Heading in to a more competitive or tournament scene can be kind of a galling task at first. Locally we all know the players that are the ones to place high (or win) every local event, and many of us hear the names of the "top" players at the convention level repeatedly throughout our time learning the game and getting to know the community. Frankly, it's easy to hit these events, see your pairing for a round, and become intimidated.
Beyond that, there's also any number of factions, casters, pairings, scenarios, whatever that may effect how you feel about a games chances when you're actually going in. Maybe you feel like you just don't understand how to fight Khador, or Dawnguard Halberdiers just put you on tilt a bit when you see them because you've been smashed in the face too many times (I feel that one, let me tell you.) You feel good about X or Y matchup but we're on Spread the Net and you hate that scenario. Any number of different factors effect how you feel going into a game, and how you approach that is an important step in growing as a player. So... what do you do?
As someone who has suffered from social anxiety in the past (and still, in some situations), there's an important lesson I learned about most kinds of social situations: if you're in a group of people and you feel super awkward, remember that half the other people there probably feel just as awkward as you do. I started watching for it, trying to observe those little uncertainties, fidgeting, avoiding eye contact type things that I would do and you'd be amazed how often you'll find half the group you are with feel just as unsure what to do with their hands as you do. How does this apply to Warmachine?
When you approach the table, no matter who your opponent is, remember a few things that aren't always obvious given that our perspective can only come from inside our own heads. One, there's a pretty good chance they're walking up with their own uncertainties about the game. Even the most confident player will have uncertainties about how you play your list, or you may have a piece or an interaction in your build they aren't sure about, or they may just not like the scenario you're playing on. There could be something about the terrain is set up, something from their local meta that changes how they might play into this matchup, just a thousand things that can effect someone's mindset going in. Remember that you are not the only person walking up to that table with a chance to lose... or a chance to win.
The thing is, this might not necessarily always be true. It's pretty likely to be, though, and it helps immensely with that feeling of dread about the situation to think this way. Experienced players, even well known ones, are not infallible and definitely have their concerns about any given matchup. You just have to get in there and play the best damn game you can!
How many times have people told you "well just be more confident!"
Turns out it doesn't work that way. That said, figuring out ways to trick yourself into confidence can certainly help. We all have our tricks. One thing that has stuck with me over the years was from Trevor Christensen at Chain Attack; a few years back he won the Last Chance Qualifier at Warmachine Weekend, and I believe it was on that cast talking about it he said something about going into the bathroom, looking at himself in the mirror, and telling himself "you can beat any player here."
This is factual, it turns out. Always remember, every player, no matter how good they are, is playing on the same ruleset as you. Now, in physical games, from Football to, say, Starcraft where there's an intense physical strength and/or dexterity requirement, this may not hold true, but Warmachine (and most other tabletop games, if not all) are mental. You always have the opportunity to pull one over on the other person, or do something they've not seen before, or any number of things that can effect the outcome of a game. It's not as far reaching as it may seem at the time. Every player there is playing the exact same game that you are, under the same rules, and rolling on the same dice curve as you. Everyone is beatable.
Practice, Practice, Practice
I'm bad about this one because I list hop so often, but a huge help when going into any event is to have really put some time in with what you are playing. If you don't have a lot of time, try and stick with one thing as much as possible and really get a good feel for it. This helps that confidence immensely, knowing your list throughout. The game is enormous and there are a ton of things out there, but taking the time to at least understand your own pieces better is a great start and will get you down the right path, and will just make you feel better about what you're doing.
Ending the Mental Battle With Yourself
In the end, it's all about ending the mental battle you're having with yourself. It sounds a bit flippant about the issue but in many ways it is a case of just *being* confident. Find a song that pumps you up before a competitive event, talk to yourself in the mirror if that helps, run a lap around the building, whatever you need to do to just shake out that nervousness, remember you can do anything or beat anyone, and play your hardest. You might not win, but you gave yourself the best chance you could and you can learn from the mistakes you make, make new friends, and head to the next event ready for more.
Thanks for reading, and see you all next time!