Finding the Fun: Fighting Burnout on the Road to a Goal

Written by Zach Cramer on . Posted in Competitive Magic, FNM, Limited, Magic Culture, Modern, Standard

Finding the Fun: Fighting Burnout on the Road to a Goal

Zach Cramer

Zach is a Northeastern Magic grinder who specializes in eternal formats. When building decks, he has a strong preference to Blue cards, toolboxes and combo decks. With a recent RPTQ finish just short of an invitation, Zach hopes to take his skills to the next level and play on the Pro Tour.

Greetings all! It’s been a crazy couple of weeks for me. In the last month, I ended my fellowship and while waiting to hear back from some Government background checks, have begun a four month Magic: The Gathering frenzy. Every week for the next 15 weeks, I’ll be playing in a major Magic tournament with the intent of figuring out if I have the tools to hack it at the professional and amateur levels. This has given me an opportunity to basically practice and play Magic full time, which is an absolute joy most of the time. However, in the last few weeks, I’ve been met with a lot of frustration. When Magic is all you do, a lot of your self-worth, a lot of your pride, and a lot of your energy is caught up in your successes and failures in Magic. For me, that has been 4 critical losses that kept me from my goals at the beginning of the tournament. A PPTQ Quarterfinals loss, two 6-3 finishes at the last two opens and a near miss at Top 8 of the Syracuse Legacy Classic have been really hard on me as I have been forced to look critically at my failures and whether or not I have the chops to keep taking Magic seriously. Below, I hope to discuss a few things to keep in mind when trying to fight burnout and making sure you always remember that, at the end of the day, we’re still just playing a game.

#1: Play Local
One thing that I’ve tried to do while traveling for Magic is to take some time and try to play local. Whether that’s going to draft night in my home town, or finding a local game store in the town I’m visiting, playing on a casual level relieves a lot of the pressure that I experience on MTGO or in a big event. Playing against a whacky combo or a good-natured and spirited group can really lift your spirits before a major tournament. I was lucky enough to go to Syracuse’s local game store for the open and watch the MetagameGurus do some gunslinging during FNM. Watching local players talk about these grinders was an interesting dynamic that I really enjoyed and left me feeling reinvigorated after a week of tough practice, despite not leaving the store until 1:00AM! Another thing to note is that just because the play is casual, doesn’t mean you aren’t going to learn anything. Talking to players, especially ones local to the area, about how they sideboarded, how they approach the matchup and what cards they were most afraid of from my side does a lot to solidify the work you’re doing by yourself outside of the LGS. Similarly, building up players on the local level and encouraging them to take their game to the next level is always a wonderful experience for me. Hearing about what other players hopes, dreams and ambitions are always revives me commitment to my own goals and leaves me excited for the future of the game.

#2: Keep Friends Close
Outside of playing on the local game store front, the greatest single thing you can do to maintain your sanity is keep your friends and loved ones close as you experience frustration and difficulty. One of the best parts of my last event was being able to talk to my friends in between rounds. In particular, my friend Tigro was watching over my shoulder for almost every match. I started the New Jersey Open 6-1 with back to back win and ins put in front of me. After a tough loss to a Jeskai Geist deck where I didn’t see a 2nd Creature, Tigro looked at me and said “We’re gonna walk around this convention center and we’re not gonna talk about Magic for 5 minutes.” In the next 5 minutes I felt all my frustration, my disappointment and my anger fade away as we joked about movies, the twists and turns of life and just enjoyed each other’s company instead of languishing in self-defeat. I tilt off really hard and I’m so glad I had my friends to balance me out. Being able to see all of the parts of Magic that you enjoy, rather than just the joy of victory is essential to reminding yourself why you put all the time into it to begin with. Instead of just setting up goals that sit on a scoreboard, go into a tournament to set goals that include catching up with old friends, planning a meal with friends, and driving up with teammates, even if it means you have to spend a little more or drive a couple extra hours. The people you meet are the people who will keep you in the game, without question.

#3: Plan a Weekend
Another great thing that I’ve recently taken advantage of has been the free time that comes with a weekend away from society. Being able to come down to a site earlier in the week has given me the chance to stay with family or friends, see local sites, plan a delicious meal or just relax in a foreign place. Being able to have other things to look forward to that aren’t directly connected to your success help you distract yourself from a weekend that came up just short. Last weekend, I made sure to spend a day with a close friend from college, eat a filling meal and room with people who I knew would keep me happy. The grind is very real, having people at any step in the journey is a godsend when you’re used to time alone. Take the breaks you deserve. Just because you’re there to play in a tournament, doesn’t mean that you can’t set time aside for yourself. Spending time with loved ones, spending time with friends and enjoying the unique place you’re in is essential to being in the right mind for an event. Even melding the Magic life with your muggle life can be rewarding. I love meeting my testing partner’s significant others and then spending a relaxing evening with some drinks or a nice dinner. It usually is just the medicine to take the edge off of a rough event. Any kinds of regrets will follow you into the day and leaves you with one less advantage on your competition.

This weekend is GP Indy. This will be my 4th week in a row of Modern constructed Magic and I’m probably going to be playing Jund. I’ll be at the center on Friday playing in grinders all day. If you see someone with a backwards Phillies cap, be sure to say Hi! Below is the 75 I plan on playing for the event:

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