It’s Time to Duel: A Day Playing in a Card Game Tourney
By John Carlo Pagsolingan and Marxwade Ortega
Card games are a fun, if an expensive, past time. Most card games are usually one on one fights with other players and using the abilities and skills of each cards one possesses, win against their opponent through a game-specific way or condition. Yet there are also card games that could include multiple players, such as Magic: The Gathering, where players are pitted against three or more other players and must reach the victory condition/s before the others do.
Two such card games are Weiss Schwarz and Cardfight: Vanguard. In Cardfight: Vanguard, two players attempt to beat the other by damaging them until their opponent reaches six damages, in which case the player who cause six damage wins. Each player starts out at grade zero, and must advance until grade 3, all the while attempting to damage his/her opponent’s vanguard six times. Once he/she reaches grade 3, he can either use stride or legion in order to boost his/her chances of damaging his/her opponent.
Players, however, can also block their opponent’s attacks by throwing down cards with larger numbers than the opponent’s attack or by using perfect guard. Perfect guard allows players to negate an attack by their opponent by negating said attack and dropping one card in order for the perfect guard to work. Also, players can also use generation guard, or G-guard in short, to guard their opponent’s attacks. By using G-guard, the player drops a heal trigger, a card that heals one damage received by the player if they have more damage than their opponent, and reveals a G-guard from their stride deck, a separate deck where the players place their strides on. The G-guard can be further boosted as well by dropping more cards, thereby negating an opponent’s attack if the sum total of the G-guard and all the other dropped cards are greater than the opponent’s attack.
In vanguard, there are also cards called triggers, each of these cards have an affect that could further boost a player’s attack by five thousand points. These triggers are: draw, stand, heal, and critical. A draw trigger allows you to draw another card, a stand trigger allows you to re-stand a rearguard but never a vanguard, a heal trigger heals a damage if you have more damage than your opponent, and finally a critical trigger adds another damage that your enemy takes.
Weiss Schwarz, on the other hand, the players possess zones labelled deck, field stock, waiting room, damage, the resolution zone and level. The deck zone is where the deck is located; maximum number of cards allowed in the deck is 60 with 8 climaxes. Waiting room is Weiss’ equivalent to a graveyard: the zone where the cards that have been used or have been ‘destroyed’ are placed. In order for a participant to be victorious, one must level their opponent to the level 4. The participants’ level is increased by the virtue of them having 7 cards in the damage zone. When leveling occurs, one of those cards must placed into the level zone and the rest into the waiting room. To deal damage, characters must be summoned unto the field, and attack. Be careful though, there are limitations on summoning a character, like the level the character has compared to the player’s level, the character’s ‘color’ in comparison to any of the damage zone cards, is there an open character zone on the five allotted character zones, and lastly can the player afford the stock needed to summon the character card.
When a character attacks, they trigger for damage and reveal what is on top deck. If the revealed card has a symbol denoting an on-trigger-check ability, the effect is activated, then the triggered card is placed on stock. The person attacking isn’t the only participant active during this time. When an aggressor attacks then the assaulted player must make damage checks, so that he takes the damage dealt by the attacker. The top card of the deck is then placed on the damage zone, and this process will repeat the more damage the attacking card deals. But the defender is not just slowly leading him/herself into damnation, if he/she reveals a climax card then the whole damage the enemy card would have dealt will be canceled, and the revealed damage indicator cards will be placed into the waiting room (graveyard). In general, Weiss is a complicated game, and, I believe, the given information is enough to give a gist on how the game is played.
This paper would focus on the researchers’ experience in participating in a tournament for the two games. By using their own accounts from the event, and accounts from the researchers’ informant/friend within the tournament, the researchers would attempt to provide an inside view of how a card game tournament looks like.
To do this, the researchers would divide the paper’s body into two parts: the first part would be the insight the researchers gained by interviewing and talking to the informant about the activity. By using the guide questions as the questions asked to the informant, the researchers hoped that it would help enlighten both the researchers and the readers of the nature of the event being observed.
The second part would focus more on the researcher’s’ own reflections and observation of the event. Using the guide questions provided, the researchers would attempt to show the card game tournament as how they saw, felt, and experienced the card tournament.
And finally, in the paper’s conclusion, the researchers would like to combine both their own observation and the gathered information from the informant and state the researchers’ final words and reflections on the ethnographic fieldwork as a whole.
