After completely skipping 2020, this was not a year where I expected to achieve my first T1-2P national championship. In fact, if my good friend and fellow Kansan, Jacob Arrowood (better known as Red Wing) had not talked me into a drive down to Oklahoma for South Central Regionals a month ago, I never would have.
I had no intention of missing two Nats in a row, of course, but the plan was simply to update my 2019 #JetPriest deck with a few new cards (most importantly the King Rezin + Captain of the Chariots combo), not worry about the meta and just experience the fun/fellowship.
However, it turned out one good tournament was all I needed to get pulled back into the game. In addition to getting my first actual play experience with the latest set, I got to enjoy some discussion about the current state of the game with Joe Schaefer, one of the LAFS deck progenitors. This was not the first I had heard of the deck as Jay Chambers and I have a tradition of long meta-related phone conversations during the months leading up to Nationals. However, those conversations had mostly been about improving the LAFS deck rather than countering it. Up until regionals, I hadn’t thought much about beating it, nor even considered that such a thing could be consistently done and up until now lacked the motivation to do any more than continue my original plan of simply running a modernized #JetPriest. However, during the drive back to Kansas, the gears started turning.
By some definition, I did follow through with my original #JetPriest plan and even kept the original namesake card despite shifting the offense to a whole new brigade. I intend to write a separate, more in-depth look at the evolution of the deck in the near future, but the basic concept was to start with Stricken and Out of Egypt (the two cards with * abilities that “hard” stop LAFS for a turn) then build out the best deck for squeezing value out of those two beyond only the * ability while also running as many deployable “soft” counters as possible. This resulted in the following deck list:
Son of God
The Second Coming
Angel of the Lord
Chronicles of the Kings
Destruction of Nehushtan
Falling Away (W)
Lost Souls: 7
The Ends of the Earth
Jeremiah, Hope Bringer
Daniel, the Apocalyptist
Moses, Friend of God
Good Enhancements: 9
Tested by Fire
Plague of Frogs
The Emmaus Road
Offering Your Son
Covenant with David
Out of Egypt
Evil Characters: 9
Captain of the Chariots
The Lying Prophet
Evil Enhancements: 6
False Prophecy (PoC)
The Mighty Warrior
The Great Fish
Namaan’s Chariot and Horses
All the Curses
Covenant with Death
This deck aims to produce significant speed bumps on the first turn while pressuring the opponent’s lack of resources via toss Heroes. The defense stalls as many turns as possible while giving the opponent minimal opportunities to interact with the hope that the toss Heroes eat through the opponent’s defense before the deck runs out of CBN grey enhancements. To accomplish this, green (and teal) uniquely have full access to the amazing consistency suite of Delivered, The Emmaus Road, Offering Your Son, and Covenant with David. This package fetches Endless Treasures on the first turn quite consistently (typically activating Golden Calf) while also fetching and replaying it on subsequent turns for additional draw power.
Offensively, though Jeremiah’s ability to get initiative tends to make him a stronger option, The Mighty Warrior has the subtle bonus of being non-human, thus allowing him to get around both Accusers’ negate and Red Dragon’s protect. The Mighty Warrior gets the first turn rescue almost every game, usually yielding to Jeremiah once Accusers is rescued/negated or to Elijah if I need to activate Covenant with Death. The Ends of the Earth and Storehouse help assure that at least one of the few battle-winning GEs in the deck will find their way to your hand by the time they are needed.
Defensively, the deck wants to find King Rezin via The Deceiver, Lawless or draw effects like Treacherous Land and Endless Treasures. This starts the King Rezin->Damascus->Captain of the Chariots->Namaan’s Chariot and Horses chain which results in drawing either two or four extra cards and providing a play first effect for either Unsuccessful or any of the myriad CBN EEs available in the deck.
In summary, the decks stalls with finite but strong blocks while racing the opponent to a tempo win.
Game 1: Patrick Chaverri
My two goals for this deck were A. Beat LAFS and B. Don’t lose to Throne. By this point my confidence in the LAFS matchup was high but getting run over by an aggressive Throne deck was still my biggest fear. This made my opponent dropping several red and purple Heroes onto the table quite concerning but Patrick’s deck soon proved to be the newer LoC variant of Throne rather than the RoA version I was afraid of that swept 2020 Nationals. When I initially designed the 2019 version of this defense, it was built specifically to beat pre-Isaiah/Jeremiah throne and it proved equally effective against the modern LoC version during this match. Patrick’s Assyrians did put up more of a fight than I was expecting which led to a close 5-4 win.
