In this post, we’re going to focus on the things you can do outside of MTG Arena in order to improve inside of MTG Arena and increase your chances of going pro. Youtube and Reddit are full of in-game tips to boost performance, but what players can do outside of their esport is often neglected.
Here are the ten tips for becoming a pro MTG Arena player:
- Hire a coach
- Get the right gear
- Get better at learning
- Start training like an athlete
- Develop a personality and reputation
- Become a team player
- Attend local tournaments
- Face the facts
- Consider varsity esports
- Learn from Biofrost & Fatal1ty
If you didn’t start playing MTG Arena right at the beginning then you are behind many other players. One of the most crucial skills in esports is learning. If you can cut down on the time it takes you to learn and improve you’ll be much better off at reaching a professional level or any sort of level that can offer you financial gain.
HIRE A COACH FOR MTG ARENA
I’m still unsure why so many competitive gamers are hesitant to hire a coach. People hire coaches/instructors for literally anything, even things that offer no path for a professional career. Having an esports coach may be the best way for you to learn, or it may not be. But you won’t know until you’ve given it a fair chance. You’re not going to get worse by hiring a coach, but you could get significantly better in a significantly shorter amount of time.
Personally, I learn best when someone is walking me through it, especially after trying to learn it myself first. It helps me “put the pieces together”. Esports have a big learning curve. Like I discussed earlier, you have to spend unnecessary amounts of time practicing things you’re already good at in order to practice something you’re not good at.
MTG Arena is a great example of having to spend a lot of time doing things you’re already good at for small opportunities to practice something you’re not good at. You are constantly making plays that you are already good at and are unable to repeatedly practice specific skills you aren’t good at. Imagine if basketball players could only practice layups by playing full games.
The biggest benefit I see to hiring a coach is reducing the amount of time necessary for improvement. Hiring a coach/player that is better and more experienced than you is an almost guaranteed way to improve faster. An additional benefit is learning how to accept advice and critique, a skill that can be difficult for many to develop but is crucial if you are to become a pro gamer. In fact, being coachable is a skill in itself.
Saving time might not seem like a big deal to you if you’re younger but you need to realize that there are many other things you could be improving in your life that would also help you improve in MTG Arena. If you’re required to spend all of your time in-game these other areas are going to suffer. Do you really want to spend eight hours accomplishing something that could be accomplished in four hours?
Learning requires mistakes, and mistakes take time. A MTG Arena coach has already gone down the path you’re currently going down and can help keep you from wandering off that path.
Serious About Becoming A Pro?
Then hire a coach. GamerSensei focuses on recruiting top-level coaches whereas Fiverr is very affordable.
And don’t complain about having to pay for a coach. When I was 15 years old I got my first job dishwashing and I saved up for the latest Nvidia card (a laughable 128mb) just to ensure I had consistent and max fps in counter-strike 1.5. Besides, in the business world, it’s common for people to work at a company for free just to learn from those with more experience.
If you do hire a coach, milk that opportunity and ask as many questions as you can. In fact, write down all the questions you can think of before starting your work with them to get the most bang for your buck.
Coaches are also great for helping MTG Arena players break through plateaus. A coach may be able to better identify your weaknesses and what you need to work on. They may also be able to help you see things you haven’t seen in yourself, like bad habits you’ve developed over time.
If you’re just not in a place where you can afford to pay for a coach/mentor, check out your esports subreddit. You may be able to find free coaches/mentors on Reddit MTG Arena or its Discord channel. In fact, this is how a lot of the paid coaching services started and many gamers are happy to give a helping hand in their community. Often, teaching is the best way to learn.
GET THE RIGHT GEAR FOR MTG ARENA
Ok, so maybe this is a bit overrated for a game like MTG Arena. But for those that say getting proper gaming gear for MTG Arena is just hype, I would argue that you’ll never see a pro using a mouse with a ball in it (if those even exist anymore) and you’ll never see a pro using a monitor made in the 90s. My point is that you’re going to eventually get high-end gaming gear, so if you can get it now, you’re training will be better off. It’s always best to train the way you’ll be competing.
If you want to check out some of my recommended esports gaming gear then head on over to ‘Gaming Gear’ section in the Recommended Gear section.
I will say, however, that once you get into the actual higher end gaming gear products, the differences between everything is pretty minuscule so there’s no need to complicate things. A lot of it comes down to preference with either the shape/feel or the brand itself. I’ll do my best to recommend MTG Arena gear that I personally use, have used, or would use if I were to upgrade.
