Four Magical Tales

Pro Tour Champion Shaun McLaren shares some important lessons too often overlooked by the Magic subculture. The Magic community may ignore this work at their own risk.

The Backwards Master

Word traveled far and wide across the land of a Master Swordsman who had never lost a fight. A young boy, awed by tales of the Master’s prowess and skill,
vowed that he would train and one day best the Master.

The boy dedicated himself to the craft of Swordsmanship, practicing and learning everything there was to know about the way of the warrior. He studied
ancient scrolls, learned patience, and the strengths and weaknesses of many styles of combat. He journeyed across the land, challenging anyone and everyone
with a blade, all the while seeking out teachers who could provide insight. Once he felt he understood all there was to learn and he was skilled enough to
beat any challenger he began to seek out knowledge that could provide insight on a way to best the Master. He learned a key strength the Master used to his
advantage: he was left-handed. This provided an unexpected problem for unprepared opponents. The boy had faced left-handed opponents before, but they were
few and far between.

The boy did not give up. He sought out any left-handed swordsman he could and even convinced some of the best teachers to wield with their left even though
they were right-handed. Every night before bed he envisioned what it was like to face off against a left-handed opponent, attacks he would face, counter
strategies he could use, and paths to victory. After years of practice he finally felt prepared to face the Master.

The Master was said to live isolated in the mountains far from civilization. The boy ventured out and climbed from peak to peak for months. One day as dusk
was approaching and atmospheric winds whipped about him, he crested a plateau and spotted a man standing at the edge of a cliff, surveying the land. It was
the Master.

The boy approached.

“You seek to challenge me. Turn back, boy. You are too young.”

The boy was resolute.

“I have trained my entire life to face you. I have studied. I have sweat. I have bled. I have learned everything about you, all of your weaknesses, and I
can best you.”

The Master turned and faced the boy. One hand was placed on his belly, one behind his back. He let out a hoarse chuckle.

“Foolish boy, you still have much to learn. You think I am only proficient with one style? You have prepared for a matchup you will not even face.”

The boy’s face flushed even further red than it had been from his long climb. The Master could also fight well with his right hand? Unexpected but not all
was lost. After all, the boy still knew how to face a right-handed opponent.

The Master took a step forward and withdrew his steel with his left hand. Then, with a grim smile, he placed his left arm behind his back and turned 180
degrees to face away from the boy. The Master’s back was exposed and he was craning his face over his shoulder to look at the boy. His sword was pointed at
the boy, smoothly guided with his wrist.

“Have at me then.”

The boy felt a note of confusion. Surely this was a joke? How could anyone effectively fight behind their back?

Still the boy respected the Master and decided to engage with extreme caution.

He withdrew his weapon and got into his combat stance, just as he had trained, and began carefully inching forward.

Once he was within range he swatted at the Masters sword and found it yield to his gentle blow and snap out of position.

The boy couldn’t help himself and took a stab at the Masters backside.

His blade sunk into soft flesh, and the Master immediately collapsed forward in agony onto the ground, blood spurting from his wound.

“Well, that was easy.” said the boy.

Magical Lesson:

Don’t handicap yourself for no good reason.

If you are proficient with a top tier deck, play it. If a color is open, draft it. It’s easy to panic or second guess yourself and switch to a new deck
at the last second or stay in a bad color during draft clinging onto a bomb you opened just hoping the color will start to be open. Prioritize solid,
consistent decks while sticking to what you know best. Don’t choose a rogue deck just for the sake of having a rogue deck.

It’s very simple

: just don’t do something incredibly stupid. We’ve all made incredibly stupid decisions that we knew were stupid even as we made them in the hope that
they would pay off for some ridiculous reason. Sure, there are times to switch decks at the last minute or make seemingly odd choices, but ask yourself
“Am I obviously making a huge mistake here?” If the answer is yes

: Don’t Do It. You’d be surprised how often you can solve this problem just by noticing it.

The Undisputed Best

Steve was a Spike.

In his neck of the woods he was the Spike. The top dog. Head Honcho. The Best Dang Magic Player For Miles.

He had finally won more tournaments than anyone else by clinching his second PTQ win in a row and his seventh PTQ win total. He hadn’t made it big on the
Pro Tour, but it was bound to happen eventually. His strut was long and wide.

The Pro Tour came and once again Steve suffered another defeat. He just couldn’t get things going in the draft rounds and didn’t know why. He had won
plenty of limited events close to home. He was the best. He must just be getting unlucky. LOL, Variance. He would just win the next PTQ.

