Hello everyone! My name is Tyler Bushey and I am quite pleased to bring you my first article on Force of Will! For those of you who are unfamiliar with my name, I’m the winner of the 3rd ARG Circuit Series event held in Syracuse, NY. The two ARG events prior had their top 8 players chose to split their prizes evenly among the cut, so this win put me on the map as the first Force of Will Champion in the U.S.A. I was quite proud of my performance and of how enjoyable the event was that I thought I would share my experience with anyone willing to entertain an article of mine.
Before I go any further, I would like to discuss my background and give a couple shoutouts. A huge “Thank you!” goes out to Altereality Games for hosting the event, and supporting Force of Will, followed by a congratulations to all of those who made top 8. Special props go out to Matthew Telesky for playing what was easily the sweetest deck in the event to a Top 4 finish, and for dishing out my only loss of the day in a close series round 3. Finally I would like to thank James Johnson, my testing partner, for putting up with me through hours and hours of playtesting in the weeks leading up to the event, and to my locals Kirwan’s Game Store giving us a place to buy product and test!
I myself am a lifelong gamer. I played Yu-Gi-Oh! as a kid casually, but followed the games competitive scene religiously until I started playing more seriously at around age 12. Within a year, I made the move to MTG, and played in Friday Night Magic every week for the next year or two, which is where I built the foundation of my card playing skillset and met James Johnson. I made the move back to Yu-Gi-Oh!, which I played until 2013 with only a small break to dabble in Kaijudo. I played the Pokemon TCG in the early Winter of 2013 and won my first City Championships two weeks later. I recently quit around the time of MPR’s release, favoring Force of Will’s interaction and consistency over Pokemon’s highly variant and coin-flip based game play. I have been practicing since and playing at my locals, and the Circuit Series was my first event outside my locals free league, which hasn’t really seen more than a couple people at most so far.
As a long time card game player, I know when walking into relative uncertainty, it is quite smart to play what you perceive to generally be the best deck. As a result of many hours of testing, I chose to bring Abdul with me into the event. Although the deck is a meta staple at this point, it was a long road to arrive at my decision. I started off playing Odd Grimm and Grimm control in the weeks leading up to the event, but I found the Abdul control match up somewhat unfavorable for both decks. I felt it was the deck to beat, and that testing scared me away from any Grimm variant, as confident as I was in my lists. I slowly moved to Anti-Abdul strategies, such as Dark Pandora control, which never made it past the testing stage. The deck felt somewhat weak vs. Aggro and Anti-Greed Bahamut (which didn’t make an appearance at the event) Dracula was strong in theory vs. Abdul, but testing led me to believe the match-up was a little more intricate than expected, and Xeex just crushed the decks tempo. Originally I had planned to have Dracula board into Abdul vs. Grimm, and just board anti-Abdul tech, but at that point I said to myself, “Why not just play Abdul?”
The night before the event, I went through some lists I have stored on my computer to get some board-tech ideas, and just pieced together my Abdul list which I piloted to 1st place in the ARG event. Without further ado, here’s the list:
Main Deck: 40
Side Board: 15
So, as you can see, this list isn’t anything special. I chose consistency and stock cards because to be honest, almost every card in this deck is obviously powerful at a glance. Everything does something simplistic, yet powerful. Originally though, this deck looked somewhat different. I heavily favored Carmilla’s utility, but found her somewhat subpar in the mirror due to the relevance of Xeex, her mana cost being 4, and the fact that I can recur my pair of Stoning to Death. At that point, I upped Mephistopheles to 3, and started looking for another finisher to give me an edge. I decide finally upon Blazer, the Eater of Dimensions.
