Sometimes the hardest choices are the easiest.
As we approach what is for sure to be the biggest event to date in Transformers TCG history, I approach with a dilemma. It was the same one I had in the leading days to Origins: the very “simple” choice of ..... what to play???
Day one of Origins was a huge struggle for me. I got in Wednesday night and was locked and loaded on playing Autobot Cars. Then, I went back in forth the morning of the first Open Qualifier deciding if Cars was the best choice. This led to me filling out a second decklist twenty minutes before the event start, calling an audible to play Sentinels instead. It was an awful choice; it was a bad mindset all together. These are some of the things I’ve done to try and change that going into day one of Gen Con.
For starters, Gen Con is a whole new beast of an unknown meta-game, so I need to remind myself of a few things due to that fact. First, there is no true way of knowing what other players will play at all, given very few actual tournament results the past month, so it’s very hard to chose a deck to play based on the unknown metagame. You can’t prepare for decks you don’t even know exist; therefore, you shouldn’t try to overcompensate for something that people may not even play.
Second you have to know your own deck, and know that it simply can’t beat EVERYTHING out there. You have to be able to identify what your deck is weak against, so you can attempt to fix those holes where needed and as best as possible (more on how to do this later on).
The third and final thing is the simplest. Going into the first event, I think it is most important to simply play in your comfort zone, as the event will be large and the meta will be wide open (Editor’s Note: as of Monday 7/29 the Thursday 10 AM is the highest sold qualifier of the four at 41 current players!). Since no deck in the game can simply beat up on all the other decks consistently, you simply need to be in a zone where you feel the most content. Now let’s break these down a bit more.
An unknown metagame is a tough thing to navigate and for us competitive card gamers in the Transformers TCG, this will be the first time (of many I’m sure) that we will have a brand-new meta at such a large scale event. Now in other games, I’ll use Magic as the example, this is commonplace: all their ProTour’s are based around a new set that comes out and the players there are always creating the metagame while playing it.
That is the mold we currently have for Transformers right now. So when approaching a big event with an mysterious meta game you can always plan and test to your heart’s desire, but the fact of the matter is, that even if you wanted to get to a point where you think you know the best decks in the game currently, none of this may even matter. What will matter is what people actually play vs what you perceive to be actually “good.” Due to that you can handicap yourself through over thinking this, and that puts you in a very odd predicament for choosing your deck.
So back to this “your deck can’t beat everything” truth. What I truly mean to say is that the deck you decide to play will be favorable against a certain core of decks in the metagame, it will then be close with other decks that are like the deck you chose, and lastly it will have its unfavorable match-ups.
This isn’t a simple rock-paper-scissors scenario. There is a wide variety of “playable” decks that can rack up wins at an event. So, knowing this adds a ton of options to your list of what you want to play. This is where it comes to for me that I have been saying all year long “Choose what you want to lose too”.
Now this doesn’t mean you are simply an auto loss to a certain kind of match. What it means is you are allowing your deck to be unfavorable against a portion of this unknown meta (Editor’s Note: we are assuming perfect play skill here which is a giant variable) because you understand that its improbable for it to win against that type of build, even with the craziest amount of tweaks. To put that simpler, you need to decide it is not worth giving up your matchups against decks you know your favored against for a few percentage points in a bad matchup. If there are minor holes worth fixing that are easy, you can modify the numbers of cards in your main deck or pack your sideboard with answers. That way if a certain card is bad against a certain matchup you simply take it out for the card that’s more versatile overall.
Remember, your perception of how the metagame should look is pretty irrelevant for the Preliminaries, as each day players who were unable to make previous ones will show up for the event. You may not even face off against your perceived bad match-ups, you may not face a competent player with that deck, heck players with that deck may be eliminated before you even face them. Let’s move on to our third and final topic: playing to your strengths.
Going into the first event of Gen Con is going to be the hardest field to conquer for a few reasons. First because there just hasn’t been a ton of information out there about the Siege meta-game: very few tournaments have been reported and with that even fewer deck lists have been reported from the few events there have been (scatted Energon Qualifiers, a few other competitive events, etc) Basically the entire meta-game is up in the air and even us at Vectorsigma.info cannot assume exactly what everyone is going to play.
