Regardless of the variance inherent in Magic: The Gathering, sometimes even the most talented and capable players can lose to their own frustration and inability to regain control over themselves and their situation. Once on tilt, players harp on past mistakes or bad beats, losing focus on their current lines of play and frequently making additional misplays because of their clouded judgement. These errors can quickly spiral out of control, causing game and match loses or even spilling over into future games. Most of us have had this experience at least a handful of times during our history of competitive MTG, but the good news is that this problem is preventable and easy to resolve with practice. In this article we discuss how to stop tilting in games generally, and provide easy tips for playing competitive Magic: The Gathering to not only improve your live play, but make Arena ladder grinding a substantially more enjoyable experience.
Breathe with Purpose
When it comes to calming techniques, almost all experts agree that breathing correctly is essential to reducing anger in a short period of time. This is because the rapid, shallow breathing that results from upsetting situations signals to the body the need for more adrenaline, creating a positive feedback loop that needs to be disrupted. So the next time you miss a Search for Azcanta trigger, or make a bad attack into Settle the Wreckage, make sure to focus on taking long, deep breaths to keep your body out of a fight-or-flight response. These breathing strategies are additionally applicable to virtually every other game, helping to stop tilting in Overwatch, League, and Call of Duty as well.
Have a Routine
The use of routines has been an effective method for many people in reducing stress and anxiety, as it sets a predictable course forward that is comforting and fully within your control. This routine could be as simple as the way in which you unroll your playmat and open your deck box, the way you introduce yourself to your opponent, or the side of the score pad you put your life total. For Arena, however, routines can be more difficult to build because of the frenetic pace with which games begin and end. Instead, keep a spreadsheet to account for your wins and losses, and against which decks you played, that you update at the end of every match. This will force you to take a moment for reflection, and will give you a sense of control over the situation regardless of how the game went.
Slow down your Play
Almost every competitive MTG player has had the experience of an unforced error as a result of playing too fast. Tapping mana incorrectly and not leaving double blue open for Absorb, blocking with a Ghitu Lavarunner before you have two spells in graveyard, or trying to target an opponent with ETB effect when they have a Shalai in play, are just a few of the unintended consequences of playing too fast that happen to the best of players. As a result, if you notice yourself dealing with these situations, one of the best MTG Arena strategies is to force yourself to play slower to make certain you’re not missing the problem right in front of you.
Take care of your Body
The ability to think clearly and remain in control of your faculties necessarily starts with satiating the requirements of your body beforehand. Getting sufficient sleep, eating regularly, and exercising are all important to avoiding mental fatigue and reducing the impact of frustration. When attending your next MTG Magifest, for example, make sure to build time into your schedule for restful sleep, pack small snacks for quick boosts of energy, and try to find time in between rounds to stretch or walk briefly to improve circulation. These basic strategies will reduce the likelihood of headaches, muscle cramps, and fogginess that result in tilt-inducing misplays.
Ultimately, tilt control starts well before you ever get into a situation where you’re blinded by frustration and rage. Keeping healthy habits beforehand, and maintaining good routines, helps keep your mind in the correct state for avoiding situations where your judgement is clouded. Once a situation arises though, make sure to slow down your play and focus on breath control to minimize the damage and prevent magnification of the mistakes. These easy tips for avoiding anxiety and frustration while playing Magic are more about practice than anything else, so make sure to hold yourself accountable for making these good habits a reality.