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CardShark Content - Patrick Sullivan (7/2/2003)

Well I figured three days of gaming in a strange new land far, far away was too good to pass up on writing a TR. After all, these moments need to be recorded in the history books so I can look back at them when I’m an older man and wonder how I managed to waste so much money on a silly card game.

Pre-Tourney Jank

This time around, Team CardShark consists of Essen-winner Patrick Malboeuf (2118), World Champion Mathieu Brochu (2026) and myself Pat Sullivan (1900) who recently won a free McChicken Sandwich at MacDonald’s on a scratch card. Quite a notable team with a rather obvious anchor. But I’ve got quite the killer deck which I’ve played very little so if I can just get the swing of it rather quickly, I think I can make top 16. Missing from our team this time around is David Malboeuf who couldn’t get time off of work. However, replacing him in an unofficial capacity is 2002 Decipercon Arwen Championship winner, Dung-Hanh Nguyen (1884) who just happens to be Mathieu’s girlfriend (I guess the sleeping arrangements will be easy to figure out this time around).

So the plan is for the two of them to come down by bus from Quebec City (oldest city in North America) Wednesday night, crash on my couches and then the four of us take off for Columbus bright and early Thursday morning. That way we get into town at a reasonable hour so that Hanh can shop and Pat and I can playtest a bit before day One Premier series scheduled for Friday. Luckily we all have premier points en masse so we can skip out on arriving for Thursday morning for the PSQ. The Hyatt is crazy expensive at 130$ a night so we’re happy to save a night of hotel accommodation.

I’m very happy that the entire event is Standard Format. Although I’m bringing four decks (one for each format), I’m happy to be stuck playing the same deck the entire time. I don’t have much experience with the deck and if I scrub out of Day One Premier, then I’ll fix my mistakes for Day Two Continentals. Both Pat Malboeuf and I already have byes into day two but Mathieu and Hanh will have to play in Day One to earn the right to play in Day Two. Which means if Brochu makes it to day two Premier series, he won’t be able to play in the Continentals at all (unless he wins the Premier of course). I hope Decipher announces something to the effect of anyone making day two premier will qualify for day two continentals. That would be fair. What I’m worried about is if I don’t make Day Two Premier (Saturday) what am I to do? I can’t play in Day One Continental since I’ve already qualified so I’m going to have to think of something to do in Columbus, Ohio on a Saturday. I’m sure I’ll think of something…

As for Standard Format, I’ve grown to like it more and more then more I play it. However, I am nowhere near being able to win a tournament with it. I have been placing second in almost every single Standard Format local tournament since they started. It has been very troubling because if I’m not able to win a local, how can I honestly expect to place in the top 16 of a major event? So what deck have I chosen? Although I think Moria is quite powerful still (even without Nertea), I find it very difficult to set up properly without Elrond and Ottar. I can’t seen to cycle enough and I now think Moria is reserved for truly great players than can manipulate their card drawing to a science. Since I only have two weeks to practice my new deck, I don’t have time to get into the intricacies of a new Moria deck so as tempting as it was to go heavy Uruk beatdown, I think I’ll have to go Nazgul. The deck I’ve been playing lately is a 5-culture rainbow with Nazgul/Tip. I have never run into one Grima CC in organized play so that deck has been doing well. But not well enough for me to have the goombas to bring it to Origins. So I think I’ll choose a deck that can run and choke at the same time. I’m going to go back to my Dauntless Choke with Vilya and Wingfoot. I was always happy with that fellowship but unsatisfied with the shadow. I think by adding more stealths and more Elronds, I’ll be able to run a little faster.

