Sunday, 27 February 2011

Running the Gauntlet (Beeston Realm Qualifier 26/02/11)

Last time I went to a Realm Qualifier at Beeston there were four people in attendance. This was for Realms 5, almost a year ago - I think I played a terrible Pinprik deck and came fourth, happily claiming my prize for being terrible.

A lot can change in a year. Today there were four in my car alone, and ten others bringing the total count to 14 - which was a great sight.

I rolled out the Koo'zar list I played at the Zapped Giants Open as I've decided that I like winning prize packs and that it would be good practice for those who were going to realms to test against. Mostly due to the fact I like winning stuff though.

Round 1: Dan Knight playing lack-of-win-condition Shaman (0-1)

Before the tournament Dan asked to borrow some cards. Cards I didn't really want to see - notably Squall Totem. I've always maintained that slower Shaman decks are a nightmare for Koo'zar but was lucky in Manchester not to face any; today I was out of luck. An average mulligan didn't help matters and I was quickly in topdeck mode facing a Squall Totem and a Wavestorm Totem.

Victory was within reach but I could never quite squeeze the last few damage through. Soon a Colossal Skull-Clad Cleaver hit the board and I was subjected to a slow, painful death of "Squall Totem, draw some cards, four you, go".

Round 2: vs Andy's Rogue Deck (1-1)

Andy's deck revolves around ripping the opponent's hand apart, though featured a couple of cards that have since been superceded - Stab in the Dark over Poach, though Slash and Dash did the business on a Babagahnoosh despite Annihilate offering more versatility.

Thankfully a couple of dodgy choices of ally to discard (Bloodsoul and Broderick over Shadowfiend and Babagahnoosh) helped me continue to push damage through - I guess when you're not used to him, reading Babagahnoosh's text for the first time can make him look a bit shit!

Round 3: vs Simon playing cards I forgot to read (2-1)

Huntress Xenia makes target ally a Protector. This caused me to lose my Shadowfiend when I was planning a massive turn 3, which meant I had to go all-in and hope. Thankfully there weren't enough answers for the swarm, but this is Trading Card Games 101 - RTFC.

Elsewhere in the room Dan could be heard in something of a disgruntled mood. "I'm facing the Jonny Roberts Gauntlet, every single opponent is playing one of your decks!"

I'd brought a few along for people - Alex had given all his cards away last week and then surprisingly found himself deckless; Tom had a suspect Mage Orcs deck foisted upon him based on the fact he said 'I like Mages'; and Maz had managed to make it on time so got the wooden spoon of an Aspect of the Wild Hunter deck that lacks card draw (surprise!) which she still rode to a 3-2 finish.

Round 4: vs Alex playing Martiana

This isn't a deck I've tested against, but the beauty of Koo'zar is that you generally know of the single card that's going to give you headaches. In this match, it's Dispersion; everything else is pretty much gloss. I kept a hand with Dispel Magic and some dudes, went for a big turn on turn 3 or 4, Dispersion hit the board in response to a Uruka combat proposal, I dispelled it, and then did the usual Koo'zar stuff.

Despite this, we weren't the first game to finish - Dan had finally managed to avoid playing one of my decks, only to face someone playing Vuz'din, which is apparently an auto-scoop for him. Earth Shock/Edge of Oblivion for you, young man.

Round 5: vs Amy playing Katianna the Shrouded

After a little mixup where the Top 4 cut was announced a round too early, I contemplated my options. There were four of us on 3-1 or greater - Felix playing Zaritha (argh, Squall Totems), Julian playing Triton (argh, Extracts), and Amy playing Katianna (argh, I tested Emek against Koo'zar and Emek destroyed it). None of the matchups were really in my favour, but I was most relieved to face Amy as at least I'm not blanked by something on turn 1 in this match.

Amy lost the roll, I set off with a reasonable start and soon her hand was empty, having Tasted most of my allies and binned Searing Lights on the rest. Flipping on turn four and filling Eye of the Storm up for a turn five activation bought a few turns, and just when I was looking good to untap and swing for fatal, Gathering of Wits hit the board, stealing a Babagahnoosh and two three-drops. Lucky for me I'd ripped another Baba off the top of my deck and was prepared for this - eventually pushing through the last few damage via dead Brodericks after the Babagahnooshes killed each other.

So - after a terrible start I'd made the top 4 cut. After Swiss, the standings were:

  1. Amy C (4-1)
  2. Felix T (4-1)
  3. Tom R (4-1)
  4. Jonny R (4-1)
Two things strike me about this list - the first is that I'd be playing Amy again, and the second is that a certain Tom R is sat there with a mere one loss to his name. That's Tom who is playing my shoddy Mage Orcs deck. Perhaps it wasn't so bad after all... or perhaps he is a miracle worker!

Quarter Final: vs Amy playing HEAL SPELLS

Over the course of this game I dealt 52 damage to Amy, and still lost. I forget many of the details due to the frustration of having inferior topdecks to any deck that isn't playing free 5/5s, but twice I had Amy at 23 damage with fatal on board before Desperate Plea hit the table - notably, the exact same copy of it, after a Wand of Ruby Claret was pulled off the top of her deck, putting the heal back on top of it, ready for use next turn.

When your hero has Assault 2 and is accompanied only by a weedy Tauren, you are limited in scope. It doesn't help that when you play the lucky Babagahnoosh that came off the top of your deck, it is either stolen with Wub's Cursed Hexblade, or killed with Divine Fury!

Eventually I succumbed to Devouring Plague despite Amy finally running out of answers for the slowly-growing horde on my side of the table, one more turn and I'd have had it. Alas. My first win of the year eludes me still!

Third place playoff: vs Tom playing Mage Orcs

So it turns out that Orcs can still cut it, to a certain extent. Tom had played a grand total of about ten games of WoWTCG before today and so coming this far was very impressive, but unfortunately I ended up providing him a deck that I pretty much automatically crush.

And crush I did. When Tom's turn two play was Mana Agate I was pretty sure I'd got it in the bag, and when Babagahnoosh hit the table on turn three I got the Mage deck handed back to me in despair. Even the Engulfing Blaze in hand wouldn't have done it - Assault 2 from my hero and a Baba with a bloody nose would easily have finished the game off between them.

