In case you haven't noticed, Alter Reality Games has been doing a lot of things in the Kaijudo community recently. Two weeks ago was the first ever ARG Circuit Series in Texas which featured a Kaijudo event that my fellow writers discussed in their articles, and this past weekend the second season of Kaijudo Master Challenges kicked off with one of the events at the Alter Reality Games store in Akron, Ohio! I was really looking forward to this event, as the meta would still be incredibly new even after the Circuit Series results had been processed by the community.
Preparation for the event began for my team even while the Circuit Series was wrapping up. There were a lot of potential decks on the table: Haven control, Blurple tempo, Megabugs, LFN aggro, and Dragons to name a few. Gorby was having some success with Blurple and Carl was leaning towards Megabugs. I had a very slimmed down LDN Haven deck put together with a lot of discard, something that a lot of Haven decks were lacking. I felt that it would give me an advantage in the mirror, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized the importance of [ccProd]Squillace Scourge[/ccProd]. It got to the point that I was considering splashing Squillace in a deck because I didn't really want to commit to both Water and Darkness, but eventually I threw the LWDN version together to test. The combination of [ccProd]Aqua Strider[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Piercing Judgment[/ccProd] with the Darkness Shield Blasts such as [ccProd]Bone Blades[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Terror Pit[/ccProd] proved to be pretty important in my matches against Gorby's Blurple, and I achieved a good win/loss ratio even though it was one of the scariest matchups in my mind. Carl liked the deck and decided to run it with a one or two card difference while Spencer and I fine-tuned a LWF Dragon variant that he and Gorby took (the profile for that deck can also be found on ARG's YouTube channel). Here's the list I settled on!
LWDN Haven Ramp[ccDeck]3 Eternal Haven: 3 Andromeda of the Citadel: 3 Lyra, the Blazing Sun: 3 Keeper of Laws: 2 Stormspark Blast: 3 Bottle of Wishes: 2 Crystal memory: 2 Screeching Scaradorable: 3 Terror Pit: 3 Bone Blades: 2 Wildstrider Ramnoth: 2 Tendril Grasp: 3 Sprout: 3 Reap and Sow: 3 Aqua Strider: 3 Fullmetal Lemon: 2 Piercing Judgment: 2 Squillace Scourge: 1 Kivu, Ingenious Shaman[/ccDeck]
There is a profile on ARG's YouTube channel that briefly covers all the card choices, as well as one on my own channel. Basically, by not being quite as big as some of the greedier variations of Eternal Haven decks, I was hoping to see my ramp and [ccProd]Keeper of Laws[/ccProd] more consistently, as well as early-game blockers and Shield Blasts against aggressive decks. The double Stormspark and double Squillace Scourge were incredibly important, included to either put me in a winning position or outright take the game in the mirror match after I hopefully summoned Haven first. I felt like the deck was a consistent option that should be able to handle all the different decks I'd face if I piloted it correctly. Let's get right into how it performed! There was a grand total of 61 players at the event which meant six rounds of swiss before the cut to top eight.
Round 1: vs. Diana Wiggins (LWN Megabugs)
I had talked to her before the event and was under the impression that she was running mono-Fire, so I was basically thinking, "I guess I have to draw my early progressions or win out the rest of the day." It wasn't the best position to be in, but she put a [ccProd]Root Trap[/ccProd] down in mana on turn one. I still summoned an early [ccProd]Aqua Strider[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Fullmetal Lemon[/ccProd], suspecting some sort of rush variant, but Megabugs wasn't incredibly far off. The blockers were definitely welcomed in this matchup as well, holding her off until I could stabilize and drop the bombs of my deck: [ccProd]Andromeda of the Citadel[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Eternal Haven[/ccProd]. Once they came out, there was nothing she could really do since she wasn't in a position to go for game and I took the match 2-0 despite getting [ccProd]Sprout[/ccProd] off of [ccProd]Bottle of Wishes[/ccProd] two times!
Match Record: 1-0
Game Record: 2-0
Round 2: vs. Spencer Swan (LWF Dragons)
Carl had unfortunately lost his first round, but Gorby and Spencer were both 1-0 as well. The chances to play either of them round two weren't high by any means, so I was more than a little disappointed to see his name next to mine on the pairing sheet so soon. We also played in round two of the Summer Championship in Seattle this past August, and I took a close 2-1 victory there. I knew I was in for a long and tedious match.
