I’m a bit lazy when it comes to writing things like this, but I really enjoy reading them. As a fan of the game, I think I owe it to the community to provide a write-up of my experience at Ashes Weekend 2016 hosted by Team Covenant. It will be easier if I break up my experience into a few separate articles. This article will strictly cover the Swiss rounds of the tournament.
The day started with waking up and heading over to Team Covenant with Isaac and crew. I messaged Papa Pratt (aka Christopher Pratt) earlier in the day asking him to run First Fives with me before the tournament. “Running First Fives” is a practice technique for Ashes where you only play the first round of the game. You pick your First Five and a First Five that you’re worried about facing and play it out. You don’t worry about shuffling decks or rolling dice; just assume you meditate for whatever you need. The goal is to end the round in an advantageous position. If your first attempt doesn’t work, adjust your FF and try again. Rinse and repeat for every opposing FF you’re worried about. Papa Pratt helped me practice against Jessa with Summoning Books, Leech Warrior, Enchanted Violinist, and Fear. After running it twice we concluded that starting Hidden Power with Rin’s Fury and focusing on dice exhaustion was the play against Jessa because it stripped her removal options and denied mana for Screams. The math didn’t change if Leech was swapped for Hammer Knight and I still ended the round in a strong position (this ended up being extremely close to the FF my opponent played in the Finals match). We started to run FF for three book Brennen but they started calling for deck list submission so it got cut short. The deck’s original name was “Yolo Rin”, but I didn’t want to keep being tagged as the “Yolo” guy, so I decided to name the deck “BDR” per Jarret “JtheSecretBoss” Berman’s suggestion. I’ll spare explaining what BDR stands for just in case StrangeCopy wants to keep their PG rating. The deck list is located on the PlayPlaid site: http://www.plaidhatgames.com/play/ashes/deck/bdr
Swiss Round 1 – Rin vs. Brennen
I was very nervous. I had practiced A LOT with the expansion cards on Tabletop Simulator the two weeks leading up to the tournament so I knew that my deck was strong, but I didn’t have any experience participating in big competitive events like this and was very stressed out. I kept telling myself that my goal for the day was to just try and make Top 8 so that I could win one of those sweet playmats. After that it wouldn’t matter if I lost because then I could just hang out with friends and watch the final matches being livestreamed. I wouldn’t stand a chance at taking 1st place anyway. When the first round of Swiss pairings were displayed on the television screen I saw that I was paired against none other than Rodney Smith from Watch It Played. If you haven’t met Rodney then you should know that he is probably one of the nicest, coolest people you will ever meet. I was very relieved to be playing against him first round because I knew that, no matter the outcome, the match would be a blast to play. Rodney was playing his “Where’s Aradel?” deck. The story behind this deck and its name is pretty humorous and I think you can read about it on Rodney’s twitter and/or Facebook pages. Rodney was running Brennen with I think a 5 Natural, 5 Ceremonial build. I started my standard FF against Brennen: Frostback Bear, Hammer Knight, Crimson Bomber, Rin’s Fury, Choke. It’s important to note that PlaidHat changed up the first player rules for this tournament. Whoever rolled the most basic dice was allowed to choose who received the first player token in the first round. I chose to go second every game because BDR wants to be able to swing in on an empty battlefield turn 1 of round 2. I focused my dice exhaustion efforts on his Ceremonial dice to deny him recursion and reaction spell shenanigans. Bear, Bomber, and HK established board presence while clearing Brennen’s battlefield. By the end of the first round I was in position to swing in for 7 damage turn 1 round 2. More big units followed and the game snowballed in my favor. Rodney ended the game with a friendly handshake and funny twitter photo. This match was a joy to play and a tremendous help in getting me to relax and put my mind in the right spot for the rest of the tournament. Thanks Rodney :). Current Record: 1W-0L
Swiss Round 2 – Rin vs. Jessa
Round 2 was against Ben Ruggles of Team Covenant. Ben is another really cool guy that is just fun to play a game of Ashes against. Ben prefaced our match by saying he had only played Ashes a handful of times. Ben was playing what appeared to be Good Stuff Jessa with a 4 Ceremonial, 3 or 4 Nature, and 2 or 3 Charm spread. I started the FF Papa Pratt and I had practiced before the tournament: Bear, Hammer, Violinist, Hidden Power, Rin’s Fury. I stripped his dice aggressively without committing anything to the battlefield. Ben started with Open Memories for a copy of Expand Energy (and I explained to him that Open Memories does not require you to reveal the selected card) and ended up playing one or two copies of Expand Energy to his spellboard along with a Living Doll to his battlefield. I don’t remember what else happened but by the end of the first round he had an empty battlefield and I had already hit him with a Bear for 3. I meditated a Crimson Bomber earlier in the round and had 3 Ceremonial dice left over so I brought it back from the discard and played it to swing in for another 3. Turn 1 round 2 was a Hammer, Bear, Bomber, and EV to the face for another 11 damage. Current Record: 2W-0L
