Our actions are driven by our belief systems. The decisions we make, the actions we take, and the behaviors we exemplify are almost always a reflection of what we believe about ourselves and the world around us.
Take someone who believes deeply in the concept of eating healthy and living an active lifestyle. What are their actions and behaviors like? They eat exclusively healthy foods and they exercise regularly.
Or take someone who believes deeply that the Earth is being ruined by pollution. What are their actions and behaviors like? They maybe drive an electric car, recycle religiously, or attend climate change rallies. In both cases, their decisions, actions, and behaviors are a reflection of the beliefs they possess about themselves and the world surrounding them.
The overwhelming majority of your beliefs are subconscious. You have a million different beliefs about yourself and the world around you, but the absolute majority of them you’re not even aware of. You’ve acquired these beliefs from a number of different sources: Your own interpretations of your life experiences, what people have yammered into your head constantly over time, your interactions with the environment or society around you, etc. Many of the beliefs you possess are true and are beneficial for you. But many of them are false, harmful, and can hold you back and limit you. This also applies when it comes to your beliefs about the game of Magic and yourself as a Magic player.
In today’s article, I want to highlight 5 common false beliefs that you may be harboring about yourself or the game in general that could be holding you back as a player and limiting you from moving to the next level. Some of them may apply to you. All of them may apply to you. Or maybe none of them apply to you right now, but could apply to you in the future. In either case, it’s good to be aware of them. That way, you can either work on dispelling them now or prevent yourself from harboring these false beliefs in the future.
False Belief #1; “If I take a mulligan, I’m guaranteed to lose.”
Even I have to admit that at one point, I was guilty of harboring this false belief. Mentally and emotionally, it can be hard to take a mulligan, even when you know you should. As you know, card advantage is massive in Magic and starting the game a card behind is something that many players, on an emotional level, have trouble accepting and allowing themselves to do. So, what do they do? They keep wonky hands they know they should probably ship, simply because they harbor this false belief that if they go down a card or two and mulligan, they’re absolutely guaranteed to lose.
Where does this false belief come from? It most often comes from a player having experiences mulliganing down to 6 or 5 and either losing painfully or losing a few times consecutively, and when that happens, they make the false association in their mind that “mulligan = losing”.
Don’t let this false belief force you into keeping bad hands and losing games you shouldn’t be losing. It is absolutely more than possible to mulligan and still win games. We see players do it all the time. If you allow yourself to harbor this false belief, then your actions will reflect it. You’ll refuse to mulligan bunk hands and lose games because of it.
False Belief #2: “I’m only good at playing a certain archetype.”
Yes, you may be good at playing White Weenie Aggro or Blue-Black Control—that may be 100% true. But you don’t know if that’s the only archetype you’re good at unless you give yourself a proper chance to play something else, and not only that, but give yourself the time and patience that’s needed to learn the ins and outs of a different archetype so that you can become proficient with it. The fact is, you could be even better at a different archetype than the one you’re used to playing, but you never discover that because you never allow yourself the opportunity to try anything else.
Where does this false belief come from? It often comes from a player attempting to play a deck they don’t normally play, and either playing badly with it or losing a lot with it. They then create a false association in their mind that “archetype A = playing badly” or “archetype A = losing,” give up on it, and never attempt to pick it up again. Or it can come from a friend or teammate constantly telling them, “You’re not an archetype A kind of player—just drop it.”
There are many players in the world that play a variety of different decks and archetypes successfully. You can too, if you put in the work and give yourself the time and patience to learn them and become proficient with them. If you allow yourself to harbor this false belief, then your actions will reflect it. You’ll always only stick to “your archetype,” play it at a tournament when you shouldn’t, or keep yourself from expanding your repertoire.
False Belief #3: “I always choke in big games.”
It can be a painful moment, and even more so when it happens time after time after time. Every time you get into a win-and-in situation, you’re never able to close it out and make the Top 8. Or every time you do make a Top 8, you always lose in the first round and get knocked out. You’re never able to make the jump over that final hurdle and cross that ever elusive finish line. But just because it hasn’t happened yet absolutely does not mean that it can’t happen or won’t ever happen. For whatever reason, it simply hasn’t happened yet. It wasn’t your time. But that doesn’t mean your time can’t come, or won’t come.
