Blast from the Past time! In this new mini-series, James digs through his archives to resurrect the blogs he lost with the death of the Reserve Pool. This third part describes the Central European Nats of May 2017.
Picture a large room filled with tables. Its walls are lined with shelves, and those shelves are stacked with hundreds upon hundreds of board games. There are a bunch of lovely people in the room, and they would very much like to play with you. This small slice of heaven is iHRYsko in Bratislava, Slovakia, the venue for last weekend’s 2017 Central European Nats.
In addition to the good people of Bratislava, five of us had made the 450km trip from Slovakia’s second city, Kosice (metropolis of the East), and two people had come from neighbouring Hungary. There were also two Czechs – one came over for the tournament and the other lives in Bratislava. After two 4-round qualifiers on Friday evening and Saturday morning, thirteen people had qualified for the main event: four rounds of best-of-one swiss, then a cut to top 8 elimination (best of 3/max 1 hour). Bard was officially banned (Wizkids sanctioned) and everyone had been informed of this in advance. If you’re thinking that would mean a fair bit of Lantern Ring, you are absolutely right…
I’ll do mine in a minute, so that the pictures fit better.
With an uncharacteristic disregard for my own comfort, I’d arranged to kip on the games room floor on both Friday and Saturday nights (along with most of the other out-of-towners). 42 years old and sleeping on the floor – rock and roll! What could possibly go wrong? Well, I lay down after the first qualifier and the dice just wouldn’t stop spinning in my head. Then there was a large mosquito, some gentle snoring, and the rattle of actual dice from people who were still practicing. I think I finally dropped off around 03:30, woke up again at 4:30 with, er, stomach issues, and then got maybe another 2 or 3 hours before breakfast.
After a large cup of Slovak/Turkish coffee and a big plate of scrambled eggs with onion, I felt surprisingly perky. I’d gone 3-1 in Friday’s qualifier with a variant on Ben Said Scott’s Jinzo/Nightwing/Umber Hulk control team (thanks again for the chat, Ben!). It was an excellent team, but I found it quite mentally demanding, and I thought I might need to play something a bit easier if I was going to last the day. So, for the second qualifier, I switched to Ultraman/Squirrel Girl/End of Days/The Front Line, which I’d played with some success, and much joy, in the the previous WKO. I swapped Ronin for Rare Elektra to counter Blink/Distraction, and I may have gone with Rip Hunter over PXG.
It went pretty well. It was nice to go back to the team with some fresh ideas and I slipped into playing it much more easily than with Ben’s control team. But I went 3-1 again because I came very much undone on Balazs’s Raven+Ring of Magnetism combo. I’d come fourth in the first qualifier and I was third in this one. I had some good practice under my belt, and some nice shiny cards, but the top spots were still eluding me; I’d also finished third in the last two WKOs and I have to say I really wanted to do just a bit better.
Lunch was tripe soup (I started enthusiastically, but ended up leaving most of the actual tripe), followed by pork stew, and then it was time for Nats. Noone else had played Ultraman in the qualifiers, which surprised me a bit. There had definitely been some anti-UM tech: one or two Ring/Ravens, the UXM Storm I put on Peter’s team, and a couple of End of Days. But I was thinking I could handle/avoid these things if I just stepped up the pace a little, and had some non-targeting removal. So I bade a fond farewell to Squirrel Girl and End of Days, and went full on Ultraman/Imprisoned, using Andy England’s team from the recent UK Nats [editor’s note: back when his best days weren’t behind him].
Game one was against my friend, Dano, from Kosice, with a mask ring team. I don’t remember the exact details, but I think I tried for a reasonably quick kill before he got his ring going – likely elf thief/oracle suppression followed by Kryptonite and Ultraman. It was all going reasonably well – no Raven yet and I was pretty much set up. I pulled UM and maybe Kryptonite, too. But Ultraman was feeling shy. No dice, as they say. Wouldn’t show his face. So I parallaxed. Nothing. Again. Nothing. Seven flipping times I rolled him, and seven times I got bolts. Gutted. With no UM and no energy left for ramp, it didn’t take Dano more than a couple of turns to finish me off. I could’ve wept! All my dreams…
I needed to win the remaining three rounds of swiss to be sure of making the cut. 2-2 might do it. And it might not. Hey-ho. Onwards and upwards. The next match was against Katka, also a friend from Kosice – not for the first time, WIN seemed to be taking a perverse pleasure in having the Kosice people travel all the way across the country, and then pitting them against each other. Kate was playing a Beholder team that, given the amount of ramp available, had every chance of ripping out my still beating heart and squishing it in its tentacles. Fortunately, the dice were on my side this time – I went 1-1.
