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By: Westane, Jeff Torres
Nov 21 2011 4:39am
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arcane denialwand of denialfervent denial

Way back in February I decided I had to take a break from Magic, and as a result, writing about Magic. My wife was seven months pregnant, and I had to shift my priorities for a while. My game time was limited to (very) late night WoW and Torchlight binges waiting for her to wake up at odd hours, napping while she was at her doctor appointments, and generally waiting on her whenever she was awake and I was home from work. She's stubborn, wouldn't even let me do the dishes for most of her pregnancy, but I guess you can only go so far before your legs quit on you. It was hard, it was fun, it was stressful, and the payoff was well worth it. Six months later, and our girl is just old enough to keep herself entertained while mommy and daddy completely ignore her in favor of our fantasy worlds. I'm kidding of course, but we do enjoy just a little more freedom now, enough for me to play in a DE or two (or three) a week anyway. I'm finally back on the Magic scene and frankly I'm having a blast... mostly.

My very first article for this site was posted May 19th, 2010, and in it I described my interpretation of "Semi-Pro" with the following introduction.

So, you all know "the guy". The guy who all the new players come to for sound advice and deck recommendations.The guy who seems to know the name and oracle text of every card printed since Ice Age, and seems to have a Level 3 judge's understanding of card interactions. This guy will rock FMN's almost every week, but will never top-8 at a PTQ. He'll run well documented and competitively proven deck at all but the most casual of events. He's the guy who's personality is stronger than his play skills... otherwise his friends would start to wonder why he's never gone pro.

I am that guy.

 After so many years, I'm still that guy, and to be perfectly honest I'm okay with that. I mean I think I'm okay with that. I don't always want to be that guy but for the last several years, and for the time being, playing in a shop with real cards in front of real people just isn't possible for me. My situation is temporary and once I'm back in my "element" I plan on cracking down on competitive play, assuming competitive play is still a thing by then.

In any case, I'm perfectly happy playing Magic Online. It's the perfect, if not expensive outlet for my OCD and I get a lot of enjoyment out of it. The problem for me comes from the fact that my fun on Magic Online is very different than the fun I can find at an FNM or other paper events. In all honestly, I can lose all year long in the card shop and be completely undeterred. The fun I have comes from shuffling up freshly sleeved decks, meeting new people, goofing off during matches, socializing, and going out for drinks with a group of former strangers after the finals. I thrive on the anxiety of a high, or not so high, stakes match. I love watching my opponents sink into their think tanks, and how they react to my play style.

MTGO offers no such incentives, nothing even remotely close. Instead I have to find my enjoyment on my own. For me, this comes from self-betterment, or to put it bluntly, winning.

In the last 7 days I've somehow found the time to play in five Daily Events and one Premiere Event. After a back-to-back money finish with BUG, I was feeling pretty confident, but ultimately went 2-4 in the PE, not even putting me in the top 16 for at least a refund. I would then go on to place 2-2 or worse in every DE I would play in after that. That kind of losing streak can just get crushing after a while, and I know I'm not that bad of a player. I always considered a DE to be MTGO's equivalent of a semi-competitive FNM. Was I wrong?


 On an unrelated note, I really hope we get some new Incarnations later in Innistrad block, or the old ones, I don't really care. I really didn't plan on playing in so many events, in fact I only wanted to play until I placed 3-1 or better. Perhaps I should start posting losing tournament reports? I didn't like that idea. Every game felt as though my opponent had the ability to stack his deck, or the shuffler had it out for me. I tried to reason with myself, I mean if I have a chance of getting mana screwed my opponent surely has the same odds, right? I built my deck in such a way as to minimize mulligans. I'm playing decks I'm comfortable with, and the match ups I'm losing should be in my favor. What's going on?

After a while I realized I was spending a lot of my matches with my face in my palm, cursing at my monitor. "Oh, of COURSE he top decks the Dissipate!" "Yeah, cool, why don't I just mull to five while you curve out perfectly!" "All four of your Garruks in the same game? Sure, why NOT!"

I started getting snappy. Game losses would send my arms in the air, or make me drop my mouse. Misclicks would send me into a small rage. I kept my temper down, no sense scaring the baby over a stupid child's game... I mean it's not a child's game, it's a game for intelligent people, and I'm an intelligent person... Right?

yawgmoth's bargain

I needed a win, and you can't win if you don't play. My ticket supply was rapidly dwindling. I started feeling like it was my responsibility to win my tickets back, like if I didn't I'd be "forced" to spend actual money on the game, something I've been trying to cut back on almost entirely. I started calling my wife from work, scanning the calendar, asking if she wouldn't mind watching the baby so I could compete. I started staying up into the morning playing in events I knew my body couldn't comfortably handle. What happened to the days where I could go to bed at 2AM and wake up at 6 ready to go to work? Anyway, my play time became hard to manage. I found myself buying my wife more gifts, doing more housework between rounds, and taking her out on more dates, making sure to get home in time for the next event, of course.

