No deck tech. No metagame analysis. No spicy tech. No puns. I want to write about something a little different than what you might typically read on Card Knock Life. I’ve been going through a little bit of a slump as of late, and I’m sure many other players have experienced something similar. What I am hoping to accomplish here, is to help you all have a better understanding of how to power through your rut and get back to enjoying the game we all love. Is it unease about the formats I play? Is it money-related? Am I physically and mentally exhausted? Do I just need to quit whining and “git gud”?
I know this is only temporary, because it’s all happened before, but let’s figure it out.
What exactly do you mean, you’re in a “slump”?
I love Magic. I’ve been playing for eight years, I travel all over the place to large tournaments, I play several nights a week at my LGS, I stream, I draft online, I run through leagues, I feel like I sometimes breathe Magic…so what’s going on? I have just not been “feeling it.” I find that when I load up MTGO, my attitude has shifted toward the negative side. When I sign up for Modern at my LGS, I find myself thinking “I’d rather be home right now watching TV or playing video games.” I’ve been just feeling generally burned out on Magic. A slump, in this case, is when you don’t really feel the same…well…magic that you felt at one point with the game.
Identifying the problem
As with anything in life, your problem becomes much easier to solve if you know the root of it. At first, I was having a hard time figuring it out, and then it clicked. When did I start to feel like I just didn’t want to play? When I went to SCG Cincinnati about a month ago, I was feeling like king of the world. I was taking a long road trip with some great people to go hang out and play Magic in a cool city. What could go wrong? It’s day one of the team open. I’m crushing it. I’m fighting through a killer migraine (too much fun Friday night), and I’m 4-0…but our team is 1-2-1. Dead for day two, we decide to drop so we can hang out for the rest of the afternoon; I go off and get a tattoo, visit some vendors, hang out, and get ready to play the Classic the next day. I show up, write my decklist, pay my registration fee, and I’m ready to go. My deck was giving me everything the day before, I felt great. I had great matchups all day long…and I ended up going 1-4-drop. WHAT HAPPENED? Magic is a game of variance. We play a 60 card deck that can give us so many different combinations of cards that our games can all look very different from one another. Sometimes, we get great matchups and just end up throwing the match because of our deck just saying “NO”. I WAS MAD. I mean really mad. I dropped and didn’t play Magic for a solid week after that (my typical weekly schedule: Monday Modern, Tuesday Pauper, Wednesday MTGO league/stream, Thursday Modern, Friday Modern). I tilted myself out of the the game as a whole. I was unhappy with how my deck and I performed at a large event 10 hours away from home. It’s very important at these times to stay grounded. Don’t let your bad beats get to you like I did. Everyone’s situation is different, and you may burn out for different reasons. This is just my story.
We know the source of the problem now: I did poorly at a tournament and went home salty and mad. The next several tournaments and leagues I played with the same deck involved losing/negative records, even though the meta didn’t shift and nothing else changed…my bad attitude followed.
Okay, you know the source of the problem, now what?
Once we identify the source of a problem, we think of possible solutions. What I try to do in situations like this is remove myself from the situation and take a look at the big picture. Just because I’m on a bad run doesn’t mean I hate the game. The very last thing I would do is quit altogether, so I’m going to suggest a couple of options on how to fix this sort of issue:
1. Take a Break and/or Slow Down
Don’t quit. Don’t sell your cards. Don’t let speed bumps get in between you and what you love (this applies outside of MtG as well). If you’re a tournament grinder, take a couple weeks off. If you’re an FNM or LGS-level player who’s just tired of spending $5-7 three or four nights a week, start taking a few days off during the week. If you’re a streamer or mostly play online, try just logging off for a little while. It may sound simple and maybe even silly, but just taking a small break from the game or even just cutting back on the amount that you’re playing can do wonders for you. The last two weeks, I have only been going to FNM or Thursday Modern, so I’m only out of the house one night a week…and I’m even skipping an IQ this weekend. This has left me with a lot of extra free time to spend with my girlfriend, dogs, and family, and has been overall very good for my mental health. I’m also finding that all my extra free time has left me with a little bit more of a desire to play the game, so I’m eager to get back onto the grind. I’ve had times in the past where this has happened and I’ve just stopped playing altogether for two to four weeks and it’s helped me come back feeling super refreshed and ready to crush my opponents. My favorite mobile game, Clash Royale, has a loading screen that says something to the effect of, “If you’ve been playing a lot, consider taking a break!” All things in moderation.
