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Getting Nassty – The Cost of Rookie Mistakes

This year has been a crazy year for me. I have traveled more this year than I had in my other 17 years of life and it isn’t even all that close. They don’t call it your “rookie” year for nothing! Throughout this crazy year I’ve learned a lot. Unfortunately, a lot of that learning has come from mistakes. Today, I’m going to go through every tournament I played in, and try to look at how I should have done, had I been a little more experienced and not made “rookie” mistakes.

GP Oakland: Obviously, this is the tournament I did the best. However, even in a tournament where I had only one real loss, there is still an opportunity to look at my mistakes. My one loss came against Joby Parrish playing Zoo. It was late in the tournament, so I easily could’ve scouted. If I had, I would’ve seen that he had sideboard Meddling Mages and been I could’ve been ready to fight them with Jittes. Instead, I lost a key game to Meddles when I didn’t bring in Jitte. Fortunately, this mistake didn’t cost me any Pro Points, since I still managed to make top 8 and win the tournament. However, it is possible I could’ve gone undefeated had I scouted more carefully.

Pro Points won: 10

Pro Points expected without mistake: 10

PT San Diego: The next tournament was PT San Diego. I did a lot of testing and had one of the best decks for the tournament. The Naya deck with sideboard Sparkmage Collar was a perfect choice to combat the popular GW mid range decks. After a tough loss in round five, I was 3-2 going into the draft. Unfortunately, I hadn’t really drafted with Worldwake enough. In the end, I tried drafting a mono-black deck. Drafting mono-colored decks is a trap I often fall into. Drafting mono-colored decks is generally not a good strategy, and leads to lots of train wrecks like the one from this draft. I 0-3d the draft and missed day two. I think there is around a 50/50 chance that if I had done more testing and draft a solid two color deck I could’ve 2-1d the draft to finish 5-3 and make day two. After making day two, the expected value at a PT day two is about 2 additional points to the two that you get for showing up to a Pro Tour.

Pro Points won: 2

Pro Points expected without mistake: 3

Grand Prix Houston: GP Houston was a weird tournament. I played almost the same 75 as I did at Oakland against a very similar metagame. The biggest problem with Elves was that it is weak against decks that aren’t built for the metagame, since it struggles against generic combo hate. That weakness became clear when Luis and I combined to go 1-6 with the same 75. Luis lost to Chalice of the Void out of Faeries, while I couldn’t handle Hypergenesis into Where Ancients Tread. However, I still don’t feel bad about the deck choice or my play and Chris Fennel almost top 8ed with the same list. It just wasn’t my day.

Pro Points won: 0

Pro Points expected without mistake: 0

Grand Prix DC: At GP DC I played a Jund list designed by Josh Utter-Leyton (Wrapter) with Plated Geopedes. I don’t really feel like the deck was dominant, but I do feel like it was a reasonable choice. I unfortunately was paired against both people in the 1500 person room playing the same 75 as me (Wrapter and Web). In the last round, I was playing against Blue/White Control for day two. Blue/White was a good matchup, but I ended up losing to Spreading Seas in a rough game three. In retrospect, I think the manabase could’ve been built better. We tried to make our Geopedes better by playing Evolving Wilds over Savage Lands, but I think the cost to the mana was too great. While it may seem like Wilds over Savage Lands would help against Seas (since it can’t get Spread on turn one), it actually can hurt: Savage Lands can be slowrolled and used post-Seas to get all your colors on. Overall, I think with a slightly better choice or even a slightly tighter build I could’ve eked out one more win and made day two. If I had, I think one pro point is a pretty reasonable expectation on day two of a GP coming in with an X-2 record.

Pro Points won: 0

Pro Points expected without mistake: 1

Pro Tour San Juan: At PT San Juan, I played a GW ramp deck. I liked our list a lot and finished 3-1-1 in Constructed. However, Draft did not go quite as well. I finished 1-2 in the draft. In this case, it had less to do with my draft deck, and more to do with a crucial play. I made a game costing punt in game 3 of the last round playing for day two. If you want the story, you can read it here. However, because this article is about mistakes that don’t have to do with play, I am not including it.

Pro Points won: 3

Pro Points expected without mistake: 3

Grand Prix Columbus: I feel really dumb about this one. Counterbalance was the best deck in the format and I played it, so in a sense I got it right. However, it was also one of the hardest decks. I am not inherently good at playing control decks and while I’m certainly capable of playing them, with the time I had to test for the event I should’ve played combo which was nearly as good in the format and infinitely more comfortable for me. I feel if I had played something like Ari Lax’s list I would’ve had a great shot of putting up great results. It is hard to evaluate how I would’ve done, but I think expecting about a 50/50 chance of making day two playing combo and then one point if I did make it there is not an unreasonable estimate.

