At the beginning of 2014 I had set some realistic goals for myself for the upcoming year. While I did not reach some of those goals, I never would have guessed it would be because I landed a job at Wizards of the Coast. Today I'm going to share my year in MTG and what I'm looking forward to in 2015.Goal #1 of 2014: Have more fun playing Magic
I am proud to say that I fully accomplished this one. I had taken Magic way too seriously in the past and there were times when I felt like the game wasn't even fun. I blamed losses on things other than myself and I was even salty at times. A few years ago I remember hanging out with Raphael Levy at a Grand Prix. I don't recall the exact details but I remember that I did not make day two and made a comment that my opponents got lucky and I got unlucky. Raph said that variance is a part of Magic and there is nothing you can do about it. All you can really do is play your best. There will be times where you will find yourself on the wrong side of the randomness but if you play well it will balance out. I listened to his advice but did not actually take it to heart until a while later.
One day it just hit me. At Pro Tour Dublin last year, I experienced some very unfortunate variance. It seemed like round after round I was mulliganing to five and four, not drawing what I needed, and getting bad matchups. It had nothing to do with how I was playing; I was actually playing pretty well and making the most out of bad situations. The difference was that I was not letting the bad beats affect my emotions or my play. At the conclusion of each round, I had the same attitude regardless of whether I won or lost. By the end of the tournament, I had finished one loss outside of a money finish, and I was actually happy about it. It would have been great to win the last round to make Top 75, but I had a fun tournament, enjoyed playing against each of my opponents, and ended the tournament on a high note.
The advice that Raph had given me really hit home. Since then, instead of complaining about how my games went, I tried to play my best and enjoy myself. Some days were harder than others, but overall I have kept a positive attitude. I'd be lying if I said that I never complained after a match. Sometimes my emotions got the best of me, especially after this happened:
It was the final round of Pro Tour Dublin. The winner would finish in the money and the loser would get nothing, not even an extra pro point. My opponent and I were both playing Monoblue Devotion. I not only lost the die roll, but I also had to mulligan multiple times during the match. In game three the only chance I had to get back in the game I was losing was if my Master of Waves resolved and stayed in play. My opponent had a handful of cards and open mana so I didn't like my chances. I cast the Master of Waves and my opponent had no responses. I reached into my deckbox to grab the tokens and then passed the turn. My opponent looked like he was going to do something so I said, "Should I get out the tokens?" He responded, "yes, yes, get out the tokens." I methodically laid out my eight Elemental Tokens and once they were all on the table, he cast Rapid Hybridization on my Master of Waves. The tilt was real that round.
While I wasn't pleased that my opponent slow rolled the removal spell, I did learn a lot about variance in Magic. Variance is a part of Magic, the same way that creatures have a power and toughness and spells cost mana. Mana flood and screw are part of the game. It's simply how the game was designed. Once you get past the fact that sometimes you will be on the wrong side of the variance, you should have an easier time dealing with randomness in your matches.
This year I started dating Frank Lepore. Frank and I had very different viewpoints in regards to Magic. Frank is all about playing fun, under-the-radar decks and having a good time, while I'm more interested playing the best deck in the format and taking the game more seriously. Frank definitely opened my eyes to a new world of Magic and this new perspective helped me not only have more fun but also become a better player.
We started streaming together. This was a big deal for me and helped me come out of my shell. We played silly decks on stream and it was really fun. We built new and interesting Standard decks and took them to FNM. We also built a Cube. Suddenly winning was no longer as important.
Once you know how to have fun playing Magic, the wins will just come to you. You will be under much less pressure and feel more relaxed and less stressed. I can tell you first hand that once I started having more fun playing, I no longer felt the Burnout at Grand Prix and Pro Tours and I became a more well-rounded Magic player. Soon after I learned that Magic can actually be fun I ended up making Top 25 of Pro Tour M15 and then made Top 8 of Grand Prix Orlando a few months later.Goal #2 of 2014: Continue playing on the Pro Tour, either by making Gold or Platinum
This goal was much harder to accomplish than my previous goal and when the Pro year was up at the end of August at Pro Tour M15, I found myself with Silver status that was only good enough for two out of the four Pro Tours for the following year. It was good enough, but not what I was looking for. After having a great 2013 I thought I could do better. I kept coming up short at Pro Tours and Grand Prix, but I did learn a lot while trying to accomplish this goal.
