Have you ever looked at a deck list and thought, “What on Earth was this person thinking?” More often than not, these strange deck lists were prepared for the respective events where they performed. Each event is a new challenge. You can look at it like an exam. Every exam is different and in order to get a good score you need to learn the new information that you are being tested on. In order to properly “study” for an upcoming event you have to consider a few things.
- What kind of event is it?
- What happened at the most recent event?
- What cards are gaining/losing popularity?
- What cards do you have access to?
These four questions will help you establish an understanding of how to get ahead of the curve for the event you are preparing for. Your deck list is one of the most important keys to succeeding at an event. This means you want to create a special deck list for each event because every event is different.
What kind of event is it?
Considering the caliber of an event will help you figure out what kinds of decks you might see. If you are attending an ARG Circuit Series you should expect to see a vast majority of tier 1 decks throughout each round, because these events primarily attract competitive players. Due to the saturation of tier 1 decks, you should build your deck to have a competitive edge against tier 1 decks and commit fewer cards to miscellaneous matchups. YCSs are a bit different from ARG Circuit Series events; YCSs attract casual and competitive players, which means you cannot bank on playing against tier 1 decks each round of the tournament. Basically there is a bigger spread of potential match-ups at YCSs; not every deck you face is going to be a popular one. You should not over prepare for miscellaneous match-ups, but you shouldn’t neglect them from your deck building process.
YCSs are also much longer than Circuit Series events as they are generally 10-11 rounds long, whereas ARGCS events are typically 8-9 rounds long. The length of an event will also influence how you build your deck. Since Circuit Series events are typically 8-9 rounds long you can only afford to lose once before you begin to worry about tiebreakers. This means your deck list should be competent against the most popular deck(s). YCSs are parallel to ARGCSs because of the fact that you cannot lose more than once without worrying about tiebreakers. Since finishing X2 at either one of these events is not a guaranteed top spot, you should build your deck to survive 8 or more rounds. If you’re going to an ARGCS build your deck in a way that is more oriented to beating the most popular deck at the time. On the flip side, if you’re attending a YCS, make sure your deck covers a broader spectrum of match-ups.
Regionals are a completely different animal. Most of the time regionals are populated with local players who play whatever they have, which means you need to construct your deck in a similar way that you would prepare for a YCS. I’m not saying side deck for Crystal Beasts, but don’t fail to consider decks like Chain Burn, Evilswarm, or Gravekeeper’s when building your main/side deck. Of course regionals will also have competitive players, which means you should build your deck to assess tier 1 decks as well. Unfortunetely you don’t always see tier 1 decks until round four or five, which means you have to go through the first half of the tournament wondering what you’ll see. It’s hardly ever problematic, as tier 1 decks tend to slaughter the uncommon decks. Once you’ve considered the scale of the event, it’s time to look into what has happened at the most recent event.
What happened at the most recent event?
Looking at the most recent event results will allow you to pinpoint the best decks. This past weekend at ARG Circuit Series Fort Lauderdale the most popular deck was Nekroz and it took 9 out of the 16 top spots. The past three premier events have seen Nekroz take more than half of the top spots, which means building a deck that performs well against Nekroz will increase your chances of topping an event.
Lets revisit the exam analogy shall we. If you know 85% of an exam covers section 2 of chapter 3, then you should primarily focus on the corresponding chapter. If you focused on section 1 of chapter 3 you would be underprepared for 85% of the exam. Neglecting integral information will prove to be very detrimental on an exam or at a TCG event. Being able to predict the majority of the field at an upcoming event is crucial to building a good deck list.
When Patrick Hoban won YCS Toronto with his Shaddoll Lightsworn variant he predicted that most people would copy his deck for ARGCS Indy the following weekend. Patrick knew that most of the field would be using his deck, which made him want to main deck multiple copies of Puppet Plant to create a game one advantage in the mirror match. This is a prime example of how looking at past event results can help you create a deck that performs better than the rest of the field. Event results also display the rise and fall of card popularity.
What cards are gaining/losing popularity?
After the conclusion of an event you can generally go online and look up the top deck lists from that event. Alterealitygames even posts all the top 16 deck lists from their events on their website, which makes it very easy to find the information you’re looking for. If multiple people top an event with the same deck you should look at how their deck lists are similar, and how they are different. Lets take the ARG Circuit Series from Fort Lauderdale into consideration. In this scenario we are going to assume that you already understand the fundamentals of building a Nekroz deck and are looking into the tech choices that these players made.
Analysis of Tech Choice in Nekroz
- 5/9 Nekroz decks used effect veiler in the main deck
- 5/9 Nekroz decks used Maxx “C” but only 2 main decked Maxx “C”
- 6/9 Nekroz decks side decked Kycoo the Ghost Destroyer
- 6/9 Nekroz decks used Denko Sekka but only 1 main decked Denko Sekka
- 5/9 Nekroz decks sided Fire/Ice hands
- 3/9 Nekroz decks used Psi-Blocker in the main deck
- 6/9 Nekroz decks used Shared Ride and only 2 side decked Shared Ride
With this information you can identify the most popular tech cards in the Nekroz deck and build your deck accordingly. If hand traps like Maxx “C” and Effect Veiler become popular in the Nekroz main deck, then playing Qliphort is actually quite logical. If a Nekroz player draws a Maxx “C” or an Effect Veiler against Qliphort, then they have one less card in hand because neither of those cards do anything to Qliphort. Building a deck to create dead weight in your opponent’s deck is a phenomenal strategy because it can almost guarantee a game one victory.
What cards do you have access to?
Obviously you cannot construct a special deck list without having the cards to make it. Usually you can ask your friends to borrow cards if you’re playing in an event and they aren’t, but sometimes you have to be creative. Adapting to adversity is one of the best qualities you can have as a player. Sometimes you simply cannot afford to buy the cards you need and your friends can’t lend you them either. Often times you need to find good substitutes to the cards you want to use. When looking for alternatives you have to consider what the original card was being used for. If you were siding the hands against Qliphort to deal with their backrow and Pendulum scales, then using supplemental backrow removal like Dust Tornado or Twister would be accomplishing the same task.
I highly recommend not settling for alternatives if you are preparing for a premier event, because naturally you want to have the best possible deck list for the event. If you have a few weeks before the event, you should have more than enough time to get everything together in time for the tournament.
I hope to see as many of you as possible at the Circuit Series in Connecticut this weekend! Hopefully you have been preparing for a few weeks and have a good idea of what kind of deck you would like to bring to this event. If not, well you better get to playtesting! And as always, Play Hard or Go Home!