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You Get What You Put In

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Jesse Dana
Jesse Dana

About Jesse Dana

I started playing Magic during Revised and played regularly until Tempest.  I then played off and on until Alara block and now play regularly.  I try to play as much as possible, or as much as I can without having my girlfriend break up with me.  (She is, however, supportive of the hobby) It would be great to qualify for a Pro Tour one day, but that is wishful thinking. Although I do take each sanctioned match seriously, I never drop from a tournament no matter how it will affect my record. I would love to travel to other countries and play. At a young age, I had the chance to play against Rob Dougherty, Darwin Castle and Shawn "The Hammer" Regnier.  My goal is to one day do live coverage of tournaments like Brian David-Marshall.  Since my return to the game, I have become fascinated about every aspect of it, from strategy to the Pro Tour to even the lore of the game.

You Get What You Put In

Throughout the course of your time on this plane you are going to get thousands of pieces of advice and be forced to listen to other people try and tell you how you should act and what you should say in certain situations. Whether it is your parents, your teachers, your friends… In a way, all these people, at one point or another, have some idea as to how you can better live your life. Often times, what these people say can be pointless, not to mention the fact that a handful of them probably have no business handing out advice in the first place. However, sometimes something that one of these persons says to you can be truly impactful. Additionally, these words of wisdom can sometimes find their way into a part of your life you never thought they would.

Words of Wisdom
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Odyssey (Foil)

A few years ago, my now ninety-four-year-old grandma gave me one such piece of advice. She said “Jesse, whatever you are doing, always do it to the best of your ability, you get what you put in.” She said this to me in the context of me being unhappy with the job I had at the time, and as a way to get me to try and understand that, although I may not be thrilled with the current situation, that if I worked hard enough something good would come from it. I did what I usually do when someone tries to give me advice when I don’t want to hear it and rolled my eyes and said thank you in some backhanded way.

To my surprise, a few months ago, I was having a conversation with a group of my friends and venting to them my frustration as to where I was in my Magic career, when these words from my dear old grandma popped into my head. I thought to myself, “Seriously, I am having an in-depth conversation about Magic and now I actually feel and understand what she was talking about.” To give you the context of the conversation I was having with my friends, I had begun to find myself incredibly frustrated with my performance and success in the game in terms of tournament finishes, FNM wins, and even my win loss rate when we casually draft together. No matter if you are a competitive person or not, nobody likes to lose, especially on a consistent basis. The reason that I had not been having success in terms of winning and losing in Magic, is not because of my lack of skill per se, but it was because I was not putting in the necessary effort to be successful.

Like grandma said, you get what you put in. While I was playing Skyrim or watching football on TV, my friends were drafting endlessly, is it any surprise that when I did take the time to draft with them that I was the least successful of the group? Or when I went to a major tournament with a deck I built the night before and went 0-2 drop, should I have been surprised that even if my opponents were in fact weaker players than I was, that they beat me because they had practiced with their decks and knew the ins and outs of each card and combination? The answer is simple, my lack of success was my own fault and in fact I did not play the game to the best of my ability and thus in return I got what I put into the game.

One thing that we all have in common is that we all live by the same calendar and the same 24 hours in a day time structure. What is different, though, is what activities occupy those days and hours. There are no two people on earth who have the same exact roles, responsibilities and relationships to attend to on a daily basis. What I am trying to say is that with the time structure that our world has provided us with, we are forced to make a constant series of choices as to what we do with that time. I hate it when people say to me that they are so busy and “don’t have time to do x, y or z”. The truth of the matter is that you do have the time to do activity x, y, or z, however, you have made the choice to use that time for other things. When I am not at work which is roughly from 5:30pm until 7:30am on the weekdays as well as all day on Saturday and Sunday, roughly 118 hours a week, I have all that time to basically do what I want. If I chose to, I could play Magic for say 60 hours a week and that would still give me more than ample time to eat and sleep, (basically) stay alive. If I was to do this, there is no doubt that my success rate at the game would increase tenfold and I may even make it onto the Pro circuit. I could easily accomplish this without much effort, but the fact is, if I decided to take this route there is a certainty that my family and friends and most importantly my fiancé would all decide to sever ties with me. When you read any of my articles, my love for Magic is quite obvious and out in the open, but there are activities and, more importantly, people out there that I love just as much and in many cases more than I do Magic.

