Parker Willard recently made day two and cashed Grand Prix Pittsburgh playing Merfolk. He’s an average Joe grinder hoping to work his way to the Pro Tour. Parker lives in Michigan.
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Return to Ravnica
While there isn't an abundance of competitive players directly where Parker lives, a short drive to Detroit offers a healthy Magic atmosphere.
After a series of concussions from wrestling in high school, and a car accident, Parker found that Magic easily filled the competitive gap in his life left by the sport.
Not only that, but Magic aided tremendously in his recovery process. The mental workout of playing kept his brain engaged and got him back up to speed in school.
Parker attributes this success to the multitude of mental tasks Magic makes a player take on all at once. Doing combat math, trying to figure out what's in his opponent's hand, remembering what cards are in their deck, and evaluating the board state are all aspects that helped in his recovery.
Parker finds it important to double check your calculations. Did you misread your opponent’s creature? Did you check to see if your opponent has lands open? Sometimes he will simply do the math itself over again to make sure he did it correctly the first time.
Card evaluation was a skill that impeded Parker when he first started. He didn’t know what any cards did, so he was easily blown out by simple combat tricks and removal spells.
Understanding what made one creature good in comparison to another was something he learned to do by playing Limited. This helped him understand not only what cards did in gameplay, but which ones were good relative to others.
Parker’s greatest period of growth came by taking a break from Magic. He found himself grinding in the game, playing every opportunity he could, thinking that’s what he needed to do to get better.
During his break he realized that he had been getting a lot of practice, but not competitive practice. When he came back to the game after 3 months he started playing Magic Online and attending one competitive Magic event a week. He found that attending the one competitive event helped him more than an entire week of casual magic.
Making Day 2 at Grand Prix Pittsburgh stands out to Parker as it was a hard won victory.
He had to overcome an opponent that played mental games with him over several rounds to try and put Parker on tilt going into his final round. Parker managed to work through the frustration and use his opponent's slow roll tactic against him during his last round, which let him push through to Day 2.
Parker can't single out a single moment, but points to a streak of losses which lead to him taking a 3 month break. After two months of getting crushed at every event he attended he finally decided he needed to take a break, something he had to do with Poker as well.
Parker admits that it can be hard to get feedback from online matches. One way he was able to get valuable feedback was by streaming on Twitch. People in the stream's chat always called out his missteps and whether or not he was making a good play.
Not remembering information that's given is a common error Parker finds players making. He will write down cards if his opponent has to show their hand, this way he doesn't have to exert mental energy remembering or risk the chance of forgetting. If his opponent takes a long pause or gives pause at a card Parker plays he will make note of that as well.
Parker finds that if a deck isn't performing as it should he has to analyze the pillars of the format he's playing in. By looking at the main decks used in the format he can start to see if his deck is being exposed by any of them.
Listening to podcasts and reading articles often hints at what decks make for bad matchups in any given format as well.
Grand Prix Pittsburgh: Parker played between 1-2 tournaments a day on Magic Online leading up to the Grand Prix. He also made sure to attend a competitive Modern event every Saturday for several weeks before the tournament, familiarizing himself with the deck he would use at the Grand Prix.
Main tournament deck
A deck for side events
Binder if you like to trade
Parker believes the key to improving in Magic is getting better practice. Don't be afraid to move beyond Friday Night Magic and seek out Grand Prix trials and more competitive events.
Masters of Modern
Star City Games
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