• Pretending to Know Stuff Vol. 13 - National Champion...Again

    I thought weíd try something different this time around. Itís a bit of an experiment, so I welcome your constructive criticism below in the comments section. Weíre going to take a look at the best-of-3 finals series between myself and Mike Plumb from the US National Championship at Origins nearly two weeks ago. This is essentially my way to live-tweet the event after the fact. Ready? Here we go!

    Be sure to watch along with me, as Iíll be posting time-stamped posts to correspond with this video.

    2:39:30 Letís start here, because the reality is there is already so much that happened on this day that I could easily write 4000 words describing it all in my normal meandering method and still not come close to fully capturing it all. Frankly, I felt pretty good all day long. I got nervous a couple times in Swiss, especially after losing to Jenna as hard as I did in round 2. Then when I had to play Trubie in round 4 I was a bit nervous again, especially since he had taken Stuart to time in what looked like a grind of a match. But in my first 3 rounds I had a total of 12 turns, so I really hadnít played very much, and despite having to think ahead, it wasnít like some of the WKO days Iíve had where you are just playing non-stop for 8, 9, or 10 hoursÖ I beat Trubie in a game that he dominated right up until the turn I won, then promptly lost to Stuart in a game I didnít stand a chance in. Turn 4 or turn 5, I donít think it matters too much. Then I played Geoff and he had a Cassie-Ring combo (C WoL Wonder Girl and UC YGO Ring of Magnetism) that could have made for some really challenging interactions. Fortunately for me, he didnít go there, and I had another quick game, maybe 6 turns. Most of the folks who knew they made the cut grabbed some food. I was unsure if Iíd made it and needed to hangout to wait and see after results were reported. I ran to the concourse and bought a sub and came back in to eat and see what the results were.

    I was able to sneak past Jenna in the top 8, primarily because I got to go first. It was the same story vs Stuart in the top 4. I watched Mike vs Jr from afar after my match with Stuart was over and told Stuart I really just did not want to play vs Distraction (Jr had it, Mike didnít). I got my wish, and it was more than I bargained for.

    2:40:26 Well, here we go, this may be for the gameÖ before the action or energy call, a quick note about what I see that I like and what I see that I donít. I love sitting across from Imprisoned in this moment. Iíve played a lot with it and itís quite nasty. You really have to think ahead and know what youíre doing vs it Ė thatís no joke. But I have a taunt, so Iím not at all afraid of it. Yes, it could double as Cloudkill replacement if I need to pull Hulk out of the field, but heís got Breaker, and I could taunt Hulk if it came to that. Oracle stinks. Constantine can be a thorn. The rest of his team mirrors part of mine, so I think Iím ready for it.

    2:40:45 Ok, I get to go first, just donít screw this up.

    2:40:59 I could reroll the bolt/shield for another mask, but if both are SK that really stinks. If I miss the mask, I could still get elf thief. Or I could not look a gift-horse in the mouth. Take the DWiz buy, and roll 6 on my next turn. Iíd rather just play it totally safe in this moment. DWiz it is.

    2:41:45 No masksÖreally?! I love the two sk, but I really wanted 4 energy and at least 3 masks with that. Better roll them all for masks and deal with what comes up than to risk not getting enough masks to use PXG twice at least and still buy a Thief.

    2:42:58 Uh, do Shah and Stuart realize sidekicks are good?

    2:43:08 Ok, so he missed full ramp, especially if I land Thief, but heís got the two things he needs to slow me down. Still, I can have near full ramp even if he hits Oracle.

    2:43:50 Ok, play this the right way, pass priority before fabricating so if he taunts instead of PXG, itíll be wasted.

    2:45:30 He got both?! Ugh.

    2:48:13 Well, I can handle not having Bard for a turn if I can land DWiz without having to use ParallaxÖ

    2:48:33 I thought about Connie here for a split second with DWiz, but frankly, he has no removal, so even if it takes two turns at this point, Iím comfortable with that because Iíve neutralized Oracle.

