Get Into Game Shape

There’s a lot more to Magic success than endless playtesting and deck sketching. Jim Davis discusses the contagious nature of success and how you can use it to do your best at #SCGPORT and beyond!

Goal line.

Blue line.

Back to goal line.

Red line.

Back to goal line.

Far blue line.

Back to goal line.

Far goal line.

Back to goal line.


Goal line.

Blue line.

Back to goal line.

Red line.

Back to goal line.

Far blue line.

Back to goal line.

Far goal line.

Back to goal line.


Continue this process until either:

A. You are properly conditioned for your upcoming games/tournament

B. You vomit

Hockey suicides are not fun, at least in the short term. While other parts of hockey practice have you practicing passing, teamwork, shooting, and other
fun parts of the game, suicides are just pure physical conditioning. Yet they are just as, if not more important than, the rest of practice.

It doesn’t really matter how well you can shoot or pass if you can’t keep up with the game.

Hockey is a physical game and relies heavily on muscle memory from practicing the proper way. Your conditioning makes sure that your body is in tiptop
condition so it can properly execute what you have physically trained it to do. Hockey is all about instinct, reacting to situations, and the ability to
act without thinking. So what does this have to do with Magic?

Magic is a game wholly built around thinking. As a mental game, no physical dexterity is required (Chaos Orb and Falling Star aside), and while you
practice and train yourself to execute lines of play and gameplans, you are under no physical duress while you do so.

In a lot of ways it would seem like a fast-paced, physical, and instinctual sport like hockey is almost the polar opposite of a turn-based, mental, and
intellectual game like Magic; however, while the games are different, the concept of conditioning remains just as vital.

So if we can’t do suicides in Magic, how are we supposed to condition ourselves?

Mental Conditioning is Mental Health

While a hockey player usually leaves his physical talents on the rink – the ability to skate backwards quickly or fire off a mean one-timer doesn’t really
translate well to everyday life – a Magic player must use his mental talents pretty much every minute of every day.

This means that a Magic player’s mental health is paramount to their overall success.

Good mental health means, in essence, happiness. A happy Magic player is much more likely to experience success than an unhappy one, and there are many
byproducts of good mental health that lead to success in Magic. A player in excellent mental health:

1. Is motivated and driven to succeed. They have the drive to compete and put the work in and are ready to bring their A-game.

2. Is emotionally invested in competing and being successful but still has many other things outside of the game that are bringing them feelings of

3. Is much less likely to tilt because they know even if they experience the bad side of variance, they can feel good they played well, put in the proper
effort, and have many other things going for them.

4. Is much more likely to notice and learn from their mistakes after a match, as there is no need to try and protect their fragile ego by blaming luck and
other factors outside of their control.

5. Is properly prepared for the ups and downs of a long twelve-hour day playing Magic and is able to take each round as it comes rather than riding an
emotional rollercoaster.

6. Is much better suited to network and learn from other players, as a happy person is usually much more pleasant to be around; positive vibes are

7. Exudes confidence because they are comfortable with themselves and their current place in life. Confidence is often the catalyst for good things;
there’s a reason confident, self-assured people seem to catch all the breaks – they expect to succeed, not fail.

Now, of course, being in good mental health is not always an easy thing to do. If I was able to give perfect advice that would put people into good mental
health, I would be a very wealthy psychologist. While I am not said very wealthy psychologist, Magic has taught me a lot about myself from a very
interesting perspective.

There are three big components in my life that make me feel the most mentally conditioned: physical health, relationships, and financial health, and we are
going to use these as our baseline.

Physical Health

Wait, didn’t I start this all by saying that physical conditioning wasn’t necessary for Magic like it is for sports like hockey?

Well… yes, but this is not about training your body to accomplish certain tasks, this is about making sure you feel good and healthy in your own skin.

Let’s face it, most Magic players are not quite the pinnacle of human physical achievement. While stereotypes are often not true and sometimes damaging,
they are stereotypes for a reason: neckbeards, butt cracks, body odors, man boobs, and so on.

