Several weeks ago I went to a draft at a different LGS than I normally go to. It was weird, I was out of my comfort zone and I lost. A lot. But there weren’t many people there, and they were all good — one of the people who beat me qualified for the Dragon Maze ProTour. And we went to game three. No big deal.
But the reason I’m bringing this up is not to brag (though I still think it’s cool), but because it reminded me about the most important thing new magic players have to remember: It’s OK to lose.
By nature, I’m a very competitive person. I try to be a gracious loser, but sometimes it’s hard. When I was first starting I didn’t mind losing at all — I was learning so much about the game every match that that was enough for me. Now losing can sometimes be a bit more frustrating, simply because I can recognize my misplays. I frequently have to remind myself that I am still a relatively new magic player, so having a 3-2 record at draft should still be seen as an accomplishment. I’m still learning how cards interact, and how to make the most out of abilities, triggers and other spells. Magic is a very intricate game, which is part of its charm, but it’s also why it’s so hard for new players.
At the mentioned draft above, after exclaiming “look it’s a girl magic player!”, one of my opponents asked me what the hardest part of Magic is for new players. I think I said something along the lines of just knowing how cards interact, and I stick by that statement. It’s especially important in the draft format because it takes some knowledge of triggers and abilities to be able to choose cards that will interact well together. And in building standard decks that’s the main thing a player needs to think about: what is this card doing for my deck, and how will it interact with my other cards.
But new players don’t have that background knowledge, and don’t have enough playing experience to really know what makes a card good. When I first started, I’d read a card and think “well, that sounds cool” about 90 percent of the time. Now, I have a little more discretion. New players also don’t necessarily recognize good opportunities to play cards. I still get a little overexcited with my bloodrush occasionally, or spells that might be good early, but great during the late game.
The guild charms are good examples of cards that are great, but are hard for new players to use. First, you have to choose when you want to play it in the game and then you have to choose which ability to use. I’ve used charms too early and I’ve used them and then realized their other ability might have been loads better. It’s all part of the learning experience. Experiment One is another example of a card that really good players value highly, but a newer player might not. While I was playing my Simic deck with two Experiment Ones in it, I traded it too early many times because I may have forgotten about its regenerate ability. I knew it was a good card, but I didn’t really realize how good it was until later.
Magic is all about making decisions. Every turn you have several decisions to make: whether you want to attack, when you want to attack, when you want to play the land for the turn and whether you want to take advantage of the second main phase, etc. And that’s just the beginning. New players often don’t even realize there IS a second main phase. I know I didn’t. Magic is so full of decisions, it’s a little ridiculous. It’s also why I tend to play slowly and would often go to time when I was first starting. I like to think things through, and as a new player the best moves are not always obvious to me. The judge at my normal LGS still gives me crap about it when I report well before time, but he also gave me some really good advice: play fast enough to actually finish your matches. He told me that a night when I went 1-2-3. Yes, that’s right, I had three draws. I’ve gotten a lot better since then! But I’ve also lost a lot since then.
So what are the hardest parts about being a new Magic player? 1: Being OK with losing, 2: learning how cards interact and 3: figuring out how to use that information in your decisions. In other words, Magic is just plain hard.
But the only way to get better is to keep playing (and keep losing), so I don’t plan on stopping any time soon!
All for now,