Having played a lot of both T1 and T2 this past season, I was really torn on which one I wanted to play at Nationals. In the end I decided to only play T1 if there were an odd number of T1 players and an even number of T2 players (not counting me for either). As it turned out, we had an even number of T1 and an odd number of T2 so I jumped into T2 to make things all even.

Prior to Nationals, I had planned to run a new version of Judge/Widow, the T2 deck I had run for the past three Nationals. After CoW released, I built a really fun Purple/Red/Crimson Coliseum deck that I used for a couple tournaments, but it stumbled against a well-built Daniel deck that my brother Jordan used at North Central Regionals so I thought I would just go back to Judge/Widow (with some new twists). However, on Thursday night of Nationals, I had a change of heart. I wanted to try something new.

It started with a discovery I had made a few nights before Nationals. While looking through Silver enhancements I stumbled across The Third Seal from the Warriors set. Printed during a time when cards were played as intended (and not necessarily as worded), I realized there was an omission that completely changed how the card played from what was originally intended. Instead of specifying that the owner of the territory had to discard one “of their” Evil Characters, it simply said “must discard one Evil Character,” which meant any Evil Character in play.

The Third Seal also has the “cannot be prevented or negated” modifier and because it does not just say “cannot be negated” it is not tossed by Coliseum. With Silver having two powerful FBTN Heroes in The Strong Angel and Captain of the Host, this made for a formidable attack option. I added Overwhelming Presence to play on Michael, Protection of Angels, a couple Striking Herods, and 3 copies of Angelic Guidance to speed up the deck and know what my opponent was holding.

So I had an offense, now what about a defense… Knowing that I was likely to see a lot of banding with any offense I faced (particularly the powerful 1 Samuel/Throne offense), I decided I wanted to run Household Idols since it would not hinder my best attacking options. This meant I wanted to look at defenses that were very strong against lone Hero attacks. Another thing I wanted was a defense with a protection fort that protected against my own discard abilities. Because The Third Seal could also trigger for my opponent, I wanted to create the possibility that he would have to target one of his own Evil Characters because mine were all protected from discard.

I took a look at Assyrians because of the powerful Assyrian Siege Army that could take out my opponents’ protection Forts, but I decided that could be very risky if I ran into another Assyrian defense that would end up banding to mine with Assyrian Archer or The Rabsaris. The same would be true for Pharisees or Egyptians. But what about Syrians? With House of Rimmon I had the protect Fort and my favorite Curse, Rain Becomes Dust, could be activated on the Damascus site when I had an evil Syrian in play. I decided that having both Rain Becomes Dust and Household Idols active at the same time could potentially shut entire offenses down. Even if at least one of them was active, I would likely be hindering their offense at least somewhat.

I decided to focus the defense on capture, something Syrians do very well. Naaman and King Rezin make for extremely powerful Evil Characters, especially when equipped with Namaan’s Chariot and Horses. I decided to go with 3 copies of Night Raid and 3 copies of Deadly Snare. To make Deadly Snare more effective, I added 2 copies of Worshipper of False Gods, which made the Deadly Snares cannot be interrupted as well as hit my opponent’s hand for a discard when Household Idols was active. I added a couple Gold Shields as well as Begging for Grain since I was running Coliseum. I decided to run the max 3 of Rain Becomes Dust with the goal being to always have it or Household Idols (or both) active at all times.

Round 1 vs John Michaliszyn

This game got off to a very slow start as both of us had lots of defense right away. Fortunately I had an early Angelic Guidance that showed John holding a Women as Snares in hand. Having put down some Syrians already I decided to wait until either I had The Strong Angel or Captain of the Host, or drew my House of Rimmon to protect my defense. As it turned out, I drew none of those early on so for several turns I simply passed. John was using Provisions and I began to worry a bit as I didn’t really have much to answer Choose the Blocker.

My Household Idols kept a Provisioned Barnabas from rescuing for a while (meanwhile I was hoping to draw Cherubim so I could use Barnabas before he could), but he used Search on Moses (with my Coliseum conveniently still in my deck) to grab Destruction allowing Barnabas to enter battle the next turn. With 3 Provisions rescues and Son of God/Second Coming, John got to 5 redeemed souls. Finally my offense showed up and The Strong Angel started doing work. With The Third Seal as back-up, TSA powered through for six rescues before getting hit by Christian Martyr. On my last turn I went with Captain of the Host. John blocked and played a few enhancements but was still losing by the numbers. He played Mayhem hoping to draw into more, but the Mayhem redraw gave me Son of God to get the 7-5 win.

