Ryan Archer – How to Deal With Being a Loser

In every game of Magic, there is a winner and a loser. This is never more evident than playing in the first round of a large tournament. Sure, all of us want to win, but the truth is that some of us will lose that round. In fact, half of us will. That’s a lot of people at even semi-large events. In fact, most everyone in any given tournament will be a loser. Even the guy who places second will feel like a loser because he almost got there (though he shouldn’t, second place is still very good). All this losing can take a toll on the best of us. The trick is to be ready.

Magic is a game of variance. The cards you draw are random. This can lead to the better player losing because his opponent drew better than him. We have all lost to someone when we thought we should have won but instead just drew lands. If you haven’t, keep playing, it will happen to you, and you will hate it. If you want to grind tournaments, you need to be able to handle losing mentally. It’s important to keep your cool, not only in the a current tournament when riding the X-1 bracket, but also in future tournaments.


Tilt is that feeling of unnerve that can happen when we make a bad play and get punished, or when our opponent gets lucky, or maybe when we just plain lose. I bet almost everyone has ended a round of Magic and walked over to a friend.

“Get there?”

“No, my opponent was so lucky. I [card]Thoughtseize[/card]d him and took his [card]Supreme Verdict[/card]. He ripped another one the next turn and cast it to kill all my creatures. Then he ripped [card]Elspeth, Sun’s Champion[/card]. He was just so bad. I wish I was as lucky as he was. I hate [card]Supreme Verdict[/card]. I hate Magic.”

On and on and on.

It’s sometimes very hard to lose a game. Maybe you’re playing in a PTQ and your dream is to make the pro tour. Maybe you’re playing in an open and you’re playing for top eight only to have your opponent top deck the one card he needs to win. Overcoming tilt is a very difficult skill to acquire, but it is one you must acquire in order to do well in real tournaments. Here are some things I do to help overcome tilt.

Realize That Sometimes People Get Lucky

Let me say this again: Magic is a game of variance. You can practice every matchup and still lose to only drawing land. It’s just part of the game. Even the dice roll and going first can lead to a huge blowout, and the dice are also random. You just have to deal with it. Understand it. Sometimes you will get lucky, sometimes they will. I bet you don’t agonize over the time you got lucky to win. Though, [card]Thoughtseize[/card] guy above, sure remembers that sting when his opponent got lucky.

I heard somewhere that the best Magic players, I’m talking pro-level players, can only hope to have a win percentage of 70% against a field of good players. That means in a ten round tournament, they had to get lucky twice to make top eight at 9-1. Crazy.

Take a Closer Look at Why You Lost

In my experience, this is the single most-helpful technique you can perform to get better at Magic. It’s very easy to just claim your opponent got lucky, but it’s much more difficult to admit you lost because of you. After every losing match, I like to replay each game over in my head to try to understand what happened. In the game, oftentimes we get tunnel vision and are so sure our opponent will do something based on the plays made so far. Maybe he is playing a control deck and he didn’t cast a removal spell on turn three so you assume he has a [card]Supreme Verdict[/card]. You play the rest of the game assuming he had the card and don’t commit enough to the board out of fear, and eventually you end up losing.

If we think about the match afterwards, it’s easy to pick up on things that we didn’t think about during the games. Maybe during gameplay you didn’t consider that the opponent mulliganned and could have kept a sketchy hand. Maybe he played [card]Divination[/card] on turn three to try to draw his fourth land. Maybe your threats were not big enough to warrant a removal spell. Maybe his plan was to play a [card]Jace, Architect of Thought[/card] to stop your attack. The point is, don’t let one possible play distract you from other potential reasons your opponent is playing a certain way.

The other person in the match to take a look at is yourself. Odds are you didn’t play perfectly. Maybe you made a bad attack, maybe you played your [card]Thoughtseize[/card] too early, maybe you played your creatures in an incorrect order, maybe you forgot a trigger, or maybe you forgot to do something obvious. When you realize that you made a mistake, things will go much better for you if you catch yourself before making that mistake again. But mistakes are not always obvious.

At a recent tournament, I had two bird tokens and a [card]Scion, of Vitu-Ghazi[/card] in play. I had a [card]Boon Satyr[/card] in hand. I wanted to get in as much damage as quickly as possible. He had one untapped mountain. I attacked with the bird tokens and wanted him to shock a bird and in response I would cast the Satyr. When he didn’t cast it I thought the coast was clear so I paid five mana to enchant my 1/1 flyer. He then cast shock in response. Afterwards I realized there was no reason for him to shock the bird and I should have waited. There was a lot more going on, but you get the basic idea.

Reevaluate Mulligans

Another area to improve is your mulliganning skill. Do you mulligan correctly? If not, you may be losing games because of it. You should be aware of what hands you keep against what opponents. One could write a whole article about how to mulligan, and I’m sure someone has, but just be aware that the mistakes could have happened as early as your starting hand.


Scion GW Update

For the last few weeks, I have been working on updating the GW list I have been playing. I noticed that a once-good matchup has been moving slowly towards the not-so-good side of the spectrum. Mono-Black Devotion used to be favorable, but a recent change to the list changed things. That move?

[card]Pack Rat[/card]. Times Four. In the Main.

It is very difficult to beat that card when played on turn two. This led to me adding two [card]Last Breath[/card] to the main. [card]Last Breath[/card] is very good at attacking [card]Master of Waves[/card]. I also shifted the deck to be more green to be able to attack through a [card]Blood Baron of Vizkopa[/card]. Here is my most recent list.

[deck title=GW Scion]


*4 Experiment One

*4 Voice of Resurgence

*4 Fleecemane Lion

*1 Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage

*3 Loxodon Smiter

*4 Boon Satyr

*2 Polukranos, World Eater

*3 Scion of Vitu-Ghazi



*4 Selesnya Charm

*2 Last Breath

*1 Ajani, Caller of the Pride

*4 Advent of the Wurm



*4 Selesnya Guildgate

*4 Temple Garden

*7 Plains

*9 Forest



*1 Last Breath

*1 Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice

*1 Ratchet Bomb

*1 Pithing Needle

*1 Polukranos, World Eater

*2 Gift of Orzhova

*2 Glare of Heresy

*2 Mistcutter Hydra

*2 Rootborn Defenses

*2 Banisher Priest



I played this list in a PTQ over the weekend and didn’t do so well. In fact, I didn’t win a match. My opponents were just so luc—eh—nevermind. I still like the deck and I will continue to work on it. I’m hoping we get some late Christmas presents in the next set for GW.

Have any tips to keep you from tilting? Have any questions about the changes to my GW decklist? Sound off in the comments. Thanks for reading.

About the Author
@RyanArcherMTG     -     Email     -     Articles Ryan Archer is a PTQ grinder and a Magic financier. When he's not making top eight in a tournament or looking for the next card to spike, he's playtesting as a member of Team RIW or writing articles for BrainstormBrewery.com or MTGinfosource.com

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