Australia Grand Prix 3rd Place – Darean Middelton

By: Chris “Chibi” Michaelis

What is your name and how long have you been playing TCG’s? Did you have any accomplishments in previous TCG’s? Whats are your preferred style of decks to play?

My name is Darren Middleton. I began playing TCGs approximately 3 years ago, when a few friends of mine were playing a few casual games of Magic: The Gathering and I was wondering what the excitement was about. I played a few games and was instantly hooked, and after about six months decided to play competitively and enter considerably more higher-level events, with no notable accomplishments outside of winning a few Grand Prix Trials.

What is your preferred style of decks to play?

I generally prefer to play decks of a more aggressive or midrange style. Where there are numerous lines of plays throughout the first few turns of the game, and I greatly prefer a more proactive game plan in general.

How long have you been playing Fow and what interested you about the game?

I discovered Force of Will approximately one month ago at my local store, Good Games Gold Coast, where I was initially drawn to the impressive artwork. After playing a few games, I found it to be immensely fun, all but removing the most common cause of unexciting Magic games, either too few or too many sources of land. I also found the relatively undiscovered game to provide substantial potential for brewing fun and exciting decks without a clearly defined “best deck”.

What was the player attendance at the Australia Grand Prix?

Australian Grand Prix was held at Nekocards in the CBD of Melbourne, Victoria. It was on Saturday 11 July, and a total of 30 players attended.

Prior to the event how did you prepare for the event and what was your expectations on the types of decks you were going to face?

As I was new to the game, and FOW hadn’t managed to kick off on the Gold Coast, it was difficult to make a prediction for the event. Instead I researched the results of events around the world to get a general view of what the most powerful decks were. After seeing multiple Abdul/Scheherazade control, Grimm Aggro, and Burn lists being the main successful archetypes, I decided that there would be a considerable amount of decks present with zero basic Magic stones. This led me to want to hate on that by playing Split Heaven and Earth in the main deck, to maximize the damage dealt. Furthermore, I did not want to enter into multiple control mirror matches, when I had such minimal knowledge of the format as a whole.

What deck did you decide to enter with and why?

I decided to borrow my friend’s Fire/Light Grimm Aggro, with main deck Split Heaven and Earth. Throughout my admittedly limited testing, I found both of Grimm’s abilities to be extremely powerful. Being able to cast a Fairy Tale creature for any will just seemed unfair. Couple that with the toolbox aspect of deck, I decided that, as long as I had complete knowledge of my own deck, I could find the correct cards for each situation. While I did tweak the original list, the majority of the deck was not changed.

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

First of all, it is very important to mulligan all cards in your opening hand that cost 3 or more will, with the only exceptions being Oz, the Great Magician, or Tell a Fairy Tale, as they are extremely powerful. In the majority of the matchups, you want to be applying considerable pressure by playing at least one creature every turn for the first three or four turns. Whenever you see an opportunity to get in even a few free points of damage, do so, as it reduce the amount of direct damage you will need to deal. Also, try to anticipate which cards your opponent may have in their hand, such as Fiethsing, or Flame of Outer World, and play around them to the best of your ability. Finally, concerning Split Heaven and Earth, if your opponent controls four or more non-basic stones and either taps all their stones, or does not leave open enough stones for counters, immediately use any Split Heaven and Earths in your hand. 1200 damage for one spell is exceptional, and as the deck only plays four non-basic stones itself, you will almost always take less damage than your opponent.

Would you like to clarify on any particular card choices?

The main deck is pretty standard for lists. The only unusual choices I believe are 3 Glinda in the main, which were for my expectation of plenty of control, and a couple of side deck choices. The two Little Princes were a side deck option against any burn I may face, but I found it to be lackluster. The Emperor with new clothes was a hedge against potentially backbreaking additions, such as Ragnarok, and also against any potential Musketeer lists. Finally, despite expecting heavy control, I sided 2 Return to Stories due to a belief that I would have to play a Grimm mirror at some point during the tournament.
The stone line-up is fairly straightforward, Fire for burn spells and Blazer, Light for Tell a Fairy Tale, though most Grimm lists run Almerius as their True Stone of choice, but I decided to play Little Red the Pure Stone instead. The +200/+200 ability of Little Red provided significant protection not only during combat, but also from Thunders, where the activation would get the resonator above 600 DEF. It also allowed me to get crucial points of damage in during key turns to close out games. It could also be called as a Fire stone if I needed it, which was nice.

What was your match line up?(You can get as detailed as you like here)

