Casually Pursuing Perfection – The Mistakes we Make (part 2 of 2)

Posted by Bateman - June 20, 2012 - Blog - 1 Comment

Today i’m back to finish talking about how to get better at losing. You can check out part of 1 of this article here

Whenever I lose a match, unless i’m in a particularly balanced moment, my default behavior is to become incredibly self reflective, and to try and engage my opponent while doing it. It will sound something like this;

ME: It may not have been correct to attack with the Hanweir LancerHanweir Lancer into your Soulcage FiendSoulcage Fiend on turn 6. I mean, I know he wasn’t paired, but I was just trying to push damage.

THEM: Yeah, I think that was a mistake.

ME (defensive): I guess I could have tried to top-deck another creature to pair, but it seemed like my only out against your deck was to stay aggressive.

THEM: I guess, yeah (not really agreeing, but not wanting to challenge).

Here’s a valuable piece of news for you.

Magic isn’t a game determined by variance more than a fairly marginal amount of the time. It’s a skill based game that rewards it players for playing more, and recognizing patterns as much as possible.

He had better cards? Maybe, but did he actually outplay you? Bad luck? It happens to me too, and the law of averages will punish us all equally, so don’t look to me for an excuse.

In my years of organized play, i’ve learned that if the same player beats you most of the time, it usually means he’s a stronger player for one reason or another. Don’t do the classic thing most of us do when we lose a game. The thing where we walk around repeating one rehearsed sound bite of an excuse, only really understandable to someone else who plays magic.

EXAMPLE: If I had just drawn that one Island I could have had him. Just one! OR. He got turn 2 Mayor both games. I can’t beat that.

The only excuse for losing is winning next time.

The only statement you should be making to the guys that beat you should end with a question mark. When you find yourself in that position after a loss it’s okay to engage the guy that beat you, but try asking questions and listening instead of telling him your reasoning and then defending it at all costs. Unless you’re part of that tiny percentage of us who never make mistakes (nobody), I promise you he doesn’t care how amazing your logic was if you lost with it.

That’s your ego getting the best of you. Set your ego aside for a moment and try to understand the choices you could have made differently all throughout the tournament.

Did you draft a clunky deck? Did you forget to sideboard in a relevant card after losing game 1? Did you mulligan too aggressively because you had too narrow an idea of how you were going to be able to win? In my experience with magic and with life, it’s very easy to become complacent and not push my decision making beyond the most obvious or seemingly most rewarding scenario. The easy choice is rarely good enough to be the answer, and often it’s thinking outside the box that does the most for me, no matter how difficult it is to see that reality sometimes.

Some of my greatest breakthrough’s in magic have come from simply listening to the advice of a better player, and putting that into practice over and over even if it seemed counter intuitive to me at the time. Understanding why it was better than what I was already doing comes later on, but unless I had learned to take advice irregardless of the state of my fragile ego, I would never have moved forward as a player and started winning anything.

I know that opening up to someone like this can seem intimidating at times, especially if you don’t know them, but being able to recognize your self confidence and your value in the real world enough to let your guard down in magic is the answer to improving. Trust me, i’ve been there.

Even if they’re too socially awkward to handle being engaged that directly, it’s much better that you try to bring them to your level, rather than come down to theirs. This is a good policy for life as well, not just magic.

All it takes to succeed at any strategy based game is practice, you just want to make sure you aren’t practicing things the wrong way. That will almost certainly doom you to failure.

Here’s a great suggestion for you to try next time you play; on your notepad you use to keep track of life totals (any piece of paper will do), make a note after making a play during a game that was difficult to decide on, whether or not it worked out. After the game, win or lose, bring it up with your opponent. Simply ask them what they would have done, or if they thought you misplayed or played correctly. You’d be amazed how often you miss something obvious when your doing difficult combat math in your head, or trying to plan for the next 3 turns.

That’s all for today guys. Feel free to let me know if there’s anything you’d like me to talk about, or that you’re curious about in the comments. As always, thanks for reading.

Until next time,

Take care, and play magic.

– Ben Bateman


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One comment

  • Wildmage says:

    I use to play magic back during Ice and stopped around weatherlight, and just got back, and I must admit I build clunky decks

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