Round 2 vs Joey Shivers

Once again the game got off to a slow start as Joey did not draw many souls and I was able to stop a couple of early rescues by him. I used Night Raid to generate a soul, but I knew his Genesis offense was going to be a challenge for me since Syrian often give up initiative when they aren’t carrying the Horses. I also knew I couldn’t activate Rain Becomes Dust otherwise Abraham’s Descendant would have that RBD working against me.

Just like last game however, The Strong Angel started going to work with The Third Seal and not once, but twice I got the double discard as Joey had an odd number of ECs in his territory and my ECs were protected by House of Rimmon when I played The Third Seal, which cleared out four of his ECs. Between that and an Overwhelming Presence against a 3 character band (when I knew he did not have a negate), his defense was soon gone and TSA was picking up freebies. He made some good rescues using Reuben’s Torn Clothes pre-block to ignore all my Gray Syrians and played Son of God/Jerusalem to get to 5, but TSA was too strong and again I took a 7-5 win.

Round 3 vs Zach Zeiss

When I saw that Zach was running Canaanites I thought I was in really good shape. Not only would his best battle winner (Stone of Thebez) be useless against my Angels, his Gibeonite Trickerys would be tossed by Coliseum. To my dismay however, I drew just one good enhancement in the first 6 or 7 turns of the game and by the time I did, he had had lots of time to prepare. His Army of Jericho stalled me by putting souls in Sites as I did not include an access Site. I drew Coliseum too late and he used Gibeonite Trickery to stall as well.

I broke through for a couple rescues and played Son of God to get to 4 (with his Signet Ring shutting down Second Coming) but that was it. On the flip side, my Household Idols completely shut down his OT Warrior-class banding deck. When he finally drew Destruction, I had another HHI ready to go. He made some late rescues with non-banding Heroes only to be stopped by Naaman and King Rezin with CBN captures. It was in this game I realized I had made two mistakes in my build. I should have added an access Site and I should have added Paying Taxes for an extra artifact discarder. In the end however, HHI did the job and the only two rescues he had were Son of God/New Jerusalem giving me a 4-2 timeout win.

Round 4 vs Jayden Alstad

This game got off to a much quicker start as an early Captain of the Host got me 3 quick souls. Jayden picked up 2 quick ones himself before I put the third soul in a Damascus Site which he didn’t have access to. I knew from an Angelic Guidance he was holding a Confusion in hand so when he put a Rabshakeh with Two Thousand Horses in his territory I decided I was going to play patient. I had a 3-2 lead and I wasn’t drawing souls very fast so I passed a couple turns without attacking. Later on I drew a Live Coal to get rid of Two Thousand Horses and my Rain Becomes Dust kept Jayden from drawing on offense. I was very fortunate he did not draw into an Assyrian Siege Army and I picked up a couple more easy souls with Captain of the Host before playing Son of God for the 7-4 win.

Round 5 vs Tyler Stevens

This game was the one where my deck-building strategy truly paid off. Having drawn an Open Hand Lost Soul, I knew that Tyler had a 1 Samuel/Throne offense and had most of the Heroes in hand already. I had drawn both a HHI and a RBD in my opening hand so I had to choose which to activate. I decided on HHI to keep King Saul and Abigail out of battle. An early Angelic Guidance allowed me to grab The Strong Angel and he walked through with Tyler only able to draw Wrath of Satan and Philistine Chariot and Horses for evil enhancements. However, I didn’t have much defense either so it was quickly turning into a race as Tyler’s lone Ahimelek was getting freebie Lost Souls.

The key play came when I finally drew Christian Martyr. However, I knew Tyler was holding Grapes of Wrath and I didn’t want to allow that to become a block for him. Instead of using Martyr right away, I gave up another freebie to Ahimelek making the score 3-3. On my next turn I drew into King Ben-Hadad, one of the most underrated ECs in the game. After walking in with TSA to take a 4-3 lead, I blocked Ahimelek with Ben-Hadad from hand and used Christian Martyr. This allowed me to underdeck Grapes and kept TSA on the table. TSA picked up two more thanks to an Angel of the Lord for Demetrius the Silversmith and Son of God got me to 7 for the 7-4 win.

