With MTG Arena, Magic Players Are Reaching Peak Stubborness

Nexus of Fate is a stupid card and I hate playing against it.”

Everyone who plays a game with many options for more than a couple of play sessions will eventually learn to dislike some of them. Over time, even the most stalwart will come to dislike a particular card, mechanic, or aspect of the game. This is not unique to Magic. It can be seen in any competitive game with an increase in salt levels as PC gaming connects players and the internet provides public discussions to share in their discontent.

With the advent of MTG Arena, I feel like this is reaching a new level, especially with the number of players either returning or getting into Magic from other games. But adapting, I’m noticing more players who decide their best option is simply to complain about it nonstop and continue to lose to it. I’m not talking about bad players or newbies. I’ve seen players I would consider very good at Magic simply tank their own win rate by refusing to accept the existence of Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and Nexus of Fate. Indeed, players on Arena have reached peak stubbornness.

Part of this is because you can keep queueing up matches one after another. On Magic Online, you had to put money in for every set of matches, and that meant your options were either to suck it up and play those cards, adapt to beat them, be a whale, or run out of money and stop playing. For those not interested in playing Spreadsheet Simulator 2003, it was even rougher—you had specific start times and had to travel to go play at your LGS. Your opportunities were limited.

Now that you can just keep queuing, it’s easier to lie to yourself about why you lost and continue on your merry way. If this happened in a vacuum, it wouldn’t be so bad. I’ve raged at a certain strategy before and even stopped playing formats I thought were “garbage” for one reason or another. But I didn’t pretend to be competitive about it. “Tuck Teferi, I hope it gets banned” and “lol, just play BO1!” to avoid Nexus strategies don’t serve as useful strategy. The number of players posting on r/spikes or various competitive Discord channels that add nothing to the conversation has become overwhelming.

You do yourself a disservice if your reaction is to simply hit the button again instead of stopping to critically think about why you’re losing. On both of my climbs to Mythic with Mono-Blue I’ve had a number of opponents concede to a turn-2 or -3 Curious Obsession. The same goes for situations where I counter a relevant spell after getting a board—suddenly my opponent scoops out of nowhere, despite being ahead in resources! I’m drawing an extra card a turn. Woohoo, I get a 1-mana Divination. That’s good, but hardly game-ending. Yet there’s the concession.

The same goes the other way for Nexus of Fate decks. While I dislike playing Simic Nexus online, there are two extremes to how players react to the beginning of the loop. Either they:

  1. Concede immediately even before I’ve shown I have the ability to get enough resources to loop.
  2. Never concede even when it’s obvious they’re dead and waste both of our time.

And I get #2, especially to spite the players who play with zero win cons, but nowadays practically everyone has them and you can’t possibly tell me that locking yourself out of playing more Magic for X minutes is a fun or productive use of your time. The first, though, takes a minute or two at the most, and a simple consideration of the other player’s resources. Instead they get so disgusted that I’ve managed to play a Wilderness Reclamation and a 7-mana spell, they think the game has ended.

So if you’re serious about getting better at Magic, here’s a short list of “losing attitudes.” If you find these are often your go-to statements during or after a match, maybe reconsider.

“I lost to a scrub!”

  1. No you didn’t.
  2. Even if you did, that inherent variance is built into the game itself via the mana system.
  3. You gain so much more when you examine what you could’ve done differently than you do from complaining about someone playing badly and outdrawing you.

“You only won because of X, Y and Z!”

Yes, congratulations, you named cards I played in my deck of Magic: The Gathering cards. Perhaps you’d like to give them a try? At your kitchen table or your EDH playgroup you can go ahead and try to control the power level and “fairness” of your play sessions. In tournaments, the rules are the same for everyone. Complaining about legal cards in a format and blaming them specifically for your losses are non-starters. Yes you can constructively analyze a game and realize, “Oh hey, Teferi is a good card and I auto-lose to a resolved one.” But more often than not, this is just hating the opponent because they countered your strong card and then played one of their own.

“What beats X? Oh, well I hate that too. What else?”

This is my personal pet peeve, when someone asks for advice and then ignores it because of their inherent preferences. If the answer is “play Mono-Blue,” and you refuse to play Mono-Blue, do not expect a better alternative.

If you hate the state of Standard/Modern/Brawl etc. and don’t want to play it, then don’t play it. Competitive MTG has a nice variety of formats to choose from, and while they may not all be relevant in your preferred time frame, they will cycle over time. Complaining on Reddit is not going to magically bend the format to match your whims.

While MTG Arena can be a great tool for playing the game and testing for Standard/Limited, if you end up toxic from playing the game you’re going to have a hard time making connections with people who can help get you better at Magic. There are clear benefits to being able to concede and start a new game immediately with Arena. I’m not arguing against it. The same goes for anyone who plays for fun and doesn’t want to try to edge out a near unwinnable game. But if you’re playing competitively and it becomes the go-to move as soon as things aren’t in your favor, then you may want to consider taking a step back.

2 thoughts on “With MTG Arena, Magic Players Are Reaching Peak Stubborness”

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