Hello everyone, and welcome back to Strictly Average for more talk about the game we love; Magic: the Gathering. While I mostly write about Modern I do on occasion have other subjects to discuss. Today, with this new article series, there is something I have been wanting to talk about for awhile, and it feels like the right time to do it.
It happens to each of us, and lasts different lengths of time. For some it can be a few days or weeks, and for others it feels like an eternity.
No it’s not a card. It’s fatigue.
What do we mean by Fatigue in MTG?
While fatigue may not have the same overall meaning in Magic as it does in the real world, there are a lot of similarities. It is well known that exertion (both mentally and physically) can impact your whole body. If you go exercise for a few hours you’ll need a few moments before you can do something that requires mental effort. Play six rounds of Magic, and you’ll need to take a walk around the convention room, drink some water, and perhaps get a snack to help your physical body recover. It takes a toll on us all, but it could lead to other things.
The focus here is on the part of MTG Fatigue that leads to us not playing. This break can last different lengths of time for each of us; we are all different, have different needs, and have different things going on in our lives. Players taking breaks is not rare. I’m sure it happens more commonly than we realize. Some examples are:
- You need to construct a new deck after a card is banned or no longer banned.
- You go on vacation.
- You spend time with family.
- You’re sick.
These things aren’t what we want to recognize in ourselves as fatigue. Let’s take a look at a few points that I want to illustrate as possible causes of fatigue within Magic: the Gathering.
Possible causes of MTG Fatigue
How many times do you feel you are just going through the motions? Your results always end up in loses, and you ask yourself “Am I wasting my time?” While there is always a winner and loser in Magic, sometimes streaks of losing can do nothing but frustrate you, and eat at your willingness to continue playing. Sometimes trying to push past this can affect other aspects of your life from work, to relationships, to even your own health. Finally you put the cards back into the box and up on the shelf. Magic is a hobby with a high competitive level of play. Unless you are one of the lucky few who can compete at such a high level as to make a living off of it, you need to tread carefully if these frustrations begin to surface.
Everyone should feel welcome when playing any game. Period. Chess, Dungeons & Dragons, Magic: the Gathering, Go Fish, and others. I don’t care what game it is, everyone should feel welcome. I have heard many stories about what others go through. I am very fortunate that I haven’t seen these things myself, but I won’t sit here and say this does not happen. There’s a HUGE difference between friendly debates about different ways to play Magic (what format, casual vs competitive, etc), and such conversations making people feel uncomfortable. Even something such as the decor of the store may be unwelcoming to a player. We are all gathered (thus “the Gathering” part of the game) to play, and enjoy this game as much as possible. People who look to join in playing the game don’t come to the store asking for the most competitive player to show them the ropes. They are looking for anyone to do that. They also want to understand how to be a part of the community, and not be told exactly how to play. It is this growth that will help all of us. If a player does not feel welcome you will never see them again, and will never know why they did not come back. Please be careful with how you interact with not only new players, but ALL players. This may be their first impression of you. Of all types of issues that can cause MTG Fatigue, this one causes the people to not just take a break, but to outright leave the game.
Too many damn products / Too many play options / Being overwhelmed
I’m deadly serious when I say this. I’m not impressed with War of the Spark. Granted I don’t play Standard a lot (if at all) anymore. As a matter of fact I am fortunate in the number of options to play Magic here locally. Here are my current options:
- Monday: EDH, or Modern
- Tuesday: EDH, or Modern
- Wednesday: Standard
- Thursday: Modern
- Friday: EDH, Standard, Modern, or either Legacy, Pauper, or something off the wall
- Saturday: EDH, or Standard
- Sunday: …rest
These are all based on schedules of stores within a one-way 15 minute drive from my home. This is a similar list of opportunities that I had when I was going to clubs here in SW Ohio. During those days there was not a club night on Tuesdays or Sundays, but there was every other day of the week. Oftentimes I hit them all. Even with these “abundance of riches” (if you will) I can only attend two of these events each week. Before Modern was a format I did play a lot of Standard, sometimes three or four days a week. However I find it hard to do that at the moment, and in some ways this availability feels overwhelming.
Not only am I not impressed with War of the Spark I’m a bit exhausted from the amount of releases from Wizards of the Coast. Let’s take a look at what has been released, and will be released in just this Standard format:
- October: Guilds of Ravnica
- December: Ultimate Masters
- January: Ravnica Allegiance
- April: Challenger Decks 2019
- May: War of the Spark
- June: Modern Horizons
- July: Core Set 2020
- August: Commander 2019
That’s eight (8!!!) products in the span of almost a 12 month period. Who can keep up with this? Especially with how Standard is designed. You see what’s happening is that with each new Standard set one has to construct a whole new deck (unless you are an aggro deck I suppose). Before Ravnica Allegiance came out, Jeskai Midrange/Control/Drakes was a deck one could pilot if they wanted to have a Teferi-style deck. Although the White was considered a splash color the lands available in Standard made it easy to do so. Once Ravnica Allegiance came out the deck has been (more or less) invalidated in the format. Why? Sure the spells available to make Esper Control a deck are a nice addition, but who has the ability to completely reconstruct their deck just because a new set came out. One should be able to simply add to their existing deck to keep playing. My fear with War of the Spark is that this will happen again. It’s easier to not do this in Modern. But with Modern Horizons coming out how many of those cards will be required additions to current decks? Will any new decks come from it, let alone decks become invalidated because of it?