Where does this false belief come from? It comes from a player falling short in a big game multiple times throughout their career, and then the player creates a false association in their mind that “big games = losing.” They create a connection between their past results and their future results, believing that because they always lost in big games in the past that they’re going to lose in big games in the future. They convince themselves that they don’t have the ability to close them out.
The simple fact of the matter is this: There is zero connection between past results and what you’re capable of achieving in the future. There’s no relationship between them whatsoever. Each game, each match, and each tournament is its own unique situation, and you have to approach them as such. Christian Calcano played in 26 Pro Tours and failed to reach the Top 8 in all of them. On the 27th attempt, he finally made a Top 8. You’ll eventually close out a big game if you keep playing, keep improving, and stick with it. If you allow yourself to harbor this false belief, then your actions will reflect it. Every time you get into a big game, you’ll play poorly and inevitably choke out, like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
False Belief #4: “I can’t come back from behind once I start losing.”
Losing can happen on a couple of different axes. It can mean losing a game, a round, or a tournament. Many players, when they fall behind in a game and start losing, they’ll think the game is hopeless and throw in the towel. If they fall behind in a match by losing the first or second game, they’ll give up on the match before it’s even finished, even though there’s still one or two more games left to play. If they start out a tournament with a 0-1 or 0-2 record, they’ll just drop instead of finishing the tournament out. In all of those situations, because they react to losing so poorly, they of course end up losing more or quitting and never give themselves the proper opportunity to turn things around.
Where does this false belief come from? It comes from a player experiencing uninterrupted losses on numerous occasions throughout their career. Every time they’ve fallen into a losing position in a game, match, or tournament and not recovered from that losing position, they create a false association in their mind that “losing position = cannot recover.” Because they’ve never been able to recover from a losing position before, they adopt the belief that they don’t have what it takes to recover from a losing position, turn things around, and come back in the future.
At Pro Tour Ixalan, Huey Jensen started the tournament 1-4 and managed to recover to an 11-5 finish, grab 39th place, and win $1,500. Again, every game, every match, and every tournament is unique. Just because you couldn’t recover from a losing position before doesn’t mean you can’t in the future. If you allow yourself to harbor this false belief, then your actions will reflect it. Every time you fall into a losing position, you’ll mentally throw in the towel, diminish your performance levels, or drop out of the tournament entirely.
False Belief #5: “I could never be as good as them.”
“Them” could be anyone, from the shark who constantly takes down your local FNMs and PPTQs to the Hall-of-Famer who runs the field at the Grand Prix and Pro Tour. They’re the amazing player who’s great at the game and always either Top 8’ing the tournaments or winning them. Every time you have to play against them, you’re nervous, fearful, and doubtful of your own ability. In your mind, the match is already a loss. You feel that they’re on an elevation so far above you that attempting to play them is almost pointless. And you feel that there’s no way that you could ever become as good at the game as they are.
Where does this false belief come from? It can come from a number of things. Perhaps you’ve lost to them every time you’ve played them. Perhaps you know what their stature within the game is, how many tournament championships they’ve won, or what title or ranking they hold. Perhaps you’ve heard people constantly talking about how incredible a player they are and how difficult it is to beat them. Because you’ve never been able to beat them before, because you know their stature within the game is higher than yours, or because you constantly hear people talking about how unbeatable they are, you create a false association in your head that “player A = too far above me.”
You can be as good or as bad at this game as you want to be. It just depends on how much of yourself you’re willing to apply to it. The players that are very good at the game or that are some of the best in the game got to that point because they put a large amount of commitment, desire, and sacrifice into the game to become that good. You could as well if you applied the same level of commitment, desire, and sacrifice to the game that those players have. If you allow yourself to harbor this false belief, then your actions will reflect it. You’ll play poorly against them every time you play them or you’ll limit yourself from ever pushing yourself further within the game to try and reach the level that they’re at.
Are you harboring any of these false beliefs? Did you harbor any of them in the past, but manage to get rid of them? Are there other false beliefs I didn’t mention here that yourself or other players suffer from? Let me know in the comment section and let’s discuss it.