Sunday, 5 February 2012

Realm Qualifier - Escape Games, Coventry [04/02/2012]

Yesterday I travelled to my final Core Realm Qualifier of the season, at Escape Games, in Coventry. I don't think it's been open all that long, but in the last few months have started running WoWTCG events and have a small but enthusiastic group of locals there. Unfortuantely only one of those locals turned up for the qualifier, but hefty representation from Shrewsbury and Worcester, along with a cameo appearance from Ray Fong meant a turnout of 15, five rounds with a cut to top 4.

I played the same Grand Crusader list as detailed in my last post (yawn) and hit a 4-1 finish, losing round three to Ida Rønbeck, playing Ramp Shaman. We'd been discussing her deck a little over the past week, I'd been making a few suggestions on cards she could play and after a week of testing she told me off for trying to sabotage her deck, before completely crushing me - I failed to make enough protectors, she made Erunak on an empty board and then the following turn made a Blazing Elemental Totem before hitting me for 20, which was exactsies. It was an interesting gamble - if I'd had a Mazu'kon available then I could have happily eaten Erunak and gained the upper hand, but I, er, didn't.

In the previous rounds I'd played Ray Fong (Horde DK) and Dean Nicholas (near as dammit a mirror match; he played two Kazbaz at the expense of a Rosalyne and Telor); Round 4 saw me against another Grand Crusader deck with a difference, Liam Stanway, playing Drax Felfuse Dragons Grand Crusader Where Have All My Cards Gone. He'd been at table 1 on the previous game and saw him make a T3 Drax, then drop four dragons on T4, hitting for ten with a potential follow up of another ten if they lived another turn. Scary stuff.

Luckily for me I weathered the storm with the aid of a GirdleBronze Warden and a Bottle, and despite making Drax on three separate occasions, a lack of Girdle for Liam pretty much sealed it.

4-1 is the barrier to guaranteed top 4, and in the final round I faced off against Burnsy, the tournament's only 4-0. He was also playing Ramp Shaman, and after having something of a non-hand against Ida I was pretty dismayed to mulligan a Grand Crusader + Guys hand (not necessarily a good hand against a class that can kill the Crusader) into something that had no real play until turn three.

Thankfully, he didn't have the Hammer. Before the game I'd been talking about the match I had with Alex Crow in Chesterfield - how if one player doesn't gain a huge advantage at the start of the game it can be a really good match, and this one didn't disappoint despite the slow start. Burnsy's T3 was a Jex'ali, which hardly seemed ideal for a deck that wants to play five-drops by this stage. We spent a few turns not making a great deal, before I eventually found a Girdle, then a Citadel, and was able to start drawing cards. By this point we were at the dangerous number of resources, and the Mazu'kons started flowing - neither of us had taken the opposing hero over five damage but eventually Zudzos, Cairnes and Mazu'kons started flowing and once the dust settled, I was facing down a Mazu'kon and two tokens, having faced a shock Malfurion earlier in the game that I found the Mazu'kon for one turn too late.

A little maths later and I managed to clear out the two tokens, and figured that I could survive with a few health to spare at the expense of being at the mercy of the top of my deck for ways to stop myself dying in the future. I got lucky; a couple of protectors off the top and I stabilised at 25 damage. This wasn't the end though - off the top of Burnsy's deck was his fourth Mazu'kon, followed by a Gnash (which was his third of the game, if I recall), followed by a Zudzo, taking me to 28.

Alecia Hall in my next three cards took me back down to 25, and when Burnsy drew a quest off the top I was able to dump a bunch of shit on the board, and a second quest off the top gave me enough time to close the game out unopposed. There were eight cards remaining in my deck.

The top 4 was called - Dean and myself playing near-identical Grand Crusader builds, Ida and Burnsy playing surprisingly different Hammer Shaman decks. I was top after Swiss, and faced Dean once again - having been lucky with Sava'gins and good at avoiding having my Girdle killed in the previous encounter, I was hoping for a repeat.

I kept a hand of two Girdles, a Citadel, two Righteous Cleanse and two Obsidian Drudge - something of a non-hand, but everything I needed to go right ahead and kill my opponent's girdle and draw into something actually threatening. Everything went according to plan for a while, I drew a ton of cards and popped two of  his Girdles, but he had three. Foolishly I'd rowed an Obsidian Drudge, as I ended up with three in hand at one point. I had the remaining three of my own Girdles in hand too, which wasn't ideal.

Once we'd done fannying around with that, Dean took the advantage, laying a Cairne and a Mazu'kon. "Censure?" I offered, laying a Mazu'kon of my own, attacking his Mazu'kon. Censure it was.

My hand was pretty damn good - the same two Righteous Cleanse from my opening hand, two Mazu'kons and three Cairnes. Drawing a bunch of cards, I dropped a Grand Crusader and some protectors, then the following turn, the same Mazu'kon from earlier. It was Censured once again, and then a third time the very next turn. To our surprise, time was then called, I took twelve to the face having failed to make any real headway on the board, and despite having enough resources to play both Mazu'kons, couldn't deal enough damage to win and couldn't draw enough cards to heal enough off my hero - the damage totals being 23 on me and five on Dean. I drew up to ten cards in hand in case I'd forgotten something, but despite staring at enough cards to comfortably take control of the game given an extra five minutes, I was out of outs and sent Dean into the final.

Ida had beaten Burnsy in the other semi-final, and went on to decisively insert Erunak into Dean's face in the final.

Disappointed not to at least make the final but big ups to Dean and Ida for closing everyone else out of the final, and to Kenny for running a tight ship with the tournament!


Getting to Escape Games by car: Follow signs for City Centre, get on the inner ring road (the big thing with tons of flyovers) and exit at Junction 7, following signs for Ikea. Park at one of the many car parks near Ikea.

The store is in the City Arcade, which if you're standing at the main entrance to Ikea is just over the road to your right a little bit. Next door to Escape Games is an excellent American shop called 4th of July which sells tons of things that are very bad for you.

Get in touch with the store on 024 7663 1186.

Friday, 3 February 2012

2012 Realm Qualifier Season: Core [January 2012]

After a short amount of time away from serious business, the new year rolled round, and with it my favourite time of the WoWTCG year - qualifier season. Coincidentally, also my wife's least favourite.

First and foremost, if you're in the UK and are intending to qualify for the 2012 Realm Championship, all the info you need is here. The final tournament itself is planned to be held on the weekend of the 28th and 29th of April, and the location will be announced in the near future (apparently).

It's January, and as a result we're in the middle of the Core season, which runs until the end of February. March and April's qualifiers are all limited format - likely to be Sealed, though the odd Draft may crop up here and there. I've travelled to four qualifiers so far, and like a big boring idiot, have played the same deck at each.

While I was taking time off serious play, I reclaimed all the amazing cards I lent out to other people, and sleeved up the Team Ooga Booga version of Grand Crusader to see what all the fuss was about. Observe:

Straight from the Worlds Top 16 decklists page and no mistake - a completely dirty netdeck. I had just spent the best part of fifty quid (at today's prices, a complete bargain) on completing my playset of Mazu'kons as well as the money I invested pre-Worlds on Grand Crusader and a ton of cards to go with it, so I was going to make sure I at least got some use out of them!

