Skip to main content

Champions Series

Season 1, Article 1
By Phil Keffer


What does it take to be an Overpower Champion?


Following the end of the Champ of Champs tournament, held in Ohio in February, I was asked to write the first article in the “Champions Series.” These will be a series of articles written by the winner of each event and will focus on a topic of the winner’s choice that they feel led them to their victory.

For my article, I have decided to focus on tournament preparation and the mindset needed to see an event all the way through to the final battle.

In preparation for a tournament, the first thing I do is define a series of goals for the upcoming event. While winning is always the overall goal, there are other things to focus on along the way. Heading into the Champ of Champs tournament, my goal was to win the event, but I also wanted to try and play something that was a bit different and possibly more fun than usual. I wanted to put an emphasis on assimilating with the community more this weekend and being involved in the commentary. I knew accomplishing these things would be a tall order.

First, I had the goal of making good health choices during the event. For me, this included both considering my diet and incorporating techniques to keep myself mentally focused. I have more of an introverted personality, and I knew that spending so much time with other people would exhaust me. To make this as easy as possible, I arrived in town a day early. Leading up to the event I made sure not to eat anything that might upset my stomach. I also made sure to bring snacks and drink mixes to the event. The topic of food is important and often overlooked. When playing in an event that involves stress and mental focus for more than 10 hours people rarely plan what they will be eating throughout the day. Making smart food choices is as important for mental focus as it is for the physical performance of an athlete. If you do these things right and you get enough sleep you will give yourself the best chance to win.

Even with these preparations, by the time we reached the final 4 rounds on Saturday, I was exhausted. Between the final few rounds I would need to find an empty area in the back corner of the room to both mentally recharge and think about my approach to the future matchups I was about to face. Winning one of these tournaments requires a great deal of stamina. While I personally run to stay in good physical and mental shape, there are many different approaches to getting yourself ready to play your best mentally when it matters. The way to improve and to become a champion is to first recognize your weaknesses and then work to improve them. Recognize what you need to keep your mind focused during and between each round and take the time to do that.

Second, let’s talk about the actual decision-making process of choosing the deck you will play at the event. In preparation for this event I allowed my mind to wander and come up with 4-character combinations as well as what events, battlesites, and homebases I would play with them. I typed these deck ideas down in the notepad on my phone. I did this over the course of a few weeks. By the time I made my final decision I had a staggering, 65 unique decks written in my notepad. So how do you get from 65 decks down to just 1 deck?

Step 1 is to review what your goals are for the event. If any of the decks do not match with your goals, you remove those decks. Step 2 is to build a few decks to test out and see if they play well. Step 3, before I even build any additional decks, I will lay out a few sets of 4 characters on the table and ask myself, could I honestly see myself playing this deck in the upcoming event? The goal of all of this is to not get too attached to any particular idea. This editing process, done correctly, will save a great deal of time. You can use that saved time to prepare for decks you expect to see at the tournament and to get more practice in with the deck you will be playing. While I know many players make last minute decisions about their decks, I think this is a mistake in most cases. I may change a few cards at the last minute, but I rarely change my team entirely. Finally, in the time leading up to this tournament I was mainly deciding between the ‘No Strength Power Cards’ event and the ‘No Any Heroes’ event. This decision was difficult because I knew that there would not be many Any Hero decks, but I also knew that I typically beat the Strength decks even without the event. Ultimately, I decided that I would rather have one more potential loss in the swiss to ensure I had the event I needed if I played an Any Hero deck in the top 8. Putting yourself in the best position to win once you make the top 8 has to be the top priority if winning is your goal.

