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 BabalĂș - 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:

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Nationals Qualifier Season so far [also the news]

Is it September already? Fucking hell. Lots to talk about. Let's start with the goodness first:

Nationals! After a long wait, we now have a second mid-level event to look forward to this year. The main event will be held in Manchester's Fanboy3 store, and qualifiers for the event are being held around the country every weekend (and a few evenings) right up until the event.

Qualifier spaces are given out based on attendance, to a maximum of four places for an event of nine or more players. The qualifiers themselves are largely Block format, or Sealed, with one or two Drafts up in Scotland if you're that way inclined. More information in the link above, but here it is again for the lazy!

Zapped Giants Open III! This one's being held in Beeston, Nottingham. It's Block format, and with 72 boosters for the winner, along with 24 for the runner up, most of us need little incentive to give this a crack. If that wasn't enough, it also doubles as a qualifier for Nationals!

ZG Podcast Episode 7! In which Tyma suggests Middlesbrough should be bombed.


So those Nationals qualifiers I mentioned earlier? They've been up and running for a couple of weeks now, and have proved a really excellent way of testing your (or other people's) decks in advance of the Zapped Giants Open and eventually Nationals. Memories are a little hazy but as an excuse to talk about Block:

Stoke-on-Trent Block Qualifier, 24/08/2011

Suffering from a lack of inspiration, failing to get hold of the cards I needed in time, and perhaps most importantly, getting routinely pumped on MWS whilst playing my homebrew deck having not found a final configuration I was happy with, I adopted a deck belonging to Lammy, one of the Manchester crew. He likes aggro, and his deck basically makes lots of small allies, then makes them bigger with druid buffs. I'd given it limited testing and it had a few obvious weaknesses, but hitting someone for 26 with one ally in one turn was enough of a boon for me to give it a go.

We had a pretty hefty turnout, enough for five rounds, and I took the deck to a 3-2 finish - good enough for fourth place, and a not entirely convincing qualification at the first time of asking. Lammy later informed me of how disappointed he was with my performance, as he'd hit 4-1 with his deck in the first Nationals qualifier, winning it. My two losses were to a Horde Warlock Rush, which was essentially the Block evolution of my old Koo'zar deck, along with a couple of clever additions (Warchief's Revenge), and Alex Marsden's Warrior/Dragon midrange deck, which plays Shockwave.

Shockwave is borderline unfair against a deck that relies on attachments!

The overall winner was Ollie from Manchester, playing an Aspect of the Wild Hunter deck with a couple of bits of cool tech I'm not going to spoil here just yet.

Ripley Block Qualifier, 27/08/2011

Dan Knight (complete with missus) made the journey down from Stoke for this one, and we were pretty disappointed to be the only three players there until we managed to rope someone else in to play with us. Saturdays are awful for most of the Ripley group unfortunately, due to sporting commitments - we have one Cricketer, at least two Footballers, two on holiday, several at work, and a couple who aren't so keen on Block.

I took along a Horde version of the Apsect of the Wild Hunter, which plays a more controlling game rather than relying on a bunch of ferocious Worgen. Once in the late game it can search out its fatness with Gispax the Mixologist and generally counters the lack of card draw with utterly ridiculous on-board advantage thanks to tokens from Cairne and Skywall.

I took this one 3-0 - against two Warlock rush decks, much like the last one I spoke about, and Dan's Priest Combo brew, which definitely needs tweaking but could catch a few people by surprise (if the weather is right and the wind is blowing in the right direction and they're not paying attention)...

Beeston Sealed Qualifier, 03/09/2011

Bringing us up to date, we have today's small but perfectly formed sealed qualifier at Beeston. Our turnout was six - again, not quite as high as expected but with a pretty solid pedigree of players it was still a challenging event.

For no particular reason I cracked my Worldbreaker first, and was pretty pleased to see a Bloodied Arcanite Reaper in the first pack; the second yielded a Polished Breastplate of Valor, and already it was going to take something pretty special to get me out of the Plate classes.

That never came:

Relevant cards in side-deck: Command of Undeath, another Obsidium Executioner

I spent a while deliberating over whether to pick the Horde over the Alliance - I'd opened a Timriv and a Jezziki Shinebog, and the pair of them are among my favourite allies in this block for limited play. In the end I settled for the 7/7 fatness of double Bayner though. Neil was sat opposite and groaned a little. "I remember not being impressed by that guy, but then you played him against me in sealed a while back - he ate three of my guys!"

