As the game continues to grow, more and more players are finding it difficult to achieve lofty competitive goals. More and more, I'm finding myself having discussions with teammates and patrons on disappointing performances- I expect most of us can relate to walking away from a poor outcome, despite hard work and preparation.
As the player base expands and the average experience level increases, it is becoming harder to win- or even place well- at major events. The most dedicated professionals play five to fifteen games every day and analyze every moment- and even among these diehards, many aren’t able to convert their substantial time investment into a major tournament win!
So what are the rest of us to do? For anyone with other commitments- a demanding job, a family, even other hobbies- it can seem a daunting task to set an achievable goal in competitive Flesh and Blood. While you'll find many great pieces on how to work toward that high-level competitive success, you'll find less advice on how to maintain a positive attitude in the face of failure.
As the player base expands and the average experience level increases, it is becoming harder to win- or even place well- at major events.
I have had a number of measurable successes in this game, and have felt very rewarded for being a dedicated Ranger main. But I have also had disappointing performances that I had to come to terms with. Before my success at Nationals, I went 2-4 in my first Road to Nationals event. More recently, I took a Lightning deck to two separate ProQuest events with the idea of spiking what I believed would be the predominant meta call of the moment- and while I did run over every Prism I faced, I had ignored the objective reality that my deck did not play well into at least one of the other top decks. I went 3-3 at both of these events, which shattered my delusional fantasy of effortlessly wading through Prisms to a Top 8 finish.
Processing and accepting failure is an unsung skill. In this game, as in many other aspects of my life, I make an effort to appreciate every success I have, which makes for a much more enjoyable game experience. But everyone's measure of success is different. My own personal experiences certainly don’t apply to everyone, but I would like to share a few practices I have found essential to maintaining a healthy relationship with this game that I love.
Keeping Yourself Grounded
If I am feeling conflicted about a particular match or tournament, it helps me to pause and weigh my experience realistically, instead of through the lens of my current frustrations. Did I set unrealistic expectations for myself? Was I underprepared, and hoped that fortune would do favors for me in spite of my shortcomings? Was my deck actually well positioned, or was I just hoping to dodge my bad matchups? Did I misplay, did I get a bit unlucky, or did I get the outcome you'd objectively expect? Reflecting on the reality of any given performance really helps me put into perspective why I am feeling the way I am- and perhaps more importantly, what I can do about it in the future.
I have also chosen to pursue expertise in a limited number of classes, rather than retaining the flexibility of being able to spike any given meta with the correct counter. Personally, I find this to be a highly rewarding path, but it also sets some boundaries as to what I can realistically achieve in any given meta. I was fortunately well positioned in the ToA meta of US Nationals; but in stark contrast, I was also playing Azalea during the height of the Chane meta. A part of me relished the impossible undertaking, but it was also a period riddled with frustration at such an unbalanced meta.
I have learned to accept the fact that, while specializing may give me an edge at an opportune moment, I will also be unable to compete effectively in certain metas. Do you love playing Levia? More power to you! But if you are a bitterly competitive person who will not be able to reconcile losing, then it is time to have a realistic look at your approach.
The inverse situation can also apply. Did you pick up Starvo yesterday and expect to win your event? Expertise is built with time, and the loyal Guardian players who came into Starvo will be better positioned to win with him than you are. Being honest with yourself is certainly a better approach than a vicious cycle of delusion and disappointment.
I am certainly not trying to dissuade setting lofty goals. I am only advising a healthy measure of realistic consideration when laying out a game plan for achieving them.
Lastly, I would remind everyone to take a step back from your feelings after taking a hard loss. I did not meet my own expectations piloting Levia at the Vegas Calling. But I remember the trip fondly because I found my joy in other aspects of the game's community. After day one was over, I couldn’t have been happier having pizza and beers while watching my friends play late night wizard duels.
Make Your Competition Personal
Everyone has their own idea of what competition is. If feeling good about yourself is contingent on always beating every opponent you face, then perhaps you have a bit of self-reflection to do. If you learn to appreciate all of your successes, both large and small, I believe you will have a much better time playing the game.
This may be easier for me, as I am naturally a more self-competitive person. And that comes with its own list of challenges! But I do tend to, and also make an effort to, draw validation from within.
