12:41 p.m. It’s cloudy in Williamsburg today and in true hipster fashion, its inhabitants are dressed to match the weather. A sea of muted pastels, neutrals, and grays sweep by as people are arriving to/leaving their favorite brunch spot. I choose Peter’s to satisfy my french toast craving simply because I prefer the quiet environment filled with simply seasoned dishes and a friendly staff. While enjoying the first sip from my thermos full of coffee, I take some time to think about the impending M14 prerelease.

It’s easy for me to enter any event with my competitive mentality turned all the way up. This reminds me of an incident that happened at San Diego Comic Con during a Magic event, almost exactly a year prior. I was very excited to play M13 since it was my first core set and I had done well with a sweet BW exalted deck during prerelease the previous weekend. I sat down in front of a somewhat newer player with my game face on, ready to battle! During our match, my opponent was attempting to swing for the win with a triple exalted creature and cast a mistimed Divine Verdict intending to kill my only blocker. The issue was that I hadn’t declared blockers yet, making his only legal target his own creature. When he realized his mistake he attempted to rewind everything as if it didn’t happen but I vehemently refused.


As I was leaving the venue, John comes over to me and expresses his distaste in how competitively I play casual events, especially since it was less than a year ago that I was a brand new player making silly mistakes myself. He had a very valid point and one that has stuck with me ever since. Magic is a hard game and no matter if you’ve been playing for 5 minutes or 5 years, mistakes are going to be made. Not allowing my opponent to take back his play may have either taught him a very valuable lesson on reading cards carefully or to hate the game and never come back. As much as I feel making mistakes is part of growth, who was I to try and teach those lessons and why in the world would I use a casual setting to do so?

3:00 p.m. I definitely chose the perfect prerelease flight and am quickly greeted by a few buddies. As John, Hunter, and Rob banter about the terrible prerelease promo card and compare its quality to that of Sun Titan two years prior, I chime in with a proclamation of playing completely casually today. Although I’m somewhat surprised to be met with laughter and incertitude, I’m glad I am because now it has become a challenge!


Engaging in an internal battle, I say to myself “Yes, I’m competitive. Yes, I like to win. But I also possess the capability to turn this off…right?” I diffidently sit down for round 1 against Leo, take a deep breath, turn my game face off, and introduce myself with a smile. Halfway into game two, the first test comes running through the door and slaps me in the face!

I’m pretty dead to my opponent’s Trollhided flyer and really have zero outs other than killing him first. During a crucial combat phase, he forgets to pump his Rootwalla which was necessary to put me within lethal range the following turn. After damage was dealt, he realized this critical mistake and asks me if I will allow him to pump. It was very hard for me to accept because I knew doing so will cause me to lose the game, but I took a step back and really thought about it. A prerelease isn’t really about winning and losing. Honestly, when was the last time you read an article about the latest prerelease winner or even knew the name of the player who won? It’s about being introduced to a new set and understanding all of the various card interactions that you aren’t used to. The Monique from a year ago would have said sorry, it’s too late. But needless to say, I let him pump post combat and ended up losing that game. Not to get too sappy, but the noticeable relief that spread across his face when I said yes meant more to me than winning. Comparing it to my opponent from last year, I realized that there’s a time and place for everything.


7:38 p.m. I finish off the day 4-0, but it felt different this time. I didn’t have that smug feeling of being the victor of the night but rather sensed a calm satisfaction that I’m not yet used too. In a way, knowing that I refused to capitalize off of my opponent’s mistakes allowed me to play with a clarity that I normally don’t experience and I became better because of it. All in all, there is no denying that I am a competitive player, but harnessing the power to turn it on and off has had a much greater impact than any win I’ve experienced. We were all new at some point and wouldn’t be here without the guidance and compassion of our fellow players. Keep this in mind next time you play at a casual event and as always, thanks for reading.

For those who are curious, check out my prerelease deck below!

M14 Prerelease

Creatures (15)
Elvish Mystic
Gladecover Scout
Capshen Knight
Deadly Recluse
Sentinel Sliver
Brindle Boar
Master of Diversion
Bonescythe Sliver
Briarpack Alpha
Rumbling Baloth
Seraph of the Sword
Serra Angel

Spells (8)
Giant Growth
Celestial Flare
Hive Stirrrings
Rod of Ruin
Lands (17)

Monique Garraud is a Brooklyn native who started playing Magic in 2011. “Grinding It Out” is her weekly take on the trials, tribulations, and joys of being a competitive tournament player. You can follow her on Twitter @MoniqueGarraud.

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