Raise Your Standards – Second Best


Hello and welcome to another episode of Raise Your Standards.  This past weekend was Game Day Aether Revolt.  My local shop (shout out to J&J Games in Marshfield, WI) holds their game day tournaments on both Saturday and Sunday, however due to a prior commitment I would only be able to attend the Saturday tournament this time.  It would be five rounds of swiss pay, with the top eight competing in a single elimination ladder bracket.

After a rough start in Round One (losing 2-1 in some close games), I managed to win my next four matches and placed Second going into the top eight.  Two more rounds went by and after some close matches, I ended up in the finals.  I was playing against my friend Jacob Marx who was playing an updated version of his Esper Control deck (which I talked about in my article Control_Yourself).

We played two games, with each of us winning one, and were going into our final game.  I knew it could go either way.  In the end, Jacob came out the winner and I came out in second place (probably no surprise if you read the title of this article).

In this week’s article, I’d like to discuss the thoughts and feelings I had after coming so close to being the champion and ultimately losing.

As our match concluded, I had no creatures on the board and in my hand I held a land and a copy of Blossoming Defense.  Jacob had a 4/4 Shambling Vents that had been animated with Ruinous Path the turn before.  We were both down to just a few points of life left, and if he animated the Shambling Vents and swung, he would win.  It was my turn, and I knew I either needed to draw a creature card to serve as a blocker, or a removal card.  I drew another copy of Blossoming Defense.  My heart sank as I extended my hand and conceded my loss.

My feelings at that time were a mixture of happiness for my friend and disappointment for my loss.  While I didn’t need the playmat, I don’t enjoy losing (who does?), and it’s nice to be known as a ‘good’ player.  I had been in a similar situation at the Shadows Over Innistrad Game Day where I had again come in second place, but that time the games were much more lopsided and the chance for victory wasn’t as close for me.  It was then that I had decided to stop playing so competitively and decided to just have fun with Magic for a while.  That didn’t last for too long though, and when Aether Revolt released, I decided to get my competitive drive back.  I wanted to win!

And now I had just been in the finals and lost.  All my mind wanted to do was replay those last few turns of the match.  If I had only played my Walking Ballista for 4 mana instead of 6, I would have been able to cast the Blossoming Defenses on it to possibly deal the last damage I needed to end the game.  Or, if I hadn’t traded my Hissing Quagmire for one of Jacob’s larger creatures earlier in the game, I could have attacked with it to deliver those last few points of damage I needed to win. Or, if I had only…

The thoughts of how I could have played better or made a different choice at some point that would ultimately allow me to win consumed my thoughts.  And they did so for the next couple of hours.  At every turn, I would think of some other possible way I could have won the game if I had only made a different choice.  I knew I had to force myself to change the way I was thinking about this or I would never be able to think about this day or see the Game Day playmat without feeling bitter.

I then began to think about how amazing my day had been.  I started the day off with a loss and turned it around by not losing for the rest of the day right up to the final match.  I made it 6 full rounds without another loss.  That was pretty amazing.

I also realized that our final match, while intense, was still very fun.  All through it, Jacob and I were having fun, making jokes, and playing some enjoyable magic.  It wasn’t as stressful as it could have been because of all of our small talk.  Even earlier in the tournament, Jacob and I joked that if you’re not first, you’re last (Thank you, Ricky Bobby!).  And the crowd that had gathered around to watch our hard-fought battle was having fun too.

I also noticed that there were comments being made by the onlookers about the cards that both Jacob and I had played, as they discussed the “spiciness” of the card choices.  Even though I was playing a deck I had found online, it was still a nice feeling to have other players, players whose opinions I respect, talking about card choices and the sequencing I had made.

I began to realize that even though I wasn’t the big winner on this day, that didn’t diminish my skills as a player.  I made it all the way to the finals after starting my day off with a loss.  I also realized that even the best professional Magic player doesn’t win 100% of the tournaments that they enter.  Losing this tournament didn’t make me a worse player.  If anything, it likely made me better because of the way I had been analyzing my plays in that final game.

As much as I enjoy winning matches, I realize I’m not going to win every match I play.  But, win or lose, I can take the knowledge I gain from playing that match to learn from my mistakes and notice what I’m doing right in order to become a better Magic player.  I also realize that losing in the finals of a big tournament doesn’t diminish my ability as a player.  I’m still a ‘good’ player, like I strive to be.  And while he may have been better on this day, the next tournament is a whole different ballgame.

So, there you have it.  That was my journey from driving myself crazy with the thoughts of how I could have played differently, to ultimately coming to peace that on this day there was one better player than me.  If you find yourself in a similar situation, my advice to you is to try your best to push the negative thoughts out of your head and replace them with positive ones.  Do what you can to keep Magic fun for you and realize that there will be days that someone else gets the best of you, just like there will be days that you’ll come out on top.  Nobody wins 100% of the games they play.

How did your Game Day go?  Were you the big winner, or did you come up short this time?  Let me know by leaving a comment below.

And for those of you who are interested in the deck I was playing, here it is.


G/B Energy Aggro






This deck is a blast to play.  To be honest though, I made the sideboard on my own and the only cards that I used all day were the 3 Forests (which I swapped out for 3 other Forests and 1 Nissa, Voice of Zendikar that I swapped for Lifecrafter’s Bestiary.  I think the Bestiary would be better when played from the sideboard.  I’ll be playing this deck again this week at Friday Night Magic, so I’ll make that change (I also might swap the Aethersphere Harvesters for Nissa as well) and see how that goes.

This week we’ve got Grand Prix Brisbane and Vancouver coming up.  Be sure to join me next week when we take another look at the state of Standard and look at some innovative decks from these events.  I’ll see you then.


Mike Likes

Mike Likes

Mike started playing Magic back in 1994, but gave it up at the end of 1995. He came back to the game during the Lorwyn block and has been playing ever since. Around this time, he opened and ran his own comic & game store, while also raising his newborn daughter. After 8 years, he sold his business and moved to Wisconsin with his wife and daughter. With the debut of Kaladesh, his entire family became regular Magic players. He now has hopes of competing alongside his wife and daughter at a Grand Prix or similar event in the future. #MTGDad

Comments are closed.