While you won’t see a pro MTG Arena player using a ten dollar mouse and a basic wireless keyboard, you also won’t see them testing out every single keyboard, mouse and monitor on the market. It’s pretty difficult to test out a lot of different gaming products. Gamers often stick with what was first comfortable or what was given to them by sponsors. As long as you’re shopping within the gaming products line, the differences between everything is pretty minimal and subjective.
GET BETTER AT LEARNING IN MTG ARENA
Now that you’re geared up, let’s look at some more things you can start focusing on outside of MTG Arena to start getting better inside of MTG Arena.
When I ask gamers, “what’s the number one thing that separates esports from more traditional sports?” I get all sorts of answers. Some say it’s static, meaning the athletes don’t really move much. Some say it’s more like chess as strategy trumps physical preparedness.
Whatever the answer I get, it’s almost always wrong (well, in my opinion). The number one thing that separates esports from traditional sports is learning.
Hear me out. Let’s take chess for example since I already mentioned it. There are chess masters who have literally dedicated their lives to chess (but for some reason that’s more acceptable over gaming).
Chess can seem complicated at first, especially when learning as a child. But over time, you start to understand the fundamentals. Chess masters get to a point where they are more akin to a computer as they can visualize almost every possible move in the game.
Ok ok, so what’s my point? Well, imagine if chess received “patches” or “updates” every few weeks. Imagine if one month the horse moved in an “L” shape then the next month the horse moved in a “C” shape.
See where I’m going with this?
MTG Arena gets patched/updated on a fairly regular basis. Additionally, new cards/sets are being added to MTG Arena on a fairly regular basis causing large changes in meta and playstyle. MTG Arena doesn’t change as much as some games did. LoL, for example, used to get patched every two weeks requiring the players to constantly learn new meta. And let’s not forget the maps. Map knowledge is crucial in MTG Arena but they can be memorized fairly quickly. It’s the little tips and tricks for each map that take time and experience.
The fundamental skill of learning is not required in more traditional sports the way it is in esports. Athletes are able to reach a certain point of mastery that results in less time spent on skill development. This allows athletes to focus more on building up weaknesses to reduce injuries and to spend time in other meaningful activities outside of sports.
Not so much in esports. This explains why some MTG Arena players feel the need to practice all day. If you want to be a professional MTG Arena player it’s not enough to be the best at the current version, you need to continue being the best at every new version that comes out.
You can stay up to date on MTG Arena updates by following their official Twitter account.
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GET MORE EFFECTIVE AT PRACTICE IN MTG ARENA
Part of getting better at learning is getting better at practicing. Esports has a long way to go in its sport-specific training. If developers worked more closely with professional MTG Arena players then training tools could be developed to allow players to practice specific skills rather than being forced to play entire matches for an opportunity to practice one thing.
Getting more effective at practice means getting more done in less time. It is trying to get the same amount accomplished in two hours instead of something like six hours. Consider this. When you first started playing MTG Arena, how much of it was new to you? All of it I assume. And what happened? You learned tons of stuff really fast. Then, as you played more, the excitement of something new probably died off, you memorized all the cards and decks and you probably started learning a lot less even though you were spending more time playing.
Now, think of why you were learning so much so fast at the beginning of MTG Arena. What does a new game, especially a competitive one like MTG Arena require from the very start? Focus. You were 100% focused when you first started playing MTG Arena because you had to be.
As time went on and you became much more proficient you probably started focusing a lot less, you probably started developing muscle memory with various movements and you started to just sort of sleepwalk your way through practices and matches thinking that if you just put in the time you would automatically get better.
Most people have heard the old sports saying, “practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect”. And what this quote is trying to get across is the point that practice requires so much more than just time. Perfect practice means one must go into a practice or training session with motivation, focus, goals, intentions and a clear plan on what the training is for, and what is meant to be achieved with the training.
Powerlifters will often have every movement, every set and every rep mapped out for several months of their training and there is clear reasoning behind all of it.
Competitive gamers, especially MTG Arena players, often just go through match after match after match with no real intentions. They might think that if they play ten hours instead of five they are going to become better. What they neglect to consider is that those extra five hours could be forming bad habits and are most likely responsible for burnout and injury.