Our informant is a Fortress Tourney regular Rich Montejo. He has been playing Weiss in the tournament scene for the last few years. A well known person in the community, for he is deeply involved in the card trading scene as well. He has meet up and traded with many people, that it cemented him as one of the most reliable middleman in the community. It is a usual sight to seem him in tourneys, as well the transactions that happen around him. The most important info I’ve garnered from him is how tight-knit the card gaming community is. That it is likely that the tourney regulars of one shop to know people. who are regulars, in others. As well as the likelihood of being aware of a person’s deck and playstyle just by word of reputation. That with the utterance of a name a person active in the competitive scene can already imagine how one reaches his/her demise.
The researcher’s own observation of the event
For one, I have absolutely no idea about what I was getting myself into during the tournament for I have no past experience of joining a card game tournament before in my life. So I just let Marx do the talking for me when we arrived at the place where the card game tournament was being held. When we met our informant, Rich, for this ethnographic fieldwork, I simply shook his hand and also the owner of Fortress( a card shop) and the manager of the tournament, Sir Edzel. After shaking hands with the both of them, I found myself a seat and watched the other players who’re already there play either vanguard or weiss.
The place was actually quite small, for my expectations. I thought we would be playing on a place like a convention center or a sports complex. Instead, the convention was held at an events room on a Bacolod Chicken Inasal restaurant. The vanguard tournament would start after the weiss tournament, so I had a lot of free time to prepare for the tournament and to observe the other vanguard players as well.
While waiting for the start of the weiss tournament, I came across two other vanguard players also waiting for the start of the tournament. I asked for permission to sit beside them and watch for a while. While watching, I can’t help but feel a bit worried and excited because this was my first ever tournament and the people I watched playing seemed really good at handling their decks, whereas I just started playing vanguard about three months ago. But, I also feel excited because I can finally experience the thrill and fun of being able to compete on a proper tournament and be rewarded should I be able to win.
As the players were finishing their game, I inquired one of them if I can play with one of them after their game was over. As I moved to the other side of the table to play, I placed my deck on the table because I haven’t bought a proper deck matt yet. As I expected, I lost against my opponent, but to my credit the margin of his victory wasn’t really that huge.
Even though I lost, I’m still glad because it wasn’t a counted match for the tournament and I also gained experience on what kind of decks and what playstyle people who joins tournaments uses. I also get to know new people as well, being introverted and all, socializing is pretty difficult for me. And, as we finished playing, Sir Edzel announced that it was time for the weiss tournament to start, so we immediately vacated the table we were playing on to give room for the weiss players.
Being bored, I went out of the room from where the tournament was being held and ordered a meal, the place being Bacolod Chicken Inasal. Because I really don’t have much money after paying 300 pesos for the entrance fee for the tournament, I chose a simple meal of Daing na Bangus with rice. Still, this being a restaurant, I still spent more money on food than I should have, and the food itself tastes nothing special compared to the average Daing na Bangus.
As the tournament began, I was able to get my freebies for joining the tournament as I returned, and I was also able to view them. Unfortunately, none of the freebies that I got were useful for my deck but I still kept them, just in case someone may buy it to me. As I was putting them on my deck box, the announcement on who’s gonna fight who were posted on the door.
After checking for the table and name of my first opponent for the tournament. I didn’t immediately found my opponent. But after a few minutes of searching I finally found him and sat beside him. As the tournament began, I was able to win my first match, but lost the next two games. My fourth match was an automatic win because the person I was supposed to play with didn’t want to play anymore. My last match was another loss, unfortunately. Still, I had enjoyed the tournament even though I lost most of the matches I played. After each game, I would shake hands with my opponents and congratulate them and also talk about other topics with them.
Unsurprisingly, beginning of the tourney is not on schedule. Fortress’ owner, Sir Edzel, the host of the tournament allots some extra time for the event regulars to arrive. Philippine time, it seems, is also a sickness of the competitive card game scene. So when I and John arrived, we are greeted with a calm atmosphere contrary to the nervousness welling up inside me. This is the first tourney I am to attend in an unusual venue without my usual contacts into the community. Rich Montejo, while I am an acquaintance of, is not a person that usually goes with me to these events, but my schedule cannot compromise, and besides I want to learn about another place I can play competitive Weiss in anyway.
After composing myself, I immediately scouted out Rich and introduced him to John Carlo. Rich asked me if John’s deck is something he helped make (because apparently everyone in my card gaming circle acquisitioned majority of their cards using Rich as a middle-man Rich). I told him that John played Vanguard not Weiss. Then I ask him if he helped build Vanguard decks, but he replied in negation to both questions, because, as he told me, he has washed away all of his involvement in Cardfight Vanguard. Rich gave me the missing piece of my deck: a copy of Kaleidoscope Illya, then left for he wanted to play some Weiss with his acquaintances in the venue.