    2:49:23 Yes! He picked up the SK! Now bolts may be enough to win without going to CloudkillÖ

    2:49:30 Double yes! Only one mask (in the form of a wildcard)!

    2:49:51 Yes and thank you, Imprisoned will make me think, but itís far less scary than a Bard buy here (which would have used his wildcard, but stillÖ)

    2:50:49 I was doing some math. When I moved the Clay Golem I was counting blockers and damage if I get Bard and bolts. In this case, a mask now is as good as a bolt later in terms of blockers, and if I use PXG, he can name bard, so while I would have a better shot at bolts with more dice, it actually makes more sense (since Iíll have 6 to roll anyway) to taunt here and have a better shot at winning the game on my turn 5.

    2:51:57 Whew. Comfortably in the driverís seat, cannot afford any mistakes stillÖ

    2:52:39 Garbage.

    2:52:52 Ok, well, would have preferred just one SK, but I think I can recover a little bitÖmaybeÖI dunno, that kinda stinks.

    2:53:39 Are you serious?! 5 wildcards a mask and fist. Well, probably very little I can do to slow him down nowÖ

    2:53:58 I could try to get back in this thing with Parallax Thieves, but thatís only going to be effective if I can turn off Oracle. Better buy DWiz here.

    2:56:07 Another Imprisoned? I would have gone Bard there, but Mike knows what heís doing. And his team wants to play more control than mine. That is one advantage Imprisoned has over Cloudkill Ė you can easily buy it before Bard and it is still helpful. That is definitely not true of Cloudkill Ė itís the finisher. In both cases Bard is how you win, but with Imprisoned you can get ahead before you buy Bard (in board state if nothing else).

    2:56:28 I missed DWiz. Ugh. I need to thin my bag somehow!

    2:56:42 Shah, I do not need to play the Imprisoned mini-game with this team. Imprisoned will be what I use to counter Hulk, and Hulk only. Iím prepared to do that if necessary, but not before! With Oracle out, itís more important that I have extra energy than steal one of Mikeís with Thief. Double masks is something Iím ok with for now.

    2:57:31 Well, I win with Bard, so Iíd better buy one while I can. It will take a few turns to get to him though. Hereís hoping I can hold on that longÖ

    3:00:59 Ok, missed Bard. I can field the DWiz to take out Oracle and then Parallax, maybeÖbut I probably want to fabricate anyway.

    3:01:30 Boom! Ok, pass priority before fabricatingÖif I do though, Oracle comes back and she does her thing so my mask is worthless. He will get imprisoned, and I donít want him to keep my stuffÖ

    3:03:19 Hearing the commentary is fun here. I really needed 2 energy one a mask to make sure I could PXG or taunt, because I donít want DWiz OR Bard ImprisonedÖI just canít afford that and I canít afford to only Parallax 2 SK because if I miss on masks, Iím pretty sunkÖ.and Garbage!

    3:03:44 Garbage again, but he canít steal my characters and hasnít bought Bard yetÖ

    3:05:54 I could PXG a bunch here, but I think characters do me better since he now has Bard. And this is where Imprisoned becomes tough to play aroundÖI canít use fabricate to evade (because heíll have lethal when he swings). I need his rolls to turn sour or this game is over.

    3:06:20 To the commentators, yeah, you see it too. But I donít think Parallax is the right call. I think ramping here is, because even if I hit my characters, heís just going to win next turn anyway. I donít think I can stop that. I think I have to hope he draws or rolls bad. Iím playing from behind either way.

    3:07:53 I really thought he would buy a second Bard too, just like Shah and Stuart. Then I realized something. He already has inevitability, he can just Parallax until he gets the character face, and with two Hellblazers, there is now at least 2 turns until I can do what I want with characters I draw. Well played, sir. This is such a strong move. Iím envious that I didnít see it until after it was done.

