By Garrett Gardner

Editor’s Note: We’re super excited to announce our first writer in the new, rotating Scrub Report. Meet Garrett Gardner, as he talks about life as a scrub below! Garrett, like each of our rotating authors, has written four amazing articles for us. If you’d like to write for Scrub Report, email [email protected].

This is part three of a four-part series. Read part one here and part two here.

The folks at my card shop of choice, Twenty Sided Store, are holding a Limited Qualifier tournament for their Championship series. It’s a competitive level event, and the top 16 players of the season will be invited to the Champs. I’m hanging around number 15 or 16 and need to perform well to secure my spot.

But let’s rewind.

Back in Ye Olde Theros

It’s been almost a year and a half since I re-entered the Magic scene with the release of Theros. Since then I’ve done a lot of scrubbing. In fact, I would consider myself a professional scrub. With hindsight being 20/20, I can look back and judge the hell out of myself.

Of course, experience is key to improving your game. But there was something else that I was overlooking.

I would become incredibly anxious while in a game. It reached the point where my hands shook uncontrollably and I’d clumsily drop cards all over the floor. I’d misplay terribly and overlook things I shouldn’t. On top of that, I adopted a defeatist attitude when playing against skilled players. It’s a specific brand of tilt, where I don’t necessarily get angry with card draws or blowouts, but I’d decide before even beginning that I simply cannot win.

Back in Theros days, I spent four solid months losing 1-2 and 0-3 in draft pods. The first time I managed to crawl myself into the finals after dozens of drafts, I misplayed heavily and punted the game to a devastating loss. After over a year of playing, the experience improved my win record, but the negative vibes still infested my brain and held me back.

Okay, it’s not really that bad.

Okay, it’s not really that bad.

GP Baltimore

Then something happened. I was staying with two old college buddies to attend GP Baltimore. I told them I was coming down for a Magic tournament but would hang out with them all day Sunday.

“Wait, isn’t the tournament running for the whole weekend?”

“Yeah, but you’ve got to do really well to be invited to the second day, so no worries there.”

This sounds like that defeatist attitude, but it was something different. Rather than putting all of the emphasis on winning, I placed it on having a good time while I was there and improving my game among experienced Limited players. There was no pressure of proving myself, earning prizes, or “getting there.” Once I dropped out of the tournament, I would have a great time in the lively streets of Baltimore.

While I played, my hands wouldn’t shake, and I could think more clearly.

To my complete surprise, I got there. In the last round (the “win-and-in”), my opponent choked while I kept cool. I made it in for Day Two.

I adopted the same mentality the next day and have not looked back. My results have been improving, my cards have stopped jumping out of my hands, and I feel I’ve scrubbed something off. As it might be said in the community, I had a “level-up moment.”

But now I owe my college buddies another visit. Sorry about that, guys.

The Qualifiers

Back at the championship qualifiers at Twenty Sided Store, my sealed pool is strong. Abzan is strongest with [casthaven]Siege Rhino[/casthaven] and a slight Warriors theme supported by [casthaven]Raiders’ Spoils[/casthaven], which has quickly become one of my favorite cards in the format. Some +1/+1 counter synergies and tokens give the deck range.

I grind out a few close games in the first four rounds to a 3-1 record. As round five begins, the Shaky Hand Syndrome returns. An incredibly aggressive Mardu deck is a poor matchup for me since I cannot outpace good removal, [casthaven]Dragon-Style Twins[/casthaven], and [casthaven]Ankle Shanker[/casthaven]. I begin making mistakes, forgetting to play around spells, and losing my board presence. Then I hear the booming voice of Mufasa.

I may have been a bit sleep deprived.

I may have been a bit sleep deprived.

Okay, hands. Relax. What is at stake? At this point, I probably have enough points to get into the Championships. Even if I don’t, I’ll just do a regular draft instead and fling spitballs at the champ contenders from the corner.

Putting the game into perspective helps. My new focus (and no small amount of top-decks) swings the game back in my favor. In game three, my opponent stumbles on land and I manage to win the round.

Round six just needs a draw to secure a spot in the top eight.

The Draft

In the draft pod, I first pick a Savage “Big Knucks” Knuckleblade and force Temur. Black was open, but I (likely incorrectly) ignore it, and end up with too many [casthaven]Scaldkin[/casthaven]s to count. So many that I have to main deck two. I do not like [casthaven]Scaldkin[/casthaven] (sorry, guy).

I win round one against Jeskai. Round two pits me against like five [casthaven]Abzan Guide[/casthaven]s, but they’re out-tempoed in three games. Big Knucks doles out a beating with the right manabase, which I have.

In the final round, the entire store is huddled around us. We’ve all been playing for eight or more hours and we are loopy and exhausted. My opponent has a strong Black White outlast deck with High Sentinels. Still, double [casthaven]Master of the Way[/casthaven] is tough for him, and [casthaven]Treasure Cruise[/casthaven] and Big Knucks win me a game. [casthaven]Master of the Way[/casthaven] helps again in the next game, and I eventually win with a lethal, exploding [casthaven]Scaldkin[/casthaven].

Boom.

Boom.

The moral of the story is that [casthaven]Scaldkin[/casthaven] is actually fantastic.

Just kidding.

Really, though, it is important to handle your mental state when you play this game. A game of variance is often up to chance, but getting an edge is not just based on experience and knowledge of the format. You need to be in the correct state of mind and not focus on the importance of winning. I see a lot of players tense up and misplay, and I still do it all the time. I honestly think it’s a major hurdle that anyone wanting to be a real competitor must eventually overcome.

That’s a bit preachy, but true. Join me next time to see how I throw this advice in the garbage for the Limited Championships.

Garrett Gardner is a scrub that lives in Brooklyn. Hooked since assembling Voltron heroes during Theros block, he intends on slowly scrubbing off the scrub until he becomes a Limited master.

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