Normally I will play 31 cards in limited, as I usually can't decide what to cut. This time I was going to do it properly and cut all the way to 30 - having an Obsidian Drudge around meant that I could happily not play Command of Undeath main deck, and I had an extra weapon if three wasn't enough. I cut a total of nine four-drops, and the only thing I'd have really done differently would be to not play Twilight Shadowdrake, instead replacing him with one of the plethora of Moderately Sized Guys that I'd cut to accomodate it.

Started off against Morgan - he'd had a last minute change of heart and decided to play Paladin. I'm not sure what the previous class was, but I dropped the Breastplate on three and it largely took over the game, especially when I was able to drop an Executioner later on in the game and stop having to spend cards to go to town on his board with. Eventually he flipped Auralyn, dropped a couple of innocuous allies, and then cast Beacon of Light on the one that I didn't kill, triggering off Auralyn's power.

Thankfully Morgan didn't manage to land Beacon on anything particularly large, so I was able to take care of them before they got out of control. Eventually the flip and fat dudes wore him down, despite drawing a ton of  cards during both games. [1-0]

Next up is Den, playing Alliance Warlock. He'd opened a pair of Twisted Infernals, who are always bad news for, well, anyone really. We won a game each, me losing the second after he infernaled out of nowhere and then healed it after I dealt 4 to it, meaning I had to hit it three times with my weapon to kill it.

The third game was a slow affair - he mulliganed from a hand that started at four to a hand that started at four, but this meant I could keep an equally slow hand and not be at a disadvantage. My first play was a Breastplate on three, and once again it took over the game, eventually having 8 defence and when the Infernal came down this time, I was ready and took a 'mere' 8 damage killing it with my hero. From here I played more and more fat allies, generated a ghoul at the end of my turn, and even forgot to claim my Free Bonus Ghoul on several turns, but it's sometimes hard to deal with something bigger than Invulnerable Mail, backed up with a sword and a 7/7. [2-0]

Finally, it was Neil. He and I have played three or four limited events against each other and while we were deckbuilding we had a bit of a chat and discussed how best to build our decks. "I want to get better at limited as I'll probably be playing it at Worlds," he told me - "and you keep beating me so I'm going to keep asking you for help". This did give me a peek at his deck - solid removal and a pair of Obsidian Drudge threatened to give me problems.

Neil took the first game quite comfortably. I suited up with the Axe of the Eclipse and the Breastplate, and after killing three or four of his dudes he played an Obsidian Drudge. In Misplay City, I played a 5/4 guy rather than investing the resources into drawing cards and adding counters to my armour, as this would have stopped him being able to play a second Drudge, killing his first one on my 5/4, and killing all my gear. From there it didn't get much better when his 3/9 guy that I had only managed to get to 8 damage started running riot, armed with a Crown of Chelonian Freedom with six (!) counters on.

The second game was pretty immaculate from me - everything Neil did I had an answer for, the turning point probably being him playing a Marius Jator against my turn 5 Bloodied Arcanite Reaper, only for me to stash a Jerrak Krandle to get the requisite six damage available. From there the axe ran riot in a replay of all the other times we've ever played limited together.

The other matches had finished by this point, and we hit the side decks for inspiration. I removed the Twilight Shadowdrake for a Command of Undeath, and after the Longest Shuffle Ever we got underway. The opening hand was a little awkward, with a T1 Nathar Wilderson, T2 Azure Drake, and no meaningful three-drop (and as it transpired, no turn three play at all). Turn four I flipped his Twilight Citadel and despite him only making dragon tokens up to that point, was still only a card in hand behind. Either way the big turning point was Neil playing the wrong ally T5 - he dropped a Marius Jator, then T6 a Landro's Lichling and a 2/1. I had a Marcus Dominar out which I was quite surprised to find hadn't been killed or at least hit for 2 by Marius, but dutifully ran him into the Lichling to see what shenanigans Neil had up his sleeve.

That Marius Jator was supposed to be Pixia Darkmist. Neil didn't quite recover from here, despite a gallant effort in the face of two Bayner Cogbertson. One bit the dust, but I managed to finish the game a turn or two later with an attack from Bayner, my hero with an Executioner, and finished him off by entombing his Venerable Mass of McGowan with Command of Undeath.

Phew. [3-0]

Andy, the store owner, generously donated his judge support to the prize pool, so between Neil and myself we took home about twenty boosters of War of the Elements. One of the other players (Hi, Sky!) went to the counter, bought a pack of Twilight of the Dragons, and approached me as I was playing a bit of two-pack to wind down, to offer me a trade - one of my WoE packs for his TotD pack, based on how I'd had all the luck today therefore my packs must be awesome.

