During Day 2 of Nationals 2015, I judged both the T1-2P and T2-2P categories.  As the ‘main event’ each year, I decided to interview those who made the Top Cut and get their thoughts on the state of the meta in this game.  Top Cut was determined after 7 rounds of Swiss-style gaming, with the top 8 players moving on to a single-elimination bracket (with a third place game added) to determine an overall winner.

After their matches, I asked them each the same questions, and here were their responses.  As I did not have a chance to record the responses, these are paraphrased while capturing the essence of their answers (though some are direct quotes as indicated):

8 Seed (8th Place) – Mitch Stewart (lost 2-5 to Josiah Beers)

What kind of deck were you playing?

Judges/Greeks/Pharisees.

Would you describe your deck as offense-heavy, balanced, or defense-heavy?

Balanced.

What are the good/evil counts (at face value) in your deck?  Total size?

19 good, 20 evil, 50 total.

Is AutO in your deck?  Was he important to your success?

Yes.  Not as much, Jair was more important with his initiative.

What card is basically responsible for you achieving Top Cut, if there is one?

Offensively: Jair.  Defensively: Shrine to Artemis.

What do you feel was the strongest deck concept today overall?

John Earley’s site lock.

If you were not worried about winning today, would you prefer to play a different deck?

Yes.  Clay-Corinth with Sowing Bountifully.

If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?

Pine.

7 Seed (7th Place) – Charles Johnson (lost 3-5 to John Earley)

What kind of deck were you playing?

Genetyptians (Genesis and Egyptians) with some Toss.

Would you describe your deck as offense-heavy, balanced, or defense-heavy?

Defense-heavy.

What are the good/evil counts (at face value) in your deck?  Total size?

17 good, 20 evil, 50 total.

Is AutO in your deck?  Was he important to your success?

No.

What card is basically responsible for you achieving Top Cut, if there is one?

Reuben’s Torn Clothes.

What do you feel was the strongest deck concept today overall?

Overpowered would be John Earley’s defense.

If you were not worried about winning today, would you prefer to play a different deck?

Probably not.

If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?

A tired one.

5 Seed (6th Place) – Martin Miller (lost 2-5 to Gabe Isbell)

What kind of deck were you playing?

FBTN (fight-by-the-numbers, negating characters and enhancements) banding offense with Pharisees defense.

Would you describe your deck as offense-heavy, balanced, or defense-heavy?

Balanced.

What are the good/evil counts (at face value) in your deck?  Total size?

20 good, 20 evil, 52 total.

Is AutO in your deck?  Was he important to your success?

No.

What card is basically responsible for you achieving Top Cut, if there is one?

Asahel; versatility in banding and CTB (choose the blocker) makes him too good, he’s a cornerstone of the offense.  Otherwise, Foreign Sword.  Topdecking fortresses or artifacts, plus being able to discard the card with Warrior’s Spear, was really good.

What do you feel was the strongest deck concept today overall?

AutO…well, I don’t know…Greeks and Judges.  Ideal would be Judges Greeks…  The best offense is Judges, best defense is hard to say.

If you were not worried about winning today, would you prefer to play a different deck?

No, playing this deck was spur of the moment.  YOLO swag decision.  Covenant with Noah over Palestine would have been better; negates would have had more impact, there was less capture.  First tournament this year playing it, so no real testing.  Would also have taken out Amasai the Raider.  He did nothing.  He was supposed to get rid of Scattered, and it just wasn’t very effective.  Probably just have been at 51.

If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?

Oak, solid.

3 Seed (5th Place) – Nathan “the bacon made the top cut!” Wagenknecht (lost 0-5 to Chris Egley)

What kind of deck were you playing?

Judges/Canaan combo.

Would you describe your deck as offense-heavy, balanced, or defense-heavy?

Offense-heavy.

What are the good/evil counts (at face value) in your deck?  Total size?

24 good, 17 evil, 53 total.

Is AutO in your deck?  Was he important to your success?

Yes.  Sort of, only important in half of the games.

