Episode #5 – How to Lose Like a Champion

I was not a fan of last week’s episode of The Random Ramblings of Raspberry Eyes.  As I read my favorite weekly column on the best damn KeyForge website on the internet, I was not intrigued, amused, or excited in any way, shape, or form.  It felt like the whole time I was reading it that the author had just cashed it in for the week, regaling us all in great detail about how he was able to spend some time and ultimately some money on obtaining some new competitive decks.  That’s just something that aspiring competitive players do! It’s nothing unique or special, yet there I was, reading about a player doing some comparison shopping instead of offering up their usual genius intellect on all things KeyForge.  For such a prolific writer, it was a rare and uncharacteristic misplay…

Hello and welcome one and all to this week’s edition of The Random Ramblings of Raspberry Eyes!  I’m your host, the affable madcap Raspberry Eyes, and in this episode, we are going to take a look at what it means to be in the spirit of true competition.  No, I’m not going to dissect various aspects of organized play, and I’m not even going to discuss the various differences between casual and competitive formats.  Instead, I’m going to look at something that isn’t entirely unique to this unique card game, and that is what it means to be a truly great player in every sense of the word, and not just on the leaderboards.

Inevitably, I feel that this conversation centering around sportsmanship and camaraderie amongst card players needs to begin the cesspool of negativity that is the internet.  Don’t get me wrong, the enhancements and transformative card playing experiences created for this game specifically through the use of various online components is nothing short of transcendent (believe me, I wrote a whole article on the importance of online play), but we all know that the internet wouldn’t be complete without an abundance of trolling lunatics who have nothing better to do than cause problems where problems don’t need to exist.  I could continue this diatribe about how pathetic it would be to go through existence as one of these low-level plague rats, but that isn’t really where I want this piece to go. Instead, I want to focus on the most controversial aspect of playing KeyForge on The Crucible Online…the obligatory match-ending “GG” (that stands for “Good Game” for those of you living in oblivion).

If you are participating in any type of competitive event, when that event reaches its climax, it is a customary portion of that event to offer your opponent a handshake.  This happens in professional athletics and it happens in one-on-one card games such as KeyForge. I have never been to a competitive event where I haven’t at least attempted to show good sportsmanship, and while the same can’t always be said about my opponent, it still symbolizes that a game is still a game, even if frustration and loss may be involved.  If one participant in a competition exhibits this show of character and their rival neglects to acknowledge it, that only reflects poorly upon the other individual and all of those in attendance will see this first-hand.

The dilemma when playing KeyForge on TCO is a two-fold situation.  Many players feel slighted when a player loses, concedes, or straight up leaves a game without offering those simple two letters.  If a player in a live event would simply stand up, scoop their cards, and walk away without saying anything, it would be beyond socially awkward, yet playing online always carries with it both a sense of anonymity and dehumanization.  It is very easy to forget you are playing against another human being somewhere in the world without that physical face-to-face interaction, but if you are aware of the faux pas of not offering that show of sportsmanship, you should make a point of saying at least that much before leaving your game and moving onto the next.

Now, the complete flip-side of this, and the part of this missed exchange that is inherently more annoying than the lack of communication that instigated it is when a player feels that their being slighted is such a travesty that they need to put that player on blast so that everyone knows about what a horrible monster they just faced.  If you really think about this one, it would be the real-life equivalent of offering a handshake in the spirit of competition, your opponent denying the handshake and walking away, and you yelling and screaming about how this person refused to shake your hand. This would be complete and utter social insanity, making you appear infinitely more unhinged than your slightly disrespectful opponent, yet this is commonplace over on the TCO message boards, so much so that I felt the need to ramble about it!

Before I start to lose anybody at this point, mainly because people are going to think I might be a bit off my own rocker if I feel that this type of thing is important, I do have a point that I want to get at, and that is the fact that I feel the KeyForge community can ultimately become what all card communities aspire to be.  I have read other pieces detailing amazingly positive experiences for people of all types, and that is something that isn’t always prevalent in some other toxic card playing environments. I just feel that as positive human beings, if we have the power to fix a small and seemingly insignificant part of online play that can make the KeyForge environment an even more inviting place to play this great game, then why not fix it, right?  I haven’t personally met or played against an individual in this game that I didn’t enjoy playing against in any win, lose, or draw scenario, and while I know that those expectations become heightened a little bit when the stakes are increased, one can still be competitive and both a gracious winner or loser.

Which brings me to the crux of this entire article, and that is how do you lose graciously in a game that relies upon at least a modicum of luck?  Any competitive card gamer knows that misplays happen from time to time, hindsight is always perfect when looking back on what cards you should have held onto or played sooner, and sometimes the exact card you need to stave off defeat is the last card in the deck and you just can’t get to it.  These things happen and it’s all part of the game, but learning to lose like a champion is a skill unto itself. As an educator myself, I know that the only way to truly learn and grow is through failure and mistakes, and this mentality applies to KeyForge just like it does in any other focus. But just because an individual such as myself can claim to be mightier than thou with my divine words of wisdom doesn’t mean I heed to them in each and every matchup.  Let me regale you with a tale from earlier on in my KeyForge playing career…

I recall I was getting slaughtered in the matchup and had no answers and nothing even available to hope for remaining in my deck.  I wasn’t playing a very strong deck, so I was initially okay with it as it was what it was, but I felt I should finish out the game and let my opponent taste victory nonetheless.  With a controlling interest in the board state, my opponent was more than capable of finishing the game up, and they knew full well that they had me beat. Yet, instead of doing anything to gain aember, they proceeded to pick off the few creatures I was able to play and refused to reap with the remaining creatures.  Keep in mind, I had no way of stopping them and they were well aware of that fact. So, I played a few more cards and passed my turn, and my opponent proceeded to make the same type of plays, destroying my insignificant board of creatures and declining to reap for the victory. At this point, I was slightly befuddled and typed an eloquent message of “???” to my opponent, but I received no response in return.  I proceeded to go through the motions for a few more turns, but eventually, I decided to simply leave the game without so much as a parting thought…and this is the ONLY time I have ever not offered up the proverbial digital handshake of “GG”.

