April 2nd, 2002

Me 2012

Grah.

I could go back to work but I’m not quite up for that yet. If I went back to work now I could…not leave early because I promised Glinda I’d get Horrible Nightmare Project #4 to a significant milestone today.

Sigh. I’d rather leave early. This project is a frustrating mess and I’m not going to talk about it because, hey, this is my lunch hour and my own time so why should I?

I told Brenna last night that I’d run Rasheeka on Thursday. I’ll probably compose my log starters and whatnot on Wednesday night. Hopefully I can resist the urge to play MagicOnline, which has occupied a significant chunk of my time lately. I started playing in small tournaments by myself. I have discovered something: I am bad at this game. I have rarely been so bad at a game, especially a game that I like. Normally, I’m a little above average as players go. Seldom the best person I know, but usually competitive. At Magic, however, my play is just plain bad.

For a while, I thought this was because of poor deck design. There are two basic types of competitive Magic play: “constructed” and “limited”. In Constructed, you take your entire library of cards, put together a 60 card deck from it, and then play against others who’ve done the same. In Limited, you buy somewhere between 45 and 60 or so new cards, then make a 40 card deck out of them. As you might imagine, Limited offers rather fewer options than Constructed.

Having already decided that deck construction is HARD, my dozen or so forays into competive Magic were all in Limited events. And I lost. And lost. And lost. And occasionally won a game because my opponent didn’t show up, or just happened to be worse than I was. My rating sunk from its starting value of 1600 to somewhere around 1550.

I’d heard a few people saying “Limited is harder than Constructed”, which I thought was ridiculous, but on Sunday I decided, what the heck, I’ll give Constructed a try. Then I can have a lousy rating in another form of Magic.

I picked out a deck I’d played against Lut the night before, and which had done surprisingly well, given that it was based on what I thought was a stupid concept. (Creatures with protection against colors, or other creatures, or effects. I had thought that it was too unfocused to be effective, but it actually worked). I tweaked it a bit, then entered it in two consecutive 8-man tournaments on Sunday morning. I placed second in both. Whoa, I thought. How’d that happen? By contrast, I’d run through 4 or 5 single-elimination Limited events on Saturday morning, and lost in the first round of each.

I’m still no killer in Constructed—I played in one or two more that I didn’t place in, and my rating is still holding at 1600. But that’s a big improvement over immediately sinking.

As I played in a limited event on Sunday evening, and lost, I reviewed the errors I’d made in play back in my head. There were several times where I had neglected to do something logical, or even blindingly obvious, and if I’d done any of them, I would have won. The same thing happened later that night in a for-fun match against Lut—I lost because I made very simple, basic mistakes.

And it clicked with me: there’s nothing wrong with my deck designs. I don’t need advice on how to build a killer deck. I need to understand—quickly—what the deck I have does. I’m guessing half the reason I’m better at Constructed than Limited is because I’m less error-prone in playing with a familiar deck and familiar cards.

Maybe there’s hope for me yet.

Well, back to Horrible Nightmare Project #4.