With Dominaria United around the bend, we've come to the close of another waiting period before rotation. Even with all of the product that's released nowadays, time almost stands still waiting for the next new set. It is part of the ebb and flow of the game, but for those involved, it's generally a slow and boring time.
This is Magic. Say Again, Please...
Sometimes this pause or other life situations can cause you to drop the game, even if you really don't want to. Here are some examples of situations that might cause you to stop playing and suggestions to hang in there when you hit those bumps in your Magic journey.
When you've been playing the game as long as I have, you see and hear many stories about players needing funds, losing interest, or just getting plain frustrated. They might sell their cards and be done with it all. I've also heard and seen many players start up again and longing for everything they let go of.
I'm Done With You, Magic... We're Through!
I'm a Magic lifer. Except for the pandemic, I haven't stopped playing the game since I started back in the fall of '94. Don't get me wrong, I have had the occasional thought of switching to something else or just selling out, but I continue to enjoy the game and the people who play it. Still, I'm sure that a great deal of people have taken a break from the game at one point or another and later wished they hadn't.
TCG/eBay, Here I Come!
Many players, casual and pro, have shared about the dregs of burnout. Too many games, too much travel, too much cost, too much... everything. It's possible to lose ourselves in something to the point we're sacrificing our physical and mental health.
A prime example is from my early years of Magic. My friend Tom was notable within our playgroup due to his age. He was a good twenty-plus years older than everyone else, ironically about where I am now. He was a decent player and did pretty well at a few Pro Tour Qualifiers from what I recall. I bring him up because the last time I spoke with him, over 15 years ago, he had already quit the game four times. I know that three of the four times, he'd sold out of the majority of his collection. A couple times he jumped ship, he was just burnt out. Still, each time we spoke, he expressed regret about getting rid of his old cards, many of which would have been useful to him thereafter or at least more valuable.
If you get to a point where you're ready to chuck everything, relax. Take that step back and reflect. Do you REALLY want to sell it all? Take that extra bit of time and flex other hobbies; you might have to readjust your focus. Many articles about burnout come down to just taking a break.
“It’s All For Naught” -Eeyore the Donkey
My fellow QS author, Sig, has shared on this topic as well. I've known Sig quite a while, even before our mutual involvement in QS. We played at the same LGS back around Theros block. In his article last year, he discussed how a lack of interest can affect your involvement in the game at various times and for various reasons. From a change within the game, like Combo Winter, to changes outside the game, like academics or having a child. In Sig's case, he's refilled his tank and is still enjoying the game, ready to take on his next 93-94 old school opponent.
So when you're not interested in the game at the moment, there are a few things to do not only to help you through the downtime, but also to keep you involved.
Please Line Up in an Orderly Fashion
Take the time to get organized. Invest in binders, deck boxes, backpacks, and whatever else to help get your stuff together.
Of course, that's the low-hanging fruit and I'm sure most of us have turned to organization when times get sloggy. Another suggestion is to utilize your talents. So, I have a question for you: has your collection ever looked like the picture below?
It's alright, don't be shy. We've all had piles of cards littered about. These are the cards I still need to organize and put away. It's been a slow and grindy process to get them put into these 5,000 count boxes.
Which in turn will be stacked here:
I got tired of lifting and shuffling eight or nine 5,000 count boxes back and forth when helping Jarod find cards to build a new deck. So I took the time to design and build a custom shelving unit to store and easily access them. On the days when I'm not writing, playing, or doing much of anything, I'll head back there and work on putting my Magic collection in order.
What are your other interests? How can you use those interests to improve your hobby? These indirectly related activities can be good to focus on. It's something different, and yet you're still involved in the game.
Wake Up and Smell the Coffee
A final suggestion is to get brewing! After you've organized your collection, get ready to mess it up again. Look forward to the next set, the next rotation, or just building something that you normally wouldn't or in a format that you normally wouldn't play.
Read and follow what others are doing for new ideas. Another of my fellow authors, David Ernenwein, has an awesome article looking ahead to the Pioneer format and what Dominaria United will do to it. Doing any of these exercises can stretch your mental muscles in different ways and keep you in the game.
My Car Needs Repairs, So It's Your Lucky Day
There are times I see Facebook posts like the above heading and figure it's just a hook to get your attention. The sad reality is I do know people who have had to sell their cards for car repairs or other emergencies. It's a bad situation to get into: forced to give up part of a hobby you're invested in, but when push comes to shove for an essential, you do it. Sometimes the result is you quit the game when you really didn't want to.
So, how best can you protect your hobby from life's surprises? Create a buffer!
