Sometime before signing up for the Fun in the Sun tournament, I decided "You know what, I'm going to write a tournament report." It was a kind of off-the-cuff decision. I justified it that it would be an opportunity to spark a discussion of general strategy and playstyle, but really, I just wanted to do it. So, when I logged in and built my deck, the first thing I did after that was to take notes on what deck I played. And I was taking notes all through the tourney, and doing writeups after the matches. It wasn't a terribly efficient way to play- I didn't have anything near the number of matches required to win, especially since I was also prepping for Otakon all week. But I did wind up having fun, at least until I got fatigued with the format.
Here was the deck I played:
2X Azure Dragon - East Vordore
2X Giant Squid
3X Magic Scythe Soldier
3X Sea Hunter
3X Eagle Soldier
3X Haste Soldier
3X Song Sorceress
Peregrine Paladin Larut
Saber Saint Lapierre
Killing Machine LaBeau
I noticed a trend towards Damage-inflicting cards in the tournament- Peregrine Paladin and LaPierre were by far the most-played Soul Cards. I also noticed a lot of games which ended when I lost by being low on copies or SP, which makes me think that Ruby Carbuncle has been underrated as a SC. But, I'm aware that we were also playing a very different game from Folrart Arena- having full access to all cards makes for a totally different experience.
The Deck names below are my own inventions.
Battle 1: DWildstar playing Blue Beaters.
I've played this guy in the Arena before, and he's a good player, so I know this won't be an easy match. We begin with a long and proud Falkow vs. Falkow tradition, by Backlashing a Haste Soldier. He tries the Haste Soldier again second turn, I hold off to play Eagle Soldier instead. This turns out to be a good move, because his next play is Return. The Eagle Soldier goes packing, but next turn Sea Hunter tags in and puts the Haste Soldier down for the good. Abel pops from his Soul Row, but with no other face-downs on his field, it doesn't mean anything. From there I pretty much press the attack with my 3-drops- he does the same, but doesn't manage to build a board presence. He plays Swan Cavalier, which I've never seen played before and which is interesting- he places it next to a Scythe Soldier to increase him from
"dangerous" to "quite dangerous". I try to engineer a big turn with the help of Magic Doll SC- he blunts my edge with a Strike Samurai SC but I still manage to stun his board. I capitalize with Vordore, and he matches me with Giant Squid- a decent card in this matchup, but blunted because I have Sea Creature up front, Scythe Soldier and Vordore in the middle, and the Sylphs in the back, unreachable. I hold the line, but things start looking bad when he takes down the Sea Creature for the third time next turn. Fortunately, my second Soul Card goes off, and combined with a return on his Song Sorc the Squid goes to the Graveyard. His board couldn't recover in time.
I played well this match, but I also got very lucky. The Sylphs played smart for once, attacking the people with 10 HP instead of with 10 DEF. There were a number of situations where the game could have turned against me. Ultimately, however, a Falkow vs. Falkow match boils down to getting the most out of Vordore, and once I had him and a good board to back him up, that was that.
Battle 2: lacontessa playing Grand Wall
This was an interesting deck. It starts off with two Folrart Shield Knights, which makes me say "huh." It turns out to be a White/Black hybrid that attempts to brickwall the opponent. She follows up with Abel in the Back row, but I put a Scythe Soldier up front and go over the Knight's heads to take him out. At that crucial point in the game, she plays Animated Dead and, for all intents and purposes, immediately loses.
Let me digress for a moment to talk about Animated Dead. This card is, in my humble opinion, the ABSOLUTE WORST CARD IN THE GAME. 30 ATK is impressive for a 1, but 1 Range and low HP and AGL makes it pretty much useless on the field. And the ability actually makes it *detrimental* to play it. Yes, yes, some other great cards have the same ability, but those cards are also good in combat, the ability costs half as much, AND they can be hidden in the back and still be effective. No amount of Undying will make 30 ATK, 1 AGL, and 1 range more than a nuisence to your opponent. BUT... your OPPONENT can use it to drain you dry of SP, thus restricting your options for the rest of the game.
