2016 is coming to a close and it’s not only time to reflect on the past year but also look towards the coming year. Here’s my list of my big dreams for 2017 and some of my hopes for the directions Magic will take!
2017 – The Year I, Shaun McLaren, Will Win Pro Tour Aether Revolt!
My brother, Dean McLaren, won a Magic Online PTQ and I’m excited that he will be joining me in for Pro Tour Aether Revolt in February.
I bring it up because he showed me something very interesting after he won. It was a notebook, filled with page after page of writing, each page filled with some variation of the same phrase written over and over again. That phrase essentially boiled down to:
“I, Dean McLaren, will qualify for and play in Pro Tour Dublin.”
This method of writing down a specific and measurable goal repeatedly each day is known as the affirmation technique. You may have heard it of it in some form or another and there are many variations to it like The Secret.
Naturally I’m skeptical about any sort of magical way to be successful at Magic, but I’m willing to look for new ways to succeed, even if the reasons behind why it works aren’t readily apparent.
To win at Magic you have to put in the work. There’s not only plenty of preparation that must be done before a tournament, but also the mental work and execution of making good decisions during a tournament. Hard work is unavoidable if you want to succeed, and attributing success to anything else is misguided.
You can’t win just by writing your goals over and over. Achieving your desires in the realm of Magic or life isn’t necessarily even about goals; it’s about routines and about the habits you follow to set yourself up for victory.
However, the key to this method is that you are gaining some very real strategic benefits by laying out a clear path that leads to where you want to be.
The Anatomy of an Affirmation
If you’d like to perform a little experiment and try out an affirmation for yourself, here’s what I’d recommend:
- Have a specific, concrete, measurable, and visualizable goal.
- Write it down fifteen times a day in a notebook dedicated solely to that affirmation. For example:
“I, (Insert Name Here), will qualify for Pro Tour Amonkhet.”
- Every time you write out your goal, really think about it. Let the wording of the goal change if it makes sense to change it. Think about how you can accomplish the goal and how it will feel when it is complete.
In my experience trying the method, the third step is where all the magic happens. Your mind will automatically generate strategies to move you towards your aim.
Some of Dean’s thoughts as he wrote out his affirmations are as follows:
Question: How many different ways are there to qualify for this Pro Tour?
Answer: RPTQ, Magic Online PTQ, high finish at Grand Prix.
Question: How can I maximize the amount of chances I get to qualify?
Answer: Attend every PPTQ possible, enter every Online PTQ possible, attend every Grand Prix possible.
Question: How can I maximize the probability of qualifying in each individual event?
Answer: Play the best deck, practice as much as I can with the deck, make sure I am well rested for each event, focus on making good decisions during each game.
I hope these examples illustrate how focusing on a specific goal can help you in breaking down exactly how to accomplish it. Each goal will be different, but just taking the time to write down the goal again and again will give you time to really think about how to get it done.
As a little tip for choosing an appropriate goal, I’d recommend overshooting your capabilities by just a bit. Aim for a goal that is just above your reach that you also have a strong desire to accomplish.
There’s no sense in playing it safe. I used this technique already for Pro Tour Kaladesh, and even though it didn’t result in me winning, I think it helped me land a solid Top 50 finish. Chances are I won’t actually end up winning Pro Tour Aether Revolt either, but if you’re not failing some of the time, you’re probably not aiming high enough. Reframe the situation in your own mind: there’s no failure, only learning.
If you’re curious enough to give this experiment a try or already have experience with a similar method, let me know how it goes for you, positively or otherwise. Did it help you focus and put more work toward your goal, or did it just feel silly and pointless?
2017 – The Year Standard’s Health Improves
I enjoyed this Standard format, but I also never really piloted much W/U Flash or B/G Delirium. I was always on a rogue Energy deck of some sort and I think avoiding the two best decks of the format helped keep things fresh for me.
- 4 Tireless Tracker
- 1 Verdurous Gearhulk
- 4 Longtusk Cub
- 4 Voltaic Brawler
- 2 Lathnu Hellion
- 3 Bristling Hydra
- 4 Servant of the Conduit
Even though I enjoyed playing Standard for the most part, I wouldn’t give it high marks as an environment.
Honestly I’m not entirely sure it’s possible for Standard to be amazing nowadays, or what that would look like; we’re just too good at solving the format. Perhaps it just needs a better suite of answers for the most powerful cards in the format, like graveyard hate and stronger artifact removal than Root Out.
This was in the last major graveyard block. Earth did not explode.
A good Standard format is a new Standard format.
It seems like Standard is almost always captivating in the beginning but doesn’t stay captivating for long if you’re a competitive player who plays a lot of Magic.
