Monday, 25 August 2014

Top 8 @ Modern PTQ in Liverpool!

Every article I've read on Modern seems to say the same thing: learn your deck, learn the metagame, practice, practice. I guess I should just repeat that exact same thing because this has proven true for me. I picked up the Kiki Pod a few months ago and my results went from a mediocre 4-3-1 in Cardiff where I had barely any idea what to do with it, into 6-3 in Milton Keynes, 5-2 in Manchester and now an unbeaten swiss in Liverpool for my first PTQ top 8.

4 Misty Rainforest
3 Arid Mesa
4 Grove of the Burnwillows
2 Gavony Township
1 Temple Garden
1 Hallowed Fountain
1 Breeding Pool
1 Stomping Ground
1 Sacred Foundry
1 Steam Vents
2 Forest
1 Plains
1 Island

4 Birds of Paradise
3 Noble Hierarch
2 Wall of Roots
2 Voice of Resurgence
1 Scavenging Ooze
1 Qasali Pridemage
1 Phantasmal Image
1 Spellskite
2 Deceiver Exarch
1 Kitchen Finks
1 Courser of Kruphix
1 Izzet Staticaster
3 Restoration Angel
2 Murderous Redcap
1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence
1 Glen Elendra Archmage
1 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
1 Zealous Conscripts

2 Domri Rade
2 Path to Exile
4 Birthing Pod

2 Negate
2 Combust
1 Keranos, God of Storms
1 Thragtusk
1 Shatterstorm
1 Ancient Grudge
1 Reclamation Sage
1 Fiend Hunter
1 Eidolon of Rhetoric
1 Aven Mindcensor
1 Avalanche Riders
1 Fiery Justice
1 Thrun, the Last Troll

As far as the list goes I suppose I should explain some choices.
- 0 Chords of Calling & 2 Domri Rade: Given the shifting meta in the UK PTQs from a lot of Twin into a ton of GBx and Affinity I decided that Chords were simply too slow. Playing multiple Chords in Kiki Pod is also a choice which forces us to have a 3rd Wall of Roots and an Eternal Witness and both of these cards are mediocre on their own. In addition a removal heavy deck like Jund will not let you keep enough creatures to Chord for anything significant. In Melira Pod Chords are great because combo pieces start at 1 and finish at 3 for infinite life or 4 for damage, but here the combo starts at 3 and finishes at 5, so you'll need up to 8 mana to find the pieces. I just don't think it was justifiable at this moment for Liverpool.

- 2 Paths maindeck because in my experience they came in almost every game in all practice matches and previous events, so why not just start them maindeck?

- Izzet Staticaster maindeck... because it's one of the most useful cards out there. Staticaster + 2 Domri + 2 Redcaps have been successful at consistently killing Dark Confidants on T3 or T4 before they could get out of hand. Staticaster in addition is great against Affinity, destroys Infect on its own and of course gets rid of the Lingering Souls from Junk, while also killing Birds of Paradise and Noble Hierarchs in Pod and once in a while adding the extra point of damage post combat needed to kill an important creature. Overall one of the best performing cards in the deck.

- 1 Kiki Jiki because it's the worst card in the deck, even though it's necessary for combo. 3 red is not difficult to assemble and it's pretty consistent to cast it if I draw it. I also never want to see it in my opening hand.

- 1 Courser of Kruphix - this I've seen out there before but I wasn't sure about it until Joao convinced me to try it because it dodges Anger of the Gods and gains some life and with this manabase life management is a major part of every decision. Courser proved to be excellent.


Round 1: 2-0 vs Affinity
G1: This was a typical Kiki vs Affinity game. I was hit for 8 poison by Inkmoth Nexus on Turn 4, managed to get a blocker for the next attack and then managed to get the combo before dying. My opponent made a mistake tapping out with a removal in hand.

G2: I opened with 4 lands, Staticaster, Restoration Angel and Reclamation Sage. Sage destroyed a Cranial Plating, then got blinked on Opponent's turn to destroy an attacking Inkmoth Nexus. After that I drew a Qasali Pridemage, put him into play with 3 mana open. Opponent added an Arcbound Ravager to the board and passed with about 6 permanents in play, but only Ravager and another Inkmoth. I then attacked with Resto Angel with Exalted, followed by sacrificing Pridemage to kill Ravager. In response he sacrificed I think 3 Artifacts and then sacrificed the Ravager to put everything onto the Inkmoth, but in response to that I flashed a Staticaster and killed the Inkmoth before it got counters. Opponent conceded with very little in play.


Round 2: 2-0 vs Mono Red Burn
G1: It begun with me going 1st with Shockland + Noble Hierarch. He then plays Goblin Guide and reveals Kitchen Finks. I take 2, then I gain 2 back on the Finks. He then starts throwing Burn at me, but a Restoration Angel blinks Kitchen Finks, keeping me on 13 life. Opponent adds more creatures, but they can't get through and concedes.

G2: I went down to about 10 by 3rd turn, I then had a Scavenging Ooze enter the game and eat 1 a Hellspark Elemental. I left it on 1 counter and tapped out thinking that even if it dies, it will have taken 3 damage which isn't going in my face. Instead opponent passed, I added a Wall of Roots, attacked with a 3/3 and passed with 2 Green, so that I could eat a creature on his upkeep, getting hit by Skullcrack, but tapping his lands. Ooze then ate another thing on my turn and proceeded to quickly kill him.


Round 3: 2-1 vs Mono Red Burn
G1: I managed to get out a T2 Courser of Kruphix and thanks to its life gain everything else was history.

G2: I didn't really have any action and got burned out.

G3: This was one of the longest games I had on this tournament. I played a T2 Domri and started ticking up, then a Wall of Roots and later Kitchen Finks and started getting really flooded while attacking with Finks. Later on I got myself a Spellskite which quickly got destroyed by Wear/Tear and added Ooze and ate my Spellskite on his turn while he cast the deal 4/stop life gain spell, bringing me down to 2. I untapped, drew a blank and looked on my board. I only had 2 creatures that could attack, both had 3 power. I then looked at the lifesheet and asked to confirm if we're on 2 vs 12. Then it struck me that my Domri is at 7 - went to ultimate and attacked for 12 with him holding 2 cards in hand - both of them capable of killing me next turn.


