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Aburame Shino

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Aburame Shino's Corner

The Asshole Effect – How an Opponent's Mood Can Affect Yours
June 1, 2006

    Because of the diverse amount of people that play Magic, it is not unlikely to see gamers who will be nice and be an all-around bearable person in the middle of a match. They make playing the game a ton of fun, and make you want to come back to play again. All the same, it's likely that you will run into a person who you can't stand to be playing against and want him out of the tournament as fast as humanly possible. This is an emotional drive that can affect how you play, whether you’re realizing it or not.

Bombarding the opposition with different emotions is typically a subject that many don't want to cover. This is mainly because of two reasons. Either the person talking about it can't go into as much detail as he or she wants to due to him having an enjoyable mood, or they consider it a taboo to talk about using emotional strain as a game plan. Whether you enjoy it or not, it's a part of the game and don’t be surprised if your opponent is willing to use that as a weapon to win the game, whether you like it or not. Welcome to The Asshole Effect.

What a jerk! I hate him!

I'll admit there are plenty of moments where I will take a less than enjoyable mood when playing against my opponents. I'll talk about stupid plays that opponents have done, comment on why a strange card is in the opposing deck, or flat out give them a hard time for using a net deck and being unable to use the build to the deck’s potential. While this may seem like I am being a dick, it's usually because I am. I do this with the knowledge in my mind that doing that will help me win the game. Before you send me angry letters biting my head off, allow me to explain, and hopefully you’ll get a better grasp of where I’m coming from.

Let's say you're talking to one of your friends in the mall, at school, or wherever. Somebody behind you makes a comment that hits you like a ton of bricks, whether it's a racial comment or something that you just can't stand hearing. Now, for the rest of your day, you have those words stuck in your head and you can't concentrate on anything except for what that person said. You try your best to ignore it, but you can’t forget about it because what that person said made you so upset that you can't help but think about it. That screws up your entire day.

Now imagine that while playing Magic.

You’re in the middle of a game against some person in the tournament. Your opponent is talking smack about your game and how you are playing a bad deck, bad cards, or making a ton of stupid mistakes. Since you're actually face-to-face with your opponent, either you try to ignore it or you ask the person to stop, the latter of which he probably won't do unless you call a judge over. However, there is a fatal flaw in doing those actions. If you try to ignore what the person is saying, you set your mind into solitary confinement where you're trying so hard to concentrate on something besides what the opponent is saying. That makes you unable to pay attention to plays that the opponent may make. Asking the opponent to stop will more than likely make him push it more, because that tells him his psychological attack is working. If you call a judge over, this tells the asshole player that you are so afraid of his deck that you need to get outside help in order to defeat that person.

It may not seem like you're calling the judge over for that reason, but deep down that's what's happening. Have you ever called a judge over because of an opponent's attitude? If you have, were you going to win that match anyway? The answer to that question will usually be no. If you are going to win, you see no reason to get a judge involved because you're about to shove those words back down the jerk's throat. However, if you're up against the ropes and are faced with an impossible situation which the opponent isn't helping with because of his talking, you would call a judge over to get him to shut up. That way you can concentrate more on your game to try and pull a come-from-behind victory. I don't know about you people, but from my experiences a person who can't concentrate because of my talking usually won’t do much better if I stop.

"If it weren't for my horse…"

Words stick with a person, whether they're aware of it or not. Our brains are built to absorb tons of information, whether you want to know that information or not. If you've ever heard Lewis Black's sketch "The Dumbest Thing I've Ever Heard in my Life," that's exactly what’s happening in the middle of your game. Here is a segment from that sketch, and while it’s coming from a comedian, it's true if you think about it:

So you turn back, to find the person who said it, because if you can ask 'em a question like, 'what did you mean by that?!' then it'll go away. But they're gone. And now those words are in your head. And those words don't go away… [Segment cut due to irrelevance] …But every so often, something' like that happens: 'If it weren't for my horse, I wouldn't have spent that year in college.' So your brain goes, 'LET'S FIGURE IT OUT!’

Before you continue on, I want you to read through that quote a couple more times. Reading it once isn't going to accomplish anything. I need that to stick in your head like a post-it note before we can continue.