That’s why formats rotate and we might just be doomed to enjoy that cycle.
2017 – The Year Modern Doesn’t Fall Apart
Whatever you think of Modern and its health as a format, it’s undeniably popular.
I’m enjoying Modern right now as my go-to format of choice. It seems like every time a new set is released, there are a decent number of cards from it that see play in Modern.
The question: will bans happen? I’d say right now that immediate bans or unbans seem unlikely, and probably won’t have an Immense impact on things anyway. Modern should be just fine.
2017 – The Year Frontier Becomes a Real Format
“The frontier was everywhere. We were bounded only by the earth, the ocean, and the sky. The open road still softly calls…” – Carl Sagan
New formats are fun.
Frontier is the hot new format on the block that includes cards from Magic 2015 forward. You can read more about Frontier from Mark Nestico.
Frontier is essentially a speedier, more deadly Standard and a slower, less explosive Modern format.
As someone whose major desire regarding Magic is simply just a desperate craving for different ways to play competitive Magic in formats that haven’t had every nook and cranny explored, it seems like a great idea. I hope it receives some attention and becomes a sanctioned format and we see some high-level Frontier events.
If Frontier became popular, it could potentially be a way to introduce a new format to the Pro Tour that isn’t Standard. Frontier might not showcase the cards from new sets quite as well as Standard, but it should do so more than Modern.
It would certainly be fun to see an attempt at a Standard and Frontier Pro Tour instead of Standard and Draft as a change-up.
2017 – The Year of Streaming
In 2015 and 2016I’ve streamed a decent amount of Magic Online on and off and been having a blast doing so.
Magic Online is a challenging game enough to play without trying to entertain an audience, but it’s worth the effort.
I want to keep writing great articles, making videos, and streaming, while improving in each of those areas.
2017 – The Year Magic Online Gets Good
Treasure Chests actually turned out to be fine, Leagues are great, and the Magic Online economy seems to be doing okay.
This card just keeps getting weirder.
I’d like to see a Grand Prix for Magic Online as well.
2017’s the year for Magic Online, just you wait!
2017 – The Year of Unique and Balanced Planeswalkers
I’m going to be totally honestl here when I say I have not been particularly impressed with the mold planeswalkers have fallen into lately. The variations on “abilities to draw a card and removal” are getting a little old.
Planeswalkers are difficult to get right and can end up being oppressive if they’re too powerful, irrelevant if they’re too weak, and boring if they aren’t shiny and new.
Let’s Imagine for a moment the possibilities Tezzeret the Schemer provides.
+1: Create a colorless artifact token named Etherium Cell which has “Tap, Sacrifice this artifact: Add one mana of any color to your mana pool.”
Tezzeret the Schemer certainly fits the criterion of being unique and could be very powerful if the right artifacts get printed; it’s not so great otherwise.
This +1 is decent ramp and capable of really putting the Lotus Petal to the metal. It’s not quite as efficient as Chandra, Torch of Defiance, but it’s much better for splashing other colors or for stockpiling mana to ramp out something gigantic like Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger or perhaps a certain draconic planeswalker that has yet to see the light of day. Blue and black don’t usually get ramp like this, which certainly also adds to the appeal.
The other main benefit would be if creating artifacts synergizes with the other cards in your deck. Notably, Tezzeret the Schemer is missing a way to draw cards, so some way to convert artifacts into cards would be good.
Tezzeret the Schemer’s main strength comes from his high loyalty and affinity (excuse the pun) for artifacts.
Tezzeret the Schemer’s ultimate and -2 depend highly on artifacts, and even though he can create his own, Tezzeret will likely be only appearing as the lynchpin in very specific types of decks, namely artifact ones.
It’s going to be hard to knock off six loyalty immediately if you use his +1, and if you use the -2, he’ll still have a solid three loyalty.
Using the -2 multiple turns in a row is incredibly appealing if you’ve set up for it in the early turns. The issue is there aren’t all that many artifact decks in Standard. Tireless Tracker and Clues seem appealing, or perhaps Metalwork Colossus decks will make a comeback.
It does seem likely Aether Revolt will have plenty of goodies Tezzeret will want to play with, though.
-7: You get an emblem with “At the beginning of combat on your turn, target artifact you control becomes an artifact creature with base power and toughness 5/5.”
This ultimate doesn’t take much effort to activate, but it’s also far from immediately winning the game. An army of 5/5 creatures should be enough to close out games if you’re focused on having artifacts anyway and have a little bit of time.
2017 – The Year of…
… fill in the blank for yourself! I hope you have the opportunity, passion, drive, and energy to do things you want to do.
These were some of my wishes. What would your ideal Magical year of 2017 look like, and what would you end up accomplishing?