On Scooping.

Just a quick post on something that happened Tuesday evening.

Bigheadjoe, our friend Tim and I were doing some casual playtesting with various Standard decks. In this particular game, I was playing Flores’ Junk Mana Ramp deck vs Jund, and I kept a hand I probably shouldn’t have kept (I don’t recall the specifics, but it was average at best). I managed to dig myself out of my perceived hole and was set up for dropping a Baneslayer Angel on my next turn, with only a Baneslayer and a Maelstrom Pulse in hand. “The only card that would wreck me right now,” I thought, “is Blightning.”

Of course, Tim had the Blightning.


I scooped in frustration, even though I was still at something like 14 life. I perceived myself to be at a disadvantage from the get-go, and having thought I had overcome this “adversity” and stabilized, I let myself think that Tim’s Blightning meant more than it actually did.

Joe remarked, “You scoop too easily,” and I knew he was onto something.

I realize that I tend to think cards are more powerful than they really are. This applies to both my own cards and the cards of my opponent. I’m sure you’ve all been there: a deck that seems disgustingly good in theory turns out to be a bit underwhelming in actual gameplay. Someone resolves a Cruel Ultimatum against you and you automatically think the game is over. I’ve become so accustomed to this line of thinking, “_____ wrecks this deck, if it resolves I lose,” that I’ve put myself in a mindset where I will rarely even attempt to fight back. So much so, in fact, that in at least one case I projected this mindset onto my opponent!

To wit: Last week, Joe was testing his UW Polymorph-Ascension Control deck against my RWU Control. I had resolved an Ajani Vengeant, and Joe seemed to be struggling. Ajani had reached 7 counters, and on his turn Joe sarcastically said something along the lines of, “ooh, next turn is going to be fun.” During my turn, I activated Ajani’s ultimate ability, and Joe proceeded to scoop up his lands. His lands. I started discussing what was in my hand and what had happened earlier in the game, when I realized Joe was looking at me funny. He hadn’t conceded! He’d just scooped up his lands and put them in the graveyard when Ajani’s ability resolved! I felt like a complete moron. I just assumed that a one-sided Armageddon was enough to make anyone scoop, because I figured that’s what I would have done in that situation. (And it certainly looked like he was scooping, but then what did I expect it to look like?)

No, Joe didn’t win that game (he scooped maybe two turns later), but at least he gave it a shot. A resolved Blightning is far easier to overcome than Ajani Vengeant’s ultimate, and even though I might have eventually lost the game vs Tim’s Jund deck, had I not scooped immediately I at least would have given myself the chance to win, or to learn from the experience.

Giving up at the first sign of difficulty is a sure way to impede your growth as a player. This goes for everything, not just Magic. What would have happened if you’d given up learning to ride a bicycle after the first time you fell off? Fighting through adversity is what helps us develop our brains, so that next time we face a similar predicament, our minds know how to handle it—or at least we can entertain the possibility of success rather than assuming unavoidable defeat.