Since the newest 24-card update hit our SolForge clients, I’ve been having flashbacks to the first big update. Back in the beginning, when all we had were 6 starter decks worth of cards, all of the creatures and spells were very different. Everything had a sort of flat power level, meaning most cards could be played interchangeably with only moderate impact to the outcome of the game. While fun for starter decks, in the forum games that we played before there was deck construction, it made for very predictable games.
When the initial set was fully released, everyone was thrown into disarray. Most of the cards we had been playing with for months were completely changed. For example, Flamestoke Shaman went from a 5/5 based progression to a 6/3 based progression. Level-gating was added to Windcaller Shaman, and Epidemic now affects only one player’s creatures while Firestorm hit all of them. Needless to say, the format was change completely.
Now with only 24 new cards and a few very critical card changes, the competitive constructed community is going through this whole experience again. Gone are the days of Shapers dominating everything. Now, Garmgunts, Dinosaurs, and Seedlings run rampant over the field of battle.
The night of the tournament queue release I was leaving on a trip for Las Vegas so I didn’t really get to play with the new features until a few days had passed. Fortunately, I was able to ask around and get a relatively good idea of what was currently being played. Knowing that I was walking into a storm of seedlings dropping onto the field with Tarsus backup and a bunch of Grimgaunts backed with removal, I went back to my spell-playing roots and put together this little number.
Rock of Ages
Not surprisingly, I did extremely well. I was able to casually play Zimus, Flameshaper, Master, Lyria, and Epidemic to mitigate the amount of damage I took to about ⅓ of my life total. Once PL2 hit, my deck would really get rolling and I’d trade creatures back and forth till my nearly insurmountable late game kicked in. I was doing so well in fact, that I was ready to just lock in my deck and move on.
Then people started playing Thundersaur, and I realized I had a problem. No matter what I tried, I could not beat a Level 2 Thundersaur. Seriously, even after adding 2 Cull the Weak and 2 Blightwalker, I still could not consistently answer the card and get my deck rolling enough to win the late game.
I abandoned the color combination and decided to move in on this Weirwood/Thundersaur combo that people were pushing. With some input from the Forge Watch guys I was rolling this around the queues.
3 Weirwood Patriarch
3 Synapsis Oracle
3 Battle Techtician
3 Alloyin General
3 Oreian Justicar
3 Ferocious Roar
1 Frostwild Tracker
2 Scout Drone
2 Munitions Drone
2 Mossbeard Patriarch
That’s right, thanks to Racecar0 being one lucky SOB, I was playing 3 Thundersaurs. This deck seemed awesome, it felt like it caused infinite turn 5 concessions or turn 6 wins. Aye, but here was the rub; the deck had no consistency whatsoever. Worse still, I played this list a solid week trying to get it to work. It seemed so awesome, but no matter what I did I just could not get it to do more than 2-1 in the constructed queues. The power of the deck was entirely tied up in Weirwood, if you didn’t draw one at least every other turn, you were pretty much left with a field of useless low power creatures. After a particularly bad day where I had two 1-2s and an 0-3, I put the deck down in disgust. Its lucky that I did, because quite by accident, I put this together 1 day before deck submission.
The very first evening I ventured into the queue I went 11-1. Now, I wasn’t worried about drawing all low power creatures, I could get an a combined 19 power with a Level 1 Echowisp and a Tarsus. If my opponent’s tried to counter with Oreian Justicar, I could easily switch gears and drop Weirwoods, Thundersaurs, Grimgaunts, and Heart Trees. I gave NT fits. Sure they could get an early 7/7, but I could just take a little damage and trade it away with half an Echowisp and one of the 9 cards that would make up the Attack difference. Weirwood was still important, at Level 2 it could make any of my Level 1 creatures into an absolute beast and the creatures themselves had synergy to make sure all of my other plays would be strong. I decided early on that I didn’t really like removal, the format revolved entirely around who could get the biggest board the fastest. My deck was so explosive and so consistent that I felt playing removal would be a losing strategy, so I didn’t. Finally, during the end of the game, if things got hairy, I could just snap off an Explosive Demise on a large Thundersaur 2 and win out of no where. I locked in my deck very confident in my NT and Thunderbots matchups to the demise of many opponents. If these were the two decks that I was going to see at the Invitational, I was set to explode into top 8.