What Does an Umbrella Have to Do With Magic?
Savings! Put back a certain amount of money for potential problems. Build that emergency fund. Most financial establishments recommend three to six months of expenses. I know that's not always easy and many live paycheck-to-paycheck. But you just need to start. Be it $10 a week or a certain amount per month, take it out and forget about it. Once you start, you'll get used to it, and when an emergency comes around, hopefully nothing too severe, you'll be able to take care of it without having to ship off your only Volcanic Island.
Scratch That Itch, Just Not Too Hard
Going at it from the other end, limit and track your purchases. Figure out how much you've spent in the last few months and take a hard look at your spending habits. Do you really need that third box of Double Masters 2022 or a Japanese foil Veil of Summer?
Lastly, if you do end up having to sell off some cards, plan ahead. Every so often, review your collection and determine what can be offloaded and what stays. Relieving some of the stress of having to make a quick decision and then regretting it later can make all the difference. These suggestions aren't anything new. I remind my boys, and myself, of the importance of saving. The struggle is putting it into practice.
That Sounds Like a You Problem
One final topic that we all have dealt with one time or another: toxic social interactions. I use that term to emphasize that an emotional or social conflict can arise from anywhere for any reason. I won't go into the types of bad interactions, but for the most part it's like Justice Potter Stewart's famous comment about obscenity: "I know it when I see it."
I'm Good Enough, I'm Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me
So, how do we deal with these unfortunate situations that may truly deal a vicious blow to your Magic enjoyment? My first recommendation is personal preparation. I define it as reminding yourself that you are valued and have every right to play and enjoy the game.
Yes, I'm aware it's not always easy keeping that attitude when confronted. But once you resolve it within yourself, however you can, it will be the first step in better gaming. Many call it being "thick skinned," but I believe that's a misnomer, because it implies you shouldn't get emotional. Emotions aren't the problem; what's important is how you focus and channel that emotion.
What's the Appropriate Response?
Be aware of your surroundings and yourself. Of course, it's still important to discern appropriate responses to these situations. When you get crushed in a match and your opponent drops a "good game," you need to be aware of not only their intent, but your emotion level.
I had a personal experience with frustration in my second Double Masters 2022 draft. During the draft, I was one of the two people in the pod that opened nothing of value. The player to my left opened a borderless Force of Negation, the player to my right, a borderless Imperial Seal. By itself it wasn't a big thing. I've pulled junk rares and mythics many times during a draft. Still, my envy level did rise a notch seeing most everyone at the table pull well. I was a really good box overall.
I built a decent and aggressive RW deck. Low-to-the-ground with good removal. My opponent was a nice young guy and somewhat new to the game. I won the first game and then proceeded to lose the second and third games to mana issues and a couple of well-timed draws on his part. Along with him winning, he also shared what he pulled; a borderless foil Phyrexian Altar and borderless Choice of Damnations.
I congratulated him for the win, wished him good luck in the next game, and sat by myself for a little bit. I recognized that I was upset. Truly, not at my opponent. He was having fun, and we both wanted to pull cool cards and win games. Some circumstances are out of your control, and you need to see that to get past them. A little later, a few players came over and began sharing their Pioneer tournament experiences, and I was able to shake that un-fun feeling listening to their stories.
We're all looking to enjoy the game, right? Either through social interaction, the game play, or just goofing around. Make sure you're respectful to those around you, because they generally are looking for the same thing. Unfortunately, there are times when something happens that just isn't right. Again, we'll usually know it when we see it, so if you see something that's not right, speak up!
We're trying to put out the fire, not pour gas on it. Sometimes being there for someone just means asking if they're alright or giving a word of encouragement. Other times, it might be more serious, and the need arises to bring it to someone's attention.
Without getting too preachy, I am a believer in the Golden Rule. The most recognized example is in the Christian Bible. Matthew 7:12: "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets."
Other than the obvious, what I glean is this rule is proactive, not reactive. We are meant to treat others well. Not to stand by and watch others be treated poorly. We're to lift one another up. Why? Because being supportive of our fellow players is important for the game as a whole and for each of us individually. It all makes for a better game experience and encourages everyone to keep on playing. Together, we are stronger than the slog!
Where to Go from Here
I'm sure I only scratched the surface of ways to allow yourself to truly endure. To be able to not only continue your personal fun, but to share it with others. That's what will keep Magic, and your enjoyment of it, going on for a long time.
I hope you were provided some insight on good ways to improve and sustain your Magic experience. Do you have any good experiences or stories to share? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter. And until then, may you beat the bad beats!