It’s a lot easier to succeed at GPs when you start with two byes and can play your first match in the 2-0 bracket. Last year I put a lot of emphasis on accumulating enough Planeswalker Points to hit the two bye threshold (2250 Planeswalker Points). My thinking was that once I had two byes I would be ready to start traveling to play more at the Grand Prix level. The advent of the PPTQ system meant that I was regularly playing in local tournaments that were offering a 4x multiplier on points. My strategy of losing every PPTQ meant that I was able to rack up quite a few points and locked my second bye about a month before the end of season cutoff.
I was able to play one GP shortly after crossing the bye threshold – GP Atlantic City. The format was Dragons of Tarkir sealed and I fell just short of Day 2, losing my win and in and finishing with a 6-3 record (this was before they changed the Day 2 requirements and I needed a 7-2 record to advance). Still, I felt really happy about my performance given that it was my fourth GP, my best finish so far, and my first event with byes.
Atlantic City was in May of 2015 (I know because I was quickly reminded that I was missing Mother’s Day weekend). Fast forward to 2016 and I still hadn’t gone to another Grand Prix since then. It had been far too long, my byes were going to waste, and when my friend Eric asked me about going to GP Houston I didn’t hesitate to say yes. Flights were inexpensive and the way things worked out I was able to book back to back GPs at Houston (standard) and Detroit (modern) with a stop to visit my parents in Florida in between. My goal was to make Day 2 in at least one of the two tournaments – a goal that I felt was conservative given my play experience, having two byes, and the policy change allowing 6-3 records to make Day 2. With a 2-0 headstart a 4-3 record is all that’s needed to make Day 2.
Pre-Houston PPTQ Testing
An important fact about GP Houston was that it was the first big competitive standard tournament since Oath of the Gatewatch. With the Pro Tour being modern the only real standard events had been Star City Opens.
I hadn’t been playing a lot of standard and with a big tournament to prepare for I was excited to do some extensive playtesting. I built five of the most popular standard decks and planned on trying all of them: Rally, Atarka Red, Abzan Blue, RB Dragons, Mardu Green. Eric was prepping not only for the GP but also for his RPTQ the weekend before so we started testing about 3 weeks before the GP.
Rally was pretty much off the table but I needed to test against it. Even though it was probably the best deck I didn’t have the time to learn to play it well. The couple of times I did try it I found it absolutely zero fun to play with or against.
I started on RB Dragons since I like playing strong aggressive strategies with interactive elements. I decided the deck was only as good as its spot removal and there were too many match ups where efficient 1-for-1 removal like Draconic Roar or Grasp of Darknes wasn’t good enough. If I expected lots of mid range decks like Abzan, Mardu or Jeskai this could be a good choice but it didn’t line up as well against Rally, Atarka Red or Ramp.
I played a lot of Atarka Red to help Eric test against it and even though I was winning quite a bit, I didn’t like the build with x4 Reckless Bushwhacker. I also didn’t want to play such a linear strategy at the GP so I didn’t really consider sleeving this one up.
I moved on to Abzan Blue. I had played a lot of aggressive Abzan decks in the past so this strategy was in my wheelhouse. The deck had gained Reflector Mage and I loved the idea of playing Stubborn Denial. Eric and I tried a few different lists and I had success with all of them. The two-drop for Abzan was always a little lacking but when I tried a version that utilized Sylvan Advocate alongside Shambling Vent and Hissing Quagmire I knew I had found something powerful. After playing a few standard leagues online I finished testing with a 12-3 record and felt locked into the deck.
There was a PPTQ in Rhode Island and I took Abzan Blue. I actually played pretty poorly and didn’t feel mentally ‘in the game’ but I found myself in the finals anyway. The deck was just that good. I lost the finals to Rally. I didn’t have a lot of experience playing against it yet and I hadn’t been able to track down the last few sideboard cards I needed for the matchup. Either way I was sold on Abzan and felt great with two weeks before the GP left to tune my list.
On the same weekend there was a Standard MOCS event. Many pros play in these events, especially now that Platinum Pros get automatic qualification, and a new deck made waves in the tournament thanks to Brad Nelson: Bant Company. It turned out that Collected Company into Reflector Mage and Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy was a pretty good thing to be doing.
