reireibarker - December 2018 Invitational Report - January 14, 2019
Hey folks, my name is reireibarker. I'm *relatively* new to Eternal, having jumped ship from The Elder Scrolls: Legends just before Into Shadow came out. I had a long standing team there and we were very close, as with decades of MTG before that; so one huge thing I've had to get used to in Eternal has been working more or less alone, at least comparatively. Emikaela was in the TESL team as well and we certainly collaborate but it's not quite the same. This is the only card game I am invested in, and not so for her. I’m sure I’ll either build or join an Eternal team or testing unit at some point, but that’s for another time, so here and now I’d like to thank Emikaela for her input and time. ‘Success’ in card games is rarely achieved alone.
So I won the December Invitational. It was before the Merchant nerfs, so it’s an ‘old’ format but the process is fascinating and something I want to share. I’m not really here to do a tournament report, because I find them dull, and I think there’s a world of information about gameplay for the avid consumer to digest. The deck and lineup building process, however, much less so. I am no master of it, but I put a lot of time and passion into it, and have been for a long time. If I do get something ‘wrong’ I’m sure there’ll be a line of those ready to point it out, which I welcome! My only caveat is that when I say something that sounds objective, assume ‘in my opinion’ is attached to it.
The format was 3 decks with a ban, Conquest style. In Conquest you have to win with each of your decks, and after each game the winning deck can’t be used for the remainder of the match. So you start with the 3 decks you register, each player bans one of their opponents’ decks, then you basically play a best of three. Usually you want to ban the deck your lineup as a whole is least favoured vs, but there’s a lot of variables and voodoo mind games to navigate. For example I expected some people to take the same approach I did ( see below) and some to register 3 linear aggro decks that have the same goal and sometimes cards. That said, just bringing your 3 best decks has merit too.
I landed on a triple Howling Peak lineup as I believe in 3 deck 1 ban Conquest you gain quite an edge by being 'ban proof' or at least resistant. Aggro lineups were going to ban the Vara deck every time but Control would not really have a great option ban-wise. What can they do? Ban the Peaks deck? Also Howling Peaks was and is just very strong and well positioned. I expected Peaks-based strategies to be popular, so my level one metagaming was that I wanted my lineup to exist favourably in a Peaks-heavy environment. More on this with each deck. I also predicted that Bore or similar would be maindecked in most reactive lineups, so I tried to get value by presenting no Bore targets. I also wanted to have game vs the decks that beat Peaks AKA aggro which I find is usually not that popular in tournaments, though I had the benefit of seeing that Feln Maul took down the Eye of Winter the day before. 3 decks doing similar enough things that were theoretically good vs the expected field, making the ban phase harder and punishing anyone whose plan was to ban out a single Peaks deck.
The first puzzle piece for my lineup came on day 1 of Defiance. I really like having more than 1 Heart of the Vault in play so I started playing a Jennev peaks/mirror deck that slowly became more efficient, and reacted to what other folks were up to (Peaks mainly but also the ever present ladder aggro). The duo of Amber Acolyte and Temple Scribe formed the fledgling identity of the deck as units that pay for themselves plus Howling Peaks to help control the board + copy your value units. It's been my go to when I wanted to win games on ladder, and didn't need that much done to it when tuning after I got my invitational invite, mainly just Equivocates and market rejigging. Zal Chi went between the main and market a bunch, but once the Shatterglass was cemented it just felt right. I got lucky :P
FPS Howling Peaks
I knew I wanted 4 Varas(and to a lesser extent Highwayman) somewhere in my lineup (and entertained 8 for a while) because she's a very good way to combat peaks strategies as well as naturally gives game vs proactive decks. If you can get her down on a clean board she can't be 1 for 1 with peaks' gun down and their Mirror Image on Merchant or whatever is much more risky. Highwayman was an autoinclude as he trades 1 for 1 with peaks in a vacuum, kills a bunch of common units so I just needed to figure out the rest of the deck. The capacity to be somewhat proactive was there already and Peaks all but had 3/1 slots taken up so for some reason the word MIDRANGE kept flashing in the back of my head. It started off looking similar to midrange Feln pre-Defiance but after Assassin was cut for being low impact. I also nixed Wisdom of the Elders because double Primal early was asking too much of my influence it started to grow its own identity. Xo was doing more work than Wisdom was anyway, so the plan evolved to playing efficient threats that hose Aggro and disrupting what I expected opponents to be doing. The difficulty with FPS is what removal to play, so I sidestepped it a bit with Mug and Dizo’s Office and went for a ‘good vs everything’ approach. I don’t entirely recommend playing this as is, but I think the 3 cards the deck is built around are underexplored, and to be frank I ran out of time.
Lastly, the Ixtun deck. We've all seen the progression of Peaks decks, particularly Ixtun. Mrnotimeman really got the word out about Peaks in general but his exact build just didn't really do it for me. I found the West Wind Herald combo either not useful because I was dying to Aggro, or I had won anyway. Maybe I just don't get it, but either way taking that element out freed up a lot of slots. Feastcaller too, which I love as much as the next, is a great proactive play and sick to copy but I wanted something more dynamic with more utility. Above all I wanted to have control of the board and set up swing turns to twist the screws. Svetya earned her slot late in testing, but hoo boy she is gas. Just playing her is a turn off for many decks, and if you copy her it’s a soft lock and generally enough tempo to end things. She halts tricks and other chicanery from decks trying to kill you first too, so she is rarely dead. Apparently she has an 8 cost ability that’s repeatable too. Who knew? Emikaela convinced me to pull Bulletshaper out of retirement and things really started to move to a happy place. Turns out t4 Peaks is pretty hot. Once that was in the deck, Icaria seemed logical. She kills Howling Peak, attacks and blocks like a champ, and well, is Icaria. She hasn’t been too popular lately but she was an all star in testing and in the tournament.
This looks like a Harsh Rule deck in some places but I don't really think it's necessary. If I had more time I would have looked to fit 8 or maybe even 12 merchants but I was very happy with the deck overall. Avigraft is unimpressive against it, it uses Howling Peak better than other Howling Peak decks, and just try and Bore me bro. Of the 3 decks the Ixtun is the one I’m most excited to try and evolve, but the game has changed a bit since then.
As for the actual games I will keep it short, though I will say that I had a good plan, fine decks, I played pretty well and I ran hot. If anyone ever tells you that running hot/enjoying positive variance/getting lucky isn't part of the formula for winning a tournament they are either lying to someone or delusional (or both). Shoutout to DarkestHour for donating wins in the swiss and the finals, and being a good sport about it. Their lineup was gas, and *really* hard to ban out. No links for you though, go find it. Thanks for reading, and hope you did well in the ECQ. Catch you on ladder or in a draft. <3