The journey was pretty uneventful, though it's always nice to have a crack at the F-Zero AX cabinet they have at the terminal. Six hours after I awoke my wife and I were on a train between Amsterdam Schiphol airport and Rotterdam - it was a clear day and deceptively cold, only five degrees centigrade - the kind of temperature that makes you question what you packed. Several kilos of crafting cards felt like a poor choice of bag space considering jumpers exist.
Eventually after getting horribly lost in Rotterdam thanks to roadworks preventing access to the bridge we needed to cross, we got to the hotel, grabbed some local "delicacies" in the bar (Frikandel, Kroket and chips) before I abandoned my wife, headed across the Erasmusbrug to the Rotterdam Cruise Terminal for four days of cards - the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game 2011 World Championships.
The first thing that surprised me were the sheer number of people in attendance - I was expecting about 150, but come Friday morning the announcement was made that 330 people had entered the tournament this year. Add to that the people who were trying to qualify via the Last Chance Qualifiers, those who had come along for Saturday's Darkmoon Faire tournament and all the staff and vendors, there were easily 400 people in attendance over the weekend. It was unlike anything I'd ever seen, and to those of you who have played other popular TCGs this might not seem like much (I recall a recent Magic: The Gathering Grand Prix having over a thousand attendees!), for this game it's huge.
Anyhow, enough meandering. To cut a long story short, I had been testing a Paladin deck built by Stuart Wright for about a month before the tournament, and in the week and a half preceding Rotterdam the deck started to fall apart. It stopped winning games, new decks started to emerge that did horrific things to me before I could stabilise the board, and I basically lost all faith in the deck. So at this point, I play my backup deck, right? Grand Crusader.
That's right - a rareless deck that runs 44 blank 2/1s. Having lent out my Mazu'kons and Grand Crusader gear the night before, a deck crisis was the last thing I wanted, and this was literally the only thing I could put together with the available card pool. To be fair I had been taking people apart with it after testing, so it could have been worse - but it wasn't quite the glorious World Championship deck I was wanting in the first place.
So the big day comes. I have to spend TWO EUROS on my fourth Unleash the Swarm from one of the vendors, re-sleeve my deck in sleeves that are probably worth more than the deck itself, sit down for the player meeting and Organised Play announcement (DMFs next year in Cannes, Prague and Antwerp... I could be tempted, Worlds in Atlanta next year, less so) then got ready for six rounds of Core with my stupid deck and four rounds of Classic with my less stupid deck that I don't really know how to play.
Round 1: vs Jeff Blyden, playing Horde Grand Crusader
One thing I deliberately do when playing is delay revealing my hero until I'm done shuffling to give my opponent less time to formulate a plan against my deck. I reveal Rawbrgle and Jeff goes "Ah, it's that deck!" and looks a little dismayed.
I row a Costrunner and pass for three turns straight, then Unleash the Swarm on T4, hit six or seven Murlocs, flip, then dump the remainder of my Coastrunners on the following turn and cast RwlRwlRwlRwl!.
Jeff looked dismayed after the match, and told me that as soon as I started rowing and passing rather than playing Coastrunners, things were going to be tough as he couldn't just whittle my board down with his Telor Sunsurges. I guess I can take some pride in knowing how to play the most spectacularly stupid deck the game has seen for a long time? [1-0]
Round 2: vs Matt Light, playing Horde Aurastone Hammer Shaman
Oh good - 165 players to choose from and I get paired not only against one of my UK compatriots, but the guy who is using my Mazu'kons. Thankfully for me, this match was like a dream. The Murloc deck has two 'modes' of play depending on your opponent, and your hand - you can play Slippyfist if you have him, followed by more Murlocs that many decks can't kill, as they're Elusive - then flip, Unleash, Rwl!.
Against Matt I had the nuts - a T1 Slippyfist, T2 Swarmtooth, T3 Swarmtooth and Coastrunner, and T4 Unleash. Six Coastrunners hit the table off Unleash, and I prepared myself for my twelve Swarmtooth triggers. Top card of the deck: Unleash the Swarm.