Round 4: 1-1-1 vs Tarmo Twin
G1: I went 2nd, starting with Birds of Paradise + Spellskite. T3 he plays a Vendilion Clique, taking away my Redcap in a hand containing Redcap, Wall of Roots, Deceiver Exarch and Phantasmal Image I believe. On my T3 I play the Image making it into Clique, targetting him to see 2x Snapcaster, 1x Deceiver Exarch, 1x Cryptic Command and 1x land. I take his Cryptic. Afterwards I added a Wall of Roots and added Voice of Resurgence while keeping mana up for Deceiver in case I need to tap his Deceiver in response to Twin to buy myself a turn. Later finally got the Pod out and managed to Pod the Wall into Linvala, got another Angel and beat him down with it.

G2: It started with my opponent getting to his 3rd land, then getting a land destroyed by Avalanche Riders, adding a 3rd again, getting it destroyed by Restoration Angel, adding a 3rd, killing my Angel and playing Goyf... He then stays on 3 mana and a 4/5 Goyf for most of the game, beating me down with it. Finally I get a Pod down, but he clears my board with removal. Last turn of the game I'm on 2 and have a 4/5 Angel, 7 mana including a Gavony Township, Pod and drew a Reclamation Sage. Opponent is on 8 with a 4/5 Goyf, 4 cards in hand, he's tapped out. I took a while to decide what to do and figured out I couldn't combo off from the 3/4 drops because I needed either 1 more life or 1 more mana. I attacked with Conscripts, got Sage and Podded into Linvala who got tapped on his turn by Pestermite. After the match my opponent told me "You could have Podded the Angel into Conscripts, taken my Goyf, attacked me and activated Township - I then gain 1 to 9 from the Grove, but lose 9 from a 4/4 Conscripts and 5/6 Goyf" - I just didn't see that at the time.

G3: Started 5 minutes before time and ran out of time to finish.


Round 5: 2-0 vs Junk
G1: This is the match up that I specifically added a 2nd Redcap, 2 Domris and kept the Staticaster maindeck for. Game 1 I got a T2 Voice of Resurgence, he played a Dark Confidant, I then T3 attacked for 3, added Domri and killed the Confidant. He then got Lingering Souls, while I ticked Domri up, played a Staticaster to clear the Spirits and attacked with Voice again. Afterwards I drowned him with card advantage from Domri and from the fact he couldn't really play Souls or Confidants until dealing with Staticaster (and even then Confidant was a risk because of Domri).

G2: I kept a 1 lander on the draw with a Birds and a Noble Hierarch, after playing the bird he quickly Dismembers it on my turn. I miss on land 2nd turn and play Noble Hierarch, he then casts Lingering Souls T3. I start getting lands finally, adding Courser and later Redcap. Game progresses into a slaughterhouse on both sides and we end up with 0 creatures on his side and a Noble Hierarch on my with a Treetop Village on his end. He's on 1, I'm on about 15. He top decks an Ooze, brings himself back to 7 quickly. He starts attacking with the Ooze leaving Treetop Village on defense. For about 3 turns I had a Zealous Conscripts and a Staticaster in hand, which couldn't really do anything because stealing the Ooze would have just jammed into the Treetop Village and leave me with just a 3/3. I add a chump blocker, then blank. Finally opponent draws Lingering Souls. Attacks me, bringing me down to 4, then taps out for Souls + Flashback... Staticaster end of turn, Untap, Zealous Conscripts takes the Ooze. GG.


Round 6: 2-0 vs Affinity
G1: My T2 Staticaster takes out a Steel Overseer, then stops my opponent from attacking with his 2 Nexuses (Nexi?) and buys me enough time to take over the board.

G2: Again Staticaster does a lot of work, followed by Reclamation Sage and Resto Angel to take control.


Round 7: 2-0 vs Junk
G1: T1 Noble Hierarch into T2 Voice, into T3 attack with Voice, play Domri, kill Confidant, win by card advantage generated by Domri and Pod.
G2: This was similar, except it went on for a bit longer. Domri proved to be great again in this deck.


Round 8: Table 1 ID.

Total for the Swiss:
6 - 0 - 2 in matches
13 - 2 - 1 in games
Won 2 games from Combo and the rest was just beatdown.
2nd on tie breakers.

Quarter Final: 1-2 vs "Raven Jund" (let's just call it this way, because I still don't know what this deck can be described as. It plays standard Jund but with Raven's Crime and Life From the Loam instead of Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek. It then sides in a Young Pyromancer... At least that's what I saw).

G1: I mulled to 6 and kept 3 lands, Staticaster, Angel and Kiki Jiki. Didn't want to go to 5 because I knew my opponent played Jund and 5 card hand is as good as dead against it. Nothing happens for the first two turns on my side, then he plays and Ooze and Raven's Crimes me to discard a non-red land. End of his turn I flash a Staticaster and on my turn I try to hit the Ooze for 1 and then blink the Staticaster with Angel to hit him again but he bolts the Staticaster and then kills the Angel. Next turn I end of turn cast a Deceiver Exarch with 2 cards in hand. I have a Kiki Jiki and a Zealous Conscripts and he's tapped out. Drawing one of 6 remaining Fetches or 5 remaining red sources wins me the game with combo. Blank. I keep it in hand for the Raven's Crime and I add the Conscripts, taking his Ooze and dealing some damage.
He kills Conscripts. Blank. He kills Exarch. I draw a red source with no board, play it and Kiki Jiki only to then get it killed by another removal.

G2: It starts similarly, except his Raven's Crime + Life from the Loam discard pretty much my entire hand consisting of Kiki Jiki and Keranos just before I'm able to cast it. Luckily I get a Noble Hierarch and then find Pod to make it into Voice, then attack, Voice into Kitchen Finks and he concedes with no board and no hand.

G3: He plays a T2 Young Pyromancer and I have no way to kill it early. He then discards my hand hand with Raven's Crime and adds 5 tokens to the board. I flood out and by the time I find Pod there's nothing that can save me (even the Staticaster wouldn't have helped because he also had a Goyf and I was on 3. I also sideboarded the Staticaster because it didn't have enough of an impact as a top deck to keep in this particular match...)

