Gen Con 2017 Dark Draft Qualification (Part 1)

Foreword

I managed to successfully defend my Gen Con limited title on Saturday, August 19th, 2017 for a spot at Epic Worlds 2017. (I was one of two people who qualified in limited events at Gen Con 2016.) This is also the first time I remembered to take pictures of both my opponents’ and my dark draft pools in top 4. So, this 2-part article contains an analysis of key things I remember during my top 4 Dark Drafts. This article will be specific to these matches, but I have a detailed, slightly outdated article that goes over my general Dark Draft philosophy as well.  (I do also have my Random 60 pictures for a later article, and I will of course write an article about my Wolf deck that got me into top 8 in constructed.)

Semi-Finals

My semi-finals match was against Brad Minnigh who knocked me out in the limited semi-finals at Origins 2017. These were our decks:

My Deck

(Kong and Pyrosaur are the cards obscured by the glare.)

His Deck

My Interesting Picks

While I do not remember all of my picks, a few stand out as major decision points.

Kong over Amnesia

I am one of the most vocal people about the need to pick the first mass-discard pile banish card you come across. Doing so allows you to draft with the knowledge that your opponent can’t win by decking out (essentially). In addition, this allows you to draft as many powerful defense-only cards (like Ceasefire) as you want, since you don’t need to worry about an opponent drawing out to win if you can’t apply enough pressure to kill them first. There are very few situations where I break this rule.

The main reason I broke my rule in this match was my knowledge of my opponent. He has never had a game decided by decking out, ever. (I have had many, in Limited formats). Therefore, I know my opponent’s playstyle favors aggressive play.

Kong is incredibly powerful in an aggressive limited deck because it allows that player to remove an opposing threat while presenting their own big threat. Further, it is resistant to some of the best off-turn removal cards in the game: Erase (letting them play it a second time is painful) and Drain Essence/Hurricane/Chomp!. Due to this, the opponent frequently has to either use weak off-turn removal (Inner Demon/Banishment), a highly valuable off-turn board clear (Zombie Apocalypse/Martial Law), or wait until their turn to remove it (Palace Guard/Divine Judgement). In all of these situations, the aggressive player was able to remove a champion and either maintain a small advantage, force out a valuable card, or force the opponent to use their gold first on the next turn. Even further, if Kong isn’t removed it can be Raged/Lashed which can allow for that one big hit to get through enabling a burn-out kill.

Finally, unlike in Core-Only, full dark-draft through Uprising means there are 3 other mass-discard pile banish cards I could draft, and at this point (pack 2 or 3), I still had some chance to get one of those 3.

Aggressive Focus (Not Picking Ceasefire)

Due to not picking Amnesia early in the draft, I was forced to shift my picks more aggressive than I usually prefer. I know for certain that I passed on Ceasefire (possibly as a pick 2/3) because I couldn’t afford a card that can never be used aggressively (although it can let you overextend with an all-out attack and leave you a safety net). Similarly, I believe I passed on a few board clears for “lower tier” cards.

Winged Death over a Strong 0-Cost Card

This was a very tough pick for me. I do not remember exactly what I passed to take this, but I remember it was a powerful 0-cost card (Siren’s Song?). The reason I drafted this over a 0 was I wanted to protect my Kong and Mythic Monster. I was worried that I could lose 2 of my hard to remove champions and just get blown out of a game. In addition, I’m a big fan of this card generally.

Grave Demon over Word of Summoning

This was my last pack. By this point, I knew I had an aggressive enough deck that I probably didn’t need to worry about my opponent decking out for the win. Therefore, I wanted to take Word of Summoning because it is a strong 0 that lets you apply pressure off-turn without spending your gold. However, I chose Grave Demon out of personal preference.

Knowing my personal playstyle, I knew that I would be much more comfortable playing a deck with a mass-discard pile banish card than a deck without one. Having Grave Demon means I can always take the slow/defensive play. Without Grave Demon, I constantly need to worry about whether I am playing aggressive enough to win. This can drive me into riskier plays such as: spending my gold first on a turn possibly on a blitz champion with no relevant Tribute/Loyalty ability (instead of passing with gold up), playing another champion when I’m already ahead on the board and my opponent’s gold is down (instead of drawing cards), or using “or draw 2” cards for their effect (instead of drawing) when I’m low on cards in hand.