Third place then - six packs containing largely shit, though a second Grim Campfire did make up for that. Amy healed her way to two Sava'gins which I am not bitter about in the slightest!

Anyone want a Priest deckbox?


Tom's Mage Orcs List

"So, Kazamon... does he prevent the first 20 damage per turn?"

"No, he prevents the first 20 damage per packet"


Couple of quick notes -
  • Yes, I know Mana Sapphire is technically a 'better' card but I felt paying eight resources to refill your hand is quite excessive in a deck like this
  • Broderick isn't in there because I was using him
  • Given the choice I would have played three Thrall over the two Rehgar, but by all accounts he seemed to do the business all the same
  • Freeze turned out to be a completely dead card in the deck; have asked Tom for feedback on whether he'd have preferred Everlasting Cold or The Taste of Arcana instead
  • Ceraka turned out to be quite a potent finisher - it's a nice way of getting around cards like Weldon

Friday, 25 February 2011

Quick RCQ Report - Stoke-on-Trent, 20 February 2011

I got home from the Zapped Giants Open at 01:30 after dropping Alex off in Nottingham. The next day featured more cards in nearby Stoke-on-Trent - a 'wind down' from the 44-player madness if you will.

The box reads 'Open flaps and munch'
Also a trip to the pie shop at Trentham Gardens.

There was a turnout of 8 at Stoke-on-Trent for the Realm Championship Qualifier, which meant I was guaranteed to hit my second Top 8 of the weekend! They feel slightly less special when you can only miss out for getting disqualified though. Either way I decided to give Koo'zar a rest and picked out one of the other decks I'd sleeved up for the weekend in case I decided against using the angry Troll - eventually settling on a straight netdeck of the successful Emek the Equalizer deck from DMF Orlando.

Eight players means four rounds - something I mistakenly called out as wrong during the tournament, but reading the official policy documents tonight shows that 4-8 players in Core means four rounds. It seems a little odd for a format with such a small player pool to go past the point of having an undefeated player but we'll get on to that later.

Round 1: vs Philip Craker from Southampton, playing a pile of cards that do things (1-0)

Philip has the best Poker Face in WoWTCG, and because I can't actually remember what happened in our match I'm going to talk about that for a moment instead!

For my sins I am all too happy to concede when faced with fatal damage on board but both times I played Philip this weekend he let me do all the work, and that had this horrible unnerving effect of making you wonder whether you're missing something obvious. It's a trait I really should try and adopt for myself, as well as remembering just what my opponent's deck was...

Round 2: vs Ozzy Ward, playing Emek the Equalizer (2-0)

Holy Priest was by far the best-represented class this weekend, with Ozzy and myself repping the Horde, Amy bringing Tilly Fiddlelight to the table and perhaps one more too. My deck potentially featured 'better' cards but Ozzy had tech and wasn't afraid to use it - giving his Shadowfiend some Blue Suede Shoes to make my Searing Light miss, and frequently digging up annoying dudes with Uncatalogued Species.

I managed to swing the game my way with a steady stream of threats before some fresh wounds were opened - we judge-called to get a clarification on A Taste of Divinity vs Nathanos Blightcaller + Hounds*, the judge ruled against Ozzy with the exact opposite ruling that had been ruled against Ozzy the previous day; we agreed to rewind to before the Taste was played but after this I just drew all the right cards and eventually held two Divine Fury in hand as we went to time, dumping them both on his hero one turn after another to seal the deal.

Round 3: vs Kev Richardson, playing crazy Elemental Goblin Shaman shenanigans (3-0)

I'd popped downstairs after the game with Ozzy after hearing that there were tea-making facilities in the store, and caught a little heads-up on Kev's deck - it was once a Death Rattle-abusing monstrosity but since all the chaff had been removed it relied on Lightning Overload, Thunderstorm and Malaxia Wizwhirl's flip to do surprising amounts of damage out of nowhere. Armed with this information I stuck the kettle on for Ozzy and myself, came to the table armed with a cuppa and braced myself for jank.

The match started off pretty slowly but the major turning point was Kev playing Lightning Overload on turn three or four, hoping to untap for a large Thunderstorm or Fork Lightning. It never happened; I held an Oppress in hand right from the start of the game, methodically emptied Kev's hand and eventually he died a slow and painful death.

I was feeling pretty good about this, Kev had just taken the arguable scalp of the day, beating Jack Fejer in his previous game, but it appears that the deck struggles a lot with the two D's - discard and Dethvir. It's an interesting deck though and I'm interested to get a decklist if you're reading!

Round 4: vs Jack Fejer, playing Ashnaar/Gift (3-1)

Rounding off the weekend's play I kept a decent hand containing Divine Fury, Dethvir and some other powerful but expensive cards, based off my knowledge of the average Ashnaar/Gift deck as not having the most explosive of starts. Unfortunately this didn't work out for me as Jack curved out beautifully and killed me on turn four, barely breaking a sweat.

We shuffled up Koo'zar vs Jack's Death Knight from Saturday in something of a 'what if?' scenario - I'd been one point of damage away from a semi-final match with Jack yesterday so I wanted to try and find out what might have happened.

It didn't go well - Jack had a single Extract in one game and double in the second, and after a Uruka of mine hit the bin he started to giggle as he revealed a hand containing a third Extract. I scooped up, grumbled a little bit and then proceeded to get angry at the tournament software for dumping me into second place overall on tiebreakers following my loss to Jack. He took home the foil Freezing Band and nine packs; I took second place getting five packs; Amy recovered from a first round loss to take third place, and in her three prize packs - a Mottled Drake!

Jack and Amy disappeared, citing "PPV Wrestling" and "Sleep" as their terrible excuses to not stay around and draft; I nipped out to the pie shop and on my return, six of us sat down around the table and pretended we knew what we were doing.

