Hello, it’s Tomoharu Saito. This is my third article for ChannelFireball.
I was rather uncertain about what would be a good subject for this article. When my tournament results are good, I can write a report about my performance. I think many people prefer to read articles about tournament successes. But there are also articles that strive to teach about the fundamentals of Magic play. I would really like to write this sort of article as well.
I think that it is essential to have strategy articles that focus on tournament coverage. However, at this time I don’t have the skill to write articles in English. Even when writing my articles in Japanese, my writing ability is still somewhat lacking. Given the time required to translate, I decided not to write a strategy article about my recent performance.
As my English ability improves, I would like to be able to write English articles myself. But, for now I am content to think about what kind of article is best.
I decided to write an article that would always be helpful to players, one whose ideas would not fade with time or format changes.
Previously, I wrote a column entitled “Important Things for Tournament Success” in my personal blog. It was the first in an irregular series of posts but gradually I began to have less time to write, and in the end I wrote about only three subjects.
However, I would certainly like to improve in writing about these subjects, and I also wanted to write an article whose subject would always be relevant to Magic players, regardless of when they read it. I will start from the beginning.
Consequently I have already written about the first three points, but I plan on making this an improved version. I apologize to my Japanese readers who might have already seen this first part.
In this series I am going to write about the most important skills for winning Magic tournaments. The degree of importance of these subjects varies depending on the situation, but on the whole these are the ones I think are the most crucial.
This article is aimed at all players who wish for more success in tournaments. I look forward to working with you!
No matter how powerful your deck, no matter how great your understanding of how it plays, if you cannot demonstrate this ability sufficiently, it will be difficult to win in a tournament. In order to show 100% of your ability, concentration is crucial.
Frankly, as far as concentration is concerned, each person is different. And I feel like there are some people, although it may be only a handful, who can concentrate extremely well without training.
However, this does not mean that most players are naturally sufficiently focused. I think that time spent training concentration can affect one’s ability to refocus when their concentration is broken. This will boost your deck’s power, and is itself a way of taking countermeasures against weaker decks.
Training to Boost your Concentration
When practicing concentration, I find it particularly effective to pretend I am playing in a real event and focus accordingly. If my only goal were to boost my concentration, it would be good to always play as though I were in a tournament, but I also like to watch deck development, tune my build, learn match-up odds, and work on other goals which can capture my attention and cause a distraction. Because this can also lower my efficiency, I have found it is not a good idea to always split my focus. It is for this reason that I make time to challenge myself to work on concentration.
When you intend to play a match as if you were in a tournament, my recommendation is to prepare a table and chairs and keep talking to a minimum.
Also after reading a book or watching movies or television, make sure you are able to explain the subject to a third party. This is always effective in improving awareness. When it comes to explaining the subject to someone else after reading or watching, you need to have watched it carefully and tried to concentrate in order to pin down the main point. If this is mastered, when playing Magic you may find that your chance to overlook important game information will considerably decrease.
There are various methods for training your concentration, but there are none that allow you to master the skill in a short period of time. There is a feeling that steadily bit by bit the skill increases, so persist in your attempts.
Also, one characteristic of concentration ability is that it is greatly affected by your every day life. In particular, people who stay up late should be attentive to this. If an individual does not spend enough time in sunlight various problems can ensue, and concentration ability is no exception. I believe that if one’s physical health is poor, their ability to focus also decreases. Every Magic season I travel the world and my life habits tend to become irregular, which in turn has affected my experiences with concentration.
During a practice period, before a match, or simply each morning taking a walk in the sunlight is effective in improving my concentration.
Preventing a Break in Concentration
The depth of your concentration is not the only important factor when playing Magic, as your ability to play well when circumstances break your focus is also crucial. Indeed, circumstances where concentration is broken and misplays are made are frequent, and naturally they make winning more difficult. I recommend self-confidence, but you can also learn my own method for recovering concentration.
Have you heard of the Saito Slap?
If there is bothersome noise around me, I will slap my cheek hard to recover my concentration. Honestly, I also continue to do this because it has become a part of my character as a professional player.
I often look up at the ceiling and take a deep breath. I also find it useful to move my focus from a single ceiling board to the ceiling as a whole.
Going outside to smoke between rounds also renews my spirits afterwards, but while effective, I do not recommend it.
This habit is causing a decline in my chances to sip tea with friends while playing Vintage in my old age.
I do not do this, but maybe pinching yourself forcefully or eating strong flavored candy is a good idea. I have heard that eating chocolate helps.
At any rate, those are my recommendations of everything that has worked for me when it comes to recovering concentration.
What are the times when it is easy to break concentration?
When you recognize the times when it is easy for problems to arise, it becomes easier to cope with them.
The moment you think you’ve won
When you’ve lost a previous game due to a play error
When you’ve lost a previous round due to a play error
When you’ve lost a previous game due to a poor draw, mana troubles, etc.
When you’ve lost a previous round due to a poor draw, mana troubles, etc.
After some kind of trouble occurs
When something causes you to become irritated
When you think about things other than the match
At these times, your concentration may break, and it is easy to make play mistakes. Among these things, are there any that you have always managed to focus through? I think that there are few players who haven’t lost their concentration due to these things at some point.
“After that mistake, I couldn’t have won”¦
I have heard these words uttered many times, and I too have said them previously. Thinking of strictly theoretical value, even if one mistake causes a player to lose a game and that game caused the chance of winning the match to decrease, it means no more than that. However, practically speaking, many people let the chance of winning the match decrease because of their thinking. This is like a misplay in that their ability to concentrate is destroyed, and the likelihood of success decreases.
“I made that mistake, so I lost”
Refraining from thoughts like this is overwhelmingly beneficial: each time you stop this train of thought, you get closer to victory. Anyone can make play mistakes, and instead of becoming upset when they occur, how about using a method of recovering your concentration and trying to get back on track?
Magic is a wonderful game. Right now, I am betting my livelihood on it, but even misplays and losses do not cost me my life. I don’t let other people get to me.
If you relax a little, you can move forward.
From Tomoharu Saito, to Magic players throughout the world