Eliminating Mistakes, and RGD Draft Examined

In his last weekly article before his month-long vacation, Jeroen tackles a number of reader-posed questions on Magic, the Pro Tour, and life in general. Today sees him share some tips on eliminating mistakes, alongside a discussion on color preference in RGD Draft. When facing a first pack jammed with solid cards, is it better to grab the card you enjoy the most?

Welcome to the last edition of this column for a month! As I already mentioned, I am going to road-trip the West Coast of America in the next couple of weeks, and that means I will be unable to answer all of your questions. Keep sending them in, as I will answer all of them as soon as I get back. This week’s article is overshadowed by a lot of Coldsnap shenanigans, but I hope it will provide a nice change of pace.

The first question was sent by Eric Weeden:

I am a PTQ level player and I find myself making costly mistakes in almost every tournament I play. I generally notice these mistakes right after I make them, but have yet to find a way to train myself to slow down and stop making these simple errors. Do you have any tips on this?

One of the things people forget is that despite the fact that Pros are considered better and play this game at a high level, they still screw up from time to time themselves. Heck, I’d even put good money on the fact that every Pro makes mistakes in every single tournament in which they play. Making mistakes is just part of the game, and it is all about minimizing these mistakes, or at the very least, minimizing the effect of these mistakes. The main thing you can do to achieve this is, of course, practice; the better you know your deck, the fewer mistakes you will make. Other than that, here are a few other tips:

  • Ignore the mistake. If you notice it and get frustrated because you screwed up, this will only mean you are not concentrating on the game. Therefore, you are more likely to screw up again. Worry about it after the game.
  • Stick with it. The longer you play, the better you get, and the fewer mistakes you will make.
  • Slow down the pace of your game. Whenever you think you can play a spell, make sure to double-check, briefly, before casting it, to be clear that you are doing the right thing.
  • Organize your turns. Make sure you walk through every step of the game the same way. Untap your lands. Pause in your upkeep every turn, no matter what is in play, to make sure you aren’t missing anything. Pause in your draw step after your draw, etc. That way, no matter what the board position may be, you will always be on top of things.

I know all these things are pretty standard, but they’re all part of becoming a better player. I hope they helped.

Next up, Kevin Folinus:

This question stems from a RGD draft in which my first pack was Razia, Boros Archangel; Vedalken Dismisser; Galvanic Arc; Last Gasp; Trophy Hunter; Dimir Guildmage; and nine random cards. This pack started quite a debate between some local drafters. What would you pick in the situation? Also, what would you pick between Faith’s Fetters; Last Gasp; Galvanic Arc; and Vedalken Dismisser? Finally, in what order do you rate the top Blue commons? I figure the answers to these questions are based on color preference, but I know your preference is far better than mine.

This pick is a perfect example of a pick that has no right or wrong answer. It is based solely on color preferences, and what you’d like to (or intend to) draft later on. Signaling is almost impossible with this pack, and five of those cards are just far better then the others. The only “wrong” pick I see would be Razia, as she is strictly worse than all the other cards, and is the same color as the Galvanic Arc. This means that if you want to pick a card based on a Red/White preference, Galvanic Arc is always the pick. I myself would pick Galvanic Arc, because it leaves you with one of the strongest cards as well as an opening to a lot of the top decks – such as the old standby RGU, in which Dismisser and Trophy Hunter are worse than Arc.

To show you that even Pros don’t have a clue, here’s what Anton “Riptide” Jonsson, Amiel Tenenbaum, and Jelger Wiegersma had to say:

Jeroen: FpFp Razia, Boros Archangel; Vedalken Dismisser; Galvanic Arc; Last Gasp; Trophy Hunter; Dimir Guildmage… opinions?
JelgerW: Gasp.
Riptide: All color preference, right?
Amiel: Arc or Gasp.
Riptide: I think Guildmage might be the best card…
Riptide: … but not by enough that you want to make the bigger commitment.
JelgerW: I think Guildmage and Gasp are at the same level.
Riptide: Maybe picking Dismisser is the best?
Riptide: Because you are always Blue…
Riptide: 🙂
JelgerW: Nah 🙁
JelgerW: I hate picking bad cards over good cards…
JelgerW: … and it’s by far the worst card of those six.
Riptide: I mean…
Riptide: It’s better than Razia…
JelgerW: Isn’t.

If I had to choose between Arc, Fetters, Last Gasp, and Dismisser, I feel the best card of those four is Faith’s Fetters. Most of the time this will be the card that I will pick. Sometimes the pack has a lot of White, and I’ll go for Arc, but in a vacuum, I feel Fetters is the best card.