And that's pretty much exactly what happened. Turn after turn, the Scythe Soldier wails on the AD, keeping her SP so low she can't do anything. Her only other characters are the Shield Knights, who have 0 ATK, so I'm allowed to build a board with no resistance, until Vordore comes down and I steamroll them all. She tries to recover, but it's just no good, and I end the game with two turns full of Iczer Attacks.
I felt bad about that kind of a victory, but she takes it in stride. We talk a little afterwards and I reccommend some improvements, like Raise Shield and tearing the AD to metaphorical pieces. I also think Abel's action ability would be good in the deck, allowing you to attack with the Spear Twins while the opponent can only crash against your blockers. It is a creative deck, and potentially strong I think, but she needs to work out the kinks first.
Battle 3: Sasami playing Rich Lich
This was a standard Black deck that tried to take advantage of the rares available to Black. It didn't work too well because the player was inexperienced, only level 2. But it was an interesting fight nonetheless. She plays Shade, which is a good move turn 1, although useless against me- I counter it automatically by making my first move 3 spheres plus a two-drop. Her second turn brings Magic Doll- a bad move because it can't survive at all against my Haste Soldier. She follows it up with Eskatia and Annarose. These are both good cards, but it's a bad time to play them- they're fragile and need blockers up front before they can benefit their user. She does have a blocker the next turn, in the form of Lycanthrope Leonardo. Unfortunately, I'm a step ahead and Return Eskatia. Without the moon in the sky, Leo isn't up to the task of keeping the nobility secure. Her board collapses, and by the time she recovers Vordore's on the board and she's down to 4 LP. I'm Iczer attacking for basically the rest of the game. She manages to hold me off with some good Soul Cards- Peregrine Paladin and LaPierre- and by sending an Elite Crest Knight to Counterattack (the Grimoire card), which hurts my board severely. But I've just got too much firepower, and after taking down the ECK with a Nymphed Sea Creature and an Eagle Soldier, Vordore Iczer Attacks for the game.
Sasami had a decent-looking deck, but needs more practice. I think she was miffed by the outcome of the fight. She shouldn't be- everyone starts off unskilled. I remember when I first played, I thought Soul Abilities were triggered from the character that died, rather than the Soul Card, and I lost at least three or four fights before I figured that one out. If she can hang in there and learn from her mistakes, I'm sure her skills will improve markedly.
Battle 4: bunnierabite playing something Red and White
I don't have much to say about this match. It wasn't especially remarkable- I got the distinct feeling that bunnie hasn't played the game before. She had some good cards, including Brave Soldier and Kesaran Pasaren, but didn't seem to know how to revive, and her Soul Row was backwards. Midway through, I asked her if this was her first game, thinking I might be able to offer some advice. Then she dropped. Could be connection problems, or she could have thought I was taunting her or something. Sorry. Anyway, in our truncated match I noted that she had built a good deck, recognizing which cards were powerful. So as before my advice is to hang in there and keep learning.
Battle 5: Ridi playing Catherina's Army
The match starts with Haste Soldiers Backlashing, after which Ridi notes that he always loses to Falkow. I respond that in a Falkow v. Falkow match, Falkow tends to have a distinct advantage. He tries again with Haste Soldier second turn, I hold off for Eagle Soldier, then Scythe Soldier. He has Sea Creature, then Witch Queen Catherina. I haven't seen Catherina played before, but I take a look at her and think "Oh my, that could be dangerous." I close her once with Scythe Soldier after my front row is closed, then take a calculated risk and send Eagle Soldier to the Graveyard, triggering Magic Doll and Closing her again. Fortunately, Ridi doesn't have a third copy. I press the attack with a Sea Creature, but the edge is blunted when he pops two Peregrine Paladins from the Soul Row. Fortunately, that works two ways, and my own Paladin pops on an Iczer attack, damaging his board. He calls in a Giant Squid, who takes out my Scythe Soldier, but also triggers LaPierre, allowing me to close the Squid and leave room to take down Sea Creature as well. Vordore hits the field on my side, and by means of a Return on his Scythe Soldier, Azure Dragon's Tactic, and a lucky break on the action order, I stun most of his board. Then I make a horrid mistake- distracted from the game, I hit "Skip" when I wanted to hit "Set" and don't have anything to capitalize on my coup last turn. Then LaBeau pops for both of us. I put mine on a Sea Creature, but he uses Dispel to remove it a few turns later. He puts his on the Squid, and even Vordore can't bring enough power to bust through it. I give it my all anyway, but we're both low on cards, and the game locks up in a complete stalemate. I try to drag it out to turn 30 and see what happens, but finally the Squid manages to take down Vordore, and with no other way to get rid of the Squid, that's all for me.
