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WKO Review/Recap: Modesto

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To say this weekend started like any other would be a lie. At 4 in the morning I was already wide awake and too full of nervous energy to have any real chance of going back to sleep. The day stretched out before me, crawling by, minute by minute as I awaited the start of the event. Even though I would be judging the event instead of competing, I couldn't wait to immerse myself in the energy and engagement that loomed before me. The weekend before, I had gone to compete in the WKO for Star Trek Attack Wing, so I had a reasonable idea of how the event would go from a logistical standpoint, but knowing that the day was going to be focused on Dice Masters made me that much more impatient and impassioned for the coming tournament.

After wiling away the morning, it was time to head out and I make sure to show up more than a half hour early. This would not be my brightest move of the day as I was second only to my partner in crime (and judging) Dave. Clearly I had mistimed things, so I wasn't really sure what to expect in regards to the numbers of people showing up. As time began to tick away, my soaring spirits would fall as few to no people showed up for the assigned registration time at 11:00 o'clock. There we were, empty team sheets in hand, waiting on the numbers that simply hadn't shown up to fill the tournament brackets and get the event going.

In hindsight, I should have known not to worry for no other reason than there were still a dozen pre-registered players that had yet to show. As the hour wore on, teams of players would filter into the shop and gobble up our supply of team sheets. Before we knew it, we were direly low and rushing to print more before we ran out entirely. The numbers grew and grew until we had a more than sizable number of players finishing their teamsheets and wondering what to do with them. That's when we began checking their sheets and cards to make sure everything matched up and we had fully legal dice in terms of both character max's and Yu-Gi-Oh serial numbers. This process, while grueling went off almost completely without a hitch (there was one man who brought a starter BEWD die on a rare BEWD card, but my generous co-host lent him his own BEWD die to compete with and saved the day). More than just checking over teams, I got a chance to meet every player who would be attending the event. This was a fantastic opportunity as it allowed me to put a face to many of the pseudonymous names that I've interacted with either through the Reserve Pool or other Dice Masters outlets. This alone was a major highlight for me and these players would have a massively positive influence on my time at the event as time wore on.

As all of this began to finish up, there came the task of dividing up the players and unleashing them upon the rounds of Swiss. In total, we mustered a full 32 players to start the day, leading into a perfect 5-rounds of Swiss before we would cut to a final Top 8. Not only was this a hectic moment of clarity for we judges as we realized the logistical problem of harrying 32 excited players into their prospective matchups and tables, but we also got to realizing just how much shouting was going to be needed to marshal everyone properly. We quickly elected to nominate a speaker that was comfortable with shouting into the hopefully washed masses for the rest of the day and had the matchups read out. After hunting down a few straggler players and making sure everyone was paired, we called time and the tournament began in earnest.

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ID:	4604It was at that moment that it really dawned on me, I was here, among dozens of people all sharing my same passion for Dice Masters and I was a big part of making it all happen. This had no sooner occurred to me before I was called upon to fulfill my mantle as judge and start helping people make sense of the teams that had been thrown up against. In the early games, rulings were often and varied. I ran into a small hiccup as I failed on ruling a post Constantine Prismatic Spray, but everything was played as ruled and the the concerned player politely came up after the match to cite the proper ruling. The outcome of the duel was not changed by the call and the day progressed with me now set right in my knowledge of obscure and inconsequential interactions. Many times I was called to clarify how in god's name Dwarf Wizard - Paragon Zhentarim actually functioned, but everything worked out and people learned how to play the card appropriately.

By the end of the second round of Swiss, the calls for judges were waning as people began to understand how most of the new cards worked and were sorted into relatively accurate meta-positions. Also, murmurs of side events began to grow from the ranks of those facing negative records. While we wouldn't get a full pod together until the split before the fourth and the final rounds of Swiss, it wouldn't be for lack of trying as we had players dropping in and out in an attempt to fill out a full pod or return to Swiss after they failed to rally the appropriate numbers. No matter, the really interesting thing was to watch the top players rising to their ranks. Everything from purist Guy Gardner Rush, to Lantern Burn, to a single Flying Bardkick team (that I helped build... you have all disappointed me) was seeing play and it was great to watch these teams coming up against some of the best the community had to offer in terms of passionate and crafty combatants.

Swiss, however, could only last for so long. By the beginning of the end, we'd finally gotten a draft pod going between the players who voluntarily dropped. Rulings had gone very smoothly, though there was a fair amount of contention behind exactly how broken Half-Elf Bard - Masters Lords' Alliance really was. Also, I was starting to talk to players with my free time in between sporadic calls for rulings and guidance on certain interactions, I really began to truly enjoy my time spent here. I may not have been competing, but I was feeding off the energy of the room and just enjoying my time immersed in the game. As some of you may know, I don't have an active scene at my local venue, so being surrounded by a veritable sea of players all bent on enjoying this game had quite the affect on me.