    3:08:11 However, Iím not sure I would have used Imprisoned there. With 3 dice in the bag, you can guarantee a 50/50 shot to draw it and Bard next turn, and you know Iím getting most of my characters. Though, even if I have 5, 4 will still be unblocked and that should be more than lethal. Alright, Mike, you got me again. Good read that turn. Very good read.

    3:09:30 I think there is nothing I can do. I canít ping well because of Oracle. Iím back to hoping for bad rolls. Since thatís the case, and I canít touch his wall, I think maybe I should buy Cloudkill hereÖ thereís nothing that saves me if he gets Bard, and only Cloudkill lets me get past his wall.

    3:10:55 Thereís nothing you can do when your opponent can attack for 50+ into two blockers. But here we go. This is for all the marbles. Looking back, it never occurred to me that I was playing for the chance to be the first multi-time national champion. At all. I just wanted to win the match. I think thatís one of my best strengths Ė just staying in the moment and not getting put on tilt, which played a role in game 3 tooÖ

    3:11:30 Garbage!

    3:11:40 Garbage! (again) Here comes Parallax!

    3:11:55 Garbage! I donít know what the right call here is. I went first, so Thieves are typically more useful than DWiz. If I roll mask city next turn, I can get two Thieves in rotation, and that may be what I need to do to stay ahead with that garbage roll. To respond to Shah and Stuart regarding the bolt/fist, I did not want to be tempted to ping a SK and increase Mikeís ramp. If he does have to field a SK t1, giving him the 7th die to buy Oracle and have full ramp would be foolish. Put a safeguard in place in advance, then I canít make that errorÖ

    3:12:32 Give me some MASKS please!

    3:12:46 I think thatís all I can do in that situation. Itís not ideal, but itís not the end of the world.

    3:13:18 Man, I have seen so many doggone masks on the other side! But hereís reality, Mike was constantly rolling more dice than me because of Oracle, so I should EXPECT to see more masks as a product of volume, not chance. He probably rolled more of everything than me, simply because he rolled more dice than me.

    3:13:57 I did not see that coming. No characters. As Iím watching back through this, I donít remember what I do here, but Iím guessing I buy a DWiz and sit on a boatload of energy to deal with Oracle.

    3:14:12 now that Iíve moved the dice to where we can all see them, I remember. And I love it. Since Mike canít steal anything of mine, and we talk so much about how saving the right energy is key, I thought momentarily about saving the Thief die for PXG. Then I realized what I really want to do is taunt. And since I have Parallax, if he misses Oracle, I can energy dump in Parallax and still have full ramp. If he hits her, I wonít have full ramp anyway. Iím gonna do what youíre not supposed to do because I know it will have no negative effect on the outcome for me, and it might make Mike think Iíve made a mistake.

    3:15:00 And maybe I didnít get Mike with that move, but I got Shah!

    3:15:18 Stuart too.

    3:16:08 Stupid Parallax. Brutal. Iím prepared though, taunt the Constantine, PXG what I can, and weíll see where this goes.

    3:17:04 ďInterestingĒ Ė thatís the best you got Shah?

    3:17:35 I so need DWiz on the rerollÖ

    3:17:48 I so need DWiz on the first ParallaxÖ

    3:18:21 So this pause here before I roll for Parallax? Iím contemplating adding the Thief. Ultimately I elected not to for multiple reasons. 1) I first declared only the dice in my reserve pool; if I add anything at this point, I really need to ask Mike, and Iím not in the mood to admit any sort of mistake and give him any more of an edge than he already has. 2) It might be expensive to get the Thief back. 3) I am tempted to try anyway, but I think the option to fabricate based on what energy/SK comes up may be worthwhile. And 4) if I get DWiz here, I donít want to have to spend another energy on Parallax.

    3:18:36 I SO NEED DWIZ ON THE SECOND PARALLAX!!!! And I am for sure not fabricating here. I want the bodies; Golem is great, but I want to ramp and keep Oracle at bay.

