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The Challenge: Organized Play Part 2, Premier Events
Ian Estrin

Last time, you guys only needed a little Black Black gum to get you through the article—you might need the whole pack this week. I’m not saying that I'm boring (at least not horribly), but there is going to be a lot of info in this article. This week, I'll be covering premier events in all their glory. Premier events are such an integral part of Organized Play that entire books can be written on them. I’ll try to sum the highlights up in an article or two (man, I'm already leaning towards additional articles, and I'm not even done with the first paragraph yet). Still got that Word file you started last week? Break it out and lets do some real OP deconstruction this week.

What are premier events? They would best be described as events that go beyond the normal scope of weekly tournaments. They are events that are designed to draw large amounts of players to one place to compete for prizes, rankings, and invites to bigger premier events. These are the events that people aspire to play in and that bring your game to the next level. The premier events that most Yu-Gi-Oh! players are familiar with right now are the Regional and National events, but that will change before the end of this article. Why don’t we take a look at the Granddaddy of 'em all, the World Championships, and see what the path is that you take to get there. Each step after the first is a premier event, so you all should get a good idea of how many different premier events there are just in going to Worlds, and that's only about half of the premier events that we have planned.

The very first step to getting to Worlds is playing in your weekly tournaments at your local store. It is there that you truly learn how to play your Yu-Gi-Oh! or Vs. System deck, play all the various combinations that you have in mind, and develop your strategies. While these weekly tournaments are not premier events, being able to regularly succeed at them is a good indicator that you are ready to step it up to the next level. Winning every week at your local store is fun, but only for a little while. After winning, or even just playing the same people all the time, you are ready to change the setting from time to time and that's where this ladder comes in.


World Championships


National Championships


Regional Championships


State Championships


City Championships


Local Sanctioned Tournaments


There you have it, the six steps that make up the Path to Worlds as it stands right now. There most certainly could be other large-scale events added to this ladder to give people even more opportunities to compete and earn a chance to become World Champion for their game. Lets break down each one and see what it means and how it will get you closer to Worlds.

City Championships – This is the first step beyond your local tournament. It is here that you will see the players from your store that you know, but also the aces from other local stores. If we had to assign arbitrary numerical difficulty ratings to each category, your local tournament might be a 50 out of 100, and the City Championships would probably jump up to the 60–65 range. You probably won't see players who are just learning the game competing in the Championships, but they might be playing in some of the side events that are certain to be going on. These events are open to all players, meaning that you do not need an invite or have your UDE ranking be at a specified level to get an automatic invite (more on that in a later article). You just show up with your deck and your UDE number, and you're ready to start kicking . . . rear end and taking names. One nice thing about these premier events is that they can be held in local card shops, and the tournament organizers will not have to rent halls to put these events on. This gives shop owners a chance to run a premier event and increase their knowledge of just what it takes to put one on successfully. City Championships are very attractive to players because they are still fairly close to where they live, but the difficulty rating certainly does increase. These events are run all over the country in many of the large and mid-sized cities, unlike Regionals that are held mostly in large cities. So for those of you who live in, say, Sacramento, the closest Regional might be in San Francisco, but this is your chance to play in a premier event without having to travel six or eight hours. These events will be held in places like Akron, Albuquerque, Duluth, Honolulu, Mobile, and Providence, just to give you an idea of the locales that would be looked at to hold a City Championship. So that about covers the City Championships—they are local, they are convenient, and they will challenge you. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that the winner of each City Championship gets an automatic invitation to Nationals? There is that, too. The winners not only get bragging rights to say that they're the best player in their city, but each of them has a chance to go to Nationals and prove to the whole country that his or her city is home of the best Yu-Gi-Oh! player in the nation.

State Championships – One step up from the City Championships, the name says it all. This event is for all the marbles in your particular state. You're always on the message boards saying that you are the man or woman, and you might even have won your City Championship, but this is put up or shut up time. Everyone from your entire state will be there, and they all want to get that title of “Da Man or Woman”. The challenge level for these events would probably be in the 70–80 range, depending on your state. Anyone can play in these events—just show up with the deck and the UDE number, and hopefully you'll put something good together. State Championships will not vary all that much from City Championships in terms of travel distance, except in large states like California and Texas. In those states, there would likely be more than one State Championship, but that issue will be ironed out at a later date. One very cool thing about State Championships from a player’s perspective is that you get to see deck ideas from different parts of your state. I have traveled all over the country and seen just about every major metropolitan area play Yu-Gi-Oh!, and the subtle variations in gameplay and deck tuning are amazing. What works really well in your area might not cut the mustard at the State Championship, but that's why you are allowed a side deck. Playing in events like this not only tests your mettle, but also makes you a much better player. You learn how to deal with a varied metagame as opposed to the fairly static one that exists in your area, and you gain valuable tournament experience. Ask anyone who has been playing card games for some time, and they will tell you that no matter how good your deck is, if you don’t have much tournament experience, you're likely to make some mistakes. Playing in City and State Championships gets you the experience to prepare yourself for Regionals or Nationals. For State Championships, the Top 2 players will receive invitations to the National Championships (and a healthy boost to their UDE ratings).

