Hello, Ashes Community. Some of you spent the first week of August in Indianapolis, celebrating “the best four days in gaming.” I was there with you, playing more Ashes and buying more board games than one should admit. This write-up isn’t for us, it’s for the rest of you. Between some excellent podcasts and a handful of great decks and write-ups, there’s already quite a bit of catch-up material covering GenCon 2016. However, there’s still so much more that hasn’t been shared. Here’s what you missed at GenCon 2016.
Before we get to the most exciting part of this article, I’m going to recap my Ashes-filled experience attending GenCon for the first time. I drove up to Indianapolis, from north of Toronto, on Wednesday morning. With me were a few members of the community you should probably get to know; Luke Fraccaro (2nd place draft), Daniel Della-Penna (Top 8 afternoon constructed) and Maria Rossi (Hammer Knight cosplayer). The drive took about 10 hours, and included crossing the border with a giant cosplay hammer blocking my rear-view mirror. When we arrived in Indiana, we settled into our airbnb house, and then rushed to the convention centre. We waited in a huge line for our badges and called it a day.
The fun started the next morning. We woke up early to ensure that we can get to the hall by 7am. For whatever reason, Luke was convinced this was when the hall opened (it wasn’t). The hall opened at 10. We arrived by 7am and we waited outside the main hall with a few dozen other eager gamers. Daniel expressed concern over facing my Brennan deck with his Jessa, so I agreed to an open-hand tutorial on how to beat my deck. As we sat on the ground playing, we were approached by Erik Rodriguez, who noticed the giant hammer and ashes cards. Knowing that he was one of the top-tier Ashes players, it was pretty cool that he knew who I was. He sat with us, picking out the best plays to beat my deck. Simply put, I was dreading facing him in constructed. Not long afterwards, the Main Action crew noticed our group forming and came to greet us. It was very cool to meet PapaPratt and the gang, all of whom were very friendly. He told me that he had a chance to test my Brennan deck a few nights prior and suggested some changes as we waited for the hall to open. Meanwhile, everyone was reacting very positively to Maria’s costume. The con hadn’t even started and I had already met a bunch of cool people from the community. Throughout the week, I’d meet a bunch of the cool Ashes players like Austin Mills and Elliot. Finally, opening ceremonies had begun and we packed up our cards. My friends and I agreed to split up. As they mobbed the PHG booth, I made sure to get in line elsewhere.
When we regrouped, they were holding shiny new Ashes expansions. SeaFall was sold out, but we got Orrick promos! Maria bragged about how Isaac wanted her picture, which is always validating for a cosplayer. I went over to the PHG booth to see if I can get him to sign the back of my Brennan. This is about the time Maria developed her crush on Fernanda. Little did I know, by the end of the weekend, we’d have spent most of the con around Isaac and the PHG gang.
Let’s fast-forward to Friday. After participating in two rounds of the Netrunner Championship, I decided that I wanted to spend my time playing Ashes with my friends, rather than Netrunner alone. I dropped from the Netrunner tournament on a good note (3 wins 1 loss), and signed up for the afternoon Ashes tournament. I was running an okay version of my popular Brennan deck. To be honest, I was a tad nervous in the company of such strong players. A surprising number of people at GenCon approached me to say they liked my deck or that they wanted to meet me, so I didn’t want to underperform and embarrass myself. Luke was also running my Brennan list, while Daniel and Maria were playing Jessa and Rin.
The tournament started at 3pm. My first match was against Tim Keefe, who I recognized from his 2nd place standing at Ashes Weekend. He was running a nifty Aradel deck that used Memory Theft to gain knowledge of when I had an Ice Trap in hand. It was surprisingly effective, considering it took him to 2nd place at this very tournament. I don’t remember too much, but I do remember regretting a handful of moves after the game was over. I had dealt 15 damage to Aradel, before he took the win. I didn’t feel too bad losing to such a strong player, but its never great to start off on a loss. PapaPratt came over to reassure me that “there are no flies on Tim”, and off we went to the next round.
From this point on, I only remember the Phoneixborn that my opponents were playing. In fact, I don’t remember much about this round in general. I do know that I played against a Coal in round 2. It was not the Coal that blew up at GenCon, and I don’t remember the particular strategy in this game. I remember playing very burn-focused and winning Round 2.
