Hey guys, welcome to this weeks episode of Delving with Devin.  I am taking on a slightly different form this week, as you might have noticed!  For the time being I am going to be focusing on writing about all things Frontier!  However before I get into writing about Frontier, I really wanted to write a level up article for people who are trying to improve at magic, but have seemed to hit a wall, or are not sure on what things they can do to improve!

This is part one of two!

Before we Delve right in, I’d like to give you a bit of my back story, just in case you don’t know me in person.  I am a 30(ish) father of one beautiful daughter, and I am married to my gorgeous wife.  I graduated from the U of M in 2008 with a bachelor of arts degree (yes, I am old).  I work full time, and play magic in my spare time.  Have you seen me at the pro tour, crushing all the pro’s?  Nope!  being a husband and a father, and being that I work full time, travelling the world to pro tours and trying to qualify just hasn’t been in the cards (yet).  I did however just win a recent local PPTQ so I have made plans to travel to a RPTQ, so perhaps the pro tour could be in the future.  In my time playing magic, I have however had the opportunity to play in three grand prix, making top 32 of two of them. (one of them being MM15 sealed in Las Vegas with 3500+ players.)  I also have played in 4 SCG opens, top 8ing one of them, losing in the finals.  Why am I telling you all of this?  Humble Brags? no!  The only reason is so you have a feeling for where I’ve come from within magic, so when I offer suggestions  you can gauge my advice vs my experience.

So if you’re a struggling player trying to win your next PPTQ, day two your next Grand Prix, or just 4-0 your next FNM, but not sure how to go about getting there, read on!

Some of these things you may already be doing, and that’s great! Some of these things you may not agree with, and that’s fine too!  These are all just suggestions on things I feel can take you to the next level. If you disagree, please be sure to ask questions in the comments, discussion is always welcome!

Take care of yourself!

But Devin, what do you mean?…  I mean,  how do you feel?  do you eat healthy? (sometimes?)  Do you work out at all? (I don’t mean getting up to get a drink from the fridge.)  I suggest try turning at least one meal a day into a healthy meal, and try to increase your physical activity to at least 30 minutes a day.  Even if its just going for a slow paced walk.

Devin, how can this possibly help me at winning at magic?

Magic is a mental game, and being physically healthy translates into you being able to think more clearly, and for longer periods of time.  When you are out of shape, or not eating healthy, your ability to think is a little more blurry and slower.  I find that when I’ve been eating healthy and am active, I am much more “in the zone” and can stay alert for much longer periods of time.

This is Sparta!

Stay Hydrated

If your playing at a tournament, often times it will take 5+ hours, upwards of 10 hours if its a Grand Prix.  You NEED to be constantly drinking water, and eating food throughout the day.  If you’re not, you will fatigue.  When people are thirsty or hungry, people tend to jump to decisions, or the first reasonable decision that comes to mind.  You will typically stop thinking through lines of play as well, and this will cost you games.   If you’ve ever watched a Grand Prix in round nine, and wondered why are these players making so many mistakes, and thinking how are they 7-1 while playing so poorly, its simple.  They are fatigued and not playing at their best.  Now imagine, you are well rested, well hydrated, and in good condition playing against someone who can barely think straight. Who’s advantaged?

Get enough sleep!

Does this picture look like you waking up to your alarm clock the morning of a big tournament? Chances are if it does, you didn’t get enough sleep.

If you cant think of the 15th sideboard card,  staying up until 3am the night before the tournament isn’t going to help you?  you being tired during the tournament is a lot more detrimental to your performance then a slightly less optimal sideboard slot would be.  Go to bed so you can get rest, as being tired will effect your ability to make the best decisions when it really matters.

From personal experience, being blessed with a four year old daughter I know the importance of a good nights rest!

Watch better players, ask them questions!

When I was getting back into magic many years ago, something I loved to do was watch the top tables of any tournament.  What was I watching for? I would imagine I was playing the game in the players situation, and decide what line of play I would take before the player would.  If they took the same line as me great I am probably on the right path. If they took a different line, why?  I would try to deduce why are they taking this alternate line of play?  Is it a superior line to what I would of taken?  if you cant figure it out, ask them at the end of the match!  As you get better and better at magic, soon it will be them watching you play, and asking you about your decisions!

Practice doesn’t make perfect!

What?!  What are you talking about Devin, I’ve been told since I was small that practice makes perfect!

Well, practice only makes perfect if your practising the right habits.  So many times people are just jamming games to test a match-up, making tonnes of miss plays, side boarding incorrectly, and completely oblivious to these mistakes.  Is this really going to help you get better, when your reinforcing bad plays?  If your going to practice to get better, make sure you are correcting mistakes.  You might need to have stronger players watch you play to help  spot the mistakes.

You’re play testing wrong!

How many times have you play tested with people, and all they want to do is Jam game one’s?  Ignoring or spending very little time on sideboarded games?  This is detrimental to how you are going to do at a tournament!

Think about it, using some logic!

You can theoretically lose 100% of your game one’s, and still win the tournament.

What would happen if you lost anywhere close to that number in sideboard games?  how far will you get?  The X- 3 bracket!

When I play-test, I honestly spend very very little time practising game one’s, and when I lose a game one, it effects my mental train of thought very little, as I know the side boarded games are truly what is important.  if you have a superior sideboard plan then your opponent, you should do very well at any event.
Check back in two weeks for the second part of levelling up with Devin!



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