Top 8 Round 1 – Quarterfinals
After they announced the Top 8 it was pretty clear that Jarret and I would be playing against one another in the first round of the Top 8. This sucked for two reasons: 1) Jarret’s deck was the deck I considered my toughest matchup AND we had already played against one another in the Swiss rounds so there was going to be an extra level of meta-gaming going on when picking First Fives, 2) Neither of us wanted to knock the other out of the tournament so soon. We would have much rather preferred to play against one another in the finals. Had I let Jarret score one or two more Blood Points on me in the Swiss rounds he would have taken the 7th seed and in theory we could have both met up in the finals. Additionally, I had recently joked on a livestream with Shi that if Jarret and I met in the Top 8 at Tulsa I would concede the game to him for his birthday. Good guy Jarret of course would not let me do that because he wanted to earn the win and he wanted revenge for our Swiss round match. You can watch a video of the match here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mpwufp7U0wQ)
I mentioned in my previous article that playing Illusion with dice exhaustion against Illusion with dice exhaustion adds another layer of meta to the game of Ashes. Playing a second match against the same deck in a tournament also adds another layer of meta to the game. J and I had both of these layers going into our First Fives and it was enough to make my head spin. My previous game with J included Choke in First Five to counteract the Shadow Target, but got outplayed when my ceremonial dice were exhausted and was unable to use it. This time I decided to not start Choke and just make J think I had it and see if that would make him play around it. I started Hammer Knight, Rin’s Fury, Hidden Power, Frostback Bear, and Crimson Bomber. J went first and played his Bear book and meditating. I played Hammer Knight and meditated. J plays an Enchanted Violinist to block and started exhausting my nature dice. I played an early Rin’s Fury and I goofed here by not grabbing 3 ceremonial dice instead and 0 nature since I had no Choke for the Shadow Target anyway, there was no point in taking the risk trying to bluff it. J played Hidden Power and continued exhausting my nature. I respond with my own Hidden Power (when I should have played Bear book or at least grab another ceremonial die) and exhaust one of his illusion dice. J casts Fade Away onto my HK and exhausts one of my ceremonial dice effectively locking me out of the Bomber play. “Crap, I messed up”. I play out my Bear book and J Shadow Targets it and passes. This is well played by him because he is still holding onto his own Bomber and doesn’t want it to die to Aftershock + Frog die ping. He knows I’m going to swing with my HK because I’m going to lose it anyway at the end of the round to Fade Away so I’m going to want to take Enchanted Violinist with me. I smash an EV and in return am greeted by a fresh Bomber. I have two Frog die at this point so I’m able to kill off the Bomber before the round ends but not before taking 3 to the face. HK fades away and the first round ends with two empty battlefields.
Round 2 (Me – 1 Bear Book, 14 Life // J – 1 Bear Book, 20 Life)
J definitely got the upper hand the first round. Not looking good for me. This is the first time this tournament I didn’t feel like I was in a strong position going into round 2. Since I’m playing against Noah I have to summon my Bear turn 1 or I lose it to Shadow Target. J responds with his own Bear. I put out the Bomber I had left over from the first round and J plays out an EV. I attempt to Ice Buff the Bomber but this gets Choked. I decide to swing at his Bear with mine and J decides to have Noah take it. J swings at my Bomber with his Bear and they mutually explode since I can’t afford to take more damage and fall further behind in the race. I decide to pass at this point and hold onto the 2nd Frostback Bear book in my hand to wait out the mana for Shadow Target and surprise him with it. J, seeing me pass with no ceremonial dice, no blockers, and that he is going first next round decides to grab a Hammer Knight from his discard pile with a ceremonial power die and play it. This uses up his last two ceremonial dice which lets me play out my second Bear book without fear of exhaustion. J decides he’d rather race me than block the upcoming Bear and swings for 5 with EV and HK. I summon my Bear and swing back for 3. At this point we both provide a deck count – I have 12 cards left and J has 10.
Round 3 (Me – 2 Bear Books, 2 Bears, 9 Life // J – 1 Bear Book, 1 Hammer, 1 EV, 10 Life)
J comes out swinging with HK at one of my bears. I counter and freeze his HK. He Aftershocks and EV pings my remaining bear. I summon Stormwind Sniper to kill his EV and Ice buff my dying bear. J plays his own Stormwind onto my recently buffed bear, killing it. I summon a fresh Bear and J does the same. Since J has yet to Shadow Target I decide to summon a second Bear. J uses Blood Chains destroying his exhausted Hammer Knight and exhausting one of my bears (I accidentally put two tokens on this bear even though HK had 2 wounds on it at this point). I use Out of the Mists to kill his Bear and swing with my Sniper at his Sniper. J takes it to face (but accidentally misplaces his damage tokens; we didn’t notice this until watching the recorded match video and the two of us have joked around about it since then). J plays a Bomber. I pass and J kamikazes his Bomber into my live Bear (again, I can’t afford to take this damage onto my Phoenixborn). I pass again and J swings with his sniper at my face before sacrificing it to a second Blood Chains onto my Sniper.
Round 4 (Me – 2 Bear Books, 1 Stormwind Sniper (exhausted), 1 Bear (exhausted), 7 Life // J – 1 Bear Book, 10* Life)
It’s important to note that at this point our decks were running extremely low. I begin the round by putting out a Hammer Knight. J goes for blood and Snipers me for 2 damage. I Frog ping his Sniper and swing with HK for 4 direct damage. We take turns summoning bears. J puts out a Hammer of his own which I respond to with a Blood Chains from my exhausted bear. J uses his Hidden Power to exhaust my last nature die and lock me out of a second bear summon. At this point I wish I had meditated my ceremonial die to power earlier so that I could play Blood Chains AND exhaust his ceremonial die to stop the EV recursion. Being short on main actions I have no choice but to meditate and play a second Blood Chains to sacrifice my exhausted HK and lock down his bear. J brings back EV with his last die and plays her. I maul her with bear. We both pass.
Round 5 (Me – 1 Bear Book, 1 Bear, 1 Stormwind Sniper, 5 Life // J – 1 Bear Book, 1 Hammer Knight (exhausted), 1 Bear (exhausted), 5 Life)
J ends up taking 3 damage on the draw putting him at 2 life and into Molten Gold range.
Very close game. The fact that J never drew into a 2nd Bear book was a huge boon for me and let me establish battlefield control. It felt good to win but bad to knock a friend out of the tournament, especially since I was literally the only player he had lost to all day. After our match J told me to go on and win the tournament. “You got this dude”, he said smirking with confidence.