(Metagame Archive) Theoretically Speaking: Pro Circuit Prep

By Shane Wiggans

As I am writing this article, Pro Circuit San Francisco is four days away. My mind is whirling with all things tech, and I am preoccupied with the last-minute changes that one of my teammates just proposed. So, I did what I always do whenever I am feeling a bit of writer’s block—I turned to Tim Batow, Vs. Player of the Year.* Well, he was not available, and I went into a panic. I had so much on my plate getting ready for the PC and had no idea how to break though this horrible block. Then it hit me—why not write about what I’m thinking?

At first, I discounted this topic. I mean, seriously, how many of you actually care what’s going through my mind as I prepare for the PC? This type of article won’t make you a better player . . . or will it? This could be a unique article; you hardly ever hear anything about preparation other than “Pack some water, food, and a change of underwear and test, test, test!” Well, I hope you don’t begrudge me this opportunity to share my “pre-game” rituals and how they impact my decisions about deck choice and tournament approach. 

THE DECK

 

As of writing this, my team has not yet come up with a cool name for this deck. I imagine that we probably will before the PC, because, well, having a name for a deck is cool. So without further ado, here’s the current build that I am taking to the PC: 

Checkmate / Villains United . . . a.k.a., CVU 
Characters

4 Connie Webb
2 Mikado and Mosha
4 Dr. Psycho, Mental Giant
2 Sarge Steel
4 Ahmed Samsarra
1 Kang, Kang Kobra
4 Bizarro, Me Am Bizarro #1
2 Maxwell Lord, Black King
1 Ultron, Crimson Cowl
1 Mr. Freeze, Brutal Blizzard
3 Genis-Vell ◊ Photon
1 Alexander Luthor, Diabolical Double
1 Deathstroke the Terminator, Ultimate Assassin
Plot Twists
4 Knightmare Scenario
4 Enemy of My Enemy
3 Threat Neutralized
Locations
4 Checkmate Safe House
4 Brother I Satellite
2 Brother Eye
1 Science Spire
1 Bizarro World
1 Phantom Zone
1 Latverian Embassy
1 Slaughter Swamp
Equipment
4 Knight Armor
  

This is the current build that I plan to take to the PC this coming weekend. In the coming weeks, I will discuss the blood, sweat, and tears that go into playtesting, but right now, I am just going to focus on what goes through the mind of a player who is getting ready to compete in a premier-level event. 

LAST-MINUTE CHANGES?

 

Whenever someone asks my advice about what deck to take to an event, I invariably respond, “Take what you know.” Taking a deck you are unfamiliar with just makes things worse. First, you don’t know how it draws over a run of games, and second, you tend to get upset and second-guess yourself if you do badly. Trust me, I know this from firsthand experience. 

So, when five days before the PC my friend and teammate Jeremy Blair suggested making changes to the deck, I was really cautious. His suggestion is to cut the 1-drops to max out Sarge Steel and add two copies of Tricked-Out Sports Car. He said that Connie Webb messes with draws, and you’d maintain consistency with the change while eliminating a character who is, at best, a third set of search cards for the win condition (which is to abuse the heck out of Ahmed Samsarra). 

This is the first quandary I have to deal with. I have four days left to test this rather drastic change. In those four days, I will be flying from Oklahoma to California, packing, looking for a job, getting settled into my hotel, and trying to meet up with some friends at the PC. Not a lot of time for testing, huh? 

I generally defer to Tim Batow when it comes to deck decisions, as he is the quarterback of our team (for more on this, see my article on teams here). While Tim isn’t available for comment, I will go on record and say I’d likely avoid the change. I may be swayed by my teammates, but if I am, that doesn’t mean I’ll just blindly acquiesce to what they say. I can see the benefits of the cuts being suggested. In the end, I would like to “go down with the ship,” so to speak, so if the team goes with it, I will likely follow. 

WHY THIS DECK?

 

The bigger question is, why did I decide to run this deck? Well, to be honest, it seemed like a lot of fun to take a deck that may be completely random and a little bit out there. And out of that theory, the deck was born. At first, it was just a random thought about running both Checkmate Kings. Then, after actually building the deck, we found that it was really strong. It was plugged into my team’s testing gauntlet and started winning a large portion of the time against our predicted metagame. From the time the spoiler was released, this deck was a concept that we were considering. For a while, Good Guys (JLA / JLI off-curve) was our number one deck. It was doing well against everything but a Faces of Evil build, and we honestly didn’t predict a lot of Faces at the PC. (By the time this article is published, we will know if my team was right in that assumption.) 

So, how did we come to the decision to pick this deck? Well, in testing, the Checkmate deck didn’t really lose to anything. It had awesome games against G’Lock, Faces, and AGL, and Good Guys was the only bad one. And then, after a little thought and the addition of [Kang, Kang Kobra], that defect was solved and the decision became simple. The deck was versatile enough to combat expected decks and random and new enough that most individuals wouldn’t know how to play against it, which would give us an edge. 