There is something called “the law of accommodation”. Vladimir M Zatsiorsky, a renowned biochemist, stated that the response of a biological object to a given constant stimulus decreases over time. What does this mean in the sports world? When an athlete does the same activity over and over, they will plateau, and potentially get worse at the activity. A basketball player doesn’t just shoot a three-pointer and run layup drills for eight hours a day, and an Olympic weightlifter doesn’t just do snatches and clean and jerks.
In the esports world, this could mean that spending more time in a game is not necessarily better than spending less (in fact, it could be worse). There is an optimal range for practicing any given activity. If you could get the same results with 3 hours of practice instead of 8, you’ve now gained 5 hours to spend on injury prevention, demo watching and recovery.
START TRAINING LIKE AN ATHLETE FOR MTG ARENA
If esports are real sports and if gamers are athletes then start training like one.
This is an area where I see many MTG Arena players go wrong. They still think “more is better” with regard to playing MTG Arena and often neglect all other areas of competitive training. If you disagree with my initial statement about sports and athletes, I suggest you check out my post Should Pro Gaming be Considered a Real Sport?
In that post, I discuss some of the findings from Professor Ingo Froböse who has been studying esports and esports athletes at the German Sports University of Cologne for over five years now. I think you may be surprised to find out how demanding competitive gaming really is, especially at the elite level. And you may be shocked to realize just how unprepared esports athletes are both physically and mentally for their esport.
Now, similar to my discussion on how to learn better, training like an athlete may require you to learn how an athlete trains. Regarding esports, psychology and the mental side of things is very important. Professional esports teams are starting to recognize the value of hiring sports psychologists.
I’m a registered social worker with a master’s in social work. I’ve practiced psychotherapy and have been amazed at the amount of baggage the average person walks around with day to day. For an athlete, this can be extremely detrimental to performance. It can sometimes be the explanation for why a top-level player chokes during finals.
There’s also the physical side of training like an athlete. Is physical training absolutely necessary for esports? Clearly no, as many pros neglect physical training but excel in their esport. But esports is still in its infancy stage and has a lot to learn with sport specific training.
The truth is, esports careers can be short-lived. Some say the average pro career is less than 2 years for LoL. CS:GO and other FPS pros seem to last a little longer, but it’s still kind of rare to find someone approaching 30 years of age.
Could a lack of physical preparedness explain this? Possibly. For a more in-depth discussion on gaming injuries, check out my post Pro Gaming Injuries – What Gamers Need to Know.
Humans aren’t meant to use a computer for hours on end. If, after reading this, you still decide that exercising isn’t for you, at least try to move more often. Ten to fifteen minutes of walking around per every hour of sitting is a fantastic protocol, but you actually have to do it.
In case those esports injuries made you panic you can check out some esport specific training tips on the Athleitks section and the Cyber Athletiks Youtube channel.
DEVELOP A PERSONALITY AND REPUTATION IN MTG ARENA
You have to put your “print” on the game, every game, especially if you’re playing with top players. Even something as simple as Stewie2k who became known as the aggressive onliner who jumped through smokes for CS:GO.
Think about your favourite gamers, why do you like them? Is it just about their skill? Would you watch them on stream even if they were silent the whole time? If so, would you still watch a robot who had skills?
The point I’m trying to make is that there is probably a lot more to why you like your favourite esports athletes other than their ingame skill. Perhaps they always give funny interviews. Or maybe they’re a genuinely nice person on stream. Heck, maybe you like the trash talking “jock” type of player. Whatever the reason, there’s still a reason beyond them just being good.
START STREAMING MTG ARENA
This is a great way to help develop a personality. A lot of people are intimidated by streaming and for good reason. Streaming opens you up to the world. Even my first youtube video was very uncomfortable for me to make, I couldn’t stop thinking about who was going to be watching it.
But like most things, it will get easier with time and practice. Streaming is also a great way to start getting comfortable with an audience. Being a professional gamer means the additional stress of performing in front of others. This “performance” is a skill in itself.
It’s ok if you only have a few viewers for months on end. No one is going to notice you if they can’t find you. It could be a couple of years before you even have a respectable audience. This is online marketing 101, it takes time and patience, that’s why most people never make money online, they give up after they didn’t become a millionaire in two months.
BECOME A TEAM PLAYER IN MTG ARENA
Pro MTG Arena players are often members of an esports team and being on a team means you need to know how to communicate. Over in my Recommended Gear ‘Knowledge’ section, I have some book recommendations for learning how to communicate better. One of which is “Say What You Mean” by Joseph Goldstein. This book is often reviewed as the book for developing better interpersonal communication. Every MTG Arena player should read this book if they’re serious about being competitive or streaming.
