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Sticking with the Program

12.30.04   It's funny to sit and think about all the ways that inspiration comes to us.  I was trying to figure out what to write to you guys about this week. I have this idea that readers are a bit more picky during the holiday seasons.  I think it is partly due to having more free time.  Also, there is a ton of time to play, read, and get advice.  So in a sense, you need advice that is even more unique during that time.

But then again, I could have just convinced myself of such things and it doesn't really matter.  Either way, I've jumped way off the track about my source of inspiration.  But, I won't just tell you about it.  I'll show you.  Here is an e-mail that I received from a reader this past week:

"How?? How do you do it?? how can you make a deck and stick with it??? because apparently I don't have the ability to do that!....and that is what is keeping me from excelling in magic the gathering...and i was just wondering if you could please please please please please pleaseeeeeeeeeeeeee write an article about making a deck and sticking with it, and im probably asking way too much, but that would really help me out....but hey if you cant, then thats cool....i understand..."

Well, fear not dear reader.  Luckily I'm still in the Chrismahannuquanzikah spirit and am granting wishes.

I noticed this a situation that several players seem to struggle with.  Many players switch decks frequently.  This is usually a result of poor deck performance.  Unfortunately, this can lead to a bit of a strange self fulfilling prophecy.  If you don't work with a deck long enough, it's going to be hard to win with it.

There isn't really a process to it.  So it's not like there is so much to learn.  Well, scratch that.  Maybe it takes a little discipline, but that's about it.  But I think it's something that you can only really do if you have a purpose.  

If you are concerned with playing a deck for a while, you are obviously working to make your deck better.  If that's the case, well you need to take the time to understand a few things.  Learn the matchups.  Learn the strengths and weaknesses of the deck.  All of that can go a long way toward increasing your level of positive results with you deck.

One of the things that can be taken for granted is decision making.  More specifically, the ability to make the right decision in tough situations.  When you play a deck for a while, you learn all of the little things about it.  You know which cards are a threat to you.  You know which cards you can get by without in a particular situation.  Conversely, you also know which ones are worth holding onto and/or protecting.  That bit of decision making can many times be what makes or breaks a game for you.

But, let us say that you understand all of this stuff.  You may have an understanding of all these facts and just not have the discipline to stick with one deck.  You need to do some thing to distract yourself from wanting to change.  So here are some ideas:

*  Build two decks.  I know this sounds counterproductive.  It's not though.  It just gives you another deck to play if you get burned out.  Obviously, the reason you would be so eager to change decks is if you were getting board.  So consider this option the true distraction.  I would even suggest building a deck that is completely different from your main deck preference.  Try to even choose different colors.  This would also increase the odds that you would have all the cards you need, because you won't be splitting cards between the decks.

*  Set goals.  How will you know if playing the same deck for a while is worth it, if you aren't tracking your results?  If you are trying to win a Friday Night Magic event, track your results over the course of a month.  Did you make more Top 8s this month than last month?  If so, move on and try to make Top 4 a bunch and work your way up.

*  Be specific in your playing.  If you are trying to build a deck to do well in a particular format, then work on just that format.  If you need to play in a different format, use your second deck.  This sounds a bit petty, but if you are really working on one deck, you don't want to let yourself get sidetracked.  You don't want to play games that get you to worry about odd cards that you wouldn't normally face with that deck.  Also, if you get beat, you don't want to allow yourself to take your anger and aggression out on that deck.

*  Review your matchups.  You need to take time to reflect on each of your matchups.  You need to be aware of what you played against, who you played, and what happened in the match.  Being able to analyze your matches can be a huge benefit.

*  That requires you to put away your ego when reviewing.  Don't think you are a mistake free player.  If that were the case, you would have an insane win percentage.  You also won't get better by denying your mistakes.  See them.  Identify them.  Learn from them.  All competitors that are good at what they do in this great world have the ability to spot their weaknesses.  That's how they get so good.  They identify their mistakes and work past them in the future.  And that's not all.  Your ego can't keep you from playing the same deck over and over.  So what if you get beat.  Don't immediately rush off to change you deck.  You might have just lost to your one bad matchup.  You might have had two or three fluke draws.  Your opponent my be playing a deck that no one else is even playing.  If you re quick to make changes without the proper assessment, you risk making your deck worse against the rest of the field.

In some ways this whole article may sound a little drastic.  And in some ways, it may very well be.  The truth is though, to be good at anything, you need to discipline yourself.  Pro wrestlers work out in the ring.  Basketball players practice ever day.  Body builders weight train every day.  And Magic players, need to train just the same.  There are a significant amount of prizes on nearly every level of the Magic scene these days.  That's all the more reason to take yourself a little more seriously.

Don't stop having fun.  Just be a bit more seriously.  Learn to get into the numbers and analysis side of things.  There is a lot of information to examine in any given game.  Use that information to your advantage.

Well, I hope I covered the point of that e-mail.  I'm not exactly sure what he was looking for, but I try to deliver.  I hope I touched on some important thoughts and at the very least gave you all something to think about.

Until next time,

DeQuan Watson
a.k.a. PowrDragn
PowrDragn at Pojo dot com

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