I got my start with Magic: The Gathering back in Worldwake. Many readers have probably been playing way longer than I have. I had a friend that was pretty cool and he had a group of nerd friends that would come over and play Magic for hours at a time. Finally, I got curious enough to give it a try. I lost for like three weeks straight. Those nerds started to seem like gods to me after losing to them every day for 21 days. Suddenly it went from a stupid card game to a battle for the multiverse. I locked myself in my room for three days and the Spike in me read every article on deck building that I could get my hands on. Since then I have been an avid lover of Magic.
About six months ago, I discovered the world of MTG finance. I was looking to get into Legacy and needed some dual lands. I had recently acquired a few collections of cards that I bindered up and was trying to trade up. Some guy came over to me and asked to see my trade binder. I started looking through his binder when I spotted a few pages of duals. I looked over at him with desperation in my eyes and said, “I know I probably don’t have anything that you need, but I really need these duals for my reanimator deck.” He said that I had some things that he could use but he would have to undervalue my stuff to get there. I was the happiest Magic player in the world at that point in time. He must have taken half of my binder and put it into piles from ten cents to five dollars till it added up to the two Underground Seas that I needed. When this happens, some people feel like they are getting ripped off, but I felt lucky to get access to cards I had only dreamed of owning. I wanted to figure out how he was able to do that and still have it be beneficial to him. I discovered buylists and online stores and immediately took my Spike nature into Magic finance. Since then, I have been trying to make my hobby pay for itself and even make profit from it. With help from friends and the community, I have not only made my money back in Magic, but have been able to enjoy the game like never before.
A subject that I am hugely passionate about in life in general, and especially in Magic, is luck. We are playing a game where you take 60 cards, draw them at random, and try to use those random cards to beat an opponent. The whole intent of everything I write is to try to take as much of that randomness out as I possibly can. Whether it relates to the financial end of that scale or the competitive end , the less random we can make things, the more success we can enjoy. The thing that I enjoy most about Magic is winning. It doesn’t matter whether it is in my speculations, my game play, or just winning at having fun, I like to win. The biggest thing that separates me from winning is luck. And by luck, I mean me. I figured out a long time ago that if I don’t take responsibility for my failures, I will keep on failing. Failing isn’t comfortable in any way, shape, or form, nor should it be. My goal is to lay out a plan to not prevent failure, but to learn from it in a way that will grow you not just as a brewist, but as a human being as well.
One of my favorite quotes of all time comes from a motivational video: “Luck is the last dying wish of those who want to believe that winning can happen by accident.” Every time I bring up my beliefs on luck, I always offend someone. The thing is, I don’t believe in luck. Whether it is not making it into a top eight, having bad draft results, losing out on a speculation, or not having the career that you want, luck has little to do with it. In fact, I cringe when anything like the above is blamed on luck. But if it’s not luck, what is it?
The first thing that you need to do is to be a man/woman and take the blame. If you keep blaming things on luck you will keep having bad luck. Until you figure out what you need to change, you will keep experiencing bad luck. If you are speculating on a card and it either never goes up or ends up going down, don’t play the blame game. Look at why that card went down. See what went up and why. I hear all the time that hindsight is 20/20, and it is. If you can’t learn from your mistakes you will never get any better at what you are doing. This comes from experience and whatever resources you have. It is about having the correct knowledge and using it.
Recently, a friend told me about a final round at a local FNM in which he was competing. He was playing GW and his opponent was running Esper. In game 3, he had a 5/5 wurm token in play. Neither he nor his opponent had cards in hand and his opponent was at two life with eight lands on the battlefield. He passed the turn and his opponent topdecked a Hero’s Downfall and completely turned the game around by following up with a Sphinx’s Revelation into Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. Can you guess what he blamed it on? I went home and figured things out mathematically. If he was on turn nine he is drawing into his 17th card without a mulligan. So he has 44 cards left that he could draw. Out of those, if no Hero’s Downfall has been played yet we are looking at two out of 44, or 4.5%. That statistic makes it look like luck, doesn’t it? But, oh wait, what about Doom Blade and Ultimate Price? Don’t those kill it? So that is five out of 44 or 11.4%. Still luck you say? Doesn’t Elspeth have a minus ability that kills the wurm? And what about Detention Sphere, doesn’t that take care of the problem? Azorious Charm? Devour Flesh? And how about gaining enough life off of Sphinx’s Revelation to survive, but also drawing an answer? What about Jace, Architecht of Thought finding an answer? Supreme Verdict will also knock the socks off of that wurm. I looked at the Standard daily list on MTGO and there were 29 answers to the situation at hand without sideboard. Let’s say he played all of them in the first eight turns that he could. That leaves us at 21 out of 44 or almost 50%. But without playtesting or knowing what the opponent is running, it all looks like luck, doesn’t it? At the end of the day, the game was probably lost on turn six when my friend overextended on the board and got a Supreme Verdict to the face.
