It is fourth down and three yards between you a first down. The clear line here is to punt the ball away—wait that isn’t the game that we normally talk about. However, it does have the correct term I wanted to focus on this week: punting. This is a common term you hear walking around a Magic event or when talking with most Magic players throughout a weekend of competitive play. But it is often misused or confused with a smaller-scale misplay.

So what does the word mean when used in Magic? A punt is when you make a misplay to the point it directly cost you the game or match. Often players use the word to describe a simple misplay, though, which is significantly different than a punt. A misplay is just doing something that is less optimal than the other possibilities in that given turn. These misplays won’t be the sole reason that you don’t win a game.

Let’s look at examples of both. Last weekend at SCG Richmond I was playing the Modern seat and I was on Mardu Death’s Shadow playing against Infect. I ended up tapping out for a Ranger-Captain of Eos to get another Death’s Shadow on board and planned on sacrificing the Ranger-Captain on my opponent’s upkeep. The one thing I forgot was that my opponent had an Inkmoth Nexus on the battlefield and—if they realized it—they could have animated and pumped the Inkmoth with the Ranger-Captain’s ability on the stack.

That mistake was a punt because it could have directly cost my the game and the match. A misplay in this game would be casting a discard spell in the early game and taking the wrong card, which probably won’t directly cost you the game but it will certainly make it harder for you.

Now that we’ve already punted in this match, what is the correct thing to do? The first thing to do is try your best to stay calm internally. It is certainly hard to keep your composure after a punt and that is ok. To be honest, it is something I struggle with still to this day. The cool thing about punting is, if you do it confidently—even you realize what you’ve done—your opponent might not realize you made a mistake. In that same example against Infect where I sacrificed the Ranger-Captain of Eos, I did it with confidence and my opponent either a) didn’t see the line or b) thought I may have a trick in my hand and they didn’t want to go for it.

What not to do in this situation is start to panicking and worrying about the punt. That will cause you to start to tilt and that will ultimately derail you all the way out of the tournament. These emotions can cause a snowball effect is just very destructive for oneself during an event.

All right, so you punted your Round 5 match away to drop you to 3-2 and on the cusp of elimination. What’s the play?

One thing I like to do is walk around the convention center and catch up with people. Sometimes using a conversation as a distraction can give you a refreshed outlook and take your mind off of the punt. Maybe talking out the line with other players you respect can help put it more in perspective and either learn what went wrong or at least why it was a bad line and how to improve going forward.

Another think to do if there’s time left in round is play a game with a friend…that’s not Magic. Nowadays there are a lot of pocket sized card games, Love Letter for example, that are fast easy games that are fun. Again it comes down to that distraction to keep your mind away from the mistake and to keep you from tilting. The last thing you can do is either eat some food or drink some water to keep you focused and recharged. Mistakes can happen due to being down on mental resources so it is always good to refuel whenever you feel sluggish.

Now that we went over some differences between what a punt is in comparison to a misplay and some good ways to deal with one feel free to use them going forward. If you ever do make a punt and see me at an event feel free to come talk to me and so we can get you to bounce back and ready to battle next round!


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