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The Pride of Would-Be Champions

I think it is a rite of passage for any aspiring conveyor of information in any form be it written, audio, or video to begin a topic with a dictionary definition. What usually follows is that an editor or audience member tells the presenter that this is an awful idea and they should never do it again.

Never let it be said that I don’t go through the motions.

Webster’s Dictionary defines Pride as “a company of lions”.

Well that was easy. Case closed. Book ’em Lou. Doesn’t apply to Destiny but lions are pretty cool, so I’ll take it. I love seeing a pride of lions at the zoo and I’ll give shoutout to the San Diego Safari Park since I have your attention. They do amazing conservation work around the world not just for lions, but all kinds of endangered species. But I’m mainly in it for the lions, let’s be honest.

Huge, hungry hulking beasts of the wild. A good and effective method of prey animal control up to a certain point, but When left unchecked will devastate an ecosystem by sheer predation. More than happy to scavenge another animals kill, no matter how decayed. Lions will expand their perceived territory unceasingly until stopped by either a natural barrier, or something more dangerous. And last but not least, ever so willing to eat their own when nothing easier presents itself.

Yeah, that sounds more like the pride I know. If Paul Sorvino was an animal, he would be a lion. The Bene Gesserit have the Litany Against Fear and if I were of a more artistic or creative nature I would create one against pride. It is my bane in general, a hungering lion held at bay by mere threads of self tempering.

More than any other trait, pride will destroy a player. If you are lucky, pride only destroys the individual, but more often it will at least damage someone else and in other games I’ve seen one persons pride completely destroy a local community. There is a reason traditional Catholicism treats pride as the deadliest of the seven sins. There are many forms of pride, and everyone suffers from it in at least a slight sense. But if you can aggressively contain the destructive aspects of your pride and prevent it from overtaking the rate at which you are trying to improve you will go further, faster. Not all pride is terrible, any GQ 6-0 or regional winner gets their fair share. The World Champion will certainly be deservedly proud, and no more so than the new player who won their first set of damage tokens last Friday! But there are limits.

Ever see someone throw their dice, shred a card, or lose their mind? In TTS, there’s the table-flip followed by the rage-quit. The poker community calls it going on tilt and that term seeped its way down to us lesser forms of card-game player life. But at it’s core, that is pride. Unbridled pride, when met with an immovable loss of some sort has only one reaction. Rage. Sometimes followed by shame. Societal niceties usually prevent the rage from taking form in a physical sense, but it does happen. I’d like to think that everyone reading this has enough of those niceties baked into their brains to make dwelling on the physical a waste of time, and I’m not an anger management specialist anyway. What I can do is show you some of the ways that pride is affecting your play, and the tell-tale signs of when pride is creeping up on you.

What does pride do? Pride makes you roll Yoda out before playing FILP, because there’s no way the other guy has his second Easy Pickings in the second round. Pride makes you keep two Bait and Switches and a Doubt in your opening hand because you’re owed the weapon draw to steamroll someone. Pride makes you roll out a HWK-290 taking two damage, because you’re owed a decent roll for once this game. Pride makes you spend both of your resources playing the second Cunning on Hondo because you’re owed a non-godroll from your opponent. Pride makes you not play Second Chance on Sabine because you’re owed the 80% chance that the discard side doesn’t pull it from you.

Spoiler Alert: You will receive precisely that which you are owed, jack fucking shit.

Nearly everything will perpetuate itself if given the opportunity, and pride is no exception. A bad decision last turn will lend itself more handily to a bad decision this turn because much like a gambler doubling the roulette bet, there is the thought that eventually things will break my way. And when that game turns into a loss, my pride tells me “it’s just not your day today” when I sit down for the next match. Any guesses as to how that goes? Now I’m X-2 in the early rounds, and rather than learn anything by playing the rest of it out, I’m on the way back home to watch House M.D. or Breaking Bad for the millionth time. What is it about under-estimated and spiteful professionals as the lead role in a story of narcissistic self-destruction I find so compelling? Must be a coincidence.

But even if that is me or you or someone you know, its a merciful place to be in compared to the next depth to which pride will drag you down to. Pride goeth before destruction after-all, and so far we haven’t seen any of that destruction, just a bad day and gross misuse of Netflix bandwidth.

Take a lot of those bad days and pile them up on top of someone who derives a piece of their identity or self-worth by how well they play the game, or to be more specific how well they want other people to think they play the game. What happens next depends on the person, and I personally know at least one person who have gone down each of these roads and a couple who went down multiple paths. I’ll address each one of them here as though I were talking to them directly, and say what I wish I had the speed of eloquence to say in person rather than require edits piled upon edits behind a screen to achieve.

If it applies to you, or someone you know? Hear what I’m saying and take it personally, or relay the message.

To the player who is too good for us any more. I get it man. You can’t lose if you don’t play, and the narcissistic injury is the one you need to avoid the most. I know you may come up out of the woodwork every now and again for a major event, but only if the potential to gain status outweighs the pain of a now almost certain defeat. You are, or were, a local leader and losing that status sucks. But no-one is buying what you’re selling here. Not even you.

