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Getting Better: Jim's Road to WoW Worlds 2012 (Part 1)

This is a column that helps you get better at your favorite games. Whether it's knowing the odds to draw black trains that are left in the deck in Ticket to Ride, or understanding the ramifications of picking a Rocket Courier X-99 early in a game of Ascension, if you're looking to gain an edge over your friends, this is the column for you.

Alright, guys! For those of you who do not know, my name's Jim Fleckenstein. I'm an avid gamer, and in November, I finished in the top 4 of the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game 2012 World Championship.

The the last two articles that I wrote over at Daily Metagame have focused on how I arrived at the decks I'd be playing in Atlanta (found here and here). It's time to see how the big day went, where weeks of testing would bear fruit of either victory or defeat. I felt like our choices were pretty reasonable if not amazingly outside of the box, but as I've said before, I'm just as happy playing a great version of the best deck than I am playing something new, different, and unusual. Unless you've broken the format like Tim Batow's Krazal the Eggregator, that is. Play the broken thing whenever you can.

I almost audibled to our version of Mistress Nesala the night before the main event, and in fact was planning on playing it for the span of a few hours. However, I felt strangely out of place playing a control deck like that one, and I really didn't care for how it matched up against Mage in particular. I changed my mind and stuck to the original plan of playing Hunter, which suited me just fine when I learned the next morning that we'd be playing only four rounds of Contemporary instead of the five I was expecting. That meant that I only had to dodge the Hunter hating meta-decks for 4 rounds before I could shift gears, and it also meant that the players who packed a deck looking to beat up on poor Jaral of Gilneas would have fewer rounds to pad their records. Maybe they'd stumble in the Core and draft portions of the event, so I wouldn't have to deal with them if I made Day 3. It was a comforting thought, and with the player meeting concluded, it was off to the races!

Round 1: Marcin Filipowicz, Zumix of Kezan, lost the die roll

Well, at least the prediction of Mage was coming true immediately. I felt pretty comfortable with this sitting down, assuming that Marcin hadn't made some non-traditional choices. My opening hand was a little clunky; it did have Garet Vice and Beast Mastery, but was missing a two drop, which was perhaps a blessing in disguise given that I'd be going second into Overload. I decided to keep, and figured that it'd work itself out.

Garet did some good work, but Marcin played Mana Agate on turn 2 and I had no way to punish him for it, lacking a two drop. My turn 3 Beast Mastery was Counterspelled, which put me in a real bind as he also got to reload his hand. I let him heal twice off of Traitors! as we got into the midgame with my relatively empty board. Marcin did manage to find Infinite Brilliance and play it on turn 5, so I wound up sporting a board full of Avatar of the Wild with Glacial Tombs and Polymorphs all over as he could afford to go 1 for 1 with me and still progress his resource row. Too many Cold Fronts and frost effects later, and I was 6 points short before dying to his eventual parade of Mazu'kons.

0-1

Round 2: Craig Goebel, Zumix of Kezan, lost the die roll

Another Mage, another lost die roll. This game looked to go a lot more smoothly, as I had what is commonly referred to as "the best possibles." Garet Vice, Loriam Argos, Faenis the Tranquil, Edwin VanCleef, and then Viewless Wings. While Craig valiantly tried to hold the line with two Ice Barriers and a Daedak the Graveborne, it really didn't slow my proverbial roll that much. The second Ice Barrier prevented a ton of damage but didn't trigger on me, and that game was over in a hurry.

1-1

Round 3: Joe Gayda, Jaral of Gilneas, won the die roll

Teammate! Noooooo! Joe's list deviated from mine in a few ways, the most notable of which was his use of Latro Abiectus over Loriam Argos and Scarlet Commander Renault Mograine]for the mirror. While this hurt his non-Hunter matchups, I figured that Latro would be a real pain for me, and we definitely knew that Scarlet Commander was the real deal without Spoils of the Hunt to kill him off. The game went relatively slowly, with his turn 2 Boomer getting Grumdak, Herald of the Hunt to come out and clean up. My Grumdak met his Grumdak, my Faenis the Tranquil met his Faenis, and then he played Scarlet Commander on turn 5. Yikes.