I'd tested a Grand Crusader deck for Worlds that was not entirely dissimilar to this deck - it did, however, run Shalug'doom and Seal of Wrath, which could be completely backbreaking if you managed to get the combo off and largely useless if you didn't. It was more aggressive than this build - despite Grand Crusader being ostensibly an aggressive card, this deck is filled with protectors, control and card draw, and it took a game or two to get the hang of its play style. I liked it though - it was consistent, powerful and Mazu'kon is a beating as a 6/6, never mind when his 8/8 token comes into play with the aid of the deck's namesake.

However, it had problems. Big problems, or more appropriately, one big problem - in the shape of Master Sniper Simon McKey. It's an incredibly aggressive Hunter deck, doing one thing and doing it well - making progressively larger allies each turn, most of them packing Ferocity too. This deck was blowing me up on regular occasions - but with a little luck the matchup was a breeze, I just needed a Bronze Warden or two to help stem the bleeding.
After going undefeated at a few events with the exception of against Simon decks, I went into the lab. Second place at Worlds wasn't good enough - I can make this deck better.

First to go was Blessing of the Kindred. Don't get me wrong, I like the card - its inclusion in this deck is great in Horde matchups, where you can make your Mazu'kon bigger than theirs by naming Shaman, or make your early game just that little bit bigger by naming Warrior. Unfortunately, it was never, ever in my hand when I needed it. Personally I think it's a card you should play four of, or none of - no half measures. I dropped them.

I also needed to remove a second card, and this proved tougher. I eventually settled on Kazbaz - an Elusive Protector is definitely a powerful concept but his inclusion as a two-of really felt like it was just filling space and fitting the Warrior theme. 

This left me with four slots and I knew exactly what I wanted in them.

+1 Censure - this card is something I'm rarely sad to draw multiples of, and also something your opponents rarely expect multiples of. Great against large allies, great against tokens and can turn the tide against ramp and curve decks for just one resource.

+3 Alecia Hall - A card that was tested in the UK Worlds Grand Crusader build, and one I was rarely unhappy to see. Unfortunately not a protector, but she can come back with the aid of a bottle and will always unconditionally heal you for three - something which Bronze Warden cannot guarantee.

Cards that didn't make the cut were Sinestra (I would take control of the game, then drop Sinestra and win; or, I would take control of the game, and win anyway) and extra Challenge to the Black Flight (as I found that I would rarely want to complete more than one over the course of a game).

Due to me being quite disorganised at times, I only got round to finalising the deck on the night before my first Realm Qualifier, held at Chimera Ripley on the 11th of January, so had little time to test this final configuration. I was feeling pretty confident though, and whilst I got dicked by Hunter Murlocs in the fourth round, I did get to test out my changes and theory against the same Simon deck that had been exposing me week on week.

It was incredible. The matchup had practically been turned on its head - what was once a desperate struggle to survive was now an exercise in simple board control and waiting for the Hunter to run out of cards. Having seven heal cards in the deck over four was a revelation. This was round three - I finished the Swiss portion of our ten-man event at 4-1, undefeated other than by the Murlocs. My Top 4 opponent? None other than Julian with his Simon deck again.

This time he went for a change of pace, pulling faces at his opening hand before surprisingly keeping. I soon found out why as I took fourteen to the face from three Concussive Barrages early in the game, but I was lucky enough to have some heal available to me and ground out the win. In the final, I met Rich Stoppard... the Murlocs player.

To cut a long story short, we split the packs and played for the Deathwing. Rich failed to find an Unleash and I eventually ran him over, though it was not the most convincing of wins. I'm not sure how much game the deck has against Murlocs - obviously you can cast Righteous Cleanse in response to their Unleash, but if you don't find it in your hand or mulligan (or they cast two, or they just Unleash multiple times, or...) you're in trouble. 

My changes were, so far, a success - and while the Realm Qualifier kit hadn't arrived yet, I was soon to be the proud owner of an EA Alternate Art Deathwing, a foil Sava'gin the Reckless, a deckbox and a foil Rosalyne von Erantor, and seven packs of Throne of the Tides. A good start - and I'd qualified for Realms at the first time of asking. But I wasn't about to stop there.

To my wife's chagrin, the following weekend was packed with Qualifier action - Sheffield on the Saturday and Chesterfield on the Sunday. Continuing the borefest I stuck with Grand Crusader, and at Sheffield (turnout: 18) I came up against a very familiar deck in the first round - Liz Edington playing the literal same sixty cards as Rich had been doing in Ripley. 

I lost. Liz Unleashed on three separate occasions. It was't even close.

Two rounds later and I'm facing Manchester local Paul Graham with his Warlock aggro deck, much akin to the fire rush/Searing Pain deck that made some waves in last year's Block format. Boosted by tools like Bottled Void, I found myself with a ton of cards in hand facing an empty board, whilst close to death; I was unable to take advantage of this nor heal, and Paul topdecked a Life Tap, cast it, then drew an Onnekra and a Searing Pain, casting both to deal the final six damage to my hero. It never gets any easier.

I'm 1-2 at the end of round three and am just grateful that the knockout is going to be a Top 8... I need to win out to reach it, but at least I will not be in the bracket of the guy who has turned up with a Grand Crusader deck containing a clutch of Edwin VanCleefs... He finished 6-0 in Swiss and eventually went on to win the tournament [OMG spoilers].

Round four and I'm hoping for an 'easy' match, but instead I face DMF Paris finalist Alex Crow, who is having a similarly miserable day, and is also playing Grand Crusader. My luck takes a turn for the better however, as he fails to find a Girdle or a Grand Crusader and I slowly poke him to death with Telor Sunsurge.

Mike Brawn is next, and thoughts turn to revenge; he beat me in the final Core round at the 2011 Nationals to put me into the third draft pod and essentially out of contention for the Top 8, and I see he is representing the Monsters with Rawrbrgle, the Murloc Warrior. I get the feeling Grand Crusader is a bad matchup for his deck as he kills my Rosalyne with a Furious Strike, then creates a bunch of 2/2 Murlocs, makes them 3/3s with Chumly and then watches as they get eaten by my one-drops. Another lack of Girdle maybe.

So it's the final round, and I need to win to make Top 8 due to my hideous tiebreakers (I think Liz eventually finished 2-4). Sat opposite me is Rob Hooley, once the UK's Organised Play manager for the WoWTCG. He is playing Jaral of Gilneas, the Worgen Hunter - a deck similar to Julian's Simon aggro. I am pleased, and proceed to kill his five-drop pets with my one-drop protectors for most of the game, before apologising for dumping him out of the Top 8.

It turns out he made the cut anyway, but had to face the chap with the VanCleefs, and from what I told you earlier, we know how that worked out. I managed to defeat my Top 8 opponent, only to face Paul Graham again in the semis, who once again ran out of cards, I failed to take advantage, but this time had about three turns to do so before he eventually smacked me around the face for a ton with some sort of perverse strikeout.

Third in a strong field isn't too disappointing though. The following day held another qualifier at Comics and Collectibles in Chesterfield - and with it, a good turnout of thirteen. One of those was my mate Steve - you can read about his experiences on the lovely new Caution: Small Parts blog.

This event for me was both a success and a disaster. I played the Murlocs for the third time in the first round, but this time I managed to prevail with some clever use of Righteous Cleanse, and a healthy dollop of good luck. In the second round I am paired down to play Tony, who has cooked up a Warlock of some sort - and I keep a hand featuring neither Righteous Cleanse nor a Girdle, without considering the fact that Warlocks don't always play Jhuunash. I'm punished horribly for it as he drops an uncontested Everlasting Affliction on me, which quickly becomes four of the buggers. Aided by a Tattered Dreadmist Mantle, I am dealing him very little damage, so drop a bunch of guys on the table only to be COMPLETELY blown up by Invoke the Nether, a card which I had forgotten had been reprinted.