2. Return to Your Roots
Why did you start playing Magic? Was it the escape? The fantasy? The social aspect? Did you come from another game?
I started playing for the social aspect. I had a lot of friends in high school that all played and I felt always left out because they’d go after school to play Magic at the store across from our high school, and I usually just went to try and find something to do to kill time by myself before lacrosse practice. After I got into Magic, it became a really good escape from all the negativity that surrounded me in my day-to-day life…and it has stayed that way. Through Magic, I’ve met some of the best people in my life and it is an excellent way to connect with people that I would’ve never met or related to otherwise. One of my favorite things about Magic: the GATHERING is how it brings people together, and how everyone comes from such diverse and different backgrounds. When I first started playing Magic, it was all about fun for me. I played janky brews, combo decks, and stuff that was just plain ridiculous. I played for a solid six months or so before I dove into competitive play.
What does all this mean? I’ve been sifting through decklists online to try and find something to take me back. I switched from G/W Valuetown to Bant Knightfall, didn’t really like it, switched over to Abzan Company again, had a blast killing on turn 3, and then sleeved up Lantern Control. I play at a store flooded with Tron and Storm players, so you can imagine it’s not a great climate for lantern…but oh man, has it been some of the most fun I’ve had playing Magic in a while. Win or lose, I seem to just be having a lot more fun playing this deck; it’s very much like a puzzle to me, and it’s highly interactive. I love that. Will I be sticking to lantern? Probably not, but it’s a nice break from the monotony of G/W midrange dudes. Another ridiculous deck I’ve played a little online and have been working on acquiring the cards for is Amulet Titan. The deck isn’t amazing, but it’s a ton of fun and is just so silly and ridiculous…and that’s what appeals to me.
Figure out what appeals to you, and chase it, even if for a little bit.
3. Try Something New
I mostly grind Modern. It’s just what I do. If I’m playing all Modern all the time, of course I’m bound to burn out, that’s what repetition does to you. What I’ve started doing is playing some Pauper, Legacy, and Cube Draft to take a break from Modern, and I’ve found that it does wonders since it allows me to continue playing Magic in a totally different way. I find that I don’t put quite as much pressure on myself to do well outside of Modern since the other formats aren’t what I focus on for competitive play. It’s just…fun. I used to have a really tight playgroup back when I used to grind Standard a couple seasons ago (before FELIDAR GUARDIAN got banned). We’d all get together a few nights a week to play test, and I’d periodically say, “hey why don’t we do a cube draft?” The answer I usually got was, “because there’s no competitive value.”
Say it with me: “MAGIC IS A GAME. GAMES ARE MEANT TO BE FUN. PLAY FORMATS YOU THINK ARE FUN.”
4. Talk About It
Seriously. If you’re having an issue with anything in life, MtG or otherwise. Talk to someone about it. It can be a friend, family member, pet, it doesn’t matter. Just venting your frustrations is very therapeutic and is very helpful to prevent letting everything get bottled up until you explode. I administrate the G/W Company group on Facebook and spend a lot of time helping others with their frustrations with different aspects of the game. My inbox on there is always open, so if you want to talk to someone about an issue, feel free to reach out.
Getting back on the horse
Cool. We identified the problem. We took a little break from the game, we went BACK TO BASICS, we tried a new format or a crazy new deck idea…so what’s next? This is all going to come from within. Playing Magic is different for everyone, and that’s what makes it so great. This type of thing is mostly going to apply to more competitive players, tournament grinders, etc. What happens when the going gets tough? The tough get going. Don’t rush yourself back into things. Don’t set deadlines. Don’t put yourself into the box of “I have to win this tournament” or “I have to qualify.” Just enjoy the game and work your way back onto the grind. There’s no rush. The harder you pressure yourself and the more you try to force it, the sooner you’re going to burn out again.
I hope this has been helpful to some degree, and that I’m able to help you overcome that feeling of boredom, staleness, frustration, or exhaustion that we get with the game sometimes.
I’d love to hear some experiences from everyone about similar situations. I want to know what happened, how you got through it, and what you’re doing to make sure you don’t wear yourself out again. Let’s have a conversation.