Lessons Learned in L.A.

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The Fact of the Matter

I wasn’t ready for Los Angeles. Neither to walk the streets lined with droves of homeless people nor to battle in the last SCG Invitational of 2012. My Legacy list is right where it needs to be and I think that all things considered my choice of Standard deck was fine, but my head just wasn’t in the game. Trying to balance work and last minute preparation left my sleep schedule in shambles and my mind in a very sordid state. Frequently I found myself in the tank without a thought in my head. Just staring at my cards, hoping that they would tell me what to do. This is Magic at its lowest level, and I needed to be battling near my peak.

I sideboarded incorrectly with my Standard deck every round, utilizing a sideboard that I should have built better in the first place. Worse yet, I went into the Legacy portion of the event not knowing the extent of the relevance of Deathrite Shaman. I knew that if I had a Bolt I was supposed to Bolt it, but I had no idea whether I was supposed to Force it when I didn’t have the Bolt. I don’t believe that I’m supposed to, and in one of my matches I did. These would have been simple things for me to figure out ahead of time by playing just a handful of more games.

I found myself going 2-0 then 0-2 in both formats. It’s true that I mulliganed a lot some of the matches that I lost, but my opponents also mulliganed plenty in some of the matches that I won. The single factor that influenced my performance the most was my attitude. I treated the Invitational like a free-roll, operating under the assumption that just by showing up I would be qualified for every Invitational next year. As things turned out, points from this weekend in the SCG player’s club apply to next year’s benefits, leaving me a sparse two points off two more qualifications. I felt really daggered when I discovered this, but in all honesty it serves me right. I haven’t been taking these events as seriously as I probably need to and my results have suffered for it. I know that I’m better than this, and I need to stop holding myself back.

Moving Forward

In light of my results last weekend, I’ve been drafting some ideas for how to approach competitive Magic in the future. At my low this weekend I was pretty seriously contemplating quitting altogether, but nobody actually does that. That said, many of the people that aren’t quitting who probably want to tend to slump into deeper and deeper states of loathing Magic, and that’s not where I want to be either. I want to keep battling, and I want to like it. It’s strictly coincidental that I’m thinking on these lines so close to a new year, but it seems appropriate to treat the following as my new year’s resolutions with regard to Magic:

Magic Can't Be a Second Job

The week leading up to L.A. I was working every day starting anywhere between 4 and 8 A.M. After work I would take a nap and then work on Magic. As it turns out my brain isn’t capable of functioning anywhere near max capacity after working an eight hour day, and a little nap in between doesn’t do a whole lot to help that. I was operating under the assumption that just playing more would be good for my game, but that’s just not true. Going into a playtest session with the mentality of having just woken up and “needing to grind” is the fast track to poor results. I need to play when I want to play and when I will enjoy playing if I’m going to produce anything of quality. Just battling to battle isn’t going to get me anywhere.

That said I don’t want to necessarily just throw away time close to an event because I have to work, because working a lot is just going to be a reality for me in the foreseeable future. On days when I’m not mentally prepared to battle myself, watching streams and discussing plays with other good players are fine ways to supplement testing. It also never hurts to just get to bed at a reasonable hour. I have to accept that I’m not in college anymore and that most of my problems can’t be solved just by pouring Red Bull on them.


This is somewhat contradictory with the section above as MTGO is responsible for the most miserable times that I have playing Magic, but its importance also can’t be understated in tournament preparation. MTGO is by its nature dramatically more efficient than paper Magic. When I play a lot of MTGO I get more information about more matchups faster and I end up playing a lot more sideboarded games.

Currently the computer that I’m using is getting pretty old and is really garbage at running MTGO, so for the immediate future I need to be spending less money traveling to tournaments that I’m underprepared for and putting more money aside for a new battle station.

No More Letting My Legacy Game Stagnate

Legacy is, and probably always will be, my best format. That said, I frequently don’t give it enough credit for its complexity. I really didn’t prepare at all for the Legacy portion in L.A., and while I did mulligan a lot and draw pretty poorly overall in the last two rounds, I can’t say that I played perfectly otherwise. In the past I’ve been able to play Legacy at a level where I would surprise myself with many of my wins, but my game just isn’t at that level right now. I made multiple goofball plays in Legacy this weekend only to see significantly better plays minutes later. I know that I’m better than this. In the future I will be better than this.
I’m still pretty deep in the tank reflecting on this weekend, and there’s still a lot that I have yet to grok, but I intend to follow these resolutions minimally. I’ve felt really burned out about Magic a few times recently and that’s not how I want to feel about what is possibly the greatest game ever. The game is going to have its swings no matter how well prepared I find myself, but I can’t continue to add more uncertainty to my results by underpreparing. Just showing up and hoping to get lucky is the plan of a gambler. I can do that at a casino. I cannot continue to do that at event halls.

On a completely unrelated note, I’ve made thirty or so changes to the Pauper Cube since I posted the list and am in the process of putting everything up on a Google doc (it’s a lot of work!). Come next week I intend to have this finished and everything will be a lot cleaner. I apologize for not having this up yet, but I just haven’t been able to make the time.

Thanks for reading everybody. Gl;hf!

-Ryan Overturf
@RyanOverdrive on Twitter

Ryan Overturf

Ryan has been playing Magic since Legions and playing competitively since Lorwyn. While he fancies himself a Legacy specialist, you'll always find him with strong opinions on every constructed format.

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