There's an important lesson for you - know what bonkers cards are legal, else you're going to get fucked by them! Luckily for me I was holding two Mazu'kons and after a bit of thinking time managed to heal just enough damage to survive for one extra turn, at which point I could kill him, assuming he didn't draw a bottle - he didn't, and I somehow cheated death.

Round three was the biggest disaster of all though - against Rob Hooley again, with the same Hunter deck, still a good matchup for me. Unfortunately both my opening hand and mulligan were complete dross, and to top it all off I acted like a big fat cheat by (completely absent-mindedly) drawing two cards off Challenge to the Black Flight when I was only entitled to one. Rob re-read the quest, pointed out the error and I conceded from a game I was probably never going to win anyway. What an idiot.

I win my fourth game and in the final round I come up against Alex Crow, who is the one remaining 4-0 player. He utterly obliterates me with his Shaman Ramp deck - the first time I'd seen one running Shadowfang Keep as well as Devout Aurastone Hammer - but offers to concede the game to me so that I'll make Top 4, shortly after making a Blazing Elemental Totem AND an Erunak. On turn 6. The top 4 pairings are called and I'm playing Rob again, who pulls a face like he's just eaten an entire bag of lemons.

I successfully avoid cheating for the entire match and take the win, only to meet Alex in the final. This time I draw an opening hand which contains a Girdle and an Obsidian Drudge, and five other less relevant cards. I win the roll, Alex makes the hammer on turn two, I make a Drudge on turn three having made a Girdle on two and destroy his hammer. We're both at several cards in hand and with empty boards but I have the Girdle, and I put the shields up enough to avoid dying - and after clearing Alex's board twice with the aid of a Mazu'kon each time, I am able to build enough of a board that eventually he has no way around it.

Crowds had gathered (and dispersed due to us "taking too long") but it was probably my favourite game of WoWTCG I've played in ages - knowing that the deck can potentially chuck out 20 points of damage from nowhere if it has two cards in hand means that deciding when to put the pressure on is critical.

By this point I have qualified for Realms two and a half times over...

Finally, Beeston. I finished 4-2 in the Swiss, my two losses coming to an Aspect of the Wild Hunter deck which I simply got overwhelmed by, and Gary Stevenson - with his interesting Warrior deck - make armour, a Winter Veil Disguise Kit and an Alarm-o-Bot or two, then make Sinestra when you least expect it and blow up YOUR FACE!

Or alternatively, win on time by having another Sinestra in your hand and healing 13 a turn off the back of Faenis the Tranquil. This also works.

4-2 was good enough for the top 8, but I ended up facing Gary again in the first round of the knockout portion. This time I had the cards in my opening hand to take apart a couple of pieces of his equipment and hopefully put enough threats on the board to make his deck too slow, but instead he did lots of counting, dropped a Sinestra on six, blew up his entire board, hit me for a ton, made a Shalug'doom and hit me for another ton (!), taking me to 28. I had a respectable board and a Mazu'kon in hand, but that would only get him to 28... and as a result he Tiny Dragonned me to death the very next turn. My only failure to win a Sava'gin so far!

There's one more Core qualifier to go for me this weekend in Coventry, then I get a month off these events in preparation for the release of Crown of the Heavens, and four-five Sealed events in the area starting in March. The quest for the fourth Sava'gin continues apace!

Monday, 19 December 2011

Chase the Can, Chimera Ripley, 14/12/2011

What you know about charity?

This week brought with it the second instalment of Cryptozoic's annual charity tournament, Chase the Can. These tournaments are held at local stores and rather than paying an entry fee, players are granted entry to the tournament by donating four cans of non-perishable food, which after the tournament are taken to a local food bank.

We did one of these at Chimera Ripley last year, played with starter decks, donated four cans each and... well, it went away and we didn't really think about it. Fast-forward several months and some guy called Aric Jack of Tucson WOW fame appears on the A Question of Gluttony podcast, and mentions the upcoming Chase the Can event and mentions his group's total donation last year.

Compared to our ~40 cans, Tucson WOW donated 580 cans.

Spurred into action, I mention this to Julian and we start to brainstorm methods of enticing more cans out of our players. We discuss being able to buy cheats with cans such as drawing cards, extra mulligans and damage prevention; we both dig through our stashes of WoWTCG gear to come up with something to donate for a prizepool, and we hassle a few heads for their donations too.

In the meantime, a friend does me a huge favour and asks me to donate some money to charity on their behalf in lieu of payment. I take this opportunity to kick start our donation, head off to the local Aldi and pick up 96 cans, already more than doubling last year's total.

A couple of days before the tournament and we'd not come to a conclusion on extracting cans from our players yet - buying extra mulligans seemed to be a winner but it was becoming too late to introduce special rules, and as we were running this event alongside our Feast of Winter Veil meaning there were some prizes on the line, introducing ways for people to "buy" victories became something of a stumbling block. Eventually we decided to just tell people to bring extra cans for more prizes, and waited to see what we felt like on the day.

Rob Hooley (Tomy, UK head of OP) came up with the goods at the eleventh hour though. He's been coming to our Battlegrounds semi-regularly for the past month or so along with AD Fox and a few others, and when he materialised with a tray of chocolate doughnuts and a huge box of mysterious goodies, our prize pool swelled dramatically. It went from a bunch of mats and boxes and small loot to Actual Prizes. Mostly.
Wednesday's can haul!

You see, Santa Hooley knows whether you've been naughty or nice, and while many of the presents were what you always wanted, some of them were from your Auntie Mavis.

We had sixteen players in attendance, some regulars, some new players who were giving the game a try from their native Yu-Gi-Oh!, and a couple of international superstars in the form of Gary Stevenson and Yuuri Kuwamura. We played three rounds of Core Constructed for cans - each player starts with four cans, and for every round you win, you take a can off your opponent; each can in your possession at the end of the tournament gets you a promo card (in this case, foil Lightning in a Bottle). We followed this up with two further rounds to close out the Feast of Winter Veil, and the tournament was taken down by Morgan, playing his now-signature Heirloom Hunter deck to a 5-0 record.

We had originally planned to have prizes given out as a reward for beating bounty players - or "chefs" as we called them. Julian, Gary, Rob and myself were the bounty players, but after we all won our first round and got paired against each other in the second, it was decided to just give the prizes out randomly instead! Along with the mats, promos and loot donated by the community, Rob's donations included loot (better than ours), packs, deckboxes, deckboxes containing packs, deckboxes containing decks and loot... the list goes on.

Oh, and in the Mavis Bracket, a fairy for the top of your Christmas tree, a farmyard pairs game and some Dino King starters...

Despite my lacklustre 3-2 finish I was lucky enough to win the random Winter Veil mat, which we held an impromptu auction for - cash for my mat, which will be spent on cans. Rob also auctioned off a mystery prize from his stash, which turned out to be a goldmine - a box of Fires of Outland in French! This auction was won by Steve, who will be bringing the box to our Battlegrounds next week for some comedy two-pack in which none of us can understand the cards. We raised another £42 which I took down to Aldi for more cans.

