Community Top 8 report! Guest writer Travis Hixson tells us about his experience at a recent ARG event in Elkhart, Indiana.
Hello everybody! My name is Travis Hixson. I am part of the Epic Loot team out of Centerville, Ohio. We have a nice steady group of players in our area and eight of us decided to head to the ARG event in Elkhart, Indiana this past weekend.
A little bit about myself. I started with Pokémon over 15 years ago, I also played magic for over 10 years, but decided a while ago to stop investing time into it. I started picking up other games like Netrunner, Game of Thrones, Call of Cthulhu, and I’ve tried many more. When I picked up Force of Will I was instantly hooked. The game appealed to my love of Magic, but took out a lot of the things I hated about Magic. When SKL came out and I saw Valentina I instantly feel in love with the possibility of playing a deck that could instantly put guys into play and could bypass counterspells. In my opinion it’s one of the stronger Ruler affects in the game. Not to mention you get a mind control God’s Art ability on the other side. But I wanted to focus on her ruler side as much as possible and judgement her only when needed, so the playtesting began. I have been playing her exclusively since SKL release, trying to find the right card compliment for her to shine. I started out with darkness and trying to abuse Necromancy of the Undead Lord and using dark purge as removal. The deck was a blast to play but just wasn’t what I wanted to settle on. I went from there to a water/fire/wind build that played Demonflame + Artemis as removal for big guys. This build had full special magic stones to cast the spells and I found that it was too hard to beat Split Heaven and Earth. So I went away from that mana base and tried the water/light variant that had been circulating around the web. All of these iterations had different resonators coming in and out of the deck trying to find a good mix of early guys and finishers. I eventually tried out Deep Blue as a way to bypass having to worry about Split Heaven and Earth. I liked what it could provide for the deck but it also comes with the drawback of you just not drawing it sometimes. It was a chance I was willing to take to negate a very relevant card in the format. I had broken down the deck into categories of types of cards I wanted to have, like certain amount of resonators and certain amount of ways to make them trade up, and then a certain amount of removal spells, which I will break down at the end. In the end I ended up with this build for the tourney.
4x Alice’s little scout
4x Cinderella, the Valkyrie of Glass
4x Little Mermaid of Tragic Love
3x Squire of the Ocean Lady
3x Gherta, the Tear of Passion
4x Snow White, the Valkyrie of Passion
2x Susanowo, the Ten-Fist Sword
2x One-Inch Boy
4x Deep Blue, the Phantom Board
3x Artemis, the God’s Bow
3x Rapid Growth
3x Flame Kings Shout
2x Witch’s Dagger
1x Magic Stone of Deep Wood
1x Magic Stone of Hearth’s Core
1x Moojdart, the Fantasy Stone
1x Little Red, the Pure Stone
6x Water Magic Stone
3x Robe of the Fire Rat
3x Deathscythe, Life Reaper
1x Blazer Gill Rabus
3x Xeex the Ancient Magic
3x Keen Sense
2x Marybell, the Steel Doll
Four of us had Friday off, so we made the 4 hour drive on Friday around noon. The other four guys drove up Friday night. Which, ended up being real nice, since Saturday turned into an Indiana winter wonderland all day. We got to the event, on Saturday, around 10:30 and they had announced they were pushing back round one to 1 pm because of the snow. Boy did it snow, like all day.
It turned out to be around 53 people for the tournament, which is more than we expected but also nice to see the community show up even with the threat of snow. I went into the tournament knowing my worst matchup was Bahamut and I would have to fight all the Arla knight decks as well. But I couldn’t forget about my two group mates playing Yamata Combo decks, which they had been slaying people with.
Round 1: Bahamut (of course)
I sit down and my opponent pulls out his YGO mat and starts up a conversation. We gab a bit and we start the round blind to what each other is playing. I found, early in my testing that with my deck I had to aggressively mulligan as if I was always playing Bahamut. It just was never worth not doing this incase Bahamut sat down across from me. My opponent was DeCavia Wilson, the player who got second in the event. This match was the epitome of why Bahamut is my worst matchup. He won the die roll and played first. He gets an insane hand were he flips Baha turn 2 and crushes me. My deck can’t deal with that main board. So, on to game two! I side in my deathscythes and robes. Game two he flips on his turn three and puts me under a lot of pressure. I never saw my deathscythe but I did have a Susanowo to try and answer. His answer was to pitch another Laev and bow/demonflame my Susanowo. Not much I can do against that hand and I lost. Was an unfortunate start but did put me in the loser bracket to try and win out.
