A new era of competitive and professional Magic has arrived. MTG Arena has brought a new look to the world’s greatest card game, and with that, a new way of playing it. More importantly, for the purposes of today’s discussion, grinding it. MTG Arena has introduced a tier level ranking system where players look to grind their way from the starting level, which is Bronze, all the way up to the highest level, which is Mythic. For a more in-depth look at how this system works, I’ll refer you to this article written by Frank Karsten, as he explains not only what the different tiers are, but how they work and how many games you’d need to play to make it all the way through. Definitely check it out.

This article is the beginning of a three-part article series where I’ll be looking at the mental aspects of grinding through the ranks on Arena, and I’ll be doing that by breaking each article down into three distinct topics:

Article #1: How to mentally prepare for the grind
Article #2: How to maintain a great mindset along the way
Article #3: What to do once you’ve reached Mythic

Today, we’re going to start with #1—how to mentally prepare for the grind to Mythic. As someone who has started the grind toward Mythic myself in recent days, it’s certainly not an easy task and the more mentally prepared you are going into the journey, the better equipped you’re going to be to cope with the various challenges and obstacles you’re bound to experience along the way. Let’s take a look at how best to mentally prepare yourself for the grind up to the top!

1) Why Are You Doing This?

Every journey should start with an understanding of exactly why you’re going to partake in it. And the answer may not always be as simple and straightforward as “I want to make it to Mythic.” Here’s an important question to consider: Why do you want to make it to Mythic? For you, what’s the purpose of trying to do that? What are you hoping to get out of reaching that rank? Along with that, it’s important to dig as deep as you can and be as honest as possible about why you want to grind to that. Is it to obtain a feeling of accomplishment? Is it to get invited to big tournaments? Is it to enjoy the process the challenge itself presents? Or could it be for more troubling reasons? Are you looking for a way to distract yourself from your personal/professional life? Are you doing it in the hopes of finding some kind of self-validation or self-esteem?

Whatever your reasons are, I would advise you to get out a piece of paper and write it/them down in black and white so you can get it out of your head and on paper in front of you. Ask yourself the tough questions and make sure that, before you start, your reasons for doing it are clearly identified and understood. That way, when you get to the end, you don’t end up realizing you spent a ton of time pursuing something you never wanted in the first place or feeling empty toward your achievement.

2) Create a Schedule and Be Disciplined

I recently started my journey toward Constructed Mythic over the weekend. It’s now Tuesday, and I’m currently sitting at the gold tier around level 3 or 4. It’s been a bit slow-going for me, but that’s okay. It’s because I play on a very specific schedule, and I make sure that I’m disciplined and only follow that schedule. I never play outside of the days/hours I set for myself.

My schedule goes as follows: I’m allowed to play each night during the week. There are no limitations on what days I do or don’t allow myself to play. But I don’t allow myself to play for more than two hours at a time without either taking a break or stopping entirely until the following day, depending on how I feel and what my progress is like. Most importantly, all of my work and personal/professional obligations for the day must be met before I’m allowed to play. If they’re not, there’s no playing Arena that day.

This works great for me, and having this kind of structure is important. Without some kind of schedule and discipline woven into your journey towards Mythic, it can be very easy for things to spiral out of control. You can find yourself neglecting more important obligations such as school, work, family, etc. Secondly, you can quickly find yourself physically and mentally burning out. You start chasing more wins or overreacting to your losses, and your emotional state becomes unbalanced.

Your well-being and your health must come first. Eat well, sleep well, and be physically active. All of these things are not only necessary for great physical and mental health, but they’re also extremely beneficial at helping you to play better on Arena and make faster progress. Create a schedule for when you’re going to allow yourself to play and be disciplined with that schedule.

3) Fully Prepare for and Accept Imperfection and Failure Before You Begin

As we know, Magic: The Gathering is a game where you can make all of the right choices and still lose. You can pick the right deck, make great plays, take the right decisions, and still not win. To emotionally cope with the game, you have to go into it fully accepting of this fact. The same is true of grinding towards Mythic on Arena. Before you begin, you have to genuinely accept the fact that there are going to be many instances where you’ll do everything right but still lose, fall backward in level, and experience a lot of setbacks along the way. By accepting it beforehand, you take the sting away from those kind of experiences when they do happen and give yourself the mental fortitude to cope with them when they occur.

And none of that touches on the experience of not performing well, of playing poorly, and not performing your best. Just like with losing, there are going to be times when you make mistakes, make the wrong choices, take the wrong lines, and play poorly, costing yourself matches and levels. Again, to cope with the emotional swings of the game, you have to genuinely accept that you are an imperfect human being who can’t be their best all of the time. It’s simply impossible. You’re going to play great, and you’re also going to play poorly at times. When you do, be self-compassionate and don’t beat yourself up over it. Encourage yourself, lift yourself up, support yourself, and go at it again when you’re ready.

4) Enjoy the Process and the Challenge

And to wrap things up, this is probably the most important one. The grind to Mythic is just that—a grind. But you want to do your best to prevent it from feeling like a grind. Otherwise, you’ll soon find the journey boring, tedious, soulless, and monotonous. Quitting will soon follow that. The best antidote to prevent that from happening is to make sure you allow yourself to actively enjoy the process of achieving Mythic and the challenging games you’ll experience along the way.

In my experience, the matches weren’t that challenging at the Bronze and Silver levels. But once I hit Gold, I noticed a definite increase in the skill level of the opponents I was playing against, as well as the difficulty of the decks accompanying that. Every match was being played against top-tier decks and good opponents who knew what they were doing. This has made the journey towards Mythic a bit slower for me, but I have really loved playing against the best decks and against such good opponents who force me to put my skills to the test, and who demand me to play my best against them.

Once you start reaching the higher levels and tiers, it’s important that you love a challenge and thrive off of demanding matches and opponents. If you hope to just coast through to Mythic with little resistance, you’re going to be severely disappointed and it’s likely you won’t react well once things consistently stay challenging. Besides, that’s how you should want it to be. You should want it to be challenging, and you should want to be forced to play your best and put your skills to the test. If you were to just breeze through to Mythic with total ease and never feel like you had to actually test your skills, would reaching that achievement really mean that much? Definitely not. When you do reach Mythic, it will feel great because you will remember what you had to go through to reach that and make it happen. That’s what will make it feel good.

That’ll do it for this one! Before starting the grind to Mythic, sit down with yourself and get yourself mentally prepared for the journey ahead. You’ll be much more equipped to deal with all of its obstacles and setbacks, and it will make the challenge much easier to overcome when you do.

Before I let you go here, I want to get your thoughts on something new I’d like to try. I have my own podcast called the Mental Mana Podcast where I bring on some of the best players in the game to talk about the importance of the mental aspects of playing Magic and how players can improve in this area. I’d like to start doing some Q&A episodes where players such as yourself can ask a question related to the mental side of playing Magic, and I can answer your question on the podcast.

Do you have a question about the mental side of the game? It can be something you’re personally struggling with, or it can be something you’re just curious about and want to know more about. Perhaps you have a teammate or friend who’s struggling with the mental aspects of the game and you’d like some answers to help them out? Whatever it may be, just ask your question in the comment section below and I’ll answer your question on my next podcast episode. If you don’t want to ask publicly or want to remain anonymous, simply send me a direct message on Twitter here and I’ll answer your question on the podcast without mentioning your name.

Thanks for reading, and bye for now!