Anything Pro – The Art of Tilting

Monday, November 22nd – Do you tilt? Do you tilt a lot? Gerard knows all about it. Let him train you in the art – and then teach you how to stop tilt.

(Text message sound)

I’m a teenage girl driving to the PTQ. I just got a text from my bff Ben Lundquist saying that he just teamed with Owen for a draft. That’s a problem ’cause I
like Owen.

I want to team with him. Now I’m all like OMG Ben isn’t even good at Magic. I’m emotionally compromised and just smashed into your 2003 Toyota Corolla, woopsie.

Luckily you have Allstate insurance, but in Magic there is no insurance.

“Insurance is a sucker’s bet” are words that can be heard often around the blackjack tables in a casino.

The middle-aged man who thinks he has a clue about gaming tells this to you. You nod and smile and say something along the lines of “thanks, man, good call.”

The dealer then says “Insurance is closed,” proceeds to flip over the Jack of Spades, and rakes in the money.

You chuckle inside and think “standard.” This happens to you on a daily basis. Mana screw, mana flood, the works.

You’re a gamer; you expect nothing less than the dealer having blackjack there, because you understand how games work.

The middle-aged man slams down his fist. His wife seems shocked as well. He looks over to you and says, “Can you believe this bullsh*t? Blackjack every time!”

You’re sympathetic; you tell him “rough beat.” You shake your head in disbelief (twice) then look down to check your phone; no one texted you (but you already knew that).

He then says, “I’ve had enough of this; I’ll show them.”

On the next hand, he takes his stack of green chips and goes all-in.

He gets dealt a twelve, facing down a five; he hits and busts.

He claims he’ll never come back to this casino as he and his wife frantically walk away in disbelief, forgetting to clock out his Borgata card and losing out on his free buffet, for one.

He tilted.

You just witnessed how foolish this man appeared; he made a bad situation worse, but if you think you were never in this man’s shoes before, you might have to think again.

We all know what tilt is, and we all know what it leads to: loss of money, an empty MODO account, a jar of extra chunky Jif with broken Twix pieces in the bottom (don’t judge me), and a pile of booster wrappers with just a Mindslaver and a foil Swamp to show for it.

However, everyone seems to overlook why people tilt. For the most part, people tilt because they expect something to happen that doesn’t.

In the scenario above, the man expected to win. Whether he was feeling lucky or he actually thought he had an edge playing against the house. He expected to win, and when he didn’t, he tilted.

Once he lost the first hand, he gave up and didn’t really care that he could’ve prevented some of his loss on the second hand.

In Magic, tilt can be worse than a bad deck choice or no practice in a Limited format.

Tilt is almost always negative EV. It often makes you lose focus on a future task at hand, and you find yourself doing things you normally wouldn’t.

I say almost always because I’ve seen tilt do incredible things to people; it’s sort of like love, but in a twisted way. (That doesn’t make much sense, but neither does tilt.)

I mean do you really think it’s a good idea to text that girl you like for a third time in one night, and when she doesn’t respond (again), you write:

“HEYYYYYYYYYY, I’m thinking you’re pretty awesome!” on her Facebook wall.

And proceed to make your status:

“Thinking about a special someone after 0-2 dropping the Roanoke PTQ. I mean who can beat Argent Sphinx, Sunblast Angel, and Auriok Replica anyways lol”

Last weekend I headed up to Boston for the StarCityGames.com Open where the smell of tilt surrounded me like it was some five-dollar cologne.

But before I get into my experience and what happened, I’m going to fast-forward to Sunday evening.

I was done with the Legacy event and was looking to do a team draft. I looked to see a handful of gamers drafting. They informed me that this was the last match and would be done in a few minutes (something often told to the security guard who’s trying to get the site closed before midnight); I believed them and started looking for two teammates.

After convincing Mike Lapine to drop after his opponent turn 1 killed him in the 3-2 bracket, we were now just one more teammate away from starting the draft. After thinking I would have to settle for the old guy who missed out on the $15 draft queue they were running, I saw GP Champion Marlon Egolf who won GP Boston about a year ago. (A slight upgrade.)

In case you aren’t familiar with Marlon, he’s one of my favorite players from Boston and spends pretty much all his time drafting on MODO or going to the gym. He’s often all smiles, but this time he seemed fuming with rage.

I asked if his
Muscle and Fitness

magazine subscription was recently canceled. However, he responded with “No, much worse.”