Having come to this realization that I have actively chosen to not spend as much of my time playing Magic has been almost a point of enlightenment. I am not saying that I enjoy playing the game less than I did say a few months ago, in fact quite the opposite has happened. At the Grand Prix in Worcester last month I lost my first match and then subsequently went to 1-3, eliminating myself from any chance of prize and thus I dropped out. Should this have been any shock to me or my friends, it was a sealed tournament where not only had I not practiced, but in fact I had only begun to read the spoiler list on the car ride up to the event. Now normally I would have tilted and began spiraling into a depression of how bad I am at this game… but instead I have come to terms with the fact that I got what I put in, in terms of M13 limited preparation.

You may think that what I am saying is ridiculous, but hear me out. I have learned that with the time I am allotting myself to play Magic the Game, there is no conceivable way for me to win a PTQ or another major tournament… but there are other ways that I can be successful in Magic the Community. This success can be achieved by making the most of my time when I am somehow involved in the Multiverse rather than taking a half assed approach. That is true not only for how focused I choose to be on the games I am playing, but how I treat those around me when I am playing.

What is more important in Magic or in life in general? Is it how good you have become at the game figuratively or literally, or is it the bonds that you create when doing so? You may always want to be successful from a tangible perspective and when you get better it is more fun and you should always be proud of your accomplishments, but never lose sight of what really matters. Think about no matter how competitive you are at the end of the day what is more important, the winning or the people that you play with?

If you have the desire to be as competitive as possible and win as many events as you can, by all means go for it, but make sure you are focused with your time, all the while take into consideration those around you that have helped you test, that have lent you cards and that have offered you the support and encouragement that many of us need to achieve our goals. Also when you are successful and do place well in events it is your duty to remember all those that helped you achieve your goal. Whether you choose to reciprocate in testing… or in monetary value is up to you, but if you choose to ignore or even lessen the value of these people, then you will find yourself very lonely at the top. You get what you put into a relationship much like you do any other type of work.

Although I have achieved little fame and certainly no fortune from becoming a monthly columnist to this website, the work I do here means a tremendous amount to me. The relationships I have developed with other people on the website are incredibly enriching and there a few things better than openly getting to share your passion about something with so many people and in such a large forum. Additionally, and in many ways more important, is the relationship I have been able to develop with you the readers and all the support you have given me. When I spoke to the editor about doing a monthly feature mostly geared towards the casual players, as well as focus on the social aspects of the game it was a risk. Many players are looking for guidance on how to get better at the game, card analysis… however, I now see that there are tons of gamers who are interested far more in what is behind the sleeves instead of inside them. Basically the risk paid off and it is all due to you the readers. All your positive comments and support have been overwhelming and even the constructive criticism I have received is greatly valued, so to this I say, thank you, you have truly made me feel that I got what I put in. With that being said, I owe it to you to continue and search for topics that surround the game that may not necessarily have to do with the game directly. If there is ever a topic no matter how much it pushes the line that you would like me to talk about, feel free to email or Tweet me or of course leave a comment.

By the time you read this you will be gearing up for the next adventure in your Magic life and of course by that I mean the Return to Ravnica prerelease. I sadly will not be able to join you on your quest as I will be embarking on a journey of a different nature. While you are all Returning to Ravnica I will be getting married. The woman who I am going to be spending the rest of my life with, maybe to your surprise, is not a Magic player, and has stated, after I taught her how to play for the first time, that she has no desire to pick up the cards ever again. However, she has been my strongest supporter in my playing the game and writing these articles. She sees how happy Magic makes me, whether it’s when I am playing with my friends or whenever I explain to her the new mechanics in the latest block or if there is some flashy new Planeswalker… No matter what I have to say about the game and how much she may actually understand of it, she is there to listen to me. I believe one of the reasons for this is that I always try and do the same for her and that I get back what I put into the relationship.

I wish you all the best of luck at the prerelease this weekend, may your Guild be strong and your relationships with your friends and family be stronger.

--Jesse

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