I guess that all seems well and good, and she certainly wasn't complaining, except for our trip to Ruby Tuesdays, I'm sorry but they are just awful. I mean the broccoli cheese biscuit Red Lobster knockoffs? Bleck! Even still, I felt like I was paying my wife off so I could go play my game. It's very possibly I'm over analyzing the issue. I'm a bit self conscience now after having a problem with WoW in the past. I used to be heavily addicted, now I'm only pretty addicted, but in a good way.

After a while I started losing it, I think I even promised my PC a new Solid State Drive if I could just topdeck that Blasphemous Act...

 dregs of sorrow

As a fellow gamer, it was easy for my wife to understand my frustration. I would always try to put on my best fake smile and tell her it's just a game, and I'm overreacting by getting upset over it, and she'd tell me otherwise. I started letting this game make me depressed. Not so much the losing, but the not winning, and then some. I'd think back to sitting in the card shops chatting over games. I'd think back to sitting around my buddy's basement with three other dudes and card boxes scattered all over the place... That line of thought eventually twisted into more and more memories, until finally I forgot why I was down in the first place. I started giving some serious thought to selling my collection again, figuring there's no real point in playing, I'm just not good enough. The money I would get could be going to much more important things.

The more depressed I became the less I looked forward to playing in future events, but I still felt just as obligated. As a result I simply played worse and worse, missing key plays because I just felt uninterested. For some reason, it really bothered me that I could go 10-0 in the Tournament Practice room, and flop time and again in the DE's.

This was stupid, and I knew I needed to snap out of it!

gifts ungiven

 It may sound like it in the article, but I haven't been ignoring my family at all. I still come home from work, sit down with my wife and kid, eat, watch some TV with them, talk with them, etc. My issues are compartmentalized fairly well. Still, this particular issue has been destroying my "me" time, and it had to stop. There are plenty of other things I'd much rather be doing with my free time than sulking and yelling obscenities at my monitor.

My wife finally told me that I'm taking her shopping, and as my financial adviser I didn't have much say in the matter. We put the girl in her stroller and headed off to the mall. She told me to wait in the food court with our daughter while she went into Penny's for some pajamas (She must have really felt sorry for me) so I went off to grab an overpriced slice of pizza. After about 6 hours 20 minutes she came back and told me we're going to Gamestop to pick up a copy of Skyrim. I told her I already bought my copy through Steam last week and she said that it wasn't for me. She wanted a copy of the game for herself, only on the console so she could play in bed.

We got home, put the kid to bed, and she told me to help her get started with the game, and I did. Once she got the hang of it she told me I was crowding her, and to go play on my PC. She asked if I had any DE's tonight and I told her there was one I could possibly play in. She gently informed me that that wouldn't be happening, and told me to pull up Skyrim so we could play "together".

It was a very roundabout way of playing multiplayer, but what can I say? We were constantly turning around to show off a new landscape, or piece of gear, or spell or quest. We were constantly tossing the strategy guide back and forth, and just having a good time, occasionally pausing to [REDACTED] and then playing some more. Before we knew it, the sun was coming up, and Emi would be waking up any minute... We took shifts.

The idea of selling my collection suddenly sounded completely absurd.

serrated arrowscloudpostfirebolt

After recovering, I decided to start scrounging up a Pauper deck. I've always been interested in the format, but just never really went anywhere with it. I threw together 8-post and hit the Tournament Practice room, and had a lot of fun. It's still not the kind of fun I could have with friends sitting at a kitchen table with some EDH decks, but fun none the less.

There's probably a moral of this story, but in true Peter Griffin fashion I don't really know what it is. I guess I need to stop getting pissy over bad beats and keep pushing on. When money's involved, I feel even more obligated to succeed, and even more devastated when I don't. I just need to get my feces in close proximity. That all night gaming binge with my wife seemed to have worked wonders on my mood, and now I feel like playing Magic isn't such a chore.

It's almost Thanksgiving, so I plan on kicking back and gorging myself on bird meat, and I recommend everyone else does the same. I think I'm going to provide a tournament report next week... even if it is an 0-4. There's something to be learned from our failures, right?

Until next time!

-Jeff Torres

PS: Go play Skyrim, it's probably the best game ever made... or at least in the last 15 years or so.

PPS: Yeah, yeah, "Cool story bro!", but it's a holiday week, relax!


I went through the same by Lord Erman at Mon, 11/21/2011 - 07:00
Lord Erman's picture

I went through the same period you described in the article. And no, it wasen't close or similar. It was exactly the same thing! It was the first days/weeks of ZEN Block Constructed and no matter what I was doing I was losing. My opponents always had that critical card in their hand, I always had bad luck, I was always top-decking a land while they were top-decking their win condition.... Basically all the things you wrote in the article.