It is mentally and financially taxing to consistently keep up, and many who have stated why they have stopped playing is primarily because of this very reason. Unfortunately I would not be surprised if in the not-too-distant-future we see a schedule of products for each month in the calendar year.
So what happens if this is you? What should you do? While I can provide advice, truly only you can figure things out for yourself. I will go over a few things from my own personal experience encountering this in my life.
What NOT to do when encountering Magic Fatigue
Fixing the issue by spending
While Retail Therapy is a real thing, and very therapeutic, it is dangerous. This is especially true if you are using a credit card. You may tell yourself things such as “I’ll pay it back in a month”, or “I’ll make payments every week”, but no one can predict the future. Something may happen that requires you using that card for something else. If you get a flat tire, for example, and have spent that money on Magic cards, then how is your car going to get repaired? While some of you may look at this as common sense, please know there are those out there who need to have this conversation. I won’t get much into the financial applications that this causes, but when people say that The Credit Card is “The most powerful card in the game,” know that they are right. The instant gratification of getting cards by not handing over dollar bills is intoxicating, and self-destructive.
Unless you know in your heart of hearts that you will never, ever, play a certain card (or pile of cards) then you should never sell cards for cash. You should never sell out completely. Why? When you are ready to return you could very well buy too much to start up again as you don’t need to take the same path as someone new to Magic. This leads to people breaking out the credit card to buy a lot of cards at once. Maybe you have not played since Dominaria left Standard, but still have your mono-red deck. You can probably play that deck in Modern, or even casually with friends just to scratch that Magic: the Gathering itch. What if you get nostalgic for your favorite deck, and it’s gone? You now have to buy it back a second time. No one sells their car when they are tired of driving (and yes that’s a ridiculous comparison) so don’t sell your Magic cards. You will not get cash anywhere near what you think you will for them, and there will always be a sense of regret. Putting yourself in “What if…” situations is really unhealthy.
What you should do is trade them for a deck (or two) to hold on to or play casually with a friend, or a loved one. More on that in a moment.
Playing PC games / hanging out on the internet
While I have met some great people in person due to being introduced to them over the internet, sometimes being on the internet can be more draining than whatever caused you to stop playing paper Magic. There are a ton of reasons to not sink your life into this. Here’s just a few.
- If you work in front of a computer all day this is not good for your eyes, posture, or attitude.
- The games you play can be far more stressful than playing Magic. You are already not in a good place as it is. Don’t add to this.
- You place being on the computer, for whatever reason, before everything else. Even yourself.
Gaming is fun. It should be fun. Entertainment, escaping, connecting with others, and even learning something new are all things that can be done on the internet. However too much of a good (or even a Magic replacement) thing can be bad for you. What would happen if you were in an MMORPG, and your in-game character developed a stronger relationship with someone else’s in-game character than you have with your boss, parents, child, pet, or even partner? It’s not a joke. It happens. What if the in-game achievements were something you wanted to acquire as quickly as possible? For me, when the World of Warcraft expansion Wrath of the Lich King was out I would come home for my lunch break at work, log in, run a dungeon, and get back to work often times nearly right on time. That’s probably the most absurd thing I ever did with World of Warcraft, as I allowed it to take over my free time.
I really want to stress the point that you are already not in a positive place mentally when MTG Fatigue happens. Putting yourself in a spot where you have to compete when playing a game (League of Legends would be an example here) just shows you are replacing Magic with something that will take you through (or already enhance) the reasons you took a break from Magic to begin with. That’s not healthy for you, or the others around you, and will only add to your frustrations.
Now let’s take a look at things that can help you during this break.
What TO do during your break from Magic
Do you have another hobby? Do you play another format?
My friend Reuben Bresler loves Magic: the Gathering, and Dungeons & Dragons, about as much (probably more honestly) than I do. He has taken his passion for each, and turned that into something great. Not only is he one of the hosts of the award winning Magic Mics podcast, but he is also the Dungeon Master for the D&D stream titled “The Broken Pact.” Regardless of how familiar you are with Dungeons & Dragons, or Magic: the Gathering for that matter, you should give this show a try. I know this suggestion seems to contradict what I mentioned above about hanging out on the internet. However, if you find shows you can watch, or activities to do, and stick to brief periods of time, then do it. Take your mind away from everything else, and enjoy whatever you are doing. Either playing a game for an hour or two a week, or using that time to watch other people entertain you with their hobby.
Are you already interested in playing Dungeons & Dragons? Then go do that too. Not only can you meet new people (just like when you go to FNM to play Magic), but these people are completely brand new to you, and if you find a group that welcomes you with open arms that can go a long way to putting a positive event back in your life. Even if it’s only for a few months. How glorious would it be to have the memories of casting Banishment on the Hydra the DM planned for you to face (and succeed doing so), or the party rolling so badly that a character died which then gels your team together to fight in honor of the fallen party member? Those memories never leave you.