What about my shadow? Well Nazgul have incredible stopping power in Standard. But since I’m clearly not going for the shadow kill, I don’t feel the need to consolidate damage. Therefore I cut out most of the tips and the breaths and replaced them with steeds and most importantly, Nazgul Pumps. There is a pump (All Veils Removed I think) that gives +2 strength to a Naz. All too often I see Enquea needlessly assigned to Frodo just because it’s 11-6. Well I’ll be ready to capitalize. But the real reason I’m using that card is for it’s other effect (+5 if the Ring-Bearer is wearing the Ring). The new ring, Mr. Bubbles seems to be put on rather often to prevent overwhelming. Well I’ll gladly take the +5 strength bonus. Apart from that 4 Witch Kings and 4 Atteas for maximum stopping capability. I really hope the deck does well but I can’t seem to bid more than 4 with it without getting into trouble. I really hope I win some die rolls.

Anyway that’s enough of an introduction, let’s get on with the good stuff. You might notice in this TR that I’ve skimped a little on game details. I think it’s just a good safe idea. I don’t want anything to be taken out of context and Big Brother is always watching. Perhaps I should even just write a disclaimer for the fun of it…

Please Note: The views and opinions expressed in this report are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect reality. I have added some degree of embellishment to add to the overall enjoyment of reading this report and therefore not everything should be taken at face value. For instance when I say that ‘Mathieu Brochu is a rich pimp’, it is not meant to be read as him actively employing prostitutes. Or when I say that ‘after Alan Sagan overwhelmed my Frodo with his Tentacle deck, I proceeded to shoot him in the spine’, it is not meant to be read as me bringing a firearm to the event and discharging it with the intent of paralyzing a fellow gamer (and more importantly it should not be interpreted as Sagan actually playing Tentacles).

Thursday, June 26th – Day Zero
(“Sorry princess, I’m not your daddy”)

Well I wake up at 6 in the morning excited and nervous. I run down the stairs and wake up Brochu and his GF and now it’s the Pat Malboeuf waiting game. Scheduled departure was 6h30 but Pat was about half an hour late so we leave at 7 hitting some moderate traffic on the way out of the city (which could have been avoided had Malboeuf not been so predictably late J

So the drive is fairly uneventful. Brochu surprises us by saying he can’t drive Standard. To which Malboeuf responds, ‘yeah, Standard Format is tough.’ I don’t know how funny that comes across in writing, but if you were there, it was pretty frickin’ funny. Anyway so now Malboeuf and I are the only ones that can drive Molly (my Civic) even though Brochu insists he’s sure that he could figure it out on the fly! Forget that noise…

So I drive the first 6 hours and we stop at Denny’s for a bite (I go for the Grand Slam Breakfast for 3 bucks!). In stopping at this rest stop, we were walking on a catwalk over the highway towards the Denny’s when suddenly I feel something on my right hand. I look down and there’s this little girl who is SO SMALL it’s adorable and she just goes on walking beside me holding my hand without looking up. I realize her mistake and I tell her ‘Sorry princess, I’m not your daddy” then she looks up and looks all scared and embarrassed and runs back to her dad who was right behind us. I thought it was so cute but then I was sad that I didn’t have a little girl L
So Denny’s is fairly uneventful with us having a really crazy over-friendly waitress.

Pat Malboeuf then takes over and drives the next 6 hours to bring us into Columbus for 7h30 p.m. Not too bad. We got the whole evening ahead of us. I park the car, check in (awesome room) and the first order of business is to disassemble the business table so that it’ll fit between the two beds for all night play-testing that might be required later.

I then start to get stressed worrying about acquiring an Origins badge as well as event tickets. So we’re off to the convention center which is about a 4 minute walk (as opposed to a 4-mile marathon from John Curran’s hotel J

So Pat and I leave Brochu and GF in the hotel room for God knows what and we go try to get badges. Pat and I get into line and wait about 20 minutes and then I overhear the volunteer manager tell the others that they shouldn’t “take any more.” So I assume that they are closing the registration booths so I tell Pat let’s try to get into the CCG room to see who’s here. We then run into Francis DeSenneville who looks like he’s finally get his first premier point and after Pat says hi to Val (relationship still unknown), we go back to try and get event tickets (after people recommend we get generic tickets). So at this point I see that the registration booth didn’t close but rather the line simply got longer. So I was wrong when I pulled Pat and I out of line. Darn. Back into line we go and 175 bucks later, we’ve got our badges and generic tickets. OUCH.