Swiss Round 3 – Rin vs. Rin
Round 3 was against Elliot Kramer. I knew Elliot from the AshesRules slack chat and we hung out at dinner the night before. Elliot is a sharp guy and fun to dojo with. Dojo is what a few Ashes players call the process of theorycrafting, deckbuilding, testing, and tweaking. Elliot was playing Rin with a 4 Natural, 4 Ceremonial, 2 Illusion spread. When I first saw this I got a bit worried as I did not want to play into a mirror match up. I especially hate playing 2 Illusion into 2 or 3 Illusion because the dice exhaustion mind games are real. I tried a new FF that seemed to make sense: Bear, Hammer, Violinist, Rin’s Fury, Blood Chains. This ended up being the right move. Turns out Elliot was playing a Golem Rin. He put out three books round 1 (Ice Golem, Bear, and Dread Wraith) along with Frostbite. I exhausted his dice to prevent the Wraith but he still got the Golem and Bear out. I ended up sacrificing Violinist to Blood Chains the Golem and killing his Bear with HK. By the end of the first round I had a strong board with Bear, HK, and EV against a chained golem. My draw for the second round was perfection: Hammer Knight, Crimson Bomber, Hidden Power, Rin’s Fury, and Blood Chains. Hidden Power and Rin’s Fury let me play the heavy exhaust game while putting out another Hammer, Bear, and a Bomber. Blood Chains on the newly summoned Golem tipped the battlefield advantage heavily in my favor without any room for Elliot to recover. Current Record: 3W-0L
Swiss Round 4 – Rin vs. Noah
As fate would have it, round 4 was against The Secret Boss Jarret Berman. J was doing work with his Noah deck. He ran a 4 Cere, 3 Nature, 3 Illusion spread. Shadow Target is incredibly strong in a bear heavy meta and he knew how to use it. My FF was Hammer, Bear, Fury, Violinist, and Choke. Playing against another player who uses Illusion to exhaust aggressively is a pain in the ass. It’s like playing a game within a game. I focused on exhausting his Illusion dice to force an early Hidden Power play. I also suspected he might be running False Demon (he wasn’t) so stripping him of that color would deny the summon. J played really well and was able to strip me of dice so that I couldn’t play Choke on his Shadow Target (though I was able to get a Bear out the first round before that happened). The round ended with me slightly ahead on battlefield presence. My round 2 draw had a second copy of Summon Frostback Bear in it. I knew this would help tilt the game in my favor if I surprised him with it. I held it all round and waited until he thought I had nothing left before playing it. Having two books let me pump out bears despite Shadow Target and Ice Buff let my units outlast his. The combination of these two things ultimately won me the game. Current Record: 4W-0L
Swiss Round 5 – Rin vs. Jessa
Going into the final round there were three players with a 4-0 record: Austin Mills with his Brennen, Grant McKinney with his Aradel, and me with my Rin. I ended up being the one to play down against a 3-1 opponent, The Main Action’s Callin Flores. Callin was sticking to his usual script of piloting a variation of Christian’s current Jessa deck, and he was actually performing better with it than Christian. He ran a 4 Cere, 3 Nature, 3 Illusion spread. Ugh, another exhaustion match up. I started the practiced FF into Jessa: Hammer, Bear, Violinist, Hidden Power, Fury. My dice exhaustion pressured him heavily. He played Fear on my Hammer Knight to bump it back to my hand but I just recast it with the help of extra dice from Rin’s Fury. Future rounds I focused on stripping his Illusion dice to deny potential False Demon, Out of the Mists, and Shadow Counter shenanigans. In the end I was able to pump out more threats than he could handle. Final Swiss Record: 5W-0L
After five rounds of Swiss the Top 8 players were announced. They called up each player who made the cut one by one and handed them that sweet Team Covenant Ashes playmat.
#8: Jarret Berman – Noah – 4W 1L – 24 Tiebreaker Points – 82 Blood Points
#7: Tim Keefe – Jessa – 4W 1L – 24 Tiebreaker Points – 82 Blood Points
#6: Zach Armstrong – Lulu – 4W 1L – 27 Tiebreaker Points – 76 Blood Points
#5: Joshua Trevino – Jessa – 4W 1L – 27 Tiebreaker Points – 87 Blood Points
#4: Grant McKinney – Aradel – 4W 1L – 30 Tiebreaker Points – 76 Blood Points
#3: Elliot Kramer – Rin – 4W 1L – 30 Tiebreaker Points – 77 Blood Points
#2: Austin Mills – Brennen – 5W 0L – 33 Tiebreaker Points – 92 Blood Points
#1: Erik Rodriguez – Rin – 5W 0L – 33 Tiebreaker Points – 93 Blood Points
This is where I go on a small rant about Blood Points. Austin is an extremely skilled player. We both went 5-0 and yet I was given the #1 seed because the sum of life values for the Phoenixborn I played against just happened to be 1 more than what Austin played against. This was purely random. There is nothing Austin nor I could have adjusted in the games we won that would have altered this outcome. That being said, I’m happy I was the #1 seed though I would have preferred to not play against Jarret again in the first round of the Top 8 (because we had just played each other in the Swiss rounds and I considered his deck my most difficult match up next to Austin’s deck).
After hearing the applause and collecting my playmat I held it up, looked at it, and thought “You did it. This is all you wanted right?” I rolled up the playmat and placed it in my bag. Not anymore. I wanted to go further. I wanted to win.
That’s all for now. Next article I’ll talk about the Top 8 bracket.