Dealing with Loss

Do you remember the first time that you lost?

Even if you don’t, you know the feeling. It hurts. The flare of aggression, the slight confusion, the inevitable acceptance.

Magic is a game, for the most part, of victor and vanquished. Heads up is a struggle: a competition with one that gains three points and one that leaves with zero. Sometimes it’s one each, and nobody wins at all.

The more I play and learn, the more I realise that Magic is a game about minimising losses rather than maximising wins. At a GP, you say that you are X-0, X-1, X-2, dead. At a PPTQ, A RPTQ, the same. What can we do to minimise and escape that gutted feeling within ourselves?

Prepare

It was a final exam. I had struggled the entire semester with the content: each time I was close to catching up, a new topic was introduced that pushed me further behind. I spent the time leading up to the exam partying, including the night before. I arrived with a formula sheet scratched together last minute. I failed.

It was a PTQ. I had struggled the entire season with the meta: each time I was close to ‘solving the format’, a new deck would arise to push me further behind. I spent the time leading up to the PTQ partying, including the night before. I arrived with a deck list scratched together last minute. I went 4-3.

Think

A first date, beautiful company, everything on the line.
Continuation or abrupt ending to the experience.
My mouth opens, and I say something that I immediately regret.
A raised eyebrow, a cold stare. Rise from the chair, and departure.

Game three, last round, everything on the line.
Top 8, or a couple of boosters for my trouble.
I draw, and turn my creatures sideways. Suddenly I know.
Eyes widen, a smile. Tapping mana, tipping the math. Dead on the swing back.

Accept

Sometimes, you cannot prepare enough. You cannot fix it within a moment. The choice has never been in your hands. You have done all you could, but you lose anyway.

My Father passed away when I was seventeen. Third time’s a charm; with luck and misfortune. This time it was cancer, and he never stood a chance, even when it looked good. Sometimes, you cannot prepare enough. You cannot fix it within a moment. The choice has never been in your hands. You have done all you can, but you lose anyway.

You have ground your opponent down. You’re on one life, but you’ve stabilized. The win is on board for next turn. This time it was Lightning Bolt off of the top, and you never stood a chance, even when it looked good. Sometimes, you cannot prepare enough. You cannot fix it with your choices. The choice has never been in your hands.

Losing is tough and it happens a lot in this incredibly important game that we play, but it happens far more frequently and with much greater weight in the world outside it. Perhaps that’s why we play: to escape and to comprehend that not every loss is our fault, or to understand how we can improve our lives and lose less.

Don’t let it consume you: Smile and shake your opponents hand.

Think about why you lost, Prepare from this to not lose in that way again, and Accept that, once in a while, everybody loses.

Russell is a moustached magician from Adelaide. Since starting Magic in 2003, he has advanced from kitchen-top Magic to the highest level: that is to say, avoiding playing Magic as much as he can. His achievements include owning a collection of the card Jar of Eyeballs, becoming the pinnacle of fashion in Australian Magic, and sleeping with 3 Pro Tour competitors.

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