Everyone has a different comfort zone, and that’s where you want to be in that first event at Gen Con. Not only because it will only benefit you as a player during the day, but because we simply don’t know the meta enough to even attempt to adapt beforehand. You need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your own deck to be able to adapt it for certain match-ups on the fly, especially because you are likely to be facing off against teams/lists you were not expecting throughout the day. If you asked me what is the best deck to play, I’d likely answer (and have for those that force me to pin down an answer) with “there are about ten playable decks if you ask me, and since I don’t personally have the time to truly work out ten decks I would take 2/3rds of them that fit my style and work them as best as possible to fit my comfort zone.” It’s quite possible my predictions are horribly wrong, but the point is that even if they are wrong ill still be playing a deck that fits my style best and will make it easier for me to adapt on the fly. Time for one last thought
At Origins I truly believe people overreacted to the previous tournament results at the event itself, a lot. In other words, players cared way too much about the results of the previous day’s Open Qualifiers. People saw Insecticons do very well day one (however the top two decks were both control shells that feasted on the Insects), so the next day there was a huge uptick in Aerialbots. Very few Insecticons showed up on Day two, and suddenly it was a sea of Aerialbot mirror matches throughout the day..and let me tell you how long of a day that wound up being! If you looked at the Day Two results you may think “hey it all worked out, the deck that beat Insecticons did well so following the day before’s results was correct.” The problem was, there was no Insecticons, and the number of Aerialbots that qualified was simply the correct percentage of the number of that deck being played on the day. It was not a correct meta decision that carried that coincidence, just the law of averages putting the correct percentage of a well built, well piloted deck into the top eight. The players who qualified with Aerialbots on day two were simply comfortable with that deck, but it was not a cakewalk day facing off against the day one Insecticon meta.
Now I said before that I made a mistake day one by overthinking the deck I played Day One, and I needed to be in my comfort zone for Day Two. I went out of my comfort zone and it cost me a shot at the day one top eight so I simply went to my comfort zone for the next event. How does this apply to metagame reading? If a deck performs exceptionally well in the first event, you have to be able to remember two things: the players who qualified with that deck may not even play in the next event (Editor’s Note: guaranteed true if you are looking at the 5:00 PM start time events on Thursday, the players who qualify in the 11:00 AM will not even logistically be able to play in the later ones), and how many players will be able to quickly change their deck plans to even play what did well in the first event anyways?
So what should you do to combat this? Bring two to four decks to Gen Con that you are most comfortable with and on day one, play the one you feel you are best with regardless of your perception of how good it performs in your hypothetical metagame. Then, if the meta takes an odd turn throughout the weekend, update your deck to fit the part or play one of the other decks your brought that can adapt. Start with the option that allows you to play to the strengths of the deck and know the unorthodox plays it can make. A player using a deck they are comfortable with, who has seen more games with it going into the event, will be able to more quickly and efficiently make on the fly decisions that you probably have not faced before the event. That comes from a comfort level with your deck, familiarity with the characters and battle deck.
Origins taught us many things and from a player experience: it’s a fast weekend that will blow by. Gen Con will likely be even faster, with two events a day for only two days to create the Top 32 for the Open on Saturday. I’ve said it time and time again, but be prepared for a long day, get a good amount sleep, get a good breakfast (you do not know for sure when else you’ll be able to eat), stay hydrated, and bring some snacks. The days will be long, but they will be a ton of fun. I look forward to meeting a ton of new plays this coming weekend and to see which decks rise to the top of this new meta. See you all Thursday morning! Best of luck to everyone in their travels and in final hours or preparations.
Until next time “Auto-Bots Roll-Out!”
Dan Arnold – YouTube content Creator for VectorSigma.info, one of 16 Qualified for the Energon Invitational, Runner-Up of the First Transformers TCG Open Championship.
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