The deck played well, can't complain. The Quarter Final could have been better, but I'm happy with Top 8 and a box of M15 with Nissa, Ajani, 2 Chords of Calling and 3 Pain Lands :) Staticaster, Domri and Courser have all performed far better than expected and I think they will have a permanent place in this deck at least for now.

Potential future changes to the deck:

-1 Forest, +1 Mountain or -1 Island, +1 Mountain - I'm not sure about this, I would have to do some maths. Right now I'm playing 16 Green Sources (9 plus 7 Fetches) and 14 Red (7 plus 7 Fetches). I think Island has been the least useful card in the deck, while getting access to another Fetchable red source without 2 life loss could be nice. Of course a Mountain sucks against Blood Moon.

-1 Wall of Roots, +1 Noble Hierarch - Wall of Roots is good with all the Flash creatures, so it's tricky. I do however like having quicker starts, so this might be a good swap.

-1 Fiend Hunter, +1 something? I'm not entirely sure what I would put in here. Maybe a 3rd Negate or a 2nd Kitchen Finks? Maybe a 3rd Voice of Resurgence or a 2nd Scavenging Ooze? Any ideas would be great...

Thanks for reading and thanks very much to everyone who lent me cards!

Sunday, 17 August 2014

5-2 @ PTQ Manchester

After going 6-3 with Kiki Pod at the Milton Keynes PTQ I noticed a few things which kept bothering me:
- The Metagame (at least in the UK) is full of combo hate, forcing me to sideboard out Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker in games 2 and 3 against GRx, Twin, UWR, Melira Pod and Affinity. At the same time these decks take up most of the meta.
- Other than disrupting the combo, most of the decks are rather fast at executing their gameplan and drawing a Kiki Jiki early means it's a dead card most of the time. Ultimately the plan is to assemble 3 red mana quickly anyway, so if it gets drawn later on it can be a topdeck game over.

Because of the above I decided to make some updates to the Kiki Pod list which I think may work in this metagame. A major change to the stock lists has been cutting down to just a single copy of Kiki Jiki in the deck - why play 2 if it's being moved out most of the time anyway? Clearly we don't want 2 in all those match ups.

The deck:
4 Misty Rainforest
3 Arid Mesa
4 Grove of the Burnwillows
2 Gavony Township
2 Forest
1 Plains
1 Island
1 Temple Garden
1 Breeding Pool
1 Hallowed Fountain
1 Sacred Foundry
1 Stomping Ground
1 Steam Vents

4 Birds of Paradise
3 Noble Hierarch
2 Wall of Roots
2 Voice of Resurgence
2 Scavenging Ooze
1 Spellskite
1 Qasali Pridemage
1 Phantasmal Image
2 Deceiver Exarch
2 Kitchen Finks
1 Izzet Staticaster
1 Eternal Witness
3 Restoration Angel
1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence
1 Thrun, the Last Troll
1 Murderous Redcap
1 Glen Elendra Archmage
1 Kiki Jiki, Mirror Breaker
1 Zealous Conscripts

4 Birthing Pod
2 Chord of Calling

2 Path to Exile
2 Combust
2 Negate
1 Thragtusk
1 Obstinate Baloth
1 Aven Mindcensor
1 Avalanche Riders
1 Keranos, God of Storms
1 Reclamation Sage
1 Fiend Hunter
1 Eidolon of Rhetoric
1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence

One thing I have always been missing in all Kiki Pod related articles has been a definitive list of what can you go off from. Of course if you have an Exarch and a 4 drop you get Kiki, or if you have an Exarch and a 1 drop you go off by getting Phantasmal Image, into Angel, into Kiki. But what I'm talking about is a table which identifies exactly what is required and how many steps you need (ie. how much life or mana it will cost you). So in my preparation for the PTQs this is what I made:


We Have (CC)
Chain Sequence
4CC Persist
4 into Conscript
4 into Kiki
1 + 1

1 + 2
2 into Exarch
1 into Image
Image Image into Angel
Angel into Kiki
1 + Exarch
1 into Image
Image into Angel
Angel into Kiki
1 + 3 (non-Exarch)

1 + 4 (non-Persist 4)

2 + 2
2 into Exarch
2 into Exarch
Exarch into Angel
Angel into Kiki
2 + Exarch
2 into Exarch
Exarch into Angel
Angel into Kiki
2 + 3 (non-Exarch)
2 Into Exarch
3 into Angel
Angel into Kiki
2 + 4
2 into Exarch
4 into Kiki
3 + Exarch
3 into Angel
Angel into Kiki
3 + 3 (Non Exarch)

3 + 4
4 into Conscripts
3 into Angel
Angel into Kiki
4 + 4 (Angel)
4 into Kiki
4 + 4 (Non Angel)
4 into Conscripts
4 into Kiki

To explain:
- CMC column means we have for example a 1 drop and a 4 drop, or a 2 drop and a Deceiver Exarch.
- Steps column tells us how many times we have to Pod in the turn to be able to go off
- Chain sequence tells us what we do to go off. Whenever podding into Exarch or Conscripts is mentioned it implies that the Exarch/Conscripts then untaps the Pod. Whenever Podding into Angel appears it means it blinks the Exarch, in turn untapping the Pod again.

You can go off over a number of turns, but this explains what you need with your Pod to go off exactly THIS turn.

It also gives you information which you can memorise and not waste time thinking about it during the game:
3+3 (Non Exarchs) CAN'T GO OFF
Neither can 1+1, 1+3 (Non Exarch) or 1+4.
What that means is that you have an option to go off in every other situation if you have 2 creatures. That's cool to know!

The reason for playing 2 copies of Exarch is so that this chain is still viable after your first Exarch died by making your 2 drop into a 4 drop when you needed it early in the game.


Round 1: 0-2 vs Jund
Game 1: I was on the draw with a hand containing 1 Fetch, Birds of Paradise, Pod and I believe Finks, Angel and another card. I got Thoughtseized, taking the Birds, top decked another Birds and never found a 2nd land.
Game 2: I got useless 7, went to 6 containing Noble Hierarch, Birds, Pod, Angel, Finks, Hallowed Fountain and Sacred Foundry. I thought about keeping it, but on the play I have no action turns 1 and 2 and I figured with 16 green sources I have about 30% to get a green on T2 and about 50% by T3, meaning that I am not very likely to play Birds or Noble and the rest might be too late... I took a Mulligan to find a hand of 5 with no lands. Went to 4 to get 3 lands and Birds and get flooded out.

