Monday, 21 March 2011

To put order to chaos [RCQ Sheffield Patriot Games, 20/03/2011]

" All the things you see are toys; at the end of the day, when you're alone in the dark, the only thing that matters is this... the Law." - Judge Dredd

Six months ago my wife and I planned a holiday. We were going to Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo, had been saving for a very long time and were pretty excited.

Two months ago the date of the sixth World of Warcraft Realm Championship was announced - 16-17 April 2011, a date which I was unable to make due to being out of the country on said holiday.

As a result of this, I spoke to the staff at Patriot Games in Sheffield and offered to judge at their upcoming Realm Qualifier as I had no real need to qualify, and today was the day of my first competitive level judging experience.

Just over a week ago, Japan was hit by one of the largest earthquakes on record, a tsunami to follow and has been encountering problems cooling its nuclear power stations as a result. Reports suggest that things are getting better now but maybe you could spare some change for the British Red Cross Tsunami Appeal.

As a result of this, we're not making the trip to Japan any more.

As a result of that, I can now make it to Realms.

It's of little consolation.


I dropped by the store a while ago to pick up some supplies and happened to bump into Jim, one of the owners/managers/staff (delete as applicable). He mentioned how the store had been given a Realm Qualifier and after learning of my inability to make the championship date, suggested I could try judging - especially given the new and improved prize support, including support for judges.

Win a Realm Qualifier and get 8-9 packs and a few foil promos. JUDGE a Realm Qualifier, get 18 packs and a foil Darkness Calling.

Compared to back in the day when you would get a few packs and a couple of random EAs for judging, this was insane. Even in a vacuum, three quarters of a box for calling some timings and answering rules questions isn't so bad, right? I expressed my interest and confirmed my position not too long afterwards, and then gave it little thought for a while.


There was an overall turnout of twelve for the event, which for Patriot Games was pretty excellent. Last time I came for a tournament was the Worldbreaker release, when there were six attendees, one of whom was a member of staff at the store and two of whom were Steve and myself, who'd travelled up from Derbyshire. Today was totally different - Steve, Julian and myself representing Chimera Ripley, Tom, Neil and Jack from Chimera Beeston, Justin who was working at the store, Andy and Matt from the old Patriot WoWTCG group and four new players.

It wasn't quite going to be the lazy few hours I'd expected!

We kicked off deckbuilding at 12:00, after ensuring everyone had a valid Cryptozoic ID number. 30 minutes were allocated rather than the standard 20, which seems incredibly tight even to someone who plays a lot of sealed. My first mistake came when pairing the first round as I told everyone they had an hour to complete the round, and then told them the round ended in half an hour. Well done me.

The new shuffling rules didn't go down too well - after shuffling your own deck, you must present it to your opponent. They are now not allowed to merely cut - they must also shuffle your deck to ensure sufficient randomisation before returning it to you, at which point you are not allowed to modify the order of the deck.

The general consensus in relation to this new rule was "who came up with that then?"

From this point on everything is a little bit of a blur. Judging is weird - I spent as long making the piles of prizes look pretty as I did actually answering rules questions. We had a few boosters left over at the end so the payout was excellent - nine boosters for the winner, additional promos provided out of the store's pocket for every player, Path of Cenarius Loot for the top 8... I think we were going to give out some playmats too but they didn't surface in time. Either way - WoWTCG at Patriot Sheffield - great prizes, well worth the trip over if you're umming and ahhing about it.

I spent a lot of time wandering between tables and watching games - leading Steve to remark that it felt like he was back at school, doing his exams! I guess it's a difficult balance to strike - you want to appear interested and available but not imposing and intimidating.

The other awkward thing is that you must be careful not to come over as biased or giving advice to players during the tournament. I did a few deckchecks before the tournament started (and found one with 29 cards in) and it was difficult to resist the temptation to offer advice on cards to cut! One player was playing a ~35 card deck containing just one quest and all I could do was hand it back and tell him it was fine. Torturous.

Steve narrowly avoided a warning for wasting judge time after asking me to fetch him his bag of Haribo from the other room. I settled for stealing a cola bottle and telling him not to do it again.


