I played in my first ever WoW TCG Realm Qualifier today at Majestix in Costa Mesa, California. I played Blue Aspect Hunter, selecting Master Sniper Simon McKey as my hero for his explosive flip. There were 33 players at the tourney, and I finished the main rounds with a 5-2 record, losing to a Poison Tipped Grglmrgl and a Blue Aspect mirror match. I finished third (fourth?) overall after the Top 8 cut, losing out to the always-a-pleasure to play against Scott Burkhart.
As of the night before the tourney, I still hadn’t decided on which deck to play. I had a Hans Höh Grand Crusader deck sleeved and ready to go, as well as a Hordestone Shami deck, a Monster Frost mage deck and my Blue Hunter. I ended up going with my Blue Hunter as I played a Blue Aspect deck at DMF Philly and overall I felt very comfortable with it. It offers a ton of powerful, ferocious allies, strong ally removal, explosive damage, and Boomer, the card I consider to be the best turn two in the format.
Here is my full deck list:
Hero: [Master Sniper Simon McKey]
4 [Windspeaker Nuvu]
4 [Magni, the Mountain King]
4 [Rufus Claybourne]
4 [Faenis the Tranquil]
4 [Grumdak, Herald of the Hunt]
4 [Concussive Barrage]
4 [Noxious Trap]
4 [Aspect of the Wild]
4 [Spoils of the Hunt]
4 [Avatar of the Wild]
4 [Fordragon Hold]
4 [Corrosion Prevention]
4 [Seeds of their Demise]
Now even though I’ve assembled a play set of [Edwin VanCleef]s, and I really wanted to make the killer Rogue and his dashing daughter work in the deck, I just couldn’t keep them in. With the format as aggressive as it is Edwin just doesn’t do enough the turn he hits the board, so I went for more ally hate in the end.
Here are my top level thoughts on how each of the key hunter abilities worked out:
[Concussive Barrage] I was pretty happy with. I usually drew two a game, the first is enough to pick off a one or two drop, and the second proved just as useful. Go figure though that the one game where I drew three total I chose to row the first one.
[Noxious Trap] ended up performing just as I had hoped, and helped me win a Hans Höh GC matchup right out (see below for the detailed encounter). Overall I was very happy with the choice given how many aggressive decks dominate the field.
[Spoils of the Hunt] ended up under-performing. It was rare that I received better than a one for one. I’ll likely cut this to three copies.
Now, on to the breakdown of the individual rounds:
Round 1 vs. Jessica Fischesser, Grglmrgl
This was a fun way to kick off the day – Murlocs! I had practiced extensively against this archetype as I helped two friends of mine build variants of it given how inexpensive it is to assemble. Thankfully my deck has a silver bullet against the dreaded [Poison Tipped]/[Unleash the Swarm!] combo: [Rufus Claybourne] (or as I like to call him when I play him in response to an opponent’s ability: “Roof-EE-Ooooo!!!). The game plan was simple: mull for Rufus. Thankfully I had one in my initial hand, which made keeping a snap decision.
I won the die roll and elected to play first. Jessica had not one but two Poison Tippeds in her starting hand, which normally would have set her up for a monstrous Unleash the Swarm on turn 4. But as soon as she unleashed, I responded with Rufus, granting my hero Aberration and Worgen status, saving me from twenty damage from the four Murloc Coastrunners and single Slippyfist that eventually ended up hitting the board. Jessica’s face turned from enthusiastic to dismayed in the span of a second, and she passed turn with a bevy of non-ferocious Murlocs on her side.
I had a Spoils of the Hunt in hand and playing it, wiped her board. I still had two resources open, and thankfully I had pulled a second Rufus on the up draw. It’s a good thing too, because she had another Unleash the Swarm in hand for the next turn! I ended up dealing fatal damage to her hero on turn six with the board that I had steadily been building throughout the match.
Round 2 vs. Eammon Kiyomura, Rohashu, Zealot of the Sun
Like Jessica, Eammon (rhymes with Damon) and I are in the same playgroup of LA/Orange County players and we’ve known each other for a fair bit. We laughed at the beginning of the round because we always end up getting paired against each other early on. Eammon is one of the nicest players I know and always a joy to play, even though it means one of must walk away from the encounter a loser, but such is the way of things right?
I won the die roll and elected to play. Things turned interesting when on turn two Eammon dropped a [Devout Aurastone Hammer]. (Cue the Futurama jpg where Fry is wondering if Rohashu means “Hans Höh GC, or Oooga Booga GC? Wait, CONTORL Pali??! Unpossible!”) This caused a radical shift in my strategy, as I had to prepare for big annoying fatties to come my way. Thankfully [Grumdak, Herald of the Hunt] is one of the best ways to deal with big dudes dropping on the board (pumped with [Fordragon Hold], he can slice through a 6/6 Thrall without breaking a sweat). I managed to put a Faenis the Tranquil on board and heal off the small bits of damage Eammon was flinging my way. Although he himself was managing to heal via Jex’Ali and Warden, I maintained board control and eventually wore him down, finishing him off with a big Avatar.