When Rich went of, I unsleeved a card from my deck and replaced it with the card Rich gave to me. I then incessantly shuffled my deck until the beginning of the tourney. In Weiss, the luck of which cards come out at the right time is supremely important. Example, if in early game all of the cards you drew were level 2s and above, then that would mean you don’t have anything to play at your current level of 0. Another example is that if all of your climax cards (the cards that cancel damage if revealed on damage checks) come out of the deck early on, then that would mean you would be receiving all the damage of your opponent’s attacks, thereby placing you closer to the dreaded level 4 lose condition. Afterwards, I wandered around to where John was. Seeing that he was getting along with other Vanguard players, I went to the match Rich was watching. It was a Re: Zero against Sword Art Online fight. The fight was intense with the Re: Zero player having a level 3 early played on level 2 with the SAO player about to level up to 3 But before the fight could even reach the final level, the awaited player arrives and Sir Edzel announced the start of the tourney.
In the tourney, I performed poorly with a record of 0-3, three losses and zero wins. The first game put me in the unfortunate situation of dying before I could play my level three turn. In the second game, I could not damage my opponent sufficiently to place him inside my kill range before the beginning of my level three turn. I was summarily executed when after my offensive ran out of steam. The last fight was close: I placed my opponent unto level three with two damages remaining to level 4, but he canceled all three of my attacks, and finished me off the next turn.
All in all, though my performance is subpar, I still adhere to the view that the going through the entire event was enjoyable. The people were polite and homely with affectionate insults of a friendly manner being thrown towards each other. Win or lose, people just laughed it off, and even celebrated when they were subjected to a very punishing combo. In the end of a fight, everyone would share words of cordiality “good game”, “G.G.”, “nice fight”, and the like. There is also this experience of utter tensions and focus when fighting in a tourney. That unlike a casual game, each move is more thought out and under stressful conditions.
- What insights were gained from participation compared to just observing?
The insights we gained while we participated on the activity being observed compared to just simply sitting on the event and watching were the thrill of the game, the drive to win, and the fun of playing card games. By simply observing a card game match, one can’t feel the excitement of the game as one draws either a very good hand or a very bad one, or even the feeling of drawing that one game changing card that’ll turn the entire game to your favor. Also, if one merely observes the event, one won’t experience the drive of the players to win the match and the happiness of winning the game or the disappointment of losing it. And finally, to fully know the joy of something, in this instance card games, one must also play it to experience for himself/herself the joys of the game.
- What did having a key informant add to your understanding?
The heavy trade and transaction culture that occurs at card game tournaments. If Rich were not my informant, I would have no reason to partake in the heavy trade cultures that occurs in the tournament itself. The reason why we believe so, is because you need to know the people there or have someone, who knows the people there, in order to effectively transact between each player.
- What was learned from participant observation at this event that a questionnaire or interview about it might miss?
A questionnaire or an interview can’t quantify nor an answer to it fully explain and describe the feeling of playing the game itself. A questionnaire or interview would also miss the struggles within the players on how they would be able to utilize the hand given to them to their advantage in order to win.
- For what purposes might a questionnaire or interview be better than participant observation?
An interview or questionnaire would have allowed us to gain information from a greater number of people. A single person is limited to how many people he/she can interact, and a survey does not suffer as much from this limitation of quantity.
- Using our cafeteria observation exercise as reference, what insights did you gain about Philippine society and culture from the event that you observed and participated in?
An important part of Philippine society is relationships or connections. The competitive card gaming scene emphasizes this. The event also showed us the openness of Filipinos towards strangers, as even though I(John Carlo) was new to the tournament, the people there treated me quite well and I didn’t felt that I was a stranger to them that much. It is also clearly seen that capital standing is heavily involved in the community, for one cannot get the desired if one does not have sufficient money, or cards to use for trade.
Weiss Schwarz Official English Website. Bushiroad.
http://ws-tcg.com/en/wp/wp-content/uploads/WeissSchwarz_comprehensive_rules_v1.71-2017.pdf. Accessed 1, May 2017.
Cardfight Vanguard Official English Website. Bushiroad.
http://cf-vanguard.com/en/howto/pdf/vg_playbook_web.pdf. Accessed 1, May 2017.