I'm convinced that if I hadn't lost so much momentum to that misplay, I could've won, but I'm not going to give out any sour grapes. Ridi played very well, and with a very good deck, and I hope he does well in the tournament. Nevertheless, I take this as a lesson to focus on the game during play from now on.
Battle 6: Devastator playing Blue Beats
Devastator is another guy I've played in the Arena. He's a strong competitor and has a wicked avatar. We start off with the traditional Haste Soldier Backlash, then he follows with Song sorc and Sea Hunter. I go with Eagle Soldier, Sea Hunter, then Song Sorc. In retrospect, that was a bad move- I should have gone Scythe Soldier, then Eagle Soldier. In the ensuing beatdown he Returns Eagle Soldier and gets the upper hand, but the tables turn when I close his entire front row with a Magic Doll. The subsequent Iczer Attack doesn't go as well, because Peregrine Paladin hits me hard, but next turn I have a Perry soul myself and manage to break through his lines. He *does* manage to stop my momentum, however, by dropping LeBeau on a Swan Cavalier. I have the Return, but need to wait one turn to gain enough SP to play it. In the meantime he puts Voldore on deck. By the time the Azure Dragon actually hits the field, though, I've Returned one of his front-liners and smashed the other with LaPierre SC, leaving the great general without any soldiers. I get him down to 1 LP and next turn try and swing for game by playing my last Return and going on the offensive. But I make a critical error- I didn't check to see if I could revive the characters I had on the field. Consequently, his last Soul Card and remaining units take down my characters, and since they can't get up next turn and I have noone else to defend against an Iczer Attack, I can't win.
Despite the kick-in-the-teeth ending, I found this to be a good match. Devastator exploits Scythe Soldier better than any other player I can recall save perhaps myself.
After this match I try a little experiment, swapping out my Eagle Soldiers for Swan Cavaliers. I decide my new strategy will be Sea Hunter up front, Swan and Scythe in the Middle. It's risky, because it puts a lot of pressure on Sea Hunter to hold the line together, but I've seen Swan used to substantial effect by others in this tourney already, so I decide to give it a chance.
Battle 7: Tomoya playing Red Rush
I don't recall playing this guy before. I don't recall playing this guy NOW very well either, because the match was so furious I had to focus on it, rather than taking notes. So this part of the report is going to be a little spotty. Sorry. He leads off with the Brave Soldier/Panther Soul combo, which I don't think is a very good opening, personally. At least, it isn't against Falkow because it goes like this:
Turn 2: Haste hits Brave, putting him at 30 HP. Brave hits back and closes Haste. Gowen may put something else on deck.
Turn 3: Haste recovers for free and puts Brave at 10 HP, Brave hits back. FalkoW player puts something on deck in the meantime, Gowen may also.
Turn 4: Haste Recovers and closes Brave, meanwhile both player's turn three plays resolve. Falkov now has at worst even presence on the board, and the Panther Soul hasn't done anything. Neither the attack bonus nor the Slash became relevent because Haste Soldier had him down before either could be used.
And that's exactly how it goes here. Turn 5 I have the advantage, but I expect him to have a second Panther Soul for when Brave Soldier revives. So I Sylph my other unit- a Sea Hunter- and between him and Haste, who's not dead yet, I expect to take down the Brave before he gets a shot. But he surprises me by playing Fire Arrow instead, And I end the turn with a stunned board. I trump him with Magic Doll SC next turn, but my advantage is lost when an Iczar Attack brings Bounty Hunter Elena SC on me. Another BHE shortly thereafter leaves me with a closed board.
Fortunately, the next turn my Peregrine Paladin goes off and smashes the Brave for good. At this point his only other character is a Combat Monk, which scuffles with my Sea Hunter and winds up closed. An opportunistic Iczer Attack activates High Priest Abel, who rezzes the Brave, but to no real effect.
