A steady release of new cards adds to the number of potential strategies, sure, but the overall competency and dedication of the competitive player base has grown stronger on a parallel track. Step back and consider all the things that have happened to advance the game in the year 2013. At this time last year, the very concept of Kaijudo Master Challenges and a Championship seemed like a pipedream. Flash forward to today, and realize we've bore witness to dozens of decks and hundreds of tournaments. While the game is still its infancy, and will likely never reach the heights of the other TCG top dogs, it continues to carve out a niche for itself. The friendliness, familiarity, and welcoming nature of the playerbase will continue to play a huge role in Kaijudo's identity into 2014 and beyond.
Still, I think we can do more.
It's great that we have mechanisms in place to attract new players, and community pillars like Carl Reddish and Rob Gruber (guys who constantly sing Kaijudo's praises). It's great that there are businessmen like Jim McMahan that invest in the game for the long haul, hosting tournaments and giving schmucks like me a soapbox in the process. There are people playing this game who have so much enthusiasm and genuine love of the game that it drives me to do more myself. That's a fantastic thing.
Let's jump ahead to this time next year, though. Say we've gotten a brand new crop of players in the door and invested through grassroots efforts. Naturally, a certain segment will remain content to play casually, but what about those that want to enter the realm of competitive play? Wizards has done their part by promising continued KMC seasons for the foreseeable future, but in the coming year, we will need to pique the interest of a burgeoning group of "Spikes" by doing more than just telling them that tournaments exist. We need to dedicate ourselves to generating discussion and providing content that continues to shine a light on the game's nuances, so that players can get better.
Dissemination of Information
It's very interesting to look back at previous articles to see how deck builds have evolved over time, but it's even more interesting to see how prevailing opinions have become more refined over time as well.
Our opinions evolve through playing the game. That's a given. Repetition yields theory. Theories are put to the test. The theories are either proven or disproved via results. Sometimes, though, a seemingly tested bit of empirical evidence is a false positive.
We only have so much time in the day to play card games. Sometimes we cling to a false assumption and aren't punished for it in-game. While a given assumption about a single card or deck may prove to be misguided in time, it's never misguided to shout your findings from the rooftops. More discussion is always a positive thing, because if enough players join in, false positives will be squashed and the player base at large will be better for it. Whether right, wrong, or indifferent, talk about the game online. Let the world know that people care. If you're already investing hours of your time into brewing and perfecting the craft, why hold out on players that may not be so lucky as to have a stable playgroup? Help them get better!
I remember posting the early skeleton of Greed Dragons on the Duelistgroundz forum about a year ago and having my deck written off as gimmicky because of the 5 colors and the inclusion of [ccProd]Bottle of Wishes[/ccProd]. Clearly, those people were wrong. Even if it had ended up going the other way, though, posting such an (at the time) radical idea was a good thing, because it challenged convention. We're not all playing 3 [ccProd]Logos Scan[/ccProd] with only a handful of level 7+ creatures anymore. We're not all playing 60 card good stuff piles anymore. People came to understand the power of [ccProd]Bottle of Wishes[/ccProd]. People came to understand the principles behind tempo decks. Trends come and go. Were the changes in prevailing opinion aided by the release of new cards shifting the metagame? Sure, but you can't underestimate the community discussion factor at play in changing hearts and minds as well.
One of the best things about the Magic: the Gathering community is the pro players' willingness to share their decks and explain why they made the evaluations they did. I typically only dip my toes into the Draft side of Magic, but I never miss a YouTube deck tech with Brian Kibler, Brian Braun-Duin or Brad Nelson, et al. These guys can't wait to explain to the masses exactly why they feel the way they do, and the game of Magic is better for it. I sometimes feel like there's a tendency for players in this game to play their new decks too close to the vest, never revealing anything during KMC seasons until after an event. We're not playing for thousands of dollars here, people. Now, no one is obligated to leak surprise decks by any means. I mean, if CVH had posted an article about how he planned to play Gold Rush (mono-Light Enforcers) at the first Championship, I doubt he would have gotten third because the beauty of that audible was the surprise factor. At the same time, though, what's the harm in being open about an established archetype like Dragons? I didn't hesitate for a second when documenting my love of [ccProd]Jump Jets[/ccProd], and just so happened to be on point. Team PEACH's narrated YouTube matches are another great example of the kind of top-level examination of existing archetypes the game benefits from.
I'd like to think that I've made a positive impact on the competitive community with my articles this year by always being open with what I've been observing. It's not my goal to be lauded as the best player in the room. Still, I'm always trying to soak up information from the other players I choose to associate with. I don't strive to win every game at all costs, lest my "credibility" be weakened. What I do strive for is understanding. I strive to understand the twists and turns the game takes at the highest level, and to report my findings in a digestible format for ARG's readership.