One week later: still really good
There were a few nice decks doing the rounds during the day - one of the new players picked up a King Genn and a Warmace of Menethil, Julian rode his own Warmace of Menethil and an army of ghouls to the top table in the final match, only to end up third on tiebreakers after losing; Jack was the third Warmace user in the room, finishing second overall, but Tom takes the prize for the most ridiculous sealed deck I've seen since Amy Cholerton opened Army of the Dead AND Corpse Explosion at a Scourgewar Sealed Realm Qualifier last year:

Avatar of the Wild
Charmed Ancient Bone Bow
Blast Trap
Cairne, Earthmother's Chosen

Filth. He took home the top prize, along with a sealed pool worth well over £25 in itself.


The day was largely a success, though there was one slight dampener on proceedings. Cryptozoic Tracker to be precise.

It'd been working like a charm all day, but due to the tournament not having been sanctioned in advance, I had to run it as a temporary tournament and will need to manually re-pair it all once the sanctioning ID comes through from the guys at Cryptozoic.

Unfortunately, it appears that if you enter all the results in the tracker software for the final round and then close the tournament, the software doesn't create a backup for the final round's results! Luckily I've remembered the results and am popping back into the store tomorrow to double-check them against the sheet I left pinned to the vending machine.

Still, you live and learn.

It's been a bizarre day - I missed not playing but watching others play is a really intriguing way of spending your time, actually answering the questions on the occasions you're required is incredibly fulfilling, and the judge support makes it worth your while not playing.

Luckily my craving for organised play means I've already qualified for the Realm Championship three times over so judging this event was a nice deviation from the norm. I'll definitely have another crack at it in the future, even if the judge support isn't as ludicrous.

We're drafting with it in Ripley this coming Wednesday by the way. Not opening packs as soon as you get your hands on them is another pretty difficult thing to do!

War of the Elements Previews

Don't really have time to write anything about these individually right now, but War of the Elements previews have started on the official WoWTCG site:

Sunday, 20 March 2011

The Great Train Mystery (Daventry RCQ 13/03/11)

" I rang them up and asked them if there were any engineering works on. There weren't any engineering works on. The guy on the other end of the phone didn't really have an answer"

I got up at 7.30 this morning. That's no time to be up on a Sunday. I was making the trip down to Daventry for a sealed Realm Championship Qualifier - probably the only one I'd get to play in this season. The original plan was for Dan (whizzwang) to meet me at Derby train station and we'd make the journey down the M1. Instead, we discovered that there are no trains heading Eastwards until 2:30pm.

We got there in the end.

The destination was VaultCon, a tournament weekend held by Daventry's The Games Vault. It had already been going for a day, hosting a Magic: The Gathering tournament, a two-day Blood Bowl tournament (which was packed) and other bits and bobs.

Turnout was ten - three from Norwich, one local, four from Beeston, Mister Warcraft In Japan himself, and me. Format was Worldbreaker Sealed, best of three, four hour-long rounds.

Was hoping for a good sealed pool, didn't open anything super-bomby but opened enough quality cards for three classes - Hunter (Boomer, Stakethrower), Rogue (3x Aggressive Exploitation, Gutbuster) and Warrior. Unused rares in the end were Boomer, Dancing Rune Weapon and Abracadaver.

Contained in the first pack was Gutbuster, and immediately I knew that if I had a decent set of blue guys I'd be in a strong position.

Peter Hottelet
I heard this card is quite good

Nami Dabpox
Varandas Silverleaf
Fenton Guardmont
Laenthor Shademoon
2 Bella Wilder
2 Andrew Ulric
Alador Stonebrew
Wazix Blonktop
2 Furan Rookbane
Bayner Cogbertson

2 Ruby Enforcer
Emerald Wanderer
Ruby Skyrazor
Emerald Acidspewer

Crushing Strike
Thunderous Challenge

Polished Breastplate of Valor
Warmace of Menethil

Challenge to the Black Flight
Counting Out Time
Corrosion Prevention
A Matter of Time
The Key to Freedom

I eventually decided on the weapons-based removal rather than the targeted damage removal of Rogue due to the likelihood of meeting Aberration in this format. Drawing a card off the Warmace seems kinda good too.

Round 1: vs Red Paladin, played by Phil Monk

There seems to be a theme where whenever I end up with the Polished Breastplate in limited, I will invariably end up facing a Rekwa at some point. At least it means I have an extra face-down resource in this matchup!

