DILEMMA: The Nationals are announced 4 weeks before the date, and I find myself with no deck that I’m happy taking. After the euro / worlds tournament results, I have a fair idea of at least WHAT I’ll be up against, because I'd built one myself. Try beating these decks on a repetitive basis in practice, and I knew there’d be people with no qualms using them. It’s not that easy, unless of course with 2 weeks to go I finally decide perhaps it’s better to join the dark side and maybe even use a Marcus / Ice Shaft combo ( hissss ). That wouldn’t do. They played beautifully and functionally and they simply weren’t mine. No love. No lustre. Just going through the ubiquitous and repetitive ‘power card play’. So with 1 week to go ( and not even sure if I was going without a deck or funds ), I decide instead just to take a step back and present myself a challenge. To Build a deck :
That wasn’t Shub / Hastur / Cthulhu / Miskatonic or Silver Twilight ( I’ll always love my Yog though ) that were so prevalent at the previous Events.
And didn’t have:
Master of Myths
Marcus or the Ice Shaft
Anything to do with Dreamlands ( though I came close with the theme )
Any form of control or Power Drain-ing
Any Milling or Things in the Ground
Any Ancient Ones for that matter
Any combo to be built up
50 cards ( blasphemy )
Twilight Cannibal ( cause I can’t get the f*#@in 2nd and 3rd copies FFG !!!!!!! )
And was just a good solid performer on any draw. After a week of frantic playtesting on Lackey with a dear friend of mine who is always full of good advice, and a last minute decision to do a whirlwind tour and fly out at 7am and return at 11:30pm because I couldn't afford the accomodation - haha, I found myself with the following deck, nowhere near trialled enough but that would have to do:
THE VEIL IS THIN
3 x *Paul Lemond
3 x Undercover Security
3 x Faceless Abductor
3 x Blood Magician
3 x Agency Bodyguard
2 x *The Sleepwalker
2 x *Descendant of Eibon
3 x *Marshall Greene
2 x *Nathaniel Elton
2 x Fishers from Outside
2 x Many-Angled Thing
3 x Constricting Elder Thing
3 x Stalking Hound
3 x Behind Bars
3 x Working a Hunch
3 x Small Price to Pay
3 x Twilight Gate
3 x Pushed into the Beyond
3 x Shotgun Blast
Yep. This was going to be a challenge to get this scrappy little Agency / Yog thing to go toe to toe with a Worlds deck. But, it gave me the joy that no other championship deck could when playing it. So, could it actually do it though and still be tournament wide competitive ?? I believed so, with a little ( lot of ) luck on my side. I’d had an epiphany back there in the post when I went from Tournament favourites to the ‘challenge’, in that perhaps tournament conditions weren’t the most suitable for ‘johnny’ players, and that I’d rather just do ok with my own deck than win with one of the META_POWERFUL gargantuan beasts that are ruling this domain. I was kind of torn between taking another big hitter like I knew others would, and something that was original but didn’t stand half the chance ( but still had one !! ), but you could say I had found a certain peace ( EDIT: haha ) that I might not nor needed to be a tournament winner ( it seems to take a whole different frame of mind where the decks origin or the reliance on certain card combinations comes second to winning the title ), but instead I ‘might’ be a maker of decks that I hope you agree are innovative and ‘off meta’.
SYNOPSIS: So. It had to be able to face Ancient Ones most probably in a Shub / Yog environment ( Nathaniel Elton / Behind Bars / Twilight Angled Thing / Sleepwalker ), Suffer a Nodens bomb or a Khopesh ( Agency Bodyguard / Marshall / Nathaniel / other Uniques ) if it couldn’t remove it or other relics immediately ( Pushed into the Beyond / Faceless Abductor / Twilight Constricting Elder ), Limit the effectiveness of Master of the Myths / Black Dog ( FREE Behind Bars / Pushed into the Beyond / FREE Shotgun Blast to put that doggie down ( EDIT: I loooove doing this - drool ) / Stalking Hound / Unique wound cancelling ), be reasonably quick and hard hitting with some ‘destruction’ ( Small Price to Pay / Shotgun Blast / Angled Thing / Pulled Beyond ), have the capacity to take out low skill lynch pins like Basil / Aziz / Dexter ( Shotgun Blast ), operate well at a 3:2:1 Domain set up if need be to slip under the Nyarlathotep radar, and have the card ratio in the favour of Characters with no Supports as is my competitive deck style ( in a 17 / 17 character cost ratio to supplement story rushing with 18 Events to statistically draw from each evenly ), and FINALLY, have enough tricks to keep me entertained ( Working a Hunch / the whole mess of in story events in fact / the ‘Twilight Toolbox’ of Constricting Elder - Fishers - Angled Thing / My own personal touch of Lemond and Blood Magician to hopefully force some mathematical errors as it can get quite complex with a couple of Domains spare ).
