Sunday, December 9, 2012

2012 Americas Regionals Tournament Report

The following article is a complete report of each round of the event, written out as they happen over the last couple months. Because of this, it is extremely lengthy. Continue at your own peril.

What a long, hard road it's been. This is truly the last large event of the year, and it's been a privilege taking part. The 2012 Regionals each offer coveted invites to the 2013 World Championships. 64 players a piece are duking it out to prove their worth in a slugfest that could give way to the next world champion.

I'll start out with my list for the event, then move on to the games themselves. Shall we?

The Deck

To be perfectly honest, I signed on without any idea on what I would play. I had been grinding with Amber since the rating reset to get qualified, but I'm nowhere near confident enough with that list for a tournament setup. I asked my guildmates over at Warriors of the Blue Phoenix for a list, and the unanimous reply was Zhanna.

Now, I do have a lot of experience with her, as far back as 1.26 when Ghostmaker became a card and I introduced the world to ZhannaX. Trouble is, it had been a long time since I've played her... well, not a true Zhanna deck anyways. My recent hiatus from the game at the time was starting to show.

I believe it was Wreon who told me just to go sleeve up iClipse's deck from last year and play around with that. I made a handful of modifications, but in the end, that's essentially what I did.

Hero (1)
  • 1 Zhanna Mist
Allies (19)
  • 4 Jasmine Rosecult
  • 2 Priest of the Light
  • 2 Aldon the Brave
  • 4 Tainted Oracle
  • 4 Armored Sandworm
  • 3 Aeon Stormcaller
Abilities (14)
  • 4 Retreat!
  • 4 Focused Prayer
  • 2 Healing Touch
  • 4 Tidal Wave
Items (6)
  • 4 Wizent's Staff
  • 2 The King's Pride
Sideboard (10)
  • 3 Honored Dead
  • 2 Healing Touch
  • 1 Resurrection
  • 4 Lily Rosecult
The deck's variations are mostly due to the sideboard format, all except for Armored Sandworm. Sandworm comes in over Raven due to a card popularized by last year's worlds which wasn't played too much up until that point.

Yes, I'm talking about Brutal Minotaur.

Brutal Minotaur protected by Moonstalker or hasted by Portal will deal a whopping six damage, which is enough to kill Raven. However, the brutal beast is still one point away from taking down the worm.

Sandworm also blocks Anklebreaker, wears down Soul Seeker, ignores What Big Teeth and EA, and does all sorts of other nifty tricks.

What's potentially good about Raven is that she can stop a Shadow Knight loop... sometimes. Between Aeon, Aldon, and The King's Pride, let's face it. That's just not always the case, and if I can kill knights in one hit, I'm perfectly happy letting my opponent waste 5 resources a turn and not play any other threats at the same time.

Another change from iClipse's deck is Healing Touch and Resurrection. HT and Res have both been delegated to the board, although a couple heals remain in the maindeck. This choice is pretty obvious for Resurrection, but for Healing Touch I was a bit worried about a few matchups in which it's simply a dead card, such as against Lance. However, it does have a variety of uses, and it's not worth cutting out completely.

Lastly, Aldon the Brave was trimmed down by one to make room for two Priests of the Light. These little buggers can completely throw an opponent off their game. They're a poor choice still against Zaladar or anything with a Lightning Strike, but against say Lance or Moonstalker, that SE reduction can make or break a game. Worst case scenario, an easy sac choice or a good damage soak to set up for a wave.

The sidebaord is where the magic happens, so I'm going to talk a bit about the remaining choices there.

Honored Dead is there mostly for Eladwen. Rather than just have Healing Touch, which is heal that makes me lose cards, I can heal and gain cards. HD lets me board out half my Wizent's Staffs, which also means I'll be using my shadow energy for heals as well. An Eladwen in burn mode simply can't catch up.

Lily Rosecult was the last choice I made, and an interesting one at that. Essentially, I realized that against relatively ally-less decks such as Millstalker and Gwen, I had a lot of dead cards in my deck and I needed to side something in just to fill out the slots. I didn't want to play Sever Ties over and above Healing Touch, plus I just wanted an extra ally to beat face with. I'd run out of cards too fast by playing Puwen, PotL is really mediocre against Gwen, and playing Raven or Earthen Protector would mess with my resource costs too much.

That's why I decided on Lily. She has a standard, 3/4 body, but nets me an extra card for profit. I figure a lot of these decks will at the very least board in Ley Line Nexus to deal with The King's Pride, but they can't possibly board in six. There's just something appetizing about that idea. The card also has potential in the mirror, where four copies of Focused Prayer a side are present and Healing Touch is largely irrelevant.

Unfortunately, I never really got to use her, as solo decks never made a showing in the swiss. There are a couple cards I can think of that would have been better for the regionals meta, but what's done is done.

