• Level Up: Evaluating Tournament Results

    Note: This morning there were some doubled paragraphs here that likely made this confusing. That has been fixed. Sorry for the error. -Dave

    This topic really goes hand-in-hand with the recent episode of The Attack Zone - I won't say that it's required listening, but c'mon, you know you want to!

    Let me say some things that inevitably spark discussion, as they did in the comment thread on the last episode of TAZ. Netdecking is OK. Taking a team with you that you saw win another tournament is OK, too. Don't let anyone tell you that it's not.

    BUT.

    That does not, not, not, mean that just looking at a team and taking it with you is fine. First, you have to decide whether or not that team that won is actually worthwhile! Any evaluation of a top cut is useful but also comes with a big caveat - the top cut number is somewhat arbitrary. A tournament gives you many games over which a team is successful, but is it enough? The answer is no. The variance in a team doesn't always show itself in the span of 7-12 games. Remember that a top cut, be it four, or eight, or sixteen, is an arbitrary number. It also has as much to do with the performance of the players as it does the relative strength of the team. A top eight cut doesn't mean that the teams outside of it are not worth the time; it also doesn't mean that the teams inside of it are worth your time.

    In other words, don't just rely on the tournament results, rely on analysis, and try to make it your own analysis. Similarly, with deck building in general, It's easy to look at frequency tables for how often cards appear in top eight, or what the most common card in a set was and say "this is the meta", but that doesn't tell you anything. There are plenty of tournaments where it was cards that only appeared once or twice were the important ones - I recall at US Nationals, Christian having Umber Hulk, Chris using Punisher, Dave Walsh of course having Wolverine, I used Patch and Ant Man. Sometimes it's the less common cards that matter.

    It's also a mistake to take a team without knowing how it works. I know that this sounds obvious, but for too many people, "how it works" stops with basic buy order. It can't. Here is a list of just some of the many situations that you need to consider with any team, whether it is a homebrew or a netdeck:

    1. I can't buy what I'm supposed to buy on turn one.
    2. I can't ramp like I thought I could.
    3. Similarly, my bag control has been disrupted.
    4. One of my key characters is being controlled by Constantine, ZMags, or D-wiz.
    5. Polymorph didn't come up.
    6. This key character keeps coming up energy.
    7. My opponent's strategy demands a response.

    This is not an exhaustive list but rather is meant to get the juices flowing. You must understand what to do in any number of situations, whether it requires a variation on your buy order, or a more creative use of your energy, you have to be prepared. You can't do that without a deep dive on the team. In our case, we did an analysis of the Bard Blitz team based on every potential threat to it that we could consider and devise ways to respond to the threat. Simultaneously, it gave us the means to consider how we might play against it, given that it was a team that we were likely to see.

    You also can't make changes to the deck without an intense look at the cards. Remember that most competitive teams are comprised of three elements: Win condition, efficiency, and threat response. It may well be that something can be cut from the team, but you are doing no better than making an arbitrary decisions unless and until you know what function that card serves. In general, it has to do with operating with purpose instead of with guesswork.

    Most importantly, any change that you make to increase the effectiveness of one of those three elements - say, efficiency - is going to impact one of the other two... But for more on that, you'll have to check out the next episode of The Attack Zone on 5/10!
    Comments 3 Comments
    1. DiceDiceKitty's Avatar
      DiceDiceKitty -
      Excellent article. Can't wait for the next episode!
    1. OddballNarwhal's Avatar
      OddballNarwhal -
      Great article! I'm going to use "Dave's Demandments" when putting my WKO team through its paces before May 15th. When testing a team, especially when it is just you, your mat, and your dice, you need an "opponent". That can easily be figuring out and practicing your best strategies in various scenarios. You did miss one, however: "8. The cards come to life due to a voodoo spell gone horribly wrong, and my opponent and I must put aside our differences and battle real-life versions of our teams to the death". That is a solid situation to consider for any team, either netdecked or home brewed.
    1. Jbitxo's Avatar
      Jbitxo -
      Good article! Netdecking is ok, sure... but, in my opinion, if you use it to get ideas and to give your special touch to the mix. I enjoy winning (and losing) more with a personal deck that simply use the top deck of the moment and use it.