So, you've been playing Magic the Gathering for a while and finally want to try your hand at a tournament. Although you have enough magic experience, and do well against your friends, for most people their first tournaments are frustrating failures. Usually people claim it takes 6 tournaments to get over the disappointment and find a first win. Well many people can not wait a month to finally go 1-2. In order to improve your first tournament experience there are many simple tips which can improve your success.
Before you even leave for the tournament your deck should be ready to deal with the decks you are going to face. The best way to know what decks will be in tournaments is to play in them. If this is not possible you can check the popular decks of the month on the Internet at sites such as The Dojo (www.thedojo.com). If you can not get on line then read The Duelist and The Duelist Sideboard to see what is winning the big tournaments. Your deck should be able to beat some of these decks easily. If not you will have problems and should tune your deck so it can do so. Tuning can involve simply replacing one creature for another. This is often done so your deck can handle a particular deck type. For example, if artifacts are a problem, then you can replace Elvish Archers with Uktabi Orangutans. For enchantments, Black Knights can become Soltari Visionaries. For red decks, Soltari Troopers can become Argivian Blacksmiths. Every color has creatures with protection which can be used instead of another creature.
Yet for most new tournament players, the thing they are least able to deal with is the speed of the tournament environment. Every deck at a tournament is very fast. It can consistently drop a 1/1 or 2/2 creature on turn one, a 2/2 or 3/3 creature on turn two, etc. Most people do not have the creature removal or the efficient creatures to deal with this. Thus, you should be prepared with some mass creature removal like Extinction, Earthquake, Wrath of God, Sandstorm, Evacuation, or Living Death. Also, a fair amount of pinpoint creature removal is good like Terror, Dark Banishing, Incinerate, Swords to Plowshares, Nekrataal, Capsize, Giant Growth, Tradewind Riders, Man-O'-Wars, or Deserts. There should be 6-12 creature removal cards in your deck as well as 2+ enchantment/artifact removers. Finally, your creatures should all be hard to kill. Big is good, lots is better, and against a white deck Wildfire Emissary may be best of all.
One of the biggest differences between a tournament and casual play is sideboarding. In a tournament, a good sideboard is worth a win all by itself. In order to come prepared for the tournament, your sideboard should include cards good against various different decks. For example, in your basic sideboard you should be prepared for a red creature/burn deck, a counter deck, a green creature swarm deck, and a black suicide deck. Thus, in order to be prepared, you should have three cards for each of these decks and three all purpose sideboard cards. There are many good sideboard choices. Creatures are good if they have protection, good abilities (like Cloudchaser Eagle), artifact or enchantment kill, or are just faster. There are always the color hoser cards like Warmth, Chill, Light of Day, Deathgrip, Lifeforce, Havoc, Dread of Night, Dream Tides, or Circles of Protection. There are also a few all purpose sideboard cards like Disrupting Scepter, Jester's Cap, Abeyance, Mana Web, Feldon's Cane, Nevinyrral's Disk, or Charms.
Finally, do not worry that your deck is too single purpose. I have played a deck that starts 4 warmth just to make sure I always beat the red decks. If my opponent did not play red then I sided them out. If you have protection creatures, they can all be protection from one color or you could start with a city of solitude to shut out a blue mage. Most times these gambles are worthless but they seldom cost you a game and they may win you a match. Most importantly, play a deck you understand and feel comfortable with. Good Luck.