Ready? Okay, let's continue.

As the quote says, the only way for you to get something out of your head for good is to talk it over with somebody. Keeping it bottled up inside your head will only make you think harder and harder about it. Until you set your mind on a discussion about something else, you will not forget those words easy; and even then if you do set your mind on something else, if you lost a match against a person incorporating the Asshole Effect, it will be that much harder to get the words out of your head. Thoughts such as "Is he right," "Did I make a ton of play mistakes," and many more will spin through your head as you think about those comments.

The Asshole Effect incorporates this strategy during a game. Because you're technically not allowed to talk over something like that in a middle of a match, those words stay in your head for the remainder of the match, whether your opponent is talking to you or not. Since your concentration is now split between the game and the opponent, you will be more likely to make play mistakes. It's all about getting into your head, giving your mind unwanted information in a mass quantity, and keeping it stuck there the entire match.

I can't let this guy win! TO WAR!!

This is another trick that an offensive opponent will try to persuade you to do with the crap that he throws in your face. Eventually, with all this built-up anger and rage towards the opponent, the hope is that you will eventually snap and make more insane plays than you normally would if the opponent wasn't getting on your nerves. They try and make it so your intent changes from ''make sure I win" to "make sure they lose," which may not seem different but really is given the motivation behind each. "Make sure I win" says that you are trying to defeat your opponent and get points towards Top 8. "Make sure they lose" says that you want to get the opponent out of the game, points be damned. "Make sure they lose" tells your brain that you should get rid of the opponent, and that leads to fatal play mistakes and stupid moves. Then the opponent capitalizes on these and rides them into a win.

No matter what you do, don't get caught doing this. The last thing you want to do is give your opponent the upper hand by changing your strategy, even if it is only is two words in a sentence. While things will get on your nerves and make you want to eliminate the opponent as fast as humanly possible, if you attempt to do that, then you more than likely will be defeated. Stick with the game plan that you went into the match with and don't let anything that the opponent says to you change it otherwise.

Introducing this to your game plan

I may sound crazy when I say this, but even though The Asshole Effect is frowned upon by most players, you cannot deny that there are moments where it can win you the game. Making sure the opponent locks his mind up, forces rash decisions, making him get angry or upset; these are all emotions that can help you win. I don't suggest you incorporate this to your strategy if you are a nice guy, because doing this will not help you make friends and could help in you losing friends. I only use The Asshole Effect in larger tournaments such as Pro Tour Qualifiers, where I’m not playing against anybody I talk to on a weekly basis.

The Asshole Effect is hard to get used to. You will almost constantly be talking during the opponent's turn, making the opponent slow down so you can see what he's doing even though you had no problem before, snapping your fingers and telling them to hurry up, and, simply put, being a jerk. However, this is not something that can be taught. The only way you can truly pull this off to perfection is to be born a jerk and have no problem exploiting that to your advantage. Trying to teach somebody how to be a jerk is next to impossible if the person willing to learn is a nice person at heart due to them being taught to be nice as they grew up.

Children are taught by their parents what is good and what isn't. They are taught that sharing is good and that you shouldn't hit your little brother or sister just because you can. If the children do something wrong, they are spanked or given a time out. This is why most people choose not to pull off The Asshole Effect, because they were instinctively taught not to do stuff like that. I'm not quite sure how I got it to the level I did since my parents were nice and didn't let me get away with any crap like you see on any of those weird Nanny shows you see on TV. The only thing I can tell you about self-teaching this state of mind is to completely blank out your other emotions and concentrate on getting under the opponent's skin.

And knowing is half the battle

I know many of you are going to finish reading this article thinking "What the hell is he thinking, doing stuff like that to his opponents? It's a freaking game!" While that may be true, you still have to consider that the point of a game is to win. Phil Hellmuth and Mike Matusow use techniques like this to win millions of dollars playing Poker, and I’m sure there are countless others around the world who act like this in their game of specialty. It’s all about knowing what you can do to win the game. If you have to step on a few people to get there, that's okay. If you have to help those people who are stepped on get back up, that's okay. As long as you know what you need to do in order to win, that's all that matters.

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