Tournament Report: Winter KaiChamps 2013

cvhWelcome back, everybody!  My apologies for the break in content last week, but I was spending all of my time clearing as much schoolwork as possible so my schedule wouldn't be ruined by the trip to Texas I took last weekend.  In this article, I'll be discussing that trip and the tournament at its center: the 2013 Winter Kaijudo Championship!

After a very solid third place performance at the Summer Championship in Seattle, I felt like I needed a solid performance at this event to further prove I wasn't a one-hit wonder.  Individual successes are nice, but I always strive for consistency.  My team and I were also very hungry to claim the title after I had gotten so close last season and two of my teammates, Carl Miciotto and Spencer Swan, placed ninth and tenth.

Testing for a championship-level event held so close after the release of Invasion Earth was actually very fun.  I had decided early on that Corrupted decks, as they currently stand, wouldn't be a solid pick.  People around me tested various builds, and they all seemed to crumble in the face of Dragon variants, Kalima variants, and seemingly better tempo decks like LWN with [ccProd]Blinder Beetle Prime[/ccProd]s.

Light/Darkness Kalima, which Carl Miciotto and I had done well with at our last KMC of the season, was the first thing I really focused on.  I had added two copies of [ccProd]Andromeda of the Citadel[/ccProd] which further increased its positive matchup to aggression.  I was confident that various tempo decks along with Corrupteds would be seen at the championship, so the early game of Kalima Control with its massive lineup of blockers and [ccProd]Screeching Scaradorable[/ccProd] was very appealing.

Besides the obvious ideal tempo progressions involving [ccProd]Keeper of Laws[/ccProd] and [ccProd]General Finbarr[/ccProd] that even the LWF Dragon deck I was working on could pull off, one thing worried me: Reverberate.  I didn't think it was that much of an issue until I put LD Kalima through the gauntlet at locals and got promptly wrecked by my friend Cahshurn Harrigan's LWD Kalima.  He sacrificed the extra consistency of my build's Mark/Kalima mills for the ability to run two [ccProd]Reverberate[/ccProd] as well as [ccProd]Crystal Memory[/ccProd], [ccProd]Aqua Strider[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Piercing Judgment[/ccProd].  After talking with him a lot about the build and testing and tweaking it for myself, I came to the conclusion that it was the deck I wanted to run in Texas.

[ccDeck="LWD Kalima Control"]3 Grudge Weaver
1 Dream Pirate
2 Screeching Scaradorable
3 Ripper Reaper
1 Razorkinder Puppet250px-Queen_Kalima_(9SHA)
1 Vile Malvictus
3 Queen Kalima
3 Mesmerize
2 Snake Trap
2 Bone Blades
1 Maddening Whispers
3 Terror Pit
2 Mark of Kalima
3 Aqua Strider
2 Stingwing
3 Spire Puppet
1 Serpens, the Spirit Shifter
1 Death Liger the Justicar
2 Andromeda of the Citadel
3 Crystal Memory
2 Piercing Judgment
2 Grip of Despair
1 Panic and Disorder
2 Reverberate[/ccDeck]

I felt that I had an overall positive matchup across the board.  Decks like rush and tempo would have an incredibly hard time getting around the nine early blockers, I had more Shield Blasts than the previous build, and Kalima's late game has no problems wiping out a field of Dragons.  I was worried about [ccProd]Reverberate[/ccProd] in Dragons and ideal tempo progressions, but felt I could easily handle the LD Kalima.  My YouTube channel has a more in-depth description of specific card choices.

As for the rest of Team Peach, Gordon Hunt made us proud at the Last Chance Qualifiers, making the finals with the LWN Enforcer tempo deck and securing his invite.  Dave Pendergrass and Corey Gaudreau (the newest member of the team as well as ARG's newest Kaijudo writer!) had a version of LD Kalima with [ccProd]Megaria, the Deceiver[/ccProd] that you can see in Corey's article.  I gave Spencer Swan my exact deck list and he ran it with three [ccProd]Stingwing[/ccProd], no [ccProd]Dream Pirate[/ccProd], and no [ccProd]Panic and Disorder[/ccProd], and Carl Miciotto ran the same tempo deck Gorby qualified with the day before with a small change or two.  Gorby had decided to take a break from tempo after going through eight rounds with it on Saturday and went with LWF Dragons, another deck he had a lot of experience piloting.  While the team was split into four different decks out of six members, I firmly believe that we all made the right decision for ourselves and I wouldn't change my decision if I could go back in time.  Now, to take a look at how the deck performed!