ARG has continued to welcome new Kaijudo writers into the stable, and I hope that continues into 2014. We need fresh voices in the mix just as much as we need our cornerstone personalities, and no one wants to be the weak link. We continue to polish our output, and I challenge every single creator of Kaijudo content out there to never be satisfied. Always strive to make your opinion heard, and document it. Whether you're writing articles, making videos, or simply stirring up some (level-headed) discussion on Facebook or a forum -- we need you. Share the wealth. Give new players a wealth of competitive resources at their fingertips, and I promise you we will capture even more interest.
Reasoning and Conviction
The majority of the competitive player base has been receptive to the metagame shifts we've experienced this year. We're all along for the ride. What sometimes gets lost in the shuffle, though, is the reasoning behind certain card or deck choices, and how we arrived where we are. Let's work to bridge this gap in 2014.
If you haven't already done so, read CVH's "Play-style and Preference in TCGs" here. It's a fantastic read, and should serve as a rallying cry for players to improve, present company included.
We all play for different reasons. The concept of TCGs as an outlet for personal expression isn't lost on me, and if someone has a pet card that they love to use because of the art or something, far be it for me to tell them otherwise. That being said, when we enter the realm of competitive play, there is no "play style" or "preference." Those words hold no sway in answering one simple question: "did you make the right play or not?" What is the best play in scenario A? Why is it the best play? Is it because the opponent is piloting strategy B? Is it because you accounted for something tangible like cards in their mana zone? Don't just operate off a hunch. If we want to continue to evolve our understanding of what makes top strategies tick, we need a lot more reasoning and a lot less conjecture.
Bad: "I'm only running two [ccProd]Reverberate[/ccProd] because three is too clunky."
Good: "I'm only including a singleton copy of [ccProd]Reverberate[/ccProd] in my Esper (Water Light Darkness) control deck because its cost and multiciv status makes drawing multiples particularly painful, especially when you consider that the only time I really want the card is in the control matchup, or if my opponent gets off to a slow start. In the latter case, I can simply [ccProd]Crystal Memory[/ccProd] for it since my opponent isn't applying pressure."
What does the first statement really even mean? We need more specificity here. The second statement identifies all of the tangible factors that went into the decision. Now, maybe the assumptions made about those factors are misguided, but at least now that statement can be proven or refuted via testing.
Bad: "I don't like attacking my opponent's shields until I have game on board because there's no reason to give them free cards."
Good: "There is no blanket statement about when it's safe to attack and when it isn't. I need to know my role, and I need to know when the game is slipping away / when it is already won. Sometimes giving my opponent additional draw steps opens me up to losing moreso than being overly aggressive would."
That first statement is egregiously erroneous. We need to get new players away from this line of thinking. I blame the Esper decks circa DragonStrike Infernus for giving everyone the idea that trying to deck your opponent out in the control mirror is the optimal way to win. That's simply not the case, as we have discovered over time. While I'd be a fool to ignore the fact that sometimes victory by deckout is the correct course of action, it's a corner case. The second statement can't possibly examine every factor that goes into the decision, of course. If it could, we'd have the game of Kaijudo distilled into a single sentence. Knowing when and how to attack is the entire game. Still, a more reasoned and thoughtful discussion of combat will help the community at large more than any other topic. I attempted to broach this behemoth of a topic with my Whatwoojudo column, and I'll try to tackle certain aspects as needed in the new year as well.
2013 was a phenomenal year for Kaijudo. We got new sets, new mechanics, organized play, and made a bunch of new friends. 2014 has a chance to be even better, but competitive-minded players need to continue to pass the baton. High-level discussion is the lifeblood of sustained interest in TCGs. Everyone out there who loves the game: challenge yourself and your friends to ask why. Strive to become better at the game -- not just for your own personal pride and enjoyment, but to help fan that flame of friendly competition within others. Share your findings freely, and argue your opinions intelligently. Continue creating great content for players of all skill levels to enjoy. Most importantly, never be afraid to ask questions and challenge your own preconceived notions.
I want to extend a sincere thank you to everyone at ARG for this continued opportunity, and to everyone out there who may have stumbled upon an article or two of mine. In addition to improving at the game, I strive to improve my articles in 2014. I'm very proud of some of the work I did this year, but I'm not content to rest on my laurels.
In the words of the immortal John Connor: "The future's not set. There's no fate but what we make for ourselves."
Thanks (as always) for reading! The Circuit makes its next pit stop in Indianapolis for a "1K in 1 Day" on January 11th, then on the 18-19 it makes its way to beautiful Nashville, TN! Until next time, Play Hard or Go Home!