cards the player has in hand because the cards are moving so fast. It’s also generally distracting, but that is the case with all of these annoying ticks.
2. Pen/Pencil tapping – This classic annoyance goes beyond Magic playing, just ask any teacher, but it’s definitely present in the game as well. Fortunately the trend of using iPhone/Android apps for life counters has started to push away the use of writing utensils for many players, and it’s possible in the near future that the pen disappears from the table altogether (as long as we don’t have to mark any more double-sided card proxy circles!). However, I’ve found the pen to be of use when trying to ‘jedi mind trick’ an opponent – when you’ve got a combat trick waiting, go ahead and pick up that pen as if you’re going to write a life loss and then when the opponent passes priority thinking he’s gotten what he wants without wasting his tricks, BAM! and slap that trick down – and I’m not completely sold on the idea that any app is completely reliable, nor does it seem wise to have a phone on the table that could go off in the middle of a match. But as for the tapping habit, just stick the damn thing in your mouth and chew on it instead.
3. Constantly adjusting hat/glasses – Being of four-eyes, I am a culprit of this one, and I notice it especially in “stressful” situations when I’m desperate for an answer or else I lose, or if I am simply having trouble making a decision. This habit is just what it says, the player constantly adjusts his/her hat, glasses, or other accessory during play. Now when I say constantly, I mean all the time, seriously. In the course of making one play decision the player might touch their hat or glasses ten or eleven times. The habit is so frequent that I’ve even reached up to adjust my glasses and realized I am wearing contacts, so there’s even a “ghost” sense of the tick when you’ve done it so often.
4. Mini-shuffling the library – Generally during my turn, I’ve seen players have their cards in one hand on the table and one hand near their library, sort of “stroking” the top cards as if they are performing a mini rifle shuffle. This habit can be viewed by some as a possible attempt at cheating, since perhaps the player is trying to get a “feel” for the next few cards in their library. I think it’s just nerves and people like the sound of cards hitting each other (see card flapping above), but either way it’s weird. If you’re not drawing, searching, or counting, why have your hand near your library at all? Seems like just a potential problem, even if it is just an unintentional tick.
5. Giant exhale (often with god awful breath) – Come on people, realize that when you’re playing magic you’re sitting less than 3 feet from another human being. Letting out a long, breathy sigh in that person’s direction will send an unavoidable wave of gaseous matter right into his/her face. Yes, it sucks that you’re stressed and probably going to lose, but don’t take it out on your opponent by making them inhale whatever you just ate. This is less of a tick and more of a general mannerism that I see way too often. I cannot begin to list the foul smells I have encountered this way, and I wish to not experience more, so please be aware of the general direction your breath is going, especially when you let out a big sigh of stress.
I’m sure there are plenty of other annoying habits/ticks/mannerisms out there, and I wanna hear about them. Leave a comment and share what bugs you about your opponents! In the meantime, be aware of what you do during your play. I’m sure we’d all be surprised with what we do subconsciously when we’re busy focusing on the game.