How many of you have ever played a game of pinball? Not a digital rendition on a mobile device or gaming console, but on a real arcade-style pinball table? For those that have, maybe you remember nudging the table to help move the ball the direction you wanted. But if you nudge too much, the table would lock up with a warning – TILT! You’d lose your ball and sometimes points.

The term tilt has also been adapted into strategy card games as slang for those times when our emotions override sound judgment and cause us to make a poor play or adapt a sub-optimal strategy.

Why Does Tilt Matter?

Being on tilt is one of the biggest reasons people lose games in competitive play. When a person become stressed or anxious they are more prone to make mistakes. When two highly skilled players sit across from one another with well-tuned decks it’s often the person who makes the fewest or least costly mistakes that will walk away the victor.

In a tight game that mistake can be something as simple as choosing the wrong Hero to rescue with. One wrong decision can allow an opponent to get a block they would not have otherwise gotten. When you lose a game 5-4 that one failed rescue or block makes all the difference.

Players who become frustrated can choose to implement a strategy that they might otherwise not attempt. Recently I was playing a game where my Lost Souls were not showing up. My opponent had run out of Lost Souls for me to rescue as well, but out of frustration started using draw abilities. The player pulled three Lost Souls off the top of the deck, affording me a rescue attempt on the next turn when I wouldn’t have had one.

Sometimes a situation can get a person so emotional that it impacts the rest of their tournament. They lose confidence in themselves, their deck, or their strategy and play sub-optimally the rest of the day.

Being on tilt usually doesn’t end with a person turning over the table like Jesus clearing out the temple (John 2:15). But be wary of players who lack self-control.

What Can I Do to Avoid Tilt?

The things that put a person on tilt will vary, not only from one person to the next but even from one environment to the next. What puts you on tilt when you go to a high level tournament might not bother you at all among your local fellowship of players and vice versa.

Reflecting on the things that make you emotional during a game will enlighten you as to what could cause to make poor decisions. Think back to a game where you got upset. What caused your frustration? How did it affect your game play?

Taking time to reflect and gain some perspective after a game, especially a loss, can give you insight into how you can improve your play. Learning to remain cool under pressure and play mistake free separates the good players from the great ones.

We’ve all heard the term “practice makes perfect.” It also helps you avoid tilt. Get several games in with your deck against a variety of opponents. All the different situations you face and have to deal with will not only help you fine tune your deck, you’ll also be prepared when you face a similar situation during a tournament. If you know your plan already you won’t need to figure it out on the fly, potentially when emotions are high and judgement can become clouded.

Use Tilt to Your Advantage!

It’s possible to gain an advantage during a game by putting your opponent on tilt. The important thing, and I cannot stress this enough, is to do it without being a poor sport or a jerk. There are plenty of things that can happen during the course of a game that can aid you in putting an opponent on tilt while being friendly and polite.

Displaying a high level of confidence can sometimes put an opponent on tilt (and also let you successfully bluff, but that’s another article). When you’re very sure of what you’re doing some opponents might adjust their game play as if playing from behind even when they shouldn’t.

Politely pointing out an opponent’s mistakes can be enough to put a player on tilt. In the past couple months, I’ve had this happen several times during games that used either Moses or Coliseum. Both cards change the way the game is played by making some previously “meta” cards function differently (or not at all).

I had an opponent block with Uzzah, discard an Artifact and Uzzah assuming he just chump blocked. When I pointed out that Uzzah’s protection was negated he never quite recovered.

Baiting an opponent into making a sub-optimal play can also put a player on tilt. In my States report I mentioned baiting Jayden with my Sword of the Spirit and Silly Women so I could draw 9. While Jayden took the bait, he also had an answer in Mayhem. Still, he knew I baited him but didn’t let it shake him up. It’s more difficult to put a highly skilled player on tilt.

Improve Your Game

Maybe your already familiar with tilt, or maybe this is your first time hearing it described this way. In either case it’s an area of our competitive game that we can all improve upon.

Become aware of what puts you on tilt so you can better prepare and manage it. Learn ways to subtly put your opponent’s on tilt when the opportunity presents itself.

This article was only meant to be informative and not comprehensive. There are plenty of things that might put you on tilt or aid you in putting an opponent on tilt. If you know of things not mentioned in this article please share them in the comment below!

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One thought on “Learning From Our Peers – Tilt

  1. John David Cunningham

    Really great article! Spot on in ’tilt’ awareness! Being well fed and getting good sleep definitely help in avoiding misplays for me. It really is a life lesson of awareness to be conscious of and use self control in times of pressure. Humor really helps in coping with feeling negatively towards a game experience when it may not be going a certain way. It can also turn the game around!

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