Variance happens, moving on.

Round 2: 2-0 vs Affinity
Game 1: I was on the draw again with a decent keep. Opponent opens with Land into Vault Skirge and Mox Opal, so not too scary. I go Fetch Forest, Birds. T2 I get hit by Skirge and Ornithopter gets added to the board with another land. I played T2 Pod. T3 opponent gets a Cranial Plating and starts heavy beating. I get a 2 drop which gets Podded straight into Redcap, killing the Skirge. Plating goes on the Ornithopter, but leaves me on 2 life, so I fetch down to 1 and Pod Redcap into combo.
Game 2: It played out similarly, except this time I wasn't able to go off straight from Redcap because of mana constraints, so I Podded into Kiki who then created a Birds Token to block a flying Cranial Plating. Opponent destroyed my Pod, but I had an Angel in hand from the start.


Round 3: 2-1 vs Kiki Pod
Game 1: I opened with Birds into Wall of Roots against Birds into Fiend Hunter taking Wall of Roots. I then had Kitchen Finks and wanted to gain life with Angel only for him to Angel bounce his Fiend Hunter to take away my Angel instead. My Redcap killed his Birds and he was left with no 1 or 2 drops, just Angel and Fiend Hunter. He then could have gone off with Angel->Conscript, Fiend->Angel->Kiki but it seem he missed it, instead opting to get just Kiki Jiki and copying Fiend Hunter to EoT to take away my Redcap for the next turn (it doesn't make sense, as Redcap will come back end of my Turn and kill Kiki...), but I untapped and played a Zealous Conscripts to steal his Kiki and win the game this way.
Game 2: This was a crazy game where I drew 2 Paths to Exile, got rid of Linvala, then he started a Pod Chain into Kiki which I stopped with my 2nd Path, I drew a Pod, made a chain into combo which he stopped with his Path and then he re-comboed from there without me having any response.
Game 3: I flooded the board with 2 Noble Hierarchs, Birds, Wall of Roots, other little stuff and played a Gavony Township for a turn 4 surrender. 


Round 4: 2-1 vs Jund
Game 1: I again went second (4th time), but managed to get early action with Birds, then tapped his Land with an Exarch to gain tempo and deny T3 Liliana, killed his T2 Dark Confidant with my T3 Redcap and added Thrun to the board for beatdown win.
Game 2: I drew a 7 with 1 land, 2 Birds, Nole Hierarch, Pod and 2 other non-land cards. I missed a land draw, played Birds which got bolted. T2 he got a Dark Confidant, I played a Bird number 2 and on his turn it got bolted again. T3 I missed a land again, played a Noble Hierarch only to get a Slaughter Pact on it. When I finally got a land I played a Voice of Resurgence which was killed by Liliana.
Game 3: Turn 2 Pod, he plays T2 Confidant, my Turn 3 I play Witness, returning a Fetch to hand, fetching for a land and Podding Witness into Redcap to kill Confidant. T3 he plays a Goyf and a tapped land, meaning that I win unless he has a Slaughter Pact... after thinking about what happens if I don't combo and where that leaves me I decide it's best to try the combo.


Round 5: 2-0 vs Kiki Pod
Before this match I heard Joao just lost to a Kiki Pod (he was on 2-1, so the opponent will be on 3-1 too). When describing the match to me he mentioned the "she did xyz". When I saw my opponent was a girl I looked around and I felt fairly certain I'm playing vs Kiki Pod and because of that I decided to keep a hand that would be tough to keep on the play in other match ups:
Game 1: I was on the play with 1 land, Birds and Wall of Roots, Linvala, Thrun, Chord of Calling and Restoration Angel. Given it's probably Kiki Pod that's an easy keep. I was right and quickly made it into combo-safety of Linvala. Later got Spellskite, Resto and when the time was right I Chorded for Kiki Jiki with Spellskite backup (some Kiki lists play removal maindeck...)
Game 2: I started with T2 voice, T4 Linvala, then went into a creature heavy match (6+ on each side) with no Pods, featuring a 6/6 Voice Toke, Linvala, double-exalted Birds of Paradise beatdown and other slow grindy creatures. I managed to overcome it thanks to the Token. Had a Combust in hand all game as a safety measure.


Round 6: 2-1 vs Kiki Pod (How many Kiki Pods can you play in a day?!?!)
Game 1: I got a quick Pod and a lot of mana and opponent conceeded on his T3.
Game 2: I managed to get Linvala out on T3, but my opponent had a perfect hand which let him to Path Linvala end of my T4, then cast a Restoration Angel still EoT and hardcast Kiki Jiki his turn. Nothing I could do.
Game 3: Kiki Pod sometimes suffers to coloured mana issues (there's a reason very few cards have double mana symbols in them...) and I exploited this by playing T3 Avalanche Riders, then T4 Restoration Angel in response to Echo and a couple of turns later top decked Kiki Jiki.


Round 7: 0-2 vs BG Rock
Game 1: Opponent had it all... Dark Confidant into Liliana into... 3 Tarmogoyfs by T6 or something silly like that.
Game 2: I drew a discard-proof hand of 2 pods and 5 lands on the play, kept it. Then I got Keranos. T3 opponent plays Liliana, I discard 1 Pod, play Pod T4 which gets Mealstrom Pulsed, I play Keranos T5 with a third Pod and a Redcap in hand... feeling good about this, as there's no pressure from my opponent. Liliana ticks up and I... discard the Redcap, even though there is Grafdigger's Cage in play... so I completely missed the fact that it was played a few turns earlier and it was just lying there on the side. I should have discarded Pod, then Keranos + Redcap would have killed Liliana. Instead I discard Redcap, play Pod. Opponent with 0 cards top decks a Dark Confidant. I reveal a land and draw a Wall of Roots which I quickly play and Pod into Izzet Staticaster to kill the Dark Confidant, only to be stopped by a Judge standing next to the table (even my opponent missed that Cage) and get a warning. Opponent topdecks a 6/7 Tarmogoyf and a Scavenging Ooze. I reveal a Kiki Jiki, bolting Confidant, play Kiki and... die.

5-2 drop (had to run for a train and without contention for top 8 I didn't want to pay for a hotel for the night).