Without really trying I’d created from a VERY rough prototype something that spoke to me of a dim region on the border between the worlds, where humans wander and minor servitors to the elder gods lurk, pushing their way through the curtain to ****** one up and drag them back ( especially with Twilight Gate ). Thus was born, 2 days before the Nationals, the completed THE VEIL IS THIN ( which perhaps came subconciously from a card I'd 'created' earlier ! ).
THE NATIONALS: I’d woken up at 4pm on the Saturday ( such are the hours of a casual night shift worker and for a Lackey player to meet up with the Euros ), and either due to pre tourney jitters or my body clock, I couldn’t sleep that night. Left home at 4:30am on Sunday to catch my flight to Sydney at 7am. By the time I’d arrived and travelled the trains to Burwood it was 10am. A quick brekkie and resleeve of my deck and the Nationals got under way. And well, did Australia represent !! 16 players registered and settled in for 5 rounds of Swiss followed by Top 8 Play Offs to the Champion. It’s a fairly new game here with everyone only having started this year, but I knew that me not having any previous card gaming experience either was going to make it tough as there were some real veterans of the genre taking part.
FIRST ROUND OF SWISS: Vs Mono-Cthulhu
A tense first match for me. Ive only ever had a 4 person Regional for competitive experience ( yippee ) and 80% of my playtime has been on lackey, and the flutters were about in force. I did though have it in my head that as a fairly new crowd, I’d probably be facing a lot of Core Events, and so printed them out to study on the plane. From this I saw the possibility from turn 1 of a Pulled Under play when he failed to commit with a Brood of Yig. I managed to return 3 twin Terror Characters in a row, perhaps using some nice Events and Abductors to do so, but it paid off. He’d had 2 dead in his hand thinking ‘Not another turn I have to wait’. By the time they came through and he’d recovered from fail trying the play 3 times, I’d swept in with a few low costs and almost finished the game. The Sleepwalker performed as she was supposed to, backed up by the Bodyguard to block stories. His was a nice deck with some big late surprises I could see, but the disruption and slowing of the big guys coming about ended it ( 3 - 0 ). This deck ended 4th at the Tournament.
SECOND ROUND OF SWISS: Vs Mono-Silver Twilight
A nice surprise to see the mono Twilight here. Strong / Powerful / Bouncy. But self admittedly from the owner not at all broken in. It showed a bit in the card choices and it didn’t help that the Faceless Abductors kept recurring back to deck and recurring back to deck, and bouncing with You Know too Much and Unscrupulous Aq ( yeah, him ), till that’s all you’d think you’d seen, returning Twilight Enforcers and other key Characters in story, to take the match ( 3 – 0 ).
