By Hugh Kramer

“Confidence is only a stones throw away from arrogance.”
– Me, just now, trying to sound deep

In professional Magic, I’ve never wanted to root for the arrogant player no matter how good they were.  I doubt that I am alone in this view. This is one of the reasons why a player like Reid Duke is a perennial fan favorite; he is a man of confidence in his abilities, expressing humility rather than arrogance.

I will admit in years past to not wanting to root for Owen Turtenwald or Seth Manfield because my perception of their arrogance, whether real or false.  As a basketball fan, it’s the same reason I always rooted against the likes of Kobe or Kevin Garnett, and why I’ve always favored players like Kawhi Leonard or Steph Curry; players who can be at the top of the game without (if you’ll pardon the crude vernacular) a general sense of doucheyness.

However, as my own competitive drive in Magic has increased over the years and I’ve seen a measure of success, my perceptions have changed.  I think, in the cases of Owen and Seth, and most young up-and-comers in any competitive endeavor, arrogance is quite common; almost to a point that I would say it’s uncommon to not be arrogant if you are young and dominant.  As Seth and Owen have matured and found even greater measures of success however, it seems to me (regardless of whether my perceptions were true or false in the first place), that their arrogance has turned more into confidence in their abilities.  When Seth and Owen enter a tournament these days, whether they would admit to it or not, I would be surprised if they didn’t expect to win.  And honestly, they SHOULD expect to win.  The mentalities of thinking you will win vs thinking you deserve to win are night and day.  Granted I don’t know them on a personal level, but again these are my perceptions.  And perception is reality.  And reality is a hologram.

I digress.

These days how could I not root for Seth and Owen?!  They are the two best players in the world at the game I love most in the world.  As someone constantly aspiring to better myself at my hobby and passion, skipping a chance to watch either of them play or read an article they write, is a missed opportunity and I’m only doing myself a disservice.

This for me is one of the reasons I was so upset about WOTC’s (now reversed…well at least for one more year) decision to almost entirely cut platinum players’ appearance fees at Pro Tours.

If the best pros are not given the right incentives, tools, and support to play Magic at its highest level, the game will suffer as the best in the world inevitably drift away.  I know this topic has been well-discussed in the community but just imagine the level of competition and skill we would get at top level Magic if prize payouts and other incentives (in total, not obviously taking from one “pool” and giving to another) rivaled other “e-sports”.  What kinds of caliber players would Magic attract then?  Perhaps there is a monster, a Seth-and-Owen-slayer out there we will never see because WOTC is rather clueless as to how to move their game positively forward in a constantly evolving gaming landscape.

I digress.

When Kobe retired, it was bittersweet for me.  I had stopped rooting against him over the years as he (and I) matured.  I came to appreciate his artistry and commitment.  I’d listened to him give interviews, learning just how intelligent and hard-working he really was.  Competitive sports for me are really no longer about team loyalties as an adult.  Rooting for a constant, almost cyclical changing of players, rotating from team to team and bloated contract to contract just feels hollow, uninteresting, and all about the money.  Instead, when I watch an NBA game now, what I care about most is watching the best quality of play.  If you have passion for something you should embrace that thing when you get to see it in its highest form and marvel in fellow humans achieving greatness.

Kobe had a sickness.  Jordan had it, all the best have it.  It is obsession, it is a drive that is unfathomable to those who will never feel it.  Jordan still has it, but to this day his arrogance will prevent him from ever being truly at peace with his career coming to an end.  I don’t think it’s the same for Kobe.  Kobe grew up.  Jordan never did.

Seth and Owen have grown and matured and it’s so much better for Magic.  The top players of any professional sport are ambassadors of the game whether they wish it or not.

The “I think I will win” mentality is something I believe is necessary for anyone truly wanting to win.  It is about being in the right state of mind.  I see this in Seth and Owen and if I may be so bold, when I play in any tournament now, it’s an attitude I try to cultivate within myself.

Some mornings when I wake up before say, a PPTQ, if I don’t have this mentality I simply will decide not to go.  For me, to play in a tournament, I have to a want to win that tournament, otherwise I am wasting my time and would be disadvantaging myself if I were to play.  I completely understand now that it is not arrogance when Owen is disappointed with a 2nd place finish at a Grand Prix, but rather his sickness, need, and desire to win; almost primal needs not being met.

In all honesty however, I don’t think Owen, Seth, or any of the other top players in Magic or other sports are even truly sated with a tournament win.  The high of winning a tournament is nice, and it lasts a good little while, but the come down sucks, and I can tell you from personal experience I always want “the next win” or what we should really be calling; “the next high”.  Can you convince me that Jordan was content winning six NBA championships?   Hell no.  I would bet he spends at least as much time thinking about the years he didn’t win, down to every single missed shot.  And I bet it will eat away at him the rest of his life.

This is what it takes to be the best.


I am not the best…at anything (as far as I know).  I’m good at limited Magic and I’m a damn fine beat boxer.  But I will endeavor to never play in a Magic tournament again without having the “I think I will win” mentality.  “I think I deserve to win” is wrong, arrogant, and will set anyone up for disappointment, saltiness, and make it extremely difficult to learn from failure.  “I think I will win” breeds success and is an important tool in any successful Magic players arsenal. It’s a tool that I think Owen and Seth use most effectively.

This article was supposed to be about me winning the Sunday Super Series this past weekend.  And in a way it is.  But I figured it would be far less interesting to simply say that I had a great sealed pool, a decent Top 8 draft deck, drew well, played well, and got lucky.  See? I could’ve done a tournament report in one sentence.

What I did have going for me last weekend was mentality.  The morning of the tournament, and even the week leading up to it, the one thought replaying in my mind nonstop was that I thought I was going to win.  I didn’t think I deserved it anymore than anyone else but I’m pretty sure I wanted it more than anyone else.  And that truly made all the difference.

Mamba out.

Hugh Kramer loves Nickelback.

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