It’s also around this time that we ran into Matthew (president of our Sponsoring company, CardShark) and he sets us up with these incredible shark hats. We knew we were getting them but we assumed they were simply fins that we put on our heads. Instead, they are full sharks (two-footers) with pectoral and dorsal fins as well as a nasty array of felt teeth. Basically you wear it by putting your head into what can only be described as the reproductive organs of the fish and you’re off to the races with a really big shark on your head. Matt Berta continuously pointed out how stupid they looked but we got to like them immediately. Try to picture a room of 120 gamers all sitting down and three sharks swimming in a sea of scrubs. It’s pretty awesome. Especially when the 3 sharks are all at the top tables. Our team was visible at all times in just the way we wanted to be seen.

Now it’s time to eat. So I studied the surrounding pubs and took mental note of O’Shaunesseys (sp?). We hit that place around 10 and the kitchen just closed. The bartender recommends Red Star near the Empire Theatre and we step out of the irish pub into POURING rain and make a swift 5 minute walk to the air-conditioned Red Star. Brochu’s GF, Hanh, and myself place bets on who’s going to catch a cold first since our clothes are now soaked and the restaurant is as cold as a meat locker.

So a couple of pints later and a really bad BBQ Chicken salad, we head back to the hotel for playtesting. I take on Hahn (or was it Brochu?). Anyway I played 3 games and lost 2. Learning that the Frying Pan DOES NOT belong on Frodo ever. It goes on Pippin and Frodo needs the Hobbit Sword to make the Cavern Entrance a little more challenging. I owned Uruk Trackers real bad with my deck so that boosts my confidence cuz I expect to see a few of them around tomorrow.

So after three games, Brochu and Malboeuf are just getting started but that’s all for me cuz I’m old and withered compared to these young bucks so I pack it in early(ish).

Friday – Day One
(“You can re-assign him to the dead pile if you want…”)

So I can’t sleep. I wake up at 6 in the morning, remember where I am and what’s happening today and that’s pretty much it for sleep. So I get up, shower (nice water pressure), slap on the Team CardShark shirt (tuck the shark into my bag for now) and search out on an expedition for breakfast. Breakfast is my favorite meal to eat out and Columbus was more than happy to disappoint. The hotel’s breakfast was naturally 20 bucks so forget that. The staff couldn’t recommend anything except the cafeteria and food court. So I hit the food court at the convention center and take one bite of the egg and ‘sausage’ sandwich and then chuck it but keeping the coffee.

There isn’t a soul in the CCG room at 7h30 so I happily go over my deck list to make sure I’m fine. Looks good so I go about trying to find something to do for 2 hours. The Intel stand that had a bunch of flat screens set up for Battlefield 1942 isn’t set up yet. The exhibit hall doesn’t open until 10 so I grab an Origins catalog and find something fun. I try to register for 3-D Settlers of Catan but it’s all filled up so I pay 1.50 for a backgammon tournament. Turns out that the time wasn’t scheduled correctly (one of the thousands of mistakes that Origins always seems to make which everyone has grown to accept), so I get refunded and just go back to the hotel.

Everyone’s awake so I playtest with Brochu and pull off a win (I think) learning a very important lesson once again (which I can’t remember now).

So now when we arrive in the CCG room (a huge hall mostly devoted to magic but Decipher managed to grab about 20% of the space) and many people have now arrived. I’m immediately approached separately by head judge Gabe Alonso, Kim Logie and Mike Girard who all wish to speak to me in private. I’m of course quite concerned but it all works out. Gabe wanted to challenge me on my article ‘We are all friends after all…’ because I mentioned that I believe him to be incorrect in a ruling made in Vegas. But I got him to see where I was coming from and we agreed to disagree and that was that.