Notable things from the draft itself:

- My first pack contained a bad rare, a couple of decent quests, and Frek Snipelix. I took Skinned Whelp Shoulders.
- I drafted a Polished Breastplate of Valor quite early on from a particularly terrible pack, eventually started taking Warrior stuff including an Execute and a Gerana Sparkfist, which makes for a nice little combo
- My second pack also contained a terrible rare, so I drafted a Ruby Flameblade first pick
- Third pick in the second pack was Unholy Ground, which pretty much locked me in to Death Knight; I managed to pick up two Grip of the Damned and a few other bits of removal by the end of the draft, and then it turned out I wasn't the only DK player at the table!
- Philip 'Poker Face' Craker outright told us all he was drafting Paladin as it was so bad nobody else would bother, so I hate-drafted a load of Paladin stuff in the third pack when there was no other card I wanted, just to be a dick
- We were rare-drafting the rares at the end of the event, where you lay all the rares out on the table after all rounds are completed and pick them one by one in order of finishing at the end. I was drafting using three of my prize packs from earlier; I opened an Alexstrasza (a card I've been after for ages) which meant I now had to win my own card twice before I could get to actually keep it. Alexstrasza wheeled twice before I drafted her to make Dan sad

I ended up with a passable Blue Death Knight deck that, while not exactly synergistic, looked like it could do the business, with or without rares. Notable cards:

Eranikus, Polished Breastplate of Valor, Unholy Ground, 2x Bayner Cogbertson, 2x Grip of the DamnedAresha Thorncaller

I won the draft 3-0, but it was a shaky start. First up was Philip with all the Paladin cards - he won the roll, played a turn 2 Zulanji, and on turn 3 the Frek Snipelix that I'd passed, and then spent the rest of the game taking my table apart while I failed to find anything to deal with him! The second and third games were more straightforward as I won the card advantage war thanks to my high net cost of allies - I like to have a good top end in my limited decks simply due to the lack of card draw in these formats making their value much higher in a top-deck-off.

Next up was Peter Ward, who had quietly been going about his business drafting all the Shaman cards, which seemed like a much better plan than drafting Paladin. His deck contained at least two Rolling Thunder and a Nature Resistance Totem, and five (!) Lightning Bolt. He was initially fearful of my blue deck being packed full of Worgen with Aberration, but as I only drafted two, that turned out to not really be much of a problem in the end!

This was definitely the closest match of the day - Unholy Ground swung the first game but Philip side-decked in an Ancestral Purge and put it to good use, flipping Bragvi Stormstein and then causing havoc with the ensuing AoE.

We went to time in the third game - him with a Bayner Cogbertson, me with my own and another six-drop. He ate the six-drop and I needed an answer fast as he could easily top-deck a Lightning Bolt to swing the damage totals - I drew Grip of the Damned, attacked his hero with my Cogbert and buried his on the bottom of his deck, sealing the game off.

In the 'final' I faced a bewildered-looking D. Knight, who ironically was playing Hunter. He had originally not wanted to draft but following sufficient peer pressure drafted a Prized Beastmaster's Mantle and as many Dragonkin and Tesla as possible, as well as a fistful of quests and a Ceraka. I only knew this due to the constant telegraphing Dan does while playing - it has been suggested his talking himself through every move is the reason he went 1-7 on Saturday!

The Beastmaster's Mantle is something of a pain in the backside, but luckily for me I'd snagged a Terina Calin early on in the first pack and put it to good use where possible to stop his fleet of Dragonkin living forever. Eranikus finally showed his face after performing the role of a face-down resource so many times in the previous games; I was initially quite down on him due to the chances of seeing all your best cards enter the resource row, but faced with a fifth turn of 'Play Eranikus' or 'Do Nothing Whatsoever' I chose the former and rode the card advantage train for a few turns, thankfully seeing nothing of note hit the row and enjoying the 'free' card I was drawing each turn.

Unholy Ground did the business once again and having an opening had that contains two six-drops and a seven drop generally means that you're going to be OK if you can survive that long. Once they had hit the table, a completion of A Matter of Time for four cards pretty much sealed the deal, and I ventured home with my Alexstrasza that I'd won, then opened in a draft, and then won again, only to realise I'd left my bloody dice in Stoke. What a twat.

Much respect for another decent day's cards and for having a kettle and teabags available!


Wednesday, 23 February 2011

The Zapped Giants Open II - 19 February 2011

The big day then. I awoke at 7am and promptly turned my alarm off as 7am is no time to be up on a Saturday. Good job I know myself well enough to set two further alarms the night before to go off before 7:20. Manchester is 80 miles away and our travelling circus consists of:

- Me
- My long-suffering wife
- Julian, aka FusionReaktor
- Alex, aka agg_toaster

Julian arrives at 8:10 and we set off to pick Alex up. Alex is located 20 miles in the wrong direction. Awesome! To top it off there are reports of snow in the direction we're heading. Thankfully the journey is completely uneventful, though it transpires that Alex has broken his elbow and has lost a lot of use in his right hand, which is ideal for a day of cards...

On the way up we discuss our decks and what we expect from the day. Based on my previous results at pretty much any big event I'm ever the pessimist. Having built a deck and done a smidge of testing, I had a last-minute crisis of faith and built three further decks that had a combined total of six games' worth of playtesting. Those decks were the Emek that double-top-8'd DMF Orlando, Martiana the Mindwrench Mill which finished 50th at the same event and the Filipino Combo Loraala deck that surfaced on the Team R.A.M.P.A.G.E blog recently (which is well worth a read).

Mage was out simply due to its weakness to Worgen; I pulled the deck out against Morgan at our local battlegrounds and while I appreciate this was a good draw, he did the following:

T1 Garet Vice
T2 Devout Aurastone Hammer, Garet Vice
T3 Stash an Heirloom Trinket, King Genn Greymane

Martiana had been taken to a Love is in the Air tournament and really struggled against decks that weren't playing lots of three- or four-ofs due to its lack of removal for lots of card types. Add to that the fact that I'd been reading Ironforge incorrectly (it says 'Put target armor or weapon card from your graveyard into hand if its cost is less than the number of Dwarves in your party.' whereas I'd been reading it as 'Put target armor or weapon card from your graveyard into hand if its cost is equal to or less than the number of Dwarves in your party.').