Future changes to the deck:
BGx is a major played in the metagame and seems to be the 'bad guy' one has to beat to be able to get anywhere, so I think it's fair to say it's time to drop the mana curve down, as with the amount of spot Removal, BGr gets to kill mana dorks and build advantage over time. I think Richmond GP winning list could win because meta was heavy in Melira, Zoo and other non-rock decks, making it easier for mana dorks to stay around and accelerate. Because of that stuff to consider:
- Adding Domri Rade in place of Chords.
Chords come out on the draw in almost every game and are kept on the play and 2 Walls of Roots (unlike 3 in the Richmond GP winning deck) Chords are just not as good. Domri acts as card advantage against everything and as situational removal against annoying stuff like Confidants. Besides, the ultimate just means game over.

I noticed Jacob Wilson played 2 Redcaps in his PT BNG deck and I think this is an option. 2nd Redcap instead of 3rd Angel. Possibly moving the Angel into the Sideboard?

Kitchen Finks are mediocre in this deck and since the mana curve is still a bit high, I think 4th Noble Hierarch should take that place. This is especially given how much Jund likes to use bolts on the mana creatures.

Three sideboard cards that didn't perform well are Thragtusk (too slow and not enough impact), Obstinate Baloth (only advantage is having it in hand at the right time and it just happens too rarely) and Linvala (it's too rare you need a 2nd one, as by that time you can probably assemble the combo yourself). I think switching that to 1x Ancient Grudge, 1x Shatterstorm and 1x Fiery Justice would make sense. I got rid of the above 3 because the Staticaster and Redcap have proven to be great against Affinity, but having more hate there will improve the match a lot.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Trip down the Memory Lane: 2009 LotR Doubles GT Report

Yesterday Craig Johnson posted on Facebook a picture of the TLA Team from 2009 Doubles GT. It was taken on the Saturday of that mighty event, meaning that today marks exactly 5 years since the day Voitek and I won our first GT. I also noticed that in 2009 I posted on this blog a link to a Polish version of the report and I promised to translate it into English, which I never did. I think it's about time! I don't remember much of that tournament, but I am basic this on the original which can be found here:,UK-Doubles-2009-Raport.html

So here goes the 2009 Doubles GT Report. As a note to the reader in this day and age I must make a few points before the report begins. Times have changed and rules have changed, hence some of the armylist decisions and in-game planning would be different today than it was back then. Some of the key differences include:

- Only 3 Heroic Actions existed back then - Heroic Move, Heroic Shoot and Heroic Combat. That means that you wouldn't necessarily be sending your F5 hero against your opponent's F7 Troll unless you had a good reason for doing so (see game 1), while these days it's totally acceptable with Heroic Strike present. Back then the Hero game was pure, you knew what to expect, you didn't worry about freak rolls of a Goblin with Fight higher than Aragorn. Let's just say I hate the idea of Heroic Strike and I would ban it if it was up to me. It ruins the game in my humble opinion.
A point worthy of making is that Shaman's Fury without Channeling is pretty rubbish and its only purpose back then was to automatically pass Courage, which was great for the Doubles due to the special rules below, but arguably useless otherwise.

- Armies were built according to the Legions of Middle Earth book. As such there were no restrictions for a hero to lead an up-to 12 man Warband. Instead you were free to take 1 hero to lead your whole allied contingent (LoME included over 40 different contingents you could pick your forces from to ally with the same side of the conflict). You were able to have Beregond lead an army of 60 Warriors of Minas Tirith if you wanted to (not advisable, as Heroes were a major part of the army nonetheless). Note also that each force had its own break point, each force could only use the Stand Fast of its own heroes OR the Stand Fast of the Army General - a model chosen randomly before the game from the 2 force leaders. Force leaders were selected before the start of the game, after seeing opponent's army lists, but before setup.

- There were no weapon rules such as Piercing Strike of an Axe or Fainting of a Sword.

- Elladan and Elrohir on Horses were able to use their 2 swords while on Horseback, gaining 4 attacks on charge. Ability which they lost as they became older it seems - clearly Elves lose their skills as they age...

- Models moving at half speed did not suffer a -1 penalty to shoot.

- Volley Fire existed (it allowed you to fire at double the bow's range, but only ever hit on a 6 and after allocating a target, the first roll to hit would be chosen by the opponent. It also required at least 10 models with bows of the same type to fire simultaneously. It was let's just say a complicated rule with very little effectiveness, but which nonetheless was one of the most important aspects of the game in forcing players to move into positions they otherwise wouldn't and making bowfire much more powerful, regardless how hard it was to cause damage with it - if you fired 200 volley shots you'd cause enough casualties anyway).

- Victories in tournaments were split to Major Win (worth 35 points), Minor Win (worth 30), Draw (10), Minor Loss (5) and Major Loss (1).

- Because of the specific scenarios at this tournament, vast majority of players took armies divided into an all-infantry force for one player and an all-cavalry force for the other.

- And most important in this case - with this being a doubles tournament, it was a special rule for this event - each player was to bring a 350 points force taken from a single contingent from Legions of Middle Earth. Given that Ringwraiths had their own 'Ringwraiths' list which did not lead any warriors, to have access to a Nazgul you had the choice of either taking 350 points worth of Nazgul (with a 3-model minimum that meant you couldn't have 2 full-packed Fell Beasts) or you had to take the Easterlings Contingent, the only one that could take Khamul the Easterling as a leader and still bring basic warriors. As such, magic on this tournament was very limited, allowing for some Hero combinations to be present. It was here that Voitek and I decided to take a crazy all-hero force... the faces of people watching us battle were unforgettable, for it was the first time an all-hero force caused such a havoc...

Note: Some pictures are out of focus, some too bright, others too dark. I didn't have a very good camera at the time and I was rubbish at picture taking.

700 Points total limit. 350 points per player limit. 1 good and 1 evil army.

My Good:
Aragorn + Horse + Armour
Elladan & Elrohir + Horses

Voitek's Good:

Total 6 models, 18+1 Might, 1 Bow.

