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Pro vs Schmo -or- It's not RNG it's you.

Beginner Competitive 
By: AdamantMTG - 16 May 2019
TCGPlayer Affiliate TCGPlayer Affiliate

Professional Magic 

Lets break this down. Keep in mind Paper and Digital are represented together in some cases. 

1) MPL. These are selected, contracted people who must comply with obligations of the position.

2) Top competitors, MPL hopefuls, people who win enough cash events to continue to travel to events and hold sponsorship's to play Magic full time.

3) The big streamers and other content creators, full time gamers, sponsorship's and esports teams.

4) The rest of the Magic community, scrubs, low to medium streamers, filthy casuals, drafters, FNM'ers, Kitchen table enthusiasts, EDH, MCQ grinders, most Arena players, Arena ladder climbers and everyone else I haven't mentioned.

Magic the Gathering has been around for over 26 years and the majority of the people who play the game are in category 4, by an enormous amount. So what is the appeal of the Pros, what do they do for the majority of players who will likely never achieve that level of MTG success? While we watch professional athletes accomplishing feats we could probably never achieve based on genetics alone, how do pro card game players rise to the esteemed ranks? I have no doubt they have big brains but        

In the early days of competitive Magic, the premier players were typically part of teams or groups of players who would pool knowledge and resources in building and testing decks.

While every Magic player had access to the same card pools, the hundreds of test games needed to provide data to create a "top tier" deck-list was best accomplished with bigger test player base. When a major event occurred, a team would bring a larger number of players playing virtually the same list. That way the well tested deck would have a better chance of getting a top finish and getting that team "on the map". These decks were tested against the expected field, so scouting, knowledge of the expected competition were all factors. Even high level feints like telling people a certain deck is strong, while knowing the final deck being tuned has a great match-up is a way to out wit possible opponents.


The consistent performance of the pros is made possible by the testing groups and teams of people who are often not known by the general public. Also testing methods, gauntlets of decks will separate the decks into clear categories, with the goal being to find the deck that has the best win % vs the majority of the field. Factoring in the expected decks, the final deck or configuration/sb etc are sometimes left to the preferred style of the player, with a few list variants.

While innovation can happen, the focus of all these methods is victory. I think this will tend to, and has resulted in, a lot of very similar deck-lists. Due to the fact the best minds and thousands of hours of testing provides empirical data these pros and decks have a huge advantage over people who grab the list and shuffle up. By the time you and I have taken this deck to the next event, the pros are already moving on and tuning for the Meta Shift.

This is what separates "The Pros", from the rest of us, the dedication and focus. Looking forward and anticipating whats around the corner. The fact this has proven to produce results is a strong case that this game is based on skill and mental awareness, quick math, strategic wit and playing to your outs and odds. More skill than luck despite a lot of contrary opinions.

A lot of people in #2 and #3 feel intense pressure to be seen or renown and they aren't able to quantify what it takes to climb the ranks. So they either copy decks from the pros, or reject those decks and play brews or jank and feel like they are spinning their wheels in limbo trying to get a lucky break. I know I have felt that way.  

So while we watch the best in the world play, and marvel in the top plays and game state awareness, know that we can all dedicate ourselves and win more if that is our desire. We have to put the work in.

I also firmly believe that if we take on the same methods in testing and tuning decks that are not considered "tier 1 meta" we can elevate our own win % playing whatever deck we choose. Standard is Healthy and I commend WotC at building and tuning the most recent sets that level the playing field and creates viable strategies across color identities and archetypes. Play what you love, practice it and create your wins has never been so possible!

My point in writing this article is to hopefully bridge the gap between Pros and Scrubs (dramatic I know). We are all MTG players, we should improve decks, our plays, and grow. Discuss theory and be open to ideas and listen to feedback. Maybe work harder to test and learn. Not everyone has to be a World Champion, but we should all respect ourselves and our opponents by playing the game in a manner that improves the experience and raises the bar for everyone.   

I hope this inspires people to watch the pros, be inspired by them and carry yourself like a pro. You can achieve great things in this game, be innovative, be an inspiration to others, an example of sportsmanship and most important, HAVE FUN! 


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I fall into category 4 for sure but have aspirations for 2 and 3. I realize that my time to get to category 1 is probably shot but at least maybe my two kids will get the chance to get there if they choose to do so. Very good article, I like your style!
Fantastic article. Insightful and well written!

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