Longtime readers of my column (do those actually exist? If so, thank you, and I’m flattered) might recall an article I wrote last summer about coping with slumps. For the TL;DR version, we can boil everything down to a great quote by Hank Aaron, that I also used in the original story, last August: “My motto was always to keep swinging. Whether I was in a slump or feeling badly or having trouble off the field, the only thing to do was keep swinging.” Where am I going with this? I feel like I have come upon a slump! “But Tim,” you might say, “what about your strong finishes in Richmond and Philly?” Richmond was all the way back in March, and Philly was a month an a half ago. Here’s my recent track record, since then:

Date Format Record

4/14 Legacy 3-1
4/28 Legacy 2-2
5/5 Legacy 1-2
5/6 Modern 2-1-1
5/10 Modern 3-2
5/12 Legacy 2-2
5/19 Legacy 4-0
5/20 Modern 0-2-1
Sub-Total Legacy 12-7
Sub-Total Modern 5-5-2
Total 17-12-2

That doesn’t look like an awful record, especially with a 4-0 just a few short days ago, but when you take into consideration that my total winnings amounted to $70 store credit (and a pack for each of the 2-2s), while my total entry fees amounted to $100, it’s certainly below the break-even threshold, which I consider somewhat of a Mendoza Line for judging my own performance. Also, the 4-0 was after switching to BUG Delver (which could make a case for playing it this weekend, but I will chalk it up to beginner’s luck and stick to what I’m most familiar with). When we add in my MODO performance over the last month, it looks pretty rough; while I don’t have access to the exact numbers, I do know that since I hit 15 QPs just midway through April (for those not in the know, you get three QPs for a 4-0 finish, and one QP for a 3-1), I put up a lonely two QPs for the rest of the month. The QP drought has continued well into May, as I currently only have three to my name, with countless 2-2 and 1-2-drop results in the Legacy and Modern Daily Events. And I play on most weeknights. The 2-2s are especially disappointing, as many of them started with so much promise, as a 2-0, before I would forget how to win. Getting to 15 for this month is all but a pipe dream. To add insult to the injury, I lost a team draft in the middle of writing this article AND lost the first round of today’s Legacy Daily to… Burn. And I don’t mean to disrespect Burn, but.. ahh, I guess I’m disrespecting Burn (aside: I don’t completely disrespect it as I did recently buy a foil playset of Eidolon of the Great Revel).

In spite of all this repeated failure, I’m going to keep swinging and hopefully have my swing corrected in time for when the SCG Open Series comes back to New Jersey, this weekend. (funny coincidence: my last slump article was written immediately following an Open weekend in NJ.) Following a loss which put me out of any prize contention at a high-stakes Modern tourney at my local store, an observer (who’s played against me or seen me play a number of times) casually stated, “Tim is the most gracious loser I’ve ever seen.” (#humblebrag?) He then said he meant no offense by that, but I thanked him and said that I took it as a compliment. It’s important not to get angry or frustrated with yourself, or more importantly your opponent, when things aren’t going as well as you had hoped. It’s been written thousands of times over in various contexts, many (or most) of which have nothing to do with Magic, but I don’t think it can be stressed enough how important it is to keep this sort of toxicity out of your mind if you want it to perform at the highest level. I am of the belief that staying even-keeled and keeping your emotions in check is a key part of breaking out of a slump. It’s ok to make some adjustments to your batting stance or your grip on the bat, but you don’t want to get too crazy and drastically change what was working for you before, so long as everything around you (the metagame) hasn’t drastically changed. If you follow the “keep swinging” approach, but all the while, you get more and more infuriated with every swing, that’s just a recipe for going into a deeper slump, and an eventual ragequit. I’ve got a few more at-bats left in the Daily Event, tonight, and maybe one more, tomorrow, to get things right before the Open. I have hope, though, because if you look at Rick Nash (yes, we’ve moved to hockey; I’m sorry to those who don’t get it that I start babbling about sports every time I go into a slump), this post season, he wasn’t putting pucks in the net, but he was doing all the “little things” right, and didn’t change his game. Now he has goals in back to back games and the Rangers are two wins from the Stanley Cup Finals. If you have confidence in what you’re trying to execute, and you know it’s worked in the past, just because things aren’t working right now doesn’t mean it’s time to scorch the earth and start over. Good luck to those battling in NJ this weekend, and say hi if you see me there! I’ll try to remember to wear my Hipsters of the Coast t-shirt for one of the days.

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