After using the same deck for Type 2 2-player at Nationals 2013 (1st place) and 2014 (2nd place) I figured I would find something new for the 2014-2015 season.

The first post-Early Church deck I built was a clay/blue Peace deck, which was really fun to play—especially finding uses for old cards like Nicolas of Antioch Promo, Love Promo, Bartholomew (Ap), Preaching the Truth and Claudia (Wo). However, it wasn’t long before I wanted to try other ideas and that particular deck did not prove good enough to keep around.

At Nationals last year, I used a Type 1 Red/Gray deck to win Ironman that I really enjoyed playing so I decided to see what a Type 2 version of that might look like. I added Gold Heroes Israelite Archer and Ehud to the strong warrior class banding of red, and it proved to be an extremely versatile offense. I had FBTN banding, CBN discard with Bravery of David, choose the blocker with Ehud and Asahel, and Foreign Sword with the Canaanite Heroes.

The mono-gray defense was also very effective and being able to hold Rain Becomes Dust on Damascus was awesome. I won several Local and District tournaments using this deck (as well as multiple games in testing online) and early in its development and testing I thought for sure it would be one I took to Nationals. I ran the deck at the annual T2 Only and suffered my only loss (time out 4 to 6) to Jordan’s “Judge Judah” deck to finish in second.

Minnesota State rolled around and I used it again only to have Jordan get a really good draw with his “Corinthyptians” deck in our game. It wasn’t a terrible match-up for my deck, but his deck was definitely stronger in the late game, and in order to beat him I would have needed a strong start. Unfortunately, he had just enough early blocks to stall me until he was really set up at which point my options were pretty limited. As I again ended up with 2nd place, I wasn’t disappointed and still thought my deck would do fine with more tweaking.

At Iowa State, I won my opening round with it, tried a different deck in round two, and then lost a close game using it again in round three. With a strong win and a close loss against good competition at Iowa State, I continued to believe it would be a good choice going forward.

A few weeks later at North Central Regionals, I faced my brother Jayden in the opening round and suffered a very frustrating loss. His gray defense had everything he needed thanks to a fast start by his Judges offense and I never got anything going. It was by far the worst loss the deck had experienced. To make matters worse, I ended up with a bye for the second of the three rounds so I had a little time to think. At this point, I started questioning if the deck was really the right choice, and I decided to switch decks for the final round. More or less on a whim, I had checked in my “Judge Widow” deck that I hadn’t played since Nationals 2014. I was facing Mitch Stewart (who was the one to beat me in the final round at Iowa State), and I had a great draw which led to a pretty lopsided win for me and put me in 2nd place—using a deck that did not have a single Early Church card in it.

Now I had a decision to make. Do I really want to use the same deck three years in a row? The Early Church set introduced a couple new hand and deck protection options with Widows of Joppa, Self-Control and King’s Pomp, and one of the reasons I didn’t use the Judge Widow deck all season was because of how reliant it was on the hand control to be effective. If people were running the counters, I figured it wouldn’t do so well. As I thought back through the season though, I realized that I never saw Widows of Joppa played, I never saw King’s Pomp played, and the person I saw use Self-Control most often was myself…hmm…

In the weeks leading up to Nationals, I played several online games with JD Cunningham including a T2 game using the Judge Widow. Once again, the deck drew beautifully and I won easily. Both he and Mitch told me I should absolutely run it at Nationals, and I was thinking they were probably right. However, I hadn’t even touched it all year so I immediately started looking at things I wanted to change before Nationals. Even though I hadn’t played it all season, I had used it enough in 2013 and 2014 that I knew what the weak points were so I started with those.

As I thought back through all those games, I realized that drawing The Angel under the Oak in my opening hand always made things go a lot smoother. (Big surprise there, right?) I decided to go from 2 copies to 3 to increase my odds of getting him within the first couple turns. I cut one of the two copies of Jair as I figured having another AutO was essentially the same as having another Jair since he could exchange for Jair if that’s who I wanted.

Another thing I realized was that if my opponent did not draw Lost Souls early, I was unable to apply the necessary pressure to utilize the hand control strategy. The deck is extremely strong in the early and mid-game, but starts to lose its advantages in the late game when the opponent is really set up on offense and defense. Over the past couple of years, the offense had never changed much, but there were always two card slots for good Enhancements that I was never quite sure what to use. I had tried Taking Egypt’s Wealth, Trumpets and Torches, and even Mary’s Prophetic Act as options for those two slots. This time, I decided to try the Lost Soul generation of Gideon’s Call to see if that improved my chances of getting out early souls (I also added the Unlimited Samson so I would have two Judges without special abilities for maximum effect).

The final thing I wanted to address was a couple of defenses that I suspected would give me trouble. At Nationals 2014, I lost to Jordan’s Wandering Spirit/Panic Demon defense despite having Three Nails and Women as Snares. I couldn’t bring myself to include 2 copies of Three Nails (especially since Jordan hadn’t been using that defense), but I did decide to cut a few Magicians to add two more copies of Women as Snares. I surmised that this would not only be a strong play against demons, but also against Greeks (which I expected to see a lot of at Nationals) since Areopagus only protects from the opponent’s good cards. I added Retribution Lost Souls to counter my opponents’ hand control strategies and Dragon Raid promo, and those three were the only Early Church cards in the deck. I had my Nationals deck.

My goal at Nationals each year is to place in at least one event I play. Having won T2 MP on the first day, I tried telling myself there was no pressure to win or even place in T2 2P, and that I should just focus on having fun…for a competitive player like myself, that’s easier said than done. The field for Type 2 was only 10 people, but it was a stacked field. There were no Random Little Kids in this group—six of us had won either a T2 2P or T2 MP National title with a 7th (Clift Crysel) who had placed in multiple Nationals T2 events. With six rounds scheduled, whoever came out on top was going to have to earn it…I said a silent prayer that I wouldn’t face Jordan in the first round and waited for the pairings…

To be Continued…

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