1nd Place Winner Chicago – Brandon Noland

By: Chris “Chibi” Michaelis

What’s your name and how long have you been playing trading card games?

My name is Brandon Noland, and I have been playing trading card games since my early childhood days with Pokemon. Although, I have only been playing competitively since 2013 with Yugioh.

Do you have any previous accomplishments in Pokemon or Yugioh? What are your current trading card games you are active in? Do you have a preferred style of deck to use when competing?

I have top 8’d a Yugioh regionals and finished 20th at a ARG Circuit Series in 2014 in Chicago. I currently play Yugioh, Magic, and Force of Will – and I like playing decks with inevitability in the late game.

How long have you been playing Force of Will? What interested you about the game?

I have been playing FOW since January. I was drawn to the game because it seemed similar to Magic the Gathering…but with a better design. I think the J-Ruler and the stone deck are both good mechanics that make the game more fun.

Prior to the event how did you prepare for it? What was your expectation of what types of decks you would face? What is your local scene like?

Going into the event I was expecting a lot of Abdul, Grimm and Burn. I tested a lot against Grimm and Burn but admittedly I didn’t put in enough time against Abdul. At the event I ended up facing Scheherazade, Grimm, Abdul and 1round vs. a Grimmia deck. My local meta is mostly a lot of Aggro and Burn decks.

What deck did you decide to enter with and why?

I entered with Scheherazade Control because I like playing decks that are powerful in a long game and have massive card advantage engines. I also think that Scheherazade is the most powerful J-Ruler in the game.

Main Deck:
4 Cheshire Cat, The Grinning Regeant
4 Familiar of Holy Wind
3 Gretel
4 Fiethsing, the Magus Of Holy Wind
2 Carmilla, the Queen of Vampires
2 Mephistapholes, the Abyssal Tyrant
4 Thunder
2 Bind of Gravity
3 Absolute Cake Zone
3 Xeex, The Ancient Magic
3 Flame of the Outer World
3 Stories Told in 1001 Nights
2 Exceed, The Ancient Magic
1 Necronomicon

Magic Stone Deck:
4 Magic Stone of Black Silence
4 Magic Stone of Blasting Waves
2 Magic Stone of Deep Wood

Side Board:
3 Rapid Decay
1 Absolute Cake Zone
4 Vampire’s Staff
2 Exceed, the Ancient Magic
1 Flame of the Outer World
3 Bloody Moon
1 Stories Told in 1001 Nights

Any tips for other players on how to play the deck?

The deck isn’t terribly difficult to play, but one aspect of gameplay that many players forget is to keep tabs on both players’ life totals at every stage of the game. Managing your cats and Gretels during combat and keeping track of how much damage you can deal each turn is a helpful skill that will finish close games that your opponent may have otherwise come back from.

Would you like to clarify on any particular card choices?

I think Bind of Gravity is a powerful and underrated removal card. The low mana cost is so important because mana efficiency is the key to the aggro matchups and helps you win counter spell wars in the control matchups.
I don’t really like Mephistopheles since it takes away so many of your important small creatures but the card’s power level is undeniable and it is especially important against Abdul in order to trade with your opponent’s Mephistopheles or kill their Abdul.

What was your match line up?

Round 1 was against wind/fire Scheherazade Midrange which played the wind and fire cards a control build would alongside Gilles de Rais and Split Heaven and Earth. He got an early tempo advantage game 1 but his Gilles was no match for Stories Told in 1001 Nights and my creatures took over. We played Game 2 to an uninteresting draw so I won the match.

Round 2 was against Scheherazade Midrange. I won game 1 quickly thanks to double Xeex plus Thunder with a Gretel and 2 Familiars on board and my opponent at 2300 life. Game 2 I resolved a Necronomicon uncontested and won fairly quickly from there.

Round 3 was against Abdul Control. Game 1 I got ahead and won easily, Game 2 my opponent got ahead and won easily. Game 3 he sided in Scheherazade and resolved his Necronomicon first, but I was able to push my own Necronomicon through and Xeex away his graveyard. Unfortunately, he top decked a Xeex while I had no mana open, and the game ended in a draw.

Round 4 was against Odd Grimm Aggro. This is the matchup for which I was most prepared. In both Game 1 and Game 2, my cheap removal spells and blockers handled his early aggression and I had enough counter spells for his Splits and Blazers.

Round 5 was against Abdul Control. In game 1, I managed to Stories my opponent’s Mephistopheles, but was unable to answer Abdul himself. In game 2, I managed to out his early Abdul, but was quickly finished off by an unanswered Mephistopheles. I was feeling very tired at this point and don’t remember many details but I feel like I must have made some misplays and was feeling very discouraged after the round.