I didn’t have a lot of time to test standard over the next week and stayed on Abzan Blue for the following weekend, playing FNM and x2 PPTQs on Saturday/Sunday. I went 1-2 at FNM losing to Monored Goblins and GR Ramp. I went 0-2 drop at the Saturday PPTQ, losing a round to GR Ramp. I went 0-2 drop at the Sunday PPTQ, losing to G ramp and Rally. My confidence had disappeared and I needed to start over.
GP Houston Deck Selection
At this point I needed to reevaluate my expectations of the meta. Ramp decks had started to pick up popularity online and I had faced them a lot in the recent local events and lost. If ramp was going to be well-represented at the GP I didn’t want to play Abzan. I also expected a lot of Rally in Houston and the Abzan matchup there seemed OK but I didn’t feel especially favored. With these expectations combined with my losing streak on Abzan I decided to find a new deck.
Unfortunately due to work I wasn’t going to have a lot of time to test in the week before the GP. I started looking through lists from various events. I had seen and heard about a mono-blue Eldrazi deck that had been getting play online and had seen some good success at the RPTQs on the weekend before the GP. I considered playing this for awhile but without any opportunity to test it I just didn’t want to take the chance.
Also on the weekend before the GP there had been another Standard MOCS event and I came across an awesome looking Jeskai Black deck from Beena (Yuuya Watanabe, one of the best in the world). The deck was exciting since it played many of my favorite cards. I don’t know how well it played, but if it’s good enough for one of the greatest Magic players of all time then that was proof enough for me.
Jeskai Black - BEENA (Yuuya Watanabe)
4 Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
4 Monastery Mentor
2 Soulfire Grand Master
1 Chandra, Flamecaller
3 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
4 Painful Truths
1 Transgress the Mind
3 Crackling Doom
2 Dig Through Time
3 Fiery Impulse
2 Murderous Cut
1 Battlefield Forge
4 Bloodstained Mire
4 Flooded Strand
2 Mystic Monastery
4 Polluted Delta
2 Prairie Stream
2 Shambling Vent
2 Smoldering Marsh
1 Sunken Hollow
1 Chandra, Flamecaller
1 Transgress the Mind
2 Arashin Cleric
3 Disdainful Stroke
2 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
3 Radiant Flames
I mostly liked the list, although I wasn’t crazy about Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. I had cut Gideon early on in my Abzan testing and I didn’t like it any better here. Gideon was a very aggressive card and didn’t do much on defense – 2/2s just didn’t do much anymore against the 2/3s of the format like Sylvan Advocate and Reflector Mage. Not to mention that being double white made the mana worse and I didn’t think it was necessary to do so. Later in the week I listened to Top Level Podcast where Patrick Chapin and Mike Flores discussed Yuuya’s Jeskai Black deck. Patrick suggested replacing Gideon with Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, among some other changes, and I was in complete agreement with the direction he was headed with the deck.
At the same time, Paul Cheon had started streaming with a Grixis Control deck that centered around Kalitas and Chandra, Flamecaller. The Grixis mana allowed you to play Grasp of Darkness but I still liked having white for Soulfire Grand Master life gain and Crackling Doom. Recognizing Chandra’s power though I did up my maindeck count of the 6-mana Planeswalker.
Here is the list I ended up on for GP Houston:
Jeskai Black - Nate Walker (GP Houston)
4 Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
3 Monastery Mentor
3 Soulfire Grand Master
3 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
2 Chandra, Flamecaller
3 Painful Truths
1 Transgress the Mind
3 Crackling Doom
2 Dig Through Time
3 Fiery Impulse
2 Murderous Cut
1 Disdainful Stroke
4 Bloodstained Mire
4 Flooded Strand
2 Needle Spires
4 Polluted Delta
1 Prairie Stream
2 Shambling Vent
2 Smoldering Marsh
1 Sunken Hollow
1 Shivan Reef
2 Transgress the Mind
2 Arashin Cleric
2 Disdainful Stroke
1 Ob Nixilis Reignited
3 Radiant Flames
2 Hallowed Moonlight
I felt pretty good about the maindeck numbers. The one Disdainful Stroke may look odd and you don’t want to run many counters with Jace, but it feels unnatural to me to play a blue control deck with zero counter spells. I was least confident in the manabase since I had changed a few of the numbers around including the big change of eliminating Gideon which reduced the need for white mana. In the end I took some of Chapin’s comments (regarding adding manlands) into account and adjusted the numbers for each color by feel until I was satisfied.
