Beyond the Cards ~ Interview with Ken Tober and Cathy Boatman
Greetings Rulers! DM073 here bringing you the next entry of my new monthly article series titled “Beyond the Cards.” Often times in card games it becomes very easy to only associate players with their competitive successes or identities, but this can be a little dangerous. If we only see players as opponents or things that stand in our way, the atmosphere of tournaments and our experience of the game can shift and possibly even become toxic. It is my hope to use this article series to take a peek at the lives and personalities of the players playing the game, from big name competitive players all the way down to people who are just trying the game out. By doing so I believe that we can all gain a better perspective and realization that when we sit down to play a match in a tournament, the person on the other side of the table has a name, face, and a story that should be respected, rather than just a faceless mass we have to beat in order to make ourselves feel better.
This month’s interview is of one of the Force of Will Couples who have been with the game since the very beginning. Whether it was through their initial work through Void and Moon, or their multiple appearances at GPs and Worlds over the past few years, it is likely that you have seen these two at some point in your Force of Will career. Together they prove that the couple that plays card games together, stays together! Please enjoy learning more about Ken Tober and Cathy Boatman!
Thanks for being willing to sit down and have this conversation you two. Let’s start things off by having you introduce yourself and how old you are.
Cathy: My name is Cathy Boatman, and I am 27 years old.
Ken: My name is Ken Tober, and I am 33 years old
Outside of Force of Will what professions do you hold? Do you have a professional degree?
Cathy: I am a high school science teacher. I am currently in my second year of teaching. I have a bachelor’s degree in Media Study, with a focus in documentary film. I also did a post-baccalaureate in Biology and Chemistry.
Ken: I am a high school math teacher. I have a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics with a focus in math education for grades 7 through 12.
What are some of your professional aspirations career wise outside of card games?
Cathy: I am currently in the process of applying to medical school. It is my goal to study medicine and hopefully become a pediatrician, pediatric surgeon, or something similar.
Ken: I’m in a very weird holding pattern right now while we wait for Catherine to get into medical school. I’d like to teach still, but I also want to explore something like career counseling or something administrative while still working directly with students.
Well best wishes to you both on reaching those goals. Before we move on to some of the more in depth card game related questions, I have a couple of obvious and almost silly questions. First off, what would you say is your favorite Force of Will card of all time.
Cathy: My favorite card art is Crimson Girl, but she was never truly competitive on the GP scene. I really like playing with Space Time Anomaly, as the card fits so easily in any blue/black deck and can change the game’s progress quickly.
Ken: I am at a total loss while considering these questions. I don’t cling onto a card or deck unless it’s what I think will win.
What about favorite Force of Will deck?
Cathy: I really enjoyed playing Lumia at this season’s Atlanta GP. The deck has a lot of options, and it always felt like I had a way out of any situation.
Ken: See my previous answer.
With those fluff questions out of the way, let’s dig into the topics that people may not have thought about. First up, what exactly brought you into the world of playing card games?
Cathy: When I was 14 my friends introduced me to an older trading card game. They were already immersed in weekly tournaments, so it became a weekly hobby for me fairly quickly. From there I began travelling to regional Qualifiers and Circuit Open events. I met Ken at a Qualifier and that is how we started dating!
Ken: I started when I was very young and just sort of always stuck with it. Honestly, I took way too long to become competitive and wish I had been more focused early on. I spent years grinding locals and weekly tournaments before I really started playing in Qualifiers and finally some Pro Tours. Since I had already had a small level of accomplishment in my previous game I was very driven to repeat this success in other games.
Okay then, so what attracted you to Force of Will specifically?
Cathy: Like many players, I like Force because its resource system is separate from the main deck. My previous game left a sour taste in my mouth for being flooded or not having enough of the right resources. As long as I don’t play the Fox deck in FOW, I shouldn’t have that problem!
was very tired of my original card game, and my newest game had just died. A
few people I knew around the US had been checking out FOW so I jumped in. I can
vividly remember the moment I decided I was going to play this game seriously.
It was after we got our first few boxes and built a couple decks. Cathy and I
were at the BK lounge playing a few games after lunch. We were deep in a game
and I was tanking so hard on my play. I looked up and said “Why do people call this a simple game, it
is so complex! From that moment I was in love with the game.
Moving on to Grand Prixes, how do you each approach the game from a competitive standpoint? I’m talking more about your thought process for testing, building decks, and playing the known competitive decks or decks to counter the competitive decks?