If you aren’t even comfortable in your own skin, how can you be confident and happy overall?

Being fit doesn’t mean going to the gym seven days a week, cycling your protein and creatine shakes, and being this guy:

Being fit simply means taking care of yourself, exercising as much as you feel you need to in order to feel good, and reaping the rewards. Aside from the
obvious end result of losing excess weight, countless studies have shown that people who work out a few times a week have more energy, sleep better, are
more mentally sharp, are more driven to succeed, and have more overall confidence.

Wow, what a coincidence, these are many of the things we listed earlier that would help someone be more successful at a Magic event!


Personal relationships are a major factor in one’s mental health, as our body of friends and romantic interests form an extremely important part of our
lives. We aren’t just floating around on a rock alone, playing solitaire while listening to Three Dog Night.

While Magic has been such an amazing source of friends for me over the years, and I have met so many awesome people through the game, one of my favorite
things to do with my Magic friends I don’t see often is to do non-Magic related things. Whether it is playing basketball, sightseeing, going out
drinking/dancing, seeing a show or whatever, I always try to make sure I get to do something fun with my crew when I’m travelling for Magic. This is
important because it lets you cut loose, try new things, and see your friends in new situations that you may not usually see them in.

It’s important to have a balance in your friendships, and in your hobbies. Magic is a very time-consuming, very engulfing game. It can be easy to get lost
in it and to forget that there are other things you can enjoy and other people you can enjoy them with. If you dive too deeply into Magic, you can end up
burning out on it completely and losing the enjoyment you once found in it. Trust me, it is extremely hard to focus and win when you are burnt out.

Romantic relationships also play a large part in one’s happiness, and meeting/seeing people is often a major factor in one’s mental health. A person who is
happy, healthy, and confident will often be the most successful with relationships, and conversely, a person who is successful in relationships will often
be happy and confident.

Financial Health

Lastly, we come to the idea of being able to stand on one’s own two feet. We think of the typical stereotype (which are, again, not always true but exist
for a reason) of the 28 year old Magic player living in his parent’s basement surviving on Hot Pockets and selling off bulk rares to pay for gas to drive
to their next event- not the prettiest picture.

If you are unhappy with your current career/financial situation, you are not going to be playing very good Magic. A select few insane people play their
absolute best when they literally put their last $40 on the table and know they have to win to eat that night, but most do not. Most feel the pressure of
knowing they need to top 8 and make that $600 to pay their next car payment, and if they don’t, they are once again going to have to beg their parents for
money. They don’t want to feel that shame again.

Like most of the things we’ve discussed so far, life is simply more important than Magic. Your health, your relationships, and your career are things that
go far beyond Magic as a game, and while it is not as fun to get all of them in order, it will very interestingly make you a better Magic player in the

When you go to an event knowing that if you don’t win a single match, you can still go out afterwards for a nice steak and drinks with your buddies and not
think twice about it, you relieve most of that unwanted pressure you put on yourself. You can be emotionally invested in winning, but not so financially
invested that if your opponent draws out on you to win, you no longer feel like they are taking that prize money that you need out of your pocket.

Stressing about money and your life’s direction is not going to help you think clearly and play good Magic, and if you are trying to use Magic events as a
primary source of income, I think you are severely handicapping yourself as a Magic player.


The most important takeaway from all of this though is balance. If you are only happy when you are winning at Magic, or busting your ass
at the gym, or working overtime to make a bunch of extra money, or swooning over some girl you are completely infatuated with, you are only conditionally
happy. If your chosen condition is not met, you are not happy, and this means you actually really aren’t happy at all. This means you are a slave to
whatever your vice is and have not found happiness within yourself.

Working to improve in all of these areas is something that will do more than just improve your mental conditioning, it will improve your overall well being
as well. Sometimes improving at something is not just about improving at that one task, but about improving yourself as a whole.

A happy Magic player is a successful Magic player.