Category Archives: Magic Life Lessons

Magic Life Lesson #9: Your Definition of Success

Magical Life Lessons are short snippets of wisdom learned from playing Magic: the Gathering. It may be a game, but here you’ll find insights learned from slinging cards that you can apply to the game of life.

In Magic: the Gathering, knowing your goal is simple; you’re playing to win. How you win is far more complicated: you could win by taking your opponent down to 0, by milling their library, or through some card’s effect, such as Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God’s ultimate ability that causes opponents to lose if they don’t control a legendary creature or planeswalker.

Magic Life Lesson #9: Your Definition of Success
Source: Gatherer.wizards.com

Life is a lot like that too: there are many roads to success. The important thing is defining what success is. Being a millionaire might tick the success box for many people, but isn’t your contribution to society worth more than the contents of your wallet? It’s an important question to ask, and that’s why it’s Magic Life Lesson #9: Your Definition of Success.

Magic Life Lesson #9: Your Definition of Success
Source: Gatherer.wizards.com/

Magic Life Lesson #9: Your Definition of Success

Speaking for myself, I’ve always struggled fitting my professional goals into my world view. I want to be a successful writer and game designer, and I know that stories (and, by extension, games) are an important medium for tackling and teaching important concepts — such as how Spec Ops: The Line is a harsh introspection on war and games about war — but I don’t always feel that I’m making peoples lives better. When I was a teacher, this was a no-brainer. My students learned and grew before my eyes, and I felt that my contribution mattered.

What does give me hope are all the writers who have made an impact on my life. Tolkien’s love for language flows from every page of his works, while C.S. Lewis brings a profound wisdom to his works that any man should seek to emulate. George R.R. Martin understands history and the humans that wrote it in a way that breathes new life into all history.

Games have resonated with me, too. Emperor and Emperor worship in Warhammer 40,000 has, as a bad parody, always stood in stark contrast to what the church and Christianity are to me, and has motivated me to question and dig into what I read in the Bible, so that I gain a true understanding of the writer’s message. And, you already know how Magic: the Gathering has proven to be a great game through which one can learn about life.

Ultimately, the struggle to balance my world view and goals has led me to change the ways I do things. Even if I have yet to nail down the how, I know that I want to make good games and tell stories that get people thinking about real issues, even if those issues are embedded in fantasy stories about elves and dwarves.

The struggle to define success in your own words is infinitely valuable, and certainly not easy, but it’s integral to your personal journey and to the question we all ask:

Why am I here?



Magic Life Lesson #8: The Long Game

Magical Life Lessons are short snippets of wisdom learned from playing Magic: the Gathering. It may be a game, but here you’ll find insights learned from slinging cards that you can apply to the game of life.

It can take time for things to come together, but when they do, all the effort can pay off in a big way. Today’s Magic: the Gathering deck is all about the long game, and it wins by sticking around and grinding down the opponent for the eventual win.

Graveyard Adventures

You can copy and paste this list into MTG Arena:

3 Lucky Clover (ELD) 226
4 Order of Midnight (ELD) 99
7 Swamp (ANA) 58
8 Forest (ANA) 60
3 Rosethorn Acolyte (ELD) 174
3 Garenbrig Carver (ELD) 156
4 Leyline Prowler (WAR) 202
4 Spark Harvest (WAR) 105
1 Witch’s Cottage (ELD) 249
2 Glowspore Shaman (GRN) 173
2 Syr Konrad, the Grim (ELD) 107
1 Edgewall Innkeeper (ELD) 151
1 Liliana, Dreadhorde General (WAR) 97
4 Overgrown Tomb (GRN) 253
4 Temple of Malady (M20) 254
2 Kraul Harpooner (GRN) 136
2 Loaming Shaman (M20) 180
2 Find // Finality (GRN) 225
1 Izoni, Thousand-Eyed (GRN) 180
2 Golgari Findbroker (GRN) 175

Magic Life Lesson #8: The Long Game

Life is about the long game too, and that’s Magic Life Lesson #8: The Long Game. You work your plan for weeks, months, years, until you successfully achieve your goals. This takes two things: the ability to see where you want to be and stubborn perseverance to keep slogging away until you get there.

It won’t be easy.

It shouldn’t be easy.

Nothing worth doing is easy.

Your future is like a marble sculpture, while your plans are the sketches and clay models of what you’re crafting. Your hammer and chisel are the efforts you put into making this new reality happen.

Right now, I’m seeing my RPG content — writing and ideas I’ve amassed over years — come together as a consistent whole. Many lessons, over many years, have gotten me to this point, but only because I kept the future in mind. If I regret anything, it’s that I didn’t dream bigger, sooner. But I don’t regret the lessons; tomorrow’s brighter because of them.



Magical Life Lesson #7: Know When To Hold ‘Em

Magical Life Lessons are short snippets of wisdom learned from playing Magic the Gathering. It may be a game, but here you’ll find insights learned from slinging cards that you can apply to the game of life.