I disagreed with the luck comment - I'd got a nice pool but after looking at third place finisher Pete Thorpe's pool, he was aiming his accusations at the wrong person. Oh, and Neil's Twilight Citadel and Grim Campfire Loot too. Swines!

I accepted the gamble and offered him a pack, and finished playing two-pack with Neil (he largely humped me). At the bottom of my pile of prizes was the solitary Twilight pack, and it contained some crappy location that makes tiny dragons. Waste of time really...


You're still reading? Just a reminder that you should really consider going to the Zapped Giants Open III. Go! Plan your travel now! Do it!

Friday, 26 August 2011


In my house there is a computer. Every time I sit down at it with the intention of writing something, I get distracted; by MWS, Wikipedia, forums, or Steam.

It's been a month and a half since the last meaningful update! I have four half-finished articles that I'm probably not going to bother publishing as they're largely irrelevant. Their subjects:

- 2011 Spectral Safaris, in Stoke and Nottingham

I attended two of these! First up was Stoke-on-Trent, with a surprisingly low 14 players; I pulled Horde Warlock (to a chorus of "The best deck!" which it plainly isn't) and went 2-3 after losing the fourth round to a topdecked burn spell after forcing the discard of my opponent's Gargoyle, and the fifth round to a bad matchup (Priest) vs a skilled player (Shrewsbury Joe).

The other one was Nottingham Chimera, where I pulled the Horde Shaman (to a chorus of "The worst deck!" which it really is), and went 3-4. My Safari misery continues for another year!

- Chesterfield Draft

There's a store in Chesterfield which has recently started running Battlegrounds, so on the weekend of the Twilight of the Dragons release I figured I'd head down there to meet the players and get my hands on a few more packs.

They were drafting 3x Twilight, so after a quick explanation of the rules of draft as none of them had done it before, we sat down and I drafted a Warlock deck featuring two Twisted Elemental and two Selora, and a Chaos Bolt (which was largely underwhelming). We played four rounds for no discernable reason, I won them all with basic card advantage play (Selora is so, so good) and took home the enormous prize pool of two packs.

Fun day though and a lovely bunch, and have since returned there to drop off a load of spares and have a few more games. I believe they ran a Lazy Peon tournament on Thursday which I was very sad to not be able to attend.

- My First Block Decklist

It wasn't very good.

- Comments on the new Set Rotation

This is the thing that's been the most awkward to comment on. My unpublished take on the subject was slightly skewed - having not only spent almost £200 on a couple of hefty collections of cards, the night before the announcement was made I had just ordered three Flint Shadowmore for the upcoming Core rotation.

Ok, let's roll back a little bit. For those who don't know what's happened, or don't play the game, there are two constructed formats in WoWTCG - Classic, and Core. Classic lets you play with any card ever released, and Core lets you play with a certain number of cards, based on set rotation - as newer sets are released, older ones are removed from legality.

This October, Throne of the Tides (Set 16) releases, and under the current Core rotation method, when it released we would have the following available:

- Scourgewar Block
- Worldbreaker Block
- Throne of the Tides Block

When The Announcement was made, things changed a little bit. Instead of the three-block rotation we were expecting, we were actually getting two-block rotation:

- Worldbreaker Block
- Throne of the Tides Block

This meant that the Flint Shadowmores I'd just bought would be rotating out of Core in about two and a half months, as well as all the lovely Scourgewar cards I'd been working hard to acquire over the last year. Naturally I was pretty annoyed at this, and the general consensus around the internet largely echoed my feelings. There were some great conspiracy theories going around too, about how it was a ploy to get all the cards designed and manufactured by Upper Deck out of the game quicker, and so on.

The official reason for this change? The metagame is stale. Ever since the release of Fields of Honor, it was tough to argue against playing Eye of the Storm in your deck. If you were part of the Alliance, this just happened to work really well in conjunction with Adam Eternum. Any deck running allies would also run Tuskarr Kite, which debuted in Scourgewar; not to mention Horde decks needing a really good excuse to not run Broderick Langforth, not to mention all the incredibly powerful abilities that we've been playing with for well over a year now.

When you look at it like that, the change doesn't sound quite so bad. Of course I'm still not so happy about the sheer amount of money I've spent on these cards with the expectancy that they will be usable in Core for another year, but a month or so down the line I've come to terms with it and am having a great time with the Block format, and it would appear the playerbase at large feel much the same way as there has been a huge spike in the number of unique decklists we're seeing compared to the past, where a Warrior deck would eventually be refined into whatever version of Death Wish was doing the best.

