Down And Dirty – Confidence to Win

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Wednesday, January 14th – Kyle Sanchez looks at the value of confidence in the arsenal of the modern Magician. While such confidence can often be mistaken for ego or arrogance, it is essential for success at the highest level. Kyle touches on the Law of Attraction, and sets us a little mental homework for our next tournament…

Grand Prix: Los Angeles is upon us, and I’ve never been more unprepared for a tournament of any kind. Despite my pledge and failed testing attempts, I’m going to hop on a plane Friday morning and cross my fingers for a high finish. My deck of choice is probably the only thing you’re interested in, but unfortunately I’m under a strict oath from a friend whose friendship I value highly, and I can’t divulge the secret tech we’re going to unload on la-la land.

How can that be? How can I have such an awesome deck with such little testing? For one, I believe it’s the most important aspect of the game to keep the confidence up. I’ve wanted to write an article on The Law of Attraction and how it relates to Magic since I started writing here at StarCityGames.com nearly three years ago, but the motivation for that piece just hasn’t struck me yet. It’ll come eventually, I hope, but until then there are some basics points of the Law that I can incorporate into this article without creating too much debate about the validity of the New Thought Movement in the first place.

Basically and most simply, The Law of Attraction states that our thoughts dictate the reality of our lives. In order to alter the reality of our lives for the better, we need to follow a four-step process:

1. Know what you want.
2. Ask the universe for it.
3. Feel and behave as though the object you desire is on its way.
4. Be open to receiving it.

Given the pseudoscientific nature of the four points above, it’s gotten a lot of grief. I’m sure there are avid supporters on both sides of the argument that are reading this right now, but I feel The Law of Attraction plays a very large role in competitive Magic.

Even if you aren’t aware of the Law, I’m sure you’ve had similar thoughts about winning a game/match/tournament. We all think the same way. Whenever Chapin, Waffle Tacos, Kenji, Joe Johnson, Antti Malin, Erwin, or Doober from the forums plays in a tournament, that hope and prayer in the back of our mind is willing us to win. However, some have a stronger resolve than others, which is why the same players rise to the top time and time again (it just can’t be playskill, right?).

People mistake it as an ego in our community, which is a very accurate assessment in most situations, but the “ego vibe” really has more to do with the way a person carries themselves rather than the visions of grandeur in the back of his head.

That said, I’ve already won GP: LA. I’ve already spent that 3k on skim milk, posters of Eva Mendez, condoms, and a years supply of Whataburgers* fancy ketchup packets. I’m already back in SA-town livin’ the good life… LA was so last week, man!

I’ve had that attitude going into many tournaments, of which I’ve always performed as well as can be expected**, but that’s hardly proof of my point. I’m not looking to go into a philosophical debate here, but the key points can be used to create a higher level of confidence that I believe can translate into more wins, and confidence is the most important aspect of your mental game.

I have a bit of homework for you: at the next tournament you play, go over the four points listed above and below in your head, and I promise you’ll win more. If you don’t, I’ll pay your entry fee***! The key is in committing. If you follow these steps and repeat them in your head, you’ll win more and be that much closer to mastering your mental game and competing with the pros.

1. Know what you want.

You want to win the match! You want your opponent to get manascrewed and mulligan a lot, so you have more leisure time in between rounds. You want to win the tournament. Identifying what you want is the key, since your thoughts will have to be centered around that want if you’re going to achieve it. Sure, it’d be nice to take down a GP, but unless you make it your goal, how can you be mentally prepared to accomplish that task?

2. Ask the universe for it.

Yes, that’s correct: actually vocalize this in the form of a request. This is really is more similar to a prayer than a Christmas present. And logically there is little discernable difference between starting out “Dear Santa”, “Dear God”, or “Dear Universe.” The objective is that, in your mind, you’re making it clear that you want what you want and that’s what you need.

Dear Universe,

I am going to win GP: LA. I hope that’s shibby with you.



