How spoiled are we? Right now you are reading words that I wrote from who knows where on a digital medium that you and I both somehow are able to process and understand without much effort. That is a lot of intricate stuff that most of us have come to just know as reality. And because this crazy, detailed world around us moves at such a fast pace, we find ourselves doing the same to keep up.
You see, it is much easier to move through the world when you are thinking on only a surface level. If I have no interest in the names of the plants I am walking past or the history of the road we are standing on, it makes getting from point A to point B that much more efficient. We have a goal in mind and we work toward it. Meanwhile, the person who is stopping to ask questions is going to get to their destination slower, but they are going to be a lot smarter when they get there.
It turns out, getting to where you need to be as quickly as possible is not always the best course of action. Society tells us that fast is good. We have fast food sold to us under the guise that it is convenient and quick so we purchase is for these reasons yet at the same time, we are eating some of the least healthy options we possibly could in the process.
That same hamburger could have been made at home for likely cheaper and of significantly higher quality. The only concession one has to make here is the convenience. You need to spend a little time out of your day to make this scenario happen. Still interested? So many of us answer no to this question and part of me has to wonder just how lazy we are as a society. Just because we have been gifted convenience and speed through improved technology does not make it the only way to conduct business!
If we work on taking time out to focus on what matters, we can become better Magic players and better people in the process. When your significant other comes home from work bummed out, they do not want you to shove ice cream in their face and tell them a joke (usually) despite those being things that we tend to enjoy. They want a little bit of your time and usually, when we know that, we are absolutely willing to Donate it
And yet for the most important people in our lives, ourselves, we often neglect that very act. You are the thing in your life that you have the most control over. You are the area you can impact and change Radiates through you. You owe it to yourself to not gloss anything over because you are only denying yourself! It can be tempting to just speed through everything and show up at the end, ready for praise, but let's consider what can happen if you learn to control that urge and find ways to slow down your game.Go Slow When the Whistle Blows!
I think most people would agree that taking more time with your decisions leads to better outcomes in general, but for plenty of reasons we go faster than that. Whether it is as simple as the game clocks keeping us moving or that our natural pace of play is relatively fast, players generally move quicker than they need to. I would never encourage slowplaying, which is cheating, but playing in such a way that allows you to see the available lines and make informed decisions is huge. We need to play slower without disrupting our own play and especially without intentionally disrupting our opponents. Be conscious of this in tight clock situations, or if your opponent asks you to speed up your play.
There are many opportunities for us to slow down our play without disrupting ourselves. It is completely normal to have routines and habits. Those sorts of things save us brain space so that we can memorize the little details when they matter more. However, when we neglect the little details too often, we get into trouble. So it is important to occasionally give your brain the "me-time" that it deserves rather than to be racing around getting ahead of yourself.
Consider sideboarding. How long do you take to sideboard? Chances are it varies depending on how many cards are coming in or how well you know the match up, but I would guess that the common denominator in these situations is that you take as long as you need to board and then you begin play. That means that some amount of the time, you are boarding in your two cards, shuffling up, and presenting within a 30 second or maybe a minute window. There is an opportunity here to do some analysis that you are likely missing out on.
Don't get me wrong, I completely understand that ending a match quickly has plenty of benefits for everyone, but it isn't a race. If you have some way that you can utilize that extra one or two minutes you have lying around, you absolutely should. When an NBA player steps up to the free throw line, they are allow 10 seconds to mentally or physically prepare, and a game of Magic is a heck of a lot more intricate than a free throw.
One of the biggest areas where players allow speed to cloud their skill comes in sealed tournaments. If you ever pay attention to a Pro Player at a limited Grand Prix, their early Saturday usually involves registering a pool, but then they tend to take that pool and show it to dozens of friends and peers. They get the advice and opinions from a lot of people on how they would like to build their pool and then they usually form some game two deck.
Remember that your deck for game one is locked in at registration, so you cannot mess with that, but when game two or three rolls around, you can be doing anything you want to be. If you have big changes to make, you should prepare by sleeving up your alternative deck so as to not waste time between games so you can devote that to thinking critically.