Now, at a glance Blazer might be a somewhat odd choice. I personally haven’t seen it used much and I have seen Carmilla in so many Abdul lists in its place but I assure you, it is worth the inclusion. It has synergy with part of the core, but in theory, I didn’t think it was as good as it turned out. The card has swiftness on a body +100/+100 in size over Abdul, which obviously has implications in the mirror. Declaring combat with this beast on board forces out Abdul blanks, stressing out the opponent’s ability to blank what they wish. It potentially can mess with their Necronomicon usage, lead an opponent to avoid playing cards they wish to recur later on, and synergizes with Mephistopheles as an easy sacrifice that can recur itself. The recursion aspect as a whole is especially important. Blazer can repeatedly press an opponent’s face unless he gets counter. The only downside, and the reason he is a 1-of, is because I opted for 3 Fiethsing, and have only 4 red sources. Drawing him early isn’t the best as a result of his mana cost being somewhat awkward for this deck. All in all though, he carried his weight throughout the event, and won me a couple games on his own.
Now, as for the tournament. I’ll go through each of my match-ups and just give a basic run-down of what went on, and how I made it in top cut. I apologize in advance if I missed your name!
Round 1 – Andrew Cohn – Abdul Control – Win (2-0)
I thought it was quite funny to be playing Andrew at this event. He and I met through my ventures in Pokemon, and I honestly had zero clue that he played the game. Sitting across from a friend was relaxing and we played a pair of exciting though somewhat lopsided games. What was odd about this series is how in control I was, but I missed 4 Gretel triggers between both games. I didn’t get to ramp, and I had a couple issues picking up speed early, but the volatility of my kill options and an early Abdul sealed both games.
Round 2 – Unknown – Abdul Control (with Spiral Into Despair and Seth) – Tie (1-1)
This game my opponent and I felt the wrath of the 50 minute round timer and were unable to complete game 3 in time. I was a little irritated by the tie, but I figured it was better than picking up an early loss. Game one was heavily in his favor as Spiral robbed my tempo early, but game 2 was heavily under my control after I boarded in a trio of Glinda, the extra Necronomicon, and another Cake Zone. I’m confident I could have taken game 3 as well if we had enough time, but I can’t know for sure and would like to congratulate my opponent for a solid pair of games.
Round 3 – Matthew Telesky – Scheherazade Control – Loss (2-1)
Matthew dished out my only match loss of the tourney. His Scheherazade list shattered my tempo early game 1, and continuously answered my threats until he closed the game with Split Heaven and Earth. For game two I board in some extra counterspells and the pair of Law of Silence to break his momentum when I need another turn to apply pressure. I won game 2 with about 15 minutes or so left on the clock, and we went to game three. Game 3 started heavily in my favor, and when I was finally ready to start pressing face I dropped Mephistopheles on table with a spare two mana for cake zone. He started off by playing Split Heaven and Earth again, which I attempted to Cake Zone. He used his own Cake Zone, and then proceeded to resolve another Split Heaven and Earth to seal the match. Great games Matt, and congrats on Top 4! I look forward to playing you in the future!
Round 4 – Unknown – Dracula Tempo – Win (2-1)
I was already somewhat acquainted with my opponent from casual play the day prior at the convention center. We got into our games quickly and played at a solid pace. We actually were finished in 25-30 minutes. His deck did its job game 1 and broke my momentum. Dracula also traded fairly well into Abdul, and when it came back for round two the game win was out of reach, so I scooped. For game 2 I boarded in the Exceed and Stoning to Death, and got off to a quick start. An early Feethsing, the Holy Wind Stone stopped his kill spells, and a single Mephistopheles ended this game relatively quickly. Game 3 went much the same.
Round 5 – Royce (I’m sorry I forgot your last name!) – Dark Pandora Control – Win (2-1)
Royce was a really cool guy to talk to and play against, and I look forward to playng him again. He was especially sportsman-like when variance worked against him and shook my hand between each game. Game 1 Abdul came out early and controlled the table. Mephistopheles and Feethsing kept him safe and ended the game in a short amount of time. For the second game I boarded in triplicate Glinda and Necronomicon, and he ramped into Pandora’s discard ability, to which I scooped considering I lost 6 cards. Game 3 I got double Mephistopheles out and was able to defend them with Feethsing and counters. After a couple trades on my end, and failed removal of both threats putting him in lethal range, he extended the hand shake.
