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Learning the Force: from a padawan's perspective

If someone would have told me 2 years ago that I would be playing a trading card game I would have never believed them. I have never had any interest in gaming. Around 1996 my older brother went off to college and started playing Magic: The Gathering competitively. I thought it was interesting, but I never took the time to learn it because I was never really into the idea of it. Then, spring of 2002 comes along, and I am in a different chapter in my life. I am now living on my own, out of high school and absolutely nothing to do in my free time. One of my roommates at the time was into the old Star Wars CCG from Decipher. He tried to teach it to me, and it was boring and very confusing. He told me about this new game coming out from Wizards of the Coast and it involved dice. I knew that he was going to buy some cards and since I thought it would be fun if all of us could play together, I went ahead and bought some cards of my own. I had so much fun! We would stay up late every night, sometimes until four in the morning just playing cards. I remember countless nights trying to sleep because I had to get up early in the morning for work and all I could hear were dice pounding the table. It was a game and hobby that I could have fun with but at the same time work hard at becoming better at. Attack of the Clones had so many cards that were just fun to play and easy to make decks with. With every set that followed, our other friends began playing and with each set after that they just became more and more competitive.

In November 2002, there was the first Star Wars TCG Teams Tournament. I was so nervous going into it. I had never played any card games or participated in any tournaments. We showed up in Sedalia and I was the only girl playing in the tournament that day. From that moment on, I knew that I had to prove myself. When the tournament was finally over, our team had won! I knew that I could take the game to a more serious and competitive level and still have fun with it. About that time, we started to hear about all of the qualifiers coming up for the World Championships. I knew that we had to go and try our luck. For the next few months, every Friday night we would hold tournaments in our apartment to practice. For the most part I was doing okay but I knew that I had to spend more time with the game and become more comfortable building decks on my own.

As the Tulsa, OK qualifier was approaching we started playtesting daily and figuring out what decks worked best. At the time, we only had Attack of the Clones, Sith Rising and A New Hope to work with. I had trouble making quality decks that worked well for me. Making the 6-hour drive to Tulsa was so exciting for me. When I got there it was very overwhelming. At the last minute I decided to play decks that someone else made and I didn't know the decks that well. I had only playtested the decks a few times and they were great decks but at the time I didn't have the play skill to manipulate the cards to work in my favor. After finishing somewhere near 40th place, out of 50 something, I was discouraged with the game in general.

At the beginning of March I had another chance at qualifying. When we arrived in Collinsvile, everyone was talking about Battle of Yavin coming out within the next couple of weeks. This was exciting for me, because I knew that Battle of Yavin would be another chance for me to learn how to make decks on another level and incorporate new cards with cards that I already knew how to play well. Many people who had played at the Tulsa qualifier were also playing at the Collinsville qualifier. It was refreshing to see so many faces that I knew. Once again I took decks that someone else had made for me. The dark side that I had decided to play was one that we had made the night before in the hotel and I had never play tested. When playing in Collinsville, there were many solid decks. It was very enjoyable and I learned a lot at the same time. I did manage to do a lot better. I placed somewhere around 15th I think. I was feeling a lot more confident but I still had not qualified nor were there any more qualifiers scheduled near us.

In the middle of March, Battle of Yavin came out and made the game a lot more interesting. There were quite a few cards that became key to put into most decks. Also there were plenty of cards that just made some decks more fun to play. My light side deck at the time became practically unbeatable with the addition of the Rebel Armored Freerunner and Luke's X-wing (B). Battle of Yavin helped me learn the skill of becoming more familiar with cards from earlier sets to see how well they would tie in with the new cards. At the same time, it was disappointing because I knew these cards would help my decks but there were not any qualifiers in the area.

Around mid to late April, word spread that the gaming store, Gamers Pair-a-Dice, was going to be holding a qualifier in Sedalia, MO. This was only 2 hours away and I knew that this was my only chance to qualify. By this time, a lot of people knew that I was one of the very few females in the game that have actually taken the game to a competitive level. I knew that I had to prove to myself and everyone else that I was good enough to make it to the top 4. It was scary because I definitely felt a lot of pressure to do well. I knew that I had made the mistake at the first two qualifiers of playing decks that other people had made for me and that I was not that familiar with. The light side Rebel deck that I had together had only become stronger with the new Battle of Yavin cards. So I was very comfortable with the deck and very confident with it. The dark side deck had been giving me problems for a while. I made the deck with extremely strong cards but they didn't work well together and it seemed to fall apart in every game. Going in to the qualifier I was very focused and ready to play. When they posted the first pairings, all I could do was laugh—I was dealt a bye for the first round. The hour of waiting for the first round to finish was torture. I played a friendly game against someone in the store to ease the tension. By the end of the tournament I wound up only losing one match and placed 2nd. On the 2 hour drive home was so excited and proud of myself. I knew that I had a lot ahead of me as far as the Championships go.

Starting in June we began playtesting for 4 or 5 hours every day to prepare for the Championships. I started playing only decks that I made, knowing that I do better in that situation. It was tough because we didn't hold any local tournaments so we were basically talking to everyone online and playtesting amongst ourselves. Going in to it I found a Rebel deck that was very strong and mostly unbeatable. With my light side being so strong, dark side once again was my biggest problem. When Jedi Guardians came out two and a half weeks before the Championships, I was interested to see how it would change the game. After reading all the cards and debating what I thought most people would be playing, I decided to only add new cards into my existing decks. To the Rebel Deck, I added Yoda (E), and R2-D2 (E) for prevention. Forward Command Center and Republic Communications Tower to make the ground that much stronger.

Two weeks before leaving for Indianapolis I decided on a dark side. I was going to play Tuskens. I decided this because I do really well playing the Rebels and I like the way most cards affect other cards in each arena. The Tuskens do mainly the same things Rebels do but on the dark side. With Jedi Guardians also came the RIC-920 droid. This made the Tuskens unstoppable. Their main flaw before this set was they were too slow. Now not only are they strong but they all go first. I knew that after deciding on those two decks I was ready to play in the Championships.

In my next article, I'll discuss more discoveries, discussion, game play and a wrap up of my experience of the World Championships.