How to Break Through Plateaus in Magic

by | Sep 26, 2018 | Podcast | 0 comments

The dreaded plateau. Well, the card itself isn’t actually dreaded (it’s undoubtedly a sweet – and expensive – mana source if you play Legacy, Vintage or Commander.

What we’re really talking about is when you hit a sticking point in your progress in Magic.

It happens to all of us at some point. You work hard at the game, get the reps in and make steady progress until one day you realize that you’re consistently putting up the same results that you were last year.

And it happens in any skill or hobby we devote our time and energy towards. Some telltale signs that you’ve hit a plateau in Magic include, but aren’t limited to:

– Your FNM and tournament results remain the same or are worse than they were a year ago

– You find yourself making the same mistakes over and over again

– You easily become frustrated and tilt during the game

– The game isn’t fun anymore (see below)

Like it is in any other hobby, profession or skill, hitting a plateau in Magic can be incredibly frustrating – especially if you’re very goal-oriented in Magic.

And I don’t know about you, but when I go long enough without progressing in something, I start to lose interest in it, which you definitely don’t want to happen with Magic.

While plateaus do happen to every player at some point, you want to have the tools to break through them.

Additionally, everyone breaks through plateaus differently, so some of the strategies below may work for you, and some may not, so it’s important to try them all.


#1: Try a different deck style

You may have heard this tip before, because it works for so many players.

So many of us fall into the habit of playing variations of the same deck over and over. That’s perfectly ok, because we all have our preferred deck styles and we need to play to our strengths.

That said, playing a totally different deck style will get you out of your comfort zone and force you to look at the game through a different lens.

For example, if you’re a Jeskai Control player, try going with Affinity. If you’re like me and love midrange decks, go with a hard control or combo deck.

Just like our muscles grow when we put them under stress, we grow as Magic players when we put ourselves in ever-challenging situations and begin to dwell outside of our comfort zones.

If I’m at a casual event I always like to swap decks with my opponent and get an extra game in if we finish our round early. You can also proxy a different deck and run it with your friends at home

Whatever it takes to play a different deck, do it.


#2: Try different formats

Same idea here. Get out of your comfort zone and try something new.

Yeah, you’re only going to get better at your preferred format by playing your preferred format a lot, but diving into unfamiliar territory every now and then will show you different ways of putting together successful lines of play.

Doing so may also further illuminate your mistakes and help you learn how to address them.


#3: Find new players, new stores and different events

See a trend here?

This isn’t change for the sake of change – it’s change for the sake of growth. When you consistently play with players that are better than you, you will eventually get a LOT better.

A good friend and super experienced player once told me that if I keep playing at a store where I’m having huge success every week, then I’m not doing myself any favors. Instead, I’m only doing favors for the people I play against and not the other way around. He was so right.

If you’re only playing FNM and Standard Showdown and having a lot of success, start attending more competitive events. Find IQs and PPTQs in your area and start jamming them.

If that’s too much of a step-up, look for the stores that do “Competitive Standard” or “Competitive Modern.” Yeah, you might have to pay $10-15 to enter, but the reps are worth it, and you never know what awesome players you’ll connect with.

Just be sure to take good notes to make the investment worthwhile! Speaking of which…


#4: Review your game notes, find negative trends and address them

This step is so important, even if you haven’t reached a plateau. Sometimes I’ll review my notes and find that I’m still making this one small mistake against a specific deck type, or sideboarding incorrectly. If you’re at a plateau in your progress, your notes will reveal similarities from event to event.

Be sure to address these trends and start making the necessary tweaks in your gameplay to change them. By the same token, be sure to review your notes and find the positive trends. It’s never a good idea to send ourselves the message that we’re doing everything wrong all the time.


#5: Are you playing too much or not enough?

Balance is definitely a recurring theme in the podcast – and with good reason. That said, if you’re only playing Magic once a week and not progressing, it’s definitely a good idea to add another day of reps into your week.

On the other hand, if you’re playing 3-5 times a week or more and not making progress, take some time off from the game. Use that time to read non-magic related material, exercise, spend time with friends and family, etc. Whatever you do, try to stay away from competitive situations. The idea here is to de-stress and have fun.

After a few days of your break, come back to your Magic notes and start looking for trends. But don’t play – not even casually with friends. Don’t touch a Magic card. You should also use this time to reassess your goals in Magic and lay out specific plans for what you need to do to get there.

Trust me – once your break is up, you’ll come back to the game refreshed and be more aware of the mistakes you’re making. You’ll also have a new sense of direction and more importantly, you’ll start making the small bits of progress that add up to larger goals.

Be sure to try these tips out and let us know how they work for you.

Reply to this email or by posting on the MTG Pro Tutor Facebook page.

Thanks for reading.

– Jeff Sheerin, MTG Pro Tutor Scribe

How to Break Through Plateaus in Magic

by | Sep 26, 2018 | Podcast | 0 comments

A few weeks ago we talked about all of the reasons why playing a top tier deck can help you improve your MTG skills (you can read that article HERE)

The last reason we provided was: playing a top tier deck will give you a taste of success.

While winning isn’t the ONLY way to measure success, winning is important to your development as a Magic player for a variety of reasons:

1) Winning builds self-confidence.

The more consistently you win, the more you develop confidence in your gameplay skills and decision making abilities. While you can still improve as a Magic player and develop self-confidence when you lose, it’s not as easy to recognize that improvement when you’re getting crushed. And the more you win, the more you can look back on those wins and determine what you’re doing right in order to come out victorious.

2) Winning raises your expectations and sets a new norm.

After my Eagles won the Super Bowl this past season, the head coach talked about how winning would be “the new norm” for the team.

When I heard that, I reflected on my growth as a Magic player – winning FNMs and Game Days to winning a PPTQ and frequently earning Top 8 – and I realized that at some point my expectation going into tournaments went from “I’m probably going to get my butt kicked,” to “I’m going to win this event.”

Expecting to win gives you the strong mindset that you need to actually go into a tournament and perform well. It subliminally reinforces the idea that you’re capable of winning.

Keep in mind that there is a difference between expecting to win and having to win. Telling yourself that you have to perform a certain way at a tournament adds a ton of pressure and positions you for disappointment.

On the other hand, if you expect to win, you’re simply setting the tone for victory without actually giving yourself an ultimatum.

3) Winning gives you a track record of success to reflect upon.

Even as you improve at Magic, you’re going to experience losing streaks. While you’re in these losing streaks, you may question your skills or even consider quitting.

Having those previous wins to look back on will serve as hard evidence that you have the skills, determination and intuition needed to win. They’ll keep you afloat during those rough times, and looking back on what you did right may actually help you get out of those losing streaks.

Winning may not be everything in Magic, but you need to be able to win in order to reach higher levels of play. Making winning an expectation will help you push down the path to continuous improvement.

What are your thoughts on winning as it relates to your development as a player? Reply to this email or post about it on the MTG Pro Tutor Facebook page.

Now go win.

Thanks for reading.

– Jeff Sheerin, MTG Pro Tutor Scribe

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