“Sometimes three seconds is all that stands between glory and failure”

“Sometimes three seconds is all that stands between glory and failure”

Welcome back to VtES European Championship 2020 blog! We are hoping you are all safe, and have the time to lean back in your comfortable havens and take a moment to hear what the other of our Week of Nightmares crew members, Antti “Dada” Penttilä, has to say about the ongoing tournament series, Road to EC.

This time we take a look at what was the air on March’s tournament like, and what advice Antti has for you. If you want spoilers of the results, you can find the VEKN report here.

I want to start with some toons, to set the mood.

Winning a game of VTES is hard; winning a tournament is even harder.
It takes a special breed to even play this game.

This is because of the specific, commonly held idea that the maximum time for sustained attention is 45 minutes.

This idea appears to originate with a 1967 study on sonar detection and the point at which decision-making starts to become compromised. A much-cited 1979 study, “Memory load and event rate control sensitivity decrements in sustained attention“, reinforced the 45-minute measure by setting measured tasks between 30 and 45 minutes. Since then, other studies have validated the concept of taking breaks, but the interval of the breaks has changed – some studies suggesting they should be taken as often as every 20 minutes.

So: the two-hour time limit automatically excludes a lot of potential participants.

Yet, here you are, reading this article…
This means that you have an extraordinary capability to focus on a given task. Historically this ability has been credited to yogis, bhikkhus, hermetic scholars and the practitioners of magic. Evocation of tattvic forces, invocation of the holy guardian angel, scrying, pranayama, meditation and the watered-down modern practice of mindfulness…

All of these are, forcefully simplified, methods and practices to increase your focus and attention span. To rise above the physical limitations and to prove that you truly are the master of your monkey-brain. You are the master who makes the grass green or, to crack a joke here: Harry, maybe you really are a wizard now?

Road to EC: Field Training started like tournaments often start for me: waking up at 5am, feeling the effects of sleep-deprivation, nervousness and self-doubt. Not looking forward to the 6-hour train-journey ahead…
The usual demons, called thoughts, run through my head: Did I make the right choice for a deck? Did I remember to take all the accessories with me? Have I based my decisions on a correct read of the meta-game? Do I have what it takes to actually play this particular deck for 3 rounds? Will I get Covid-19 because of a silly card game? What if, what if…?

I stand at the platform and feel a gust of wind annoyingly throw my moustache against my nose. It tickles and I hear the train arrive. I take a deep breath and exhale the demons out.
“There is no reason to be nervous, this is nothing new to me, just focus now… It’s 6am, if you make it to the finals, you have around 15 hours ahead of you before you can relax.”

…To a non-VTES player this thought might seem terrifying…

I have played in different tournaments over half of my life; that is more than 17 years of experience… for whatever it is worth. I love to put myself in do-or-die situations and nothing beats that feeling, that rush you get when you perform well under pressure. I thrive on it.

This is the part where tournament reports usually go into in-depth analysis of the said games. I want to take a different approach here: I want to talk about the psychology of VTES, some of my beliefs and mental crutches.

In a three round tournament you have:
1 game that you SHOULD win.
1 game that is hard but winnable.
and 1 game that you will lose.

The ability to identify these games early is one of the keys to success.

I sit down at the table, perform my usual rituals of shuffling, counting the pool and notice that everyone is silent, kind of just staring at their playmats. So, to ease the mood I say something along the lines of: “There, good job Antti, you have correctly counted to 30 , that was the hard part.”
No one reacts…
Except for the odd, shy smile from the cross-table.
An act that has absolutely NOTHING to do with anything I have said or done, it is the smile of a cross-table buddy. An alliance is about to be born…

By round 4 I have already asserted that this is the game that I can’t win. Too many random titles at the table for my stealth-vote deck to get actions through easily. The cross-table buddy is sending non-verbal signals of distress and to me they seem genuine. Too bad, because I really would have needed some help from him, to take the pressure of my back. My predator is going hard and, sadly, has the cards to make my life very, very difficult.

