Lights Out – ETS Invitational Tournament Recap

This past weekend I had the pleasure of casting the Eternal Tournament Series Invitational with Neon and aReNGee. We had a few technical difficulties, but overall it was a good stream and a fun time. There were a lot of sweet decks, good games, and interesting plays, so I thought it would be cool to take a look at some of them, round by round. You can follow along with the tournament in the youtube vods at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a01ZjZkm03A&index=1&list=PLGPxvOABpJ2T0edgnWg4f0zaU0yyGbqgM

For reference, the bracket: http://challonge.com/ETSNovInvitational

And the decklists: https://docs.google.com/document/d/11s7IAglxvU1w1ph7V5OKwbi9mtsjIC2fAQIn_D0RxgY/edit

Winner’s Round 1: Rekenner (Feln Control) vs. Linyvine (Armory)

I had high hopes for Feln Control coming into the tournament, but Armory is not the matchup Feln is looking for round 1. Rekenner’s key decision game 1 was going playing a Staff of Stories on turn 6 instead of searching for Azindel’s Gift with Celestial Omen, and he was max punished for it by Linyvine’s double Torch. If the Staff had survived Rek would have been in great shape in a difficult matchup, but waiting until after Liny’s hand was discarded would have made the Staff a lot safer and turned off most Rise to the Challenge plays. Azindel’s Gift also cuts off the massive card advantage of Smuggler’s Staff, so the way the draws worked out this game the Gift line would have been excellent.

Game 2 showed off the power of Cabal Countess. The fine lady ambushed in and attacked for 6, then Rek Backlashed Liny’s Harsh Rule to secure another hit. Countess is amazing against Relic Weapons in general, as you can ambush her in at the end of turn and attack the weapon down on your turn without expending a card (you destroyed the relic weapon and were still left with a 4/1 unit in play).

Game 3 some Relic Weapons out-race a Recurring Nightmare – maybe the Nightmare isn’t that great in this matchup after all. If Liny had one fewer warcry Rek might have had a chance, but the follow-up Auric Runehammer after Recurring Nightmare took out the Sword of Icaria had too much armor for Rek to overcome.

Winner’s Round 2: Babam (Haunting Scream) vs. KampfKrote (Stonescar Midrange)

This match looked bad for Babam before the games even started, thanks to Kampf’s full set of Statuary Maiden and Steward of the Past to mess with the Void. Steward in particular doesn’t even need to survive to neutralize all of Babam’s Haunting Scream targets.

In practice, Babam stumbled and Kampf’s huge units just beat him down (a common theme throughout the day). Gorgon Swiftblades and Twilight Raptors just don’t match up very well against Argenport Instigators and Champions of Chaos. Game 2 Kampf added a Statuary Maiden and a Steward of the Past to add insult to injury, but they weren’t even necessary.

Loser’s Round 2: Sir Rhino (FTS Vault) vs. LocoPojo (FTJ Vault)

scraptank

This was a Vault of the Praxis tokens mirror, and it really demonstrated the power of a few different cards. Game 1 was won by a huge swing and double Rally from LocoPojo after he blocked just enough units to survive SirRhino’s Xenan Obelisk-fueled attack. Game 2 showed how important Furnace Mage is in Relic heavy match ups, although it was ultimately dominated by a huge Scraptank LocoPojo could not remove. By the end of the game the Tank had grown to an unmanageable 19/19!

Game 3 had a very interesting sequence that was kicked off by LocoPojo playing a Claw of the First Dragon. SirRhino answered by playing a Scraptank and then attacking with several units. This forced Loco to either block with several units, growing the Scraptank out of range of the Claw of the First Dragon’s 4 Strength, or take the hit, destroying his Claw. Pojo turned it around and once again showed the power of Rally, as he was able to end the game immediately after his Claw entomb trigger. Rally was crucial to pushing through enough damage to finish the game, as SirRhino would have been able to turtle up behind his Scraptank and take over the board.

Winner’s Round 3: KampfKrote (Stonescar Midrange) vs. Linyvine (Armory)

Game 1 Liny uses Rise to the Challenge to grab a crucial Auric Runehammer. Runehammer is great against Stonescar because it almost always gets a 2-for-1 if you can boost it up to 5 strength. Its Summon effect even protects you from taking 5 damage from Umbren Reaper! Getting 2-or-1s against decks without any card draw like Stonescar midrange is especially valuable. Game 1 demonstrated this to the max, as Linyvine killed Kampf’s one unit with an 8/3 Runehammer and rode it to victory. It didn’t help that Kampf’s game 1 configuration was packed with removal that is nearly useless against Armory.

Loser’s Round 3: KampfKrote (Stonescar Midrange) vs. Shedd (Stonescar Burn)

Any matchup where both players are trying to aggressively reduce the opponent’s health total depends heavily on tempo. Kampf has the play game 1, and crucially has two removal spells on turn 3 to get irreparably far ahead on health and board position. When a burn deck is pointing big spells like Obliterate and Flame Blast at your units instead of your face, without units to push for damage, you’re in good shape.

Health total is so important in this matchup that Shedd opted to put multiple Lethrai Falchion in his sideboard to create big health swings in the Stonescar matchup, and he puts the weapon to good use in game 2. A good play (that I missed during the live cast) was using Torch and FlameBlast to deal 5 damage with only 3 power, which allowed Shedd to get in a clean attack with an 8/2 Magmahound suited up with Lethrai Falchion. That’s a good trick to have in your repertoire!

