“I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.” – Rosa Parks
How to Train your Warjack reverts back to Hacking the Cortex this week. As training for the WTC heats up, my thoughts are increasingly on the tournament prep side of things, so we’re back to crunch over fluff. The next few will be talking about my own personal attempts to grow as a player. This week, we talk about The Fear – the intimidation factor that happens when you face the players that are the established Big Deals In Your Local Meta.
The Fear is a special kind of Tilt that only happens when you start to make progress up The Mountain. When you start out playing in tournaments, you accept that you’re going to lose a lot of games. You start out going 0-X, and for a while, every win that moves from the right to the left of that equation is a big victory.
The next step after that is maintaining a record of more wins than losses over a number of tournaments. You’ve learned to climb, now you need to build up long term stamina (Yes, I am going to lean on this metaphor a lot). But the final slope is the steepest. By now, you’ve gained a degree of automaticity in your playstyle. You know what most of the models in the game do, your fundamentals are solid, and you have a way of approaching the game that means you tend to win more than you lose, or somewhere pretty close. You’ve still got some bad habits lurking in there, but you’re engaging in deliberate practice and making them go away.
But there’s one problem. There’s that handful of players that just have your number. In my case, I spent a solid 18 months being utterly unable to beat our very own Stu/Valkine. It was as if he had a magical aura which made me stupid any time I stood across the table from him. Over time, his Nemesis status took on the form of mythology in my own mind.* He, I, and all of our local players knew about it and joked about it. This, of course, probably led to a great number of punts on my part.
The Fear is a mighty form of Tilt, because it begins as something rational. Unless you’re one of The First yourself, there are always going to be more experienced, more skilled players than you when you start regularly attending tournaments. You expect to lose to them, and it’s an accurate expectation. But as your skill grows, some of those games should end up going your way – but the ingrained expectation that they’re better makes you miss things, or make poor decisions. When you’re ahead in a game, you don’t quite believe it, so you continue to play as if you’re losing – longshot assassinations, sloppier play, extreme overcaution…
There are three players in my local meta who I would face with an expectation that I would lose the game, and make the attendant play errors. Any tournament I have won in the past two years, has been one in which I dodged those three players. At the first tournament of 2013, I broke the Valkine Curse. Two weeks ago, I defeated Gerry “Grotsnif” Nolan in a tournament final. Yesterday, I lost to Old Man PG_Princesspony.
I looked back on that game and realised that I didn’t have The Fear. I don’t think I made any mistakes in the game – indeed, I pushed him into a longshot assassination which happened to pay off. The same is true in the games that I won against the other players who had once triggered it – I was able to control my Tilt and play the game to the best of my ability. This sense of calm was not an accident. It’s been the main target of my play improvement initiative for 2013. Writing this series has been a big part of it. There’s a difference between knowing the principles, and applying the principles. I fully credit my improvement this year to keeping my cool – my mantra has become “Shut up, slow down, and keep winning”. I am mastering my Tilt, and my confidence is growing.
Which brings me to an excellent segway into my next article…
* The highlight of my losses to Nemesis Stu is definitely Mohsar melee assassinating pMadrak. Do not doubt the power of The Fear to warp all reality, dice included**
** The Fear has absolutely no effect on probability. This is an example of confirmation bias. Knowing about biases biases you into thinking you’re not actually biased. Biases are twisty. Bias.