I have been playing more regularly between 2016-2017 than in any of my years playing Magic since 1996. Back in the day, people drop to preserve their points but this system has been changed. Grinding is now the primary source of points to qualify for WMCQs, GP byes or invites.
I have not been successful in placing top 8s regularly myself and 90% of the tournaments I play in, big or small, usually start off with a 2-1 or a 1-2 record right after round 3. For most, getting a loss so early in the tournament changes their mindset, level of competitiveness, and perhaps overall playing experience. Most of the people who know they won’t make it to the prize structure would tick the ‘Drop’ box and leave the tournament and go around the venue flicking through binders to buy and sell.
I understand that the cost of building the deck, the price of registering for the tournament (which can be quite expensive for large tournaments), the travel and food cost all pile up to a sizeable amount without the assurance of getting anything back at the end of 8 or 9 rounds of Swiss. Some go home just beaten, dehydrated (yes, this happens) and utterly exhausted.
I also understand that wasting 5 hours on something we won’t get anything much out of can be instead allotted to do something more productive like watch a movie, catch up on errands, meet with the girlfriend/boyfriend, or go back to sleep. But I have a different take on this topic and I want to share my point of view today in my blog.
The majority of players in the Philippines play Magic to win. Because why not? Cards are not cheap and we want to get something out of these ‘investments’. What I think many of the players who drop from tournaments don’t realize is that the money they put into their decks don’t just come back in the form of cash or merchandise. a higher level of Focus, longer Stamina, fresh Perspective, and playing Prowess are also things we get back out of playing, regardless if we’re on an 8-0 or 0-8 streak.
Focus, somewhat predatory, is something we build over time. To keep the eye on the prize regardless of your standings. If we focus on playing the best game of Magic we possible can regardless if we haven’t won a single game makes us better players. It answers 3 fundamental questions that turns players from good to better.
- What did we do right?
- what did we do wrong?
- What can we do better?
If we drop from the tournament, we lose the opportunity to play against other decks and players. We deprive ourselves the chance to know how to pilot our deck against different archetypes or against different player skill levels. Only by joining competitive events do we get this experience which kitchen table and shadow play testing can’t give.
Stamina, supernatural or not, is a key differentiator that sets the professionals apart from the grinders. We cannot be all professionals in this game even if you have all the money in the world. It takes practice to be mentally sharp for 10 straight hours and be able to bring your A-game each and every time you draw your first seven cards.
Against adversities like bad match-ups, aggressive mulligans, pressure from peers, or trying to beat tie breakers — the skill to keep it together both physically and mentally is a daunting feat that some players take for granted. This is why when you watch YouTube videos of the world’s best control players like Shota Yasooka, he canmake it look easy but it’s definitely not.
Perspective, new or old, gives us different angles to improve our game. What was initially perceived to be a linear line of play may suddenly get sidetracked with a complicated board state. The decks that you often played may have won you games using a number of proven strategies but going against a rogue deck may teach to play the same 75-card deck differently.
Particularly for rogue brewers like myself, perspective is what fuels our imagination. How we potentially perceive the current meta influences the decks we end up playing. However this does not discriminate against meta/net deck players. Even more relevant to those who copied the deck, you will need to learn how the deck behaves and works. The creators of the deck will know everything including how to sideboard against all the possible decks out there. But as a pilot, you will not have this information on the ready – so playing as much games with the deck can improve you as pilot, and as a player.
Lastly, Prowess is what I believe you achieve as a culmination of superior Focus, developed Stamina, and openness to new Perspective. The ability to maneuver your deck smoothly against varying draw sequence, available or the lack of mana, complicated board states, nervousness, overwhelming odds, mulligans and many other factors can only be achieved through practicing under competitive situations that are strict with both rules and time.
This is why I still play to be better, more than to win. I try my brews to the extent of their limits and mine. To see more what I can do to become better in playing and brewing.
I urge everyone to do the same and not dropping out from events and I hope to see you play it through in our next tournament together!