We’ve all been there, with every hobby – the time comes when you just need to take a step back and disengage. At best it just isn’t scratching that itch for you; at worst, it’s making you miserable. What do you do when you’re burned out on Magic: the Gathering?
WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU’RE BURNED OUT ON MAGIC
TOUCH SOME GRASS
First up – and I say this with love – touch some grass. Get outside (even if it’s rainy and cold) and unplug from technology. When you’re feeling low, it’s easy to fill that need for fulfillment with technology and games. They’re easy dopamine hits, and they can provide a welcome distraction, especially if everything else going on in your life is a lot.
You can get easily frustrated with your hobbies if you’re using them as escapism, and it’s one of the reasons that I advocate for players to be honest about their goals for sitting down to play Commander. If you’re sitting down for escapism and the other players are sitting down to try and win, or to do goofy stuff, then your goals might be antithetical to theirs. In those situations, you’re risking making yourself salty over things you can’t control.
We turn to escapism because we feel a lack of control in the rest of our lives – so turning to a multiplayer game for escapism is a terrible idea. Would you recommend someone play League, or Call of Duty, for escapism? Would you commiserate with them over getting salty, or would you struggle to find sympathy, knowing it was a bad idea? You can’t control what other people do, and that’s especially true in Commander. So stop using it as escapism, and go touch some grass instead.
While we’re on the subject, get off of Twitter and other social media platforms. The “discourse” there is circular, and never ends. Even if you have something you believe is novel to say, any number of jaded, terminally-online goblins will eviscerate you for daring to dredge things up. Much like gaming, social media gives you a feed of dopamine that is hard to wean yourself off of. As Dr K says, “you’re compelled towards a behaviour you don’t enjoy”.
Stop playing Magic with the wrong mindset, whether casually or competitively. Peel yourself away from social media discussions about Magic. Get some fresh air, and fresh perspective. Absence makes the heart grow stronger.
KONMARI YOUR WAY TO JOY
Marie Kondo might seem like a phenomenon from at least a decade ago, but minimalism is underrated. Many misunderstand minimalism as owning very little, being anti-material possessions, and generally devoid of enjoyment for buying stuff. It’s a very reductive and inaccurate way to look at it, because really, minimalism is more concerned with not owning things that provide no value or use, rather than just not owning things.
Value can be had through joy and nostalgia just as much as through use, and so there’s nothing wrong with owning cool stuff and still embracing minimalism. It’s just that you might own less stuff, but still own a lot of cool stuff that brings you joy. How does that translate to Magic?
Well, a new year is a great time to evaluate what’s working for you and what isn’t. Going through your decks and collection and letting go of things that you no longer need can bring you closer to rediscovering what it is that you love about Magic. The objective here isn’t just to get rid of things, though. It’s to embrace the fact that you love your collection of Kaladesh Masterpieces, or that particular set of foil basics. By holding onto what we love and letting go of what we are happy to move on from, we can also figure out new goals.
And, once you’ve got yourself a pile of cards you’re unlikely to want to play with again? Well, you can buylist them and swap them for things that you do want. Or sell them for cash, if that’s your jam. But we both know you’re going to end up with more cards either way, right? 😉
ENGAGE YOUR INNER (MAGIC) CHILD
If you’ve tried the first two techniques, you’ll be close to engaging with what drew you to Magic in the first place. Ask yourself what it is about the game that draws you to it, and then try and figure out if you’re having that experience right now. If you’re not, ask yourself why. What can you do to get that feeling again? Is it impossible to recapture? Are there other things you like that you can re-engage with too/instead?
It might be that you fell in love with drafting, but now your regular cube-mates are often busy. Or maybe you started with Standard, but you’re mostly playing Commander. There are things to do to satisfy those desires. You can try cube variants for smaller pods, or attend booster-draft at FNM. You can try Pauper instead of Standard. You could even build your own variant of Dandan!
Maybe your Commander decks recently have all been fairly “safe”, and the original decks you built that you’ve long since retired are calling out to you. Can you rebuild them with the new tools of today? Can you perhaps find a new Commander to enact the strategy with?
Chances are, just because you’re not enjoying Magic in one aspect, doesn’t mean you can’t approach it from another angle.
PLAY SOMETHING ELSE
You could also play something else to test whether it’s Magic’s gameplay that’s not doing it for you right now, or just card games in general. Lorcana, Flesh & Blood and Pokemon TCG are all a lot of fun, and the latter has a great online client. Playing other TCGs can help you develop your skills in Magic by approaching different scenarios from new angles. Arming yourself with knowledge from Magic can make your experience in other TCGs better, too.
You don’t necessarily have to go to another card game, either – if you primarily play paper Magic, you could try Arena again. It’s just introduced the Timeless format, so now’s a great time to dip your toes in.
Or, go further afield, and play some Baldur’s Gate 3. I’ve picked the game up again over Christmas, and it’s bloody incredible. If you haven’t played it yet, I really would recommend getting lost in it. And who knows – it might inspire you to pick up Battle for Baldur’s Gate once more. I know it’s giving me some ideas for new Commander decks, and I really enjoyed playing my Karlach deck before, and watching someone in my playgroup put Golgari Shadowheart through her paces has been a lot of fun too.
TAKE A LITTLE BREAK
Ultimately, the things we’ve discussed today are all intrinsically linked to taking a break from the way you interact with the game you love. Like with all hobbies, there will be an ebb and flow, and though quitting cold turkey might be right for some people, it’s rarely the case that burning everything to the ground and walking away will leave you feeling the best possible way.
Taking a break can help you recharge, and using that time wisely – like by considering some of the above methods for disengaging – will leave you in the clearest headspace for how you want to interact once more.
Ravnica Remastered might be an easy skip for you, or maybe you’re not so into Fallout. Pick and choose what to engage with, and you’ll be able to generate a lot of joy and satisfaction from how you enjoy Magic.
Kristen is Card Kingdom’s Head Writer, and member of the Commander Advisory Group. Formerly a competitive Pokémon TCG grinder, she has been playing Magic since Shadows Over Innistrad, which in her opinion, was a great set to start with. When she’s not taking names with Equipment and Aggro strategies in Commander, she loves to play any form of Limited.