For all of these reasons, and the fact that it is a decent sized ambush champion, I picked Grave Demon. At this point in the draft, Word of Summoning might have been the “correct” choice for many, but not for me.

Other First Picks

Hunting Pack was my Pack 1 Pick 1. I am also fairly confident that I first picked Raxxa’s Curse and Angel of the Gate. I do not remember my 4 other first picks, but they were very possibly: Little Devil, Consume, Flash Fire, and Hasty Retreat. In other words, 0-cost cards.

I know my opponent first picked Erratic Research and Palace Guard, but I don’t remember the rest.

My Thoughts/Concerns Post-Draft

My greatest concern post-draft was the fact that I only had 13 reliable draw/recycle cards instead of my desired 15+ (not counting Quell or Cave Troll). Due to this, I made a mental note to prioritize using “or draw 2s” (like Bitten) to draw cards. Other than that, I felt like the deck was strong.

Match Interesting Moments

These were very intense games where we both spent a lot of time analyzing our moves, since the top 8 matches (in this case top 4) are untimed.

Running out of Draw (Bitten)

As expected, in one of the games I hit an early string of non-card-draw cards and my handsize dwindled to 3 cards. My opponent was also low on cards, but I was up 1 champion in play. On my turn I drew into Bitten.

My first instinct was that I could use Bitten as cover for my champion. In other words, I could attack, and if my opponent played an ambush champion to block, I could Bitten it, get a zombie, and probably get my attack through. However, knowing that I didn’t have a ton of card draw in my deck, I decided to pass holding my gold. There were a few reasons for this:

  1. Using Bitten as removal instead of card draw was not an option
    • Assuming my opponent spends their gold on their turn, I would want to spend my gold as well, so I don’t fall behind. This would reduce me to 2 cards in hand.
    • If I don’t draw card-draw on my turn, I have to survive my turn’s gold usage and my opponent’s turn gold usage with just those 3 cards. Most likely this brings me to 1 card in hand at the end of my opponent’s turn. Then, if I don’t draw card-draw that turn, I basically lose the game by being forced down to 0 cards in hand.
  2. Since I can’t use Bitten as removal, attacking with my champion is dangerous
    • If my opponent plays an ambush champion that can block and break my champion in combat, they get to establish a champion and remove my champion for free.
    • I personally do not like taking these risks when I don’t have to, so attacking with my gold up was not an option.
  3. If I use Bitten to draw 2 now, I give my opponent a free-gold to recover
    • They could ambush in a champion that I can’t remove that turn, allowing them to attack me on their turn.
    • They could also freely draw 2 to refill their handsize.
  4. Therefore, since I don’t want to play my other cards, passing is my best play
    • If they spend their gold, I draw 2.
    • If they don’t spend their gold on my turn, I have Bitten which I can use, if they spend their gold on their turn.
    • If they don’t spend their gold on either turn, I get to return to last turn’s advantageous board state with both players at +1 cards in hand.
      • Since my deck is lacking in card draw, this is ideal for me because I maintain my board advantage while negating my disadvantage (lack of card draw) without exposing myself to an opponent’s gold usage.
      • Further, I have Grave Demon so I can afford to let as many turns pass with no plays made as I need.

In the end, I believe my opponent passed on my turn and spent their gold on their turn, allowing me to spend mine to draw 2. My next 2 cards were non-card draw cards, so I would have almost certainly lost the game if I had used Bitten for removal.

Running my Opponent out of Draw

In a different situation, I was ahead on board, my opponent was low on cards in hand, and I had at least 5 cards in hand. Instead of holding back to build my card advantage further, I pushed my opponent to prevent him from being able to draw, keeping him vulnerable.

In game 2, this was the board state: I had a Winged Death and Grave Demon in play. My opponent had Brachiosaurus and Ogre Mercenary in play. I had 5+ cards in hand. My opponent had about 3 with no discard pile. I attacked with Winged Death, no blocks were declared. Before damage, I Consumed the Ogre Mercenary.

This forced my opponent into a situation where he would lose his Brachiosaurus, if he did nothing, which would open a path for Grave Demon to attack too. In order to keep his gold available to answer a potential gold-punisher (he knew he passed me Rampaging Wurm in the draft), he opted to play Wolf’s Bite without recycling so he could break his wolf to Winged Death‘s trigger, leaving his Brachiosaurus able to block my Grave Demon.

