From PTQ Grinder to Platinum Level Pro

Let’s take a look almost exactly a year back, to 19 May 2013. I had come in second in a PTQ the weekend before and was headed to an SCG Classic in Massachusetts. I battled hard, with the fire burning strong after coming in second at a PTQ (the best I’d done until recent times), and I came out the victor. I was beyond happy, thinking that I finally managed to win a tournament that had some relevance and wasn’t just Friday Night Magic. I had finally made it through a top eight and was the first-place finisher.

Now let’s fast forward another two months, when after narrowly missing the top eight of the Standard Open, I battled through Legacy to get my very first open top eight! The fire intensified inside me to keep doing better, because now I knew more than ever that I could actually do it. Another two months and I have a Standard Open top eight to add to my growing list of accomplishments (though at the time the list is very small still).

Here comes the big one: Grand Prix DC, in which I lost in the finals to Owen Turtenwald.

Prior to the Grand Prix, I had made the final rounds in three different PTQs that season but missed qualifying for the Pro Tour each time. Now, however, I was finally qualified, and I didn’t get complacent once I top-eighted the Grand Prix. Instead I made it all the way to the finals! I was the happiest I could be, finally reaching my dream destination by attaining an invite to the Pro Tour!

The very next weekend, I went to another SCG Open Series weekend, and lo and behold, I placed first in the Legacy portion. I finally won an Open! It was another accomplishment I could check off my list of success, and it felt great. About a month before the Pro Tour, I added a PTQ victory to my list of accomplishments, finally being able to close one and secure an invite to my second Pro Tour, in case I didn’t do well at my first.

Testing for the Pro Tour was stressful, yet it provided some of the most intense focus I’ve ever experienced at the same time. We spent countless hours drafting and testing decks, trying to find the best one and learn the new draft format. Unfortunately I left a week early because I was going to play in Grand Prix Paris the weekend before the PT, so I had less testing than some of my other teammates. I felt confident in both decks I had brought with me, but I still ended up changing a week before the Pro Tour! Bryan Gottlieb took that leap with me and we had the best constructed record of a deck on the weekend.

Playing in my first Pro Tour was exhilarating, which is weird, thinking back, because I didn’t know nervousness mixed so well with excitement. I was among the best players in the world, and I felt a burning inside my mind, intensifying that I wasn’t satisfied just getting onto the Pro Tour; I was going to try become a well-known name among the magic the gathering community. Battling through nerves and other highly skilled players was rough, but I was able to place ninth after the dust settled and the weekend was over.

All of a sudden, after checking everything online, it was brought to my attention that I’m in third place for the Rookie of the Year race. Originally I had my eyes set solely on that, but after some wise words from Ben Lundquist, I realized that all I had to keep doing was play my best and stay focused on playing my best. Anything that I earned from doing so would be justified.

So, with three more months till the next Pro Tour, I planned to fill them with Grands Prix and SCG events to pass the time, stay in practice, and improve myself. I won a Super Series after not making it to day two of Grand Prix Richmond. I top eighted Grand Prix Cincinnati, losing in the semifinals. These successes put me in first place of the Rookie of the Year race, but by only two points. After Cincinnati, I made the final rounds of the SCG Invitational, adding yet another big tournament to my accomplishments this year.

Before I knew it, it was time to start testing hard again for my second Pro Tour. Dan Jordan and I sat down for hours and just battled decks against each other till we were happy and confident with our final selection. Former Team Flipside members and a couple friends helped with their input in and aided us in ironing out the kinks that we had been trying to figure out.

This Pro Tour I was significantly less nervous and knew that if I played my best I could achieve the same as last time if not better. I played my heart out and ended up in 10th place on breakers. By achieving this, I locked myself in for Platinum Level in the Pro Players Club when I attend Pro Tour Portland or if I top 16 a Grand Prix before then. It also puts me 12 points ahead in the Rookie of the Year race. I should be locked in for that too, since nobody close enough to catch me is qualified for Portland, but I don’t want to count those chickens just yet. For the rest of the season, I’m going to still be playing my heart out and trying to improve at the game.

Between a year ago and now, I changed a bunch of things that I think attributed to my success:

• I stopped going into tournaments with a set goal. By doing this you are setting yourself up for disappointment. You should just go in knowing that you are going to play your best. And if you don’t, find out why so that you can do so the next time.

• I kept hydrated and ate whenever hungry. I didn’t over eat, just grabbed a healthy snack to tide me over or a meal if it was lunch or dinner time. By doing this you’re able to think more clearly and focus easier.

• Something I’m still trying to improve on, but have made progress with, is focusing on what I can control. Accepting variance is hard, but it’s completely out of your reach. Being able to analyze where you screwed up and working to fix those things is all you can control and what you need to work on, not blaming variance for your loss. This can be helped by having a friend try point out other lines of play they saw and talking out why you chose yours.

• I’m playing less magic between rounds. Instead I’m playing card games with my girlfriend or friends, or just having general fun and talks with friends. This allows me to focus harder in real games and keeps me from creating more scenarios in my head of “fun” situations that might affect me negatively in an actual match.

• Have fun. Even though sometimes the grind feels dreadfully long or like a job, I think having fun is a key part of the game. The more excited you are to be doing something, the better the chance you will improve your results as well. This being said I’m always trying to have fun, joke around, and spread laughter.

• Listen and bounce ideas and knowledge off of others. Don’t fight everything thinking you know better; instead, least listen to others’ opinions, because when you do learn something it will help you become better. Some people might not know how to give constructive criticism, so you have to be able to discern what’s valuable, but you can’t just shrug everything off.

• There’s lots to learn and you need to have the willingness to learn and improve. Even playing at the top level, I’m learning new interactions and new ways to approach the game almost every time I play.

I would also like to thank everybody for their support and encouragement. It means a lot that my success is shared among more than just myself. Living your dream is hard sometimes, but I have finally achieved mine, and it’s one of the best feelings in the world. All you have to do is keep your head high and focus, and you should be able to achieve yours as well, or at least become a better Magic player!