Hey everyone, Greg Cole here!
This was the first time I flew out on a plane to a TCG tournament. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. A lot of us can probably agree that we closed our eyes when we purchased our plane and event tickets. I didn't even make top 4 for the grand prizes. Should any of us have really done it? The answer is most certainly... hell yes!!
I was a judge at the 2017 Square Enix US Nationals, played at the Petit Cup in Los Angeles and I drove 8 hours to play in Mognet's Las Vegas ARG Summoner Series event. If Boston's Crystal Cup was anything near the amount of fun I had at those events, then my lust for life through FFTCG was about to erupt beyond my wildest dreams. The Boston Crystal Cup weekend was as the kids say, off the chain.
I know there's a good amount of players reading this that are primarily interested in the transparent benefits competitively. But first let me tell you a bit about my Boston Adventure! There were so many face to face encounters I had during and after the tournament with big names like Matthew Okimoto, Riccardo Lazcano Jr, Brian Burckley, Samsonite Prime, Matthew Rice, Maxwell Williams, Matt Kozmor, Jonathan Siordia, Joe Leszcczynski, Ronald Aberin and Chris Adams just to name a few. Each implanted an unforgettable memory in me. The weirdest deck I've ever made was actually working. What the hell was going on with this deck? I finish Friday day 1 at 7th place with a 5-2 record. Oh s***. My home state was celebrating like we won the world series because my California brothers Matthew Okimoto and Brian Burckley placed top 8 as well, energy levels were at an all time high as FFTCG is a religion in California. I change my cell phone screen saver to the California flag so I can flash it on my next stream opportunity. Unfortunately I get knocked out Saturday, day 2 from top 16. It was the worst feeling ever. I left the gorgeous ballroom after wishing my friends good luck I was then stopped by my good friend Brian Burckley who gave me a heart to heart about what just happened. I then began texting my family the bad news over 20 minutes in the convention common area. How could anyone possibly bounce back from this pain? Jokes on me, we naturally do. I went back in to the ballroom after the big defeat and asked the gracious Kageyama to sign my teammates Luigi Moreno, Nathan Perez, and Arvin Bernardo's cards in team SHFFL as my last act before I wanted to really give up for good. To my surprise I was approached for the first time by Samsonite Prime, then after Matthew Rice, and out of respect for these leaders in our community I'm going to have to keep private the incredibly life changing things they did for me in my moment of despair. It was in that moment after being revived by role models in our community, that I walked over to the incredible wolves den and put a smile back on my face. I found my happiness again as soon as I took my seat in line next to the anxious players determined to better themselves in the game we all love.
Any major Square event, national event, regional event, and beyond will guarantee you these experiences that you wont learn or get otherwise:
-Discovering what you need to do to win (you cant learn this without getting beaten)
-Stumbling upon what you will play at the next major event(from card swaps to entire deck builds) as soon as you enter into round 1-end of the tournament.
-Knowing what is working for all players, including combos you've never seen at locals.
-You are guaranteed to get better and get more comfortable with tournament settings.
-The most abusive plays you need to take advantage of yourself. We all can access the use of all cards and combos that people see better results with, they did not create those cards and are not exclusive to them, you have every right to use those cards to win too.
-Setting pride and bias aside from your card choices so you can transparently build the best deck in your element choice(s).
-Happiness, even if you wont admit it.
-Most importantly, appreciating how sacred it is to get the community together from near and far, how special the event is, how appreciative you will become, and immediately wanting to get better right away.
All of these situations come with just entering the tournament. I didn't even make top 4 and come Sunday morning I was already playing OCTGN on no sleep while waiting for my flight back to California. That's how inspired I was to get better and how focused I was after losing. I even built the decks I'm using at the next tournaments based on the experience at Boston. I know I'm definitely not the only one.
Lastly, you need to love yourself. You are living your life right now in the moment. Why would you prevent yourself from having an amazing weekend revolving possibly around your favorite card game? Meeting people that have so much in common with you, as if you met yourself. Almost every discussion I've had over the weekend were people that were so happy that they improved or learned so much since their last major Square Event. Money is replaceable, this weekend changed my life. The experience was worth every penny. Hell yeah Richard Brady and the Crystal Cup Staff! Kageyama-san you were so sweet to me! No one is going to personally offer you the opportunity to make yourself happy through something as sacred as this card game, so take it upon yourself to treat yourself. You have to live your life, and if you want to hang out at an event just hit me up and I'm down to hang out with you and show you how I've with no expectations stumbled upon the most fun I've ever had! I would truly regret not having gone to any of these events, and I have already started planning my itinerary for the year because of how amazing these experiences are, even though I lost.
