Reflecting on the first Ashes 500 Slam Jam

The first 500 Slam Jam was an overwhelming success.  Here are some stats that make me believe this:

Coal did not find his way to the I Pity Da Fool Slam Jam. Damn it, Matt!

  • 21 people competed in the Slam Jam.

    • The previous high was 16 – from the very first Slam Jam
  • 12 out of 13 Phoenixborn were played
    • This as many as we saw over the entire course of first four Slam Jam, which had 50 total players combined.
  • No Phoenixborn was played by more than 3 players.
  • The top 3 decks had *ten* different conjurations between them.
  • Only 12 cards were not played in the entire tournament.
    • That means over 88% of all printed cards were played.
    • This is better coverage than all previous Slam Jam’s combined, despite there being under half as many decks.
    • Many of the unplayed cards clearly have a place in the format, so hope is high that the potential is even greater.
    • Guess the 12 in the comment for a chance to win the adoration of your peers!

Overall, the meta was extremely diverse. While some cards were more popular than others, we saw all sorts of cards and strategies succeeding. There are a lot of topics I could jump into, but the one thing I want to talk about today is color balance.

Color Balance

Here is a graph showing two things:  the breakdown of dice by which decks were playing them (overall, t8, and t4), and the breakdown of dice by the amount we saw (overall, t8, t4).

Dice Breakdowns 2

At first, looking at dice numbers concerned me.  Charm had a great showing (far better than standard Slam Jams) in the overall field, but for raw dice counts, Illusion and Nature performed much better.  However, looking at the deck breakdowns, things look much healthier.  I think this highlights something important – the Illusion and Nature dice powers are much more powerful and flexible to have excess of.  Because of this, it’s harder to be successful with dice spreads that are heavy into Charm or Ceremonial.  

That being said, I don’t think this is a problem.  As long as the individual cards are all playable, and each color feels balanced as a whole, I think it’s partly the nature of the game if it’s easier to make a 7 Nature deck (which there was one in the top 4) or a 9 Illusion deck (which won the tournament) than it is to make a 7+ Charm/Ceremonial deck. As long as Charm and Ceremonial themselves feel unoppressed and there exists strong strategies playing 5 dice of either type, I am not going to try to make adjustments to specifically address the dice counts. The ubiquity of the Nature and Illusion dice powers will inherently lend themselves to being a primary color in a format where dice powers are even more important due to their increased relative power.

For players, this should be a lesson – playing 7+ Charm is inherently hard.  Not because the cards themselves are necessarily bad, but because in close games, there are more likely to be turns where you have trouble getting optimal use out of your Charm dice powers and your opponent is virtually guaranteed targets with their Nature and Illusion powers.  Be wary of this weakness when building; not because I’m telling you to not play heavy Charm, but because understanding your deck’s weaknesses can help you cover them.

The Decklists

The full lists are available here.  Please note, that these may not be the actual dice spreads used.  We did not collect dice spreads, and instead I filled in what I would find an appropriate spread given the decks.  This means the stats above may also not be perfect; but I feel they are a very strong approximation.

Take a look at them and draw some inspiration, though know that the point totals are from the current tournament and not accurate after price adjustment (which will be coming in the next few days).  

Here are some of my favorite lists*, in order of how they placed:

Kaile’s Surprise Attack Noah

  • Widows and Wolves to attack on turns when you thought nothing was coming, Dread Wraiths or Mist Spirits to thwart off different types of attacks or provide their own pressure, and Chant of Revenge to help Noah get the final bits of damage in.

Prawnyman’s Four Color Maeoni

  • A controlling Maeoni list that protected its board while managing yours.  After building up it’s Silver Snake’s that were nigh unkillable with 3 recover backed by Protect, it swung in for massive Hypnotized damage.  I myself was victim to a huge 13 damage hit from a single Silver Snake hypno attack.

Papa Pratt’s High Tech Brennen

  • Featuring an astounding 18 different non-Phoenixborn cards, Papa Pratt’s deck has the complexity of a wine way too expensive for Ashes 500. He has a well overclocked spellboard, versatile utility spells, and an overall gameplan of nullifying exactly whatever the opponent is doing so that he can eventually burn them over the top.

Rococolo’s Flex OM Rin

  • This deck can open up with an OM for either Blood Puppets, Nightshade Swallow, Doves, or Owls – giving it a lot of opportunity to flex how it handles matchups in order to control the game.  Rin’s Ice Buff synergizes extremely well with many of the units including Nightshade Swallow, Dove, and Anchornaut.

* Names are descriptive creations from me, not from the creators.  Creators, if you have a name you would like to use or a PHG Play page you would like to link to, please reach out to me and I will edit the article.


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