Steve is ready to crush the next PTQ but somehow starts out with an 0-2 drop. Ah well. I suppose you can’t win them all. He sticks around to draft
as more people begin dropping.

Steve is carrying his team to their second win of the day when the Top 8 is announced. He notices his friend Carl is first seed. Carl is a pretty good
player and widely regarded as one of the best in the area and has been to almost as many Pro Tours as Steve. Steve secretly hopes Carl loses so it’s clear
who the Numero Uno player still is.

Carl doesn’t lose. In fact, he tears through the Top 8, playing exceptionally well as Steve notes.

Steve congratulates him through gritted teeth. He can hear people telling Carl it is much deserved, and he was the odds on favorite from the start. Best in
the room, no question.

Steve disagrees. Don’t they remember I just won back to back PTQ’s? Don’t they remember my results? My skills? My wins?

Magical Lesson:

Don’t measure your worth based on your Magic results.

Don’t measure your worth based on how well you’re doing compared to anyone else.

We love to order and rank and break down stats. It makes things quantifiable and easy to understand. There will almost always be people above you and
people below you. But you can’t tie who you are as a person with how high up the heap you are. That’s setting yourself up for disappointment since you
can’t possibly always be the best.

You’ll feel pressure, disappointment, and jealousy when you’re near the bottom and hubris and judgment when you’re near the top. You’ll spend your time
living in an imagined fantasy world, or be re-chasing unmatchable highs, instead of the reality you have to enjoy at this moment.

The first step is simply identifying that you do this sometimes.

Notice how silly it is to have your self
-worth tied up in how well you sling Magic cards. Notice how silly the concept of self
-worth is. It is you judging yourself to be worthy. Beating yourself up over past mistakes isn’t going to make you a better human
. Acknowledge them, drop them, and move on.

Confidence can be a good thing but temper it by being humble. Don’t take yourself seriously. Be grateful you get to play Magic. Enjoy the wins when
they come and enjoy the times when they don’t come as well.

The Perfect Cube

The King purchased a new toy. It was a small cube made of many colored blocks that could be shifted around. The individual blocks were scattered randomly
and were six different colors: white, black, red, green, blue, and brown. Not only was it extremely expensive and prestigious to have one, but the cube was
also supposed to be a skill-testing puzzle that would challenge the minds of the greatest thinkers who tried it. The cube was also said to be a source of
great entertainment.

The idea was to position all the different colored blocks so each side of the cube was a uniform color. The King wanted to complete his cube and was
willing to be patient to do so. After all he didn’t want to look like a fool making mistakes, twisting and turning willy nilly. Over the coming months, the
King learned all he could without even touching the cube and even brought in three advisers that gave him many tips.

“Study your cube and envision how you can make it complete.”

“Focus on getting one side of colors complete. It is best to focus on the blue side if possible.”

“Grip the cube tightly and twist with great vigor.”

“Be well rested, watered and fed on the finest food. An empty stomach will not do.”

“Imagine the cube being complete and it shall manifest.”

The King was determined to solve his cube in fewer moves than any other man. The King weighed all his options carefully and finally made a move twisting a
side of his cube once.

“A most judicious choice, Sire,” all of his advisers agreed.

Every day the King would make one move after carefully weighing all his options. But over time he began to notice he was making no progress. It was
frustrating. His advisers convinced him his cube was defective, he would need a bigger shinier one that wouldn’t malfunction. The King agreed and placed an
order for a better cube.

“Bring me my fool. I could use some entertainment,” the King commanded.

His fool arrived and began performing his usual antics until he suddenly paused.

“Sire, I see you have a Rubik’s Cube. Might I give it a try?”

The King was slightly miffed at the boldness of the request, but he considered himself to be generous.

Besides, that cube was defective and what could be more humorous than the fool trying to solve an impossible puzzle?

The fool began to rearrange blocks and turn segments of the cube left and right, to and fro.

A smile breaks out on the Kings face. The fool’s technique was all wrong, and it was clear he had no idea how to handle such a complex instrument. It was
laughable. The King began to chortle at the sheer ignorance.

After a few minutes, just as the King was growing impatient, the fool bowed low and presented the cube back to the King with one side uniformly green.

Complete shock from the King as he examined the partially completed cube.

“But how…” stuttered the King.