Round 2: Blazer-Cthulhu control
I don’t remember too much on the specifics. This is a good matchup for the deck. Playing guys on his end step negates a lot of kill/card advantage he tries to create with hastur. Game one was won on the back of Cinderella. She is a house against the control decks, unless they Flames of the Outerworld her. The ability to keep dodging removal in the mid/late game is too much for him to handle. Game two I side into my counter package to negate his Cthulhus and kill spells. Keen sense is mainly there for Dark pulse which can be a killer card against you. Xeex does a lot of work here countering his Cthulhus and making things untargetable. I’ll give my opponent credit here for recognizing that Cinderella was a key card in this matchup and he explicitly targeted her for removal and discard with Nyarlathotep. We eventually got there in the end.
Round 3: Arla flying.dec/regalia
This matchup was interesting. Game one he played a lot of flyers and also played 3 Laev. At this point I just think it’s an Arla angels deck, which I can easily beat. I take game 1. Game two he hit me with a curveball. This game is played two Laev, a bow, and a deathscythe (out of left field). This made me realize he had a small Arla regalia style to his deck. He got aggressive with Arla in this one and I wasn’t prepared. So, game three I sided in Blazer and my own scythes and surprised him when I flipped Blazer and played a scythe turn one. It turned into a grind match at this point. He eventually drew into an Alice resonator with plenty of mana up which gave me a scare but this is where Little Mermaid shined and made his Alice block her and then I just Rapid Growthed Mermaid for the kill and sealed the game.
Round 4: Teammate James with Bahamut
Eventually I had to play someone I knew lol. The downfall of bringing so many guys to an event, is that you will eventually have to knock each other out. I thought this was going to be my second loss and end of my tournament. As we sat down and did our pregame they informed us that we would be the ones playing on the stream. I was thinking, “great going to lose on stream”. It’s a winnable matchup, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not in my favor. I was excited to show the deck off but wished it was against another deck. Fortunately, for me, I won the die roll and he got off to a slow start game one. He didn’t draw a Laev, which is something he really needs to put me on the back foot. I took game one.
Now, I wanted to try something out for the second game. Something I hadn’t had time to test. I sided into Blazer and sided out all my Deep Blues and most of my Rapid Growths. I brought in the robes and scythes. I wanted to see if loosing Valentina’s effect was worth always having red to cast those spells. I turned out to work pretty well as I slowed him down enough to make his finishing spells be just short of killing me. Winning this matchup was real big for me since it can be such a bad matchup if they get the God hands.
Round 5: Grimm light/wind variant
This is a match I had never played but had seen a similar deck floating around trying to OTK with Rapunzel. He wasn’t solely on that plan even though he had Rapunzel in his deck. He was more trying to Tell a Fairy Tale into a Pied Piper and protect him. He was also trying to kill with Behemoth, the Earth Eater. I just approached the matchup like he was playing control. This was also a matchup where one-inch boy came in real handy, since he had no way of answering it after I flash it in. Blocking Piper with a One-inch boy was really joyful. I take game one and side in the counter cards to fight his Fairy tales. Game 2 he gets off multiple Tell a Fairy Tales and he also played a Ragnarok, the Divine Sword of Savior on one of his Pipers. This slowed my down a ton and got him too far ahead for me to fight back. Game three took longer and we ended up drawing, which I didn’t mind since I figured I had to just avoid the second lose to make top 8.
Round 6: Teammate Allen with Yamata combo
At this point our team could possibly get 4-5 people into top 8, but unfortunately we had to play each other, which auto excludes one of us, but of course auto includes one. We have two guys in our meta that play Yamata. Atwood, which is the Yamata that got 3rd-4th and Allen which plays a different variation on the deck. He starts with Liberator of wind to fetch Magic Stone of Moon Shade and plays Knight of the New Moon as another discard outlet with Guin. He also has more green for Refarth and Rapid Growth and Law of Silence. This deck is the main reason for One-Inch Boy since most Yamata decks can’t deal with an instant One-Inch Boy. This matchup is still tough because I have no great way to deal with Guin outside of Flame Kings Shout. I have plenty of answers for Yamata but Guin just keeps the deck coming at me over and over. I was lucky enough to pull this one out, but didn’t like knocking out my buddy. Oddly enough he still got 9th even with the loss.
