At first, not gonna lie, it was a bit intimidating entering a poorly-lit, suspicious smelling basement full of men hunched over video games, only to occasionally glance around to spectate. You can pretty much be assured that for every game you play, somebody somewhere is closely watching and measuring your skills. Not to mention that being a girl, I knew everyone was on the mindset that I would suck terribly at every game I attempt at.
Which is to say, not far from the truth, but hey, I’m here to learn.
I did manage to win a few single-player MTG rounds (all casual play) and I won once on a multi-player round, but that was because I managed to build up my battlefield with 3x Balustrade Spy, 2x Duskhunter Bat, Void Maw, Gristle Grinner and for the triumphant cast: Army of the Damned (at this point I was all tapped out), and wiped out 3 opponents in 1 turn, so suffice to say, I got damn lucky.
But amidst that victory, I was also beaten relentlessly. While geting bashed by a–amongst all decks–freakin’ Tibalt deck, my opponent (also my friend of 10 years and counting) kept telling me what moves I was doing wrong. He kept doling out useful advice, which made sense as soon as he said it, but things like, me being trigger-happy and overly eager with attacking, left me defenceless and vulnerable.
Which got me thinking on my commute to work today: there are things I learned playing Magic The Gathering in four months, that I failed to realize on my 24 years of traversing this world.
The first of which is:
3. Don’t get too greedy.
The first hand I drew was so good that despite not having enough islands, I decided to stick with it. My opening hand consisted of Simic Manipulator, Cryptoplasm and Consuming Aberration. I had 3 swamps in my opening hand, but no islands, and still I decided to stick with the hand in the hopes that I’d pull an Island during my turn.
I ended up not pulling any more mana and fighting with a mono-red aggro, the round ended fairly quickly. When I conceded, my friend told me, “Never play with a hand where you can’t cast anything by the second turn. It’s not worth the risk.”
Don’t be greedy. Learn to delay your gratification in hopes that your sacrifice today, will pay off tomorrow. It’s the same mindset when you go out and have a drink: should I spend $X amount of dollars and have a blearily remembered, black-out drunk fun tonight or save what I would be spending now and spend it on a home, a companion pet or dream vacation?
2. Always keep track of the things you’ve lost, and be prepared to unearth them at an optimal time.
With my friend playing a Tibalt deck, he constantly surprised me with the “unearth” ability. For example, that damn Hellspark Elemental, that has both haste, and 2 drop unearth, kept rising from the graveyard and kicking my ass. Though I knew that Hellspark Elemental was in his graveyard, just waiting to be unearthed, after a few turns, I’d forget — attack with all the creatures I have, leaving me vulnerable — only to have him unearth this monster on my ass.
He always casted him with a profoundly disappointed expression too:
Never forget what you’ve lost, because you learn from all of them.
This is so true on so many levels. People spend most of their time trying to forget about their mistakes, or running away from them, that they miss its real value: to gain experience.
And the beautiful thing about mistakes, is that you’re the one who made them! Once you admit that to yourself, you can go about fixing it and making it better. And once you have fully accepted them, nobody can use them against you.
1. You become the average of the 5 people you spend most of your time with. If you want to get better, seek better opponents.
And lastly, what I love the most about Magic, is that you are only as good as the people you play with. It doesn’t matter if you think you have the best aggro deck around, and if you beat everyone in your local game store — someone is always going to be better than you. And if you want to be better than that person, you will be forced to step outside of your comfortable circle and seek different players to beat so you can upgrade your skill.
Don’t limit yourself to the people you associate with now. Expand your social circle and see what you can learn from others. You will be surprised at how many different types of people are out there.
I believe that we’re all planeswalkers, travelling from one world to the other (high school life to college life to adulthood). We start our lives with our own traits and personalities (mana) that we depend on to build relationships (creatures), abilities (instants and sorceries) and lessons/encouragements we gather from our circle (enchantments/artifacts). But in order to become a better planeswalker, we need to keep customizing our deck, keep balancing out our advantages with our disadvantages, and keep seeking better opponents in order to gain experience.