Masculine Virtues

Cross-posted from Pu­tanu­monit (where there’s already a good dis­cus­sion go­ing).

Boys Will Be Boys

Have you seen the Gillette ad? Every­one’s seen the Gillette ad. And af­ter my last post on mas­culinity, ev­ery­one’s been ask­ing me what I think of the Gillette ad.

Well, I used to shave with Gillette and I’ve dumped them… back in 2014 when I re­al­ized that Dol­lar Shave Club sells ba­si­cally the same ra­zors for $1 each.

And the ad? Eh, it’s fine.

Cringe­wor­thy at times, but fine.

Gillette is a di­vi­sion of a con­sumer prod­ucts com­pany sel­l­ing bath­room items. No one is forced to watch their ads or use their ra­zors. Clay Rout­ledge put it brilli­antly: we are liv­ing in an era of woke cap­i­tal­ism in which com­pa­nies pre­tend to care about so­cial jus­tice to sell prod­ucts to peo­ple who pre­tend to hate cap­i­tal­ism. Woke cap­i­tal­ism is silly but it gives Gillette cus­tomers what they want, which all you can ex­pect of a cor­po­ra­tion.

In con­trast, APA is a pro­fes­sional or­ga­ni­za­tion of health care providers, writ­ing guidelines for prac­tic­ing ther­a­pists who deal with vuln­er­a­ble men who come to them for help. The stan­dards are quite differ­ent.

The con­tent is quite differ­ent also.

Here is a list of things APA con­sid­ers “harm­ful”, un­der the um­brella term of “tra­di­tional mas­culinity”:

  • Sto­icism.

  • Com­pet­i­tive­ness.

  • Ag­gres­sion.

  • Dom­i­nance.

  • Anti-fem­i­ninity.

  • Achieve­ment.

  • Ad­ven­ture and risk.

  • Violence.

  • Pro­vid­ing for loved ones (if you’re a black man).

Here’s a list of things the Gillette ad is against:

  • A mob chas­ing a teenager.

  • Tex­ting some­one “FREAK!!!”

  • Old TV shows.

  • Cat­call­ing and butt-grab­bing.

  • Pa­tron­iz­ing your em­ploy­ees.

  • Six-year-olds fight­ing.

  • Chant­ing “boys will be boys” in uni­son.

  • Sex­ual as­sault and sex­ual ha­rass­ment.

What do the two lists have in com­mon? Violence, which is never the an­swer, is the only an­swer. Find the tra­di­tional man clos­est to you and ask them how many things on Gillette’s list they ap­prove of; it’s not go­ing to be many. “Tra­di­tional” men tend to com­plain they it’s no longer OK to hold doors open for women or take their kids hunt­ing, not that in good ol’ days you could bully peo­ple over text or grope ladies on the street.

Here are the things Gillette is in fa­vor of:

  • Terry Crews.

  • Ac­countabil­ity.

  • De­mon­stra­tively pro­tect­ing women from other men.

  • Father­hood.

  • Us­ing your su­pe­rior strength to break up fights be­tween smaller males.

  • Teach­ing all of the above to your son.

Those are re­mark­ably tra­di­tional male traits and be­hav­iors, in the sense that they are pre­sent and praised among men in al­most ev­ery mod­ern and pre-mod­ern so­ciety. With the ex­cep­tion of Mr. Crews, all of those pre­date the hu­man species.

Gillette’s ad is in no way against tra­di­tional mas­culinity. The list of be­hav­iors they come out against is referred to as toxic mas­culinity, in­clud­ing by Gillette them­selves.

Those who hate men or who gain sta­tus from pre­tend­ing to do so will con­tinue to con­flate mas­culinity with the ter­rible (and not par­tic­u­larly mas­culine) be­hav­iors por­trayed in the first half of the ad. Toxic/​tra­di­tional is a perfect setup for motte-and-bailey: “I like ex­treme sports. – Ah, a tra­di­tional male. I bet you grope women on the sub­way.” But it’s equally toxic to con­flate Gillette with APA’s at­tack on tra­di­tional man­hood.

Gillette’s Best Man

If I had to pick a role model of mas­culinity I would name Roger Fed­erer. Fed­erer is the best ten­nis player ever among men, the best gen­tle­man among ten­nis play­ers, philan­thropist, father of four and hus­band to one.