Regional Championships – This is the event that most Yu-Gi-Oh! players are familiar with. Regionals are run in the most heavily populated areas of the country and also areas that have a heavy concentration of gamers. The competition level of this type of event is in the 80–90 range, and you'll run into some serious players at these events. People playing in Regionals are there with one purpose in mind: to make it to Nationals and win some serious prizes in the process. Anyone can participate in this tournament, and there are usually a ton of Draft and Constructed events going on the entire length of the tournament for the people who don’t make it into the later rounds. Your average attendance at one of these events is going to be around 150 people, so you're going to need to have a very good record to get that coveted invite. Regionals are one of the best learning tools available to players to scout other decks, view strategies first-hand, and experience competition against the best players that are within a reasonable driving distance. You will often find people driving six hours to make it to one of these Regional events, and people that dedicated to the game are certain to make good competition for you. For those of you that think you would be good at running events and organizing them, this is the event that you aspire to be able to put on. Running events like City and State Championships helps prepare you for a large scale event like this, and running these successfully can help get you and your crew an invite to work at Nationals or Worlds, or host Pro Circuit Premier Events. For the players that have the skill and drive, the Top 4 finishers at this event will earn an invite to Nationals and a chance to show the country that their region has mad game (sorry, been reading the Boondocks a little too much).

National Championships – If the World Championships are the Granddaddy of 'em all, than this is the daddy of 'em all. This is for the big boys and girls only—you're only playing in this event if you have won a City Championship, placed in the Top 2 or 4 of States and Regionals respectively, or have a rating high enough to merit an invite. There are a boatload of side events for all the spectators to play in to increase their UDE rankings so that they can be playing in Nationals next year. However, the focus here is on the people who are playing to be the best in America, or Japan, or Australia. The competition level here will be second only to Worlds, but just barely. I would rate this as a 90-100 difficulty level; the skill level of the players will also be in that range. There are no chumps here, no people who are unsure of timing issues or who make lots of play errors. These are the experts, and they're here to prove to everyone that there is no one better in their country. This is for the truly dedicated, because even though they have invites, players have to pay their own way to the event. For example, the U.S. National Championship for Yu-Gi-Oh! this year is being held in Columbus, Ohio, on June 26 at the Origins Convention. That means the people from California and Florida are going to have quite a hike to get there, but it will most certainly be worth it. In addition to the massive prizes that will be handed out, the winner gets two incredibly important things: first, the title of National Champion and all the bragging rights that come along with that, and second, an invite to show the world that he or she is unquestionably the best player in the game at Worlds. Nationals are hard to sum up in words—this is truly an event that has to be experienced. I am excited as all get out about Nationals, and I am just going to be judging there—I can only imagine how it must feel to be a competitor.

World Championships – Take everything I said about Nationals and magnify it, and then you have Worlds. It is the biggest stage that a TCG can have, and the stakes don't get any higher. You're playing to be known as number one in the entire world. That means you are the absolute best player out of roughly four billion possible players. If you win Worlds, you have won the most celebrated title that your game has to offer, and your name will be synonymous with outstanding play and incredible talent. The competition here is rated 100, no question about it. If you don’t bring your "A" game, you're done. The very cool thing about Worlds is, duh, they are held all over the World. There is a good chance that there will be UDE events held in Tokyo, Sydney, London, Rome, and so on. Players, judges, and fans alike will have the chance to experience the culture of the host country and some of the most intense TCG gaming ever witnessed. This truly is the Granddaddy of 'em all.

And that is the Path to Worlds, everyone. There is a very good chance that more events will be added to that list in the future, but that was to just to show everyone how many chances and ways there are to improve your rating and game so you can get to the big show. The future of UDE Games is very bright, and with OP support like this, you can expect that you will be able to strut your stuff for many years to come. Remember that while each event gets you closer to Worlds and Nationals, the best thing that comes from all of this OP is the opportunity to play in different areas and against different people. Keeping things fresh and exciting is the goal for any OP program, and I hope this article gave everyone a little insight as to how OP works to achieve its goal. There are a few things that OP needs to survive, and one of them is judges. Next week, I will be focusing on the Judge Program and what it means to OP and to players around the world. I mean really, how can you have all these tournaments without judges?
No challenge this week—hopefully, there's enough to digest in the rest of this article that it will keep you occupied for a little while.

Email any questions or comments to metagamechallenge@yahoo.com, and until next time . . . be sure to stock up on some more Black Black gum and save that Word file.

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