“Simple. I moved the pieces.”

Magical Lesson:

Magic is meant to be played and enjoyed.

Don’t spend all your time theorizing. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Get your hands dirty, practice will usually trump theory. If you’re having fun

, you will perform better.

Friday Night Rage

Jimbo loved Friday Night Magic.

He got to play Magic, he could be loud, joke around, and most importantly, he was with his friends. Sure, he was rough around the edges and prone to the
occasional temper tantrum, but who wasn’t? The regulars all understood him and loved his boisterous nature. It was endearing. At least that’s what he told

It was Friday and he was ready to get down. Jimbo entered his local game store and friendly chatter died down, and a few smiles even left the faces of
players who recognized him. Obviously they were starting to respect his skill and knew they wouldn’t be taking first place tonight. There were a bunch of
new players, and he was going to teach them a lesson they wouldn’t soon forget.

Round 1 was a breeze. He beat the newbie twelve year old he was paired against in record time, loudly proclaiming victory and pumping his fist afterwards.
Noob would need some whoopings before he would be a real challenge. Jimbo easily had time to get a smoke and a sub before the next round.

Round 2 was against a decent regular. Jimbo was chatty and amiable during the preround shuffle up, but his opponent never seemed to talk much. Ah well.
Jimbo’s opponent got manascrewed and Jimbo felt some compassion and reminded him that the last time they’d faced off it was Jim who got manascrewed, and at
least these games had been a bit closer, plus he should’ve respected a combat trick Jimbo was obviously representing in game 2. His opponent left and
didn’t even say good game. Sore loser.

Round 3 Jimbo and his opponent get deck checked. A smile crosses Jimbos face when the judge comes over and tells his opponent he only registered a 59-card
decklist and he would receive a game loss. Rookie mistake. Jim let out a chuckle and helpfully reminded his opponent to be more careful next time and
double check his list. Jimbo put him out of his misery quickly. Scrub.

The last round of the night and Jimbo gets paired against one of the older guys from the group of players he didn’t recognize. Should be an easy match.
Jimbo mulligans to five game 1 and still barely loses. Jimbo makes sure his opponent knows he got lucky and made a bad metagame choice before packing up
his cards. Game 2, Jimbo keeps a land-light hand but figures he’s due to hit. He lets out a big sigh as he misses his second land drop. When his next draw
step also doesn’t yield a land, he can’t contain himself anymore.

“I can’t believe this ****. Go buy some lottery tickets because I never seen luck like that before.”

Jimbo immediately packs up his cards and stalks outside. After a moment the door opens behind Jimbo and his opponent that had just beat him walks out.

“I brought my son here and would ask that you didn’t use language like that. I would also ask that you be more respectful to everyone who came to play.”

“I’ve never even seen you here before, buddy. I’ve been coming here for years. You should just walk away before I knock your face in.”

The man paused as he turned to re-enter the store.

“You’re a sad man.”

Jimbo knew from experience he was going to go tattle to the store owner. He had already received warnings and this might be the straw that broke the
camel’s back. Screw this. Jimbo went home.

He decided to kick back by posting on some message boards, complaining about the sad state of affairs at Magic tournaments and the increase of whiners who
couldn’t loosen up. There were some people who agreed with him and others who he argued with for a few hours.

Jimbo felt a little bad about some of his more extreme antics, this wasn’t even close to his worst, but what was he supposed to do? Apologize?

He crawled into bed, alone. Before his wife had passed away, Jimbo hadn’t been so bad. His LGS was a rock in his life and the store owner had been lenient,
having known Jimbo for a long time.

Nobody understood him.

All the regrets he had would fade away for a while when he focused on the cards.

He would be alone with his thoughts again.

It was obviously this newcomer’s fault, he shouldn’t have come outside to antagonize, especially after winning. Wide awake and unhappy, Jimbo laid in bed.

Magical Lesson:

You can’t control others, only your reaction to them.

When you’re dealing with a sore loser or someone disruptive remember they are a human being with thoughts and feelings. They are usually dealing with
problems they can’t handle and are crying for help and attention the only way they know how. By all means make sure you can play in a welcoming, fun
environment but try to give people the benefit of the doubt and be kind to others when you have the opportunity.

Ragers are rarely mad at their targets, they are simply mad at themselves or a seemingly unfair universe and vent that frustration on those around

The world will get better with an overall increase in compassion, especially in times where it’s difficult to be compassionate.