The Legend of Ugluk or why losing doesn’t mean you suck
Qualifying for the KFPL Season 1 through the Adaptive Qualifier, Ugluk made an impressive 3rd place finish in the Adaptive league. Anyone that made top 16 in Season 1 automatically qualified for Season two, leaving 32 spots up for grabs. Some of those spots were already awarded to previous KFPL tournament winners. The remainder would be handed out in the Season 2 Qualifiers.
A day before the Archon qualifiers ryze offered $20 to any current member of the KFPL if they drop, and thus make more room for new qualifiers. AnxiosPirate later joined with an additional $20 for the first one to do so. It was stated by the KFPL admin that previously qualified players may not participate in the qualifiers, and if someone chose to drop, they can attempt to requalify.
In and of itself playing in the qualifiers was a tempting proposition, adding in $40 was enough to get Ugluk to jump off train, and try to jump back on after a short run.
Jumping back on
Ugluk took Унылый Нельсон Ленюк to the first Archon Solo Qualifier, and went 1-3-drop. He then immediately jumped on to the second Archon Solo Qualifier with the same deck and finished the Swiss rounds 5-1 making top cut. In the Top Cut Ugluk managed an impressive 3 consecutive wins to secure an invitation to the second season of KFPL. Thus cementing himself a legend, and earning the role of MADLAD from the KFPL admin, a new role created specifically for people that drop and requalify.
A question of Meta?
Lets have a look at the deck Ugluk played, and try and figure out how a finish of 1-3-drop and a 5-1 can be achieved by the same deck and the same player in the same day.
First of all, many players would argue that highly efficient decks are by far the best for competitive events because efficiency (the dok stat) makes for highly consistent decks. The efficiency of this deck doesn’t seem to have saved it from a very inconsistent result. A total of 6 wins and 4 losses in Swiss isn’t the most consistent result, and if Ugluk kept that ratio for the second qualifier, he wouldn’t have gotten further than a top 8 finish. However Ugluk’s second qualifier result is a whooping 8 wins and 2 losses, a much more consistent result.
I have not played this deck, and have not watched the replays of Ugluk’s games on stream, so I can’t know for certain what made this deck tick so well in the second qualifier. However, I can speculate.
I had a short conversation with Ugluk about this result, and his first response was that Europe > America, which he said half jokingly. But if I take that it a slightly more serious direction, it is entirely possible that the metagame of Europe and America are still quite different, even after almost a year with only online play.
Metas are hard to analyze in Keyforge, and while the house and set makeups are largely the same, if you look at the top cards of each tournament you can find some differences worth noting. What stands out the most to me is the 16 copies of Lethologica in Europe while the Americas only have 13 (not shown in table), for a larger field. And also the 15 copies of Praefectus Ludo to the Americas only 9 (Also not shown in table). This does suggest there is some difference in the meta.
A lesson in statistics?
A favorite comedian of mine, Tim Minchin, said in his show So Live: “Things that have a 1:64,000,000 chance of happening, happen all the time.”
This is a very important part of statistics. Unlikely things happen and they happen often.
Suppose Ugluk is a very good player (he is) and suppose his deck is phenomenal (I don’t know if it is), and he has an 95% chance of winning any given match in high level play (he definitely does not). the chance Ugluk would lose 3 games out of 4 is 0.048125% (If I did my math right) or once every ~2000 tournaments. Considering an average of 50 players in about 100 major tournaments to date, this should have happened to at least 2 people.
And there are many other factors that could cause a good player with a good deck to lose in a tournament. Fatigue, distractions, a bad meal, pain, discomfort, some event prior, morale, confidence, or even their opponent playing slowly. Plus consider that no player is better than the other top players in the world to the effect of having a 90% win rate over them, and you will understand that not winning a tournament doesn’t mean you’re not a good player and it doesn’t mean your deck choice was wrong.
And this is the reason I decided to write this article, not only for you, but for myself. I have taken two different decks to high level play which I believed were competitive and did poorly with them. My conclusion was the decks were not, in fact, competitive. I was wrong.