Game one definitely delivered on the "long and tedious" front as I was forced to deck him out. The upsides to his 40-card deck were clear: an increased ability to see [ccProd]Nix[/ccProd] and generally good Fire Bird progressions early in the game as well as room for some blockers against Rush since he didn't have to fit in Darkness. The downside was that there were less game-enders than a heavier version of Dragons, so once I was committed to decking him out in the late game it just became about keeping the ones he had remaining in his deck from sticking around. Game two was not in my favor at all, as he was Nix early. I made the misplay of blocking one of his attacks with [ccProd]Fullmetal Lemon[/ccProd] in the hopes of playing [ccProd]Kivu, Ingenious Shaman[/ccProd] next turn, but I drew into another multi-civ and couldn't reach seven mana. The attack I blocked was on an Aqua Strider that his Lyra tapped, so I couldn't even do the safer Piercing Judgment play that I should have focused on. A second [ccProd]Nix[/ccProd] came down for him and the game came to an abrupt end. Game three was just a matter of me drawing my ramp cards and [ccProd]Eternal Haven[/ccProd] at the right time, and it came out too early for him to deal with, resulting in my win 2-1.
Match Record: 2-0
Game Record: 4-1
Round 3: vs. Vu Nguyen (LWDN Haven Control)
Since Vu handed me a savage beating way back in June when I was still trying to get my invite for the Summer Championship, this was a revenge match! Vu's deck was similar to mine in its end game, but was larger in order to pack in a lot of cards that I had simply avoided such as a discard package and even some more abnormal choices like [ccProd]Deep Mind Probe[/ccProd]. One of my hopes was that my smaller deck count would make it easier to draw [ccProd]Keeper of Laws[/ccProd] and maintain some sort of hand. [ccProd]Squillace Scourge[/ccProd] was a major player in this match; the discard was annoying, but I was still able to ramp up to my finishers and end the game. There was a weird moment in game two when I didn't win after dropping Squillace and was staring down a Haven that threatened to allow Vu to stabilize from zero shields if I couldn't win on my following turn. Luckily, I had just enough mana to bounce my own Squillace with [ccProd]Piercing Judgment[/ccProd] to replay it and bypass all his blockers. I took the match 2-0.
Match Record: 3-0
Game Record: 6-1
Round 4: vs. Bobby Brake (LWDN Haven Ramp)
Neither of us were a huge fan of this matchup. His deck was more similar to mine than Vu's was, but he still ran cards I didn't include like [ccProd]King Tritonus[/ccProd], making his deck slightly bigger. The match basically turned into a war of [ccProd]Squillace Scourge[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Stormspark Blast[/ccProd], which I thankfully won in both games. The goal was simply to ramp to threats and then draw one of those two game-ending cards, hopefully riding the finishers coupled with the hexproof duo of [ccProd]Eternal Haven[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Keeper of Laws[/ccProd] to victory. I remember really liking [ccProd]Wildstrider Ramnoth[/ccProd] in all of these mirror matches, as it could ramp me for turns on end if it wasn't dealt with immediately, and then assist as a Double Breaker when it was time to make the push.
Match Record: 4-0
Game Record: 8-1
Round 5: vs. Yousuf Fallah (LWDF Dragons)
At this point, there were four undefeated players including my teammate Gordon "Gorby" Hunt, so we were hoping we could both win this round and draw in round six to go into top eight at first and second place. I don't remember too many specifics about this match besides Yousuf running the ever-popular LWDF Dragons and doing what Dragons do. The progressions of that deck can be pretty problematic, as with Spencer's deck from round two, and Umbra can tilt the late game in his favor since he was running Darkness. Luckily, I was able to survive both games until I was able to start dropping my bombs and there was no way for him to come back.
Match Record: 5-0
Game Record: 10-1
Round 6: vs. Gordon Hunt (LWF Dragons) (Intentional Draw)
Gorby was also able to win his match, so we were heading into the top eight at the top two seeds! That meant we were in different brackets so we could both potentially win out and take both invites and paid flights. Spencer had also managed to win out since his loss to me and enter the top eight at 5-1.