Once he passed initiative back to me, I used Hunting Pack to break his wolf token. Why?

  1. Because my opponent was low on cards, it was possible he had no strong play in response to this. Also, since this was after blockers were declared, I didn’t need to worry about an ambush, airborne champion blocking my Winged Death. Best case scenario, he couldn’t even spend his gold.
  2. If he had no way to further disrupt my Winged Death, which I got the impression he did not based on previous turns and body language, Winged Death breaking Brachiosaurus would be backbreaking and essentially win me the game right there.
  3. Even if he played an off-turn board clear, this would reduce him to 1 card in hand, which would be hard to come back from. I also had an ambush champion to reestablish on his turn, if needed.

He ended up playing Wave of Transformation giving him 1 wolf to my 5. (On a side note, Hurricane would have blown me out there. I do not remember if he had already played it at that point in the game.)

Stand Out Cards

Winged Death, Little Devil, and Fire Shaman were particularly effective in this match. Grave Demon was useful, but there was no point where I needed a mass discard pile banish to prevent my opponent from decking out.

Of the cards my opponent played, Turn seemed to be the least impactful.

Conclusion

My knowledge of my opponent’s playstyle and my own allowed me to draft a specifically powerful deck. Then, my understanding of the primary weakness of that deck allowed me to play in such a way to mitigate that weakness. Finally, small edge plays were able to gain me just enough additional advantage to push my wins through. In my next article I’ll go over my finals match against Nathan Overbay.

Epic Progression: How to Play

Foreword

Epic is a non-collectible, expandable card game where players mobilize Champions to attack their opponent(s) while providing support with devastating Events. To play these cards, you and your opponent(s) get 1 gold per turn. Every card either costs that 1 gold or is free. Due to this, every card is immediately playable and no card becomes worthless later. Timing your cards to the game state, as opposed to the game turn, is paramount.

In this article series, I will guide you through as much of the unfathomable depth this game has to offer as I have discovered. For now, lets start with learning to play.

First Game Setup/Objective

  • Deal each player 30 random cards (their deck)
  • Each player draws 5 cards from their deck
  • Each player starts at 30 health
  • Randomly determine who goes first

Players primarily lose health due to champion attacks. If you are reduced to 0 health, you lose. If all of your opponents are reduced to 0 health, you win.

If you would draw a card and your deck is empty, you win.

(Health can be tracked with Dice, Pen and Paper, the Epic ScoreKeeper app, or any other way you prefer.)

Turn Structure Overview

A turn consists of resolving start of turn triggers once, and then any number of Battle, Slow, and End phases in any order. Below is the basic 2-player turn flow.

 

Slow vs Fast

While cards are divided into Champions and Events, the more important distinction here is Slow and Fast. Any card with dots at the top is Fast. If it doesn’t have dots at the top it is Slow. (All Events are Fast. Champions with the Ambush keyword are Fast. Champions without the Ambush keyword are Slow.)

(Other Fast plays include: activating an ability by paying a cost [such as expend powers] discussed later.)

Slow champions may only be played in a Slow Phase.

Explanation Plan

From here, I am going to start by explaining the basics: how/when you may play cards, how/when you may attack with champions. Once you have that information, I am going to double back to explain the start of turn effects, then the End Phase. Finally, I’ll explain all of the keywords that break these rules, as well as other terminology/notation.

Playing Cards

In 2-player games, at the start of your turn and at the start of your opponent’s turn, you reset to 1 gold. Unspent Gold does not accumulate.

In 3+ player games, you reset to 1 gold at the start of your turn and reset to 1 gold at the end of your turn. Unspent Gold does not accumulate.

To play a card, you must be:

  • Able to pay for it
    • Cards with a 1 in the upper right corner cost your 1 gold for the turn
    • Cards with a 0 in the upper right corner are free
  • Allowed to play it
    • Slow champions may only be played on your turn in a Slow Phase
    • Fast cards may only be played
      • On your turn in a Battle or Slow Phase
      • On your opponent’s turn in a Battle or End Phase
      • When you have initiative (initiative is passed back and forth when one player is finished “making fast plays.” More on this in Combat Section below.)

Events, when played, resolve all of their text and are then put into their owner’s discard pile. Then, any other card effects resolve.