Do you like music? I do. A lot. Listen to it. Seriously. Dimming the lights, having a cool beverage, and reclining with some music on can go a long way to relieve stress from a bad day (or even an ok to good day).
When was the last time you read a book? Even if you have not read for years, go find one and read. Pick up a book or comic that you used to read. Maybe you will come at it from a fresh perspective.
Even something as simple as playing another format in Magic can help. Remember when I said don’t sell your cards? You can trade your unwanted cards in for cards in other formats, such as EDH, and play with friends (or perhaps new people). Maybe these people have jobs that you are interested in, and can help you get a better job? Maybe they know of a good realtor to help you get a house? Or perhaps work at a car dealership, and you need a new car? Meeting new people, especially through Magic, has many benefits.
I’m sure you have friends…right?
Are the friends you made when playing Magic only friends because of Magic, or are they friends outside of it? What if you don’t know? Well there is only one way to find out, and that is to ask. A few years ago the majority of my friends were really only though Magic. I rarely, if ever, did anything outside of that. After spending nearly half my adult life as a club DJ in my spare time, and going through the ups and downs that entails, I was cautious to do too much beyond just FNM. At a certain point in time I became miserable, and let it fester. A friend of mine on the way back from a tournament once said “you have to make your own fun”, and it struck a nerve with me. I had been desperately digging through my own thoughts of trying to do something…anything outside of what I was doing. I didn’t like the job I had then, and was searching for something to enjoy in my life. So I started reaching out to local friends by doing something. One thing led to another from bowling outings, to hang-outs playing board games, and even going to the movies (if not all of those things). The friendships with these people grew over the years, and I noticed a change in my life. I have a better job now, with a great schedule, and have been more relaxed now than I have been for years. While my life was not necessarily in danger at the time, I am forever grateful for that trip and the wisdom my friend imparted to me. While we still play Magic at FNM, the times we have hung out have been memorable, and I always look forward to them.
Sometimes even being with family can be enjoyable. That might sound crazy, but it can help. If your conversations with people always revolve around the same subject(s), I would wager there would be different subjects of conversation (even politics) with family. While those subjects may be difficult to address, it is still something different. Getting your mind to think about other things can take you out of your rut more than anything else.
Physically, and financially, take care of yourself
I’m sure by the time you hit the pause button on Magic you are probably overdue for a haircut, or a shave, or both. Take a look in the mirror. If these need done, then do them. As frustrated as you may be, people will notice when you clean yourself up, or get a fresh cut on that overgrown plant on the top of your head called hair. When people notice something that induces a positive reaction, they will respond in a positive manner. It’s a positive reinforcement cycle. You see, MTG Fatigue is not only damaging to you mentally, but also physically as well. Sitting around in a bad mood (because maybe you replaced Magic with being on the internet with all of your free time) can lead to all of this, or come about when you stop playing due to the negative things going on that precipitated this break.
When was the last time you took out the trash? I’m sure that it’s built up over time. Yes, you may live with someone, but when was the last time YOU took out the trash? Or had a sink empty of dirty dishes? Doing these small upkeep tasks can help you feel good about yourself. You may even build up a routine to keep your living space clean, which then can help when you wish to put Magic (or another hobby) into your life.
Is the sun out? Go for a walk. Seriously. When people say “exercise,” don’t think of it as hitting the gym, getting buff, and other expectations that are very far out from where you are now. Are they obtainable? Absolutely, but you need to make that happen if you choose. Sometimes something as simple as a walk will not only help you with your physical health, but also your mental health. The background noise of the neighborhood you live in can help drown out whatever stressful thoughts you have.
Paying off debt can also help you along the path of getting out of whatever brings you down. Financial health is a strong issue among many people, and not just those who play games. I wager if you ask your co-workers they may share similar stresses, showing that you are not alone in your quest to get out of debt.
Is there a family outing coming up? Do members of your family dress more formal, or “business casual” at these events? Perhaps dressing up when the next family holiday gathering comes can help. Similar to the haircut idea above, the positive feedback you will receive will go a long way in helping you.
Outside of this, even standing in the shower for an extra five minutes to let the water wash over you as you relax can really help with whatever has you in your current mental state. Taking care of yourself, especially physically, can be the biggest factor in not only changing the course your life is on, but also your outlook on it as well.
Fatigue in Magic: the Gathering can be a lot of things, but one thing it can lead to is depression. Taking a moment to use all, some, or even just one of these suggestions can really help you get beyond this while heading towards a better tomorrow.
I want to thank you all for reading this. As much as we all want Magic content, sometimes we have to realize that we are people, and need to take care of ourselves as much (if not more) than we take care of our decks.
Next week I’ll be talking about some industrial machinery in Modern.
TAP MORE MANA!!!
Scott Campbell, better known as MTGPackFoils, has been playing Magic since he was 17 (which was in 1993). He’s known for loving decks such as Azorius Control, Jund, and others (especially in Modern). He is a husband, father, and a former nightclub DJ.