Having spent most of the past tournament season play testing Persecuted Church cards, when the Iowa State tournament started drawing near I didn’t have a finely tuned deck I wanted to play.
My favorite deck to play was something I call “Ruthless”. It’s an updated version of a deck I was play testing during the development of the I&J starter decks. The offense isn’t really tournament quality though. Despite the name, it actually uses the 4 Ruth Heroes from the starter deck, paired with some judges.
I took a tally of the decks that have placed in the top 3 at Nationals for the 3 years prior, compiling all the cards to see which ones appeared the most times. From those I put together an offense and a defense, updated with a few of the new Early Church cards. I called the deck “Good Stuff”. It looked surprisingly like the deck John Early had used to finish top 3 at Nationals the two years prior.
When I showed the deck to John, he gave me a couple pointers. The deck was only 2-4 cards different from what he was running. If I recall, I had left out Ehud, a judge who I often underestimate.
I gave that deck a run at Iowa States and placed 1st in T1-2P. It won games against Mitch Stewart and Jayden Alstad so it worked against some strong competition. The defense felt weak but the offense worked really well.
I played it a couple weeks later at a district tournament and got run over by a kid in my play group. The defense had failed me. I had to come up with something different.
Shortly before regionals I was undecided. Do I play “Ruthless”, which I really enjoy but the offense is weak? Or do I play “Good Stuff” that I also enjoy but the defense is prone to failure?
The answer is probably obvious to you, but it took me a little while to see it. Combine the two! With minimal trimming I was able to combine the high powered offense of “Good Stuff” with the ruthless defense of “Ruthless”. Now I had a deck that I was really happy with!
At Regionals I ran into some trouble with my opening draw during the first game. I only had a King Manasseh to block with and my opponent was rescuing with King David. I gave up three souls pretty quickly. That coupled with some soul drought across the table ended in a 3-5 loss.
I bounced back and won the rest of my rounds. We had a messy 5-way tie for first, but when the dust settled Justin Alstad and I ended up sharing 1st place. Apart from the one poor start, I was happy with the deck and ready to take it to Nationals.
Support cards: 3
Lost Souls: 8
Good Enhancements: 6
Evil Characters: 9
Evil Enhancements: 7
The deck performed well at Nationals. I had two losses in the swiss rounds.
One of the losses I had 3 redeemed souls (one was my hopper) with Son of God and New Jerusalem in hand, for several turns but my opponent never drew Lost Souls. The second loss came to Josiah Beers who outplayed me with a deck that should beat mine over 50% of the time.
To get into the top 8 I had to beat Martin Miller in the final round of swiss. Anyone who’s played Martin piloting his fight by the numbers banding deck will tell you, that is not an easy task! It was a miracle but I pulled it off, only to get paired against Martin a second time in round 1 of the top cut.
I didn’t have a lot of confidence that I could beat Martin twice in a row. He’s a great player with an offense that can run you over before you can do anything about it. But for the second time in a row the “Ruthless” defense came through. In both games a well timed Vain Philosophy helped ensure that Martin didn’t get Son of God and New Jerusalem at the same time.
My top 4 game was a rematch against Josiah Beers. It was a long, grueling game that went to time. I played better, but still not good enough. The game ended 4-3 in Josiah’s favor. Given more time I think I could have gotten to 4, but no more. I’m sure I couldn’t have held him off indefinitely.
The last game I played was a battle for 3rd against Chris Egley. I don’t recall a lot of details about this game, just that Chris had the momentum from the start. I’d make a rescue and he’d have exactly what he needed to stop me. He’d go into battle and have exactly what he needed to answer my block. He played flawlessly and I’m proud of how far he’s come as a player.
This has gotten rather lengthy, but I do want to take some time to talk about how to play the deck, some of my favorite combos and how I plan to update it with Persecuted Church cards. That will have to wait for part 2.
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