What card is basically responsible for you achieving Top Cut, if there is one?

Either Abram’s Army or King Amazing (Amaziah).

What do you feel was the strongest deck concept today overall?

Judges with random splashes.

If you were not worried about winning today, would you prefer to play a different deck?

No.

If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?

Oak.

4 Seed (4th Place) – Gabe Isbell (won 5-2 over Martin Miller, lost 3-4 to Josiah Beers, lost 3-5 to Chris Egley)

What kind of deck were you playing?

The offense was Judges with a couple priests, couple angels.  Defense was magicians and demons.

Would you describe your deck as offense-heavy, balanced, or defense-heavy?

Balanced.

What are the good/evil counts (at face value) in your deck?  Total size?

19 good, 20 evil, 50 total.

Is AutO in your deck?  Was he important to your success?

Yes, and yes.

What card is basically responsible for you achieving Top Cut, if there is one?

Definitely Ehud.

What do you feel was the strongest deck concept today overall?

John Earley’s deck.

If you were not worried about winning today, would you prefer to play a different deck?

No, I don’t think that I would.  I thought it had a good chance of winning, but I also really enjoyed playing it.

If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?

Oak.

6 Seed (3rd Place) – Chris Egley (won 5-0 over Nathan Wagenknecht, lost 0-5 to John Earley, won 5-3 over Gabe Isbell)

What kind of deck were you playing?

Kings and Red Warriors on top of Pharisees/Lot’s Wife and Stone of Thebez combo.

Would you describe your deck as offense-heavy, balanced, or defense-heavy?

Offense-heavy.

What are the good/evil counts (at face value) in your deck?  Total size?

22 good, 15 evil, 52 total.

Is AutO in your deck?  Was he important to your success?

No.

What card is basically responsible for you achieving Top Cut, if there is one?

King Hiram.

What do you feel was the strongest deck concept today overall?

Angels in any concept.

If you were not worried about winning today, would you prefer to play a different deck?

Similar, but with a Goliath defense.

If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?

Willow.

1 Seed (2nd Place) – Josiah Beers (won 5-2 over Mitch Stewart, won 4-3 over Gabe Isbell, lost 0-5 to John Earley)

What kind of deck were you playing?

Angels/Demons.

Would you describe your deck as offense-heavy, balanced, or defense-heavy?

Balanced with a defensive lean.

What are the good/evil counts (at face value) in your deck?  Total size?

19 good, 20 evil, 50 total.

Is AutO in your deck?  Was he important to your success?

Yes.  Sort of, not a clutch hero (was running only angels).

What card is basically responsible for you achieving Top Cut, if there is one?

Household Idols.

What do you feel was the strongest deck concept today overall?

John Earley’s deck; site lock with anti-angel tech and Abom.

If you were not worried about winning today, would you prefer to play a different deck?

No, this was a fun deck to play.  Total tech that no one expected.

If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?

Josiah: “What are those freaking huge ones in California?”

Jordan A: “Sequoia.”

Dayne M: “Redwood.”

Josiah: “Yeah, those.  Sequoia sounds better.”

2 Seed (1st Place) – John Earley (won 5-3 over Charles Johnson, won 5-0 over Chris Egley, won 5-0 over Josiah Beers)

What kind of deck were you playing?

The best deck.  I built what I considered would be the optimal deck in the format.  This year, unlike last year, I kept it secret, and was the only one playing it.  56 card, Watchful Servant, site lock deck.

Would you describe your deck as offense-heavy, balanced, or defense-heavy?

“Definitely offense heavy.  Souls in the first five turns.  That’s how I roll.”

*Said sarcastically with much laughter*

What are the good/evil counts (at face value) in your deck?  Total size?

8 good, 29 evil, 56 total.

Is AutO in your deck?  Was he important to your success?

No.  “He can’t search out N.T. gold.”

What card is basically responsible for you achieving Top Cut, if there is one?

Arrest in Gethsemane?  Really Shrine and Household Idols are probably the best cards in the deck.

