Format: Modern Age (Canadian Nationals)
Ladies and gents, this is it. The big one. Canadian Nationals was finally upon us. If you’ll remember, last year went…less than ideally for me. Because I’d forgotten my deck box at home, I had to scramble and build a Shriek-less X-men team at the last second. The team, while interesting, only got me as far as Top 8.
As you can imagine, I got mercilessly teased about it both immediately after, and in the lead-up to this event (don’t worry guys; I’m fine with it, as it was well-deserved). And to those who thought it might happen again, don’t worry, because…
This Time I Was Ready
The Team: The Atom’s last hurrah.
The core combo, #1 on jourdo’s Top 5 Predictions article, was to use Energy Field’s global on The Atom. Spin him down, then spin him back up, to deal 2 damage. 10 masks just wins the game.
Now, where others who ran this team preferred to include other win conditions, I decided to make this strategy laser-focused and be the aggressor. I did this through Clayface (get masks easily), Billy Club, Psylocke (when she lands on double mask, I field sidekicks, then turn them into masks instantly with Billy Club) and Resurrection (bag fixing to set up the early damage consistently).
Since my team was focused on aggression, everything else was intended to deal with opposing control. This meant using Shriek for blanking, and three forms of removal: Storm (with Energy Field, paying a mask to reroll a die is insane), Green Devil Mask (gives control teams like Collector a really hard time) and Mimic (good removal against pretty much anything). And the best part about Mimic and GDM? If they don’t roll, they give me masks anyway!
And that’s it for how the team works. On to the games!
Before I begin, some elements to keep in mind:
-I will mention the first name of each opponent so that you can find their team lists here.
-Several of my games were recorded, and where relevant, check for hyperlinks to the appropriate Youtube videos.
To start the tournament, I went up against Frank’s Fixit + Hulk team. Seeing I could outpace him, he bought his Shriek Turn 1 (seeing as he was going second). I got 2 Psylockes T1, and The Atom T2. He bought some of his other stuff T2, reset his bag with the Atlas global, and after I fielded Atom and dealt a bunch of damage…he didn’t draw his Shriek on T3. This gave me the opening to win on T4. That was unfortunate luck on his end, as his team deserved a better fate.
For Round 2, I went up against Kim’s Team Up build. This match was recorded and can be seen here. Honestly, this game was defined by one turn: at some point (around 5:30 in the video), she triggered my Green Devil Mask (which I bought early, realizing that it’s Team Up’s main weakness). All of her characters were sent to the Used Pile as a result. This broke her pacing and she never fully recovered. A missed Black Widow later, I dealt the rest of the damage I needed to win.
For round 3, I went up against Rob’s Iceman build. I saw all of the tools he gave himself to win and realized this might be a tough matchup (Collector and Mimic? ouch!) His Professor X gave me a useful tool for bag management though. He got early damage in with Iceman, but when I got my damage going, it came in much faster, allowing me to outpace him for the win. I forget what exactly he did for control (hey, I played 10 games of Dice Masters; cut me some slack here), but it was a pretty quick game (Atom vs Iceman rarely lasts very long). Still, it was certainly not the last I would see of Rob…
I now had to face off against a second Iceman team in a row! This time it was Christine’s. This was one of two times today where I had two Clayface globals to work with. That gave me some fantastic potential with Awaken. The thing is, though, I gave her two Clayface globals too. And with all of her cheap bolt dice, that could’ve really hurt. However, some of her stuff would not roll in a timely fashion. And when that happened, the sheer volume of dice she purchased became a liability as bag control became difficult (read: impossible), especially due to Storm. I kept a much leaner bag going, which allowed me to get her control pieces off the field and use the Atom to burn her down to 0 life. I won.
From here, it was the end of the Swiss rounds, and we went to Top cut (Top 8). As the #1 seed, the pressure was on. All of my games were on camera from then on.
To begin the Top cut, I went up against our very own jbouwme’s Atom team in an Atom mirror match. Her team was closer to Ben’s from US Nats, but she decided to throw in the OP Black Widow to help her outpace her opponent in the mirror match. The video for the match can be found here.
The way things worked, overall, was similar in both games. She went for blanking and damage mitigation, I went for my removal. It took some time (especially in game 1), but when Storm hit the field, I got insanely lucky; my opponent had a hard time keeping anything relevant on the field (especially with 2 Clayface globals around). This allowed me to get my Atom going, and eventually outpace her for the win (just barely in game 1).
So I won the Top 8 match-up 2-0, and went on to Top 4.
For this one, I went up against JT and his…I don’t even know how to describe his team. The most creative and crazy team today for sure. It uses the Madame Web + Poison Ivy interaction for control, and uses Black Canary + Kree Captain + Danger Room as its main damage source. He uses SP//DR to hurt burn teams, and Parasite as a creative form of control that allows him to steal opposing win conditions. You can watch the game here.
Fun fact: he decided to run the Web + Ivy interaction because a ruling had been posted in the event…a ruling I had requested since I considered running it. Was my curiosity going to be my undoing?
It certainly looked like it at first. His SP//DR was reflecting Atom’s damage right back at me. And then, he removed one of my Atom dice with Web + Ivy. From there, I realized: no mistakes allowed. If my second Atom die was removed, it would essentially be game over. I realized Storm’s removal was the key here. Storm hit the field, and started controlling his field hard. Once my control was well-established, I bought Atom and got my damage going after getting his SP//DR off the field (and keeping Web off the field). After a long and gruelling game 1, I won.
