Developing and Maintaining a Winning Mentality

Written by OldBear on September 08, 2009

Developing and Maintaining a Winning Mentality 

by Trotsky1

Before I begin this article I would just like to lay out a few things. This article is aimed at the competitive player with the aim of developing some intelligent debate on the topic’s it brings up. I appreciate that people play magic for many different reasons, and winning is only one of them, but even if winning losing is no big deal to you, the attitude I am talking about converts very well into many facets of life and I hope you will still find this article a worthwhile read. One final thing before I begin an apology to those of you who do not like soccer and sports in general; you’ll see why in a second.  

Wednesday 26th of May 1999: Manchester Utd is down 1-0 to Bayern Munich in the champions league final. Having barely created a chance all game, with the 90 minutes up and only injury time left to play it looks like united are not going to do the treble this year. The rest is history: two goals in injury time and Manchester Utd go on to do the treble, in a game that they never looked like winning. 
Even more impressive was their win in a prior round against Juventus. Juventus were looking to make there 4th champions league final straight and it had been 4 years since they did not make the final of whatever European competition they were in, and they have won their domestic league for the past two years as well. After a 1-1 draw in the first leg at old Trafford things were looking precarious: ten minutes in and Juventus are up 2-0 a double salvo from Inzaghi. Down 2-0 against the toughest defense in all of Europe away from home, most teams would crumble give up the fight. But not this team: they came back and beat the Turin giants 3-2, a testimony to never giving up. 

The same mentality is what it takes to be the best at any sport there are many talented players but the one thing the true greats all have is this mentality, so if you want to be the best magic player you can be, you best learn to develop one. But it’s not easy. It may seem to be when you’re winning every game, but when the chips are down, it’s easy for heads to drop and for that confidence to disappear. 

All of a sudden you’re conceding games early because you believe you can no longer win. Don’t do it! You’re bemoaning your luck thinking about quitting, constantly complaining about flood and mana screw- do not slip into this cycle of negative thinking! Negative thinking breeds negative thinking. Analyze your defeat for any mistakes so you can learn from then banish it from your mind altogether. Once again, this is much easier said than done; losing is no fun. You must learn to successfully battle the negative feelings and thoughts losing can create. Try thinking back to the times you have triumphed, that PTQ win or near win, those masters top8s, trial wins, the time you came first in the 100m at sports day-- whatever it is get yourself believing you can win again. If you feel those negative thoughts slipping back into your mind, challenge them straight away what about when I did this that etc. --prove them wrong. 

Fight to the death- your opponent may make a mistake as the old Jon Finkel adage goes, no matter how good he is. Just as Manchester united did not give up against Juventus back in 1999, do not let that head drop-- some opponents can sense weakness and will capitalize on it. 

Recently I had hit a bit of bad form as well, ending in me taking a week-long break from playing magic and changing my Modo quote to worst run of luck ever, which was an exaggeration, plus an unnecessary cheap giving away of information to my opponents about my state of mind.  

Do not worry I’m over my slump now and my quote is back too my favourite Bon Jovi song line, which is just so good I am going to share it with you now:
 ‘When you say your prayers try to understand I’ve made mistakes I’m just a man,’

Of course, it was not entirely bad luck. I was making mistakes as well, which not in the least of was conceding too early. But mostly my classic error is I leak left right and centre more so when I’m down on my confidence. Carelessness: not the traits of a champion. Errors such as not gaining life of firemane angel. The new m10 system is very straight forward (some might say me included to straight forward), but I have needlessly thrown games by carelessly clicking through and not assigning blockers properly, resulting in gravediggers being sent to the graveyard when they should not have been, only to be returned a turn later by his twin. If you can eliminate these sort of errors which come from auto pilot mode and approach the game with the attitude I am preaching and trying to learn, you can undoubtedly improve your results. I’m sure not all of you suffer from the same problems as me; you have your own flaws. However I know from experience that a lot of people do suffer from the same problems I do and hopefully together we can learn and get better.

Anyhow, I caught myself breeding negativity and did everything I could to talk myself out of it and then entered a CBS draft, a format I had been quite successful at, as it was nix tix to try, and I wanted to relive past glories and to get myself in a winning mode again, another way of overcoming a losing streak. 
I drafted an almost mono black deck, which cruised its way to the finals with out dropping a game. However, in the final round I dropped game 2, and game 3 was slipping away from me as well. My opponent was at 12 life, and I had 2 Kami of the Waning Moon, a Scourge of Numai, and an Ashen-Skin Zubera in play, and was at 11 life facing down a Kami of the Hunt, 2 snake tokens and a flipped Budoka Pupil with 2 counters on it. If my opponent attacked with more than one creature, which he should to ensure I do not steal the game with devouring greed, I am probably going to lose. However, he only attacked with the flipped Budoka Pupil, which I let through. I untapped, drew, hit him in the air for 2 with my Kami’s of the Waning Moon, and cast my freshly drew devouring greed for exactly lethal. Thank you, Jon Finkel you wise and brilliant man. 

