Handling Negativity: Regionals/Nationals/Worlds
Hello and good tidings everyone, I am the AlphonZeus, and welcome back to another article on handling negativity. This time, I will expand on the concept by talking about this skill in attending the upper echelons of competitive play. This will be the level of regionals, nationals, and worlds tournaments. Here, the level heightens the expectations and skill levels of players you will face off against. You will encounter many different personalities and skill sets in these tournaments, far more than any local tournament. However, in reading this article, I assume you have or will be attending local tournaments to generate practice and discipline. This consistent practice will prepare yourself for competing in higher levels for higher stakes in tournaments. So now that you have arrived at your first big tournament, how do you handle the negativity that is presented to you? I'll first be talking about your own negativity, and then that of your opponents'. Finally, I will talk about how to handle negativity among your group of friends.
First, before you handle any sort of negativity from outside, you must know how to handle yourself when you feel negative. This negativity can happen from any instance: a bad game, a bad judge call, or simply just a mistake. These bad feelings can be hard to overcome because you feel that you were either wronged or made a bad move that cost you the match. You must learn how to get over it and assess your plan for the next time that the situation arises. In a match, you do not have all the information all the time when you need to make your optimal play. Hindsight is always 20/20, but it’s 20/20 because someone told you about an opponent’s card on drive check that you should have remembered, or your opponent damage checked a trigger that shut off your offense. These spoilers all contributed to the hindsight bias.
In a tournament, you cannot expect yourself to be running a sprint -- it's a marathon. I mean that if you push yourself too hard, you can overthink yourself to the point of making mistakes. I remember some of my tournament runs being cut short because of critical mistakes that cost me the game. The first four rounds of any high stakes tournament, I went all in on ensuring that I could make the right plays and my opponent could not counter them. However, once I have reached round five and beyond, my focus started to drain. I started becoming more negative because each loss was just another sign that I wasted my time. It was pretty depressing at times, but I tried to not show it to my friends. There were times that I did, but the way that I expressed those times were compounded with lessons learned from each round. Sometimes the pain of making mistakes is enough incentive to make them because you will likely never forget to make that mistake again in the next round or tournament.
One suggestion I can make is to keep a log of the tournament. I would carry with me a small notebook or even just write it on a notepad app in my smartphone after every round. I would not only write down whether I lost or not, but also other details as well, such as:
1. Was the player someone I know?
2. What was the deck piloted?
3. Was there any mistake they made, or I made that swung the game?
This type of reflection after every match takes the negative feelings about each one and externalizes them into writing. Negativity can affect your mind well after that round is over, and by writing it out, you take that negative thought and expel to a paper or a screen. This can also help you reflect on your tournament experience and return back to it, preparing for the next one. You want to approach every round with a fresher mindset with the lessons learned from the prior round incorporated into your efforts.
Another suggestion in handling negativity yourself is to talk it out with a friend or loved one. If you traveled to a tournament with a friend or a family member, ask them beforehand if you can vent to them in case you feel negative after a round. Sometimes, hearing the advice and support from your friend or loved one can help put things into perspective and realize that the tournament was not a waste of time. Again, this takes the negative feelings and thoughts out of your head and expelling it outside towards someone who can evaluate and help you through.
Next, handling a negative opponent is probably one of the toughest tasks anyone could take on. You are still playing Cardfight!! Vanguard (or any other trading card game), but when an opponent would complain about not hitting triggers or you just happen to top deck a card you needed, you must learn how to deal with it. Negativity can happen to anyone, and anyone can make another person feel negative. Whether it’s Round 1 or the finals, negativity does not discriminate. So, what can you do about it?
First, be cordial and respectful above everything else. Although the tournaments have higher stakes than local tournaments, that does not give the excuse to return that opponent’s negativity with your own. It just creates an infectious and toxic environment. Greet your opponent, shake their hand, and be attentive. Sometimes folks come in after a bad round or a bad commute and it affects their entire day. Others get negative for no good reason other than to throw you off course. And some even fake negativity to exploit your pity and take advantage of you when they want to play their game.
It happens to the best of us and the worst of us, but cordiality and respect help neutralize or even help the opponent to lessen their negativity. At the end of the day, we are players that are looking to have fun and improve our skill. So at least get to know your opponent’s name, ask how they are doing, and wish them good luck. I’m sure that they will at least do the same for you.