For game 2, there was no hesitation: I got Storm right away to counter Madame Web. He tried going for his win condition right away. He also used his Parasite to use Storm’s removal against me; he managed to pull this off once, removing almost my entire field. This led to some funny plays, like me actually attacking him with Storm to get her off the field before Parasite could hit. Still, without Web’s control, and with Storm being quite effective, I managed to set up my damage much more easily. I eventually dealt him enough damage through Energy Field so that I could attack him for the win.
So I won, somehow. But JT’s team was a fascinating puzzle to play against, and in a field of fantastic teams, my match against him was probably my favourite part of the day. Major kudos to him for making the trip, and for making Top 4!
Also, special mention for our failed and hilarious first attempt to decide who’d go first. Seriously, what are the odds that it would end up like this?
But I digress. On to the…
And here it is, the final match, for all the marbles! My opponent for this one? Rob and his Iceman team, coming in for the rematch. You can watch it here.
And to start the finals…I started with the worst turn 1 roll I’ve ever seen for this team. I was forced to buy his Magic Missile(!). I’ll admit this tilted me a bit, but after a few deep breaths and a far better turn 2, I recovered, got Atom and did bag fixing to set him up for T3, and from there, the game was really on.
Obviously, I was on the back foot (especially with Atom not rolling on T3), but I was in a much better position from then on. Rob did get his Iceman and his blanking on the field quickly, but due to fielding costs, he did not get his actual damage going that quickly. This gave me the time to go for blanking and removal to slow the game’s pace down until I could do my own damage. I eventually used removal to make his field completely empty, whittled his life down with Atom, and swung in for the win. 1-0 for me.
Game 2, due to weird rolls, I actually went for Storm earlier than usual. While she didn’t roll, I was able to buy both Atom and Shriek on T3, and with both blanking and removal set up, that meant that even though he got some quick damage in, I should’ve been ready to deal with Iceman…but until the very last turn, neither Storm nor Shriek rolled for me. I thus used his own Magic Missile global to get his Shriek off the board and ALMOST deal lethal damage (if he hadn’t kept an energy back, I would’ve won right there). He fielded Shriek again and was just short of lethal damage with Iceman. The following turn, I finally rolled Shriek, blanked his Shriek and used Atom to deal the last few points of damage.
Which means I won 2-0. Making me the champ! Huzzah!
I could hear truemistersix booing from across the Atlantic. It was glorious.
Normally, I focus on lessons learned from the team in this section, and I will, a bit. But before I do, let’s talk about what I learned as a player.
As you can imagine, what happened at last year’s nationals left me really, really disappointed. Sure, I eventually just poked fun at myself (even just now in the title!), but at the time, I was angry, sad, and not sure where to go from there.
But after taking the time to recover, I saw that forgetting my deck box wasn’t the illness, it was a symptom of another problem. I had done too much testing, and I was unfocused in my team selection. I’d tired myself out mentally before the event had even started, and since I was still brewing the night before, I did not rest appropriately.
As you can tell, I learned from this. Through testing (thanks Reg and Nick!), I brought things into focus much more quickly this time. And I forced myself to finalize my team sheet the night before, so I could stop brewing and just say, alea iacta est (that’s latin for “the die is cast”). This left me much more refreshed on the morning of the tournament, and allowed me to stay mentally sharp all day.
I’m sure there are some of you that went through a major competition and, for some reason or other, you feel like I did last year. And to you, I say: don’t let your mistakes define you. After you’ve taken the time to recover, look back, and you’ll see opportunities to learn. Take these opportunities, and come back stronger.
Now, after that self-improvement interlude, some thoughts on the actual team:
-In case it wasn’t obvious, Storm was a real MVP this time. I was one of only 2 players that used her, and it worked out quite well for me.
-However, Storm would not have worked nearly as well had Mimic not been on the team. With both Storm and Mimic, alongside Shriek, it made it really hard for my opponents to decide what to stop with their Shriek. Stop Atom, and Storm and Mimic have a field day. Stop Storm, and Atom burns you while Mimic takes out your Shriek. And so on.
-Green Devil Mask was intended to hurt Collector control teams, which I’d identified as this team’s main weakness. However, while it came in handy a couple of times (especially against Kim’s Team Up team), I didn’t end up facing Collector control. It was still the right choice though.
-On Kate Bishop/Static Field: Why did I not include this? It wasn’t a case of not wanting it. It was a question of priorities. I built this team to be the aggressor, to deal quick damage. I chose to prioritize bag management with Resurrection to get the damage going quicker. Besides which, with Storm and masks, I could pay a mask to reroll a character, which is arguably better than simply removing it from the attack zone.
-As an important reminder: if you’re intending to run this team now, keep in mind that Energy Field was errata’d, but that Can Nats was specifically exempted because the ruling was announced shortly before the event. Going forward, you can’t spin up the die that you spun down with Energy Field’s global. This hurts the team for sure, and takes it out of top meta contention in my personal opinion. But this team can still be a dark horse even with the errata.
So overall, I’m obviously really happy with how the day went. Good turnout, fantastic players, the opportunity to greet existing friends and make new ones, and somehow coming out of it a champion! What more can we ask for? Many thanks to the awesome people at Multizone and to Shahin, judge, TO and streamer extraordinaire.
And by the way, there are a lot of people I should thank for helping me out as I was getting ready for Nats. Listing them would take forever, so all I will say is: you know who you are. Thank you.
Now, to answer the obvious question: am I going to Worlds? I’d love to. I’ll be getting a passport ASAP, and from there, it’ll be a matter of figuring out the financial aspect of it. I make no promises, but if I can, I’ll do my best to be there.