On the day, we raised 194 cans (well, 193 cans and one jar). The extra donations took me to Aldi and I came home with another 206 cans, taking our total to a nice round 400, as well as helping me get a bunch of funny looks from other shoppers. The cans were donated to Ilkeston's Arena Church, who were quite surprised when I rang them up on Friday to find out what time they closed so I could make sure I got there in time to drop everything off.
Additional donations from money raised at auction. My fucking enormous shoes not included

Sadly we didn't manage to beat Tucson's 580 cans but I don't think anyone could suggest that 400 cans for your local food bank is in any way poor. Gary, like a true trooper, has today ventured down to Swindon (about 90 minutes by road) for a second Chase the Can event, and after the success of Ripley's event, there have been rumblings of a post-Christmas event at Chesterfield. Tony, the store owner, raised a great point in that it can be easy to forget about those in need after Christmas, especially as many charity marketing campaigns dry up at that time too. 

Hopefully we'll hear of Swindon's total along with Tucson's 2011 total tomorrow, but in the meantime, thanks to everyone who is holding or attended one (or more!) of these events. Heroes one and all, thank you for making your local food banks proud. Merry Christmas.


Sneaky edit! Tucson just published their total. Watch this.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Worlds 2011! [10-14/11/2011, Rotterdam]

3am was never an acceptable time to be getting up in the morning. However, after a last-minute panic owing to the fact I couldn't fit any clothes in my bag, I was just nodding off at 2am, one hour before I was due to travel to East Midlands Airport to catch a plane to Amsterdam.

The journey was pretty uneventful, though it's always nice to have a crack at the F-Zero AX cabinet they have at the terminal. Six hours after I awoke my wife and I were on a train between Amsterdam Schiphol airport and Rotterdam - it was a clear day and deceptively cold, only five degrees centigrade - the kind of temperature that makes you question what you packed. Several kilos of crafting cards felt like a poor choice of bag space considering jumpers exist.

Eventually after getting horribly lost in Rotterdam thanks to roadworks preventing access to the bridge we needed to cross, we got to the hotel, grabbed some local "delicacies" in the bar (Frikandel, Kroket and chips) before I abandoned my wife, headed across the Erasmusbrug to the Rotterdam Cruise Terminal for four days of cards - the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game 2011 World Championships.

The first thing that surprised me were the sheer number of people in attendance - I was expecting about 150, but come Friday morning the announcement was made that 330 people had entered the tournament this year. Add to that the people who were trying to qualify via the Last Chance Qualifiers, those who had come along for Saturday's Darkmoon Faire tournament and all the staff and vendors, there were easily 400 people in attendance over the weekend. It was unlike anything I'd ever seen, and to those of you who have played other popular TCGs this might not seem like much (I recall a recent Magic: The Gathering Grand Prix having over a thousand attendees!), for this game it's huge.

Anyhow, enough meandering. To cut a long story short, I had been testing a Paladin deck built by Stuart Wright for about a month before the tournament, and in the week and a half preceding Rotterdam the deck started to fall apart. It stopped winning games, new decks started to emerge that did horrific things to me before I could stabilise the board, and I basically lost all faith in the deck. So at this point, I play my backup deck, right? Grand Crusader.

Wrong. I lent those cards to Duncan Tang. I play this instead.

That's right - a rareless deck that runs 44 blank 2/1s. Having lent out my Mazu'kons and Grand Crusader gear the night before, a deck crisis was the last thing I wanted, and this was literally the only thing I could put together with the available card pool. To be fair I had been taking people apart with it after testing, so it could have been worse - but it wasn't quite the glorious World Championship deck I was wanting in the first place.

So the big day comes. I have to spend TWO EUROS on my fourth Unleash the Swarm from one of the vendors, re-sleeve my deck in sleeves that are probably worth more than the deck itself, sit down for the player meeting and Organised Play announcement (DMFs next year in Cannes, Prague and Antwerp... I could be tempted, Worlds in Atlanta next year, less so) then got ready for six rounds of Core with my stupid deck and four rounds of Classic with my less stupid deck that I don't really know how to play.

Round 1: vs Jeff Blyden, playing Horde Grand Crusader

One thing I deliberately do when playing is delay revealing my hero until I'm done shuffling to give my opponent less time to formulate a plan against my deck. I reveal Rawbrgle and Jeff goes "Ah, it's that deck!" and looks a little dismayed.

I row a Costrunner and pass for three turns straight, then Unleash the Swarm on T4, hit six or seven Murlocs, flip, then dump the remainder of my Coastrunners on the following turn and cast RwlRwlRwlRwl!. 

Jeff looked dismayed after the match, and told me that as soon as I started rowing and passing rather than playing Coastrunners, things were going to be tough as he couldn't just whittle my board down with his Telor Sunsurges. I guess I can take some pride in knowing how to play the most spectacularly stupid deck the game has seen for a long time? [1-0]

Round 2: vs Matt Light, playing Horde Aurastone Hammer Shaman

Oh good - 165 players to choose from and I get paired not only against one of my UK compatriots, but the guy who is using my Mazu'kons. Thankfully for me, this match was like a dream. The Murloc deck has two 'modes' of play depending on your opponent, and your hand - you can play Slippyfist if you have him, followed by more Murlocs that many decks can't kill, as they're Elusive - then flip, Unleash, Rwl!.

Against Matt I had the nuts - a T1 Slippyfist, T2 Swarmtooth, T3 Swarmtooth and Coastrunner, and T4 Unleash. Six Coastrunners hit the table off Unleash, and I prepared myself for my twelve Swarmtooth triggers. Top card of the deck: Unleash the Swarm.

Matt shrugs, and after he can't kill me on his fifth turn, I Unleash again, play Rwl! and run a bunch of angry 4/2s into his face. [2-0]

And that's the end of the report - I am the World Champion!

... I lost my next five rounds and dropped. The thing with the Murloc deck is that sometimes you just win, regardless of how well your opponent plays; sometimes you just lose, regardless of how well you play. I won three dice rolls over the entire weekend of competitive play, and seemed to expend all my luck in the first two rounds of Worlds!

There was still a mathematical possibility of me making Top 96 if I won all my Classic rounds though. I was playing a tweaked version of the DMF Koln Zaritha deck, as it's a deck I know how to play reasonably well and I figured I could probably make a shot at winning a few rounds. 

Round 7: vs Massimillano Davi, playing Horde Warlock midrange

So, Classic - something I've not played properly for a very long time. It didn't start well - I mulliganed a bad hand into a worse hand, my first play of the game was a Voice of Reason which an opposing Munkin dealt with quite nicely. I eventually ran out of cards whilst achieving very little and scooped with 40 minutes on the clock.

The second game was much better - I took control early, managed to stick a Voice of Reason for more than a turn this time and eventually flooded the board with allies, drew a ton of cards, and while Massimillano seemed to live forever with the aid of several Undercities, I finished the game off with a minute on the clock.

We sideboarded, and I drew the perfect hand. Squall Totem into Mikael. My opponent went first and dropped a Sardok, which was a little irritating. I cast Squall Totem on his second turn in response to his attack, made Mikael, and passed. After several minutes of thinking my opponent hit my hero with Sardok, levelling the life totals at 2-2. I exhausted his hero with Squall Totem... And then I fucked it up. I played a second Mikael, not understanding the end-of-time rules properly, and not noticing his Undercity in play. In response to my Mikael trigger going on the chain, he activated Undercity and healed two damage from his hero. I forget how something entered the graveyard in the first place, as Sardok didn't die to Mikael - but this made the life totals 2-0 in his favour for a brief moment, and he won. The whole thing is a bit of a mystery to be honest.

