Thursday, September 23, 2004

All I Need to Know I Learned from Magic: The Gathering

Even though it's been four years since I last played (well, played extremely competitively that is) Magic: The Gathering (although I've learned and played nearly a dozen other CCGs in between), there's a number of things that I learned from the game that is still very applicable to my daily life. Here they are:

1) Play with the hand you're dealt with: much like playing Poker and other conventional card games, the only options worth considering are those in front of you--namely what you drew. It's really useless to think of what-ifs and other possibilities when in reality, the only actions you can really take are those that involve the cards that you have. Similarly, in real life, it's useless to bitch about how you could have been more fortunate or luckier. Deal with it and make the most out of it. Sure, I may have a terrible hand, but that doesn't mean I can never win the game. It all depends on how I plan my next moves, which brings me to my next point.

2) Plan ahead and familiarize yourself with your deck: your deck determines what you can do, and whether you can win the game or not. If you don't know your deck, then you can't really plan for the future since you don't know what to expect from your own cards (it's already bad enough that you don't know what you're opponent is going to play next but being unable to plan your succeeding moves is just plain stupid). Similarly, know your own strengths and weaknesses as a person, and plan ahead using that as a starting point. If you don't know what you're capable of, then you can't make a good plan. For example, someone who knows he is horrible at math will either avoid occassions (such as taking a course that involves statistics) that involve higher math or will do some intensive studying in order to cope. If you don't know what you're capable of, you might find yourself way out of your league, and end up embarassing yourself to say the least.

3) Do your research: no matter what kind of game you're playing, it pays to do research. Some of the best Magic: The Gathering players are people who do research, whether it's the rules of the game, the meta-game environment (i.e. the popular decks people use in a certain area), or the spoiler list for the upcoming prerelease tournament. Similarly, if you plan to excel in whatever venture you plan to do, do your homework! While it's possible to succeed with sheer talent and luck, your chances of succeeding are better when you know what you're up against. It also gives you more info to formulate a better plan or strategy.

4) Synergy is good: certain cards work well when combined with other cards. When building a deck, keeping in mind your end goals makes it more efficient and useful. A counterspell deck, for example, has lots of counterspell cards. Certain cards also make great combos (i.e. a "Channel" card, which gives you mana, and "Fireball", a spell that is powered by your available mana, is a deadly combination). Similarly, some of the actions we take are better suited than others when we look at it from a larger perspective. Enrolling in a writing class, for example, is good if we want to improve our writing skills, but what would make it even better would be spending our weekends joining a workshop or two, and writing something everyday just to make it a habit. Dieting is also a good example: eating less in one particular meal is less effective than a diet planned out for the entire week, which involves not only eating the right foods but proper exercise and healthy habits as well.

5) There's no such thing as a perfect deck: not all decks or cards are equal. Some do better against particular cards, while others are optimized towards a different goal. The same goes with real life. That doesn't mean that you're inferior to a particular person: merely that he or she is optimized for certain situations. Accepting that painful fact helps you recognize your own strengths and weaknesses, and lets you know when to adjust your strategy.

6) Know when to give up: sometimes, you'll be put in a situation where you can't win the current game. Sometimes, it's best to concede (so that you don't reveal the rest of your strategy to the opponent), while at other times, it's best to fight on (whether it's because you still have an actual chance of winning or whether you want your opponent to reveal more of his strategy and cards). The same goes with real life. There are moments when we need to move on, while there are times when struggling on helps us reach our goal eventually. Knowing the difference is pivotal and sometimes it's pretty difficult to differentiate between the two, which is why research and planning is important.

7) You don't need to have all the cards to build a good deck, just know where to get them: no one has infinite resources so trading becomes an essential tool for any CCG player. Finding the best deals, whether it's purchasing cards at single prices, trading for them, or buying booster packs in bulk, becomes a key element. Similarly, I don't need to have "everything" before I start any venture. Knowing how to maximize my existing resources, exchange it for other services, or plainly knowing how to avail of other options, is an essential element. For example, if I want to be a scientist, I don't need to memorize everything in the text book. All I need to know is not how to learn all the information but rather how to find and discover specific information that I will need.

8) Be friendly and courteous to other people: CCGs are social games--you need someone else to play with, and you're most likely getting your supply of cards from a living being. Giving the other person respect and courtesy is essential. The same goes with life, since you can hardly excel if anything if you make too many enemies. I'm not saying you should be a wallflower and let everyone push you around, but that unless provoked, it's suitable to be on your best behavior. You also might get the best deals because of that.

9) Learn to bluff: knowing what the other person is thinking is a decisive factor in games. In order to catch your opponent off-guard, you sometimes have to bluff. This usually means thinking of doing something with your cards even if they're all useless, or pretending to do a stupid move because you have a surprise in store for the opponent. In life, this usually means saying things not necessarily untruthfully, but with confidence. For example, when making a presentation in front of other people, say it with conviction, even if you're unsure of half of what you said. This might also mean not revealing all your options to other people, merely mentioning the obvious ones.

10) Work hard, feel confident, and just do it: you may be the best player in the world but unless you join tournaments or events, you won't be recognized. Life's like that as well: we're "theoretically" good at something, but unless we exert effort at it, feel that we can actually do it, and actually perform it, all will be for naught. In the end, it's our actions that count. All the planning in the world will come to no end if don't manage to execute it effectively.


mai shiranui said...

hi charles..
i tried to learn how to play MTG a few years back. no friends to play with & it was hard to learn from the internet.
i gave up since.. at least i tried..

Kel Fabie said...

Well said. =)

I ought to write something like "Everything I Need To Know, I Learned From Magic" or something... =)