Round 6 vs Clift Crysel

I knew Clift had checked 3 decks, but I had no idea which one he would be using. Fortunately, he had never seen my deck before (to be fair, neither had I until the night before) so I think he grabbed the one he was most comfortable with, which happened to be an Isaiah/Assyrians deck. He ended up going first and immediately had a Seraph w/ LiveCoal plus Isaiah w/ Isaiah’s Call band going. I decided that I was going to play aggressive until the game dictated otherwise and I used Grapes of Wrath to shuffle away the band hoping he had no other options. My plan worked and he passed. I drew into Coliseum and an Angelic Guidance and was thrilled to see just two Forgotten Historys, with no sign of an Assyrian Siege Army. The next 5 turns went something like this: Justin gets soul. Clift gets soul. Justin gets soul. Clift gets soul. Justin plays Son of God. Clift plays Son of God.

Finally, he was down to one soul while I still had plenty and I had a 6-5 lead. He drew a Nazareth and put the soul in it. Michael/Angel’s Sword/Overwhelming Presence gave him #6 and all I could do on my turn was battle challenge with Angel Under the Oak trying to draw into Second Coming. No such luck. On Clift’s turn he tentatively pushed out Captain of the Host instead of Michael (much to my surprise) and I realized he must not have had any battle winners left for Michael. At that moment, we both realized that he had left Covenant with Death active so Captain of the Host wasn’t actually negating anything. I was really confused. Was he trying to bait me? Not having any battle winners myself, I blocked with my biggest Evil Character, which was King Hazael with a Gold Shield. I held my breath and gave Clift initiative…”Pass.” Never had the word been sweeter to my ears. I passed back but was still anxious as the one lonely soul in Clift’s territory was held captive in Nazareth.

I drew my three and while Second Coming was not among them, I did find Joshua, Son of Nun. But wait…how…after abusing the heck out of Gabriel/Angelic Guidance when Clift couldn’t block me, I somehow had neglected to grab a Captain of the Host with all those searches. Clift’s Wall of Protection meant no banding to his Captain of the Host, and even though I was holding Angel of the Lord, I knew all it would take was a simple Christian Martyr to beat me. Not having any other choice, I pushed AutO to draw (still hoping to draw another block or Second Coming) but got neither, exchanged to Joshua and took the Nazareth to my hand. Clift quickly blocked with an Assyrian Siege Army to take out Coliseum and I played Angel of the Lord. Once again I held my breath until Clift said “Yeah, you got it.” Crazy game…7-6 win.


As I told many people afterwards, my deck did not “feel” like a great deck. However, I think that’s because compared to a lot of decks, it is much slower—as evidenced by the slow starts I had in the early rounds. However, I realized that drawing into a ton of options isn’t as necessary when you have one very powerful option. The lack of speed can also be mitigated by limiting the opponent’s options with cards like Household Idols and Rain Becomes Dust. All in all, it was a great T2 tournament. It was exciting to see a field of 16 players after only having 10 last year. Here’s hoping it continues to grow and we see 20+ next year!

–And I beheld, and lo a black horse; ~Revelation 6:5

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8 thoughts on “The Dark Horse

  1. Jesse

    Wow! Winning nationals with a deck you just built the night before from scratch – that’s amazing! I like how you went anti-meta and it’s so cool how you found how The Third Seal could work! I’m sure that’s a card all of us have looked at and looked over countless times! Warriors set cards after all these years are still power packed!

    1. Justin A.

      So true…after all these years, The Strong Angel is still a boss! (Certainly helps to have a CBN battle winner that doesn’t get tossed by Coliseum).

  2. Ironisaac

    Is there a reason you weren’t running a raiders camp? That might help a bit.

    1. Justin A.

      I definitely considered Raider’s Camp. In the end though, I felt I did not want to dedicate three slots to evil forts, and House of Rimmon and Coliseum just worked so well in this deck. Another consideration was that I wanted Night Raid’s soul generation to work, and if Raider’s Camp was on the table then I wouldn’t get that benefit.

  3. Patrick Watertor

    It’s funny I saw you at one point showing the Third Seal to another player and talking about, but I was too far away and playing a different format for me to pay too much attention. Awesome tournament report!

  4. Gabe

    Well done, Justin! That’s a very clever find with The Third Seal!

    Extra props for winning with angels/Syrians. Who would have guessed that to be the winning combination prior to Nats? Only someone who knew you were playing it! 😉

    1. Justin Alstad

      Ironically it all comes back to Coliseum…I was looking for a Silver card that could take out Coliseum and I stumbled across Third Seal instead…lol

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