Now that that's out of the way, let's get to the games, shall we?


AmRegs Round 1
V.S. BP Nizaris (Zaladar)

Nothing starts a good event off like a duel between guildmates.

I had played with him just the day before, and then he was using Boris. Nizaris switched decks in the last couple hours before submissions closed, so while I knew he switched to Zal, I had no idea what was in his deck and he knew most of my list.

I got to go first in game one, and set myself up for early aggression. A turn three Jasmine backed up by Retreat stuck on the board long enough for me to hold control through to the late game, when Sandworms and Aeons buffed up by The King's Pride got me there.

I boarded out Priest of the Light and two Focused Prayers, but added in Lilys and only one Honored Dead, thinking my plan was to go for the aggro like I had the first game. As it turns out, I was completely wrong. With Zaladar going first, Nizaris held control all throughout the game, burning off my face all the while until a Dimension Ripper eventually finished me off.

That's when I realized I needed to play this game not like I had been, but I need to treat the matchup the same way I do Eladwen. Both heroes win by burning the opponent out over time. Out came the Lilys (which I never saw until too late anyways) and one Wizent's, in came two touches and the set of Honored Dead.

I got to go first in game three and put on the pressure, but unlike the first game, Niz fought back. A timely DMT on my Jasmine finished me for early control and I spent the next few turns trying to reclaim the board through a hail of Mind Controls and Shadow Fonts. Eventually, two Tidal Waves two turns in a row finally got me what I was looking for: An ally in play, followed swiftly by The King's Pride.

At this point, though, I was already on my last legs. Floating at under 10 health at all times, I just barely hung in there through a combination of shadow energy, Healing Touches, and Honored Deads. My new sideboard plan was paying off.

He played a Dimension Ripper but didn't have the Ley Line Nexus for my armor, so between it and Sandworms, he never got to steal my heals. Eventually, after a number of turns of being almost dead in a row that was a bit too close for comfort, my team of protected beats triumphed over the barrage of removal being thrown around at them.

It was a really close set of games, and a great way to kick off the event. I still believe, even now, that the third game would have been his had he gone first. I made a big mistake in boarding that cost me the second game, and I could have easily ended my run here. Nevertheless, what happened happened, and it's on to the next round for us both.

Results: 1-0 (2-1)

AmRegs Round 2
V.S. TJ Nickey293 (Serena)

Sadly, due to a series of him being unable to make it to our games (not his fault, kids got in the way), we had to call this one. He gracefully gave me the win for the main event, but myself (and plenty of others) are itching to see how the matchup goes, and it's my understanding he feels the same. It won't be official, but we definitely have a score that still needs settling. I respect Nickey as a player and look forward to when next we meet.

Results: 2-0 (2-1)

AmRegs Round 3
V.S. E2E ToneMastaG (Victor)

There are all of two Victor players in the 192 regionals decks. Fellow guildmate, Mip, played one, and the other was my opponent for this round.

He goes first and puts on the beats early. I throw down a Jasmine on my third turn to soak damage, a Focused Prayer to blow up Wrath of the Forest, and then a Tidal Wave that leaves him with nothing but a two card hand. He holds off for a bit, but eventually Zhanna does its thing and an army of Sandworms under Aeon beat down for the game.

My sideboard was a simple tweak - Switch one Aeon for one Honored Dead. My reasoning was that Aeon is inherently weak to Victor's ability. I have to win with sandworms; the 3/8 can't help me much. I added Honored Dead because it will help me not rely on Staff and give me extra juice, last game even when I won, he knocked off half my life. Who knows, the extra few points could easily come in handy. Healing Touch might be useful in this matchup, but I felt like after the first game that Focused Prayer on his draw was critical and draw manipulation would be too important to pass up.

My opponent did something far stronger- He boarded in Death Trap specifically for Zhanna. In this game, ToneMastaG went second but had Puwen, so early control was his this time around as well. I had sacced plenty of duplicate 3cc allies I kept drawing and, due to having a staff, a Tainted Oracle as well. This is why, when Victor had two Death Traps on board at the same time turn six, I knew he was to be the Victor.

The game went on for a long time still, however. I eventually got allies to throw into them and save my sandworms, but I was fully out of threats. Also, with two King's Prides in my deck, I didn't draw one until down to the last five cards. I missed the chance to really hold my ground with them, ran out of threats in my deck, and lost that game.

Notably, Death Trap played a major role, but only because my resource choices left me il-prepared. I also noticed that Wrath of the Forest was absent all throughout the second game, and that I lost in the end thanks to a Jasmine keeping my prided threats at bay.

I changed my earlier sideboard choice, and instead went for -1 Wizent's -1 Prayer +1 Healing Touch +1 Honored Dead. HD stays due to trimming the Staff, and Healing Touch will be useful not just against vic's arrows but against Jas charms as well. aeon goes back in to help both for and against Jasmines, and now I'm prepared.

