Sunday, December 17, 2006

A View from the Bottom: Losing, Learning, and Loving the World of Warcraft TCG

Yesterday, I competed in my first World of Warcraft TCG tournament. It was Sealed Pack format with an entry fee of $30 which netted each player six boosters and a hero. There was a total of eight players with an additional two interested parties who had to be turned away due to a lack of card supplies which has been an issue for the WoW TCG. Hopefully starting early this week the promised shipments from Upper Deck will hit stores and product will be freely available. Until then there is a very limited supply.

Six Boosters

After opening my six boosters I quickly realized that my card pool was a bit weak. I had only a single protector which was the five cost Horde ally, Kulan Earthguard. Other key allies I pulled for the Horde were 2x Voss Treebender, 1x Vesh'ral, 1x Ya'mon, 1x Hur Shieldsmasher, and 1x Confessor Mildred. Key allies for the Alliance I received were 1x Parvink, 2x Maxum Ironbrew, and 1x Ryn Dreamstrider. As you can see I lacked many of the important 1-2 cost allies that are essential early game plays.

On the ability side of cards I pulled a scattershot of rares and uncommons. Unfortunately none of them provided much synergy for any deck builds I felt comfortable playing. Below are the abilities organized by class.

Druid: 1x Predatory Strikes, 2x Bear Form, 1x Mark of the Wild, 1x Natural Selection, and 1x Healing Touch.
Rogue: 1x Dismantle, 1x Gouge, 2x Coup de Grace, 2x Stealth, and 1x Eviscerate
Warrior: 1x Rend, 1x Mocking Blow, and 1x Demoralizing Shout
Paladin: 1x Cleanse, 1x Holy Light, and 1x Retribution Aura

The other class abilities I nabbed were too few to build any decks with and in the case of the Warlock and Priest I only received a single ability for each. Some useful neutral abilities I received were 2x Exhaustion, 1x Burn Away, 2x Interest You in a Pint?, 1x Call of the Spirit, and 1x Vanquish.

Looking at the lists above it seems as though I had a pretty good start for a Rogue deck, but when it came to weapons, items, and armor I received little to nothing. 1x Barov Peasant Caller, 1x Hide of the Wild, 1x Truesilver Breastplate and 1x Chromatic Cloak. The only weapon was a single Iceblade Hacker.

I drew an array of quests with 2x Blueleaf Tubers, 1x It's a Secret to Everybody, 1x Zapped Giants, 1x In Dreams, 2x Chasing A-me 01, 1x Into the Maw of Madness, and 2x Big Game Hunter.

My Deck

With the lack of protectors and the lack of a weapon I decided against playing a Rogue deck. My first instinct was to take the Truesilver Breastplate and play either a Paladin or Warrior. I felt that both of those choices were weak considering my only weapon being the Iceblade Hacker and the likely proliferation of protectors that ready themselves.

My final choice was to go with the Horde Druid, Thangal. Sadly it is one of the few classes I have no experience playing.

Deck List:

(will post deck list when I get some time)

I strongly felt that I could get ahead early with Bear Form and Predatory Strikes. Once ahead I hoped to be able to control the board with Voss Treebender, Kulan Earthguard, and Confessor Mildred. To finish games I felt that Mark of The Wild, Vesh'ral, Barov Peasant Caller, and Hur Shieldsmasher could serve very well.

Basically my deck was meant to suck up early game damage while removing early game weenies. The decks mid game was to focus on healing and getting the cards needed for a final push. To finish there was armor removal followed by ferocity attackers with Mark of the Wild. Once the dust settled Blueleaf Tubers could be used to cycle my graveyard back into my library which potentially gave me a chance at drawing both of my heals again.

How It Played

In reality I did not play the deck how I planned. I rushed allies and abilities out when I saw early game openings and found myself playing from the draw almost every game. Bear Form and Predatory Strikes never factored into play. Even with mulligans I never had more than one in my opening hand and only once did I manage to get both into play which was trumped by a Crippling Poison keeping Thangal exhausted. The whole idea of having six damage on the opposing hero by the end of turn three never developed.

I really blame myself for playing the deck poorly. I thought it out well, but executed it horribly. Every game I quickly went ahead, but never once did I finish the deal. My best game pushed a Gorebelly deck down to five life at which point I stalled out and started eating nine damage a turn. Even with both heals in hand I couldn't survive long enough to draw anything useful.

What I Learned

The biggest thing I learned about Sealed play in the WoW TCG is that you need to play the best cards you pull. Building a deck around those key cards will equal success. The top players at the tournament were finished with their builds quickly because they analyzed their best cards and grabbed the appropriate hero.

With a minimum deck size of 30 I found that playing exactly 30 works well, but certain card pools almost demand that you play every single card you can. If you get a ton of good allies you probably will play them all. A good weapon or armor piece can demand a certain hero or the inclusion of more cards.

As far as Quest selection goes I found that eight in a deck of 30 was efficient if you have eight that benefit your build. Otherwise it makes more sense to choose utility cards that could serve a purpose in certain situations or be dumped as a resource when they are just taking up space.

What disappointed me about the Sealed format was that it seemed whoever pulled the better equipment cards had the upper hand. Having key armor pieces such as Golem Skull Helm or Draconian Deflector played a far larger roll than any other single card. Getting a weapon such as Brain Hacker or Flame Wrath really unbalanced the field. With the current large number of rares and the fact they are restricted by class it feels as though you can easily get screwed in Sealed play.

As far as playing your deck in a Sealed tournament it felt as though everyone held onto cards instead of going for early game leads. I fell into the trap of seeing the early game openings and leaving myself wide open to late game stalls. Watching your board control disappear in a couple turns and realizing you have no backup is a sad lesson to learn. Knowing that I could and should have played better is a tough pill to swallow.

Even though I failed to win a single game during the tournament and finished in last place I still love the WoW TCG. I just have to suck it up and continue to practice. There will be plenty of chances to compete in the future.
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