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CardShark Content - Patrick Sullivan (4/7/2003)

Joliette, Quebec, Canada
Saturday, March 29th, 2003
OPEN format Constructed

Pre-Tourney Jank

Well Vegas is over and now it¡¦s back to basics once again. Or so I thought. I was all set to playtest my Archery-Choke fellowship with Uruk Archery and get it ready for Origins and such and then Decipher announces the Standard Format. What this does to me is my top three decks currently are all choke fellowships that I will not be able to play in Standard Format. No problem, I first though. I delve through my folder where I keep future deck ideas all listed out and my next ten decks that I was going to try all have heavy reliance on cards that are now banned in Standard Format. So not only do I not have a deck ready for Standard Format but also I have ZERO ideas for a potential deck. Ouch. Not good. But today and the tournaments in the next month are all Open Format so I might as well make sure I am happy with my deck in that format because I¡¦ll most certainly play Open format at GenCon, PSQs and other similar events where they will have some Open format type tourneys.

So the deck I am playing today is based on Michael Girard and Mike Clark¡¦s idea from a while ago on a choking fellowship that has massive archery to deal with whatever hits the table. It is a Gondor/Elf mix and plays Legolas, Arwen, Haldir with Faramir and Aragorn. It has a base of 5 archery along with 4 Gondor Bowmen and 3 Double Shots and a Splendor of their Banners. The shadow players will have to get out a lot of jank to survive that. This will be made difficult by the fact that I will have 3 No Strangers, Bill the Pony, Sting and Aragorn HTTWC all on the table. The intention is not necessarily for my fellowship to make it to site 9 but rather to hand clog the opponent enough so my Uruk Archers take them down.

The shadow consists of the usual Uruk Archery compliment with a Wizard Storm and a Volley Fire thrown in as insurance. It also has 4 Savageries for Lurtz, Elite Crossbowman and Orthanc Assassins. Needless to say this deck will not be viable in the Standard Format. But we¡¦ll see how it does.

In Vegas I played this deck during the team tournament and went 3-3. I lost the first three because I was playing for a fellowship win and won the last three once Mike Girard slapped me and told me how to play his deck. I expect the deck to do very well today and most likely go undefeated. Most Joliette players play with very unversatile fellowships that have difficulty with a focused shadow. Plus my choking fellowship is bound to really throw them off (I hope they hang on to their shadow skirmish pumps all game just waiting for the opportunity to play them. An opportunity I will never allow).

The thing that stresses me out the most about this new Standard Format is the short-term confusion it will cause. For instance, I¡¦m quite nervous that I¡¦ll show up to Joliette and they¡¦ll tell me the tournament is Standard even though on the Website it states Open. I¡¦ll proceed to argue and more than likely, they have become convinced that Standard is the ONLY way permitted to play. I¡¦ll then have to change my deck at the last second and suffer tremendously as a result. Either that will happen or, more likely, they haven¡¦t even heard of Standard Format and I¡¦ll have to enlighten them. But I¡¦m not really ready for Standard Format yet. I want to practice Open as much as possible because the Montreal TOC and the Ottawa PSQ are both most likely going to be Open as opposed to Standard. So perhaps I won¡¦t mention Standard Format to these guys just yet to avoid the next tourneys all becoming Standard.

Anyway the tourney is at 9h30 and is almost an hour¡¦s drive so I have to force myself to get up early Saturday morning to get there on time. I¡¦ll make sure to swing by the Tim Horton¡¦s to get myself my usual coffee and muffin for breakfast. Plus Tim Horton¡¦s is having this contest (Roll up the Rim to Win) where each coffee cup could be a winning one giving you a Buick Rendezvous! Which is easily the second ugliest car on the road (first being the Pontiac Aztec, which the Rendezvous looks like to begin with). Anyway if I do win the big car, I¡¦ll pull a Brochu and sell it the first opportunity I get. A wiser move.

