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Name:
DeQuan Watson

    Many readers have gathered a lot of information about me through my writings.  For those of you that haven't though, this should tell you a little more. 

    I'm 25 years old and I own my own business. Well, more accurately I own a game store.  The Game Closet, my store, is one of the premiere places to play in the Texas.  I play Magic on a pretty regular basis.  I help people build decks and teach the game to people multiple times a week.  Owning a store is neat, because it gives me another perspective to write my articles from.  I can usually tell what the average player likes and can judge some of the tendencies of the average player a little better.  Of course, owning a store means I have knowledge of a lot of games and not just Magic.  I also find out my fair share of insider information on the industry.  But having other resources to pull from makes for more informative writings.

    However, I know a decent bit about pro level play as well.  I myself have
played on the Pro Tour.  I have multiple Top 8 finishes at Pro Tour Qualifiers.  I also have made Day Two at two Grand Prix tournaments.  I have also been invited to the Event horizons Invitational.  These are not stellar achievements, but high enough to let you know I have my head on straight when talking about the game. I also spend lots of time each week talking to, e-mailing, or chatting with top level players.  I get to see their perspective on a lot of things as well.  Between the two, I think I get a good sense of balance of the game.

    Most importantly, I still enjoy the game for the sake of the game itself.  I like the time, the competition, and the general interaction of players.  I plan to be playing it until it fades away...if it ever does.

 

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The Dragon's Den
Mental Domination
By DeQuan Watson - April 7, 2006 

Does it ever feel like some guys have an advantage on you no matter what you do?  Sometimes it's true.  That may sound blunt.  And it might even sound discouraging.  The funny thing is though, it's not always for the reasons you may think.  Many times, players put themselves at a mental disadvantage.  It's tough enough that you have to outplay your opponents as it is.  Don't make things harder on yourself.
 
The Game Before The Game
 
It may sound silly, but you need to do whatever you can to make yourself feel more comfortable coming into a match.  You need to be ready to play.  You need to be distracted by as few things as possible.  Mistakes are what make or break games.  So, put your mind at ease, to lessen the number of mistakes you make.
 
Some people have been known to bring good luck charms to the table.  It may help them get better draws.  It might just take up space.  But, if you makes you feel comfortable, that's all that matters.  It's very unlikely that these trinkets possess any real power.  I mean, I guess they could if you went to some witch doctor or something.  However, I, nor most players, would know where to find one. 
 
There are a ton of other things that you can do to get your mind right though.  The first is know your deck better.  If you play a lot of games with a deck, you will at least be familiar with the potential sequences of cards runs that can happen.  You will be aware of what all is in the deck.  And in general, you will have a feel for what's going on come game time.  That's very important to winning.  It takes some of the thinking out of the process.  There's a point where it becomes more feeling than thought.
 
 
OK, So He's Won a Lot of Tournaments
 
Yeah, it can be tough sitting across from a guy that has a strong reputation.  They don't get those reputations be losing a bunch of games.  If they did, you wouldn't fear them, right?  Face facts.  If you enter a tournament, there's a good chance that will have to play a solid player.
 
Most tournaments are run using Swiss format pairings.  This is all fine and good.  However, it does mean that if you are winning, you will face other players that have been winning.  If the good players win a lot, logic dictates that you will be playing some of those players.  Don't let it stop you.  Just roll with it.  It's going to happen, be prepared for it.
 
It's easy for players to get recognition these days.  I remember entering a tournament a while back where I ended up sitting across from the player that created the deck I was choosing to play.  It was a little odd.  Fortunately, I'd updated the deck and made some changes.  But I knew it was still going to be tough. 
 
Players can use recognition to their advantage.  It rattles their opponents.  I know of one player that would make it a point to high five and chit chat with some other big names right before a match with an "unknown" player.  Then I realized that this pro was using his rep to his advantage.  He was trying to show his opponent the crowd that he ran with.  It was an interesting strategy.  And I'm sure that many times, it worked.
 
However, you can use it against them as well.  With all the coverage of events that are out there, you can get a lot of information.  When coverage is up, read beyond what deck someone played.  Look at how their games are paced out.  Get a feel for what type of decks each player likes to play.  Make note of how they reacted when things went bad during a match.  There's a lot of information to be had.
 
 
Don't Think to Hard
 
There is a lot to be said for instinct.  Is your instinct going to be wrong sometimes?  Sure it will.  Don't worry about that.  If you get a feel for something, sometimes you may need to follow that feeling.  And over time you'll get a feel for what's right and what's wrong.  At first, it's going to be tough to figure out.
 
I'm not sure what percentage you readers out there have played sports.  But in sports, there's a term that's often referred to called "The Zone." The best place to be is in the zone.  When you're in the zone, you can do no wrong.  A good example is Kobe Bryant's 81 point game.  No matter how well they had him covered, he was still going to make the shot.  Everything was going in.  And Kobe rolled with it.
 
Sometimes, during a game, you have to keep yourself from over thinking a play.  It's already hard enough to get the pace of the game and momentum onto your side.  Don't throw it right back to the opponent.  I recently caught myself making this mistake.  I was rolling right along at 5-1 in the tournament.  I was making every right choice.  I was making several great plays.  But as I starting getting through my seventh round, I caught myself thinking a lot.  I'd played probably a fifty or sixty games with my deck.  I knew what the best plays were already.  I don't know if it was fatigue or what.  But after that match, I took note of the situation and shook it off to recover nicely through the day.
 
The problem is that some players love to over think.  Over thinking is general caused by fear.  But it's fear of the unwarranted, unsubstantiated, or the irrelevant that causes problems.  I often question my local players on why they made a particular play and they don't even realized that the cards they were worried about would have been pointless anyway.  Other times they are just speculating on the worst case scenario and that can keep them from making the only play that can lead to a game win. 
 
Really, the thing to remember is that everyone is one equal footing entering a tournament.  Yeah, some guys have more skill.  Yeah, some have better testing partners.  Yeah, some have a long list of credentials.  Yeah, some will hold a string of consecutive wins over you.  But, at the start of the next event, everyone shares the same record:  0 wins - 0 losses. 
 
You need to keep that in mind.  You've got a chance to win a lot of the tournaments that you enter.  But you have to be aware of your own mistakes and shortcomings.  But, don't give up before you start.  The mental aspect of gaming gets overlooked a lot.  The mental side of things goes way beyond simple intelligence.  Just don't let it get to you.  Relax.  Keep things under control.  Don't think yourself out of a game.
 
Once you've prepared, the hard part is out of the way.  It's then time to win the games.  That's going to take a little luck and a little thought.  Just try not to make it too much thought.
 
 
Until next time,
 
DeQuan Watson
a.k.a. PowrDragn
PowrDragn at Pojo dot com
 

 

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