So after making the rounds and saying hi to countless friendly faces, Gabe tries to start things up and asks if anyone has any questions. Casey B. is nice enough to ask a question regarding timing of Goblin Sneak and Greatest Kingdom of my People. If I now told you that more than 100 people had to wait around for almost 20 minutes for a ruling on this (which was changed back and forth a total of 4 times, I believe), would you believe me?

Anyway things finally get under way so here we go. Once again, my apologies for not providing great game details or anything. I’ll try to give enough so you get the gist of things.

Oh, and when I write my rating in each match up, it’s not because I’m showing off my rating (which I consider to be average). It’s merely there so you get an idea as to how fairly matched I am (if you believe in the rating system, which I do).

Round One
Me (1882) vs. Scott Vandewalker (1745)
Rohan/Gondor – Uruk Trackers
Good: It’s a perfect combination for me. A really nice guy playing something I’m really teched against. I don’t have to work too hard for the win and can thus have a nice pleasant game.
Bad: His fellowship never really got going. It should have done better against my Naz.
Ugly: At site 2 he blocks the Witch King with Faramir and then tries to exert Eowyn to pump Faramir with HIDAN. I say no-no-no, HIDAN is only for unbounds and he’s like, OOPS and reassigns Faramir. At this point, I once again say no-no-no, you’ve already assigned (this is a Premier series after all) and he does not protest (class-act) but I let him know that he can re-assign him to his Dead Pile if he wants. He accepts. J
Result: Fellowship site 9 win for me. I am 1-0 and Team CardShark is 3-0.

Round Two
Me (1882) VS. Doug Nelson (1785)
Ents/Dunland
Doug gave some of my friends a hard time later on during the weekend but I got to say that he was fine against me. No communication really during the game. No smiling or anything but he wasn’t a jerk or anything. So I got to give him respect for that.
Good: Dunland is what I’ve teched most against
Bad: Aragorn with Bow, Blade and Alliance met Wormtongue.
Ugly: I had like 5 archery at site 9 with a Cliffs on the table as well. Poor Dunland.
Result: Fellowship win site 9. I am now 2-0 and Team CardShark is now 6-0

Round Three
Me (1882) vs. Dan Clark (1931!)
Trackers/Rohan-Gondor-Gandalf
Dan is an awesome guy. He was wearing a straw hat most of the weekend and pulled the look off much better than YakoJ
Good: For a guy that smiles pretty much all the time in the game, it’s too bad he’s playing Uruk Trackers against my very prepared fellowship
Bad: His fellowship should have done much better against my Naz. Bad draws I suppose.
Ugly: At site 5 Frodo is by himself and Dan plays Gorn with Bow moving to 6. He is thus giving me 10 twilight. Unfortunately for Mr. Clark, I’ve drawn into one of my only two morgul gates and out come 2 big Naz.
Result: Shadow Kill at site 6. I am now 3-0 with Team CardShark at 9-0!!! WOW. You need to go 6-2 to qualify for day two but at the time, I figured with the way things were going, I could get in with a 5-3 and a good strength of schedule. Anyway I was extremely confident at this point and it really contributed to my gameplay.

