Jun 9, 2014 –


I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard players blame anything but themselves.

Of course, we’re all guilty of it. It’s so easy to do—after all, your opponent did topdeck that Bonfire to decimate your team. There’s absolutely no way you could have played around that. And the last round, your opponent just got lucky. There’s no other explanation. You got rid of his entire hand with Rakdos’s Return , and he peeled Jace on the next draw! What else were you going to do?

As human beings, it’s our natural instinct to place the blame somewhere else. Most people don’t even realize they do it, or if they do realize, they severely downplay it. It’s not only Magic players who do this—it’s everyone. How many times have you heard people who have failed tests say it was the teacher’s fault for not telling them what was on the test? Or maybe your coworker came in late, and complained about your boss not emailing out the schedule until last Friday night. Regardless of the situation, it’s happened to all of us. People tend to find themselves infallible, for one reason or another, and unfortunately this attitude carries over to Magic.


No one likes to admit they played poorly, even if they know they did. The number one trait I’ve discovered about most competitive Magic players is they all think they’re above average skill-wise. The reason players fail to attribute their mistakes to themselves rather than luck is simple: no one wants to feel like they’re below average, even for one match.


It’s important to figure out what went wrong in every game of Magic. Occasionally this is difficult, as Magic truly is a game of chance. I will admit—sometimes, you just get screwed, whether it’s having to mulligan or whatever—but it’s very necessary to figure out whether or not you lost due to chance or due to mistakes. Sadly, for most Magic players, it’s the latter.


I’m playing in the Legacy Open of SCG St. Louis, and it’s the final round. If I win, I get a whopping $50; if I lose, I get nothing. My opponent is playing Belcher; I am playing RUG Delver, and after splitting games 1 and 2, we’ve progressed midway through game 3. My opponent’s only permanents are a Lion’s Eye Diamond and a Chrome Mox which has exiled a Simian Spirit Guide. I have two flipped Delver of Secrets. My opponent is at one life post combat.

I reluctantly pass the turn, my hand being only a land and a Force of Will. My opponent draws a card, shifts in his seat, and goes through the following plays:

Rite of Flame → Desperate Ritual → Seething Song → Goblin Charbelcher


There’s a pause, as Goblin Charbelcher is on the stack, and I curse my two lands on the field being unable to fuel my Force of Will. I reluctantly tell him it resolves, and he gleefully cracks his Lion’s Eye Diamond and activates his Charbelcher, targeting me. I scoop up my cards.

Do you see what I did wrong?

I tried to figure out how I lost that game for the next few hours. I knew I had screwed something up; the game felt so within reach. Unable to figure it out, I pushed it out of my mind, chalking it up to unfortunate luck. If I had drawn any other counter other than Force of Will, I would have won. If I had drawn a burn spell, I would have won. If I had drawn a Ponder or Brainstorm, I probably could have found any of those cards. Sometimes you just lose.


Fast forward two days. It’s 2 a.m. and I can’t sleep. I turn on Madden 2013, start to play my franchise as the Cleveland Browns, and it hits me.

I scooped.


From game 1, I knew he was playing a 1 land Belcher list. If I hadn’t scooped up my cards after he activated Goblin Charbelcher’s ability, there’s a chance his Taiga would have just been 4 or 5 cards down his deck and I would have lived, but instead I just picked up my cards when he activated it. It was my fault I lost that game.


I’m willing to bet the average Magic player wouldn’t blame themselves for that loss. I stopped him from going off the first time with a timely Spell Pierce, and my Delvers failed to flip for a turn, plus I could have drawn any other counter other than Force of Will to win it. Despite all of those hiccups, I still blame the loss on myself.


See, Magic is a game of percentages. There’s going to be a pretty large amount of them that don’t go your way, but it’s important to give yourself that chance, no matter how small it is. Luck could always go a little more in your favor, that’s going to always be how it is in this game. I still doubt I would have won that match, even if I had made my opponent flip the cards for his Charbelcher, but I might have. Now that I’ve figured out what I did wrong, I’m not going to make the same mistake again. Maybe that game it didn’t matter, and maybe next time it won’t matter. Then again, maybe it will. I don’t want the difference between a win and a loss to be determined by the fact I wouldn’t blame myself, no matter how small that chance to win is.


If I had just decided I lost that game because I got unlucky, I would have never figured out I did something wrong. If you want to win, you have to give yourself every opportunity to win. The next time your entire team gets wrecked by a topdecked Bonfire, don’t blame luck. Figure out what you did wrong; don’t make the same mistake again.

Jon Naskrent

@JonNaskent on Twitter