I was pretty distraught at this point, so dropped, played some league to clear my head and entered some side events, which I failed quite miserably in too.

Not the weekend I'd hoped for then. If I didn't enjoy playing this game then it'd have been a torrid weekend!

You can read more UK-based stats and info here - big ups to Duncan Tang who took second place in Saturday's DMF Rotterdam.

Here's how I got on in all the events I played:

Main event: 264th, 2-5
iPod Draft 1: 1-2 [Drafted Monster after opening Gobbler, then received Monstrous Essence in pack 3... Lost the second game on time, could have made the final]
DMF: 199th, 1-2 [dropped, deck simply wasn’t good enough]
2-pack Challenge: 1-2 [2-pack is a random format, but seeing no rares in six packs is awkward - all my opponents kept topdecking what they needed, like me having them one turn away from death, they top a Chompers, followed by a Murloc Coastrunner]
Steelseries Gadgetzan: 38th, 3-4, [Borrowed Dani's Shaman deck. Played a cheating Frenchman in round one, stuffed lots of mulligans, played well though]
iPod Draft: 0-2 drop [complete disaster of a draft, opened nothing, saw nothing]

What's next then? I think it's time to have some fun with some jank decks, serious business is on hold for a month or two until the Realm Qualifier season starts in January.

Big thanks to everyone from the UK who turned up to Worlds for the tournament and made the weekend such a great time, to the dodgy burger place just around the corner from the hostel, all the staff and volunteers at the venue - pretty much everyone involved. I was shit, but the weekend was far from it.


Have some links:

Maritime Hotel, Rotterdam - our Rotterdam hotel, nothing to write home about but it was comfortable, the bar was good and it was well located
Hostel Room Rotterdam - where most of the guys stayed, the cosiest lounge/bar I've seen since Cafe Babalú - quality soundtrack too
Hotel La Boheme - we went to Amsterdam for a couple of days after Rotterdam, this place was well-located and lovely

Thursday, 27 October 2011

2011 UK National Championships [15/10/2011]

This is really late! I've been really busy. And lazy. Probably more of the latter. Anyhow!

6am is no time to be getting up on a Saturday, but when you have to collect a bunch of players on your way to a city located eighty miles away you're left with no choice. Accompanying me were Morgan Bartlett, Julian Harse and Alex Marsden. Most of the journey was spent discussing how we were going to Top 8 and how we were going to travel back the following day. Testing had been favourable and I was feeling especially confident having taken down two Worldbreaker block drafts in the past couple of weeks, won three Brewfest events in a row (including the first sanctioned tournament at Comics and Collectibles Unlimited, Chesterfield - where we had an excellent 14 participants) and seemed to be able to pull Twilight Citadels out of packs of Twilight of the Dragons at will.

Baxxel Geartooth

4 Boomer
4 Tesla
4 Cairne, Earthmother's Chosen
4 Gispax the Mixologist
4 Sava'gin the Reckless
4 Yazli Earthspark
3 Ka'tali Stonetusk
3 Guardian Steelhoof
2 Al'akir the Windlord
1 Krazal the Eggregator
1 Malfurion Stormrage
1 Nag the Twisted
1 Exxi the Windshaper

4 Aspect of the Wild
4 Avatar of the Wild
4 Arcane Shot
3 Blast Trap

3 Skywall
2 The Essence of Enmity
4 Corrosion Prevention

This list had taken me to a 6-1 finish at the last Zapped Giants Open. Rather than taking a balls-out aggro approach to a deck running Aspect of the Wild, I chose to use its power to create unkillable and awkward board situations for my opponents, with the added benefit of having people giving me funny looks when I drop a Guardian Steelhoof, wondering what I'm up to.

The deck wins by either pushing out tons of damage thanks to the Aspect, or hardcasting Cairne, then Al'akir, then Malfurion. Very few games go all the way to Malfurion - by the time Al'akir drops the game is usually a foregone conclusion - but sometimes your opponent can end up sacrificing their entire board to kill your Al'akir only to find him rejoining the army a couple of turns later thanks to Malfurion.

On the morning of Nationals I cut the singleton Krazal and replaced it with a fourth Ka'tali Stonetusk. Whilst having the Eggman in the deck I'd searched for him a grand total of twice, and one of those times was someone asking me what he was in there for. Originally when constructing the list I played four Krazal; then one; now none.

After an issue with two packs of sleeves I purchased long ago being different sizes, and so having to purchase two more packs and hastily resleeve two minutes before the start of the tournament, we got down to it. A mammoth fifty-nine players made the journey to Nationals, and there were notable absences in the form of the Glasgow and Dover groups too. A very happy sight. This meant a gargantuan nine rounds of Block, followed up with a three-round draft.

Round 1: vs Andrew Brown, Paladin

If I recall correctly Andrew was one of the Edinburgh players. He won the roll and seemed to get bent over by his deck - a lack of Girdle saw him draw very few cards through the course of the game, though come turn seven he dropped an Al'akir, ruining the surprise of my seventh turn Al'akir who I'd been clutching ever since the start of the game. Luckily I was able to suicide enough guys into his Al'akir before dropping my own that the game was over shortly after. [1-0]

Round 2: vs Sean Hammond, Warlock

Sean is also known as "That Ipswich guy that does the Tokens". I haven't met him or his beard before so it was nice to finally get to talk to someone who does a lot for the community. If you have a few minutes go and check out Ipswich WoW and their Youtube channel - they're probably putting out more content than anyone else in the UK at the moment, which is awesome.

So a Warlock eh? Warlocks are crap right, so this shouldn't be too difficult. Um. So, Sean went first and I kept an OK hand containing an Al'akir and a Malfurion. His Rolan Phoenix gave me some trouble - a relatively boring turn three for me gave him the opportunity to drop Rolan turn four, and from there he never really left the table. I didn't have an Aspect so couldn't kill him for 'free' with the Nature Resistance, and he just kept getting in for three points of damage, over and over again.

On turn seven, Sean dropped Al'akir. He didn't even have to Summoning Portal for it, so it came as quite a surprise. I sighed, played my own Al'akir and passed. I've got Malfurion in hand, so it should be OK.

He drops Nefarian and I think my reaction was something along the lines of 'wuaagh'. Our Al'akirs traded and suddenly Malfurion looked a little anaemic. [1-1]

Round 3: vs David Thorpe, Warrior

"Yeah, my deck's on a bit of a budget unfortunately" David told me - running only a singleton Twilight Citadel and missing a few other bits he wanted to get hold of. That didn't prove too problematic though - I failed to find an Aspect of the Wild, he dropped a Perdition's Blade early in the game and followed it up with a Girdle, Enraged Regeneration, To Arms!, and then two more Enraged Regeneration. I must have dealt sixty damage to him over the course of the game, and his final damage total was something like eight.

Al'akir was useless, but once again I had Malfurion, David's Perdition's Blade being one damage short of killing it. Despite being on the back foot for several turns I was still in the game... until he dropped a Shalug'doom, sacrificed three of his plethora of cards on the table, and popped Malfurion for exactly fatal.

I don't think this is a good matchup for the Hunter, but I tested a deck like this and I know how horrific it can be when you don't draw Enraged Regeneration. This was not going to plan. [1-2]

At this point, Alex comes over and asks how I'm doing. "1-2," I tell him - "but it's OK, I'm just going to win all my games from here, it's fine." He was 3-0 at this point, and would remain unbeaten until round six, losing to Paul Graham after a long stint on Table 1.