So I do know what I'm saying and what I'm saying is this: Stop trying for a while. The harder you try the worst the results will be. STOP playing competitive Magic for a while. You must have a clear mind when playing in tournaments and no, you don't have that at the moment. I KNOW you don't!

So this is the time for you to start playing Commander, Pauper, casual Magic or attend a few PREs at weekends. This is the time for you to calm down and relax.

Stop playing competitively until Dark Ascension comes. It will happen in ~3 months and that is enough time for you to enjoy other aspects of Magic Online. Trust me, I know what I'm saying. If you play in the next DE, it will either be 2-2 or 1-3 (or worse such as 0-2 drop). With your current state of mind there is no chance that it will be better. Just trust me. And hey; Commander is tons of fun! Read Leviathan if you don't believe me!

The bottom line: Competitive Magic is not the only way one can enjoy MTGO. And apparently it's time for you to relax and have fun when you're online. And after this period is over, you'll see how things will get better.


I mostly agree, and I've by Westane at Mon, 11/21/2011 - 13:03
Westane's picture

I mostly agree, and I've since stepped back a lot and started focusing on other ways to play. Me and my wife even picked up an Ajani vs Bolas Duel Deck and have been having a lot of fun with that. I've also been playing more Pauper, and that's been a ton of fun as well.

My problem is I miss the FNM scene too much, and DE's fill that void for the time being. That said, I've limited myself to 1-2 a week, and only if it doesn't take a hit on my time doing other things.

Finally, I so... so wish I could enjoy Commander, but I can't. I'm not patient enough to sit through all the triggers from multiple players. I love playing at a table, but online I just can't make myself sit through a whole game XD

Even though I don't play at by Paul Leicht at Mon, 11/21/2011 - 07:57
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Even though I don't play at the DE level or even the FNM level anymore I can certain identify with your story. In fact one of the reasons I don't post play by play articles anymore is there is nothing interesting to see here, typically. Well like for instance this weekend I played in the Tribal Apoc PRE (purely by accident as I walked in just as Blippy needed one more person to even the lists so I agreed and pulled out my "Boaring" Naya deck which lost game 1 almost immediately to Zubera combo (lifeline, zuberas, phyrexian arenas)).

Game 2 he failed to go off and my aggroish start gave me a chance to win and yet I flubbed it and lost the opportunity and then the match after a longer much more complicated end game. I guess if you were watching that game youd have seen numerous little (perhaps even tiny) play errors on both sides. (My opponent gave me extra turns to try and come back from defeat when he had the win in front of him for example and I did not manage to fully capitalize on these plays.)

Match two I faced horrible mulligans (to 4 in game 1 and a nonkeeper in game 2 that I kept anyway because it had two lands.) And in both games it ended on turn 4 with my opp rushing out lots of landfall cats ftw. Naya Landfall isn't typically a great deck but it can finish fast.

Usually after I lose 0-2 as I did in this PRE I go sulk a little and maybe even let people know how peod I am. That day I didn't genuinely feel anything of the sort. It was a bad deck that I piloted just because it was funny and somewhat fun to play (Never did get the Stoneforge Basilisk collar start or the Coalhauler Swine Savage Twister finish that I dreamed about when I made the deck. And yet it wasn't horrible either.)

It isn't that Ive stopped caring about winning but that I decided that it doesn't matter enough to ruin the rest of my afternoon. The game is important to me (hence Ive managed to find ways to continue writing and being involved in it despite my intensely long Tribal Apocalypse losing streaks. No 3-x wins since before Flips stopped running it and few even 2-x) I and I have had some small successes in other PREs (SNM with _Kumagoro_ who is a blast to partner with, and Chaos EDH where I seem to luck into wins a lot more frequently than I would expect.)

My point is that if there is a moral to your tale it is this: "Adjust your game or yourself until you aren't unhappy with it. There is no point in repeatedly engaging in an activity that only makes you unhappy."

Aye by Elbinac at Mon, 11/21/2011 - 15:00
Elbinac's picture

I've had the same thoughts about magic and other games as well, especially subscription based ones.
In the end I follow the same system as LE mentions.

I only play draft/sealed for competitive play.
My collection is geared for commander play not competitive constructed.
Sometimes I'll toss together a deck for casual 1v1 and end up losing a streak to various tier 3 combo decks.

When I get totally down about playing the game myself but still have the craving for Magic, I lurk tables.

I lurk tables a lot.
Watching friends and clannies play and making smalltalk is about as close as it gets to cardshop socializing online.

I've seen you lurking at by Paul Leicht at Mon, 11/21/2011 - 17:07
Paul Leicht's picture

I've seen you lurking at commander tables. You're welcome to watch me lose anytime. :d