Crazy Theories: Tezzeret, Luck, and Brainstorms

Disclaimer: All or none of the following may be entirely fabricated. This article is for entertainment purposes only (with a few possible grains of wisdom). Reader’s discretion is strongly advised.

It’s been awhile since I wrote my first ManaDeprived article. In the past few months, I have been helping my good friend KYT by deciding which articles are good enough for the site and which aren’t (yeah, if your article got rejected, it was because of me, please leave comments below). It’s fun, just hanging out at Headquarters, reading articles, though there sure are some stinkers. One guy thought an article about why he hated Jund was likely to be published, while another said White Sun’s Zenith was bad in limited because your tokens died to Black Sun’s Zenith, and yet another thought that “Valakut cantrips you too much with Lightning Bolt and Overgrown Battlement”. Of course, sometimes with all the massive partying that goes on over here, something (like one of those 3) slips through the cracks.

Anyways, I was just enjoying a ride with KYT in his limo, chatting about various topics, when the subject of T2 came up. KYT, a big fan of Tezzeret 2.0, exclaimed that he would bet one of his 6 mansions complete with servants that there would be a deck in the top 8 of the Pro Tour playing 4 copies (this was a few weeks ago, of course). He told Garçon, his driver-slash-butler, to make a stop at the local card shop, Face to Face Games.

We stepped out into the bright and brisk Montreal street, and quickly entered the store. The friendly store owner, Sal, greeted KYT and I with a smile and a frown, respectively. KYT, baller that he is, advanced to the counter, pulled out a wad of hundreds, and said, “How many Tezzerets can I get for this?”.

The answer isn’t relevant, but suffice to say that its unlikely anyone at ManaDeprived is going to ever need Tezzerets. However, while KYT was engaging in his excessive expenditures, I had some time to check out the people battling at the store. There were two gentlemen playing the classic Valakut versus Caw-Go matchup and a circle of EDH players, but what really caught my eye was a pair of “kids” playing the Faerie mirror. I use the word “kids” liberally, they were probably 17, or perhaps 20. To those who know me, I cannot resist a trick of any kind, and thus am a strong fan of the little pixie devils. My friend Justin Richardson, another patron of the store, sides more with the other enemy of the people, Jund.

So I was just watching these two valiant Planeswalkers battle it out while Sal counted KYT’s money for what seemed like the 10th time (I guess when you are dealing with THAT much cash, you want to be sure!), and I noticed that one player, clearly inexperienced with the mirror match, had a pair of Bitterblossoms out to his opponent’s lone ‘Blossom, and yet continuously refused to block his adversary’s tokens with his own. The game eventually ended with that mistake costing him,  because he hit his 4th land too late to champion away both Blossoms in a very advantaged board state before his life was reduced to 0. Of course, a player losing to his own mistake is not an unusual occurrence, but to top it off, this player exclaimed “Wow, I got so unlucky to not get my 4th land in time!”.

This, of course, is completely missing the point, but again not entirely unusual. Magic players are generally fairly emotionally attached to their deck and to their results, and as such tend to complain a fair bit after a ‘tough’ loss. What was unusual was the chain of thought that just began in my head:

Why do so many players attribute games lost to luck without even considering the other possibility? – That they screwed up!

I think, as humans, that we find it very difficult to see ourselves from a completely unbiased point of view. When we topdeck the last copy of Day of Judgement, it’s “deserved” or “FINALLY,” yet when our opponent does the same thing, the response is generally “Wow, what a “sack!” As it has been said many times before in other articles, those players who play optimally will generally buy themselves more chances to get into situations like this than those who play sub-optimally. I see time and time again, players scooping when they still have a draw phase, or players not making the play to allow themselves that one last chance to draw something.

None of this is new. What really struck me is that the biggest barrier to improvement is noticing and correcting one’s own mistakes in game play, so this attitude of blaming every single loss on luck, while sometimes accurate (I don’t think anyone would deny the fact that there is luck in Magic), is generally not a good policy to take in terms of self-improvement.

While the method of pretending no luck exists whatsoever doesn’t work for me personally, I find that asking my opponent after the match if there were any plays that he (or she) thought I could have improved upon. Even those players that I deem below the lofty heights of my own skill level. Reality is but a difference of perspective. I try not to overanalyze mistakes that I made during a tournament, because the potential tilt waiting to happen overweighs the benefits of doing such analysis right away. After the tournament, I think back to potential mistakes I could have made, and what I could have done instead (taking notes also works if you have trouble remembering a tournament worth of plays). In the words of the legendary Jon Finkel, “There’s the right play, and then there’s the mistake”.

