Saturday, 29 January 2011

How to be mediocre

The recent set rotation and rules changes haven't been as kind to me as I'd have hoped. Short of some success with a Zaritha Totem deck (which was basically the DMF Antwerp-winning deck with all the good stuff taken out) I've been trying desperately to get Hunter Rush working and I'm about ready to give it a rest now.

Aspect of the Wild is the culprit here - especially on the Alliance side there are a lot of very well-statted allies that deal Nature damage, and with a recent glut of pets that fit the bill too, the deck almost builds itself. Unfortunately, it looks a lot better on paper than it actually is in reality. You can read more about the Alliance version I created here.

I've since ported the deck to Horde, added in Cairne, Earthmother's Chosen for his relevant stash power and if anything I've found the deck far less effective than its blue counterpart, albeit with a few benefits.

One of the Alliance version's biggest problems is its lack of card draw. Emerald Tree Warder was initially played to help offset this issue, and subsequently dropped due to dying before you can really get much use out of it; when you are trying to maintain a dangerous board presence you want to spend as little as possible or get a lot out of your quests, so things like Concerted Efforts and Under the Shadow are highly useful for this purpose.

Unfortunately neither of those hit the Aspect, your key card, and it makes playing Buzz for equipment hate quite awkward as you'll find you often skip past him with your quests. Playing Horde helps alleviate this - For Great Honor hits both Buzz and the Aspect, making it a quest you can complete at almost any time rather than having to hold off due to the fear of having to dump the card you want on the bottom of your deck.

I took the deck to my local store on Wednesday and had mixed results. I faced off against two Death Knights and two Druids, winning against one of each. A quick rundown:

Round 1: Jonty playing 'Where's Corpse Explosion'

Our meta at Ripley is pretty Death Knight heavy. It can get a little tedious at times but a good Triton deck will eat most ally-based decks for breakfast, so it's often a safe choice. Luckily for me, Jonty didn't pull a single Corpse Explosion or quest all game, so I made the most of my first few turns picking off his weenies with Boomer, playing a turn 3 Emerald Tree Warder and drawing four cards off a double Corruption of Earth and Seed. Eventually I dropped three Joja'bee on turn 7 and struck for several hundred on the following turn after having my aspect destroyed earlier on.

Round 2: Matt playing 'There's Corpse Explosion'

After rolling two thirds of a large pot of dice to determine who goes first (Matt beat me by a good fifty points) I got hit by Matt's uncanny ability to draw several Corpse Explosions per game. Once again I managed to mitigate early pressure with Boomer only to find him removed from the board before I could drop the Aspect; the second push that I'd purposely saved some cards for didn't last long as a second Corpse Explosion put Matt in a strong position. Some Riveted Abomination Leggings put me at a dangerous amount of damage, but with the Aspect still on the table, I was able to vomit what remained of my hand on to the table, enough for fatal next turn.

Matt flashed me a third Corpse Explosion and that was enough to finish me off.

Round 3: Morgan playing 'Oh hi Mikael'

I'd been dropping some science via email for Morgan recently, recommending a few staple cards for his new Druid deck and offering up a little play advice regarding how to deal with the abundance of rush you generally face at our playgroup.

It worked against me this week; my Aspect was killed on his turn 4, but thankfully I had the Cromarius for his Earth and Moon a turn later. What I didn't have once the Aspect was gone was a board of allies with much health. All too often my allies would get one attack off and then get killed off my Mikael the Blunt - the same one in fact, which was being resurrected by the terrifying Twin Spire Ruins. I'm pretty sure the same Mikael came into play on five seperate occasions, before Morgan finished me off by playing a couple of Dragonkin, resurrecting a further one, dropping Skinned Whelp Shoulders and beating face.

Round 4: Julian playing Ashnaar/Gift

Lady luck was on my side this time - a turn 1 stashed Cairne and a one drop, turn 2 Boomer, turn 3 Aspect proved too much for the otherwise dangerous Ashnaar deck to deal with. By the time Julian had managed to stabilise with a fat Ashnaar, I had him on dangerous amounts of damage, and a sneaky Explosive Shot finished him off.