Round 1: CVH vs. Noah Koessel (LWD Tempo)

I pile shuffled Noah's deck before the round and it came out to forty cards even.  When Squillace Scourge was his first mana drop, I was convinced he was running LWD tempo.  This was sort of a relief as I had practice against the deck as long as his build hadn't changed much from the versions that were rampant during the previous KMC season.  I also felt that the deck had less early aggression than the LWN tempo builds I had been testing against, and the extra breathing room is always appreciated.  However, when no creatures came down for him on the first three turns, I began to think he was running a more control-oriented deck.  As it turned out, he just opened that poorly.  I feared [ccProd]Vicious Squillace Scourge[/ccProd] at a point in game one when he summoned a [ccProd]Screeching Scaradorable[/ccProd] with no effect, so I used a [ccProd]Ripper Reaper[/ccProd] on it.  The Screeching had actually just been a desperate gambit to put some aggression on board, and I wrapped up game one pretty handily with Kalima.

Game two was more back-and-forth and I honestly don't remember many specifics.  It wasn't a blowout and we both had decent starts, but I think [ccProd]General Finbarr[/ccProd] progressions got me in the end.  Game three, it was all on the table; I really wanted to start the day on a good note with a 1-0 record.  We shuffled, drew our hands, and....

Boom.  Nothing under level five.  I screamed internally and took second, thinking there was a huge chance to draw into one of my eight turn two blockers in the next two cards, with the added benefit of reducing his chance of drawing his progression.  None of the blockers were forthcoming, and neither were cards like [ccProd]Mesmerize[/ccProd].  My first potential play was a Shield Blast [ccProd]Crystal Memory[/ccProd] after Noah had assembled [ccProd]Lost Patrol[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Keeper of Laws[/ccProd].  Still not having a blocker in hand, searching for an [ccProd]Aqua Strider[/ccProd] was almost tempting, but I decided against it.  I felt like the game had honestly been lost by that point.  If I had gotten a Strider or [ccProd]Stingwing[/ccProd] earlier in the game, the [ccProd]Piercing Judgment[/ccProd] in my hand would have been incredible on turn four, allowing me to clear his board, but it just wasn't to be.  My first creature of the game was a turn five [ccProd]Grudge Weaver[/ccProd] that got promptly hit by a [ccProd]Lyra, the Blazing Sun[/ccProd].  My shields were all gone, I drew my card, scooped everything up, and offered the handshake.

So, that wasn't the most optimal way to start out my day and I was kind of upset that my hand hadn't really allowed me to play the game, but that's how it goes sometimes.  The same scenario was basically reversed in game one, anyway.  I still wasn't dead yet and I felt like Noah would be able to keep my tiebreakers high, but the pressure was definitely on.

Match Record: 0-1
Game Record: 1-2

Round 2: CVH vs. Parker Windsor (LWDF Dragons)

I know Parker from local Kaijudo Master Challenges, so seeing that we got paired up was rather disappointing.  Thinking back, he seemed to be running a rather stock four-civilization Dragon list.  I think after the match he alerted me to the fact that he had decided not to run [ccProd]Keeper of Laws[/ccProd] or [ccProd]General Finbarr[/ccProd].  Those cards were definitely two of the most feared for me all day as a control player, and I did worry about them coming down all match.  Game one, I summoned a Kalima with no effect against a clear board, followed up by an attack that was able to get me back an [ccProd]Andromeda of the Citadel[/ccProd] after Parker put me at zero shields.  Though I got close to decking out that game, I was able to stabilize, and also took game two.  My discard lineup and cards like [ccProd]Grip of Despair[/ccProd] were incredibly important and led to me winnng the match 2-0.

