One of the most difficult challenges for any competitive game is staying on course while preparing for tournaments. When things go wrong, even briefly, it can be easy to want to try to overhaul everything in an effort to make them right. There are a plethora of reasons why this happens, and why this type of thing can proliferate amongst you and your peers, or even an entire community. What’s worse? You begin to squander time. The plan B fails, so you go to plan C, which also fails. You then go back to where you started, but with a slight tweak here, and a small tinkering there.

Those tweaks blow up in your face, and you’re now in a vicious cycle of the aforementioned, with no end in sight. You’re further away from where you started, if you even remember where you started.

This circular routine is one of the more destructive ways of preparing for an event, grinding out tournaments, or otherwise getting better at the game for multiple reasons. As previously mentioned, it becomes very easy to lose sight of what your original plan was in the first place. Even if you do eventually come back around to your original plan, your opinions could be skewed because of your immediate past experiences. Identifying this is so difficult because it’s instinctive to shy away from things that previous events discouraged, even if it’s irrational.

Keeping a log of all of your progress, from start to finish, including your main focus, why and how, along with details, is one way of doing things. If your Midrange Shaman is getting a bit more of an edge against Freeze Mage because of [Ragnaros the Firelord], jot that down. If that same Ragnaros is costing you a bit in the mirror, jot that down too. If it’s costing you because of how wide the mirror tends to go, you know what to do.

When you’re in the middle of a game, similar things apply. If you end up making a judgment call that works out poorly, you can easily end up feeling like you shouldn’t have made that play even though you couldn’t have known they would blow you out. If your Zoo opponent winds up punishing you with [Ragnaros the Firelord], and hits your [Earth Elemental], it can be real easy to wind up in that same vicious cycle, and it can skew your way of properly thinking about what the next right play is, even through future games.

One way to avoid this in the middle of a game is to immediately ask yourself: “What is the best play I can make with this current board state?” To give an analogy: When you miss an exit on a highway, you can’t immediately U-turn and go back to it. Instead, you find the fastest route to your destination given the new route. The same logic applies when you miss a point of damage/lethal, or any other mistake, from minor to catastrophic. You won’t always hit a three point shot, but that doesn’t mean you change your form after every miss.

Finally, there’s understanding the nature of variance. It’s so easy to let the negative variance hit you hard, while the positive variance is often underappreciated. Similarly, I strongly feel that we, as gamers, get too caught up on the negative version of tilt, while completely ignoring the positive version. Getting hit with the wrong end of variance always sucks, and can easily lead to frustration, and other emotions associated with tilt. But when you make an insane play to win a game, or match, for example, you can easily let the positive emotions, excitement, glee, etc, keep you from continuing to make good plays and play optimally. It goes both ways, and it’s important to identify when you’re experiencing both at a given point.

I don’t think anyone will tell you that they never go through any of these at some point in competitive gaming. It does happen a lot, but the goal isn’t to get rid of it completely. It’s to keep it out of the times where doing your best matters most.

Anthony has been competing in games for the better part of his adult life and is dedicated to improving his game, improving his community, improving himself as a person, and most importantly having fun and enjoying himself while doing so. You can check out his stream to find out which video game is the latest to catch his attention.

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