A Swim with The Whale

A Swim with The Whale: The Grand Re-Opening of Articles from The Brotherhood Without Manners

Written by:  James aka “The Black Whale”

Come for a swim with the Whale in my think tank. This is everyone’s favorite land based aquatic mammal from The Brotherhood Without Manners podcast bringing you the first article in a very long time. We started off writing articles quite often but then we kinda slowly stopped altogether as we just decided to talk about whatever came to our minds on the air. Back when we first banded together, we were recording weekly so it wasn’t a big deal to cut out articles. However, as we became busier in our personal lives, we’re now lucky to record once a month (and with a little luck, the whole OG cast can record). So, now that I own an actual computer and not some dusty old lap top that took an hour just to turn on, I figured at least I could bring everyone some content at the minimum a bi-weekly basis with an article on my off days to curb your cravings for casts like methadone is to drug addicts.

This first article in the series of articles to come from me will be about how to prepare for the incoming Regional season (and future tournaments as well). This topic in particular sounded like a good idea for several reasons; the biggest reason being that Regional season is closing in soon and I constantly see posts in forums/the 2.0 group like “How do I get better?” or “What should I play/do for tournament X?” Being that I personally want to see the player base and the skill base grow in general to make the game even more fun than it is, I took it upon myself to help you guys out and will give you some perspective on how the Brotherhood prepares for such tournaments. However, before we get to that, I do want to let you guys know that we frequently discuss how to get better on the actual cast. In fact, within the last 3-4 episodes we go over a variety of topics of how to get better in general, not just for tournaments. By this point (if you decided to actually keep reading), you’re probably thinking, “Gee, why the fuck am I reading this article then?” To sum it up in one sentence, it’s because people don’t listen to us and still do a wide variety of things that result in nothing but 11th place finishes and bad beat stories. I’m sick of hearing your bad beat stories and how you gracefully finished 15th at a Store Championship so think of this as a wake-up call article for you that fit the description. To get the full Brotherhood’s perspective on tournament prep, including the thoughts of world champion Joe and evil genius Keith, go back and listen to our episodes and take notes to hang on your wall so you can’t ever forget them. For now, you’ll just have to swim around with me and my thoughts in the whale tank.

Ok, now on to the actual point of the article. The first thing we generally do as a group is come up with an idea of what we want to do. That idea is generally identifying what the most powerful thing is to do at the current time. There are plenty of ideas floating around out there and inspiration comes from anywhere. It could be abusing a single plot, a certain interaction between a few cards, an agenda, or a specific character in general. However, it’s not always easy to identify and separate what’s cheeky and cute bullshit from what’s actually worth building around and can be a serious contender. So, I recommend getting a play test group together and having each person build a deck with a theme/idea. This will not only cut down on time identifying what’s strong but, will also offer different perspectives on deck building as each person builds differently. It’s quite time consuming to build several decks yourself to test and, let’s be honest here, you are particular to certain cards as am I. We’re all guilty of it. We’re geared to build decks to how we think they should look, which is wildly different from how your friend/fellow play tester will probably build the deck. Hell, even switch up ideas with your friends/fellow play testers to see how your idea of a deck would differ from another person’s. Maybe you missed a key card or two. Maybe they established a more consistent cost curve/plot choices than you but, maybe your curve/plots have more high impact cards that can swing a game instantaneously. Who knows?! Get out there and start building.

When prepping for a tournament, we try to keep in mind when the next CP or deluxe box will be out. Even before the pack comes out, we proxy cards to throw into decks that could impact our deck’s theme that we built. If you haven’t been doing this, you should be. Don’t be a dolt. We certainly don’t want to be caught off guard by a particular interaction mid-tournament and neither should you. If you never understood how Mirri Maz Duur worked with The Hound before a tournament back when Mirri was a new card for example, you probably didn’t think of it or test it and got blown out by that interaction during that particular meta. Don’t become victimized by niche interactions or fairly obvious ones when new cards are about to come out. Turn some cards backwards, print out some pictures of the new cards, and start playing them in your decks. Hell, write on some paper if you want to save on printer ink. By proxying up cards, you can avoid becoming the poster boy on some idiot’s Play of the Game photo they decided to take AND post in the big 2.0 group.

