Magic Resolutions For 2014

Grand Prix Boston-Worcester winner Brian DeMars reflects upon how he did with his Magic resolutions in 2013 and shares his new ones for the upcoming year.

I hope that everyone has had a wonderful holiday season and is looking forward to a great new year. My holidays were spent with family and culminated in a trip to my parents’ cabin in northern Michigan. I haven’t gotten to play much Magic in the past two weeks but have not been at a loss for playing cards. I have found myself in quite an ongoing cribbage battle with my dad over the holidays.

Time away from work and tournaments has also given me a chance to catch up on my reading. I’ve already tackled a few novels I’d been meaning to get around to (The Brothers Karamozov, The Woman In White, and The Man Who Was Thursday)and hope to keep up the pace during the upcoming year. My non-Magic resolution for 2014 is to make a point of reading as much as my schedule permits.

All in all, it has been a very relaxing and much-needed break from the rat race of everyday life.

There is nothing like taking a little time off to prepare a person for what is about to come next, and a short break before taking up tournament Magic again is no exception to this maxim. The time in between Christmas break and New Year’s Eve is usually a dead period for tournaments, which gives players a good opportunity to reflect upon the year that was while also looking forward to the year to come.

I typically find that reflecting upon past play and results and setting new goals for myself in the future is a great way to improve as a player and a very necessary measure for most players who are serious about making strides to level up their game. One cannot simply stumble blindly forward and reach their potential; however, with due diligence and thoughtful practice, improvement is almost a certainty.

As far as reflecting upon my tournament play over the past year is concerned, I know that I spent a lot of energy and effort to improve as a Constructed player. I cultivated and grew a playtest group at my local game store that meets every Wednesday evening and have done my best to become a more proficient and useful playtester. It really takes some time to learn how to get the most out of playtesting for a tournament, and I can say with some degree of certainty that I am better at it now than I was a year ago.

I hope that working with the playtest group at my local game store has helped not only me improve but also all of the other local players who have partaken in the experience to get better. It’s really important to test against players who are good in order to get good results from the testing one does. I therefore resolve to continue to try to be the type of player who helps make the players around me better in hopes that all my friends and myself get the most out of the upcoming year on the tournament circuit.

My goal for myself last year was to improve my Constructed play, preparation and results. Although I didn’t suddenly by any stretch of the imagination morph into Luis Scott-Vargas and dominate the tournament scene, I do recognize that I have improved greatly, and I take great pride in that fact.

At every Constructed tournament I played in this past year, I felt really confident in my deck choice and very good about my ability to pilot my deck. Also, every deck that I played I took time to tune according to my playtesting and felt good about the tweaks I made.

For my efforts, I was rewarded with a couple of Grand Prix Top 32s and cashes, which was a welcome improvement considering I didn’t money a single Constructed GP the year before (while making Top 8 of two Limited ones).

So my second resolution is to continue the work I began in 2013 and work to improve my Constructed play through better preparation, better testing, and more experience with the various formats. Although I believe my play improved greatly, I still think there is even more room for improvement, and I would like to see that potential reached this year.

Another project that I have been working on and resolve to continue is playing the same decks over and over again in Eternal formats in order to master piloting them. I have been on Affinity in Modern and Sneak and Show in Legacy for months now, and I have learned a great deal about the decks themselves and also about Constructed Magic from continuing to play them over and over again.

I’m not sure I specifically approve of this strategy for Standard since the format seems to wax and wane, quickly crowning new kings and forgetting about others almost weekly. However, in Eternal formats where change happens very slowly and the best decks tend to stay very good for a very long time, I think there is a lot of merit to the strategy of sticking with a deck and learning all of its ins and outs by heart.

The "play the same deck" project is just an offshoot of the "be a better Constructed player" resolution, but it seems to be working for me so I will surely keep it going.

My next Magic resolution is to test more and attend more Vintage tournaments in 2014. I had an absolute blast at the Vintage Championship this year hanging out with old friends, slinging Restricted cards, and generally playing a format that I have always greatly enjoyed. I hope to attend several Vintage tournaments in 2014 and to build some really cool Vintage decks to play in those events.

During the past few years, I haven’t gotten to play as much Vintage as I would like particularly because there are not many events in close proximity to my home in Michigan. I resolve to attend the small tournaments that are in Michigan and also to drive to some of the bigger events even if they are quite a trek to get to.

I have always enjoyed building decks for Vintage and hope to brew some masterful decks in the upcoming year. I also hope to see Vintage Masters come out online and get to stream and or do videos about Vintage once the Power Nine makes its appearance online.

It is also my goal to write more Vintage strategy articles in 2014 from the perspective of learning matchups with an emphasis on play-by-play decision making. I know that there are not many writers to commit to producing such content and that such content may also become particularly useful to players looking to transition to Vintage online. So expect more Vintage content than ever next year!

My other big resolution for the new year is to play more casual Magic and in doing so enjoy the carefree and lighthearted side of gaming that tournament Magic doesn’t always provide. Don’t get me wrong—I love to play in tournaments, and I love the high-pressure situations. However, I have come to recognize (perhaps from playing so many games of cribbage with my father!) that playing for fun or for the sake of playing also has its own well-deserved merit.

If you read my article last week, you know that I wrote about some Commander decks, and I am looking forward to playing games of that format at the game store. I may even sit down at the trade tables (an activity I haven’t done in probably three years now) and actively pursue foil copies of Ant Queen, Gleancrawler, and Caustic Wasp for my Insect-themed Xira Arien Commander deck.

All things being said, I resolve to continue to try to level up my Constructed play (which I am convinced is still lacking relative to my Limited skill) and to have fun doing so. I also am resolved to spend more time at Magic participating in the aspects of it that I find personally fun and engaging. I am going to use my Power Nine cards as much as possible in Vintage tournaments, and I am going to go out of my way to end my opponents with Killer Bees whenever possible at the Commander table.

Thank you all for reading my articles in 2013, and I look forward to writing for you again in 2014.