“This is your captain speaking. Please return to your seats and buckle up—we will be experiencing some slight turbulence.”
The words from the pilot on my flight back from Orlando immediately sent the idea for this article shooting through my head: turbulence.
1. The quality or state of being turbulent; violent disorder or commotion.
I’ve never been so tilted in my life while playing Magic than at this weekend…
Orlando was a very unique weekend for me. It was easily the best week of my Magic career, as I’ve never had such a good time with my friends in
such a beautiful city. I landed on Wednesday morning and joined up with Edgar Flores. 160 dollars, seven shots, and an hour later, I knew it was going
to be great week. For those of you who don’t know Korey McDuffie, I apologize—he is one of the funniest people I’ve ever had the
privilege of knowing, and when you throw Alex Bertoncini, Dave Sheils, and other ringers such as Josh Jacobson and Lewis Laskin in the mix… you
just know it’s going to be a great time.
After three nights of insane testing, shenanigans, and bromance, the Open was on our hands. I had a pretty good U/W Caw-Blade list that I and Dave have
been working on, and it was crushing the mirror but having a little bit of trouble with the Splinter Twin deck. Enter Lewis and Nick—Lewis and
Nick showed up on Friday night and immediately told me to copy/paste a 75. There aren’t many people who I trust when it comes down to last-minute
audibles, but they are two.
The selling point of the deck was that it played all the good discard spells, and zero of the cards that were situational and borderline. For a while,
Mana Leak and counterspells in general have been the worst performing cards in our 75s. You might also notice that this ‘Caw-Blade’ deck has zero of
the deck’s namesake—Squadron Hawk. The reasoning is that Squadron Hawk is just not as good anymore with everyone packing Sword of War and Peace.
It doesn’t race, doesn’t block, and deals you more damage when you find them in multiples, negating the effecting of card advantage that
Hawk is good for. Enter Vampire Nighthawk… now that is a Magic card! It attacks, blocks well, flies, and gains you life. Put a sword on it, and
you feel like Leo in Titanic—KING OF THE WORLD.
Spellskite was good in theory and decent in playtesting; however, it was quite a strange card for me on the weekend. It was either the stone nuts or
absolutely blank, and I wished it cycled. There were two matches, however, where Spellskite won the game, where no other card would have: a turn 2
Spellskite followed by a Vampire Nighthawk versus Mono-Red and once in the Splinter Twin matchup.
After starting off 4-0 in the Swiss of the Standard Open, it was all downhill from there. I lost a close match against U/B Control, where my mana base
fell apart to Tectonic Edges and his great amount of discard spells left my hand harmless. After picking up a win against Valakut, I lost to AJ Sacher.
Once again, my deck underperformed and mulliganed into oblivion. After losing two matches that weren’t even close and had little interaction, I could
not stay focused, about to tilt away the rest of the tournament. I won my next match against the U/W version of Caw-Blade and sat down to play my final
round of the day.
Not only was this match important because of the cash prize, but a Top 16 would make a huge difference in my decision to travel to Louisville in the
hunt for more Open Points. My opponent sat down and said that it had been a long day, and we started chatting. I asked him if he wanted to concede, to
try to help a lonely grinder in his quest, and a quick ‘no-sir’ had us shuffling up.
I mulliganed to six on the draw and died on turn 3 to his Kuldotha Red nut-draw. Pretty standard when your back is on the wall. I mopped up game two
pretty easily with a plethora of lifelink creatures and removal spells. Game three played out pretty awkwardly however: I killed his first four
creatures or so before casting a Stoneforge Mystic for Batterskull onto an empty board.
Bushwhacker kicked, along with a Memnite and a Vault Skirge, brought me to five, as I spent my next turn Black Sun’s Zenithing his board. At this point
in the game, he had two cards in hand, three lands, and no nonland permanents. I dug for my sixth land as he cast a Chimeric Mass for two.
Next turn, I tapped out for Batterskull, finding yet another land. He Dismembered my Germ token and sent me to three, with only one card in hand. Being
at three life is extremely scary against any red deck; however my hand had Divine Offering and Into the Roil. Even if he had Lightning Bolt, I could
Divine Offering my own Batterskull—not an optimal play, but it didn’t leave me at zero life.
He drew for turn, activated his Chimeric Mass, and sent it into the red zone. I tanked for a minute and realized that I was probably not going to win
this match without my Batterskull, so I activated my Creeping Tar Pit to block his Chimeric Mass. I felt even better when he Dismembered it before
blockers. I Into the Roiled his Chimeric Mass and bounced my Batterskull. He Lightning Bolted me in response…
That one hurt a little. It always stings when you try and play your best, and you get runner-runner-runnered, but that’s part of Magic. It also
stings when you know you could have done something differently, but you didn’t and died instead. I could have sat there with my Divine Offering
and waited, but I’m still convinced I played correctly. I was disappointed, but not upset… yet.
I filled out the match slip and ran the ‘yeah, congrats.’ Nothing could have prepared me for what happened next…
My opponent, after just spiking to beat me, stood on his chair and started screaming at the top of his lungs and pointing at me, in a mocking manner.
Excited? Maybe. Uncalled for? Definitely. Tilting? EXTREMELY. It was bad enough to lose in the last round and miss everything after starting undefeated
but to have it rubbed in in such a manner sent me heated and running for the exit.
Thankfully, I have such good friends who were able to cheer me up and calm me down—but I’ll never forget that guy. Saturday night helped diffuse
a lot of that stress, and I was ready to battle on Sunday with a clear mind and high hopes… After winning round one, the aforementioned guy thought
it would be funny to approach me and ask how I was doing. I walked away, trying to restrain myself. I won that war! However, I never won another game
Tilt is most often referred to in poker. It can cause even a veterened player to walk away from a table penniless, wondering where his entire bankroll
went. In Magic, it can lead a player, on the verge of success, to check the drop box and inquire where the closest bar is.
Regardless of the circumstance—don’t let tilt get you. Take a walk after a bad beat. Go to the bathroom, wash your face, and collect your
thoughts. This weekend as a whole was filled with bad beats—at least three of my friends had their opponent dead on board and lost to a topdecked
Splinter Twin for hundreds of dollars. I think back to all the bad beats and start to tilt, but just remember all the games you drew a
‘one-outer’ to win a match. It happens. The only thing that matters is how you approach the next match. The next game. Tilt isn’t a
conscious state of mind that you choose to not partake in—like excitement or aggression, it overcomes you. Try and clear your head and focus on
what matters. The most important thing is realizing when you’re on tilt and trying to rid yourself of the negative thoughts and dedicate your
focus to your game before one bad play leads to the fall of Rome and your tournament.
Don’t let turbulence and tilt get the best of you, as I let it get me.
Good luck to everyone battling this weekend, wherever you are.