I hadn’t played with the deck at all but I have played similar strategies and Jeskai decks before so I wasn’t worried about it. It had been awhile since I had picked up a Jeskai deck and it looked a lot of fun to play. I was excited about the list and was really looking forward to playing the GP.
GP Houston Tournament
The day before the Grand Prix rumors of a hardened scale deck swept through the Twitterverse. I saw LSV’s tweet searching out Abzan Falconers for a bunch of friends looking to play the deck. I mentioned this to Eric and he said he had heard about it as well. Apparently it had been seeing play on MTGO in the days leading up to the Grand Prix. I thought this was interesting but it wasn’t going to affect my deck choice now.
I won’t go through a detailed analysis of each round but suffice it to say that the GP did not go as I had planned.
R3 (2-1) Jeskai Tempo (Loss).
R4 (2-2) Bant Company (Loss).
R5 (3-2) Rally (Win).
R6 (3-3) Rally (Loss).
R7 (4-3) Grixis Control (Win).
R8 (4-3-1) BW Control (Draw).
R9 (4-4-1) Jeskai Tempo (Loss).
I probably should have lost Round 4 as well but my Rally opponent wasn’t very experienced.
Out of 7 rounds I only faced one deck that was in my gauntlet 3 weeks before the tournament: Rally. Bant Company and Grixis control were decks that popped up just before the Grand Prix. BW Control and Jeskai Tempo were fringe decks that hadn’t seen a lot of play before the tournament.
I finished 4-4-1 and despite this very bad record I really enjoyed the matches I played all day. The deck was as fun to play as I had expected. I can’t say I played especially poorly, though I definitely misplayed due to inexperience at times. I struggled more with which lands to fetch and how to sideboard than with card sequencing.
In the end I doubt it was a good choice for me to audible into a deck that I didn’t have any play experience with. Given the matchups I faced I would’ve been much better off playing Abzan Blue where I was much more comfortable piloting the deck. Even ignoring the matchups I probably would’ve gained more win percentage by playing a solid deck that I knew well than playing a deck that I thought was slightly better positioned for the metagame but with no experience.
I do think Jeskai Black was a fine choice for the tournament. Patrick Chapin did well with it. Eric Froehlich also played a version of Jeskai Black (also inspired by Yuuya’s deck) to an 11th place finish. Eric wrote about the deck on Channel Fireball and his thoughts and card choices lined up very closely with my own.
Eric noted wanting Disdainful Stroke in his maindeck, which I had chosen on my own. He noted 26 lands as the minimum, which after playing 25 lands in my version I have to agree with. Eric played only one each of Kalitas and Chandra and wished that he had played more, again confirming my choice of x3 Kalitas and x2 Chandra. His post-GP analysis also suggested Gideon could be cut, another change that I had already made to my tournament list.
The major point that I missed in my deck construction was that Mantis Rider might have been better than Monastery Mentor for this particular weekend. I hadn’t considered that change at all, thinking that Duress was a great way to clear the way for a Mentor to take over the game by going wide. But I lost to multiple opponents playing Mantis Rider, Andrew Cuneo made the finals of the GP with a Mantis Rider Jeskai Black Deck and E-Fro and Chapin after the tournament both suggested that Mantis Rider might have been better positioned than Monastery Mentor.
GP Detroit Preparation
I have much less to say about GP Eldrazi… I mean GP Detroit, which was modern. After watching teams Channel Fireball and East West Bowl completely dominate the Pro Tour with their take on modern Eldrazi decks I was confident that the format was hopelessly broken.
There were many folks who said something to the effect of ‘Well sure this deck dominated the Pro Tour, but that’s just one tournament. Let’s give the meta a chance to react and see if it’s still a problem.’ What I said on Twitter the day after the Pro Tour was, ‘Wait for GP results to confirm but 8 ancient tomb is likely broken.’
However, I don’t want to discuss the B&R policy, health of modern or potential B&R changes here. I wish I could have ignored modern until the format was fixed but I had already bought my plane ticket and pre-reg’d for the tournament so I was going to have to suck it up. The only benefit was that I knew I was 100% going to play an Eldrazi deck. If I’m going to play a broken format then I’m going to play the most busted deck in the room.
The Eldrazi strategies are all extremely powerful. And fortunately for me they are also fairly easy to pilot. I spent all of my time prepping for GP Houston and I didn’t have any time (or desire) to test modern in the week between Houston and Detroit. I watched some streams, checked out some different lists, but I didn’t plan to play a game of modern before the event.