THIRD ROUND OF SWISS: Vs Shub / Yog
The one they whispered about. In between games I’d been given the heads up on 3 decks in particular which would be the hard ones to beat. These guys knew and had played each other, and this was the favourite. A really REALLY nice tweak of the 2012 Worlds Deck, with a player behind it who’d played all the gadgillions of cards games that have ever existed. To have the card pool to field this deck is an impressive feat and he played like a pro, handled cards like a pro, carried the whole game demeanour like a pro. With the Worlds Deck behind him. GULP. Not my weenie Agencies please. But, I’d prepared my game style for this and with head down I charged in. 3 turns and 2 stories to me later and the 17 low cost Character base seemed to be paying dividends, along with some removals and tricks in his Story Phase, and a couple of Twilight Gated Many Angled Things. His deck was running really well, but so was mine and I had a response to every action and was keeping him out of the story phases. I could see the doom coming though. I hadn’t drawn a single Bodyguard / Marshall / Nathaniel, and the toughness shield to survive after Nodens just wasn’t in place. Sure enough 4 tokens into my 3rd Story with him still at zero, there dropped a Noden’s bomb. 6 Characters wiped when he had only 1 in play himself. Well played Sir. The couple I managed to play per turn from here were easily handled by Y’Golonac now that I didn’t have the numerical advantage. 1 Token and 1 Turn away from beating the behemoth 3 – 0, and it crumbles to a loss ( 2 – 3 ). I’m extremely proud of this game and the decks performance though. We both did well to create a very tough match and a moment of professionally withheld panic for him, as well as a game that could’ve gone either way. I knew that if I made the cut and faced him again it ‘entertained’ the possibility of a victory. This deck ended 1st at the Tournament.
FOURTH ROUND OF SWISS: Vs Yog / Syndicate
Unfortunately for this poor fellow my draw decided the game before it started. Fishers from Outside to resource and 2 Twilight Gates in hand for in story returning a committed Character and then taking out another one. He drew badly in comparison, getting mainly Syndicate Characters that couldn’t handle that kind of instant terror / combat action. I unashamedly took 2 of his Underground Conspiracies as my own to shut down his Celebrity, for a win ( 3 -1 ).
FIFTH ROUND OF SWISS: Vs Mono-Cthulhu
To tell the truth I ‘think’ I faced every mono in the pack of 16 to get through the Swiss, so this was a bit unexpected. And this was going to be a crap fight from the start. First round Devil’s reef followed by a second round Shadowed Reef. Come to follow, a whole horde of 1 T / 2 C / 1 A creatures from the depths, cost reduced, exhausting to play for free and refreshing, and building up some hectic steam !! It was a STRONG opening, and he was playing for the Top 8 ( he finished 9th after Swiss ) and it was all I could do to hold on but having the Lemond / Blood Magician duo saved me, acting as my flair on the Master / Dog pay 1 threatening. What also helped was the Descendent of Eibon I’d risked morphing in with my only 2 tokens to stem the flow and then played out. A good solid showing of INV icons after that and a tricky last desperate play before the tide overwhelmed me took the game, on my turn copying Hydras icons with Lemond and then sending her back to hand from in Story with a final action window Twilight Fisher ( 3 – 1 ). So far 4 of the matches had only taken around 20 -25 minutes, depicting the speed at which this deck can move with its low – free cost events ( Agency has the best in the business as far as I’m concerned ) and it had gone through the Swiss with flying colours.
So I made it through to the 8 and won myself a playmat to add to my Regionals one, which, going into the tournament was all that I was focused on. Overall with a strong display of 14 Stories / 5 Conceded in 5 games and a 4 -1 record, I placed 3rd overall behind the 2 Shub / Yog ‘big threats’ and was set up with my opposing number.
So far there had been some very difficult decks and experienced card gamers to manage / go toe to toe with, and I’d faced the eventual 1st and 4th placers. I’d noticed a couple of players still learning the rules when I’d arrived, but do you think I could draw one of them ? ( probably would’ve whipped me just for the lesson ). The same went with my match up in the Top 8.
THE FINAL 8: Vs Hastur / Cthulhu
With my eyes hanging from my head after 24hrs of being awake I gathered the mental energy and energy drink I would certainly need for this match up. Another of the decks to watch out for that hadn’t been firing sometimes to place him 6th overall so far, a classic but clever control and massive destruction deck, driven by a little asian fellow that played fast and played hard and played to wipe you off the map and had been blitzing the League nights. I knew I’d have to be quick, but I’d playtested rigorously during the week against this combo, and knew that if I was fast I would perhaps have a good chance. Things started well, the deck had worked around his, and I was 2 - 1 stories up. Then one of those tournament moments where everything was for nought on what was to follow, and coming back from it was far too uphill. He top decked Blind Submission and the Khopesh, which my Toughness / cancelling shield actually bore the brunt of and survived, and I drew 2 useless Small Price to Pays. Next top deck he drew Guardian Shoggoth and another Khopesh, and it tore through what was left. For the love of a Faceless Abductor please !! Drawing a now useless Agency Bodyguard and the 3rd !! Small Price to Pay finished me off as it gave him the time to pull out the Ancients and take the game back by force. A loss ( 2 – 3 ), after glimpsing momentarily the final 4. Them’s the tournament breaks, the Lady be fickle. This deck ended 2nd at the Tournament.
