The Daily Shot: Where Did I Go Wrong?

A poor performance doesn’t always reflect opportunities that were missed, or mistakes that were made. Sometimes a 2-3 is just a 2-3, and it’s as simple as that. But where could I have made a mistake? Let me look closer.

Welcome back to the Daily Shot- and look at me, I’m making people happy! I’m the magical man, from Happyland, in a gumdrop house on Lollipop Lane!

That and a buck will get you an Ice Cave.

I got a lot of mail about making mistakes.

A cornucopia of commentary, as it were. A plethora of pontification. Of course, I don’t really know what a plethora is, so… How would I know if I had a plethora or not? It’s all just guesswork.

Jim Mason writes:

“Be more honest with yourself. You wrote that in several matches in your latest PTQ you made no mistakes. Come on now – that’s nonsense. If you can even think that, much less say it with a straight face, it means you are looking at the game in the wrong way. Your description of yourself reminds me of a friend of mine who is also very emotional and who does not have fun when he is losing. He also thinks he makes very few, if any, mistakes. However, he usually plays as if there is only one right play in any circumstance: He makes his decisions fairly quickly, without a lot of thought, because he always thinks that the correct play is obvious.

“The truth is that you usually have a wide variety of choices to make, and they fall into a spectrum of right to wrong. Often, a player will think they did not make a mistake because their decision was not obviously wrong. The truth is that you have made a mistake if you did not make the optimal decision. Knowing the difference between making a good decision and making the best decision is key to becoming a very good player. Having the honesty with yourself to recognize that you do not always make the optimal decision, even when your decision was good, will go a long way to improving your game.”

This”being honest with myself” stuff is overrated. When it comes to staying sane, a little self-delusion goes a long way.

I didn’t screw up that last play… It was just a clever gambit to lower opposing expectations and lure the enemy into a trap. I’m not balding, I’m strategically decreasing my morning combing time. A few extra seconds each day goes a long way towards success! Gaining weight? No, I’m lowering my chances of long-term starvation. It’s all part of a rich tapestry of self-improvement, and so forth. A guy like you wouldn’t understand.

The actual message here is that Jim, like many others, thinks that I’m too poor a player to recognize my own errors. To be more specific, he believes that it’s likely that my”correct play” wasn’t the best play possible. I don’t really blame him, but if I were to mail him and tell him that his 5-2 performance could have been 7-0, I doubt he’d believe me.

Freud said that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar – probably so that his colleagues would stop bugging him about oral fixation every time he lit up a stogie. Despite doing more cocaine on any given day than Michael Irvin, he was right. Sometimes a 1-2 is not a”3-0 gone awry.” A poor performance doesn’t always reflect opportunities that were missed, or mistakes that were made.

Sometimes a 2-3 is just a 2-3, and it’s as simple as that.

After a tournament where I tanked due to getting run over by bad matchups, poor draws, opposing god-draws and manascrew, I have a couple of different options. I can go 1-2 and then feel frustrated because I couldn’t do squat to change the outcome of any match – or I can go 1-2 and then feel bewildered because there must have been a way to win, but I can’t for the life of me figure out what it was!

The uncertainty of the second option leaves a lot to be desired. I’ll take”opposing God draws” any day, if the alternative is”I suck and I don’t know why! Help me!”

This attitude can quickly backfire if you aren’t honest with yourself, as Jim suggests. If you really do suck on a particular occasion, and keep suggesting that your losses are because of bad luck, then you’ve got trouble on the horizon. I, however, am absolutely not afraid to admit that I have played terribly on any given day. It’s not fun, but denying it doesn’t do any good, right?


On the flip side, assuming that you still did something wrong, even when you didn’t, isn’t going to get you anywhere. Still, I’m a good sport. Let’s go back over the tournament to see if we can find anything.

Round 2 goes to three games against Green/White.

Game 1 he gets Glory and outraces me by one turn because I have no Quiet Speculation and, thus, no Prismatic Strands.

Game 2 he draws poorly and I have a good draw and beat him, despite running into a Vengeful Dreams. Prismatic Strands is a wrecking ball when I draw it this game.

