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Indy Mon

PSA: Competitive Players, Please Don’t Kill your Local Scene

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Dice Masters continues to grow at a great clip. But that growth is not uniform across different local scenes. One reason for that is something I hear from different players across the country on a recurring basis: There is one player at their local store who shows up at every event with a “tournament team” that is a “world’s slayer.” They Tsarina/Gobby people to death. Or they net-deck David Walsh’s Formerly Weapon Ten Team. Whatever the team is, there is a recurring and tragic conclusion to these tales: These players show up, beat everyone by turn five, their opponents stop having fun and stop showing up, and what was once a vibrant local scene with 12+ players at weekly events is reduced to 3-4 players.

The purpose of this article is not to say who is “right” or “wrong” in these situations: players have every right to bring their A-game just as players have every right to stop coming if they don’t enjoy getting stomped. Nor am I interested into diving into the causes of this linked to the particular popularity of Dice Masters with board gamers who just aren’t as into the hard-nosed competition one finds in games like Magic.

Instead, I want to explore a simple proposition:

Competitive players, it is against your self-interest to bring world championship level teams to every event and demoralize the competition in the process.

I recommend to competitive players that, rather than doing that, they (a) advocate for a variety of formats at your FLGS where the “power” cards are not allowed (in addition to traditional unlimited constructed), and/or (b) challenge themseld by trying to win with strategies that they know are sub-optimal.

There are two primary reasons for this. First, being the best player in your local scene is meaningless if your rise to the top results in the decimation of your local scene and no one to play with. The calculus is simple—if your conduct causes (regardless of the “rightness” of the situation) a meaningful number players to stop playing in your scene, you will get to play less as a result. Your store will sell less product, and might even decide to stop supporting the game altogether. This isn’t fear-mongering. This is a situation I have seen happen with at least a dozen different stores across the country. A belief that your opponents should (in your opinion) have thicker skins, view getting stomped as a learning experience to up their game, enjoy playing the game regardless of what’s happening on the other side of the table, etc. does nothing to change this calculus. If you are doing something that results in the death of your local scene, you should seriously consider not doing it.

Second, challenging yourself by playing different formats or sub-optimal cards absolutely makes you a better player. Sure, maybe that bolt Lantern Ring team you whipped up is the best thing since sliced bread, but playing it 1,000 times is not going to increase your skills nearly as much as forcing yourself to play other teams. There is absolutely a lot to be said about being familiar and comfortable with your team—I would not suggest otherwise—but playing different teams (a) forces you to think outside the box with respect to team construction in ways that will benefit your main team, (b) increases your skill with respect to negotiating different situations that may arise in games, and (c) by familiarizing yourself with how teams/cards you do not ordinarily play with are played, you will be better situated to recognize and respond to different situations when you face them with your main team.

I say the above based in large part on personal experience. This is something that I have struggled with personally. I am a very competitive player. I live in Washington State but traveled to Ohio for the World Championships and to Salt Lake City for the Regional Championships. I love making and piloting high level teams. But in my own local scene, I’ve tried to pay attention to the other players at my store where I TO. I'll admit that I haven't always hit the right balance. But I talk to people and I listen. As a result, I have landed on the following approach for myself:

• We host two events every Saturday, which means we have 8-10 events each month.
• Only one of those events is an unlimited constructed event. For that event, everyone goes all out.
• At the remaining 7-9 events, we do formats that force creative diversity upon team creation and/or equal the playing field. Examples include: mixed starter set constructed (all cards and dice must come from a starter set), rainbow draft, Halloween Constructed (all villains or evil, no super rares), single energy constructed (bolts banned, commons and uncommons only), D&D constructed (purple worm banned), etc.
• In non-unlimited formats where there appears to be an obvious “best or go-to team” (fists in the single energy constructed mentioned above, dragons in D&D constructed), I specifically avoid using that team. For single energy, I went with shields. For D&D, I went with equipment/adventurers.

The success of the scene at my FLGS is driven by many factors—I wouldn’t claim to have a hand in even a majority of that success—but I’d note that during the time period when I really started focusing on the above, our events went from 8-10 players per week to 16-18 per week. I can also confidently say that my skill as a player increased exponentially during that same period of time. I’m not saying that my precise formula is what every competitive player should adhere to. But it works for me and, if you are experiencing a decline in numbers that is possibly competition-driven, I would urge you to give it a try.

Updated 10-31-2015 at 09:34 AM by Indy Mon

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