David Molina created some waves when he placed top 16 with Vlad in an otherwise all Reflect top. We asked if he wanted to do a write up for the website and this is his article! Thanks again for the write up!
Two years ago I swore off card games due to unbalanced issues with other games that had no resource system, no “chase/stack/chain-links” to interact with opponents, or a system that involved often having to draw too many or not enough of your needed resource. I was convinced that I’d never find something that got all three of those things fixed in one.
Enter Force of Will. I’m a product manager that oversees the sales of singles for CoolStuffInc.com, so when this game was shown to me as a potential product line, I figured I’d give it a try only to learn it and be able to manage it better. I was completely hooked from that day on. I had to build every version of control I could conceive, and boy was I punished for it (this was when Bahamut was all the rage). But like it’s meant to, Vlad endured.
The deck is built to survive. Instead of killing the opponent fast before they play their cards, it answers everything they play until they run out of momentum. It’s an extremely defensive deck that consists of draw power, kill spells, and chump blockers to stay alive. The general strategy is pretty simple. Optimal 1 for 1 trades until they have no resources, then Vlad drain with each turns left over stones. The deck uses the following tools at optimal times in the match to generate the most advantage possible while crippling your opponent as best you can.
Ruler: Vlad Tepes
4 Cheshire Cat, the Grinning Remnant
4 Familiar of Holy Wind
4 Hera, Goddess of Jealousy
2 Fiethsing, the Magus of Holy Wind
4 Artemis, the God’s Bow
2 Xeex the Ancient Magic
2 Sign to the Future
4 Stoning to Death
2 Absolute Cake Zone
4 Flame of Outer World
1 Feethsing, the Holy Wind Stone
1 Grusbalesta, the Sealing Stone
3 Magic Stone of Black Silence
3 Magic Stone of Blasting Waves
3 Magic Stone of Deep Wood
Let’s address the question I get asked most. Why 4 colors?
My logic behind the decision came mainly from the fact that since you never have to J-Activate, you’ll never miss calling a stone. The other factors are the Gretels/Fiethsings that ramp up your will production faster for color correction and a very strict mulligans protocol that I follow in every match up. I ended up taking 4 Rewriting Laws out of the main deck before the event but will be adding them all back in for the new version that is better equipped to handle the early aggression of red R/R.
How to spell defeat for your opponent:
Thunders deal with a wide range of popular resonators this format. It’s very easy to play around Reflect with Thunders. Just pay attention to when they use their Reflect ability, and time the thunders to deal with threats. Mulligan protocol: Always send all Thunders back into the deck! You will always draw other color specific kill spells, but you don’t know when you’ll see the stones for them. With 4 colors, we don’t take chances.
Artemis, the God’s Bow is an essential early game defense to buy you the time you need to stabilize. Keep every copy of Artemis in your opening hand, and hope you draw more of them.
Flame of the Outer World is the best kill spell in the game. The fact that players can’t chase it makes it your most reliable form of removal. That being said, unless you’re facing a regalia deck, send every last copy of this card to the bottom of the deck. You’ll see others by the time you have the stones to cast it.
Stoning to Death and Xeex deal with larger threats that burn damage can’t handle. Late game cards arent needed in the opening hand, send them all away!
Sign to the Future is a double edged sword. It was added as additional removal that wasn’t specific color to increase the chances of early game options. You never want to be caught Vlad burning early game just because you didn’t get the right stones. Setting it turn 2 is a long term investment for the mid to late game, and making your opponent play around your signs buys you the time you need to stabilize. On the other hand, if you’re playing the deck correctly, you’re constantly answering every resonator your opponent plays so meeting the trigger for Signs is tricky even with the low resonator count. Every game that I set Signs, I ended up winning without having to use it. Both will be leaving the main.
Absolute Cake zone was very underwhelming. Although we need to see it sometimes during game two and three for splits, it really wasn’t a good main deck choice, even with 4 Gretels. The spell I faced the most was Flame Kings Shout and it doesn’t hurt my deck enough to justify running the Cake Zones in the main. Siding 2 to 4 is my recommendation.
My list of stuff that Refrain wouldn’t dare bounce back:
Familiar of the Holy Wind is draw power, a blocker, and a small kill spell. It’s a great card to draw no matter how far you are into the game since it replaces itself.
Cheshire Cat is to this deck what R/R is to every other deck in the format. It’s the best form of hand correction in the deck. A constant stream of cats correcting your hand all game and blocking attackers is optimal. It’s the only non-green/colorless card that I keep one of in hand so I can drop it as soon as I see a Water Stone. With the amount of thinning this deck has, get used to dropping 8+ Cheshire cats per game.
Gretel is an essential piece of getting the right stones to cast all your spells. The deck needs to dig into the stone deck to be able to stabilize mid game. Keep at least 2 of them. Dropping a few Gretel early game gives this deck a decisive advantage.
Hera, Goddess of Jealousy needs no introduction. She took down more orbs than I can remember. Shes a great blocker and I think she even attacked one game… maybe. Even when the opponent doesn’t have any regalia, she can pop your own bows without counters on them to draw a card. Mulligan her away, she’ll get jealous and always come back.
Fiethsings. Will correction, blocker, quickast. This is a control players dream card. I should have played 4 in the main instead of siding 2. Don’t keep more than one in the opening hand; turn 3 is a life time away this format for a control player.
MVP is Vlad, but honorable mention goes to this stone:
Feethsing, the Holy Wind Stone. I cannot stress how much I enjoy this stone in the deck. I’ve loved this card since I first saw it. It’s my favorite stone and very underrated this format. Just the fact that it’s been forgotten makes it even better. I stopped so many pushes with this stone and caught my opponents off guard. People seem to forget I can also target their J/resonators with it. Amongst the cards I made useless for my opponents during the event were Demonflame, Thunder, Poison Apples, Rapid Growth, and Duel of Truth.
Tangents, timing, and tenacity:
The most important part of playing a control deck like this is a methodical and systematic defensive play style. It really is the embodiment of the quote “The best offense is a good defense.” It’s absolutely key to wait until the last optimal moment before committing to a play. This mentality and play style forces your opponent to play their hand out first and puts you on the defensive, exactly where the deck feels comfortable. You have to play your cards when you need to and not a moment sooner, and you need to be able to correctly identify that point in the game state. The better you get at that, the more optimal your trades will be and faster your opponent will run out of steam.
At any given point, there ranges from a few, to a few hundred different tangents the game can take. Every play you make eliminates several dozens of those options. Every play your opponent makes does the same. Victory lies in training yourself to see all the paths, keeping your mind open to paths that you haven’t noticed, and timing your commitment to a play at the best possible instant.