On the next turn I'm faced with a quandry- I have two closed units, and one still alive. I could revive both of them, but I could also gain an advantage by letting one die, which will release LaPierre and let me take down one of his characters. At this point my board presence isn't so great, so I decide to gamble on LaPierre. It turns out to be the right move, because he plays a Panther Soul on his Combat Monk. (Brave Soldier was gone by this point. No, I can't remember why.) Fortunately, the lady in the kimono ensure he doesn't get a chance to use it. I stun his board that turn, and again next turn thanks to Swan Cavalier and a Sylph. At this point I think I have him on the ropes, but mindful of what happened last game, I play Squid to be safe. Good move- he had another Abel Face-Down, and he played a Fire Tornado which, for once, hit the right targets. I walk away with another stunned board, and he also makes LeBeau whiff with an Iczer Attack. It comes down to the action order on the last turn. I get lucky and manage to close his Salamander with a Sylph, after which my guys run over his and an Iczer Attack takes his final LP.
What goes around comes around, I guess. Last game I fought like a demon against my opponent but couldn't quite make it across the finish line, but this game the opposite happened. I tip my hat to Mr. Tomoya, he played very well and gave me a hard fight.
Battle 8: Decomp playing Big Blue Witch
This is a match that I was angry that I won. I was glad for the win, but I felt like a heel because I won despite playing horribly. It comes back to not paying attention. He opens with the Witch/Sylph combo, which against Falkov is generally countered by backlashing the Sylph. I'm focused on something else and skip turn 2 on autopilot, thereby losing my Haste Soldier. My disadvantage gets worse when he Returns my Swan Cavalier. I get back in the game with the help of Perry SC and take control of the field, albeit a tenuous control. He plays Harpy, which is marginalized somewhat by the fact that all my units go before it. He also gets Vordore first. I play the Squid and try to blitzkreig him with the help of a Sylph, but I **** up again, accidentally playing a second Song Sorc instead. A third mistake is putting Sea Hunter ahead of Squid, which reduces his attack range. At this point I'm considering just hitting the scoop button in the lower-right hand corner and saving myself more embarassment but honor, or maybe stubborness, keeps me in the game. We Backlash Returns twice, which is... well, Backlashing a good card is generally both good and bad for you at the same time. The game then grinds to a halt When we both pop LeBeaus from our Soul Row. He's out of Returns and I have one, but he pumps Vordore, which I can't touch with Return. I get very, very lucky though- the Swan and Squid have range, and are smart enough to stay away from Vordore and instead attack the weaker back row. I manage to just squeek by with a victory.
This was the last match I fought Monday, and for good reason. When you start screwing up that bad, it's time to get some rest, so I called it a night. Decomp was nice, BTW- he didn't mind at all losing to a guy who lucked out big time.
Battle 9: Ariel playing Big Red
Ariel isn't a native English speaker, so communication was kind of hard. But we got by. He was playing Red, but not the common Red Rush that focuses on cards like Combat Monk and Salamander. He was using more midgame-associated cards. His lead is Combat Monk with a Panther Soul- dangerous because it's one of the few things can outclass Haste Soldier in the early game. The Haste doesn't get in a single hit because the Monk is faster, and he follows up with Brave Soldier with Panther Soul, but the strategy backfires when I graveyard the Haste to spring Magic Doll on him. The Sea Hunter I played that turn got whacked by the Brave, but revives next turn and wipes the board with help from a Sylph and a newly-summoned Scythe Soldier. He releases a Strike Samurai Soul Card and successfully stuns MY board next turn, But I fight back with a Song Sorceress and Peregrine Paladin Soul Card. My assualt ends with an Iczer Attack that releases his Peregrine Paladin. When the dust settles after all that, I have a Sea Hunter, Scythe Soldier, and Song Sorc, and he's got a freshly Summoned copy of Roaming Predator Asuet and a Blitz Soldier with Panther Soul. The former worries me, but the latter is also dangerous. Given that both have rather low AGI, I decide on a play I've taken to calling "Follow My Lead". The Song Sorc ups the Sea Hunter's AGL, and he attacks, hitting the Predator. The Scythe Soldier, who can choose who his attack hits, follows up with an attack on the same guy and closes him. Simple tactics, but very effective at board control. Next turn, I Return the Blitz Soldier and do it again. He tries to get back in the game with a Fire Arrow against my Scythe Soldier. It works, but it's not enough. I now have a Swan Cavalier in addition to my other units, Aand although he takes down Sea Hunter for good I have enough power to put the Predator down for the third and final time. Next turn he has an empty board and takes a punishing Triple Iczer Attack, then I counter a fresh Blitz Soldier with a Return and that's the game.
