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With the StarCityGames.com® Season Two Invitational approaching this weekend, I've spent the last week practicing with different Standard decks, trying to find the exact build I want to bring. The last time I played a Standard tournament was the first weekend that Hour of Devastation was legal, so I've had a lot to catch up on in a short amount of time. Well, not as much as normal after a rotation, because as everyone knows Energy decks are simply the best thing to be doing in the format, so I just need to figure out what my exact Energy build will be.
Now, even though it's been my focus this week, I'm not going to write an entire article about Energy decks in Standard, as the format has already been covered many times over. Instead, I wanted to talk about my approach to playing Magic tournaments in 2017, the biggest reason why I believe I had a successful year.
With the winner of the Invitational receiving 50 SCG Points, even if Collins Mullen would win the tournament and I lose every match, I'll still end up as the winning Points Leader on the SCG Tour® in 2017. I ended up playing in eighteen Opens with seven Top 8s, all coming with either playing Eldrazi Tron or G/W Company in Modern. I also moved to Roanoke, VA to produce Magic content full-time this summer, and overall have had a wonderful year playing Magic. So today I wanted to reflect on some ways I approach the game that have helped me have such a successful year, starting with the most important:
You're playing the best card game in the world on your weekend in a large convention center with hundreds or thousands of other people. Have a good time! Too many times I've seen people having a good tournament lose a match for whatever unlucky reason or play mistake you can name, and it sent them spiraling for the rest of the weekend, and all the time and effort spent preparing for the tournament was gone in a flash. The easiest way to avoid this is to make an assertive effort to have fun while you're playing Magic.
Think of your own personal tournaments and the ones you have done the best in. I would bet that they all have something in common: that you had a good time during the tournament. Maybe you had a good time because you were winning, or maybe you were winning because you had a good time; that's probably different for different people. But if you're having a lousy day and are really upset, then you won't have a successful tournament. From work to family to anything else, there are plenty of reasons to be stressed when you're at a Magic tournament, but while you're at a tournament, it's best if you can just focus on playing Magic and having a good time.
I know it's not as easy as it sounds to simply "have fun," especially when you're in a losing streak and nothing is breaking your way, but it will honestly make a big difference over the long run. The easiest place to start with enjoying playing Magic more is with your opponent. I always introduce myself and try to keep a fun, light-hearted banter going with my opponent during our match, because if they are having a good time, then it's easier for me to as well. In between rounds, when many players like to tell their bad beat stories to each other, I prefer to reflect on the bigger picture and take in the whole event, again focusing on the positivity of playing a card game on my weekend.
It would be easy to think that I'm only there for work now that Magic is a full-time job for me, but that leads me into my second item:
Don't Focus on Wins and Losses
The worst tournaments I've had this year have been when I cared too much about how much I was (or wasn't) winning. Although you can control most of what happens in a match of Magic, the fact is there is still plenty that you can't control. If I'm at a tournament where I really want to win and therefore worry about my record during the tournament, I've never done well at it.
Now, I know that when you play as many Magic tournaments as I do, it's easier to not invest in your record at any individual tournament than when you don't travel and prepare for a couple of months for the one Open in your hometown. Putting so much effort into one tournament like that can make it really hard to not focus on wins and losses because you prepared so much for it, but at the end of the day, there is plenty of variance in Magic and you have to accept that you can only do your best. Don't let that trigger you missed eat you up inside; instead, remember the situation it happened in so you don't miss the trigger the next time.
If you tie your tournament experience to your wins and losses, then you're doing yourself a disservice. Instead, tie it to how much fun you had and how much you learned. This will turn you into a more positive thinker who looks for different lines and possibilities from what you would have noticed before, which will help grow your game. Focus on staying positive, keeping an open mind, and learning instead of your record, and the results will follow.