Fed­erer is also the best ex­em­plar of the not-so-sub­tle dis­tinc­tion be­tween toxic mas­culinity and tra­di­tional mas­culinity. Roger has been Gillette spokesper­son for more than a decade, and he also makes an ab­solute mock­ery of the APA list.

Sto­icism? Fed­erer won tour­na­ments play­ing through in­jury, on swel­ter­ing Melbourne days and chilly Lon­don nights. While the best fe­male ten­nis player in his­tory gar­nered a rep­u­ta­tion for fu­ri­ous out­bursts at um­pires and fans, Fed­erer is leg­endary for never los­ing his cool.

Violence? Ok, even Roger has bro­ken a racket or two in his ca­reer (so have I).

Com­pet­i­tive­ness? Among the mul­ti­tude of ten­nis records held by Fed­erer are the 10 times he came back from two sets down to win a match. I was in the stands for #9 in New York when Fed­erer out­lasted Gael Mon­fils play­ing one of the best matches of his life. Even af­ter Roger lost the first two sets while hit­ting 26 un­forced er­rors and be­ing out­worked by the ath­letic French­man, not a sin­gle per­son in the crowd doubted Fed­erer’s abil­ity to raise his game and ul­ti­mately triumph.

Pro­vid­ing for loved ones? Yes, even for black boys.

Ag­gres­sion and dom­i­nance? When I was young and Fed­erer always won, I used to root against him (be­cause he always won). The same pat­tern would play out in dozens of Fed­erer matches: the game would pro­ceed evenly un­til some­thing minor would hap­pen that would shake the con­fi­dence of Fed­erer’s op­po­nent a tiny bit. Per­haps the op­po­nent would lose a break point op­por­tu­nity, or miss an easy shot. And then Roger would trans­form into Darth Fed­erer: a ruth­less preda­tor who would pounce on an op­po­nent’s sin­gle mo­ment of weak­ness, break­ing his serve and de­stroy­ing his will to com­pete in the space of 5 or 10 min­utes.

And yet, the other play­ers on tour would re­vere Roger, much more than they did the equally tal­ented Ra­fael Nadal or No­vak Djokovic. The only ten­nis award voted on by the play­ers them­selves is the ATP sports­man­ship award, Fed­erer has won it 13 times.

What is it that Fed­erer does so well and mas­culinity-haters re­sent? Climb­ing Hier­ar­chies. When Fed­erer was #1, he wasn’t just first per the ar­cane schema of ATP rank­ing points. He was the best ten­nis play­ers in the eyes of fans, jour­nal­ists, spon­sors, and, im­por­tantly, his op­po­nents. #1 takes ten­nis skill, but it also takes sto­icism, com­pet­i­tive­ness, ag­gres­sion, and dom­i­nance.

And I sus­pect that it’s hi­er­ar­chies that those who take is­sue with the above-listed traits are re­ally against.

If you say “hi­er­ar­chy” three times in front of a mir­ror you sum­mon the spirit of Jor­dan Peter­son.

Who Hates Hier­ar­chies?

There’s a lot of bitch­ing on­line about “the war on men”, most of it te­dious. Group X thinks that men should have lower sta­tus, some guy says ‘no, fuck you!’, more at 10. Jor­dan Peter­son and Jonathan Haidt of­ten get lumped in with that, but they are say­ing some­thing en­tirely dis­tinct. Peter­son and Haidt are say­ing that there is a war on cer­tain traits which are com­monly coded as mas­culine: self-re­li­ance, re­silience, self-im­prove­ment through fac­ing ad­ver­sity, com­pe­tence. They de­scribe how par­ents, schools, and so­ciety as a whole dis­cour­age those traits, par­tic­u­larly in young peo­ple, par­tic­u­larly in young boys.

When I first en­coun­tered their writ­ings, I found it too alarmist. But af­ter read­ing the APA guidelines I re­mem­bered that Peter­son and Haidt are both psy­chol­o­gists, the former prac­tic­ing clini­cal psy­chol­ogy for twenty years. They saw this com­ing be­fore ev­ery­one else.

What does a “war on com­pe­tence” look like? Think of some­one try­ing to get bet­ter at their work to get pro­moted, work­ing on their writ­ing to build an au­di­ence for their blog, or prac­tic­ing a sport to rise in the rank­ings. Build­ing com­pe­tence doesn’t hap­pen by it­self. It re­quires fo­cus­ing on a goal, tak­ing on challenges, deal­ing with dis­com­fort, risk­ing failure, and over­com­ing prob­lems on your own. Build­ing com­pe­tence (and get­ting rec­og­nized for it) is a cru­cial com­po­nent of well be­ing for all hu­mans.

