September 25, 2015

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Confidence in MTG

Magic is a mental game. It’s about constantly having a game plan and updating it according to whatever you opponent plays and being knowledgeable of the things your opponent could play. One of the most important parts about being successful is having a successful mentality. Confidence is almost always described as a key factor for successful people. From presidents to athletes - it’s one thing that is transcendent. With magic I feel it is no different.

In football there is a mentality that I find easily relatable. “Who wants it more?” It basically means that you do not have to be the most talented, the fastest or the strongest but your desire to win and belief in your capabilities is enough to will yourself to victory. You have to put yourself into that zone. You have to ignite your killer instinct. For magic, I find that Killer instinct is your ability to slowly close off all of the possible paths to victory for your opponent. That involves trying to play around the most possible things you can play around without giving up your advantage. It also involves understanding how to win in extreme circumstances when you are far behind and your opponent is the one closing the door on you.

In magic the areas confidence is directly related to is when you are analyzing the game turn by turn and mulligans. Firstly when you are analyzing the game you are looking for familiar patterns and your expected outcome of the match. If you go in being afraid to lose you will look for that outcome. You will see your opponent play a third Siege Rhino for example and instead of dissecting possible paths to victory you will shut yourself off and accept your fate. You will just survive as long as you can and then let yourself die instead of finding a way to turn the corner.

“If you don’t have confidence, you’ll always find a way not to win.”– Carl Lewis (9 time gold medalist)

Now, mulligans. I’d call the biggest mental mistake I see competitive players make is letting themselves get thrown off their game when they mulligan. With each mulligan it gets exponentially worse. Some people are so afraid of mulliganing that they keep some of the worst 6 cards hands I could imagine because they always think to themselves “Well you never win mulligans to five so I’ll just hope I get lucky here.” This is something you just need to get over if you want to be moderately successful at magic. You are going to mulligan. You are going to lose more often when you do but it certainly isn’t set in stone unless you make it so. Take ownership of your mental game and your results.

Your mental game can be your greatest asset. When I mulligan to five I will repeat to myself. “My poor opponent is going to lose a good matchup to my mull to five.” I never let anything break me. My opponents can feel how confidant I am. They will see me down to 2 life holding three lands in hand and they would swear by my demeanor that I was in fact the one about to win. Do not let your opponent’s sense weakness through your body language and actions. When they see this they will try and kill you faster reducing your opportunity for a comeback. You can easily do this by actually being confidant.
Now how can you become confidant? Well some people aren’t naturally confidant which is okay. You just have to put some work in to get the confidence.

“Confidence doesn't come out of nowhere. It's a result of something ... hours and days and weeks and years of constant work and dedication”. - Roger Staubach (NFL Quarterback)

While the quote is a bit extreme it is true. Confidence comes from having the ability to execute and be successful. The ability to execute and be successful comes from knowledge and effort. Just be a student of the game and always push yourself to be better.

Don’t slouch your shoulders, never accept defeat and always be confidant. Your next opponent will feel the pressure when they see you are unbreakable. Refuse to lose, tap into that killer instinct and be more successful.