It’s game 3 of round 1.
You’ve got well over 5 minutes left on the round and you’re holding the trump card. Looking across the table, you can tell you’ve got this one. You’ve been focused all match, playing tight when you need to play tight, and loosening when appropriate. You’re just biding your time, waiting for the right moment to close it down.
He’s out of options and you both know it. He goes for it. You exhale, smile a little on the inside and reach to tap your lands and blow him out
Wait. Something is wrong. Why is your land tapped this way? You had no reason to leave yourself in this position. Unfortunately you’re not playing at the kitchen table anymore, and there are no take-backs in the real world. You can’t cast your trump card. Seriously!?!! You just blew it! You had it!!!
And that’s where it all goes to hell.
For the next 6 rounds, you slouch more and more, play with a little less edge, and expect your opponent to have it most of the time, even it you should be hoping with every fiber of your being that they don’t. You peel cards off of the top of your deck, practically willing them to be crap instead of action. As much as you tell yourself you’re playing to win, you’re really not even in the game anymore
Sound familiar? Alot of players refer to this as being “put on tilt.” Here’s the thing; we all make play mistakes. I don’t care if it’s your first time playing in 11 years, and your too busy reminiscing about Sliver QueenSliver Queen‘s and RancorRancor‘s to notice you forgot to attack, or if you’re in a legacy feature match, and you took the bait and cracked your Misty RainforestMisty Rainforest during combat to turn on their SubmergeSubmerge when you didn’t have to. Our brains aren’t constructed to be super computers, and if they were, we would find more satisfying ways to test their skill than Magic. I’ve probably read a dozen articles by the pro’s talking about taking their losses in stride, and how to avoid getting put on tilt in the face of mistakes or tough losses they felt they could’ve avoided.
However, I do think that there is a level beyond that realization. A level that can work wonders for any player smart enough to face up to it. What i’m talking about is recognizing your self confidence, and learning how to do it with an objective eye to your magic playing throughout. To illustrate what that means i’ve prepared a list of 3 things to try and remember for the casual or competitive player that will help you avoid repeating your mistakes over and over again;
1. The “secret” to success in life is positivity. Don’t show up to play magic in a poor frame of mind whatever environment you’re playing in. There’s a reason Lebron James reads a non basketball related book before playing in games. It clears his mind.
2. Play with as many different people as you can, with an eye towards better players when you can. You learn infinitely more from your losses than from your wins. Especially if you’re able to set your ego aside when taking criticism. A good rule to remember is that if you lose to the same player more than 50% of the time, it probably means they’re a stronger player than you for one reason or another. Respect that rule and learn from them.
3. Be a gentleman when you play magic. Treat every win, every loss, every cool person you meet and every obnoxious or socially awkward d-bag with the same respect. We all win, and we all lose all the time. If you remember this, it will go further for you than you could ever imagine in the long run.
Let me know if any of this stuff resonates with you. Do you have a story like the one I started with that you always remember? Let me know in the comments and i’ll see you guys next week!
Until then, take care and play magic.
– Ben Bateman