Hello everyone! Nathan “noverb” Overbay here back again to talk strategy with you. With the World’s Qualifier season underway, what better thing to talk about than how to prepare for an Eternal Championship Qualifier (ECQ)? What are my qualifications to talk about this, you may ask? While I may not have the most Top 64’s of all the competitors in Eternal, I do have a Top 64, two Top 32’s, and a Finals placing in previous ECQs. In this article I will go over my ritual so that you may go into your next ECQ more ready than ever!

What is an ECQ?

An Eternal Championship Qualifier, referred to as an ECQ, is a full weekend event that takes place once a month. The winner of which will attend the Eternal World Championship next year. Aside from an invite to the World Championship there is also $3,000 and lots of prize packs in the pot, so the value is definitely real! There is a lot at stake, so it’s best to be ready.

Making Time to Play

An ECQ is a full weekend event. That means that it will span from Friday through Sunday. It’s broken up into two stages. The first stage, which I refer to as the Placement Stage, is comprised of 28 placement games that can be played at your leisure. You have about 30 hours from Friday morning to Saturday evening to finish your 28 best-of-one games.

As a busy adult it may just seem more efficient to do it all at once. While you can jam all 28 games in one sitting early Friday or last minute Saturday, I would highly suggest you don’t. My suggestion is that you set aside three or four chunks of time over the course of those two days to play your games. This allows you to take breaks, avoid tilt, and be less stressed overall, but more on that later. Just set yourself up with ample opportunities to play your matches.

The second stage is the Top 64, a six round, single elimination stage, played in best-of-three matches. I would highly suggest you clear out that window of time before the weekend comes around. Have faith in yourself, always plan for your success. Being able to play those matches without the stress of looming plans makes it so much easier to focus and ultimately, to win.

Identify the Meta, Choose Your Deck, and Practice

What deck you bring is dependent on what format it is and how the meta looks any given week. There have been a few ECQs where the deck that was the top dog the week before got eaten alive by the new hotness the week of. It’s very important to identify what decks are going to be major players in the event.

Let’s use the November 2019 ECQ (The Time of Ancestors) as an example. The deck to beat was definitely Cultists. While there were other decks in the format, none of them had nearly the same number of players on the deck. So you had to account for the deck when choosing your own. In a situation like that you have to ask yourself one big question:

“Should I play the popular deck?”

As shown by both that ECQ and the previous World Championship, the popular deck can still win with a target on it’s back. They didn’t rise to popularity because they were bad. Often the most played deck is one of the best. So choosing a top deck due to consistency is generally not a bad option. Although, there are two main downsides if you do:

  1. You will likely face a lot of mirror matches. Understanding this, you need to analyze what is most important in the mirror. Make sure to pack answers and learn the pivotal moments in the mirror.
  2. Most players will know the inner workings of your strategy. Be as comfortable playing it as they are playing against it. Learn the possible weaknesses to your deck and bring good tech against those weaknesses.

The next obvious option is choosing a deck that is good against the popular deck while also having a decent match-up against the field. An example of this is that Team Rankstar members brought Stonescar Midrange and Hooru Spellcraft as solid answers to the Cultist menace in the November ECQ. Being on a less known deck can help a lot with the Placement Stage. Deck-lists are hidden and its best-of-one games so your opponents may not know what to play around.

It is very important to test the deck you choose. Grab a friend and play against everything. The more comfortable you are with your deck, the better you will play under stress. If you have time and own the cards, play with everything. Learning the other big decks of the format helps you understand their thought processes. Being familiar with an opponent’s deck helps predict their plays.

Pace Yourself

So it’s Friday! The ECQ has begun and you have a day and some change to play 28 games. Before you hop into it I have a little checklist for you:

  • Eat something. Playing on an empty stomach can only hinder you.
  • Stay hydrated. Have water readily available.
  • Minimize distractions. Life is busy and hectic and removing everything is probably not possible. But do your best to clear off your plate before jumping in.

Now, onto the games. The Placement Stage doesn’t work like your average tournament. You can play your games at your leisure. Take breaks as you need them.

As you start to lose, analyze why you lost. Was it due to a bad matchup? Did you keep a bad hand? Were there better plays you could have made to change it? Do your best to learn from any mistakes made. After each loss calmly ask yourself:

“Am I starting to tilt?”

TILTING – When you make a mistake and then become so frustrated that you continue to make more mistakes.

If yes, take a break.

Losses happen, it’s not easily avoidable. It’s important to monitor your mental state as you lose games. I often find myself taking a break after two, or even one loss. If you continue to play after losing consecutive games your may become more and more upset, making more mistakes, and continuing down the same path.

Do calming things on your breaks. Clear your head. Take a shower, walk around the block, play with your pet, get a snack, do some yoga. Everyone has their thing, do yours. Come back to Eternal with a fresh perspective and then jump back into it.

Stage Two, the Pressure Is On

By Saturday night you will know whether or not you have made it into the Top 64. Generally a 19-9 finish locks you in for Stage Two with one or two 18-10s also making it in. Upon receiving confirmation that you have made it, you will also be given a spreadsheet featuring all the decklists of those involved.

Take the time to check who your first round opponent and possible second round opponents are. You will find this in the Eternal client on the event page. Grab a friend and test the match-ups. Identify what are the problem cards for you so you know what to be careful of on Sunday.

Don’t stay up too late. Get a good night’s rest and eat a healthy breakfast. You won’t have the same leisure time you did for breaks as you did for the Placement Stage. In lieu of that do whatever calming things you need to do before the rounds start.

One practice I’ve found very helpful is to have a notepad or word document of my future opponents’ decks. In Round One I will have my first round opponent’s deck on hand to reference as needed. As my other possible opponents resolve their matches, I also add their decks. This way, I can start to memorize their decks, markets, and possible problematic cards. Knowing not only what your opponents have, but how they are going to play it is what separates players from winners in a lot of cases.

With access to all of your opponents’ deck-lists you should be choosing your opening hands with that in mind. Looking for key cards for the match-up is a huge part of open deck-lists that you should not be ignoring. Use every advantage given to you for better chances of success.

There is a short break in between each game of a match. Do not feel pressured to press the ready button as soon as it lights up. Take that time to clear your head, reference your notes, or use the bathroom if needed.

In Closing

In this article I’ve covered a lot of practices you can adhere to as you strive for greatness, but let’s recap:

  • Make sure you set aside the time to play in the event with as little stress as possible.
  • Choose a deck you feel comfortable with and practice, practice, practice!
  • Don’t be afraid to take breaks to refresh yourself over the Placement Stage.
  • Use the tools at your disposal to increase your chances of success.

Take these practices to heart and you will find yourself feeling more prepared and less anxious about each event you play in. I can’t assure you that you will always make Top 64, as obviously not everyone can. Just do your best and have faith in your ability and you might just surprise yourself.

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