He then informed me that someone he knew who had stolen Tarmogoyfs, Force of Wills, Tundras, and his A.C Slater trading card sticker collection from him a few months back decided to show up and was here.

He pointed to the kid.

I asked if he was certain he was the kid who stole the cards and what he would do to solve this.

He told me he approached the kid and told him he was going to kick his a** if he didn’t pay.

I calmed him down some and told him that if the kid knows what’s good for him he’d pay.

The kid was reasonable and claimed he’d sell his box of rares and give the money to Marlon.

I told Marlon that it’s all good, and we started to draft.

But Marlon was still tilted, and in this case, there was no stopping it.

Just the way Marlon used his teeth to rip open his first pack I knew what little I did to help calm him was done with. He was steaming, and I figured this would severely hurt our chances of winning.

On the other hand, my third teammate was Mike Lapine who informed me he would 3-0.

I opened my pack and saw a Contagion Engine staring back at me. I took it and proceeded to draft poison. After pack 1, I had a couple of green and artifact poison creatures along with a Steady Progress. I knew the format had been around for quite some time now, and the standard poison deck is B/G.

However, the other color combinations for poison shouldn’t be overlooked, as they have been. I remember Brian Kowal trying to get people behind B/R poison, as it has some very interesting interactions that people usually don’t think about. So while I was drafting, I thought about this and kept that Steady Progress toward the front of my pile just in case something interesting would happen, so I could instead go G/U poison or some three-color variant.

In pack 2 I picked up a Slice in Twain and Tel-Jilad Fallen before getting a third-pick Venser. I took it, since I was willing to try out U/G infect and splashing white shouldn’t be that tough as long as I picked up a Horizon Spellbomb or two.

The draft continued to go pretty smoothly for me as I ended up with a good curve (which is very important in poison) and a handful of tricks to push through my guys. My white ended up being only for Venser and Arrest, so I wasn’t worried about the mana.

Round 1-

I played against Dave Howard, a.k.a. Smokes McCloaks. Dave just Top 8ed GP Toronto, beating me along the way. So I was looking forward to playing him again (not really, but it seemed fitting to type this in).

He was playing G/B infect. I won in two games as he flooded out both games (how does it taste?). The only thing I had to do was play around Carrion Call and Untamed Might, as I was able to leave open Disperse when he went for the win. He didn’t see my white, but his team still assumed I was splashing it.


Marlon won, and Mike lost

2-1 heading into the second round.

Round 2-

I played against Rookie of the Year


hopeful Christian Calcano. Calcano is a friend of mine and having played with him a decent amount, I knew most of the tricks he would have up his sleeve. Like the “don’t do it, man, don’t attack” with the Disperse Justice waiting in hand. I told myself Calcano and his bag of tricks wouldn’t get to me again. However, I fell for them again, and Calcano got me with a Twisted Image killing my Tangle Angler and taking the match.


Marlon won again, and Mike lost.

3-3 heading into the final round. (Exciting!)

At this point, I was somewhat shocked. Marlon and his three-color mumble-jumble of a deck was carrying the team. At this point, I realized Marlon was on a different version of tilt. Unlike the man from the blackjack story, Marlon wasn’t planning on quitting or making matters worse for himself; he instead was determined he would win this draft, even after multiple times of me telling him to hold his hand up, since it seemed like his opponent could see it. But he didn’t care because he knew even if he showed his opponents every card he drew, he’d still win.

For the final round, I was paired up against Dave Shiels. Dave is one of the best players you’ve probably never heard of. About five years ago, he beat me playing for Top 8 at GP Charlotte, and I then played against his team at the team PT in South Carolina almost a year later (where my team won). He then moved to California, so we never really got another chance to play.

I knew this match would be tough as he’s a very good player and by far had the best deck out of all of us. He was R/W with a bunch of Shatters/Revoke Existences along with a Hoard-Smelter


which could just win a game on its own.

Round 3-

I got down a few guys, and he started to flood. He then dropped a
Golem Artisan

followed by a Flameborn Hellion. He had a few poison counters, so I just needed to get through a few more counters, but I was now flooding as well and needed to leave my guys back to block. The following turn I drew Venser and was able to attack with my Blight Mamba (regenerate) and blinked it out to have it as a blocker. He drew what appeared to be another land the following turn as I drew my Contagion Engine and got the scoops the following turn.

Game 2 was pretty much the same as I drew Contagion Engine, and he didn’t draw his Dragon. I was excited to take the match but then looked over to see Mike scooping, leaving it all up to Marlon.