Next up was Prochi, with an awesome Satchel team. I absolutely love the team and the fact that he had the audacity to play it in Nationals. Basically, he didn’t field any characters, but instead bought Cerebros to increase my fielding costs and Delayed Blast Fireballs to prevent me attacking. Next, I guess, would come a Cold Gun or two and finally rare Satchel, to do two damage for each of those meanies in the field. I think I went with the usual Thief/Oracle/K/UM, but got totally stuck on DBF – every time I attacked (or didn’t), DBF would trigger and knock out all my characters. He had a few cycling, so it didn’t look like there would be an opening for me to kill him. Hmmm… I finally worked out that I needed to buy some characters with defence high enough to survive the blast – yes, you three layabouts over there, I’m looking at you. I went for BEWD, and between DBF coming up on its non-burst face (so my level 2 or 3 UM survived), UM triggering The Front Line, and BEWD’s +3A pump, I found lethal reasonably swiftly. Phew. 2-1
The last round of Swiss was against the evil Hedgehog known only as Ježko. Actually, he’s a super nice guy, but he did maliciously ping one of my Squirrels in the last WKO, an act of wanton slaughter not easily forgotten. This time, he was running an excellent Batman team, with Green Goblin: Norman Osborne (Normy!) to both knock out a sidekick for Rare Bruce Wayne (allowing Jezko to capture and opponents character and field a level 3 Batman) and do an additional two targeted damage (perhaps to Alfred, triggering Bruce Wayne again).
The trouble for Jezko was that his team relied on having a big board presence to overwhelm his opponent, but Imprisoned makes that a difficult proposition – keep your Batmans & Bruce in the field and risk having them captured or KO them with my BEWD and have to refield them at no small cost? Actually, Jezko found a much better way to keep his characters out of prison – send them through unblocked 😀 He did ten damage like this around turn three, and I was sweating a bit, but soon managed to roll what I needed for the Front Line stomp. 3-1. I had made it to the top 8! And, as a bonus, so had Jezko, as he’d won 2 and drawn 1 before we met. Yay!
It was a massive relief to make the cut, and I decided to celebrate by cracking open the energy drink and chocolate raisins I’d bought in Lidl the day before. So far, my lack of sleep was seemingly being outweighed by adrenaline, but how long would that last?
The pairings were made, and I was drawn against Jezko again, exactly as had happened in February’s WKO. He knew he had to try something different and shrewdly decided to buy one of my Imprisoned dice (how dare he?!). I was surprised he hadn’t done it sooner, to be honest, as it was Jezko who had first introduced me to the torment of Imprisoned in my very first WKO in April 2016, when he had made mince meat of my Bard Rush (I know…) with a Flying Sidekicks/Imprisoned team.
The details are a bit hazy again, but I think I benefited from needing only a very small field presence – once UM was in the field, as long as I rolled a bolt, I could KO him with BEWD and roll him again next term until such time as I had lethal. With some regret, I won both games against Jezko reasonably quickly. On the bright side, this gave me the opportunity to stretch my legs, message my family (‘Won 2-0… In the last 4. I’d be pretty happy if I could win against one more person’) and get some fresh air. And chocolate raisins.
The semi final was against Peter, a man who really knows how to think his moves through. I mean, I think about what I’m doing, and I try to plan ahead, but, at some point, my brain starts to melt and I have to just say ‘Stuff it’ and go for it. But Peter can seemingly work his way through all the relevant factors and consequences. He is sometimes even kind enough to talk his opponent through his thought process, which can be kind of intimidating. He was playing a Mask Ring team; he’d been pushed for time, so I’d put the bones of it together for him and he’d added his own touches, including the ever tricky Mystic Box (you’re letting that sidekick through unblocked? And you forgot to keep a shield? Oh, that’ll hurt).
Unbelievably, this was the first Mask Ring I’d faced since losing to Dano in game 1. It was also a chance to get to the final, which I’d never done before. I was getting a bit tired (and hungry) and I was concerned about Raven and Storm messing with my Kryptonite. For some combination of these reasons, I decided to go with the alternative strategy of Elf/Oracle/Imprisoned/Front Line/sidekick rush. Half an hour in, and the first game wasn’t looking too good for me. I’d imprisoned a bunch of Peter’s dice, but he had his Ring out and was rolling two elf thieves, a Ronin and an Imprisoned: the ring damage would soon begin.
My mind wandered for a minute and when I looked back at his board, he’d finished his reroll: the Imprisoned die was gone (he’d rolled action and chosen not used it), Ronin was on level 3 and the two thieves were also on character faces. But no energy. I pretty much said the words as they came into my head ‘You…can’t field…any of those’. The poor guy had had an exceptionally busy two days, and had just lost concentration at a critical moment. Shortly thereafter, I rolled The Front Line and an avalanche of sidekicks. We started the second game, but had no time to finish: I had made it to the final, mainly by being slightly less exhausted than my opponent. Sorry, Peter!
