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CardShark Content - Enrique Huerta (4/26/2003)

Love it or hate it, there's no denying that Standard format is here. This
past weekend was the first weekend the new format was tournament legal.
Already tournaments everywhere are trying out the new format. This was true at the Premier Series Qualifier in Tucson, Az. It had been 3 months since the last PSQ in Tucson. A new expansion had released, and obviously a new tournament format had been announced.

In case you're not completely familiar with it, the new Standard format is similar to the Open format except for the exclusion of 16 cards. DGMA felt that these cards were dominating the tournament scene and preventing a wider variety of decks to be played. Put simply, the cards were TOO good. But with those cards out of the picture, players now have a wider range of viable decks to choose from in tournament play.

The tournament started off on a light note when I reminded everyone that the tournament was Standard Format and that I would be checking decklists to make sure no one was playing with cards from the X-list. There were remarks like, ´´What are you talking about?´´, ´´Oh no my deck is illegal!´´ and ´´What?! I can't play with my broken Saruman?´´. All was in jest as all decks were legal and everybody already knew about the format. It was good that everyone was aware of the new format and that the PSQ did not catch anyone off guard. It's always a shame when someone has to be turned away from a tournament because they were caught unaware of deck construction rules changes.

I didn't have my lovely assistant (Read: girlfriend) for this PSQ, like I
did for the previous one, so I wasn't able to watch the games as closely,
but by going through the decklists I could already see effects of the
Standard format on the tournament scene. Since the announcement there had
been talk of what the new dominate Shadow side would be. There were
suggestions that Nazgul and Moria would replace Uruks as the top decks.
Dunlendings were expected to be big in Standard also. But which deck would dominate was really undecided upon. As it turned out, the players weren't sure either as there many different decks played at the tournament.

Shadow Decks:
Nazgul 7
(Original Nazgul 5)
(Twilight Nazgul 2)
Isengard Minions 5
(Big Uruks 1)
(Trackers 1)
(Archery 1)
(Orcs 1)
(Wargs 1)
Sauron 3
(Bowmen/UTWE 2)
(Discard 1)
Swarm Decks 3
Dunlendings 1

Although they dominated the tournament decks, only 1 Nazgul deck placed in the Top 5 of the tournament. In fact all of the Top 5 decks were of a
different theme. Compared this to the previous Tucson PSQ in which 4 of the Top 5 shadow decks were Uruk-hai.

For the Fellowship side, decks were just as diverse. Many of the new
strategies had to be aware of Grima, Chief Counselor. As such only a very
decks played with more than 3-4 cultures and no one dared to use the Big
Fellowship decks of the past. (Probably because Elrond, Lord of Rivendell
and Galadriel, Lady of Light aren't legal in this format.) Fellowship decks are a little harder to categorize. As was expected, many of the players (4) chose Gondor/Elves as their support cultures for their Ring-bearer. One player played Rohan with Elves, and yet another players Gondor/Rohan/Elves. A surprising number of players decided to focus their deck on Shire and unbound hobbits. Legolas, Dauntless Hunter was a popular starting companion. Gandalf Trust Me decks (2) also made an appearance combined with Rohan or Elves. There was even a ´´cheeky fellow´´ that was playing heavy Dwarf card-drawing as his fellowship.

Each of the Top 5 fellowship decks was different. There was Hobbit Choke,
Rohan/Gondor, Rohan/Trust, Gondor/Elves, and unbound Hobbit/Gondor. Very
diverse compared to the 4 Big Fellowship with card drawing, and 1 Archery
Choke decks that made up the Top 5 from the last Tucson PSQ.

In the end Hayes Hunter won the tournament with his Hobbit Choke and Sauron Orcs with Orc Bowmen/UTWE deck. Once again I've asked a few of the players to give me their feelings about the tournament. Specifically, I asked them 1) What did they play at the PSQ and why? 2) How did the deck perform and were there any surprises? and 3) What so you plan to do for your next Standard tournament?

1 Hayes Hunter 16
2 Tim Fournier 16
3 Mike DiSanto 15
4 Kyle Schliesman 14
5 Aaron McCormack 14
6 Justin Beal 14
7 Richard Welsh 13
8 Jay Webb 12
9 Jim Seymour 12
10 Mark Zawacki 12
11 Josh Latneau 12
12 Jared Arthur 12
13 Andy Seymour 11
14 Travis Frazier 11
15 Michael Girard 10
16 Daniel Figueroa 10
17 Richard Maxam 10
18 Wayne Waitman 8
19 Shon Jones 8

Hayes Hunter:
1. What did you play this weekend? (Which decks did you build and why?)

