Yeah, that part.
The reward you get for driving two or more hours and spending $30 or more dollars. Wam-bam 0-2 drop. Great feeling or the greatest feeling?
I recently received a crash course on losing early and often and boy was it a greaaaaaat time. I attended Grand Prix Atlantic City and sat down to a sealed pool with one rare per color and a two color rare. There was some solid red but it felt like my best deck was black/white featuring Gleam of Authority and Brutal Hordechief. I also had an Evolving Wilds and Tranquil Cove to splash my Pristine Skywise. I showed friends and they all pretty much agreed with me. I misbuilt the list by one card so my list was very good. But my play with it was pretty sub optimal. I received a bye from accumulating enough Planeswalker points and automatically had my first win. I was able to run some errands like acquiring coffee and food.
The next three rounds were losses right in a row and just like that I was done.
I was able to talk to the Kirwan’s Game Store guys because they were vending the Grand Prix. I wanted to do something with the remainder of my time Saturday. There was a Modern event coming up and it was just about the last larger event of the day. My friend Dan Ward at KGS had been working on this sweet Modern list for some time now and he offered to let me play it. I asked him what it was. As soon as he mentioned the first card, Bloodchief Ascension, I was hooked. I snapped up the deck and played it to a mediocre 3-3. I didn’t drop from this because I wanted to get as much information back to Dan as I could. The three losses were 90% attributed to play mistakes on my side of the table. It is a different list and just picking it up, playing it, and sideboarding with it was tough for me to play without any testing whatsoever.
We made some changes to the deck that night and I tested it again in a Modern win a box the next day. I got knocked out in the first round. I made the drive back on next to no sleep and had to work early Monday morning.
This past weekend. I attended two PPTQ’s and was unable to win both of them. Sunday was a sealed event where I promptly played three games and dropped from the tournament. The day wasn’t a complete loss because I was able to team draft with Alex Stratton and a few other guys from the local area. We lost but it was a good time.
Saturday was the day that I am still kicking myself for and that adds a different dynamic to “losing” when it comes to Magic: The Gathering.
I chose to play Abzan Megamorph(ing Power Rangers) [Link to the decklist is there it is the 1st place list by Jon Delano] for the PPTQ at Kirwan’s Game Store. Clearly because it has the best name of any other deck out there but also because I really like the deck and I’ve spent my fair share of time around B/G decks for my competitive Magic career.
Round one, I was paired against a gentleman playing Bant Heroic. I knew what he was on because I saw him at a PPTQ a few weeks beforehand and he is quite the skilled mage. So I knew it was going to be an uphill battle. I end up dropping game 1 to him. He was on the play and had all he needed to kill me in true Heroic fashion but luckily we get two more games. I was able to leverage some of the weak points of the deck to my advantage. The hands of Bant Heroic are very different from the rest of the decks you will face. It is very much like a combo deck that needs three pieces. Spells, lands, and creatures. You might be saying to yourself that every deck needs those things but that isn’t quite true. Abzan decks can operate fully with out creatures and just spells or with no spells and just creatures. Mono red decks can operate with just creatures as well. The heroic decks need all three elements to be able to beat their opponent. I was able to disrupt one of those three elements games 2 and 3 to be able to win the match.
Round 2 I was pinned against my friend Dan Ward. He was playing Mardu Dragons which is a deck that I am very fond of. I was able to play some tight magic against this very skilled mage and was able to sneak in a win.
Round 3 was against another friend of mine Derek Snyder. He was playing Abzan Aggro and I was able to force the games to go long with a Mastery of the Unseen actively on my side of the table.
I intentionally drew the next two rounds and was the third seed in the top 8. Pairings go up and I find myself against Derek again… I was able to beat him in two games again. The second of which featured me with 4 different active planeswalkers on my side of the floor. We shook hands and he wished me luck. I would need it because my next opponent was again…. Dan Ward.
Again, I find myself sitting across from a friend. Again, I was able to beat him in 2 games. The second of which involved all the luck one could accumulate in a tournament.
I went to the tank…. I want a shot a the pro tour. I don’t want to feel like all the work I have done will lead up to nothing. But at the same time Dan is a man who works hard at this game and is very good and in my personal opinion deserves a shot at the Regional Pro Tour Qualifier more so than I do. He took top 4 at the last one he attended so clearly he is doing something right.
I took the win and moved on to the finals where my opponent was Craig Rocco on Abzan Aggro and also the number one seeded player through the swiss meaning he would have the choice to play first.
That would prove to be advantageous to him as he pretty easily rolled me over in the first game.
Game two was a bit better for me. All my removal and creatures lined up perfectly and allowed me to stop his aggression and pull through for a win.
Game three is when it all fell apart.
My opponent got off to a decent start but I was never that far behind him. The two crucial glaring mistakes that I made during the game came at very different turns but relate to each other.
The first was on a turn where my opponent was attacking with Anafenza, the Foremost and Rakshasa Deathdealer, I allowed my opponent to put a counter on his Deathdealer before I threw an Abzan Charm at her. I blocked with my at the time face down Deathmist Raptor. If I Abzan Charmed earlier it would either force my opponent to not attack or pump his Deathdealer causing him to take more pain damage or stop him from playing another spell.
In a later turn of the game, my opponent is attacking with two Fleecemane Lions and the aforementioned Deathdealer. I have a face down Den Protector in play with the two mana to flip him up. I flip him up before blocks and reture the raptor face up to the field and Abzan Charm to my hand. I snap block the two Lions. My opponent checks his and my life pads. “You’re at 7 right?” I reply yes. He double pumps his 3/3 Deathdealer. Exactly 7 points of damage. If I had charmed earlier I go to 1 there. I have a 6th land waiting on top of my library. An Elspeth, Sun’s Champion and Abzan Charm in hand. My opponent had a Self-Inflicted Wound and a Murderous Cut in his hand. So I couldn’t just not block his Deathdealer. He also didn’t have the mana to Wound and Cut the tokens from Elspeth. This was a game that I could have won if I had my head still on my shoulders.
Now on to the conclusion of this article. The whole reason I wrote this. Losing. It is the single worst feeling to have lost to someone but there are other sides to the stories. Like how I had to play two of my friends twice and beat them.
Playing against and beating my friends is something I really hate doing almost more so than losing myself.
But on the flip side is losing to your friends better than losing to a random player in the swiss?
I love watching my friends win and knowing that they are doing well but I hate losing…. Losing to your friend is the best worst thing to happen. You can’t be happy to lose but your friend just won? How do you feel? How do you feel about beating your friend? Losing is a part of Magic and I would probably honestly lose to my friends over random other people.
Losing can involve making mistakes and those mistakes can lower your morale. But some games you don’t see the mistakes and it feels like there was nothing you could do to win. A helpless loss. There are many ways to lose at this game we play. But for some reason we keep coming back for more. To get better. It’s the day that we turn our losses into something more than a number on our record that we can become better magic players.
Having lost before, the chance at losing again, the opportunity to dive deep into a tournament and play against the best. This is what makes winning feel great and what makes us come back for more. That and the cash/sweet prizes.
Let me know about your thoughts on losing/beating your friends in the comments section!
Stay hungry and focused.
But most of all stay humble -JP-