My Evil:
Mouth of Sauron + Horse
20 Morannon Orcs + Shields
12 Orcs + Bows + Spears
5 Orcs + Spears

Voitek's Evil:
Orc Captain + Warg
Orc Shaman + Warg
Orc Drummer
12 Warg Riders + Shield
1 Warg Rider + Throwing Spear
2 Warg Riders + Throwing Spear + Shield

Total 56 Models, 4 Might, 12 Bows.

Scenarios will be explained before each battle commences


Each side rolls a dice. Winning side chooses 2 opposite corners. Player 1 sets up a force within 12" of the corner, then opposing player 1 does the same, then player 2s do it.
Objective is to have more models within 3" of the centre of the board than your opponents. Major can be achieved if you're the only team with models within the centre of the board. The game may end at the end of a turn when a force has been broken if you roll a 1 or 2.

We rolled for sides and it turned out we were to play with 6 models against an army of over 60, including Khamul the Easterling and Shagrat Warleader with Easterlings, Orcs and a Drummer.

As the key to winning was in numbers we told our opponents before the start that we may as well fill in the results slip now because there's no way we can win it. It's one of those things you do to make players overconfident, as surely this is an un-winnable scenario. Our opponents chose corners with less terrain in to make it easier for them to reach the centre of the board with their mighty forces. We didn't really care that we had more scenery on our way because we didn't have anything to move towards the centre anyway.

After a few turns Voitek decided to use his first spell of the game - a Sorcerous Blast against a bunch of Orcs. He rolled 3 dice and the result came up as 1,1,2. He asked about using 3 Might and I thought 'yeah whatever, his Might won't affect anything anyway'. He made the score into 5, he was able to knock down about 10 Orcs with a perfect positioning, but instead he used his skill in rolling dice and rolled a 1 for distance, knocking down 2 and killing 1. Clearly a legendary feat to use 3 Might and 2 Will and kill 1 Orc. (Remember, there was no Heroic Channel back then)

59...ish to go...

Aragorn and the Twins got stuck into combat with Orcs. Kill. Kill. Kill. The force got broken within 2 turns, although there are still over 40 models on the table. We rolled to see if the game ended and it came up more than 2.

Kill. Kill. Kill. Both evil forces are broken. Another turn rolling to see if the game ends, again it lasts.

Roll to see if the game ends - Yes it does!

'Hey guys, we have 4 models in the middle, you have... 3, we win... right?'

In a miraculous way we managed to pull off a Minor Victory. Legolas and Gandalf died. Our table was surrounded by the likes of Ed Ball, Craig Johnson, Nick Jones, Dave Smith and the other legends of the time, all stunned.

Minor Victory 30 - 5. Off we go...

Scenario: Same as above.

In the 2nd round we got to play David Smith (Hithero) and Andrew Hayhow. They had a force of allied Legolas & Wood Elves with Gimli & Dwarves. Very themed. They got to pick the table corners, so going 2nd we were able to set up in such a way to avoid being in range of the Wood Elves and Dave did not have access to a volley.

To start with Voitek threw everything he had straight at Andrew's 17 Khazad Guards, 8 Warriors and Gimli and I went straight for the middle to meet the Wood Elves with my superior amour. The point here was to sacrifice the cavalry but buy enough time for Morannons to kill the Elves and take control of the centre, keeping it long enough to win by the special game end conditions.

The strategy worked as we gained significant advantage in the centre early and the cavalry held up the Dwarves for a long time (and died as planned...). The Dwarves soon reached the centre and started cutting down my Orcs, but the game ended in time before they managed to gain advantage in the centre.

The best part of the game was when Voitek moved one of his Riders in a place I thought was wrong and I shouted 'Ni' (in English imagine a short sound of a rubber shoe making a very loud 'eee' on the floor). We ended up spending a long time laughing about our use of Polish words between each other and using it as a secret weapon to communicate about tactics.

Minor Victory 30-5

Scenario: One evil force sets up within 12" of the centre. 2 Good forces set up within 6" of two opposite edges. The 2nd evil then moves on from a 3rd or 4th edge on the 1st turn. Good has priority turn 1. Objective is the same as before - more models within 3" of the centre. The game lasts exactly 10 turns.

As always in that day and age at Warhammer World before the third round many of us enjoyed the so called "Green Stuff Salad" - it wasn't made of Green Stuff, but it sure tasted like one ;)

We got to play another TLA Team - Lithorlorn & Dano (Nick Jones & Daniel Allen), who had an army made up of Black Numenoreans with Orc Spearmen and 3 Orc Trackers, allied with Suladan leading a ton of Serpent and Haradrim Riders (including 4 bows and all-lances). Opponents looked relaxed, after all what could go wrong if you're defending the centre, you have 61 models, your opponent has 6 and the objective is what it is?

We started the game by telling them that we are not expecting to win and we don't care. Due to the scenario force split, we had to put Twins and Aragorn on one side of the table, with Gimli, Legolas and Gandalf on the other. To start things off, our opponent's 7 bows managed to kill Aragon's Horse, Elrohir's Horse and wounded Legolas. Not a great start for us. Gandalf also failed miserably once again at a Sorcerous Blast - rolling 2,2,3, making 3 into a 5 with Might, rolling 1 for distance. He killed 1 Black Numenorean and knocked down 2 Orcs.

On the 2nd turn Elladan made it into combat, got surrounded, but by using just 1 Might point managed to cut down 4 Black Numenoreans. Legolas got hit by Trackers again (whole 3 of them) and had to use up a second Fate point. Aragorn and Elrohir went a bit closer to the centre, got surrounded but easily won and killed 2 models each.

On turn 3 Aragorn called a Free Heroic Move with hopes of giving a charge bonus to the mounted Elladan, but it got countered by the Black Marshall (the captain guy). Aragorn and Elrohir got attacked by Riders in addition to the Black Nums, but won combat and decided to kill some more Black Nums to cause a quicker break to the Mordor force, leaving the Riders for later. On this turn Gandalf managed to pull off the first proper Blast of the tournament, hitting a Rider and knocking down Suladan. Legolas again got wounded by a Tracker for the third time and passed a third Fate, but then shot down 1 of the Trackers.

Over the next few turns we just had a brawl. Legolas got attacked by a single Rider and died. Gandalf got attacked by 2 Riders and died. Again we were left with 4 models.

