A new D&D Miniatures Constructed Champion was crowned at Gencon Indy 2007. Eddie Wehrenberg, Jr. survived seven swiss rounds and three single-elimination rounds to become the youngest D&D minis champion.
I've had the honor of playing Eddie and his father (Ed Wehrenberg, Sr., aka Chairman7w on the forums) several times in local tournaments, and I've never beaten Eddie. No surprise there, really. He's one tough player.
I got a chance to talk to the brand-new champ about his championship experience.
Guy: Eddie, tell me a little about yourself. What do you like to do for fun?
Eddie: I'm a 14-year-old kid going to high school. I play freshman football, and I've been playing football since I was nine. I play minis once every week or so, otherwise I'll be doing my regular thing -- hanging out with friends, playing sports, stuff like that. Typical teenager stuff.
I like playing all sorts of games. I play card games and Axis & Allies Miniatures. When I was younger, I used to play in a Yu-Gi-Oh! league and collect Pokemon cards. I love boardgames too, like Shadows over Camelot and Settlers of Catan.
Guy: When did you start playing D&D Minis?
Eddie: When I was 9, my dad taught me the D&D roleplaying game. When Harbinger came out, we got more into the minis because it seemed like a cool idea.
D&D Minis has been a cool thing for me and my dad. It gives us a chance to meet new people.
Guy: So you started playing in the beginning when Harbinger came out? What's your favorite mini from the Harbinger set?
Eddie: Back then it was definitely the Thri-Kreen Ranger, which was the first rare we pulled, and we were like, "this is awesome!"
Guy: How do you practice for D&D Minis tournaments?
Eddie: Usually my Monday night league games are where I practice my band. I play three games during the league night. I also practice with my dad. I don't have a computer, so I can't use Vassal.
I practice against myself sometimes, because no opponent knows me like I do. I play to the fullest against myself. Before the qualifier, I practiced against Ultroforge. I would do every move as well as possible from both sides of the map. I would usually play two or three matches, learn from the mistakes, and learn the best possible moves for my band and for the other band.
I talk to my dad and we look up the tier-1 meta on the web sites. I practice against all the strong warbands. I practice on and off my map.
Guy: What warband did you play in the championship, and why did you choose it?
Eddie: I played a Werewolf Lord, a Large Black Dragon, a Large Shadow Dragon, the Thrall of Blackrazor, and four Orc Warriors.
I just about always run CE. That was always my thing, even back through Harbinger. I never shifted to CG. Even when I heard about Gith Monks, I tried it out for a night or two, but then I stuck with CE.
My championship warband was one of the first warbands I tried when Night Below came out. I tried some others, but then I came back to that original warband. It used to have another Large Black Dragon instead of the Shadow. I tried Ryld instead of the Werewolf Lord. The only thing I really changed prior to the championship was the Large Shadow Dragon for tech. I wanted something that could attack from behind and give my opponent something to worry about at both ends of the map.
Guy: Why did you include the Thrall of Blackrazor in your warband?
Eddie: The Thrall is a very versatile piece. He gains lots of hit points from fodder. The opponent has to use up his breath weapons or spells to destroy it, not just melee attacks. He gives me a slight advantage on victory points (from fodder) and positioning. Plus he's a meat shield, because they would have to focus breath weapons and stuff on it. Or they would try to avoid him, but it's a lot harder to avoid a Speed 8 guy than you would think.
Guy: Some people on the forums have described your trip to the championship as a Cinderella story. Is that true? Tell me about the challenges you faced just getting to the championship.
Eddie: My dad and I were going to the Santa Clara qualifier and he said, "Eddie, if you really qualify, I'll do what I can to get us to Gencon." Nobody expects a kid to qualify on the first try. Maybe a winning record, but not qualify.
But I somehow made third place at the qualifier, so my dad asked for friends' help, and they came through. We were able to get some plane tickets and extra money to get to Gencon.
I really have to give thanks to Gary Lane at Great Escape Games in Sacramento. He really helped me a lot. He sponsored $100 to help us go to Gencon. He said, "Eddie you're a great kid, do your best." And jokingly he said, "Make sure you bring back that trophy, okay."
My dad also took some time off work, and I took a little bit of time off from football practice so we could make it.
Guy's Note: Eddie's father also sold some of their D&D minis collection to help fund the trip to Gencon. The local D&D minis community really showed its support.
Guy: What were your expectations going into the championship tournament?
Eddie: At the beginning, I was just hoping for a winning record -- 4-3 or 5-2. But definitely not a first time win. At first, I didn't feel like I had a shot at winning. My first match, I got diced. Then I got my first win, then two, then three. At 4-1 was when I thought I could go for it.
Guy: What were your toughest matches of the championship?
Eddie: My first two matches of the Final 8 were my toughest.