Anyway before I begin my resume of the tournament itself, let me take a moment and discuss the Joliette Meta. This is one of the strangest playing environments I have ever been in. I have played in hostile environments (BD Cosmos), highly competitive environments (Kool Kards Heaven) and downright fun and mega-relaxing environments (Quantum Cards). Joliette seems to be a combination between the latter two. The store owner, Alain, wants nothing more than to protect his local playing community (which is surprisingly abundant) and does so by only allowing players from Joliette and outsiders that demonstrate excellent sportsmanship. I have never really had an issue with sportsmanship but now that I have become a much more competitive player, I can let that get the best of me from time to time (it mostly manifests itself in casual play with my good friend, Steven Judge (like I forgot to use Enquea once and forced him to let me take it back in CASUAL play. What¡¦s my problem?). But I can¡¦t let these type of things get the best of me so the best way to describe me playing in Joliette is like me walking on egg shells. I have to be VERY careful about not ruffling people¡¦s feathers. It has never been a problem because as a LOTR player, I am generally quite liked (I allow take backs, I¡¦m constantly making jokes and having a good time) so I¡¦ve never had a problem in Joliette before. But so many players have not been asked back to this store that I know I¡¦m quite lucky to be in the good books with these people. I must not lose this because there are very few places to enter into Organized Play LOTR in Montreal. Hence me driving an hour at 8 in the morning on a Saturday to enter a tournament. Anyway I¡¦m not too nervous because I get along with EVERYONE at this place. One of the funniest things I see on a regular basis in this store is how competitve the players are but at the same time they just play for fun. Like when they play each other, they never allow take backs but when they play me they go so far as to offer me take backs EACH time I make a mistake. How nice is that? Why me and not their closest friends?! It¡¦s so weird. I think it¡¦s because between themselves they take their ratings very seriously but don¡¦t feel in direct competition with me. They don¡¦t want to be the best in the world. Only the best in little old Joliette.

Speaking of ratings, mine has taken a nose dive since Vegas. I used to be 1946 at one Point (I think) and now I am 1901. And don¡¦t even talk to me about my sealed deck rating. Luckily there is a booster draft tomorrow so I¡¦ll be able to redeem myself hopefully (hey, maybe I¡¦ll pull a fourth ATAR foil!).

Anyway enough of the pre-tourney stuff... let¡¦s get to the good stuff:

Arrival at the Tournament

So I arrive at the store WAY too early so I grab coffee and toast at the Tim Horton¡¦s. Pound it back, roll up the rim to ¡K. NOT WIN. And head to the store 45 minutes early.
I end up waiting outside (it¡¦s like 15 degrees Celsius so that¡¦s not a prob) and after fifteen minutes players start arriving. So we discuss the new Standard Format and ALMOST everyone is really excited about it. One guy who ALREADY has problems against Nazgul is really mad because he thinks everyone will play Nazgul now. Maybe he¡¦s right. Only time will tell.
The store is called Les Mordus des Cartes and I¡¦m not sure what that means in English. They decided that their next tournament (April 12th) will be Standard Format and that will be the province¡¦s first Standard Format so I really have to figure out a couple decks as soon as I get home.
Carle Berard, the TD, was desperately wanting my promo Theoden from the pre-release so I was happy to sell it to him for 20 bucks cuz I didn¡¦t really want it. That really made his day cuz he¡¦s collecting all the promos for fun. Anyway it¡¦s really cool to see everyone again so after many handshakes and the like, pairings are announced.
Round One
Me (rating is now 1901 due to a catastrophe a few weeks back with my RBR Dunland mess) against Pierre-Huges Marois (1652) playing Gondor/Old-Skool Sauron
We both bid zero and I win the die roll so I choose to go second (this ends up being the most important decision of the game). He is starting Faramir (Rare) with a Gondorian Ranger so I assume he¡¦s playing Ring-Bound Rangers. Turns out after Aragorn HTTWC hits the table, that is the totality of his fellowship. What?! Well I¡¦m very happy because my Uruk Archers will eat him alive. He¡¦s choking me like crazy so I only manage to kill a Gondorian Ranger before site 9. In the meantime, he gets out UTWE and 4 Orc Bowmen all before the second sanctuary. OUCH. He plays HATE twice to kill Greenleaf and Faramir fairly early, leaving me with Frodo, Aragorn and Arwen. Haldir decides to not show up all game. Anyway he is one minion away from Swarming Frodo on several occasions, the most notable is at Site 7 where I was pretty sure he was going to Swarm Frodo cuz I gave him a ton of pool with 3 companions on the table and Frodo is naked and I¡¦ve got no events. I wasted all my Gondor Bowmen and PATHS earlier on because I was sure I was going to kill his fellowship faster. Anyway I barely survive Site 7 and then he moves to Site 9. My Palantir Chamber pulls out a Ranger Commander and 2 Uruk Crossbowmen. I have a Weapons of Isengard maxed out on the table and he has only Frodo exhausted, Faramir exhauster and a healthy Aragorn with his bow. He makes the mistake of exhausting Aragorn by shooting each of my minions once. I was then able to send over 5 archery (with the discarded Weapons) and win the game. WHEW.
FW +3 /3
Good: Uruk Archery against 4 companions all game.
Bad: I almost decided to go first and would have most certainly been swarmed at some point.
Ugly: HATE killing two of my companions really early.
Round Two
Me (1901) VS. Yannick Salvas (1518) Uruk Trackers and Battlefield pumpers/Bizarre Fellowship including Greyhaume, RBR, Gimli, Son of Gloin WTF?
Yannick is a really nice guy and I¡¦ve never played him before. He has wanted to play against me for months in order to learn how to play better (these are his words) so I am really happy that we get paired up. He outbids me and decides to go first. He plays his site which is Western Emyn Muil (the one that exerts RB companions when they move from there) and his starting fellowship is Faramir and a Ranger of Ithien. Hmmmm¡K these guy definitely needs some work in the basic deck-building department. So he moves and is greeted by my Elite Crossbowmen who he blocks with the Ranger of Ithien (even though Faramir had armor), his Ranger dies because he had to exert once at site one. I¡¦m starting to feel bad for Yannick so I am helping him realize his mistakes as he goes along. Out comes Gandalf Greyhaume and Gimli Son of Gloin who die pretty early as well. He forgets to heal at the sanctuary but I let him go back (naturally). So at this point I know I¡¦ll be winning this game most likely at site 5 (Deep of Helm) by the way things are going. Then comes my turn. I play Faramir with his Bow and Athelas. I play an Elven bow on Arwen and move to my site two with those two and Greenleaf. I have a couple double shots in my hand and a Paths so I¡¦m feeling pretty good. He plays an Uruk Rear Guard and puts a Broad Bladed sword on him. That¡¦s 14 power against my 7 power or less companions. I send 76 archery his way and the Uruk smashes them all away with his Jedi lightsaber-like Broad-bladed sword. So I have to decide which companion will die and I choose Greenleaf. I can¡¦t believe it. I stop at two and try to cycle as fast as I can to set up a site 5 win before I die. By the way, he¡¦s playing the common ring so that shouldn¡¦t be too tough. At site 4, he plays an Athelas and moves to site 5 with everyone exhausted. I ask him if he¡¦d care to use his Athleas first and he thought it was a skirmish event. I let him discard it to heal Faramir ONCE. I then manage to get out 2 Uruk Crossbowmen and a Ranged Commander out at site 5 and the two Crossbowmen end up on Frodo overwhelming him. WHEW.