Magic: the Gathering is a lot like poker, and both games can teach you a lot about life. For one thing, you’ve got to know when to mulligan. As Kenny Rogers sang, “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em… .” And that’s today’s Magical Life Lesson #7: Know When To Hold ‘Em. Here’s Kenny Rogers singing The Gambler:

There’s enough there to write a book, but let’s focus on “knowing what to keep.” When you draw your starting hand in Magic, you get the choice between keeping them or mulliganing for new cards. Knowing when to mulligan helps you draw better starting hands, which helps you curve out better. Think about it, if you’re a master of the mulligan, then your whole MTG game improves.

Many writers and YouTubers have written about the mulligan and curving, so I’m going to assume you know enough about it and dive into the life lessons we can glean from it.

Magical Life Lesson #7: Know When To Hold ‘Em

Life, like a game of cards, if full of choices. One of the most important choices revolves around judging the value of things, especially activities and relationships. You have to decide what’s good for you, which activities are worth pursuing, and which relationships grow you as a person. Ruthlessly discard everything else.

Keeping the worthwhile things isn’t always easy, but those people, those passions, they’re worth fighting for.

So fight for them.

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

Check out our store, subscribe to our newsletter for monthly updates, and visit us on our blog, our Facebook page and on Twitter.



Magical Life Lesson #6: One More Vedalken!

Magical Life Lessons are short snippets of wisdom learned from playing Magic: the Gathering. It may be a game, but here you’ll find insights learned from slinging cards that you can apply to the game of life.

My Vedalken! deck (say it like you’re pulling off a Hadouken) has been winning games, and has proven to be versatile enough to handle a number of decks in the meta.

Vedalken! Deck - Magic Life Lesson #6
Smurfy, very smurfy!

When I first had the idea for this deck it didn’t work, but I came at it again and again until I found a powerful synergy. The key is card draw and the ability to bring cards back to your hand, and thereby control the board. When you’re ready, Sage’s Row Denizen and Stolen by the Fae creates a powerful mill combo that can end the game in your favor.

Our Sage’s Row friend has a life lesson, and that’s that you have to keep trying. One more lap. One more try. One more push for the goal. The deck mirrors this perfectly, giving you the ability to duplicate and recast creatures as if they were teleporting rabbits. That’s Magical Life Lesson #6: One More Vedalken!

Magical Life Lesson #6: One More Vedalken!

You never know when things will come together for you. Maybe the next attempt will be the clincher. Maybe one more job application. Maybe two more. Maybe twenty more. Don’t let failure stop you, but keep learning and keep trying, and eventually, you’ll find the way and succeed. That’s what the Vedalken does.

The official version of Unstoppable by The Score is worth checking out.
Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

Check out our store, subscribe to our newsletter for monthly updates, and visit us on our blog, our Facebook page and on Twitter.



Magical Life Lesson #5: The Need for Speed

Magical Life Lessons are short snippets of wisdom learned from playing Magic the Gathering. It may be a game, but here you’ll find insights learned from slinging cards that you can apply to the game of life.

As I write, Magic 2020 Mastery is coming to a close in MTG Arena, and we’ll be dipping into Throne of Eldraine by the time you read this. Trying to grab the last mastery orb forced me to find a fast deck with a high win rate, and that got me thinking about speed, which is Magical Life Lesson #5: The Need for Speed.

Krenko’s Kommando

The deck that’s gaining a lot of XP for me right now is Krenko’s Kommando, a fast 1/1 aggro token deck.

Krenko's Kommando — Magical Life Lesson #5 The Need for Speed

It ideally works like this, by turn:

  1. Torch Courier comes out
  2. Cavalcade of Calamity out
  3. Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin out. Sacrifice the courier to give him haste.
  4. Sure Strike and any other buffs on Krenko, before he attacks. That’ll create between 6 and 9 goblins.
  5. You horde attacks, each dealing 1 damage to your opponent’s face, even if they’re blocked

Krenko’s Kommando applies “planning to win” and “knowing your goal” and is fine-tuned for speed. Most of the games I’ve played I’d taken the victory by turn seven. That meant I could fly through games and rack up XP. In life, you need quick wins to get ahead, and that’s  Magical Life Lesson #5: The Need for Speed.

Magical Life Lesson #5: The Need for Speed

It takes time to learn and gain competence. You spend years of your life at school, then you have even more learning at university or on the job. The time it takes to get skilled up can be frustrating, especially if you’re like me and want to do things properly. But then things click into place and you gain speed.

You really crack things when you find work that you can blast through. For me, that’s editing work. I need a lot of time for writing, which is what I give my mornings to. My afternoons are for editing, and because I’m faster at it, I get a sense of achievement much faster than with writing. That keeps me motivated. Dan Abnett, who writes for Black Library, has a similar approach. He writes novels in the morning and comics in the afternoon.