Don’t get me wrong, everyone enjoys praise, but learning to measure your achievements by your own personal standards can lead to a healthier mindset when it comes to any competitive sport. It parallels individual sports like rock climbing and snowboarding; if you are really pushing yourself to perform better in these sports, you will be constantly failing. Major breakthroughs or huge leaps in performance are rare, and only come after long periods of painful defeat.
If you are really pushing yourself to perform better, you will be constantly failing.
This can be extremely demoralizing, and is combated by learning to celebrate your small successes and incremental advancements. That surge of dopamine, of self satisfaction, when you unlock a slightly more efficient line in a seemingly impossible problem is a universal feeling. It is so much more precious than any easy victory, and should be savored as such. You could liken it to taking a couple strokes off of your golf game, rather than winning the whole tournament; or setting a new personal record at a race, even if you didn't come in first.
When playing Flesh and Blood I have learned to identify and set very real priorities. Any match in which I made a mistake is a valuable learning experience, as is a match in which I discovered a new line of play. Even a match in which I tried a new line that turned out to be less optimal has great value. Any moment of learning or progression as a player has infinitely more value than a victory in which nothing was learned.
One of my favorite moments of instant gratification comes from siding incorrectly early in a tournament- only to face the same matchup later in the day, and get it right.
Some people like to earn victories with the most difficult-to-play heroes. Some love being highly competitive, making the best meta call for the moment. Some like to learn how to spike one of the top decks. Some, like myself, take pride in being a champion for a certain class, through thick and thin. Others prefer to pull off their inventive, janky combo line.
However you derive success, it is important to allow yourself to appreciate it.
And Yes, Luck Plays a Part...
I hesitate to validate this topic because it is too heavily weighed at any given point in the game. It is far too easy to assuage your ego by crying that you got unlucky and chalking up every loss to the cruelty of the fates. It is far more likely that, over the course of an entire day, there are much more productive moments that you can focus on and learn from. Oftentimes, not getting unlucky or not misplaying wouldn’t have outright won you the game- only changed the path you took to your loss. But the greatest potential for damage is this: in proclaiming your misfortune, you can drastically detract from your opponent’s victory, and the good game they played.
It is far too easy to assuage your ego by crying that you got unlucky and chalking up every loss to the cruelty of the fates.
That said, there is a certain degree of variance in this game. This is inherent to TCGs, and mostly it's a good thing- variance keeps things interesting. But sometimes you can get a bit unlucky. Starvo can activate and play Oaken Old four turns in a row; Viserai can do forty damage on turn two.
Or, more subtly, you can simply face a very difficult path of tough matchups to Top 8. That's a different sort of bad luck, but tournament pairings definitely qualify as variance issues. Especially in the current 'rock paper scissors' meta, you will inevitably have stronger and weaker matchups.
I only bring up luck because it is important to note that, while identifying actual factors is crucial for growing as a player, it's also important not to dwell on your misfortune or beat yourself up over a bad come-up. Great play can overcome the vast majority of variance, and focusing on how you can achieve this is much more deserving of your energy.
You Should Enjoy Your Hobbies
Remember that we create our own attitudes and habits, and the more we think or behave in a certain way, the more we reinforce those habits. Consciously choosing our own perception is not easy, but is the best predictor of the joy we'll find in our hobbies. Reactively seething and resenting your opponent whenever things go their way reinforces these bad habits and creates a more miserable experience for yourself. In contrast, identifying, celebrating, and learning from your successes, both large and small, will lead to a much more enjoyable game.
Credit to my team, co-host, and patrons for having discussions on this topic recently, from which I have drawn.
Isaac Jessen has been an avid Flesh and Blood player since Arcane Rising, and is the co-host of The Attack Action Podcast. A Northern California native, he loves underdog toolbox decks like Ranger, Levia, and Kano.
Great Article. Really bad player here, but I never feel like it. The prize support usually means I end up with a cool promo card or a game mat here and there and that really just makes it all the better. One thing i really like about the game is that everytime I lose..it is usally apparent exactly why and I usually lose to the same opponent again..but not for that reason...so you really do learn a lot form losing in this game.
Fantastic article - thank you for writing it.
What a great article! Thanks!
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