This is my first article in a long time, and it’s the first time in some time that I will be writing regularly. I am really excited to share a bit of what
I have learned over the years with you, but first an introduction.
My name is Chris Andersen, but most people call me “Chrandersen” or just “Chran.” I’ve been playing Magic since I was four years old, competitively since
2008. I’ve learned the nuances of the game from the brightest minds to come out of the Midwest and have built up a reasonable resume’. While I know I have
a long way to go to reach my goals, I am proud of what I have accomplished so far, and look forward to continuing to improve my game in the future.
I love to teach and I love to learn. Magic is a wonderful outlet for me to do both of those things, and while I will often be writing about topical
competitive formats, the primary focus of this column will be to help my readers accomplish their competitive Magic goals.
“I Want to Get Better at Magic.”
This sentiment has been expressed to me countless times over the years and is something that all of us have felt to varying degrees. Unfortunately, (or
fortunately perhaps) just like any other discipline, there is no shortcut that will magically make you amazing at this game. Before you take the first step
on your journey to improving your play, you have to understand the difference between these statements:
I want to
better at Magic.
I want to be better at Magic.
If you want to be better at Magic, that is great. That’s the first step. So far so good. However, there are a countless number of players who want
to be better at Magic but don’t do anything about it. While this is fine, those people shouldn’t be upset when they don’t see any results in their
improvement, because while most of them may want to be better at Magic, they aren’t willing to get better at Magic.
Getting better at Magic takes dedication.
Getting better at Magic is hard.
Magic is hard.
However, you always, always, always reap what you sow. If you put in the appropriate effort, you can achieve your goals.
Magic is a discipline, and like any discipline, mastery is a result of hard work, smart work, and persistence. So before we continue, be honest with
yourself. Do you want to put in the effort to improve your play? If that answer is yes, I would love to help you achieve your goals.
Sam Stoddard and the Fearless Magical Inventory
Several years ago, now Wizards R&D member Sam Stoddard wrote what I think is one of the most important Magic articles of all time. If you have never
seen it before, I highly recommend giving it a read. If you have seen
it before, I highly recommend you read it again.
Sam has a moment of clarity where he realizes his level of play had corroded to a level he found unacceptable. His solution was to create a list of every
facet of his game that he was dissatisfied with. Making a list like Sam’s is a magnificent starting point for everyone looking to improve their play for
1. Your ego is your biggest opponent
A Fearless Magical Inventory is a starting point to being able to publicly own your shortcomings and detach your ego from the improvement
2. You can’t fix what you can’t see
. Magic is a very deep game, and you won’t even be able to spot most mistakes you make without practice. Practice makes perfect, and
troubleshooting your Magic game is no different. The more you scour your play for errors and bad habits, the better you will get at finding them.
3. Developing a personal list gives you a focus point
. You may say you want to get better at Magic, and that’s great, but just saying it wont get you anywhere if you don’t know how. If you have a list
of your bad habits, you can focus on specifically improving your game. Progress you can monitor is fantastic for morale.
4. You will begin to develop a positive attitude to finding your mistakes
. Everybody makes mistakes. You, me, Owen Turtenwald, Patrick Chapin, Brian Kibler, Yuuya Watanabe, Reid Duke, everyone. It’s impossible not to.
When you punt and catch yourself, that is a good thing because you are monitoring your play. A caught punt is an opportunity to get better
at Magic, and a Fearless Magical Inventory is a tool that allows you to turn that opportunity into something tangible. You should be proud
of your mistakes if you are doing something to correct them.
Like I said before, Sam’s inventory is a fantastic starting point on your path to becoming better at Magic. However, I would like to take his concept a
step further and create a second list. This list is a list of strengths in your Magic game and why they have become strengths. The Magic community has
traditionally focused on the negative when it comes to improving your play, and while that is obviously invaluable, I think taking some time to focus on
the positive attributes of your game has immense value as well.
1.When you discover why things are working well for you, you can apply the process of whatever it is you did to get that facet of your game working
to other applicable aspects of your game.
2. Providing yourself with a steady stream of positive reinforcement allows you to maintain a happy attitude toward Magic in general. Nothing is more
motivating than seeing your progress in action, and nothing is more stifling to improving yourself than having a bad attitude toward the game. If
you are constantly focusing on your game in terms of your shortcomings, it is easy to grow resentful of the process, and at the end of the day, we
are trying to master this game because we love it. Taking the love out of the process is the last thing we want.
3.Being able to add something to your list of strengths is a true indicator of progress, unlike tournament success. Magic is a game of skill and
luck, and the best player will often not be standing when the dust clears at the end of a tournament. Therefore, tournament success is not a great
marker by which you can measure your progress as a player.
When your goal is to win Magic tournaments, you will only be disappointed and frustrated. When your goal is to master your craft, the wins will flow
Having a strength portion of your Magic inventory allows you to measure your improvement in a way where you can focus on mastering your craft instead of
Improve with Your Friends
Sam chose to work on his inventory himself and then publish it. I think a collaborative method is a better way to go about creating your inventory for a
few reasons. The first being that we as humans are egotistical creatures and are biased. Denying this fact can only do yourself a disservice. Having a
like-minded group of friends to work on this inventory with each other is a great way to stay as unbiased as possible. Your friends will probably be able
to see shortcomings in your game that you had no idea even existed, and vice versa. Also, the more minds working on a project, the better, and having a
group of friends as a support group is an excellent way to keep the process focused and keep it fun.
Create a Fearless Magical inventory for yourself. Get your friends to make their own Fearless Magical Inventories, and help each other improve your lists.
If you feel inclined, post your inventories on social media or even the comments section of this article. The more public you are about your desire to
improve, the more motivated you will be to follow through on the process to achieve your goals and the easier it will be to find like-minded people to
collaborate with. Send me a message on social media with your own inventory. I’m looking to collect information on my readers so I can write articles that
will help address the things I see coming up repeatedly in your inventories.
Remember: Be proud of your mistakes if you are trying to do something about fixing them!