If any readers find themselves preparing for the National Championship of a collectible card game, I can offer them some solid advice, borne of experience:
If you haven’t played the game regularly in four years or so, and you look back at some of your old deck designs, and they seem a little odd to you, do not assume that with a bit of fiddling around you can improve them now. You are older and stupider than you were then, and you don’t know the game as well as you once did. Rely upon your past judgment.
The night before you leave, when you say to yourself, “Maybe I should go through my tournament decks to make sure that all the right cards are there and I’m not leaving anything behind,” listen to yourself. Do not say “Nah — I�m sure everything’s groovy” and go to bed.
Pay attention to the location of the tournament. If the web site says that the tournament is at the “Game Parlor,” for example, look at the address even if you’ve been there many times before. This could be important — for example, if a new Game Parlor store had opened up forty minutes away, and that’s where the tournament was actually being held.
Yesterday was glorious fun, even though I got my butt kicked. In the five rounds of semifinals, I won twice, lost twice, and tied once, which was downright lucky given my sloppy decks and the cards I accidentally left behind. I thought there would be a number of people like me, who had “retired” and were playing for the first time in a while; I was wrong. The game is far more active than what I had guessed — lots of folks still play online, and wondered where the heck I had been all this time. There were quite a few people who had even started playing the game in the past couple years. Three people flew in all the way from California.
So I was thoroughly humbled, but in a very encouraging way, if that makes any sense. It was a fine thing to see old friends and acquaintances, and very satisfying to see that the game itself still has staying power. A big reason why is the dynamics of the metagame — over time, powerful tactics rise to the fore, but as the player base gets wise to them and adjusts the way they build decks accordingly, those tactics become ineffective. Correctly predicting what strategies your opponents are likely to follow is one of the hardest and most important skills for winning tournaments. And it keeps the game from getting stale.
After all the tension of the semifinals, the evening was much more relaxed, and included some rousing rounds of Middle Earth: the Drinking Game. In the wee hours, sobering up, I helped my buddy Josh, who had made the top four, figure out what deck he was going to bring to Finals the next day. I’m hoping Josh will win, but I don’t know yet if he did — this morning, after a smallish amount of sleep, staying in bed sounded far more attractive than rising at eight to drive down to Woodbridge in time for the sealed deck tournament. Gettin’ old, I guess.
I can hear the siren call of MECCG, now. There are enough active players that it could be every bit as challenging and fun as it was in the old days, if I wanted to get back into it. I won’t — my gaming plate is full these days without it — but it’s a fine thing that it’s still going strong.