Champions, when played, enter play. Then, any of their effects and/or any other card effects resolve.

All Epic keywords are explained below. The ones that matter when playing cards are Ally, Loyalty, and Tribute (Banish, Break, Recycle, Untargetable, Unbreakable, and Unbanishable as well).

Attacking with Champions

On your turn, you can use your champions in play to attack your opponent in an attempt to reduce their health to 0. Below I discuss how a champion’s State and Position determines whether or not it may attack and/or block. Then I break down everything that happens in a Battle Phase.

State (Deploying vs Non-Deploying)

When a champion enters play it gains deploying. A deploying champion may not attack, but it may block. At the start of your turn, all of your champions in play lose deploying.

Position (Prepared vs Expended vs Flipped)

A champion can only ever be in one of three positions: Prepared, Expended, or Flipped. At the start of your turn, all of your champions are Prepared (returned to the Prepared position).

Prepared

When a champion enters play it is prepared. Prepared, non-deploying, champions may attack or block. (Prepared, non-deploying, champions may use expend powers, discussed later.)

Expended

When a champion attacks (or uses an expend power), it becomes expended (rotated 90/270 degrees). Expended champions may not attack nor block. (Expended champions may not use expend powers.)

Flipped

When a champion blocks, it becomes flipped (rotated 180 degrees). Flipped champions may not attack nor block. (Flipped, non-deploying, champions may use expend powers.)

Attack-Relevant Champion Anatomy

A Battle Phase

On your turn, you may initiate as many Battle Phases as you have prepared, non-deploying champions. A Battle Phase consists of

Declaring Attackers

You may either attack with one (prepared, non-deploying) champion alone or with any number of (prepared, non-deploying) champions together. Expend all declared attacking champions. (“When a champion attacks” triggers resolve now. Triggers discussed later.)

Fast Plays (Post Declare Attacks)

Once attackers have been declared, each player gets a chance to make Fast plays. The attacking player may make any number of Fast plays first. When they choose to make no more Fast plays, they pass initiative to the next player.

If that player does not want to make any Fast playsthey may progress to the next step, Declare Blockers. If that player makes at least one Fast play, once they finish making as many plays as they want, that player must pass initiative to the next player who repeats this step.

Once one player passes without making a Fast play, after everyone has had a chance to make a Fast play, progress to Declare Blockers. (In a multiplayer game, everyone must consecutively pass without making a play to move onto the next step.)

Declare Blockers

Your opponent may block an attack directed against them with one or more of their prepared champions (may be deploying). Flip all declared blocking champions. (“When a champion blocks” triggers resolve now. Triggers discussed later.)

Fast Plays (Post Declare Blockers)

Once blockers have been declared, each player gets a chance to make Fast plays. Unlike in the Post Declare Attackers phase, the defending player may make any number of Fast plays first. When they choose to make no more Fast plays, they pass initiative to the next player.

If that player does not want to make any Fast playsthey may progress to the next step, Assign Damage. If they make at least one Fast play, they must pass initiative to the next player who repeats this step.

Once one player passes without making a Fast play, after everyone has had a chance to make a Fast play, progress to Assign Damage. (In a multiplayer game, everyone must consecutively pass without making a play to move onto the next step.)

Assign Damage

If an attack is unblocked, the attacking champions deal damage equal to their offense to the opposing player’s health.

If the attack is blocked by at least one champion,

  • The attacking champions assign all of their offense to the defending champions’ defense (divided however the attacking player chooses)
  • The defending champions assigns all of their offense to the attacking champions’ defense (divided however the defending player chooses)
  • All damage resolves simultaneously
    • If a champion takes damage equal or greater to its defense, it is Broken and put into its owner’s discard pile
  • No damage is dealt to the defending player
    • Even if all of the assigned blockers are removed before offense is assigned
    • The number of attacking and defending champions is irrelevant

All Epic keywords are explained below. The ones that matter during a battle are Airborne, Blitz, Breakthrough, Righteous, Unblockable, and Unbreakable (Break as well).

Start of Turn

At the start of each turn, do all of the following steps once.

Attempt to End Turn (End Phase)

Once you no longer want to declare any Battle or Slow phases, you can attempt to end your turn (End Phase). Each opponent gets a chance to play something, and if at least one play is made, you can declare more Battle/Slow phases.