Match Record: 1-1
250px-Reverberate_(10INV)Game Record: 3-2

Round 3: CVH vs. Sean Castor (LWD Kalima)

Since Sean was one of the few people in the field also running Kalima Control with Reverberate and points were awarded for intentional draws up to round four, his offer to ID was almost tempting.  The mirror match between two LWD Kalima Control decks with [ccProd]Reverberate[/ccProd] might be the most miserable mirror match in history, and I would not have stuck with the deck if I thought more than a select few people would be playing it.  That being said, I felt like I was comfortable enough with the deck to brave it, and the payoff of a potential 2-1 record as opposed to 1-1-1 was too convincing.

Game one, Sean took more of an aggressive approach in the midgame that was almost the death of me.  I think I had to play a [ccProd]Mark of Kalima[/ccProd] to survive and get both hits off its effect, which I was lucky enough to do.  That lead to me being able to stabilize and take game one.

In game two, Sean opted to play first, which I was fine with because I had some discard in my hand.  Upon my playing [ccProd]Mesmerize[/ccProd] on turn three, he revealed his hand of two [ccProd]Reverberate[/ccProd]s.  I discarded one and prayed for more ways to discard his hand off the top of my deck, but none came.  I thought all was lost when he drew his card on turn six, but he never found the water mana he needed to play it!  I was free to summon [ccProd]Razorkinder Puppet[/ccProd] on my turn, getting rid of his last copy, and a [ccProd]Reverberate[/ccProd] followed by the deck's big guys on the next few turns allowed me to take the match.

Match Record: 2-1
Game Record: 5-2

Round 4: CVH vs. Ricky Gross (LWDFN Corrupted Aggro)

No, that's not a typo.  Ricky had actually decided to sleeve up a five-civilization Corrupted deck before the tournament to see how far it would take him.  One of his goals was to get a deck tech with WotC, but that sadly didn't happen.  Having actually tested Kalima a fair amount against more typical three-civilization builds, I wasn't worried going into this match.  Even though he had a ton of options in his deck and it could be unpredictable at times, with all of those options came a lot of multi-civ cards which made it hard for his deck to get off the ground.  Barring some insane progression, I thought that fact alone would give Kalima even more of an early game advantage.

It's always reassuring to go into a tournament match thinking you have a good matchup and having in pan out.  Neither of the two games were close; it was a combination of poor starts for him, early blockers for me, and all of my removal spells putting in work.  [ccProd]Death Liger the Justicar[/ccProd] was pretty insane in this match, allowing me to kill two creatures and then use removal spells like [ccProd]Snake Trap[/ccProd] to get rid of one guy and tap another guy.  I didn't let him keep anything in the battle zone, and as soon as I had Andromedas and Kalimas coming for him, he scooped.

Match Record: 3-1
Game Record: 7-2

I was optimistic going into the last two rounds of swiss.  I had been pretty down after my loss in round one and became anxious about seeing any more hands like I saw in game three of that match, but I hadn't dropped a game since then and was thinking I had a good shot at the top cut.

Round 5: CVH vs. Bobby Brake (LWDF Dragons)

I opened with a very workable hand game one consisting of good early-game cards like [ccProd]Mesmerize[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Snake Trap[/ccProd].  I took second after counting his deck and seeing over forty cards - at the very least I knew I most likely wasn't going to get blown out by rush or tempo.  Both [ccProd]Mesmerize[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Snake Trap[/ccProd] are actually incredible against the deck he was using, so I was feeling good.  I didn't let him get any [ccProd]Nix[/ccProd] draws, discarded his hand, and left him with a lone [ccProd]Herald of Infernus[/ccProd] on the board.  I think we both thought the game was wrapped up at that point even though he had taken an early shield or two as he had either no cards or one card left in his hand.  He remarked something like, "Well, this is going downhill," but then proceeded to topdeck [ccProd]Lyra, the Blazing Sun[/ccProd] and started breaking shields.  This was followed up by another Lyra, and all of a sudden, I was out of the game.  I hadn't come into any ways to deal with those creatures and my shields had yielded no Blasts.  While I'm fairly certain a [ccProd]Terror Pit[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Grip of Despair[/ccProd] down there (or even [ccProd]Piercing Judgment[/ccProd] coupled with discard) would have simply won me the game, there was nothing left to do but shuffle up for game two.

