So once again it’s a 6a.m. wake up that I didn’t want. Once my eyes open and I realize what is going on, my stomach churns and burns and I’m up and out of bed. This time around, I really need to relax since I’ve got a lot on the line today. My first match up is against this guy Todd V who is an ex-magic player I believe and usually professional magic players are always real jerks so I’m not looking forward to playing him. In fact, out of the top 16, 15 guys are all A-class good-all-around guys and then there’s that Peter guy who has a bad reputation as an ex-Magic player. Luckily he’s paired up against Brochu so that’s an easy write-off if I’ve ever seen one. So I’m worried that this guy is going to pull a Ty Hansen on me and goes all Rules-Nazi on me. So I’m really worried about him (I should have at least said hi to him the day before and chatted a bit cuz then I would have seen that he’s a nice guy and that all this noise is just in my head).
So I say, screw it, I’m going for the 20 dollar hotel breakfast. It’s really relaxing and helps me cool down a bit from my early stress level. However, the breakfast is SO awful I can’t believe it’s going to cost me 15 bucks. I can’t even begin to imagine how I’ll eat those potatoes and the eggs are awful but man, those Italian sausages are great in the morning. Plus they were serving StarBucks which is as close as I’m going to get to Tim Horton’s in the states. So 3 coffees later, the waiter offers me a coffee to go. I accept and now with 4 coffees in my empty belly, I’m starting to feel like I’m at one of my local tournaments at Quantum Cards (where I drink way too much coffee and eat nothing).
So it’s only 7h30 so I sign up for demos at Rio Grande games and play a game called Mammoth Hunters with one of the company execs playing along explaining the rules with me and two other guys. It’s funny how the personalities we see in card games really translate into pretty much every other game. In this game, you got the guy that knows the rules and hence feels superior but in this case, doesn’t want to win because he feels sorry for us (he was really nice). Then you got the smart-aleck that makes jokes all the time (guess who that was?). Then you got the all around nice guy who’s a good player and is in it for the fun but pulls out some cool moves in the meantime (I forget his name). And then in 4th place you got the guy that is clearly just there to win at all costs even though he has NEVER played this game before. I mean, what is this guy’s problem? We’re trying to learn how to play this game and he is so in it for the win. It was pretty funny cuz I was using all my negative cards on him just for kicks and I got the stink eye a few times.
Anyway I had to drop early cuz 9h45 was coming up and Gabe said if you’re not there on time, you’re out (this was the bluff to end all bluffs in the end). I arrive at 9h35 and we wait around until 9h55 for everyone to show up (with a very anxious Mike French ready and willing to fill that second alternate position). Oh well, maybe next time Mike, when there are fewer Canadians J
It was around this time that I ran into the Smith brothers (Geoff and Madison). Geoff has been what he jokingly refers to as my Padewan Learner. We talk by e-mail and been working on his deck together (so that his girlfriend won’t beat him in locals anymoreJ
I think we got it figured out and he was feeling quite confident with it. So he and Madison were playing the Day One Continentals trying to make top 16 for the bye into day two. Unfortunately they got paired up and Geoff had to take out his younger brother. But it was really great to meet him because you meet so many people over the internet and more than not, you’re disappointed when you actually meet the person. I don’t know why that is. I guess we just build expectations. But Geoff far exceeded what I was expecting. Over the e-mail, I thought it was just some anxious scrub that really needed help but would never be able to appreciate the help he was getting and do anything useful with it. Geoff goes and makes day two continentals and keeps telling me it’s all because of me. I would love to take credit for that but this game is much more about the player than the deck. And Geoff’s play-style is at the level now where he can take on the best and pull out wins without shaking too much. Anyway I just needed to introduce that aspect of Saturday because it was a nice break between games to go take a peek at how Geoff and Madison were doing.
So Gabe explains the rules and stuff and Todd and I get together to play our first match.
Preliminary round to make Quarter-Finals
Me (1882) vs. Todd V (1859)
Nazgul/believe it or not, I can’t remember the fellowship. I think it was Elves and Gondor
I bid 4 to his 3 and boy does he make me pay heavy for it with Twilight Nelya with Sword at site 2.
Good: Todd is a great opponent. I feel stupid that I went and created this whole Mike Long-ish type of character in my head when this guy was really polite and honest and a great opponent.
Bad: my bidding was bad. If anything proves I wasn’t scouting, that would be it.
