Today I’d like to talk to you about ways to get your play to the next level. You being here on this site and reading strategy content like this means both, that you are likely interested in this topic as well as being on a good trajectory towards that goal. Since the 1st step is exposure.
1st Step -Exposure-
No matter how talented you are at the game and how much you understand just by thinking about a problem you will not get better without enough exposure to the different aspects of what matters in the game. This includes playing actual games, reading strategy content, watching other people play games and building decks mostly. While you are exposed to the game something is likely to come up from which you can learn something new.
The important part here is to actively look for things you might not understand or might have done differently yourself and question where this discrepancy originates. It doesn’t matter here if you are right or wrong originally. If you were wrong you learned how to improve and if you were right you learned about a differing opinion that tells you something about another thought process that is likely to have merit in general even if it led to a wrong result in that instance.
Getting an idea of other peoples thought processes in situations like that will help you if you are playing a game and your opponent makes a play that surprises you for example. This is relevant in both deck building and playing.
2nd Step -Reflection-
Next is what I call reflection. It is very easy to look at a game you just lost and say: “Wow my opponent just got lucky/I just got unlucky”. That might be the case in a small percent of games but in most games you can look back and find ways to play better. Even if that would not have changed the outcome of the game that will be a learning experience either way.
A lot of the time there will be many decision points in a game and often there will have been a line through them that lets you win the game. Try to go back mentally or, if you play on Magic Online; actually go back and rewatch, and see the game from another perspective. It is sometimes hard to evaluate all the possibilities while you are playing but afterwards you can go back and maybe in the future a similar situation will come up and you can use the information. Actively look for your own mistakes and if you find one, great! Don’t be down and berate yourself.
You cannot change the past, but you can change the future and by finding your own mistakes you can improve on them. Every mistake you find yourself making is one less mistake you will do in the future!
3rd Step -Asking Questions-
The next step is asking questions. Whenever you have the chance to talk to other players, especially if they could be considered better then yourself, ask as many questions as possible.
If you have been wondering what deck to play in an upcoming tournament, or you have a certain in-game situation where you aren’t sure what the correct line is or a mulligan decision from a recent game. Anything at all that you are unsure about just ask what the other person thinks or would have done. Most likely this will help both of you get a deeper understanding of the topic in question when you discuss it. Also, it let’s the other player know that you value his opinion which helps towards the next step: Building a Network.
4th Step -Building a Network-
By building a network I mean gathering a group of friends from among the Magic community that you can bounce ideas off of, go to events with or just hang out. This is both one of the most important aspects in playing Magic in my opinion, since it is a large part of what makes it fun, as well as enabling you to level up your game.
Having a network of friends that have similar goals as yourself will be a huge resource to you and you to them, thus being mutually beneficial. It can help you get cards for a deck at an event, have someone to ask about a deck that you are interested in playing that he or she might already have experience with and a host of other things.
Most importantly though having a group of friends to hang out with during and after a tournament means that no matter how the tournament goes for you it will still have been a great experience. This is tremendously important in battling tilt.
Tilt is when you suffer from a bad beat for example, and you let the negative experience affect your gameplay moving forward. This can easily derail your entire tournament since while being on tilt it is very difficult to play at your usual level. Along a similar axis; stepping up your game is a long process that never really ends. There is always more to learn and new formats to explore. Also, the results or “getting better” can usually only be appreciated over a longer period of time.
Magic is a game where variance plays a significant roll in a single match. If you track your results over multiple tournaments you can usually better appreciate the way you are more consistently doing better. No matter how well you play, how well you prepared and how great your deck is, in a single tournament there are a lot of things that can go wrong that you have no control over. This is something you have to accept if you aim to improve and having a network of friends to share both the lows and the highs with is a tremendous help to overcome tournaments that don’t go your way.
5th Step -Persistence-
The last step is basically that. I call it persistence. If you continually expose yourself to the game, to content by other players, play in tournaments and follow new developments. Talk to your peers about it and keep an open mind you will get better. It doesn’t matter how good you are currently there is always more to learn and ways to learn it. But you have to stick with it.
Accept that your skill level is not reflected in the result of a single tournament and don’t let yourself get frustrated with yourself or with the game. You will see the results of your work and tenacity if you don’t let yourself get derailed. Try tracking your matches and actively notice games you might have previously lost or plays you might have done differently in the past and rejoice in small but relevant improvements. Make goals for yourself that you aim towards and slowly increase your goals.
I can promise you that if you stick to these steps and persist you will reach your goals in time.
Bonus: Mono Blue Storm
The Mono Blue Storm deck I built a while back in Standard has been picking up both results and a following.
《Sai, Master Thopterist》 is very much the real deal, seeing play in Modern as well. I still believe the deck to be a strong player in the current Standard environment and can only encourage you to try it out.
My current list:
4 《Zhalfirin Void》
1 《Inventors' Fair》
-Land (18)- 4 《Ornithopter》
4 《Sai, Master Thopterist》
4 《Paradoxical Outcome》
3 《Baral's Expertise》
2 《Commit // Memory》
3 《Mox Amber》
4 《Renegade Map》
4 《Metalspinner's Puzzleknot》
4 《Prophetic Prism》
4 《Inspiring Statuary》
3 《Aetherflux Reservoir》
The play pattern I described in my last article on the deck still holds true. The main thing that changed is that 《Sai, Master Thopterist》 lets you buy enough time to overcome even the most aggressive openings by the opponent to lock up the game with your combo.
Have fun playing this and I hope you achieve your goals.