Lately, because no Limited Grand Prix have fired nearby, and, like GCB, I can’t seem to get it up to attend PPTQs, my main competitive Magic outlet has been Team Draft League. We’re now finishing up week five (out of eight), and my team, Quietest Spikes, has a 3-2 record after losing this past Wednesday to the team with, as the New York Times would say, an unpublishable epithet for a name. (Just kidding.)

Team Draft League being a non-LGS-sanctioned thing means that we don’t play (often) at official card shops, which has got me thinking about the environment and how it affects my play. Over the past five TDL matches, we’ve played at Dave “Bones” McCoy’s house in Bed-Stuy (my former home stadium); Montasy Comics in Midtown Manhattan; Andy Longo’s Dojo; Breukelen Bier Merchants, a cards-friendly beer store/bar in Williamsburg; and Kadar “History’s Greatest Monster” Brock’s art studio in East Williamsburg.

My (personal) record at each of these matches has been 2-1 (Dave’s), 1-2 (Montasy), 1-1 (the Dojo), 2-1 (the bar), and 1-2 (art studio), for a total record of 7-7. Not great, but hey—I’ll take even money, given the competition.

The last couple of drafts, though, I’ve noticed myself feeling slightly put off my game in some respect by the environment. At the bar, it was dark, and—old man that I am—I found myself not readily able to see my opponent’s cards across the table.

Similarly, at Kadar’s studio, we play on a table he uses to make art, and I find it a little too wide and tall to adequately keep a sightline on the entire board state. I’m a person who likes to read cards to make sure I know what they do—no shame in that, I think—and so instead of being able to just look across the table and read (upside down) the cards, I’ve been having to pick up cards, or ask questions to confirm—stuff like that. And I feel like my confidence or calmness has suffered as a result.

So I wondered, how have I done over the course of my Magic career at premier events—GPs and PTQs, for the most part—which are more strictly regimented and ordered than our casual pick-up drafts? Before I looked at the numbers (for the past few years I’ve kept a win/loss record for all my matches, and I filled in the stuff from before that via the Planeswalker Points website), I had a feeling that I overperform at these events. There are few times that I feel better or have more fun playing Magic then when I’m really in the zone at a big competitive event. The first time I ever did really well at a tournament was on Sunday at GP Toronto, in 2010—my first GP. I didn’t make Day Two, but back then they had PTQs on Sunday—much, much more of an incentive than the Super Sunday Series, which I hardly ever play.

This was during Scars of Mirrodin, and I had a sweet green/white deck with a Sword of Body and Mind, an Acid-Web Spider, and some other awesome stuff that has been lost to the mists of time and memory.

All that day I just felt totally zoned in—calm and very deliberate, with no harmful (for me, anyway) adrenaline or passion. Everything felt fluid and smooth, like a well-oiled machine. I went 6-2 that day, losing my win-and-in for Top 8 in the last round. But that feeling is a big part of why I keep going back to GPs. I felt that way in the middle of my sweet run at GP Pittsburgh, after 3-0-ing my first draft of Day Two.

As it turned out, my thesis was borne out by the numbers—I slightly overperform my overall win/loss record at premier events. Since July of 2012, when I started tracking my W/L numbers (which include everything from pickup drafts and FNMs to big events), I have a cumulative 56% win percentage.

Meanwhile, at premier events, I have a 57% win percentage if you don’t count my byes, and a 59% win percentage if you do (I kind of feel like I should be able to count these, or maybe count them as half of a win, since I did earn those byes, and I didn’t have a chance to win them “honestly”). If you only count my GP performances (plus my one Pro Tour), where I’m almost always 100% committed to being there and doing my best (there have definitely been PTQs I shouldn’t have showed up to, as my heart just wasn’t in them) my rate gets even better: 61% wins. Given the stiffer competition that you find at these events, especially as the day goes on, I’m pretty proud of that.

What does that tell me in terms of Team Draft League, and other non-premier-level Magic? Obviously I can’t control the environment totally, but going forward I will try to control it more, at least for myself. I find a quiet apartment to be preferable to a bar or some other distracting place, so maybe I’ll see about scheduling more matches at teammate Sam “Samuel” Werb’s new crib (congrats, man!) or Montasy Comics if that’s not available.

And maybe I should also just try to cultivate more of a “GP spirit,” as it were, in myself at these events: make sure to eat beforehand, no drinking beers, and ask for music to be turned down or changed if it’s bugging me. Maybe that makes me a fun-killer—I dunno—but I don’t think so. We all love this game, and I think we have the most fun (with our games and with each other) when we are all playing it to the best of our ability.

23/17 is a Hipsters of the Coast column focused on Limited play—primarily draft and sealed, but also cubing, 2HG, and anything else we can come up with. The name refers to the “Golden Ratio” of a Limited deck: 23 spells and 17 lands. Follow Hunter at @hrslaton.

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