Welcome to the Revolution. Hope you all had a good Shard Cup Series this season! Today, I’d like to offer a quick introspective and tournament report of the recent Cup of Fate.
For those that are new to the competitive Hex scene, the FiveShards crew runs a series of monthly tournaments open to the public. These events typically occur every second Saturday of the month. They are free to enter and offer great prizes that are provided by some very generous individuals and organizations within the community. In addition to prize support, players that participate in these events also accumulate points based on their standings from each tournament. After the culmination of each of these five Shard Cups, the Top 64 players with the most points accumulated throughout the season are invited to participate in one final Cup of Fate. This and last season’s tournament featured a double elimination format. The stakes are high, the competition fierce, and the rewards great for those that place well in this tournament of champions.
Without further ado, let’s hop right into my thinking about this trounament.
Where better to begin then, than from the start. When you are preparing for a big event such as this, it is important to have as much information as possible before going in. One major factor is properly predicting what lists to expect to be present. Being able to hedge your main deck against the field can be key to winning some of those games where the odds are against you.
Here’s a brief overview of the meta leading up to the tournament:
Anyone that has played the constructed ladder the last few months has certainly seen multiple Mono Wild variants here and there. Most of these decks have a few things in common. They can force very quick wins with Mightsinger and various three drops pushing lots of early damage. They can utilize the ‘Dinosaur Package’ to keep tempo. And Balthasar can prop them back up in the late game.
Even with the vast amount of Wild decks running constant hate in the reserves, Bloodspinner Zorath has proven to be a powerhouse. If they don’t just win outright with Vampires and their crazy removal package, their constants can stabilize and take over a game in even the most dire situations.
We also see a few Renner decks here and there. While these lists do not run the crazy constants that Zorath does, they can win just as handily from maintaining a large card advantage. And who doesn’t like beating people with their own cards to boot?
If you liked Mono Blood and Mono Wild, why not pair the two and run Blood/Wild? With access to the removal suite of Blood and some of the best utility and threats that both shards have to offer, this deck is no joke. The pure craziness of Underworld Crusader cannot be understated either.
Thankfully this deck isn’t as popular as it deserves to be, but can still wreck your day if not prepared. The deck can adapt to deal with just about anything and wins off the back of Dark Heart of Nulzann or Psychic Ascension.
While this deck isn’t as popular as it once was, it is still arguably the most consistent and fastest deck in the game.
The new hotness (pun intended). This mono Ruby deck is truly fast and furious. While the burn may stop, the beats keep coming in with 16 troops with Speed. The recent adaptation of including Lazgar’s Vengeance really puts it over the top.
While I feel these are the six archetypes to be most aware of and prepared for, Hex is in such a great state that there are still more decks that are completely viable even in the highest level of tournament play.
The next stage:
Once you have a good view of the meta, there is still lots of work to be done before submitting your deck list. Even with knowing what decks are popular, you need to really understand how these decks interact with one another. As stated above, good predictions on exact lists is key as well. I will not go too indepth here, but in a sense, you need to expect the unexpected and know what variants and card choices are likely to be seen. For those that are unfamiliar with the FiveShards Cup of Fate, you also need to take into account how the tournament seeding works. Specifically for the Cup of Fate, the higher seeded player always has the choice of going first in game one of each match.
With having the choice of always going first and knowing that burn/aggro is in a good spot in this meta, you should reasonably presume that high seeded players will benefit by running those aggressive Yotul and Angus decks. Therefore, mid and lower seeded players need to have answers ready.
Building the list:
Going into the Cup of Fate, I was seeded at 19th. My worst seeding in any of the Cup of Fates, but still not horrible by any means. I should reasonably expect to go first in about a third of my matches on the day. While some may have chosen to play Aggro/Burn, I don’t like the possibility of being on the draw against the mirror in half of my matches. To me, this eliminates Angus and Yotul from my preferred decks. Kagulichu is definitely in a good spot against a lot of the field, but can be a little inconsistent or slow to start. This makes being on the draw against Aggro/Burn not very desirable and eliminates it as an option as well in my opinion.
Mono Blood fares a little better against burn, but Lazgar’s Vengeance and Emberspire Witch can be backbreaking against the slow nature of the deck. Not to mention that Angus has the tools to deal with Vampire Prince and Princess easily enough.
Shoku is definitely on a strong kick on the ladder. It can have a crazy early game, and then come back strong with Oberon’s Eulogy. However, the deck can be a little inconsistent at times. Many would argue, and I usually tend to agree, that having a very strong but somewhat inconsistent deck wins more tournaments when the stars align than having a more consistent build that isn’t quite as strong. This leaves Shoku as one of the better choices for today.
