An Invitational Prologue

Sometimes the best thing to think about is what you should be doing at a Magic event, not what the generic “someone” should be doing. With that in mind, Anthony Lowry looks at his preparations for the Season Three Invitational!

“…I’m ready.”

“Are you?”


“You aren’t… nervous or anything?”

“For the first time ever, no.”

It isn’t often that I go into a tournament without a single worry. What deck I chose, what my matchups are, sideboarding. The works. The Season Three Invitational is one of the pivotal shows of the year, as the road to the Players’ Championship begins to solidify and take shape.

For me, I just get to play Magic, something I don’t take for granted.

It’s pretty difficult to explain things like emotion, passion, and instinct to people that thrive off of reason, logic, and wanting to be correct all the time. It’s socially unacceptable in our culture to bring your newly-made song or album to a science class, no matter how many people actually wind up interested, and even if it’s something you really should do. Hell, bringing a science project to science class is looked down upon, and subject to the utmost scrutiny over the slightest blemish.

When that happens, we lose connectivity.

When we put so much into every single card choice and every single nuance, the overarching point gets lost. If faceless grinder named Tom has a Strong dislike for a card, deck, format, or even worse, you, then you never stood a chance. You already lost the moment you said “check out this _____”, or when they passed by your table as you were playing.

Thing is, this is the Invitational.

There’s a lot on the line here. You have a chance of making a serious mark. If you really thought that some random person that never had your best interests in mind in the first place was going to help you, you were doing it wrong the whole time buddy. They probably trivialized the whole thing, along the lines of “It’s only an Invitational,” then if you did wind up doing well they get to say “Well it is an Invitational!”

“That’s what I’ve been telling you forever! Now you decide to listen?”

Your deck choice? Whew! I hope all 150 cards are perfect, because your entire tournament is over if they aren’t!

“It’s Saturday, and it feels like Monday.

I never did get used to that…”

It’s still a lot of work, clashing against the struggling tension of reason and application, but your teacher never really cared that much about how you did your homework so long as you did it. After all, Constructed really is just a lot of homework, but they don’t test how thorough you are on your exams, they just test if you did anything up until that point. Being thorough is huge, and even if you get everything right, you are always set up for failure.

Magic thrives off of failure.

Failure is the reason why we keep coming back. It’s the reason why we go to the next event, and the one after that. Failure is so common around us that our view of success becomes distorted. Success is euphoric. It’s addictive, it’s something we should all strive for, and the desire for it serves as the catalyst for the very foundation we put our careers on.

That same foundation can be the downfall of many. It can manifest itself into a mental poison, a poison that is only temporarily remedied by reaching a milestone. A Top Eight, a win. These are the typical benchmarks of your worth as a player, and the lustful feeling of victory becomes so desirable (yet so improbable) that victory itself doesn’t even become satisfactory anymore. It’s back to the same thing the next week.

When does it end? When is it worth it? When does –

“Oh my god what are you on about!?”


“I was asking you why R/B Dragons was better than Mardu or G/R Dragons!”


Uhh… I don’t think Crackling Doom is worth the splash, and having Thoughtseize and black removal helps a lot agai-“

“I don’t think that’s what you want to be doing.”

“How do you know what I want to be do-“

“You should probably just play this deck.”

“I’m not too big on thi-“

“I think you’re wrong.”

Staying on top of things is difficult because there is never a clear answer, ever. Is it your fault for taking in everything as much as possible? Information is important, and you never know when you’ll pick up something valuable from someone. Is it their fault for not taking your mind into consideration? They aren’t obligated to, and many of them genuinely mean well, but the expectation of them to consider anything beyond what they choose to think may be unreasonable.

So what do you do?

You’ll get a lot of answers, but there is never a clear answer, ever. Is it your fault for taking in everything as much as possible? Information is important, and you’ll never know when…

You get the idea…

“You’re rambling again. Just tell me what other decks you were considering.”

“Do you want me to do it in a robotic voice?”

“I don’t know, I would just play this, it’s a lot more fun.”

“The competitive versus fun logic is drastically flawed on both sides, first of all. The fact that we’re culturally forced to take a side is a strong representation of how our acceptance of things that aren’t what the typical Magic player is used to is pitifully low. While you shouldn’t willingly take away your chances of winning because of some non-competitive preference, you also shouldn’t feel compelled to pick a side just to make yourself feel more validated in front of others.”

“Well, you gotta do one or the other!”

“No, you don’t.”

“Then why would you play this? Seems bad!”

“Because MUD has the best big game against Show and Tell, while being more explosive, in exchange for cantrips, which are actually not as good as they used to be because of how popular Counterbalance and Daze are. Thoughtseize and Liliana aren’t big right now which gives this deck more of an opening than it did before. I’m fine with the inconsistencies since I’m only playing four rounds at a-“

“I stopped listening, what are your good matchups?”

“Anyone that isn’t prepared for large creatures and-“

“Matchups! Sideboard guide! C’mon! This is what your job is!”

A lot can go through one’s mind when things weigh down on them. A tournament is no different. You are a loser the moment you walk into the hall, and losing sucks. Being frustrated is okay, despite how many articles will tell you to act like a machine and show no emotion. Some people need to feel something, somehow, and that shouldn’t be looked down upon. When we’re still struggling over who’s giving out handshakes and how to show variations of sportsmanship aside from “good games”, then the end of the eggshell road isn’t going to end anytime soon.

Magic needs more approachable and relatable personalities if it’s going to be something people outside of our little bubble want to watch.

“Uhh… Did you say Pithing Needle beats personalities? This doesn’t help me win! This is trash!”

“I didn’t say tha-“

“No love for any of the cards you didn’t mention? I think you should consider them even though I can’t say for certain you didn’t consider them.”

Decks aren’t meant to be perfect. Perfection is the worst thing you can shoot for, because perfection is never defined in Magic. We can think we’re getting close to our view of it, but there is no such thing as one concise, factual form of perfection. You can’t attain what doesn’t exist. Magic is not chess, yet we continuously approach it that way. Pick your spot, your spot. You don’t have to be perfect, but you shouldn’t willingly make weaker choices either. Going off the beaten path is something you should do because you truly think it’s the tournament for it. Being different for the sake of being different is not a good reason, and neither is boredom. Being exciting doesn’t win tournaments, making strong decisions based off of what you know does.

For New Jersey, I’m not trying to be perfect, I’m trying to play Magic.

“So, what deck are you playing!?”