We play Magic to win. With the exception of something like playing EDH Group Hug decks, this is largely why we play the game we love. We want to do the best we can and push ourselves as players in an effort to do so. With our victories, however, come the inevitable losses.

For all the skill the game requires to play at a competitive level, sometimes variance gets us and we inevitably take a loss to a bad draw, to mana screw or flood, or even to something as simple as a poor matchup. These losses are simply a part of the game and we often come to accept them as such. It’s hardly uncommon to find yourself sharing a laugh after a match, discussing your plays with both your opponent and your friends, and learning from the game to continuously improve yourself as a player.

Sometimes, however, it can be difficult to create such a positive outlook after a match. It could be that you lost a high stakes match like a win-and-in for day two at a Grand Prix, or you lost a match that could’ve easily been won but a bad play and a judge call later sealed your fate. Sometimes it’s simply that you faced your worst matchup four matches in a row, or that you faced tough but beatable matchups and clawed your way through games that were dreadfully unfun no matter the outcome. These and similar situations can cause a lasting effect of negative emotions that we as players often refer to as “tilt.”

During Grand Prix Seattle I experienced this greatly as I explained in my event write-up a few months ago. At this event I found myself going undefeated day one and landed firmly on my face day two for a 10-5 finish. Prior to the event I never would’ve thought I could make such a strong finish; and despite my losses both had great experiences during them, made new friends, and took away a number of learning opportunities from them. But I still found myself going from an unimaginable high on day one crashing down to the end of day two. In two rounds I narrowly lost to careless mistakes. I started beating up on myself, no matter how hard I tried to turn them around into a positive setting.

A similar circumstance happened with Grand Prix Orlando. After barely missing day two to an incredibly-executed bluff on my opponent’s part, I wasn’t doing the greatest already. Following that, I got out later than intended on Sunday and barely missed registration for a side event, and got more upset when I later learned the event could have added me in easily. To make matters worse, in the week that followed, I experienced loss after loss in various Magic Online events, burning 50 event tickets in the process.

After those events happened, I found myself trying to handle this wave of negative feelings but struggled. After Grand Prix Seattle nothing seemed right. If I go back to where I’m staying and play Magic Online I’m missing out on social interaction; but if I stay at the event I might just upset myself more by being in the environment, burning money I didn’t have on cards, or playing a low EV event and losing badly. GP Orlando felt similar with the aftermath of the Sunday event finding me struggling to hold back tears talking to close friends.

If it’s so difficult to struggle with tilt, how can you take measures to avoid it and handle it? The first step is to identify tilt. This doesn’t have to just be yourself either. If can be the opponent sitting across the table from you visibly shaking with frustration and anger or it could just be the Magic Online player hurling death threats at you (always remember to report these players if you encounter them). Give the player space and avoid doing things that can set them off further. For example, if you beat them, avoid saying something like “good games.” Sign the slip and be on your way with as courteous of a farewell as you can muster. Give them the space they need until they’re ready to engage others.

The same goes for when you find yourself in that other player’s shoes. Give yourself a moment or two to compose yourself. Breathe and do your best to not let it overwhelm you. If you’re at a paper event, consider visiting with friends. Go out for drinks, some dinner, or just try to be generally social and have a good time. Even if you aren’t playing Magic, hanging out with good company and sharing some laughs and some stories often helps.

But what if you aren’t able to find yourself in a situation like that? You don’t like crowds, don’t have anyone to hang out with, or anything else along those lines. How do you handle such a thing? The answer often boils down to trying something different. Are you doing poorly with a specific deck? Try a different one for a bit and see if you like it more. Your usual format of choice collapsing in on itself? Try your hand at another one within your grasp, be it a different competitive environment or even something that’s more just silly fun like EDH.

In the worst of cases, where all else fails, consider taking a break from Magic. Don’t just quit—you may find yourself regretting such a decision down the line when you try to re-enter once more. Instead, take however much time you need away from the game. In the case of GP Orlando, I took a week off shortly after those bad Magic Online runs until something fresh appeared in the form of Chaos Drafts. In another case, I struggled with the Pauper format during last year’s summer prior to the release of Ixalan and took no less than a whole month away from the game to spend time playing games on my new Playstation 4. When I came back to the game, I found myself refreshed and ready to take it on all over again with a bright smile on my face.

We’ve all seen the players who get upset, hurl insults, or throw their deck against the wall before walking out the door. Take care of yourself and do what you need in order to do so you don’t end up being that person. Find some time to engage another hobby, good friends, or to just relax away from the game. After all at the end of the day, it’s just that: a game. Let’s all do our best to be there for one another and work to make community and ourselves the best we can possibly be.

Kendra has been playing Magic since Urza block and never looked back. Playing a variety of formats and being known for championing Pauper in particular, the Elf Queen can be found hanging out on Twitter as well as streaming on Twitch, always seeking to better the community at large.

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