The week between pre-release and the set launch is a good time to look back and evaluate the previous limited season. I’ve had a chance to draft the new format a couple times but I’m still ruminating on the new set. So today I will reflect on the success of our Brooklyn team draft league.

Regular readers of Matt Jones’s column know that he and Hugh Kramer recently organized a team draft league. I’ve been a proud supporter and participant, partly because team drafting is a ton of fun, but also because the league promised to be a great way for us to collectively improve our game. And boy has it ever. Many league members have had major breakthroughs in their limited play and the results are piling up.

Scrooge

So much depends upon a grey wheel barrow filled with gold coins beside the white duck.

During the Born of the Gods sealed PTQ season we vanned and carpooled to four area PTQs. Team draft league members put up five top eight performances with one win! We put someone in top eight at each event. Huge congratulations to Sean Morse, Abe “Thrag” Lusk, Richard Tan, and Hugh Kramer for each earning their first top eight playmat, and to Hunter Slaton for winning his ticket to Pro Tour Magic 2015! In addition, multiple other members (including me) finished 6-2 for top 16 performances at these PTQs. All of these results are personal bests. What an amazing showing for Brooklyn Team Draft League!

We’ve also had success on the Grand Prix circuit. I’ve chronicled in this column my run of three consecutive limited GP day twos in Sacramento, Montreal, and Philadelphia. Richard Tan also made day two in Philly. Many others have came close with 6-3 records there.

The league has led to success for our members for two big reasons. Here’s what’s taken us over the top.

over the top

Arm wrestling: the gift that keeps on giving.

1. Practice makes perfect.

To some extent it doesn’t matter how you practice so long as you do. The brain learns from repetition. As you do something more and more, mental shortcuts form. Magic is such a mentally taxing game, with so many decisions to be made, that the less you have to think about each little detail the more mental energy you can devote to the important choices. PTQs and Grand Prix are long, grueling tournaments. If you have to think about every turn in detail each round, by halfway through the event your brain will be fried. To do well in these events, you have to be able to save your brainpower for when it really matters.

Here’s an example from the Coopersburg, Pennsylvania PTQ where Hunter won and I finished in 15th. I was in round seven of eight, at 4-2 fighting for prize packs and pride. I had a sweet black-white deck that was second nature for me to play (hello Scholar of Athreos, my good friend), so I hadn’t spent too much energy tanking on each play. But up a game in round seven I came to a point where my opponent and I were locked in an intense race. It was my turn, and the game was going to be won or lost in this turn cycle. I had a 3/3 Akroan Skyguard, along with Heliod’s Emissary and a random chump blocker. My opponent had some tapped creatures that were going to kill me soon, including a Nemesis of Mortals, along with two untapped creatures, one of which was an Agent of Horizons that my opponent could make unblockable next turn. My opponent was at nine life, tapped out with one card in hand. I had two cards, Gods Willing and Mortal’s Ardor.

Now, if I could get both the Skyguard and the Emissary through unblocked and I used both tricks on the Skyguard, I had lethal. But I had to get the Emissary through two creatures without using Gods Willing on it. The lifegain from Mortal’s Ardor would give me a cushion, but if he drew or already held Sea God’s Revenge or Sudden Storm I was just dead. This was a crucial moment, so I tanked on my decision, longer than at any other point in the tournament. I decided to attack with the Skyguard and Emissary, tapping his non-Agent creature. Before blocks, I cast Mortal’s Ardor on the Skyguard, making it a 5/5 with lifelink. I was presenting eight damage, and I tried to make it look like I was baiting a block by the Agent of Horizons on the Emissary in the hopes of killing it and surviving the next turn thanks to the lifelink and a chump block on the Nemesis. My opponent tanked for a long time as well and eventually decided not to block. So I flashed the Gods Willing and took down the match.

sf_finkel_vs_kibler2

No blocks?

I am certain that had I not been playing so much in the team draft league that I would not have had the ability to come up with this line and bait my opponent into letting me swing for lethal. And if I had been tanking on all my decisions all day I probably would have been too fatigued to make the best decision.

2. Anything you can do, I can do better!

An important part of Magic success is surrounding yourself with good players. Some of the value comes from learning from other strong Magicians, but a big part is the natural rivalry and pressure that comes from competing in the same tournaments with your friends. When someone you know does well in a PTQ, you have a feeling that you can do well also. “I’ve played and won against her multiple times in the league. If she can top eight a PTQ, so can I!” And that’s not just rivalry or jealousy—it’s the truth.

nexusae0_anything-you-can-do

Now all restaurants are Taco Bell.

So much of tournament success is mental. Competing with and against your friends, you get the knowledge both that you can compete with strong players and that success is possible. I am sure that—having seen Sean, Abe, Richard, and Hugh top eight PTQs—Hunter felt he could do the same. And sure enough he could and he did. “Why not us? Why not me?” If you are prepared to succeed and you know you can succeed, you will succeed. Or at least you’ll put yourself in position to do so.

So get your friends together and get organized. Don’t just sit around and durdle to “test” for upcoming tournaments. Set up a small league and play each other. Travel to events together. Push yourselves to improve. It can be done!

And finally, a huge huge thank you to Matt Jones and Hugh Kramer for organizing our league, and to Dave “Bones” McCoy for setting up the website and statistics.

Brendan McNamara (MTGO: eestlinc, Twitter: @brendanistan) used to play Magic in the old days. His favorite combo was Armageddon plus Zuran Orb. After running out of money to buy cards and friends who were willing to put up with that combo, he left the game. But like disco, he was bound to come back eventually. Now he’s a lawyer by day and a Dimir agent by night.

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