Let’s take a break from our regularly scheduled programming to delve into a concept I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I’m sure it’s been mentioned a quadrillion times on this column, but just to be fair to that one person who doesn’t know, I’ve played all types of games my whole life; from computer to console to board to card, I’ve dabbled in a bit of it all. It didn’t take me long to realized I was good at them. But not for the reason a few of you may think. Let’s pose a question for a moment:


People are good at games because:

A. They are naturally gifted

B. They are smart

C. They are focused and determined

D. All of the above

If you answered D, then you are like most of the non-gaming friends I’ve come across. I’m sure if I asked a bunch of random people on the streets of Williamsburg the question— “What’s the first word that comes to mind when I say Magic: the Gathering Player,” we’d hear our fair share of nerds, geeks, and smarties.

I think the answer is C. Let’s say Person A and Person B want to improve their chess. Person A , who is very smart and has been called gifted their whole life, decides to improve by playing game after game against a computer opponent. However, determined Person B who is of “regular intelligence” (whatever that heck that means) reads dozens of books, subscribes to a bunch of strategy sites, consults with his mentors, and regularly plays against live players who are better than him. Who do you think will be a better player in the long run? I vote Player B.

My first instances of displaying a gamer’s mentality occurred during my youth. I quickly realized that if I kept doing the same thing, I would continue to get the same results. Eventually, continuously reading up on games and watching others play proved to be a successful strategy that I still continue to follow. Take a moment and think about your pick for greatest gamer of all time; now raise your hand if you think that player was born playing their respective game well? If your hand is raised, you are not giving these great gamer’s the credit they are due and you should slowly lower your hand out of sight.

It would be very difficult to find a top competitor out there who has not invested hours upon hours into their craft. Having the ability to understand the fact that you have to give it your all in order to compete with the best is a key to success. Playing magic for me is similar to being on a team of sorts; I set aside time for playing in a team draft with like-minded players, getting reps in via MODO, testing my skills at competitive REL events, reading articles, and watching people play. Lately I’ve been having these strong urges to level up and I have a plan!


052014 HotC Table


I’m going to give this a try. Team drafts and testing are a great way to develop your skills. My particular group has a diverse spread of players, all with different strengths and weaknesses that we work on improving. I also find that dedicated testing sessions and constructively giving/receiving advice are an especially good way to get to know a format. I’m curious to see what your typical week looks like. Please share your ideas it in the comments below and as always, thanks for reading!

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.

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