R1 – Fire/Dark Dracula
This was not a matchup I expected, but is apparently fairly popular within Melbourne. Game one I lost to triple Carmilla across three turns, killing two Hamelin’s and a Grimm. Game two I developed a considerable board by turn 4 and kept my opponent from regaining control for just long enough to finish with a couple Thunders. Game three my opponent sides into Abdul, and proceeds to crush me beneath a Carmilla and a Mephistopheles while having a J-Activated Abdul, which shuts down all my Enter effects. 1-2
R2 – Mono-Dark Dracula
This matchup was not really remarkable. Both games I had all 4 Tinker Bells by turn 5, and overwhelmed my opponent. 2-0
R3 – opponent who had dropped from event
After starting 1-1, I was paired down against someone who had dropped from the event. Nothing much else to say.
R4 – Water/Fire Odd Bahamut Burn (2-1)
This was an interesting match, as I had not seen a list quite like this. March Hares and Hunters provided early aggression, while Cheshire Cats helped to draw into more burn Spells. During game two, double Realm of the Dragon King prevented any of my Fairy Tales from staying on the field. Managed to barely scrape out the win in game 3. 2-1
R5 – Abdul (2-1)
Typical Abdul control list, though my opponent seemed slightly hesitant to J-Activate, most likely fearing a double Thunder on it, allowing me to utilise Enter effects for slightly longer. Won the die roll and game one. Lost game 2 to the Mephistopheles/Abdul combination. Barely scraped through Game 3 with an extremely convoluted sequence – Abdul using his 0 ability on Rapunzel and me responding by pumping resonators, and him responding by using the 0 ability again. Managed to successfully give Rapunzel and an Oz flying and get in a considerable chunk of damage, and prevented my opponent from getting enough damage in to win in turns. 2-1.
Cut to top 8 occurs, and I am in 5th place.
Top 8 – Jonathan – Dark Pandora (2-1)
Dark Pandora was the breakout deck of this tournament, with two copies in the Top 8 and approximately 5-8 in the tournament.
These games were the Top 8 feature match and can be found in the links below
Game 1 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqxErZRjA-o&feature=youtu.be
Game2 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xp7X4PS9JEo&feature=youtu.be
Game 3 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8bk8KArSOUo&feature=youtu.be
Top 4 – Kai – GBR Abdul (1-2)
Kai was playing an Abdul list that, instead of ramping with Elvish Priests and Gretels, sought to kill everything his opponents was playing. Game one I curve out appropriately but he has the perfect hand of seemingly all removal spells, and I run out of gas as his Carmilla hits the field and Abdul J-Activates.
Game 2, I see an awful hand, of which I mulligan all 5, only to see a hand of double Duel of Truth, double Split Heaven and Earth, and Blazer. Started drawing well, and managed to resolve and gat a hit in with the Blazer, followed by double Split, while he surprisingly has no Absolute Cake Zone to counter them.
Game 3, however, was more of the same as game 1, where I play out early creatures, he kills them, and correctly reads me to not have the cards to punish him for immediately J-Activating on Turn 4, shutting down a Cheshire Cat, Oz, Little Dread and Blazer in my hand. He proceeds to play a Mephistopheles and I get quickly run over.

What was your MVP card?

Without a doubt, ironically, due to my matchups, Grimm, the Avenger of Fairy Tales was the MVP card for me throughout the tournament. Of the rounds I played, I versed decks using Carmilla, Mephistopheles, and even Seth, five times. It became the most common toolbox choice, and won me multiple games.

Which card underperformed in your deck that you felt should not have?

Surprisingly, Hamelin’s Pied Piper was the card that I feel underperformed throughout the tournament. This is most likely due to the frequency which I versed Carmillas and Stoning to Deaths, but I boarded them out almost every round.

Did you have any unique tech added to your deck that enabled you to outperform other players who used the same deck?

I had hoped that the 2 Return to Stories and the fourth Hamelin’s Pied Piper in the side deck would have allowed me to have better side deck choices for the mirror. However, Grimm was incredibly underrepresented, with at most two other Grimm decks in the tournament, and I did not face it.

Do you have any particular strategies or combos you strive for?

My typical strategy is to be as aggressive as possible, as the longer the game drags out, the less advantaged the Grimm deck is to win. My only combo was the use of Rapunzel to get large chunks of damage with her, but I don’t actively attempt it and it only came up once.

What would be considered an optimal hand for you post mulligan?

After mulligans, I think an optimal hand would consist of 2-3 one cost resonators, along with a Tell a Fairy Tale and a one cost instant spell, like Thunder. It gives you a highly aggressive start, and also provide some interaction against your opponent’s game plan.

Do you feel other players play the deck incorrectly?

While I don’t fell players play it completely incorrectly, I feel player’s instinctive decision to just get a Cheshire Cat are not what you should be doing in the early portion of the game, as you give opponents more time to gain control over your board. Rather, you should be trying to further develop you board, by getting either Tinker Bell if your opponent has opened slowly, Glinda to force through damage, or Oz to have an attacker plus searching for the best one cost spell depending on the board state. The only time you should be searching for Cheshire Cat is when you are looking for the final points of direct damage when you feel the game is slipping away from you.

Reflecting back on the event – was there any choices that you thought you should’ve made but didn’t?
Unfortunately there were a couple of card choices that I later regretted throughout the day. The most prevalent was my decision not to play 1-2 Savior of Splendor in the Side deck, and instead relying on Grimm, the Avenger of Fairy Tales, Crime and Punishment, and Duel of Truth to deal with the large dark 4-drops Mephistopheles and Carmilla, as either one of them on the field alongside a J-Activated Abdul typically meant I had lost the game. Unfortunately that did come up multiple times, especially against Kai in the semi-finals, where the two games he won ended that way.

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

I hope that Force of Will eventually gathers a massive player base and becomes of similar level to Magic: The Gathering and Yugioh, as it is an immensely enjoyable game and definitely worth playing.

Will you be attending any event?

As the game has not seriously kicked off in Australia, I don’t foresee going to many events in the future. However, as I have an invitation, I am definitely planning on going to the World Championships in September.

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

I would like to thank a couple of my good friends. First, Tony Pazanin for allowing me to borrow the Grimm deck for the event, as I do not believe I would have had any level of success without it. Second, I would also like to thank Shaine Bennett, co-owner of Good Games Gold Coast, who introduced me to the game.
A couple of tips for new players is to understand the Chase system in the game, as if you have not played Magic: The Gathering, some of the interactions will possibly confuse you. Second, don’t forget that there is a sequence of priority after a blocker is declared, where if the blocking resonator is destroyed, the damage will still go through to the original target. Finally, I believe it is incredibly important to still have fun with the game, regardless of your level of competition, as you will enjoy the tournaments significantly more.

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