So I stuck with the deck I'd put together based on a well-known archetype, with my own choice of cards, all chosen for their own reasons and purposes. It had the benefit of being the deck I knew how to play best, something which Alex was very keen to point out is a Very Good Thing.

Julian had done much the same - he'd reverted his Ashnaar/Gift deck to a version that had been solid in the past in lieu of a 'better' deck. He's been playing it for a couple of months now. Alex was playing Blue Death Wish due to its lack of bad matchups and the fact that so many decks don't pack enough equipment hate to deal with it. Such as my deck, which packs precisely zero.

Which reminds me! What I settled on in the end.

Witch Doctor Koo'zar

3 Dispel Magic
4 Shadow Word: Anguish

4 Rosalyne von Erantor
4 Onnekra Bloodfang
4 Broderick Langforth
4 Bloodsoul
4 Shadowfiend
2 Trade Prince Gallywix
4 Ruby Flameblade
4 Ruby Enforcer
4 Uruka the Cutthroat
4 Twilight Vanquisher Knolan
4 Babagahnoosh the Grumpy
3 Sava'gin the Reckless
4 Cairne, Earthmother's Chosen

4 For Great Honor

Jack Fejer wrote an article for Daily Metagame which interested me - I've always loved Koo'zar and piloted him terribly at the original Zapped Giants Open during the Classic portion of the day, making use of past heavyweights such as Broan Charges-the-Fight and Kagella Shadowmark. That build contained fifteen quests (including zero For Great Honor, strangely), twelve abilities (United Front, Mist of Corrosion and Dispel Magic) and clearly not a particularly well-thought-out ally pool as I lost all my games quite handily.

I don't think the list Jack posted is particularly amazing - Eye of the Storm and Babagahnoosh don't work together at all, Crawling Claw is fun and easy to fish out of the bin, but not guaranteed to attack, and there are simply too many one-drops. That may sound crazy; I'll come back to that point when it becomes relevant.

The idea of the deck is to kill your opponent as fast as possible. Best case you'll get it done on your third turn,  but that does require something of a ridiculous hand. More often than not you'll ready all your cards on turn four with an empty hand and a mortified-looking opponent.

My two concessions to going all-out murder were the ability 'suite' included in the deck - both one-cost, instant, and designed to inelegantly destroy any roadblocks put in the good doctor's way. Turn 2 Blizzard? That's why you left your readied resource from last turn's Shadowfiend open. Mikael? Five damage on your hero is nothing compared to losing half your board. Warlock riding a horse? Zap that toothy bastard before he starts stashing Trolls and killing your guys. With those roadblocks out of the way you are free to dump the remainder of your hand on your third turn and let your opponent fret over what to do to avoid dying horribly in the immediate future.

Mist of Corrosion didn't make the cut. Despite being one of the few available answers to equipment for Priests, it more often than not didn't achieve the desired effect - it's clearly obvious that you're playing it because you want whatever is on the board dead, so opponents would almost always choose to discard when possible, making it something of a wasted card and resource.

Following Alex's in-car pep talk I was feeling a little more confident that Koo'zar was the right choice. Arriving at the store we learned we had a turnout of 43, and would play eight rounds - I made it my aim to come out with a 4-4 or greater record, and set out to pimp my wares (i.e. trade folder full of shit) amongst the others gathered while we awaited the start of the opening round. I picked up the final Sava'gin for my deck from Liam 'Trothael' from Stoke, sleeved up, registered my deck and checked it several times, and proceeded to get nervous.

Then the pairings were called.

Round 1: vs Will Booker, playing Velindra Sepulchre (1-0)

The first thing you notice about the tables at Fanboy3 is that there's never *quite* enough room to fit all your stuff on - your playmat dangles off the end of the table, you have nowhere to put your dice, your deck or your graveyard, and then someone sits next to you and makes it even more difficult!

Will looked uneasy upon seeing my hero. I didn't feel too great either - as I mention above I'd got tech against Mages but hadn't been able to test it simply due to not being able to find a Mage-playing opponent. I win the roll and draw into a hand containing a Dispel Magic and six other cards, and I'm good to go.

My plan is to drop a T1 Rosalyne, a T2 Shadowfiend and leave the readied resource open. Unfortunately Will turns my Shadowfiend into a Shadowsheep using Velindra's flip, plonks a Blizzard down and I lose the pet. Cursing myself for my greediness (I have another one-drop in hand that I should have played over Shadowfiend, being mindful of the flip) I vomit the remainder of my hand into play (no Babagahnoosh - I thought there was but my mind is playing tricks on me!) on my third turn and swing for fatal on the fourth.

Will would later make Top 8 - good going sir!

Round 2: vs Ronny Schmertosch, playing Souldrinker Bogmara (1-1)

Ronny is part of the German 'Bootcamp L.E.' team, three of whom have made the trip over to Manchester to play today. I'm not feeling too confident facing his hero - having played the deck myself I know it's going to boil down to who has the best 'turn' - first turn for Ronny, third for me.

Ronny wins the roll, drops a Bloodsoul, steals my Shadowfiend out of my hand thanks to Lesson of the Nether, flips his hero and then drops two Twilight Vanquisher Knolan. That'll do nicely I guess. I make a go of turn 3, dropping my entire hand and spending turn 4 trading my guys in to Ronny's, leaving him at about 22 damage and me at 24, me with a Babagahnoosh on table and his board, finally, cleared, but with a single card in hand.

He untaps, and shows me the Ruby Enforcer he is holding. That's going in to my face then I take it.

Round 3: vs Anssi Alkio, playing Jeremiah Karvok (2-1)

Having played a couple of friendlies with Ronny I'm confident that the Bogmara matchup is not 'bad' for Koo'zar, merely more of a crapshoot depending on who draws the better hand. The Warlock has the better long game thanks to Hesriana and Bloody Ritual but it's the bits in between Turn 1 and 4 that Koo'zar really excels at.

Pragmatic, I march up to the new listings to see who I'm playing, and outwardly sigh, bumping into Alex on the way to my table.

"I have to play Anssi," I tell him. "I'm fucked!"