Cryptozoic have stated that they intend to provide support for Classic in the future - there's four rounds of it during day one of Worlds, and there will be at least one Darkmoon Faire that is Classic format, but the big thing for me will be whether there is any low-mid level play of the format. I have a lot of old cards and I don't really want to have to leave the country to get any meaningful play out of them.

Card drawing is still a bone of contention with the new cards - the Twilight Citadel/Etched Dragonbone Girdle is quite egregious when compared to the power level of the new quests, but that's for another day.

Enough on that. I'll come back to it soon, though if you desire further listening, take a listen to the rather excellent EMERGENCY PODCAST from the ZG Podcast crew - lots of interesting viewpoints from all over the spectrum of players, curated and handled well by two guys and some bacon sandwiches.

Coming in the next couple of days: NEW CONTENT

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

The New Core Rotation

Have you seen the announcement?

Last night I wrote altogether far too much on the subject, largely fueled by all my lovely Scourgewar cards being practically unplayable in a few months' time. That's all going in the bin and I'll have something a little more reasoned on the subject in a couple of days - it's Battlegrounds at Ripley tomorrow and it'll be a hot topic, so will have more opinions rather than just my own to key off.

Be right with you.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

2011 Spectral Safaris - Stoke-on-Trent/Nottingham

With the release of the 2011 Class Starters comes a pack of tigers, released into the wild [Hobby Stores] around the UK for an entirely new batch of Spectral Safaris. I was lucky enough to be within easy reach of two on the weekend of 23/24 July 2011, hoping to take home some form of ride-on animal for my troubles following an intensive [not intensive] training program involving getting familiar with as many of the decks as I could find lists for.

23rd July 2011: Guys that Game, Stoke-on-Trent

A meagre 14 players attended GTG and given that I've taken home more of their prizes than I really should be entitled to, I was feeling pretty good. The Random Bag O'Decks gave me Horde Warlock, something I wasn't particularly familiar with, being unable to find a decklist on the net.

Two separate people tell me it's the "best deck".

Best deck



Horrid flashbacks to last year's Safaris, where I picked up Horde Priest ("The Best Deck"), and thanks to the random selection of allies I ended up with a deck that closely resembled a steaming turd with some nice Priest cards sticking out of it. I didn't do very well.

On first impressions the Warlock was pretty nice - everything looked a little fragile but there's no denying Dread Infernal is excellent in a format like this, and giving him +2ATK with Malistra the Demonmistress is even better.

My long-suffering deck test buddy Steve joined us in Stoke and was my first opponent. He'd pulled Alliance Hunter (also considered to be very good) but I came out victorious after dropping enough fat guys that his Blackcrow couldn't deal with. Loque came a turn too late - I had enough on board for fatal so ignored the cat and went for the face. [1-0]

Game 2 was against Shrewsbury Guy, playing Horde Death Knight. This one was a heartbreaker - I did everything right, flipping my hero to make him discard his one card in hand - a Gargoyle, and having a healthly life lead at that point due to how ridiculously aggro the Warlock can be.

Guy was topdecking while I was trying to press the advantage. The turning point came when he picked up a couple of bits of armour, stopping the clock my diseases put him on; the next card was a Citadel Enforcer's Claymore, and after a couple of swings we were in a situation where I had enough on board to kill Guy, and providing he doesn't draw any burn, he can't kill me.

Off the top: Death Coil. [1-1]

Following this I shuffled up opposite my testing partner, Dan Goodman, who had pulled in my opinion the actual 'best deck', the Priest. More on that later though. He didn't really get anything on the board that I couldn't deal with, I got big guys out early and it was over pretty quickly. Dan later lamented that he'd had to play both Warlocks back to back, and lost to both. [2-1]

Joe Sadowski, also making the trip from Shrewsbury, was up next, also packing the Priest, in what we dubbed "the REAL top table". He walloped me, and it quickly became obvious that the Warlock cannot win this match with burn spells alone - a Nethermaven Donna Chastain backed up with any of the instant heal spells will pretty much win games by itself. Unfortunately I found this out the hard way, finding myself in the awkward situation of facing down a Nethermaven with two burn spells in hand to kill it with. My options were attempt to kill it and maybe fail, or don't attempt to kill it and get killed anyway.

