The root cause of slumps
"My strategy is figured out or the meta shifted to reduce its effectiveness, I then lose more and it drains my confidence to a point where I am looking for new strategies but they are either not solid or practiced so I lose even more and it further saps my morale and inadvertently leads to even more bad decisions."
When we trace the origins of our slump we´ll come to the realization that it´s probably caused by a combination of both poor mentality and doing the wrong things ingame. A personal experience I´ve had a lot is that in times of continuous loss I tend to play a lot wider of a range of playstyles with decreasingly solid foundations which only helps to accelerate the plummet into no-mmr oblivion. Think about it as a sand castle that you´ve spend 8 hours to build and reinforce to withstand the ocean waves and then a gigantic cruise ship passes by and the larger waves that it causes destroys your castle. If you don´t go through the same effort to build a similar castle but instead build a more flimsy one because it´s faster to build to get back to where you were at before it´s very likely that the waves will then claim your newly constructed architectural wonder. Oh and what do you do then? Build a new sand castle even faster and even more flimsy?
Now there are some cases where people simply play less due to other real life commitments and thus their level drops as a result of that. But I don´t really consider that slumps so I´ll leave that topic for another day.
Not every loss streak is a slump
Skill level is how you click buttons and what strategy you apply to each game, mindset is your decision making both in terms of when and how much you play and obviously inside the game as well. Now slumps in contrast would probably be more evenly distributed among the two factors because as we examined earlier both factors are part of the downward spiral that occurs. Illustrated it might look something more along the lines of the imagine below.
We are definitely still suffering from both poor confidence and poor mentality during slumps but something in the way we played the game no longer functions perfectly as well. Because slumps usually happen over longer periods of time you will have days where you play feeling well rested and positive but still lose repeatedly despite feeling like you performed well. It´s frustrating and deteriorates the mindset further even if the loss was mostly due to failed strategy. Now that does n´t always happen and a lot of the losses does indeed come from simply being tilted and doing silly things. Poor mentality is really a multifaceted topic. We generally separate it into.
- Poor decision making
- Physical frustration
Physical frustration is what I would refer to as being angry or frustrated and not clicking your buttons correctly. The amount of games you lose because of this is probably fairly minimal but the games you do lose feel disproportionately worse because your body won´t listen to your military drill sergeant brain screaming orders. Poor decision making however is the predominant victim of tilt. Even the best strategies can fail if the decisions made underway are faulty. Clouded judgement can often lead to poor strategy choices such as super all in cheese repeatedly or on the contrary very risky greedy play with little scouting. Overly aggressive all army hotkey 1´as or too passive unit movements afraid to take skirmishes or battles. All of these warning signs are significant indications that you´re tunnel visioning on the end result and that you´re currently just playing to regain rank as fast as possible to climb out of your slump rather than to improve at the game. It Never Works.
- Play miscellaneous trainers and game modes to improve fundamentals (30-60 mins a day)
- Mouse accuracy trainers like mouseaccuracy.com/ or OSU!.
- Keyboard trainers like the arcade maps like Dargleins Multitasking Trainer or Hotkey Trainer.
- Pick one mechanical flaw and work on it for a few days at a time.
- Improve scoped strategical play
- Study other players to find one new build per matchup that works on both 1 of the new maps and 1 of the old maps.
- Practice at most 2 different styles of play per matchup.
- Build confidence
- Play a lot and explore strategical options a lot, but pick a span of 1-2 hours (5-10 games) per day of being active in prime condition to only play practiced and well versed strategies while giving it 110%.
- Play pressure situations like clan war matches or tournaments but avoid extremities in the opponents level. (Avoid the ones that are way worse and way better).
- Play and practice with teammates.
A long list but at the same time a rather short and simple list. What it essentially says is grind fundamentals, pay attention to strategy and combine gradual improvements in both to provide results by challenging yourself continuously to rebuild confidence. Hiding away and not playing is obviously the worst way to recover from a slump but playing too much without consideration is almost equally as unproductive as it can keep you on the downward track if things goes poorly. Give yourself a reason to believe you can win higher stakes games and trust in your hard work on fundamentals to come through eventually. Picking simple mechanical flaws and straightening them out is a great place to start and can often be done by focusing on it for a couple of days and then picking something else. It can be simple thing like "I Always miss depot on X" or "I stop building scvs when third lands" or "I forget to start units after the add ons finish on rax 4/5". Look at your latest games and pick one or have a friend pick one for you.
Practicing by grinding official ladders or with new people works for some. However taking some time off from public eyes can sometimes remove some of the pressure you are feeling from ranking lower or losing important matches. Playing with teammates is the perfect solution to this and because they offer a great medium to practice without scrutiny. On top of that they are people you have to deal with over an extended period of time and thus you are more forced to keep your own attitude in check. Ideally this means you have significantly less outbursts of frustration and are more prone to listen to feedback than what you would be from your average ladder opponent that messages you after they beat you. This ultimately leads to a better practice environment and slowly turns your mindset from frustrated and angry to curious and exploratory. Lastly grinding Starcraft II games for hours and hours day after day can make every game feel monotone and bland while you autopilot your way through game after game. Force yourself into times and spots where you have to perform and then give it your all. I´ll be doing my best to get back on track, especially with a trip to korea with ECV next week which I´ll be talking more about very soon. But for anyone out there who experiences periods of slumps just remember that becoming successful in Starcraft II or any ESport for that matter is never about the amount of hours you put in but rather the amount of work you managed in all those hours.