It's safe to say that the first ever ARG Circuit Series event was a rousing success! Hundreds of players from all over the country made their way down to Fort Worth, Texas this past weekend to take part in the excitement. Reviews appear to be positive across the board for the professionalism on display by hard-working ARG employees and freelancers. The coverage we saw on the Facebook page and the ARG Youtube channel was unparalleled for both Yu-Gi-Oh! and Kaijudo! ARG is really pulling out all the stops to please the players of these fine games, and I can't wait to get out to the upcoming east coast events to show my support.
So what did we learn on the Kaijudo side of things? The turnout wasn't much greater than that of a mid-level KMC, but the level of competition was fierce; both Kaijudo Champion Bobby Brake and runner-up Robby Stewart were in attendance, alongside other notable players from the Texas area such as Rob Hebert and Joe Bass. Some of the choices seen in the top 8 decklists appear highly unorthodox, but as we barrel forward toward the kickoff of the Winter KMC season, ignoring these results would be a mistake.
Bobby Brake and Robby Stewart each came with updates to their Kaijudo Championship weapons of choice. Bobby made some significant changes to his control deck, adding a Nature section to accommodate three [ccProd]Eternal Haven[/ccProd] and her army of blockers. Robby stuck with his trusty Dragons, but made sure to correct some of the shortcomings his deck experienced in the control matchup. Analyzing these lists will give us good insight into two different ends of the top tier spectrum.
Let's start with Robby Stewart's 1st place Dragon Deck:
Birds of War:[ccDeck]3 Infernus the Awakened:3 Andromeda of the Citadel:1 Dragon Knight Volaron:2 Heretic Prince Var-rakka:2 General Skycrusher:2 Dreadclaw, Dark Herald:3 Terror Pit:3 Lyra, the Blazing Sun:2 General Finbarr:1 Tatsurion:3 Herald of Infernus:3 Bottle of Wishes:3 Keeper of Laws:3 Bone Blades:3 Piercing Judgment:3 Nix:3 Lux: 2 Umbra[/ccDeck]
Robby hasn't changed his approach from Seattle too drastically here, but there are subtle differences that reveal his thoughts on the metagame. In the finals of the Kaijudo Championship, Robby was demolished by [ccProd]Mesmerize[/ccProd]. By the time he was able to draw enough cards to establish a board, he was way too far behind and his Dragons were bested by Bobby's superior late game. The inclusion of [ccProd]Keeper of Laws[/ccProd] and [ccProd]General Finbarr[/ccProd] gives him a little leeway to throw his creatures into shields in the midgame if need be. Both creatures provide some much needed resiliency -- Finbarr by dispatching a threat and allowing you to fuel back up for a finishing push, and Laws by helping to mitigate the damage done by early game spells that control decks need to play to keep Dragons out of the battle zone.
Robby is aware that Dragons no longer have the luxury of alpha striking for game while [ccProd]Eternal Haven[/ccProd] exists. To that end, he's removed the combo-y [ccProd]Hyperspeed Dragon[/ccProd] from the fray, instead trying to win in a series of calculated strikes over the course of a few turns. [ccProd]Heretic Prince Var-rakka[/ccProd] has replaced Shadeblaze; he serves a very similar function, but he's guaranteed a fast attack, and he can also do some stupid stuff by re-using Lyras, Finbarrs, and Andromedas, or by simply bouncing himself back to the hand so he's safe from kill spells. A singleton [ccProd]Dragon Knight Volaron[/ccProd] rounds out the 9 drops, upping Robby's fast attacker count from a conditional two to a guaranteed three. It remains to be seen if Volaron is necessary. His base 7000 power is laughable in the control matchup, and his shield regeneration ability is contingent on constantly attacking, which isn't necessarily what you always want to be doing. Still, he seems fantastic against rush decks or Megabugs when paired with [ccProd]Herald of Infernus[/ccProd]. If Volaron is ever able to bash over a tapped creature or two before turn 9, only to be followed up by [ccProd]Andromeda of the Citadel[/ccProd], the Dragon player is in great shape.
This deck has more game against [ccProd]Eternal Haven[/ccProd] than it may seem at first glance. An additional copy of [ccProd]Umbra[/ccProd] helps to more consistently grant Slayer to your Dragons. When everyone has Slayer, you can easily put pressure on board to the point where you force Haven to block. Also of note is the fact that [ccProd]General Skycrusher[/ccProd] allows [ccProd]Infernus the Awakened[/ccProd] to revenge attack over a tapped Haven. Haven will rarely be tapped unless your board is barren and it's coming in at your face, but at least this combination of creatures further disincentivizes blocking.
The absence of [ccProd]Stormspark Blast[/ccProd] is a peculiar one that Robby has promised to elaborate on in the future. I can only speculate as to why he made this decision, but it seems to me that relying on [ccProd]Stormspark Blast[/ccProd] as a shield blast in this deck is inadequate in the control matchup. Sure, it may delay the inevitable for a turn, but the Haven deck is only attacking shields when victory is all but assured. It's highly unlikely that you will be able to deal with [ccProd]Eternal Haven[/ccProd] and juiced-up [ccProd]Twilight Archon[/ccProd]s/Andromedas on the swing back. In the Haven mirror, [ccProd]Stormspark Blast[/ccProd] provides an essential function, constantly threatening to banish the entire opposition. Here, your top end creatures simply aren't as big, and you can't afford to wait around for a board wipe when additional copies of Haven are always looming. Haven's "Light Monarch" ability will easily put enemy creatures out of range for this deck. When you factor all this in, cutting Stormspark doesn't seem too egregious.