FW+3 /6
Good: Deep of Helm is nice.
Bad: My Greenleaf biting the bullet at site two.
Ugly: He¡¦s playing RBR with that silly site One.
Round Three
Me (1901) vs. Serge Loiseau (1633) Nazgul/HEAVY Gondor
Serge is one of my favorites cuz he loves getting paired up against me to learn good tactics. We usually end up having lunch together too so we¡¦re both happy with this pairing. I was sending 5 base archery his way so his Nazgul were having a tough time. Just for fun, I risked the game at site 5 after exhausting Toldea, I blocked with Frodo and played a PATHS. If he had a All Blades, he would have won the game right then and there but I hadn¡¦t seen any yet so I figured he wasn¡¦t playing them. Thank goodness he didn¡¦t and Frodo survives. His Gondor is choking me heavy but my site 8 doesn¡¦t agree well with them and I manage to get out a Crossbowmen and an Elite Crossbowmen (I could have played Lurtz instead but watch what happens¡K). I can then exert 3 times these guys to wound an unbound companion 3 times. He has Frodo, Boromir (exhausted ) and Aragorn (with 2 vitality left). Three exertions later, Frodo finds himself alone and Serge reaches out his hand to congratulate me on the win.
FW +3/9
Good: Serge is a great opponent.
Bad: Me risking Frodo¡¦s life needlessly.
Ugly: Him having very few companions with healing capabilities against my wonderful Uruk Archers.
LUNCH TIME. I go to Harvey¡¦s with Serge and two other dudes. Knock back a Bacon-Double Cheeseburger which knocks me back and keeps me from finishing my onion rings (darn, what happened to me? I must be getting old). Grab a Tim Horton¡¦s Coffee to try and win a Buick Rendezvous¡K. NOPE. Please try again. Oh well¡K back to the tourney for two more games.
We are 18 players today so we¡¦re playing 5 rounds. Two more left¡K
Round Four
Me (1901) VS. Jonathan Bolduc (1584) Moria Swarm/perfect Rohan/Gondor mix
All day I¡¦ve heard about his never ending skirmish event fellowship. I find this amusing as my minions aren¡¦t supposed to make it to the skirmish phase so that¡¦s a lot of wasted cards on his side. On the other hand, I almost got swarmed by Sauron earlier so I am fairly nervous about his Moria. He bids one and chooses to Start. That is ICE COOL with me. Nothing much happens until site five where his moria is fairly set up (Swarms, They Are Coming, Four armories and a relics) however ZERO scimitars have shown up. YAY. He gets out a Troll with two orcs and I send just enough archery so that the Troll ends up with two wounds so I can get rid of my two PATHS and double to six. He surprises me by scraping an armory so that his Troll ends up with one wound after all is said and done. Darn. Faramir BITES it and I can¡¦t double move (which is probably a good thing considering I would die at his site 7 for sure). I then keep single moving behind him and I have him completely exhausted and at NINE burdens moving to¡K palantir chamber. I am tempted to get Enquea but he has an OEG on the table so I don¡¦t want to risk losing the fierce skirmish. I use his burdens to play a Ranged Commander with 2 Crossbowmen and my Weapons of Isengard. I send over 5 archery and that¡¦s game.
FW +3/12
Good: He¡¦s playing a million skirmish events but my guys aren¡¦t supposed to skirmish anyway.
Bad: I wish I could have killed that damn troll with my two PATHS. That would have been cool.
UGLY: 9 burdens at palantir chamber
Round Five:
Me (1901) vs. Alexandre Leblanc (1765) Dauntless Choke with Smeagol / Uruk Battleground