Ok so we have a deck idea? Check. We have our proxies in the deck? Check. Good job, you’ve built a test deck. Now get out there and fucking test it. I think my fellow casters couldn’t agree more when I say that you have to put in the work and keep testing ideas as often as you can. Throwing together a deck and playing it once or twice the night before or even the week before a tournament doesn’t count as testing. That’s deck building malpractice. You guys want a pro tip free of charge? Regionals here in the USA don’t start until May and we already had our first big testing session at the end of March. Test early and as often as possible. Obviously, people work and shit comes up in life and I’m not telling you to abandon life’s responsibilities just for a card game. However, if you want to do well in a tournament, you gotta put in the work and time. Joe didn’t win worlds by slapping 60 cards together the night before and hoping for the best. We worked our asses off and got together as often as we could for hours at a time to test. Ideas came and went, decks were built and proxied and eventually destroyed in the matter of a day. We fine-tuned an idea over the course of months, right up until the day before round one where Keith and myself convinced Joe that the deck needed Counting Coppers for burst draw and options. Don’t be lazy and do yourself a favor: go test decks. You need to figure out match ups, deck strengths and weaknesses, and other revisions. If you have a deck built with multiple different negative attachments in it for your opponent’s characters but, no one threw the Night’s Watch Wall deck at you during testing, congrats. You now have a deck full of dead cards (unless they’re weapons) and your chances of winning the whole tournament just fell, especially if your meta is full of Night’s Watch decks. If you haven’t picked up on this section’s theme yet, I’ll sum it up for you quickly: Test, Test, Test, and then Test again you bastard. Test your deck against everything. By figuring out what’s really strong through testing, you’ll have an idea of what other players might be bringing to the tournament. This will lead you down a path to either follow the herd or play something to counter the meta while being strong against the rest of the field and fighting off jungle/rounds 1-3 decks. At this point, the choice is yours and yours alone. Choose wisely…

Something we don’t discuss too often on the cast that I’d like to delve into is mental/physical preparations for a tournament. You can find yourself testing for hours at a time during testing sessions, sometimes even the whole day. Tensions will run high, things will be said, and ultimately shit will happen. This is partly due to the fact that this game is not a game like Magic: The Gathering where you can finish a three-game series in the matter of 15 minutes. One game can take an hour or more and losing multiple games in a row can be extremely demoralizing. The best advice I can give is to keep in mind that it’s just a game/hobby. Don’t take anything personal as you and your buddies are probably all working towards the same goal. Do yourselves a favor: allow certain take backs. What’s more important during testing: winning a challenge and getting to trigger your Plaza of Punishment because your friend forgot about it/miscounted or actually testing the matchup and playing correctly? If you’re playing something from your hand, I’d be less inclined to let it go but if it’s something on the board that was easily missed because you were playing for 6 straight hours…just let it slide guys. As for playing for 6+ hours straight, take necessary breaks. Whether it’s for food, beer, smoke, or just for your own sanity. Playing burnt out will not make your day going any smoother and you’ll miss something during building/playing. Your brain can only focus for so long, give it the rest it needs. In addition to taking breaks, take a break from the deck you’ve been playing also. Switch up decks every so often. This allows you to see the matchup from the other side. You can see how important your own cards and your opponent’s cards are just simply by seeing it from the other deck’s perspective. This allows for proper evaluation of each card in your deck for that specific matchup. If you’re playing a Lannister deck for example, you may find that Jamie Lannister is much more important vs a Baratheon opponent than against a Martell opponent based on the cards/effects each deck brings to the table. Finally, try to rest the night before. If you’re a decent human being that can get to bed early and plan for a long day the next day then bless you sweet summer child. The Brotherhood on the other hand…well, let’s just say we’re up late with some “brews” and not in the deck building sense. This has been a vital part of our success and I don’t recommend it to anyone who can’t handle it. Prepare your travel plans, rest, and sleep the night before. Your brain will thank you, I promise.

That’s pretty much the method of our madness folks, at least from how I see it. Like I said earlier, you need to put in the work to do well especially if you want to be a competitive player. Seasoned players and brand new players alike can benefit from this article in particular. Read it yourself, show it to your friends. Help the community get better; that’s the goal here. Back when we initially wrote articles, we were nobodies whom had won nothing and all we had to our names were a box a cards and big dreams. Now that we have a ton of experience, including a world championship within our group, perhaps the articles will be more popular and people will actually listen to us. Who am I kidding? Of course, most of you won’t. We’re still vastly hated amongst the majority of the thrones community. We’ll just keep winning and people will keep whining/wondering how we do it. To all the doubters and haters out there, fuck ‘em. If you want to learn to be a better player without all the sugar-coated bullshit, just keep listening to us. What we do may seem like one long binge drinking and rage fueled disaster, but trust us. We know what we’re doing and we definitely know what we’re talking about. That’s enough outta my blow hole for now. Stay tuned for more articles in the future!