With all of this in mind, I already knew I wanted to run a Mono Wild list. However, after running the deck from 400th to 25th on the ranked ladder within a week at the end of the last ladder season, I believed a modified Grandfather Elk list would fit the bill best. While giving a troop +3/+3 and Crush for a turn for 4 charges may seem underhwelming, it can be amazing in the right situation. You not only have the obvious combo with Dreamweaver Ancient, but an Empowered Justicar of Aryndel or buffed Rune Ear Hierophant with Crush can be downright scary. Also, a charge-powered Howling Brave (or really any troop) into Balthasar is an important play in the right spot. Additionally, the deck has a bit more permanent board prescense and less change of drawing dead compared to Shoku. It does all that while also having fairly strong matchups against the rest of the expected field.
Here is the final decklist I settled upon:
Champion: Grandfather Elk
4x Howling Brave
4x Mightsinger of Ages
2x Justicar of Aryndel
2x Rune Ear Hierophant (Major Wild Orb of Conjuration/Minor Wild Orb of Vigil)
4x Succulent Cluckodon
3x Dreamweaver Ancient
1x Scorn of Oberon
24x Wild Shard
The one-of Lullaby and Scorn of Oberon are outs to a lot of matchups. I split the Justicar and Hierophants to handle different situations in game one and to be less susceptible to Herofall with no Gargalith available yet. A full set of Carnasaur is fairly standard, but I maxed out on Cluckodon and Crocosaur for Yotul and Angus.
Knowing how to use your reserves properly is one of the most important parts of competitive play. Just a few cards can drastically change your odds of winning a certain matchup. Unfortunately for you all, I’m not going to spoil all of my secrets today. Suffice to say, the reserves list made a huge impact in multiple matches and I wouldn’t make a single change to the list with this current meta.
The Tournament Report:
I know this is getting long, so I’ll make this section a bit more brief.
Round 1 – Roumpfin (Seed #46) – Angus
Right off the bat, I am facing the deck I expected to be the most popular today. Luckily I am on the play. The deck held up and did what it was designed to do. Quick 2-0 victory.
Round 2 – Vazrael (Seed #14) – McBombus
While McBombus used to be the bee’s knees, it still makes a showing here and there. Vazrael was running an interesting list utilizing Artisanal Sommelier. Oddly enough, I did not see any Flickering Gobblers, which seems like an auto-include to me. Won 2-1.
Round 3 – Berkeley (Seed #35) – Zorath
Going first and a strong hand ends game one in my favor. Having access to my reserves for game two puts me at a huge advantage. Won 2-0.
Round 4 – ValueCity (Seed #22)
Not sure what ValueCity was playing. He had to drop from the tournament, so free win. Can’t complain.
Round 5 – Levis (Seed #2) – Angus
Angus on the play with a good hand is tough to beat. Being on the play for game two makes all the difference. Game three, I have a good start and am able to put the game out of reach with enough health gain. Won 2-1.
Round 6 – Yawgz (Seed #8) – Angus
Here we are now at the Winners Bracket Finals. Playing another Angus with him on the play, as expected. Perfect curves and a slow start for me in game two ended in a quick 0-2 loss.
Round 7 – Reeplay (Seed #28) – Kagulichu
From the previous round, I am automatically placed in the Loser’s Bracket Finals. Four hours later, the bracket has caught up and I have my opponent. Reeplay eeked out a win against Levis last round and I am now against one of my worst matchups with the way my main deck is hedged. Luckily I am on the play though and have chosen to go first.
I coult not have asked for a better opening hand. Have enough pressure to likely win early and get to a favorable list post reserves. Unfortunately, Reeplay wins the coin toss and elects to go first by mistake, so we need to remake the game.
My opening hand this time is fairly slow, but can’t risk throwing it back. Reeplay is able to maintain the board. A massive Mistress of Bones then puts the game way out of reach for me.
A good flow of cards following reserves ties us up at one game each.
Fairly intense game three that you can watch here.
Round 8 – Yawgz (Seed #8) – Angus
And here we are. After a grueling day of competition, two players are ready to face off in the Grand Finals. As this is a double elimination tournament, the player that came up from the Loser’s Bracket has to win two matches in a row, while the Winner’s Bracket finalist just needs to win one. And it will be against an Angus build that will be on the play for game one of every match A player to whom I have already lost to 2-0 in the Winner’s Bracket Finals. No pressure or anything.
As it sucks for the viewers to not be able to actually watch the finals of a large tournament, Pentachills asked me nicely to stream. Seeing as he is a fellow teammate, I obliged. The Revolution will be televised! Instead of commentating the Grand Finals, watch for yourself below:
Great tournament and some very intense last couple of matches! Overall, it was a lot of fun and further proves that bringing the right deck to the right tournament, combined with a little bit of luck, can really pay off.
I’d like to thank Colin for being such a generous and enthusiastic personality in the Hex community, Pentachills, Infam0usNe0, Zubrin, JadiimJedi, and Hacky for doing an amazing job as always providing coverage and running the tournament, and the rest of the Rated Hex team for just being a good community to be a part of. See you all next Shard Cup Series!