So that is one reason not to concede: your opponent may make a mistake. But there is another reason not to in limited and to a lesser extent constructed: you are giving away to your opponent that you do not have certain cards in your deck and losing the battle of information.  

How so? If you’re facing down a board you can never beat and you concede a turn early, you’re effectively telling your opponent “My deck does not have a board wiper such as Wrath of God.” Or, if your opponent’s at 5 life, you’re flooded, and you’re facing a massive board and you concede a turn early because no matter what you draw you can not win, you’re telling him your deck has no X spells in like Fireball, Profane Command etc. Instead of doing this when your deck has none of these cards, do not concede—say “Come on fireball, wrath of god,” and give your opponent a bit of misinformation that may just make him play differently and throw a game he could have won. 

In summary, this article is about getting into the right mindset. But wait! Did my title not also include the word maintaining? It did! If you saw the champions league final this year that Manchester Utd lost to Barcelona you probably appreciate just how difficult maintaining that winning mentality forever is. Manchester United never looked in the game after the goal went in. Even the greats lose it sometimes, so my question to all you magic-leaguers is: How do you maintain a winning mentality? I need some tips!

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by OldBear on 2009-09-08 22:31 CET

Thanks for putting this up.

by Lynolf on 2009-09-08 23:01 CET

I remember a while ago, I was battling 5c Control with my Doran deck. Eventually it came to a state where I had Gaddock Teeg in play and he had Mulldrifter. After that, I was only getting shitty cards, and a bazilion lands, while my opponent couldn't even sweat a spell because of the legendary kithkin.

The game was being so boring and my opponent was keeping so many cards in his hand, all it took was for him to draw a removal spell or even a big creature and I would lose. I was about to concede, but then was curious on how the match would proceed. Lately, coming out from nowhere, I only remember to have a Guardian Seraph and a Behemoth Sledge in play and was able to win the game with only those two cards (I think a Maelstrom Pulse took care of one dragon sometime in the middle).

It sucks, but players must be aware that luck is an important factor in the game, as well as skill. Even if the chance of you winning the game depends on a single card contained in your 60-card deck, you can still TOPDECK that card and win. Like Trotsky said: never give up, unless you CAN'T REALLY win the game. I only give up when I'm confronted with a very intimidating situation, for example when my opponent plays Hallowed Burial and then proceeds to activate Ajani Vengeant's ultimate ability ftw! ;)

by Manipul8r on 2009-09-08 23:41 CET

"How do you maintain a winning mentality? I need some tips!"

Pretend you have a shrouded, indestructible Platinum Angel out at all times and you have shroud.

On a serious note, never concede. Ever.

by Alvaro21k on 2009-09-08 23:54 CET

Something that happened to pretoriano in PT Berlin:

He was playing vs elves, it was 1-1 I think, the elf player had a gaddock teeg in play, preto had CCommand, Repeal, Rude Awakening and explosives in hand and a Visions about to resolve.

A turn before the visions came in, the elf player decided to go off, played some pacts, fizzled and conceded.

Preto asked why did he do that, he just had to keep putting pressure while holding on his teeg, the other guy told him because Visions was about to resolve, he flipped the top, and it was 2 lands a command and a repeal... so yeah, do not give up on a game, things like that might actually happen.

by Lynolf on 2009-09-09 09:46 CET

Manipul8r: Final Judgement. Man how I love that card! XD

by Nickname7 on 2009-09-09 11:40 CET

by Alvaro21k on 2009-09-09 01:54 CET
A turn before the visions came in, the elf player decided to go off, played some pacts, fizzled and conceded.

That's how he did 7-0 first day :P

by OldBear on 2009-09-09 15:13 CET

Okay thanks everyone for sharing.

by Mr_Eko on 2009-09-10 23:53 CET

shrouded indestructible platinum Awesome. I can never lose.

Good article btw. I am just now starting to enjoy soccer so I bet that was one heck of a game having Man U win in injury time.

For me, even though im not a red sox fan....what that team did in 2004 was amazing. Let me set the table for you.

Yankees were up 3 games to 0 after crushing the red sox 19-8 in game 3 in Boston. They were on fire and no team had ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a 7 game series in the MLB. It was just unheard of. So anyway the Red Sox were down 4-3 in the 9th inning, facing the brink of extinction. Rivera had saed 53 games during the regular season and was just MONEY when he had the ball.Boston had 3......3 OUTS LEFT in their entire season to make something happen. Well he walks the first batter, Sox pinch run and the guy steals 2nd base. Bill Mueller then gets a hit to hit send the game into extra innings. David ortiz then decides to hit a walk off rum in the 12th inning.

Ok, 1 down 3 to go, against baseballs best team. Down 2 runs again in the 8th inning, David ortiz hits another home run and the Sox send the game into extra innigns for a 2nd straight night. They win it in the 14th.