Game 2: Jeremy Chambers
This was the inevitable clash my deck was built for. I expected Jeremy to be piloting the most refined version of the LAFS combo in the field and was thus the truest test of my counter deck among the entire field. From my opening hand, I dropped a Transgressors pulling All the Curses and one of either Forsaken or Accusers, which Jeremy promptly removed with SoG. All the Curses prevented him from getting value out of his Souls while my prep phase Chronicles halted his attempts to make meaningful headway towards the combo with territory enhancements. He passed, allowing me to establish a Jonah to hinder his next setup attempt and Treacherous Land to dig for counters while he played his answers. I could have put up CwD or Calf at this point but chose to wait for him to use Chronicles so it wouldn’t get removed along with All the Curses, knowing that would be necessary before he could use Hidden Treasures. Jonah carried me through his entire next turn as every time he played an enhancement to search, Jonah shuffled the Hero who played it. A testament to the resiliency of the LAFS deck, Jeremy finally found his way to Jacob and Hidden Treasures but unfortunately, I had Destruction to remove it after he finally took care of All the Curses with Chronicles. On my second turn I developed a Storehouse and CwD, sealing his fate behind a wall of counters and carrying me to a 5-0 finish.
Game 3: Kevin McEllrath
Only two matches in and having already accomplished goals A. and B. in the first two rounds, I was feeling pretty good about my prospects as I headed into what turned out to be a Prophets mirror match. Despite technically sharing an offensive brigade, Kevin’s heavy Isaiah focus resulted in a completely different strategy than mine, and its strength caught me somewhat off guard. Call’d PoC Isaiah is a force to be reckoned with, especially when pulling top decked enhancements via Jeshua on every attack. This was an offensive race and, similarly to my game against Patrick, Kevin’s Assyrians were not letting me walk in for as many early Souls as this deck typically needs. I spent much of this game on the back foot until finally swinging the game in my favor with a Chronicles removing Call and Book of the Covenant simultaneously, greatly hindering his ability to generate offensive power. Once Call was no longer negating my Evil Characters, defensive play-first effects stalled long enough for me to secure the 5-3 victory.
Game 4: John Earley
Most of you reading this are likely aware of John’s extensive competitive history, but you may not know that he has been responsible for knocking me out of top cut every time I have reached it. He also knew my full list as we had discussed a version of it ahead of Nationals and I had beaten his LAFS deck with it the night before. All I knew about his deck was that it was a Jeremiah/Isaiah Throne build with Coliseum, which is about as bad of a matchup as I can imagine for this deck so my expectations going in were low. We both had slow openings, with neither of us drawing defense and him establishing a pre-game Distressing People on me. As the game progressed, I discovered he was running a hybrid of my counter deck and Throne, combining Elijah, Amos, and LAFS counters with a 2020 style Throne deck. The cohesiveness of my build won out this game over his greater offensive potential as I was able to find Endless Treasures via Offering Your Son, establishing the extra value I needed to win the race 5-3.
Game 5: Derek Tirado
Game 5 marks the point at which writing this report became much easier as my presence at top table allowed me to re-watch my games courtesy of RobM Studios. A great boon for this match especially as it was one of the most back and forth games of the tournament with too many small, yet impactful plays to list. Derek and I both had strong starts, but neither began with any souls to rescue. However, I was able to find a few critical cards early on; specifically, an Ends of the Earth to generate a first turn rescue target and a Plague of Frogs to shuffle King of Tyrus. Likewise, he found some important counters for my deck in the form of an early Coliseum and Sheol. Coliseum especially blanked nearly all my blocks so I was left digging for Woes or Eve’s Descendant to deal with it. Even still, I was a turn ahead in the offensive race until I blundered Two Bears on Mighty Warrior against the KoT he had immediately redrawn (green does not always = prophet!). This misplay completely changed the game making me desperate for a Coliseum answer to unlock the blocks I needed to swing the race back in my favor. This meant letting him underdeck all his Souls with Sheol as I played out all the search cards I had been holding, making rescue targets a limiting factor for me the rest of the game. Great Fish and Captive Priest saved this match for me with the former negating Shields and Coliseum off Lurking to allow me to land a Scattered Sheep on his entire band, and the latter generating the final Soul necessary to push the game from a timeout tie to a 4-3 win.
