Preparing for Grand Prix Orlando

Grand Prix Orlando is this weekend! YEAH!

Living at the absolute bottom of the United States, and with my career work consuming nearly all of my time, I don’t get to go to GPs very often. But once a year, ChannelFireball is kind enough to host a GP in Florida and give me, along with many other stranded Floridians, a chance to play in one of Magic’s premier events.

I went to GP Orlando last year, and I had an absolute blast. What I love about modern day GPs is that they’re more than just a Magic tournament. They’re essentially mini-conventions, a celebration of the game, and the personification of what makes Magic so great: The cards, the game play, and most importantly, the people.

But as much as I love a good time and as much as I certainly plan on having fun and enjoying the GP, one of my priorities is to try and do well at the tournament. So, to help with that, I’ve been preparing, both physically and mentally. Here’s what I’ve been doing, and perhaps you can prepare the same way, if you haven’t already.

Physical Preparation

When deciding what deck to play in a tournament, my method is always the same: Pick something that strikes a balance between being competitive and being fun to play. I’ve landed on the following deck that I’ve labeled Angels and Knights:

Angels and Knights

It plays the kind of Magic I love to play and that fit my strengths: an aggressive deck that applies pressure and forces my opponent to make the complicated decisions while I simply try to attack each turn. You see, with me, the more I have to think in Magic, the worse I become. I’m better at Magic and win more when the amount of decisions I have to make is less and the decisions are simpler. This deck fits my play style and what I love to do in Magic perfectly.

Secondly, it has a lot of synergy, and I love playing decks with synergy. Kitesail Freebooter snipes their best interactive spell. The Knights rally together to boost each other’s power and they’re a great hedge against two popular decks in the format in Mono-Black Zombies and U/W/x Control. Resplendent Angel provides evasive damage, as well as a huge threat of going wide with Angel tokens. Shalai protects against spot removal, Settle the Wreckage, and Aetherflux Reservoir out of Mono-Blue Storm. Lyra pumps both Resplendent Angel and Shalai and makes them into beefy lifelinkers, providing a boon against the red decks and other aggro decks. Gideon is great against the mid-range decks, nullifying their biggest threat and getting in for 4 indestructible damage when he’s clear to attack.

Out of the sideboard, Dispossess and Lost Legacy are a hedge against the combo decks: Turbo Fog, Mono-Blue Storm, God-Pharaoh’s Gift, etc. Duress is obviously great against control. Baffling End and Seal Away are great against the aggro decks and Settle the Wreckage comes in against the green/midrange decks.

I’ve done a lot of testing over the past few weeks and the deck has done well in testing, but will it do well at the GP? Who knows. I’ll have to wait and see. But as I said, win or lose, it’s competitive and it’s exactly the kind of deck I like to play, so I’m excited to play it and see what it can do.

Mental Preparation

How you mentally approach competition is enormous on numerous levels, as your mental approach determines multiple things: whether or not you’re nervous before matches, how you react when you win/lose, and whether or not you’re able to be completely focused when playing, etc. There’s two ways to mentally approach a tournament. You can be results-focused or you can be process-focused. I’m going into the GP strictly process-focused.

My focus will not be on trying to win. My focus will be on trying to play as close to perfect as I can each game, and to play to the best of ability every match. I know that if I play as close to perfect as I can each game and if I play to the best of my ability every match, that will give me the best opportunity possible to win. I know that winning is easier to do the less you think about winning, and I know that I’ll be as successful as I can be that day if I just stay focused on myself and my own game.

Secondly, I’ve ramped up my meditation routine the past two weeks. I normally do it for 30 minutes every morning, but I’ve been doing it for 30 minutes every morning and evening the past two weeks. The mental and physical benefits of meditation are scientifically solidified and include the following:

  • Increases immune function
  • Increases positive emotion
  • Decreases anxiety
  • Decreases stress
  • Improves your ability to regulate your emotions
  • Increases cortical thickness in areas related to paying attention
  • Increases your focus & attention
  • Improves your memory

All of these benefits are awesome for performing in Magic tournaments, and it’s something I’d highly recommend that you do as part of your own preparation for this weekend. By ramping up my meditation the past few weeks, my mind will be extremely calm, clear, and functional come this weekend when I go to play. I also plan on doing 30 minutes of meditation each day between Saturday and Sunday (if I make Day 2!)

Thirdly, and most importantly, I’ve prepared myself for the worst case scenario. I’m going to be spending a lot of time, energy, and money to play in this GP. I’m keenly aware that I could invest all of that into the tournament and walk away with nothing. But that doesn’t bother me. I understand that’s always a possible outcome when playing in Magic tournaments and I’m not going into the GP this weekend with a mindset of, “I need to do well in order to justify everything I’m putting into it.” I know that if I do that, I’ll put unnecessary pressure on myself and hurt my own ability to perform.

I understand that the results of my matches are largely beyond my control. All I can do is influence my results based on my performance. I can’t control how I’m going to draw, what my opponents are going to draw, what matchups I end up playing against, and whether or not I experience more or less good variance. If those things end up going against me, I won’t be upset because I understand that I can’t control them. If I lose because I play badly, that won’t upset me either, because I’ll simply use it as a growth opportunity, learn from my poor performance, and allow myself to become a better player through that. I’m not afraid to fail.

Lastly, my plan is to make my opponents faceless. I don’t put my opponents on a pedestal. I don’t care if you’re a Hall-of-Famer or a newbie. I’m not concerned with who is sitting across from me. I’m concerned with what they’re playing, nothing more. I’m confident in my own abilities and I believe that if I play my best each game and get a bit lucky, I have a chance against anyone, so I’ll be focused on myself and the cards being played in the matchup, not the players who are playing.

In the end, my objective is to be able to compete and do well in the tournament, but more importantly, my number one priority is to enjoy the entire weekend, win or lose. I want to play some great games of Magic. I want to meets lots of people. I want to mingle with artists, watch cosplayers, and spend quality time with great friends within the community. If I can do all of that, then the weekend will have been a success for me, win or lose.

If you feel that you could use a big boost in your mental game before the GP this weekend, or before any tournament going forward, I wrote a book on how to improve your mental game and become a better player by improving your mind. You can find that here. Check it out, if you’re interested. I think you’ll get a lot out of it and really enjoy it.

Are you going to be at GP Orlando this weekend? If so, comment below and let me know what you’ve been doing to prepare! Also, please, don’t be afraid to come say hi over the weekend. I’d love to meet as many of you as possible. I’ll be wearing my ChannelFireball GP Las Vegas shirt from 2015. If you’ve bought a physical copy of my book, bring it out and I’ll be more than happy to sign it!

Thanks for reading, and hopefully I’ll see you this weekend!

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