Thursday, January 12, 2012

Tournament Survival Guide

With Bushiroad being all too eager to set up retail contacts in the English-language market, the future is looking optimistic for the United States and her Vanguard fighters. However, there are a number of prospect fighters that are completely new to card games, and particularly the tournament environment. From experience I can say that at a local level, this lack of familiarity won't pose a problem, but once you reach the scale of regional, national and international competitions, it takes a certain amount of preparation to get through the day.

Let's start by examining the issue that pervades all extended competition, from city-level up through international tournaments; glucose deficiency.

While its status as a trading card game eliminates some of the stress that other, fixed-deck games can put on a player, Vanguard at the release of BT05 will have seventeen clans, each of which has fifteen specific strategies to eliminate the others(excepted from this is Etranger, for the obvious reasons) and the unique composition and strategy of each player's deck makes the game both highly reactive and strategic in nature. Any given fighter will have to play both toward a long-term game plan, and take into account what is happening now, in the short term. At the competitive level, this is enormously taxing for the human brain, which is already under pressure from the weight any given set of matches will carry, and so it is wont to burn through glucose much as our mouths do candy.

This isn't a new problem, but something every game encounters. It actually goes double for competitive Poker and karuta players, as a fixed deck game is generally more complex than a TCG like Vanguard is. If you've ever participated in a large-scale tournament--for example, a Pokemon TCG or Yu-Gi-Oh! competition--and felt particularly faint after a series of matches, it's because the human brain doesn't go through glucose with stamina in mind, and the set of six to nine matches most competitive games run in their upper level tournaments tends to overwhelm the body's capacity to cope. The results are never hazardous in the long term, but instead cause problems primarily during play, when (in our case) Vanguard fighters' decision making will be affected by glucose deficiency.

The problem is compounded upon by the neurons' basic inability to store glucose. Neurons are dependent on the bloodstream to deliver a constant, steady supply of it for rapid consumption, making it a difficult resource to balance. In a way, Vanguard fighting is much the same as taking school exams. The pressure and anxiety triggers expenditure of glucose and increased adrenaline levels, inducing the same type of energy high that eventually burns out and leaves you exhausted in the match's aftermath. Of course, this is much more rewarding than abstract testing.

Thankfully, glucose is a universal fuel that's easy to find in foods. Talking it over with friends, I was recommended to bring a lucozade, fruit and fiber bar, bottled water and an apple. Consume these during breaks between matches--preferably in a fashion that doesn't damage anyone's cards--sleep well and eat a good breakfast, and you shouldn't have any problems.
And remember to throw away your trash, Indianapolis looked bad enough before the seniors' division got there!
Friends don't let friends substitute water with soda.

The next issue pertains very strictly to the national-and-up tournaments. While you will probably have to go to an out-of-the-way location for a state or regional competition, most card games have their national events last for several days. Case in point, every TCG's grandfather-in-law, Magic: The Gathering, has for 15 years held a two to three day national event. Others, like the Pokemon TCG, have latched onto a similar model with national events lasting three days. The purpose for this is to hold multiple elimination rounds to bring the tournament bracket down from hundreds or thousands down to just 8(in Magic) or 16(in Pokemon) people. International events similarly function for as long as five days. This in mind, room and food is a primary concern in these long-term tournaments.

In the United States the prominence of fast food restaurants like McDonalds, albeit ultimately unhealthy when it comes to the vast majority of their menu, provides an easy answer. Specifically, the dollar menu McChicken has a total protein content of 14 grams, 25% the daily protein intake required by an adult male, and slightly more than any other grouping requires(except pregnant woman. If you are a pregnant woman playing card games, I salute you, and the McChicken only accounts for 19% of your total protein requirement, source.)

To summarize, if you are willing to arm yourself daily with four McChickens and the aforementioned glucose-heavy meals, you are prepared for any card game tournament in the world and the SATs.

Dealing with the issue of finding a place to stay, is the go-to search site for my sister and me. The rule here is to never accept a hotel below three stars, and to read the reviews carefully. You can probably find a hotel in the vicinity of $70-75, which after taxes and fees, will be around $90 per night(rough estimate, expect this to become antiquated by the passing of time.) This near-$300 expense might be dodged by first-place qualifier competition winners, who depending on the game are sometimes awarded travel allowances by the company.

I throw around vague terms because at this time we don't know what format Vanguard will be using. This is all general advice on getting to and surviving at tournaments, and I'll most likely be amending this article once the game has a concrete base in the US. Until then, keep shuffling.