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How to Lose the Right Way at MTG

Winning is easy. Or rather, knowing what to do when you’ve won is easy; most people don’t need pointers on how to navigate the rush of pulling out a sweet victory. A much more difficult component to Magic is knowing the right way to lose.

It doesn’t matter how good you are: losing is a fundamental aspect of the game. Even Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa has a 66 percent win rate at the GP level. If your goal is to continue improving at Magic, though, there are constructive ways to handle losing – and especially a losing streak – that will pay tremendous dividends long term. 

I don’t just mean dividends in your skill, either. The way you handle losing shapes not just your skill trajectory but also your relationship to Magic as a whole. The ripple effect from taking losses hard without managing that relationship in a thoughtful way can have a serious impact on your mental health, your finances and even your life outside of Magic.

I experienced this firsthand this past autumn. After a string of success over the summer that was both very fun, very exciting and resulted in a rapid acceleration of my Magic career as a player and writer, my results came crashing down to Earth. There’s a myriad of factors that played into this, some of which I discussed in my previous article reflecting on my past year, but the end result was a disheartening finish to the best year of my Magic career by a mile.

By the end of December, I was facing down the following truths: I had failed to qualify for the Pro Tour in Atlanta, or even to just make Day 2 of the Regional Championship. I’d bombed out of the Sunday $10K 8-slot RCQ. I had failed to Top 8 any of the Season 3 NRGSeries tournaments, including one particularly heartbreaking loss where I committed a crushing error in sequencing that could literally only be described as a brain fart. 

I wasn’t even qualified for San Diego’s Regional Championship; I had skipped many early RCQs thinking I’d have plenty of chances to qualify, then a series of life and health-related extraneous circumstances eliminated my late-season opportunities. After an excellent first 75 percent of 2022, I reached the end of the year with nothing to show for the past three months of tournament play.

Well, not quite nothing. I believe I learned more from my failures between the months of October and December than I did from the entirety of my March through September success combined.

Specifically, I didn’t learn how not to fail. That’s basically impossible; even the best tournament runs involve more luck than you can quantify or plan for. I learned how to prepare for tournaments with the knowledge that failure is a possibility, how to adjust to failure as it occurs, and how to navigate the aftermath of failure.

 

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