Shortly after the Pro Tour, LSV started streaming with UW and Bant Eldrazi versions. UW took the Star City Open by storm but I really liked the idea of playing World Breaker. The 7-drop seemed good in the mirror to kill Eye of Ugin but it also served as a maindeck answer to expected Eldrazi hate like Ensnaring Bridge, Ghostly Prison, or Blood Moon. I trusted in LSV’s judgement (after all he was part of the team that broke the format with Eldrazi in the first place, so he’s a pretty good source to craft a good mirror-breaker as well) and mostly copied one of his recent Bant Eldrazi lists.
I decided to play more spot removal for the mirror than some lists – I didn’t know whether Path to Exile or Dismember was better so I went with an even split of 3 each. I also cut down on one Endless One because of how bad they are in Eldrazi Displacer mirrors. I had thought about cutting all of them but was convinced by friends that they were too important in the non-Eldrazi matchups. I was getting tunnel vision on tuning the deck for the Eldrazi mirror because I expected so much of it but other players reminded me that no matter how popular a deck is it’s unlikely to be more than 20%-30% of the meta (an absurdly high percentage under normal conditions).
When considering the sideboard I only built it with four archetypes in mind: Eldrazi mirrors, Affinity, anti-Eldrazi hate (mostly artifacts/enchantments), and varieties of graveyard based combo (Living End, Abzan Company, Goryo’s Vengeance, Storm).
I sleeved the deck for the first time Sunday morning, Day 2 of GP Houston. Since I didn’t make Day 2 I entered a 4 round modern event as a test run for Detroit. I didn’t have the Adarkar Wastes I needed yet so I put in a mix of extra fetches and Crumbling Vestige. I easily 4-0’d the event and most games were not even close, even against decks that were supposedly ‘anti-Eldrazi’.
I was ready for Detroit and felt very confident going into the tournament. I’ll be honest. I felt like if I couldn’t Day 2 Detroit, playing a deck that was so obviously better than anything else in the room, a deck that was very clearly so powerful that it was going to get banned, that I would be very disappointed in myself.
Here is the list I registered:
BANt Eldrazi - Nate Walker (GP Detroit)
4 Eldrazi Mimic
3 Endless One
4 Eldrazi Skyspawner
4 Eldrazi Displacer
4 Thought-Knot Seer
4 Reality Smasher
4 Drowner of Hope
2 World Breaker
3 Path to Exile
2 Corrupted Crossroads
4 Cavern of Souls
4 Eldrazi Temple
4 Eye of Ugin
4 Adarkar Wastes
2 Flooded Strand
1 Breeding Pool
1 Hallowed Fountain
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
4 Relic of Progenitus
2 Chalice of the Void
3 Stony Silence
2 Gut Shot
1 Hurkyl’s Recall
3 Oblivion Sower
GP Detroit Tournament
R3 (3-0) UR Eldrazi (Win).
R4 (4-0) UW Eldrazi (win).
R5 (4-1) Monogreen Tron (Loss).
R6 (4-2) GR Eldrazi (Loss).
R7 (5-2) Skred Blue Control (Win).
R8 (5-3) Lantern Control (Loss).
R9 (5-4) Affinity (Loss).
After winning rounds 3 and 4 against notable opponents (Round 3 against Robert Wright from the Star City circuit and Round 4 against Magic pro Chris Fennell) I was feeling great. Off to a 4-0 start things couldn’t be better.
Then I lost round 5 to a monogreen Tron deck playing main deck Fogs and Thragtusks. These were close games but ultimately I lost out to Oblivion Stones and Eye searching for Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. Then when I lost round 6 to GR Eldrazi I felt pretty deflated.
I had played against an Eldrazi deck in all 4 of my first 4 rounds. I wasn’t getting any ‘free win’ matchups that I was hoping to pick up early in the day. So much for that guess about only 20-30% of the field being Eldrazi on Day 1.
I won round 7 against a blue control deck. It was the first fair deck that I played against all day and was by far the easiest match. This was the kind of stuff I was hoping to play more against on Day 1.
This gave me two win and ins for Day 2. Unfortunately I dropped them both, losing to Lantern Control and Affinity. The Lantern pilot was making Day 2 in his first GP, so I was happy for him. The Affinity pilot made some misplays but his draws were pretty strong and he took me by surprise with a sideboard Ensnaring Bridge that bought him a lot of time.
