By Duncan Martin

Walking away from a tournament can be an act of pride or one of shame. Winning a Pro Tour Qualifier or a SCG Open series event grants the player a certain air about them for the rest of the day and some time thereafter. It’s hard not to notice how a victorious player feels. That being said, what about those of us that scrubbed out? Those of us who were unfortunate enough to lose the first two rounds and then drop from the tournament? You can see it on our faces, trust me. We look miserable.

Technically, two rounds isn’t the exact spot that players drop, but it depends on attendance. What I’m really talking about here is the situation where a player decides to drop from a tournament once his/her match record comes to a point that guarantees that he/she cannot make the top 8 of the tournament. When this happens, a lot of players get the mindset that there is “no reason to keep playing.”

“If I can’t top 8, why should I even keep playing? I came here to win, and I’ve already lost.”

Well, there are a few reasons why we should all keep playing.

The obvious answer, as a friend pointed out to me while we were discussing the subject, is that you’ll never become a better player if you just 0-2 drop. That’s pretty generic, but it’s straightforward and easy to remember.

Delving further, let’s talk about the state of mind that a player slips into after dropping at 0-2. Plainly speaking, it sucks. It doesn’t matter what the event is, every player enters with some hope that he or she will win. That’s where the thought of dropping comes in first: “I came to win. Now that I can’t win, I’m done. I’ve lost.” Nothing brings out the pessimism in us like competitive Magic. If you keep playing after losing top 8 contention, though, at least you get to play more games. It’s hard to remember right at the moment of losing that important match, but we play this game to have fun, and we all enjoy it.

It’s important to remember the rest of your goals, too. Did you only come to win the top prize? If so, then dropping is probably for you once you’re out of top 8 contention. But what if, like many of us, you came with a group of friends to play Magic? In that case, dropping is a pretty suboptimal decision. Most of the time you’ll just end up waiting around during rounds while the rest of your friends play, maybe making food runs for them, and dwelling on the fact that you’re not in the tournament any more.

So far, these are all pretty basic observations. That being said, they’re very fundamentally important and should be remembered when deciding whether or not you should drop.

To get away from the basics, there are some pretty important technical problems with dropping from a tournament early.

  1. Why are you losing? I’ve dropped at 0-2 and walked away thinking that my deck was garbage, that I’d made a bad metagame choice, or even that I was just a suboptimal player who shouldn’t have come to the event. These things all may have been true, but two matches is hardly enough time to figure out what the problem is.
  2. Playing in a larger field is a terrific resource for testing. It strengthens mechanical gameplay, provides a variety of decks to test against in the given format, and, most importantly, it gives you a gauntlet of players who are required to grind games out with you.
  3. Playing seven or more rounds of Magic requires a lot of mental strength. It plays out a lot like an endurance test. No different than with physical trials, our bodies need conditioning to make it through such events, and playing out every round, win or lose, is the best way to prepare for the days that you need to win that eighth or ninth round to make it—or, even more importantly, the matches played in the top 8.

The conversation I had before writing this lasted about an hour, and there’s no way that I could cover the whole topic, and there are sides of it that I haven’t even fully come to comprehend. 0-2 dropping is something that every player who plays competitive Magic has become so used to seeing (and doing, for a lot of us) that it seems almost like second nature. No one thinks about it anymore.

The first time I stopped to take a look at why I dropped from my tournaments in the past, I couldn’t come up with a good enough reason. I want to become a better player, and I enjoy playing Magic more than any other game. I couldn’t find the reason why I was so willing to walk away from something that I look forward to for days or weeks at a time after playing as few as four games. Going on tilt that hard wasn’t worth the time or money I put into the trips to events.

While most of us don’t think about any of this, it all comes down to what we learned in the beginning. The first rule any competitive Magic player teaches someone when asked how to get better is that playing a lot of Magic makes you better. So why, then, would we want to drop out after playing less than two hours of Magic? It’s irrational. It’s the easy way out, and it’s just not worth it.

Also, it sucks to go 0-2 drop.

Duncan Martin is an artist/musician/writer/whatever from Jeffersonville, Indiana, who spends his days sorting cards, helping people brew decks, and petitioning to have Second Sunrise unbanned in Modern. He likes to draw cards, dredge cards, scry cards, and talk about old formats, Pro Tours, and awesome decks that have long since passed.

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