You’re out of your depth – Coal 3rd Place GenCon 2016 Report

This weekend was my first GenCon and what I believe to be the largest Ashes tournament to date. I ended up building a Coal deck with my team that we all played to great success. Me and Christian Pratt took 3rd/4th place while Erik Rodriguez missed the Top 8 losing only to me and eventual 2nd place finisher Shi Ma. All of us used a Coal deck that was mostly the same, +/- 3-4 cards. I’m going to talk about how we landed on this deck and answer some of the questions I heard throughout the weekend.

How we came upon the deck

A few nights before GenCon, we had a long session grinding games on Tabletop Simulator… mostly just getting destroyed by Leo decks. We learned and confirmed some thoughts we had about the expansion and these are some (but not all) of the conclusions we came to:

  • Units, and especially small units, are harder to clear with EV gone.

This means things that do damage, and things that do damage to multiple units (Mist Typhoon, Crimson Bomber) are especially good.

  • Units controlled by Leo are especially hard to kill because of Finch

There’s not a lot of answers to this, but they are out there.

  • Boards build up and stay built up much more often than they used to, this is true even more-so for Leo 

A consequence of this is that 5 battlefield now feels small and tight.

  • Games tend to be going longer

Stall units like Orchid Dove as well as stalled ground wars due to clogged boards provide for games that last a turn or 3 longer than they were before.

  • Owls are now a top-tier unit

They are harder to kill than before because of the first two points, and they provide a critical edge in the longer games that we see because of the previous point.

  • Doves are solid

They make attacking very awkward and really just completely change the game when you are playing against them.

  • Butterfly Monks are a pain.

This isn’t really new, but with all the clogged boards, Butterfly Monks in particular could make attacks even more difficult.

I left the testing session a little frustrated – unsure of how to deal with this new Leo threat. That night, it occurred to me that Coal had a lot of tools that dealt really well in this environment entirely. In particular, One Hundred Blades + Mist Typhoon gave him 6 ways to deal massively efficient damage to a board full of small-medium units. I jotted down some decklists and synergy notes, and went to bed. I woke up the next morning to find that Shi, Erik, Christian and Christopher Pratt were all already talking about Coal. Except I think that most of them may have been joking.

Christian Pratt came up with the first list and did the initial testing with a list that was about 25/30 of the final deck. He tested it against Matt Bauers the Wednesday night at Gencon and decided the list had some legs. When I showed up at GenCon on Thursday, I borrowed Christian’s deck and started testing. This is what the list looked like when Christian made it:

3x Molten

3x Shadow Spirit

3x Butterfly Monk

3x Chant of Revenge

3x Mist Typhoon

3x One Hundred Blades

3x Vanish

3x Chant of Protection

1x Frostback Bear

2x Anchornaut

3x Hidden Power

After playing a handful of matches, I came closer to a final list. The absolute final list wasn’t decided until the final seconds before turning in said list, but we were pretty close.

Here’s what I ended up on:

1x Molten

3x Shadow Spirit

3x Butterfly Monk

3x Chant of Revenge

3x Mist Typhoon

3x One Hundred Blades

3x Chant of Protection

1x Frostback Bear

2x Anchornaut

3x Hidden Power

2x Hammer Knight

2x Blood Chains

1x Choke

4 Nature Dice, 4 Illusion Dice, 2 Ceremonial Dice

After doing a lot of testing throughout the entire day, I decided that Coal was absolutely solid. In a lot of matchups, he could completely clean house. Board stalls seemed super prevalent, and Coal could steamroll through them to easy wins. Most importantly, what we thought to be bad matchups (e.g. BDR Rin, or Brennen decks) turned out to either be not lopsided at all or even entirely in Coal’s favor. Having those bad matchups not be lopsided, even if still bad, was especially critical. This meant that this deck gave you the tools to beat any other deck (even bad matchups) if it’s in the hands of a player less skilled than you. I’m okay losing to specific variants of Brennen in the hands of Erik Rodriguez. I don’t want to lose to every player I get matched up with playing any sort of Brennen deck at all.

I was pretty confident I was playing Coal by the end of the night, but it wasn’t until the morning-of that Christian and Erik were filled with a love supreme and convinced to jump aboard the Coal train.

Rather than trying to summarize the deck, let me answer some questions I heard repeated over the weekend:

So how does the deck work?

Pretty simply. You make lots of dudes, offer attacks that are especially good for you (e.g. Shadow Spirit at most things), and try to get damage through while mostly focusing on building a board. Butterfly Monks make attacks awkward for your opponent and encourage a state of the game where both of you are building up your board. Through Nature Dice and Slash, set up a set of turns where you can One Hundred Blades or Mist Typhoon them to clear their board and create a huge attack – if you have multiple of them, all the easier. Illusion dice allow you to pressure all sorts of strategies, and different 1-2ofs (Choke, Blood Chains) let you answer a variety of problems. Those 1-2ofs are at worst a slash if they don’t make sense in the matchup.

Why aren’t you running Vanish?

In practice, Vanish doesn’t work out that great. You want to be using all of your dice each turn, and leaving up two illusion dice to Vanish whatever you are afraid of can be quite tough in a lot of situations. If you try to leave up Vanish, you often end up losing yourself the game without them even having anything to begin with. When Vanish connects on something like a Molten Gold, it’s good (not great, but definitely good) – but each turn it doesn’t it has a real cost. Two illusion is also pretty hard to pay. We have costs we want to spend illusion on, and a good illusion player also uses their extra illusion dice to disrupt the opponent in irreplaceable ways.