Pro Points won: 0

Pro Points expected without mistake: .5

U.S. Nats: This one is a real dagger. I 5-1d the draft portion and came very close to 6-0ing. I chose the right constructed deck, but the wrong build. My natural inclination towards combo convinced me to test Ponder, Preordain, and Time Warp in Mythic. While Ponder and Preordain were legitimately good, Time Warp was much worse than Mana Leak would’ve been. I feel like if I had played Leak, I could’ve easily 6-2d the Standard portion instead of 5-3ing. This would take me from a 17th place finish and 0 pro points straight into top 8 with a chance to lose to wrapter! If you look at the top 8 prizes, the expected value is about 6 points.

Pro Points won: 0

Pro Points expected without mistake: 6

Grand Prix Gothenburg: At Gothenburg, I opened up a decent pool. I should’ve played black which had four Liliana’s Specters. I ended up boarding into black every round. I started off 5-0 meaning I had to finish 2-2 to make day two. Unfortunately, I ran into a streak of three decks in a row that were much better than mine and missed partially due to consistently losing game one. If I hadn’t misbuilt, I could’ve potentially 2-2d my final rounds. If so, I would’ve made day two and been expected to get around one point.

Besides making a mistake in building my pool, I also made a mistake in going. I figured it was like an American GP since the incremental cost of going once I was already in Europe was small. However, I didn’t account for a couple of things: First, I had to pay for a full week of hotel at European prices. Second, I was going to have to travel four weeks in a row and traveling more could easily hurt my chances at another tournament. The truth is, I was too tired of travel to do well at this tournament. If I hadn’t gone, I would’ve at least done better at the other tournaments in that stretch.

Pro Points won: 0

Pro Points expected without mistake: 1 (or 0 and a better chance at the neighboring tournaments if I hadn’t gone)

Pro Tour Amsterdam: This is the most embarrassing mistake I made of the year. I tested with Luis and crew again and we eventually settled on the solid Doran deck. It was the second best deck for the tournament (behind White Weenie) and nearly everyone did well with it. Everyone who played it that is. I had trouble finding the cards for the deck and eventually just gave up when I should’ve put more effort into it or simply bought the cards at ridiculous prices from dealers. Considering that the average record of the people who played Doran was around 4-1, it seems reasonable for my expected record with the deck to be at least 3-2. Combined with my 2-1 draft record, that would’ve put me into day two. Just like before, I’m figuring on day two my expected value would be somewhere in the 2 additional points range.

Pro Points won: 2

Pro Points expected without mistake: 4

GP Portland: Portland started off amazingly. I opened a pretty good Sealed pool, played tight, and had my opponents make some bad plays to put me in a 9-0 position after day one. I lost the extra Sealed round that was played on day two, but was still in a solid position at 9-1. Unfortunately, my first draft was a disaster. I drafted a GB deck with almost 0 removal and barely managed to scrape out a win. I 2-1d my second draft, but it still left me in the Top 32, which was frustrating after such a promising start. One more win would’ve put me into Top 8 contention, and easily put me in the top 12. The one thing of note here is that I’m not exactly sure why this draft was so bad. I would’ve done better had I been in white, but it’s not clear there was a way to get there. The early packs gave me no real signal that white was open, and by the time it was obvious that it was, it was too late.

Pro Points won: 2

Pro Points expected without mistake: 2 (although if the train wreck was avoidable, I would’ve gotten 4)

Grand Prix Toronto: This was another heartbreaker that a train wreck ruined. I ended day one at 8-2. Once again, my addiction to mono-color cost me. In the first draft, I somehow ended up mono-red. I opened a Kuldotha Phoenix and Volition Reins and took the Phoenix. I then proceeded to continually take slightly worse red cards since they were on color, and I didn’t have a strong inclination on what color besides red was open. Unfortunately, I never ended up switching and took slightly worse red card after slightly worse red card. My deck’s highlight was 3 Panic Spellbombs and 2 Kuldotha Rebirths. When that’s your deck’s highlight, you know something went very wrong. My mono red-deck also sported a Vector Asp. I managed to scrape out a 1-2. Unfortunately, 2-1ing my next draft left me in 71st on the outside looking in. If I had went x-4 instead of x-5 I would’ve easily top 32d and came away with two pro points.

Pro Points won: 0

Pro Points expected without mistake: 2

If you sum up the expected Pro Points posted, you end up with 32.5 points. Instead, I am currently at 19. That means that without even playing any differently, I could easily have level 6 locked up instead of being unsure of level 4 right now. Rookie mistakes really have cost me in my first year of professional Magic. You don’t have to play perfectly to be successful at Magic, but you do have to be careful, and not make too many mistakes when it really counts. Until next time, don’t let rookie mistakes cost you.

