While I’m a firm supporter in hardcore gaming and testing every week, if you want to be an elite player, I feel that it’s also important to just get
away for a little bit and take some time off. Living a life on the road is a grind, and for those of you who think you know what a grind is, just try
to play only Magic every day for a month straight away from home. Flights are always booked last minute; hotels are booked when you’re in the city;
transportation to airports and hotels is figured out last minute… if at all. The life is very stressful and draining when you combine it with this
game, which makes sure the brain works at full potential at all times.
With all this stress, you need breaks, and with the way that the Magic schedule is these days, it’s hard to find the time to relax. With 30
StarCityGames.com Opens, 7 national Grand Prix, Regionals, Nationals, States, and Worlds, that alone takes up 40 of the 54 weeks in this calendar year!
Not to mention every weekend that isn’t included has some other event that can be attended. These events need to be taken methodically, and it has been
recently hitting me that I needed a break for a few days to regroup.
Grand Prix Dallas was a rough weekend for me, as yet again I punted away a Day 2 at a big tourney.
In the past, every major event that I’ve attended has ended with my crashing and burning in the second day of competition. It started when I was
sixteen and playing in the Junior Super Series Championship. I started off Day 1 at 8-0 before losing my last round of the day and ended the day ranked
second in a tournament where you needed ten wins to get in Top 8. With only four rounds in Day 2, I needed to win two of them to get into Top 8. I won
my first round of the day and then had three consecutive “win and ins.” I lost my first to my only bad matchup in the tourney, drew my second with my
second worst matchup, and then in the final round, I played against my closest friend with whom I brewed my deck with, and we were playing a 73-card
mirror in which he beat me to get into Top 8.
Other such incidents have included another JSS champs, in which I was 7-2 Day 1 and then 0-4ed Day 2, and losing my last round to get knocked out of
money in consecutive Grand Prix, Pro Tour, and then Nationals, in which I finished 66th, 80th, and 21st respectively. These continual bad showings have
put me on tilt, and I end up going into a downward spiral.
Magic is a very mental game, and much like poker, has its swings. One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in both is to play the game without emotion.
A win is a win, and a loss is a loss. You can’t think about the result from last week or the last round when you sit across the table from a new
opponent. Magic is a skill game, and in the long run, better players will win. This is why we play the game.
While there’s some variance involved in the game, if you’re a better player, you’ll win more then you lose.
Everyone who plays to win thinks they’re “good enough,” and emotion becomes more of a factor in the later rounds of the tournament. When you’re at the
higher levels, you expect to win; thus, your wins give you no satisfaction while your losses leave you heartbroken. This train of emotions can only
leave you feeling awful, so it’s best to take it out of the equation in order to stop yourself from overthinking and making misplays. Being levelheaded
lets you be the best player you can be at all times and will make your tournament experience more enjoyable, rather than get pissed when you lose.
The psychology of the game when playing at a competitive level is often overlooked; you see a lot of sore losers who exclaim that they hate the game.
It’s upsetting to watch a friend lose and claim to hate something you know they love.
Sometimes, you just need a break to get over these funks.
This past week after a strong 7-2 Day 1 in Dallas and then a disappointing 2-3 on Day 2, I decided that I’d take a week and a half off of Magic. I
needed to regroup after not having had a weekend off in nearly two months and after weeks filled with playtesting and MTGO.
Instead of Magic, I spent some time with a friend of mine in the bayou an hour east of Houston, TX, near Louisiana. I’d never really been in this
region of the country, especially not on a non-Magic related vacation in which I wasn’t staying in some random hotel. The atmosphere was completely
different from what I’m used to, and I had a few new experiences that I really enjoyed.
My first experience was realizing how amazing snow cones are. The town that I was staying in had a bunch of these little sheds that you drive up to for
delicious snow cones. I think I went at least once every day I was there and almost got addicted to them.
One of my next experiences was going crabbing in the bayou, and for those who’ve never seen a bayou, the dual land is a very accurate description of
what a bayou actually consists of: it’s a swamp with some greenery in and around it. So crabbing is where you take string with a piece of chicken on
it, and then when a crab starts to grab the piece of chicken, you bring the string in until it’s close enough that you can grab the crab in a fish net.
While this might seem easy, it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, as if you pull the string too hard, the crab will come off, and it seems
like the crab always seems to let go right when you’re about to catch it in the net.
After this awesome crabbing experience in the morning, we got the better part of the deal and got to eat all of the crab we caught for dinner that
night, and there is nothing that tastes better than knowing you worked to catch your own fresh food.
One of the last cool things I experienced in the swamp/forest of America was eating good Cajun food. While I’ve had Cajun food before, I’ve never had
authentic Cajun where they don’t have to try to make it taste Cajun; it’s just how they cook. I figured that while I was there, I might as well try
their crawfish. I have to say it was amazingâ€”all the spices leave your hands, face, and mouth tingling.
After some good times and with good food in my belly, it was soon Thursday, and it was time to go home back to Orlando for a few days.
Being back in Orlando felt great, as it’s always nice to sleep in your own bed after being out on the road for a long time. Taking the day off on
Thursday, I decided that I’d go hang out and play some Magic at my local FNM to decide whether I wanted to show up and play in Regionals. Going 1-2
drop in FNM made me decide to take the weekend off and take a break to rethink the format with another stretch of StarCityGames.com Opens coming up.
I have come to the decision that a Vengevine-based deck is not placed correctly in the format anymore, as I feel that it’s getting played more and
more, therefore removing the element of surprise that the Jumanji deck originally had. I feel that with only two more weekends to go until New Phyrexia
comes out, I’ll audible to a different deck for right now until the new set.
For the next two weekends of Standard, I’ll be playing one of three decks, but I’m not sure which. One option is a very simple, linear Valakut deck,
such as this list from Atlanta:
Another option is a deck that I’ve been seeing a lot more of in the Orlando area, a Mono-Green Eldrazi deck with a list such as this:
- 1 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
- 4 Joraga Treespeaker
- 1 Kozilek, Butcher of Truth
- 4 Overgrown Battlement
- 2 Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre
- 4 Primeval Titan
- 1 Wurmcoil Engine
- 3 Summoning Trap
- 2 Everflowing Chalice
- 2 Explore
- 3 All Is Dust
- 4 Growth Spasm
- 2 Cultivate
- 2 Green Sun's Zenith
My third choice is a Grand Architect type of deck that Ali Aintrazi has been playing, such as this list:
- 2 Mindslaver
- 4 Everflowing Chalice
- 4 Preordain
- 1 Contagion Clasp
- 3 Tumble Magnet
- 2 Contagion Engine
- 2 Ratchet Bomb
All of these sound like fair choices, and my choice will be made within the next day or two, but as it’s Monday, I still have lots of time to figure
out what I want to play and test with the deck.
With my break coming to a close in the next few days, I feel rejuvenated and ready to get back to the grind of earning more and more elusive Open
points for the rest of the year in my quest to make Level 8 by the end of the season.
For all of you who will be in Boston this upcoming weekend, I hope to see you there, as in the next few days, I’ll be back on “The Road” in a new city
again, meeting new people and seeing cool new things.