Improving your game is not as simple as it may seem. Magic players never want to stop learning, growing, and getting better. That is a great approach to the game, which offers so many avenues for growth. Meaningful ways that you can improve your game include taking the time to understand why you lost a game or match, understanding the art of mulliganing, developing a deeper understanding of why you are sideboarding the way you are, and setting realistic and reach goals for yourself.

Understanding Why You Lost

Too often people attribute their losses to “variance,” “flooding out,” or “bad matchups.” While these are all real things, blaming every loss on them is foolish. It took me a long time to realize that there were other factors contributing to my losses. When you don’t understand the reasons that you lost a match, then it’s hard to make any real strides toward improving your skill and gameplay. So what do you need to consider when evaluating why you lost a game or match?

There are so many decisions and micro-decisions in every game of Magic that it is hard to even identify them when reflecting on any particular game. Did fetching and shocking on turn one end up influencing the rest of your turns? Did holding up a counterspell instead of playing a creature and holding up removal impact the rest of the game? There are so many difference choices and scenarios that it may be daunting to try to look back and analyze all your plays, but an important place to start is by thinking about what you could’ve done differently in the game that might have influenced how the game panned out.

Also, talk with others! Hear what lines other people might have taken and have a discussion about them. You can learn by thinking through plays in ways you may have never approached the game before. If you play on Magic Online, you can watch replays and show them to friends. Even watching on your own, you can often see lines you didn’t notice while playing, or reevaluate your choices without the pressure of the clock.


Mulliganing is often overlooked, thought of something relatively easy to comprehend. Lands and spells means you keep, right? I started noticing a significant improvement in my gameplay and results when I learned there was much more to mulliganing than just having a hand that contains lands and spells that you can cast. When you consider a mulligan, envision what your first few turns will look like. Do you have interaction? Are you effectively setting up for your combo? Or are you doing nothing until turn four, when you will likely be dead by then?

It’s important to be doing something in the first turns of the game. Additionally, mulliganing post-board is important as well. Identify the matchups where you need to mulligan to “hate cards” and which you do not. Along those lines, it’s also important to identify an acceptable hand versus a given matchup. You might not necessarily have to aggressively mulligan for graveyard hate against Storm, but a hand without graveyard or hand interaction might not be the best hand to keep.


Sideboard guides are often useful tools to a large number of players. Having someone who is knowledgeable about a certain deck tell you which cards come in and out for any given matchup is a great tool to utilize for a tournament. However, most people stop there and do not stop to think why certain cards are good or bad in any given matchup.

You can improve and harness your Magic skills by starting to learn and understand why you are doing the things you are doing. Some are more obvious, like you side in Stony Silence against decks that use artifacts, but others are less obvious. Why do you side out hand-hate in a Jund mirror? Why do you side out Eidolon of the Great Revel on the draw against many decks? Why do you board in Lightning Bolt in Storm when you’re against Grixis Death’s Shadow? Knowing the philosophy behind any of these questions can help you better understand the game and apply these ideas to other matchups, or against decks you might not have seen before.

Setting Goals

Goal-setting can be an important aspect of striving towards improving your play, but it is important to set a variety of goals. Setting reasonable or reachable goals can help motivate you to improve without disappointment when you don’t immediately reach that goal. For example, when I went to my first event, my goal wasn’t to win the whole event. I’ve been slowly setting goals that get a little harder each time I reach one. My first Magic goal was to Day Two any event. After that my goal became to cash an event. This SCG Season, I have been more consistently Day-Twoing events, and a new goal I have is to Top 8 an event, with the “reach” goal of winning an event.

Goals are something you can strive for, and it’s important to not be too hard on yourself if you miss those goals or if it takes a while to reach those goals. Like I said, many players never want to stop improving. Magic is great because it gives endless opportunities for improvement and growth. Setting goals will help guide you through that process.

Ally Warfield is a Magic grinder and personality. She is an up-and-coming grinder with an impressive range in terms of archetype selection. You can find her on Twitter @ArcticMeebo.

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