2017 has come to an end, so it’s time to reflect, and to look forward to 2018. For me, 2017 was the worst year of my career. I dropped a level in the pro club, going from Platinum to Gold, which basically means going from $15,000 a year to $0. That’s a big difference if you live in a country where everything is super cheap like I do.
As for my tournament results, I failed to Top 8 a Grand Prix or Pro Tour in the last year. It’s not like I had bunch of near misses either—I finished an event at three losses a couple of times, but was never close to Top 8’ing.
It wasn’t all bad, though—I finished in the Top 8 of the Legacy Championship, which means a lot to me, as I used to call myself a Legacy player not so long ago.
I got a writing gig here at ChannelFireball, which has been a blast. I was a little worried when I started, but I’m enjoying writing more than I’d ever imagine.
And while my Magic season went badly, I still got to do what I love—travel the world and play Magic. The good old “play the game, see the world.” This year’s travel highlights were Japan and Easter Island. I’d never been to Japan prior to this year, and it blew me away. Basically everything from the people to the food to public transportation were amazing so I’m looking forward to going again. As for Easter Island, that might have been my only visit as it’s so far away, but it was a unique experience for sure. The whole island has a different vibe from the rest of the world, so if you’re considering visiting it, I’d highly recommend it.
So some good and some bad, but here I am looking forward to the new year. I decided to make some resolutions. I looked back at the past year to figure out what mistakes I’ve been making and what’s holding me back from becoming a better player. So without further ado, here are my 2018 Magic resolutions!
#1: Play Less, Work More
First resolution: Play less Magic. Sounds a bit a weird, huh? But in the past year I found out that there are diminishing returns to playing so much Magic. Burnout is a real issue, and I think that I’ve been affected by it for the past year. Without any other job than playing cards, I often find myself jamming games from the time I wake up until the time I go to bed. I don’t think this is healthy, and I’ve been struggling to find a better approach. Like most of you, I love playing games and it’s hard for me to turn off and stop playing. You always want to play a bit more—Magic never becomes boring because there are a huge amount of formats to play and they’re often refreshed with new cards. But I think this approach is harmful. Being a Magic pro, there is no need to grind. You want to use MTGO as a practice tool for upcoming tournaments. I’ve noticed that the quality of my gameplay drops heavily after I get tired. I can stay focused and maintain concentration for about 10-15 matches. For this duration, I believe that I’m playing at a very high level, but after that things get worse. I start playing more and more on autopilot. I stop considering more complicated lines of play. I sometimes wing some combat math because I don’t want to count.
This obviously harms me in the long run as I’m not really learning anything while playing. But it’s hard to force myself to turn off MTGO, take a break, and do something else. I don’t want to be lazy when it comes to Magic, and not playing equals being lazy, right? Wrong! There are so many areas in Magic to work on besides gameplay. I could spend that free time scouring deck lists on the internet or I could read strategy articles from my fellow pro players. I could watch gameplay videos here on ChannelFireball. I could go through feature matches from the last GP. I could watch my own replays on MTGO. I could write down notes from the testing session I just had—interesting lines of play, sideboarding tips, cards I should play around in certain matchups, etc. I could even book flights for upcoming tournaments, which counts as Magic preparation. There are a lot of things I could be doing, but none of them are as fun as playing Magic, though. So with this new year I want to approach Magic more as my job and less as my hobby. This is a hard leap to make for someone as young as me. I’ve never worked a day in my life, but I want to try and give it my all this year.
Last year, fatigue was a problem. Back when I got into the pro scene, I didn’t need to sleep much. In fact, at both Pro Tours at which I made Top 8, I slept around 4-5 hours a night all weekend thanks to nerves. This didn’t matter as much as I was able to still play well. Today it’s worse. Even though I sleep better nowadays as I’m no longer nervous before every PT, I’ve been getting tired over the long days of Magic.
To fix this, I need to get some exercise in. I’ve grown lazy over the past couple of years. I don’t really like going to the gym or going for a run, but I used to play sports a lot when I was a kid. I played soccer from like 5 until 15. It’s hard to get into a team sport with my schedule, so I talked to my Magic friends about doing something else. It turns out that Petr Sochurek likes tennis and Stanislav Cifka likes squash, so I’ve been playing with them from time to time. It also helps that they are both at my (read: very bad) level, so the matches are close. In the new year I’d like to play 4-5 times a week, which sounds doable.
#3: Collaborate with Other Players
Besides Team Tournaments and PT testing, it’s very rare that I play games of Magic alongside a friend. I think this is wrong, as playing with better players is the best way to get better at Magic. With modern technologies like Skype, screen sharing, Discord, etc. it’s a bit silly that I don’t collaborate with my fellow players more. It’s even more silly in my case as my friends are literally the best players in the world. For this year, I’ll try to organize more Skype hangouts or even real life meetings with the other Czech players. As with every other thing in life, no matter how hard you work, it’s hard to get to the top without the help of your friends.
#4: Trust Myself When it Comes to Deckbuilding
This is a counterpoint to the previous resolution, but let me elaborate as this one is tricky. Over the years, Magic has become more and more of a team game. Especially for PTs—there are groups of 10+ people working for two weeks to try and find the perfect build for the perfect deck. But when it comes to tournaments, each player plays for themselves. It’s obviously great to have a team behind you, but I don’t think that I should follow what my teammates say 100%. If I have a different opinion from most of my team based on testing I’ve done, I think it’s better to follow my own gut than to listen to the team.
This is especially true when it comes to tinkering with deck lists. I think every person has a slightly different play style that they should try to tie together with the way they build their decks. when Ivan Floch and I play and there is a tough decision to make, I tend to go for the more aggressive line while Ivan goes for the more defensive one. That’s just the way we’ve learned to play over the years. This obviously means that we are going to have a different view on how to build decks as well. When it comes to sideboards, for example, I might want to have a 2 Chandra’s Defeats in the Temur mirror post-board while my teammate wants to have only 1 copy. In these cases, it’s tough to objectively say who is right because no matter the result, the difference will be very small. In these cases, I think it’s more important for me that I be confident in my deck list, so I’d go with 2 copies. After all, I’ll be the one playing with the card at the tournament.
#5: Win More, But Don’t Make Winning My #1 Goal
I think this is probably the biggest thing I have to work on. First of all, winning would be nice—haven’t done that in a while. But the bigger goal is to not be frustrated when I don’t. I’m a very competitive person so it’s natural for me to want to win. I enjoy winning a lot, but I take losing very hard. I’ve cried at tournaments because of poor results in the past and that just seems a bit silly. This year I’ll try my best to have smaller goals, like picking good decks, playing well, and having fun instead of just concentrating on winning. This is going to be hard for me, but it’s important for my mental sanity that winning isn’t my number 1 priority.
These are my magic resolutions for the new year. Being a realist, I know that it’s going to be almost impossible to follow all these, but do my best. Hopefully this year will be kinder to me than the last, and that I’ll get to write about some sweet victories on the GP and PT circuit!