Now, I had played Viewless Wings on my 5 and had a Leader of the Pack, but I had to somehow convince Joe that he needed to do something offensive with Scarlet Commander Renault Mograine, and he was still at zero damage on. That convincing took the form of Legacy of the Legion, which I played on turn 6 and then ended my turn. His turn 6 started with a Grumdak, Renault, and Faenis in play, so he sent Renault at the Protector Demon, played Aggra, sent the rest of his team at the Ferocity demon, and then said go. I then drew, placed a resource, completed Leader of the Pack, played Avatar of the Wild for 1, and attacked him for 30. Yep.

Joe told me after the game that he'd taken the Jeishals out of his list, but I didn't know that when I played my Wings on 5. Quite simply, I didn't have another choice. I had to try to get past Renault in such a way as to punish him the most and deny his Faenis a chance to dig him back out. I played to what I felt was the only way to win, and it fortunately paid off.

2-1

Round 4: Jason Newill, Anaka the Light's Bulwark, lost the die roll

Uh oh, Grand Crusader. Even without Bottled Light, this was going to be a challenge for my version of blue Hunter. I didn't have traps, or Concussive Barrage, or even Aspect of the Wild to keep my guys in line with his. If he was able to secure an ongoing or two, it was probably going to end badly for me. I remember mulliganing into a rather subpar hand, but truth be told I probably could have chosen my starting 7 and still lost.

Jason's turn 1 stash of Magni, the Mountain King got embiggened by a Blessing of the Kindred set on Warrior, and I knew I was in for a bad time. Sure enough, a 3/3 Gully Rustinax soon followed, who I knew I could never interact with until he decided it was time to protect. My first action was Faenis the Tranquil into a 4/4 Avatar, but the board rapidly got out of hand with a Scimitar of the Sirocco and Babaganoosh the Grumpy both coming down. All the while, Gully is beating me 3 damage at a time, and I'm stuck with a Faenis that is barely keeping me even. Then it's General Husam time for Jason, and he's completely unkillable thanks to Blessing of the Kindred. Yeah, he's a Warrior. Who knew? I stared him down, worked a few counters off of him with my Avatar, and then proceeded to die the next turn from about 12 damage on.

2-2

That could have gone better. I felt like I played very well in the game against Marcin, but Jason's round 4 drubbing was a completely lopsided affair. I knew that I'd have to step up my game going into Core, but now it was time to play a completely unfair deck. With a little luck, Grglmrgl would be able to get me 4-1 at least and secure a spot in day 2. Whee!

Round 5: Andrew Dicosola, Barador, Wildhammer Timewalker, lost the die roll

I had almost no idea what to expect, as I figured that anything blue shaman could do any other class could do as well or better. I suspected I'd see Winter Veil Disguise Kit and Crime Scene Alarm-o-Bot because that's the reason to be Alliance, and sure enough I wasn't disappointed with the establishment of the combo on turn 3. Unfortunately, I had heavy trickeration waiting for him; a turn 1 Furious George and turn 2 Child of Agamaggan were in play when the lock hit. Turn 3 was then completing of If You're Not Against Us… which earned me 3 damage, a George activation, and then a Concussive Barrage to flip. I then also Barraged his Bot for 4 and sent the piggy at his head, keeping the pressure up.

Andrew's Call of Lightning set me back both of my allies, but he had an empty board and I was flipped. I played Unstoppable Abyssal as a 4/4 Ferocity to bring him to 19, holding a General Husam in my hand which would be lethal unless he played a protector. A second Call of Lightning was not that protector, and so Husam showed up and applied the finishing touches.

3-2

Round 6: Scott Landis, Wildseer Varel, won the die roll

And here I was hoping for an easy cruise to day two. I'd fiddled around with something druidic early on in Core testing, but abandoned it in favor of Distraction Technique. I had a pretty reasonable idea of what to expect, and so I played it pretty cool the first few turns, allowing his Stormwind Summoner free reign of the board while Thadrus, Shield of Teldrassil gummed up my works. However, I was able to play a bunch of allies fueled by Hemet Nesingwary while staring at Thadrus, which enabled my Monstrous Upheaval to go to the dome for 8, flipping my hero.

Despite Scott's turn 4 Edwin VanCleef which immediately cleared my board after the Upheaval, I felt like I was in good shape. My turn 5 was Commander Ulthok for Malfurion's Gift, which I knew to be the centerpiece of Scott's late game strategy. A General Husam took care of Thadrus for free, and then it was just a matter of playing any card I drew and smashing face with it.

