Innovations - Getting Your Eyelids Out of the Way
Our hero Kersee enters the office and speaks to his friend Hectare. "The Starbucks downstairs broke its oven so they could not make breakfast sandwiches this morning. I am saddened."
"Perhaps good beats are good beats?" responded Hectare.
"Eventually I attempted to assert myself over reality and repair the oven cosmically but it did not work."
"No? What did not work? The oven? Or your persistence in delusion rather than realizing that which is is what you actually want? What does it mean to confuse attachment with will? Was it attachment or will that you applied to the oven working?"
"You know my attachment is solely to my breakfast sandwich. The oven is simply a means to that end."
"Oh so is it still possible that your attachment is the source of your suffering? You decided that you could not get a sandwich today. Why? The oven was broken? You say you applied your will yet what did you do? Idly close your eyes and concentrate for a moment? Had you the will could you have fixed the oven yourself with your own hands? Could you have hired someone to do it? Could you have persuaded the employees to fix it? Had you the will is there any reason the breakfast sandwich from that place that oven would not have been yours? Yet you did none of these things. Why? Perhaps the sandwich wasn't worth it. You may lament your misfortune but instead what if you realized the oven is broken at this moment for the best and not just pretended it but truly realized it? Would your mind then be open to understanding why?" When you understand why it is best this way perhaps you will be in the midst of discovering/experiencing that which life has brought you that is only possible because of the oven being broken. Perhaps a chance meeting with someone at the other place you eat perhaps this conversation perhaps the chance conversation you will have on Tuesday that is spawned by this."
"Ugh. This is The Universe's way of telling me I'm fat and I don’t need a breakfast sandwich I think."
"Remember I can't tell you which direction to look or if the canyon is pretty. I can only suggest how to get your eyelids out of the way."
Ending the conversation Hectare made for the door.
"You'll be okay my friend. I am going to go grab a sandwich. I will be back in 30!"
"Excellent rub-ins" muttered Kersee as he returned to his important job.
Sorry what were we talking about...?
Since the inception of this game we share it seems like I hear from player after player that gets frustrated when they "played perfectly" and got "luck-sacked out" of the Top 8 of their FNM PTQ Pro Tour or whatever. They grow frustrated when they play their Mono-Black deck against Primeval Titan and never seem to Mind Sludge in time. They want to win with their G/W Token Swarm deck but an endless stream of Day of Judgments from the U/W mage leaves them crippled. They want to win with their new idea Turbo-Fog but cheesy Pyromancer's Ascension decks play a bunch of Time Warps and win in a very unsporting manner.
What can they do?
When many people try to "avoid netdecks" they often overcompensate and swing to the opposite extreme trying to force some crazy concoction they came up with to be totally unbeatable. Their attachment to the rogue deck they built has them blinded to possibility that the best way to beat those strategies is to play something else.
By the way to clarify something remember: deckbuilding is not something that everyone wants to do. Just as some players do not trade cards and others do not draft many players do not want to invest the time into building their own decks. This is no sin! Why do we judge those that have different priorities? Instead we should ask ourselves what we are doing and concern ourselves with that. This week isn't about netdecking or not netdecking however. This week is about where to look to know how to move forward.
"The truth like humor is where you find it."
I can't tell you how many messages I receive that detail a small amount of information about a deck or a tournament then ask "What am I doing wrong?" This question while asked with good intentions and seemingly simple is much more complicated to be serviced by a simple reply. Generally if someone asks me what they are doing wrong I reply "Well what are you trying to accomplish?"
Rather than focus on what you perceive as "wrong" in your game or anything else I would suggest focusing on a positive: what you are looking to accomplish improve change grow and build upon. What are you trying to accomplish? You might be trying to win more at Magic qualify for (or win) the Pro Tour win your FNM with an original deck build a collection of cards meet more people who share a common love for Magic or be inducted into the Magic Hall of Fame. Depending on what you are trying to accomplish your strategy could vary.
Many of these things are things that a number of very intelligent and motivated people are also dedicated to doing and by necessity they cannot all be successful at least at the moment. Rather than place expectations on yourself (“I will win this tournament or else...”) or make hollow threats and lies to yourself (“... or else I will quit Magic”) you might instead take a long view of what it is you are trying to achieve. This tournament this FNM this PTQ this PT this year... attachment to any of these things can bring suffering. This is not an advocacy of apathy no matter how much I may love Timothy James Aten.