Let me be clear here, you don’t need to be fast with everything, but having something you do often that you can handle quickly does so much for your momentum.

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

Check out our store, subscribe to our newsletter for monthly updates, and visit us on our blog, our Facebook page and on Twitter.



Magical Life Lesson #4 — Plan to Win

Magical Life Lessons are short snippets of wisdom learned from playing Magic the Gathering. It may be a game, but here you’ll find insights learned from slinging cards that you can apply to the game of life.

Deck building is a major part of Magic: the Gathering. You can throw a deck together, based on a theme or a cool synergy, and it might work. The best decks take thought and research, combining strong synergies with cards that can handle whatever you’re up against. The strongest decks I’ve ever played were carefully put together and refined through hours of playing. This is planning, pure and simple, and it’s Magic Life Lesson #4 — Plan to Win.

Magic Life Lesson #4 — Plan to Win

It’s a cliche, but it’s true: “failing to plan is planning to fail.” You know how some decks are amazing at creating 1/1 tokens, or gaining life, and then there are decks with high win rates? The decks with high win rates are built to win, first and foremost. This is all about knowing your goal, but it’s also about creating a plan to achieve that goal. Some of these strong decks might create tokens or gain life, or do whatever they do well, but never lose sight of controlling the board, which is vital for victory.

Spock detecting large quantities of win in this sector. Magic Life Lesson #4

Lessons from Industry and Life

At the start of this year, we went back to our business plan for Rising Phoenix and gave it a lot of thought, which led to an overhaul of how we publish, what we publish, and how we market our publications. We knew it was vital to our business to have a strong plan, informed by lessons we’ve learned since we got started, viability, and our goals. Without it, we’d be all over the place, but, with the plan, we have something to gauge new projects by and goals to work towards. We won’t always get it right, we will make mistakes, but we’ll keep refining our plan based on the lessons we learn, and that will make us stronger. Just like refining a MtG deck after a few games or when you get new cards.

A Simple Plan (Not the Band)

A plan doesn’t need to be complex. Whatever you need to do, from studying for an exam to raising funds for your next RPG spending spree, just follow these simple steps:

  1. Identify what success looks like. How much do you need to know to ace your exam? How much do you need to raise to afford those minis?
  2. Chunk the work needed to gain success down into manageable bits. If you need to study 100 pages, how many can you handle in a 45-minute study session? How many study sessions would you need to learn all 100 pages?
  3. Begin working according to your plan. Track your progress as you go.
  4. Modify your plan to ensure you meet your goals. Do you need to cut pages from your study plan? Do you need to work more overtime to afford that core book? Make changes to how you’re going to achieve your goal, not to the goal itself.

The ICBM acronym might be a stretch, but planning works. Don’t roll through life without a plan — figure out where you want to be and go for it, fists flying!

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

Check out our store, subscribe to our newsletter for monthly updates, and visit us on our blog, our Facebook page and on Twitter.



Magical Life Lesson #3 — Know Your Goal

Magical Life Lessons are short snippets of wisdom learned from playing Magic the Gathering. It may be a game, but here you’ll find insights learned from slinging cards that you can apply to the game of life.

Magic the Gathering is a great game, and it has plenty to teach about life. Today I want to talk about goals.

You win a game of Magic by getting your opponent’s life total to 0. Nothing new about that. There are other ways to win, such as if your opponent has to draw a card from an empty deck, but, for the most part, it’s all about that magical number, 0.

It’s easy to miss the point here. You can play to “beat” your opponent, forgetting that you’ve got everything set up for a lethal play. Taking your opponent down to 0 is the goal, any distraction from that goal is an opportunity for your opponent to win. Strong decks and strong players keep this in mind.

You’ll see people forgetting this in MTG Arena often. When your opponent has a significant advantage, but doesn’t go for the win, then they’ve forgotten the win condition. That can buy you time for a life-saving or game-winning play.

Knowing your goals will get you ahead, in Magic, and in life.


GOAL
Magical Life Lesson #3 by MaxieLindo on DeviantArt

Magic Life Lesson #3 — Know Your Goal

By figuring out your goals, you can eliminate anything that distracts you or stops you from achieving it.

As an example, I’ve been wanting to do regular posts here again, and blog about Magic, but I didn’t want to kill my productivity. I figured that short, 300-word posts would give me a chance to achieve my blogging goal without taking too much time away from writing RPG content. My priority — my number 1 goal — is to write new RPG books. Knowing this goal helps me manage my time and gauge how well I’m doing, so I budget time for blogging appropriately.

We’re halfway through 2019, so it’s a great time to look back at the year’s goals and see how you’re doing. Cut any goals that aren’t working out, create new goals where needed, prioritize them, and the rest of the year’s your chance to shine.

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

Check out our store, subscribe to our newsletter for monthly updates, and visit us on our blog, our Facebook page and on Twitter.