I didn’t play till Sunday, so I figured I’d have a heads up on the meta that awaited me. Not surprisingly, there were many NT Removal and Thunderbots decks. Also not surprisingly, there was also at least one brew each day that had planned for this meta and broke into the top 8.
My day to play came, feeling prepared and focus I sat down to start my first match as the featured player. Much to my dismay, my first match opponent never showed up, so I had to wait for round two match. After checking the decklists and seeing that I was going to be playing an AU Growbots build, I was ready to show off what my deck could do.
Everything worked out wonderfully, fearing the Tarsus, Hereoskage cast Justicar after Justicar while I cast everything except for my Echowisps. At the very end, when Hereoskage looked like he had gained full control of the board, I launched a 24-damage Demise straight at his face for the win.
Game 2 was even worse for him. Again, he started off with the Justicars while I played everything that would ignore. On the back of Thundersaur and 2 Heart Trees, I broke through his defenses and took his life total to zero.
Up 2-0, I had to face the most unexpected deck of the tournament. Whytefyre playing his UT deck which I’ve started calling Fyrefist to honor his ingenuity.
Not only was I not prepared for this matchup, I wasn’t prepared for the nut draw that crushed me game 1. By turn 5, he had two 7 Attack Firefist Uranti, two of them! With their massive health pools and my panicked misplays, there was nothing I could play to take them out in one hit, and he quickly rushed me down to 0 in just 5 turns.
Shaken, I readied myself for game 2. This one started much better for me, and over the course of 5 or 6 turns, I had build myself a very strong board position. But then, disaster struck! Over the course of 3 turns, I didn’t draw a single leveled creature. Worse, one of those turns had me playing a Level 1 Leafkin and a Level 1 Heart Tree against his 8/8 Ether Hounds. Using this window, Whytefyre was able to pull the game back in his favor and kill me with a timely Ashurian Mystic for the last points of damage with me staring at the fully-leveled Tarsus and Weirwood in my hand.
Despite moving to the Lower Bracket, I was down but not out. I now had to win 3 matches to make it to the top 8. Darnaudov was playing a fairly standard UA Bots list, and with my extensive practice against the deck I was able to rattle off a 2-0 and move on to the opponent that would ultimately be my own demise.
Xtof was playing a full-on Tarsus list, the only person besides me even running the card, if I recall correctly. We both went right into our respective strategies, him playing Leafkins, me trying to get some Thundersaurs rolling. After trading a game each, we launch into fateful game 3. He started off with a pair of Leafkins while I got a Leafkin and Weirwood leveled. Back and forth we traded blows, he slowly gained the upper hand, but I battled back with Echowisps and managed to get a gigantic 20+ health Grimgaunt Devourer 2. But in the final moments of the game right before I was able to wrest control and smash Xtof into oblivious, he slammed a Level 3 Ferocious Roar, putting me to -6 and ending my Invitational dream.
Now that I was down and out, it gave me a chance to reflect on my deck and the tournament. Would Mossbeard Patriarch have been a better call than Heart Tree? Probably. Should I have found room for a pair of Gemhide Bashers to shore up a Tarsus mirror? Yeah, seems like a good call. Was I happy with my performance at the Invitational?
No. I cannot lie, I was absolutely livid.
Pondering what I could have done differently while I watched Xtof systematically march to that finals match, I had to reassess my situation. Here I was, playing with the best SolForge players in the world. Every one of them had dropped the kid gloves and put all their skill and savagery into winning this tournament. Every single person deserved their spot and we all fought our very best for the prize. Watching Bludex and his Grimgaunts knock down every Tarsus, Firefist, and Gargoyle that was thrown at him made me realize, I had no right to be upset, nor did I need to beat myself up over performance. How could I when any of a large list of cards, old or new, could have won the Invitational. We have a new, only minimally explored meta, and it is alive and kicking. This is an exciting time, one that only happens right when a set is released. This Invitational, the Invitational that I had the glorious privilege to play in, was the best way we could have celebrated it. Thank you StoneBlade. Thank you Forge Watch. To another amazing year of SolForge!