Back to the Drawing Board
When we last left the chumps, they had been overwhelmed by some of the offenses they faced at the T2 Only. But while the overall performance at the T2 Only was somewhat of a disappointment I did learn some valuable lessons there.
The first was that it wasn’t terribly difficult in many cases for offenses to get high numbers quickly so I would have to rethink my overall defensive strategy. But the second lesson was what kept me trying the defense: I realized that the most powerful offense in T2 at the time, Judges, was almost completely shut down by my defense. While the 2 losses kept me from having a chance at winning the tournament, when I faced the eventual champion my defense came out perfectly and his Judges offense was completely inept. I went on to win 7-0.
Samuel’s Edict may be one of the best good Enhancements in the game but it does very little vs. a large, CBN band with characters that just go back to the bottom of the deck when discarded. Deborah’s Directive is one way to get around it but most Judges players didn’t use more than 1 or 2 of them since Edict was so enticing as a battle winner. So I knew that if I could figure out a way to stop offenses with big banding chains the deck could be something special. And that’s when I had to once again go back to the drawing board to make my mousetrap better.
Like I said…Read Your Cards
Just like when I realized that orange Panic Demon wasn’t stopped by Covenant with Death as an Artifact I made a similar discovery, this time one that took advantage of older wording on cards. The classic chump block cards, namely Death of Unrighteous and Belshazzar’s Banquet, are not traditional cost-benefit cards the way that their counterpart Suicidal Swine Stampede is. That is to say, the discard is not dependent on whether or not the Evil Characters are discarded. So if the discard of a character was rerouted by an instead ability to instead underdeck the character, the shuffle/protect would still happen.
So the new defensive strategy was formed: If my opponent attacked with, or had the potential to attain, higher numbers than my current blockers could muster I would block low with just 1 Wandering Spirit banded to a pale green or crimson Panic Demon. I would then play the appropriate chump block card, put the demons on bottom of my deck, and use Gates of Hell to fish out Wandering Spirit who would bring back the Panic Demon on the next block. I removed the gray and gold Panic Demons in order to streamline the defense, and added in several copies of both Banquet and Death of Unrighteous.
So Close, Yet…
As I shared in my Judge Judah article, I rarely stick to one deck throughout a tournament season as I like to try a variety of things. For the rest of the 2012 tournament season, though, I pretty much relied on my Panic Demons and they served me well bringing me to first place finishes in both my State and Regional tournaments. I thought I had a great chance to take the National title that year. However, similar to this past Nationals, I wanted to bring a backup deck, my Genesis/Creeping Deceiver deck that I had used earlier in the year, just in case the insulated view of the T2 world that I had in MN wasn’t the full story and Panic Demons wouldn’t hold serve on a national stage.
And similar to this past Nationals, having the extra deck may have cost me. It was the 3rd round of the tournament when I ran into newcomer Josiah Beers’ brilliant T2 deck incorporating a combo that involved the green David playing Unified Kingdom via Hidden Treasures to band in Isaiah and several purple kings. This led to a CBN band of several large characters, most of whom were CBN protected from opponents via Isaiah’s ability. He would then throw in Abigail for good measure to stop chump blocks. I had used my Panic Demon deck in both of the previous rounds to handily defeat my opponents and was planning on riding it the whole way through.
But when I went to grab my deck from the table I reached for the wrong one and ended up with my alternate deck instead. Not to say that that deck was bad by any means but the matchup definitely did not favor me. I did not draw well, my offense didn’t click, and by the time my deck would have been setup to try to stop his combo he had won. Of course I can never be sure that my Panic Demons would have won but if I had drawn one of my 2 copies of Covenant with Death early Josiah’s combo would have been neutralized and I certainly had a much better chance. My Panic Demon deck did end up losing one game in timeout later on but had I been able to defeat Josiah that would have moved me from a 3rd place finish to 1st.
Demons on Hiatus
I certainly didn’t consider my Nationals performance a failure for my deck by any means, but over the next year I wanted to try to branch out. The introduction of Tin 26 to the game made me revisit my old favorite defense, Creeping Deceivers (likely the subject of a future issue). Kidron Valley was just what I needed to combat Covenant with Death (the bane of a Creeper defense) and the new Solomon’s Temple along with Temple Priests offered some interesting potential for a small yet powerful offense.
I tried a few other ideas out that year as well including the beginnings of my Judge Judah deck, but I wasn’t able to attend nearly as many tournaments as I would have liked in 2013 and also didn’t make it to Nationals. However, with no new sets releasing between 2013 and 2014, and a relatively small set release in 2012 and 2013, I noticed that there wasn’t really much introduced that would give my Panic Demons any more trouble than it had previously so I decided to bring it back in 2014.
From Chumps to Champs
I don’t remember who the last person to sign up for T1-2P at 2014 Nats was, but if I ever figure it out I owe them a big thank you. I had been able to go to way more tournaments than I had in previous years, so while I was still able to do very well in T2 using the Panic Demons I also had been dabbling in T1 throughout the year and had won quite a few tournaments in that category with my Angels/Philistines deck (another likely future issue).
So at Nationals I told Chris Bany that I would just play whichever category needed an extra person for even numbers. As Chris read through the initial list there was an odd number in each category without me so I picked T1 as it had been 8 years since I had played that at a National level and wanted to see how it went. But then someone came just in time to join T1 which then had me move over to T2.
This time I used my Panic Demons deck the whole time and it performed just as I had hoped. I nearly lost to my younger brother Jayden, who just needed to draw his Son of God, but other than that game the first several rounds went as smoothly as could be with me racking up a 5-0 record and a +26 differential. By that time, I had secured victory as my last opponent was Dayne who had 2 losses and couldn’t catch up to me even if he won.
Dayne did spoil my undefeated bid as, even though his Judges deck under normal circumstances would have been no problem for my defense, he used a Canaanite defense along with Ehud to give me small Canaanites via Canaan and choose them to block. And even though I had 3x Gates of Hell and 2x Covenant with Death he was able to continually make Ehud CBN via Angel with the Secret Name. He was ahead 6-3 when he finally ran out of steam on both offense and defense but time was called.
In the end, though, the Panic Demons had been through a long journey: from intriguing yet odd cards to insignificant afterthoughts to the foundation for a decent deck and finally to holding a permanent place in Redemption Nationals history. The chumps had become champs.
Next Issue – The Glory Days of an Under-Appreciated Dominant: A Deck that Countered Everything
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