February 4th was a historic night for Philadelphia. The Eagles, the pride of Philly sports, finally won their first championship. For most in Philadelphia, it was 60 regulation minutes of tenseness followed by a wave of emotion. While not everyone can bear to suffer through an entire football game, it is important to at least respect the game.
The Super Bowl this year was the same day as the Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan Top 8. Both events showcased some of the best players in the world in the most important moments of their career. While I’m normally not willing to submit my editor to a sports diatribe that doesn’t involve Kentucky or basketball, I am more than happy to on this occasion.
Regardless of the sport, competition is competition. There are general themes that run through everything and always something we can learn. In honor of the Eagles victory, we’ll be using the Super Bowl as a reference. While any of these could be their own article, I wanted to give you a little bit to chew on for today.
You Deserve to Be Here
People love to believe that they “belong” in a certain segment of the Magic community. The best thing about Magic is that you can do or be whatever you want. Making the jump from casual player to FNM regular to GP grinder is a very tedious process. You often make major leaps forward before feeling like you’ve regressed. Eventually you hit a point of frustration where the game seems overwhelming. I’ve seen and experienced many examples of this over the years but one really sticks out to me.
While playing in the late rounds of a PPTQ, a newer player made a decision that did not go his way. What I considered a reasonable bluff, he had decided was a blunder. In disgust, he said “That’s why I don’t deserve to play at this level!” While I can’t remember where Mapson was (either playing in the match or simply observing), we both were bothered by the comment. Magic is a game of steps. Each match you play brings you closer to your inevitable goal. You’ve put money, time, and energy into playing your deck. Don’t feel like you’re not good enough. If you don’t believe you’re good enough, who should?
Don’t Be Intimidated
Every event has an end boss. I hate the term “end boss.” It seems so over dramatic, as if that person is standing between you and your happy ending. The idea itself adds so much emotion into what should just be a match of Magic. This may seem a little cold but emotion has little place in a competitive game of Magic.
At my local store, I am considered an end boss. As a result, newer players make irrational decisions against me. Remember that the cards don’t care who won Friday Night Magic last week, your opponent doesn’t get to resolve all their spells just because they top 8’d a Grand Prix two years ago, and no one cares whether your opponent is on the SCG Leaderboard. Play each match as if your opponent is a nobody because, once the decks are shuffled, they have the same advantages that you had access to. Play your best and play for keeps!
Stand Your Ground
I have a theory that most games of Magic are decided by who makes the most optimal plays throughout the game. Variance and deck selection obviously will affect this theory but, if you make the best play possible at all points in a game of Magic, you will typically win. Easy then: play perfect, get rewarded.
Magic is a beautiful game because of its complexity. In healthy and enjoyable formats, there are many decisions that create a vast decision tree that spans from the early game into the endgame. Currently, I’m playing Mardu Vehicles in Standard. Almost every time I cast Bomat Courier, my opponents and I have a subgame where they need to kill it before I can accrue too much value and I must weigh the risk/reward of activating it at inopportune times.
When my Bomat Courier attacks for the third time into my opponent’s Glint-Sleeve Siphoner and she chooses to block, if they trade, I believe someone is wrong. Trading creatures in combat is very rarely advantageous for both players. Expert play depends on knowing whether any interaction with your opponent is a win or a loss. Make sure you understand the small victories it takes to win a matchup and you will very likely see your win percentage climb.
Whether it is a game, a match, or a tournament, you need to learn to finish. When tournaments near their natural conclusion, only the elite survive. Sometimes the elite are those with the with the broken decks. Sometimes the elite includes the player who made a great metagame call that weekend. In my mind, the elite are those who don’t fatigue down the stretch. When the games get the most difficult and the most stressful, when the most is on the line, the elite players step up to the plate.
When Wizards shows Grand Prix shows a round 15 feature match of Seth Manfield against Johnny McRandom, I’m always picking Manfield. Knowing how to win is easy. We are all guilty of watching players from home and critiquing play patterns with full information and nothing on the line. Seth Manfield has shown that when the game is at the utmost importance, that he will not let an opportunity slip from his grasp. That’s what it takes to be the best.
Fly Eagles Fly
I could not be more excited for the Eagles and for the city of Philadelphia. Hopefully this is the start something special for this team. Remember: this is how success starts for Magic players too! Seth Manfield wasn’t always the top-rated player in the world. There was a point in time where no one outside of North Dakota knew of Brad Nelson. Hell, Brian Braun-Duin didn’t even play Magic until he was in college. You’re not nearly as good as you could be. There is much improvement for you to make.
In fitting fashion, here’s a quote from Eagles center Jason Kelce.
“Bottom line is, we wanted it more. All of the players, all of the coaches, the front office, Jeffrey Lurie, everybody wanted it more. And that’s why we’re up here today, and that’s why we’re the first team in Eagles history to hold that freakin’ trophy.”
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