In the 6th turn, expecting to break 2nd of their forces, we coordinated a series of Heroic Combats in preparation for a Heroic Move on turn 7 which would tie up all of the enemy heroes with a single swoop. When we won the Heroic Move roll-off on Turn 7 our opponents were stunned. Suddenly with no Stand Fast their forces completely disintegrated. Next turn Aragorn killed Suladan and on Turn 9 we had our 4 heroes fighting the last standing Black Marshall. After killing him, with 1 turn left to go we had 4 models standing in the centre to opponents' 0. We started to realise that the idea of taking an all-hero force wasn't so bad, especially since the two remaining scenarios were very advantageous to having this force.

Major Victory 35 - 1

Scenario: Same as Round 3.

Our Round 4 opponents were father and son Alan and Cameron Graham, with 3 wins after 3 rounds. Their Good force was a mix of Riders of Rohan and Rohan Royal Guard with Eomer allied to Foot Knights of Dol Amroth, Men at Arms and Axemen led by Imrahil and Forlong.

We setup our Orcs in the centre, while we awaited an offensive from North and South. The Orc Bows did what they had to do - kill Eomer's horse in one of only 3 hits they scored in this game. The Morannons took the charge and after a next turn's won Heroic Move we took away enemy's Charge Bonuses... only to lose more models and kill 1 Rider. On the other side of the table Warg Riders charged the Phalanx from front, back and side, which meant that the entire phalanx almost instantly collapsed.

After several turns of fighting we got to Turn 10, where Imrahil was just within 3" of the centre but got attacked in such a way that in case of losing he would have to back away from the objective range. After shielding and rolling 6 dice he lost combat and moved out. The only remaining model that was (in my opinion) within 3" was a lone Rohan Royal Guard. Cameron agreed with me that it was within 3", but Voitek and Alan disagreed, only highlighting the fair play on both sides, where both sides gave 1 vote to opponents and 1 to own team. We decided to roll a dice for it and it turned out the RRG was outside 3", giving us a Major Win.

Major Victory, 35 - 1

After a day of battling we teamed up with Nick and Dan (our R3 opponents) for a Pub Quiz where we finished 3rd. The two teams finishing joint 1st won free drinks... gutted.

Scenario: One evil side sets up within 12" of a designated edge - this is the objective edge.
Entire Good side sets up no closer than 24" of the objective edge.
The other evil side then enters the board on the edge opposite to the objective edge.
Objective is for Good to get as many models off the objective edge as possible. No turn limit.

In the 5th round we got teamed up against Tom & Harry Moore. After this tournament Tom went on to win the 2010 UKGT and finish 2nd at the 2011 UKGT and 1st at the 2012 Doubles. He is regarded as one of the greatest LotR players of all time. Harry was a very good player too, although he only achieved silverware in a team with Tom.

Tom & Harry had a force made up of Ghan leading 43 Woses and an allied contingent of Beregond and Faramir leading a bunch of Knights of Minas Tirith and mounted Citadel Guards with Longbows. Their Evil army consisted of Shade and a ton of Orcs, but that's irrelevant here.

After we've set up the Morannons on the Objective Edge, Tom and Harry made a dirty, but creative play where they set up their entire army on the completely opposite side, just 3" away from the board edge where Voitek's cavalry was to come on. It was a genius plan. There were to options: We win Priority, Voitek moves on and his 15 Wargs get surrounded by 60 models; or we lose priority, they don't move, Voitek moves on and receives 44 blowpipe shots. We won priority, Voitek's army got wiped out and I was left standing there and waiting for the opponent to come and destroy me.

There was nothing either of us could have done, it was a masterplan which Tom and Harry clearly came up with well before the game, knowing since the day before they were due to play us and knowing roughly what our army lists were. They apologised before the game and they apologised after for making the game unfun, but we wished them good luck. Our hopes of winning were shattered... or so it seemed.

Major Loss 1 - 35

Scenario: As Round 5.

Unfortunately I didn't remember the names of the opponents already when originally writing this article in 2009, for which I once again apologise. Their forces included Mordor Uruk Hai Captain leading Morannon Orcs and a contingent of Warg Riders led by a Captain.

This is a scenario we genuinely tested with this force (the first two scenarios the plan was to rush and kill as much as possible as quickly as we could. The last scenario is simple in that respect too. It's only this scenario that we spent a longer time testing). During testing we decided that going through the centre of the board we'd get surrounded and we would risk losing too much fighting against a full army. We decided that taking an edge and moving by the edge we would get to the Objective just as quick, but we would avoid early contact with at least 50% of enemy forces which just wouldn't get to us on time. We  got a table with Eastern border filled with various terrain, including a forest and a passage between the forest and a board edge which allowed only a single cavalry model to pass.

Our Army Leaders in this scenario were Elrohir and Legolas (we picked these, as we wanted Aragorn to keep fighting for longer on the board and moving both leaders off the board granted a Major Win over a Minor).

On the 2nd turn we moved through the hole between aforementioned forest and the edge and we left Gimli there to block the pass and inevitably die fighting 350 points of Warg Riders.

There were several Trackers shooting at us, but Blinding Light helped and nothing happened from bowfire (note: back then the basic Blinding Light lasted entire game, the same way Channeled version does these days). Also on the 2nd turn Gandalf cast a Sorcerous Blast, rolled, 1,1,4, used 1 Might and killed 1 Orc. On the 3rd turn he rolled a 1,1,2 again. 

After a few turns of Aragorn and Twins fighting the enemy defending Evil force got broken and their hero attacked. We quickly moved our leaders and remaining models off the board, only leaving Gimli in the jaws of Wargs. Quick win, but our opponents didn't seem to enjoy the game too much because just like Tom and Harry in the previous game we had it all figured out and they couldn't really do anything.

Major Victory 35 - 1

On table 1 Dave and Andrew just defeated Tom and Harry, so things were square and before the 7th round there were 4 teams with 5 wins and 1 loss. Game on!