Round 4: vs Haoyu Zhang, Shaman

Haoyu didn't seem best pleased to see me sit down opposite him. We've bumped into each other a few times at Patriot Games in Sheffield, and a few more times on MWS. He's playing the fire Shaman deck, which is supposed to be an auto-win for me. I'd had success testing an old Alliance version but it hadn't been quite so clearcut when testing in Ripley.

Not helping how I was feeling was Ozzy Ward, sat next to me on table 22, getting beaten by a nine-year-old playing a similar deck. Big ups to Kylian Graham, who finished 20th overall and clearly knows his onions.

Haoyu came steaming out of the gate as you'd expect, and while Boomer took down several of his guys I was rarely able to get completely in control of the board. As Haoyu started to run out of cards he started to insert allies directly into my hero more and more, though made a point of dispatching the Gispax I had on the table as soon as possible.

I untapped with a Tesla in play, seven resources, and a second Gispax in hand, on 21 damage. Haoyu was winning the race quite handily and had one card left in hand. At this point I knew I couldn't take any chances and had to do the maths. With an Aspect on the board at long last, Haoyu was 14 away from death. Down comes the second Gispax, into the bin goes the card I drew and into my hand comes Exxi the Windshaper - who I play, use to untap Tesla and hit for the remaining seven damage. Haoyu flips his Twisted Fire Nova onto the table and I am hugely relieved at getting away with that one. [2-2]

Round 5: vs Steven Swan, Warlock

This match was decided by a play error from Steven - I dropped a Gispax on T4, then in response to its activation Steven cast Void Rip on it, thinking that would stop me searching something out with it. I explained how Gispax's power worked (tapping and discarding is the cost, at which point the effect is already on the chain, even if Gispax leaves play), we call a judge to be sure and then Steven looks quite sad for the rest of the game as I proceed to make Large Guys and beat his face in with them.

It was around this point Tyma popped over to tell me that Steven was going to give me infections. I did leave the venue with a headache and a sore throat, which eventually turned into a cold which I'm just about rid of now. Whether it was Steven's fault or not is another matter entirely... [3-2]

Round 6: vs Ida Ronbeck, Hunter

Oh, my first Hunter mirror! Ida and her boyfriend Dean are pretty new to the game, but you wouldn't know it with Ida hovering around the top tables for a lot of the day.

We both dropped Aspect of the Wild quite early but I was able to make more use of the Nature Resistance, eventually dropping Al'akir on turn seven against a board that couldn't quite kill him. Even then, this wasn't the end - Ida was still able to drop a ton of guys on the board and by the end of the game I had a good seven or eight Air Elementals on the table, due to having to keep two back thanks to the fact Ida was always holding a couple of cards and my damage total wasn't pretty.

Eventually I closed it out after seeing Ida visibly annoyed at being able to do nothing, turn after turn, with a small crowd watching over. The cards she was holding were another Aspect of the Wild, and something else irrelevant, but better to be safe than sorry! [4-2]

I bumped into Alex again shortly afterwards. "I told you!" He seemed visibly surprised.

Round 7: vs Ben Davies, Hunter

Oh, another Hunter! I remember hearing that Ben was playing a similar list to the Darkmoon Faire Philadelphia-winning list, and while I wasn't overly scared of it (or any other deck really, other than Morgan's Heirloom Hunter deck, which tears mine apart) I knew that Rosalyne could be a bit of a twat.

Unfortunately my deck chose this occasion to shit itself, giving me a hand with no one or two-drops, and only an Aspect of the Wild for turn three. Ben had a T2 Boomer, T3 Aspect and I couldn't really get back into it after that kind of start.

We played again afterwards - I still lost, but it felt like more of a game. [4-3]

Round 8: vs Glenn Goldsworthy, Paladin

Glenn had my luck from the last round in this game. All he needed to do was kill a couple of my guys and he would be able to take complete control of the game. Despite drawing the majority of his deck, his kill spells didn't show up and I basically sat there and hit him with average Nature guys (no Aspect) for the entire game until he died. Seems good. [5-3]

Round 9: vs Mike Brawn, Death Knight

This game was largely uninteresting until turn 7. I'm sat on an Aspect but an otherwise empty board, and have tons in hand. Mike taps out, and drops an Amani Dragonhawk, naming Ability. Tits.

At this point he has one card in hand, and the rest is fuzzy. I know he's sat on a Girdle and Twilight Citadel, but can't remember if he has a Bronze Warden on the board too. In my hand is Gispax, Al'akir, Avatar of the Wild and Tesla. I sit for almost five minutes mulling over my decision - my hero is flipped. I can drop Al'akir and hope Mike can't kill it, or I can drop Tesla and go for his hero. I'm on a perilous amount of damage so can't let him hit me with the Dragonhawk. What confuses me is why I didn't think to drop Tesla and go for his Amani Dragonhawk.

I hope it's because he had a protector. I suspect it was actually nerves. I didn't want to leave a Tesla on the board if I didn't have to as the Dragonhawk would be able to eat it for free, as Aspect isn't giving it the attack bonus any more. After a lot of deliberation I drop Al'akir.

Mike attacks Al'akir with the Dragonhawk. I tap it down. Mike plays his one card in hand. It's Gargoyle, and it kills Al'akir. He follows it up with a pair of weenie protectors and the game is effectively over, along with my hopes of hitting the top 8. On reflection, I should have just played Tesla and gone for his Dragonhawk; failing that, I should have let him kill my Al'akir! Given my hand I would have been home free, but that's the benefit of hindsight for you. [5-4]

So once again I make Pod 3. This is slightly more of an accolade than the last two Realms (where I've made Pod 3 each time) - with an extra 50% worth of attendees it's a little more prestigious, and contains a fair few quality players - Tino Cazzato, Will Booker, Glenn Goldsworthy to name a few. This is no easy pod.

Julian and Morgan have made Pod 2 with their 6-3 finishes, and Alex makes Pod 1 after hitting the heady heights of 7-2.

So. I am desperate for a piss and I open Steal Steel in my Worldbreaker pack, noticing both a Chaotic Rush and a Thunderous Challenge. I take the 3/5 Emerald Dragon guy, and am passed a Grip of the Damned, which in the absence of anything else interesting, gets picked. From there I see nothing of note, take quests for a few picks, and notice the Alliance has dried up almost entirely.

Both Warrior cards come back, so I snaffle the Chaotic Rush and send the Thunderous Challenge off, only to find that comes back too! Warrior is wide open. Excellent.

Pack 2 and my rare is terrible in that, too! It's so bad I've forgotten. Depressingly my pack contains the two cards I really wanted both of - Timriv the Enforcer and Crown of Chelonian Freedom. After picking several dragons in the Worldbreaker pack I eventually take the crown, and hope to get passed a Timriv.

Predictably it doesn't happen. My first pass contains an Azure Skyrazor, which is nice, and I find a Death Strike a few picks down, and wheel Warrior cards all day.

Twilight of the Dragons offers me chod for a rare too, and I make probably the biggest mistake of the draft, passing an Obsidium Executioner. Another one comes round quite quickly and that gets slammed into my pile quickly, but by this point it's a little late. I'm able to complete my quest lineup handily and end up with about twelve Warrior cards.

After we go off to build, I decide that Grip of the Damned and Death Strike are probably better than all the Warrior cards I picked and rack my brains to remember if I passed a second Grip of the Damned.