Anssi is the current EUCC champion, hailing from Finland. I was surprised to see him turning up in Manchester but it turns out he's studying here for a bit and figured it would be worth turning up for! I figure this deck will be somewhat similar to Stuart Wright's DMF-winning deck and that I really need to watch out for the Dreadsteed when it invariably arrives. We shuffle up, me being very jealous of Anssi's mad shuffling skills while I throw parts of my deck on the floor thanks to the new sleeves I'm using.

I win the roll and come out the gates, stashing Cairne and playing Broderick; Anssi returns the favour with his own Cairne. I run the team into his hero, play a Shadowfiend, reclaim my resource and pass, hoping to see the horse this turn. Anssi untaps, trades his token for mine, and drops a Dreadsteed, right into my Shadow Word: Anguish-shaped trap. I struggle to contain a grin. Anssi appears to not really care, and passes to me.

The traditional turn 3 hand-vomit is not particularly strong this time around but Babagahnoosh hits the table, I discard a Uruka and find Anssi lacking in further horses. He untaps, stares at the board for a moment and shrugs before picking up his cards.

We play a couple more games to pass the time (Koo'zar has a habit of leaving you with spare time each and every round), me keeping a hand without Anguish on purpose in the second game to see how bad it would be (the answer: quite) and getting back to business in the third.

It was at this point that I started to get excited. Not only had I defeated the reigning EUCC champion but it looked like my choice of tech cards were really starting to pay off. I bumped into Julian after his game finished, barely able to contain my glee, before trudging out to Tescos to get dinner.

Bonus Round: vs Tesco Fish Sushi Platter (game loss)

The Sushi was surprisingly good considering the trend for supermarket sushi to be ass, but I did manage to spray soy sauce all over the table and my t-shirt. A quick cleanup later and we were back to the grind.

Round 4: vs a person with a deck (3-1)

I'm afraid I can't remember anything about this. If you are reading then I'm really sorry - I'm hoping Ross (who TO'd the event) can provide me your name and deck in the event that it'll jog my memory somewhat.

I won anyway.

Round 5: vs Tom Battcock, playing a 3-drop Shadowmeld Protector on turn 2 (Lunira Swiftbreath) (4-1)

"Perfect - exactly the sort of deck I can deal with!" - a not entirely convincing exclamation from Tom as we shuffled up. I took a guess that this would be a version of the Ashnaar/Gift deck that Julian was playing, and given my testing against that, figured I shouldn't have much trouble thanks to my trusty Shadow Word. Tom won the roll, I kept a hand containing said Word, and confidently dropped some guys on my first turn before Tom stumped me a little, flipping Lunira, discarding a Druid and playing Treewarden Tolven on his second turn.

I had to take a brief pause to think about how I was going to deal with this the best way - I couldn't take it out by choice but it was going to eat my Shadowfiend for free, and I was just going to have to suck it up considering the lack of Ruby Flameblade in hand to give it the extra point of damage. Tom let the first Shadowfiend through and left Tolven ready for the time being, before eating him on the second time of asking. By then it was too late though - I'd done the usual turn 3 stuff and a 2/4 wasn't going to stop me now, even if I'd dumped the Shadow Word in the bin in disgust thanks to Babagahnoosh.

Round 6: vs George Randall, playing Pidge Filthfinder (4-2)

By this point the field was starting to thin a little. I was sitting on table four, being told that six wins would be a lock for top 8, and wondering how on earth people knew this information after only five rounds. I'm so used to staring at the bottom half of a table that it's never really been relevant for me!

My opponent seems pretty happy to be so high up the table, whereas I'm racking my brains trying to remember what the average Pidge deck plays. I decide the primary target should be the horse whilst keeping an eye out for Mikael, and am lucky enough to have an Anguish in hand along with a For Great Honor to help me dig out another one if necessary. The rest of my hand is one-drops, which seems like a good idea at the time.

I quickly learn this is not the case. George wins the roll and drops a Dreadsteed on turn 2, and I bolt the horse, play a Broderick, and pass. My third turn involves dealing with a Mikeal with a second Shadow Word, and I empty my hand without even having to flip. I then realise I'm in massive trouble. No hand, not much board, and I've already used my lone quest.

A Weldon Barov is summoned up on turn 4, played on turn 5, joined by a Halford Wyrmbane on turn 6 and Jhuunash on turn 7. I kill the Weldon and the Halford but eventually go down to a couple of attacks from the felguard as I fail to topdeck anything good enough to help me push through the last six or so damage I need.

I bid George the best of luck for the rest of the tournament and for the first time don't offer a friendly - I'm cursing myself for keeping a bad hand and go and have a mini sulk. Going into that game I felt the favourite, which would put me 5-1, one game away from Top 8; now I needed a 100% record to guarantee a spot. Something I'd never before achieved or expected to achieve was now taunting me. What a bastard.

On the plus side, George ended up in the top 8 after Swiss.

Round 7: vs A man from Huddersfield whose name I forget, playing Everlasting Cold Mage (5-2)

Another Mage - could be worse. It was great to see some of the Huddersfield guys turn up - Patriot Games in Huddersfield has a thriving WoWTCG community and there were two representatives for the store present today.

Truth be told I had anticipated more Control Mage so having an Everlasting Cold dropped on me on turn 1 reminded me that not all Mages are created equal. Either way, like most Mage games I've played with this deck, I dispel a Blizzard and then win by face-eating.

Round 8: vs Loz, playing Aggro Death Wish (6-2)

"I read your blog!" were not words I was expecting to hear from anyone today - however it appears my overlong rambling has an audience of one, down in Dover. Hi Loz!

I'd already told Loz that I hoped to avoid him at all costs earlier in the day after learning of his choice of deck. Guardian's Plate Bracers is quite a speed-bump for Koo'zar, but with no way of getting rid of it efficiently enough, you just have to be content with trying extra-hard to run dudes at your opponent instead and hoping they can't soak up too much damage.

Luckily enough it wasn't much of an issue as I kept a strong hand only to find Loz dropping a solitary Broderick on his first turn, compared to my Rosalyne and Cairne token. The token took out Broderick on my next turn and I started piling on the hate with a Shadowfiend and a couple of free Knolans.