I played a 'standardized' version of Ryan Jones' ´´NPE´´ 4 Hobbit, Dauntless Hunter frees people deck coupled with a revamped version of the old Sauron condition based shadow. I didn't want to play something like Elf / Gondor Archery or Nazgul (decks that would be expected), instead I tried to pick decks that took advantage of flaws in peoples' expectations. People are convinced decks will now provide ample pool for whatever shadow they are playing; so I utilized as much choke as I could. In being more concerned with generating enough archery or winning enough fights people have sacrificed their condition removal slots; so I played a condition based shadow strategy.

2. How did your decks do for you? (What did you play against and was it what you were expecting?)

The Frees People side worked well enough, allowing me to stay a site ahead of my opponent or forcing them into a bad double move, but it was the Shadow that won my games. I was able to kill my opponent at site 8 or 9 in all of the games I won. Only 2 of my opponents were playing Gandalf based condition removal, and only one person was playing a shadow that wasn't Nazgul, Uruks, or Sauron.

3. Do you plan on changing your decks for the next Standard Format
tournament you play in? (What changes do you think your deck might need, if any?)

Yes, of course. The Rock, Paper, Scissors aspect of this game has been
accentuated by Grima CC and because this format is relatively unexplored.
Next time I play standard I am sure there will be more Gandalf based decks for Sleep and Grown Suddenly Tall or perhaps more decks with Elf allies for Secret Sentinels.

Aaron McCormack:
1. The fellowship I played was the Unbound Hobbit start with Legolas,
Dauntless Hunter, then I would play the Aragorn, King in Exile along with Faramir, Son of Denethor and play archery. (Gondor Bowmen, Double Shots, Aragorn's bow and Faramir's too. However for Shadow, it was very different. The most random thing anyone has seen. The base appears to be Nazgul, but it also includes, Berserkers, Lurtz, Easterling Captain, Morgul Hunters, and the big Isengard Orcs. It was a very different deck.

2. I ended up going 4-2, so my deck didn't do to bad. I just made bad
decisions. It actually plays quite well, and the decks I played against
were what I was expecting. I was expecting more Uruks-hai Trackers, but I
only saw the one, and more Dunlendings too, but didn't see any of that

3. I have to determine that after a few more playtesting games. I would
like to keep it because it throws people off, they just don't know what to expect, and I think that is why I was able to win the games I did. These guys are big and all cause problems. I mean when I played a Berserker turn one, they would stop. Then next turn they would see a Nazgul, it just throws off their thinking patterns because they are not use to ´´rainbow´´ Shadow.

Jim Seymour:
I like the new Standard format. I think there will be more of a variety of deck types. I played Isengard Archers and Dauntless Hunter Choke with
Gandalf, Greyhame and discarding hobbits. I chose this because I thought
that Isengard Archers would be more effective with the absence of No Stanger to the Shadows and Aragorn, Heir to the White City. I wanted as much of a ´´choke´´ as possible to clog the opponent's hand for my archers.

It worked like I had wanted it to. I didn't lose to anyone lower rated than me and came close to beating those I had not come close to before. I lost to Michael Girard who escaped by one wound at site 9. The archers made two kills at site 5 and 6 against Elves and Gondor. The Free Peoples side handled a Dunlending deck with ease. My two losses were to Mike DiSanto and Hayes Hunter.

I will alter my deck slightly by including Lindenroot, Birchseed, and Forest Guardian for extra companions in case I can't bring Merry and Pippin back when I need to (DiSanto caught me with only a Frodo and Legolas while the hobbits were still hiding). I will keep the Shadow side which worked great against everyone but Hayes. That shadow has allowed a less skilled player like myself to move up to the middle of the pack and beat people I couldn't beat before. It is definitely going to be fairly consistent, reliable Shadow deck without Gondor choke being so common. So I really like the Standard format. The Dauntless Hunter choke Free Peoples deck is more versatile than the Ring-bound Rangers deck that I had been playing with because it has condition removal with Gandalf. DiSanto had the best Shadow I saw, while Hayes' hobbits were by far the best Free Peoples. But I didn't see Tim Fournier's deck at all.

In closing, it was a pleasure to run this event. I think that Standard
Format has made a positive effect on the playing community. I would like to thank Kards 4 You for hosting the tournament and all the players for showing up to play, especially Travis Frazier and Wayne Waitman who travelled 6 hours from California to play in it.

Enrique Huerta
Bravo 64, ´´Max of Tat´´
Rider of Rohan, ´´Úlairë Enriquë´´
Shadow 16

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