Game 6: Shon Seivers
It was an absolute pleasure to see my fellow teal enjoyer at the top table. Shon and I already played twice the night before with me winning our first game and then swiftly losing the second to my own Nazareth, making this match technically the decider of our best of three. Those two earlier games had finally pushed me to replace Nazareth with Treacherous Land, a definite improvement. We both opened without much defense, with Shon having the stronger initial offensive setup. Despite pulling fewer support cards on my first turn, his start focused on offensive power while mine was all about speed. This proved to be superior as I started chaining consistency cards, found defense and sped my way to a 5-1 victory. Though his strategy didn’t work out in our match, I appreciate Shon’s efforts to innovate within teal and look forward to incorporating some of his developments into my own future teal decks.
Game 7: Charles Loria
Those who have read my Sealed/Booster report know this was not the only time I faced Charles in the final match of an event this Nationals. What initially looked to be a strong start for me went south quickly when I got greedy with Delivered’s * ability, generating Charles an extra Soul during pre-game which allowed him to take the first turn. He immediately put up All the Curses, locking me out of Endless Treasures, my primary draw engine. His deck also ran significantly more defense than the rest of my opponents, providing him the unique ability to block Jeremiah early. On his second turn Charles developed Book of the Covenant, Seven Years of Plenty and Storehouse, ensuring plenty of value for the rest of the game in addition to dropping Babel and Golden Calf to keep me from catching up. His offense was centered around repeatedly recurring and attacking with FooF Joseph and CBN battle winners. This strategy is quite vulnerable to evil play-first effects, so I was able to hang on for several turns until his own value engines unfortunately became his undoing as he spent a large portion of our match resolving artifact activations and upkeep triggers, with the game ending in a 1-4 timeout loss. We agreed to play the game out unofficially and, unlike the 2019 version, the defense stabilized providing just enough blocks to reach the 5-4 comeback win after killing Joseph far more times than I can remember. Nonetheless, I am quite impressed by Charles’ ability to pilot this deck to the finals utilizing an older strategy that employs relatively few modern cards.
Overall, this was quite an enjoyable meta despite the looming threat of LAFS around every corner. With prominent Throne players absent and enough counters floating around to keep LAFS down, second-tier decks had a hay-day, with a wide variety of unique strategies lining up to take their shot at a Nats placement. However, as proven by this deck, the name of the game was still consistency and tempo over raw power and long-term value. Virtually all my opponents’ decks had the potential to set up stronger rescues than a simple Jeremiah/Mighty Warrior, especially in long, grindy games, but never had time to produce that power before the race was over. I spent untold hours go-fishing this deck, tweaking almost every slot (even making changes through Thursday night) and discussing endless card options with fellow community members in the weeks leading up to Nationals to produce the most refined and consistent deck possible. After running the LAFS meta gauntlet, I believe this list to be nearly perfect for this environment, with Syrian Marauders being the only card that doesn’t feel impossible to cut. Every other component was critical at some point during the tournament and has meaningful dependencies with other cards in the list. The deck falls short in long, value-oriented games but I don’t know of a meaningful way to shore up that weakness without sacrificing the tempo consistency that was necessary to thrive in this meta.
For anyone interested in playing this deck in a post-LAFS world: cut Foolish Shepherd, Out of Egypt, probably Stricken and likely Distressing People as well if your meta isn’t hyper-focused on first turn setup. I recommend using one of these slots to put Bearing Our Sin back in and to replace Foolish Shepherd with an evil character that can at least play gray enhancements. Jacob (Israel) is a flex slot for any green Hero if hand protection isn’t important in your meta, and the Souls are all flexible except the Awake/Hunter/Remnant package being critical for ensuring a first turn Hero.
Thanks to Jay Chambers and Jacob Arrowood for letting me bounce countless card ideas off you and to everyone who came to Nationals to make this competition possible. Look forward to seeing you all next year!
To buy singles, sealed product, and other gaming supplies mentioned, please visit Three Lions Gaming!