Friday, May 24, 2013

Six Months of Locals

This will be a lot more personal than my usual posts, so feel free to skip it. I won't mind, trust me.
Okay, so today is May 24, 2013. You may not see this post until much later (as I've already been editing this for close to a month now), but the point is that it's been more than half of a year since I began my regular locals experience. Because of my habitual writing of tournament reports and constant analysis of how I can win more, I've gotten better in ways that I honestly couldn't have dreamed of. But that's not to say that I've become extremely good or anything. How do I know this?

Well, take a look back into my archives. Over six months, I've only topped a local tournament six times. (You can find reports from those tournaments by looking for posts labeled "local top" - the most recent is the report from March 15.) Also, only ONE of these top finishes has ended up rewarding me with prizes. To be completely honest, I feel like the immense amount of time I spend reading, writing, analyzing, practicing, and in general staying up to date and informed about the game should be giving me more than this - a LOT more. But for some reason, I just don't top all that much. So in the spirit of my own traditions, today I want to take a moment to reflect on what some of the causes for this might be.

1. Frequency.
There are two places I know of in town that hold local tournaments - one that holds events every Friday, with huge attendance, Astral Packs, and more prizes overall. The second store holds events on Saturdays and Sundays, but that basically has nothing that the first one does. Obviously I prefer to visit the first shop (tagged in my posts as "ht"), but before April, it was way more likely that family conflicts would prevent me from going anywhere on Fridays. Since the attendance at the second store ("gsg") is so much smaller (typically maxing out at around 20 people), it's harder to top because it's more likely that I'll be facing someone a lot better than me. So I don't go there often, which means that if something happens to my Friday I'm out of competition for the week. Obviously, I can't top and can't earn prizes if I'm unable to show up in the first place.

2. Misplays.
We're all human and we all make misplays. Sometimes, one misplay can be big enough to cost you an entire game, or a general trend of poor play choices can wind up bringing you slowly to your demise. To counteract this I try to practice often, but while I was in school from January to April it was a lot harder to practice for an hour every day as I like to.

3. Bad Luck.
Plenty of things happen in life that are nothing more than being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but I feel as if I personally have worse luck than most people when it comes to the smaller things in life. Most often, it's that I get paired against a bad matchup or my deck literally draws so badly that it doesn't even give me a chance to win. I've learned better shuffling tactics to decrease the number of auto-lose games, but I have no control over who I go up against and that's a make or break situation.

4. Pro Players.
The city I live in is pretty big, and it seems like most big cities have a higher concentration of good players. Understand that when I say "pro", I don't necessarily mean that these people are topping YCSes left and right - this is just a decently sized group of 10 to 20 regular players who constantly stand in the way of my potential achievements.

It is very rare to get past one of these "pros" - even with perfect play, I lose anyways. It's also partially because I have a luck problem, but that's not something I want to dwell on too often. Blaming everything on bad luck is just going to slow my progress.

So what am I supposed to do if I want to top? Playing against a pro is pretty much an auto-loss. So I think the best plan for now is just to play as perfectly as possible to ensure that I beat anyone who doesn't belong to this group, then cross my fingers and hope that I play no more than one of them in a given tournament. It's not a very solid-looking plan, but at least it's a plan...

I really wish I could quit sometimes. When it all comes down to it, I don't really care about getting better at the game that much. As far as my self-esteem and confidence go, I'm almost good enough to satisfy myself right at this moment. But there are two things I really do care about that do force me to care about getting better: Losing and decks.

It feels weird to say, but even though I don't care that much about getting better, I do care about losing. Losing a match is a terrible feeling.

Connected to that are the cards. It's also pretty terrible to know that you can't build a deck that you really liked. To practice and play with something for months, repeatedly testing different card choices and imagining what it will be like to hold the cards in person, only to find out that something, anything, became a Secret Rare and now you can't afford it... I don't ever want to go through that with anything ever again. It might sound stupid, but Prophecy and Mermails really broke my heart.
There are many more examples, but these are some of the most recent and most dramatic.

It's even worse when those same decks prevent you from winning because they've taken the meta by storm - without you. Winning and topping locals is the easiest way to get packs cheaply. Without it, it's hard to build up a good collection. It's another thing that forces me to care about winning, and in turn, getting better. To watch someone beat you with the very deck that you once enjoyed and are now unable to play, all while losing the chance to potentially inch closer towards affording that deck... is just a lot to handle.

Anyways, I think that's about enough crying for today lol. It's looking unlikely that I'll be able to go to locals tonight because of car problems, but I'll work on finishing the last few details of last week's report so I can share it with you guys. Until next time, thanks for reading!

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