Cathy: I am an atrocious deck builder, and I’m okay with that. I think it is rare to find a player, in any game not just Force, who is a good player AND great deck builder. Both require different skills and critical analysis. That being said, I believe that Ken is one of the few players who can do both. I usually play whatever deck he designs, and practice with him guiding me. We always build a strong gauntlet a few weeks before a big tournament, try out all the combinations of match ups, and choose the deck that seems to have the highest win rate. Usually the night before the event Ken will decide that the deck we’ve chosen is trash, and play a completely different stack of 66 cards at the last minute, and top 8 anyway.
Ken: I don’t do much. I have tested for a few tournaments with a defined gauntlet and players from around the country really working hard. I’ve also woken up morning of and tossed a deck together for a GP. It seems the results aren’t a lot different despite what I do ahead of time. That being said, I personally think the best thing you can do is talk about a meta, how cards and decks fit into it and try to understand the match ups and important plays/cards in each. Some of this comes from testing, but I think a lot of it can also just come from a conversation with a few likeminded individuals.
Outside of competitive accomplishments or playing the game itself, what is the most enjoyable part of playing Force of Will or being part of the Community to you?
Cathy: I enjoy traveling to far-away lands, meeting
complete strangers, and instantly connecting with them over our common
interest. I have friends all over the US that I would never have made if I didn’t
play card games competitively. I even have great friends in Australia who have
flown to the States multiple times to play cards. I think that level of
socialization is something that many other hobbies do not offer.
Ken: I don’t know if I do enjoy it all that much. It’s really cliquish to me at times. Even the online version of the “community” is broken into two halves. I’ve met a handful of people who are genuinely enjoyable to be around and they’re the saving grace.
Playing in competitive events can be a long and grueling process. During events, what do you do between rounds to stay sharp/avoid getting bored or too tired?
Cathy: I always bring nuts and granola bars with me to large events. I also have a water bottle or know where I can find water. Staying alert and full of energy is key in outplaying your opponent. The night before, I always try to be in bed by 10pm or so. A good night’s rest is more valuable than squeezing in two more matches of testing. I feel like, if you don’t know how to play your deck by 10pm, then you aren’t going to win. Unless you’re Ken. If you’re Ken, you have to do everything at the last minute and beg your girlfriend for granola bars.
Ken: Winning games is never boring and most times can be very stimulating. So fatigue is never really an issue for me. I also usually have someone in my traveling party who scrubs out and can go get me chicken. That being said, I think staying focused is a combination of not getting hungry (so eat) and sort of putting the goal in front of you and driving towards it. I’ve lost round 1 of tournaments a lot of times and still gone on to make the final cut.
My last question is a two parter. Part one: What would you say to a new player who is just getting into the game?
Cathy: Try to play as often as possible. If you’re new to card games in general, the rules of Force of Will can seem very daunting. The more you play, the more you’ll learn!
Ken: Don’t be a hero. There is no reason to start a new game, open some shiny new card and insist you must make a deck with it. You’re new and probably inexperienced, so build on the work that others have done before you when it comes to decks. Look at deck lists online (you don’t have to copy them card for card, but by you better understand them and be ready for all the people who are going to copy them card for card), read articles, PM more accomplished players for advice or just general conversation about the game. Don’t be too proud to ask for help and be willing to take criticism.
Part two: What would you say to that same player, if they made the decision to try and become more competitive?
Cathy: Simply to be receptive to constructive criticism. There are a lot of players at our local shop who get too connected to playing a deck that isn’t competitively viable. If you just want to play for fun, then do whatever makes you happy. But if you want to have a shot at being a strong competitor, be willing to completely change the deck you might be attached to. The competitive scene changes quickly, and you have to be willing to adapt. And probably most importantly, don’t be afraid of net decking!!! The top players already did all the hard work of finding which cards work well together. Focus on your skill as a player first, and worry about building your own deck later down the road.
Ken: Because of the type of person I am, I wouldn’t play the game at all if I weren’t going to be competitive. The advice from the previous question stands for the player trying to break into the GP scene. There are also some very important things you must understand before sitting down at one of the larger tournaments. Notably, the chase and how it works, priority and how it works, a little bit of etiquette and finally you must be very mindful of your rate of play. I cannot stress this last point enough.
Well thanks for the awesome answers, and best of luck to you the rest of this competitive season!
Cathy: Thanks for having us!
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