I originally started this blog back in 2011 because I wanted to write about this crazy deck I brewed up; a Legacy Storm deck that eschewed all forms of Tutor effects in the maindeck in favour of additional Storm spells and Rituals. I labelled the deck Grinding Station because it played a long, attrition based game against the blue decks of the format and frankly, because I thought it was funny to name a deck after a card (in hindsight, I hate the name).
When I picked the name for this blog, I considered the fact that I was playing a lot of paper Magic; between two and three tournaments per week. I figured I could just write tournament reports every week, with the odd deck tech thrown in every now and then. Well, that didn’t work.
For some time, I lacked motivation and thought I would just be repeating myself writing about the same deck every week (I wrote quite a few tournament reports on mtgthesource.com though, for whatever that’s worth). Then, I started university and pretty much stopped playing for half a year.
I posted a couple articles each in 2013 & 2015, but it was never on a regular schedule, even though I pretended (to myself) that I wanted to write every week. Well, I didn’t, because excuses. But last year, I actually came up with a reason not to write.
I don’t like talking when I don’t truly believe I have something to contribute. I sometimes have ideas about decks that others don’t have, but still, I never feel I have put in enough work to be a credible source. The only decks I feel comfortable talking about are Storm and Canadian Threshold (Temur Delver for more recent players). These are both decks I have played crazy amounts with. I also played a lot of Mono Black in Born of the Gods Standard, to be fair, but I never cared enough to write about it. Plus I never thought I had the audience for that anyway.
The issue here is, I do want to write more often. To that goal, I’d like to introduce my new column, #theweeklywars. Maybe calling it a column is reaching, as it’s going to be more blog-y than what I’ve done previously, but there will be an underlying theme.
A while back, I thought to myself that if you don’t improve and/or learn something every day, that day was wasted. (Short aside; if you simply do something you enjoy a lot, it will create a memory. That will stick with you; you can look back on it. Thus, your life will improve by at least a small amount. There’s nothing wrong with being happy.) What I want to do here is to share what I learn. This will be a weekly thing; every Wednesday I will post a short list of lessons I have learned since the last post. My main focus is Magic, but sometimes I will share things slightly more broad.
This first issue will be slightly different. The new year is still quite fresh, so I figured I might as well look back at some things I learned last year. I have babbled on for far too long now, so let’s get into it.
#1 — I’m not a big fan of weekly content.
I talked about this earlier to some extent, but let me just say that a lot of weekly content feels uninspired. Of course, it’s impossible to make groundbreaking discoveries every week, but especially when it comes to Magic content, a lot of it feels forced — authors write because they’re being paid, not because they have a great idea. Obviously, there are authors for whom this isn’t true, and even those that sometimes write “filler” articles also produce great content.
Even with my very infrequent writing, I feel I have been guilty of this. I’m fairly sure I’ve written some things simply for the sake of producing content. I will try not to do that anymore.
#2 — I’m terrible at travelling.
I notice this every time I attend a tournament that lasts multiple days, but it was perhaps most pronounced when I travelled to the U.S. last year.
My main problem is food. In less than three weeks in the States, I lost 5kg. It took me two months to regain that. I simply don’t eat well when I’m travelling. I generally eat more than most people I know, but when travelling, I eat less than the people I’m travelling with. This is due to two reasons mostly. The first is that I’m vegan and there aren’t many options for food on the road. Most things you can buy at concession stands and convenience foods are downright terrible, if there are vegan options at all. The second reason is that I don’t enjoy eating out. I prefer cooking my own meals, which is simply so much more flexible.
Then there’s the issue of not working out. When I’m home, I exercise at least four times a week. When I’m travelling, I don’t. This, combined with the fact that long car and plane rides take their toll on me, really messes with me. At the end of a day of playing I will be quite exhausted, and it only gets worse with each additional day of competition.
My plan to fix this is to stay in the cities I travel to for an extended period of time, beyond the scope of the tournament so I can feel more at home and be in my usual rhythm. Also, I will try my best to stay at a place where I have the option to prepare my own food.
#3 — Magic requires so much practice.
This is more true for some than others, but it’s certainly true for me and several players I know. Many players get really bad quickly when not playing frequently. I think this was a bit of an issue for me in Lille, where I had barely played at all in the months leading up to the event. Usually, in these cases, I’d rather not even attend the tournament, but this one was different, I really wanted to go for reasons not actually related to Magic, and it was still awesome (Check out Julian’s report here.)
The good thing is, the opposite is also true. If you practice, it will pay off in the long run.
#4 — Playing Grand Prix without byes sucks.
Not much to say here. Playing nine rounds is a lot, playing six rounds is not that much. Ironically, I have never Day 2’d with three byes (in four attempts, if I remember correctly), but I have Day 2’d Grand Prix on zero, one and two byes. In all seriousness, this only serves to show that there is preparation beyond just practicing. Making a (costly) trip to the States to play in Grand Prix with zero byes was ridiculously stupid, but:
#5 — A game is not a game if you do it alone.
I genuinely think that Magic Online works better than Paper Magic competitively. You don’t waste time shuffling, you have chess clocks, you don’t have to worry about gameplay mistakes (intentional or not) and it’s infinitely more convenient than travelling to events.
But being around friends is infinitely better than being alone.
#6 — You can always learn something.
I have been told countless times that I’m wasting time doing whatever it is I’m doing. Literally anything I have done in my life, someone has told me I was wasting my time. The truth is, there is always something you can learn. One of my teachers used to say that you learn best from mistakes, but nobody ever said it had to be your own mistakes.
If you watch someone play a game of Magic and they make a terrible decision, make a note to yourself to not repeat that mistake. If someone plays a whacky deck, see what’s working and what isn’t, don’t just write it off as a whacky deck. If you watch a film and find a character impressive, try to isolate what makes them so. Maybe you can replicate it. If you think someone is a jerk, make sure you don’t act like they do.
I have talked about uninspired content before, but that doesn’t mean it has to be uninspiring. Always try to learn something along the way.
#7 — Have a plan.
It seems to me, that whatever you do, if you don’t have a clear vision of your endgame, you’re just making random decisions. This is especially true in Magic (and most other games I have played), but I also think it’s true in life.
In Magic, there can be confusion about what your endgame actually is, or what the optimal endgame should be. I think this is one of the few things I’m not terrible at. When I’m playing Storm, I know that my endgame is not Ad Nauseam or Past in Flames, it’s actually Tendrils of Agony (well, most of the time it is). When I’m playing Threshold, I know my endgame is Lightning Bolt to my opponent’s face, whether it be by attacking them with an Insectile Aberration they can’t block, a Nimble Mongoose they can’t kill or a literal Lightning Bolt to the face.
Know what you want your endgame to be and how to get there. It will make things easier.
There are countless other things I could say, but this should do for now. These are bigger things than what you can usually expect, but I wanted this first post to be a little special. I would love for this to be interactive, so let me know if you have something to add to any of my points so far. Or did you learn something you want to share with other people? Feel free to comment on this site, Twitter, facebook or anywhere else I can see it!
Thanks for reading.