4-2

Round 7: Jessie Morris, Wildseer Varel, won the die roll

So Druid turned out to be a lot more popular than we expected. Jessie seemed to be invested in Treants, opening up with a turn 1 Bottled Life. I took this to be a token-centric deck, so the Bottled Spite I played felt particularly good as it cleaned up a slew of annoyances. Jessie then established the now familiar Kit-Bot lock, and I took the opportunity to Commander Ulthok away his Malfurion's Gift. Stripped of his turn 5 play, Jessie was done for the turn.

Here's where I get a little giddy, and Jessie, if you're reading this, I'm so terribly sorry. There I was, staring down Kit-Bot, with Unstoppable Abyssal in my hand and a Commander Ulthok in play. I just needed to get my flip online, and it would be so very over. So I complete If You're Not Against Us…, which gets me a card. I then play a second one from hand, which Jessie mulls over, but eventually decides to take three. I can't play my Abyssal fast enough, turning off his Bot's Protector keyword, sending Ulthok to the face for 5, flipping my hero, and then using the Abyssal to dismantle the annoying Bot permanently. Next turn was Legacy of the Legion, and the game was quite over.

It was everything I dreamed it could be, Jessie. I hope you understand.

5-2

Round 8: Kirk Buckendorf, a.k.a. Mr. Titan Lover, Edwin VanCleef, won the die roll

I knew Kirk's deck to be Distraction Techniques, and felt fortunate that I'd had time to practice this matchup beforehand. Kirk mulliganed into a pretty bad hand featuring only a Poison the Well and Stormwind Summoner for early action, but he eventually established a very pretty trifecta of Night Elves with 2 Thadrus and a Faenis slowing my advance and undoing all of my good work from earlier turns. I snuck a General Husam into play while Kirk foundered, and got him up to 5/5 with a Gilblin Deathscrounger that did not fear death at Thadrus' hands. So emboldened, Husam proceeded to punch a Thadrus for 6 and not die thanks to his ambient damage prevention, whereupon I activated my Bottled Spite to kill that Thadrus, sent Husam into the other Thadrus to kill him off, played Legacy of the Legion to end Faenis, sent the Gilblin and a Pygmy Pyramid to begin the victory parade on Kirk's head, and flipped. With an impossibly large board and a flipped hero, that was all she wrote.

6-2

Winning the die roll with this deck is sweet.

Round 9: Leo Porento, Grglmrgl, won the die roll

Yep, still sweet.

My first mirror match of the day, and it turned out to not be a mirror at all. Leo's deck was much more controlling than mine, sporting Obliterating Trap, Bear Trap, and Yertle. His first two turns were Jadefire Scout and Gilblin Deathscrounger, but my own Furious George helped keep the pace even. My subsequent Jadefire Scout was eaten by a trap, but Hemet Nesingwary came to town and threatened to allow me to pull away. I Ulthoked his Monstrous Strike on turn 4 to protect my Hemet from getting blown up cheaply, only to find that he didn't have any Strikes to remove. I did, however, get to see that he had four traps left in his deck, and that I was going to be ahead on board thanks to Furious George stalwartly sitting there dealing 3 at a swipe. I did lose Hemet to a Bottled Spite activation after he'd killed the Gilblin Deathscrounger, but I was okay with that. With his hero exhausted, Commander Ulthok and Furious George were enough to power my flip, and a subsequent Ulthok for his Ulthoks and a Pygmy Pyramid were enough to secure the win.

7-2, ending day 1 in 27th as the second-worst 7-2

Ugh. Not only were my tiebreakers terrible, I was also in the split pod featuring 4 x-2s and 4 x-3s. Worse, one of the other x-2s was my teammate Andy Farrell, who somehow had worse tiebreakers. I'm not a stranger to being in the position of having to just shut up and win to get to Day 3, but having it easy once in a while would be nice. Hopefully, Andy and I wouldn't get paired in round 10, thus giving us both a better position before having to do battle. We were both pretty comfortable with our draft preparation, so I wasn't incredibly nervous leaving the hall on Friday. Of course, in draft, any number of things can go wrong, but I really hoped to avoid them and just stick to the draft insights we'd picked up.

What insights, you might ask? I haven't mentioned those yet, have I? That's what's in store for next time, as I talk a little bit about what preparation we did for the Limited portion of Worlds. Hope to see you then!

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