Many turn outward looking for someone or something to tell them what to do. The alternative is of course to look within.
After a couple years of study Seeker of Truth convinced she had cracked the code for life's mysteries and secrets strode up to the Castle of Truth and knocked on the door. A voice like thunder boomed “Who's there?”
With great resolve she answered. “It is I.”
To her surprise the voice responded with finality. “There's no room for you here.”
Disheartened and confused the Truth Seeker returned to her studies. Later she returned to try again but the results were the same. Failure follows failure and eventually she gave up. She ran away from all that she knows and cried. First they were tears of anger followed by confusion. Tears of surrender came soon after but then finally she shed tears of joy. It was then she returned to the Castle of Truth and knocked on the door once more.
“Who's there?” boomed the voice.
“It is You” the Seeker of Truth replied.
The door opened.
The teacher's role is not to impart knowledge but to awaken the student. When someone asks me what they are doing wrong they seem to be saying that they want to be better at Magic so please help. Winning a tournament this weekend may be best accomplished by using the hot new technology that your favorite theorists may have imparted. It does you no good to look at the work of others as your personal banned list. The fact that countless others have used Primeval Titan to fetch Halimar Depths turn after turn or have discarded every possible graveyard-oriented creature to a Fauna Shaman doesn't mean you should avoid those cards. The reason to avoid something is if it is not useful for what you are trying to accomplish.
If you are trying to win an upcoming tournament it is useful to understand what everyone else is doing. It is fine to avoid playing what many consider to be the "best deck" if you don't think it gives you the best chance of winning. What is detrimental to your success however is avoiding cards strategies combinations or tactics simply because someone else does them as well. Avoiding those things is much more in line with the goal of "being different" which may or may not be your goal but it is much more useful to understand if it is and why.
The point is that when you are looking for direction when you are looking to figure out what you are doing wrong what to change to get better results the journey starts inside you. Sam Stoddard wrote an oft-referenced Magic article that helps shine a light on a useful way of looking inside in order to understand where you personally need to go: Creating a Fearless Magical Inventory. If you have not read it I highly recommend it. If you are stuck on a plateau even if you have read it you may want to consider pulling the trigger and creating your own Fearless Magical Inventory.
“Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.”
When you are no longer afraid of failure afraid of rejection afraid of not being good enough or there not being enough for you to have what's good you will find (among many other things) that you will be doing less of "what is wrong" and more of things like “winning at Magic.” These fears hold you back as you strive so deeply to keep them buried afraid that if you let yourself see let alone anyone else you will be rejected a failure not good enough. The Truth however is The Truth. Pretending that it isn't is only lying to yourself and the thing about you is that you will figure it out eventually so there is no use trying to hide. Once you overcome that fear you will find freedom on the other side.
This freedom is the freedom to take the actions necessary to improve your game whether it is:
- Not looking at the top card of your library before deciding to mulligan in playtesting
- Stopping cutting a land from every deck you copy
- Being willing to play decks with Blue in them
- Being willing to play decks without Blue in them
- Opening up to the possibility that you don't already know exactly how good every card may be
- No longer telling stories of your last match and mentioning the manascrew but not the loose keep
- Escaping the mental trap of slavery to mana efficiency (wanting to spend all of your mana every turn rather than make the "right" play)
- Practicing more and more effectively with greater focus
- Gaining familiarity with all of the Tier 2 decks in a format because who knows what you'll face
- Remembering that you are trying to win at Magic not make a theme deck
- Observing stronger more experienced players and seeing what it is that they are doing
- Being nicer to other players
- Exclusively focusing on the task at hand
- Becoming conscious of your body language so as to discontinue leaking information about your hand and plans
- Having someone else double check your deck registration form to ensure no deck reg errors
- Playing 60 cards
- Getting enough sleep
- No longer taking back plays in testing when you know your deck choice and you are practicing play
- Being aware of that which is around you
- Having a positive attitude towards every Magic player as we are all friends here
- Accepting that there is always something you could have done whether it is tighter technical play an opportunity to use words differently sideboard differently mulligan differently or even showing up with a different deck (let alone playtesting with different people and reading more articles).
“Ultimately we know deeply that the other side of every fear is freedom.”
