How I Improved at Magic

Getting better at something is generally pretty easy: Do that particular task over and over again until you improve via repetition., But something like Magic can be very complicated to become better at due to the nature of the game. Whereas shooting a free throw or juggling is about getting the predictable, physical actions correct over many reps,  Magic is a game about logical reasoning with many unique interactions. Reps alone won’t solve this problem because each new game state is a new problem to be solved. This means that in order to improve at Magic, we must first learn all the basics of the game before moving on to increase our ability to quickly, and correctly, analyze game states to determine how to win.

The first thing to do in order to become better at Magic is to develop an overarching strategy for every game you play. This comes in many stages, including before your opening hand is dealt with the last end step.

Knowing how you should approach a match-up before the cards are dealt is vital. For example, If you need a critical creature to survive, it might be wiser to hold off on casting it until you can protect it, even if it means not casting it when it appears most opportune on the surface.

Later in a game, it can mean realizing that the cards you and your opponent have will change how your match-up normally flows.

Another example: Maybe you’re playing a burn deck and you know that casting Lightning Bolt directly at your opponent’s head will eventually combine with the rest of the cards in your hand to kill them, but the Birds of Paradise they cast on turn 1 will make the game harder than if you just zapped it before they can use it.

Playing a game of Magic isn’t just about looking at the cards on the battlefield and in your hand in order to decide the best possible line on each turn. In a game of unknown information, you must realize that the person sitting across from you is trying their best to win as well. Asking why your opponent would make the decision they did can help you derive what might be in their hand. If you cast a spell that is okay, but not amazing and they did not choose to use a counterspell, it might mean that they don’t have one, but it could also mean they only have access to exactly one.  Assume your opponent is a rational person and will know your deck has scarier things to offer. Having their vital counterspell is more important than trying to stop your second best spell.

Are these two steps the best and only methods to get better at Magic? No. That Pretending so would be a joke. Playing more, playing better decks, and testing a number of different decks to understand how they work can all help you become a better player. The list can go on for what feels like forever, but the last few things I would like to cover today don’t even have to do with the game itself.

Sleep, eat and make friends. That’s my recipe.

Before every tournament, I try to make sure I am well rested and eat a good breakfast. When you’re sleep deprived or hungry, your mind is not in a great place, which can lead to worse decision making. While at tournaments, I implore you to network as well as play. Speak to other players, see what the strongest players in the room are playing, and make friends. Learn from those around you and players who are better than you. All in all, I would keep these four things in mind today, but this is just the tip of the iceberg to becoming the best player you can:

  • Develop a strategy
  • Consider your opponents’ actions
  • Sleep well and eat breakfast
  • Network with other players

Until next time,

Daryl Ayers

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