Of course, APA doesn’t men­tion this. All they have to say on the be­hav­iors that build com­pe­tence is:

Re­search sug­gests that so­cial­iza­tion prac­tices that teach boys from an early age to be self-re­li­ant, strong, and to min­i­mize and man­age their prob­lems on their own (Pol­lack, 1995) yield adult men who are less will­ing to seek men­tal health treat­ment.

If so­ciety val­ues a par­tic­u­lar skill or achieve­ment (like work, blog­ging, or ten­nis) a com­pe­tence hi­er­ar­chy will form around it. That’s what it means for so­ciety to value a skill: those who dis­play it get so­cial re­wards and sta­tus. But of course, not ev­ery hi­er­ar­chy is a com­pe­tence hi­er­ar­chy. Those who got the re­wards have a strong in­ter­est in re­mov­ing the com­pe­tence as­pect, mak­ing sure that the good­ies keep com­ing to them and not to more com­pe­tent challengers.

This is why, ac­cord­ing to Jor­dan Peter­son, so­cieties need both con­ser­va­tives and pro­gres­sives:

There’s space and ne­ces­sity for a con­stant di­alogue be­tween the left and right. […]
You have to move for­ward to­wards val­ued things, so you have to have a value hi­er­ar­chy. There has to be hi­er­ar­chy be­cause one thing has to be more im­por­tant than an­other, or you can’t do any­thing. […]
No mat­ter what you’re act­ing out, some peo­ple are way bet­ter at it than oth­ers. Doesn’t mat­ter if it’s bas­ket­ball or hockey or plumb­ing or law, as soon as there’s some­thing valuable and you’re do­ing it col­lec­tively there’s a hi­er­ar­chy.
So then what hap­pens is the hi­er­ar­chy can get cor­rupt and rigid and then it stops re­ward­ing com­pe­tence and it starts re­ward­ing crim­i­nal­ity and power. The right-wingers say that we re­ally need to abide by the hi­er­ar­chies and the left-wingers say: wait a sec­ond, your hi­er­ar­chy can get cor­rupt and also puts a lot of dis­pos­sessed peo­ple at the bot­tom. And that’s not only bad for the dis­pos­sessed peo­ple, it ac­tu­ally threat­ens the whole hi­er­ar­chy.

The pro­gres­sive pro­ject is of­ten about dis­rupt­ing cor­rupt hi­er­ar­chies, and it has done so suc­cess­fully many times. But times change, and so do the re­quire­ments for iden­ti­fy­ing which hi­er­ar­chies are bro­ken.

In 1942, the New York Times staff was com­posed en­tirely of goofy white dudes. It’s clear that be­ing a goofy white dude is not com­men­su­rate with jour­nal­is­tic merit, and the com­po­si­tion of the staff changed. To­day, the New York Times staff is a multi-eth­nic and gen­der-di­verse group of grad­u­ates from a small hand­ful of elite col­leges who share a poli­ti­cal ide­ol­ogy and wor­ld­view. Is this a cor­rupt hi­er­ar­chy of jour­nal­ism or a mer­i­to­ri­ous one? This is a much harder ques­tion to an­swer.

In­stead of deal­ing with hard ques­tions, it’s eas­ier to reuse the tricks that worked in the past like say­ing that any ma­jor­ity-male hi­er­ar­chy is ne­far­i­ous and priv­ileged. The APA was quick to point out that 95% of For­tune 500 CEOs are men. So are 80% of Google en­g­ineers and 80% of top-gross­ing ac­tors. Also 99% of HVAC me­chan­ics, but only 2% of den­tal hy­gien­ists. Are those ex­am­ples of priv­ilege or of com­pe­tence?

The an­swers to all of the above are “al­most cer­tainly both, it’s com­pli­cated”. But this an­swer doesn’t help you climb the hi­er­ar­chy of pro­gres­sive poli­tics. To main­tain that those are all ex­am­ples of pure male priv­ilege, one has to com­pletely deny the role of com­pe­tence. As peo­ple on the left com­pete to demon­strate their com­mit­ment to dis­man­tling priv­ilege, the en­tire con­cept of com­pe­tence gets wholly ig­nored and the pur­suit of it is seen as patholog­i­cal. I think that this im­pulse is at the root of the “war on com­pe­tence”.

