"Every crime scene is a jigsaw puzzle. So many pieces. Assembly them right, everything makes sense."
I'm blessed to be writing one week on from North American Continental Championships, on a day cradled between a Las Vegan full house and a Riminial sizzler. This coming Thursday I'll be jetting off with the rest of the Brits to our seaside hostel for sun, sea, sand and (hopefully) spectrals. I've got a few ideas as to what I want to play, but as is typical of my cooking I won't choose a brew to serve ice-cold until the early hours of Friday morning.
What is of great advantage is that, when it comes to TCGs at least, what happens in Vegas doesn't stay in Vegas: the Internet is quick to provide for us famished Europeans, and we've got all the tech we can get our hands on. So which are the most dangerous decks heading in to EUCC?
Well I'll start by saying that it won't involve Monty Python's Rampant Rabbits. The Eggregator deck is a stroke of genius by Tim Batow, but I can't see it really establishing a stranglehold on the meta. [Unending Breath], [Aquatic Form] and their ilk are quirky cards that are problematic with global cost effect reducers, but truly amigos never have I ever played a deck that has given me so many headaches as the pilot, and that was before I got to the graph paper. I'm sure some brave/poor souls will make good attempts to combo their way to day two, but the deck really isn't for me.
No, good sirs and fair dames, the deadliest deck of them all casts its web in Jersey, but is emigrating for a summer of penne and pericolo. As Jersey legend Franki Valli would say, it's beggin' to be taken seriously and a deck you really just can't take your eyes off of. The [Azjol'anak Champion]s of the world are speeding towards your health, pumped up after a late night out on the graveyard. The updated Totem rules have also made [Calamity's Grasp] one of the best removal cards in the format, especially as so many of the Shaman decks like to have cards in their graveyard anyway (I've not forgotten about you Google Shaman).
If you've not played with Spider Solitaire yet, you're missing out on both a great play experience and much needed information. Until you've been twatted for 18 damage on turn four you can't really appreciate the ferociousness of this deck. With [Astral Recall] as a back-up draw engine this deck doesn't easily run out of steam, and could well be the 2011 [Ringleader Kuma]. You should therefore expect Wouter de Koning to turn up with a completely different [Sepirion the Poised] deck. Jokes aside, I am definitely expecting to face-off against this deck over multiple rounds, and have been spending my time preparing for it ahead of the bunny boiler.
Of course, the Spider Solitaire was not the only deck to cause waves at NACC. The Alliance versions of the [Searing LIght] deck have definitely been picking up speed since Realm Champs, and I was actually surprised that people were still backing [Emek the Equalizer] ahead of [Katianna the Shrouded] and [Tilly Fiddlelight]. Tilly is the definitive choice for this archetype for me, and the reason for my thinking as such is [Dimzer the Prestidigitator]. You cannot underestimate card draw, especially when you want to burn out your opponent with redundant abilities. Dimzer is still incredibly hard to remove (especially as [Avatar of the Wild] isn't seeing much play), and his sizable body with a potential stream of cards being drawn off of his back can't be met with congealed balking.
Right now then, as I sit with a dog curled up by my feet typing away on my shiny new toy, I am expecting the fabric of Italy to be sewn tightly with both Searing Light and Spider Solitaite. Both decks afford the average European player with the right balance of control and aggression whilst allowing them to play their favourite class cards. Right behind them I'm expecting the more controlling players to opt for Warlock and Mage. The Warlock toolbox got a lot stronger with [Malfurion Stormrage] and [Al'akir the Windlord] (the only Elements cards to really make a splash, besides the totem rules).
Dimzer, Malfurion and Al'akir all very strong, you say Jack? But they have nothing in common: one draws you guys, one brings back guys and the other taps their guys.
Oh, sweet squires, they're all Untargetable, or close enough. Vorix has to run in to all of them to make a kill, causing him to lose tempo. Similarly Shaman and Warlock have to run their guys in, in fact the only classes that can really kill them effectively at cost are Druid and Hunter (Avatar) or Warrior ([Death Wish]/the pointy end of a sword). No matter how often I've cycled some of these cards through my hand over the last few days, I've kept coming back to how strong that keyword is right now, second only to ferocity. The best performing decks will definitely be harboring some of these allies, or be so fast as to try and render your defenses broken beyond repair.
Of course, this is not to say Europe has been left without new toys to wheel out for its continental championship (and no, in Europe this event is not based around a breakfast of croissants, cheese and ham). I'm hotly tipping [Rumi of Gnomeregan] and [Akumo of Thunderbluff] for some serious day two transport runs. Whilst I'm not as excited by the prospect of being able to sleeve up [Holy Shock] and [Master of the Hunt] (seriously, [Holy Shock] is not the straw that broke the Paladin class, but more on that story another time), I really do think the new heroes could create a slew of hit records that leave Italy dazzled and in rapture.
I'm afraid there's no hot new tech to follow all that up with. Hopefully you'll be reading my adventures well into day two and if you're really lucky you'll see me pumping fist in day three, but I'm not making any promises. Like any competitive player I definitely want to win, and I definitely think that I can win any game given equal opportunity, but I'm a realist and my qi will be kept in bountiful balance as long as I make day two, although I would settle for Top 150 and a place at the biggest stage of them all. It always helps to have these sort of goals, and being a realist has never hampered my chances before. Everyone that plays me will have to earn their result, but I hope to keep my 75% win streak for 2011 alive as long as possible.
I'm going to sneak away now and finish downloading some tasty appetizers for my laptop. Armin van Buuren is calling me with siren songs for the voyage, and I've still got to play around with the flashing lights on my M11x.