Matt shrugs, and after he can't kill me on his fifth turn, I Unleash again, play Rwl! and run a bunch of angry 4/2s into his face. [2-0]
And that's the end of the report - I am the World Champion!
... I lost my next five rounds and dropped. The thing with the Murloc deck is that sometimes you just win, regardless of how well your opponent plays; sometimes you just lose, regardless of how well you play. I won three dice rolls over the entire weekend of competitive play, and seemed to expend all my luck in the first two rounds of Worlds!
There was still a mathematical possibility of me making Top 96 if I won all my Classic rounds though. I was playing a tweaked version of the DMF Koln Zaritha deck, as it's a deck I know how to play reasonably well and I figured I could probably make a shot at winning a few rounds.
Round 7: vs Massimillano Davi, playing Horde Warlock midrange
So, Classic - something I've not played properly for a very long time. It didn't start well - I mulliganed a bad hand into a worse hand, my first play of the game was a Voice of Reason which an opposing Munkin dealt with quite nicely. I eventually ran out of cards whilst achieving very little and scooped with 40 minutes on the clock.
The second game was much better - I took control early, managed to stick a Voice of Reason for more than a turn this time and eventually flooded the board with allies, drew a ton of cards, and while Massimillano seemed to live forever with the aid of several Undercities, I finished the game off with a minute on the clock.
We sideboarded, and I drew the perfect hand. Squall Totem into Mikael. My opponent went first and dropped a Sardok, which was a little irritating. I cast Squall Totem on his second turn in response to his attack, made Mikael, and passed. After several minutes of thinking my opponent hit my hero with Sardok, levelling the life totals at 2-2. I exhausted his hero with Squall Totem... And then I fucked it up. I played a second Mikael, not understanding the end-of-time rules properly, and not noticing his Undercity in play. In response to my Mikael trigger going on the chain, he activated Undercity and healed two damage from his hero. I forget how something entered the graveyard in the first place, as Sardok didn't die to Mikael - but this made the life totals 2-0 in his favour for a brief moment, and he won. The whole thing is a bit of a mystery to be honest.
I was pretty distraught at this point, so dropped, played some league to clear my head and entered some side events, which I failed quite miserably in too.
Not the weekend I'd hoped for then. If I didn't enjoy playing this game then it'd have been a torrid weekend!
You can read more UK-based stats and info here - big ups to Duncan Tang who took second place in Saturday's DMF Rotterdam.
Here's how I got on in all the events I played:
Main event: 264th, 2-5
iPod Draft 1: 1-2 [Drafted Monster after opening Gobbler, then received Monstrous Essence in pack 3... Lost the second game on time, could have made the final]
DMF: 199th, 1-2 [dropped, deck simply wasn’t good enough]
2-pack Challenge: 1-2 [2-pack is a random format, but seeing no rares in six packs is awkward - all my opponents kept topdecking what they needed, like me having them one turn away from death, they top a Chompers, followed by a Murloc Coastrunner]
Steelseries Gadgetzan: 38th, 3-4, [Borrowed Dani's Shaman deck. Played a cheating Frenchman in round one, stuffed lots of mulligans, played well though]
iPod Draft: 0-2 drop [complete disaster of a draft, opened nothing, saw nothing]
What's next then? I think it's time to have some fun with some jank decks, serious business is on hold for a month or two until the Realm Qualifier season starts in January.
Big thanks to everyone from the UK who turned up to Worlds for the tournament and made the weekend such a great time, to the dodgy burger place just around the corner from the hostel, all the staff and volunteers at the venue - pretty much everyone involved. I was shit, but the weekend was far from it.
Have some links:
Maritime Hotel, Rotterdam - our Rotterdam hotel, nothing to write home about but it was comfortable, the bar was good and it was well located
Hostel Room Rotterdam - where most of the guys stayed, the cosiest lounge/bar I've seen since Cafe Babalú - quality soundtrack too
Hotel La Boheme - we went to Amsterdam for a couple of days after Rotterdam, this place was well-located and lovely