In today’s article I’m going to be discussing some of the many mental aspects of the game and how they can effect us in our gameplay whether it be at your friends’ kitchen table or at a Magic Fest in a must win situation, these tips and tricks may even help in your day to day lives with managing stress on the job or at school. Now these points that I will be discussing are things that I’ve found that work for myself but may not work for others and this is completely okay. What works for me might not work for others and that’s perfectly okay there are many other ways at managing the mental aspects of the game, you simply have to find the ones that work for you and hopefully mine will help you find something that works for you. With that out of the way it brings me to my first point of my article Being Prepared.
I find myself to be playing at my best level of magic when I’m the most prepared I can be. For myself this can be everything from making sure I have extra sleeves, dice and tokens when I’m heading out to a big event to making sure my decklist is filled out ahead of time. Now these are all very simple things to get done but I’ve personally found that they’re all steps that have drastically helped reduce stress heading into these tournaments as well as allowing me to focus on the games at hand and allow me to be playing as perfect as possible throughout the entire tournament. Now I realize you don’t need to do these things when you’re heading to your friends house to play commander, but being prepared for those games isn’t the worse thing possible, especially when it comes down to being able to play more games because you were prepared. Sleeve your deck ahead of time, find your dice, tokens or whatever you need ahead of time to be able to get in as many games of Commander or whatever format you choose to play. My other piece of advice for when I’m preparing to head out for larger events is to always bring food and water with me. It’s such a simple thing to do but has come in handy so many times, whether you’re running late between rounds or not enough time to line up. Having it with you will definitely help you stay focused on the game and keep you as mentally prepared as you can be. There’s nothing worse than playing when you’re hungry or tired and aren’t able to focus properly. This brings me to my next point being mentally prepared is just as important as being physically ready.
Having the right attitude in life is one of the best things we can do to help us be mentally prepared for the tasks at hand. Going into a Magic game is no different than trying to land a big interview or speaking in front of an audience. If you think you will fail or lose you will. Going into a large tournament with a negative attitude has already set you up for failure and will only leave you with more doubts and regrets than when you started and it’s no different than going into your LGS and sitting down for a game of commander .If you’re thinking about the worse outcome of the match it will most likely happen and you run the risk of repeating this long term and having your attitude taint your love of the game. Now to help us be mentally prepared to play magic, especially competitively, we must make sure we’re in the right headspace, that we are going into games or tournaments with a positive attitude and with the belief that we can win. Now these thoughts can’t help you avoid the high variance that comes with the nature of the game, but they can help you avoid the “tilt” or the frustration that follows suit from drawing one too many lands at an in-opportune moment or losing that really important “win-and-In” to make day two of a big event. Now I’ll be the first to admit to these things all being very frustrating but it’s how you manage your frustration and maintain composure that is truly important in these situations. I try to find ways to refocus myself like simple things from taking the time in between rounds to eat or step outside of a crowded convention hall and grab some fresh air if I have the time, as well as not stressing about what caused my loss and focus more on the lines of play that worked and taking the positives from that game even if it still resulted in a loss. I find taking some time between rounds to sit and compose yourself can be vey helpful as well, personally I’ll bring a book to read or headphones so I can listen to music and drown out the noise and let me concentrate on my upcoming match or gather my thoughts after a difficult match or a tough loss. This brings me to my next point taking lessons away from losses.
Learning from Losing:
Nobody enjoys losing, especially not myself but even on a good day playing Magic nobody is playing at an 100%-win rate and if they say they are they are simply lying to you or trying to brag. Losing is almost as much a part of the game as the cardboard the cards are printed on themselves and this is okay, so long as you manage to take something away from these losses and better yourself as a player. In a less competitive setting discuss the lines of play you took and why you chose them, and what the different outcomes could have been if you chose x over y. Even in a competitive setting try focusing on playing perfect rather than your win/loss ratio. What I mean by this is you will have games that you don’t misplay, you play everything completely right but still end up losing whether it be due to a poor matchup or your opponent also just did everything correct and was a turn quicker than you. The more you’re able to focus on the positives of your gameplay and what you did correctly even if you are on the losing side of the match you will work yourself into a better player at the end of the day. You just have to try and stay as consistent as possible and help yourself improve each match by setting goals for yourself to achieve.
Now if you’re anything like myself, I tend to find it very easy to procrastinate in many different aspects of my day to day life, Magic the Gathering included. One way I help myself avoid doing the latter is to set myself goals however small or large they may be. I find in doing so I’m able to find a way to work through my procrastination and have a clear direction in mind for what I’m trying to achieve. Let’s say you’re wanting to start playing at a higher level of competition that you’ve previously been playing but have been too nervous or scared to do so before. First goal above all else should be simply having fun. Yes even at the highest level of competition you should be able to have fun with the game because if you’re not there’s a good chance you will become very jaded about the game, format or deck you’ve been playing and sell out of them in a fit of rage or even stop playing Magic altogether. Secondly the goals you set for yourself don’t have to be anything flashy or unrealistic, they simply have to be forward progress whether it be 4-0ing an FNM(Friday Night Magic) at your LGS(Local Game Store) or making Day two at a MagicFest. You don’t even need to share these goals with anyone other than yourself. If you feel like you want the help from family or friends and that they’ll be supportive ask them, but if not keep them to yourself, journal your progress and keep moving forward to whatever you’re trying to achieve in life or in Magic the Gathering.
Now there are many ways of staying focused and everyone will find something that works for themselves. These are only a handful of the things that I find useful for myself while I’m out playing in tournaments or on the job. Maybe you’re dealing with a problem at home that is making you have a negative attitude. Negativity sustains itself and causes you to feel dissatisfied, while also cluttering your mind. When your mind is full of negativity, it is hard to focus and will lead to misplays or further frustration about the game or project you’re working on. Staying positive about the task at hand helps me work through whatever else I’m struggling with. Another thing that I find to be helpful is making sure I get a good night rest the day before a big event. Going into a tournament tired is my number one way I find myself losing focus, being tired and playing magic usually leads to making mistakes and these mistakes will lead to further frustration which can be avoided by going to bed, sleeping more and you will get more done. But if for whatever reason you find yourself to be tired and losing focus at an event I find eating a snack as well as caffeinating in moderation will give me the boost to make it through the last hour of the day or the last round of the event but be sure to stay hydrated as well throughout the day especially if you’re going to be using caffeine to stay focused.
Now many of these things don’t necessarily have to work for you, they’re simply things that I’ve been practicing and have gotten me results over time both in Magic and other aspects of my life. But avoiding the Mind Grind when it comes to Magic the Gathering can help with some simple preparation, staying focused, Managing your composure and maintaining a positive attitude are all key to avoid the Mind Games that come with life and the game we love to play, whether it be in your kitchen or at a convention center. I hope my advice will be helpful in your Magic the Gathering careers and in life.