Overall, I’m pretty proud of this deck for what it is and the speed at which it was built. A measly little Agency / Yog mix with a stick up your bum and none of the cool kids. It went the rounds with the top 2 decks, both played by opponents FAR more experienced than me ( and it showed a bit with my haste ), and only lost both by the barest margin ( going down 2 -3 after a strong lead which showed a slight long game weakness the deck had that needs to be remedied ). Also on another day perhaps ( or I might have done worse ), but it gave me the warm fuzzy feeling that perhaps I’d completed the ‘CHALLENGE !!’, and made a little version tier 1 deck to run with the big boys without looking anything like them. In the same sense I am humbled by the defeats and congratulate the wielders. It certainly wasn’t a walk over for them though.
Any observances from the games about the deck in a tournament setting ?? Well, yes. I of course now think that Small Price to Pay is a ridiculous card BUT, it was the cheapest immediate targeted insanity domains can buy to take out Marcus Jamburg for a 0 cost Shotgun or Pushed. Yeah ? Yeah ?? And the possibility of taking / cancelling the wound without a Character loss. Of course I never saw Jamburg OR the Ice Shaft.
It needs a little more top end, which Agency lacks a bit without using the DAY cards, and I hope is remedied in upcoming expansions, so I think I’ll keep working with this deck with SoK already showing prooOOOoooomise !!! I can see The Company already making a strong showing, and am actually looking forward to the Agency Expansion as I’ve grown quite fond of their un-apparent tournament appeal. A shame though to see was the non use of Nathaniel Elton. There were a couple of Glaaki’s and Cthulhu's floating in some of the opponents decks but the games were too quick to ever see one in play, though I know he would’ve been handy if one showed.
Otherwise it ran perfectly the majority of the time, keeping a steady balance of Characters and disrupting Events out as planned to cater for the low ‘printed’ Arcane presence, which never presented a problem. I’m happier with the result than I know I would’ve been if I’d done better with a ‘different’ deck ( and made it 3 Shub / Yog decks – that’s just TOO much ), so I suppose mission accomplished. Enjoyed the trip ( though soooo tired ), enjoyed the day, and enjoyed seeing some hardcore gamers in action. The tournament 'buzz' is something completely new to me so even just the experience will pay dividends in the future. Because of the solid performance in the Swiss ( which matters !! ), against some of the big decks, my final ranking was 5th and I was pretty chuffed with that considering what was above AND below me, and that it had only been a matter of near misses and fatal line ups.
FINAL TOP ( well, 5 out of 16, to me – I know Kieren from good games is going to do a full write up )
- Shub / Yog ( lost to 3 – 2 )
- Hastur / Cthulhu ( lost to 3 – 2 )
- Shub / Yog ( never faced but it suited my deck much better than the other, with Shudde M’ell and Shub – Niggurath for Nathaniel to play with )
- Mono – Cthulhu ( my first opponent that I’d beaten 3 – 0. And I wished him luck !! haha - but a great fellow and I'm glad he made it )
- Agency / Yog ( that’s me )
I’d like to thank the guys at Good Games in Sydney too for a sweet Event and putting so much time into promoting the game there. Without their efforts it wouldn’t have been such a successful day with a turn out and competition level worthy of a Nationals. Also a big thanks to all the competitors. You tested my deck well !!
Lastly, I did have to giggle. I’d considered taking the DARK BYAKHEE to give it a proper test with an experienced hand behind the deck. To my surprise I found that someone else had put together the deck, and without a single trial brought it along. I warned everybody about this !! haha. The poor fellow lost his first 3 matches whilst finding the tempo to the deck, before coming back to win his last 2, BUT he did win the random draw lucky door prize based on his eventual placing !!