As for the Blue commons, I assume you are talking about Vedalken Dismisser, Peel from Reality, and Compulsive Research. I feel of those three, Compulsive research is clearly the best, as it seems to win most games, and people like Richard Hoaen have told me that it is simply better (I listen to Rich a lot). I would rate Dismisser second, as it is clear card-advantage, and with the Dissension pack in the mix there are fewer “comes into play” creatures. That leaves Peel as the worse of the three… but don’t get me wrong, it is still insane, and I would take it over a lot of things still.

Of course, after that you get stuff like Snapping Drake and other men, which I feel are strictly worse than the Big Three.

The next two questions are from vdegulis:

1) How often after playing (whether testing, or more importantly in an actual event) do you get the feeling of “there’s nothing I could have done and yet I still lost?” I attempt to learn from my mistakes, and often notice them immediately after doing them (unfortunately, after is the key word). However, I am easily the unluckiest person I have ever encountered. I often find myself on the less than desirable end of the statistics. I recognize that surely I am messing something up, but I am curious as to how often Pros really mark one in the luck column (win or lose).

2) Next, non-Magic related: Do Europeans not like American football? You mentioned in a previous article about the World Cup, and I don’t expect many outside the U.S.A. to get Monday Night Football… but I just can’t bring myself to watch Soccer, let alone play it. How do you feel about our idea of football?

I gotta say that sometimes I feel the way you do… I did my best to prepare for a tournament, and yet nothing seemed to go well, and I lost. Often, when I think about it afterwards, I can always come up with a bunch of things I could have done better. It may be making a different deck choice, or preparing better, or taking some mulligans in some situations, but it can also be stuff like making sure I slept correctly, or tested with a different team, or simply listened to people, etc. A person can be unlucky from time to time – heck, even a streak is not unimaginable – but if you keep thinking you are being unlucky, odds are you are doing something wrong. Luck can allow you to win a tournament, because no one wins without their fair share of fate… but if you are constantly losing, you are more than just unlucky.

I love American Football. It took a while for me to understand the specifics, like the strategy behind the game, as it is hard to get past the huge men crashing into each other. Now that I have the hang of what is going on, I admit it is pretty exciting. I assume the same is true for our football for you guys. All you see are a bunch of dudes kicking the ball to each other, with nothing really happening, while there is a whole layer of strategy behind it. It’s what you are used to, and what you know. I love all American sports since I understand them fairly well (except baseball, which is too boring when it isn’t the World Series).

Regular contributor Hanno Terbuyken has the next question:

In your last article (Conquering the Clock), you wrote the following: “I know that the metagame at Dutch Nationals is always very diverse, and dependent on what the latest Internet craze is about.” How much can one pro, or a group of pros, manipulate that Internet craze to their advantage? I know there have been some famous leaks between teams, but has anyone mislead the public yet?

The main way a Pro can mislead the public is by writing an article about a deck a week before a tournament claiming it is the Best Deck Ever and that it beats everything. At that point, people often don’t have time to test the deck thoroughly, and will just assume the Pro knows what he is doing and blindly accept his tech. I know this has happened a couple of times – just think of Ted Knutson deck at this year’s States – and sometimes the deck is fine, and that’s why it does well. Most of the time, though, it does well through sheer numbers, and it isn’t that great. It’s not often that a great deck actually leaks to the public, as most Pros tend to want their decks kept a secret. What happens a lot is that one playtest group will leak to another, due to one guy wanting to help their friends. This then leads to weird changes in a group’s deck to compensate for the other group’s deck, which might not even be correct in the metagame!

I don’t think there have been real attempts from Pros to mislead the public, although often a decks will be discussed that isn’t optimally tested and isn’t all that good, that then becomes accepted as part of a metagame. It usually takes a couple of weeks for people to discover that such decks are sub-par. It has to do with lack of testing from both the writer and the reader. Don’t believe everything the Pros tell you regarding their decks!

And finally, some questions from Ricardo Barros:

You’ve said you’re going to travel after next weekend. Where are you going, and is it going to be a Magic-free vacation?

Also, being a football fan, could you give your two cents on Zinedine Zidane’s head-butt followed by Golden Ball award…?

I am going to tour the West Coast of the US of A, as I love the country like no one else. It is indeed going to be a Magic-free vacation, as I am going with non-gamer friends. At this point though, I know so many people, and have so many friends everywhere along the route, that despite it being a Magic-free vacation I will be forced to visit lots of Magic players along the way. That’s the best part of being on the Pro Tour…

As for Zidane… I am going to be brief. The fact that he received the Golden Ball is a complete joke, and his entire career has been devaluated by it. Don’t forget that this guy was the only guy to receive two red cards during this tournament, and as such he is the dirtiest player. I had respect for his career and skill, but that’s all gone.

That’s it for this week, and for the next month. Keep those questions coming, as I probably won’t want to wait to submit my new article as soon as I get back!

Jeroen Remie.
[email protected].