Ariel played an interesting deck well, but I didn't feel like he was playing to his color's strengths. Red is the rush color, he was going for a more stable beatdown kind of approach. It worked okay, and Predator is certainly a character with untapped potential, but it seemed to be overall weaker compared to the low-drop approach to Gowen. Still, a decent deck well played.
Battle 10: Moratorious playing Red Rush
I've played Moratorious in the Arena before, he's a good guy. I think he usually plays Black, but was trying something different today. He leads off with Blitz Soldier, followed by Kurina, who he Sylphs. He makes a mistake by putting Kurina and the Sylph both up front, which means that when the Magic Doll goes off, both of them get closed. My lineup- at this point a Sea Hunter and Scythe Soldier- clears away his Blitz Soldier. He gets his by stunning my board with two Peregrine Paladin soul cards and a Salamander, also pressing his advantge with a Magic Sword Dual-Wielder. But with plenty of copies left, I recover the next turn and go back on the offensive. He calls in another Salamander and LaBeaus the Dual-Wielder, but it only amounts to 25 DEF. I take it down with some effort. He makes another big error by putting 3 Salamanders on the field with only 3 LP remaining. I go over his blockers with Range to close 2 and then the next turn LaPierre SC closes his last copy of Dual-Wielder and that's it.
After I was done with Moratorious, I realised I wasn't going to win anything in this tournament. The guy had played something like 60 games! Because of the way Star Battle works a guy who leisurely fights a few battles, stops to write them up, then breaks from the game to do something else doesn't have a chance against someone who just plain has way too much time on their hands. But, no big deal, it's not like a pack of cards and an avatar that makes everyone call you "Sexy Doll" is worth getting upset over.
Battle 11: valgaav playing Sneaky Black.
This was a strange game. I was winning up until the last turn, then he destroyed me. His first 3 plays are all Shades, which is essentially giving up 3 LP to try and pull ahead in an SP race. A Witch Soul Card further reinforces that. His eventual play is a Dical Centaur. Interesting. In the ensuing fights he gets a Moonlight Warrior- also in play- Returned twice and plays Turn To Dust 3 times- which I think is an odd strategy. Thanks to Swan Cavalier, I have more power on the field and eventually overrun his position of Elite Crest Knight, Centaur, and Annarose. With a Song Sorc in play and my Scythe Soldier on the front lines (calculated risk), I play a war of attrition and win, with his copies of Dical and Annarose running out first. But then he demolishes my board by tossing a Magic Doll to Counterattack and scoring 6 stuns! I'm only able to recover three chars, and despite the fact that I had Vordore, he wins.
Somehow I felt cheated. I shouldn't- Turn To Dust indicates that he was playing a long game, so chances are his deck just wound up working exactly as it was suppossed to. But I just can't help it, it brought up unpleasent memories of YuGiOh games where I spent a week building and tuning my deck, got decent draws and played note-perfect for the entire game, then lost anyway because my opponent got lucky and topdecked some degenerate card at the last minute. But I'm probably just feeling fatigued at this point. The tournament had become a pain. The format, I had realised earlier, favored time spent over skill, plus I was being demoralised with the fact that I had to take 15 minutes between matches to write this stuff up, indicating that I have to find a better way to do this next time. But whatever. Next game.
