Battle of Helm’s Deep
Pre-Release Event
Wizards of the Coast, Westminster Mall – Westminster, CA
February 22, 2003

Tournament Director: Norman C. Lao

Before I begin, if you would like to visually experience the tournament, then please our Battle of Helm’s Deep Pre-Release PHOTO GALLERY and take a look at all of the images of the tournament. Thanks to FLINCH for posting these!

And now…for the Real Deal!

Lao of Gondor’s Tournament Diary:

When I woke up on Saturday Feb. 22nd, I knew that I was in for one helluva day! My mind was going in ten different places at once, and for many of you who know me – that’s a very dangerous thing. I checked, rechecked and triple checked all of my prize support, all of my player lists and made several calls to my host store to make sure all is going according to “Hoyle” (ahem – yes a shameless card term). And, once I rolled up on 10 am – the dust began to settle, the smoke began to clear and I headed out the door to begin the tournament…

As soon as I arrived at the Wizards of the Coast store in the Westminster Mall (Southern CA), I felt an energy inside the store that buzzed with a fevered pitch! You definitely knew that something BIG was going to happen – soon! There were already 10 players who were anxiously awaiting to start. Unfortunately for them that wouldn’t happen for another excruciating 2 and a half hours! Believe me, everything was pretty hectic right up until start time as player after registered player, walk-ins and fans alike swarmed into this tiny little back area which was literally about to bust at the seams! It is safe to say that this store has NEVER hosted a LOTR TCG crowd as big as this. Players began competing for space as the gaming tables became cramped. The Wizards’ staff underestimated the sheer amount of square footage needed to play this type of game and raced to clear off shelf space in order to find more seating accommodations. Well, at least it was a positive learning experience for next time.

The time now was 11:30 and panic and pressure began to rise in the store as 36 players from all over Southern California – including one player who came as far as Las Vegas – sold out this event in record time! 22 of these players were pre-registered and 14 walked-in right up until the last minute of registration! As the clock ticked towards 12 noon, I realized that there was no more space, there was no more patience, there was nowhere left to hide and there was no more time, and that is when I brought out the coveted boxes of The Battle of Helm’s Deep Tournament Support! Then, the crowd silenced – for about a second!

As all 36 players frantically rushed through their packs and starter decks to construct their tournament decks, I circled the room and was incredibly surprised to see that – aside from the obvious number of high level tournament players in attendance, there was a significant amount of beginners as well. This was probably for me, the most exciting aspect of the whole event as these newcomers threw their proverbial gloves down and joined the gauntlet of tournament players with an attitude becoming of the Lord of the Rings mission statement: they thought, played and were FIERCE. It was a quite a refreshing change to say the least.

The tournament schedule was slated for four – 45 minute games which lasted over the course of 5 hours. During that time, there were emotions which ranged the spectrum of elation to frustration as these new cards literally wreaked havoc across the span of all the tables. Veterans and beginners alike found victory and defeat delivered to them by the hand of either the Wargs, the Mumaks or the dreaded Gollum: Stinker. New and unpredictable, unique tactical scenarios, which may never be duplicated again, were tested or bested; nonetheless played in lieu of the newness of the cards and the scarcity of sealed deck resources. It was a real treat to just observe and watch how the cards fell and what the players’ reactions were to all the new cards seen and played over the span of 4 games.

Yet, when it was all said and done, and when the last point was tallied – if I may steal a line from Highlander: In the End, There Can Be Only One!

Undefeated 4-0 Garrhet Noda of Culver City, Ca took the coveted First Place spot, earning himself the top prize – a limited edition 2003 Return of the King Calendar from New Line Cinema! Travis Frazier of Trabujco Canyon, CA won second place – a FIERCE T-Shirt – with his surprising and last minute upset in his fourth and final game. And, much to my surprise, first time tournament player Dustin McCurdy, who began the game only several months ago – found himself amongst the rankings of higher level tournament players and earned himself the Fellowship Participation award.

Aside from myself, Flinch from Gaming Havens and Quickbeam representing GreenBooks (who also played in the tournament) were also on hand capturing each and every exciting moment for the They both helped me tremendously with exciting and challenging Trivia sessions which occurred between rounds. Thanks fellas – everyone LOVED the trivia games.

The pre-release tournament was a great success overall and the players all walked away with smiles and great booster pack prizes and promo cards from Decipher, and limited edition OneRing Bookmarks and strategy guides from Black Label Games – promoting their Lord of the Rings video game (thanks Anson).

I want to thank Decipher for all of their support – especially Tracey Halliday and Scott Gaeta for their efforts in helping me run the smoothest – and largest – tournament I have ever organized. And I would like to specially thank PC’s Cat Ceder and Garrhet Noda who really helped me at the end of the tourney, organizing the ratings and making sure everything in that aspect was taken care of. At the end of the day, as many of you well know, its difficult to keep it all straight and without their help, it definitely would have been a lot more difficult. Thanks guys!

It was a great time had by all and I’m sure we can expect more of this in the near future. Thanks Decipher! Let’s do it again sometime.

Ents of Fangorn anyone?

Thanks for reading…