Yep, this is a direct result from reading Pat's article about his origins. I've actually been struggling with writer's block recently, so the inspiration Pat provided was very convenient... otherwise you guys might have ended up with some more half-assed blithering.
Anyways, this is my story. Enjoy.
If I had lost just one more match, I might have quit Naruto before I even started.
My first encounter with Naruto came when it was released in my senior year of high school. Looking for a side game to play alongside Magic: the Gathering, I had started playing this "Naruto" (nah-ROO-to) game that Thomas Cao had invested his life savings in. I hadn't even watched the anime or read the manga at all, and the only thing I knew about the game was that the goal was to become Hokage (ho-kej).
So I learned the rules, started playing some games with Thomas's decks, and decided the game was definitely more fun than Yu-Gi-Oh!'s brokenness. Soon we found out that there was going to be a tournament at a shop called Pro Stars, and we decided to test our skill at competitive play.
Thomas brought his entire collection to Superstars and I started work on my very first original deck. A little bit of research had informed us that the "best" deck was something like 3 Konohamaru [Hokage's Grandson], 3 Sasuke [Individual Play], 4 Demon Brothers, 3 Haku [KG:BT] and a metric ton of late game Jonins. So I decided to build my deck to counter that style of deck by using concepts of tempo and momentum I had ported over from Magic.
I ended up with a deck full of low drops, pumps, Ninja Academy, and Three Man Squads for the finisher. When I goldfished with it, it performed like a dream. I didn't miss drops. I dominated the early game. I swarmed the board.
And then I started testing it against Thomas's Harem Jutsu deck. And by testing, I mean losing repeatedly to it. In retrospect, that Harem Jutsu deck would definitely be a great example of a "bad matchup." I lost something like 20 games in a row and was just about ready to quit Naruto (the fact that Thomas hit his Naruto [Impostor] flip just about every single time made it worse).
By the time we left for Pro Stars, I was fuming. "This game is stupid," I declared, "it doesn't reward skill at all! This is why I only play Magic..."
We got to the shop, signed up, and I began to play - fully expecting to go 0-X, throw my deck into the garbage bin, and go back to Magic.
And then I demolished my first round opponent. I mean just stone cold stomped him. My deck worked perfectly.
But he wasn't very good. This wasn't what I was seeking.
My second round opponent was playing the same Fire/Water as my first opponent. I ran him over before anyone else had finished their first game.
Ok... maybe there was some skill involved in this game. But everyone I was playing against wasn't great, and didn't understand the concept of not making one gigantic team when you're under pressure.
Round 3 was paired - and I was up against Thomas.
Game 1 started out just like so many of our playtesting games. I opened up with vanilla Sasuke, he started with Konohamaru. I played a vanilla Rock Lee and hard charged a chakra, then attacked with both my guys. He blocked with Kono, and I had the Kunai. He dropped his frustratingly annoying Naruto next. I played Shikamaru [Lazy Bum] and bashed with some guys. He blocked my team of 5, I Kunai'd for the OV, he flipped... and missed.
Hey, I'm starting to like this game.
Game 2 I again got off to my usual fast start, but he managed to survive long enough to play Disaster of the Nine Tailed Fox Spirit - leaving him with a board dominating Might Guy along with one or two medium sized ninjas. My side of the field was a bunch of crappy Genin.
But it was ok... I had prepared. This was what playtesting was for. I drew for my turn and calmly played After the Battle. He read the card. Read it again. And then his jaw dropped.
My crappy Genin won the game shortly afterwards.
1 for 21.
1 for 1 when it mattered.
If I didn't win that match, you probably wouldn't be reading this right now.
Next: Coils and Tribulations