Circle of Healing spoiled my plans and that was all she wrote. Of all the games I played on Saturday, this was the only one where I felt the game was completely out of my control. [2-2]

Asher was my final opponent, no doubt looking for revenge for my Ultimate Peon victory. He was packing the Rogue and with a couple of clever Perdition's Blade tricks took me and my awful mulligan down in no time at all. [2-3]

Guy didn't drop a single game all day and took home an El Pollo Grande for his troubles; Joe won the Tiger from the random draw. My consolation prize was a whole pack; I forget what was in it, but it wasn't very good. No matter - onwards to the following day's Safari where I felt a little more confident of my chances now I'd seen most of the decks that the lists proved elusive for.

Sunday 24th July 2011: Chimera Nottingham

Today the Box Of Decks was not kind to me. Horde Shaman. Universally regarded as bad, a quick flick through at least revealed a pleasant surprise, in that the Masterwork Stormhammer at least functioned as a usable weapon.

Round 1 saw me against a new player, Neil Cherry - I think he might play Magic. He was playing Alliance Druid, but thankfully I managed to drop an Infusion of Earth on my Masterwork Stormhammer and finished up wondering if the deck really was that bad after all. [1-0]

Alan Jiang is a new face on the Nottingham WoWTCG scene, though not one I've met before. He shuffled up a Mage opposite me and after a decent game of board control, he dropped Gabble; smacked me in the face twice with it and as I tried to swing the Stormhammer for fatal he played the Mage thing that stops people from attacking, and smacked me a third time to take the game. [1-1]

Next up: Mark Scott! I think he got a shit mulligan. I can't remember much about this. [2-1]

Axl Bell was next with his Priest, and seemed a little confused about how he'd ended up doing so well. He was the best type of new player - calm and thoughtful, planning his every move. He did make one massive play error that I was able to punish - with a Nethermaven and a 2/4 on board vs my Vanda Skydaughter, he went straight for my hero enabling me to eat his 2/4 with Vanda, flip, then kill the big guy in one fell swoop. Unfortunately it did me no good as the Shaman's cracks started to show, with the majority of its allies boasting very little health they died to random bits of burn and smaller allies, despite the above situation. [2-2]
Better without the text

Axl's friend was watching the end of our game, before lamenting how bad his deck was. His deck? The Horde Warlock.

"Oh, no no no. Give this to me, let me show you."

The next 20 minutes were a rather cathartic lesson in How To Play Horde Warlock, with the unfortunate recipient none other than Axl. He put up a really good fight but my failures against Joe on Saturday had taught me well and I knew exactly what I needed at every point.

After lunch, another new player! Wen Jie Lee is more accustomed to MTG and I think I only won this due to some rule mixups between games. He dropped a T3 Master of the Hunt to my T3 Stormhammer, a T4 Tesla, hitting me for 7; I took another 5 after attaching an Infusion of Earth to the mallet and killing the serpent. A turn or two later he completed the Essence of Enmity revealing another Tesla, then... didn't play it.

I ground out the win in the end, and asked about the Tesla following the game. He had forgotten that I would take combat damage when attacking the pet, so figured that the seven damage wouldn't be worth it until later in the game when it could be used as a finisher. [3-2]

More limitations of the Shaman deck beginning to show. A fun one is the inclusion of Zerzu - a 2/4 for 3, who upon entering play, heals all damage from all Nature allies you control. Nature allies who, for the most part, have two health. Maybe this will help me kill two Cerwyns with my Boki Earthgaze...

An old hand showed up for the penultimate round, playing Mage - Den Holland was pretty upbeat about the deck after Tom's 1-4 performance in Stoke suggested it wasn't all that. Den had the answers for everything - I played a guy, there was a Fire Blast or a Scorch waiting. Eventually I ran out of cards after keeping a potentially average hand, and he ran rampant. [3-3]

The game was over so quickly we had time for a friendly. The tables turned completely this time, I was even able to Frost Shock a Cerwyn and simply ran riot over his board for three or four turns before Stormhammering him to death. Get it right and the deck's not so bad; get it wrong and you're fucked.

Finally, James Goode-Hamy. Another Rogue. Some more Perdition's Blade tricks. A board full of guys that deal extra damage to exhausted characters, a Gouge, and 16 damage in one turn. I eventually stabilised, killing all but one ally, and dropping a protector. James was out of steam and topdecking, but I was well within killing distance with perilous little health remaining. He topdecked something to give his ally Assault 2 and Stealth, and I was done.

My next card, Chain Lightning - something I could have done with a few turns prior... [3-4]

Maybe next year I'll get it right. One day.