CottonRhetoric's picture
By: CottonRhetoric, Cotton Rhetoric
Apr 30 2018 11:00am
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After drafting a lot these past few months, I noticed this odd pattern. The only time people ever message me is to tell me how bad I am, and only when I beat them. It's annoying. It's too frequent. And if you've drafted a few times, people have said it to you too.

I dolefully admit, I have done it myself in years past. I've complained about land distribution when I was young and foolish. But I don't do it anymore, and I posit here that we as a community should all stop. I'll give common examples, explain why they're troublesome, review underlying principles, address common rebuttals, and eventually offer practical advice for the meantime.

Common Examples

1. "Your luck is good / My luck is bad"

    Curse of Misfortunes

Sounds like:

  • "wow of course you drew that. gg luck sack"
  • "12 lands out of 16 cards, not much i can do there"
  • "must be nice to have that many bombs in your deck"
  • "i have 8 outs here and didn't get any of them"

Subtext of these:

  • "Without that luck, I would have won. I deserve to win. You are bad and I am good."

The problem with these:

  • No one's luck across a wide sample of Magic Online games is significantly better or worse than anyone elses'. It just isn't. (That would be weird programming, wouldn't it? And probably against WotC's best interests as a company.)
  • Your opponent is not doing anything wrong by drawing and casting a topdeck. (You draw a topdeck sometimes. When you do, do you take the high road and choose not to cast it? Do you concede the game, knowing your opponent had the higher odds of winning? You do not.)
  • Luck is part of the game. If you do not like this feature, consider switching to Chess.
  • If you attribute your losses to bad luck, you will not improve as a player. (The Limited Resources podcast has expounded on this more insightfully and eloquently than I ever could.)
  • Perhaps you are wrong, and luck is not what caused this particular outcome.
    • If your opponent's deck is unfairly good, maybe it's because they're better than you at drafting.
    • If it seems they magically got an out in the end, maybe it's because they played to it in a way you weren't aware of.

Keep in mind:

  • If you are right, and you really did just lose to someone who got lucky, you will win more matches than they in the future. Everything will balance out in the end and you will come out on top. This one setback was minor and statistically necessary.


  • Stop complaining about luck.


2. "My deck is better than yours"

    (pic=Efficient Construction)

Sounds like:

  • "if we played 10 more games i would win 9 of them"
  • "i should not lose to your mindless aggro deck when i have 4 wraths"
  • "does your deck even do anything when you don't get that bomb?"
  • "wow who plays that card?"
  • "great, i lost to a deck that hasn't been viable in two years"

Subtext of these:

  • You have no right winning with that. I deserve to win. You are bad and I am good.

The problem with these:

  • You might be wrong about your opponent's deck, your own deck, and/or how they match up against each other.
  • You might be wrong about a card's value in the format.
  • The article you got your ideas about the format from might be wrong.

Keep in mind:

  • If you are right, and you really did just get lose to someone with a worse deck, you will win more matches than they in the future. Everything will balance out in the end and you will come out on top. This one setback was minor and statistically necessary.


  • Stop telling your opponent your deck is better than theirs.


3. "Your archetype is unfair"

    (pic=Underhanded Designs)

Sounds like:

  • "red aggro in cube, here comes the fun police"
  • "you counterspell coward"
  • "yeah great turn 3 karn cool"

Subtext of these:

  • If you win, it's because you are being unfair. I deserve to win. You are bad and I am good.

The problem with these:

  • Your opponent is allowed, and incentivized, to play whatever they feel is strongest.
  • Your opponent is allowed, and incentivized, to play whatever they find most enjoyable.
  • What you find fair or fun in a tournament setting is not relevant. (In a casual environment, you may and perhaps should complain about a strategy that is degenerate/unfair/unfun. A kitchen table is arguably made worse by a turn one storm combo or prison deck.)
  • That deck you think is fun and fair is likely viewed as unfun or unfair by someone else. This does not mean you should not run it.
  • Different people like different things. This phenomenon actually helps humanity as a whole. (Without it, our job market would have many holes.)
  • You cannot reasonably expect your opponents to message you before the game starts to ask what your preferences are.

Keep in mind:

  • If you are right, and that archetype really is unfair, you could be the one playing it. Switch now to maximize your win percentage, and congratulations on solving the format.


  • Stop telling your opponent their deck choice is objectionable.
4. "Your gameplay is bad."
Sounds like:
  • "you wasted a wrath on that?"
  • "we shouldn't even be in g3. i should have won g2 after that mistake you made"
Subtext of these:
  • You are not on my level. I deserve to win. You are bad and I am good.
The problem with these:
  • Pointing out your opponent's mistake actually helps them to play better in the remainder of the match, thereby lowering your chances of winning.
  • You might be wrong about what the correct play was.
    • Your understanding of correct technical play might not be as evolved as you think. (Sometimes it is correct to give your opponent the free 2 for 1, etc.)
    • You might be missing information that justifies what seemed like a poor play at the time. (It may look like they made a stupid attack and then rage quit upon realizing their mistake. In reality, they were intentionally sandbagging their creature on the chance of drawing a Pandemonium to pair with the Animate Dead in their hand to win the game.)
  • Sometimes the better player loses. They just do. Jon Finkel might lose to someone who's never been on a Pro Tour before. He would be heavily favored to win—but he is not guaranteed anything.
Keep in mind:
  • If you are right, and you really did just lose to someone whose gameplay is bad, you will win more matches than they in the future. Everything will balance out in the end and you will come out on top. This one setback was minor and statistically necessary.
  • Stop telling your opponent their gameplay is bad.
Underlying Principles
    Holistic Wisdom
I believe that keeping these in mind will not only help people to deal with game losses more maturely but even become better at Magic and win more often.
  • Nobody deserves to win any game of Magic.
  • In a tournament setting, everyone is trying to win.
  • In a tournament setting, trying to win is not wrong.
  • Not much is at stake. In a typical draft, a few bucks per round.
  • You may be the smartest person in your class; this does not make you the smartest person in a Magic tournament.
  • However many strategy articles you've read, your opponent may have read more.
  • Intelligence, experience, and sound strategy all help; they do not guarantee victory.
  • The better player may lose a match, but they will win more matches over time.
  • Your opponent does not deserve your censure for anything that happens with the cards, luck, or gameplay.
  • Insulting a stranger is unprofitable.
  • Pro Magic players rarely if ever insult their opponent—and this is not a coincidence.