When we actually take time and put in the work that it takes for this stuff, the “luckier” we’ll get. Before we go blaming everything on luck of the draw, let’s try to do some playtesting. My local group gets together every Monday evening and does serious playtesting with some of the best players in the area. The group gets online, looks at the top eight lists, puts them together (proxies for cards they don’t own), and play the crap out of Magic till the wee hours. A few of these guys have amazing tournament results and still play the same matchups over and over again. One in particular just recently placed top eight at states with RDW. He has been playing RDW for as long as I can remember. Guess where he is on Monday nights? Down at the local shop grinding out a deck he probably has the binary code for memorized. You know the last time I heard him complain about luck? It wasn’t when he drew in a final round with an opponent to be .5% out of a PTQ top eight. He took complete ownership of that mistake . That’s what the winners in life do.
Winners take ownership over all of their losses. They look at where they failed and how they can keep from doing it in the future. One of the best ideas I have ever heard I read in a book that Patrick Chapin wrote on Magic. He suggested that readers do a fearless Magic inventory. This is where you broadcast your faults in Magic to a large community, like Facebook or Twitter. It works because if you know that everyone knows what you are doing wrong, you have to fix it. For instance, I tend to play way too fast and not think about what I’m doing. I got it out to my community that I have to slow down, and when I don’t, I have people that remind me. This causes me to be a better Magic player and not get so “unlucky.” I would suggest that all of the readers do this via Facebook or Twitter and make sure as many people see it as possible. Just by making a list and posting it, you have already become a better Magic player than you were yesterday.
Similarly, if you are failing at Magic finance or speculations, make it public. This I would be less inclined to share via Facebook. But I know that Reddit has a Magic finance section as well as the forums that are on Quiet Speculation. Quiet Speculation does charge a subscription fee, but I always make it back and more just by using the site. If you reach out to the community of Magic finance, they are always more than happy to help out. Jason Alt, one of the hosts of Brainstorm Brewery (who I had the pleasure of meeting in person before I had heard of the show), has been a tremendous help to me. Follow him and people like him on Twitter. Not only is he glad to help, but you will feed into his rock star egotistical mentality, making him feel like more a Magic finance god than he already does (sorry Altthous, god of #mtgfinance). Information is one of your biggest friends when it comes to anything, especially Magic. There are tons of articles available every day on a variety of sites providing just the information you need.
Research is probably going to be your biggest help in all of this. Whether it is reading articles, listening to podcasts, or just playtesting with friends, the more correct knowledge you have, the better your “luck” will be. When you think of luck as an acronym for Labor Under Correct Knowledge, you will start to realize that the person in control of luck is, in fact, you. Use the resources that you have to make sure that you get the results that you want to get. I encourage everyone to take a fearless Magic inventory of themselves. Find all the faults you can in your game play and speculations and post them in a public place. Use Facebook, Twitter, or your local LSG to make it public knowledge and watch how much better you get.
Fearless Magical Inventory
One of the biggest things that you can do to eliminate the luck is a fearless Magical inventory. What is a fearless Magical inventory? We all have faults when it comes to the game of Magic. A fearless Magical inventory is where you put all these faults out there for everyone to see. It makes you completely accountable for all of Magic faults and responsible for fixing them. When you put it out there you can’t hide behind luck anymore. Over the next couple months, I will be breaking down financial and game play faults that I have struggled with in the past and how to avoid or get through them. So take some time out of this week and get “lucky.” Then next time you are at your local FNM and someone tells you “you got lucky,” you can just smile and say “I know.” And remember: “Luck is the last dying wish of those who want to believe that winning can happen by accident. Sweat is for those who know it’s a choice.” Welcome to the grind.