Loz landed the Greaves of Ancient Evil on turn 3 after a turn 2 Death Wish and started to systematically pick apart my board, before dropping a second Death Wish on turn 4. I was preparing to dispel the first one and get a free attack on his board but unfortunately it was not to be - all my guys died to an activation on my turn, and to make it worse, I forgot to attack with my hero. Oops.

Nevertheless, a bloodied Babagahnoosh remained on the table along with a weenie or two, and Loz sat at 22 damage. He drops a nightmare card - Cloak of the Shadowed Sun, killing off two or three more of my weenies - and is forced to pass turn. Babagahnoosh alone wouldn't be able to kill him, but the second one I tore off the top of my deck would next turn, despite my best efforts to screw it all up by mistakenly putting the first one in the bin after attacking, thinking Death Wish had been activated, which would have killed it. We realised our error pretty quickly and Loz extended the hand, unable to deal with a second grumpy Gnome, even if he could take the first one out.

"Make sure you write something nice about me."

So that was that - six wins, guaranteed Top 8. Despite this I was still pretty nervous and I had to sit through Ross distributing packs to those outside the top 8, in reverse order. It turns out that in Manchester, if you don't hit top 8, you get things thrown at your face.

I'd finished fifth after the Swiss rounds which was a ridiculous achievement for me. I was to play Oliver Gehrmann (AKA Soulwarrior) in the quarter-final, another of the German Bootcamp. After a short and nervy break, we shuffled up for our first game.

Quarter Finals - vs Oliver Gehrmann, playing Erondra Frostmoon

We both mulliganed - I was lacking punch and Oliver was clearly unhappy with whatever he'd drawn, before commenting on whether we really had to play these games or whether we could just shuffle and chat for an hour. I suggested we weren't at much risk of going to time, and eventually we cut each others decks and took a peek at what we'd been given.

For me, it was good. For Oliver, perhaps not so much. I was able to lead off with a guy on turn 1, a Shadowfiend, a guy and two Knolans on turn 2, and the rest of my hand on turn 3, including Babagahnoosh. Shadowfiend retreated to my hand and Oliver looked visibly distressed, but felt a little better after ripping Corpse Explosion from his deck, and happily exploding whatever ally he could get his hands on.

Even then, this still left me with 11 damage on board, in the shape of two Knolans and a heavily wounded Babagahnoosh. "That's not really helped me, has it?" came across the table - the answer was no as I topdecked a second Shadowfiend, sent in the guys and then played both pets out to hit 31 damage.

"Ahh, meiner!" was the response to Oliver's team-mate Christian appearing with a timely Tesco Knockoff Red Bull. "We call him the energy drink king - he has tasted them all". I attempt to cut all of the best cards to the bottom of Oliver's deck, but he keeps his opening hand and I'm hoping it's just because of a horse or a Mikael or something.

Instead, it's my worst nightmare. He lays an Extract of Necromantic Power on his first turn and all of a sudden we've got a real game on our hands. Thankfully my hand is pretty sexy all the same and I have an explosive first three turns, finding another Knolan on turn 2 and Baba on turn 3. I'm swinging for game on turn 4 - Oliver has hit 28 damage, I have a Knolan preparing to turn sideways to finish the job, and from out of nowhere - Blackout Truncheon. Shit. It's okay though - I've still got Shadowfiend and one more swing will do it. In the meantime, Oliver goes to town tidying up all my 3ATK allies with his new favourite weapon, soaking up the damage with the Extract; I fail to topdeck anything relevant. On turn 5 he kills a guy and plays a Tuskarr Kite, turn 6 kills another guy and plays a Zempre, Grace of Elune and at this point I am pleading with my deck to give me a Shadow Word: Anguish or a Dispel Magic - just something that will let me stop Zempre from doing her thing and let me push through the one final damage, using the few dudes remaining on board, and my in-hand Shadowfiend.

It never comes.

We shuffle up once again and Oliver snap keeps. I start off strongly with a Broderick and I see the Turn 1 Extract again, but this time it's backed up with a second on the next turn. I'm lacking in melee damage in the deck but manage to drop a Uruka and a Ruby Enforcer, but they are swiftly despatched with the help of Mikael and I never really recover. I deal ten whole damage for the entire game and eventually just give up in despair after attacking Erondra rather than the exhausted Zempre on the table with my Baba. There's clearly no way out from here.

I came to this tournament fearing three things... Dreadsteed, Blizzard, and Guardian's Plate Bracers. I have answers for two, raw power for the third. The Extract is worse than all three of them. Double Extract is like swallowing down your own sick.

So the Top 8 dream came crashing down, one point of damage away from a quarter final date with Jack Fejer, also playing Extract of Necromantic Power. Oliver loses to Jack and is defeated in his semi final, coming fourth overall; Jack goes on to win it, and as we'd both be in Stoke the day after, I challenge him to an impromptu game the next day to see what could have been.

I receive five packs of Worldbreaker (three of which containing rares I want, or rares I can trade for stuff - a great hit rate) and a Priest deckbox for my trouble. Time to put my feet up for a bit and reflect on a good day's work.

I'm (obviously) really pleased with how the deck performed; if I had to make a change to it I'd consider playing the fourth Dispel Magic simply due to the fact that killing a Tuskarr Kite in the games that go a bit longer can make all the difference. As it stands though I'm over the moon with the result, still don't quite believe it's happened, and have had a bloody great time.

Hopefully the turnout of 44 (Lammy turned up after two rounds, took two game losses and proceeded to win his remaining six games; he only missed top 8 due to scooping to his friends to improve their records, and so he could spend the evening playing Yu-Gi-Oh) is considered enough to run another one of these in a few months.

I'll definitely be there if it happens, and I've no doubt I'll be back to my old losing ways!

Friday, 18 February 2011

The Zapped Giants Open II - It's Tomorrow

Bag is packed, four decks, folder of cards to lend and trade, three mats, spare sleeves...

I've not reported on the Love is in the Air tournament I went to nor the last Battlegrounds simply because I'm not wanting to give away my super secret blatantly obvious deck just yet.

Soon come. In the meantime, wish me luck...