Battle 12: Dwildstar playing Blue Beaters (Round 2)
Second fight with this guy. He wasn't doing much better than me. As before, we Backlash Haste Soldier first turn, and while he insists on it I skip to Sea Hunter and Scythe Soldier. He can't follow up Haste with more than a Song Sorc, and I stun his board before he pops Predator from the Soul Row, then he stuns my board by means of a Strike Samurai Soul Card and a Sylphed Giant Squid. But it backfires on him- Magic Doll and Peregrine Paladin stun his board. The ensuing Double Iczer Attack provokes Elena, Djinn from his Soul Row, but I get back up and Soldier on. At this point RL provided a distraction in the form of dinner, so I stopped taking notes and started trying to finish the fight. I win, and then leave in a hurry. Fooooood...
Battle 13: lunaCremisi playing Endless Night.
This was the last game I played Tuesday. She started off with Shade, and followed up with Moonlight Warrior. I kill the Shade, which activates Dragonrider Wasseir. (Now that I think of it, this is a VERY good opening for Black.) lunaCremisi seems to be playing the Eskatia strategy- comboing between Eskatia, Moonlight Warrior, and Lycanthrope Leonardo. I unfortunately can't come up with a decent counter. Magic Doll takes down Eskatia once, and I Return her next turn. But then I run out of copies of Scythe Soldier and Sea Hunter. So I bring in Haste Soldier and Swan Cavalier, but like a newb I forget about Swan's open effect, and stun my OWN board. I get lucky in that she doesn't press the advantage with Iczer Attacks and Return Eskatia again next turn, but she starts slowing me down with Soul Binds. I finally get my lines together with a Squid and Voldore on the field, But with Annarose going first each turn and LeBeau having popped on an ECK, I can't get anywhere. I spend three or four turns waiting for one of my Song Sorcs to go before Annarose so I can maybe start making a comeback, but no luck, and she slowly whiddles me down.
The end is something that I admit was poor sportsmanship on my part- She sends me a message: "Hmm, luck is not with me today." At this point her board is ECK w/LaBeau SC on her, Crest Regenerator Knight, and Annarose in back going first every turn and making sure I can't muster any kind of offensive. I meanwhile have Vordore, a Sylph and two Song Sorcs, and I'm out of copies of my combat-worthy units. My defeat is more or less a foregone conclusion, and she's had the upper hand in this game since turn two. I message her back: "You're winning, what more do you want?" She replies: "Well, lady luck is on my side NOW...". In retrospect these are reasonable comments- I was about to turn the game around when she killed my Squid last turn. But at the time I was frustrated, and my thinking was "What, this girl kicks me all over the room for ten minutes and then whines that it took her so long? What a witch!" So I hit the "Give up" button and log off in a huff.
At that point, I realised I was done for the night. Later, I decided I was also done, period- I didn't show up for the tournament the third and final day. Don't get me wrong, I had fun and if the purpose of Fun in the Sun was to draw newbies to the game, it worked marvelously. I saw a lot of new faces there, and a lot of creative decks from both newcomers and experienced players. But the whole Star Battle format is Dumb with a capital D. If the criteria for placing is strictly more wins than losses through an unlimited number of games, the players that rank highest will not be the best players, or even the ones with the best cards, but the players that are merely competent and can play dozens of games a day, thus making up in volume over people with better skills. At the absurdist extreme, the primary criteria for winning is to not have a life outside of Alteil. And I don't think that's the proper impression to give the actual or potential playerbase.
So, I doubt I'll be attending another Star Tournament. A card game should be a contest of intellect, not endurance. If a different format is implemented, then I'll give that a chance. Maybe require X matches played over a certain amount of time- no more, no less- and then cut to a scheduled single-elimination format. Or a Swiss-style tourney, where you do a round a day- get your pairings, contact your opponent, and schedule a time in the next 24 hours. Or, a Swiss-Style that emulates physical CCGs- everyone in the same Arena for a few hours, and chatting between matches. But whatever, I'm confident the powers that be will eventually come up with a better structure than this.
Because I don't want to end on such a sour note, I'd just like to say that a big hand goes out to the players of Alteil, who conducted themselves in a mature and often entertaining manner throughout, even in matches where I myself wasn't especially polite. The internet is suppossed to be full of jerks, but I don't think you could tell it looking at this crowd. Everyone opens with a "Good Luck!" or a silly joke, and everyone ends with a polite "GG"- even when the G wasn't, in fact, especially G. I like you guys and that, apart from anything else, will keep me playing.
For the time being, at least. ~_^