I started off pretty aggressively and eventually dropped a Warmace. In response, my opponent's Cadon Thundershade received a Blessing of Defense. Attack him if you dare - he'll hit you back for nine.

I dared. It paid off, the board was kept clear and the Warmace started getting even bigger thanks to Peter's flip.

Game 2 involved a slower start for me, but after trading allies for a few turns I dropped the Gutbuster this time, flipped the following turn, and swung for two. There was little my opponent could do but drop a Cadon and a Ruby Skyrazor.

"I'm going to kill the fuck out of those!" I confidently declared, smacking Cadon with the Gutbuster, readying my hero and the mace. I took another Blessing of Defense to the face for my cockiness, and with the buster sat at six ATK, passed turn only to find my new best friend Stasis'd. It was too little too late and my deck fed me a string of large men to compensate for my loss of hitty stick. [1-0]

R2: vs Damon McCartney, Blue Hunter

Damon opened a nice set of Hunter cards including a disparate amount of equipment, and after having my Breastplate blown up by Terina Calin in game one, I knew he had the tools to deal with my key cards too. Lucky for me the Warmace did the job in the first game, 'safe' from the expended removal ally that was sat in Damon's graveyard.

I sideboarded out Nami and added a second Crushing Strike as taking out the Stakethrower Damon was toting would probably prove key to the matchup. It turned out the Stakethrower was the least of my issues, as on turn three I was facing down a Charmed Ancient Bone Bow instead.

It picked off a good few of my allies but no stash bits were showing up for Damon, nor any quests - and despite running out of cards myself I managed to rip a Crushing Strike off the top ("Don't destroy it yet, I've not even stashed anything on it") and then close out the game from there.

I was lucky that Damon was still in MTG mode - there were a few times he didn't attack when it would have done a few damage to my hero and maybe stopped me being quite so reckless with the Warmace in the first game, and was attacking my hero with the basic Stakethrower rather than spunking it on the first five-health ally that hit the table. [2-0]

Round 3: vs Tom Robinson, Blue Hunter

"I was hoping to avoid playing you - I hear your deck is good."

Tom didn't necessarily share my opinion of his deck but I was pretty wary all the same. Like most games the Warmace decided the first, but I saw two Tesla turn up for duty, taking out any dangerous allies on my table with little trouble.

The second game I mulliganed into a no-weapon hand but could curve out nicely. I untapped on turn four with a Ruby Enforcer in play and started dropping progressively bigger guys. It took a few turns before Tom drew a Tesla, and the damage was racking up on his hero at this point.

Neil was sat watching, having finished his game, and the turning point of the game came when Tom took out my Furan Rookbane with his Tesla rather than taking out the Ruby Enforcer. I guess it all depended on what I might have in my hand - killing the enforcer would slow the game down, but killing the big guy would hopefully quell the stream of damage.

I had Bayner Cogbertson. [3-0]

We played the third game as a friendly and I got rushed out - I could only drop the Warmace towards the end of the game when there was too much damage on my hero to make use of it.

Round 4: vs Neil Rigby, Blue Warlock

Yeah so I won game 1 with Warmace yeah. I can't think of a way of making it sound interesting.

Game 2 was full of disgusting Rigby-shaped rush. I had a slow start and Neil opened with Sardok, then double Emerald Captain, then Robe of Whatsitcalled to give them all +1/+1. I threatened to stabilise a couple of times with protectors but Neil had the Nether Inversion for them and even after forgetting to attack one turn, he still took me down with relative ease.

I can't remember anything about game three, other than that I won... [4-0]

"I've not lost a game in limited that hasn't been down to weapons," Neil lamented. "There's just so little removal for them in the format."

This is true - I'm 2-0 against Neil so far, the other time being when I made a turn 3 Mass of McGowan and then stashed a thing to make it big.

So I finally won one! Nine packs for my trouble, and Neil who I'd just beaten cracked a Mottled Drake loot. All my pack contents were shit.

We had a six-man draft with the prizes, and I came third going 2-1. I had a class switch which I'm not convinced was the best idea - I started off drafting druid, with my first three picks in pack 1 being Mark of the Untamed, another Mark, and an Entangling Roots.

After this the Druid stuff dried up and I noticed some good Warrior stuff tabling, so I took that as a backup.