We have to acknowledge and promote outstanding role models in our community. Even if you have yet to make yourself vulnerable to your local and great FFTCG community, I want to give you a view of how great this community makes me feel. Round 2 I got paired with a top 8 player from another region, Chris Adams. After our game he looked me in the eyes and said hey man, I think you're going to take this, I'm with you. He lit me on fire, I knew Chris Adams was a really strong player and he made me feel incredible. After day 1 was over, I had a late lunch with Andy Carmona, Matthew Rice, Jonathan Siorday, Kyle Michael and Irving Diaz at our table among the other players, and everyone was incredibly kind and considerate over dinner. We were all just focused on enjoying each others company as we all knew how sacred it was for all of us to be together at the same place at the same time. A blessing. Over the entire weekend Maxwell Williams, Justyn Jacoby, and Kyle Croft were incredibly kind to me as we all have mutual friends and hung out every day. At the wolves den Mike Cancellier beat me, but he didn't belittle me and made sure he let me know he thought I was a really good player. Saul Francisco let me borrow spare cards so I could play test at wolves den. After day 2 Matt Kozmor gave me the biggest hug and let me know how proud he was of me. I have never experienced the amount of support and kindness from a competitive gaming community like this in my life. I've witnessed a lot of toxic game communities, but this one was overly supportive and considerate, down to every last person at the event. I think a lot of community leaders know that people are going through hell when they don't do well at a major event like this, and they do the kinds of things that Sam Prime, Richard Brady, Matthew Rice, Brian Burckley, Tony Hsu, and Henry Do of Card Game Colisium did for me after I lost. Its that proactive sportsmanship that springs players that take it hard like I did, and keeps them going. It's the courage it takes for these players to do considerate things like stated. I didn't want to tell anyone how sad I was because I didn't want to let California down, I needed to be a good loser. We're in the card ride post day 2 and Matthew Okimoto tells me he told everyone on the break zone stream that I beat him 7-0 in swiss. I gave him the biggest hug ever, just not as big as the hug I gave him when he won the crystal cup. I knew how much it meant to California for a California player to win, especially Matt for his service to our community. Matt could have avoided California completely, but instead he does everything he can to help us all get better. We all fought hard for our local community. Angelica Okimoto picks us up at LAX. Matt and Angelica pay for our dinner. If you haven't connected with your FFTCG community local or nationally yet, go do it, they really need you, even if its just one person that could never amount to anything in FFTCG without you.
I went to work today, Monday April 9th, and listened to the crystal tower podcast talking about the crystal cup and the Australia scene in traffic. Thanks for all the support always Alex Hancox! I watched the Break Zone stream and Johnny Trenh healed a lot of my wounds after I lost on stream with some really kind words live on camera. I have work the next day in 4 hours but I finished this article first because I believe in this community so much that I will do everything I can to grow it. I'm blessed to know these people, I'm lucky to exist in 2018 during the FFTCG revolution that is occurring while we read this article, it's a once in a lifetime opportunity, I'm lucky to have met people in this community that will be friends for a life time.
Massive thanks to God, my family, and the entire California Community, I am nothing without you guys, our Team SHFFL(Ric, Nate, Arvin, Luigi, Geoff, Jason, and Mickey), Matt Okimoto, Brian Burckley, Jon Shin, Patrick Meakin, Shereena Decano, Kenny James, everyone that goes to all the tournaments like Joey Cimino/Sherry/Alejandro, Michael Velasco, Vince Angeles, Joshua Prijoles, Inland Emperors, SD/Ventura scene, and last but definitely not least, one of the hearts of the community, Team Metapotion for pushing California this entire time.
I'm going to keep playing tournaments every week, I'm going to keep teaching new players in my community how to play, directly connect them with our play groups, donate product, supporting our LGS's, laughing with FFTCG friends, having so much fun playing this game with them, and you can bet I'll be at every Square Enix event this year just so I can live the crystal cup all over again and again, even if I don't win a single round.
Sorry this was long, it wouldn't be right not to acknowledge the good people we're surrounded by and their honest actions. Thank you for being you and don't stop doing the right thing.
Here are some pictures of the adventure, hope you enjoy!