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By: R Koster, Rob Koster
Jan 02 2020 12:00pm
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The day I'm writing this (12-30) is my birthday. As it does every year, it coincides with New Year's Eve and, in this case, even a new decade. I decided that I would think of 20 things that I could do next year that would improve me as a Magic player. So, let's get started!

1: Play Slower
I've mentioned this a few times before, but I play at a pace that would put the Flash to shame. Which is something that has been ingrained into me by only playing the most durdly of durdle control decks and having to finish matches in 50 minutes. At one point, I was playing Esper Dragons mirrors and finishing them with almost 30 minutes of the clock left. And even though I was about a 45%-50% win rate at that time. I feel like I could have won a lot more if I played a bit slower. It isn't like waiting around is very fun anyway.

2: Pick a deck for Pioneer
As with every Eternal format. Everyone should pick one deck as their primary deck and make sure they know the ins and outs of that. It doesn't have to be the only deck they play, but they should have one that's just old faithful for when you don't know. I was hoping that it could be Grixis Dragons for me, but the results just haven't been there, so I have been dabbling with Mono-Green Stompy and Mono-Red Aggro, both won a lot more games for me. But I'll make a definite choice after the January 6th bannings.

3: Pick a few fun-ones for Pioneer
I'm obsessed with casting as many Nicol Bolas as I can in every format. Which is to say, if only Cruel Ultimatum was Pioneer legal. The memes that could be had. Alas, it'll just be Silumgar's Scorn. Anyway, besides the main deck, I want to choose 2-3 decks that I know just aren't as good but are a ton of fun. I've been obsessed with Archangel of Thune and Walking Ballista and giving it lifelink recently. The pieces all seem very reasonable, but the decks have felt just a bit off. Fair decks with a potential combo finish are my favorite thing, though, so I'll be exploring that more.

4: Planning out my events
And with that, I mean that I should know what I can qualify for and what I want to be playing in to do so. I've spent the last few years just joining up everything that I felt like playing (which is fine, don't get me wrong), but if I want to increase the amount of high-level play that I can do. I need to come up with a plan of what I'm joining, and I should figure out when things like the MOCS Qualifiers are happening.

5: Apply the rule of 3
After three losses, especially in a row. I should just quit playing. It's way better for my mental health and the rest of my day. I've been good about it recently, but something I should keep paying attention to.

6: Accept the format as is
I have my gripes with how things have been in competitive Magic recently. But complaining about Oko, Thief of Crowns in Modern just doesn't help. I need to learn to accept that it's there and that I can play the bad guy too. Which leads straight into...

7: Play the best decks
I'm very prone to novelty. But if I'm honest. The few times I've played the best decks, I've done above averagely well, but I always felt like a traitor and like I should play the memes again. I should play the memes, but not in serious environments. If I'm paying to play, I should be playing to win.

8: Use the replay function more
When I feel like I messed up, I should check the replay and figure it out. As easy as that.

9: Make sure I'm not distracted
Something I've learned recently is that I do play better when the girlfriend is out of the house, and the neighbors are gone. I also tend to perform better when I don't have music on. This is both because my taste in music is loud and in your face, and because my mind starts to manage the Spotify list relentlessly, whether I like it or not. I noticed that I won more when I turned it off.

10: Take better care of myself
I can be a total couch potato for months on end without a problem. But my play is as much of a couch potato as I am, scarily consistently. Also, I probably shouldn't be eating anything but pizza and noodles when I'm by myself because I can't be arsed to cook properly, even though I can cook very decently. I mean, I'm no 5-star chef, but I can cook a proper meal.

The number of cheap versions of Red Bull I go through also can't be very healthy. I've rushed through many a match high on caffeine before because I lost my patience. That shouldn't happen.

11: I don't need to be intimidated by other players
When I'm playing against someone who is very known, or I feel that is better than me, I start to play scared for some reason. I don't even fully understand it myself. I can strike up a conversation with them perfectly fine, but my play just completely fumbles around them. I always feel like they would have it even if there is no reason to support that line of thinking at all.

12: Get into Legacy and Vintage
I've played a few games of Legacy and Vintage, but every time I watch someone streams them, I'm just amazed at how cool they look. I should get into them more often.

13: Make sure I'm properly prepared
And I don't only mean with the cards. I also mean just having some water and something to eat nearby when playing. It doesn't have to be anything significant, but just something that I can eat without thinking about it while playing.

14: Don't make changes to a deck based on a single game
I haven't been doing it as much. But I'm the kind of person that after every game just goes: "Oh, that went wrong, time to change a few cards." I need to learn to accept variance more and just think about whether I'm playing the right card or not, not only based on the last few games and a gut feeling. So more in the sense of: "Hmm, these seem good because of X and Y." and less deckbuilding with the spirit of: "Well, this fits and fixes this problem I just had. For the first time, after 9000 matches. It'll come up more now, though..."

15: I don't need to answer everything
One of my biggest frustrations in Magic is when you can't answer a thing, and the game runs away because of it. Thinks like Bogles and Dredge that are built to be hard to interact with are some of the games I find most frustrating and end up with me adding all sorts of random nonsense to my deck to fix the problem. Even though I found some gems, most of them were terrible.

16: I should tweak my own lists more
Playing my versions of established archetypes has always done me well. Yet I still net deck like a maniac without thinking about it. It's okay to start with a net deck, but I should think about it more after a few matches of playing with one. I usually forget that there are a ton of versions of every deck out there and that the one that I copied isn't gospel persé.

17: Learn a deck that's entirely out of my comfort zone
Modern Affinity has been a deck for years that I just can't get a win with. I'm not used to attacking with creatures; I'm not used to combat tricks. The entire way the deck plays is something I've never really done before. And it shows, the last few times I played Affinity I went 0-X. Just because of that, I want to play the deck more to figure out what I do wrong.

18: Do proper sideboard testing
A trap I fall into is testing the game one matchup a lot and knowing the gameplan through and through. And then just fumble along for the sideboard. I board on gut feeling, which isn't wrong on its own. I mean, if you can find the guide on Reddit, so can your opponent. But having guidelines and a plan for boarding, especially when starting with a deck, really can't hurt.

19: Think more about what can make me lose
When I get ahead in a game, I should ask myself: "How can I lose?" More often. I get got sometimes by things that I could have seen coming if I just took a moment to think about it.

20: Have fun
It's a cliché. But I just want to have fun playing Magic. People tend to forget that it's just a game a lot of the time.

So, there are my 20 things. Do you have anything planned for the New Year?