Overall team count 4-4.

Marlon was in game 3, and after a few nice combat tricks out of his B/G/R deck, he took the match, and we won the draft.


So there you have something I didn’t think would happen but did. Marlon carried us to victory despite my initial impression of him being on standard tilt. Instead he was on unstoppable tilt.

This was the only exception I saw this weekend regarding the different versions of tilt.

Overall I thought I was bad with tilting, but after this weekend, I got to witness a bunch of other players who tilted hardcore. One that comes to mind is a friend of mine who appeared in the team draft story above; since he’s my friend, I won’t reveal his name, but it rhymes with Christian Calcano. *

This unknown person was playing a U/B deck in round 5 and was 3-1. It was game 3, and I walked over. The unknown person had four lands with one of them tapped. His hand was Deprive, Doom Blade, Memoricide, and two lands.

His opponent was playing Valakut Ramp and got an early ramp draw and just played his sixth land tapping out for Primevil Titan with four cards in his hand.

Now what’s the play here?

If you Deprive the Titan and the Valakut player has a Summoning Trap, you’re in trouble, and playing to hope he misses with it isn’t that great.

If you let it resolve, you allow him to get a few extra lands, then you can Doom Blade it, untap, and cast Memoricide naming Summoning Trap which seems like a better play.

The only problem is I can tell the U/B player was tilting and didn’t really think it through; he instead was starting to tilt because he knew what was about to happen, yet did nothing to try to stop it. Just like the blackjack player who was put in a rough spot and chose the easy way out, which is to tilt and lose.

Because let’s face it, it’s much easier to tilt than it is to win.

The U/B player ended up Depriving the Titan only to have the Valakut player play not one, but two Summoning Traps, hitting both times (he actually had a third, but the U/B player tilt-scooped after the second).

The U/B player tilted and dropped when he was still in contention to make Top 16 or Top 32. At the end of the weekend, when we were about to drop him off, he actually said, “Wow I spent more money on this trip than I thought,” then proceeded to say it might’ve been better to stay in and try to win prize for Top 32. So tilt didn’t only play a factor in a loss, it also took over the U/B player’s better judgment and prevented him from getting a chance to redeem himself in the later rounds.

For myself, both tournaments were a disaster as my opponents once again didn’t impress me with their play skills, yet defeated me (but I’m not complaining).

You see I made a “bet” (insert Wescoe check joke here to save Ted the work) with Jason Ford that I couldn’t complain about getting mana-screwed, mana-flooded, topdecked, or whatever. Because Magic is a game, and no one cares how unlucky you got in a match unless there actually is (and you can tell) a good story about it.

It was tough holding good on the wager. For example on Sunday, when I was playing the Legacy event, after one opponent had double Force of Will on the crucial turn of the game after I Thoughtseized one away a few turns earlier and when another opponent Barbarian Ringed my Dark Confidant when I was at two life (this is wrong on so many levels), I had to keep cool and not complain about it.

Even though the tournaments were bad for me results-wise, Jason Ford helped me with this bet, and I told him I’d carry this no complaining over to a whole week, which in turn, turned into forever! (Maybe.)

Sure I’ll still go on some complaint rants, because every now and then they’re fun, but overall, complaining doesn’t help you get better at Magic or anything. So thank you, Mr. Ford, for teaching me a lesson I already knew but failed to ever implement.

This weekend, I decided to head down to Maryland for a PTQ. I figured it would be fun since the Maryland guys are good times. The plan was to stay at Allen Jackson’s house, then head over to the PTQ with John Moore who ended up winning.

My deck was solid and regardless of how I ended up doing, I wanted to get the most practice I could for GP Nashville.

I won’t go through the details of my matches, but I started off 4-0 and then missed out on Top 8, getting eleven packs for my efforts. What I will go through is something valuable I learned, which is having a set plan on how you should sideboard against decks – in particular, poison decks.

After you’ve built your deck and turned in your deck registration sheet, you should ask a friend whose opinion on the format you respect if he or she would’ve built the deck any differently. Then, you should figure out a plan against poison.

Lots of cards in the format may be good against normal decks but terrible against poison decks. Lots of times people get lazy or just forget to change their deck around. In round 5, I was 4-0 and paired up against a poison deck. I did some sideboarding; however I didn’t lower my curve enough – which is really important to do against poison. I got stuck on four lands and lost with a bunch of five-drops in my hand.