You need to realize that no-one cares. Well, no-one cares more than you do anyway. Look at the last row of tables in the last round of a store championship. Pick the right one, and you’ll see me shoulder to shoulder with them. See how much fun they’re having? If you stop measuring yourself against a monolith built only in your mind then you would be enjoying yourself just as much. Play more, play as competitively as you can but you need to remind yourself that you don’t deserve a win any more than the person sitting across from you. Learn from every loss you take on the way back up, and smile even if it hurts.

To the player who takes out every iota of personal misfortune on your opponent, and/or can’t stop talking about how bad the game as a whole is. Your decisions are what is holding you back. You’re not dumb, no-one thinks you are. But you are taking pride to the two furthest extremes it can reach, a toxic combination of conceit and rage. No-one congratulates your wins, and no-one wants to test with you because every single game against you is a chore and a test in how much abuse someone can take.

You need to learn, but can find no-one to test with. A self-realization is what is required here. Nobody is going to help you if you punish them for showing you a different path to take in deckbuilding or in-game actions. An argument about play is not a life or death contest of wills, and you need to come to terms with luck. Most of the time, people aren’t as lucky as you make them out to be but even when they are, it doesn’t make the game you just played illegitimate. Stick your hand out like an adult, say good game, and then ask them if you missed anything. Chances are they’ll tell you if they have time.

To the person who cheats. I don’t know what is going on with you personally that an ill-gotten win gives you any satisfaction at all, and any claims that it’s just not worth it to cheat are going to fall on deaf ears.

You need to find a different hobby. Not only will you be caught red-handed eventually, but you just can’t actually be having any fun. I can’t understand your motivation to be honest, not even as an intellectual exercise. The money in this game doesn’t cover the cost of a plane ticket, and Destiny is a smaller example of a niche game-type that only a portion of a sub-set of gamers have even heard of, much less are interested in or impressed by.

All the above being said, pride can be an amazing tool and motivator so long as it is sufficiently tempered.

Almost exactly a year ago, I went to the Destiny World Championship. It was the first time playing any card game that I had other players with a personal interest and hope that I would find a measure of success even though at the time there weren’t any “pros” to speak of, just loud voices in the community. It was the first time in a game I couldn’t ignore the reasons for my loss. I had to admit to the people that cared how my own decisions and mistakes caused me to do poorly because the people who saw those mistakes were in the same room, listening to my retelling. The KoR meetup was good for many things, but at the time I wished the forced honesty could have been pushed back a step or two. There is no better wake-up call than to get hit with the realization you were a big fish in a small local meta-pond by going 3-3 against people miles ahead of you. It hurt.

I’m a prideful person. Prideful enough to think my opinion matters, and prideful enough to ask people for compensation to provide them. That level of pride comes with a certain burden, though it is in the form of the most first-world of first-world problems. No-one cares what the Powerball Lottery winner thinks about taxes right? But the burden is there nonetheless. Because I WANT my words to have weight, and HAVE wanted my words to carry weight since this time last year there are chains I have to put around my pride which benefit me as a player just as much as they irritate and frustrate me as a person.

People are watching my games, itching to criticize and waiting on any opening to jump in. In real life, I can’t change my steam name and play a jank deck against randoms to take the edge off. Every decision has to be as perfect as possible, not just to stave off the crowd but to not let my team-mates down. Every game in public has to be treated as a learning opportunity, and the most important thing in the world, in equal parts.

I cannot allow myself to have a bad day. Every negative emotion must be stomped flat, every harsh word swallowed up before verbalization. For my opponents, and everyone else in the room I have to have the most brutal policy of honest accounting and self-efficacy. Even if it is just the few minutes between rounds, I am forced to lie in the bed I made for the previous thirty-five. This is the area which continues to be most challenging to me.

Every victory is a gift to me under the watchful eyes of the public whose respect drives me to write, speak with authority, playtest endlessly, and win. My existence as one of the better players in the community has a time limit imposed not just by my career (23 months left until sea-duty calls) but by my ability to learn faster and more effectively than the group at large. The group at large is getting better by the day, closing the skill gap and just by the numbers, the community adds up to way more than just one of me, even if I am bolstered by the rest of my team.

So my advice to the prideful, or even just the people hoping to have something to be proud of come May 6th or beyond into the Store Championship season is this. Act like you’re already where you aspire to be, with the burden that it entails. Chain that pride up as best you can, and stare the lions down. You’ll be a better player, better teammate, and better member of the community when you do.

It’s a year later, and I’m getting ready for the World Championship again. The lions are at the back of my neck their breath heavy with the feelings of success I have had since that first time. They want me to believe I’m owed first prize if things go my way a little bit. They want me to believe I’m owed the top cut if I hit a rough match. They want me to believe I’m owed day 2 at a bare minimum as my just reward for all the time spent getting better. But I’m keeping ahead of them for now, and if an inelegant litany against pride will do the trick I’ll just keep repeating it.

I can measure precisely that which I am owed on the head of a pin, and anything more is a bonus.

-Agent Of Zion