I was disappointed not to make Day 2, but the last two losses of the day were a lot easier to take than the first two losses of the day which had knocked the wind out of my sails after a 4-0 start.
Round 4 Against Chris Fennell
In round 4 I played against Magic pro Chris Fennell. It was an Eldrazi mirror with Fennell on UW. We ran each other over one game apiece and then played a very close game 3. There were some interesting decisions so I’m going to go over the game turn by turn here.
I’m on the play and mulligan to 5 but keep a hand of Eye of Ugin, Cavern of Souls, Thought-Knot Seer, Reality Smasher and Oblivion Sower. I immediately scry an Eldrazi Temple to the top. He keeps 7 cards (so lucky!).
Turn 2 (Me): I make the first play of the game with a turn two Thought-Knot Seer. I also misplayed it horribly. He revealed a hand of: x2 Dismember, x2 Thought-Knot Seer, Drowner of Hope and two lands. I took the Dismember thinking I wanted to protect my threats in hand. It was immediately clear that I should have taken one of his two Thought-Knots. He didn’t need removal when he could just strip all the threats directly out of my hand on turns 2 and 3. Plus if he is forced to Dismember my Reality Smasher it will cost him life and a card.
Turn 2 (Fennell): His Thought-Knot takes my Reality Smasher.
Turn 3 (Me): Draw and play Eldrazi Mimic.
Turn 3 (Fennell): Second Thought-Knot takes my Oblivion Sower. Chris pays 4 life to Dismember my Thought-Knot and attack me to 16.
Turn 4 (Me): Draw and play Reality Smasher. Mimic and Smasher attack for 10. With just a Thought-Knot back to block Chris is forced to take it putting him to 6. Fennell thinks for awhile before fetching end of turn – he doesn’t want to go to 5 life but he knows he’s going to need the mana.
Turn 4 (Fennell): Plays Reality Smasher for the turn. Here the board is x2 Thought-Knot Seer and Reality Smasher vs. Eldrazi Mimic and Reality Smasher. I’m at zero cards with Fennell still holding 3-4 (the only one I know about being a Drowner of Hope which he is still one mana away from casting).
Fennell chooses not to attack here. He’s trying to play around a removal spell or another Reality Smasher. However, I had no cards in hand so he can safely leave back the Reality Smasher to trade with mine. Even if I draw a removal spell I wouldn’t have anything to discard to the Smasher’s ability. That means he could afford to attack with a Thought-Knot. A Reality Smasher would still kill him, but there are only two left in my deck at this point.
Turn 5 (Me): By Chris not attacking at all, only a Drowner off the top would win me the game. I draw and it’s a land. I think for a second and then attack with my Reality Smasher. The worst that happens is we trade Reality Smashers, which is likely to happen at some point anyway and this just forces the issue. Since he has a Drowner in hand I can’t rely on blocking with it. The best case scenario is if I get to kill a Thought-Knot Seer and get to draw a card looking for action.
Fennell triple blocks. He later said he was again trying to play around a removal spell here. If he blocks with Reality Smasher and I have a removal spell I get to trample over for a lethal 5 damage. Since I only have one card in hand though, there’s no way I could actually have killed the Reality Smasher and discarded a card to the ability. I’m happy to kill the Thought-Knot and draw an extra card, which is another land.
Turn 5 (Fennell): Plays another Reality Smasher. He’s faced with a similar choice when declaring attacks. With two Smashers and a Thought-Knot he can deal 14, which is 2 short of lethal after his conservative attack the previous turn.
Option 1: No attacks. Three blockers means I have no outs to kill him next turn, but he’s not getting closer to closing the game out. With a Drowner in hand this is still a viable option.
Option 2: Attack with one creature. Two blockers leaves him dead to Drowner of Hope.
Option 3: Attack with two creatures. One blocker leaves him dead to Drowner or Reality Smasher.
He attacks with just a Thought-Knot Seer putting me to 12. As he passes the turn, we both acknowledge that Drowner of Hope off the top will win me the game.
Turn 6 (Me): I draw and show Fennell a lethal Drowner of Hope.