What do you feel was the strongest deck concept today overall?

Mine?  Really, Defensive-heavy.  Everyone moved to Balanced, and Defensive-heavy will eat Balanced decks for breakfast.  When you stack to one side, you have more options, and that side will win out more against someone without the options to push through.

If you were not worried about winning today, would you prefer to play a different deck?

Absolutely.  My deck is not fun to play against, and there are definitely times that it is not fun to play.  Very stressful turns 1-6 while I’m stabilizing, then it is incredibly boring.  I sit there, pick Abom targets, then pass my turn.  You try to figure out how to get past, you can’t, and pass your turn or fail your rescue.  It becomes solitaire.  I’m either stressed or bored.
I checked in a second deck for fun, and it was basically a copy of Gabe’s deck (not card-for-card, but close).

If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?

“The tree of life, so I could restore all health to all characters?”

I’ll go ahead and say maple.  No good reason.

BONUS ROUND WITH THE CHAMPION!

Do you feel your deck is a cancer?

YES!  My deck is terrible!  There are other versions being made, and it is terrible because there is no interaction.  It wouldn’t be a problem that it isn’t interactive if it weren’t good, but the problem is that it is pretty good.

Will it dominate next year?

Knowing what I know*?  No.  Not because I don’t think Defensive-heavy isn’t the way to play or isn’t the best, but this particular deck with its win condition will not function the same with planned rule changes*.

Would it have dominated this year if it weren’t a secret?

Maybe…tough to answer that question.  There are cards you can play that hurt this deck and make it harder to function, but those cards tend to be less-efficient cards.  Would they tech against this deck and hurt their deck in other games or not?

*The champion refers to rule changes that were planned for the new tournament season (so as not to be thrown on players at Nationals), and will be released 8/10/2015.  That the Judges planned changes (for the past several months) that will weaken this deck next year was a pleasant surprise, as John had done a good job keeping his deck relatively under wraps as he developed it; when you see these changes, you’ll see why we are glad they are being put in place!

Closing thoughts with our interviewer:

I found it interesting that of the Top Cut, fully half had a deck size over 50.  Many arguments have been had regarding “optimal deck size” for years, and it is very intriguing to see the conventional wisdom of 50 being unquestionably the best not necessarily holding true (though this result by no means invalidates that thought).

It was also interesting to see that we have definitely moved past the “speed-only” meta that was so prevalent even 2 years ago.  The top players have been saying for quite awhile that speed is not the king of Redemption anymore, and Balanced is the way to play.  Some said it was a fluke when Josiah Beers won T1-2P with a more Balanced hand-control deck in 2013, when most players were playing just speed, but it was really just indicative of where the game would go.  The Early Church added more strong defensive cards that boosted the ability to play Balanced or Defense-heavy, and Persecuted Church seems that it will continue that trend.  No deck that made Top Cut would really have been considered “meta” to players just two years ago, when everyone just complained that people would speed to deck-out and win in 3 turns, and it was very interesting to see the thought that Balanced would take over prove correct.

Next, The Angel Under the Oak, going with the ‘speed’ complaints, is always a source of much anger in the community.  However, while he did make it into 4 of the top 8 decks, he once again did not show up in the winning deck (historically holds true), one of these decks was an angels-only deck where he was not an important piece of the offense (low on the selection to rescue with), and only one player said he was actually important to their success (with no one listing him as the card that helped them make Top Cut).

Lastly, it was very interesting to see the winning deck have no Son of God.  For the first time in history (I feel very safe in assuming), a deck won T1-2P without the option of rescuing souls with dominants.  Fascinating!

To buy singles, sealed product, and other gaming supplies, please visit Three Lions Gaming!

2 thoughts on “Nationals 2015 Day 2 – T1-2P Interviews and Outcomes

  1. Josiah

    Great read, got some good laughs. Thanks for this read Dayne.

  2. Noah

    I liked this a lot because it was funny, and because SOMEONE I know has all trees and I guess forests for there children’s names 🙂

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