Now that I am back from Epic Worlds 2017 I plan on writing multiple articles about my experiences and improved understanding of the game. I managed to make top 8 as the second seed (2-0-1 in Dark Draft, 2-1 in constructed; James Moreland conceded to me at the start of round 6 since he was guaranteed top 8).
I was on a Wild List (Wild Combat Tricks) created by Jonah Acosta and optimized by Tom Dixon with input from Pluck U (Anthony Lowry and Rich Shay) in addition to Hampus Eriksson and Isac Calmroth.
In this article, I’m going to do a quick breakdown of my matches.
For the three Dark Draft rounds I am going to discuss two primary things: “The” Pick and “The” Play of each match.
“The” pick refers to the most important and/or least generically powerful card I drafted in order to either syngergize with my deck or counter my opponents.
“The” play refers to the most important series of plays that directly resulted in me either winning or losing a game.
Opponent: Calvin Keeney
Format: Dark Draft
“The” Pick: Savage Uprising
I’m usually not a huge fan of Savage Uprising; however, at least half way through the draft I picked it because I felt I could make strong use of it with my 0-cost champions. In the first game, it functioned as an off-turn, one-sided board clear that broke a blitzing Silver Wing Lancer and a couple other champions. In the second game, it broke another blitzer without heavily impacting my champions in play.
In game 2 the situation was incredibly dire for me. It was my turn, my opponent was at 22 health with a Silver Wing Lancer and 2 human tokens in play. I was at 13 health with an Ankylosaurus, zombie, and demon in play. I have Rescue Griffin, Stampeding Einiosaurus, and Juggernaut in hand with a Dirge of Scara in my discard pile. My opponent has a revealed Rift Summoner and a few other cards in hand.
I attack with Ankylosaurus, and get my opponent down to 15 health. Then I pass with both players’ gold up. After thinking about it for awhile I came to the conclusion that if my opponent spends their gold on my turn I would lose regardless of what else I did. If I play and attack with one of my 2 blitzers, my opponent takes it, goes down to 4, plays Rift Summoner and kills me on their turn. If I play Einiosaurus to try to block Lancer, Rift Summoner still kills me. Therefore, my only hope was that by passing without spending my gold, my opponent would pass without spending their gold, and hopefully they won’t be able to deal 3 damage in addition to the Silver Wing Lancer hit to finish me off. My opponent passes.
My opponent attacks with Lancer and knocks me down to 3. After thinking for a bit, they attack with a human token. Seeing as how I have two blockers in play that will break the humans, the only explanations I can think of for this attack are 1) my opponent is trying to draw out my blockers to get through with a bigger blitz champion or 2) my opponent drafted the Flash Fire I passed them, and they are trying to get me to two health. To avoid losing to Flash Fire, I block each token.
My opponent then plays Kalani Woodreader and attacks. My Rescue Griffin protects me. Finally, they play War Machine with Loyalty, banish my 0-cost champions and attack. I recall Dirge of Scara, make a demon, and block. With no further plays, my opponent passes. **Edit** It was pointed out that War Machine would have banished my Anky too, so it must have been some other blitzer, maybe Velden. **Edit**
On my turn I draw Lash. With Silver Wing Lancer and War Machine in play, I know I have to win this turn or lose the game. In order to win, I’m thinking that I need to connect with both Ankylosaurus and either of my other blitzers. Juggernaut without loyalty is interesting, for the unbreakable, but, since if Anky dies I lose anyway, I decide to go with the extra 2 offense from Einiosaurus. Further, since my opponent played Lying in Wait in game 1, I decide to attack with my 2 breakthrough champions in a group (since both champions have breakthrough, all excess damage from the attack will be dealt to my opponent).
My opponent plays Draka’s Enforcer without loyalty and blocks. I Lash my Einiosaurus and deal exact lethal damage (15) to win the game. After the game I ask my opponent if they had Lying in Wait in hand. They did not, but they did have the Flash Fire.
Match Results: 2-0 (win)
Format: Dark Draft
“The” Pick: Raxxa’s Enforcer
Once again, Raxxa’s Enforcer isn’t generally a high-priority pick for me, and I’ll frequently take draw twos over it. However, at least halfway through the draft I realized my opponent was getting better 0-cost champions than me, and a lot of them. If I tried to fight my opponent normally, I would lose. Therefore, I first picked the Enforcer out of a pack with generically stronger cards. In both games, each time I played the Enforcer it was devastating. It negated what my opponent was trying to do so hard that I even returned it to hand with a No Escape in at least one of the games.
