My own bed hasn't ever felt so good, but it's not time to completely relax.
I may be tired and jetlagged, but this weekend is what I worked so hard for the entire year: The StarCityGames.com Players' Championship.
One of the goals that I set for myself at the beginning of the year was to qualify for the PC, and I was able to accomplish that in Season Two. I also wanted to spend this year focusing on improving as a player, which is something that I feel like I was on track to accomplish, but kind of fell to the wayside once I qualified for the PC.
See, I kept on grinding and trying to qualify for the Pro Tour while amassing as many Open Points as possible, but it just wasn't the same. I stopped putting in the time that I was before. I knew Jund Monsters in and out, and that was because when I wasn't playing in the Open Series, I was streaming or just playing games on Magic Online. I was also playing games over and over in real life with BBD or Stephen.
I was trying to get better.
Now, I'm not saying that I've flat gotten worse. I just don't feel the same fire that I did in Season Two, and I think that I may have gotten complacent.
I'm not going to just let myself be okay with that.
This revelation wasn't very easy to come by. The Season Four Invitational was miserable for me, but it did help me to get my head right. I had two byes and went 2-4 drop in the tournament.
That's right. I didn't win a single match in the Invitational.
What happened? I spent an entire week in Tacoma preparing for this event. I had five other people with me to help get myself ready for the Invitational, and I didn't even win a match.
I was defeated. I was upset, and I was in an extremely sour mood. I couldn't put a finger on just what had happened. I opted to play an Abzan Reanimator deck of Brad's design for the Standard portion that was geared towards beating the other Whip of Erebos decks and the Jeskai Tokens deck that we played in Portland (that ended up winning the Invitational). After my byes I was paired against a Sultai Reanimator deck where I felt like I was in control most of the game (even though I had to grind through six Hornet Queens since he drew and got to cast his Soul of Innistrad), and ended up losing a 60 minute game 1. Then I got paired against eventual Top 8 competitor Phillip Braverman for an Abzan vs Mardu camera match where I end up losing a game 3 when I didn't do math correctly and played out my Reclamation Sage as a way to win through a Butcher of the Horde.
For Legacy I audibled from my Reanimator list at the last minute because I couldn't find any Hapless Researchers and was just not very confident in the deck. I knew that it was going to be well-positioned for the tournament, but ended up just playing Jund after being impressed with it, yet again, against the Stoneforge deck in testing.
I got paired against Burn and the Jund mirror.
I wish I could say that I just hate the format, but that's not true. I think that I am just doing it all wrong. I'm second guessing myself a lot and just flat not putting in the work to be fully prepared.
Normally I would just write about the decks that I played last weekend or analyze the recent tournament results or even just tell you stories about my trip, but I feel like this is a good week to just try and get my head back into the right place.
Magic for me is definitely more than a game. I work for StarCityGames not only doing content but also as a normal in-house employee. It is my livelihood, and I absolutely love it. I love talking about the game. I love thinking about all the different ways that the game has evolved. I love reading articles about design. I love the competition. I really do love it all, but lately I feel like I have lost sight of that.
There have been a few articles about the grind getting to people. Articles about putting too much pressure on oneself. I wish I could say that it was just one of these types of things, but I don't think that it is.
The first six months or so of this year were absolutely amazing. I did very well in Magic and qualified for the Players' Championship. I was eating right and exercising regularly trying to get healthier. I was on track to take care of some financial issues from my past, and I even met a pretty amazing person.
The last six months have been real rough though. I had my Gall Bladder removed and subsequently developed a condition that's requiring me to take medicine twice a day (terrible powder) potentially for the rest of my life. I had my Wisdom Teeth removed and developed an abscess that needed more medication and procedures to correct. My grandparent's health is declining, and I completely reversed all of the health progress that I had made.
I wish that I could say that Magic is getting in the way of enjoying life, but for me Magic is such a big and important part of my life that it feels like Magic is the only thing that's stable.
It's very easy to get caught up in negative thoughts when things aren't going the way that you want them to, and I'm just done with it.
I am desperately trying to get my head straight before this weekend. I just keep coming back to the thought of how much $20,000 is. That is a life changing amount of money. How much it would help to get things back on the right track.
I made the decision yesterday to stop thinking about the money and just focus on battling. The money is going to be there no matter what. It's not something that I can control, therefore, energy is wasted thinking about it. I need to put all of that energy into things that I can control.