(The op­po­site hap­pens to con­ser­va­tives, who call ev­ery blatant ex­am­ple of priv­ilege a mer­i­toc­racy. Con­sider the be­lief that mul­ti­mil­lion-heir Don­ald Trump is a self-made man.)

The tra­di­tion­ally mas­culine [1] traits are those re­quired to climb hi­er­ar­chies of com­pe­tence: com­pet­i­tive­ness, phys­i­cal and emo­tional re­silience, ad­ven­tur­ous risk-tak­ing, per­se­ver­ance, the drive to achieve and over­come. Like all traits, they be­come vices when pushed too far. The most com­pet­i­tive bas­ket­ball player of all time was a no­to­ri­ous jerk. Peo­ple “kill them­selves” in de­mand­ing ca­reers or liter­ally kill them­selves run­ning triathlons while ig­nor­ing signs of pain and dan­ger. En­trepreneurs bet big on them­selves and lose, or sac­ri­fice what they can’t af­ford to in or­der to win.

But as­cend­ing hi­er­ar­chies of com­pe­tence is vi­tal even for the 99% of us who will not be­come elite ath­letes, CEOs, or su­per­stars. Im­prov­ing at a valuable skill is mean­ingful, and ris­ing through the ranks pro­vides val­i­da­tion of that mean­ing. It brings self-con­fi­dence and fulfill­ment. It demon­strates your worth to oth­ers and to your­self. When de­vel­oped well, the mas­culine traits are virtues in­de­pen­dent of any com­pe­ti­tion. They en­able peo­ple to sim­ply live­bet­ter in the world, en­joy­ing suc­cess as a well-de­served re­ward rather than a fleet­ing stroke of luck, and see­ing set­backs as challenges rather than tragedies.

How do young peo­ple learn to de­velop mas­culine traits into mas­culine virtues? Schools and me­dia are two of the in­sti­tu­tions that are tasked with teach­ing young peo­ple, but those two in­sti­tu­tions are among the most deeply en­trenched in the pro­gres­sive ide­ol­ogy that re­jects com­pe­tence and sees mas­culine traits as nega­tive. You can turn to par­ents or friends, but not ev­ery­one has good role mod­els around them. You can listen to a Jor­dan Peter­son lec­ture, but he’s li­able to ram­ble about Je­sus for hours on end.

Or, you can turn on the TV and watch some sports, and then sign up for a lo­cal rec league.

There’s noth­ing anti-fem­i­nine about mas­culine virtues.

What Sports Taught Me

I hold a lot of opinions that are hugely con­tro­ver­sial out­side the ra­tio­nal­ist com­mu­nity but are well sub­scribed within it. That self-im­prov­ing AI is an ex­is­ten­tial threat, that sta­tus seek­ing drives most of so­cial be­hav­ior, that you should cor­rect for mul­ti­ple hy­poth­e­sis test­ing. I hold one opinion that is hugely con­tro­ver­sial among ra­tio­nal­ists and is un­re­mark­able ev­ery­where else: that the three hours I spent watch­ing soc­cer last Satur­day were time well spent.

I want to write one day about the beauty of sports as a deep and com­plex art form and on the link be­tween watch­ing pro­fes­sional ath­letes and one’s own phys­i­cal de­vel­op­ment. But sports are not just en­ter­tain­ment, they’re a hu­man ac­tivity built on the val­ues of sports­man­ship, and those val­ues are worth pay­ing at­ten­tion to.

1. Pro­tect­ing the game is more im­por­tant than winning

There’s a big differ­ence be­tween fans of com­pet­ing poli­ti­cal par­ties and of com­pet­ing NBA teams. The former see only con­flict in ev­ery­thing they care about. But the lat­ter have some­thing in com­mon: their love of bas­ket­ball. For this rea­son, al­most all fans want their team to win fairly, and not by sab­o­tag­ing op­po­nents or bribing refer­ees. Win­ning an NBA game is pointless if you de­stroy the NBA by cheat­ing.

Sports fans rec­og­nize that the rules of the game are paramount. Not all the rules are writ­ten, of course, and there’s room to push the bound­ary. But ul­ti­mately the par­ti­ci­pants in the game es­tab­lish col­lec­tively what is cheat­ing and what is fair play, and they’re quick to pun­ish cheaters.

