[Presented as received by Missingtoez, with the addition of headings. Enjoy! – rekenner]
Hi, I’m Missingtoez. You may know me from memeing poorly in Twitch chats, making Dad jokes on Reddit, or trying vainly to decipher the cryptic messages Scarlatch has carved on the bottom sides of our dresser drawers on Discord. I’m a TCG & CCG vet who started playing competitively in the late 90’s. I’ve played most every game you can think of, several you haven’t heard of, and a couple you thought you’d forgotten. I began playing Eternal shortly after the open beta started. I’ve finished in Masters every season I’ve played, though never at a particularly high rank, usually choosing to meme rather than chase a rabbit that doesn’t have much meaning beyond bragging rights. The truest test of skill in Eternal seems to be the tournament scene, and that means the ETS. The following is the story of how I went from a never ran to the runner-up in the season five Invitational. The events depicted are mostly true, though I’ve never been one to let the truth get in the way of a good story.
My first couple of ETS tournaments were total busts. I brought bad decks to the wrong meta and was dispatched in short order. I did however learn how the tournament functioned, saw that it wasn’t as intimidating as it appeared at first glance, and filled my friends list with good players who were happy to help if I had a question. Overall, these experiences served to bolster my faith in the system. This was something I wanted to be a part of, this was something I wanted to be good at. If you’ve ever thought about playing in the ETS my advice is to just jump right in. The tournament organizer is a forgiving man, and the community is very welcoming. I knew that the end of a season was rapidly approaching and if I wanted to qualify for the Invitational I’d have to win a weekly outright (of which there were few remaining) or spike the Last Chance Qualifier. I decided to focus my attention on the last weekly of the season and the LCQ due to them being held on Saturday and Sunday of the same weekend. Man plans, infrastructure laughs.
The Deck – Elysian Midrange
First a word about deck selection, and iterating for a pocket meta (buzzwords OP). My choice to play Elysian came from three factors. I was comfortable with the deck having played it to masters on two occasions, though those lists were much lower to the ground and far better suited for the ladder environment. I was confident that it was able to get under, or blow through via Crystallize, the larger Time midrange and three color control decks that were dominating the tournament meta in the weeks leading up to the LCQ. Finally what little hard stats we have about the Eternal tournament meta (courtesy of Darkness3827 and ClarityGGTV) pointed to Elysian as the best performing tournament deck. So I took a stock Elysian list and applied a liberal amount of greed to it, relying on the mulligan system, the slow meta, and my uncanny luck to bale me out of bad starting hands. I wanted it as threat dense as possible for the control match-ups; I wanted it as big as possible for the Time match-ups. I’ve been told by many people that I went too far, and they’re probably right. Here’s my final list:
4 Initiate of the Sands (Set1 #74)
1 Permafrost (Set1 #193)
1 Crystallize (Set1 #232)
You can see that it’s not the most innovative deck. It’s not packed with sexy new cards like Praxis, it lacks the star power of Big Combrei and it doesn’t have the inevitability of TJP Chalice or Ramp Owls. It’s populated by barely disguised frogs and pig-people that turn people into pigs, but it knows that you can’t put out the light and sometime you just have to party. The curve is atrocious, the power base is barely functional, but somehow it works. In fact it is way more reliable than it has any right to be. It just goes to show you math isn’t an exact science.
Last Chance Qualifier
Back to the infrastructure. Going into the weekend of the LCQ, I had little faith that I’d be able to qualify for anything for the simple reason that my internet connection had become intermittent at best. See I live in Puerto Rico, a small island colony know best for its rum, pop singles (Pasito a pasito, suave suavecito. You’re welcome!) and back breaking public debt. Nothing ever works here. The power goes out when it rains; the water goes out when the wind blows. The internet works… when it wants to. Shortly after my first game in the last weekly of the season my internet connection decided it just needed some time off. Rather than try to fight through it occurring game loss after game loss to patient opponents (Thank you Flash2351) I decided to just drop and place all my faith in a solid Sunday showing. With no tournament to play I did the next best thing: I waited on hold with my internet provider and watched the ETS on Twitch when the good lord and Claro Communications saw fit to let my tubes flow. After three hours and countless recitations of Despacio I was told they could get someone to the house to check out my problems next Thursday. Perfect.
