Beyond the Game: Tilt

I’m so unlucky…

This game has too much variance…


All I face are bad matchups….

Never Lucky,

What’s the point in playing, it’s all luck anyway…

[email protected]#$ this game.

Sound familiar?

Hi everyone, Tim here, otherwise known as Tchamber5 on ladder. Today, I want to talk about something everyone experiences, including myself, who had a bad bout with it recently.


I am sure that this topic has been covered before, whether it be in the Eternal community or by the numerous MTG pros, but I’m writing this for myself as much as anyone else. It’s something we all go through sometimes, and It can feel like a deep hole that you can’t quite come out of. I wanted to write about this topic because it’s one of the few real-life lessons you can learn from playing a digital card game. Learning to beat tilt may just improve your life as a whole.

What is tilt?

Simply put, tilt is a mental state of frustration, but it goes much deeper than that. The term “tilt” became popularized in professional poker: When a player has a particularly unlucky hand or loses a big betting pot and gets angry or frustrated, causing them to play badly.  For those of you who played pinball as a kid (or as an adult, that’s totally acceptable too), you may be familiar with tilt as well: A sign that lights up when you shake the machine too much, usually out of anger, meaning that the game is over and your precious quarters are gone.

The concept of pinball, Eternal, and poker align more than you might think though.

Tilt the machine.

Lose the game.

Put more money into the machine.

Lose a hand.

Get tilted.

Put more money into the betting pot.

Play badly.

Lose money.

Lose a game.

Get tilted.

Play bad.

Lose rank.

Whether you are putting more money into the machine, betting away your chip stack, or giving away masters ranks to your opponent, it’s all the same. Before we can learn to beat tilt though, we should learn to Identify it.

So what are the signs of tilt?

Sign One: Visible and Audible Frustration

It’s ok to be frustrated. In fact it happens all the time to all sorts of people. What’s bad is when you have an extended bout of it. For example: you are playing a mid-range deck and you have stabilized at three life against your opponent’s Skycrag aggro deck and they are empty-handed. You are going to win next turn even if your opponent plays a unit to block. They draw a Torch, cast it at your face, snap off a snarky emote, and win. Frustrating right? This becomes a problem when it carries into the next game. Maybe your next opponent Torches your turn one Initiate of The Sands and you are finding yourself rolling your eyes or saying things like, “Of course they have Torch, they always have it,” or audibly groaning and using profanity. These are all visible signs of frustration caused by tilt.

Sign Two: The Blame Game

Another sure sign that you are going on tilt is when you start consistently blaming factors outside of yourself for your losses. The common one that I hear a lot is blaming variance or luck for your defeats: “I always draw the wrong half of my deck,” “Never lucky,” or my favorite: “They top decked like a god and I drew [email protected]#$.” Variance can certainly feel bad, and can cause a lot of people to tilt. Another thing that a lot of new players will blame is “net-deckers” or a bad meta (I could write an entire article ranting about that one). Overall, If you find yourself consistently making excuses for your loss other than, “I could have played better,” or “My opponent played better than me,” then you may be falling victim to the blame game. It’s important to recognize when you are playing the blame game, and to not fall victim to it, as It will hamper your personal growth quite a bit.

Sign Three: Physical Tension

This one can sometimes be a little less obvious, but is very important to be mindful of. I know that this happens a lot for me, and I start to notice it when I do things like making a really tight fist or when my shoulders start to tense up. One of my team mates, Isochron, described the feeling like, “when my throat is internally choking me.” It will be different for everyone, so keep an out for signs of physical stress as well as other frustration. Not only does this symptom of tilt decrease your ability to play well, it’s overall bad for your health.

Sign Four: Negative Self-Talk

This is a big one, and one that took me nearly ten year to get over, though i still struggle with it sometimes. In contrast to the blame game, where you blame everything besides yourself, negative self talk is where you blame yourself and tear yourself down. For the longest time, when I would make a misplay, instead of telling myself that I wouldn’t do it again, or learning from my mistakes, I would call myself stupid or tell myself that I shouldn’t even be playing this game because I will never make it. This is something that goes beyond Eternal for some people, including myself, and often leads to severe anxiety if left unchecked, which is something I dealt with for years without even realizing it. It is truly a vicious cycle that starts with simple negative thoughts.

These are just a few of the many signs of going on tilt, and you should definitely learn to identify the signs that arise for you personally.

How do we beat tilt? I have outlined a few of my go-to methods below.

Method One: Realize that you are doing something wrong, and that sometimes you lose.