However, in order to take Raxxa’s Enforcer and a late first pick Sea Titan, I ended up two cards under my minimum 15 cards that can draw/recycle (and that counts Savage Uprising and Fires of Rebellion as card draw).
“The” Play: Spending my gold on my turn and not attacking with Sea Titan, repeatedly
In game 2, I played my Sea Titan and gained full control of the board. My opponent was unable to remove it, and they didn’t have many ways to block it. On my next turn, after thinking for awhile, I spent my gold and then did not attack with Sea Titan. In the draft I had passed Lying in Wait, so I was afraid of getting my Sea Titan banished by attacking alone, and I had no strong follow ups if this were to happen.
Therefore, by spending my gold and passing, I forced my opponent into a situation where they could either pass (losing a gold to my spent gold but saving 11 health from Sea Titan not attacking) or spend their gold (gaining value but risking taking 11 damage). My opponent elected to pass. This repeated on my next two turns, and then my opponent Surprise Attacked Kong to deal with my incidental attacker on my turn. I responded by playing Raxxa’s Enforcer and then attacking with Sea Titan. Kong blocked and died without trading.
This pattern continued for a couple more turns until eventually my opponent played a board clear to kill my Sea Titan. In that time, I managed to spend about 5 uncontested gold, but multiple of those were just Lightning Storm or Recall Lightning Storm. Because my uncontested golds were so weak (my deck was lacking in card draw) my opponent managed to survive the 5 uncontested gold, stabilize with the help of Heinous Feast blocking my recycle champions, and eventually kill me in extra turns.
After the game I asked my opponent if they drafted Lying in Wait. They did not. Therefore, if I would have actually attacked with Sea Titan I might have been able to hit with it and kill my opponent before they could stabilize.
Match Results: 1-1 (draw)
Opponent: Jonathan Lewis (Secondary Feature Match, didn’t take picture)
A short glimpse of the match from 4:18:55-4:21:25
Format: Dark Draft
“The” Pick: The Risen
I believe The Risen was a 2nd/3rd pick from an underwhelming pack. I took it because I had Necrovirus (playing The Risen with Necrovirus in your discard pile will not give the Necrovirus zombies blitz), and possibly Raxxa at that point, and I thought I might be able to do something with it. In the first game I played The Risen and triggered my Necrovirus in response to my opponent playing and attacking with a blitz champion. I was able to block and break the attacking champion while leaving myself with 3 zombies. Those remaining zombies did good work, chipping away a lot of health over the following turns.
Early on in the first game I realized my opponent had drafted a burn deck because they hit me with a Forked Lightning and revealed two other burn cards for a Wild loyalty effect. Further, my opponent played and attacked with a Rampaging Wurm while my gold was up. Since I had no way to get rid of the Wurm off-turn, I knew I had to block it or risk losing to burn damage (damage that can target a player). Therefore, since my only way to block it was with Helion, I did.
Match Results: 2-0 (win)
I have significantly less to say about my constructed matches. All three games from round 4 are on Twitch (links included below). So, I won’t spend much time explaining things, but I’ll be happy to answer any questions about any of my decisions in the comments below. Round 5 was a fairly standard, non-memorable set of games. Round 6 James Moreland conceded to me without playing since he was guaranteed a spot in top 8, and I needed a win to make top 8. Thank you again James! (As an interesting side note, 5 out of my 6 matches were against players who finished in the top 10.)
Therefore, I am only going to provide a brief explanation of each matchup. For more information on the deck I played, Hampus Ericksson (who tested with Pluck U and ran almost the exact same list as me) streamed a video on Twitch about decks we tested.
Opponent: Sam Black (Primary Feature Match, didn’t take picture)
The Matchup: As CJ mentioned on the stream, I’m the aggressive deck (that needs to get enough damage through before losing), Sam is the control deck (that needs to survive long enough to hit me with a couple big champions)
We have similar decks but my 0-cost cards are focused on getting extra damage through while my opponent’s 0-cost cards are focused on gaining extra value and removal. My opponent also has Thought Plucker which benefits from a longer game. The longer this game goes, the less chance I have of winning. Therefore, I need to kill my opponent before I get overrun by big guys or run out of cards against Thought Plucker.