Round 3 vs. Nian Perion, Rohashu, Zealot of the Sun
Nian is another local player whom I’ve faced many times, and I have great respect for his solid and consistent play. He too was playing Rohashu, and it ended up being of the Hans Höh variety. Thankfully this matchup was one my deck was teched to handle, and my confidence rose even further when I won the die roll (three for three so far!). Naturally I elected to play, and we both set to work.
The first few turns were spent trading allies, with neither of us gaining a significant board advantage against the other. Boomer, Concussive Barrage and Noxious Trap are excellent for dealing with the little drops from the Hans Höh deck. I knew what my priority targets were: [Trade Prince Gallywix], [Rosalyne von Erantor], and [Dagax the Butcher]. A well timed Concussive Barrage to Gallywix for instance helped stall his early attempt to rush me out, and eventually I was able to land an [Aspect of the Wild] and push Nian to 20 damage with a Tesla and hero flip mid game.
Still, Nian managed to put 12 damage on my hero and take out my board, and I knew that the Hans Höh GC deck can explode out of nowhere. Then came the key play of the match: I had an empty board with only a Noxious Trap in hand, and Nian led out with a Dagax. I had six resources open and two Corrosion Prevention quests, which allowed me to not only kill Dagax but complete both quests to draw two cards. I drew into two [Faenis the Tranquil]s back to back, with a Grumdak, Herald of the Hunt as my start of turn draw. I played the two lovely healing ladies on my next turn, healed back to eight damage on my hero and passed turn. Nian was also top-decking at this point, and he couldn’t muster anything further. With an Aspect already in play, the buffed Faenises and a Grumdak sealed the game the next turn.
Round 4 vs. Sam Brust, Grglmrgl
Sam is a newcomer to the WoW TCG but a longtime MtG veteran. He won the die roll, and manage to drop a Poison Tipped on both turns two and three. I chose to mulligan my starting hand as Rufus was nowhere in sight, and alas, my mulligan hand proved no better. Thankfully Sam only hit three one-drop Murlocs with his Unleash on turn four, but with two Poison Tipped abilities on board that put me to 12 damage and allowed him to flip his hero. He managed to then clear my board plus hit my hero for two more damage.
The next turn I stashed a Mani, played Faenis and Nuvu in order to try and stabilize, healing my hero for three. The next turn Sam plays another Unleash the Swarm, but miraculously only hits two one drop Murlocs! I thought I would have a chance to come back, but the two Murlocs added up to 8 damage, plus an additional 4 from their attack, putting me to 25. Sam then resourced a card, played [Slippyfist] dealing me fatal damage thanks to the two Poison Tippeds in play. My first loss of the day.
Round 5 vs. Mike Rosenberg, Skodis the Nethertwister
Mike is a well known name among the WoW TCG community and I was excited to play him, although this wasn’t going to be an easy matchup. You see, I’m a faithful reader of dailymetagame.com, and Mike had posted his [Soul Swap] deck list earlier this week. It runs tons of ally hate, and it made some of my own cards like Noxious Trap next to useless.
I won the die roll, and Mike was able to answer my opening Nuvu and [Boomer] with a [Sardok] and [Fel Covenant], and a hero flip against [Tesla], but he must have had just terrible cards in hand beyond that as he wasn’t bothering to take out my other threats on board. I was at zero damage and I was dealing more and steadily more and more to his hero...10, then 13, 17…wait, what this all part of his master plan? I was dreading, simply dreading, a turn 6 [Soul Swap], as I had no Rufus in hand to prevent the massive incoming 28 damage swing. So going into Mike’s turn six, I made a point of setting two resources aside (including an open Fordragon Hold), and not so subtly set my two remaining cards in hand down on the table and passed the turn.
Mike pleasantly surprised me on his turn 6 by playing…nothing at all. No Soul Swap. No Invoke the Nether. Nada. My bluff had worked! On my turn seven I played an Aspect with a Tesla…Mike responded by completing [Mystery Goo], pulling a Soul Swap into his hand, but it was too late as I was able to deal fatal damage to his hero that turn.