Another mediocre result, but it did help to highlight some real flaws with the deck, especially the red version - without the Aspect you are just playing lots of average allies; AoE kills you in a disgusting manner; the card draw is simply not good enough. With the right cards in the Alliance version you can at least survive an early Corpse Explosion and/or Mikael thanks to Aberration.

I may well come back to this at a later date, hopefully the next set will bring some complimentary cards; I'm definitely leaning towards the Alliance version being 'better' but I'm of the opinion it's just a little too fragile at present.

In other news...

Daily Metagame have been collecting decklists from local Realm Qualifiers. Their lists are well worth a browse as along with the usual Warlock/Shaman control decks there's been a few really interesting concepts doing the rounds that make me slightly sad I didn't think of them first!

The official website has been updated with a few new bits of information:

So. Assuming my order from Warcraft Gaming Center arrives in time, next week: Warlock Rush and Shaman Jank!

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Real life gets in the way of everything

That and videogames. Whoops.

Apologies for the lack of updates recently - going back to work has taken its toll on my free time and I've also got hooked on the most excellent Recettear, which is probably the real reason for the silence...

Anyway, I've thrown together a couple of decks to moderate levels of success, and I'm now at that stage where I need to spend some time improving them. I'll post up both the decklists with some notes as they've both seen a bit of play.

Generic Aspect Hunter

Magnus the Depriver

3 Emerald Captain
4 Garet Vice
4 Boomer
4 Loriam Argos
4 Bella Wilder
4 Aileen the Thunderblessed
3 Tesla
4 Woodsie Leafsong
2 Zuur

4 Aspect of the Wild
3 Spoils of the Hunt
3 Tuskarr Kite

3 Envoy of Mortality

3 Eye of the Storm
4 Corruption of Earth and Seed
4 Dr. Boom!
3 Under the Shadow
2 Cleansing Witch Hill

I played this at the local Battlegrounds last week, finishing 2-3, which could easily have been 0-5. It's a complete one-trick pony - play Nature guys, make them bigger, beat face. Aileen the Thunderblessed works great, if she is on the field and you have a spare resource or two, you're getting psuedo-Long Range for the cost of a resource, which isn't too shabby at all. On her own she's a tad useless, but even paired with a lone Aspect or Bella Wilder she's very dangerous.

Despite playing Magnus, a Beast Mastery spec Hunter, I chose Boomer over Deuce for his ability to deal damage the turn he enters play - Deuce has the extra point of ATK and gives you an additional pet but being able to take out someone's one drop for free on turn two, all for the cost of pointing at it and going 'skree', is very powerful. Magnus didn't really do the business either - I'd much rather have played Shaii, Strategist Supreme or Syreian the Bonecarver instead (though the Scourge variety is another story entirely).

Spoils of the Hunt is great anti-Army of the Dead tech, and the Envoy works well with the smaller Worgen allies thanks to their Aberration preventing the damage.

What didn't do the business - Tuskarr Kite, as I rarely found I had opportunity to play it when an ally wouldn't have been more beneficial, Under the Shadow was great at finding allies but had a really annoying habit of skipping past the Aspect when I needed it most, and Woodsie was just a little bit too slow to get rid of equipment.

I didn't put any Avatar of the Wild in for two reasons - I don't own any, and I wanted as much synergy as possible. I think they would fit quite nicely but as always, knowing what to remove is the hard part!

The deck was terrifying if you got an Aspect and an Aileen on the table; dangerous with one or the other; and a deck full of irrelevant Hunter cards with neither. More work required. In the meantime, think about this:

Aspect of the Wild + Envoy of Mortality + Plague Eruptor

Warlock Fire Burn Nonsense

Pidge Filthfinder

4 Hira
4 Routeen
4 Mikael the Blunt
4 Ruby Flameblade
4 Savis Cindur
4 Hesriana
4 Alister Cooper
4 Ruby Blazewing
3 Korialstrasz

4 Engulfing Blaze
4 Searing Pain
4 Demonic Reclamation
3 Bloody Ritual

3 Crimson Shocker

3 Eye of the Storm
4 Under the Shadow
4 On Ruby Wings
4 Tabards of the Illidari

This got an outing tonight after I got home from work about two hours later than I'd hoped, and as a result didn't have chance to build anything a bit more... serious. Miraculously it went 3-1, and could have been 4-0 were it not for a fortuitous topdeck against an Ashnaar/Gift deck. Unfortunately the deck was highly unreliable and after having all the answers in my final match (my opponent dropped two Twilight Vanquisher Knolan and two Sardok; I answered with Engulfing Blaze. The next turn, he dropped a Jhuunash; I had a Hesriana for it), the two friendlies we had afterwards saw me get utterly crushed.