Why did this particular instance stick with me after playing 600+ games of KeyForge online?  Well, I think it was just the mean-spiritedness of the entire experience. While it would have been more than a sweet victory had I been able to find an answer hidden somewhere within my deck to level the playing field and give my opponent a loss, we both knew that was a relative impossibility with the current state of the game, thus creating another noxious situation that would seem absolutely absurd were it to take place in a physical space.  And I believe that is the finality of the point I am attempting to make, at least as it pertains to online KeyForge etiquette: if you wouldn’t do it in a real-life matchup due to it creating complete social awkwardness, then don’t attempt it in any type of online forum. In the education world a predicament such as this would fall into the subject area of digital citizenship, which is a skill an entire generation of individuals seemingly missed out on, so while the current generation maybe lacking in those particular social abilities, at least there is a hope that the next generation will pick up the slack.

But yet again, I seem to be digressing away from the topic of this week’s article, and that is how do you go about losing like a winner?  The above story continues to resonate with me because I feel like I didn’t accept defeat, even if my adversary was being a complete and utter toolbag, but with this game sometimes it can be quite difficult to admit you are beat.  Oddly enough, I took a break from writing this article last night to play a few rounds of competitive KeyForge and was faced with this quandary firsthand, almost as if the Archons of the Crucible created some type of simulated divine intervention to make me walk the path I was attempting to pave.

I ended up playing a trio of games, and the first two could not have gone any better…for my opponent.  All three games were played using my latest deck addition, Elwood T. Cullassa, the Third, a fun little AoA number with decent stats and a solid amount of raw aember, both of which are things I look for in competitive decks, but I just have over 20 games played with this particular deck so I am not fully intune with its full capabilities.  In the first round, I went up against what looked to be a solid deck and proceeded to Shadows stomp me right out of the gate, beginning with a first turn Treasure Map and culminating in Shadows being called for another four turns, all of which involved stealing and creature destruction that I had no answers for.  I never gained a foothold, but was determined to play the game out, and while waiting for my next turn I did some digging and found out that not only did my opponent obtain some amazing draws out of the gate (which they whole-heartedly admitted to), but this deck happened to be a 98 SAS monstrosity to boot, which made it a tough task regardless of what was drawn.  But like I attempt to do in most of my games, I conversed with my opponent and laughed off the inevitable loss while trying to make the matchup appear slightly closer than it actually was, which is all you can do sometimes, and the game was still fun because of that effort.

In round number two, I went up against one of the wackiest combo decks I have ever played against, which happened to fire on every cylinder it had to comic effect when I reflect back on it.  I started the game and had a split hand of Dis and Shadows, aside for my one lonely Untamed card…the Duskwitch! I immediately thought that this matchup might move in a slightly different direction, and I knew by dropping the Duskwitch my opponent would have to deal with it or face serious repercussions.  Well, long story short, they dealt with it quite handedly with a first turn Collar of Subordination, followed by a barrage of turn one Dis creatures all coming in ready to reap. And while I did end up dealing with the Duskwitch after a few turns, the damage had been done and I was too far behind to catch up, and that goes without mentioning the BRIG combo that hit…twice, along with The Sting played within the first few turns.  In the end, I think my opponent ended up with an extra 30+ aember in their pool when they forged their final key, but the truly fun part was that I was still able to put myself at check for my own third key and would have had a play at victory if my Miasma had not been one of the last three cards in my deck. Yet, even in what appeared to be a horrific defeat, playing it out and being a good sport about the whole experience not only made the game fun but the back-and-forth with my rival was also quite entertaining (he explained to me that he tried to explain the Collared Duskwitch situation to his girlfriend since it was such a wild occurrence.

Well, I decided to push my luck with a third and final matchup, and I ended up playing well and finding a victory in a moderately close matchup.  After my three game experience, I found that far and away the easiest way to graciously lose in KeyForge is to just win the game outright, ha! But if that is not an option, it doesn’t hurt to still give it the old college try, even if the odds are not in your favor, and just have fun with the absurdities that transpire in this game.  Your opponents will usually view you as someone they would be willing to play against in the future, and not just because they see you as an easy mark and way to exponentially increase their leaderboard standings, but because you are playing the game as it should be played…for fun.

And I think that is where I was aiming to get to with this entire episode, even if I may have taken the scenic route to get there.  This game was created to be a fun experience for all involved, and if at any point you find yourself failing to live up to that common goal, then take a step back and maybe even break away from the game for a bit of time.  It is still going to be there when you are centered and ready to give it another go, and it will probably be a much more enjoyable experience this time around. The same should be said for those upper echelon players that continue to perform well in their respective regions of organized play, whom I would hope that many of which would echo my sentiments for good sportsmanship, but outside of the KeyForge community, there aren’t going to be a lot of people who even know what your accomplishments mean in the slightest, so make sure that you are being the absolute greatest champion you can be, in every facet imaginable.

Like I tend to do every week, I’m hoping that at least one person out there gleaned some valuable little nuggets of wisdom from my diatribe of wordplay, as that would make this whole adventure very worthwhile for me as a writer.  I would love to get some feedback on this piece or any of the other episodes of my column, which you can conveniently find on-demand at the Archons Corner website, and I will be back next week with a brand new take on something KeyForge-related!  And with that, I’m Raspberry Eyes, signing off and reminding you all to ramble on!

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