The CCG Thread – Drawing Dead

Welcome to the *CG thread, where we talk all manner of Card Games – Collectible, Trading, Living, and otherwise!

Last week I talked about variance, and this week I wanted to talk about something that often follows that – Tilt. Tilt, like many terms in the world of competitive CCGs, comes from competitive poker. Well, technically, it originated with pinball, where machines have tilt sensors that trigger when the machine is hit or tilted and shut down the flippers, but in poker and CCGs, it refers to when a player gets upset, usually because of unlucky things happening, and usually results in the player making further bad decisions and getting themselves further down the hole.

This is going to be our first foray more competitive aspect of CCGs. I mainly have insight into the Magic scene, so that’s mostly what I’ll be talking about, competitively at least. Competitive Magic is incredibly mentally and emotionally taxing. And with the inherent variance of the game and tournament structure, you’re going to have bad days. It’s easy to say “well, I’m hoping to do my best, but I might get unlucky,” but once you get in the chair and start drawing nothing but land or getting matched up against your worst matchup repeatedly, it can be surprising how quickly that flies out the window. But on the other hand, managing your own mental space is a skill in itself, and among the best of the best players, you will see them time and again get unlucky and deal with it maturely before it becomes tilt and affects their play. (See the Brian Kibler moment from last week) Tilt, in its most common form, comes from feeling like you deserve better, like you are better than you’re being given. The worst tilt that I’ve seen comes from people who think they’re better than they are and refuse to accept that their failures could have been anything other than random bad luck (spoiler: it wasn’t)

Dunning-Kruger is a harsh reality to face sometimes.


This isn’t to say that you don’t see tilt outside of a tournament setting, but in casual play, the stakes are generally not as high, and, to be perfectly frank, there is a certain type of player that goes to tournaments that hits the tilt switch extra hard. Unfortunately, that’s usually “That One Guy” at the card store who everyone either passively tolerates or actively dislikes but can’t get rid of. He (and it’s almost always “he”) is many people’s first exposure to the scene and too often their last. He thinks he’s the best player and sometimes he’s up there, but not as much as he thinks, and any time something proves that he’s not, it’s the worst thing ever and he’s quitting the game and so on and so forth. There’s an anecdotal meme of this still that runs around occasionally:

I do have some problems with it, but it’s at least pointing in the right directions

You also see tilt a lot online. With the advent of chat systems and the (relative) anonymity of the internet, some people are, predictably, Jerks On The Internet. Do a quick search and I’m sure you can find any number of screencaps of angry players who just lost on Magic Online and other online games. It’s not new to the CCG scene, but it’s as bad there as it is anywhere on the internet. There’s a Hearthstone saying: “Don’t accept friend requests from a player you just beat” because accepting a chat from those people almost inevitably opens a channel of the most hateful bile you’ve seen in text.

One of my favorite streamers has a quote from one of these angry players embroidered and framed:

“You have really good luck for future ref”

Aw, thanks, I sure do.

Anyway, feel free to discuss amongst yourselves: What have you been playing lately? What’s on your mind in the CCG world? What do you like right now?

Or discuss our weekly prompt: How has tilt affected you? Have you had it? Have you been across from it? How do you deal with it when things aren’t going your way?