Another 4-player game. My predator from the previous game is now my prey, interesting. And what is this? Oh no! It’s Aapo, my brethren, my sparring buddy my… my… Predator. And I have no idea what he is playing today. To my horror my cross-table buddy is also playing vote. I kind of zone out, I lose focus and my first actual vote fails. By the will of my cross-table buddy. I almost tilt when he betrays me, his word for voting in my favor.
When I pass the turn, I realize that it was actually me who failed here!
I had forgotten to use Arishat’s special… Had I done so, the vote would have passed.
Don’t lose your shit.
It happened.
Now focus.
I manage to maintain my composure. An act I have taught myself to do after many years of grinding tournaments. Younger me would most likely have continued to tilt, because of the shame of failing something so elementary, forgetting something that is such a BASIC part of how this certain deck works.
Just breathe.
This was the game that you should win.
GW + 3

2 very dangerous players at this table. You know… the kind of players that can command respect by merely standing in the same room as you.
The kind of players that always seem to have the right cards in their hand.
The kind of players that bloat 10 in their turn, when you think you have set an oust for the next turn.
The kind of players that don’t really even have to play any cards and still they win a table, just by talking, just by not talking. The kind of players that just know…
I could easily write 2 pages from just this single match-up, but I promised to talk about mental agility of VTES, not the numbers of VTES.
So, to keep it short: I have exhausted my deck, I have ousted my prey, I had to oust my predator. This was yet another game, where I needed to have the votes from cross-table to succeed with my actions.
I go for the oust and… it comes down to 1 more stealth/1 more block fail. I don’t have it. I smile at my current prey/predator. He smiles back at me, with sharp fangs but also with respect, he knows how close to failure he has come and yet managed to turn it in to a victory.
This game was the one that is hard, but winnable.

Finals is announced and I’m in.
At 5th seed, but I’m in.
I had played with all the other finalists during the tournament; usually all have not.
The most infamous example in recent memory of this is EC 2019 and Sélim, who unknowingly sat down between two rush decks with an Arika deck. His final was over before it even started…
To keep it fair, we chose to reveal key vampires of our decks and explain what they do. Our player-base doesn’t like the stupid and yet advantageous “scouting phase” of tournaments.

I sit down at the table and feel surprised that I’m so relaxed. I have the worst seating; I must get VP’s in order to win and still I feel confident of my success and relaxed enough to just play. And play I did! Yet again I won’t go too much into details. But I managed to make myself appear small and my predator rushed my grand-predator and not me.
I managed to convince the table that it’s good if I oust my prey within the first hour; the others would then have more turns to take their ousts.
I had to back-oust again; I faked to dislike having to do that, but that was my plan all along…
I even managed to do it with a deal of: “yes my grand-predator, I will help you by giving you an oust, but I want to have another oust as well. You want to 1v1 me instead of my new prey”.
So, I had ousted 3 players, from bad seating but with some decent plays and like always in VTES, with a bit of luck.

“Judge! Time?” I ask.

“1 minute”

I have once again exhausted my library. I count the pool of my new predator.
There is no way for me to oust him with this hand.
I have 2VP’s and he has 1vp.
If the game timeouts, I win.
I do some math and decide that it will be completely possible for him to oust me.
I pass the turn.
Bleed, block with Unleash Hell’s Fury, rescue, bleed again.
Pass it back to me.
I do some more math; it’s getting hard now.
Like some might have noticed during last year’s Ropecon finals, I don’t play time, in my opinion, even though it’s a strategy. It is very unsportsmanlike and only sissies do it.
I announce my actions: Unleash Hell’s Fury and Ancilla Empowerment in the hopes of playing a voter captivation.

“DI the Voter Cap.”

A fucking DI! I had not taken this into consideration and I just know that all is lost now.

“Three seconds” says the Judge.

I smile and respectfully pass the turn.

“BLEED!” My prey/predator announces instantly with slight panic in his voice.

Block with Unleash. +3 stealth. Ousted.

I extend my hand to the winner of the Road to EC: Field Training tournament.

“Sometimes three seconds is all that stands between glory and failure.”

-Antti “Dada” Penttilä

Thank you for the wall of text, Antti! We at EC crew hope you will get some insights into what to possibly expect from the Helsinki meta come July – but of course it will be you non-Finnish players, coming from all around the globe, that eventually shape the state of games!

We would love to hear how you are preparing for EC with your local rivals. Please reach to us through email or social media platforms.

Once again, stay safe, play online, and we will see you next time,