What interests me the about Magic as a game is that you can always improve and strive for better results. Whether you’re Johnny Magic himself or a first-time FNM-goer, you can always learn more to improve your game. In retrospect, while 2016 was an awful awful year, it proved to be a successful year for me in my Magic goals. As sort of a New Years’ resolution, I was dedicated to finally winning a PPTQ and qualifying for the RPTQ, as small as it might be. I was able to achieve that goal in August and land myself in the top 16 of a tough RPTQ. In addition, I achieved my best Grand Prix finish (11-4 at Grand Prix New York) and finished well in multiple other PPTQs around the New York area.
While all of these goals might seem very minor and easy to obtain, it was something I had dedicated myself to the last year and I’m proud to say I made my goal a reality, small as it might be. With 2017 now upon us I’m working out my goals for this year along with making a plan. Here’s some general tips for achieving your next Magic goal this year, no matter how trivial.
#1: Plan Out Your Events and Finances
As someone who plays competitive Magic and has a busy school/work life, it’s important to have a plan of what events you’ll be going to over the course of any given season. Pick your battles wisely and prepare for the weekends you’ll have off. The benefit to living in an urban area is the plethora of stores in the area that run PPTQs and otherwise. You can plan in advance to see which events you’ll want to attend on any given weekend and what format you should be preparing for. If two stores are hosting a PPTQ in the same general area, do a bit of research. What’s the cap for entry? What are the travel costs? Do you have a good grasp on the Limited format or is it better to play constructed with a deck you’re comfortable with? Can I take public transportation or would it be easier to share a ride?
Keeping track of all the events in your area will keep you organized and will allow you to prepare in advance for the tournaments you’ll be attending. As the new semester rolls around, I know I’m not going to have a lot of time in March and April, so the February and May events are the ones I’ll be looking to spike.
Be sure to always be prepared. Missing cards from your deck? Ask around a week in advance so you’re prepared the day of the event. Bring a pre-written decklist with you. Get a good night’s sleep. Yada, yada, yada. You’ve heard all these tips and tricks over and over. Be dedicated to them. Walk into that tournament with a preserved mindset. Fight. Win!
#2: Know Every Single Card
My favorite Limited events to go to are the ones on the set’s release weekend. It can be such an advantage to know every single combat trick, haste creature, and board wipe when your opponent doesn’t. You can bluff and play around whatever you need to accordingly and that can be a powerful tool. Going to an Aether Revolt limited event on release weekend? Take for example these three cards:
These cards can kill you out of nowhere! It’s not just important to know combat tricks, but rather to know every card and what to play around in any given situation.
Read the spoiler. Over and over and over again. And once more after that. Know what synergies exist between cards and keep in mind what to look out for when building your sealed or draft deck. Know every line on every card! I recently did a Kaladesh team draft a few weeks ago and foolishly attacked with my Aethersquall Ancient and proceeded to attempt to activate its ability after my opponent had blocked. How embarrassed I was when it was pointed out to me that you can only activate the ability at sorcery speed. Sorcery speed! Are you kidding me? But the fault lied squarely on myself. I should have known better. Sometimes cards don’t do what you think they do. You can get bamboozled just by not knowing minuscule lines of text by heart. If you’re dedicated to winning any Limited event, even if it’s at the near end of the season, know your stuff. Period.
#3: Keeping Track of Your Goals and Knowing Where to Improve
It’s equally important to not only stay on track of your goals, but to know where and how you can improve in your play. You can grind events every weekend of the year and still fall short of success when you’re not focusing on personal improvement. In his writings of Olympic swimmers entitled, “The Mundanity of Excellence,” Hamilton College professor Daniel F. Chambliss looked to analyze how it was possible to achieve success in an area of study. In his report, Chambliss studied the habits of these Olympic athletes, attending their day to day practices year-round and searching to figure out how they could become so successful in their craft. He wanted to know whether or not their success came from pure talent alone. To his discovery, he examined the three components of how these swimmers were able to improve:
- Qualitative changes help improvement.
- Talent is a useless concept.
- Excellence is mundane and habitualized, performed carefully and consistent.
The main point to take from this is that improvement does not come from devoting countless hours to your craft, but rather focusing on the slight changes that will help you improve overall. You can playlets hours to prepare for an event, but it’s more than knowing the cards in your deck, it’s knowing the subtle interactions your deck has with others and knowing how to make the right choices in certain situations. According to Chambliss, you don’t need to waste precious time if you’re not really learning.
If you 0-2 your PPTQ, don’t write it off as having an unlucky day, try to figure out the instances where you could have made a better choice or if you could have played a better deck. Spiked your event? Great! But don’t consider your win lucky. Look deeper to find the reasons why you won all those matches and how you outplayed your opponents. If you’re stuck and can’t find yourself improving, get a friend to watch you – you might be making mistakes you’re not even realizing until someone else gives you a second opinion.
It’s one thing to give yourself a goal for the year, but to really achieve it you have to push yourself and look for ways to constantly improve.
2017 is going to be a great year for Magic, and I’m excited to work towards my goal of playing on my first Pro Tour. What Magic goals do you have for 2017?
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