I got to go first in the third game, but like the first game, he played a Puwen. Unlike before, however, I had a Healing Touch. I played Jasmine, he poisoned her and smacked her for two, I touched her to full and killed Puwen. For the first time all match, board was mine. ToneMastaG used Victor on my Jasmine, but decided to play Tainted Oracle instead of recasting the arrows (must've been low on gas). I took the chance to use Zhanna and recover from poison, then play my Wizent's and start drawing two cards a turn. I continued to draw two cards every turn of the game until, finally, I ripped King's Pride when it was still relevant, played it with four allies on board, and took the win.

Being more prepared than before, Tainted Oracles and Priests of the Light soaked up death traps whenever they became an issue and this allowed me to stick and maintain my key allies. His sideboard worked well as a surprise strategy, but wasn't quite strong enough to shut me down in the end.

All in all, these were some very interesting games, if nothing else. Death Trap is one hell of a card if you're not prepared for them, and even when you are, you really need the tight hand/deck to take them out efficiently. Bravo to Tone for seeing this and for some games well played.

Results: 3-0 (4-2)

AmRegs Round 4
V.S. Tat4Tit (Moonstalker)

This is a pretty simple matchup. Retreat and Tidal Waves are key, Healing Touch stays in for Captured Prey, Focused Prayer deals with Wrath of the Forest if I can't attack it down, and Aeon over a Jasmine is how I win it. Moonstalker has no way to inherently deal with Aeon; even Plasma Behemoth only hits for seven. Jasmine will lock down fatties when they're hidden, and after being buffed by Aeon, will kill them outright when MS is out of energy.

In game one, I went first and he had no Pack Wolf, so Jasmine came down on turn three. Instead of running out three resource allies, this forced an early Captured Prey. I never got the Healing Touch, but instead used the chance to keep running out threats. Thanks to a couple timely retreats, he never really got a hold on the board to do any damage. After a Focused Prayer on his second Wrath of the Forest with a Aeon and second Jasmine on board, he conceded the game.

In game two, he got a much more aggressive start. His DMT finished off my early Jasmine and from that point on I was struggling to stay alive. I managed to cycle through half my deck before seeing the first Tidal Wave, and although it saved me for that turn, he had a ton of Shadow Energy saved up by this point. I staved him off for a few more turns, but was already down to three life when topdecking the wave. All it took was a protected Plasma Behemoth and Zhanna was out of the race.

Game three played out much like the first. I was going second and he got a turn two Pack Wolf, but Shriek of Vengeance on my staff put him down on resources while my Wave cleared his early aggression. It wasn't long before Jasmine came down backed up my an Aeon, multiple retreats, and a Healing Touch just in case. He tried to fight me off valiantly, but there's just no recovering from Zhanna when she gets a protected army.

Results: 4-0 (6-3)

AmRegs Round 5
V.S. TJ Diablo5536X (Zaladar)

I may have played against Zal earlier, but nothing like this.

Diablo took a Feedbomb Dynamo deck to regionals. This is an old list credited to BlanketEffect that uses a constant stream of Bad Santas for value. By playing Bazaar and Bad Santa, you can constantly keep the opponent's hand full, but using Feedback, avoid bombing yourself. Then, Dimension Ripper becomes a one-sided plus three cards. It's a pretty powerful trick.

The weakness is faster, aggressive decks that can match the card playing of the dynamo simply by having an assortment of cheap cards in the Puwen range or a card like Jeweler's Dream that matches the effect of Feedback.

I don't play Puwen, nor am I in a class with JD.


He goes first in game one, throws down a turn two Bazaar, and my hand is already full of Tainted Oracles. Much of my deck relies on my draw effects, and this opponent makes it all pretty much worthless. I struggle to try and take the board, but between Shadow Fonts and Mind Controls, it's simply a futile effort. Diablo5536 simply outplayed my deck's capability every step of the way.

My sideboard is the same as with normal Zaladar, less draw, more heals.

Game two plays out much better in my favor, mostly due to first turn advantage. Early Jas pressure turns into late Sandworm under Aeon pressure, despite Mind Control setting me back every turn or two. I let him give me gas with Bad Santas instead of playing draw of my own, then King's Pride comes down undestroyed to seal it.

Devil goes first in game three and does much the same as the first game. I Focused Prayer away his Bazaar on turn three only for him to Bad Santa into another the turn after. Tidal Waves enter the fray to clear his early aggression, but due to a series of consecutive Mind Controls, my team of Sandworms and Aeons simply fail to stick. The King's Pride stuck, but none of my allies still could. I drew some of my heals, but half of them were still in the last quarter of my deck when I lost it.

It's no big deal at this point. We played out this round since Devil couldn't safely draw in, but I still can. He played well and deserved the win.