Sunday morning I did all the basic tournament preparation you’d expect. I had a nice breakfast with my loving wife, I reset my router in vain hopes that would fix the problem, had our local shaman bless my office with burning sage, and I made the traditional sacrifices of rum, tobacco and chicken at the altar of Jobu. I don’t know which of these actions appeased the god of the internet, but one of them did. For the entirety of Sunday my internet worked as the good people at DARPA intended. My LCQ was a blur of Chalice, which was good because I felt the match-up favored Elysian, and bad because… well, it’s Chalice. Four out six rounds of Swiss I was pitted against the dreaded control deck, including a make or break match at 3-1 on stream verse the talented ManuS. My only loss on the day came at the hands of Khaldra whose Skyward Seer Chalice caught me completely off guard. He was on a run as impressive as mine with back to back top 8 finishes, but sadly missed qualifying. My top 8 match was against Groovy who I’d previously beaten during Swiss. Seeing as Chalice was one of the decks I’d targeted, this was the match-up I wanted. Chalice has no good answers to False Prince and Elysian’s two factions plus low influence allows you to punish them if they stumble on power. I swept him and secured a spot in the season 5 Invitational. Some days Jobu is good, even if he can’t hit the curve ball.
The rest of Sunday and most of Monday were an 80’s comedy montage of me awkwardly approaching people about testing for the Invitational in a way that wouldn’t seem like I was approaching them, because I’m bad with rejection. I was lucky in that the first two people on my list (Buckwheat and NotoriousGHP, both high caliber players) said yes; unlucky in that the gods of Puerto Rican internet wouldn’t let me play more than three games in a row all week. With a tournament looming and my internet connection spotty at best I did the only thing that made sense: I started a new play through of Witcher 3, NG+ Deathmarch. Determined to put the lingering visions of flashing disconnect triangles out of my mind I set about slaying monsters. Thursday rolled around and no one from Claro had been seen or heard from, so I spent another three hours on the phone with Daddy Yankie to find out that the work order was never put in. Perfect. I’m now less than 48 hours away from playing against some of the best players the game has to offer with zero testing and a dicey internet connection. At least that griffin won’t be terrorizing White Orchard anymore.
Determined to make the best of a bad situation I spent Thursday afternoon and Friday morning picking the brains of high level players about what kind of meta I could expect (Thank you Tobboo, you were a great help) and cyber stalking my first round opponent. Okay I googled his name, that’s it, nothing too creepy. I knew he’d qualified by playing Praxis, but there were whispers (a post he made on Reddit) that he was playing something with Banish in it. Dark Combrei? Xenan Control, possibly?! In this economy?! Stuck doing thought experiments instead of testing I came to the conclusion that I should just play the deck that had got me there in the first place. So I greeded up the sideboard some more (Storm Lynxes? Who needs them? No one’s bringing aggro to an Invitational no matter what KCBandit says.) and submitted my list. I subtitled it “Dance with who brung ya” because sometimes I think I’m clever. Before going to bed Friday night I made plans with my wife to abscond to her abuela’s house and hijack the internet there should Jobu not deem my offerings worthy.
The Season 5 Invitational
Saturday morning and the internet is operational, the coffee is hot, and I have the house to myself because my wife was now obligated to spend the day with her abuela (See what I did there?). Kcnabrev was indeed on Xenan Control and his list only had two Deathstrikes main and no other way to kill Cirso, so I knew that if I managed to cast one it would likely stick. His deadly units did present a problem early but they also helped facilitate a board stall, which was a favorable game state for me due to Xenan having no solid response to Crystallize. Game one became an arms race with both of us building large boards until Crystallize showed up to shatter the detente. I boarded in more removal: Permafrost, Polymorphs and the third Crystallize for his most powerful threats, while removing my Scouting Parties, a couple False Princes who were vulnerable to Vara’s Favor and a few of my smaller creatures. Game two played out in similar fashion to game one except I had a pair of Cirsos running wild and even though he had a Mystic Ascendant on the board for several turns he was never able to get anything going that didn’t get promptly answered. Permafrost and a Crystallize sealed the match for me in short order.
Next up would be a Chalice deck either piloted by one of the best players in the game, Ilya K, or one of the best players in the game who’s been maining Chalice since Omens of the Past dropped, Bradykin. It turned out to be Ilya. Game one was a non-game with Ilya getting stuck on two Time while I ramped into two Cirsos, maybe he does have a point about Eternal needing better fixing. I brought in the extra Permafrost, Backlashes and Rain of Frogs, cutting down on small units who wouldn’t be able to punch through his defenders. Game two I was unable to mount an offense that Ilya couldn’t answer, and Chalice did Chalice things, namely slowly draining me of my will to live. Game three my deck was firing on all cylinders with an early Prince applying pressure and a team to have his back. If there’s one thing Elysian does really well on the nuts draw it’s beating Chalice.