As I mentioned, winning wasn’t my only goal for this event though, so in that regard the decision to play Magneto was an easy one to make. In this case, the tournament host Doug Simms had just become the new owner of the original artwork of the Magneto IQ hero card. I used this information as motivation to see if I could build a competitive deck using this hero. I knew it was possible, but I did not know if I would be able to find the deck in time. I knew that I wanted a Draw 3 in the deck and that I wouldn’t play a deck without a 2nd 8 stat character. I also knew I needed a negate if I was going to play Muir Island. I considered the Ray but felt that it was important to have access to the universe cards from one of the new homebases. I was also concerned about having too much of a weight towards Energy so I didn’t want to just play 3 stat Dr. Strange. Finally, getting to play an offsuit teamwork from reserve makes Silver Sable very powerful. All of this pointed me towards Mr. Fantastic. Not only does Mr. Fantastic give you the extra point to allow you to play 4 stat Silver Sable but he also has a 5 Fighting grid which allows you to play a 5 Fighting power card and to maximize the Spartan Training Ground. Since Magneto and Silver Sable both have 6 Intellect grids it makes the power cards for the deck line up very nicely. Once the team was decided upon I had to test the deck and try a few different combinations of cards. Through this process I decided that the new Magneto defensive special wasn’t consistently playable. I had a feeling Mr. Fantastic would get attacked first which meant that the secondary ability of the Magneto special wasn’t as important in my deck, so I decided not to play it. In replacing it, I increased the number of Magneto multi 4 specials from 1 to 2 as he has quite a few good special card follow-up options and I liked having the same number of Magento cards in the deck. I also switched my battlesite One Per Deck to the Colossus Discard 3 as I think it is a stronger card and I thought it would surprise people that knew I played the Shadowcat Draw 3 at the Niagara Falls Tournament. The final change I made was to add a 2nd 7 Intellect attack for Mr. Fantastic. I did this because my deck plays a lot of Any Power cards and I felt I would be cumulatively KO’ing a lot of characters. I also thought Shawn Sawyer would be the only player with a KO event which meant not having a character with a small number of specials would be less important than usual. As it turned out, Carl Caroffino qualified on Friday and switched to his Boston deck that also has a KO event. I had no way of knowing this before the event started and was quite happy with my deck going into the event.

Now, what if you are not yet one of the top players? What kinds of goals might you want to set for yourself? Perhaps you want to strive to win more than half of your matches. Maybe your goal is to qualify for the top 8. Whatever your goal is, you should use that goal to help make your deck decisions. On Friday evening there was a qualifier for the final 5 spots in the Champ of Champs event. This meant that the deck you played on Friday night to try and qualify might not be the same deck you would want to play on Saturday. On Friday you needed a record of 3-1, which meant that you needed a 75% match win percentage. This tells me that you needed to play something solid with little variance on Friday. Your plan in this scenario is to out play the competition as they are most likely around the same skill level as you. However, to make the top 8 at Saturday’s event, you likely were going to only need a 3-2 record. Due to the smaller invitational nature of the event limiting the field to only 16 players and 5 rounds of swiss your deck choices could be more flexible than usual. Since you likely would only need to win 60% of your games to make top 8 on Saturday, you may have wanted to play a deck that contained more variance. A higher variance deck would be a deck playing cards with a huge upside, but ones that could hurt you if the variance puts them in your hand at the wrong time. For example, playing with the Fatal Attractions event, “Down But Not Out” which reads “No Special cards may be played this battle” can win you games. However, even if your deck is designed around the event having little impact on you, variance can always create a hand where it hurts you more than your opponent. If you’re a newer player, and you’re in a field with more experienced players, a higher variance strategy may help you secure some of the wins. Playing a deck that relies entirely on play choices may work great for the veteran player, but may put the newer player in the position of having to outplay the veteran with every singe choice; something that plays right into their hands. If a newer player can make the game have a larger variance swing, and they know how to capitalize on the benefits from that variance, they may earn a tournament victory earlier in their career that they would not have otherwise been able to achieve. While this would be a fantastic outcome, it will not be the norm.

If there is only one insight you take away from this article let it be this; it is very hard to win an Overpower tournament. Only 1 person gets to win. Based on our current attendance numbers, if everyone had an equal chance to win, you would only win 3-5% of the time. Fortunately, not everyone does have an equal chance to win. You may ask yourself, why is that fortunate, why should I be happy that the same players win event after event? The answer is simple yet not always obvious. Overpower is a skill game and because it is a skill game you can improve at it. Reading articles like this, watching videos, asking questions of great players, and simply playing a lot of competitive Overpower will make you better. If you are willing to put in the work, there just might be a day when you win the last game of the tournament. On that magical day, your preparation will meet an opportunity in time where everything lines up for you to be forever known as an Overpower Champion.

So, do you want to be an Overpower Champion? If the answer is yes, and I’m guessing that it is, scream it out loud. Make it real. Be willing to risk failing. If this is you, it’s time to really do the work. It’s time to get to more tournaments to maximize your opportunities for success. It’s time to stop reasoning your losses away. I had 2 duplicates in the opening hand of the final game but still came away with the victory. You need to use your energy to find ways to win and to make changes that will affect your future success. What could you have done better in the game, during down time at the event, and in your preparation? Focus your energy on the things you can control. You will see improvements and you will have setbacks. Persistence is truly necessary to become a first time Overpower Champion. If you focus on enjoying the journey there is a much better chance you will be happy with the destination.

Even if all of this sounds a bit too intense for you, I am sure that you will enjoy improving at this game we all love. I believe all Overpower players are going to get a lot out of the future installments of this series. I know that I am looking forward to hearing some wise words from my fellow competitors. Until next time, venture well.


Phil ‘The King’ Keffer