Kevin Cleveland definitely out-strategized me and outplayed me. But in the second round of that game, I took a gamble and it paid off. (Note from Dad: We've come to call his risky move against Kevin Cleveland "The Thrall's Gambit.")
Neil McLellan was also tough and a good dice roller -- he passed all five breath weapon saves. He out-rolled me pretty well. It came down to the last two or three initiatives that I luckily won.
Guy: Other than the matches, what did you find most difficult about the championship tournament? Did the early start time or grueling series of games present any challenges?
Eddie: The long matches and early start time weren't really difficult on me because I got to sleep well and then got right into the first match. Those things weren't as bad as the Santa Clara Qualifier where I had to ride in a car for a couple hours before starting the first match.
Guy: What did you learn by playing in the championships?
Eddie: I learned that there are a lot of good players from the whole world competing for the top prize.
I learned that sometimes you have to take a big gamble. It's not always going to be easy to make a small move here or there. Sometimes you have to take it straight to the head of their warband, like in my match with Kevin. You can't just sit back and wait for the right opportunity all the time.
Guy: If you could do the whole championship over again, is there anything you would have done differently?
Eddie: I would have been a little bit more confident in myself. I wouldn't have let myself get down after losing my first match.
Guy: Your championship mini will be part of the 2008 "reboot" of the Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures Game, which uses a different set of factions from those we know today. If your championship mini had instead been part of the current version of D&D Minis, what faction would your mini have been part of?
Eddie: It would be Chaotic Good.
Guy: Why CG when you're a CE player?
Eddie: It's more of an inside thing. I've played with him (my mini) for a long time. I really could bend him to be a CE person, but it's more of an inside thing. He would fit in CG better. I definitely want to give him a try in CG. Maybe I'll start something new.
Guy: Where are you going to put your Icingdeath trophy?
Eddie: I definitely have to show it to my family first. They were a big support, giving us donations. Winning was a family thing. Getting all the support from family to go to the gaming convention -- I didn't want to waste the money; I wanted to make them all proud. For a week or two, I'll show the trophy to the family. After that, the trophy will be kept at Great Escape Games, my local game store.
Guy: What else did you do during Gencon?
Eddie: We stayed at a hotel with Mike Benton and Mike Domezio. We visited the vendor floor and the trading card game hall. We spent time looking around and seeing things. You know, first time Gencon things. We visited all the booths and learned how to play Magic, Heroscape, and the new Naruto game.
Guy: Will you go to Gencon next year to defend your title?
Eddie: Yeah. Dad even said he will put aside some money each paycheck to make it a yearly thing. I'll put toward it, too.
Guy: Is there anything you would like to change about D&D Minis?
Eddie: I think D&D Minis could use more young players. I heard someone say that my win might help us get more young players. On a league night, I might see two or three other kids there playing D&D Minis. You don't have to be a grown adult to be good at it. Take Kevin Cleveland for instance. He's still a kid, but he's one of the best in the world. If he can do it, you can too.
Figure-wise, I think the game could use some better Uncommons instead of all-powerful Rares. But not just stronger; give them some other cool power. I'd like a new meta with better Uncommons so newer people can have better chances of building a top-quality warband. Not everybody can buy all the high quality rares (Large Shadow Dragons, Salamanders, Ultroloths, Fire Giant Forgepriests) when they need it. If we had more powerful Uncommons, maybe newer players could have better chances of winning.
The game needs more minis like the Shadowdancers, which were my final match. But there are only a few out of those. You know, Gnome Tricksters and Cormyrean War Wizards. Those are all great Uncommons. We need more like that.
Guy: Is there anything else you'd like to say that we haven't covered yet?
Eddie: I would like to say that going to Gencon and being able to qualify, I hope it shows some of the younger D&D Minis players that you don't have to be an adult to win the championship. Anybody can win if you really practice enough, put your mind to it, and get good dice.
It also taught me that just because you practice a lot for it, it doesn't mean it will end up the way you thought it would. Dice will have a lot to do with the matches as well. Everyone has great skill in the championship, so a match is maybe 40% skill and 60% luck. Everybody really knows what they are doing.
Take my match with Kevin Cleveland. He had the skill over me. It took that lucky second round move to send me over the edge to victory. That move was an instinct. Talking to Kevin in particular, he thought it helped my psyche during that match because we were talking and strategizing so much before that.
I got to know Kevin better than anyone else in the Top 8. It helped me that I got to play somebody that I know. He studied the map so much. It scared me. He had every move planned out and knew exactly what he was going to do. I played more on instinct than with planned tactics. I still have tactics, but I can't go tactic to tactic with him, I had to go on instincts a bit.
Guy: Instincts. Eddie has plenty of them. It's no surprise to me that he demolished so many players locally and at Gencon. Perhaps Eddie Wehrenberg, Jr. will be the first player to successfully defend a D&D Minis championship title. I'll be rooting for him next year.
Next week -- a champ's-eye view of the tournament!
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