I love fire, as evidenced by the fact I took Pinprik to a Realm Championship. After a moment's silence for our fallen (from Core) comrade, I spent a short while on WoWTCGdb and picked out a few fire cards, a few Warlock cards, and went to work. If it all goes well, you drop Korialstrasz, then on your next turn, play an ally, generate some tokens, stash a Ruby Blazewing and then play Searing Pain to finish.

Other than Mikael and Hesriana, both who ended up being completely irreplaceable in the deck, all the other cards do fire damage. Crimson Shocker counts as a fire card when Searing Pain is looking. The Wyrmrest Vanquisher created by On Ruby Wings might not do any damage, but it counts as a fire card. Those Dragonkin Whelps you're creating with Korialstrasz? Fire damage.

A two-cost burn spell that hits for 24 is funny.

What worked: Bloody Ritual is probably my new favourite card. Warlock and Warrior are two classes I've not really delved into, so having the option of drawing a billion cards was novel. This also made Under the Shadow less destructive when it skipped past that ability you really wanted - just spend a bit of life and you'll probably draw another one soon enough!

On Ruby Wings worked nicely with the stash cards in the deck, and also removed the need for me to really play Tuskarr Kite. Having eight Stashable cards to go with the 15 real resources really made it sing, though I'm still not sure if it warrants its place over Dreadsteed.

Engulfing Blaze was highly useful, though in all the situations I used it, Fel Blaze would have done exactly the same and also have the added advantage of not killing the Wyrmrest Vanquisher. That said though, I had our local meta in mind, and that usually means one thing - 3/3 Ghouls.

What didn't work: Demonic Reclamation. It was largely in the deck due to its Stash power, and even then, only because I could draw a card off it due to On Ruby Wings. The Stash power ended up being largely useless, I was generally overflowing with allies whereas I really wanted to drop my abilities back in the deck; the main power of Demonic Reclamation has you play a card, destroy an ally you control, all for a net gain of one card. I destroyed a Dragonkin Token with it and even then I still wasn't completely satisfied with the outcome.

The deck is completely one-dimensional and more than a little bit stupid, but even with just a couple of allies on board, you can do a lot of damage with Searing Pain over the course of a game rather than using it as a finisher. I think there's an actually decent deck in there somewhere - probably making use of Broderick, Onnekra, Dethvir, Rosalyne, and Lesson of the Nether.


Amusingly enough, after my last entry regarding the death of my Survival Hunter Trapper deck, I've been noticing decklists crop up that have been used at the Realm Qualifiers of late. They've been pretty successful, and many are using the Undead hero, Valerie Worfield. I tried building a deck around her but couldn't trim it down to a low enough number of cards; obviously people have been making it work for them though, so I will definitely be revisiting that idea with the assistance of better deckbuilders than myself!

Saturday, 8 January 2011

It's not me, it's you

Sometimes things just don't work out. Maybe you've grown apart, got bored with each other, or like in this instance, one of you changed so drastically so as to make things unworkable between you. It's always a sad time, but sometimes you just have to let go.

Today I went out to a local tournament - The Chimera Invitational Qualifier. There's a final in April and the winner of each qualifier gains an invite, and the door prize is also an invite. "Other Shiny Things" were also promised, but they failed to materialise...

The turnout wasn't great, with only four people, though it is exam time over here and while our playgroup is populous, it's not quite so competitive. It was time to get the serious decks out and play to win - introducing Shaii ver. 2.