They go on to win the next 2 games and thus becoming baseballs first ever team to climb back from 3-0 deficit and win a series. It was incredible what they did and just shows what character and heart can do for you. They never gave up.

The other sporting event that impacted me was the GREATEST COLLEGE FOOTBALL GAME I have ever seen. January 1st, 2007 University of Phoenix, Fiesta Bowl: Boise State vs Oklahoma

This was absoluteley unreal and do yourself a favor and go watch this youtube video. Boise State had dominated the game and led by 18 points with 19 minutes left in the game. Well oklahoma ends up scoring 18 points to tie the game with only 1:26 seconds left, which was good for Boise ST. it gave them the ball with a minute and a chance to go down the field and iwn the game.

Well on the first play Boise State's QB throws and interception and Oklahoma runs it back to score a touchdown.....ill let you watch the vid to see what happened.

by OldBear on 2009-09-11 09:58 CET

Okay I watched that video do not really understand American football but the music was good:P

by CrushU on 2009-09-12 12:31 CET

Heh. "Never give up, never surrender!"

I Very Rarely scoop. I'll at least make my opponent deal the lethal damage to kill me. Sometimes it's a foregone conclusion, like no cards in hand, 5 life, and opp controls Baneslayer. But every so often I play UW control and my opp *doesn't* tap his crits for the kill, allowing me to topdeck something and get back in the game.

I really detest giving up in the formative stages of the game. After a game, I showed my hand to opp, and he said "You drew three Cruels? You could've told me earlier and I would've conceded." ... I wouldn't have conceded even if I'd known that, why should I believe other people would concede?

by Larspcus2 on 2009-09-13 07:01 CET

The one good thing about conceding is that it saves time for the rest of the match. In a control mirror, where a game can last upwards of 30 min if the right things happen, conceding to save time for gs 2 and 3 is pretty common, as a 0-1 result in a match is a loss for the match.

by Jacois on 2009-09-14 10:14 CET

Larspcus "The one good thing about conceding is that it saves time for the rest of the match. In a control mirror, where a game can last upwards of 30 min if the right things happen, conceding to save time for gs 2 and 3 is pretty common, as a 0-1 result in a match is a loss for the match."

Are you reading any of these posts or even the article? Keep playing that long drawn out game one where your opponent has control, because you might get lucky and win. Then you win the match 1-0. In a match where only game 1 is relevant, why on earth would you ever concede it?

by svenihilator on 2009-09-21 09:41 CET

I really wanted to read this article, but it started off very poorly and the grammar and writing style used were quite awful. Winning players are usually intelligent players. If you're going to write something for intelligent people to read, you need to write it in an intelligent manner.

by Shagrath on 2009-09-22 11:18 CET

Besides ppl from north, america, no1 understands american football. Dunno why ppl cheer because one team advanced 2 centimeters in the field.

by OldBear on 2009-09-22 22:00 CET

Winning players also have ratings above 1500 on ml, so do intelligent players i do not know what your problem is but get over it. The article is not my normal long flowing sentances as it was edit by whoever does the ml articles, so send your complaints about the grammar to him.

Yet we both know thats not it, your constantly coming up with spitefull posts, Jealousy maybe? I do not know but in the future keep your horrid little comments to yourself.

Also I would just like to stress how much this approach can improve your game, since writing this article I have become alot more concenious of the things I have discussed in it and although I would like to think the article benefited someone else even if it did not just writing it greatly benefited me. I recently acheived a new limited high rating on modo of 1864 and although part of it is to do with the med3 format suiting me. I can say with out doubt some of it is due to the new awareness writing this article has given me.

by on 2009-10-22 16:24 CET

I know this article was posted awhile ago but I just read it today and I wanted to take the time to give you my thanks for posting it. Lately I've fallen into the exact realm of negative thinking that you discuss here.
I've been conceding games often lately, making comments to other players like, "My luck has just been ridiculously awful lately" or "How do you get the EXACT card you need EVERY time?!!" I've been saying things like, "How do I get mana screwed EVERY time?" (usually an exageration) or making a rude comment about someone's netdeck -usually only when I'm losing to it. After reading your article it hit me that it's time for my attitude to change - I need to get back to a more positive perspective.
One thing that I love about the MTG world is that there is always room for improvement either personally or strategically and I've DEFINATELY lost sight of that.
So thanks again for taking the time to put this up, it's been a wake up call for me - I don't want to be the player that leaves the tourney early with a bad attitude instead of learning from that experience and improving.

by Zeph on 2009-12-21 08:48 CET

I just read this article. I liked the attitude part. I disagree with the 'giving away information' part, but only a little. I think that sometimes you can avoid giving away info when conceding soon. The opponent maybe didn't see you to play some cards in the entire game and later those cards can give you the match. Just in some cases :) I mean, the whole giving/hiding info is not so black-white. It has grey zones.

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