Round Four
Me (1882) vs. Ty Hansen (1779)
“Dirty Little Boys” which was Uruk Archery/Dauntless
I was anxious to try out my fellowship against Uruk Archery and to see how other people play their Dauntless (I think Bow of the Galadrihm and Long-Knives is really dumb, for instance. I don’t think adding Bounder is dumb either. Others disagree in a MAJOR way with these two points but I think the biggest different between my Dauntless Deck and others is the absence of Sam in my deck. I don’t plan on anyone dying so why would I want a 6th companion?).
Anyway just typing up this part of the report is making my stomach churn because this was the most stressful game of the entire three-days of Origins.
I knew I was in for a rough playing experience as soon as he told me I couldn’t use my die to bid. He then started this whole speech on how I have to obey every single rule and be very careful for the ‘jerks’ out there (except he didn’t use the word jerk) who will call you on everything you do.
Why is it that the people that say this kind of trash always end up being the actual jerks that in fact are warning you about? This guy gave me a hard time on almost EVERY single action the entire game. There was CLEARLY an intention of stalling. He calls Gabe over for a question about a game mechanic that isn’t in the game we are actually playing. He says he’s just curious. Gabe begins to answer the question and Ty is trying to turn it into a long drawn-out conversation. Gabe then scores big brownie points with me by telling Ty that he can discuss it after the game with him. I have NEVER seen someone call over a judge just to talk before and I hope I never have to see that again.
Anyway he’s succeeded in taking me out of my game because he’s completely disrupted my play style. But I’m a stubborn Irish guy and I wasn’t going to get pushed around by this creep.
One thing I should mention here is that although Josh Cornwall-Mott pulls the same kind of thing (i.e. telling you as a ‘coach’ or ‘friend’ everytime you don’t correctly play a meaningless action), Josh actually does it with class. I honestly believe that Josh has my best interests in mind when he is warning me about moves I’m making. Ty, on the other hand, clearly isn’t trying to help me. He is clearly disrespecting me as an opponent and a person.
Good: He forget to send over extra archery with the Causeway. What was even better was the mistake stayed with him for the next two sites, clearly disturbing him that he would make such a dumb mistake in an archery deck.
Bad: He went first thus encouraging the stall tactic.
Ugly: This was thankfully my only negative play experience all weekend. I had numerous experiences like this at DecipherCon last year and I’m really happy to see that the LOTR player community is made up of so many more good guys than bad guys. I hope these ‘bad’ guys just get weeded out over time and we’ll be left with an outstanding playership.
Result: Fellowship win at site 9. I am now 4-0 and Team CardShark is 11-1 (Malboeuf decided to lose a game for some reason J

Round 5
Me (1882) vs. Brad Eire (1946)
Moria – Ents with LOTS of stuff
Let me first say that this was the best play experience of the day and quite possibly the entire weekend (albeit he had an easy act to follow). When I say that people ‘smiled the entire game,’ that usually means they smiled for about 2 thirds of the game. Brad smiled 100% of the game and we both had a real blast. Which is amazing because I was truly terrified of his moria. So even though I had decided the night before that I was best to double move against moria the entire game (because Vilya is not enough to shut down Moria), I decided to single move against Brad. He single-moved right behind me.
Good: The fact that I won this game was a real miracle.
Bad: Because he went first, I was denied Aragorn almost the entire game. And then just for kicks, Lady Luck decides to put my two Vilyas together at the bottom of my deck.
Ugly: To really lock the win, I should have doubled from 5 to 7 but I forgot to switch Merry’s hobbit sword to Frodo (which he desperately needs at site 7 to survive) so I had to stop at 6. I ended up forgetting to do this exact procedure every single time it came up over the weekend. I always remembered before going to 9 to do it but never to 7. I really need to learn faster. I think the problem was Frodo never died so I never learned ‘the hard-way.’
Result: My fellowship was finally getting its act together at site 6 and 7 so Brad had to double to 8 and ran into a fistful of yen. Shadow Kill at 8. That means I am now 5-0!!! Team CardShark is 13-2 (Brochu lost his match). I’m carrying the team! J

Round 6
Me (1882) vs my man, Casey Barson (1959)
This bear was playing Hobbit Dauntless Choke/Moria
I was hoping to have a shot at Casey because he killed me fast in Vegas at the Booster Draft where I got ZERO companions (besides the 3 in the draft-pack of course). So I wanted to mop the floor with the dude real bad.
Good: Casey. He’s the best. He had gone and made a completely different variant on the dauntless choke with 4 promises instead of Wingfoot. So Sam, Frodo and Legolas become the fighters. It was very frustrating to play against (but in a good way)
Bad: Vilya never showed up so because of Goblin Swarms I couldn’t possibly double move ever.
Ugly: Troll shows up at site 5 against my badly beat up fellowship. However 2 archery (help from the site) with a cliffs and 2 paths was enough to quiet down that noisy troll.
Result: Casey makes it easy to site 9. I really should have concentrated on getting witch king with pale blade out early to try and get rid of those promises. I also should have really tried to get a damn black breath on Frodo. So I’m now 5-1 (at this point I’m more worried about myself not making it in so I stop tracking my Team (how selfish!!J