Game 3 he gets Glory and uses it to knock off two copies of Kirtar’s Desire on his two Phantom Centaurs, swinging for thirteen on two turns in a row. His draw is a little slow, but mine is slow as well – and again doesn’t have Quiet Speculation or Prismatic Strands (I’ve now sideboarded up to three copies). Basically, I get a bunch of 1/1s and maybe one Battle Screech, and land and Kirtar’s Desires. No Divine Sacrament.

Possible mistake:

Kirtar’s Desire is a good answer to Nantuko Shade and to Wild Mongrel, so I sided it in… But is there even any point when the opposing deck has Glory in it? Of course, it would have been either Deep Analysis or Envelop otherwise. Envelop is useless, but Deep Analysis might have drawn me into one of my Prismatic Strands, allowing me to race (my four damage/turn against his 13-15 points… Yay). I just figured I should side them out against beatdown and put in the Desires.

Is that it? Is that the mistake I missed?

It’s also possible that I made a mistake regarding my opening hand.

Brainburst turncoat and evil arch-nemesis Laura Mills writes:

“You’re always going to find games where you just can’t win. But there are other games where perfect play and perfect sideboarding still don’t win, ’cause you made a mistake somewhere else. Although I am sure that you probably heard it eight hundred times already, did you ask yourself if there was something else you should have done different? For example, I think I remember one game where you said all you had to do was cast a Screech or a Spec and you would have won, and you saw neither. Well, what was your opening hand like? Was it worth keeping? Was it worth keeping against the deck you were playing? Did you need either the Spec or Screech to win, period? If so, did you consider mulliganing until you had one in your opening hand?”

Hmm. Well, I did know how crucial Prismatic Strands was to the matchup, but you only need it if the opposing team draws Glory. Otherwise, you just win. So if you don’t have one, you shrug and hope that one of your four Quiet Specs or the one Strands shows up, while one of the opposing four Glories doesn’t. The chances are slightly in your favor. I mean, what if you mulligan and draw into a garbage hand? It’s a two-color deck, after all; the potential for screw is there already without a mulligan.

In Game 1 he drew Glory and I didn’t get Strands, he outraced me by one turn. I lost. In Game 2 I drew mine and he didn’t draw his. I won. In Game 3, he drew Glory and my draw was slower than congress (it was one of those three-spell, four-land draws where you rip two more land off of the top). He won.

Slow? Tumbleweeds roll up hills faster than that draw. My grandmother could beatdown faster than that if you let her play first.

Here’s a nifty note – he also won the DIE ROLL in Game 1, allowing him to outrace me by the one turn. Sorry… That is just random chance all the way.

Everything from the die roll to him drawing Glory and me not getting my Strands? Random. There is simply no mistake there. A butterfly flaps its wings in Peking and in Central Park you get rain instead of sunshine and by the way, I win that match.

To sum up, Laura has the right idea – keeping a bad (or inappropriate) hand is definitely a mistake. She’s gently trying to remind me that perhaps that was where I went wrong. Not this time, though. Never kept a five-lander all day, but…hmm.

Wait just a second!

Hold on!

Amos Claiborne writes:

I don’t know what Tomi Walamies is talking about (in reference to monoblack). Almost EVERY SINGLE GAME our test group has played – WW/u vs. MonoBlack – WW/u has lost. Game 2 is a little better, but it had better draw at least four of its sideboard cards or they absolutely lose. There is no question in my mind.

No reason to mulligan a hand against G/W… But what about a Game 2 or 3 hand against MBC that has no sideboard cards in it? Is it a mistake to keep a hand with three land, a Spurnmage Advocate (some of which I sided out for Stern Judges anyhow), two Tireless Tribes, and a Battle Screech? Do you need the double-Envelop draw to win?

Hmm… Perhaps we found possible mistake number two. Still, it’s hard to mulligan a hand where you have the right land in OBC. When you’re playing a two-color deck, you never want to mulligan… There’s a ton of bad stuff that can happen. Especially against monoblack, where the Edict/Blood war is often one of attrition.

That being said, I know I lost at least two games against Monoblack where I kept a hand with nothing but weenies and no Standstill or Deep Analysis. Then, of course, I proceeded to not draw any sideboard cards. Then there was the game where I needed to draw anything for ten turns and ended up drawing eight lands, Quiet Speculation, two Divine Sacraments, and two Deep Analysis in that time.

Was the small error of keeping a bad hand compounded by poor luck? Here’s my problem with this whole scenario:

If I mulligan, I have a chance of getting an even worse hand.