    Stoic Rebuttal

"It's not against Magic Online's code of conduct to point out my opponent's luck."

That's true. But there's a lot not explicitly forbidden we shouldn't do. It is not against the law to make prolonged croaking sounds while in line at the grocery store, or to walk on the sidewalk with your arms outstretched, or to wear bad-smelling clothes on the subway. You still shouldn't.

"Losing is frustrating, and venting my anger makes me feel better."

I'm sure it does. But it also makes your opponent feel worse, and as said above, they have not done anything wrong to deserve that. Perhaps you could find another way of venting your anger that doesn't make someone's day worse. Perhaps you could invest in a punching bag, or write some moody poetry.

"Insulting my opponent is a strategy I use to tilt them and increase my odds of winning."

Honestly this is the most sensible excuse I can think of. But I still object to it on the following grounds.

1) The vast majority of insults I get are at the end of game 3, when this can't be the motivation.

2) Even in the middle of game 1, it feels like a frankly scummy way to win. If you were watching a movie about a tournament, this is a strategy the villain would use, never the hero. Which do you want to be?

3) Moral qualms aside, it seems impractical. Allocating mental energy toward emotionally manipulating your opponent requires diverting it from your technical gameplay. You might actually be hurting yourself more than them.

"I don't usually do it, but you don't understand—this opponent was REALLY terrible and my luck was UNBELIEVABLY bad. My limited rating is over 1800 and theirs is below 1500."

I believe you. And I also believe that you misunderstood, misread, or skipped everything I've said so far.

Now really, Cotton, I think you're overreacting.

You might be right. This might be a mental shortcoming of mine. Two weeks ago I was watching an LSV stream, one round of which ended with him getting a topdeck and his opponent saying "nice luck" in the chat window before conceding. He chuckled, said "Yes it was" out loud, then went on to the next round, probably never thinking about it again. I'm not like that. I wish I could be, but the truth is I get angry when people are rude to me for no reason.

Whether this is a flaw of mine, there are others with that same "flaw," and do you really want to antagonize us? We, who have done nothing to you? I, who taught you how to exploit bizarre rules loopholes to reenact the absurd flavor text on B.F.M.? Come on, now. Why.


Practical Advice

    Enlightened Tutor

"Let's all be nice to each other" is a great goal but a bit unrealistic, at least in the short term. What do we do in the meantime?

Reform your own habits.

If everyone reading this stops insulting their opponents, the MtGO-wide trend of opponent insulting will at least decrease a little. It's not everything, but it's something. "A journey of a thousand miles," etc.

Use the chat window only for compliments.

If they defeat you with some wild, unexpected play, instead of "gg lucksack," try one of these:

• "wp"
• "ggs, sweet deck!"
• "ah nice, i thought i had you"

Even if you were heavily favored to win, your opponent must have done something right if they beat you. Let them know!

One disclaimer—do this only if you think it will come across as sincere. The last thing anybody wants is an insincere compliment, or worse still, a sarcastic compliment-as-insult.

Say nothing at all.

When something outrageous happens, your tendency might be to describe your feelings to your opponent. The tendency might even be very strong. But your willpower is even stronger. You absolutely are not required to voice your opinion, and in fact, it's often better not to. Silence is a completely valid option. Your opponent will not get mad if you go the whole match without typing. They may even prefer it.

Try the Cotton Fold.

Here's this awesome technique I invented and so am naming after myself. (PV did it with PV's Rule. I'm not quite as accomplished as he, but the principle is the same.)

You can't disable the chat window in tournament matches (I've asked customer service). Manually closing it each time doesn't even work since (1) you might want to look at the actions log and (2) it just pops up at the start of each game anyway. But you can hide it! Try resizing your window into a tall vertical strip and then dragging it downward to cover the bottom part, like so:

See that? Log is accessible, chat is not, and if your opponent ever griefs you, you will remain blissfully unaware as they rage silently into the night. They tried to give you their anger, but instead it stays with them. 

Thanks, "give peace a chance" like John Lennon said, "be excellent to each other" like Bill & Ted said, and I'm not sure the origin of "it's nice to be nice" but I agree with that too.


I am not sure hiding chat is by Paul Leicht at Mon, 04/30/2018 - 13:37
Paul Leicht's picture

I am not sure hiding chat is a great idea. Except for that one section, the rest of the article is great! We need reminders of etiquette from time to time. Thanks for sharing Cotton.

Lovely article, masterfully by AJ_Impy at Tue, 05/01/2018 - 09:36
AJ_Impy's picture

Lovely article, masterfully written. Messaging is generally better in the more casual rooms, though you still get the odd few whose talents far outstrip their results, and even some who like to rub in their supremacy after a win.