#53 — Have a schedule.
I’m the kind of person who always maps how much time they spend doing certain things. I’m quite strict about how much and what I’m eating, I know how much sleep I need, when I need it and I know how much time I can spend watching tv shows or movies before I start losing interest and stop paying attention.
The same is true about playing Magic Online. I know when I should start playing, which events I should be playing and, most importantly, I know when to stop. Here’s what my typical day of playing Magic Online looks like:
I need a fair amount of sleep and I have a tendency to stay up late, so I usually get up at around 11 am. First things first, I have a light breakfast. I then spend some time reading up on articles, maybe watch some tv show or play video games. About 60-90 minutes after having breakfast, I start working out. Immediately after my workout, I have my second breakfast, then take a shower. I used to start playing directly after my first breakfast, but I found that I’m not playing my best then and should just save the energy.
Fresh from the shower, I fire up Magic Online. The events I play alternate from day to day, but generally, I like playing 8 Player Single Elimination Queues best. If those don’t fire (I tend to wait 15-20 minutes at most, sometimes I’m much less patient), I just play Leagues. Now, I’m pretty sure there are people who would do this, but I don’t just keep playing until I go to bed:
#54 — Take breaks.
This is so important for me. I’m not capable of playing non-stop for much more than three hours. Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t play events that are longer than four rounds, quite the opposite. The longer events are those that have built-in breaks (unless you’re always the last one playing), so it’s actually easier to take some time off in between rounds. It’s more that I won’t play more than two consecutive Leagues without taking a break.
It also takes me roughly three hours to get hungry again when I eat, which fits perfectly into a rhythm of playing a Daily, eating, playing another, eating again and playing a third Daily. Depending on the deck I’m playing, this can also be either one or two courses of League play (or somewhere in the middle); with the same being true for 8 Players queues, but leaning closer towards two events there.
#55 — Don’t overeat.
With regards to taking breaks, it’s important to make the most of them. It’s important for me to eat (I’m unbearable when I’m hungry and also incapable of properly concentrating), but this doesn’t mean I can eat without limits. This is one of the things that is different from person to person (and sometimes even day to day!), but if I eat too much, I become slow and sleepy.
Overeating while playing slows me down so hard, it’s actually much worse for me than not eating at all. I have been told quite often that it’s healthier to eat five smaller meals per day rather than three big ones, and I have to say it works for me, at least in regards to staying mentally fresh. However, there’s not a huge amount of space between “just enough” and “too much”, so sometimes I still end up eating too much, despite trying not to.
#56 — Sit properly, move between rounds.
I have no idea about the science behind this (I should probably read up on it, these things are always interesting), but how effectively I can work is definitely tied to the position my body is in. If I don’t sit high enough, I start slouching and get tired quickly. The same is true if my computer is positioned too low. Another effect of my computer being too low is that I have to bend my wrists to type and work the mouse, which is not very comfortable long-term.
Further, I always had lower back problems. If you have seen me at real life events, you will know that I have a tendency to pace around tournament halls. That has nothing to do with nerves, it’s just that my back will start aching if I sit or stand too long.
I have also found that some light exercise between rounds helps me stay fresh. So far, I like doing push ups and handstands between rounds best and I tend to do them once all matches are finished and the two-minute timer for the next round starts ticking down.
#57 — Have a limit.
I have told you how I can’t play all day without taking breaks, but as a matter of fact, I can’t play all day period. My play will get sloppy and I will stop having fun. This is still a work in progress, but currently my rule is to play between 10—12 matches per day, whichever is the number I hit after completing an event. If I play Leagues only, I might go up to 15 matches (three Leagues), and sometimes I will play two Leagues and then an 8 Player queue, but I’m not playing Leagues a lot right now, so it doesn’t matter much.
However, there is a time that I make an exception to this rule:
#58 — When I start losing, I stop playing.
I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this, but I’m also quite sure it doesn’t apply to everyone. Either way, some days, I’m just incapable of playing well and, consequently, winning. I’m not sure if I just go on tilt when I start losing because I don’t really get upset, but when the losses start coming in, they won’t stop. Thus, I tend to stop playing when I lose three consecutive matches. This is just an arbitrary number, but it feels when I lose three in a row, I have to be doing something wrong. And rather than grinding it out, I just take off the rest of the day and do something I actually enjoy (as opposed to losing, which is not much fun).
#59 — Switch it up from time to time.
Speaking of fun, I’m also not very good at playing just one deck all day long, every day, for multiple weeks. I don’t have an exact figure, but at some point between 100-200 matches with the same deck things tend to get bland. It happens earlier with linear, non-interactive decks and later with more interactive ones. For example, Modern Living End got very annoying very quickly, whereas Born of the Gods Standard Mono Black was enjoyable for a much longer time — I’m sure I played the deck for four months straight without losing interest.
The best approach is probably to just alternate between formats, although I’m guessing new Standard is great as well, with more frequent rotations.
#60 — I never double-queue.
It just doesn’t work for me. I already have a hard time concentrating on one match, playing two at a time simply means I’ll be playing terribly in both. I’m not sure how much of this is because I’m not great with computers (and by extension, Magic Online), but it’s certainly a factor. Maybe it will get better at some point.
#61 — Downtime is downtime.
Apart from not playing every day, I’m also very strict about what I’m doing when I’m not playing. I tend to take one day just for writing these things, reading up on articles I have postponed reading and maybe watch recordings of other players. However, I absolutely do not play on Thursday.
Wednesday, on the other hand, is straight up downtime. I do not do anything Magic-related on Wednesday. Last week, Magic Online skipped downtime and so did I, and I can tell you, it wasn’t great. By the end of the week, I was drained from playing so much Magic. This won’t happen again. The next time Magic Online skips downtime, I won’t.