Shaii, Strategist Supreme

2 Kel'thuzad

4 Planned Assault
4 Quickdraw
4 Snipe
4 Bombard
3 Freezing Arrow
4 Explosive Trap
4 Explosive Shot

4 Dundee
3 Pappy Ironbane

4 Trapper's Rifle
4 Girdle of the Blasted Reaches

3 Eye of the Storm
4 The Boon of Remulos
4 The Boon of Alexstrasza
3 Call to Arms: Arathi Basin
3 Concerted Efforts

A version of the previously-covered Hunter Trapper Dickhead deck, this had suffered some severe casualties in the switch to Worldbreaker Core: Feign Death is irreplaceable, armour is simply not a replacement for Survival Instincts and Freezing Arrow is like an Ice Trap that doesn't kill stuff. The Boon of Remulos fit in just fine in place of Forces of Jaedenar, at least. I'd done my best to maintain a similar style of operation to the original deck, and it still tested out favourably, albeit with limited exposure to 'real' decks, which I expected to face today.

Round 1, vs Alex Toaster playing DMF-Winning Zaritha Ancestral Awakening Tirion Stall thingy

Alex had originally intended on playing some horrifying Goblin Lost Isles deck but it contained a few crafted cards which are pretty tough to get over here; instead he plumped for a slightly tweaked Zaritha build. I was pretty confident going in to this one, a slow deck whose win condition can be sniped repeatedly? Ok then!

My opening hand was something along the lines of 2x Kel'thuzad, 2x Eye of the Storm, 2x other quests, 1x Explosive Shot. I eventually shipped it back. This turned out to be a bad idea, as Alex ended up with no quests; as a result neither of us played a card for four or five turns.

I continually kept on top of his threats and sustained very little damage; about fifteen turns in Tirion finally hit the board and made life a little bit more difficult. Both King Varian Wrynns were in Alex's graveyard and now he finally had a way to fish them out for free - not good for my life total! I had two Call to Arms: Arathi Basin waiting to be completed, but there was one pesky card that I needed to have in hand before I could safely completel that quest. It hadn't shown up yet, but as soon as I untapped and drew it, would all but win me the game.

Eventually I got smacked in the face having drawn through almost all of my deck and could hang on for no longer. I flipped the top card of my deck - Kel'thuzad.


Round 2, vs Morgan Bartlett playing yet another version of Grennan

Morgan is the newest member of our group, and I find myself apologising a lot when I kill his stuff. His deck also terrifies me as the hero remains the same each week, but I never have any idea what's in it!

I drew the nuts, having ten cards in hand on turn 4 including two Pappy and both Kel'thuzad. This didn't stop Morgan racing into an early lead with Himuul Longstrider and an Icy Scale Chestguard bringing pain early on.

Kel'thuzad arrived on turn 11 before I realised I'd just auto-piloted it out - after watching Morgan empty his hand of allies and shuffling his graveyard into his deck, I should have known better. I ended up with a solitary Sarn Earthtrembler, which he killed in short time after Thunderstorming my board of Sarn, Pappy, Dundee and Kel'thuzad wielding Trapper's Rifle.

Luckily Dundee lived on and hitting for 10 per turn alongside Kel'thuzad and his rifle meant that after a couple of turns on an empty board, I bullied my way through to win and didn't feel like I'd deserved it in the slightest.


Round 3, vs Julian Harse playing Ashnarr/Gift of the Earthmother Druid

I was feeling pretty good about this matchup having previously taken a version of the same deck out with little trouble - Unfortunately I drew poorly, made poor decisions and generally played like a bit of a moron. It was during this game that it started to dawn on me that perhaps the deck just isn't meant to be in its current state, in Core at least - after getting slapped around the face by Adam Eternum for the umpteenth time I remembered why Survival Instincts was so good, as being put on a 28-turn clock is infinitely preferable to the five-or-six turn clock he puts you on without it.

I was constantly wishing for the old cards back, lamenting the fact that Quickdraw is only really any good at killing Dethvir and that if I could just have a lie down then everything would eventually get better.