    3:19:55 Parallaxing the SK crossed my mind, but I knew I wasnít going to fabricate which meant I would at least get to taunt or PXG even if I had to pay to field the DWiz. And when Mike elects not to taunt, I know Iím in the clear. Somewhere in here Stuart said I had 4 in bag, but I think I really only had 3.

    3:20:38 Are you kidding me? With that many question marks you can do anything.

    3:21:05 Such a confident and decisive Bard buy here. Mike has to know heís got me where he wants me. And Bard just puts him so far aheadÖ I did not like that at all, but it was a brilliant play.

    3:22:02 If Iím honest, Iím panicked here. Mike has control of the board (in general) and Iím forced to spend what energy I do have on taunting characters off. Mike also has all the pieces he needs to win already purchased. Iím only about halfway there. This is bad. This is very bad.

    3:22:39-3:23:24 When both thieves came out of the field I was ecstatic. When they came up 1 character/1 energy after that I was also happy. I knew that I needed steal his energy here. Thatís the only thing I could do to slow him down. Being able to fabricate and (hopefully) repeat it on my next turn was icing on the cake.

    3:23:50 Shah says itís important for Mike to force me to taunt Connie so I canít ramp. I donít disagree. Itís equally viable to just load up on bards. Or Imprisoned dice. Because he already has Bard, Imprisoned isnít just taunt-to-remove anymore. I loved seeing Mike use Parallax, but Iím not entirely convinced it was the wrong move for him. It was just easier for me to play against.

    3:25:50 Iím settling down and beginning to feel like I have regained control. Since Mike had no energy, the thieves coming up as energy were good for me. Obviously I needed Bard. Iím also looking at getting back close to full ramp, potentiallyÖ

    3:26:09 I totally forgot about his DWiz. That stinks.

    3:26:46 Energy pit Parallax. Sometimes you get the dog, and sometimes the dog gets you.

    3:27:33 This is huge. Because he missed, I could PXG instead of taunt. That is absolutely a HUGE deal. There are 3 dice in Mikeís bag. Mine is empty. This is as if Iím getting first turn advantage all over again. I will have exactly two turns before I get everything that is in my used pile. He will have 3. If I can land DWiz and shut down Oracle, I will have a commanding lead on the game.

    3:28:15 I missed the DWiz, but got the Bard. I think itís worth Parallax if necessaryÖ

    3:28:44 Yes! DWiz coming up on Parallax rolls is going to save my bacon.

    3:29:25 Would you believe that it took almost 8 and a half minutes to get Bard to come through his bag after he purchased it? Killing his ramp was the key to me getting back in this thing.

    3:30:15 Even with the number of characters Iím drawing next turn I think I have to taunt the Bard. I canít missile him off, itís worth having one fewer blockers rather than two more SK dice. If energy is that big of a concern, my stuff should be free to field.

    3:30:45 I canít ignore the fact that Imprisoned could hurt, because he does have the Bard. But hereís the thing, heís got at least two more turns until it can affect me. I just need to win before that.

    3:31:28 As time is called I was drawing my dice. 2 double mask Thieves and two wildcards. Normally I would be thrilled, but I just need one more character to have the game locked up. I will roll them both here, but I may need to save one if it comes up double energy to try to have energy for Parallax and to have energy in my field so I can field it for free.

    3:31:36 There it is! Double check all the math, and quick, Horsfall, because you do not want to screw this up nowÖ

    3:32:59 What a match. Major kudos to Mike. Such a great player.