Opposite me is Kylian Graham who has drafted Paladin, and Tyma who is filling in his decklist for him. He's drafted a Corrupted Egg Shell, some weapons and tons of quality allies and other Paladin cards. Tyma asks if Kylian will draft in his place in future.

Sideboard: Command of Undeath, Zulanji, Kloxx Dedrix, Bronze Emissary

Round 10: vs Kev Richardson, Warlock

Kev's drafted Warlock based off the two Twisted Infernals he has. After he wallops me with one in our first game, I spend the second game doing nothing but keeping his board clear, and he runs out of cards with a couple of resources to go. Following a reload off my quests I just keep dropping allies and eventually he hits seven resources, and realises that without something to sacrifice, that guy isn't so good after all.

Crown of Chelonian Freedom does the job for me admirably - pretty much as soon as it hits I start to pull away with on-board advantage. [6-4]

Round 11: vs Will Booker, Mage

I got bob-ombed! I passed Will the Timriv I opened in pack two and it turned out he opened one too. On top of that, he also ripped an Amani Dragonhawk in his pack of Twilight of the Dragons, which turned out to be something of a nasty surprise. In our first game I had to spend my removal on other allies to maintain board state, so finding myself on the wrong side of an 8/5 and Flame Keeper Rizzli's flip was a rude awakening. Game two I simply save a piece of removal for it, and when it does eventually hit the bottom of the deck, I start to pull ahead - only to see Will shrug as he topdecks his second Timriv and use it to annihilate my board.

"Rather be lucky than good" he tells me. We play the third game and my deck does the business, me hitting him for nine with the Emerald Wanderer the turn after I dropped a 5DEF Crown. [6-5]

Round 12: vs Neil Riley, Rogue

"The last time I drafted with you, you were drunk" I reminisce.

"It was at that thing in Milton Keynes?"

"Yeah. Are you drunk now?"


Our first game is largely uneventful - I play guys, Neil plays guys, my guys win. The second was a bit worse for me - I make guys, he drops Revealing Strike and I pitch the majority of my hand, and never quite recover.

In the third, Neil does nothing for two turns after a poor mulligan. "I think you've won this one," he tells me. I then proceed to do nothing for three turns after an equally poor mulligan. Neil's third turn consists of Revealing Strike and I pap myself - holding six allies and an ability, this can't end well for me.

The top card of my deck is a quest, Neil is deflated and I proceed to make guys and armour and swords and stuff. Phew. [7-5]

That left me in eighteenth place. Not the finish that I wanted really - after a successful testing regime and more draft practice than I've ever done before, I expected more. In the end, Will Booker made Top 8 from our pod - after a horrendous nightmare for Ross Silcock in pod 2, winning his first game, getting paired down in the second and then playing the same person from the first game meaning that Will squeaked in on tiebreakers. Still - I was the best drafter of the day from our car - Alex [4th after Top 8] and Julian [14th] finished 1-2 and Morgan [25th] sadly went 0-3 after his cracking start in Core.

Still, there's always next year, and all experience is good experience. Next stop is Worlds, and the fact that Throne of the Tides is STILL not available in the UK isn't a problem in the slightest. Not one jot. Honest.

[I'm fucking terrified and have almost no relevant cards from the new set oh shit]

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Chesterfield Nationals Qualifier, 10/2011

I found this in my list of unpublished posts - so I'm publishing it!


The group over at Chesterfield have been playing for a while, but today was their first sanctioned tournament, after spending a while getting everything in gear. It was a combined Nationals Qualifier and Brewfest Worldbreaker Block Draft, and it attracted 14 players - including Tino from up Leeds way who has been in hibernation for a while, alongside someone else I thought I recognised but now am not so sure...

Anyway, this was likely to be the last bit of draft practice I'd get before Nationals, so after we were randomly assigned our seats in a pod of 8 and a pod of 6, we got underway.

My Worldbreaker pack contained a Rolan Phoenix and not a great deal else - the quests were bad, there were no good dragons and no particularly exciting allies, so I resigned myself to picking the rare and seeing what else came around. Over the next couple of picks I obtained a couple of quests, grabbed a 1/4 protector for 2, and then all of a sudden was passed a Tesla.

Pulling this face: O_o I picked it, followed by a Blast Trap, another Tesla (!), another Blast Trap and a Steady Shot, finishing off the draft picking a couple of boring-looking allies. I passed a Ruby Enforcer over the second Blast Trap which felt like a bit of a mistake but at this point I wanted to completely shut Hunter off for the rest of the pack.

My second pack was... well, the rare was totally useless - War Party Hitching Post. I quickly shipped it off and in the absence of any good quests whatsoever in this set (and no Donatello - sad face) picked a Bound Vortex, of all things. The rest of the pack was quite uneventful, largely picking solid allies and getting passed a Cobra Shot fourth pick, signaling that Hunter was wide open, later confirmed by wheeling two Arcane Shots.

Twilight was the big pack. With a pretty solid curve after the first two packs the aim was to grab a big ally or two, and most importantly, a weapon (I'd picked a Terina Calin earlier in the draft but hadn't seen a Stakethrower). Staring back at me when I opened the pack was a Twilight Citadel.

Well, I'm not passing that. I hoped to wheel the Cinder and/or Favour of the Hunt, picked a Volatile Thunderstick early (and wondered whether first-picking that Timriv I had in my second pack could have put me into the Horde), wheeled a second, wheeled a Cinder, got both the Favour and the Cinder from my opening pack, and wound up with well over 40 playable cards. Cutting was a nightmare, but I ended up with the following. Spot the deliberate mistake:

Sideboard goodies: another Blast Trap, Arcane Shot, Steady Shot and Obsidian Drudge

That's right - I played Rolan Phoenix, but declined to play Huntsman Gorwal. Who is a Worgen. Derp

[More importantly it occurred to me after the tournament that my deck was actually illegal - Amaria Kelsur is Survival specced, and Master Marksman is a Marksmanship Talent. It made very little difference in the end as I didn't SEE Master Marksman once, let alone play it - but that could have been a costly mistake. It's not as relevant now Throne of the Tides is out, but if you ever find yourself playing old limited formats, DOUBLE CHECK YOUR TALENTS]

It seemed I picked all the three drops as I had about twelve before cutting, but was pretty satisfied with how the deck looked once I'd put everything together. It wasn't particularly flashy but I figured it would be powerful enough to help me win a game or two.

Round 1, vs Dan - playing Horde Druid

The first game was over pretty quickly - I won the roll, and after no action on either of our first turns, I landed a Cinder, my opponent only had a Rejuvenation, and I proceeded to five him to the face several times, killing his allies with Bound Vortex tokens. The second game took a bit more fighting to get through but with a Cinder on turn two again I managed to keep control of the board for a while with the dragonhawk's free ping, before cashing it in against a larger ally and dropping an Erama on an otherwise empty board, who finished the job quickly. [1-0]

Round 2, vs Jake, playing Alliance Mage

Mage is a pretty under-represented class in this block so I was wondering what awesome stuff had put him into that class, and a bunch of stall abilities and a Corrupted Egg Shell seemed like pretty good reasons to me. Thankfully the Egg was late to the party the first time round, and by the time he was able to pop it I simply ignored the new dragons and attacked for fatal, before commencing to sideboard in some serious egg hate - Steady Shot, along with extra copies of Obsidian Drudge and Arcane Shot.

