Surviving The Table Of (Un)Death

Not a World Cup analogy but something of a sports analogy.  In major US team sports, there are about 30 teams in the leagues.  If every team had an equal chance of winning, that gives about 3% chance of winning a championship.  In a card tournament with 20 participants, with an equal chance of winning, each participant has a 5% chance of winning.

But, there’s nothing like an equal chance of winning.

Where the sports analogy breaks down is that multiplayer CCG tournaments aren’t one on one.  Maybe there’s a NASCAR analogy that could be used or a PGA one or whatever, but let’s get away from questionable comparisons.

At a given table of V:TES, there’s either a 20% or 25% chance of winning (ignoring games with no winner, which is a pretty significant thing to ignore) for each player.  Interestingly, if you figure you have a 20% chance of winning and play three rounds, after three rounds, it’s about a coin flip on having at least one game win.  Figure a 20 person tournament and three rounds and 12 possible game wins exist, which is pretty close to the idea that half of the participants, 10, will have a game win.

While kind of pointless math, a 12 player tournament with two rounds and a 20% model sees an average of about four players with a game win, which actually seems about right, as it’s common to have someone with two or for there to be GWless tables.

Moving on.

In order to win, everyone else must lose.

So, let them.

Going back to the sports analogy for a moment, CCG events see a situation where you can choose any team you want.  You want Gretzky, Pele, Jordan, etc. on your team, that’s your choice.  What you can’t choose is your coach/manager.  For certain sports, I’m a big believer that head coach is a horribly underrated position.  Well, mostly, I think this with NBA.  Jordan won zero championships without Phil Jackson.  Kobe won zero championships without Phil.  Having a star or two isn’t hard.  Not going to say there isn’t an advantage to having the best player in the game or having three hall of famers versus two hall of famers, but the variety of coaches with championships is low.

You are your head coach.  Your deck is your team.

I was thinking about how some players win or lose more than their share.  I have consistently, for what?, 10 years, pointed to player ability being far more important than deck strength in V:TES, and I’d imagine other multiplayer CCGs are the same.

If I had to explain how I’ve won more than my share of tournaments, I’d mostly put it down to everyone else losing.  I didn’t really do much to seize victory.  My first V:TES, VEKN-sanctioned tournament win came from my prey getting ousted when he played Game of Malkav.  My second TWDA-eligible win came when the entire table ganged up on my winnie Dominate prey and due to a Direct Intervention from my predator to hold off my prey from getting a second VP.  When I won with Baali/!Salubri, it was because my Dominate stealth bleed prey was hated by the entire table.  And, so it goes.

Because so many of my early tournaments were 10-12 person affairs, it was just a matter of getting to the finals with a couple of VPs and having everyone else lose.  Obviously, this works less well when there are more players, as getting to the finals becomes that much more difficult.

May call it “luck wins”.  And, these happen.  But, interestingly enough, it’s not the fact that you see the same winners over and over again that I’ve always used as an argument for player ability trumping all but also how some players never win.  You would think that if seating position, luck, or whatever in combination was that significant, there would be more of the one-time winners.  That doesn’t seem more common elsewhere, but it has been quite rare in my experience.  Now, as tournament sizes have grown larger, maybe I’ve seen that more often, though it gets hard for me to remember who wins some of our tournaments when it isn’t me, myself, and I.

I was inspired to write this morning because the never-winners need to be doing something different.  I don’t see it being playing better decks, as anyone can play any deck (I can build pritnear any V:TES deck and lend it to someone, if someone didn’t have the cards).  I don’t see it being choosing better seating positions in finals, as I’ve often had no choice of where I sat … though, maybe people would sit in front of me out of a strong lack of fear, which meant I didn’t have the hardest decks to oust in front of me.

There are usually crucial decisions in V:TES games.  Making the right decisions at key points in the game will lead to victory.  But, what I’m thinking about is less making those decisions and more letting other players screw up those decisions.

The odds are that you will lose.  Not just lose a tournament but lose even if you make the finals.  That’s the nature of tournaments not being two participants, with the caveat that you aren’t a far better player than your opponents.  The achievement is not to win all of the time but to not lose some of the time.  Over time, not losing starts looking more and more impressive.  Or, maybe, it just gets funnier and funnier …

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One Response to Surviving The Table Of (Un)Death

  1. Andrew Haas says:

    The more I play with you at the table the more I come to respect your very serious strategy of doing nothing until your inevitable victory. I spend more time these days thinking about how I need to consider more than just how to oust my prey but how I do so in a way that doesn’t make me die. I don’t have the patience that you do to play slow decks that do exactly as much as they need to to win. Maybe I’ll finally pick up a tournament win at Berkeley.

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