Sometimes It’s Better to Believe a Metaphorical Truth than Rely on a Literal Truth

The truth can sometimes be quite simple. It’s these kinds of truths that we have a tendency to accept as the only form of truth. These kinds of truths are called “literal truths.” But there are other forms of truth that aren’t as simple, straightforward, and that aren’t inarguably factual. And while these truths may not be literally true in a purely factual sense, they can be more beneficial for you than literal truths if you believe them. These are called “metaphorical truths.” I’ll give you an example.

Literal Truth – “There are many other people who can drive a car just as well, if not better, than I can.”

Of course, you are not the only person driving on the road who knows how to drive a car safely and well. There are many people who can drive a car just as safely and as well as you can.

Metaphorical Truth – “Every other driver on the road has no idea how to drive properly.”

This is a metaphorical truth because, while it may not be 100% inarguably factual, you are better off by believing it as if it were literally true than if you didn’t believe it to be true at all. As we talked about earlier, it goes without saying that you’re not the only good driver on the road. This claim isn’t literally true. But by believing that every other driver on the road has no idea how to drive properly as if it were literally true, you’re much more likely to be more focused, concentrated, aware, and careful when driving than you would be if you didn’t believe that, decreasing your chances of getting into any accidents or bad situations on the road. In this example, the metaphorical truth is actually better for you than the literal truth.

We can apply this same concept of metaphorical truth to Magic. Let’s take a look at some examples where metaphorical truth is better for you than literal truth and explore this a bit further.

Metaphorical Truth #1 – “Everyone I play against is just as good of a player as me, if not better.”

We’ve all experienced this situation at some point while playing Magic. You show up to an FNM or to a local LGS tournament and you get paired against the guy who shows up with his deck unsleeved and wrapped up tightly in a bundle of a rubberbands. In this situation, what is your first intuitive thought? Something along the lines of, “Oh man, I just picked up a free win. Sweet.”

You’re playing the best deck in the format. You know the metagame inside and out. You’ve been playing for years and have all the experience under your belt. The literal truth is that you’re a better player than your opponent, you’re more experienced than your opponent, and you’re extremely likely to win the match. As a consequence, you allow yourself to get complacent. You underestimate your opponent, play sloppily, and don’t think about what you’re doing nearly as much as you would against an opponent who was at or above your skill level.

Next thing you know, your opponent is curving into those awesome Carnage Tyrants he ripped from his booster packs, he’s tearing you to shreds, and you end up losing a match that, realistically, you had no business losing had you taken your opponent seriously and played the way you should have.

Is it literally true that every single person you play against is going to be just as good of a player as you, if not better? Of course not. But you are better off believing in that metaphorical truth than you are the literal truth because, by doing so, you’re going to treat every player you play against as if they could beat you, forcing you to demand the best from yourself every time you play: full focus, full concentration, and fully optimal decision-making.

This will produce the side-effect of you playing at your best level more consistently, which in turn produces yet another side-effect of winning more consistently. In this example, the literal truth that not everyone is going to be as good as you is more harmful than the metaphorical truth that everyone is capable of beating you.

Metaphorical Truth #2 – “My opponent is always going to make the right play.”

You and your opponent are in the middle of a very tight, tense game. Any bad decision or wrong play made by either player is going to swing the momentum of the game completely into the other player’s favor. You’re in your combat step, and you’re having to decide how you’re going to attack and how your opponent might block. You see a line of play that could win you the game, but it would require your opponent to not see your line, not make the right play, and make a mistake. But, if they do get it right and make the right play, you’re going to be much further behind and lose a lot of momentum in the game.

The literal truth is that no one can play absolutely, 100% perfectly every game. The people you play against are going to make bad decisions, take non-optimal lines, not see your own lines of potential play, and not make the right play from time to time. But in situations like the one I described above, you’re far better off believing, not in that literal truth, but in the metaphorical truth: in assuming that your opponent will see your line, make the right play, and not make a crucial mistake.

Are there exceptions to this? Sure, such as when you have no real chance of winning and the only hope you have to win the game is that your opponent doesn’t make the right play and makes a crucial mistake. Outside of that, you’re better off believing in the metaphorical truth that your opponent is going to always make the right play, because by doing so, you’ll be forced to play at your highest level and make as many correct decisions and plays as you can. In this example, the literal truth that your opponent isn’t always going to make the right play is more harmful than the metaphorical truth that your opponent will always make the right play.

Metaphorical Truth #3 – “Every tournament is going to start right on time.”

Now, I know this one doesn’t have to do with anything related to actual gameplay, but I think it’s equally important. A few months ago, I was playing in a local tournament. As I sat down for the first round, everyone else around me had their opponent sitting across from the ready to play—except for me. My opponent hadn’t shown up yet. 15 minutes later, my opponent shows up literally a few seconds past the 15 minutes cut-off time for showing up and not picking up a match loss. I was given the match win for an opponent no-show, and when I asked him why he was late, he said to me, “These things normally never start right on time.”

What a silly reason for losing a match, and totally unnecessary. Is it literally true that every single Magic tournament you play in is going to start exactly on time? Of course not. In fact, I’d say probably not. But this is an example where the metaphorical truth is absolutely better than the literal truth. You should assume that every single tournament and every single round is going to start exactly on time, because by believing in that metaphorical truth, you’re going to avoid finding yourself in situations like the one my opponent did and from picking up match losses that are completely unnecessary.

Interested in learning more about the mental side of the game and improving in that area? Check out my book Mental Mana – Mastering The Mental Game Of Magic: The Gathering, which you can find on Amazon by heading here. Also, you can check out my Mental Mana Podcast where I bring on various professional players as my guest to talk about how to improve at the mental side of the game.

There are a ton of these kinds of metaphorical truths in Magic. What are some that you can think of? Sound off in the comment section and let me know. I’m super curious to see what everyone comes up with.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you again soon!

Share this


Scroll to Top