Match Record: 5-0-1
Game Record: 10-1
Top 8: vs. Bobby Brake (LWDN Haven Ramp)
Bobby took a risk and intentionally drew his last round of swiss against mono-Light since he knew it was a bad matchup for him regardless, and made it into top eight in eighth place. This meant we unfortunately had to deal with the mirror match again. Game one didn't go as smoothly as the swiss match did for me at all. I searched for a [ccProd]Squillace Scourge[/ccProd] early on with [ccProd]Crystal Memory[/ccProd] since my hand was basically a lot of ramp and not much else. I had hopes of dropping Squillace and forcing a topdeck war when I was at nine mana and he was at six or seven, putting me at an advantage for a few turns, but that whole plan backfired when I then saw no Darkness mana whatsoever for the following ten turns or so after I searched for the Squillace. While Bobby was playing real threats and advancing his board, I was digging for my first Darkness mana of the game to even have a chance at stabilizing. Unfortunately, I had put all my eggs into the Squillace basket and it didn't happen at a time that allowed me to have a shot at game one.
Game two was a blur, but it went something like the round four match did and I was able to win. Game three was another back and forth battle of finishers and game-ending cards, and it came down to me needing an answer to a pair of [ccProd]Fullmetal Lemon[/ccProd]s. I had a few answers left in my deck and needed to draw one of them, but drew [ccProd]Bottle of Wishes[/ccProd]; I played it, hoped for the best, and hit [ccProd]Tendril Grasp[/ccProd] which allowed me to take the game. Unfortunately, while I won, Spencer and Gorby both lost their top eight matches so it was up to me to take it all the way.
Match Record: 6-0-1
Game Record: 12-2
Top 4: vs. John Fox (LDN Queen Kalima)
This was the match that really counted. If I was able to win, I'd have my invite as well as a paid flight from either WotC or ARG to the Winter Championship in November! John's deck looked like what you'd expect from a Kalima deck that uses Light over Water: massive amounts of ramp, discard, and key cards like Andromeda, [ccProd]Gregoria's Fortress[/ccProd], [ccProd]Queen Kalima[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Mark of Kalima[/ccProd]. There was also a plethora of unexpected finishers in the deck from what I could tell; a [ccProd]Death Liger[/ccProd], Apex Predator did get dropped on me at one point. I was kind of worried about how this match could turn out if I was unable to see Keeper of Laws, since I didn't really have any other way to maintain a hand. My opening hand in game one was pretty awful: two copies each of Andromeda, [ccProd]Terror Pit[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Bottle of Wishes[/ccProd]. Luckily, it didn't really matter as he quickly began discarding it with cards like Mesmerize. This actually had a better effect than I had anticipated in that we were both top-decking and it was just a matter of drawing more playable cards than he did. While Kalima is one of the few solid answers to an in-play Haven, I was able to build up enough board presence to win the game (with the likely help of Squillace). Game two went similarly though I do remember drawing markedly better than I had in game one.
Match Record: 7-0-1
Game Record: 14-2
Top 2: vs. Richard Zapp (Mono-Light Rush)
To be completely honest, I was dreading this match. All day I had managed to avoid playing against any Rush decks and I wasn't too happy to have to face one now even though I already had the invite and flight confirmed. With the list I chose to run, I basically need to hit Aqua Strider or Sprout on turn two and still probably hope for Shield Blasts. I did get incredibly lucky in this match. Game one I was able to Sprout and got the infamous [ccProd]Bottle of Wishes[/ccProd] into [ccProd]Eternal Haven[/ccProd] on my turn three which locked up the game right then and there. In game two, I saw some early blockers, ramp, and a brutal [ccProd]Tendril Grasp[/ccProd] which cleared his board and allowed me to play [ccProd]Andromeda of the Citadel[/ccProd] much earlier than I would have normally. Haven followed, and I took the match and the tournament!
Match Record: 8-0-1
Game Record: 16-2
That match wrapped it up, and I was able to walk away with my invite and paid trip to the Championship at the first KMC of the season I attended rather than the last, which was a huge weight off my shoulders. Another shout out goes to ARG for running such a smooth event. There was barely any down time between rounds, we all got food, and the coverage was better than anything I've seen at a KMC before. Hopefully this event will set the new standard and more KMCs will begin doing that kind of thing. Don't forget to check out the ARG Circuit Series in Columbus, Ohio on October 12-13! Be sure to check out the matches and deck profiles on YouTube if you haven't already, and until next week, Play Hard or Go Home!