Things like metagaming. With a field of only sixteen competitors, I can try to gather as much information about them as possible and use that to position myself well.
Things like deck choice and sideboarding. I can't control what everyone else ultimately shows up with, but I can make conclusions based on extrapolated information and choose my deck accordingly. Also, when formats are like the current Standard, someone who is intimately familiar with their deck and its different matchups is greatly rewarded. There aren't very many heavily lopsided matchups in Standard right now, which favors the prepared grinder.
I can also control my fatigue. Eating and drinking throughout the event and avoiding sugars will help, but also just getting back into a habit of eating better and exercising goes a long way. I remember what it was like earlier in the year, and I just felt so much better. I'm tired all the time and catching myself slipping up while playing. There is always some negative feedback about how overplayed the "get healthy and play better" motto is in Magic content, but it's 100% true.
The amount of Magic that I play is also something that I can control. As much as I love Magic, I find that with everything compounded, I just don't play as much as I would like and as I used to, and it's definitely affecting my performance. As terrible of a program as MTGO is, nothing beats it in terms of getting in reps and being able to try out different cards and configurations.
The bottom line is that I need to start eating healthy again and exercising regularly in addition to playing more Magic so that I can be better prepared. These are things that will help my chances in the Players' Championship, but that's not all there is. There is an entire new year starting soon with more chances to qualify for the Players' Championship next year and to grind the new Open Series.
Seattle was the first weekend of the new two-day Open Series, and I must say it blew me away. It was a much better tournament experience for me and I loved it. I can understand how some people might be a bit unhappy with it. If you are only able to make it on Saturday and not Sunday, then playing in the Open might not be in your best interest, but there are plenty of side events to take advantage of and never a shortage of Magic to be played.
Why was it such a good experience for me? Well, for starters, not having to play eleven rounds on Saturday was fabulous. Getting out of the Standard Open at 11pm or midnight was always extremely rough. The tournaments just keep growing, which facilitates the need for more rounds, which makes the tournaments just too long for a one-day affair. Only having nine rounds on day one means that everyone, including the staff, gets out of there at a reasonable time and can be fully rested for the second day.
If you happen to make day two (which for this open that had roughly 450 players, you only had to go 6-3) then you get to battle six more rounds for Open Series points and money. I can understand that some people enjoyed being able to play in the Standard Open on Saturday and then in the Legacy Open or Modern Premier IQ on Sunday and will miss that opportunity if they do well in the Standard Open now, but the payouts for the Open are awesome. It is quite top heavy with a $5,000/$2,000 payout for first and second, but with $350/$200/$100 for Top 16/32/64 means that it's fairly easy to cash the event and if you happen to spike a Top 8 you could have a huge payday. Also, in regards to Open Series points, if you Top 32 the Standard Open, it's exactly the same amount of points as a Top 32 + a Top 64 in the previous system, but you also have a chance to spike more points and money if you happen to Top 8.
The byes are also really sweet. Obviously there is a lot of incentive for someone like me who has already been grinding the Open Series to continue to do so with the new system because of the byes, but it's not that unreasonable to get into the Top 32 and snag yourself a bye at the Opens. In fact, for Season One of 2015, you only need 66 points to break into the Top 32. With IQs all over the country every weekend when there aren't Opens in your area, there are lots of points to be had.
The biggest gripe that I've seen is that there will be significantly less Legacy coverage now. While there will be some weekends where the Open Series is Legacy instead of Standard, there definitely will be a reduction in Legacy coverage, but in exchange we get to cover a 20k event. As much as I love watching all of the eccentric Legacy decks do their thing, I also love watching people playing for thousands and thousands of dollars even more.
The bottom line is that if we want to see more Legacy Opens then we need more people to come out and play Legacy. When they happen, everyone should be there, and as long as the numbers show that it's worthwhile for the Legacy Opens to be ran, then I can't imagine that there won't be more of them.
I truly do love Magic, and am proud to be a part of such an awesome community. I may have been slipping a bit recently, but be ready world. CVM will be back for sure. I have events for the first six weekends of the New Year, and I've got some points to collect.
Thank you everyone for being patient with waiting on the playmat painting for the Kickstarter. Here is an update that I got from Kristen, and we are hoping that it's completely finished soon!