Here’s a short story:

A few days ago, I was in a Theros 8-4 on Magic Online (as I am wont to do). It was the first game of the first round and I was on UB tempo skies (with two Gray Merchant of Asphodel and no removal except for three Baleful Eidolon and Shipwreck Singer). My opponent was BR minotaurs, had mulliganed, and I was dominating the game. My opponent was at six life whereas I had multiple flying attackers, a Guardians of Meletis and something like sixteen life. My opponent casts Whip of Erebos and suddenly I’m losing the race horribly, and with the race, goes the game.

I didn’t have to lose that game. I had an Annul in hand and blue mana up when the Whip was cast. Had I been paying attention (I was distracted, possibly by TV), I would certainly have won that game. What a punt!

What’s important is what happened afterward: I kept my cool and won the next two games. And the next round. (Then I lost in the finals to this nut WU heroic deck that I passed.)

Enclave Cryptologist

I’ve shared this story not to brag, but to emphasize that people make mistakes—obviously wrong, indisputable mistakes. People get distracted, or don’t sleep/eat/caffeinate before a tournament, misremember what a card does, or just plum have a brainfart and act in error. These things happen. It’s part of being human. The great thing about mistakes is that they provide strong negative reinforcement (“when I made that mistake, I felt terrible! I’m never doing that again!”).

The lousy thing about mistakes is that they can be infuriating. So often I see folks make one mistake, catch themselves, and suddenly the round is effectively over. They go on tilt, they stop trying to play well, or they just scoop up their cards even though the game isn’t over. There’s this pervasive idea that “I @%##$ed up, so I deserve to lose” that is absolutely toxic. People expect themselves to play perfectly and if they fall short of the mark, to not play at all. This pattern has got to stop.

The test of a great player is not how they play when things are going well, but when things are going poorly. Even the greatest Magic players (or musicians, basketball players, accountants, and so forth) make mistakes (even dumb mistakes like mine). They don’t give up because of them and neither should you. The next time that you forget a scry trigger on Prescient Chimera or that Cavern Lampad bestows Intimidate, not Fear, don’t go crazy and beat yourself up—double down and find your way to victory despite your handicap! Even if you lose one game, that’s not the round. Even if you lose the round, there will be more Magic ahead and in the future, you won’t be making the same mistake.

Pristine AngelIn summary:

  • None of us is perfect.
  • Mistakes are opportunities to learn.
  • Making mistakes doesn’t make one “deserve” to lose.
  • Great players continue to play well even when they’re losing.

That’s all for this week, friends. Thanks for joining me for my second article about being In Error. I’ll be back next week to hopefully crown the victor of the Standard Pauper tournament (and possible make a big, related announcement). See you then!

—Zachary Barash — Join the livestream!

Magic Online username: Zennith

Zachary Barash has been playing Magic on and off since 1994. He loves Limited and drafts every available format (including several that aren’t entirely meant to be drafted). He’s a proud Cube owner and performer, improvising entire musicals every week with his team, Petting Zoo. Zach has an obsession with Indian food that borders on being unhealthy.

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