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Donk, you're playing catchup

It's good, but it's not right. Oh Roy Walker, wherever did you go.
Say what you see.

My recent lack of success has driven me to dark depths. My deck projects have been put to one side and I have turned to... the internet. Decks of the internet, if you will. Deck-netting. Or something along those lines.

Net-decking is something that tends to divide opinion at our local playgroup - it seems to be a divisive strategy, second only to everyone's least favourite card, Corpse Explosion. Those who do it don't see the problem; those on the other end of it don't tend to be so accommodating.

As you've probably seen, as far as deckbuilders go, I'm not the best. When I have ideas, it's generally not a good thing - I don't tend to pick up on the important synergies between cards, instead picking up on stupid stuff that has already been discarded by those with talent and then wondering why I can't obtain blood from the proverbial stone.

This is why I netdeck. Well, that and for the odd week of enjoying hammering the opposition. It really is a learning experience for the most part though - quite often a deck will revolve around a main idea that you've already had, but the thing that makes this netdeck good is simply the other fluff that surrounds that main idea.

The Zaritha/Ancestral Awakening deck that won DMF Antwerp is a perfect example of this, and also a great argument for me to have a lobotomy. The DMF-winning deck featured these guys as targets for Ancestral Awakening:

King Varian Wrynn | Pappy Ironbane | Scrapper Ironbane | Weldon Barov | Iravar | Collidus the Warp-Watcher

You might notice they're all Unique, and they were backed up by Crusade Engineer Spitzpatrick for additional card draw.

When I first saw Ancestral Awakening, I built a deck around these allies instead:

Inventor Dorbin Callus | Zorus the Judicator | Spirit of Stormrage | Doomwalker

Admittedly this was a particularly bad error of judgement on my part, but I'm sure we've all done it - pushing an idea to its feasible boundaries and then well into an unfeasible and downright ridiculous area. I think the only reason I didn't think of using Varian is simply because I didn't own any at that point, but toolboxing a load of Unique allies and then theming the deck around the Argent Crusade was a stroke of genius that helped make the deck what it was, rather than a load of sub-par allies that probably won't draw you four cards when exhausted as they won't survive that long anyway.

This time, however, I've netdecked something that's quite unique. It didn't win a Darkmoon Faire, nor did it Top 8 a Darkmoon Faire. In fact, it 'only' finished 50th in the overall standings, which while still a respectable record, isn't quite the deck you'll pick for being 'the best deck'.

Take a look at it though. It rarely wins by killing the opponent; it wins by making them run out of cards. This appeals to me greatly, and the synergies in this deck are nothing short of insane. Your main milling machine for a lot of the game will be Shawl of Haunted Memories, which can be tossed in the bin to mill three off your opponent's deck; alternatively later on in the game you can play it, destroy it using its powers and take something on your opponent's board with it, and still mill those three cards. It's a hugely versatile card in this deck, and given how easy it is to recycle out of your bin using Ironforge, it's not uncommon to see the same shawl being fished out of the trash several times in one turn like that favourite, faded t-shirt that your mum keeps trying to make you get rid of.

The other stroke of genius in the deck is the sheer number of cards that cost 2. Concerted Efforts is practically a guaranteed hit here - and while it is quite galling that time you skip past a Tuskarr Kite, a Netherbreath Spellblade and a quest, you'll find you often have three valid cards to choose from off a single resource.

My absolute favourite thing about the deck also happens to be what is quickly becoming my favourite card in Worldbreaker - Oppress. Priest has many ways of destroying abilities that are cheaper than Oppress, but using it on your opponent's Turn 3 Tuskarr Kite, making them discard a card, and then flipping Martiana to make them discard another is utterly punishing. At first glance Oppress is pretty unassuming and run of the mill but as the only piece of discard in the whole deck, it can make quite a difference when your opponent stops expecting it.

Everyone should sleeve this deck up at some point just to see how you build a deck with real synergy. I feel very stupid when playing this deck as I couldn't have hoped to have conceived it myself!

I've taken it to two events so far, having made a couple of tweaks to the list I posted above. It went down... not quite as well as I'd hoped.

Ripley Battlegrounds, W2 L2 (+4 Magnus Longbarrel, -4 Gromble the Apt)

This was the first time I'd tried the deck, so I was quite in the dark as to how it'd work.

Round 1, vs Dave playing Death Knight

Due to shuffling and mulligans, the first round got started quite late, and the first thing I noticed was that the deck was pretty slow to get moving - I'd drawn well and established complete control of the board with kites, mounts, a Netherbreath Spellblade, and so on. My opponent was down to about 15 cards in his deck in about 20 minutes, and I was feeling good... until time was called.

While I was setting up my sheep and kite I'd taken a bit of damage before being able to play a Dispersion - not enough to be able to use Desperate Plea but enough to stop me from winning on health totals. Couple that with my opponent's complete blank on what he should be playing against this deck and the extra time it took to decide what to do each turn that resulted from that, I went from almost complete control of the game to a big fat loss due to not sealing the deal quick enough.

Round 2, vs Matt playing Worglock

This game was pretty much the opposite of the last - I was playing a Worgen Warlock/King Genn deck - and Genn had brought his buddies along. Mikael the Blunt became almost entirely useless as soon as that turn one Garet Vice hit the field, thanks to that lovely Aberration.

Wub's Cursed Hexblade came into its own here - I stole my opponent's Turn 5 King Genn and then dropped a Dispersion on the next turn after clearing out as many of the Aberration guys as possible. Later on in the game I fished it out of my bin and stole a massive Jhuunash, finally Misery-ing my way to an empty opposing deck whilst sat behind my new treacherous friend.

Round 3, vs Julian playing Zorks

My fellow netdecker that evening, Julian. He'd brought along a customised Zorks build featuring Cairne and Thrall. Perhaps luckily for me he mulliganed into a multi-Raptor hand and after killing his Tuskarr Kite and emptying his hand, I dropped a Netherbreath Spellblade and started working on milling him out.

Unfortunately that didn't last long as he'd managed to drop a dangerous number of dudes on his board, and I hadn't seen a Dispersion all game. Add to that the fact that I couldn't kill any of them with the Shawl due to the lack of any namesakes in the graveyard and things were looking dire. There was only one thing for it - Desperate Plea.