A lot of people who talked to me about Vanish prior to Gencon would probably hear me say hyperbolic things like “Vanish is trash”. It’s not that bad at all, but I do think it was the most overrated card coming out of these expansions, and I wanted to make sure I got people’s attention that you shouldn’t be too quick to include it. A 1-of is often at best the right place to be with it, if you want it at all.  Vanish is best in a deck with 5+ illusion dice playing in a meta where you expect lots of: Molten Gold, Phoenix Barrage, Sympathy Pain, One Hundred Blades, and Anguish.

But Coal only has 15 life…

It isn’t *that* little. It’s a final cry less than Rin, and Rin is a powerhouse that can defeat aggressive face-decks with more than a final cry to spare. In practice, if you are going straight for Coal’s dome – you are going to be dying quickly and much more painfully. Skyler saw this in his top-8 match vs Christian where Christian swung for a lethal 15 round 2 against an empty board ready to swing for 15 again immediately on the next round.

When it does come into play, Chant of Protection helps even that out when opponents do try to burn you out and you need that extra edge. In some matchups the Butterfly Monks can gain you a large amount of life as well.

What about Sleight of Hand?  Abundance?  How are you drawing cards to slash?

Another common misconception about Coal is that in order to make him work, you need to absolutely abuse slash as often and aggressively as possible. Coal is just like any other phoenixborn – his ability doesn’t turn into his only ability, it’s just something extra that you can and should take advantage of. Slash is good because of what it can do on critical turns to help clear a board at no additional dice cost. When you Mist Typhoon, you can effectively kill a bear in addition to the 1 toughness units by discarding 2 cards (1 of which you draw from the typhoon). You want to use slash to create openings when it makes sense; if you try to abuse it more than you need to, Coal will fail.

So what changed?  Why is Coal good now?

There’s a lot more good summon spells. Victoria and Leo brought us both Shadow Spirits and Orchid Doves, and the EV nerf made old units like Owl and Gilder much more formidable. This meant that boards just got consistently filled up with low health units (and a bear or two). A board filled with 1/2s and a bear is a prime target for a couple One Hundred Blades style cards and a slash. Having access to Shadow Spirits ourselves means that we can actually fill our board purely with conjurations that are good at attacking. Previously, we could at best have 4 bears, and those cost us 8 dice and a lot of time. Shadow Spirit helps us fill up cheaply and quickly. This lets us really take advantage of Coal’s 6 battlefield.

Only 1 Molten Gold?  It’s the best card in the game!

Yup, only 1 – and if you suggested cutting to 0, I wouldn’t think you are crazy. There’s just more effective things to be doing with nature dice, and more often than not the Molten Gold ends up being slash-food. In a world where a lot of 3 toughness things are protected by finches, the utility of Molten Gold to go face OR on a unit is reduced a lot. In particular, ever drawing more than 1 Molten Gold was just way too slow and useless. One feels right, as it allows you to use it as needed if you draw it – but it’s never a burden.

It sounds like you built Coal for Leo – so how did the abs end up being your downfall?

The Leo decks we mostly practiced against and theorized, I think, were more focused on having units that controlled the battlefield well (like bears or butterflies) and less on applying long-term pressure (like owls) backed with lots of defensive utility. Despite knowing how good Owls were, we really just didn’t prepare for how good they were when backed with 3 Blood Chains and 3 Regress in a Leo shell. It’s really the combo of Blood Chains, Regress, and Owl that makes Shi and Matt’s Leo deck so strong.

In the end, I think our matchup against those style of Leo decks is still salvageable. As is, I think this Coal may be something like a 45/55 vs Shi’s style of Leo. With some practice and perhaps a few card swaps, we may be able to turn that around.

How do you first five?

My first five differed a lot throughout the tournament depending on the matchup. Here’s some sample first fives:

VS Coal Mirror Match, Jessa

Shadow Spirit, Butterfly Monk, Hammer Knight, Frostback Bear, Hidden Power

VS Charm, Nature, Illusion Leo

Shadow Spirit, Butterfly Monk, Frostback Bear, Chant of Revenge, Anchornaut

VS Charm, Nature, Ceremonial Leo (Shi Ma) and Charm/Ceremonial Leo (Matt Bauers)

Shadow Spirit, Frostback Bear, Anchornaut, Hammer Knight, Chant of Revenge

That’s all for now. If you have any questions for me, feel free to put them below and I’ll do my best to get to them. A huge thanks to everyone who put a lot of time in and helped form this deck (Christian Pratt, Christopher Pratt, Erik Rodriguez) and a huge congratulations to Shi Ma and Matt Bauers for not only building better ones, but for outplaying me in the final matches and earning their places.  Thanks to Bob for putting up with my incessant questions about conjuration piles and running a very smooth Top 8, and thanks to all of my other very talented opponents (especially Jason Pere who had another great Leo deck and Nick Tinko who brought Orrick all the way to the Top 8).

 

Peace,

Elliot Kramer

 

One more thing…

Fuck owls 🙂

2 Comments


  1. Interesting post as always, I felt in love with Coal since the first time I see him, happy that now he start to have some possibilities! Great! 😀

    Reply

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