Alexandre and I had a nice chat before the tournament so I didn¡¦t mind getting paired up against him because he usually plays really fun theme decks (You¡¦ll never see this guy playing an Uruk Bomb/Gondor Mega Choke). However he does take the game rather seriously and it leads to some awkward moments during our games. Like during this one, I finish sending over archery and then state, ¡§You can assign now however you want¡¨ to which he comes back with a dry ¡§that goes without saying.¡¨ SORRRRY. Oh well¡K apart from that and out of games, he¡¦s really cool so I don¡¦t mind. Anyway his fellowship is crazy weird in that he is playing what appeared to be a Dauntless Choke at first with Smeagol but ends up being a big skirmish canceling extravaganza to hang-clog events and stuff. Try to imagine an Uruk Archery deck looking at four hobbits (with blue ring and escape on the table) and Smeagol, and Dauntless Hunter. That is A LOT of viality staring you in the face. Plus he¡¦s playing Old Bilbo¡¦s Heir with Farmer Maggot so he¡¦s healing up once a turn. He gets set up quickly and then sets up his hand to always have 6 or 7, sometimes 8 minions and pumps. I got Sting early and looked at this every turn. I would then move and he would say I PLAY NOTHING. So I can¡¦t in God¡¦s great name move again, right? SO I don¡¦t and then he discard a minion and reconciles. He does this every time my fellowship moved. He was essentially PERFECTLY preventing me from double moving but I thought I would be choking his through-put like crazy by not double moving. He still managed to make it to site 9 to my great GREAT amazement. He loses Smeagol at Site 3 and replaces him with Boromir. I get out Enquea at site 5 and blast away Legolas. I now have to really get quite a bit of Archery on him in a very little amount of time. Thankfully, he is exerting Boromir all the time and double-exerting Merry to use Escape. This adds up to a great deal of wounds and exertions and by the time he reaches site 9, he¡¦s in bad shape. He has seven burdens which lets me get Enquea and still have a party. So I also play an Orthanc Champion and he reaches out his hand in congratulations.
FW +3 /15
Good: Getting Sting early let me know that double-moving is bad.
Bad: I played a One of you Must Do this early on for 1 twilight (the remainder of the pool at site 2) and he exerted somebody. I then noticed that it was supposed to cost me 3 twilight because of Dauntless Hunter but he hadn¡¦t noticed. So I didn¡¦t mention it and the game continued with me feeling guilty about getting in that free exertion. However I didn¡¦t feel that bad about it because¡K..
Ugly: I could have done without his snarky comment when all I was doing was telling him we were moving into the Assignment phase. My French must really suck to elicit responses like the one I got. I must have said it very dryly or something¡K
Anyway I went undefeated with the deck that went 3-3 at the Vegas Team Tourney. There aren¡¦t many days left in Open format play so I¡¦m happy that I don¡¦t really have that good a deck to worry about. I should really get on to constructing a decent Standard deck. You know what I¡¦ve been noticing people are doing with this Standard Format? They are taking their previous successful decks from Open and changes cards to make it LEGAL in the new format. I didn¡¦t realize until today how bad that it is. It would be much better to start from SCRATCH and take into account what cards your opponent will NOT be using anymore so you can capitalize on these weaknesses and new opportunities. For instance, fellowships won¡¦t be cycling as well as they used to (making hand-clog decks more viable), and also obviously Nazguls are now viable as a shadow kill culture. Many new changes that have presented themselves and I really need to think about what I can take the most advantage of in Standard Play.
Anyway I had a great time in Joliette (as I do pretty much every single time) and now have to get started on building a standard format deck. Oh and putting together a site path for tomorrow¡¦s booster draft at Quantum Cards in Montreal¡K

„« Tim Horton¡¦s for running a really addictive contest and serving really addictive coffee (perhaps this should be a slop?)
„« Alain for being as welcoming as ever and for playing in the tournament (he¡¦s the store owner)
„« Carle for patching things up with his GF on their 6-year anniversary. Nice job. Oh and thanks for giving me twenty bucks for that Theoden card you wanted.
„« Yannick Salvas for sticking in there even though he loses all the time. It¡¦s his birthday tomorrow so I gave him a list of cards he could buy with his birthday cash.
„« Serge and his friend for being fun to talk to over lunch and stuff
„« The Bolduc brothers for being fiercely competitive but real sportsmen at the same time.
„« Christian Toupin for not showing up! He¡¦s one of my favourite opponents. I look forward to seeing him everytime I drive up to Joliette and he¡¦s a no-show!?
That¡¦s it. I¡¦ve got a booster draft tomorrow so I¡¦ll be sure to write up a TR for that as well¡K.

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