Results: 4-1 (7-5)

AmRegs Round 6
V.S. BP The Haydes (Zaladar)

With six guildies in the event and four of us making it into the top ten after last round, being matched up against one of our own yet again isn't much of a surprise. After a lot of deliberation and tournament math confusion, we ended up deciding to both draw in, not for ourselves but because it was the only way to have all four of us remain in the top 8 after round six.

I almost didn't make it into the top 8 anyways. We had a scare with players Broderick Langforth and Tat4Tit, as Broderick with a win had a chance of booting me out of the top 8. However, after Wulven reviewed the games they found an issue with both using their sideboards improperly, and they ended up disqualifying themselves.

If I understand it properly, it wasn't as much an issue with cheating as much as a simple mistake, so it really is a shame. Tat4tit conceded, but then told Broderick to report a 2-0 win, not a concession like it was. Prior to reporting, the pair proceeded to play a set of five games in which Tat won the first, then lost the rest. As the first game was the only one pre-sideboard and the only one Broderick lost, it would be impossible to pick a 2-0 win out of those five games (the remaining ones are all post-board). Due to this technicality, they were disqualified as the results were finalized.

A shame, but at least we know you'll never screw that one up again. Best of luck goes out to you in all future events.

Results: 4-1-1 (Intentional Draw) (8-6)

AmRegs Top 8

1) ETC 1ndeed - 15 points, 10-3 (+7), 34.0 (Zaladar)
2) BP Oblio - 15 points, 10-4 (+6), 40.0 (Eladwen)
3) TJ MonomaxX - 14 points, 10-5 (+5), 50.0 (Nishaven)
4) BP TCSnider - 14 points, 10-5 (+5), 41.0 (Eladwen)
5) KA M Anson - 13 points, 10-3 (+7), 49.0 (Zaladar)
6) BP The Haydes - 13 points, 10-4 (+6), 30.0 (Eladwen)
7) TJ Diablo5536X - 13 points, 10-5 (+5), 44.0 (Zaladar)
8) BP MistahBoweh - 13 points, 10-6 (+4), 43.0 (Zhanna)

What I personally find interesting to note is how little presence A1 has at the event, with none in the top 8, compared to their domination of last year's worlds. They do show up plenty in the other regions, though, so they're not out of it just yet. Kylin Assassins made a showing despite being a largely Chinese group, but I sort of figured they would. Team Juggernauts itself lacks players, but TJ eXtended has two people qualified. ETC, Gondorian's former guild, has a slot despite their community focus, of which I'm impressed. All four of the rest are Warriors of the Blue Phoenix, myself and our current leader Oblio included.

The hero that may surprise people is Nishaven, who also went undefeated in the swiss. This card is notoriously popular at low qm levels due to being Wulven's original poster boy, but in fact his normal win rate rivals that of Baduruu. Is this because of the hero, or the low level players who normally choose him? I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Top 8 Round One
V.S. ETC 1ndeed (Zaladar)

The third Zaladar I've been paired against, I have to say I was feeling fairly confident despite losing to Diablo's feedbomb deck in the swiss. 1ndeed had no ally above three cost in the main and no way to draw other than Dimension Ripper, meaning his game one was all about glass cannon. Zhanna is pretty good at dealing with that kind of plan.

Unless Zaladar has The King's Pride.

In game one, it was a TKP rip that basically sold it. The extra burst of damage, the buff for his otherwise outclassed allies, and just the fact that I no longer have access to one of a priest's most powerful tools.

Sideboard was the standard Zal developed earlier, -2 Priest of the Light, -2 Wizent's, -1 Focused Prayer, +2 Healing Touch, +3 Honored Dead. This wasn't really a hard choice, the more rush-esque Zal makes healing that much more important. Prayer is good, but letting Zal steal them is bad and Ripper loses to Armored Sandworm anyways.

This time, both of us got a King's Pride. However, it wasn't as much him having one that hurt as much as me not having the second, making it impossible to stick any of my last 3/4 allies when we both ran out of deck. I had plenty of heals to stay in the game, but just didn't have time to play them and that was the game.

Regardless, I honestly think it was my mistake that cost me this game, not any amount of luck. It was my preparation.

I should have brought Book of Curses in the board. Book shuts off Snake and Brutalis, meaning Zaladar doesn't have access to those allies to deal that last point of damage after his lightning strike. It definitely could've helped, but I failed to prepare and he takes the win.

The rest of top 8 plays out fairly surprisingly, with Nishaven taking the eventual win, the KA player taking second in Americas, and third going to Diablo5536 and Feedbomb Dynamo. Spectacular plays were had by all, and I look forward to seeing what Monomax brings to Worlds 2013.

Be on the lookout for more qualifying events as the competition heats up the fewer spots are left.


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