In the end, the team decided to go with a deck that was different. Our name almost demands it! And who doesn’t like to be a trailblazer? 

Now that we have discussed deck decisions and seen what I will likely be playing, it’s time to talk about the other part of preparing for a PC. 

REST, RELAXATION, AND . . . READINESS?

 

This is my fifth trip to a Pro Circuit. I have made Day 2 in two of my previous four attempts. Not a great record, but also not a horrible one. What’s interesting is that, coming off an outstanding performance at Pro Circuit Atlanta, I feel little to no pressure for this Pro Circuit. This may be because I feel like I have proven myself, but honestly, I believe it is because I am the most ready I have ever been for an event. Tim Batow and I have been going through a steady regimen of testing for weeks now. But more than that, I am mentally prepared. I think this is something that many individuals don’t work on. 

Being mentally prepared is not always related to good testing results. For me, mental preparedness is a byproduct of having a good and positive outlook on things. I used to freak out before PCs. Do I have the right deck? Did I predict the metagame correctly? Should I have made that last minute change? In the end, if you can honestly say to yourself, “If I have fun, then in my opinion, I won,” then you are in a good place and will likely do well. 

And that is where I am right now. I have a great gig going writing for Metagame.com, and if I fail to make Day 2, I have been given the great honor of doing coverage for the event. Talk about a dream come true! I was honestly conflicted about not playing at all and just doing full-time coverage. What’s more fun than being able to sit at feature match tables, get an up-close and personal look at the new decks, and communicate with all you guys at home? Not much. But in the end, my allegiance is to my team, so I will compete to the best of my ability and do whatever I can to further propel Team Alternate Win Condition into the upper echelons of the Vs. community. 

PACKING . . . UGH!

 

So, what do you take with you when you go to a Pro Circuit event? Well, for me, I take as little as possible. I hate checking luggage with a passion. When I went to Pro Circuit New York, my luggage didn’t make it on the connecting flight. Thankfully, the person I was staying with (the always generous Kyle Dembinski) waited around for me and I was able to get my stuff. Needless to say, though, I would prefer to avoid a repeat performance. 

With regard to cards, I generally only bring the deck I am going to play and maybe one or two cards that I have been mulling over changing. In this instance, those cards are two Sarge Steels and two Tricked-Out Sports Cars. Why do I do this? Well, it’s easy to be freaked out and try to over-tech yourself once you get a look at decks that are around on the day before the PC and at pre-registration. By limiting my card selection, I am guaranteeing that I will be playing a deck that I know. I won’t be throwing in cards that I think will help a matchup and thus altering the way the deck might draw. I’d rather know my deck inside and out than take a chance at gaining a last-second advantage. 

Keep your cards on you at all times. I already shared with you the horror of losing luggage; you don’t want to add insult to injury by losing your deck, too! I know that I, for one, will not make that mistake twice. 

THE FLIGHT FIASCO

If you were at Pro Circuit Atlanta on Day 3, you likely saw me walking around. You also would have seen me feverishly talking on my cell phone. Why was my phone glued to my ear? Well, because my flight left in the middle of the afternoon, and I actually made the finals. I didn’t want to just up and leave. 

How do you combat the “flight fiasco” situation? Well, plan for the best case scenario. I booked my Atlanta flight because I thought I would be watching Day 3. Shows how much confidence I had, huh? This time around, I am leaving on Monday. This isn’t because I know I am going to Day 3 again, but more because if I do, I want to be prepared. And if I don’t, I have this feeling that one of my friends, either on my team or on another, will Day 3, and I want to support them like all my friends supported me at Atlanta. 

PREDICTIONS AFTER THE FACT, YES!

 

I want to take a moment to give you some predictions. When you read this, the Pro Circuit will already be finished, and you can see either how smart or how far off I am. Through testing, my team and I found that the deck, when running in a mock PC environment, was posting results anywhere from 9-1 to 7-3. I do not think that is an unreasonable outcome, so I’m looking for my team to put at least five players into Day 2 with this deck or a slight variation of it. 

So, what about Day 3? What follows is my predicted Top 8, in no particular order: 

  1. Niles Roland
  2. Tim Batow
  3. Jason Hager
  4. Dave Spears
  5. Ryan Jones
  6. Alex Tennet
  7. Patrick Yapjoco
  8. A player who will break onto the scene, much like I did at PC: Atlanta

  

IN THE END

 

I hope you enjoyed this little look into what I am pondering and going through as I prepare for the PC. I believe this will be the most diverse and thus most enjoyable one so far. And I hope that my predictions and preparations come to fruition during the PC. So, be on the lookout for a detailed account of all things Pro Circuit next week. Until then, keep on playing! 

* I honestly think that Vs. should have a Player of the Year vote. Tim Batow would win hands down . . . get it? Hands down . . . and he does handstands? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?  

As usual, you can reach Shane at piercedlawyer@yahoo.com and he will be glad to answer any emails that do not contain messages about predictions that were wrong (just kidding!).

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