Since all three games can be watched, feel free to ask any specific questions you have in the comments below. Unfortunately, I was unknowingly holding my cards off camera most of the match.
Opponent: John Tatian (didn’t take picture, so here’s an old one)
John was essentially guaranteed a spot in top 8. I needed a win to lock myself into top 8. (Calculating now, if I double drew I probably would have gotten in with a 3-0-3 record with favorable tie-breakers.)
The Matchup: I’m the aggressive deck (that needs to kill my opponent by sustaining champion pressure and handsize), John is the control deck (that needs to survive for long enough for Scara’s Gift to kill me with the help of Zannos and possibly Rift Summoner/Steed of Zaltessa)
Game 1 my opponent held off my aggression long enough to win the game. Game 2 I was able to maintain aggression consistently enough to force enough damage through to win. Game 3, double Drain Essence with an early Scara’s Gift gave my opponent just enough time/health to kill me.
Friend: James Moreland (didn’t think to take a picture and we actually have never played against each other in a physical tournament up to this point)
Matchup: Same list as John Tatian above (maybe some slight differences?)
We ended up playing a match after top 8 to see what would have happened if we played. We were 1-1 going into the final game, but we got distracted and didn’t finish. When we stopped playing, we were in a position where either player could have won.
Top 8 consisted of two games of Dark Draft (using the same deck for both games) followed by up to three games of Constructed (using the same lists we used on Sunday)
Opponent: Calvin Keeney rematch
I actually got pictures of both decks this time!
My Opponent’s Deck:
“The” Pick: Grave Demon
I had a mass discard pile banish effect and my opponent did not.
In this game my opponent forced me into a completely defensive position early. From this position, I managed to blunt my opponent’s aggression long enough to get to about 5 cards left in my deck before losing to a miscalculation on my end.
Early in the game my opponent Surprise Attacked Kong into play on my turn, removing my only champion. Since I had Apocalypse and Reap or Sow in my hand, I wasn’t too worried. However, they followed up with Rampaging Wurm on their turn and attacking. My only way to prevent 14 damage was to Reap or Sow for zombies. This then put me into a position where my only board clear was Apocalypse, and it was also my only off-turn play and my only draw 2.
Instead of clearing the board on my turn and leaving me with no off-turn play, I kept Apocalypse to draw 2 off-turn. Even though I was fairly certain I had no other reasonable way to clear off these champions, I was more willing to commit to negating their attacks until I could draw a recycled board clear than I was to missing a gold and running out of cards in hand.
Thanks to a combination of efficient chump blockers (Plentiful Dead, Shadow Imp, etc.), health gain (Inner Peace, Second Wind, and Vital Mission), and a mass discard pile banish effect (Grave Demon), I was able to stall the game out until I was at about five cards in deck to my opponents empty discard pile. However, I didn’t pay enough attention to the deck 2 idea explained by greylag in a guest post, and I lost playing around the wrong card.
The Misplay: Taking 6 damage from an attacking Strafing Dragon instead of spending my gold first to mitigate/remove it
I was at 8 health with around 5 cards in my deck. My relevant cards in hand were draw 2s, at least 1 non-airborne ambush chump blocker, Temporal Shift, and Inner Peace. My opponent had about 5 cards in hand, one of which was Rampaging Wurm. Both our golds were up. Earlier in the game my opponent played and recycled Rage.
In this situation, I know if my opponent has Rage in hand, I need my Temporal Shift to bounce the Wurm after it gets Raged or I lose. However, if I take 6 without playing Inner Peace first, I go down to 2 health. Not remembering any way my opponent could do 2 damage, I take the hit, and then get finished off by Flame Spike. I do not remember if I saw that card earlier in the game; however, I asked my opponent at the end of the match if they had Rage in hand, and they did not.
If I had been keeping track of the order in which my opponent had been recycling cards, I could have safely Inner Peaced and then chump blocked Rampaging Wurm if my opponent played it. This was probably my best option for extending the game for the 2 or 3 turns needed to draw out for a win. But, I lost instead.