The early turns of game two are hard to recall, but I think I handled them moderately well and dealt with some of his creatures despite not having as great of an opening hand as I did in game one.  This game came down to the wire; he had gotten aggressive at some point and left me with one shield left.  From there, I stabilized and started building my board, but eventually he drew into [ccProd]Crystal 250px-Cassiopeia_Starborn_(10INV)Memory[/ccProd] which allowed him to play [ccProd]Reverberate[/ccProd] that turn for a fresh hand.  I knew it was time to go in then, and broke him down to either zero or one shield.  I was feeling confident that he would have to use his turn to summon [ccProd]Andromeda of the Citadel[/ccProd], which would be pretty easy to deal with in the grand scheme of things and allow me to stay on the offensive, but a clutch [ccProd]Cassiopeia Starborn[/ccProd] came down, tapping my board!  I took a while deciding on a play, and eventually bounced back one of my blockers with [ccProd]Piercing Judgment[/ccProd] to re-summon it un-tapped, and played something like [ccProd]Ripper Reaper[/ccProd] which forced him to banish his [ccProd]Lux[/ccProd].  I definitely did not want to bounce back Cassiopeia and allow him to re-use it.  With a shield left, he had to bypass my blocker and fast attack, which would require him to have a lot of things in-hand, and I was setting myself up pretty nicely to attempt game again on my next turn.

If the first Cassiopeia caught me off guard, the second one basically floored me.  He tapped one mana for [ccProd]Jump Jets[/ccProd] and immediately took the match in the wake of two Cassiopeias.  Losing both of these games was disheartening as I felt I was in winnable positions mere turns before they ended, but at least I can say I lost them to the current champion!

Match Record: 3-2
Game Record: 4-2

Round 6: CVH vs. Brian Durkin (LWFN Dragons)

Durkin was running a cool Dragon deck that had all the normal elements of LWF variants with an added Nature splash for [ccProd]Oathsworn Call[/ccProd].  I was excited to play it, but since I was his teammate Noah's tiebreaker, he decided to just give me the win 2-0.  I couldn't disagree too much when he said he thought he was at a disadvantage in the matchup anyway, but it would have a fun match regardless.  I also thought that even at 4-2, my tiebreakers wouldn't be the worst with losses to Bobby and Noah so I had some sort of chance to make the top eight, but they just weren't enough to get me there, and I wound up at twelfth place after swiss.

Having the whole round to chill was nice; I was able to watch my teammates Carl Miciotto and Dave Pendergrass win their last rounds and put themselves into the top eight at 5-1, and Spencer Swan won his last round to make him 4-2 after somehow starting out 0-2.  He might have been able to top eight as well if he and Dave had intentionally drawn in round two, as they both won every match from that point forward.  Gorby lost a heartbreaking match in game three on the bubble, putting him at 4-2, but for someone who went into the weekend not even qualified, it was a pretty solid result and we had strong performances overall.  Though Dave lost in top eight to Bobby, Carl made it all the way to the finals, giving our team its strongest Championship showing yet.

The event itself was fantastic; the venue was great, there were side events going on all the time, and coverage was on a level that would make players of most other card games very envious.  Carl Reddish did a wonderful job of commentary all weekend along with his numerous guest hosts, and WotC even let Carl Miciotto and myself commentate the top cut matches for the first Last Chance Qualifier on Saturday!  Everything on Sunday was also streamed live, and if you missed the broadcast, you can find it on twitch.tv/wizards_kaijudo.

Hopefully you all enjoyed hearing about my experiences and results throughout the weekend, and good luck to everybody who will be attempting to qualify for the Summer Championship.  I'm sure it won't be one to miss!  Make sure you leave a comment below with any thoughts, check out the other articles posted about the event here on ARG, and until next time, Play Hard or Go Home!

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