The (New) View From The Top

Posted in Event Coverage on May 10, 2015

By Peter Rawlings

Eric Froehlich has had a year. Since last spring he's put up individual Grand Prix Top 8s, two Top 4s in Team Limited, and a Pro Tour Top 8. He nearly missed yet another Pro Tour Top 8 finish at the recent Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir, and that strong showing propelled him for the first time to the top of the Top 25 rankings.

“It's been a a crazy run,” said No. 1 Froehlich. “There hasn't been a tournament I haven't cashed since February of last year.”

He hadn't, that is, until today in Atlantic City, where an underpowered Sealed pool ended his tournament early. But that's okay. One of the biggest changes Froehlich has made to fuel his rise to the top has been to keep perspective on his losses, and accept that runs of good luck are often followed by bad.

Eric Froehlich, the new No. 1-ranked player, with a new outlook.

“It started almost exactly a year ago,” Froehlich said. After getting off to a quick 4-0 start at Pro Tour Journey Into Nyx, Froehlich looked well on his way to making a deep run in the tournament. But a string of losses left him at 5-3 by the end of Day 1. Following yet another tough loss on Day 2, he wrote an online post about dealing with “tilt.”

“I just felt so bad and so angry,” he said. “But I got a lot of good advice from a lot of people who had a lot of heartfelt things to say. Once you see how much people care and how much they understand these things, and how much people are willing to take time out of their day to give you positive advice—it just helps so much.”

Froehlich put that newfound perspective into practice at Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir last October. After starting a disappointing 1-4, he was able to stay calm and accept that sometimes luck would break against him. He bounced back, and ended up rattling off wins in eight of his next 11 matches, finishing in 37th place.

“That was something I used to not be able to do, and not everybody can do,” he said. “I've always been one to be more prone to tilt. Or, I think a lot of people are, but not everybody is as dramatically negative in a public setting as I had been. It's a tough pill to swallow, and something I've struggled with in all walks of life.”

Magic is a game that by definition has a lot of elements of luck, and he's sought to keep that in perspective. “You have to try to find things in life that you care about so that you aren't putting all your emotional stock in something that inherently has a lot of variance,” Froehlich said.

“I was able to get to a place mentally and emotionally where it wasn't so terrible being 1-4,” he said. That outlook paid off at Pro Tour Fate Reforged, where Froehlich piloted an Abzan deck straight into both the Top 8 and the Hall of Fame discussion.

Froehlich looked poised for yet another quarterfinals appearance at Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir, but losses in his two win-and-in matches to end Day 2 scuttled those hopes. “It was a tough break. It was demoralizing. But even when I didn't make that Top 8, I realized it's still not that huge in the grand scheme of things.”

That's just the way the cards break sometimes. “I look at it this way, if my bad luck had come earlier, instead of in the last two rounds of the tournament, and I still ended up at 11-5, I would have taken that in the dark,” he said. “It's just part of the game.”

The other change Froehlich has made to drive his recent run of success has been to try to simply absorb more Magic than anybody else. “I have streams on for basically the majority of my waking hours,” he said. “I'm not always paying close attention, but, then, it can be helpful to try to find the right line of play quickly when you haven't been focused—sometimes you just lose focus in a tournament, too.”

“I watch anything I can—all sorts of streamers and people of varying skills levels,” Froehlich said. “Just because the people that are playing are quote-unquote worse than you doesn't mean you can't learn something from them.”

As far as what's next, Froehlich plans to play a lighter Grand Prix schedule for the season, with an itinerary including just the Grand Prix in Las Vegas later this month. “I would love to win the Player of the Year race, but I think it's going to come down to the next Pro Tour one way or the other.”

He's going to have stiff competition since many of the other players in contention have a hefty helping of pro points from the last world championship. Still, Froehlich said, “I'm just one good Pro Tour from locking up a once-in-a-lifetime dream.”

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