This post isn’t so much a review as an explanation of how my day at the Netrunner Regionals worked for anyone who might be tempted to attend a games tournament. You may be more interested in my journey into Netrunner or a more in-depth analysis of the games.
My body’s started doing this weird thing that when I set an alarm in the morning it feels like there’s no point sleeping, and I have a restless night followed by getting up before the alarm goes off. And so it was that at 06:00 on the Saturday morning of the tournament I was testing out a new idea for a runner deck on jinteki (which I definitely should have taken; see more in Last Click). But with no time at all to tweak it I decided to stick with what I knew, and have some breakfast instead. I left the house at 08:15.
Incidentally, if anyone’s ever looking for a set for a horror film, Patricroft station at 08:30 on a damp Saturday is about as bleak and desolate as I can imagine.
Registration for the tournament was advertised as 09:00-10:30. I’d checked in advance that arriving at 09:30 would be okay, but I feared this might involve joining a long queue. I couldn’t have been more wrong. There was no queue, largely because the process was as simple as paying (£20 entrance fee), giving your name, confirming you’d completed a deck list (spare copies were available in case you hadn’t) and stating which IDs you’d be playing. Two minutes, all done. So now it was just a case of waiting 45 minutes for registration to close. Next time I’ll aim to arrive later.
Just passed 10:30 we were all asked to make our way downstairs to the tournament area in the basement, and told that 45 players had registered meaning there would be five rounds of play today. This was welcome news as the thought of playing six or seven rounds (when there are >56/80 players) was a little daunting for a first time. The format, which will be familiar to players of games like chess or Scrabble, is Swiss followed by a Final Cut. For those who are unfamiliar (probably the majority) Swiss is a kind of league structure, but instead of playing everybody, which obviously you don’t have time for, you play a certain number of games (so five in this case), always against the opponent who is next to you in the current standings (apart from Round 1, which is random draw). So if you win your game you’ll move up the standings and be paired with someone else who won. And if you lose you’ll move down and, you get the gist. After the agreed number of rounds those in the top however many (eight in this case) go into the Final Cut which is a (double elimination) knockout competition. Making the ‘Top 8’ would involve returning on the Sunday, but this was not something I was planning for. There are also other social events on the Sunday for those that don’t make the cut but I chose not to return (due largely to the hangover I was nursing).
In Round 1 I was paired with Daniel. He asked me if I’d been to many of the Regionals. I explained that this was my first tournament and I’d only been playing the game (relatively) five minutes. He apologised for the lack of fun I was about to have against him as he was playing IG Biolock. That wasn’t very nice of him, but he was very nice about it. I smiled and assured him I’d be alright. He took me through randomly deciding who played corp or runner first, and that we now had 65 minutes to play two games. We better get cracking! The first game started amazingly well for me. I raced into a 4-0 lead and dared to think I might actually win. Daniel came back but I was still in a strong position and could win if I could just find the card I needed (story of my day/Netrunner life). But alas I didn’t and I didn’t. Then came IG, a match up I knew my deck was hopeless against. Through nothing but luck I almost nabbed the most unlikely of victories, but I didn’t and then I died. 0-2.
It hadn’t taken 65 minutes so I had chance to take stock of what happened why we waited for others to finish. Obviously I hadn’t won but I didn’t feel completely out of place. If I’d just drawn that card it could have been different. I was pretty happy.
A short while later all the results were in, the standings updated and the fixtures for round two were printed and stuck on the wall. I would be playing against… BYE. Hooray! Wait, what? So because there were an odd number of people in the competition the person ranked 45th (yes, last, though I believe that was just a random sorting of all those who lost) didn’t have anyone to play. The reward being that you get 65 minutes to rest and refocus, and you get two wins against your invisible opponent. This was a bit off a disaster as a) I was coming for the experience, not for a rest and b) the free win would catapult me up to the middle of the table, where I thought I’d be much happier near the bottom. Oh well. I had an early lunch and listened to the end of a podcast while the others fought on. 2-2.
Luckily the actual lunch break was only 30 minutes long, so 95 minutes later I was back in action in round 3. This time I was playing Adam (that’s the player’s name not the ID). As Corp I actually should have won the game. My opponent made a mistake which I should have capitalised on but neither of us noticed until after he’d won. He offered to call the Judge over, who’s a neutral body on hand to settle any disputes, but I said it wasn’t necessary as the game was over now. In the rematch there was no such closeness. 2-4.
Round 4 saw me playing Lee. The first game was over pretty quickly, as my deck failed to do anything while he got into an unassailable position. The second leg was quite the opposite. We were both able to score a few points early on, but then devolved into a kind of stalemate where I couldn’t quite find the cards I needed to win it, and nor could he without putting himself in danger. After the full 65 minutes time was called. This means you have one more turn each before the result is determined from the current score. There was no last turn madness, and he was two in front he was awarded a ‘timed win’ (worth 2 points instead of 3). 2-6.
The final round of the day started around 16:00 and I was flagging. The last game, due to both its duration and the number of moving parts to keep track of, had fried my brain, to the extent I don’t even remember my opponent’s name for round 5. John maybe? I’m sorry. As runner I had my least enjoyable time of the day, coming up against a deck I almost certainly couldn’t win against. We swapped round and I did my usual of doing quite well, but then coming up a card short of winning. Luckily it didn’t drag out long and was soon all over. 2-8.
There was a bit of a gap then why the last games finished up, the results were inputted and the all important standings published. I did better than expected! The bye that I’d not wanted earlier had kept me off the bottom of the ranking, in 44th place. There was then an award ceremony where the also-rans received promo cards (special edition ones only given out at tournaments) and higher places received some pretty nice rewards including game accessories and store credit. This was just up to 9th place of course, as the Top 8 would be returning on Sunday to decide the proper places.
On the way home I was a little conflicted, feeling like something between cannon fodder and a hero just for surviving. But on further reflection I really enjoyed my day and in no way regretted attending. It certainly got me experience in terms of pure number of games. And it also gave me experience of playing against good quality players and a tournament setting. My only word of caution is that at a tournament of this level you will pretty much only encounter good players with strong decks, so don’t go into completely under-cooked or if you don’t like losing. After a bit more practice (and with some stronger decks) I’ll certainly be back, and I’m looking forward to it (though with rugby emerging on the horizon I’m not sure when that will be).
P.S. Last night, a week later, I attended a casual Friday night Nets event and came away with a 3-1 record. So apparently the lessons learnt are helping already!