Welcome to part two of "Avoiding Awkward Social Encounters While Playing Magic" Week, as written by the foremost authority on awkward social encounters! Yesterday’s tirade was more of a pet peeve; today’s shall be universal in its application.
The sum of my argument is this: If it is your inclination to whine to your opponent (or anyone) about your misfortunes during a game of Magic, don’t. No one wants to hear it, so just shut your miserable mouth.
For starters, you probably don’t even have the first clue what you’re complaining about. Some people, for instance, think that statistical averages apply to each game individually; i.e. if someone is playing 40% land, then at the end of any game, he thinks something unfair has happened if he’s drawn spells and lands in anything other than a perfect 3:2 ratio. Something in this vein that Chambers and I witnessed at Turning Stone was an imbecile rivering a Royal Flush and exclaiming, “Hey, I guess this means I’ve played 650,000 hands!” I didn’t remember the odds of making the hand – I looked it up and found out it was about 1 in 650,000 – but I’m pretty sure the guy actually even used a different number there.
Worse yet, many people think they deserve things that are outside the realm of statistical probability. To such people, “could possibly happen” and “should happen” may as well be basically interchangeable. Perhaps a few examples would illustrate what I mean.
#1: “I never draw my Rorix!!”
If you have a bad deck with one good card in it, you can’t anticipate winning many rounds. You can’t count on your bomb bailing you out every game you play.
#2: “I never draw my Infiltrator’s Magemark!!”
Same as the last example, but without the basic knowledge of what even constitutes a game-breaking card.
#3: “I was stuck on eight lands the whole game!!”
The most recent real-life example of this was someone who had the misfortune being “stuck” on five lands against me, but I’d be lying if I told you I’d never heard earnest complaints of “stalling” on even higher quantities.
Someone who says this doesn’t realize that he’s living the charmed life if he’s been able to muster four colors of mana most games in the tournament.
Same as the last example, but with the lack of understanding that he probably would have been in bad shape even if he’d been able to cast his 2/2 with no special abilities whatsoever.
As revealed in a few of these examples, even if things had gone perfectly, the whiner still might not have had a shot of winning. I actually got to see poor Rich Hoaen on the receiving end of some of this outlandish, unfounded complaining at the Coldsnap prerelease. Hoaen beat some kid senseless, then the kid threw his hand of six cards he couldn’t cast on the table in disgust, whining about his rotten luck. This would only have been 80% as bad if three of those cards hadn’t been Martyr of Do-Nothing Lifegainsies. I doubt he realized it, but in essence, what the lad was saying was, “If I’d only drawn a Plains, my life total probably could have hit fifty before it started rapidly spiraling toward zero!”
Now, however, let’s suppose for the sake of argument that you have a legitimate gripe. You stalled on two lands; or you drew four straight lands when any spell would have won you the game; or your opponent had exactly one turn to peel his one copy of Flame Fusillade before you killed him, and – wouldn’t you know? – he drew exactly that. (In the latter case, let’s ignore the possibility that perhaps it was unlucky that your opponent found himself in the position where he needed to topdeck Flame Fusillade for the win. Let’s suppose that he was misplaying at every opportunity, and his deck simply bailed him out).
Before you start to bitch out your opponent, close your eyes real tight and pretend just for a moment that whatever happened to you has happened to your opponent and everyone else who has ever played Magic. I know – it’s kind of a radical premise. However, if you can suspend your disbelief for just a few seconds, take a deep breath, and just walk away silently, the world will be an ever-so-slightly better place.
What is it exactly that you’d like your opponent to say, anyway? Do you want him to pretend to be sympathetic? I certainly have no desire to pat some social outcast’s hand and walk him back from the ledge if he’s too stupid to realize the pointlessness of his tears. And yet, sometimes I have to do it. Whatever it takes to get you to sign the freaking sheet so I can get out of there and stop having to deal with you. If you put me in the position of saying, “Yeah, man, if you’d drawn the third plains and the Hour of Reckoning and your Belfry Spirit, there’s no way I could have won,” then you’ll have to forgive me if I sound like I’m patronizing you. Because I am. You moron.
Someone who’s taken a commendable zero-tolerance stance toward whining is one Nathan Zamora. (For more information on Mr. Zamora, please see tomorrow’s Daily). After one of the later rounds of Day 2 at PT Honolulu, I saw a pudgy gentleman in a comically incongruous pink Jigglypuff shirt storm out of the play area with smoke coming out of his ears. I assumed that he had just suffered some sort of bad beat. I was scared, but I managed to ask him what had happened. Apparently, he had just gone off on his opponent since his opponent had complained about Zamora’s draws. The rumor from people who had heard the earlier yelling was that Zamora had drawn all four Stone Rains in the early turns of the deciding game, and when I asked if that had actually happened, he stated very angrily and matter-of-factly that it had. I then asked if he still lost; he said no. To recap: Nathan Zamora actually went off on an opponent for complaining when he himself had had a good draw and won the match. Between that and the Jigglypuff shirt, I was instantly impressed.
Thus, if you have to vent, do it to your friends, and do it sparingly. They don’t want to hear it either, but they’ll do a much better job of feigning sympathy. After all, if they don’t pretend to care about your misfortune, who can they turn to when they have pocket kings and there’s an ace on the flop?
Join me tomorrow when I do that thing I said I was gonna do earlier in the article.
Timothy James Aten