First round of top 8: Arla Knights and eventual winner
Now I will preface this with an amazing streak I am on. This was the 3rd time I’ve made a top of a significant tournament with Valentina. Every time that I have topped I have lost the first round to the eventual tournament winner. Sick life right? This made it 3 in a row, unfortunately. Game one he is on the play, due to the higher seed, which is not something that I agree with in general, but it is what it is. He gets an aggressive start on me with multiple bows and was just too quick. Game two I sided into blazer to be more consistent. This is where not having a good answer to multiple Guins lost me the match. It was a long battle, to which his type of card advantage won out. With about 10 cards left in his deck he top decked a little dread to steal my Susan and forces me to Robe that. Then after that he uses Giles to finish me off by destroying it with a bow for 2 attacks. It’s a tough matchup but what really frustrates me is how many cards the deck always goes through to eventually beat me. By the end of most games against the deck his graveyard is way bigger than his deck. Red card advantage is OP lol.
Now on to my thoughts on the deck. I strongly feel that Valentina is at the top of the tier two list, maybe even Tier 1A. Unfortunately, I don’t think the cards are there for her to take down a tournament, yet. Once you hit the top eight rounds you have to play your harder matchups over and over. It’s doable, just not in your favor. You can run hot and hope to get there but right now she isn’t consistent enough to do it. Water just doesn’t have enough answers to the format to just be water. You have to go two colors or even three to compete. Now I encourage people to keep trying her out and maybe someone out there will come up with an idea that I may have missed. She is definitely my favorite ruler.
Now for individual card choices:
Alice’s little soldier: I wanted some sort of one drop, whether its scout or Cheshire. I think Cheshire is better if you are playing Shangri-La, but for this deck I needed something with an attack above zero. Alice plus bow on turn one threatens Lancelot, which is a card that I’m targeting to kill. Plus she can be Growthed and searched up with Deep Blue as well as fodder for Witches’ Dagger. I didn’t want more than 4 slots for one drops since they were usually what I wanted to side out in a lot of matchups.
The two drops: I have played around with the resonators in this slot a lot. I used to run full amount of Hanzo and Squire. But they eventually became too lackluster to compete with the red decks. Drawing the card is nice but their body size is too much of a drawback, IMO. I finally switched out Hanzo for Gherta for this tournament. I wanted to have the more relevant body and she can use counters, off multiple things in this deck, to create her own advantage. Flashing her in at their end step and being able to use a bow counter to turn her into a target attacker is real key to taking down a Guin. Also, don’t forget that when Cindy does damage you can respond to the removal of her counter to pay for Gherta’s ability. That is a 14 point swing with the two lovely ladies. Gherta could also get flying if I needed to block a flyer and is 1000/1000 with a Growth. I haven’t seen many playing with Mermaid but I can assure you she is worth it. Her coming out of nowhere to make something block can be removal with Rapid Growth. Cinderella is a no brainer. She is almost always a two for one and answers Lancelot. Mid/late game she becomes a beast when you have enough mana to bounce her and replay her. One-inch is a nice little surprise against Yamata and big ground guys like Arthur, Piper, and even Lancelot. Plus anytime you can Growth him to save him and get two kills with him is value. Squire is a decent body that draws a card.
The three drops: This is where the deck as changed the most, as of late, with the rise of Arla knights. I used to run demonflame as my removal but decided to give the FKS into Snow white a try. It didn’t disappoint. The board swing it creates is massive, especially when people love flooding the board with little guys. Plus with Rapid Growth, it allows my Snow Whites to kill bigger threats with her first strike.
The rest: Bow is Bow. It allows my little guys to trade up and if you start off with two it can slow the red decks down enough to keep up. It’s also a very important card for killing Ame-no-Habakiri, which can ruin your day if left unchecked. Rapid Growth is the “pump” slot that could either be Shang or Growth. This deck wants Growth. Shang is too slow sometimes for this format. Sometimes you can tap out on turn 2 for Shang and just lose the game because a Lancelot gets left on the board and you can’t keep up. Witches’ Dagger was a new addition for this tournament. I took out a lot of the draw guys and wanted to supplement that card lose by using the dagger. It can also occasionally be used as a kill card if need be. Now Susanowo is there to answer Gwiber and the like. But he also gives the deck a faster clock. Sometimes the deck just can put enough pressure on your opponent and Susanowo speeds up the clock.
The stones: Pretty simple. Mostly water to take as little as a can from Split. I threw in one of each, water/wind and water/fire stones in case I didn’t find Deep Blue quick enough. Also, the Hearth’s Core is for when I Judgement and need to cast Gherta. Moojdart for Susan and also to negate Carmilla’s.
The Board: I like the board a lot. Robes for red, Blazer scythe for Rulers that want to be aggressive, Xeex for the slower creature decks and Yamata. Keen sense for the Control decks and Yamata. Marybell for all these stupid Arla bows.
All in all it was a great event and well run. They kept it flowing even after the late start. I would like to thank all of my teammates for the playtesting and good times. Hopefully, next set gives Valentina some help to push her up into top tier.