After the match Mike asked if I was holding Rufus on his turn six. I confessed I was bluffing, and then he admits to me that he didn’t have Soul Swap (the vast quantity of air you hear escaping is the sound of my poker-player ego deflating). He simply had a rotten draw, which made for an easy win. If Mike and I were to play four more games I doubt I’d walk away with the winning record with our decks being what they were. (Editor's note: You probably still would have won most of those games. My build had some flaws; more on those tomorrow. ^-^)
Round 6 vs. Daniel Lujan, Master Sniper Simon McKey
Oh boy, this one was going to be interesting. Dan, also part of the local play group, is a sharp player, and I knew the mirror match would largely come down to the die roll and hitting Aspect first. If you know Dan, you know that he loves to roll a D10, but I’m a strict 2D6 kind of guy, so our usual compromise when we play each other is to roll 3D6. Dan rolled first and hit a lowly eight…I thought I had the play in the bag but I managed to roll a seven! Zounds! Dan was elated and elected to play.
After a lot of thought, I decided to keep my starting hand even though it lacked [Aspect of the Wild] because of its beautiful ally curve and removal (a Concussive Barrage and a Spoils of the Hunt). My rationale was: if I can keep his board clear, forcing Dan to play Aspect with no board, I could steal the match. Unfortunately this proved harder than I thought it would be.
Our first few turns were spent trading allies back and forth, and both of us were shy at hitting each other’s hero lest a [Noxious Trap] eat our [Boomer]s. So Dan would take out my Boomer with his hero flip, I’d respond the next turn with a 4/4 Avatar to kill off his Boomer. He’d then play a second Boomer and finish off my Tiger Token with its sonic boom, and the next turn I’d play Grumdak and kill his Boomer. He’d Grumdak my Grumdak, I’d Spoils his Grumdak, and finally we were both top decking with almost no boards.
The tide really swung in Dan’s favor once I’d get two allies on board and he’d play Explosive Shot and get a two-for-one (he’d love to play [Explosive Shot] on Faenis at the end of my turn so that I would never benefit from her healing effect…blast you Dan!). Eventually I just couldn’t keep up as Dan was hitting quests and drawing cards, while I had a measly four resources to my name. It was a long battle but a fun one and Dan emerged the victor, only taking 10 damage the entire match.
Round 7 vs. Jonathan Hudson-Edrosa, Auralyn the Light of Dawn
For the seventh and final round of the first portion of the tourney I had to face Jon Hudson, one of my teammates from DMF Philly. Jon is one of the strongest players I know. He is methodical and stone cold, and I’ve rarely known him to make a play mistake.
Thankfully, fate was on my side once again and I won the die roll. Jon, along with Kyle McGinty, was playing a new [Grand Crusader] concoction that ran the [Crime Scene Alarm-O-Bot] + [Winter Veil Disguise Kit] combo. This is a vicious combo that essentially prevents any of your allies from actually dealing damage in combat. It can completely shut down an ally heavy deck (like mine) unless you can remove the Bot (and even then, it can easily come back up to eight more times thanks to Bottled Light!) or destroy the Disguise Kit. My options were extremely limited: play two Concussive Barrages against the dumb Bot, hero flip with a buffed Boomer or Tesla on it, or um, sonic boom it with Boomer four times and hope it never gets healed or buffed by Grand Crusader (yeah right).
Thankfully, I drew the nuts. Nuvu, Rufus (okay Boomer would have been the true nuts but you get my point), Aspect and Tesla. Jon had no turn 1 play, but I was secretly hoping he’d drop the Alarm-O-Bot, as I was holding Fordragon Hold in hand (Fordragon buffed Nuvu attacking twice = one dead Bot). Jon played the Winter Veil Disguise Kit on turn 2, which allowed me to sneak Rufus into play at the end of his turn. Rufus and Nuvu buffed by Aspect of the Wild dealt 10 damage to Jon on my turn 3, putting him to 12. Jon’s turn 3 was inconsequential, and a buffed Tesla on my turn four, combined with Rufus and Nuvu doing their duty, put Jon to exactly 29 damage, fatal.
Final record in regular play: 5-2, 6th place
Top 8 Round 1 vs. Daniel Lujan, Master Sniper Simon McKey
As fate would have it, Dan and I were paired against each other again in the first round of the top 8 (all games were still best of one). I joked with Dan that he should let me play this time to be fair, and he just…laughed. This time for the die roll he agreed to roll 2D6, but his 11 crushed my pitiful six, and he elected to play first once again.
My initial hand was by all accounts a thing of beauty: Nuvu, Boomer, Tesla, [Seeds of their Demise], a Magni...yet I chose to mulligan. My rationale? If I tried to play on curve, if Dan drops Aspect turn 3 it would turn into a blow out. I had to go for plays that would allow me to keep pace with Aspect, like Grumdak, or hopefully grab an Aspect of my own.