Turns out I was the only druid at the table, but there was just no good stuff doing the rounds after the first pack! I had a relatively solid red ally suite but after losing the second game to a heavy Nature-based Shaman removal deck, I began to have doubts about my choice.

Jumo'zin: When Jumo'zin is dealt combat damage while defending, he deals 1 nature damage to the source of that damage.
2x Mark of the Wild, Entangling Roots, Faerie Fire, Flourish, Savage Bear Form


Jai Dawnsteel: Your weapons have +1 ATK.
2x Execute, 2x Thunderous Challenge, Crushing Strike, Citadel Enforcer's Claymore

I'm still not fond of the claymore. It's great for taking out big guys but when you're faced with a board of small allies and no way of removing them in hand, the claymore is a terrible option. Pay 4, swing into your 1/1 Mighty U'cha token? Errr.

What would you have done?


Big ups to The Games Vault for running Vaultcon, Gary Stevenson for walking home with the draft and a King Genn to go with his Alexstrasza playmat.

Anyone want to buy a foil Freezing Band?

Friday, 4 March 2011

When the Stars Align (Ripley Draft, 02/03/11)

At Chimera in Ripley, we play WoWTCG on a Wednesday night. More accurately, we play Core on a Wednesday night. Our playerbase is pretty healthy - 6-8 people generally - but there's a couple of us (Julian and I) who are slightly more enthusiastic about playing other formats too.

We've been suggesting for a while that we organise a Draft or a Sealed evening and plans generally break down and we play Core again. This is fine - I love playing Core. However, I'm not sure if Julian spiked everyone's drinks as he managed to convince everyone to do a draft this week.

It just so happens that we had an extra six people turn up as well. Completely unheard of, and more to the point, completely brilliant! Jack Fejer and Amy C made the trip up, along with Tom Robinson and some of his compatriots from Beeston, who're picking the game up as an alternative to the super-competitive Magic goings-on. Far from having concerns that we wouldn't have enough for a draft pod, we were now looking at two very healthy ones.

We were all randomly assigned into a pod of 8 or a pod of 6, and got to work. I was assigned into the pod of 6 with Amy (who has drafted before), Jonty (who has not drafted for a while and requested to be put into the Spaz Pod), Dave (who chuckles a lot), Phil (Captain Obvious) and Neil from Beeston, who produced his 2009 Magic Tokyo World Championships playmat and made us all feel very inferior.

The tale of getting pissed the night before the tournament and missing the second round was pretty amusing though.

Anyway. I knew this wasn't going to be a particularly easy pod but was glad not to be facing off against Jack and the three remaining guys from Beeston, so hunkered down, cracked the first pack and windmill slammed the Korialstrasz I found inside, without really reading any of the other cards.

"We got ourselves a reader!" came the cry from my left, where Neil was trying to figure out what all of the icons for each class meant, as well as reading each card individually. Eventually we passed, I picked a couple of quests and a Frek Snipelix that had wheeled the entire table, before finding a Varandas Silverleaf at something ridiculous like tenth pick. I'd drafted a couple of average Priest cards as there wasn't much going, a Raging Shout because it's good, before picking an Execute towards the end of the pack, and my final card being Black Blood. Nobody playing DK either then!

After pack 1 I'd got three quests, a bomb ally in Korialstrasz and was leaning slightly towards the Horde. Pack 2 cemented my faction at least as contained inside was a Trade Prince Gallywix, along with six or seven other cards that I wanted too. I noticed a Thunderous Challenge hiding away and so sent it off to see if anyone bit. Nobody did, and so when it came back to me six picks later, it was mine.

Jonty, sat opposite me, cracked a Divine Fury and after seeking advice from the rest of the table, hate-drafted it, and ended up going Priest himself after a first-pack Warlock strategy. That was me out of Priest and firmly into Warrior either way. Most of the second pack was spent stocking up on only the best quests (Essence of Enmity, Challenge to the Black Flight) and being surprised at how many amazing Horde allies I was being passed - I saw a Kerzok Plixboom wheel twice before I snaffled it, and I started to fill out the top end of my curve, taking a solitary claymore just so I had some form of weaponry.

