Overcoming Tough Loses and the Right Mindset

hobanEarlier tonight Cordero came to all of us and asked if we could respond to a question made by a fan of his on his YouTube channel. I thought the comment was very thought provoking and deserved more than a couple sentence response, so I’ve decided to write this week’s article on it in order to fully answer his question.

“Hopefully someone from ARG can respond, but it's so hard to not get mad at the game when you're so close to winning a tournament whether it is a local or regional and then for it to slip your grasp by one move by your opponent... agh. This game does get frustrating when that happens, but don't get me wrong I'm gonna keep trying to enjoy this game, but man. Those unlucky events are just devastating.”

blsWere they actually lucky?

You’re opponent just topped Black Luster Soldier for game. “It was their one out and you were in complete control! Why are some people so lucky?”

This is the mentality of most average players. Most players want to fault the shortcomings of the game whenever they lose a seemingly unloseable situation. Sometimes they are right. You might have played perfectly and still lost. That can happen, but generally that is not the case. Everybody misplays and there is almost never a match where neither player misplays at least once the entire match. In all likelihood, the top decked BLS may have been their one out in that scenario, but if you had played a tighter game would you have ever been in that scenario to begin with? Perhaps the game would have ended the previous turn if you had played it correctly and they would not have an opportunity to “sack” you.

While I think the above generally holds true more often than not, there are times where you played flawlessly and still lost. In this scenario, you should not get mad as there was nothing you could have done differently. Allowing yourself to get mad in this scenario indicates a lack of the proper mindset when going into the game. Allowing yourself to get mad is caused from a mindset where the goal is to win. Your goal should not be to win.

Why should your goal not be to win?

Going into a game with the mindset that your goal in that game is to win introduces several problems. The first may seem circular, but it is important; having a goal of winning allows you to get mad when you lose. This has consequences such as going on tilt after you lose. In order to avoid this, you need to take every match at the micro level. Your record does not matter. Each game is independent of the last.

The second problem with the results oriented mindset is that it is not a mindset that allows for improvement. Let me give two examples to expand on this. You’re a dragon duelist and consistently win every dragon duel you attend. If your goal is to win, you’re accomplishing that, despite in all likelihood being bad at the game. You’re accomplishing your goal, so you have no reason to want to get better as long as you are winning.  Having a results oriented mindset also gives way to the “I misplayed, so what I won mentality.” If you played a situation wrong, but draw out of it, you’re still accomplishing your goal of winning. Again this gives you no incentive to actually improve.

master hyperionWhat should your goal be?

"It is important to note that my goal is to play Magic perfect in tournaments -- not to actually win them. It is more of a cause and effect relationship, as playing perfectly brings a surprising amount of success."

- Patrick Chapin, Professional Magic Player

                Your goal in every game you play should not be to win, but rather to play perfectly. As Chapin said, it is a cause and effect relationship. By definition, the correct play is better than every other play given the knowledge that you have. If you make the correct play, you are giving yourself the best chances of winning. If it does not work out, you still played it right. There is a reason it is the correct play, because it works more often than it does not. If you can play around 3 Hyperion by putting everything on the board, but lose to Gorz where you would have otherwise lost to Hyperion, the correct play would be to put everything on board. Everything you do is a decision and each decision you make has tradeoffs. In this scenario, you’re playing around 3 cards by not playing around 1 card. If they have the 1 card, Gorz, so be it. You still made the correct play by playing around 3 more cards that you would have outright lost to.

What about playstyles?

I believe that playstyles don’t exist. There is no aggressive or conservative play style, there is simply right and wrong where the right playstyle may call for aggressive actions or conservative actions depending on the gamestate and where the wrong playstyle is everything other than the single correct play.

One thing you have to remember is that simply because you don’t know the best play, does not mean that there is not one. Jeff Jones and Billy Brake may completely disagree on how to play out the same situation, but they cannot be both right. Either one or none of them is correct with one or both of them wrong as to what the correct play actually is. They may disagree and it may be difficult to tell, but there is a right answer. Getting that right answer consistently is what makes you a good player.

Again you do not want to get in a results oriented mindset as it stunts your growth. You should not get mad at things that you cannot control, but more often than not you likely had some control at some point in the game and you need to adapt the right mindset in order to consistently improve. You should accept your misplays and use them as a chance to grow. The only person you should be getting mad at is yourself when you do not fully give yourself the best chance at winning. Remember, the goal is to play perfect. If that is your goal you have nothing to be mad at as long as you accomplish it. I hope to see everyone in Texas this weekend. Until next time, play hard or go home!

Patrick Hoban

Patrick Hoban

Patrick Hoban

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