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People usually get their writing careers started off after they have an impressive finish at the Pro Tour and some editor will reach out to them and ask them to write about their experience. Naturally, fresh off my impressive 3-5 finish at Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan, I reached out to some editor and decided to start off my new career in writing here. I've written many articles in the past, but after a while I lost the enthusiasm that made it fun for me, so I took an extended break.
I've thought a lot about what it means to be happy and some answers I saw repeatedly were to volunteer, foster community, and help others. I've dedicated a huge chunk of my life to trying to become to best Magic: The Gathering player in the world; now I want to spend some time encouraging others to go far in the game and possibly feel some of the satisfaction and fulfillment that succeeding at tournaments has brought me.
If you know anything about me as a player, then you probably know I'm one of the most competitive players in all of Magic. All I care about is what will give me the best chance to win and I don't care how much fun I have with my deck while I do it or how interesting the games are. So fair warning – if you're taking advice from me, you'd better be prepared to play to win. I sometimes even jokingly remind my friends at the Prerelease, "we play to win in this family."
In a way, there are only two different kinds of strategies in Magic: how you build your deck and how you play the games. I'm a firm believer that for every Pro Tour, there's a field of decks which can potentially be predicted – by the Magic Online metagame and human behavior – and there's a combination of cards you can have that will give you the best chance to win against that field. Often the most successful players have identified the correct archetype but they would have changed a few cards based on their experience. As you can see, there are countless opportunities to make a mistake and the lesson here is that games of Magic are decided by who made the least.
My goal as a player is to make the fewest mistakes as humanly possible. But enough about me as a player for right now. Let's talk about what I played at Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan:
Going into the Pro Tour, I was allergic to the idea of playing a Tron deck because I felt it was inconsistent and, to be honest, I believe I have a skill edge on the majority of the field, so I didn't want to play a deck that loses to itself some portion of the time. If I can instead play a deck that can keep more hands and have consistency issues less often, I feel like I'm better-equipped to play longer interactive games and give my opponents more opportunities to make mistakes.
It's actually funny because my best friend, teammate, and roommate, William Jensen, won the World Championship last year with Temur Energy, but a few days before the tournament, he wasn't sure if he should play Temur Energy or Ramunap Red. I urged him to play Temur Energy because I thought he was just a way better player than everyone else and he would win as long as his hand didn't dictate how to play the games. As it turns out, Temur Energy was just a way better deck than Ramunap Red and everything else – so much better they needed to ban it – but the underlying point remains the same: identify your strengths and play to them.
Once I got down to heavy preparation, it seemed like I was mostly wrong about the consistency of Tron, and pretty much across the board every deck has a similar fail rate. Most Modern decks are sacrificing consistency for power in one way or another, and when you're forced to play between sixteen and twenty lands, anything can happen. I was relieved to be playing a deck that wins on Turn 4 since that was something that was important to me from the start. I'm willing to concede that Tron can't literally end the game with a win by the fourth turn of the game, but I feel comfortable calling all Turn 3 Karns and Turn 4 Ulamogs wins, since they essentially make my opponent's chance to win extremely close to zero percent.