In my efforts to develop as a grinder, I am reading Patrick Chapin’s book, Next Level Magic. It’s a 211-page text ondeveloping our Magic fundamentals and improving our play – essentially one of those in-depth “How to Win at Poker” books, but for Magic. I’ve only just stared it, but I’ll definitely be sharing what I learn its application as I experience it.
Chapin prefaces his development plan with a plea for players to first understand where they currently sit with their Magic ability, by making an honest assessment of themselves. Referring to an article by Sam Stoddard, Chapin asks us to create a Fearless Magic Inventory:
The journey begins with you deciding to understand yourself…If you really capture yourself, your strengths, and your weaknesses as best as you can possibly observe them, if you resolve to see yourself as you actually are right now, you’ll be taking an enormous stride. Take a Fearless Magic Inventory of yourself.
How do you make a Fearless Magic Inventory? Simple: make a list of the things you secretly know you are doing wrong in Magic. Be honest with yourself. Stop lying to yourself and face reality. Take your ego out of it and admit you don’t do everything perfect, yet.
Essentially, we have to know our starting point if we are to know where we’re going to end up, and making a list of our weaknesses will automatically create a list of development goals. Chapin encourages players to post their Inventory online somewhere so that they can hold themselves accountable better. “Shine a light on them and you will see what it is going to take to overcome them.”
This weakness listing is pretty common for the personal development field and a staple of general psychological counseling, so it should be no surprise that Chapin finds it helpful in improving our Magic game. In staying true to my serious efforts to get better at the game, I’ve created my own Fearless Magic Inventory and posted it below. Several of the items on the list I’ve already improved upon, but I wanted to “shine a light on them” to ensure that I continue to get better instead of falling back to old habits.
My Fearless Magic Inventory – January 26, 2014
- I don’t give other formats a real chance before refusing to play them, particularly Legacy and Modern.
- I am too quick to sell large portions of my card collection early in a format, then later complain that I can’t switch decks without having to buy several expensive playsets of cards.
- I rely too much on advice from casual players for competitive play.
- I keep loose hands on the draw because I don’t feel like taking the time and effort to shuffle.
- I have complained about prize support being paid out to too many low finishers when I top 8’d tournaments, and complained about it not being paid out to enough low finishers when I finished X-2/X-3 and just out of prize.
- I keep bad hands on Magic Online when my opponent’s clock is running low, hoping they will just time out instead of me having to earn a win (I usually lose).
- I play in events even though I’m way too tired and should skip them, and then go on tilt for the week after I get blown out and have no fun.
- I consider local game store tournaments sufficient practice for competitive events.
- I have absolutely no ability to value cards in limited until someone tells me how good or bad they are.
- When I take cards into my hand from a Jace, Architect of Thought -2 pile, I hold my hand at an angle that exposes some cards.
- I wear a t-shirt with my own face on it and pretend I’m not an egomaniac.
- I don’t try to play decks that aren’t blue-based control decks in constructed, even when there are clearly better decks in the format.
- I allow too many “take-backs” in competitive events.
- I fail to consider how I may lose the game when I’m confident I’m about to win it, and then lose the game.
- Sometimes I hold my hand at a low angle that would allow an opponent to see the names of the cards.
- I often only analyze cards in a vacuum, but constantly chide my friends for doing so.
- I often forget to use planeswalker abilities.
- I shuffle cards in a forceful manner that creases one corner of the cards – my friends refer to it as the “Political Shuffle.”
- I don’t always read cards and assume I know what they do, even newer cards.
- I am afraid of deckbuilding, so I wait for a list to go on the Internet I like and use that (which is funny, since the deck I’ve done the best with in my entire career was a homebrew treefolk tribal deck back in the Lorwyn era).
- I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on a deck at the last minute for a Grand Prix or StarCityGames Open, then did poorly and considered it to be bad (all without practicing with the deck).
- I am prone to last minute deck audible-ing, then regret that decision throughout the tournament (often the original choice was the best meta game call).
- I make fun of my mistakes more than evaluating them for development.
- I am jealous of pro players and as a result assume they’re all douchebags. (this is quite false, for the most part)
- I become unable to make clear decisions when the round time is nearing zero, often locking up and being forced to make a play by a judge, which causes me to punt winnable games.
- Similarly, I get nervous when people are watching me play, especially if I know them. I lose all confidence in my play ability when particular friends (who are better at Magic) are railbirding, assuming that every play I make is wrong in their eyes.
- I exaggerate too much in explaining my losses. Often it was my mistake that cost me, not my opponent’s “epic rips” or my “poor draws.”
- I am unwilling to make the financial investment into Magic Online that I need to greatly help me achieve the play level I strive for.
- I really need a haircut.
Hopefully this will be the start of a great leap in my Magic ability (after a lot of work, of course), and result in some quality tournament play. Feel free to post your Fearless Magic Inventory in the comments, and I’ll be posting more on growth and development as I read through Next Level Magic.