Round 6 was against light/dark/fire Grimmia Midrange. This deck was very cool and my opponent was very skilled. I made a lot of misplays during this game but the strength of my deck in the matchup managed to carry me through, as my excess of blockers and superior card advantage were too much for his midrange creatures to overcome.

Round 7 was against Grimm Midrange. Game 1 was almost lost after my opponent used a Crucifix on a Rapunzel but I activated Scheherazade to add Mephistopheles to be able to block it and so was able to slowly chip his life total down before he was able to answer the demon. Game 2 my opponent had a fast start thanks to Elvish Priest and Gretel but I drew a hand full of counter magic so I was able to answer every play he made until I had enough mana to start turning the tides of the board state.

Round 8 was against Odd Grimm Aggro. This was another quick 2-0 thanks to my excess preparation for the matchup.
The Top 8 match was against Odd Grimm Aggro. At this point, I was feeling very confident against the deck, and I again managed to 2-0 my opponent, who scooped on Turn 4 of game 2 with no attackers on board and a hand with 3 Blazers.

The Top 4 match was against Scheherazade Midrange with the same build I faced in Round 2. The build was unique and tuned to beat Abdul but fortunately for me my searchable Necronomicon and numerous blockers gave me a heavy advantage in both games. I won 2-0, though game 2 was very close and there was a point in the game where I thought I was definitely going to lose.

The Top 2 match was against Abdul Control. This match was similar to the Top 4 match, where my blockers were able to buy me enough time for Necronomicon to take over the game, and I ended up winning 2-0. I do believe that had my opponent been playing Fiethsing, the Holy Wind Stone, I would have lost the match, as that is the card I fear the most from decks that play Mephistopheles.

Do you have a preferred hand post Mulligan?

It depends on the matchup, but optimal hands usually have my low-cost spells, especially Familiar, Cheshire, and Gretel, as they give me early board presence and accelerate my strategy

What was your MVP card throughout the event?

My MVP was probably Necronomicon! It’s definitely the most powerful card in the deck and wins more games than any other card. It’s also my usual search target for Scheherazade’s ability.

Any card perform less than expected?

I don’t think any particular card underperformed. I did see a lot of late game Gretel draws despite only running 3 though.

Any particular tech choices in your build that set it apart from other builds at the event?

My Scheherazade build splashes blue for Cheshire cats. Cheshire is definitely good in all matchups but is most important for the Grimm matchup to ensure I have a plethora of early plays to match their tempo. I also played Bind of Gravity, which is valuable early removal against Grimm and a cheap removal spell that I can play with counter backup against Abdul.

Do you have a particular standard strategy when playing your deck while feeling out your opponent?

like to fill my field with Gretels, Cheshire Cats, and Familiars, then use Xeex to boost all my resonators’ ATK by 200 to end games out of nowhere. The ability of Scheherazade to search out either Xeex or Necronomicon to cast Xeex in grave means I’m always keeping tabs on my opponents’ life total, trying to line up the Xeex-powered finisher. The fact that Xeex can be cast before recovery helps a lot as I can cast one, recover my stones, and then use Scheherazade to find and cast another

Do you feel other players play the deck incorrectly?

I don’t think other players play Scheherazade incorrectly. However, I haven’t seen anyone play my build before. I do believe that my version of Scheherazade is the best build, and I’d like to think that my tournament results back up that claim.

Reflecting back on the event – was their any choices that you thought you should’ve made but didn’t?

I didn’t sleep the night before, so I might have chosen to do that. There were a few misplays on my part along the way but I liked the way it turned out so I’m not at all worried about it.

What do you expect or hope will happen in the future with FOW?

I think the game will continue to grow and become more popular. I certainly hope it does.

Will you be attending any event?

I’ll be representing the United States at the World Championships in Japan!

Do you have any comments you would like to add? Any tips for new Players?

I firmly believe that Scheherazade is the most powerful ruler available in the current card pool, but many other rulers and deck archetypes are very powerful and also currently underrepresented! I think players should be actively seeking to test out as many different decks and builds as possible and putting together a deck that they feel suits them the best. With this game being at such an early stage, innovation is still very possible, and having a unique deck list can definitely give you an edge at an event!
I would also like to thank the Force of Will US Staff, the Alter Reality Games staff, and all the other judges and volunteers who help make our US Force of Will events possible! I certainly appreciate being able to play for prize on a big stage and it is absolutely thanks to their hard work and dedication.

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