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How do you go from merely good to great?
Some say it takes 10,000 hours of practice, and for games like Magic, some think it might have something to do with innate talent. Maybe some people "get it" while others don't.
I think that's bullshit.
The difference between being a good player or a great player is often a thin line. Instead of one big secret, it's often just a bunch of little things that separate those two groups. This article isn't the most extensive list, but it does contain some of the more common pitfalls good players face once they plateau.
Anatomy of a Mistake
A mistake is defined as "an action of judgment that is misguided or wrong."
What constitutes a mistake is often a topic of debate. There are both judgment calls and actual misplays, but the actual value of what a mistake is can vary. Did it cost you a game? Could it have potentially cost you a game? Was it completely irrelevant, yet still something to avoid in the future lest you develop bad habits?
If you bluff attack your 1/1 into their Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle and they block, is it a mistake? If you decide yes, then it should still be a mistake even if they take the damage. You can't always predict when your opponent is going to make that block, but making a calculated risk can't only be a mistake when they call.
If you're at nine and your opponent is at six, should you use a Lightning Bolt on their attacking Ball Lightning? What if another Lightning Bolt ends up being on top of your library? Does it mean you should have waited?
These are judgment calls that can be argued either way but will ultimately come down to math. Sometimes the math isn't obvious, so you have to go off intuition.
Sometimes your intuition will be wrong. You have to be okay with that.
Sometimes I make suboptimal plays while executing my winning line, but that shouldn't count as a mistake. Any winning line is good enough, even if it's not quite as good as another would have been. That said, if one line gives your opponent an extra draw step or a chance to win, it should definitely be avoided.
Additionally, just because you make mistakes doesn't mean you should get down on yourself. A game of Magic isn't determined by who made the most mistakes. You shouldn't feel bad about winning despite making a mistake and you shouldn't let it determine how resolved you are during a tournament. There should be no shame or embarrassment involved in making a mistake.
The fact of the matter is that very few games will be played perfectly. If you can't find mistakes within your game, you aren't looking hard enough. Those mistakes definitely exist, even if you can't see them, and you shouldn't beat yourself up over them when you do see them. Acknowledge a mistake, make sure you don't make the same mistake again, and then move on.
How much does a mistake really matter? How much should it bother you? How should you compose yourself after it happens? The secret is that what is and isn't a mistake doesn't ultimately matter. Mistakes are going to happen, so it's pointless to beat yourself up over it. If it causes you to tilt and make even more mistakes, what's the point?
Is it useful to define what is and isn't a mistake, especially during a match? It might not even be useful to define it during a tournament. Games have all sorts of actionable data points and even more that aren't. Additionally, there are actionable data points that don't correspond to specific plays and whether they were mistakes at all, such as the flow of the game. That should influence what your vision for the game is.