An Open Letter to Tilt: and How to Beat It

Prologue – What is Tilt? 

Tilting – the snowball effect of losing one game after another due to stress, the realization of mistakes, and other possible factors. This applies to many games, but in this case, we are referencing Magic: the Gathering.
Thank you, tilt, for everything that you have taught me.

You have been far more torturous to me than any other quality of the game we play. Not only have you shown up in my rounds of magic, but you have shown up in my games of basketball, poker, and anything that requires me to keep my head in the game. One mistake and you would jump right in, leaving my happiness and good heart in the dust. I have learned how to deal with you after all these years. Through friends, public figures, and random life lessons, I have come to terms with you and I am ready to expose your weaknesses one by one.

Tournament after tournament I have thrown away because you came a’knockin’ on my door. How dare I let a little mind over matter get to my professional Magic career. With me taking Magic very seriously nowadays, I have realized that I need to be professional and deal with being on tilt in an appropriate manner. This comprehensive guide and letter should assist you in your endeavors to keep your mind in the right place at your next GP, SCG Tour event, or your next Friday Night Magic.

Step One: ACKNOWLEDGE IT!

Role play: We are Player A.

A game of standard between Player A wielding GW Tokens while Player B is playing Mono-White Humans. Player A gets attacked for lethal by Player B and forgets that the Dromoka’s Command in their hand actually saves them the game if they have their opponent sacrifice an enchantment (Always Watching) and fight two creatures instead of the route they chose of putting a +1/+1 counter on a creature and fighting. We realize the mistake after we sign the match slip.

We go to our friends after the match and complain our woes away.

Following the round we play against Player C. They are playing GR Ramp. We make it to a game three after losing game two. Shaken from that loss and what happened during the round previous we feel vulnerable. We walk into two Kozilek’s Returns by making 2/2s with Gideon instead of attacking with him and do not pressure him enough to eventually get run over by an Ulamog. We lose the match.

At this point, we are beyond upset.

There are many emotions that run through us, humans, after something goes awry. We blame ourselves, we blame the game’s variance, and, unfortunately, sometimes we blame our opponent. This is unhealthy and we need to realize the fact that just because something did not go our way, we are now unfortunately on tilt. When we, as players, get into this stage, we need to stop, breath, and understand that we are not in the right mindset. Magic players are ALWAYS stressing about the fact that they could be doing better if they are not already crushing. Magic’s bars have been set, and we all want to make or break those records. Example’s include:

– Two Day Tournament Undefeated Players after Day One

– Players with Multiple SCG, GP, or Pro Tour Top 8s

– Players with Multiple Premier Level Event Wins

– Etc, etc, etc.

Do not let yourself spiral out of control if you do not perform as well as you hoped. 

Everyone makes mistakes. It is a cliche statement, but it is nonetheless true. If you keep thinking on-and-on about how “X” thing happened in “Y” situation because you thought “Z” was correct when it “simply wasn’t,” you will get more and more frustrated with yourself. Admit it, you are tilted. Say it out loud to your group if you have to.

Step  Two: CLEAR YOUR HEAD

What is the best way to stop thinking about what just happened? Do something else. It sounds way too basic to be that simple, but that is just it. It is very simple to do, we just get caught up in a mixture of not feeling able to let go and wanting someone to listen to our pain. IT IS POSSIBLE!

Look for a friend with a side game of sorts (Love Letter®, Sushi Go®, Type Four, etc.), or find something else to do with someone between rounds! Pokemon GO® will also suffice. I personally own a Type Four stack for the sole purpose of correcting a tilt and having fun while doing it! In fact, let me introduce you to the beauty of, what we call in the business “Type Four.”

Type Four is a format similar to Judge’s Tower in the sense that you and your opponent(s) share a stack of cards that the owner of the Type Four decides to put in. However, you do not play the game the same. The objective is to eliminate all other players. You start with five cards in hand, everyone has infinite mana, all basic land types, and twenty life. The kicker? You may only play one spell per each player’s turn with the exception of cards with an alternate casting cost (Flashback, Bestow, Evoke, etc.) or cards that allow you to cast others (Snapcaster Mage, Abbott of Keral Keep, etc.). If you cast a card alternatively it does not count as your spell for the turn. Tutors are not suggested. Anything that would go to the bottom or shuffled into the library goes into a universal exile pile instead. Otherwise, everyone has their own unique graveyards. Why am I introducing this format to you? Because it is fun, helping break the tilt, and can be relatively cheap since overcosted, sweet effect cards are traditionally known to be bulk rares. If you have a million of those, buy up some sleeves and a long card box to put them in and watch the fun unfold. 2-4 players are recommended. Also, note: do not put fireball or win-the-game effects in your Type Four. 

Having fun and using that frontal lobe to good effect is absolutely key. If we are having fun while putting our mind in a different setting, we can overcome the constant thoughts about what we might have or have not done wrong. Again, this sounds a lot simpler than one might think. That being said, the point here is that we just need to keep our minds distracted for jussssssssst long enough in order to get back on track for the next round.

The last piece of advice I will give you is something that a friend of mine told me:

Step Three: PLAY THE ROUND NOT THE TOURNAMENT

If you are a player that thinks constantly, “I just need to win X more rounds to make Top 8/ Cash,” you can become way more stressed than your brain in equipped to deal with. If you are x-1 going into round five of an eight round tournament, if you keep saying “I can’t lose another match or I’m dead for Top 8,” it is highly more likely that you get overly nervous. Being nervous and having a lack of confidence are two very high causes for mistakes. Do not let the outside world get into your game. Take your time, make your plays with confidence, and show that confidence to your opponent instead of showing them a look that screams, “do you have it? I’m dead if you do.” Next time you get into a position of being on the brink, instead try thinking, “I’m going to play this round to the best of my ability.” Focus on the micro and not the macro. One match, one game, and one land drop at a time.

Do you want to be the next hot shot Magic star? Same. Well, Rome was not built in a day. Being a professional musician, I can vouch for this comparison: Magic players and musicians will NEVER be the best. They can only get better. There will always be someone better than you. Does this mean that you can not play good Magic? Absolutely not. That is what we strive for and that is what we plan to achieve. Let’s play as much non-tilted magic as possible. Play EVERY match like you are at table one.

Take your time.

Play with confidence.

Do not budge. Do not squirm. Do not show weakness.

Oh, right, the letter…

Again, tilt, thank you for all that you have taught me.  You have consumed me more and more as the tournaments have gone by. So much, in fact, that I am tolerant now. I know how to overcome you. I know what to do with you. You have caused me to almost sell my collection time after time by making me think that I am no good and do not deserve a spot on the floor with everyone else. This is not true. Let’s go, Tilt. You and me.

11 A.M. after the Player’s Meeting.

Love,

Ben

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