Ugly: I lost both my unbound hobbits at site 2 after not mulligan-ing even tho I drew zero of my 6 stealths in my 64 card deck. However, I was really worried about his fellowship cuz he teched against Naz (smart lad). So I ran to 9 against HEAVY NAZGUL with only Aragorn, Legolas and Frodo. Ask me how I did it? I really don’t know.
Result: Frodo dies at the finish line. I was amazed at how they could survive that long journey just the three of them. Bounder is the best. So I’m 0-1
Well now I have my work cut out for me. I have to win two in a row. However, the good news is my fellowship is teched against Nazgul so all I have to do is play smarter and stop his fellowship at some point (he still doesn’t know I am playing pumps. I saved those in the first game for a potential surprise in round twoJ
I bid three this time and won and got to go first. I should have bid 1 because he bid zero. I didn’t pull my cliffs so I was still in range of Twilight Nelya.
Good: I set up much better this time around
Bad: His ZERO fellowship draws gave my Naz the stopping power my freeps needed.
Ugly: He has seen my tech now and I think we both knew how the third game was going to go down.
Result: Fellowship Win site 9. 1-1
Good: I am now perfected against Naz. I know what I can and can’t do.
Bad: Nothing. This was a pretty clean game.
Ugly: My pumps come out for the BIG surprise to kill Legolas early. That was immensely satisfying.
Result: Fellowship Win site 9 2-1.
Todd was a great player and I really look forward to seeing him again at GenCon.
So now I bugger off to look around and I see that Pat Malboeuf and Josh Cornwall-Mott are playing still. Turns out this was game three and it lasted 2 hours and 10 minutes (Josh is notorious for taking long Maneuver phases because he plans out the entire turn from that point).
I’m not going to get into what happened in my tournament report. But I can safely say that I’m sure each of them would consider their 3-game match-up as the single most negative play experience of their lives.
These two have a long history of bickering over rules and procedures in games and Josh has never been able to been Pat Malboeuf. So tensions were high. From what I know, Josh beat Pat fair and square in the first game. In the second game, tensions were a little higher and I don’t know who started what but the two of them start really REALLY getting picky on the rules. Patrick as an example calls the judge when Josh plays a minion with a possession at the same time (something I’ve been doing since February 2002). Gabe them comes over and issues Josh a warning. These types of things are habit for a Rings player and are not easily corrected. Josh does it again purely by habit. Patrick calls the judge over and issues Josh…. Get ready for it….. a GAME loss. Come again?
So everything falls apart here and in the third game, both of the players are clearly walking on broken glass the entire game. I could not watch one second of the game play because it was so stressful and yet boring at the same time, it would just drain all life energy from you. So I went about doing other stuff and accidently got caught up into a discussion of the merits of the ruling with Gabe. Because I felt that playing two cards at the same time during a fellowship phase or a shadow phase when the other player isn’t really allowed to do anything (there are no actions for the opposing player), playing two cards at the same time thus has no effect on game play except for speeding things up a bit. So I’ve been playing that way from the beginning (I remember back when my friend Steve and I used to spend like 7 twilight at site one in one shot to show off how many toys Aragorn was starting with), so it really frightened me to think that someone could call me on this crap and Gabe ‘Soup-Nazi’ Alonso would give me a game loss. I call him Soup-Nazi cuz I refered to him as a Rules-Nazi a few times over the course of the weekend and he was somewhat offended (with good reason). I’m purely meant Nazi in the terms that Seinfeld refered to that crazy rules-stickler Soup vender as the Soup-Nazi. It was purely comical and certainly didn’t mean that Gabe was enlisted in the SS (as much as I’d like to say that wise-crack joke is mine, it was actually Gabe that beat me to it).
Anyway back to the story, because of my level of tension with Pat and Josh fighting and me having to play Dalton in the next match, it wasn’t too long before I was yelling at Gabe at the top of my voice. So I went into the bathroom to cool off and Girard told me to take a breather which I did and it helped. 10 minutes later we talked like friends and once again agreed to disagree.
My problem with this instance is that the Judge was being used as a Weapon by both players. They were waiting for the perfect moment to use that ‘ninth card’ on their opponent to win the game instantly. Gabe realized this half way thru the 3rd game and then stopped making rulings because the players were using it to nit-pick. I think that was a good call on Gabe’s part but unfortunately real problems were happening. Like Josh clearly forgetting that his Nazgul were fierce and moved to the regroup phase by accident. Gabe didn’t rule on it and Josh was thus allowed to go back and have fierce skirmishes against Pat’s fellowship.