However, sometimes handling negative opponents comes in the form of more sinister means. It is unfortunate to say, but there are players out there that are seeking to spread their negativity through exploitation and cheating. Here, we must not only be cordial and respectful, but also vigilant. This negativity is something that will hopefully lessen over time, but it may never be completely eliminated. So, keep track of what your opponent is doing and what information they are seeking. The key theme is to ensure they are complying with the rules just like you are. This is not only a good strategic move to help advance your gameplay further, but it also keeps opponents in check that you are not willing to let their negativity affect the game state or your state of mind.
Some ways of keeping vigilant is to ask for numbers before your opponent starts swinging. You do not want your opponent to start swinging and declaring numbers that you find fishy. By asking this, you are accounting for all the skills the opponent activated and confirming their skills led them to tell you about the power number. This also helps in case you need to call a judge to dispute the number your opponent gave you. For handling possible cheating, there will be a different article regarding that, so I will leave this part for now.
At the end of each match, try to offer a handshake. This is echoing what I mentioned in the local level, but it is all the more important in this context because of the higher stakes. Sometimes players take the higher stakes too seriously, or they “pop off” or showboat after they win. It is easy to react against that type of move, but unless it is excessive or in your face, you have to brush that dirt off your shoulder. It’s kind of the reason why some writers put the more relaxed character as the main character than the one that works super seriously. For example, look at Dragonball Z, where some wonder why Vegeta is not the main character and Goku is. I would agree with the mindset of “When I’m here to work, I’m here to work. If I’m here to have fun, I’m here to have fun.” I see that Goku has that mentality and knows when to flip that switch over. Vegeta is a hallmark of hard work and practice, but even some folks believe he should lighten up a little bit. Going back to trading card games, I believe that having that switch in your mind can help you approach opponents in a different, but respectful way. When you are here to play, you are here to play. But when you see something wrong, you should feel compelled to do something about it. For calling out certain plays or effectively utilizing the judge system to improve the fairness of the game, that will be a different article as well. On the other hand, you should also acknowledge and respond positively for good games. It puts both players at ease when there was a legitimately good game being played, and both players leave the table happy regardless of whoever won or lost.
Finally, there is the negativity among your own playgroup and friends. This is arguably one of the toughest negativity challenges in higher stakes tournaments to handle. The reasoning behind this is that these are your allies, your friends, your comrades. You entered into this hobby together, you playtested and finely tuned your decks together, you win and lose together. However, when addressing negativity, you can come back to your group and then they feel negative after a bad matchup, a bad game, or a bad judge call. This is further complicated if this is not the only time negativity has been brought up.
Probably one of the most key pieces of advice when friends bring up negativity, is to let them vent it out. This would require you to listen and understand where they are coming from. You do not want to dismiss and tell them to not complain, because they decided to bring up the negativity in the friend group for a reason. By hearing them out and then asking them if they are done with their side of the story, you are not only acknowledging their pain, but you are also hearing them out entirely to understand what the main deal is. It is tough when your entire group did not make it past a certain round, or no one topped. That should not keep you from having a good experience.
Once you listen, then I would first ask questions to ensure the foundation is laid to give advice. When a friend would vent about a negative story, there are still some gaps to fill in because of the frustration they experienced after a round ended. So here, you want to ask questions on their particular feelings, and confirm the identity of the stress. After you identify the stress, if applicable, identify ways of dealing with it that don't involve the players at all. Instead, look at the cards that generated the issue, such as a card interaction. With this explanation, you can help take focus off of the players and more on the cards’ rules, applicable erratas, and errors by anonymizing the players. For example, if your friend would argue that the power boost of one card does not happen until after a unit’s battle and their opponent declared a different number, focus on the cards and then bring in the “attacking player” and “defending player” as to what should have went down. At the end of this explanation, ensure your friend has the idea as to what they should do next time if it happens.
We cannot change much about what has happened in the past, yet we do think about those moments very much. However, if we can always extract and associate a lesson with each negative experience, maybe we do not have to worry so much about negativity in general. If everyone could commit to putting in a good, cordial, and fun experience at the higher stakes tournaments, maybe we can get more players to enter. I hope that you found this article enjoyable and that you have some takeaways to incorporate into your own tournament runs. That is all for me, so take care and I will see you all next time!
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