Woodrow Engle is a dual Magic and poker player from Seattle, WA. He broke into the upper tier of tournament play by making his first Grand Prix Top 8 at Grand Prix Oakland 2016.
Rise of the Eldrazi
Woodrow got started as a young kid playing Ice Age, just throwing decks together with his friends and loosely playing by the rules.
After Weatherlight, he stopped playing all the way through college. While working at a game development studio Woodrow was invited to a poker game where he met Ryan Spain and Marshall Sutcliffe, who ended up getting him hooked on Magic again.
From there he quickly went from re-learning the rules to implementing high-end Magic thought processes.
Woodrow likes the competitive aspect and how Magic can feel a bit like poker with more skills and variation.
He enjoys how he gets to meet so many people with varying experience levels, and how sometimes he has no idea how good the person playing across from him might be.
The toughest aspect of Magic for Woodrow when he started out was card evaluation.
It took him a long time to wrap his head around when a card was worth a slot in his hand.
Understanding the opportunity cost of not drawing another card in any given situation is a high level concept that takes time to develop.
In his first PTQ Woodrow placed 9th and knew from then on that he wanted to really step up and crush tournaments.
This was around the time the Jund deck took over the Standard scene, and Woodrow set out to brew decks to take it down. Then at the advent of the PPTQ system he managed to win one and made it to a regional Pro Tour qualifier, which he Top 8’d, but missed the qualification by one match.
When Woodrow felt like he was caught in the grind he took breaks.
Eventually though, he learned to manage his tilt by being mindful and staying positive about his performance.
He reminded himself that a single tournament didn’t define him as a Magic player. This made it more fun for Woodrow to play, as it’s tough to do well in a tournament if you take an early loss and then shut down.
He discovered that ranting about his losses to friends was not only uninteresting for them to hear, but stopped him from identifying his mistakes and pushing forward.
Woodrow admits it’s difficult to stay focused when you know you’re going to lose a few turns out, but contemplating your outs and staying focused is critical for developing skill.
Players should mentally construct their winning scenario even when they may seem down for the count. This kind of mental fortitude is the mindset all Platinum Pros have when they play, and it’s how a player levels up their own game.
Being results oriented instead of decision oriented is the crux Woodrow believes most new players face.
As you go through life you want to make sure the decisions you make are sound, even if the end results don’t reflect them. When in this mindset you can realize that sure, you lost a game, but you did everything in your power to try and win it.
Woodrow won a game against Josh Utter-Leyton, but a huge mistake he made in an early turn haunted him afterwards despite the win.
He considers those kind of mistakes to be huge learning opportunities that make him less likely to repeat his blunders.
Woodrow believes that Magic remaps your brain when a player gets really competitive. This has bled over into his normal life, changing how he makes everyday decisions. Trying to get maximum value from limited time with the best decisions possible is an important crossover skill for him.
Sealed: Card evaluation is crucial in sealed. Players need to be able to analyze not only the best case scenario for any given card, but also the middle and worst case scenarios as well. This helps a player decide whether a card is worth a slot in their deck.
Draft: Don’t get married to your early picks. Being able to read other player’s signals and what your seat is open to is incredibly important.
For GP Oakland: Woodrow ended up being talked into attending the tournament at the last minute while apartment hunting in the area.
Ryan Spain let him borrow a deck, but 90 percent of the cards were in a foreign language. With preparations rushed Woodrow had to strip cards out of his deck at random as he headed into the Grand Prix.
While it felt like he was going in blind, practicing for other tournaments had left him with a strong understanding of what he needed to do.
Like muscle memory, practicing across formats and staying well rounded can help steady your hand when you get thrown into less than ideal situations.
Surrounding yourself with people who are smart, supportive, and have a similar mindset to how you want to approach Magic will help you develop as a player.
This applies to life in general, as meeting and interacting with positive, analytical people will help you have more success in all your endeavors.
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