Alex Hamilton: Managing Tilt

Alexander Hamilton   October 18, 2017   Comments Off on Alex Hamilton: Managing Tilt

“Tilt” is something that has caused most, if not all, Magic players grief over the 25-year run of the game.

I could write an article about how you should avoid tilt, but honestly, I don’t think that’s possible. What we can address is how to get yourself back on track and manage yourself while in this state of mind.

Tilting can be the thing that derails your entire event. Much of the time your friends will try and console you in one way or another. However, the only person who can get you through this is you. Let’s dive in.

So what is tilt?

Tilt is when you are so angry or disturbed by your last/ current match that it causes residual anger to continue over the course of the event.

Recognizing tilt

We all know when a friend is tilting. It’s not difficult to see. Generally this state of mind manifests in the result slip magically being tossed towards opponents or by friends leaving events quickly while muttering something along the lines of “… this format blows.”

The real question: Can you tell if you are tilting?

Introspection is a difficult thing to do under normal circumstances, but when anger is introduced to cloud the mind it can be near impossible.

This is the most important step to slaying the evil dragon known as Tilt whenever it raises its ugly head. A few simple questions to ask yourself to determine if you are tilting off:

  1. Can you not stop thinking about the last game?
  2. Have you used the phrase “If you hadn’t drawn your seven-outer I might have won”?
  3. Have you insulted your opponent’s deck in the last minute?
  4. Have you insulted your opponent’s skill in the last minute?
  5. Have you insulted your opponent and/or their mother in the last minute?
  6. Are you questioning why you ever let your friends talk you into playing this game?

If you have answered yes to one or more of these questions, then you might be tilting.

I’m tilting. Alex, what do I do?

Funny you should ask. Honestly just do what works for you. OK, have a good day!

Wait. What? I have to go more in-depth? OK, I’ll use my quarterfinals matchup from the September Legacy CT as an example.

I am at 12 life against Justin Brickman, who is playing Czech Pile (a four-color, super greedy mana control deck with Leovold, Emissary of Trest, Deathrite Shaman, True-Name Nemesis, etc.). I am playing my old reliable UW Stoneblade deck.

Justin keeps countering all of my answers to his Leovold, like a big jerk, but I have a glimmer of hope. He only has one card in hand and I manage to Snapcaster back a Council’s Judgment to answer his Leovold, thus clearing the board. Sounds like a pretty good situation for our hero, right? Wrong.

While I was shocked that I was able to answer the cunning emissary, I forgot to use my Wasteland on Justin’s on-board green mana source. This let him play the Leovold that had been sitting in his hand. He then proceeded to beat me down with the new Leovold and draw a True-Name Nemesis to finish me off. Needless to say I was a bit upset with myself when I realized where I had messed up.

As I started to sideboard I realized that I was tilting and asked the judge if I could have a moment to go outside. The judge said yes and I made a beeline for the door. I just walked outside and took a few deep breaths and reminded myself that I had two more games to win. This cleared my head and I walked in and proceeded to stomp Brickman in two more games.

This normally works for me, but sometimes I need to use other means to get myself into a normal state of mind. Here are some other methods that might help.

Method #1: Deep Breathing

This can be very relaxing and is a common method I have seen used and implemented with my students to help them get out of meltdowns.

The best way to do this is slowly breathe in through the nose, hold for a moment and then try and expel that breath slowly of the course of about 5-10 seconds. Then rise and repeat.

Method #2: Distract yourself

One thing I did when I first started playing competitive Magic to help tune out the room and level me out was listen to music. I would make a playlist of either relaxing songs or songs that would amp me up for each event. When this became tedious, I made a Magic playlist and I listen to it when I need to mellow out.

Method #3: Just laugh

Sometimes people will hear me laugh during a match. It’s not because I have lost my mind – at least not completely – or because my opponent just told me a joke. It is me making a conscious effort to remember that I have spent a lot of money on cardboard, and because of that absurd reality I decide to laugh rather than get upset if things are not going my way.

Method #4: Remember one thing …

… It is just a game. I know, I know. There are some pretty high stakes on the line, but it is just a game and we play this game because it is fun. Once you repeat this to yourself a few times, it might keep you from being a jerk. Just remember this when you think it is a good idea to berate your opponent or complain about how lucky they were. One more thing to consider: No one really cares if you think they got lucky, because you’ve probably been lucky once or twice yourself.

Now, a few closing thoughts.

Sometimes it is the game

There have been points in the history of Magic when it is legitimately difficult to not get upset playing (I’m looking at you, Eldrazi Winter). Maybe you just have to take a step back and look at a different aspect of Magic that you find fun. Maybe if you are tired of getting beaten by lots of Eldrazi monsters, it is time to play a lot more Commander or Standard.

Sometimes it is you

One thing I have found can help if you find yourself in the “I hate this game, time to sell my collection” mindset is to simply take a break. I have found myself falling into this camp and then taken a few weeks off and presto, I was ready to get back to slinging spells.

I hope this has helped someone in reconsidering their approach to slaying that evil Dragon named Tilt. As a final thought, just remember we play this game because it is fun; tilting make the game less fun for everyone involved.

Have fun slinging those spells, true believers!

Alexander Hamilton is a grinder from Chicago who is well-known for his love of Legacy. However, if there is a competitive event in any format in the Chicagoland area, expect him to be there playing Magic and making terrible puns, and not necessarily in that order.