23rd July 2011: Guys that Game, Stoke-on-Trent
A meagre 14 players attended GTG and given that I've taken home more of their prizes than I really should be entitled to, I was feeling pretty good. The Random Bag O'Decks gave me Horde Warlock, something I wasn't particularly familiar with, being unable to find a decklist on the net.
Two separate people tell me it's the "best deck".
Horrid flashbacks to last year's Safaris, where I picked up Horde Priest ("The Best Deck"), and thanks to the random selection of allies I ended up with a deck that closely resembled a steaming turd with some nice Priest cards sticking out of it. I didn't do very well.
On first impressions the Warlock was pretty nice - everything looked a little fragile but there's no denying Dread Infernal is excellent in a format like this, and giving him +2ATK with Malistra the Demonmistress is even better.
My long-suffering deck test buddy Steve joined us in Stoke and was my first opponent. He'd pulled Alliance Hunter (also considered to be very good) but I came out victorious after dropping enough fat guys that his Blackcrow couldn't deal with. Loque came a turn too late - I had enough on board for fatal so ignored the cat and went for the face. [1-0]
Game 2 was against Shrewsbury Guy, playing Horde Death Knight. This one was a heartbreaker - I did everything right, flipping my hero to make him discard his one card in hand - a Gargoyle, and having a healthly life lead at that point due to how ridiculously aggro the Warlock can be.
Guy was topdecking while I was trying to press the advantage. The turning point came when he picked up a couple of bits of armour, stopping the clock my diseases put him on; the next card was a Citadel Enforcer's Claymore, and after a couple of swings we were in a situation where I had enough on board to kill Guy, and providing he doesn't draw any burn, he can't kill me.
Off the top: Death Coil. [1-1]
Following this I shuffled up opposite my testing partner, Dan Goodman, who had pulled in my opinion the actual 'best deck', the Priest. More on that later though. He didn't really get anything on the board that I couldn't deal with, I got big guys out early and it was over pretty quickly. Dan later lamented that he'd had to play both Warlocks back to back, and lost to both. [2-1]
Joe Sadowski, also making the trip from Shrewsbury, was up next, also packing the Priest, in what we dubbed "the REAL top table". He walloped me, and it quickly became obvious that the Warlock cannot win this match with burn spells alone - a Nethermaven Donna Chastain backed up with any of the instant heal spells will pretty much win games by itself. Unfortunately I found this out the hard way, finding myself in the awkward situation of facing down a Nethermaven with two burn spells in hand to kill it with. My options were attempt to kill it and maybe fail, or don't attempt to kill it and get killed anyway.
Circle of Healing spoiled my plans and that was all she wrote. Of all the games I played on Saturday, this was the only one where I felt the game was completely out of my control. [2-2]
Asher was my final opponent, no doubt looking for revenge for my Ultimate Peon victory. He was packing the Rogue and with a couple of clever Perdition's Blade tricks took me and my awful mulligan down in no time at all. [2-3]
Guy didn't drop a single game all day and took home an El Pollo Grande for his troubles; Joe won the Tiger from the random draw. My consolation prize was a whole pack; I forget what was in it, but it wasn't very good. No matter - onwards to the following day's Safari where I felt a little more confident of my chances now I'd seen most of the decks that the lists proved elusive for.
Sunday 24th July 2011: Chimera Nottingham
Today the Box Of Decks was not kind to me. Horde Shaman. Universally regarded as bad, a quick flick through at least revealed a pleasant surprise, in that the Masterwork Stormhammer at least functioned as a usable weapon.
Round 1 saw me against a new player, Neil Cherry - I think he might play Magic. He was playing Alliance Druid, but thankfully I managed to drop an Infusion of Earth on my Masterwork Stormhammer and finished up wondering if the deck really was that bad after all. [1-0]
Alan Jiang is a new face on the Nottingham WoWTCG scene, though not one I've met before. He shuffled up a Mage opposite me and after a decent game of board control, he dropped Gabble; smacked me in the face twice with it and as I tried to swing the Stormhammer for fatal he played the Mage thing that stops people from attacking, and smacked me a third time to take the game. [1-1]
Next up: Mark Scott! I think he got a shit mulligan. I can't remember much about this. [2-1]
Axl Bell was next with his Priest, and seemed a little confused about how he'd ended up doing so well. He was the best type of new player - calm and thoughtful, planning his every move. He did make one massive play error that I was able to punish - with a Nethermaven and a 2/4 on board vs my Vanda Skydaughter, he went straight for my hero enabling me to eat his 2/4 with Vanda, flip, then kill the big guy in one fell swoop. Unfortunately it did me no good as the Shaman's cracks started to show, with the majority of its allies boasting very little health they died to random bits of burn and smaller allies, despite the above situation. [2-2]
Axl's friend was watching the end of our game, before lamenting how bad his deck was. His deck? The Horde Warlock.
"Oh, no no no. Give this to me, let me show you."
The next 20 minutes were a rather cathartic lesson in How To Play Horde Warlock, with the unfortunate recipient none other than Axl. He put up a really good fight but my failures against Joe on Saturday had taught me well and I knew exactly what I needed at every point.
After lunch, another new player! Wen Jie Lee is more accustomed to MTG and I think I only won this due to some rule mixups between games. He dropped a T3 Master of the Hunt to my T3 Stormhammer, a T4 Tesla, hitting me for 7; I took another 5 after attaching an Infusion of Earth to the mallet and killing the serpent. A turn or two later he completed the Essence of Enmity revealing another Tesla, then... didn't play it.
I ground out the win in the end, and asked about the Tesla following the game. He had forgotten that I would take combat damage when attacking the pet, so figured that the seven damage wouldn't be worth it until later in the game when it could be used as a finisher. [3-2]
More limitations of the Shaman deck beginning to show. A fun one is the inclusion of Zerzu - a 2/4 for 3, who upon entering play, heals all damage from all Nature allies you control. Nature allies who, for the most part, have two health. Maybe this will help me kill two Cerwyns with my Boki Earthgaze...
An old hand showed up for the penultimate round, playing Mage - Den Holland was pretty upbeat about the deck after Tom's 1-4 performance in Stoke suggested it wasn't all that. Den had the answers for everything - I played a guy, there was a Fire Blast or a Scorch waiting. Eventually I ran out of cards after keeping a potentially average hand, and he ran rampant. [3-3]
The game was over so quickly we had time for a friendly. The tables turned completely this time, I was even able to Frost Shock a Cerwyn and simply ran riot over his board for three or four turns before Stormhammering him to death. Get it right and the deck's not so bad; get it wrong and you're fucked.
Finally, James Goode-Hamy. Another Rogue. Some more Perdition's Blade tricks. A board full of guys that deal extra damage to exhausted characters, a Gouge, and 16 damage in one turn. I eventually stabilised, killing all but one ally, and dropping a protector. James was out of steam and topdecking, but I was well within killing distance with perilous little health remaining. He topdecked something to give his ally Assault 2 and Stealth, and I was done.
My next card, Chain Lightning - something I could have done with a few turns prior... [3-4]
Maybe next year I'll get it right. One day.
Maybe next year I'll get it right. One day.