Anyway that’s a whole big mess but I’m happy to say it has a happy ending. Josh beat Pat and they worked out their differences recognizing how stupid they were both acting. Josh at one point in the game stated that ‘this isn’t how the game is supposed to be played.’ Or ‘ this isn’t playing cards anymore.’ And he’s absolutely right. I think it’s really important to strike a balance between the spirit of the game and the rules. It can’t go either way too much (and there’s too many examples here to use so I won’t get into it).
Gabe made a good point by saying that working out with your opponent before a game starts on how the game will be played might be a good idea. That way you know what to expect and there isn’t any unpleasant surprises. Everyone at a Premier Series event knows that no one will let you heal if you forget. But to call someone on touching twilight tokens during your fellowship phase and thus having warnings issued is completely ridiculous.
Anyway back to reality.
My next match up is the awesome force of Michael Dalton once again. I’m really hoping he’s playing the same deck cuz I’ve retained my tech against that deck.
Me (1882) vs. Michael Dalton (2051)
The game details here are going to be very sketchy because I was completely exhausted after our match-ups and couldn’t bring myself to take notes immediately afterwards for this report so I really don’t remember much.
Good: I mapped out his site 7 because he play’s Kings Room which hurts me like mad.
Bad: It was really a match up a lot like yesterday. Mike got bad draws again.
Result: Fellowship Win site 9. I’m 1-0. This feels better than last time.
Good: Even with Tennet sitting beside Mike the entire game, I didn’t feel any loss of confidence or any degree of nervousness.
Bad: PATHS is so money against Uruk Archery. I can’t believe it. You can intentionally let your fellowship absorb the archery wounds at nine so they all die off and then just PATHS twice and win.
Ugly: In my best move the entire weekend, I mapped out my own site 3 after going first. Golden Hall. Eat that ROHAN! This forced Mike to stop both at site 2 and at site 3 which placed my fellowship at site 6 at that time. I was way ahead and could handle the King’s Room on my own (leaving Pippin exhausted was fun).
Result: After a 25-minute Shadow phase at site 9, Mike pulls out the best he can but can only palantir one card. He manages to pull a Severed His Bonds but fails to grab the PATHS. That’s game. 2-0.
Mike was great and I really was pulling for him in the Continentals the next day. I can’t believe I’ve managed to beat the great Dalton 3-0 in two days. My rating is going to fly.
I should mention here that Gabe sat beside me and watched our game and told me that my play style was perfect and I didn’t have anything to worry about. He even said I play like Brochu which I take as a big complement (as long as I don’t tell jokes like him, I’m happy)
Josh had already beaten Doug Faust at this point so I was very concerned about playing him cuz I didn’t want to be called on dumb things like playing two cards at once. With Gabe telling me I play well enough to not worry, I was inspired enough to go and talk with Josh BEFORE our match. Cuz once you hit the table, both players usually adopt a whole other persona so it was important to me that I speak with him before our game. Anyway basically I caught him coming in from outside and told him that I won’t be calling him on anything stupid like playing two things at once or touching twilight pool. He initially responded that he has to do what he has to do but I didn’t give up and really told him that I don’t want to have a game experience like he just had cuz neither of us could ever take on Brochu in the finals after going thru something like that. He agreed that the whole thing was really dumb and told me he was relieved that we could just have a fun match-up. So a handshake and a hug later (and a big thumbs up from Sundholm), we sat down smiling.
Me (1882) vs Josh Cornwall-Mott (1871)
Naz/Dauntless with a nasty Arwen-Sam surprise thrown in for later
Once again I bid too high and paid a terrible price with those pesky Nazgul swords. We had both bid 3 and he won the die roll.
Good: I ran all the way to nine with Josh right on my coattails. WINGCHOW!
Bad: Josh made it to site 7 first. He then moves into 8 and I drop an army of Nazgul. He stops. WHAT WAS I THINKING. I am 100% sure that if I had not played anything, Josh would have doubled out of fear of my fellowship doubling. I then could have dropped a huge Nazgul bomb on him at nine and still probably lost but I would have had a shot at skirmishing frodo with my pumps.
Ugly: So instead he stops at 8 and I’m forced to double move. I had way too many burdens so he goes and gets cantea and then for the win places and sword or steed on him. Bounder and Severed his bonds can’t save me now.
Result: I died at the finish line. Great game. Well played on both sides.
