Force of Will Boot Camp ~ Return of the Dragon Emperor ~ Part 3
Greetings rulers, and welcome back to the third and final Return of the Dragon Emperor boot camp article. In the first article, looked over each ruler and cards that supported them from Return of the Dragon Emperor. In the second article, we moved beyond and explored the options that the entirety of the New Frontiers format has to offer us. It's been a few more weeks and hopefully you've had ample time to experiment more with your chosen J/ruler and their corresponding deck. You been able to play a few games or test your deck a fair amount on your own and now you're confident and feeling ready to take on a tournament. So where do you start? For experienced players going to a tournament is no big deal, but for a fresh player ti can feel a bit intimidating and there are a few things about tournaments worth studying up on before heading out. And that is exactly what we're going to be doing today. We'll be going over so tournament basics including things to bring, manners, and some other do's and don'ts.
Before we get into anything you'll want to actually find a local shop tournament near you and make sure you're prepared for the proper format.
Finding a tournament is pretty easy, just use the store locator found on the official website: Store Locator
Typically there are two types of tournament formats that stores will run, New Frontiers and Wanderer. New Frontiers is the premiere format of Force of Will and the one you'll likely be the most prepared for if you've been following these articles as they were written with New Frontiers in mind. In New Frontiers you may only use cards from the most recent two clusters (currently the Alice Cluster and Lapis Cluster).
The other format, Wanderer, is less common but just as exciting, if a bit more difficult to get into. In Wanderer, every card from the Grimm Cluster (the first full cluster released in the United States) up to present day is legal four tournament use allowing for some crazier deck builds, making this a format that's a little intimidating for newcomers.
The first thing is nerves. Not everyone can confidently walk into a hobby store or similar location and confidently sign up for a weekly tournament. Especially if they've never even been there before and don't know anyone yet.. We often get questions about what to do about this and unfortunately the only answer is to bite the bullet and do it. If you can manage to go with some friends, by all means do so. Certainly going with others that your familiar with can lighten the stressful mood. But if you are alone the only thing you can do is jump in head first. Force of Will is, ultimately, a social game, so you're going to have to get used to dealing with other players if you want to continue playing the game and especially if you want to partake in local tournaments and Grand Prix events.
But take heart! You already share a common interest with everyone in the local event so you already know there's a platform to start talking and to make friends. You've all gathered because you enjoy the game so its reasonable that you'll be able find common ground with other players and build acquaintanceship from there. It is certainly possible to participate in local events without speaking to other players outside what is necessary during the flow of matches, but it's in your best interest to make friends. Not only will it make participating in local tournaments far more enjoyable, it will make you a better player. Friends will inspire you to play better, critique your deck, test new builds with you, and perhaps even attend official events with you!
That said, don't pressure yourself. You shouldn't need to fret over making friends with everyone at your very first event, that'll happen with time as you attend more weekly tournaments. Just focus on being friendly and honest about your rookie status and you'll find that other players will open up and want to help you out!
Now let's talk about actually playing in a tournament; Don’t go in expecting to play perfectly. It’s your first tournament and you're a comparatively new player, you’re going to make mistakes. You don’t have the extensive knowledge that other players have, and you don’t know how to deal with certain match ups yet. Its perfectly reasonable to win, of course, but you shouldn’t let losses discourage you. No matter what any blowhard might tell you, everyone loses. What matters more than losing, is what we do with that loss. We want to turn our negatives (losing) into positives to make us stronger. Take notes during your games, make note of common threats you see that you have trouble dealing with so you can modify your deck later to handle them. Jot down play mistakes you made so you can review them and remember not to make that mistake again. Simply playing frequently is important to building skill of course, but you’d be surprised how much more you can improve when you’re not just playing blindly and actively thinking about what you did wrong and how you can improve. Understanding your mistakes, and breaking down the game in this manner allows you to open your mind to more strategic thinking. Practice with this kind of critical thinking conditions a player to stop blindly playing "whatever seems best that turn" and start thinking about "what play is best when considering the entire game state".
Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions of your opponent. Many experienced players will assume you know what a card does, and simply go through the motions of resolving it without giving you a chance to respond or understand what it does. It is perfectly within your rights to ask to read the card, or ask for a moment so that you can think how to respond. It is perfectly within your rights to do this, but don't make a habit of spending lengthy amounts of time holding up a game as this can be seen as a form of cheating in extreme cases (intentionally stalling the game to run out the clock). Something that may help is to introduce yourself as a new player to your opponent before the match actually starts. Often, players will take that as a hint to explain more slowly and clearly what each of their actions are, rather than playing as speedily as they might with a player they assume to be more experienced.
Additionally, while the majority of players are very amicable, should you ever suspect someone of cheating, report it to a judge immediately. Don’t let someone who appears to be more experienced deceive you. If you truly think they have committed some kind of rules infraction, ask a judge. Hopefully you shouldn’t run into this, but in case you do, it is important to speak up about it so that the cheater does not continue this hurtful behavior. Of course just because you're confused about an interaction doesn't necessarily mean its cheating either, so always allow for the player to explain their action first. If it still seems uncertain or dubious, ask a judge and do as they instruct.
Obviously you're going to need a proper deck, ruler, and magic stone deck to play in a tournament, but those are just the absolute bare minimum. There's nothing wrong with that, especially if you're still figuring out the game, but if you'd like to prepare a bit more for your first local even, there are a few other things worth considering. The first, and least cosmetic, of these is a side deck. A side deck is a resource of up to fifteen cards outside the game that you can swap freely with cards in your deck, magic stone deck, or ruler area in between rounds of each match. Side decks are how you deal with bad match ups and make up for the weak points of your deck's main build. Building a side deck can be incredibly difficult for a new player as often it requires you to know what types of common threats you'll be playing against, so don't lose any sleep over not putting together a particularly good one (or indeed putting together one at all) during your first event. Weekly shop tournaments are far more casual than official Grand Prix events so its likely that other players may not be using side decks as well.
Beyond side decks are quality of life peripherals like card sleeves to protect cards from wear and tear after frequent use, deck cases to keep decks sorted and safe during transport to and from an event location, dice (which actually may or may not be necessary for you depending on whether your deck uses cards with effects that require dice rolling) for certain card effects or keeping track of counters or tokens, a pen and paper to take notes and keep track of life, and play mats. All of these are things you will likely see other players make very frequent use of throughout your Force of Will career, but aren't absolutely necessary to play the game at its base level, so don't feel pressured to invest in all of them all at once if you're still unsure.
That's all for the Return of the Dragon Emperor Boot Camp articles! Best of luck to you at your first local event! Remember not to let losses get you down. As long as you think critically, and ask questions, you will improve and start racking up those wins before you know it!