By this point we were both topdecking. I'd skip my draw, taking a Desperate Plea out of my bin; then I'd Ironforge a Shawl out of the graveyard, play it, destroy it with an Urn of Lost Memories and get a Magnus out of the bin. By this point I had already turned all of his resources face down, so they were merely good for whittling down the opposing horde. This continued for a few turns before I got to a low enough health total that I couldn't heal, and so drew a card!

The Fel and the Furious. Great - thanks. I completed it and drew ANOTHER fucking Desperate Plea.

I don't remember much after this but I think I eventually landed a couple of allies and manage to win by a sheer war of attrition in an entirely unconvincing manner. Still, a win is a win.
Hey - she looks female this time

Round 4, vs Phil playing Emek Aggro

Phil had picked up the DMF Orlando Runner's Up deck, Emek aggro. I drew a terrible hand and despite Oppressing a Devouring Plague, I quickly ran out of cards and didn't see a single shawl in the top 20 cards of my deck, and eventually died.

So! Highly unconvincing.

I had another chance to test it today at Beeston, for the Love is in the Air tournament. I registered one win and one loss, and one bye, which can hardly be attributed to the deck!

Round 1, vs Cerripha Sunstreak Slashdance Nonsense (deck changes: -1 Ironforge (necessity, couldn't get hold of a fourth), -2 Gromble the Apt, +3 Magnus Longbarrel)

The playgroup at Beeston are still pretty young as a group, and so are still building their collections. This worked brilliantly against me as I found myself staring down a turn 3 Tempest of Chaos with no way of destroying it... because it was the only one in the entire deck. Several turns later and I eventually get burned quite horribly by it after managing to play a stream of allies to soak up some of the damage on my behalf, then we Slashdance, then I get Cerripha burning my face off.

There were two key moments in this game. Number one was the surprise appearance of Mana Shift, stealing my Misery (which I swiftly Oppressed), Tuskarr Kite (which was amusing in an ally-less deck) and Dispersion. After that I was lacking severely in card draw, but at least had the Sheep/Spellblade combo to go on, enabling me to pick shit out of my bin.

The second key moment was having Meltdown played on the Spellblade. I didn't like that much.

Round 2, vs the car park and the coffee shop attendant

The cup of tea I got from across the road was pretty good actually.

Round 3, vs Repurposed Death Knight Raid Tanking Deck

Before we started the first round (and as we were waiting for Julian, who is perhaps the only person I know who is even worse than me for timekeeping) my opponent and I had a quick look through his deck and switched a few things out that would help focus the deck a little more on PVP. One of those things was the addition of a couple of Army of the Dead that I had in my bag, along with a few other bits and bobs donated by the rest of the group.

Basically I went second, and my opponent, a keen Magic player, had me sussed pretty early on - when I played the sheep and the boots and the urn he knew something was up right away. What he didn't expect was me to steal the Jaina that he played on turn 4 with a Wub's Cursed Hexblade. Turn 7 I was on the receiving end of a completely justified Army of the Dead, my opponent swung in for fatal and it was a good job I had a Desperate Plea in hand otherwise I'd have been buggered. I eventually managed to wrest board control back and the game went to time with me flooding the board with guys and eventually emptying their deck just in time for their final turn.

I came fourth, lowest of all the 2-1s, and wished I'd played Koo'zar instead.

It was really great to find that there are more players in the local area now, and hopefully we'll be seeing a lot more of them as time goes on. I have another chance to potentially test the deck in Stoke tomorrow, but I may also decide I want to finish some games within half an hour tomorrow. We shall see.

In other news, the Icecrown Citadel raid deck is coming out in the next couple of weeks, and there's a few previews of the Treasure Pack cards and also the raid deck cards doing the rounds. First the raid cards themselves:

Frostmourne is clearly crackers. It's discard-proof, it costs 1 and you can swing for four with it at a cost of no extra resources. And it gets bigger the more often you use it.

I just hope there are very few 'Ready Target Lich King' effects in the raid deck!

Blood-Queen Lana'thel is also pretty damn good, and is a nice balancer for raid parties with more members - gaining control of five five-drops? Feels good man.

Now on to the treasure, which is the part that piques my interest the most. For the first treasure pack since Onyxia's Lair, the format has returned to Uncommon/Rare/Epic treasure as opposed to the all-Rare distribution we've had recently. Mercifully the price of the solo treasure packs has been reduced to $5.99 (which will hopefully translate to a kinda-palatable £3.99 over here), which for nine cards is still pretty pricey but not quite as bad as the ten pounds charged for a Naxxramas treasure pack!

So, take a look at these bad boys then. A Totem! That's always good. Interestingly it's the first non-rare Interrupt for the Shaman class, though with it being part of a treasure pack, that fact will have little impact on anything.

Deathbringer's Will is interesting, but requires your hero to deal combat damage to an opposing hero. It's often good practice to swing in to your opponent's allies with your hero, so it will require some building around.

There's also some previews from the next set, War of the Elements! Take a look at the booster box at that link. Isn't that just the gaudiest thing you've ever seen?

Anyway, another Totem! The first thing that leaps out at me is that it is the first non-control Totem (i.e. Grounding or Stoneclaw) to have more than one health. I'm not sure what use that extra one health is going to be, four turns into the game; I'm not complaining though! This is basically Super Fire Elemental Totem, and judging by this there'll be plenty of fire allies to work alongside this card in the new set.

As for the rest of these cards, does anyone else see Marundal the Kindred increasing in price once War of the Elements is out?

Do I really have to tell you how good these two cards are?

Just fucking look at them!

I will personally be very interested to see Tol'zin's use in limited formats - he, along with the Blazing Elemental Totem, is an uncommon - which suggests that it is expected you will have a few tokens to use him with in your average six packs of cards. Could we be seeing a return to the Druid Treant nonsense from around Blood of Gladiators too? If nothing else Tol'zin is a great way to help you combo Alexstrasza into play using Nature's Vengeance...

Anyway. Until next time!