Magic: the Gathering is a game that we have all fallen in love with. If we did not; we would not read articles, watch streams, spend hours tweaking decklists, and all the other ways we interact with the game. It is a labor of love. Having such an intense relationship with anything can inevitably lead to burnout. I have certainly experienced it with Magic. I haveve sold out of multiple Modern decks only to get the itch a few months later and buy back in. Through all of these trials and tribulations, these are the tricks I have learned to help prevent burnout and have a healthier relationship with the game.
One of the biggest reasons for burnout is not getting the results you want. As the old cliche goes, “expectation is the root of all heartache.” We expect our efforts to translate into winning games of Magic. When that does not happen, it can be incredibly frustrating. Knowing that variance exists only helps to soften the blow so much. In the past, if I felt like I was playing well and lost to “bad beats”, I would tilt hard. Instead of brushing off a loss, I would carry that into the next round. This would lead to more losses, which led to more frustration, which would lead to burnout. Tracking my matches has allowed me to see the bigger picture and get a better perspective.
Magic players love data. Metagame breakdowns, matchup data, and the like is eaten up by the community. Why would not I want data about how I am performing? After every match, I keep track of whether I won or lost. In addition, I write down what my opponent was playing, whether I thought I played well or not, and a note or two about the match. Doing this has helped me see the bigger picture and focus less on the outcome of individual games. Perhaps I am on a bad streak and starting to get discouraged, flipping back through my notes allows me to take a step back and better assess the situation. Maybe I am playing well but am running into bad matchups. Maybe I am making too many mistakes. Maybe the loss streak is over blown and I am actually doing well overall. The notes give me actionable insights that help me make adjustments. Sometimes, the correct adjustment is to switch decks.
Deck choice plays an important role in burnout. Grinding with a single deck can start to feel more like a job than a fun activity. There are deck specialists who never tire of their archetype. However, most of us would benefit from playing different things from time to time. For some of us, that can mean building a second deck. The ideal second deck is something that compliments your first in some way. This can be covering your bad matchups, having a different playstyle, being something less powerful but more enjoyable to play, or a myriad of other things. I fully understand that Magic is an expensive hobby and this is not reasonable for everyone. Borrowing a friend’s deck for a little bit can also be a good way to break up the monotony. Additionally, it is a good way to learn more about the format you are playing.
For example, say I am a Grixis Death’s Shadow player. Borrowing something like a Tron deck for a week can give a new found perspective on the format. Not only do I learn more about Tron, I can learn how it does in other matchups as well as how people are attacking it. This information can help give a fresh perspective on the format and possibly even help you improve with your main archetype. If I am lucky enough to run into a Grixis Death’s Shadow player, this can be a great opportunity to see how other GDS players approach playing Tron as well as learn about Tron’s goals in the matchup. Besides all of that, it is just fun. Sometimes it is just fun to cast seven mana spells. This can be true for a lot of things. Casting counterspells, using discard, casting burn spells, etc can all be extremely fun if it is not something you are normally doing. When burnout occurs, fun seems to be the first thing to go.
Unless you are supporting yourself financially through Magic, the game should be about fun. Yes, winning is fun, but the vast majority of us were likely drawn to the game for something other than that. It is important to remember what those things are when we start to fatigue. Even if you are a Spike, there is a reason that you chose Magic instead of a different competitive outlet. For me personally, friends have always been a massive part of my Magic experience. Magic breeds a special type of camaraderie between its players. Spending time with my playgroup is enjoyable even if I am not taking the game as seriously as they are at the moment. There are infinite other reasons why a person was initially drawn to Magic. I cannot help you much more in this department, but it can be very useful to reflect on why you are playing the game at all.
Finally, taking some time off can be necessary at times. When you are deeply invested in the game, it can feel daunting to not be up to date on the latest trends and newest tech. I promise you that you will be able to learn about those things when you get back. It is okay to not be on top of the format at all times. It is okay to take a break when your frustrated with the state of the format. It is okay to take a step back when life gets in the way. It is significantly better to consciously take time away from Magic than to wait until you are burnt out.
There is a sentiment in the Magic community that no one ever quits for good, they are just taking a break. This is especially true with burnout. Most players who burn out will regain the desire to play at some point. Do not be the person who sold their collection and lost a ton of money when they inevitably had to buy back in. How long were you away from the game and what eventually brought you back? We would love to talk it over in our discussion group. Or if you would like to take a swing at writing content for the site you can contact us directly here. Enjoy your weekend and we will see you again on Monday. Until then my friends.