Still, the larger point being that those few rounds where you don't have to play Magic can and should be a valuable bit of time. Obviously you can spend that time sleeping, which is probably beneficial, but if you are going to be awake, find some healthy food or prepare your sideboard notes. These hours are part of your tournament; use them.Planning Ahead
Once you get used to slowing down your play, entire new lines open up to you. Have you ever been watching a player and they do something like make their fourth land drop, then go to combat, then cast a Divination and draw a land that enters play tapped? What has happened here is that the player is relying on chunking instead of actually slowing down.
Essentially, the player is taking a very complex turn (and every single turn in Magic is complex through phases alone) and checking things off of the list in order to get to the end. They know they need to make a land drop for the turn, so they do so instinctively and then check it off of the list. Once all of the check marks are gone, we can move past the turn.
Instead, what we should be doing is planning out our turn. Ok, we want to cast Divination and that costs three mana which is what we have available. We should make this play first and foremost because it gives us the rest of the unknown info to finish out the turn. If we end up drawing a Giant Growth and have a Forest somewhere in our hand, we are going to be pretty happy that we made the play that granted us access to the most information at the earliest point we could.
When we simply make plays because they are "usually" correct, we miss all of the intricate lines that set those really skilled players apart from the rest. There is a good saying: "Can never win a game you can't win." It sounds repetitive, but it essentially means that a player can only win if the cards allow it. They are never going to bluff or come up with creative things to weasel their way out of something. When you slow down and begin to plan out your turns, you will occasionally win a game you otherwise couldn't and it will feel amazing!
Just remember to first make actions until all possible information for the turn is unlocked and then use that information to fully plan the rest of your turn. Sometimes combat will be relevant, although not always, so really take some time to think of everything before committing to even a single play. Practice on complicated boards at home before trying this in tournaments as it can be a big change.Utilizing Opposing Clock
One of the better habits to get into is not one that necessarily saves you time, but rather one that generates time for you. Many people spend a ton of time working on their own turn and playing out their spells, but once that last land gets tapped and the word "go" comes out of their mouth, their brain shuts off. Time to take a break!
Rather than just sitting by and being a spectator during an opponent's turn though, you should be using this time to think ahead to your own turn or to be working out scenarios should some common lines occur.
For example, your opponent goes to combat. You could wait until he decides exactly what he will be attacking with before you start looking at your own lines. After all, it wasn't until that point that you had all of the information. However, what you could have been doing thus far is constructing a possible set of attacks for your opponent.
Let's say you have a Horned Turtle out and a Hill Giant while at 20 life. Your opponent has a Bear and Two Hill Giants, also at 20.
You should be able to have a rough idea of your blocks before your opponent ever actually attacks.
Without knowing what the opponent actually attacks with, let's look at some lines. Our Hill Giant matches up favorably against the Bear, so in most scenarios where available, I will want to line up that block. Our Horned Turtle blocks a Hill Giant just fine, but does nothing more as it cannot gang up to kill anything or block anything bigger. So in any world possible, we want to be blocking a Hill Giant with our Turtle and our own 3/3 on a Bear. Should the Bear not be coming in, we can now figure out if we might want to trade off our 3/3 for theirs or whether we want to enter some race scenario.
With that little bit of prep work, we can now make blocks within a few seconds after our opponent decides what to commit with. We used dead time to save tanking time when the actual decision needed to be made. Ultimately, this means more meaningful game time, which is great.
Similarly, even if our opponent does not have a complicated combat step approaching, we can still be using our opponent's turn to plan out our own next turn. Figuring out our own things that are independent of our opponent's plays are a great start. What land am I going to play? Is there anything I can draw that might change that? Am I going to be attacking before I play any spells? I can start crafting some possible combat outcomes now.
Each and every small detail you get out of the way when you would otherwise not is going to allow you to think deeper and more meaningfully about the game. This means better and less obvious plays and making less mistakes along the way.Wrap Up
So in many ways, slowing down your game actually involves speeding it up in areas. Basically, maximizing your time as it pertains to Magic is something that can pay off big time but is something that is often overlooked or glossed over.
Most people play at their natural pace, but many of those same people will openly admit to playing too fast, or in some cases too slow. It is important to not grow complacent with this and look to fix your game just as you might go to the gym or practice your free throws. It is easy to just accept your play speed, but we can always train ourselves to break habits, however old. Sometimes, life is just better in the slow lane. Thanks for reading!