If I keep, I have a chance of drawing a bunch of sideboard cards off the top. I know the cards in my deck: After sideboarding there are four Envelop, four Deep Analysis, two Stern Judges, and three Standstills in the deck. That is a total of thirteen cards, or a sideboard card every 4.5 draws. If you discount the opening hand, it’s a sideboard card every four draws.

Final verdict? In the case of Geordie Tait vs. The”Mulligan Or No?” Mistake, I am innocent of all charges. It’s a crapshoot.

Moving on…

Josh Rider writes:

I think it’s presumptuous of you to say that you played all of those rounds without making mistakes. If you have your head in the game that day then you wouldn’t make any play that you would think of as a mistake. Without Kai Budde, Mike Turian, and William Jensen all standing over your shoulder, you can’t accurately make a statement like that.

Are you sure you did everything you could? If your losses really were due to things out of your control, why make yourself crazy? In the more likely case that you didn’t do everything in your power to win, you have to take a more introspective approach than just damning your bad luck.

Josh raises an interesting question… Just how much better are the Pros than someone like me? And perhaps more importantly, why are they better? And in what ways?

You know what I think? I think that Kai and Baby Huey and the Mighty Potato might not have been playing U/W on the day, that is what I think. I think we can chalk up my real mistake not to the pure mechanics of play but to deck choice.

Check this out:

Jarrod”Fatboy Slim” Bright writes:

In your article, you said the UW Speculation beatdown deck beats GW. If you could please let me know how the deck accomplishes this, that would be greatly appreciated, since I am running GW this weekend and would like to know exactly how this deck goes about trying to beat GW. From five test games, it is 0-5 against GW so far, largely due to Vengeful Dreams, Glory and White creatures on the other side of the board.

When Jarrod isn’t shakin’ like Jerry Lee Lewis or writing”Nu-Tech,” he does a lot of G/W OBC testing.

So Amos Claiborne says that it loses to Monoblack all day, and Jarrod”Molson Canadian House Party” Bright, a longtime tester and proponent of OBC G/W, says that it loses to G/W. Hmm. So what do I beat?

Well, the Team Punisher deck beats U/G beatdown, especially the threshold version. Almost 50% of the field at Worlds. How many of those did I play against?


Another crapshoot. Still, I think when you look for the real reason behind the 2-3 finish, this is where the blame lies. Not in my play or in which hands I chose to keep, but in my deck choice.

Sigh. Nope.

I still don’t buy it.

Can that deck choice really even be called a mistake? I chose a deck that is a great matchup against the most popular deck in the field – and if I had played a bunch of Zvi-style U/G decks in a row, you might very well be wishing me luck for Houston right now.

Time for the final answer.

I guess maybe it was the Kirtar’s Desire in Game 3, Round 1.

Say I draw Deep Analysis Game 3 instead of the Kirtar’s Desire that I boarded in for them. They have a small chance of drawing me into something that can outrace his ridiculous Mongrel/Brushhopper/2x Phantom Centaur draw, despite the fact that I drew five land and four spells by turn 3. Somehow, I manage to weather the storm and win the round. I get paired up against U/G for the rest of the day, instead of Monoblack. I go on to win.

A butterfly flaps its wings in Peking. In Central Park, we get rain instead of sunshine. I’m off to Houston.

Yeah, that could be it.

Or not. Who are we trying to kid with these outrageous scenarios?

How about “My opponent drew Glory every game where it mattered and he won the die roll and my draw sucked and I never drew a Prismatic Strands or a way to get one and I never played against my best matchup despite it being the most popular archetype in the format and I didn’t draw my sideboard cards against Monoblack and I double mulliganed twice and my opponents only took one mulligan all day and there was a game where I needed to draw anything to win for ten turns and didn’t and I ended up 2-3 and now I’m going home.”

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

It’s not whining, it’s the truth.

Am I being honest with myself?


Telling yourself you screwed up somehow when you didn’t – that would be dishonest.

Sometimes you do nothing wrong and lose anyway. Don’t let people tell you any different.

Have a good one – I’ll see you tomorrow.

Geordie Tait

[email protected]

P.S.: A Daily Shot”Shout Out” to former Magic columnist and Team Spike UK member Alice Coggins. Hi, Alice!