Editor’s Note: This article was originally written on March 1. We feel it necessary to highlight this, given the events alluded to in the piece.
I’m a passionate person. I find it impossible to do things by half measures. This affects the way that I live my life, and how I play magic. Passion, of course, has both positive and negative effects.
In life, it is seen as a fine quality. People are drawn in, the energy and intensity is interesting, almost enthralling. Passionate people often exhibit confidence, which is considered attractive for both friendship and relationships.
In Magic, passion is where inspiration comes from. Passion allows us to grind for hours in tournaments, and in preparation for them. It affects the matches themselves because a passionate, confident player can often make their opponent second guess their actions and lead to mistakes that cost them games.
But Passion has its downfalls. Not only for those who have it, but for those around them. In life, it can wear you down. When you are happy, you feel alive and that everything is within your grasp. When you are sad, angry, or any of the other negative emotions, it consumes you. For the people around you, this can be confronting. They often describe you as ‘five different people’. Keeping up with these different personalities takes a toll, and the intensity, what drew them to you in the first place, eventually can be the very thing that drives them away.
In Magic it creates tilt. It turns a simple loss into an avalanche of failure. It tells you to chase the hottest tech, the sweetest deck; it pulls you in all directions. This scatters your resources, your energy and your win percentages.
I want to give some context in what I have written above from my own experiences, and then to conclude with thoughts as to where my passion may take me next. In 2011, I was still very much a casual player. I attended prereleases and played casual magic and Commander with my housemates. Occasionally I would hear about PTQs and build some pile the night before, and end up X-3, X-4, or X-5.
I was a serial tilter back then. I would often comment about my bad luck, and although I was never outwardly angry, you could probably cook a decent steak on the heat I threw off. I was furious at the game, and furious at myself for my inability to produce results.
I was in a rocky relationship at the time. My girlfriend broke up with me and told me that I had to ‘win her back’. Here was a challenge, something that my passion could rise to. I worked as hard as I could. I begged, courted, and loved her. I showed her that I could be something, and she took me back. I got it back.
Two months later we broke up again, this time for good.
I am sure that most of us have been in a similar situation in our lives, and know this feeling. The boiling hot tears, the deep flushing of the cheeks. The mumbled conversation and the inability to look into their eyes. That lump in your throat and the deep pain in your gut. Deep, rich anger, both at yourself and your now sudden ex. Crippling shame, sudden sharp darts of suspicion, and a flood of ‘why?’ ‘what if?’ and ‘what now?’
I took this break-up badly. The next 6-8 months was a blur of alcohol and poor choices. I alienated friends, failed university, and almost lost my job. I was completely consumed by my failure, even if I couldn’t see it.
Then 2012 came about, and with it, changes. I met a group of Magic players who took things a little more seriously. I was good enough to be competitive, having drafted a lot recently and was accepted. I was asked whether I was going to GP Melbourne, a Dark Ascension/Innistrad sealed and draft event. I’d never heard of a GP before and it sounded fun. I decided to go and spent the next couple of months mastering the format. I won 3 byes at a GPT and was soon in Day 2, X-3 going into my second draft pod, with a good chance to make cash in my first large tournament.
I was disqualified.
I was having an exceptionally poor draft and as a result, would often look up to the ceiling to try and get my head around what was happening (I had never done a competitive draft in my life, my GPT win was in Standard). Because of the double-faced cards, it was seen by the judges that I was attempting to gather extra information. I was pulled aside during deck building, and was told (very politely and kindly) that I would be unable to continue the tournament.
That same feeling from a year ago hit me, I was consumed. Instead of drinking, I just couldn’t touch cardboard. The judge told me I could keep my deck. I ripped it up. My friends consoled me, and gave me cards as presents. I ripped them up. I was bitter, defeated, and deep in a pit. It took me 6 months to look at cardboard again. But I got it back.
Furthermore, I got it together.
It may be due to age, experience, or a sudden realisation, but somewhere along the line, I knew that I needed to stop falling into the same bad habits, to try to mitigate the damage that passion causes to my life, and my results in Magic. Instead of getting angry at a loss or a mistake, I try to acknowledge and note it, and to learn from it. Instead of flitting from deck to deck, I try to master a strategy that I feel comfortable with, to channel my passion into changing just one or two cards for a tournament, instead of 75. This has brought both my win percentage and consistency up. Instead of spiking the occasional victory, I will often find myself in top 8’s of PTQs, and day 2’s of GPs. I find that the people surrounding me want to stick around, instead of fading from my life.
I have been with a lovely girl for two and a half years, and today we broke up. Once more, those tears, hotter than they have been in my entire life, tumbled down my face. That dark thought of wiping my mind clear with drink and party and poor choices rose again. But tomorrow is my first day of university for the semester, and there is life to be lived.
Perhaps I am now finding in life the same thing I found in Magic. I’m finding that instead of trying to get it back, getting it together is the correct play. So instead of letting your passion towards life and Magic govern what you do, use that passion to improve.
I sadly can’t make it to GP Auckland, but I plan on being at Sydney. I plan on doing very well.
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.