This time the egg came out on four, but I was prepared, with a turn five Volatile Thunderstick to keep the egg count low. I could never quite kill all of the shells due to the hero protection and a Gardos Gravefang turning up for duty, but when I played a Steady Shot on top of the gun and the slowly-appreciating bunch of allies on my side of the field, Jake cracked the egg and introduced my face to his new friend.

It took a steady shot, a gunshot and two allies to finish the egg off, but Jake had used most of his cards trying to keep the egg alive and was drawing dead against my ally a turn. [2-0]

Round 3, vs Chris playing Alliance Warlock

"I don't know how to play this game", he told me earlier - "but I opened a Jhuunash and thought it seemed good". The deck seemed to largely be "Angry Men with Aberration" and after no first turn play from me, I was suddenly on 14 damage out of nowhere having struggled to clear the board. Some Trousers came down shortly after, and I dropped a protector on turn 6 in anticipation of the Twisted Infernal, which sure enough appeared shortly after, and I eventually swarmed him to death.

The sideboard offered me a second Blast Trap for the Infernal, and my opening hand gave me a curve ending on a turn 5 Thunderstick. A misplay from my opponent (casting Selora targeting Windspeaker Nuvu, forgetting that it gives +1 ATK) helped me clear the board slightly easier, and despite an Obsidian Drudge spoiling the gun party, there were a couple of turns of no action as my opponent held a Twisted Infernal without enough resources to play it, nor anything to sacrifice to it. [3-0]

Tino 3-0'd the other pod and we compared notes. He had been paired down so was quite confident he was only going to take the runner-up position, and he wasn't wrong... so for better or worse, I took down my third Brewfest of three entered, and probably used up all my draft luck that I wanted for Nationals.

Likely silence again until after Nationals now - good luck to everyone who is going and be sure to come and say hi if you see me. I'm the tall guy whose hair fell out.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

A break in the action

One of the hardest things about writing a blog is maintaining the enthusiasm to keep it going past the initial "hey I got this idea" phase. There's bee a severe drop-off in posts on here as I struggle to come up with enough worthwhile content to drop into a post, not to mention the enormous amount of time it takes to write these things. Early starts, new jobs and testing for events all eat into that, and you also can't ignore the fact that I can be horrifically lazy at times.

The third and perhaps most important part is that until the Throne of the Tides previews started this week, there's been very little to talk about - I've been playing the same deck for a month in preparation for the Zapped Giants Open III, will continue playing that same deck in preparation for the UK Nationals next month, and therefore am not about to discuss it in too much detail; I went to play Sealed in Sheffield, opened an uninspiring pool, and met the elusive Alex Crow who proceeded to do horrible things to me with Soridormi and Twilight's Hammer.

I came fourth of seven, with a 2-1 record, thanks to shitty tiebreakers; the Zapped Giants Open was more of a success story, with me finishing top of the standings after the swiss pairings on 6-1, only to scrub out of the Top 8 after winning the first game. My deck had a complete breakdown in the second game, giving me three six-drops in my first hand and all three of my one-drops in my mulligan; the third game came down to him killing me before I killed him. Disappointing, but a second Top 8 in three Zapped Giants Opens is not to be sniffed at. Once Nationals has come and gone I'll have a bit more info.

I was intending to go and play Sealed at Stoke-on-Trent yesterday too, but - amazingly - literally nobody turned up.

So! Instead I'm going to bore you senseless with a few of my favourite cards from the new set, Throne of the Tides. The full spoiler was made available Saturday morning, and you can find it at amongst other places. In no particular order:

A nice exciting one to start. Or not.

So Righteous Cleanse isn't the most bombastic of abilities, but when was the last time Paladins got a standard, unrestricted dispel?

March of the Legion, with Sacred Purification, which by all accounts looks like it was pretty damn good. Given the lack of hate we've seen in the last block though, this seems pretty good too - a two-cost, Instant, no restrictions (no Repentance- or Blessing of Faith- style nonsense), and with a free Delve tacked on too?

I think I prefer Oppress in a "Best Dispel in Core" contest but this is potentially a really important card for Core and limited formats.

Arcanomage Misti is, to be quite honest, just Burly Berta, but worse. Luckily for us though, Berta joins the list of flagship allies who are being reprinted with the release of the Fall 2011 Class Starter Decks, so there's nothing stopping you from including both of these in your deck. Turn 2 Burly Berta is awkward. Turn 2 Berta Turn 3 Misti could be very awkward.

Keeping her alive will be the most difficult part, as the loss of that fourth health is pretty huge, and her single ATK is mostly irrelevant when defending.

I quite like Master Sniper Simon McKey's flip - he could easily give a bit of reach to the Aspect of the Wild Hunter decks that have been floating around. With an Aspect out, there is nothing shameful about playing a Tesla on turn 6 and then smacking your opponent in the face for 14.

Unfortunately he looks a bit like a cross between the two main characters from Gears of War.

Trivia fact: This is another vanity hero for a volunteer - this time it's, umm, Simon Key, who works on the rules team and moderates the Cryptozoic forums.

Parexia is one of over twenty cards in the set featuring the Empower keyword, ("When this ally enters play, if you control another XX hero or ally, do thing") and while most of them have solid stats and powers, Parexia stood out due to the lack of discard effects printed recently. There have been a few, and I'm sure we've all been blown up by Revealing Strike once or twice, but forcing the discard of two random cards and getting a passable four-drop for five resources seems like a pretty good deal to me. 

With many classes struggling for card draw (and Throne not really offering a huge amount to combat that), we could see one or two neat discard decks pop up in the new Core format. Priest now having access to Mind Melt, Oppress, Twisted Mind Spike and Parexia, not to mention newcomer Tendrils of Darkness could see people topdecking quite reliably... if they can find a way of killing those pesky Girdles.

This guy intrigues me. I almost never want to voluntarily discard my own cards, but binning an Arcane Barrage to Valak's power seems like it could be a solid plan.

The main issue is refilling your hand later in the game. Mana Agate is good but won't single-handedly fix the problems this card could create for you like a Mana Sapphire or Invocation would.

So - a great power stunted by a lack of available card draw. Is he good enough for Classic?

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the set are these Bottled equipments. Every class has one, along with the Monsters. They aren't class-restricted - they just get better if played with their corresponding hero. Bottled Life with a Druid Hero will give you two 1/1 Treants on your furst turn if you so choose; a second one on your next turn will let you play flagship ally Plainswatcher Taro for free.

The Priest one makes an opponent discard a card each time it is activated, the Mage one channels Darkness Calling for you, the Death Knight one reduces an ally's health by 2 each time it is used, and perhaps the most intriguing one is the Warlock's Bottled Void - which hits an opposing hero for 3 damage, heals your hero for 3 damage, and then does it again when you use its secondary power. A twelve-health swing for three resources.

Last one for now, a card that scratches my ex-Totem player itch. Clearly he works well with cards like Scimitar of the Sirocco - drop him into play accompanied by a Fire Totem, make him a 10/5, then clatter into the opponent for 13. However, at some point I will be attempting to get my hands on a few of these and will put together another Totem control deck like I used in the good old days. I get the feeling that given half a chance he could run riot with a Totem or two of your own in play.


I deliberately tried to avoid a lot of the obviously great cards - you don't need me to tell you why Ozumat, Commander Ulthok and Mazu'kon are good!


The full list of Flagship cards that will be reprinted with the release of the 2011 Fall Class Starter Decks: