“Hey you, yeah you over there with those stupid card in your hands. You suck, just put them down and walk away. WHAT!? What kind of idiotic attack was that? Hah, win a PTQ? How about try and win a game first. Why the heck would your stupid ass use removal on that? Don’t even bother sideboarding, it’ll probably just make you suck more. Wait…that’s impossible you noob! Just do yourself a favor and quit already”!

Have you ever has this conversation with yourself? Has it ever been so bad that it prevented you from being able to focus? Many of us have been there but I’m here to tell you; STOP THAT SHIT! And don’t hit me with the “It’s easier said than done” line. That’s just an excuse and I was always taught that excuses are the tools of the weak and incompetent. I’m here to give you a bit of tough love so just sit down and listen.

Take a minute to think about your brain’s ability to multitask. Raise your hand if you think you’re good at it. Now take that hand, slap it across your face and come join me back in reality-land. The truth is we all suck at it. In fact (as in, according to this cool internet article I found), our brains don’t actually focus on multiple things at once. We’re only capable of one primary focus at a time. Rather, people often misidentify our innate ability to rapidly shift between focuses as “multitasking”. When you’re concentrating on a game of Magic, it’s critical that you maintain your focus if you want do well. Since you really don’t have the focus to spare, being hard on yourself may be the very thing that loses you the match.

Over the past three years, I’m come to realize that focus is one of the most important aspects of this game. Allowing this to be broken in order to let an insult marinate in your mind for even a millisecond is illogical. How do you possibly expect to decipher a board stall, plan an alpha strike, or trick your opponent into making bad blocks if you’re too busy feeling bad for yourself? Just cut it out because you’re doing yourself more harm than good. Presumably, you play magic because you like it; it’s a great way to have some fun while strengthening your strategic thinking and decision making skills. It is not meant to be stressful so quit being a little punk about it and accept that you can’t win them all.

I have to admit, it took me a while to adopt that way of thinking. I’ve had my fair share of mid-tournament self-esteem plummets that sent me on the path of no return, but there’s nothing worse than hearing an opponent put themselves down after losing a match. I remember this one time, my opponent was so upset after losing that I seriously thought he was going to fight himself right then and there. His face turned beet red and sweat beads started forming on his forehead as he forcefully and repeatedly called himself stupid for forgetting that one of my creatures had trample. It was uncomfortable as an outsider listening in, but seemed much worse for the guy doling out the punishment. Needless to say, I didn’t get a handshake after that one.

The best of us lose at times and the worst of us win at times. If you’re the type who has a hard time recovering from a match loss, instead of feeling sorry for yourself, try taking a few deep breaths, clearing your head, and pulling yourself up by the bootstraps before the next round. Just think of the people you can meet, the great conversations you may have, and the inner peace you will unlock if you just look your opponent in the eyes, shake their hand and say, good game.

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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