In the last month or so, whilst heavily procrastinating revising for my chemistry exams, I have had an epiphany: I am going to become the World’s Greatest Magic Player.
I’m not fooling myself into thinking this will to be an easy task. Surely it has to be easier than quantum mechanics though? This epiphany has already begun leading me down an exciting road of self discovery and thinking in a completely new light about the game I’ve always played more for fun. Now I have professional goals!
So far on my quest I’ve realised that to be the best three things are required.
Believe it or not I’ve managed to overcome two of these already! I quit my Saturday job, so that I’d have more TIME to play and don’t have to miss out on any competitions. I got a Sunday job and haven’t frivolously spent my student loan, so I still have MONEY I can spend on Magic without feeling guilty. I also informed Santa how expensive Magic was and he generously sorted me out with a lot of the cards I needed.
Now I’m working hard on the SKILL part, which is proving a little more tricky…
My head is spinnin’, my body as whirlwind. But I ain’t stoppin’, ‘cos I want to believe in.
Sadly for me, unlike some people who just have to look at a game and they start winning, I’m not naturally good at games. I have to study and practise a lot before I’m anywhere near good. Therefore since November of last year I’ve been penetratingly looking in to Magic and how to play better. I’ve been doing this by watching lots of coverage of the best players and reading different articles that help to sculpt next level thinking.
However the saying “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” is extremely apparent within the game. If you want to be the best, you have to play with the best. If my goal is to win GPs, the reality is playing endless games with my EDH friends isn’t going to get me there. I need to be developing skills from not only other competitive players, but from competitive players who are a lot better than I am.
Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll be bumping in to Jon Finkel on OkCupid any time soon after the trouble he had last time.
I am fortunate enough however to live in Leeds, which has a thriving Magic community and is a home to some of the best players in the country. That means even more casual events like FNM and pre-releases are going to be packed with skilful players, so there are always plenty of learning opportunities. I’m a sucker for an accent though, so a lot help I’ve been receiving recently has been outsourced from one of the most incredible and intriguing players I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know. Since meeting at the Stockton PTQ back in November, he’s managed to teach me so many important lessons which I’ve seen improve my play drastically.
Shakespeare was wrong. If you don’t discard, the judge will give you a game loss.
One of the most critical lessons I’ve learned, I am going to discuss with you today: The beauty in switching up decks and having the ability to let cards and decks you love go.
From when I started to play Magic back in 2010 I have played a total of 9 decks in Standard. It’s a ridiculously small number, especially when I took in to account that 3 of those were in the last couple of months.
Using the art of deduction I’ve been able to discover that I suffer from deck attachment issues.
The chain of events is always like this: I find a deck I like and play it until it became illegal for me to do so. There has been some bonuses to doing this in the past. I was still playing Tempered Steel when no one was bothering with artifact removal. I managed to keep slipping under the radar with B/R Zombies once everyone else had got bored with it. I was able to still be going hard with Junk Rites once all the graveyard hate had disappeared.
The problem is of course the reverse: I play these decks in times they are heavily hated on, so I lose a lot in those times. In formats with bigger card pools such as Modern and Legacy you can kind of get away with finding a deck you enjoy and playing it to death, as it’s a lot harder to “solve” these formats. Standard on the other hand changes like the wind, and the key to being a good player is being able to change the deck what you’re playing with.
Siege Rhino?! I can take Siege Rhino all day long!
At the dawn of the PTQs for Pro Tour Dragons Of Tarkir, as PPTQs began, it was clear there was only one force to be reckoned with: Courser of Kruphix‘s big cage-fighting brother Siege Rhino, who wanted in on the Abzan action. Because I can be a little stubborn and strong-willed at times, I have refused to give in and play Abzan.
Since Khans I have instead built Mardu Midrange, Jeskai Tokens and U/W Heroic. Mardu Midrange (or “poor man’s Abzan”) I hated after playing my first FNM making it very easy for me to disregard and move on from, because I wasn’t enjoying playing with it. Jeskai Tokens on the other hand, I formed a connection with it straight away. I was prepared to give it a forever home and I even bought a new deck box exclusively for it. But our connection wasn’t meant to be, though, as Doomwake Giants went main deck and no token strategy was safe. I really wanted to persevere and keep playing Tokens and just crossing my fingers to miss all the Doomwake decks at tournaments. This is what old me definitely would have done.
Magic and Philosophy 101: If sighting into future was easy, it wouldn’t cost UUU.
But it’s not worth the risk for new me. There’s no point in playing a deck competitively, even if it’s one you enjoy, that you know has such impossible matchups that are dominating the meta. Losing to the same single card over and over isn’t fun. Any one that says he/she does is lying, or at least knee-deep denying.
Before going to a competitive event you need to primarily take in to consideration what everyone else may be playing. This will or at least it should heavily influence a choice of what deck you’re going to play. This means you need to be familiar with all the decks floating around in Standard and be able to comfortably play a good variety of them (with or against). The best players are versatile, and with this conclusion I’ve been forced to say my goodbyes to the Jeskai Tokens deck and let a new deck, U/W Heroic, into my deck box. And d’you know what? These little men are making me proud. That’s the thing about Magic: if you open up your folders instead of your heart, you’ll find you can play anything you set your mind to…
On a sidenote: Jeskai Tokens is now being kept at the back of my wardrobe, hoping to make a reappearance after a spoiler announcement that Dragons of Tarkir will contain a cheap +1/+1 pumping effect for all creatures I control until end of turn.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my Magical life lessons, and I’ve convinced you to come with me on my journey to being the best planeswalker I can possibly be. I’ve decided this Saturday I’m going to win PTQ: Alex’s Birthday. Sounds a little ambitious right? But as W. Clement Stone said, “Always aim for the moon, even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”
I’m going to hopefully film a video diary of me doing so for your viewing pleasure! Fingers crossed XD
Community Question: What deck did you find the hardest to let go, and why?
Lots of love,