Round three I was paired with Swann, a player that I knew little about except that he was formally a member of the now defunct Baboon Squad and he was on a Praxis list even greedier than my Elysian. I was nervous about this match-up because Swann’s deck had solid answers to my Princes and Dawnwalkers in the form of Torch and Purify, Shatterglass Mages for my Xenan Obelisks and a full set of Predatory Carnosaurs. He also has a single copy of Infinite Hourglass in the sideboard which completely destroys some of my most powerful tools should he happen to hit it. Game one was a bad joke my deck decided to play on me where I only receive depleted power, and at one point ended up with all four False Princes in my hand, both Xenan Initiations and no other creatures. Frogs make for exceedingly poor priestesses. I brought in the fourth Permafrost, the Praxis Displacers and the Polymorphs, cutting down on Princes and Dawnwalkers as they were more likely to be a liability than a help. I also made the call to ignore the Hourglass and stick with my Crystallize/Permafrost package, hoping to beat the odds. Game two goes into a board stall until my Carnosaur eats his Sandstorm Titan and he unexpectedly scoops. Game three is a non-game for Swann and it ends in quick fashion. I feel as if I’ve dodged a bullet this round, when the truth is I’ve been Neo since last week. Day one is done, I’m 3-0 and in the top 8.
Day 2: The Top 8
I wake-up Sunday morning at 7:30 am, an ungodly hour which I normally only see from the other direction. Unable to go back to sleep I make a cup of coffee and fire up the Twitch machine. Everyone’s favorite Aussie y0ttabyte was still on and I hung out in his chat fixing my deck for him to play on ladder and lamenting the presence of Burn Queen in the top 8. I was starting to think I’d have a shot winning at this if someone else could kill the Queens, otherwise I’m playing for second at best. I share some jokes with TheOvermaster about the grilling ManuS gave me the night before in regards to my power base, our German friend was in rare form and it was glorious. Not to mention mostly correct. I lay down to try and get some rest for a couple of hours before day two starts, but it was no use. I’m actually nervous about playing a children’s card game. Not having a name in the Eternal had worked to my advantage to this point in my run. My only game on stream was in the LCQ against ManuS and they weren’t showing it for me, I had nothing to lose there. Every game from here out would be scrutinized by the entire community, and that’s more than a little intimidating. Let’s face it; we’re not a forgiving bunch, myself included.
vs HiThar – Big Combrei
First up was HiThar on a pretty standard Big Combrei with the potential to board into Vodacombo. I felt this was a decent pairing due to Combrei being generally unable to deal with False Prince and the games often deteriorating into board stalls which favors the deck with Crystallize. HiThar did have eight silences though, so my Permafrosts and Dawnwalkers would be less effective, but he also only had one copy of Stand Together in the main and that bodes well for me.
I must admit nerves and lack of sleep nearly got the best of me this round. I made several questionable plays and was lucky to scrape by. Game one goes to HiThar when I get stuck on two power, much to chat’s delight. His decision to play a single owl Great Parliament on turn four seals the game. Game two I ramp to six power early filling the board with small units that would eventually carry me to victory. A well timed Crystallize drawn off a party yeti brings the game to a close. I bring in an extra Backlash, Praxis Displacers, Polymorphs and the third Crystallize while removing some small units and cutting down on Dawnwalkers. I toy with the idea of bringing in Scorpion Wasps, but I feel I am the aggressor and I want to see if he goes Vodocombo first. Game three is a back and forth affair where I overextend into a Harsh Rule trying to clear the board for a Scouting Party only to have the Party Ruled too. The Rhinarc that most people would have played as power turn one carries the game backed up by Praxis Displacer, Permafrost and Crystallize. Shows how much most people know. Game four was a total meltdown. I waste a Backlash, play hard into Harsh Rule and generally make a mess of things. Even top decking a post Harsh Rule Scouting Party can’t save me as I only draw into small units and can’t find a Xenan Obelisk. Eventually HiThar goes Voda and makes a heads up decision to Harsh Rule away my meager board the turn before I draw Crystallize. Game five is basically a non-game as HiThar gets stuck on four power while I’m able to fill the board with threats including a pair of Cirsos that finish the match.
vs Sunyveil (Winner’s Finals) – Burn Queen
Meanwhile my hopes of someone else killing Queen came to naught as Mouche was unable to stop Sunyveil, and I was next on the chopping block. The Burn Queen match-up is a tough one. They have the best answers to my strongest early units in Torch and Vara’s Favor, while being able to apply a ton of pressure of their own. Suny’s build in particular was a problem due to four Rapid Shots in the main, and Statuary Maidens in the side. I went into this match with low expectations and high hopes. I was bright eyed and bushy tailed, I was a lamb to the slaughter. I tried to rectify the mistakes I’d made in the last match, play smart and do the seemingly impossible. I failed on all fronts.
