Randomly Manipulating Cardboard – Resolutions

The holiday season might be the worst. I mean, unless you’re a small child; then the months of November through January are the best. You have no school, no work, and there’s snow everywhere. At the ages of 7-10, the average day for me on those months was either:

a. Wake up, play Diddy Kong Racing for the Nintendo 64, and drink hot cocoa until I fell asleep.
b. Wake up, go outside and start sledding until it got dark out, then come back in and drink hot cocoa until I fell asleep.

That’s a pretty sweet existence. Christmas is basically made for kids at this point. It’s just not really for adults. I get that that wasn’t the original idea, but for adults, the holidays are usually associated with Christmas carols popping into your head for no good reason, the people around you becoming 100% more tense and irritable, and an uptick in auto accidents. I haven’t been an “adult” long, but it hasn’t taken me long to discover the adult method of coping with the holiday season: loading up on food and alcohol beyond the pall of good sense.

New Year’s resolutions really make a lot much sense as an institution because by the time you’ve made it out of the holidays alive, you’ve gained fifty pounds. While this is a great coping mechanism, that still doesn’t stop you from wanting to die. It’s a lot like a hangover, and grown-ups react similarly, vowing to, “make some changes in {their lives}, things gotta change, {they} can’t keep going like this.” Basically the holidays are just one big bender that you either make it out of or you don’t. It’s not really up to you.

With this in mind, I’ve set up some handy Magical resolutions for myself for next year. I mean, I didn’t go on any benders this year, but it’s always good to have a plan. It’s also nice to have expectations for yourself, so that when you fail to achieve them you can take it out on friends and family through surliness, tantrums, and passive-aggressive remarks.

Playtest More Efficiently

There are a sickening number of Magic articles published about how to get better at the game. Naturally, they are written by someone wholly unqualified to do so, purely as a way to churn out some content so that they can keep grinding store credit for whatever site is gracious enough to allow them to do so. I hate-read every single one of these, and none of them ever discuss playtesting in any capacity, let alone a reasonable way to figure out matchups without just grinding a billion games and determining which ones are representative of the matchup and which ones aren’t. I’ve lost track of the amount of times that I’ve put hours and hours into what I thought was playtesting, only to feel totally unprepared the minute I got on site. So I’m totally reexamining what I think I know about playtesting in an effort to use my time more effectively. This old PV article seems like an excellent jumping-off point.

Stop Talking Myself out of Playing the Best Deck

This doesn’t really apply to Limited, but in Standard, I’ve always found some dumb reason to not play the best deck, which seems bizarre but happens way, way too often. For some event like a GP, it’s okay to try and break the format, but for a PTQ season—a long grind over a handful of month—not just playing whatever deck’s the best is mental, and more a result of some dumb animal desire to prove yourself more clever than the pack. It’s important to remember that the week before any tournament, there’ll always be some crazy deck from some GP that snapped off an infi-0 record in the Swiss rounds and starts [ccProd]Lyev Skyknight[/ccProd], or some other such card you only recognize from drafts. When this happens—and, again, it will happen—you have to be strong. Resist the urge to “show off your range.” Range doesn’t exist. You’re either good at Magic cards, or you’re not. Playing the best deck, a deck that’s generally powerful and proven beyond the shadow of a doubt, is simply the best way to maximize your potential most of the time. This is fairly well-documented.

Play Tighter

It sounds so simple, right? I’ve found that a weird way to improve as a person is to be really candid and open about all the times you screw up. I personally don’t trust people that only want to discuss about their successes. You get this on Facebook a lot. There’s always a lot of, “my boyfriend is the best!!!!” statuses, but rarely do you see something like, “my boyfriend is fat and won’t do the dishes and also he drank all the orange juice again.” I get that people want to put their best foot forward, so to speak, but at some point it stops being that and starts just being a complete misrepresentation. These never fool anyone in the long run. With that in mind, here are some of my screw-ups from last season’s Theros Sealed PTQs, in the hopes that putting them out into the world will keep me from committing too many more blunders and thus be forced to post them on the internet. Here we go.

• In the 0-1 bracket, in game three, I boarded my blue cards out for white ones, and boarded out my Islands for Plains, making my U/G deck into W/G. After a long grind of a game, the board is clear, and my opponent complains aloud about all the lands he’s drawing as I wordlessly peel land after land after land. With the board still empty, I finally draw a spell. It’s [ccProd]Horizon Chimera[/ccProd]. There is no way in my deck’s current configuration to cast this card. I end up losing to his runner/runner [ccProd]Wingsteed Rider[/ccProd]/[ccProd]Observant Alseid[/ccProd].

• That same U/G deck started a [ccProd]Satyr Hedonist[/ccProd].

• In the 0-1 bracket in another PTQ, I find myself paired against GP winner Frank Skarren. I am playing perhaps the worst deck I opened all season, an R/B dumpster fire of an aggro deck whose one upside was a [ccProd]Whip of Erebos[/ccProd]. I had a [ccProd]Titan of Eternal Fire[/ccProd] with zero Humans, which meant it was just a worse [ccProd]Trained Orgg[/ccProd], and three [ccProd]Lightning Strike[/ccProd]s, which, most of the time, acted as worse [ccProd]Flame Jet[/ccProd]s. In game three, I [ccProd]Thoughtseize[/ccProd]d him, revealing a [ccProd]Feral Invocation[/ccProd], a [ccProd]Time to Feed[/ccProd], a [ccProd]Flamespeaker Adept[/ccProd], a [ccProd]Spearpoint Oread[/ccProd], and three Mountains. I took a creature, Lightning Struck the other, and his deck refused to cough up another Forest until he was at 5 life. [ccProd]Time to Feed[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Feral Invocation[/ccProd] on his second [ccProd]Spearpoint Oread[/ccProd] traded with one of my two [ccProd]Borderland Minotaur[/ccProd]s to put him to 8. On my turn, I do the math over and over and over, and come out of the tank with attack, [ccProd]Lightning Strike[/ccProd] your face. His eyebrows fly into the air. “…I’m at 1?” I check the life sheet. He’s right! He is indeed at 1 life, because the best [ccProd]Lightning Strike[/ccProd]s are always for non-lethal damage.

Stop Being Lazy and Write More

This is a big one for me, if you’ll allow me to toot my own horn here for a minute. Every other month or so, I will get a message on Twitter asking if I still write. This is more than fair—coming off of 52 FNMs, a weekly column in which the article went up every Friday whether it was ready or not, I wrote a whopping 23 articles in 2013, and for some reason, it feels like I wrote even less than that. My math could be off; just consult Frank Skarren about how trusty my math is. For the near future, at least, I’ll probably be discussing a lot of Standard, the PTQ grind, and the life of a grinder. And when I say grinder I do mean the sandwich.

Have a happy and safe New Year, and I’ll see you in 2014.

Jon Corpora
pronounced Ca-pora

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