Con­trast this with jour­nal­ists can­ni­bal­iz­ing their own in­dus­try by re­plac­ing ob­jec­tive re­port­ing with click­bait and scan­dal. Com­pa­nies like Gawker Me­dia took pride in de­stroy­ing jour­nal­ism norms for page views. And for a while, Gawker “won” the com­pe­ti­tion for eye­balls and at­ten­tion. Now Gawker is gone, and the en­tire in­dus­try is in a death spiral.

2. Op­po­nents are not enemies

A corol­lary to #1: the goal of sports is to out­perform your op­po­nent, not to de­stroy them. Even MMA fighters (for the most part) look to out­fight their op­po­nent in the cage, not to harm or hu­mil­i­ate them. At the end of the match, they are col­leagues again.

The op­po­site is true in cul­ture war and poli­tics. Peo­ple spend all their effort stick­ing it to the out­group: get­ting some­one silenced, ban­ished, fired, ridiculed. Whether this ac­tu­ally helps your own cause or the groups you claim to fight for is an af­terthought. The 35-day gov­ern­ment shut­down harmed both Repub­li­can and Demo­crat vot­ers, while both Trump and the House Democrats seemed to care more about mak­ing sure the other loses than helping their con­stituents.

Sports fan­dom is a chan­nel for tribal im­pulses, but largely a be­nign one at that. Few fans and even fewer ath­letes for­get the hu­man­ity of the per­son they com­pete against and the re­spect they’re owed. Out­side of sports, few seem to re­mem­ber that.

3. It mat­ters how good you are to­day, not what you did yesterday

Many peo­ple re­act to ac­co­lades and achieve­ments by low­er­ing their own stan­dards. Think of an aca­demic wast­ing their tenure on pres­tige squab­bles in­stead of ex­plor­ing bold ideas, or any­one on Twit­ter with a blue check next to their name.

In sports, the op­po­site is true. Win­ning a ti­tle grants you ac­co­lades, but it makes the road tougher in the fu­ture. Op­po­nents will learn your strengths and weak­nesses, fans will ex­pect more of you. Roger Fed­erer’s past suc­cess doesn’t earn him a pass, it just guaran­tees that ev­ery young op­po­nent tries to play the game of their life against him.

An achieve­ment can be a temp­ta­tion to rest on your lau­rels or an op­por­tu­nity to raise your game fur­ther. Our in­stincts push us to­ward the former, sports teach us the lat­ter.

4. You will get hurt. That’s OK

In a life­time of play­ing soc­cer, I suffered bruised shins, twisted an­kles, balls to the face, balls to the balls, elbows to the ribs, and a torn calf mus­cle. I also learned that none of the above is a big deal, cer­tainly noth­ing worth sac­ri­fic­ing some­thing as en­joy­able as play­ing soc­cer over. If you watch sports you see ath­letes get hurt and re­cover all the time, but you al­most never hear them wish they hadn’t started in the sport in the first place.

There are many fun things we can do with our bod­ies. The most fun in­volve some risk of pain and harm: snow­board­ing, get­ting tat­toos, climb­ing trees, hav­ing kids, lift­ing, BDSM, soc­cer, cliff jump­ing, punch bug. Sports pro­vides ex­po­sure to phys­i­cal risks, let­ting you de­cide which ac­tivi­ties are worth the bruises.

It’s pos­si­ble to live life bruise-free, but I’m not sure you can call that “liv­ing”.

5. You will lose a lot. That’s OK

I no­ticed a strange thing re­cently: al­most all my ra­tio­nal­ist friends who are into sports also play com­pet­i­tive card games like Magic: The Gather­ing, Hearth­stone, and Ar­ti­fact. After much ca­jol­ing, I de­cided to jump in. And then it took me a while to get used to all the los­ing.

Most sin­gle-player video games, which are what I played be­fore, are bal­anced to let the player “win” 80-90% of the time. Dark Souls aside, when a sin­gle-player game pre­sents you with a challenge you can con­fi­dently ex­pect to deal with it. Movies, ad­ven­ture books, and sin­gle-player games of­ten rely on the trope of “suc­ceed­ing against all odds”, and yet the odds are very much stacked in the pro­tag­o­nist’s fa­vor.

But in com­pet­i­tive games, you get pwned. A lot [2]. In fact, in games like Hearth­stone, you will win ex­actly 45-50% of your games no mat­ter how good you are. If you work hard at it, you will win 55% of your games for a short while be­fore go­ing back down to 45%, but with a higher rank num­ber next to your name.

