Breathing and Prerelease Tournaments

23:27 Sat 20 Jan 2007. Updated: 12:33 27 Jun 2013
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On Friday night, Brian and I were discussing MTG skill, in reference to my playing in the Planar Chaos prerelease tournament today.

I was thinking about possible steps to follow, along the lines of my “undistraction steps”, and commented that all of my sets of steps start with “take five deep breaths”. Brian then suggested that I try taking a deep breath at the start of every MTG turn, during my upkeep.

This seemed like an excellent idea, and I resolved to try it out, and also to take five deep breaths at the start of every game.

Also, I would take a deep breath, and try to relax, whenever I realized that I had made a mistake.

I tested these ideas out in practice today, at the prerelease. They seemed beneficial, but the sample size is probably too small to tell. I went seven–one, three–one in the individual flight and four–zero in team (although my team as a whole went three–one). Those results at the least make it unlikely that the breathing had any detrimental result.

The five deep breaths at the start of each game help to center me, and help me to concentrate. Not miraculously so, and sometimes I still had a struggle on my hands to get myself to pay attention.

The deep breath every upkeep felt like it had quite an impact. It forces me to pause, and to consider the situation. More than that, it stops me from getting into a hurried mental state. I don’t just mean a state in which I’m worried about the time, I mean a point where I think I have the next n turns planned out, and so don’t want to bother thinking through them. That’s a very dangerous state, and I definitely make a lot of mistakes in it. So forcing myself to breathe helps me force myself to think, to focus on the actual situation rather than the one I imagine will unfold.

I still lost my concentration in a number of games, sadly. And in both tournaments this occurred in the third round, which definitely makes sense—that’s when I’m beginning to get tired, and also when I’m less cognizant of the newness of my deck.

The breathing might have helped me avoid more egregious mistakes, but I still made mistakes in those rounds. I didn’t really go on tilt in either case. I lost in the individual rounds, while in team I managed to play the next two games calmly, ultimately defeating that opponent.

Recovering from mistakes (or bad situations) is just as important as not making them. Forcing myself to breathe when I realize that I’ve made mistakes helps ensure that I stay relatively calm and don’t fall apart.

It’s such a simple thing, but it’s so easy to forget, especially when doing an activity as complicated as MTG. I think it helps, and intend to keep trying this as I keep playing.

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