11 thoughts on “Getting Nassty – The Cost of Rookie Mistakes”

  1. The formatting on this article could really be a lot better. I get that you want to look at how many pro points you’ve lost based on rookie mistakes to illustrate their potential costliness, but by bolding only those lines dealing with that subject, you’ve made that the primary focus of your article. Pro Tour rookies are really a very narrow audience, so this seems like a mistake. I’d suggest bolding the names of the tournaments you attended, which shifts emphasis there and makes the article more readable by breaking it up into easily identified sections.

    Other formatting problems: Other problems with your formatting include repeating the name of your paragraph headings in the first sentence of your paragraphs (GP: Houston is the worst offender, but it’s not alone).

    Besides the formatting, there is another big problem with the article. It reads much more like the Blog of Matt Nass than a strategy article. In fact, the only piece of strategy you give is “don’t let rookie mistakes cost you.” While real-life examples are a good way to illustrate your points, they can’t really stand alone if you want your audience to learn from them. How have you learned from your mistakes? What steps will you take to reduce the number of mistakes you make, and how might your audience mimic those steps? How do some of the more experienced pros avoid making mistakes that are commonly made by less experienced players? Ask yourself questions like these and answer them in your articles, and people will probably get a lot more out of them!

  2. I think a whole article that involves beating yourself up is totally unfair to yourself. Knowing where you made mistakes is important, sure, but doing this much math to see how much the mistakes cost you is not really that productive.

  3. What this really comes down to is your limited game not being up to snuff with your constructed prowess. Don’t beat yourself up too much about some of the bad beats though, you can’t be expected to always play perfectly, no one can.

    Also, I agree with PTPluto, you needed some resolutions for the next year for us to get anything meaningful out of this article.

  4. I didn’t hate the article (although I hadn’t realized just how young you are), but I’ll say this –

    PTPluto has the most constructive comments I’ve seen on this site to date. Please read all of my articles and comment in the same fashion, thanks. Sincerely – good job.

    Matt, you’re still in far better shape than the majority of rookies this year. Don’t be too hard on yourself for “only” hitting level 4.

  5. @PTPLUTO: I completely agree with AdamNightmare. Your comment was the best comment I have ever read. I tried to emphasize that the article did not just apply to pro tour rookies and could be applicable to anyone, but I’m sorry if that didn’t work.

    The formatting issue is completely valid. I guess I could’ve just use the heading as the first word or rewrote the sentence to eliminate that problem.

    As far as your last comment, I feel like a lot of it is just not repeating mistakes. My hope was that people who read this article might not have to make the mistakes the first time.

    @DSALE: The weird part is that it isn’t really my limited game. In my last two GPs, I am 17-3 in the sealed portion. It really is just drafting train wrecks at costly times. I absolutely plan on working on my draft game.

    As far as resolutions, I would normally make a resolution to get more points than I did this year, but because of the 10 points I was lucky enough to start with, I think that is kind of unreasonable. If I could get 20 pro points next year I would be quite happy.

    @AdamNightmare: I unfortunately am still one point short of level four which is actually part of the reason I wrote this article. If I had done anything differently including mistakes that cost me just one point I would be level four right now.

    Thanks for all the useful comments

  6. “The weird part is that it isn’t really my limited game. In my last two GPs, I am 17-3 in the sealed portion. It really is just drafting train wrecks at costly times. I absolutely plan on working on my draft game.”

    From what I read your sealed is fine, which is pretty normal for people who are good constructed players. Draft was clearly a point that needs work though!

    I get to start my rookie year in Paris, I HOPE it goes as well as yours!

  7. @Mattn

    So you’re not qualified for worlds right? I’m pretty sure LSV made a comment about you needing to “get nassty in nashville” in order to qualify. Anyway, if you didn’t qualify, and you fail to reach level 4, doesn’t that mean that you have basically fallen “off the train”? I don’t really understand the way everything is working out right now, and I wish that you would have clarified your worlds qualification status in your article.

  8. @Harrison HIte: sorry that wasn’t clear. I do in fact need one point to reach level four. Since I’ve never gotten on the train, I technically wouldn’t be “falling off”, but I would in fact not be trained for next year. If I don’t get there in Nashville, I might quickly by a flight to Florence and try to get there. If I end up missing, I will still have my level 3 invitation, but I will have to top 50 that to keep qing.

  9. I found this article to be pretty useful. Next year will be my rookie year seeing as I just won my first PTQ. I hope I learned something from this article that I can apply.

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