3. Feel and behave as though the object is on its way.

With only a few days until I leave for LA, the actions are already in motion for my rise to greatness. Like I said, I hit up the grocery store last night and spent a ton on objects that I didn’t really need or want. Why? Because I’ve got a fat 3k coming my way this weekend, and everyone knows you can never have too many Whataburger fancy ketchup packets. Additionally, whenever I dream about Eva Mendez I wake up very happy…

4. Be open to receiving it.

This is the hardest part of the equation for me. I’m a very giving person by nature. I don’t ask for much, and I am used to scrapping it out to carry my own weight and the load of my homeys around me. This is where my aspirations are always canceled out by my lack of motivation. But still, I’m here, and more than ready to be the early POY leader.

Despite my mockery of the points, the process is geared, if contemplated correctly, to give you a higher state of confidence, which has been attributed by many of the game’s greats to be the biggest factor in tournament Magic. How are you going to win if you don’t think you can? The answer is usually “get lucky,” but if your goal is to get lucky when you’re en route to a tourney, and you believe that you will get lucky, the Law can certainly work for you in that way. Although hoping to luck out on your opponent each round clearly isn’t a profitable mindset for the long run.

There are many overwhelmingly confident personalities on the PT/GP scene, but one pro whose posture is always perked with opponents in peril in StarCityGames.com own GerryT. Whenever I sit down across from him, whether it be in the team draft arena, testing our decks in between rounds, or an undefeated feature match where the loss sent me spiraling into a massive losing streak and eventual depression that finds me on lonely nights howling at the moon like a wolf lost in the shuffle of the wolf pack of life, I know his mental game and concentration is more advanced than mine, I don’t let it get me down, but it’s GerryT’s most lethal weapon in his arsenal. Well, besides the patented GerryT stare-down with those cold icy blues.

Even though Gerry’s resume isn’t there yet, all the greats have that kind of swagger about them. Finkel, Budde, Oli, Kenji, Kanye West, Jay-Z, Alan Comer, T.I… they all have that calm poise when the pressure’s on. Success, like that belonging to those gentlemen, comes in cascades, and the confidence they exude has a large part to do with it.

Now, before you do your naysaying, there is a repercussion effect that is as important as confidence, and it’s over-confidence, which can be just as game-breaking as the swagger that got you there in the first place.

One prime case of this negative over-confidence, in my opinion, was Patrick Chapin Pro Tour: Hollywood Reveillark deck. He was on a mad hot streak in Extended and the previous Standard, finishing second at Worlds and breaking the Extended format multiple times with all kinds of different levels of Blue. I don’t talk to Chapin enough to know if over-confidence was the true problem, but you could tell there was a tone change in his tournament report article where he acknowledged his mistakes and built from them. Sometimes you just go on such a hot streak that you think you can make anything work when playing Magic.

I’m pretty sure we’ve all had that deck that we thought was awesome that clearly just couldn’t get there. It’s an inevitability. The way to attack situations like this is exactly as Chapin did: analyze what you did wrong, so you can grow past it.

There are certainly more aspects of the mental game I can talk about, but getting the confidence is the first step to success. Also, for those of you that are going to take the extra effort and go through the motions I suggested, I’m very interested in hearing your results and any pattern changes you may be noticing.

Thanks for reading.

I’m going going, back back, to Cali Cali!


Top 5 Picks

1) High and Dry — Radiohead
2) My Iron Lung – Radiohead
3) Just – Radiohead
4) Street Spirit (Fade Out) – Radiohead
5) Fake Plastic Trees – Radiohead

* For those not in the know, Whataburger is the best burger chain in America, providing quality meat and chicken products grilled and seasoned to perfection. One staple of theirs that is rarely mentioned is the convenient ketchup carrier: plastic cups that lead to much easier dipping of the fries than the cumbersome and low quality tear-and-squeeze packets of the majority of their competitors.

** Okay, maybe it didn’t work last year when my Wizard deck was stolen, I went to jail after Indy, scrubbed out in both Chicago and KC, but hey, I was still the Player of the Month in April according to BDM! Law of Attraction, baby!

*** And if you call now, I’ll throw in a free StarCityGames.com life pad and pen, but that’s not all! Is your deck box losing its color because you carry it around all tournament in your greasy hands? Pay with a credit card and I’ll send you not one, but two deck clips that stick to the back of the deck box to keep it firmly fastened to your belt! No more discolored deck boxes for you! And if you decide that’s not for you, keep the life pad and pen as our free gift! [All offers made by Kyle Sanchez in this article are in no way real — Craig, amused.]