The concept of playing games, matches, and tournaments differently based on the context is kind of baffling. I’m sure you’ve heard it plenty of times: That one player who goes to you and says “I just need this one game and I’ll top 8!” or that one person who puts in their all for the last SCG Open so they can qualify for the Invitational. When they win, they feel this adrenaline rush as if they won the entire tournament, although they only made day two or top eight. How they mulliganed their hand because they’re up a game and they could afford to.

All of that is crap.

Gamers are really weird. They are the most logical culture out there when it comes to competition, strategy, and the like, but all that logic goes out the window when emotions get involved. They’ll tell you exactly how a matchup plays down to the percentages, but won’t consider those very percentages when they play against a pro or someone who they perceive as much better or worse than themselves. It statistically doesn’t matter if you’re up a game against someone when it comes to making a mulligan decision. You’re willingly making a worse decision based on that, and justifying it as a risk. It’s not a risk, it’s incorrect. The opposite also rings true as well.

Now, there is a difference between this and making decisions based on your opponent. If you expect your opponent to make the best play possible, and you have an avenue around said play, then it would be a good judgement call to play as such. Conversely, if you don’t think your opponent is as skilled, whether from previous experience, or from within the game you’re playing, then you can adjust accordingly as well, such as making sure your Ponders are always giving you consistent options, rather than constantly looking for that spike card that could swing a matchup.

I think this creates a huge rift within the gaming community, where you’re a fool for not playing the best strategy, but you’re a prophet and a saint if you figure out what breaks said strategy.

When you cultivate a competitive environment that punishes players that don’t have a bridge to the nexus of the hive mind, it creates a divide between those who are so far ahead that making mistakes doesn’t affect them as much, and those who need to be more ambitious just to have a shot at making it. When you’re the latter, it’s easier to get into the mindset that you have to do something different from the statistical/logical plan in order to get ahead. I think that the only way to really break this is to grind it out. Understand that you can do everything in your power to make the best decisions possible at your skill level, but you still may not succeed.

Talent is a buzzword that people like to throw out when people disproportionately quantify skill with the work put in to attain such skill. The large majority of us have to put in the work to get where we want to be in competition, and even if we do everything correctly, you likely won’t get there. The goal is to not let outside factors get in the way of continuing to make correct plays all the time. Your opponent getting lucky doesn’t matter. Not drawing your one of tech card doesn’t matter, and being on the draw bracket doesn’t matter.

All that matters is getting as close to correct as possible.

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