    3:43:24 Kinda strange to hear myself on the stream afterwards. Maybe because I said ďincredibleĒ about 500 times. Maybe because I confused games 2 and 3 and how I opened (2 SK/Thief vs Parallax, buy thief, no ramp). Maybe some other reason. In the end, with a bit of luck and running the team I felt most confident about, I won my second national championship. What?! I love this game. Youíll hear me say this on the podcast Thursday (unless someone magic-edits it out), but this was a team effort. I mean, the ďOttawa guysĒ (Mike, Eric, and Kevin Ė in no particular order) brewed this beast. Stuart, Isaac, and I learned the ins and outs, made the switch to Spray, and then played loads of testing games. Isaac and Stuart probably played it more than me, but with them sharing what they learned, I was able to benefit from their play-testing. Kelly and Jenna spent lots of time throwing teams at it too, and based on what they all shared with me after the fact, I really learned this team, in part, by proxy. I played a bit against Randy and Patrick. I took it to Recess in Cleveland and played a few guys, too. Not to get too ďButterfly EffectĒ on everyone, but without those things (and running into this team HARD at CanNats), I wouldnít have been able to win this yearís US Nats. Think about how a couple rolls going different at a given WKO would have changed those outcomes, changed qualifications, and potentially changed the results of the National Championship. Just think, Isaac and Patrick kick me off the team, TRP falls apart, the game dies, and WizKids goes broke! Ok, that was more or less full-on Butterfly EffectÖ sorry.

    The more this sinks in, the more I realize that so many things had to go right for me to win it all. That they did makes it a huge honor. I wish Iíd have been able to play at Worldís, but not this year. Maybe next year. Maybe more Nationals events next year. Who knows? What I do know is that I am super thankful to be able to play this game with people who are awesome. From what I gather, Saturdayís event was just as spectacular and filled with just as fierce competition as Thursdayís. Maybe more. For me, Thursday will be tough to top, though. Thanks to all of you who made it as fabulous as it was.
    Comments 11 Comments
    1. TheConductr's Avatar
      TheConductr -
      Congrats my friend. Well deserved, obviously!
    1. theroyalfalcon's Avatar
      theroyalfalcon -
      You certainly deserved the win, I know the Ottawa crew were rooting for you throughout the match.
      Glad you didn't find anything more questionable in my commentating than suggesting the imprisoned mini game and "interesting". lol
    1. Jthomash2's Avatar
      Jthomash2 -
      Quote Originally Posted by theroyalfalcon View Post
      You certainly deserved the win, I know the Ottawa crew were rooting for you throughout the match.
      Glad you didn't find anything more questionable in my commentating than suggesting the imprisoned mini game and "interesting". lol
      I loved the commentary. And I think any game without the taunt or if I couldn't target his characters, imprisoned would have been HUGE. It is definitely something that you have to consider. I just had a reasonable counter and (typically) can win faster without it than with it. I definitely appreciate the job you guys did to comment on the live stream!
    1. pk2317's Avatar
      pk2317 -
      As an observer on the stream, I loved the commentary!
    1. Judgemental's Avatar
      Judgemental -
      Well done again JT! So very honored you ran that build and it proved as effective for you, as it did for us @ Can Nats. It was really fun re-watching those matches with your comments about your thought process.
    1. TheConductr's Avatar
      TheConductr -
      Quote Originally Posted by pk2317 View Post
      As an observer on the stream, I loved the commentary!
      Even with some random guy hijacking one of the mics for the finals match! ;-)
    1. pk2317's Avatar
      pk2317 -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheConductr View Post
      Even with some random guy hijacking one of the mics for the finals match! ;-)
      Ordinarily I'd give a snarky reply, but quite honestly you killed it and made it even better.
    1. Diceman's Avatar
      Diceman -
      So good to see a team beat the cheese of Hellblazer and Oracle.
    1. Basementcuts's Avatar
      Basementcuts -
      Exceptional write up JT. Very cool to be inside your head for this.
    1. Jthomash2's Avatar
      Jthomash2 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Basementcuts View Post
      Exceptional write up JT. Very cool to be inside your head for this.
      It's not exactly "Being John Malkovich"...Unless... Oh no. What if it is? Would I know?
    1. Basementcuts's Avatar
      Basementcuts -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jthomash2 View Post
      It's not exactly "Being John Malkovich"...Unless... Oh no. What if it is? Would I know?
      Oh God! What if I'm trapped in here now... Oh look bunnies...