4 Key Traits of Great Competitive Gamers
When they first started playing Magic: The Gathering competitively, you probably couldn’t have told that Reid Duke, Yuuya Watanabe, and Owen Turtenwald were going to be some of the best players in the world.
It all starts so simply. Going to your FLGS and buying a couple boosters, a starter set of Space Marines, or a starter set of Cryx. But how do you turn that into a successful competitive pursuit (or career in some cases)?
Well I can’t tell you that exactly. What I can tell you is what makes players like Reid Duke so successful. And who knows maybe if you pick up some of these traits yourself, we’ll see you on the Wizards of the Coast top 25 rankings page.
4 Traits of Great Competitive Players
1. Players are resilient
There is a great saying in college sports by the legendary “Coach K” at Duke University, “Next Play”.
The thought behind it is if you miss an easy shot, screw up an open pass, or generally fall flat on your face – just keep going. You don’t have time wallow in the mistakes you make. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and move on to the next turn/game.
In competitive gaming you need to learn how to keep your focus under pressure. Whether you are not getting the cards you need from your deck, or your dice keep turning up “1’s”, you have to be able to refocus and move on to the next play.
2. Players are prepared to take risks
Often the greatest strategies are the ones that expose you to the biggest possible failures. It’s almost a law of nature, considering how often it’s true. Whether it is investing money, starting a business, or yes even competitive gaming.
I remember when I was playing 7th edition Warhammer Fantasy in organized competitive play. At the time one of the most successful “builds” was to take a Chaos Sorcerer of Tzeentch, and have him ride a giant Chaos Dragon. The Sorcerer would spend the whole game flying around avoiding enemy troops while casting the devastating spell Infernal Gateway. The only problem was that the spell was difficult to cast (requiring a very high roll of the dice), but if successfully cast it could easy destroy and entire unit of elite infantry.
A lot of player tried to copy this style of play, but only the truly great players were able to do so successfully. Using the sorcerer this way took up a lot of resources for your army. If you were able to mitigate how much you were losing, and have you army work to benefit the sorcerer you could get a lot of success from your model.
While I am not saying your every army or deck should focus on taking such high risks. You should be ready to take risks. And try so very unconventional tactics that could lead in you in a new direction.
3. Players don’t shy away from the hard matches
If you want to be a great competitive player, you need to be ready to get out your decks, setup your play mat, and play against the hardest matchups you can find. A great example of this is when I playing Warhammer 40k competitively.
At the time I was playing as the Eldar (space elves) with a large force mostly comprised of fast moving, lightly-ish armored hover tanks called Wave Serpents. It was a good army. One that I had meticulously theory-crafted pouring over the various army rulebooks and potential matchups.
The one drawback is that the Eldar were notorious for not being able to stand up against a large number of enemy armored vehicles. There problem was that most of their anti-tank weapons were short ranged and lightly armored. So they could deal with one threat very efficiently, but it was unlikely that they could live long enough to ever make it to a second threat once the first was handled.
This was a problem. And it was not something I could easily mitigate by changing my army, as it was a problem with the entire faction. So, how did I learn to overcome this issue and get several overall tournament wins with my Eldar?
I played against my worst possible matchup. Not just once, but dozens of times. I threw them at a heavily armored Space Marine: Blood Angel force as many times as I could bare it (6 Predator Tank build for those who know). And I lost a lot of them. Oh boy did I lose a lot. But I also learned. I learned exactly what the limitations of my army was. And rather than try and change my list because of one limitation, I learned how to best play against it. How to change the way I approached that specific matchup to suffer the least. My thought was that if I could at least pull a draw against that kind of army, I could make up the points in my other games during tournament play and still place well.
And you know what, it worked. When I faced heavy army lists, I knew my limitations. I would try and play for the draw rather than over-extend myself and suffer a bigger loss. That way I could still stay in the running, and try to capitalize on the games where I had a better matchup.
4. Most importantly, they never lose their passion
Passion is everything when it comes to performing in competitive play. The best players in the tournament circuits would not have gotten there if their love of the game hadn’t been there. There is a certain amount of dedication required to get to a higher level of play, and your passion is one of the few things that can get you there.
The best Magic: The Gathering (MTG) players in the world eat, sleep, and breathe MTG. Its their passion that gets them to pour over every new card, and spend hours analyzing card combinations and uses. Never forget why you first loved the game, and you will stay with it.
Thanks for reading, and enjoy gaming.