After Hibernating a couple of his allies to avoid them being killed by Explosive Shot, Julian eventually drew a bad play out of me that cost me the game - with an Ashnaar in play and about a billion resources he attacked with his hero. I Exploded his Ashnaar, only for him to produce a new one, along with a Gift of the Earthmother, by which point I was already out of resources. I had a Bombard in hand and should probably have waited to see how things panned out. As it stood I was out of 'destroy target irritating man' effects, my Pappy and Dundee were both feeling a bit sleepy, and I died soon after.


I finished third, won one pack of Worldbreaker and contained inside was a Venerable Mass of McGowan. This pretty much sums up my day.

This particular deck has had its day I think - it will no doubt resurface next time I play Classic as the deck is still ludicrously strong with the right cards... but since the March of the Legion cards rotated out of Core, it is a pale imitation of its former self.

Julian bought a couple of packs after the tournament and I took great delight in humping him at two-pack twice in a row. JUSTICE

Friday, 7 January 2011

Everybody Loves Totems

I've been off work for what seems like forever. I had to use up some holiday at the end of the year so I ended up taking the majority of December as leave, and as a result have little concept of how weeks work any more. This also resulted in me having to hastily build a couple of decks on Sunday night as I realised with some horror that I had precisely nothing playable in Worldbreaker Core, and Battlegrounds were looming...

When I first started visiting the local Battlegrounds I wasn't quite as enfranchised in the game as I am now - I wasn't spending more than about 50p on a card, I was sticking to one class and one deck, and was generally losing quite a lot of games. After struggling along with blue Priest for a while I took a peek at the Shaman cards I'd got knocking around, and after a short while, I started to get a taste for Totem Control, along with a shocking inability to build a deck that contained less than 70 cards.

This was back in the days before Core was even a thing, so I was revelling in the delights of Fire Nova Totem, the Fire and Earth Elemental Totems, and hoping that my Mana Tide Totem would go off, which was generally the turning point in any game. After a short while I splashed out on two Gorehowl to add to the Sparks I played as finishers.

Everybody hated playing against the deck; it was slow, awkward and clunky, and if drew enough ways of recurring my Totems, games would often stretch on for a very long time in an awkward, sludgy quagmire. 

One person - let's call him Andy, because that is his name - was particularly displeased with the repeated appearances of Phadalus and his planks, and was probably pretty glad when Core rolled round and removed some of my favourite cards from the deck. Eventually I branched out into other decks but Totem control was always a deck I intended to go back to, for better or worse.

With the new Totem rules changes I was itching to get back in the saddle, so I took the shell of the Zaritha DMF-winning deck I had lying around, took all the good cards out, and replaced them with Totems. I took it round to Steve's house on Monday and got utterly thumped by his Worgen Warlock that I'd built for him. Nevertheless, I trimmed a few underperforming cards out and ended up with this monstrosity!

The deck is a little flabby at 66 cards, and other than Iravar (who failed to perform at all last night, partly down to me not reading him properly and thinking he did unpreventable damage) I'm unsure what I'd want to remove. Either way it's not that special - it's Zaritha with totems! The singleton Nature Resistance Totem is in there as a searchable kill spell - if you have the Scaled Breastplate in play you can search it out with Ancestral Awakening and kill a lot of common nasties.

Under the new Totem rules, any old Totems printed before Worldbreaker are Abilities AND Allies when in play, and Abilities ONLY when in the deck, graveyard or hand. Totems printed in Worldbreaker and in the future have 'Ability Ally' on their type line, and count as both types of card in all zones, which means that you cannot search out other Totems with Ancestral Awakening. Totems counting as both Allies and Abilities whilst in play makes The Overseer's Shadow a great choice of quest for this deck though!

Scaled Breastplate of Carnage is the big new addition to the Totem archetype - now Totems are classed as Allies, the damage they deal will trigger the Breastplate's power. Primal Totem will wipe the average board once it is destroyed - for the cost of 1. Mikeal will sacrifice himself to do much the same too.

Marundal is in there largely as a token killer, but he does have some amusing synergies with other parts of the deck - Scrapper becomes a 5/5, Incendiary Totem becomes a 3/3... yes, he kills your own Weldon tokens and makes King Varian a bit useless too but you can't win them all.

So. We played three rounds of Core Swiss, and here's how it went...