New Terminology/Notation

Trigger -> Effect – When the condition before the ‘->’ is met, the effect after the ‘->’ resolves. For example, “When this card attacks -> Your champions get +2 offense this turn.”

Cost: Effect – When you pay the cost before the ‘:’, you get the effect after the ‘:’. For example, “Break this card: Draw two cards.” Normally you can’t just break a champion you control, but this is an exception. Also, you only get to draw two cards if you use this ability to break the champion. (You do not draw two if it breaks by other means.)

Gray Text Box – Any text in a gray box on a card is only active while that card is in your discard pile.

Airborne – Only other airborne champions may block a champion with airborne. (If an airborne champion attacks in a group with a non-airborne champion and the opponent is able to block the non-airborne champion, the opponent may block the whole group.)

Ally – Trigger (you play a 1-cost card from your hand of the same alignment of an active card’s ally ability), resolve the effect. An active card is either a champion you have in play with an ally ability (Fire Shaman) or a card in your discard pile with a “gray box” ally effect (Plentiful Dead). (Using a “1: Effect” ability, such as on Rage or Pyromancer does not count.)

Banish – Put that card on the bottom of its “owner’s” deck.

Blitz – Ignore deploying restrictions preventing attacking or using expend powers.

Break – Move a champion in play to its “owner’s” discard pile.

Breakthrough – Any offense on attacking breakthrough champions greater than the combined defense of defending champions is dealt to the defending player. (Other attacking champions’ offense and/or damage dealt to defending champions is ignored.)

Controller – The player who currently may use a champion to attack/block/expend/activate abilities.

Expend Abilities – Cost (Expend the prepared/flipped, non-deploying champion), resolve the effect.

Loyalty 2 – Trigger (When a champion with Loyalty 2 enters play, you may reveal 2 cards of that champion’s alignment), if you revealed 2 cards of that alignment resolve the effect.

Owner – The player whose deck the card began the game in.

Tribute – Trigger (When a champion with Tribute enters play), resolve the effect.

Recall – Return this card to hand.

Recycle – Banish exactly 2 cards from your discard pile to draw a card. (You may choose the order those cards are put on the bottom of your deck.)

Righteous – Any damage dealt by this champion gains its controller the same amount of health.

Unbanishable – May not be “banished.”

Unblockable – May not be “blocked.” (If an unblockable champion attacks in a group with a non-unblockable champion and the opponent is able to block the non-unblockable champion, they may block the whole group.)

Unbreakable – May not be “broken.”

Untargetable – May not be “targeted” by any effect that says “target.”

Conclusion

Now you know everything required to play a game of Epic. Once you have played at least a game or two, if you would like some basic strategy advice of FAQ answers check out part 2 of my Epic Progression series (coming after Gen Con). (I will also clean up this article a bit more after Gen Con too, so let me know if you notice any substance you would like me to clarify/add.)

Deck Archetype: Combo

Foreword

This is part 3 of my 3 part series on Epic Deck Archetypes. Due to issues with my internet connection at my new place, I have placeholder card links instead of some images. *Fixed*

Combo

If you combine cards a, b, c, and d with specific game state x, you essentially win.

The “purest” form of combo works by surviving until it assembles multiple key cards and crafts an acceptable Game State to use them. (Game State refers to exactly what is happening at a specific time: such as champions in play, cards in discard piles, players’ current health, etc). Then, the combo deck uses those key cards with the crafted Game State to immediately win, usually by reducing an opponent directly from their full starting health (30) to 0.

For example, you survive until you draw Zombie Apocalypse, Drinker of Blood, and Wither. In addition, you wait until both discard piles have a combined champion count of at least 15. Then, on your opponent’s turn you play Zombie Apocalypse, putting 15 zombie tokens into play. On your turn, you play Drinker of Blood followed immediately by Wither. This breaks all 15 zombies, creates 15 Drinker of Blood triggers, deals 30 damage to your opponent, and wins you the game.

While flashy One-Turn-Kills (OTKs) are the hallmark of combo decks, any deck that combines 3+ cards for one incredibly powerful effect can be considered to have a combo aspect. Combo decks are generally built around supporting/enabling one (or more) of those combination(s). Due to this, combo decks vary widely in how they are constructed and when/how they try to win.