My gutsy mulligan was rewarded, as I drew into a Nuvu, a Concussive Barrage, a Boomer, an Aspect, and Grumdak!
Dan opened with the best play possible against my starting hand: Nuvu. I played a [Seeds of Their Demise] on my turn and kept the resource open. When he declared an attack on his turn 2 I knocked Nuvu out with Barrage. He then played Boomer and I completed Seeds at the end of his turn. Two cards down is another [Concussive Barrage]…the perfect answer! I stick it on the top of my deck and place another Seeds beneath it. On my turn 3 I take out his Boomer with Barrage and play my own Nuvu. Although the Concussive Barrage vs. Explosive Shot debate continues, my choice to pack the Marksmanship talent was proving to my benefit for this matchup…so far.
The next turn Dan plays a second Boomer, pinging Nuvu for one, and passes turn with one resource open. I play Aspect of the Wild on my turn three, hitting his hero with Nuvu first for three points of damage, then trading with his Boomer. Now the game was truly afoot! We both had zero allies on board but with an Aspect in play and without any way for my opponent to remove it, I was in good position to take the lead.
Dan passes with four open on his turn four, which signals to me that he’s holding [Explosive Shot] in hand. I’m holding both a Faenis and a Boomer in hand, and I decide to bait out his Explosive Shot by playing Faenis (who knew how long it would be until I would draw another pet, and I wanted to maximize my hero flip for removal if needed). Sure enough Dan blasts the poor girl at the end of my turn, dealing the three collateral damage from the mighty Explosive Shot to my hero.
Dan plays his own [Aspect of the Wild] on his turn 5 and a Varandas Silverleaf, which shifted the dynamics of our battle greatly. I’d now need to rely on my non-nature allies to go in for trades, so I got creative, playing an Avatar for three and giving it nature resistance and sending it into his Varandas. The next turn he plays yet another Boomer. I decide to go for card advantage and attempt to keep running into it with my Tiger Token + nature resistance, but seeing what I was up to, Dan decided to expend an Explosive Shot the next turn to put an end to Tony. A sub-optimal play, but he was once again ahead on board advantage.
Even though Boomer already had three damage on, I knew I couldn’t keep taking six a turn from the foul beast and win the damage race, so I decide to play my last remaining card – Spoils of the Hunt, to finish off the screeching fiend. At this point Dan and I are both in top deck status with no allies in play, but luck was on my side this time. My next turn I rip Tesla off the top of my deck. With six resources open and Aspect in play, I push Dan from 13 to 27 with Tesla’s ferocious attack and my hero flip. Dan managed to slay Tesla on his next turn, but the writing was on the wall, as I had Fordragon Hold in play. I push in for the final fatal point of damage on my next turn with my hero and Dan extends his hand.
It was a well-fought match and one of the most enjoyable matches I’ve ever played. Also, lest you criticize me overly much for winning only while on the play (let’s face it, the die roll is still a huge factor in every matchup), this was one dramatic match where I could truly feel proud of pulling out the win on the draw.
Top 8 Round 2 vs. Scott Burkhart, Suncaller Haruh
I don’t know if you’ve ever met Scott Burkhart, but he’s a real treat to play. Even when he is crushing you, he maintains a tone of utter dread and anxiety, as if he’s expecting you to blow him out of the water on your very next turn (“Go….GO ahead,” Scott usually says at the end of his turn, shaking his head and looking like a man backed into a corner…even though he has an army of fatties on his board while your board is empty). I find it quite amusing.
So Scott was playing his infamous Hordestone Priest deck, which I had faced down before. Scott won the die roll and elected to give me quite the whipping. On turn 3 he Stashes his Aurastone Hammer, plays the dreaded [Parexia, Herald of the Shadows] and steals [Aspect of the Wild] and [Tesla] from my hand. I manage to kill off Parexia on my next turn with Grumdak, but that proved an ill-fated move as his turn four Thrall brought Parexia back to his hand.
Scott once again nailed me on card advantage by playing Parexia turn 5, and an Avatar and Spoils hit the graveyard. I knew at that point it would be nearly impossible to claw my way back, and I manage to deal just 6 damage to his hero before Scott trounces me with his Thrall, Parexia, Vanessa VanCleef and Edwin VanCleef (oh what fitting end you bring me Edwin, after I had scorned you in my deck selection).
Final finish: 3rd (4th?) out of a field of 33. A foil Sava’gin, an awesome Grglmrgl deck box (how fitting), eight packs of Throne of the Tides and six Realm Championship Qualifier points were my reward for the day. I plan to make some tweaks to my deck, but was happy that Alliance can still compete with the best of them out there.
Enjoy my write-up? Have questions, tips or comments? Feel free to drop me a line at markvtcg at gmail dot com.