The Learning Curve – Casual Play for a Competitive Edge – Aaron Cantu

Aaron Cantu (1)
by Aaron Cantu

Casually Competitive – Keeping the Edge Sharp Through Casual Play

It’s New Year’s Eve and, like many others, I am reflecting on the year that passed. 2017 was a very up and down year for me in terms of both my Heroclix and personal life. On the down side of my personal life, I experienced some deaths in my family; tumultuous times at work; a struggle with depression; and just your average day to day issues. On the up side of things, I made a few new friends; my son started school; my girlfriend got a promotion; and my year stabilized towards the end of the year. Throughout all that, the one constant thing I had was a good casual group for local play. In the past, I have not been very active playing in my local community as I used to judge and really only travel and play competitive events. This year, I made a conscious effort to make it out and support my local stores more and try and build a stronger local play-group. What I found was that the more I played and had fun locally, the sharper my overall game became. In this article, I will examine the benefits of playing casually and how they can improve your competitive game.

 Originality/Creativity in Team-Building

 The first, and perhaps most obvious thing that you will experience in casual play is more diverse team builds. Casual play often includes players using their favorite characters rather than the most obviously efficient pieces. For Example, I went to a local event with a team centered around Wyrm from the TMNT: Shredder’s Return set. I knew Wyrm would be a lot of fun to play because of his Wish Tokens. What I didn’t expect was how effective he could be in a competitive environment. With the help of Pat, I was able to take him very far in competitive play at Origins, winning a Grinder event and qualifying for the Final Day of the 2017 Heroclix World Championships. On a similar note, the first time I ever saw a Quinjet played was in a local 4 player battle royale type event. After seeing it in action without ID cards, I tweaked a team, collaborated with Easton Brock and he piloted it to the first ever Quinjet win at an ROC Super Q. Sometimes we need to be shown things outside of our normal scope in order to believe they can succeed.

Familiarity with the Rules

As I played more and more casual events, I started to realize I was fielding a lot of rules questions from my play group. What surprised me was how often I answered, “I don’t know.” Prior to the rulebook change in August, I considered myself pretty well versed in the rules of this game. I became humbled as I learned a lot of very unique interactions with different characters and abilities that I had not known about previously. This knowledge can come in quite handy in competitive events when you can pull tricks out of your hat that your opponent didn’t know about. This is doubly true now that we have a new rulebook and updated Powers and Abilities Card. The best way I can recommend people get familiar with all of the rules of this game is by playing often and asking questions.

 It’s Like Muscle Memory

If you are familiar with my other articles, you might know that I don’t often play-test teams. One thing that I took for granted (and likely still do) is how much practicing will improve your play. When people talk about practicing, they usually are referring to playing your expected team over and over to know how you intend it to be used. While this is true, what I found is that playing often in my local playgroup had me reminding others to do things like rolling for leadership at the beginning of their turns. Because of my want to teach my local players and improve their game, I found that I forget the small nuances less often in my own competitive games. Because of this, I was able to win 2 out of 3 ROC events I played in this year and just barely miss out on the top cut at Origins. I also went far in the WKO events I played at. Further, I had the confidence to play things outside of what the normal competitive teams were at the time.

 How Can I further this Next Year?

When I look at my 2017 for Heroclix in retrospect, I played way more than I did in 2016 and with better results. 2015 was my breakout year in competitive Heroclix, picking up my biggest win at the Majestix Regional and then being top 16 at Origins. I traveled and played a lot of competitive events that year, but only won one. If I compare 2015 to 2017, the results are similar in competitive play, but the frequency of competitive events is down in 2017. This shows me that the high frequency of local events kept my tools sharp and even added some new tools to my toolbox.

 Moving forward, I plan to challenge myself to play “non-meta” figures locally in hopes to grow my overall game and perhaps bring me more success in 2018. I encourage you to do the same. I also plan to make more friends playing clix, as that was really one of my favorite things about 2017. I made a lot of new friends who have done a lot for me and I hope this trend continues as well.

I hope you all had a great 2017 and an even better 2018.

Until the new year,

Thanks for reading.