Think of the last time you made a mistake in a game of Magic. Was it a punt? Did you have the win on board and fail to see it? Did you walk into the only spell that your opponent could have won with? Did you play the wrong land on turn two? Maybe you made a bunch of mistakes all at once, when you filled out your deck list. You face endless decisions throughout a Magic play session—whether competitive, casual, or anything in between.

Ask yourself: how many times have I been wrong about something in Magic? Hundreds? Thousands? Every day, basically. And even when you don’t make mistakes, you still lose. Failure after failure, tough lesson after tough lesson. In Magic, you have to climb back upontu many horses. The greatest players win 70% of their matches, and they’ll tell you all about it too. Listen to Jon Finkel or Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa being interviewed, Luis Scott-Vargas, etc etc. They have all lost a lot of games of Magic, and made countless mistakes, including today, yesterday, ten years ago, and any other random day of their lives. Perhaps it’s easier to cope with failure when you are mostly successful, but the best Magic players tend to know how often they are wrong.

That is a truism of pedagogy across all disciplines: the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know. It’s one of those clever “paradoxes” that makes perfect sense once you think about it. Novices don’t recognize mistakes. Experts see mistakes everywhere. Of course, experts are searching for mistakes—usually to eliminate or evaluate—which creates a natural bias. People who take a subject seriously and develop expertise tend to be aware of their own shortcomings in that area. It helps to know what you are doing wrong when you seek to improve. If you are a competitive Magic player, a pro tour aspirant or veteran, then you know you must focus on your mistakes to succeed in tournaments.

The honest expert will admit uncertainty or error. That is a sign you can trust. The person who claims to know everything is who you should watch out for. Anybody who says they are always right is wrong. More broadly, those who do not respect opposing viewpoints—or who fail to recognize when a viewpoint from either side has been thoroughly discredited, disproven, debunked—are either dishonest, unserious, or ignorant. He who claims perfection is deeply flawed.

We live in the era of uncertainty. It is difficult to determine what is right or wrong, true or false, wise or unwise. But it’s even worse: we struggle to define what these terms mean, and whether dichotomies exist at all. Everything is probability now. As Magic players we know about playing to our outs, improving our chances to win a losing game. We confront unknown information, and make choices in the face of our ignorance. I think that’s a big part of why gaming has grown in our cultural consciousness, and why “Magic nerds” have gained social acceptance. Magic skills are life skills.

And when it comes to making tough choices in face of uncertainty, it doesn’t get more real than this election. It’s hard to tell what’s true. But it’s not hard to tell who knows what they are talking about. Let that guide you.

Carrie O’Hara is Editor-in-Chief of Hipsters of the Coast.

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