Pack 3 contained another rare for me to take - Bloodied Arcanite Reaper, and to top it all off, I got passed a Venerable Mass of McGowan. I'd taken quests early so could afford to skip out on a couple in exchange for better abilities and allies this time around, and when an Onslaught went to eighth pick I was pretty confident I was alone in Warrior. Unfortunately the girdle I sent off to wheel never came back - it was one pick away from coming back to me before Dave revealed he'd hate-drafted it as he knew how good it could be, the swine.

A quick squint around the table reveals a surprising statistic. Despite seeing all these great Horde allies wheeling around the table, I was on the wrong end of a 4-2 faction split. Bizarre.

After cutting my 37 card deck to 31, which was difficult enough in itself, I ended up with the following:

Jai Dawnsteel

2 Execute
2 Raging Shout
Thunderous Challenge

Ruby Flameblade
Telor Sunsurge
Landon Dunavin
Trade Prince Gallywix
Oruk Starstorm
Frek Snipelix
Guardian Steelhoof
Jezziki Shinebog
2 Dorladris Spellfire
Orkahn of Orgrimmar
2 Vala Carville
2 Kerzok Plixboom
Boki Earthgaze

Bloodied Arcanite Reaper
Venerable Mass of McGowan

Cleansing Witch Hill
The Essence of Enmity
2 Counting Out Time
2 Challenge to the Black Flight

I'd picked up an Onslaught and a Crushing Strike on their way past too, and after much debating, dropped the Crushing Strike in there just to have some form of hate against a card type that isn't 'ally'. Looking around the table there were two Priests (and to think I could have been the third), a Paladin, a Mage, a Druid and me, playing Jai Dawnsteel and getting the usual pre-game nerves as I rack my brains to think if I've missed anything vital out.

Whilst picking strong cards from otherwise empty packs, I'd managed to pick up 2 Grip of the Damned, 2 Frenzy and a Black Blood - given the weapon suite that would have been a perfectly decent class to play, and entirely by accident! Thunderous Challenge was the card that swung it slightly for me though, Grip is excellent but I felt I had enough ways of dealing with allies in either class.

Round 1: vs Amy C, playing Jaenel (1-0)

It's Amy again! Fresh off the back of a Top 4 defeat at her hands in Beeston at the weekend, Tracker gives us a grudge match. I immediately feel better for playing that Crushing Strike I mentioned earlier, and am delighted to find it in my opening hand along with an Execute, a quest and some not terrible allies.

If my memory serves, the game was over pretty quickly - we traded allies for a bit before Amy dropped a claymore on turn 5, only for me to crush it the following turn. My turn 6 sees me recruit my Arcanite Reaper, and having flipped on a particularly uneventful Turn 3, go to town on anything with four health or less before dropping Korialstrasz to seal the deal.

Or so I thought - he went straight back to my hand as soon as he attacked thanks to Censure, before I'd even spawned any whelps. I dropped a Kerzok on the freshly-empty board instead and pretty much locked out the game from that point on.

Round 2: vs Jonty, playing Yuna Sunridge (2-0)

From what he told me, Jonty had picked up a decent first pack's worth of Warlock abilities before finding himself with a Divine Fury at the start of pack 2. He'd supplemented it with Angry Red Men and after I mulliganed from a poor hand into another poor hand, he wasted no time in dropping Onnekra on the table and going to town on my hero - to, in his words, "even things out".

A turn 3 Emerald Tree Warder and a dissatisfied look suggested curve issues (at this point Jonty was sat on two face-up Challenge to the Black Flight) and after finally stemming the bleeding with a one-drop protector, I executed the dragon shortly after and dropped a Jezziki, a Kerzok, followed by backup in the shape of a great big axe.

Jonty did some maths, and ran his sizeable board straight into my hero, taking me to about 23. Now it was my turn to do some thinking - and after resigning myself to sacrificing my Jezziki to clear his board, he dropped Toz'jun, who went for the face. By this point I was desperately close to death, but Kerzok eating the angry Troll followed up with a Ruby Flameblade and a stashed mallet to make my axe more dangerous swung the game in my favour, but not nearly out of reach of Jonty.

He flipped. "Your hero has Mend 1. Seems good when I'm taking twelve per turn." An irrelevant Dragonkin came off the top of Jonty's deck, hit the board, and he completed both Challenges to dig for an answer.

It never came, and I got away with it. Just.