You should also factor in your sideboard depending on if you’re going to draw or play. If you know you’re going to be on the play, you may want a 17th land or a certain card in your deck, compared to if you know you’ll be on the draw. All these small things play a factor in trying to maximizing the chance you have of winning a match, which may make the difference between losing and winning.

So there you have it; you got to see why tilt is pretty much pointless, and the best way to avoid it is to just not do it.

If the girl you like isn’t calling you back, go do something to keep your mind busy, work out, head to the local store to draft, or go out with Owen Turtenwald, and try to meet some new girls.

Set some goals, and stick to them, don’t give up, don’t tilt, and see if your results change for the better. Maybe you won’t see them at first, but if you learn something valuable from your experience, that’s important.

Not only will you most likely do better without tilting, you’ll most likely have more fun.

Now, most of the articles I write, I try to keep fun and give tips on a new deck if I have one. However I wanted to take a more serious note and talk about how you can make a lot of money trading. Recently I decided to put together my trade binder and head off to the PTQ to trade. I mean, trading has to be easy right? Everyone I talk to that trades tells me how much money they make trading (kind of like how everyone won that fight back in high school, wins on MODO, and was the one to dump their last girlfriend).

Fabiano Economics 101

So this is what you do.

Show up to the next PTQ, and approach someone trading, armed with a binder filled with Sorceress Queens and Royal Assassins (which you make clear aren’t for trade). Ask them if they want to trade, and show them a mix of foil commons and a Blastoderm. Finally towards the back of the binder, just when the other guy is about to throw in the towel on the possibility of a trade, he sees a mint-condition Unlimited Underground Sea (which you borrowed from Josh Ravitz).

The opposing trader seems intrigued and tells you he’s interested in it. Not to give anything away, he’ll pull the line on you that can be heard during trades all the time: “What do you value this at?”

You tell him anywhere between twenty and twenty-five dollars. You then wait and see if this guy is going to scum you or not. If he nods and says “seems reasonable,” it’s time to stick it to him. You then waste his “valuable” time, looking through his binder, pulling out the most terrible cards in there, and once you have about a good twelve dollars’ worth of stuff, you have your friend come up to you and tell you its time for the Two-Headed Giant tournament, and you have to go. He’ll make a desperate plea and say, “Come on, what else do you need?” You make an unprecedented request for two Autumn Willows and one Ice Age Jester’s Cap. Watching the guy’s face of disbelief and watching him then frantically run around the room trying to trade for these cards is comical, and on the off chance he actually does find these cards, you tell him you already traded it away for someone who offered you two packs of Tempest and some Sour Patch Kids.

On the other hand, if the guy’s nice enough to tell you that the Underground Sea is worth several hundreds of dollars and that you should be careful trading it away so easily, there’s only one thing to do, and that’s just giving it to him for being a good man. I mean, who cares right? It was Ravitz’s anyway!

Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed reading and maybe learned something from it.

Bonus section for everyone out there looking for a new Standard decklist. 

Here’s what I’d try out if you want to play something different.

The two top decks out there in my opinion are U/B Control and RUG. This deck has game against both of these decks. U/B Control is pretty straightforward; you want to try to get a turn 3 Koth. You have eight ways to help ramp you, and if you have the option between Chalice or Iron Myr on turn 2, go with Chalice for the most part, since they can’t Doom Blade it. If you happen to not have a Koth, Ruinblastering one of their lands is very good, since it will set them back a turn and provides an attacker to attack Jace if they resolve one. The Arc Trails aren’t very good against them, and I’d rather have Brittle Effigies to get rid of their Titans and Wurmcoil Engines, since they’re tough to deal with. If they’re playing the Trinket Mage version, Manic Vandals can be good as well.

Against RUG, you want to make sure you stop their Cobra and Oracle, which should be easy. You have Lightning Bolt, Burst Lightning, and Arc Trail. Then you want to resolve one of your planeswalkers and gain card advantage that way. Brittle Effigy is good against Titan and Avenger of Zendikar, since you won’t have to two-for-one yourself unless the Plant tokens get counters. If so, you can clear them away with Ratchet Bomb.

Both of these matchups are interesting, and if played correctly can favor you. Again I’m not saying this deck is going to take over Standard, and I haven’t extensively playtested with it; however it’s a fun deck and can be further tuned to make it Tier 1.

Again thanks for reading

* via Facebook:
Christian Calcano

clearly life tilting right now…