Round 1, vs Matt H, playing Yet Another Unholy Death Knight

"This one is a different deck!" I am informed as we shuffle. I take a wild stab at guessing a few cards that are in there - Corpse Explosion, Riveted Abomination Leggings... both correct. I catch a glimpse of Unholy Ground too - maybe this isn't the standard red aggro deck? Matt keeps his hand and plays a resource face down.

It isn't the standard! It's suicide rush - Turn 1 Broderick, Turn 2 Broderick and Onnekra. I have a Mikael to clear the board and the second Broderick gleefully wipes him out. Turn 4 sees Unholy Ground hit the table; I have Chain Purge to get rid of it immediately, and I set about damage mitigation, Wavestorming as much back to hand as possible.

By this point I'm nearly dead, but Matt hasn't drawn a quest all game - I flip to heal a little, drop a breastplate and manage to wipe the board with another Mikael, and cross my fingers as Matt begins to topdeck.

Before you know it, I've dropped a turn 9 Varian and a turn 10 Gorehowl.


Round 2, vs Jonty B, Not Playing Poison Rogue

Jonty likes nothing more than rush. If you've died in the first few minutes of a game, that's a job well done - so no surprises to see an opener of ferocious red men backed with daggers. We trade weenies, Jonty kills my Voice of Reason before I've even had chance to use it, but a string of Mikeals and a couple of Wind Shears stops him from doing too much damage with Fan of Knives or his daggers.

Eventually I have Varian and Scrapper out, emptying the board of allies and equipment and yet still giving me a not entirely convincing finish.


Round 3, vs Taro S (age 6) Playing Angry Red Men, And A Truck

Over in Japan, there is a young chap called Gary who has been trying to get the game off the ground in Tokyo. It just so happens that he was visiting his hometown in the UK over Christmas, and decided to pop up and play some cards with us!

His son, Taro, has quite the legacy - winner of the Chase the Can tournament in Tokyo, he'd come along with Gary and had laid waste to all who stood in his path playing a red Shaman deck full of guys with Ferocity. Mentored by Gary, he got off to a blistering start, thwarting my plans by destroying my Wavestorm Totem on turn 2 and forcing me to rely on a lucky topdeck for a Mikael a couple of turns later. I certainly didn't feel too good after he revealed a Boki Earthgaze with The Essence of Enmity either - a turn 5 awakened Weldon, dropped to keep Boki at bay, was quickly thwarted with Squall Totem and Lightning Arc. No matter what I did, Taro had an answer for it.

I eventually managed to land a Voice of Reason which let me stabilise a little, but after yet another turn where I was staring down 8-10 damage from a previously empty board, I was forced to kill the fresh "Acid Hands" McGillicutty that had landed, taking the shield with him. Astral Recall saw Weldon, the shield and a Wavestorm Totem back in hand, the shield was back out a turn later and Taro confidently declared that he was attacking the shield with his toy truck next turn, before driving it over and parking it on the shield, making the sound of metal being shattered...

Shortly after I awaken a Varian, only for him to meet his doom pretty quickly at the hands of another Lightning Arc; Taro had all but run out of cards at this point though and a full complement of Totems along with another Varian killed off what remained of his board, and I Chain Purged my Incendiary, Wavestorm and Squall Totems with a Primal in play to deal the last few points of damage.

I felt absolutely terrible, they'd come all the way from Japan and then I'd subjected a six-year old to that shit - I truly am a heartless monster.


Another unexpected result on the scale of Diane Cannings then - I was expecting to finish with not a win to my name but it looks like either the deck is better than I thought, or Steve's Worgen Warlock is utterly terrifying.

The worst part is, Andy didn't show up last night.


Gary Stevenson is the Champion of the Black Flame for the Tokyo region of Japan - he runs sanctioned tournaments at a cafe in Shinjuku, travelled to Las Vegas to play in the North American Continental Championships in 2010, and probably got in trouble with his wife for buying a box of Worldbreaker while he was in Ripley.

He provides more info on the WoWTCG scene in Japan on the WoWTCG in Japan Facebook Group - go and check it out, and even if you're not in Japan, consider joining the group - awareness is a good thing and the amount of work Gary and friends do is staggering.

Drop by and say hello!