With the Wizkids European Open quickly approaching, I’ve been interested in preparing an article on a topic that is often vastly underestimated when it comes to tournaments: caring for yourself. With how long it can take to come up with a team, tweak it, test it, practice with it, it can be easy to get so caught up in preparing your team that you don’t prepare yourself for the grind of the actual tournament.
Remember that major Dice Masters tournaments involve both Swiss rounds and a Top Cut. You will end up playing a lot of games, especially if you make Top 8 or better. To illustrate, not counting the side events and drafts, I played a total of 13 games during the recent World Championships. If you add up everything, I probably played nearly 30 games over the whole weekend. Which is nuts.
So in this context, what can you do to get ready for this? Well, I am going to split this into three sections: nutrition, health and readiness. I won’t make this into a giant wall of text. Rather, I want to provide direct, pointed advice that will hopefully help you.
Before I begin, a few disclaimers:
-I am not a doctor or a nutritionist. What I provide here is information that I share from my personal experience. If you want specific dietary or health advice, talk to a professional.
-Most of what I will share here is common sense, and I claim no ownership or originality here.
-I don’t claim to follow my own advice. A lot of this stuff, I still need to kick my own butt to do it consistently, and several of these are mistakes that I have done in the recent or not-so-recent past.
If you want a “tl;dr” of the whole article, it would be: take care of yourself at least as intensely as you fine-tune your team. But with that said, let’s look at some details.
Ok, I know this is going to cause some people to roll their eyes, but yes, what you put in your body is important to get yourself ready. Obviously, different bodies and metabolisms need different things, and you know your body best. But when you’re in the middle of a tournament, you won’t always realize what you need. You will have to make conscious decisions or you will end up hurting your chances.
-First, and most important: stay hydrated! Drink water frequently, whether through a water bottle or otherwise. Coffee may help you stay awake and alert, but it will not help you with hydration. And if you’re dehydrated, you’ll be far worse off than if you lack caffeine.
–Bring your own lunch/snacks if possible! Or, if you can’t, try to eat healthy (or healthy-ish). I’m not going to dictate what foods you should or shouldn’t be eating, as again, you know your own body best. But at game stores and conventions, the food is generally…less than healthy. I think we can all agree that snacking on fruit or a granola bar is a better idea than buying a bag of chips. This will obviously be harder if you’re going out of town for a tournament, but in those cases, a short trip to the grocery store when you arrive in town may well be a worthwhile investment (thanks jbouwme for helping me and jourdo with that during Worlds!).
–Don’t skip your usual meals. This is one that hit me hard during Worlds. On Saturday, I ate breakfast, then ate a granola bar, then nothing until the last round of Swiss. When I did finally eat (admittedly a pretty rich meal), my body went bonkers. As my 6th round opponent (and those around) can attest, everything was going a mile a minute and I was completely out of whack for a good half-hour. Learn from my mistake: Keep your usual eating habits as closely as possible during the tournament. That’s true even if you don’t feel hungry; you may well be having a rush of adrenaline, and your body won’t tell you that you’re hungry. You should still eat.
Ok, what you eat (or don’t) matters. But that’s not all that your body needs. In this section, I want to briefly go over a few ways you can make sure your mind stays sharp to make the right decisions.
-Preserve your energy. Sure, you may be fired up and ready to go when you start the day, but as a tournament goes on, especially during Top Cut, you can easily run out of juice. I will give some specifics under “Readiness”, but in general, it’s a good idea to avoid wasting energy and to recover where possible. A quick nap between games during Top Cut is not a bad idea. Heck, even if you can’t sleep, close your eyes and try to clear your mind, even if only for 10 minutes. It helps.
-Speaking of naps, do not underestimate the power of sleep. Especially the night before a tournament. You don’t want to arrive at a tournament sleep-deprived, as you will be unable to concentrate, and your play, obviously, will suffer.
–Don’t consider things that are outside of your control, like match-ups. Too much readiness can be just as bad as not being prepared at all. Say you have 5 potential opponents with the same record as you, and you consider your plan for all 5 opponents. You’ve just wasted precious energy on 4 of those plans (remember my previous tip on preserving energy). On top of this, not worrying about potential match-ups will help with stress. Personally, I am very, very bad at this. At Worlds, I ended up consciously staying away from other people’s matches to avoid speculating. (Sorry if that made some people think I was antisocial!) You will have more than enough time to consider your actual opponent’s strategy when you’re sitting across from them.
Ok, we’ve briefly gone over eating, drinking, and generally taking care of yourself. But these things are only part of the puzzle. You can also make your life substantially easier by preparing in advance. Here are some general hints:
–Do not tweak your team the night before a major tournament. Unless you absolutely, positively just discovered a way to completely change the meta, your team should be set by then. I personally try not to tweak my team past 7-8 PM the evening before the tournament. This gives you a chance to wind down.
-Likewise, do not practice with your team the night before an event. You should be done with your practice by then. Same reasoning. Remember: the only thing you should do the night before the event is sleep.
-Seeing as you won’t be mentally focusing on your team, the evening before the event, you can prepare your food, your drinks, your team, etc. so that when you get up, you can just pick things up and go. It sounds small, but preparing your stuff in advance will help you relax on the morning of the event. It also helps prevent mistakes.
-What also helps prevent mistakes: with some of that extra time, double-check your team before you go to the tournament. Trust me: from experience, you do not want to run back to your home/hotel to pick up a f*&#!ng Doomcaliber Knight die because yours has the wrong collector’s number. And of course, everyone knows about my forgetfulness at Canadian Nationals last year. So in short: take your time and make sure you get all of those pieces ready.
And there you have it, folks. As I said at the beginning, a fair amount of this is common sense, but common sense gets surprisingly rare during these types of events. Hopefully you’ve all found something interesting to keep in mind.
And to all of our European friends heading to Slovakia, I wish you all the best of luck on this weekend’s Wizkids European Open. Have fun, everyone!