In sports, the odds are even tougher. Each year 32 NFL teams com­pete for a sin­gle tro­phy, which means that fans of 97% of foot­ball teams will not cel­e­brate at the end of the year. Some­times, a team’s sea­son ends through no fault of its own: a bounce of the ball, a coin flip, a blown call.

But that’s how life is. Achiev­ing any­thing mean­ingful is hard and en­tails a lot of failure on the way. As for NFL fans, as for ev­ery­one, it is im­por­tant to take joy and pride in small achieve­ments and marginal im­prove­ments along the way. And as for losses:

I wish you bad luck, again, from time to time so that you will be con­scious of the role of chance in life and un­der­stand that your suc­cess is not com­pletely de­served and that the failure of oth­ers is not com­pletely de­served ei­ther. And when you lose, as you will from time to time, I hope ev­ery now and then, your op­po­nent will gloat over your failure. It is a way for you to un­der­stand the im­por­tance of sports­man­ship.
Jus­tice John Roberts (h/​t Slarphen for the quote at­tri­bu­tion)

6. In the end, it’s all up to you

Chance, bad calls and all the rest play an im­por­tant role in de­cid­ing the out­comes of sports events, but sports fans ul­ti­mately have lit­tle pa­tience for those who shift blame and re­spon­si­bil­ity. No one wants to liti­gate old grievances once the name is en­graved on the tro­phy and a new sea­son starts.

While sports teaches us that luck plays a role in out­comes, it also trains us to be­have as if that is not the case. The team that benefit­ted from a lucky bounce was good enough to be in the po­si­tion of a sin­gle bounce from vic­tory, the team that lost weren’t good enough to en­sure a mar­gin for vic­tory. Win­ners rarely apol­o­gize for luck, and losers are mocked if they com­plain about it.

Many in­sti­tu­tions send the op­po­site mes­sage. They say: if you failed, it’s not your fault. It was done to you, taken from you. The sys­tem will make it right and fix the in­jus­tice, all you must do is to sur­ren­der your life to the sys­tem.

As­sign­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for out­comes to your own ac­tions is called “in­ter­nal lo­cus of con­trol” in psy­chol­ogy. It is as­so­ci­ated with a need for achieve­ment, and also with a lower in­ci­dence of de­pres­sion. The lat­ter re­sult is from a study pub­lished by APA in 1988 be­fore it was try­ing to cure men of man­li­ness.

The les­sons of sports are use­ful and im­por­tant, but it’s not enough to read about them. Like all virtues, they re­quire time to in­ter­nal­ize by ob­serv­ing them in role mod­els and prac­tic­ing them in your own life. Sports are full of role mod­els, both men and women, who have honed those traits to virtues. They are also full of cau­tion­ary ex­am­ples of ath­letes who took them too far.

When one side of the cul­ture war spec­trum re­jects all mas­culine traits and the other side un­crit­i­cally glo­rifies them, watch­ing Fed­erer play a ten­nis match is the bal­anced meal that your soul needs.


[1] I am ba­si­cally us­ing “mas­culine traits” to mean “traits for climb­ing com­pet­i­tive hi­er­ar­chies”.

This is not an ar­bi­trary defi­ni­tion. Males of many species have a much higher ten­dency than women to mea­sure them­selves against other man and ar­range them­selves in a hi­er­ar­chy. The root cause of this is that the re­pro­duc­tive prospects of fe­males are more equal, while those of males are highly varied – men need to prove their worth in a hi­er­ar­chy to get to mate.

If you don’t buy the evolu­tion­ary ar­gu­ment, it’s not im­por­tant to the main point I’m mak­ing. Con­sider my use of “mas­culine traits” a sim­ple short­hand for “hi­er­ar­chy-climb­ing traits”.

[2] Ar­ti­fact is par­tic­u­larly bru­tal for start­ing play­ers. It’s hugely com­plex with barely a tu­to­rial, the feed­back loops are long which makes it harder to learn quickly, and the match­mak­ing will pit you against 14-year-olds from Slo­vakia who will drink your blood.

It does be­come very re­ward­ing af­ter you spend the time learn­ing the game. There’s noth­ing quite like edg­ing the op­po­nent by one lane with a brilli­ant com­bi­na­tion of cards and be­ing cursed at in Slo­vak. You can im­prove via phan­tom drafts, or by find­ing me on Steam for a ca­sual match; my user­name is “Pu­tanu­monit”.