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By: Plainswalker83, Marcus Brunstetter
Feb 22 2017 1:00pm
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A few weeks ago I talked about losing and shared some personal weaknesses and ways to improve on them. This week I want to talk about what can happen when those bad habits are changed and your skills start to be sharpened. 

I wanted to write this for 2 reasons. Grand Prix New Jersey is quickly approaching and since it is about an hour away I decided I am going to attend. Knowing that made me want to make sure I made the trip truly worth it. The other reason is because I want to grow as a player and in doing so maybe something I learn can help others. 

Perhaps only some of you know the man behind Plainswalker83. I am married with two children so for me to get out and play magic is a rare occasion. I recently took a part time job at a local game store where I have been running a Standard League and that has been the only time I get to go out to play magic. So of course Magic Online is where I play the most. 

In this article I will focus mainly on what to do with the resources you have available to you and how you can make the most of them. 

Step 1. Getting the tools to succeed. 

This can look different depending on what your goals are but in most cases it will at least be somewhat similar.  First thing is pick the format you want to play. Sometimes it can be easier to buy into Pauper. The decks are much cheaper and it can be a lot of fun to play with the old powerful commons. However it can be tough to pick a deck that will just win consistently and I for one know very little of the Pauper metagame. 

Modern and Legacy are good options if you want your cards to retain value. Though it can be harder to break into the format because budget can be a huge concern. Though once you have a solid collection you can pick a deck learn it well and eventually start to succeed with it. Both of those formats reward players who know not only their deck but also the decks that are in the meta. 

The other option for competitive play is Standard. No matter how much I prefer other formats Standard is pushed to be THE competitive format. It also happens to be the format of the GP in Jersey so it is where my attention will be for at least the next few weeks. If you have no budget and have a thick wallet then I suggest buying the best deck or one of the best decks and learn it. Standard can be hard because there usually is not a ton of room to brew. If you do, you have to be able beat the top 2 or 3 decks otherwise you will have very rough tournaments. 

In the League at the store I am playing Mardu Vehicles and though I can’t justify shelling out money for the Heart of Kirans I have the rest of the deck.  I just increased my Aethersphere Harvesters to the full four and added a copy of Cultivator's Caravan.  I am doing well in the League and get a ton of reps with the deck. However I cannot afford to rebuild it online. 

I need to play Standard so I can have a firm handle on the metagame so I needed a deck that could compete with top tier and still be easy enough on the wallet. This is the deck that I settled on.

This deck is currently one of the top 4 decks played on Magic Online. It is a bit more budget but I feel it can get the job done. What I need to do is test and play and then learn to win with it. What I plan on doing is sharing my results and experiences with you.

So let’s recap Step 1. Pick a format and pick a deck. 

Step 2. Practice Practice Practice! 

So you have Format and Deck and want to know what is next? You need to practice. If you are a new player and playing an unfamiliar deck. I suggest you start small. Tournament practice is not always the most helpful place but if it is all you have then take advantage of it. Sometimes you can meet some great people there and then you can test outside of the practice room. A good way to just get reps with a deck is the 2 man queues. However just be aware that you can face some pretty off the wall decks there. However if you are testing to help get a firm grasp of your deck than it is a great place to get the practice. Finally the best places to get in matches with your deck is a 5 match league. If you want to improve your skills you need to up the competition level and the amount you are going to play. A Friendly League is a great start and when you feel ready to move on then increase your challenge and join a Competitive League. 

These transitions will not be seamless. In fact you should expect a lot of struggling when you first start testing and learning the deck. For me I like to set goals. 

The first goal can be to simply win the match. Isn’t that the ultimate goal?  However I find it more satisfying to meet other goals as well. If you are playing a deck that has a great win rate then make your other goal something like “I will try to sequence everything correctly” or  “I will focus on not making the same mistake I made last match” In fact keeping track of the mistakes you make are a great way to play better in the future. In Magic you can learn from your mistakes and play better when you do. 

The summary for this one is simple. PRACTICE! 

Step 3: Friends 

I mentioned testing with others and that is an integral part to success. It is very rare that lone wolves do so well on their own. It is really easy to play with your friends in your local game store. However as many of you know there is a huge lack of community on Magic Online. 

I have made myself available and I will do it again. If you are playing Standard and you want to test shoot me a message any time you see me online. I have at least noticed that the community on PureMTGO is a good one but if you want to test Standard to improve your skills and you want to play against 4C Saheeli add me and I would love to help! 

Step 4: Attitude 

I should explain what I mean when I say attitude. I am not one of those just think positive and you get what you want types. However the way you think or how your attitude is can change how you play. I have been known to lower my level of play when playing against players I deem of lesser skill. On the flip side you can get nervous when you see your match load up and your recognize the name of a popular MTGO grinder or even a pro who may be recording for their next article. I had that happen to me a few times and I know I was not playing my best. However going back and watching their comments while playing against me were very helpful. 

Also if you if you go into a match and can tell right away the matchup is bad, it may cause you to already give up. Please do not give up so soon! Magic is a game of variance. Even in a terrible matchup you can keep your mistakes to a minimum and your opponent may draw poorly or even make enough mistakes to give you an advantage. Also a better player with a worse deck can still beat a player with lower play skill even if they have the best deck. 

Keeping a clear head is also very important. I mentioned in my article about losing that keeping your focus on the game will already increase your chances to win. Do not cave in and give into the distractions. 

I know those are the very basics but I believe that is the best place to start. I will be testing a ton in the coming weeks and I will be sharing some of my results with you. Also I will be bringing some other strategy themed articles your way. Once again thank you for reading and until next time!