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So, you've bought some cards and played with your friends. The game is definitely a lot of fun but playing the same match up against the same friends over and over again is getting a bit boring.
There are two main types of Sanctioned formats that you will have to choose from, Constructed Deck and Limited.
Constructed format is just that, you build your own deck and use it throughout the tournament. Your deck must be tournament legal. That means you follow the deck building guidelines in the LOTR rulebook. Your deck must be at least 60 cards, no more than four of any one card, and have a 50/50 split between Fellowship and Shadow. For large events a decklist may also be required. This is a form were you list all of your cards. This way the Tournament Director (TD) can check the list against your deck to make sure it's legal. If the tournament you are going to is more than just a local, you might want to check with the TD ahead of time to see if a decklist is required.
Limited means you play with the cards that are provided at the tournament. There are a few different types of limited tournaments. Sealed Deck and Booster Draft http://www.dgma.com/content/default.asp?id=121 are the two most common. In all limited events there is usually a higher entry fee to cover the cost of the cards. Be sure to find out in advance how much money you will need to bring to cover this cost. In sealed deck you are given a deck and some boosters. You then have 30 minutes to construct the best deck you can. All the same rules of deck construction apply. Any leftover cards you have can be swapped out with other cards in your deck between games.
In a booster draft players sit in pods, usually made up of eight players sitting around a table. Then together they open one pack at a time. Each player selects one card from the opened pack and passes the rest to the player on their right. Selected cards should be placed face down in front of you. This then proceeds until all the cards from that pack are gone. Then the next pack is opened and it is passed to the left. This process continues until all the packs have been drafted. You then take the draft pack and the cards you drafted and construct your deck.
Limited format tournaments are popular with new players who are not yet confident in their deck building skills. It's also a good way to get more cards and increase the size of your collection. Here's a tip when competing in a booster draft. Many new players make the mistake of drafting the rare card out of each new pack they open. Now I'm not saying you should never draft the rare but in many cases it may not be the best card for the deck you are trying to build.
Your First Tournament
OK, so now that you are familiar with the different formats of tournament out there it's time to choose your first event to attend. On dgma.com you can search for tournaments http://tournaments.decipher.com/TournamentSearch.asp in your area. Be sure to contact the Tournament Director if you have any questions about the event. Once you have found a tournament there are a few things you may want to do to prepare.
• Practice with your deck. This is called playtesting. Get a bunch of friends together and have some fun. If you discover a weakness in your deck now is the time to make changes.
• Card Sleeves. You will put a lot of wear and tear on your cards. Now may be a good time to purchase some card sleeves. Besides protecting your cards, it helps alleviate the concern of having marked cards.
• Make sure you have directions to the tournament and give yourself plenty of time to get there. This is one of the coolest aspects of tournament play. The road trip. Even if you are just going a few miles, you and a bunch of friends heading out together is half the fun.
• I would recommend arriving about thirty minutes before start time. This is a great opportunity to trade some cards and get to know your fellow players.
• Have fun! This is the most important thing. It is a game after all. Don't worry about winning. That takes time. Use the first few tournaments you attend as a learning experience. Remember the old joke - How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, Practice, Practice. Well, it's just as true for card games.
So you just played in your first sanctioned tournament. After your head stops spinning take a break and some time to reflect on the experience. Most likely you will come away with a lot of new information and a desire to improve your game. There are some things you can do between tournaments to improve your game and better yourself as a player.
• Playtest - As I mentioned above getting a regular group together and playing on a regular basis is the best way to improve. Don't be afraid to ask the top players in your area for help and advice either. Most card game players are genuinely nice folks and will be happy to give you a few tips.
• Play in the Lord of the Rings Leagues http://www.decipher.com/newsflash/2002/092602mountdoom.html. If you’re lucky enough to have a store in your area running an official league, sign up. Besides being a great opportunity to practice and hone your skills you can earn some cool preview cards from upcoming LOTR expansion
• The Internet - There are many sites on the Internet (such as dgma.com http://www.dgma.com/ and decipher.com http://www.decipher.com/) were you can find deck lists, strategy articles, and other resources useful to the LOTR player.
Another cool thing about playing in sanctioned tournaments is you get a rating. Fourteen days after your first tournament come back to DGMA.com and go to the Player Resources Section. There you will be able to look up your current rating http://tournaments.decipher.com/RatingsSearch.aspand see how you stack up against your fellow competitors.
As your game improves and you become more confident in your skills you will probably want to take on bigger challenges. Territorial Championships, Premier Series, Continental Championships, World Cup, and even the World Championships are all within your reach. Just playing in these big tournaments is an experience in of itself. But that's a topic for another time.
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