So at this point I am 3-1-1 and my resistance is strong, so I am confident I made top 8. I sit down and sort out my deck partly before standings, and am pleased to find when they went up I made 8th seed. Matt Kozmor announced that higher seed gets to decide who goes first, and as a result of I was displeased, but I made top cut so I had a fighting chance. I was up against 1st seed playing a Grimm Control list that utilized the same stones as my Abdul list, which lead me to believe he just swapped control skeletons.
Top 8 – Michael Charmack – Grimm–>Abdul Control (1-0)
Game 1 was done in maybe 10 minutes at the most. It was incredibly fast. I hit a Gretel trigger and ramped into Mephistopheles, who worked with Abdul to end the game quickly. I expected him to board into Abdul, so I brought in Crime and Punishment and Glindas to counter his move, which I assumed he didn’t know I thought of. Game 2 starts, and he calls Grusbalesta. He proceeds to rest it for Darkness Will and played Familiar of Holy Wind, which is illegal as the Familiar requires Wind Will. He immediately draws a card and adds it to his hand, placing it in an unknown location. When I tell him his play is illegal he puts a card back and offers to shuffle, but I tell him I don’t know which card is which and call a judge. The judge informs him that because the card entered his hand, the penalty is a game loss. My opponent is obviously frustrated by his mistake and picks up his cards and walks away. I understand his frustration, but I definitely didn’t know which card it is, and he should have paid better attention. However, I did enjoy playing him, and game 1 was friendly and we talked a bit. I wish him luck in the future at events, and hope to play a full series with him next time we meet.
Top 4 – Ryan Valentino – Abdul Control – (2-1)
This game was streamed by ARG, so they may have it on their Twitch. To be honest, I don’t remember much about it aside from talking to Ryan about card games and other random stuff beforehand, and a flood of Gretels on my side of the board games 1 and 3. I recall game 3 being wrapped up by double Mephistopheles as well. This is probably worth watching on the ARG twitch and I won’t say anything else about it because I don’t want to state anything false. Regardless though of how this series went though, thanks Ryan for a solid trio of games, and good luck at future events!
Finals – Brian Sleeper – Abdul Control (with Light) – (1-0)
This was probably my most fun series of the day. Brian and I both had long days and spent a lot of time talking and joking. Game 1 was extremely slow as both of us struggled to push through the others kill options and counters. Eventually Brian got the upper hand and I played Necronomicon with only another copy of the same card in hand. He took the time to think when I played it, and chose not to Xeex my discard. This play caused some controversy online, and I would personally like to defend Sleeper’s play. Though I never saw his stated reasoning, in his position, and considering he packed alternative ways to remove Necronomicon, I may not have used the Xeex. I may have held it for the utility effects considering he already had an advantage, and may have been fearing that I might Cake Zone the Xeex, and gain additional value out of the Necro. All in all, he made that play at that time, and Necronomicon let me slowly usurp power over the game.
The only other sequence I remember of note here is me battling through some of his defensives to remove Seth, which threatened to bring back threats I couldn’t handle. Props to Brian for playing that card. It was a great tech for his deck, and was such a threat I couldn’t let it stick around for long. I took game one somewhere around the 50 minute mark in our 90 minute round, and we went to game 2. Game 2 I had solid control throughout, and we spent turns just trading small guys and I kept making small pings. He was unable to amount any offensive and when end of game procedures came up 40 minutes later, he was unable to win in three turns, giving me the victory. We shook hands and that was the end of our hour-and-a-half series. Congratulations on second place Brian! I do believe we will meet again in the future.
That is how I won the Circuit Series with my Abdul deck. I picked up $300 store credit courtesy of ARG and a sick Alice “Champion” mat, which is the only one of its kind in circulation. Before I wrap things up I’d again like to thank everyone who participated, our wonderful hosts at ARG Syracuse, and to James Johnson. James taught me most of the things I know about card games when I was a kid trying to find my way in MTG, and I owe most of my card game successes to the skillset he helped me build. Be sure to check out our team’s website Grimmtale.com for excellent deals on singles and within time, weekly article based content! Thank you for reading, and until next time play hard and play fair! See you in Providence!