Road to EC: Communal learning and preparation for tournaments

Road to EC: Communal learning and preparation for tournaments

Welcome back Methuselahs! This week we have a considerable bulk of text for you from the prince of Joensuu, Eastern Finland, and one of the organizers of July’s Week of Nightmares tournaments! He is a relatively new player to VtES, but has already scoured through Paris and Berlin in high level tournaments – so who else would be the proper kindred to tell us a bit more about tournament play in general?

I have always loved taking part in tournaments. It all started a long time ago, when I was young and I was still fencing actively. At that time I was only 11, and I hadn’t really done anything that competitively, but I really loved to fence, and being left handed and quite tall for my age, I was pretty good at it. So one time I heard that there would be a tournament in a town called Kuopio, near to the town I live in, and some of the members of the fencing club were going there. They invited me to join them, and told me that it would be a great place to learn more about fencing. I wasn’t too excited about it myself, but my parents loved the idea, so on the next weekend, I was on my way to Kuopio with my father and some of my fencing mates. The tournament didn’t go too well for me, but it sparked something inside me. After the tournament I was really excited about everything I had seen and experienced, all the new styles and the people, and all the progress I’d made with my personal skill. I was hooked instantly, and started going to fencing tournaments more.

Eventually I got really into gaming, and got bored of fencing. But that didn’t kill my sparked competitiveness and thirst for learning. So I started playing Magic the Gathering. The game almost took over my whole life; with multiple weekly tournaments in my local area and bigger monthly events in the nearby areas, I got to play a lot of high quality games all the time. There was just one but. I never really liked the people playing MTG, the community is too big, too money driven and even unfriendly at times. Having grown up with a very dedicated and welcoming community of fencing, a relatively small sport in Finland, I just couldn’t stand the lack of community and togetherness in MTG.

After testing myself in some miniature games and even some computer games, I found myself playing Vampire: The Eternal Struggle in the late 2016. After my first games I was hooked. The game had a great, really dedicated community in Joensuu, and the game itself was really enjoyable. It had alot of elements that I was missing in MTG, while also having this weird role-playing game likeness, that I really loved. Shortly after that I heard that there was going to be new cards available in this event called The European Championship 2017, in Berlin. I wanted to go there, and we got a group from Joensuu together and bought the tickets. Then started the training. I hadn’t really played that much by then, so we started playing a lot, at least twice a week. I also started reading a lot about VTES and asking enormous amounts of questions from my local mentor Peetu. His experience and patience with me helped a lot, and I was pretty happy when we finally got to Berlin. Of course the games there didn’t go that great, but I was not expecting that. I got what I wanted, a lot of experience, a lot of ideas, and once again, a lot of progress with my individual skill and level of play.

When I heard that the EC 2020 would be in Finland, I instantly knew that I wanted to do something special to give out the same experience of learning together as I got when I was just starting out. I feel that learning together as a community is the most effective way of learning, at least in games like Vampire. You should not be afraid of sharing your deck ideas and taking advice from other players. Even the new players sometimes have great ideas that come outside the box!

So this all lead me to putting together this “Road to EC” event series in Joensuu. This means that we are going to have a tournament once a month until the start of the Week of Nightmares. That way we all can get the tournament experience, to make it easier for newer players to take part in a larger event, and to bring out the “competitiveness” of the players, to “ignite the spark” in a way. I hope that this way we get as many players to join us in the EC as possible! 

I also feel that playing in tournaments is an important part of getting better, since in tournaments people tend to play their best decks and the level of play is much higher than in a casual table at a random evening, which is helpful for new players, as it gives a different view on the game; something I missed when getting ready for my first EC. 

Choosing a deck and important things to remember before the tournament

Once you have the spark, you’ll just want to play the game more and more and more. And when taking part in tournaments, it’s really important to get to know the game you play. The most common and the easiest way to do this is to just play, but you could help yourself a lot by reading some articles about the game. When I started I found the “Archetype” articles in VTES ONE really helpful, but you can also just go through the Tournament Winning Deck Archives, talk with the more experienced players in your local area, and read the great blog Information Highway. If you are a new player, it’s also important to not get too excited about all the new ideas you will get. To get to really know the game, it’s important to get to really know the deck you are playing. When you find a deck that you think that you will like, start playing it, and play it until you know it like your own pockets. Once you know what all the cards in your deck do, and you have a general idea of the winning conditions of the deck, you can start focusing on the game the others are playing, and you will start learning about the dynamics of the table and table balance, and you “get to know the game”.

So, what should you play in a tournament? That’s a really tough question to answer, as it really depends on the “meta” you’re expecting to face and your experience as a player. If you are a new player, play the deck that you have played the most. Don’t even try to think about what others are playing. This way you remove the extra stress of playing a new deck and cards that you don’t know yourself, and you can fully focus on learning. But after a couple of tournaments, you will notice that you can see some patterns in the decks that people play. When you start noticing that, you can start thinking about the deck choice a bit more. What are you expecting to see in the tournament? What is going to be good against those decks? What is the deck that you are thinking now weak to, and is there a risk of facing such decks in the tournament? How experienced are you with such a deck, and how does it suit your playstyle?

If you for some reason don’t have an answer to the questions above, or you can’t really read the metagame, perhaps because it’s too open, or you don’t know the participants in the tournament, I suggest that you play something that you like, something that suits you, and something that is at least somewhat consistent. I also think that this is really a valid way to choose a deck even if you would be able to answer the questions above, as it’s really important to be comfortable during the tournament.

On the day before the tournament, check that you have everything that you need ready for the games! Check that your deck is complete, and you have all the things you want there. Make some last second changes if some come to mind; your instinct is usually right! Then make sure that you get enough sleep. In the morning remember to eat, and make sure that you have enough food and drink to last you the tournament, so you wont get too hungry or too thirsty and tired during the games.

With all this I wish you a great Road to EC, and hope that you got something out of this article! Remember to not stay alone with your testing and ideas, don’t be afraid to share your ideas and your knowledge with others!

-Aapo Järvelin, the prince of Joensuu, Finland

Thanking you kindly, Aapo, for some very interesting words and ideas! Check back next week when we invite Aapo back to discuss the February Road to EC tournament, and give us a report on how the tournament played out.

In the mean time, who wouldn’t you come see us in our social media platforms and let us know how your playgroup is getting ready for the tightest competitive event of the year – the European Championships?

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