If we really do view self-improvement as the number one goal, then I think you have to mentally take winning out of the equation. A friend of mine, who, despite making multiple, possibly game-losing errors, still won his match, said afterwards “Of course I outplayed my opponent, I won didn’t I?”, which stunned me to silence (a rare occurrence). I think we should not feel bad about a loss, but instead feel good about those games in which we gave ourselves every opportunity to win, even if the win itself never materialized. I would even go further, and say that often the correct play will LOSE you the game. For instance, if you have 2 options, one wins 75% of the time, one wins the other 25% of the time. The first play is clearly better, but by definition it WILL lose you the game 1/4 of the time. An example of this is in Pro Tour Amsterdam, where Michael Jacob was facing eventual champion Paul Rietzl, and could either play around Mana Tithe or Brave the Elements, but not both. He chose to play around Brave the Elements, a card that Rietzl played 4 copies of instead of the 2 copies he played of Mana Tithe. Turns out Rietzl had the Mana Tithe, but in a game of imperfect information, Jacob made the right play.

I was awoken from my revery by KYT, who had (FINALLY) finished getting himself a knapsack full of Tezzerets. He whistled and Garçon came to open the door to the limo, and we got in.

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Fast forward three weeks, and I was talking on MSN to Justin “The Jund Master,” about the decks coming out of the Pro Tour (and an upcoming GPT). I find MSN to be a great tool for brainstorming new ideas.  Let me know in the comments if you guys would like something like this (with less foreplay and more, well, you know…that thing Jace, the Mindsculptor does for 0)

Justin says:
ya i think im gonna play ub at the gpt

A80H says:
yurchick’s list?

Justin says:
ya

A80H says:
seems so bad tho, how do u beat a UW player?

Justin says:
kill every threat they have

A80H says:
squadron hawk + swords says “hey, thats gonna be kinda hard bro”

Justin says:
i got mass removal 😛

A80H says:
they got spell pierce x 4

Justin says:
i know

A80H says:
yeah, like that matchup seems horrendous

Justin says:
i might play uw

A80H says:
play boros

A80H says:
seriously

Justin says:
ya i was thinking of boros

A80H says:
when Alex Hayne tells you to play an aggro deck

A80H says:
you f!$#ing play an aggro deck

Justin says:
lol

A80H says:
have i ever told you to play an aggro deck before

A80H says:
ever?

Justin says:
no lol

A80H says:
since everyone is gonna copy paste ben starks deck, i think u want more heros

KYT says:
what about Tezzeret? it’s gonna be 80$. LOLLL

Justin says:
how many mirran crusaders

A80H says:
i think 2 is fine

A80H says:
that guy sure can wield a sword

A80H says:
he makes Gladiator look like a wimp

Justin says:
i think im gonna max out on heros between main and sb

A80H says:
good call

Justin says:
wat do u think of bonehoard in that deck

A80H says:
I like it best in the board, it seems bad against valakut but amazing after a day. Rietzl apparently said he would play 1

A80H says:
ok, im stealing this whole convo for my article

Justin says:
man, i wish bloodbraid elf and blighting were legal

In case you were wondering why this conversation took place at 4 am, it’s because we were all returning from the weekly dinner party hosted by KYT for his closest friends (and Justin was invited too). Seriously, KYT’s chef is an artist. However, the 4 hours of eating was balanced out by the 3 hours of puking afterwards (apparently my body doesn’t like oysters, to quote Woody Allen “I will not eat oysters. I want my food dead. Not sick. Not wounded. Dead.”  I should have listened to his better judgement, just Alphonse’s cooking has never let me down before). Justin is just nocturnal, plus he hangs upside-down and stuff. It’s kind-of unnerving when you are playing a match against him. He also always looks so picture perfect, yet he almost seems to avoid mirrors.

Thanks for reading, and until next time, it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose, it’s just how you played the game. I’d like to thank Erik “Wurmcoil” Gaudreault, who, while down with the PT-Paris fever, helped inspire this article. Also a big shout-out to my friend Vincent Thibeault, who is trying to break a very serious addiction that has caused a lot of harm to both himself and others. Good Luck Vincent in beating your Valakut addiction, and all our hearts go out to you and your family in this difficult time.

“When you see a good move, look for a better one” – Emanuel Lasker