After the match Fennell said it ‘was one of the most frustrating loses I’ve ever had.’ I took it as a compliment since it was a very close and interesting game, at least from my perspective. Neither of us played perfectly, but his mistakes ended up costing him more than mine did. It turned out he also ended the game with a Worship in hand which I think would have been very hard for me to beat had he opted to play it on his previous turn.
Chris’ biggest mistake was misunderstanding that a removal spell would not allow me to kill his Reality Smasher which caused him to make a bad block and then a bad attack on the following turn. This mistake aside it also felt to me like Chris was playing too conservatively – at least he was playing much more conservatively than most players would. Even if a top deck removal spell would kill him I wonder if it’s correct to play around it. I was empty handed at one point so he was only playing against the top of the deck. He was trying to play around every possible out that I had at the cost of closing out the game. It’s possible Chris’s conservative lines were correct but in the end they gave me the extra turns I needed to top deck the win.
Chris was a pleasure to talk to though even after the tough loss. We discussed the different lines of play and how the game could’ve played out differently. He was kicking himself for the misplays but he was gracious and it was a true pleasure to play such an interesting game against a great player.
I’ve devoted many words to describing the preparation and results of these two specific tournaments but even more useful is to reflect on these experiences to identify areas of improvement for future tournaments. In this case I think there are many useful takeaways.
1) Predicting the Metagame. It’s very difficult to predict the meta of a large tournament. The pros spend a lot of time doing this but it’s actually only useful for them to try to predict what the meta is going to be like at the very top tables (X-0 or X-1 records). Once you get a couple of losses the meta seems to be difficult to predict so choosing a deck based on a specific meta may not be as useful for the amateur player.
2) Don’t Abandon a Viable Deck. As a corollary, I think the average player should base deck selection on experience and play style. Expectation of the meta may drive card choices or sideboard choices, but as long as a deck is viable I don’t think the average player should abandon a deck because of a possible bad matchup. The chances are you may see that matchup only once during the tournament if at all.
3) Know Your Competition. Here you may have to take a good hard look at yourself. Some decks are harder to pilot than others. Some players are harder to beat than others. It’s hard to admit your short comings but you have to have a good understanding of how you match up to the opponents you expect to face. I may be able to pilot a control deck to an undefeated record at FNM, but playing at a GP is a different experience. At GP Houston, Jeskai Black was a great choice in the hands of the best players in the world, but that doesn’t mean it was the right choice for me. If you just want to have fun and improve playing that type of deck then by all means play what you like. If you want to win there may be certain strategies that you should favor depending on the type of tournament you are attending.
4) Metagame Influence of Pro Players. Without a standard Pro Tour it was unknown what the pros were thinking about the format headed into GP Houston. Star City Games tournaments and Magic Online results provided us with some idea of what was possible in the new format. We saw a lot of 4-color midrange decks, Rally decks, Atarka Red and some amount of Ramp decks. But a month passed before GP Houston and the pros hadn’t yet sunk their teeth into the format.
In the two weeks before the GP, once pros started testing, we saw the emergence of many new archetypes: Bant Company, Grixis Control, a resurgence of Jeskai Black, and the explosive adoption of GW Hardened Scales. These decks have all continued to be forces in standard with Bant Company being particularly dominant (at a recent PPTQ it represented 5 of the top 8 decks). I have respect for the SCG tournament series, but this serves as an example that it’s the pro players that truly shape the direction of a format.
5) Temper Expectations. No matter what your perceived advantage in a tournament (preparation, deck selection, play skill) you still have to play Magic. In GP Detroit even though I was playing one of the best decks in the room it didn’t guarantee me a spot in Day 2. Confidence is great but you still have to compete, focus, play well, draw well, get good matchups and so on. There are many factors that go into succeeding at a particular tournament and you can only control some of them. Focus on the areas you can control to maximize your chance of success, but recognize that no matter what you can’t control everything. No matter how favored you think you are you may still fall short of your goal. But that’s what makes the game and the wins so much fun.
6) Learn from the Pros. Watching a pro react to a loss really shows the start contrast between a professional player and an average player. When I beat Chris Fennell in a very tight game he didn’t get mad, he didn’t take it out on his opponent, he didn’t sign the slip and storm off. He sat there and tried to think through all the things that he could have done differently. Then he talked to his opponent (who is a nobody and certainly a worse Magic player than him) about the game they just played and the different decisions that might have cost him the game. I felt respected, we talked about the game as equals and we both learned to play and enjoy the game of Magic a little better.