Learning how to communicate better also helps reduce player tension and problems between team members. Disputes are often caused by misunderstanding and inabilities to communicate what one really means. This inability to truly communicate causes frustration within ourselves and for others. And don’t think I’m saying this because MTG Arena has so many young professionals, most full-grown adults are terrible at communicating as well.
ATTEND LOCAL MTG ARENA TOURNAMENTS
Competing in tournaments is a skill in itself. There’s going to be a different kind of pressure and you’re going to need to play for extended periods of time while consistently performing well.
Having more tournament experience under your belt will make you more appealing to teams looking for new players. It’s one thing to dominate MTG Arena in the comfort of your room or at home, but it’s a whole different game when you’re attending an actual tournament. The last thing you want recruiters or scouts thinking is, “but can they do that on stage?”.
The same goes for other sports like powerlifting actually. Lots of people post their biggest lifts on Instagram or Youtube, but when it comes time to compete in a tournament, they choke because they haven’t practiced the skill of official competition enough.
I wrote a post with some tips for entering your first competitive gaming tournament that you can check out here. Since I don’t know where you live I can’t really recommend a local tournament for you. That’s going to be up to you, but I imagine your city’s Reddit page would have a posting for a MTG Arena tournament. When in doubt, just google “[your city] MTG Arena tournament”. If you’re looking to get some more online tournament experience try searching Battlefy’s listings by clicking here.
FACE THE FACTS FOR BECOMING A MTG ARENA PRO
In one of my early posts How To Become A Pro Gamer – What No One Ever Tells You I discuss some of the darker realities of being a pro gamer, or at least aspects of pro gaming that many young gamers don’t consider.
For a great inside look at the trials and tribulations of being a pro gamer, check out “Free to Play“, a documentary that follows three Dota 2 players: “Fear”, “hyhy” and “Dendi”.
Once you are a professional gamer getting paid by both an organization and sponsors, there are numerous expectations placed on you. Being a professional anything inherently means there are certain expectations placed on you and that you will have to make sacrifices.
Being a professional gamer requires an immense amount of dedication. Pro gamers competing in esports want to be the best, and if that doesn’t describe you, then you won’t last long.
At the time of writing this post (May 2019) MTG Arena has (roughly) one million active players. The amount of MTG Arena players is probably much larger but it is difficult to get an exact number. Granted, many of these players aren’t “competitive” in the true sense, but there’s still a lot of players dreaming about making it to the pro scene and winning some big tournament money one day.
The exact number of pro MTG Arena players is also difficult to determine. But let’s compare it to League of Legends which has roughly 100 million players and roughly a thousand professional players. That means 1 out of every 100,000 players will become pro. That’s significantly less than a 1% chance. We can be generous and apply the same odds to MTG Arena even though LoL has a much more established professional scene than MTG Arena.
But think of it like the lottery, you can’t win if you don’t play. And even if you don’t become a professional MTG Arena player in the “true” sense, there’s still plenty of money to be won.
HOW MUCH DO PRO MTG ARENA PLAYERS MAKE?
If you are trying to be a pro MTG Arena player then you’re probably wondering if it’s even worth it. Here are some of the top earnings for pro MTG Arena players. Keep in mind, this is purely tournament winnings:
Just in case you aren’t aware, MTG Arena is one of the “big players” in esports and comes up second in total awarded prize money for an esport. This chart represents the total awarded money to date for top 5 esports:
MTG Arena is still really new to the esports scene but has already awarded $1,069,000.00 from 10 Tournaments.
CONSIDER VARSITY ESPORTS FOR MTG ARENA
Varsity esports has been exploding over the last few years. The National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE) was officially formed in July 2016. When they first formed, there were only 7 colleges/universities that had esports programs.
Over 100 institutions now have varsity esports teams. More and more schools in the US are contemplating how they can create their own teams and enter the esports industry. Hiring your own coach doesn’t seem so silly now does it? Especially if it could help land you a college scholarship.
I also wrote a whole post on Scholarships for Gamers where I go in depth more on the emerging varsity esports scene and why varsity esports may be a better option for gamers who are trying to become a pro. Granted, MTG Arena still isn’t anywhere near the varsity esports level as other games like LoL due to the “violent” nature of the game.