First, I have greatly stepped out of my comfort zone when choosing decks for constructed. I felt comfortable with the safer decks of the format but I didn't like decks that were fragile and high variance. For example I would never bring Monored to a Pro Tour. Since working with Team Revolution, I have learned to be comfortable with a variety of decks. I even played Monored at a Pro Tour and did well with it. Some other decks I played that I would have been very reluctant to play a year earlier were UB Inspired in Block Constructed and Bogles in Modern. At this point in my career I feel good about playing any deck thrown at me and I owe that to working with a strong team with many different perspectives on the game.
Second, I changed the way that I prepared for Grand Prix. Instead of grinding events and traveling to every Grand Prix I could, I chose to go to only one every few months and actually playtest for it. The year before last I would have a routine of flying to a Grand Prix on Friday and flying home on Monday. I would stay at home for three days, and then fly to the next event on Friday. This lifestyle was incredibly tiring and I suffered from severe Burnout. At the time I felt that the more tournaments I went to, the better chance I had at doing well at one. However, I failed to do well at any of these tournaments. I was so exhausted from flying all the time and it affected my play. I never even wanted to playtest for the events and usually chose my constructed deck the night before.
This year I only went to a few GPs, 6 to be exact. I attended Grand Prix Sacramento, Paris, Barcelona, Atlanta, Worcester, and Orlando. Out of those five GPs, I made a Top 16, a Top 8, a minimum cash, and I failed to make day two of the other three. Overall I was happy with the results. I felt better physically and most important of all, I actually had the time to playtest for the Grand Prix I went to.
If you are a grinder who goes to a lot of events and struggles with results, my advice to you is to take a step back and think about where this is getting you. It may be time to slow down or even take a break. Burnout is a real thing and I experienced it firsthand in 2013. What's the point of going to all these GPs if you are too tired to put any effort into them?My Goals for 2015
I had set a few goals for the new year before I found out that I'd be working for Wizards of the Coast. Sadly I will not be able to accomplish these but I'd like to share them with you anyway.
The first thing I wanted to do was qualify for every Pro Tour in the 2015 season. I had set this goal back in Portland at Pro Tour M15 when I thought that Hawaii would be my last Pro Tour. After a Top 25 finish at Pro Tour M15 and a Top 8 at GP Orlando, I found myself qualified for both Pro Tour Washington DC and Brussels. Unfortunately I won't be able to attend these tournaments due to being employed at Wizards of the Coast but I felt like I was on the right track to accomplishing this goal.
The second goal was a little silly, but I really wanted to become a Level 50 Planeswalker. I am currently at Level 49 and only needed to play Magic for one more year to get the Planeswalker Points I need to reach 50. There aren't that many players out there who are Level 50 Planeswalkers and I would have liked to be among the elite few who have reached that status.
The third goal I had set for myself was to get on the Hall of Fame Ballot. While I don't have nearly enough accomplishments to actually be voted into the Magic Hall of Fame, It would have been cool to see my name on the ballot. You need 150 Pro Points to be eligible for Hall of Fame and I currently have 120. I was only thirty points away, which is something that I may have achieved if I could play this year.
Back in October when I found out that I got the R&D internship, I knew that I would not be able to accomplish these goals, but I also knew that a new opportunity would be opening up for me. Magic has been a huge part of my life for years and I always wanted to work at the source where Magic cards were made. While I don't really know what to expect I have set some goals for myself for the upcoming year.
My first goal is to broaden the types of games I play. I'll still be playing plenty of Magic but since I can't play competitively, I'm going to begin looking for more non-magic games to play. If you have any suggestions, I'm more than happy to listen to them.
My second and most important goal is simply to do my best at Wizards of the Coast. Magic is the greatest game in the world and there is a reason why it's been around for over twenty years and is stronger than ever. I would love to help contribute to Magic's success and continue to make it the best game ever. I know I have a challenging journey ahead of me but I'm really looking forward to starting it.
I know that I have not provided you with much Magic strategy lately but I hope this article has given you some insight on what it's like to be a professional Magic player. Maybe you have even learned something. Thanks for reading and I hope you have an enjoyable holiday.
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