Birds of War is definitely still a competitive deck. Be ready for it at your KMCs.
For a unique twist on what promises to be a common archetype, let's continue with Bobby Brake's 4-civ control deck.
Haven's Army:[ccDeck]3 Eternal Haven:2 Andromeda of the Citadel:2 Squillace Scourge:2 Twilight Archon:2 Saracon, Storm Dynamo:3 Terror Pit:3 Root Trap:3 Stormspark Blast:3 Tendril Grasp:1 Grand Gure, Tower Keeper:3 Panopter:3 Keeper of Laws:3 Crystal Memory:3 Reap and Sow:3 Piercing Judgment:2 Bone Blades:3 Fullmetal Lemon:3 Grudge Weaver:3 Aqua Strider:3 Sprout[/ccDeck]
Clocking in at a hefty 53 cards, Bobby's list seems like a logical evolution of the 4-civ control decks we saw during the Clash meta. However, the first Kaijudo Champion wasn't content to simply rest on his laurels. There are some very interesting choices here.
Bobby was obviously very conscious of this deck's rush matchup, and has included a 9 card suite of "little blockers." [ccProd]Aqua Strider[/ccProd] is pretty standard, and [ccProd]Fullmetal Lemon[/ccProd] is a no-brainer when dipping into green. [ccProd]Grudge Weaver[/ccProd], though, was commonly thought to only belong in [ccProd]Queen Kalima[/ccProd] builds. Bobby challenges that notion with the full complement here, and it's a smart choice. In the control mirror, he's irrelevant in the early game, but having an extra level 2 blocker in the late game can be a difference maker when you are trying to flood the board (especially if [ccProd]Panopter[/ccProd] is in the mix). Up against the aggressive decks, he chump blocks immediately and deprives them of a live threat in hand.
Speaking of [ccProd]Panopter[/ccProd], Bobby went all the way here and included 3 copies of the overlooked Clash of the Duel Masters Very Rare. As the Winter KMC season kicks into full swing, we'll get a good idea as to whether this guy is necessary or not. I'm not a huge fan of the card in theory, as he's very low-utility in the beginning of the game. [ccProd]Panopter[/ccProd] is pretty awful on turn 5 and is an awkward split card when you're trying to make mana decisions. Where he really shines, though, is in the late game in the control mirror. Drawing a full grip of cards just for playing your finishers is bonkers. [ccProd]Panopter[/ccProd] is supposed to reward you for playing defensively by giving you a steady stream of blockers, but with the advent of [ccProd]Eternal Haven[/ccProd], you can go on the offensive and reap the rewards too. It's not uncommon to have a [ccProd]Panopter[/ccProd] in the zone, summon a Haven, draw a card off the 'nopter, draw a card for Haven, drop a free 'nopter, and then draw another card. That's a tough field to crack.
Bobby has also chosen to move away from [ccProd]King Tritonus[/ccProd]. While the Big King is still very powerful, the omission makes sense. Tritonus draws you cards much faster than Haven, but he can have trouble turning those cards into a favorable board state now, unless accompanied by a Haven of his own. He can't constrict Haven, and he has less power so he can't engage in combat without some help. Also of note is the fact that Bobby's Andromedas and [ccProd]Twilight Archon[/ccProd]s will often reside at 15500 power. The bulk of the army is Light, so the boost that Haven provides is much more relevant. Doubling down on the number of Light finishers seems like the way to go.
Surprisingly, [ccProd]Lyra, the Blazing Sun[/ccProd] didn't make the cut. With the addition of ramp and the high blocker count, I guess Bobby felt confident that he could hold out without Lyra, and a few turns later, [ccProd]Twilight Archon[/ccProd] fits the bill. Whether others will follow suit remains to be seen. I love me some Lyra.
I'm sure Bobby feels very strongly about this (and who am I to argue with the champ?), but I need to say it: this deck NEEDS [ccProd]Bottle of Wishes[/ccProd]. It seems like such a missed opportunity to play a deck with outrageous hits -- Haven / Andromeda / Archon / Squillace -- and not try to fish your wish. Yes, I understand that there are a lot of green ramp spells that won't do anything in the late game. Yes, I understand that hitting a [ccProd]Grudge Weaver[/ccProd] off the Bottle seems underwhelming. However, the potential is too gamebreaking to deny. You want any live shield blasts against rush, so Bottle shines here. Hitting a dork blocker is actually great in that matchup, and you have a reasonable chance of blowing your opponent out of the water with a finisher! In the control mirror, you likely won't have your shields broken until the opposing board is too complex to break up with a [ccProd]Bottle of Wishes[/ccProd], but even then, all your finishers are likely live hits. Not only that: hardcasting it for 5 mana becomes very reasonable in the late game when you and the other control player are just trying to squeeze the most value you can out of your mana. Kudos to Bobby for finding success without this overpowered card, but I wouldn't leave home without it.
One final thought: look out Drakons and Enforcers, [ccProd]Tendril Grasp[/ccProd] is the real deal. Nice call on that one.
It's in your best interest to sleeve up both of these decks and to take them for a spin. If you can't beat these decks with your concoction, head back to the drawing board. I expect to see interesting twists on these familiar archetypes in the coming weeks.
This weekend in Ohio, Alter Reality Games is hosting its first ever Kaijudo Master Challenge, and the prizes are insane! In addition to the usual fare, the 2nd place finisher gets free travel to the Winter Championships, courtesy of ARG!
Be sure to finalize your travel plans now, because the first weekend of the new season is fast approaching. I'll be hitting up the KMC in Torrington, CT, so give me a shout if you're heading there too!
Until next time, Play Hard or Go Home!