Magic the Gathering – Lifepad

For those unfamiliar with Magic the Gathering: one of the essential components of good play is being able to keep track of not only your life total, but the life total of your opponent.  In casual Magic and even for newer tournament players it is not uncommon to use dice, either real or spindown counters (20-sided dice where the numbers decrease in a sequential order), to keep track of life totals.

After many years and many different attempts, I finally sat down to create a scorepad I would feel comfortable using and sharing.

Elements of Scorekeeping

I would put the rough incremental order of scorekeeping as such:

  1. I keep track of my life total.
  2. I also keep track of my opponents life total.
  3. I also keep track of what deck my opponent is playing.
  4. I also keep track of important cards I have seen my opponent play.
  5. I also record how I sideboard between games.
  6. I also record game and match win/losses.
  7. I also record my game history.

You can pretty easily do 1 & 2 with just dice or a scratch-pad, beyond that you’re going to need some kind of scorekeeping system.  Typically at any store of a certain size that runs tournament-style Magic you will be able to find simple life pads. If these are available to you I highly recommend using them as a step-up from just dice.

Why should I write things down?

The biggest problem with using dice is that they can easily be knocked-over/jostled/disrupted.  A simple bump of the table can have you and your opponent trying to scramble to recover life totals.  Another issue with dice and similar single-state methods is there is no history to help you backtrack through the game.  If you are recording every life gain/loss as it happens you can easily walk-through that list if it turns out for some reason your record and your opponents record do not match (This happens all the time btw).  There are so many small life losses in the game due to fetching or being ‘pinged’ by a creature or paying for a activation cost, it can sometimes feel overwhelming.  Having a full record of the game is a useful aid in recounting the game when there is a discrepancy.

What makes a good Life Pad?

When I was sitting down to design my own I looked at a lot of existing pads I owned and of course used Google to see if there was anything interesting.  Elements I found common in the best life pads:

  1. Area for Opponents Name
  2. Area for Opponents Deck
  3. Area for Indicating Round
  4. Me / You columns for 3 games (1 match)
  5. Poison Indicators
  6. Notes area

In addition I wanted an easy way to store the pads for reference.  Beyond keeping track of each game I want a way to keep track of my game history.

The Life Pad

Okay so here we are:


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You might be saying: what am I looking at?

So we have everything mentioned above, one thing added is the small 2-column box at the end of each games life-total track;  I use this to keep track of things like Mulligans and victory/loss stats. The other item not mentioned above is I pre-fill the round (R1) because of how I print these out:  This goes on an 8.5×11 piece of paper in an order of 4 that you can print – fold and use for up to 4 matches (an average FNM).  Once I’m done I can unfold it and keep it in a binder or just store it in a file.

If you like this idea feel free to download the  MTG_Lifepad and try it out for yourself.

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