Sunday, 25 September 2011

A break in the action

One of the hardest things about writing a blog is maintaining the enthusiasm to keep it going past the initial "hey I got this idea" phase. There's bee a severe drop-off in posts on here as I struggle to come up with enough worthwhile content to drop into a post, not to mention the enormous amount of time it takes to write these things. Early starts, new jobs and testing for events all eat into that, and you also can't ignore the fact that I can be horrifically lazy at times.

The third and perhaps most important part is that until the Throne of the Tides previews started this week, there's been very little to talk about - I've been playing the same deck for a month in preparation for the Zapped Giants Open III, will continue playing that same deck in preparation for the UK Nationals next month, and therefore am not about to discuss it in too much detail; I went to play Sealed in Sheffield, opened an uninspiring pool, and met the elusive Alex Crow who proceeded to do horrible things to me with Soridormi and Twilight's Hammer.

I came fourth of seven, with a 2-1 record, thanks to shitty tiebreakers; the Zapped Giants Open was more of a success story, with me finishing top of the standings after the swiss pairings on 6-1, only to scrub out of the Top 8 after winning the first game. My deck had a complete breakdown in the second game, giving me three six-drops in my first hand and all three of my one-drops in my mulligan; the third game came down to him killing me before I killed him. Disappointing, but a second Top 8 in three Zapped Giants Opens is not to be sniffed at. Once Nationals has come and gone I'll have a bit more info.

I was intending to go and play Sealed at Stoke-on-Trent yesterday too, but - amazingly - literally nobody turned up.

So! Instead I'm going to bore you senseless with a few of my favourite cards from the new set, Throne of the Tides. The full spoiler was made available Saturday morning, and you can find it at amongst other places. In no particular order:

A nice exciting one to start. Or not.

So Righteous Cleanse isn't the most bombastic of abilities, but when was the last time Paladins got a standard, unrestricted dispel?

March of the Legion, with Sacred Purification, which by all accounts looks like it was pretty damn good. Given the lack of hate we've seen in the last block though, this seems pretty good too - a two-cost, Instant, no restrictions (no Repentance- or Blessing of Faith- style nonsense), and with a free Delve tacked on too?

I think I prefer Oppress in a "Best Dispel in Core" contest but this is potentially a really important card for Core and limited formats.

Arcanomage Misti is, to be quite honest, just Burly Berta, but worse. Luckily for us though, Berta joins the list of flagship allies who are being reprinted with the release of the Fall 2011 Class Starter Decks, so there's nothing stopping you from including both of these in your deck. Turn 2 Burly Berta is awkward. Turn 2 Berta Turn 3 Misti could be very awkward.

Keeping her alive will be the most difficult part, as the loss of that fourth health is pretty huge, and her single ATK is mostly irrelevant when defending.

I quite like Master Sniper Simon McKey's flip - he could easily give a bit of reach to the Aspect of the Wild Hunter decks that have been floating around. With an Aspect out, there is nothing shameful about playing a Tesla on turn 6 and then smacking your opponent in the face for 14.

Unfortunately he looks a bit like a cross between the two main characters from Gears of War.

Trivia fact: This is another vanity hero for a volunteer - this time it's, umm, Simon Key, who works on the rules team and moderates the Cryptozoic forums.

Parexia is one of over twenty cards in the set featuring the Empower keyword, ("When this ally enters play, if you control another XX hero or ally, do thing") and while most of them have solid stats and powers, Parexia stood out due to the lack of discard effects printed recently. There have been a few, and I'm sure we've all been blown up by Revealing Strike once or twice, but forcing the discard of two random cards and getting a passable four-drop for five resources seems like a pretty good deal to me. 

With many classes struggling for card draw (and Throne not really offering a huge amount to combat that), we could see one or two neat discard decks pop up in the new Core format. Priest now having access to Mind Melt, Oppress, Twisted Mind Spike and Parexia, not to mention newcomer Tendrils of Darkness could see people topdecking quite reliably... if they can find a way of killing those pesky Girdles.

This guy intrigues me. I almost never want to voluntarily discard my own cards, but binning an Arcane Barrage to Valak's power seems like it could be a solid plan.

The main issue is refilling your hand later in the game. Mana Agate is good but won't single-handedly fix the problems this card could create for you like a Mana Sapphire or Invocation would.

So - a great power stunted by a lack of available card draw. Is he good enough for Classic?

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the set are these Bottled equipments. Every class has one, along with the Monsters. They aren't class-restricted - they just get better if played with their corresponding hero. Bottled Life with a Druid Hero will give you two 1/1 Treants on your furst turn if you so choose; a second one on your next turn will let you play flagship ally Plainswatcher Taro for free.

The Priest one makes an opponent discard a card each time it is activated, the Mage one channels Darkness Calling for you, the Death Knight one reduces an ally's health by 2 each time it is used, and perhaps the most intriguing one is the Warlock's Bottled Void - which hits an opposing hero for 3 damage, heals your hero for 3 damage, and then does it again when you use its secondary power. A twelve-health swing for three resources.

Last one for now, a card that scratches my ex-Totem player itch. Clearly he works well with cards like Scimitar of the Sirocco - drop him into play accompanied by a Fire Totem, make him a 10/5, then clatter into the opponent for 13. However, at some point I will be attempting to get my hands on a few of these and will put together another Totem control deck like I used in the good old days. I get the feeling that given half a chance he could run riot with a Totem or two of your own in play.


I deliberately tried to avoid a lot of the obviously great cards - you don't need me to tell you why Ozumat, Commander Ulthok and Mazu'kon are good!


The full list of Flagship cards that will be reprinted with the release of the 2011 Fall Class Starter Decks:

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Nationals Qualifier Season so far [also the news]

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Ripley Block Qualifier, 27/08/2011

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

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

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

Beeston Sealed Qualifier, 03/09/2011

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

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

That never came:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phew. [3-0]

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

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

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


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