The Mistake And The Rebound

Magic players make mistakes, even the game’s elite. We’re human; nobody’s perfect. Invitational winner Dylan Donegan shows how those mistakes aren’t as important as the way players rebound from them!

This past weekend we had the privilege of watching an incredible Pro Tour. First off, there was a reasonable level of diversity among the top decks and what made the elimination rounds. The Top 8 was filled with some new faces and some of the game’s best. It was won by one of the best in the world, Seth Manfield. Congrats, Seth! You deserve it.

However, aside from the great games and great play, my favorite part about this weekend’s coverage was actually seeing the misplays made by top-level pros. There were times where it was heartbreaking, like watching Mike Sigrist forget that his freshly reanimated Longtusk Cub could attack for the final points. Or seeing Owen Turtenwald forget to leave up double green before peeling a Bristling Hydra off his Rogue Refiner.

However, seeing these top pros make mistakes was also relatively comforting. None of us are perfect, and we all make mistakes sometimes.


Coping with misplays has been my weakest area in Magic for quite some time. It’s something I’ve progressively gotten better at over the years, but I still struggle. You’ll never see me tilt or complain about how well my opponents draw, but you certainly might see some frustration if I made a mistake, especially one that costs me a game. Even tiny ones still tend to set me off-balance for a bit. When I make a subtle beginner-level mistake. I tend to beat myself up for it during the match: “You’re better than that, Dylan.” “What is wrong with you?”

Something watching this past Pro Tour helped me realize is that isn’t beyond anyone, and it’s okay to have hiccups occasionally. What’s important is being able to recognize your mistake and not tilting off during the match as a result.

Mid-match tilt can be a death sentence to your entire tournament. You make one tiny mistake Game 1, you beat yourself up over it, and it spirals into multiple mistakes. Magic is an incredibly tough game and playing seven to nine rounds in a day can be very mentally exhausting.

It’s all about minimizing your mistakes; you’re not going to play perfectly every round of the tournament. Tilting is one of the biggest boundaries people face when trying to become a competitive Magic player. If you are constantly getting upset over the luck of the draw that you or your opponent had, you will not be successful in Magic. This is going to negatively affect your play, create an unfun experience for you and your opponent, and can even make you lose some credibility among the community.

It’s easy to get frustrated when you make a potentially game-losing mistake, especially when there are hundreds or thousands of dollars on the line. Learning how control yourself mid match when something like that happens can make or break your Magic career.

This match is my favorite example of containing yourself after a game-losing play. Steve Rubin is playing Luis Scott-Vargas deep in Day 2 of the Pro Tour. On top of that, Steve is live for his first potential Top 8 after falling just short many Pro Tours prior. At about 35:35, Steve makes an emblem with his Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. This turns out to be a crucial error because what he wanted to do that turn was cast his Archangel Avacyn and follow up with a Hangarback Walker for zero to flip the Angel and wipe out LSV’s battlefield.

Right after he puts the emblem on the battlefield, you see him show a brief amount of frustration and have a bit of an “oh crap” moment. But he quickly gets himself together, takes a deep breath, and gets back in the zone. He ends up losing because of the mistake, but he even has a smile on his face after the loss before telling Luis his big mistake.

Steve went on to become a Pro Tour champion that weekend, so it’s safe to say he didn’t let that mistake get to him too much.

There’s a lot to love about how Steve handled that situation. A lot of players in that spot would have either thrown the rest of that game or even become verbally or visually upset. I know I wouldn’t have been able to keep it together like Steve did. It’s very impressive that he was able to show so little emotion after the mistake and get his head right back in the game.

Even at the end of the match, Rubin couldn’t help but put his hand in his hair. It’s understandable to be frustrated in a situation like that; after all, we all are human.

Just a little under two months ago I found myself playing for the Top 8 of GP DC. I was beyond thrilled to be 12-2 after a rough 3-2 start to my tournament. I was in a spot to make the elimination rounds of my first GP as well as joining my teammate Collins Mullen in top 8. Then in Game 2, down a game in Round 15, I essentially “misclicked” in real life to lose the match.