Round 7
Me (1882) vs. Joshua Carey (1678)
Mirror Match
Good: Once again, I got a really excellent and nice opponent. Josh has newfish written all over him but he isn’t to be underestimated. Although he makes TONS of mistakes and is clearly nervous in a game, his deck is SO solid that it makes up for the slack. The mistakes he is making aren’t key so he’s on top of his game. Once this guy tightens up those loose nuts and bolts, I do believe he’ll be a real force to be reckoned with. He ended up making top 16 in a very very tough environment.
Bad: I couldn’t remember this guy even though he said we’d already met. I hate it when that happens cuz I never forget a face.
Ugly: Mirror matchs always suck because it comes down to 80% play skill and 20% luck and that 20% is really quite huge.
Result: I have no idea how I did it but I won. I am now 6-1 and have guaranteed myself a spot in my first Premier Series Day Two.

Round 8
Me (1882) vs Mike Dalton (1570) or Michael Dalton (2051). You take a guess which one it isJ
Uruk Archery/Rohan
Could it be any sweeter? Not only do I get another stab at Mike (who Orc-Baned me from going 8-0 at last year’s day two D-Con) but since he is also at 6-1, there is NOTHING on the line. Therefore, it is a totally relaxed game with nobody breaking anyone else’s heart (although I feel it would have still been a relaxed game even if more was on the line).
Good: I couldn’t possibly do Mike justice by simply describing him and his play-style with mere adjectives. I would need music or something. Dalton is the most consistent Rings player there is. The only mistakes he’ll make are the ones that don’t matter anyway. You’re happy to lose to him and he’s always happy to lose to you. It’s pretty unique.
Bad: Poor Mike got a bad match up but he was certainly happy to see that once again Vilya got lost in the sink or something.
Ugly: Get ready for this… my fellowship is BADLY beaten up. I don’t think I have any shot at his fellowship which seems to be really teched against Nazgul. So I double into site 9 using WINGCHOW to clear the table of left over archers. Mike has quite a bit of pool and I can only take one wound on Legolas before people start dying. Mike cleared his entire hand except one card at site 8 so he is reconciling into like 7 cards. After drawing the eighth card, Mike smiles and says watch… he then proceeds to throw down on the table 8 free people’s cards one at a time until he shakes me hand. I make a joke that it’s because of my brilliant strategy that I won (I hope he knows I was just joking. It was pretty clear that 20% I was talking about earlier seems to have really saved my butt here).
Result: Fellowship win at site 9. I finish 7-1 placing SECOND overall behind the undefeated Casey who hopefully isn’t superstitious because the 1st seed never makes it past the first match-up on day two EVER at Premier Series.

Gabe Alonso was watching our match and I’m supposed to mention here that he was talking and no one was listening and it made Gabe sad. L

So all three members of Team CardShark have qualified for Day two and we’ll even bring three other Canadians along with us (josh, francis and Dom). So we’re pretty happy but also really tired so off for drinks and dinner we go with the awesome crew from Colorado and friends. This time, we hit that Irish pub in plenty of time so we set up a section of the pub just for our crew and then Hag, Tim McKnight, Kyle Craft and those darling Dinega brothers pour in. There were others too but I can’t seem to remember because I had already had two scotches by the time the group showed. Food was so-so, service was lousy but the company couldn’t be beat. Tons of laughs. This is what the cons are all about. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

I then hurry back to the hotel and fall asleep at like 10 or something. I was exhausted so I couldn’t possibly even contemplate changing my deck this time around. I’ll just stick with it this one time and hopefully I won’t get teched against.



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