We both bid 3 and he wins the die roll. DAMN. He stops at 2 and I double to 3. Josh makes it to site 7 first again. He singles to 8 and I have a great Naz hand so I have no choice but to drop it cuz my fellowship is really beat up. So I drop Witch who was 16 cuz there was another Naz. Arwen blocks witch and I play a PUMP so Witch King overwhelms Arwen. Josh stops. I move into 8 and take a real beating. I now have to choose on double moving with a Nazgul left on the table or going for his fellowship. This is the first deck I’ve known completely by heart so I go thru my discard pile and realize I have 3 or 4 naz left in my last 9 cards as well as a … wait for it…. Morgul Gates. So I stop. Josh moves to 9 and I morgul gates an attea and then state “…I learned this one from you, Josh..” and remove two burdens to get Cantea for the overwhelm.
Good: I’m back baby!
Bad: Close game. Too close
Ugly: Overwhelming Arwen was sweet sugar candy.
Match three (to earn a place in the finals versus Mathieu Brochu)
We both bid three and I WIN THE ROLL. I am so excited. So I START. I know that my deck owns Nazgul so I can run like mad. I draw into 2 stealths and a vilya with 5 shadow. That’s good enough to get to site 3 in one piece so I keep it and start. I fetch Aragorn and move to 2. Attea with Steed comes out at the Wold. Ouch. I look at the situation. Attea will take 1 wound from Archery and then I can move again with WINGCHOW wounding Attea twice. Merry needs to pump Aragorn to survive the first skirmish and then I’ll stealth the second one. So I’ve got it all figured out so I say take an archery wound. He does. I then want to trick Josh into forgetting to add one pool for the Wold of Rohan so instead of pulling Attea over to Aragorn (and thus making the assignment obvious) I just say, “ok… Aragorn. Pass.”
Let that sink in…
Well I did succeed in making Josh forget to add one pool for my assignment. However as you may have guessed I seem to have overlooked a very important feature of my plan.
No sooner had I said the word ‘Pass’ had I realized my incredibly stupid error. Josh always looks down when he plays, and for the first time he lifts his head up a full 45 degrees with his eyes as big as dinner plates and says incredulously “Did you just say pass?”
To which I immediately respond, ‘ yeah, I made a mistake. Aragorn is dead” and I pitched him into my dead pile the same way that I rudely pitched Scott Vandewalker’s Faramir into his own dead pile back yesterday morning at round one of the premier series where this whole thing started.
And now we’ve come full circle to where the whole thing ends. Without Aragorn, I have no fighter. Legolas is purely supportive and is not meant to handle attea nor Witch King nor Toldea.
Josh was a pure gentleman and immediately offered his apologies for my mistake (the same way that you would say “I’m so sorry your dog died.” He was a great opponent and I was happy to lose to him.
We played out the rest of the game with me single moving and somehow Frodo made it all the way to site 8 by himself before succumbing to another of those pesky Canteas.
1,150 kilometers. 75.50 inscription fee. 8 gruelling rounds including a double dose of Dalton. 1 word “Pass” costs me at least 600 dollars. The look on Josh’s face? …priceless.
It was a great and terrible day and I wouldn’t really want to live it again but I am so happy with the end result. Josh went thru hell and back again with Patrick Malboeuf and he really deserves the finals more than I. My objective at the beginning of the day was to defeat Todd and then to be defeated by Dalton. That was my realistic expectation and I went above that (the same way that Geoff Smith will go beyond what he expects of himself tomorrow at day two). That’s really all I can ask for. I surprised myself and played it like a pro. Even the best of the pros are still human and the level of fatigue and exhaustion from trying to break down the wall of Dalton simply set in.
After that I stood outside for a bit with numerous friends and explained what happened. Everyone was very supportive. None more so than Josh.
I watched the finals and was happy to witness that suicidal double move Brochu pulled to site 8 and only losing pippin against 4 fierce Nazgul with steeds and witch kings and all he had was 5 very tired companions. It was amazing.
We took a bunch of pictures and then we went back to the Red Star with Tim McKnight for an awesome meal of champions. Many pints of cider later, I was once again the first one asleep, completely forgetting to change up my deck for tomorrow.
DGMA had given away 5,000$ to 16 players. 3 of those players, Team CardShark, took HALF of that money (2,475$). Thanks to Patrick Malboeuf for pulling in that 75 bucks. That really helped us out, dude. How about next time around, you play a deck you know? J
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