Game 2 Strategy
Seeing as how we both went through and played basically all of the cards in our decks, we both had a strong idea what the other player was capable of doing. While I was forced into going for a deckout strategy, I felt like I could be the aggressor with the correct draw; however, in case I fell into the drawout roll again, there were a few cards I had to play in very precise situations.
High-Efficiency Chump Blockers vs Evasive Champions
Due to my impressive suite of high-efficiency chump blockers/attack-negaters (Plentiful Dead, Shadow Imp, Wolf’s Bite, Brave Squire, Fumble, Hands from Below [played at least a turn ahead of time], Urgent Messengers, Crystal Golem, Infernal Gatekeeper, Reap or Sow, Kalani Woodreader, Faithful Pegasus, White Dragon, Forcemage Apprentice, and Scarred Cultist), the only champions my opponent could realistically threaten me with were their evasive ones (Strafing Dragon, Wurm Hatchling, Brak Fist of Lashnok, Rescue Griffin, Temporal Enforcer, and Rage).
Besides those evasive champions listed, I could chump block anything else for days. Therefore, those were the only champions I had to actually remove, but my answers were limited.
My Mandatory Answers
(Herald of Scara/Steed of Zaltessa could also block Strafing Dragon in the air, and Faithful Pegasus almost got a chance to block in the air with Scarred Cultist for a major blowout, but War Machine prevented that)
I get immediately forced into the drawout roll, but I sequence my answers correctly to survive until I deckout.
My opponent opens the game with Brak, Fist of Lashnok with loyalty, showing Rage. I have Vital Mission and Temporal Shift in hand. After considering for a while, I use Vital Mission, banish Brak, give my opponent 14 health, and fully commit to winning by decking out. If I use Temporal Shift, not only do I lose one of my best answers for Rage, but I also allow my opponent to replay Brak which I still won’t have a way to deal with (unless I draw Apocalypse/Reap or Sow). By using Vital Mission I eliminate one of my opponent’s only real threats.
The rest of the game unfolds exactly how I want. I am able to answer every evasive threat my opponent plays in a reasonable amount of time with Inner Peace and Second Wind making up the few attacks that get through. The most interesting moments were when my opponent Raged their Temporal Enforcer before attacking to avoid my Hands from Below. This happened twice. The first time I used Temporal Shift (countering the Rage as intended), the second time I Fumbled, countering the Temporal Enforcer for the turn, and completing negating the Rage.
Even though I was able to execute my plan, both Dark Draft games were incredibly difficult and required near perfect play (with true perfect play I might have been been able to win game 1). My opponent applied constant pressure, and I never felt safe, even though I had a fairly strong deckout deck. (As a side note, since I was on the deckout plan Steed of Zaltessa became an almost completely dead card in the matchup.)
Since I went for the deckout victory in both games of Dark Draft, we moved into constructed after the primary feature match had completely finished (good thing for no time limit in top 8). Therefore, we were moved into position to be the tertiary feature match and all of our constructed games were streamed. Unfortunately, they were fairly anti-climatic.
Going into the top 8, I felt fairly comfortable with the Wild matchups. As long as I didn’t overcommit into an Erase, Spore Beast, or Hasty Retreat, I felt like I could push hard enough to win before losing. Thought Plucker was also something I needed to worry about. Once again, for a more complete breakdown of the Pluck U deck, check out Hampus’ streamed video.
Constructed Game 1
I get put on the play (going first), which is fine because I thought I might want to be on the play anyway. I mulligan 4 cards looking for T-Rex, Herald of Lashnok, Brachiosaurus into T-Rex/Herald of Lashnok/Wild draw 2, or Mist Guide Herald into any of the above scenarios. Draka’s Enforcer/Silver Wing Lancer are also okay with a Mist Guide Herald. Thankfully I hit a Herald of Lashnok which I play turn 1, but then everything goes downhill from there.
I get 8 damage through and get a Flame Spike to break a future Spore Beast, but Fire Shaman + Hunting Raptors breaks my Herald of Lashnok on my opponent’s turn. Then, since I drew into no ambush champions (Draka’s Enforcer, Strafing Dragon, Silver Wing Guardian) or Surprise Attack, I am unable to get back onto the board when my opponent’s gold is down. Further, I am unable to play a strong on-turn Wild card, on my next turn and a revealed Spore Beast meant I couldn’t try to get in with Lancer. The game was essentially over at that point.