I take game one when I manage to survive the early onslaught and slap a Xenan Initiation on a Dawnwalker. Suny draws more power than threats and the light can’t be put out. Game two I stumble on depleted power while Suny chains threats for the first four turns ending in Bandit Queen. I nearly stabilized but a well-timed defensive Rapid Shot and a huge Argenport Instigator were more than I could handle. My lack of event prep rears its ugly head when I make a huge mistake in sideboarding by leaving in my Xenan Obelisks. They are so good in most match-ups it doesn’t occur to me how bad they are in this one. I do bring in Wasps, Polymorphs, Praxis Displacers and the fourth Permafrost while taking out some Temple Scribes, False Princes, Dawnwalkers and going down to one Crystallize. Game three devolves into a board stall until Suny draws his forth power and drops Statuary Maiden. His A+Space turns my team into cudgels and it’s all downhill from there. I dip back into my sideboard cutting down to two Obelisks and bringing in the second and third Crystallize. Game four becomes a frog party as a Rapid Shot reveals my Prince’s true form and I fire off a string of Polymorphs. An Instigator plus A+Space puts me on the ropes until it too becomes a frog. I make a classic mistake when I fail to recognize that I’d become the beatdown and miss an attack with my Rhinarc. Suny then draws the biggest ChaCha I’ve ever seen, but my deck bails me out with the greatest top decked Crystallize in Eternal history (I’m looking at you ExKirby, I want to see that one in the highlights!). Game five is all Sunyveil as I fail to draw large units in time to stop his two Instigators and find no reasonable answer to a pair of Impending Dooms. He also goes into the tank for at least four minutes making me wonder if ETS doesn’t need some kind of time limit on turns. It doesn’t affect the outcome in any way though and Suny hands me my first match loss of the tournament.
In the end my mistakes cost me and the match-up I feared was the one that undid me. Sunyveil is an amazing player, his ability to read a hand is better than anyone else I’ve played against in this game.
vs Hulkbuster – TJP Midrange
My first and only trip to the loser’s bracket was to face Hulkbuster and his TJP midrange deck that made good use of Stand Together and packed a sideboard All-Star in Shelterwing Rider. I was so worried about this match-up that I decided I’d rather face AngryChicken on Big Combrei and that is plain lunacy.
Game one resulted in a board stall that lasted longer than all of human history, and I got a little twitchy attacking with two Cirsos when I had no good reason to other than boredom. N E V E R P U N I S H E D was written in the stars when I was born, and a couple turns later Crystallize shows up and does it’s thing. Game two we both get off to a solid start, but I have the bigger units and an Obelisk. I even get a taste of my own medicine when Hulk Crystallizes my board to set up a two turn lethal, but I have a Carnosaur in hand to take out his biggest threat, and he’s left unable to block my overwhelm units. I sideboard in my Scorpion Wasps, Praxis Displacers, Permafrost and one of my extra Backlashes hoping to be able pop his aegis units and answer his Stand Togethers. I pull out some small units and the Scouting Parties, thinking the big boys will decide this match. Game three is a mess where I over value my board state, and underestimate Shelterwing Rider and misplay at least twice. I lose in short order. I go back into the sideboard for more Backlashes and Crystallize. Game four I get off to a good start and am able to match Hulk threat for threat until I hit a power pocket and Hulk keeps drawing gas. Using a Valkyrie Enforcer to remove the Permafrost on his Cirso leaves me with small units and little hope. A pair of Dawnwalkers isn’t enough to save me, and we’re on to a fifth game. Game five was textbook Elysian. Play big guys, throw down a Crystallize, smash face. I couldn’t have drawn it up better myself.
vs Sunyveil (Grand Finals) – Burn Queen
Sunyveil was waiting for me again in the finals. Honestly, I was defeated before we even started the first game, and the match had a sense of formality. I misplayed multiple times, punted a game I could have won, and it was a bloodbath. Let us never speak of it again.
I’d like to thank the good people at RNG Eternal for putting on this event; they are the soul of Eternal’s competitive scene and are great at what they do. rekenner spends most every Saturday herding cats and does a spectacular job of it. Special props to Miller as well who does good work every week, but went above and beyond for the Invitational managing to broadcast from a state being demolished by a hurricane. All in all, I had a great experience. I exceeded my own expectations and identified several things I need to work on to improve my game. I’ve also regained some faith that skills I’d neglected for years were still there to be called upon, even if they were a little rusty. I’ve got a lot to work on, but the foundation is solid. I came in an unknown and left a Cinderella story. Next time around I plan on being a favorite. Praise Jobu, and I will see you at Worlds.