I had the game essentially won, and the line had already gone through my head. But when I went to execute my line I ended up pointed to the wrong creature when exerting my Glorybringer. I instantly lost as a result in a game I was close to 99% to win. There went my opportunity to play Game 3 for Top 8, along with a GP Top 8, a Pro Tour invite to Spain, and potentially thousands of dollars.

After the match, I believe I handled the situation well. I simply sighed, called myself an idiot and congratulated my opponent on his Top 8. But the ride home and the following days were just brutal for me. I was constantly beating myself up over of my misplay. I also started to think, “How can I put so much time into something and still make an error like that?”

The truth is, even though it ended on a bad note, I had a great tournament. If I had made that mistake in an earlier round of the tournament, I probably wouldn’t dwell so much on it. In fact, I’d probably be a lot happier with my Top 32 finish at a GP. But because it was a crucial match playing for Top 8, it lingered over me for a bit. My mistake was likely correlated with me being just drained from playing all day. GPs are long and very mentally taxing, especially when you’re deep into Day 2 playing some of the game’s best. That was without a doubt the costliest error I’ve ever made in my Magic career. But I’m lucky enough to have been in the position I was in and it will only be motivation going forward to make my first Top 8.

I can’t imagine how Mike Sigrist felt after his quarterfinals loss this weekend. I wouldn’t be surprised if he still is beating himself up over it.

He Tweeted this moments after the match. Yet it was followed by awesome responses by some great dudes. Instead of beating him up or posting a sad response, they simply reminded him that he’s great and that everyone makes mistakes. Siggy can take solace that he’s one of the world’s best, had a great tournament, and assuredly played well to get there.

The best example in recent past of a major mistake would be Yam Wing Chun’s legendary attempt to attack with a Hazoret the Fervent with two cards in hand. The right play would have secured him a spot in the Pro Tour finals and potentially led to him becoming a Pro Tour champion. On top of that, if he finished second, it would have placed his team higher in the season standings and secured his teammate Anthony Lee a Pro Tour invite for next season.

That mistake cost Yam potentially tens of thousands of dollars, a chance to become a Pro Tour Champion, Platinum status, a potential Worlds invite, and his teammate a Pro Tour invite That’s a lot of money and prestige riding on the back of one misplay. I even had the displeasure of being at the site when it had just happened, and it was a very sad sight to see.

All though it was heartbreaking at the time, Yam has taken it in stride. In fact, in Yam’s case it has helped boost his Magic celebrity status. I would bet money Yam has signed a healthy number of Hazoret the Fervents since that event. We even saw in Round 8 last weekend his opponent joke about the misplay, asking him how many cards in hand before attacking with a Hazoret. Yam simply laughed and shrugged it off, which is exactly how he should respond. Yam clearly is a fantastic player, finishing 11-5 or better at back-to-back Pro Tours. He simply got overwhelmed with excitement at a crucial moment of a tournament. I bet a lot of us were able to relate to him when that happened. I know I was.

An Honest Mistake

Mistakes happen. You might mess up in the first round because you’re still waking up. Or you might become so overwhelmed when you are about to win that you overlook something. Hey, you might just have a good old-fashioned brain fart. No matter what your mistake is or how you made it, it’s crucial that you don’t let it get the best of you and let it derail your tournament. Nobody can play every single round of Magic perfectly. There are too many dynamics, decision points, and factors outside of the match that might cause you to miss something. It’s all about minimizing the mistakes we make, being able to learn from them, and being able to move past them. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, don’t expect to play perfectly every round, and don’t beat yourself up when you do.

This weekend I’ll be venturing out to play some Standard at GP Atlanta, hosted by Star City Games. I’m thrilled to get back to Standard for this weekend and the following one for the Team Constructed Open in Baltimore. I’m also excited to say I will be teaming with two Gold pros and good friends in Oliver Tiu and Noah Walker. I’ve got a lot of weight on my shoulders playing Standard with such great players. But this weekend, I’ll be looking to improve on my finish from the last GP I played. Hopefully the mistakes I make (because I will make some) won’t cost me a spot in the Top 8 this time. And don’t hesitate to come by and say hi in between rounds; I absolutely love hearing from readers!