Looking at my opponent’s hand in the recording, they knew to keep a Spore Beast and an Erase (with a T-Rex) so it would have been a difficult game to win even if I had drawn better. Essentially though, no off-turn champion meant I lost regardless.
Constructed Game 2
After considering for a while, I decide to be on the play for game 2. I made this decision for a couple reasons. For me, the absolute best case scenario is that I am able to start with any of the scenarios listed under Constructed Game 1 above. If I can open like that, it is better than going second (being on the draw). Further, one of the worst case scenarios is I go second and my opponent opens with a Brachiosaurus and/or T-Rex (since I have basically no way to get back into a game where I fall behind on board). Therefore, I tried to make the best case scenario happen and go first. It did not happen.
Looking back at it now, I do not know if taking that chance was correct because I can draw many more acceptable hands when going second than I can when going first (Draka’s Enforcer, Surprise Attack into any of the turn 1 plays above/Lancer, Strafing Dragon, Silver Wing Guardian, Erase, Smash and Burn, or even a mediocre draw 2). Further, my opponent only has 3 Brachiosaurus, 3 T-Rex, and 3 Mist Guide Heralds that can punish me if I make them go first. (Cave Troll is also annoying.) Therefore, it is probably statistically better for me to go second because I’m more likely to get a reasonable going-second hand, and my opponent is unlikely to get a great going-first hand.
So, after mulliganing 5 cards, Mist Guide Herald is my only possibility at a strong turn 1 play. I flip into a second Mist Guide Herald (and no other ideal turn 1 plays), so I go with Mist Guide Herald again. This time I hit a Brachiosaurus, but I have no Wild draw 2s or other worthwhile Wild 1-cost plays. My opponent plays Thought Plucker and the game is over. I quickly get run out of cards.
What I should have done differently was hold onto one of my Rages instead of mulliganing all 5 cards. If I had done that, I would have guaranteed myself a mediocre Wild draw 2, just in case Brachiosaurus was my only turn 1 play I could have made. And, if I had kept the Rage in that game, I could have drawn 2 after getting Thought Pluckered and then recycled with my Flame Spike. In that scenario, we would have had a game on our hands. Unfortunately, since I decided to run the deck the night before the event, I wasn’t familiar enough with the deck to realize that at the time, and my overconfidence with the Wild matchup caused me to focus on testing the Evil matchup Sunday night and go to sleep around 11:30pm. In the end, Calvin forced me into a position my deck refused to get me out of in game 1, and my deck did not bail me out of my mismulligan in game 2.
I am very proud of how I played overall at Worlds this year. In my first match I felt like I was playing the best Epic of my life. I made excellent decisions and was rewarded for them. The Raxxa’s Enforcer pick in match 2 felt next level, but I wasn’t able to meet my required distributions to lockdown the win. Match 3 I was able to identify what my opponent was trying to do and completely shut them out of their strategy. Match 4 I found the narrow path to victory in game 3 (although looking back Sam Black could have won if he played Fire Shaman on his turn and used that [or Muse] to block my Kalani, but he didn’t know about Silver Wing Lancer).
In top 8 I lost because I had neglected practicing my Deck 2 play, I was unpracticed with my constructed deck, and my draws were weak. If I was a better player, I could have won game 1 of Dark Draft which would have put me in a position where I only needed to win 1 game of Constructed; I believe having three shots at getting a single strong draw with that deck was all I needed. But, since I can attribute my loss to a skill I can improve, and I legitimately enjoyed playing in the tournament generically and meeting the person I lost to specifically, I honestly felt fine getting knocked out where I did. (Although I would have loved to win, and I’m still coming for Tatian next year/this summer.)
One overarching reason for my acceptance of my loss comes from an idea a bunch of my competitors shared with me: Epic Worlds is just a much more enjoyable competitive experience than many other games. Not only is the game itself great, but the vast majority of the community is a pleasure to be around. Losing loses a bit of its sting when you legitimately enjoy the ride. Hopefully the game grows so more people can experience what we’ve experienced for quite some time to come.
Even though I didn’t end up playing my Good Human deck at Worlds, I still absolutely love it, and I plan on writing an article with multiple videos to do it justice. Deck’s name: Priest of Gold Dragon
3x Force Lance