Round 3, I faced another Brennan. This Brennan deck ran more illusion dice than mine, and wasn’t onto the whole Bears thing. I love playing the Brennan mirror-match, and I probably had too much fun with this particular game. I remember a massive mis-play of not Spirit Burning my Regress’d Bear, which gave my opponent enough time to come back from a rough start. I won the game through burn, but was not particularly happy with my play.
Finally, round 4 was against another Aradel deck. While I don’t remember my opponent’s name, I do remember that he was not feeling well and was very tired. You have to admire that he didn’t drop out of the tournament and lower people’s SoS despite how he was feeling. With that said, I was determined to beat Aradel after she served me my only loss for the day. I FF’d appropriately against my opponent’s deck and countered most of his opening strategy. I won Round 2 after taking no damage, which left me at 3-1 for the day.
Overall, I placed 7th in the 32 person constructed tournament. My only loss was by a single point of damage, so all things considered, I was pretty happy with the result. Daniel also went 3-1, while Luke went 2-2 and Maria went 1-3.
The next day was all about draft. We were all signed up for both drafts, so Saturday was set to be completely consumed by Ashes. Before the draft, the costume contest photoshoot took place. Check out the photographer’s page in the hyperlink, and look at all the great costumes! Photos were taken, then we all prepared for the draft. All of my friends were split into separate pods. Once the draft began, I quickly realized that I wasn’t drafting enough units. My overall unit count was 3 Flash Archers and 3 Iron Workers. I should mention that I didn’t draft the Ice Traps. I had no Bound Souls and no Summon Spells. My conjuration pile was my 1x Glow Finch. Hilarity ensued.
My strategy was to turn 1 drop a Flash Archer. If it didn’t get Ice Trapped, I would quickly put a Root Armor on it. This 4/4 beast was not going down without a fight! Meditating away a unit was heartbreaking every time. On the bright side, I had Hidden Power and Molten Gold. Surprisingly I went 2/1 in the 3 round tournament. I remember playing against a Rin and Leo. I don’t remember the Phoenixborn from the second round. 2 wins 1 loss was not enough to bring this jank to the top cut, so I returned to the dealers hall to spend more money. Unfortunately, Daniel and I did not make it back in time for the next tournament, and they can only accept one of us to even out a pod. I let Daniel play in the tournament as I sat to catch my breath.
Two of the Plaid Hat guys came to me and offered the mat and alt-art Rin/Brennan as a consolation. I asked if I can instead complete my Mist Spirit promo collection, which they were cool with, so I left GenCon with a full set of 10 alt-art Mist Spirits! Leaving the convention with a bunch of signed stuff and all the promos one can ask for was about as good as it gets. Thanks, guys!
That about covers my experience in the tournament scene, however, that doesn’t cover the most exciting part of this write-up! Look back at those cutout Phoenixborn in the cosplay photo above. The second and fourth Phoenixborn are brand new!
Meet Odette Diamondcrest! She’s the Phoenixborn depicted on the furthest left of the two photos. Odette’s full pre-constructed deck was up for show at GenCon! Her deck is the long awaited mono-“Divine” deck. I don’t want to steal PHG’s thunder by spoiling the revealed pre-con deck, but I can tell you that her cards are going to be a force to be reckon with.
According to Plaid Hat, “a box set with 4 decks and two new types of dice, Sympathy and Divine magic, will arrive in November.” What we are looking at in the picture to the left is likely the four Phoenixborn from the upcoming box set. One of the players at GenCon told me that the second banner features Echo and Jericho. This is in no way confirmed, but at least we have names to put to some of the new faces.
That’s not all we saw at GenCon, though! As I mentioned earlier, we spent the whole weekend with the PHG crew. Isaac was eager to show us a whole bunch of new stuff they’ve been working on. Let me break down the goods:
We saw (on Isaac’s phone) the art for an alt-art Gilder, alt-art Aradel, alt-art Jessa and two alt art Hammer Knights! One HK was wearing a green outfit and one wearing a blue outfit. I was told that these will be in the next OP Kit, along with the Gilder. If I had to take a guess, these will be in place of the Alt Rin and Brennan as 1x. We also saw the art for an unreleased/unspoiled Phoenixborn and were told about the ambitions for acrylic dice. The dice would potentially be in place of the playmats in the next OP Kit. Lastly, I spoke with Isaac about the EV errata. Isaac confirmed that they would be in the next OP Kit, and he also said that he is doing his best to get more than one copy for each participant in the next kit.
So there you have it! New Phoenixborn, new promos, news and information! That’s what you missed at GenCon 2016. I guess I’ll see you there next year!