A Beginning: Not being mediocre Pizza.

The Goals:

Day Two another GP

Make 1300 Planeswalker Points for 1 Bye at GPs for 2017-2018

Qualify for an RPTQ

Next Event: PPTQ, Rugby, March 4th

Ever eat Pizza from the same place, over and over? Ever experience the feeling the first time, where it’s incredible and the toppings are just right and you love it? But then the more you order it, the more that special feeling wanes and while it’s still okay Pizza, it’s just not great?

 

My growth as a MTG player iws that mildly satisfying, oft-ordered-never-loved, Double Pepperoni Pizza. (Sorry Veggies.)

 

I feel like I’ve hit a bit of a plateau. Roughly six months or so, I finished 99th at Grand Prix Lille, in my favourite format and with a deck I know inside out, Merfolk. It’s a cherished personal achievement and by far the best result I’ve had in Magic, by quite a long way. When I left that tournament, I was full of vigour and optimism for the months ahead – maybe I could get two GP byes this year? Perhaps this was the spark I needed to finally secure an RPTQ berth? Was this finally me taking the step up?

 

Instead, I’ve stagnated. I’ve played (and won) less in the preceding months, much to my own frustration. I’ve declined immensely as a limited player. Most my MTGO league records involve a combination of the numbers 2 and 3, often in that order. I find myself less confident and wondering more and more if Lille was a fluke and that maybe, I’ve hit the peak already. Which is an uncomfortable truth to face down and possibly a fabrication of my own anxiety – I’m not the only one in my local group who’s felt a little listless after a big GP performance with little follow-up.

 

So, I find myself at a crossroads. I can keep doing what I am and hoping it works, or I could try to play smart, play more, learn more. There are two PPTQs coming up, both Standard. One at a store where I’ve made the Quarter-Final and Final before – so why not again? I have been preparing, but I find myself just going through the motions with a BG Energy deck that I like, but I feel I’m not getting the most out of – or that I’m struggling with mulligans and my opponents are always just getting that one card they needed but definitely haven’t had in hand the whole time. I probably need to address those and learn from them rather than blame fate.

 

So, it’s time to change things up. While my free time is never as much as I would hope, there’s still enough to make a concerted effort at improvement and giving myself the best shot of doing better. Hopefully, practicing smart for less time will reap more reward than just mindlessly grinding leagues for weeks on end. I’ve got 11 days until the first PPTQ, 18 for the second – also at my local store, for the added pride element. For both though, I’m going to try the mind-set of not going to win, but going to have fun – but to also make sure I play optimally throughout. Focus on the process and not the results.

 

There are three steps to this, which may have to adapt depending on how successful they are. The first is to set achievable goals – always three on the docket, of varying difficultly. This is to ensure there is always a focus and a goal to aim for – I always need a constant stream of motivation, so this seems ideal. For now, the easiest is securing the last 200 PWPs to get a bye to every GP next year – byes are gold dust at GPs, for the later start and free win when so many wins are needed. This should be doable, but the impetus is on me to get out and play enough to make sure it happens. The second is making an RPTQ. I’ve had some near misses at PPTQs and I do feel I’ve got the skill to get to one – part of it will be clearing that mental hurdle, but it’s the next logical goal in terms of progression. The last one is to Day 2 a GP again. Why? Because I need to prove to myself it wasn’t a fluke.

 

The second step is going to be about playing properly. I’m playing too many games zoned out with a stream taking the rest of my focus – not thinking about my actions and basically playing like a zombie and hoping the rest comes together. It’s not good enough and leads to so many pointless mistakes (Not cracking an Evolving Wilds end of turn, playing the wrong land, miscounting attack damage). Further to that, I never formulate a plan to win games – I just go turn by turn, not thinking further ahead. It’s not a winning recipe. The aim is to play at least two hours a day, with a sole focus on the game and trying to play with a plan in mind. Exceptions will be made for when I stream.

 

The third step is to learn. Writing more often and going over what I’ve done in the week as a recap is a start to this. Another is to start reviewing my games more often – seeing what mistakes I’m making, going back to difficult positions and figuring out what the correct decision should have been. The other is to tap into my voracious appetite for knowledge for once. I’m going to start going through all the great Magic theory and articles that have been written. One a week and then applying it throughout the week to try and embed that learning. For this first week, it’ll be the seminal Who’s the Beatdown? By Mike Flores (http://www.starcitygames.com/magic/fundamentals/3692_Whos_The_Beatdown.html) Not only is this an article that is often regarded as an essential piece of knowledge, knowing when I should be playing as a control deck, and when as an aggressive deck is going to be very handy when playing B/G Energy in a metagame full of fellow aggressive decks.

 

I can’t say this will work. I can’t even say if I’ll stick at it. All I can say is that it’s a start. You have to start somewhere.

 

Let’s see where we are in a few days.

-Sohnata

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