CONSIDER LIFE AFTER ESPORTS AND MTG ARENA
Esports and MTG Arena won’t fulfill you forever. As you continue to grow older and develop as a person you’re going to find that esports doesn’t fulfill you and your life in the same way that it does now. I’m not saying you’ll get bored of gaming, I’m merely pointing out that you are going to find yourself searching for other ways to find meaning in your life that aren’t esports. For a great book on how athletes can focus on what really matters in life while trying to be the best, check out Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court by John Wooden which I have in my Recommended Gear ‘Knowledge’ section.
LEARN FROM BIOFROST AND FATAL1TY
The typical guide, article or video on “how to become a pro gamer” often insinuates that one must give up everything and focus entirely on their esport. This is just plain false and this kind of thinking isn’t found in the more traditional sports world (well, not to the same extreme).
Sure, there will be sacrifices. When I started this website I sacrificed a lot of my recreational time that would have otherwise been spent gaming or being outdoors. But if you sacrifice everything, you’re not really doing yourself any favours. Humans try to live fulfilling lives and we often operate best the more fulfilled we are.
Unless your esport fulfills every facet of your life, you’re going to run into problems if you do nothing else except game. In fact, I would argue that your performance will suffer as your mental and physical health will start to decline. The more you are able to stay productive in other areas of your life while still being competitive, the better off you’ll be. But figuring out how to do that is ultimately on you.
A great resource for learning how to become pro is to learn from those who have done it really well.
BIOFROST – MOBA
In case you think I’m just dreaming this stuff up I want to discuss a real-life example that can be found in the story of Vincent “Biofrost” Wang. Biofrost was a rookie support player that made his debut on TSM and went on to place first at the LCS and competed at worlds in 2016.
While Biofrost was climbing the ranks he continued with University, completing two years before dropping out to become a professional gamer. He remained social and saw value in sustaining the friendships he had. Biofrost juggled multiple responsibilities while still climbing the ranks of LoL and breaking into the professional scene.
This allowed Biofrost to be so much more than a “one trick pony”. He effectively juggled multiple responsibilities with social skills, academic skills and more. He had the ability to focus on one thing, stop, then focus on another thing and achieve success in multiple areas.
Who do you think is more attractive to an organization, team, sponsor, or college? The person who’s always lived with their parents and spends sixteen hours a day practicing, or the person who has been able to achieve success both inside and outside of esports?
FATAL1TY – FPS
Nowadays, you don’t see players switching between games very often. Some streamers like Shroud have been successful, but they’re typically the exception.
Some of you may not be aware of one of the greatest esports athletes of all time, Fatal1ty. He was a professional gamer before professional gaming was “cool”. He turned pro in 1999 at the age of 18.
Fatal1ty won several world championships and won or placed extremely well in many more tournaments. Here’s a list of some of the games Fatal1ty competed in:
- Quake 2
- Quake 3
- Aliens versus Predator 2
- Return to Castle Wolfenstein
- Call of Duty 2
- XXXXXX: Source
- Unreal Tournament 2003
- Doom 3
- Quake 4
- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
For a more in-depth look at Fatl1ty’s legacy, check out the ‘Thorin’s Thoughts’ video below on him. You can also check the MTV’S True Life on Fatal1ty by clicking here. It gives a good look into how serious Fatal1ty takes his training and the professional side of gaming. Show some support to an OG and go subscribe to his Youtube channel. He’s still active and fragging in many different titles.
Fatal1ty was extremely dedicated to esports. He took it seriously and everything he did outside of gaming was done with the intention of boosting ingame performance. What strikes me, given his young age, is how “professional” he was with being a professional gamer. If you didn’t know he was gaming you’d think he was an athlete in any other type of sport.
Keep in mind, Fatal1ty succeeded during a time when esports was still relatively underground. There was no twitch or social media or sponsors actively looking for gamers (or even fancy gaming chairs).
So there you have it. This post focused primarily on what players can do outside of MTG Arena in order to improve inside of MTG Arena and increase their chances of becoming pro. In fact, that’s what Cyber Athletiks is all about—Esport Specific Training. Every sport has a specific way to train for it and esports should be no different. If you’re finding yourself stuck or plateauing even though you are increasing the amount of time you’re playing MTG Arena, then consider implementing the above tips.
But if you liked these type of tips then check out my post How to Become a Pro Gamer – ULTIMATE Guide where I go a little deeper into this sort of stuff.