Round 3: vs Neil, playing Suvok Frozeneye (3-0)

It always unnerves me when people who don't really know the game do so well at limited. I guess the people who I play Magic limited with once in a blue moon think the same about me - I have no idea what any of the cards do but still manage to put in a respectable show and finish with a decent record.

I forget who went first, but I know I kept my opening hand. No one-drop, but a turn 2 Trade Price followed by a turn 3 Venerable Mass of McGowan and a stashed Arcanite Reaper elicited a groan from the other side of the table.

"So you're just making rares against me, then?" Seems that way - my board was looking pretty ferocious compared to the Pirate Bob that he'd spent two turns making, and me flipping a couple of turns later meant I could take literally anything in his deck out in one hit.

It wasn't quite as easy as that though - being Mage (or "Burny Stick Man") he'd likely be packing Fire Blast and/or Frostfire Bolt, and that spelt pain for my Kerzoks, Ceraka and Boki, with their two health each.

They made lovely face-down resources though, and Dorladris Spellfire did most of the face-beating throughout the game, which I don't think is what he was designed for. Eventually Neil ran out of cards while I was trading his board for my health, and dropped a couple of dudes and attacked for game.
Burny Stick Man

So - not bad for a day's work. But wait - there's more. After almost wetting myself due to the inadvisable amount I'd drunk during the evening, I caught up with the top game in the other pod, and there was a mysterious lack of Jack Fejer in it, who had scrubbed out (only kidding) at 2-1. The final was between Julian "I'm really terrible at limited" Harse and Morgan "I really should stop calling him the new guy" Bartlett.

There was to be a playoff between the winner of the two pods for a mat that nobody really wanted and a t-shirt that was big enough to fit all of us in to. Morgan emerged victorious with his deck that looked depressingly like the Core Constructed deck I've been playing over the last few weeks, and we shuffled up out of the way while everyone else collected their prizes.

Morgan won the roll and came out of the blocks like crazy, dropping guys on curve each turn, though lacking in quests. Can you even call The Mighty U'cha a quest? Everyone seems to love it because it makes a monkey, but... anyway. I topdecked each turn hoping for a card that cost less than 3 for me to play to stop me from dying - and just when I thought I was getting somewhere, dropping a Dorladris, Morgan casually played a Demonic Soulstone on his Zulanji, ate my Card Draw Guy, and resurrected the pesky 4/1.

Turn 5 and I'm staring at a great hand, and a terrible board. Morgan has a Sardok which I've been completely unable to deal with since the first turn, Exxi the Windshaper and Zulanji. I pass with all resources open, Morgan makes a Ruby Flameblade and completes The Mighty U'cha, and I'm dead on board. Lucky for me, Thunderous Challenge saves the day, killing the monkey and the dragon, meaning I only take four damage in total from Sardok, and live to see another day. Just.

Morgan's not done yet though, with a quest and a couple more cheap draws hitting the table. I play Jezziki and start trying to frantically heal up, follow up with an axe and eventually the board is clear with me at 27 damage, and Morgan on very little. In my hand is the big guy though - Korialstrasz.

Big lad hits the board and I pass. I have no protectors available and I know Morgan is playing Boki, so all it takes is that one topdeck and I'm fucked. It doesn't come, it's his own Jezziki instead. Korialstrasz eats it, I play my own Boki and make a sea of whelps, and pass for what is hopefully the final time.

Morgan topdecks A Matter of Time. It's his sixth resource. He completes it anyway before passing back - I make a Vala Carville, five more whelps, and then run everything that can into Morgan to win in the most unconvincing manner possible.

Anyone want to buy a playmat?


Big respect to Morgan for pasting everyone in his pod (and very nearly me) - he put it all down to luck but I think he's just being modest.

Big thanks to Leah at Chimera Ripley for running the event for us and putting extra boosters in the pool due to the bonkers turnout, and to Julian for stopping by at the Beeston store to pick up more WoWTCG product as we were looking like we'd be about six boosters short.

I'm crossing my fingers that the Beeston guys come to Ripley more often as by the looks of it they're going to be some stiff competition once they get some cards together.

To come in the future (maybe): Icecrown Citadel treasure pack discussion! I teach my nephew to play Yu-Gi-Oh! My brain melts when presented with a M:TG EDH deck! I finally give in to my wife's wishes and tidy all the cards away!