Best Army Nominations


After 6 rounds situation was as follows: 
1st - David Smith & Andrew Hayhow with 5 Major Wins, 1 Minor Defeat (180pts)
2nd - Harry Moore & Tom Moore with 5 Major Wins, 1 Major Defeat (176pts)
3rd - Ian Gill & Kain Prestwood with 4 Major Wins, 1 Minor Win, 1 Major Defeat (171pts)
4th - Voitek & I with 3 Major Wins, 2 Minor Wins, 1 Major Defeat (166 pts)

The rest of the field is irrelevant, as the 5th place was nearly 40 points behind us. In the 7th round the TOs decided that 1st and 2nd will play a rematch of round 6 (although the rulespack said you were only allowed a rematch in round 8, but they thought it wouldn't be fair if 1st got to play 5th or 6th, get an easy win and 2nd-4th would fight it out for 2nd place). So Dave & Andrew played Tom & Harry while we played Ian & Kain in Round 7.

ROUND 7: GOOD, Table 2
Scenario: Reduce enemy army (not just individual force, but entire army) below 25% of starting numbers. Extra points if you're unbroken. One force starts 12" into the board, the other walks on in 1st turn on the same edge. as the other force.

We rolled a dice and got to play our Good force for the final time. Our opponents had one contingent of Legions of the White Hand which included an Uruk Captain, 1/3 Pikes, 1/3 Shields and 1/3 Crossbows and 1 contingent on Isengard Raiders with Sharku, some 8 Warg Riders and a bunch of Uruk Scouts. Just 2 heroes, but 59 models. 44 to kill in 90 minutes...

Opponents set up and awaited our assault. We went forward under the protection of Blinding Light, Legolas stopped and took down 3 Crossbowmen with his 3 shots. Gandalf got wounded twice despite the Blinding Light but passed his Fate, then blasted and you'll never guess what he rolled when trying to Blast. Let's just say he never Blasted again after that. We cast a double Command (with opponent's priority and then ours) on a Scout, which allowed us to triple charge him to bounce off into enemy lines after movement and gain some momentum in combat. It was a marginal decision as we went outside of the Blinding Light range, but the crossbows failed to kill the Scout or any Horses so we were happy.

After a couple of turns the entire Legions force got broken and opponents decided to start running away. The Raiders contingent died out because of a loss of their leader. For the next half hour our 6 models were chasing the remaining 30 across the entire table. Legolas finally proved useful by shooting down a few and then moving at full speed through forests. Soon we managed to kill enough.

Major Victory 35 - 1

After the battle I looked at the table next to us and to my astonishment Tom and Harry's armies were being decimated by Dave and Andrew with their Kataphrakts and Morannons (actually, I can see that happening as Woses are not that great in combat against even numbers). Tom & Harry were already broken, started to run away, but because of time constraints the game ended in a draw before they got reduced below 25%. That was the best result for us which allowed us to jump back up to 1st place with hopes of winning the whole thing again!

With 1 game remaining the situation was as follows:
1st - Us with 201 points
2nd - David & Andrew with 190
3rd - Tom & Harry with 186
4th - Ian & Kain with 172.

The final battle would be a rematch against Dave & Andrew. Again we were due to fight the Elves and the Dwarves, except this time the scenario was the worst possible one for our force to fight them in. Whoever wins this game wins the tournament. If we were to draw this game, then a win by the Moore team (3rd) would give them the title. If we were to get a minor loss, then a major win by the Moores would give them a 1 point advantage and claim the 1st. We couldn't play for a draw, but we had the podium guaranteed.

ROUND 8: EVIL. Table 1!
Scenario: Same as round 7.

There comes a moment in a player's career when he sits down to play his favourite game and for the first time the only thing between him and his dream tournament win is just a single enemy (or team in this case). This was the first time after 5 years of playing LotR that a highly coveted title was in my reach. I would not let it go...

We had a major problem in this scenario. Morannon Orcs suck against Khazads supported by spearmen. They are literally the worst, the most inefficient model you can throw against those Khazads. There is such a ton of terrain, that we can barely find an open space to surround our opponents and gain a number advantage in combat. 

But... on Friday night before the event we were thinking what to do with the remaining 12 points - have 2 Orcs with spears extra? Nah, we already have a ton of models... we have 12 Orc Bows... we have a volley. It is our key to victory (or at least the key to not losing). 

What was the effect of the Volley? We took down 1 elf with it after 4 turns of firing. But that's not the point. The point is that we forced our opponents to move where we wanted to fight them - to come out of the forests and into open ground. After all we needed just a draw to secure 2nd (or 1st if 2nd table draws or Tom & Harry lose). 

It took a while for the Khazad Guards to get to us, but once they came close we managed to pull them into a choke point where if they moved any further we would surround them with Warg Riders and Morannons and crush them with numbers. Enemies decided to pull back and looked as if they lost any hope of winning the match. They decided to sit back and shoot down all of the Warg Riders awaiting for a flank charge. They did exactly that after about an hour of play. We had a Shaman left and the entire contingent of Morannons. Opponents went on an offensive. We had a tournament advantage... we looked on table 2 and it looked like Gondor led by Kain and Ian were nowhere near being broken by Tom and Harry... all we had to do is hold on, so we started to run away. Dwarves are only good on short distances and they never caught up.

Draw 10 - 10

Table 2 Draw 10 - 10

We did it...

Best Army Nominees:

3rd Place
196 Points, Tom Moore & Harry Moore

2nd Place
200 Points, David Smith & Andrew Hayhow

1st Place
211 Points, Mikolaj Bakalarz & Wojciech Filipowicz

- We got 12 points out of 15 in the Knowledge Quiz.
- The Tournament was very well organised, just like all Warhammer World Events
- This tournament thought me one thing which turned out to then be the key to my winning another two and the crazy run of 7 podiums in a row I had. In fact it was Voitek who thought me this on this tournament - always ask yourself if what you're about to do is the right play. Before this tournament I played a million other events, but there was always something missing that would stop me from winning (except the time I won the TLA event at Bromley with crazy luck). I played a reckless game. I would make decisions which were too high variance, with huge possible returns, but which ruined my gameplan if the dice rolled badly. Because of that I was not able to win anything big. I tried doing the same thing at this event and every time Voitek would ask me 'Why? Can't we do it a different way?'. Whether he was correct in offering a different way or not didn't matter (in fact he was correct more often than not, that's what happens when you're such a good player). What mattered was the fact that we would slow down and take a safer, more optimal decision. Even if it meant longer game or longer route to victory, it matched the saying 'Slow and steady wins the race'. 

So I credit this win to Voitek and to the crazyness of our army lists and of course to the enormous amount of luck.

Better lucky than good ;)