Loss is a part of Eternal. Nobody has a 100% win rate. I would even bet that no one has an overall win rate of 75%. You are going to lose. That being said, It’s important that you realize why. When you lose a game of Eternal, one of the most important things you can do is to think back on your game and figure out how you could have played differently or better. It’s very rare that I look back on a game and think, “wow, I played that game perfectly,” even when I win. Whenever you lose a game, try to think back to the early turns and how you sequenced your plays, and I’ll bet that you can find something you could have done differently. Recording your matches is a great way to review your plays, or if you aren’t able to do that, taking a look at the match history in the profile section is a great start. There, you can find a lot of details about your previous matches, including the order in which you drew your cards and if you redrew or not.

Method Two: Take a break.

This sounds simple, and it really is. The wonderful thing about eternal is it’s accessibility. Games take between five and fifteen minutes, and you can play it literally anywhere you have cell service or WiFi. This makes the game very conducive to allowing you to take a break, get some water and just breathe for a moment. It’s hard to say this about other games like Magic, where Games are longer, and it is usually more expensive, especially in paper. This is one of the things I like the most about Eternal, and you should utilize it when you need to stop for a moment. I Worked as a chef for a long time prior to my current career, and one of my mentors taught me that in your creative process, you always need to take a step away from your product for a little while and then come back and reevaluate. The same thing applies to Eternal. Take a break for an hour or a day, and then come back and analyze what you could be doing better to increase your win-rate.

Method Three: Breathe.

This one is big. In Buddhist teachings, an important technique of mindfulness is to focus on your breathing and nothing else so that you can reach a state of calm.  Oxygen is a vital component for your brain to function at peak capacity. When you get tense, frustrated, and stressed, you breaths will naturally be shorter and more shallow, which in turn makes it harder to think clearly. You can combat this by closing your eyes and taking three deep breaths. Three is actually a very specific number here, as it is the number of breaths that trigger several responses from your parasympathetic nervous system, like relaxation and reduction of fight-or-flight instincts. Deep breaths also lower your heart rate and blood pressure to boot. Sam Ilehnfeldt, an MTG Pro Tour Top 8 competitor, talked a lot about this topic, and even said that he writes down “breath, you got this” on his notepad before every match. Breathing, a topic that most people don’t think about a whole lot, is very important.

Method Four: Don’t tell bad beat stories.

This is something that my good friend I_Am_Monstrum and I made a pact of a few years ago when we were both still grinding the competitive MTG scene. We used to tell bad-beat stories to each other all the time, and all it would do is frustrate us further, and solidify in our minds that we were playing well and that we were just getting beaten by variance. We had a great level up moment when one time, instead of consoling me or blindly agreeing with me, Monstrum instead said, “Well what could you have done better in that match?” And then we talked about it, improved and learned from our mistakes. Telling stories about bad variance will only establish a negative mindset, which is very counterproductive to performing well in a card game, and does nothing for your improvement as a player.

Method Five: Keep a positive mindset, visualize success.

Let me give you an example. You are paying against Combrei aggro, and attack into one of their pump spells, even though you knew that there had been a pause for a fast spell on previous turns, losing one of your units. There are two things that you can do from here. You can get upset, and tear yourself down, saying things like, “I’m so stupid, what was I thinking? I should have realized they had a pump spell, I suck at this game,” or something like that. The other option? Think positive. I know that sounds cheesy but I’m not talking about giving yourself a pep-talk and cheering yourself on. Instead of tearing yourself down, think something like, “Okay, The game is still going. I lost my unit, but how do I win from here? I’m still in this.” This is definitely easier said than done but with some practice it’s very possible and I promise it will lead to a higher win rate and less stress. One of the biggest pieces of advice that I got when I was first starting out in competitive card games was to play to your outs and to know what they are. Even when you are playing from behind, realize that there is almost always a chance.

Method Six: Realize that it’s just a game.

At the end of the day, It really is just a game. It can be an intense, exhausting marathon sometimes, but it’s just a game. If you play Eternal like your life depends on it, you are going to have more stress than success. Take a break, think about other things. It’s just a game.

At the end of the day, no one is perfect and you too will eventually go on tilt. The key to beating it is recognizing that you are there, and then taking steps to fix it. This is no small task, and takes a lot of mental focus and practice, but if you can master some of these methods, you might find yourself performing much better and having a great time paying eternal.

Thanks for reading everyone! How do you beat tilt? Have any secrets to keeping a cool head? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter!

Stay calm, stay cool, play to your outs.


1 Comment » for Beyond the Game: Tilt
  1. Eric says:

    Thanks for this article i was going through some hard tilt and really getting upset over losses after a big losing streak. Not to say this article ended my tilt, but after reading and honestly resonating with it I started winning again. The only addition I’d like to add would be that sometimes editing your deck can also help with tilt. If you don’t like how certain cards sit in your hand or you feel like they’re dead draws etc., even if you’re a netdecker and aren’t confident in your skills to build a deck. I don’t know if it’s a Placebo or just getting a better sense for tuning your deck, but just switching out a single card can often help break your tilt.

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