(... Completely unrelated Vintage aside that will look like it is about Jace turn out to bash Shops then return to Jace...)
If you think that Jace the Mind Sculptor should be restricted in Vintage prove it. You and I may both realize that Jace is like Fact or Fiction every turn hyperbolically speaking but not everyone has the memo yet. Also Workshop decks suck. They really do. Like a lot. Actually slightly more than that. A big part of why they suck so much is that they are deceiving. You can get sucked in by the allure of lands that tap for Black Lotuses but at the end of the day you are still playing a deck full of cards that don't do anything but make it harder to do anything. The problem with this is four-fold.
1) You are playing an artifact deck in a format with far more artifacts that creatures resulting in tons of artifact hate everywhere even in the combo decks.
2) You are playing a deck where most of the cards are far too fairly-costed for Vintage unless you have a Workshop on the battlefield. You won't always have a Workshop on the battlefield.
3) You don't have Force of Will in your deck. Let's not even start on the non-mana power cards like Ancestral Recall Time Walk Yawgmoth’s Will and Time Vault.
4) Not every one of your opponents will be a match-up for which you prepared. People will have things against you every time by accident. You will often be left out to dry when you show up and those in the know are all maindecking Trygon Predators in their Jace decks.
Matt Sperling David Williams Eric Froehlich Luis Scott-Vargas and I told everyone that would listen about David Ochoa's Jace deck with Trygon Predator and Dark Confidant before Vintage Worlds. Now I am sure that nearly every active member of the Vintage community knew about this deck but did they bother testing it? Owen Turtenwald is a Vintage master and he has been for many years. Part of his mastery of the format is understanding complex lines involving Yawgmoth’s Will Time Vault or chaining tutors together. Part of his mastery of the format is knowing to not play Shops.
(... End aside that will hopefully not lead to civil unrest in the forums...)
While we are bouncing around how about some Sealed Deck advice for M11?
You have to pick at least one other color to go with your Blue cards. If that color is Green you can still obviously use the two playable Red cards in your pool as well as make other splashes. Personally I like Black or White to go with my Blue cards. In other news I am forcing Blue at Nationals and the Pro Tour to the death. It is hardly the only viable draft strategy but with so many formats in such a small period time conservation is a real issue. What I have learned from my practice sessions thus far is that I may not be that good at this format but I’ve got a pretty good idea of how to win with Blue cards. My summary of what people are doing wrong with Blue in Limited? Not scrying to the bottom aggressively enough.
How about Extended?
Much like Vintage most of the non-Blue and non-combo decks I have seen are terrible compared to most of the Blue and/or Combo decks I have seen. Why would you want to lose to Punishing Fire at this Pro Tour? Of course there are only 400 people that probably care about that seeing as the PTQ season is bizarrely after the rotation of Time Spiral Block marking a radical change in the format including the format-defining Punishing Fire enabler Grove of the Burnwillows (not to mention Tarmogoyf and Mystical Teachings which are no slouches). Don't get it twisted though... I absolutely love this format. This rotation is sweet. I just hope things settle down nicely rather than end up with a bunch of non-interactive decks that run their combos against each other with unbeatable hate cards trying to trump each other after sideboarding.
Speaking of formats I like how about Standard? I have heard some people exclaim with frustration that they hate every deck (I am looking at you Sperling and Martell). I’m sorry but this is what it feels like to have a balanced format. Is Black a little under-represented? Sure and Green and Blue are very popular but that is not so bad. These things go in cycles (although there’s not as much cyclical action with Blue...).
This format lets you play beatdown control midrange or combo. You can customize your deck to your tastes and hardly have to play a near-75 copy to the next guy. You can hybridize or purify your builds. You can tweak card choices for metagame calls. You play creatures non-creature permanents that do things spells that affect the board without instantly winning the game versatile cards and some linears. Multicolor is available but not free there are some Aces but they don't ruin it for the 8's and 9's and the format has a surprising amount of play to the games. I love it and I highly recommend exploring it with an open mind.
The U.S. National Championships start today (Wish me luck!) and I like Jace the Mind Sculptor decks (as Matt Sperling would say "Chapin calls them decks.") And no of course I can't respond to silly rumors about Sperling and I releasing a rap album next year...
Sole possession of poll position has me soul positioning since I kold magicians.
My line writing perplex like signs reminding my decks you'll find might bring success hivemind fighting objects..."