Loser’s Round 4: KampfKrote (Stonescar Midrange) vs. LocoPojo (FTJ Vault)

statuary-maiden

This round really demonstrated the power of Statuary Maiden and Champion of Chaos. Maiden is usually pretty good, but when there is a legion of tokens on the other side of the board she pumps out tons of cudgels. The go-wide deck’s normal plan of chump-blocking large units until it can overpower the opponent is invalidated when every chump block eventually adds 2 strength to an evasive unit. Champion is just an enormous, evasive, undercosted beater, and she beat down very well here.

Turn 4 of game to was pivotal, where Kampf played a Plague to kill 5 units while he had an Argenport Instigator in play. Instigator also did a ton of work in this match, hitting for 3 in the early game and pinging for 1 with its ability later on.

Winner’s Finals: Linyvine (Armory) vs. Toth201 (FTP Shimmerpack)

Armory is a deck that really excels when its opponents are dropping one large threat at a time that it can remove with relic weapons. Toth’s Shimmerpack deck completely sidesteps this axis. As I pointed out the broadcast, but want to reiterate since it is so important: Sword of Icaria and Auric Runehammer against Grenadin Drone is a HORRIBLE matchup. When a 3- or 4-cost relic weapon trades with half a 1-cost unit or 1/3 of an Assembly Line you fall behind VERY quickly.

Game 2 of this match was pretty incredible. Linyvine stabilized with a Harsh Rule and an Auric Runehammer and was able to drop Icaria on an empty board. Not only did the first lady of Eternal land successfully, but she attacked unimpeded FOUR TIMES and Liny still lost the game! Shimmerpack was able to buff an army of 1/1s large enough to race the 15 warcries Liny drew from Icaria. If Liny had enough health to survive another turn, the second Shimmerpack from Toth could have actually downgraded Icaria into a 4/4, showing some of the amazing versatility of Shimmerpack. I think that the card is definitely underplayed on the ranked ladder – it has always been a fringe player, but I think it’s poised to jump into the upper tiers of viability.

shimmerpack

Loser’s Finals: Linyvine (Armory) vs. KampfKrote (Stonescar Midrange)

The brutal efficiency of Stonescar midrange was put on display again here. Kampf cruised to victory on turn 7 in games 1 and 4, carried by the awesome power of Argenport Instigator and Cabal Countess.

In game 2, Liny made a very impatient play in the face of a potential Cabal Countess and was punished for it. On turn 3, with a clear board and Kampf’s 3 power unsued, he played a Sword of Icaria  and attacked Kampf’s face. With 2 Torches in hand, he could easily have waited one turn until he had 4 power and protected his weapon from the Countess’s ambush.

Game 3 is the only one where Linyvine is able to put together a 2-for-1 with an Auric Runehammer, and also the only game this match he wins. This is not a coincidence – Runehammer is the most important card against Stonescar midrange.

Grand Finals: Toth201 (FTP Shimmerpack) vs. KampfKrote (Stonescar Midrange)

If there’s anything to learn about these two matches, it’s that Stonescar midrange is at its best when it’s beating down. It has a lot of removal spells, but attacking is definitely plan A.  Champion of Chaos is such an incredible aggressive card, and it only gets better when surrounded by removal spells to break up multi-blocks and create cudgels with Statuary Maiden. Cabal Countess was also surprisingly good against a deck filled with 1/1s.

There were several cool moments in the last match of the tournament:

In game 1 of the second match, Kampf had another brutal Plague with an Argenport Instigator in play to deal a bunch of damage while killing a handful of 1 health units.

On the last turn of that same game, Instigator combined with a couple of Champion of Chaos to make all blocking decisions irrelevant for Toth due to the deadly + overwhelm interaction meaning each blocking unit only prevented only 1 damage, and then Instigator dealing 1 damage for each dead blocker.

In game 2, Toth crucially had 2 Permafrosts for Kampf’s Cabal Countess and Champion of Chaos while at 3 health.

Game 3 finally has the Shimmerpack that we all wanted, and it handily wins the game for Toth after transforming 7 units into Shimmerpacks, allowing for a massive alpha-strike.

The last game showed off some amazing high-level play from both players. As soon as Toth hits 7 power, Kampf immediately begins making trades that look poor on the surface (like Suffocating a Temple Scribe) in order to whittle down the number of units that potentially get boosted by Shimmerpack.

The best sequence of the tournament in my opinion was the last few turns of game 4 of match 2, the final game of the tournament. Toth has a Shimmerpack in hand, so he would normally want to keep as many units in play as possible to turn them into 4/4s, but he opts to block and trade with Kampf’s frog with a Grenadin, reducing Toth to only 1 unit, but crucially leaving him with 2 health. This play is rewarded when Kampf draws a Vara’s Favor the very next turn, which is not lethal thanks to Toth’s block! Then the very next turn, with the board being a Marisen’s Disciple against a 4/4 Champion of Chaos, Toth lets his shields down by playing Shimmerpack on the two units in play instead of holding up Backlash, which immediately saves him the game when Kampf draws a fire influence that would have let his Champion overwhelm through Toth’s blockers for lethal! The two consecutive turns of playing around exactly what Kampf drew was masterful on Toth’s part, and earned him an invitational win!

Conclusion

The inaugural Eternal Tournament Series Invitational was a fun tournament for me to cast, and I hope it was a fun tournament for you to watch and read about. It will only get better in the future with big upgrades like an in-game spectator client, a larger field of competitors, and a new mic from yours truly.

Thanks to everyone who tuned in this last weekend, and thanks everyone for reading!

LightsOutAce

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