Eventually the final round of Swiss concluded and it was time for a change of pace. The Top 8 was determined by a cutthroat cut based on strength of schedule with the 7th and 8th positions being vied for by no less than 7 players, all with a 3-2-0 record. Eventually the finalists were determined and everyone remaining in the tournament was given a well deserved break for food and relaxation before continuing their grueling climb to the top. For the knocked out players, however, side events were just beginning in earnest. We now had enough players for multiple draft pods as well as constructed tournaments, all with participation prizes to be awarded and dice to be given away (Iron Fist will surely drop in value after the flooding happening at these WKO's). I took to the break with gusto and made sure to head out to grab a bite to eat as I'd been on my feet for hours without any real sustenance. Over the break I'd also take the chance to catch up with some friendly players and take a good long look at the teams that were going to be playing in the Top 8.

There ain't no rest for the weary, and so with less than an hour break, it was once more unto the breach with our Top 8 players set to duke it out in their 50 minute matches for top prize and bragging rights. While the day had seemingly gone smoothly up to that point, it would seem that having less matches to focus on can lead to some surprising discoveries. There were a few dotted mistakes, but most surprisingly, I was forced to intercede to stop a player from cheating multiple times in his match. I won't be naming names, but I'll admit that did leave a sour taste in my mouth. There were also sundry other small mistakes such as missed mandatory effects, but nothing else of note. The most impressive thing, however, was the diversity of teams still left with a horse in the race. Whether you were rooting for Dragons or Dwarves, Guy or Nova, Kobolds or Jocasta, you had someone you could root for. Everyone had a unique team that was custom built to squeeze the most out of its chosen characters and watching the synergy in action was really something to behold. Most puzzling, however, was the variety (or lack thereof) of Hulks on offer. 6/8 teams were running it, but Jade Giant outnumbered Green Goliath 5-to-1. Clearly people were playing with the mirror Hulk matchup in mind, but still, the ubiquity of Mr. Mean'n'Green was rather astounding.

With the players finishing up their first eliminations for the Top 8, it became apparent just what kind of a knockdown-dragout event we were in for. Calling Time seemed more of a suggestion as teams fought to squeeze every last ounce of damage from their characters and keep themselves in the running. One matchup even managed to tie in time, resulting in the rare 6-turn game to determine who would advance, with the outcome very nearly being decided by who could draw and roll the most important dice. Despite the excessively long matchups, it was never boring and when the cut to Top 4 was complete, it was clear that everyone remaining not only deserved, but demanded a spot on top of the meta-game. Judging at this point was a breeze, with a call out every 20 minutes or so to clarify some small facet of how very niche interactions might play out. I still kept a watchful eye over the players, but now for sheer enjoyment of the matchups as much as to safeguard from misplays.
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To my eternal joy and despite fierce competition, by the time we had the pool narrowed down to 2 final competitors, there wasn't a single PXG remaining on the board. This last match was going to be decided more by skilled purchase orders and rolls rather than by who could score the most masks most consistently and this goes a long way towards vindicating my hatred of the bald energy buoy. Better yet, both teams had heavy D&D representation that just about sealed to deal in terms of how much I loved these teams and the pilots that ran them. It takes guts to pass over the old stopgaps of Tsarina, Gobby, and their ilk, but rest assured, toady it was proven that it can be done. I'd say the only real speck of cloud on this silver lining of a playoff was how heavily luck played into the matchup. Not to detract from either contestant's play, but there were some rolls that seemed downright unfair, with one particular example being two level 3 hulks and two energy sidekicks being sent to used after a completely dead roll decided to waste its moment of glory.

Irregardless, the match ended up being a worthy spectacle all the same. Both teams had some devious plays to bring to the table and did a fine job of representing their local scenes. In the end, I was proud to announce the winner of the event as Michael Le, who had also shown up to our local PDC event to snatch my victory away. Clearly, I had lost to a worthy competitor and he had the gumption to prove it to all 32 players that attended that day. The cleanup was a jolly affair, with the remaining players either enjoying their side-events or chatting amiably as all the teams were collected and the victors properly congratulated. The sense of comeraderie was palpable and I was most heartened by the words of judges from other venues congratulating me personally on an event well run. If nothing else, that made the whole event worth it in my eyes. Not to be selfish with the praise, however, I couldn't have done it without the tireless help of my co-judge David. While not the obsessive rules lawyer that I pride myself in being, his skill in running the event and head of logistics kept the whole affair running smoothly and everyone playing along as soon as pods could be organized. He also handled the WizKids Event System for the tourney along with the help of our designated voice-box, Natasha. Both of them proved invaluable to running the Modesto WKO effectively and without major complaint. To namedrop a few more friendly faces, it was a real treat to meet @archivist in person as well as Mike from the esteemed Dice Anon. Both of them were real standup chaps with Archivist blowing me away with an incredible compedium of rules and ruling that he had assembled over the course of Dice Masters' history and Mike chatting me up about my history with the Reserve Pool and the ins and outs of making content for the Dice Masters community.

I really can't say enough about the countless people I got to meet and work with today, so I won't even try to cover them, I've waxed lyrical enough for one evening. I have an entire evening of side-events to look forward to tomorrow, so I'll leave you for now. Thanks so much to those of you who helped contribute to this great event, both the moderators and the players. I had a truly fantastic time and I'm glad I had the opportunity to host such an important event in my own backyard.

Have a great day everybody!
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