Wow. I had to go outside to calm down. And scoff some more chocolate raisins. I was going to play Daniel from Hungary. Both he and his friend Balazs had fairly controlling teams which included counters to most meta threats. Daniel’s inclusion of Captain America had really helped him against Ring teams, who had largely neglected to bring any kind of removal. I have already mentioned Balazs’s nasty little Ring of Magnetism/Rare Raven combo, which just shuts down anything which needs to target (such as Kryptonite). I’d been pretty hopeful that Imprisoned would deal with that, but I was honestly a little relieved not to have to face it again. They both had swarm for ramp (Multiple Man for Balazs and Kobolds for Daniel), and so were not too badly affected by Elf/Oracle, and both had Hulk as their board clear/win con, with the Magic Missile or Luke Cage globals to ping him. It’s never nice to face an angry Hulk, to be honest, so I thought speed would be of the essence. Ramp, ramp, kill, before anything has a chance to go pear-shaped. How wrong I was.
I don’t even know how to begin to describe this game. I’ll do my best, but it was 9 o’clock by the time we started and I was beginning to fade. (Daniel – if I make any mistakes, feel free to correct me in the comments). That’s me, by the way, with the perfect skin, ginger beard and Thor t-shirt. OK, so I managed to buy the usual (Elf/Oracle/UM/K), but my plans for a quick kill went off the rails fairly early with a bunch of rotten rolls. Having established a wide field of Kobolds, sidekicks and Oracle, Daniel started buying my Imprisoned dice. I bought one, too, to prevent the monopoly, and so I had a removal method which didn’t depend on UM. Then Ultraman and Kryptonite came out of the bag again. I didn’t have lethal, but I triggered UM to imprison quite a lot of his dice. Unfortunately, Daniel’s Imprisoned dice were on the way, so I had to KO UM (and maybe Oracle?) with Blue-eyes, so as not to have him/them captured next turn. Tired as I was, I totally forgot this would release Daniel’s captured dice (thanks for the reminder, Balazs!), so I was back to facing a whole bunch a weenies with an empty field.
At this point, Daniel probably should have attacked with most of his dice: he didn’t have lethal but it would’ve put a lot of pressure on me, especially in light of his Luke Cage global. But he must’ve been tired, too. He held off, which meant that, when my Imprisoned die came round next turn, I managed to capture an absolute pile of his stuff: 4 sidekicks, 3 kobolds, an Oracle, a Dwiz and a Hellblazer. And then things started to get really weird…
Daniel was rolling most of his remaining dice (a Kobold, 2 Imprisoned dice and maybe 4 sidekicks) each turn, which meant Imprisoned was a constant threat. So I had to KO UM and Oracle each turn, then try to refield them the next. My used pile and bag were a mess, so I wasn’t ramping well (even though I’d captured his Oracle), and I constantly had to spend energy on fielding, BEWD and Parallax. I was totally stuck. Eventually, I think I lost Oracle to the used pile after she came up energy repeatedly, and this meant she’d take an age to come round again. I managed to keep hold of UM though.
Meanwhile, Daniel always kept a couple of masks for ramp and/or Blink-Transmutation, so even if I managed to combo UM+K, I never had enough characters fielded to kill him (and anything less than lethal would free his army). And then there was the Luke Cage global. Whenever Daniel rolled a fist, he would reduce both of our lives by one. Since I was already behind by a few points (not sure when that happened), this was eventually going to kill me. This went on for what felt like ages. At some point Daniel bought a Hulk. While I didn’t have anything in the field for him to ping, I now had to keep Blink masks, as well as BEWD bolts and Parallax fodder. Aaaaargh!
I was beginning to lose my mind (as you might be now, dear reader, if you’ve got this far). I thought maybe I could rip an elf thief, but never seemed to have the energy. My only other hope was that Daniel would either roll no masks at the critical moment, or reduce both our lives to the point where I only had to get one attacker through. But I’d forgotten something…
The one hour timer had beeped and it was maybe the third of the final five turns. I was on one life, and Daniel was on a few more. He would kill me next turn if he rolled just one fist (or I didn’t roll enough masks). This was my last chance. I reached into my bag and pulled out… an enormous snake. No, wait. That was a different game. I reached into my bag and pulled out, I think, a Kryptonite, a sidekick… and my long lost Elf Thief and Oracle! Precioussss! They’d finally come round! I had a chance! Sadly, I don’t remember if I managed to roll them first time (in the Hollywood version of this story will probably involve a final Parallax). But I did roll them all to the right sides, along with the Ultraman from my prep area. I fielded the lot, stealing a mask in the process, and triggered UM with Kryptonite. I’d done it! Dice Masters Champion of Central Europe!
I suspect I’ve let this tournament report go on quite long enough! I just want to say an absolutely massive thank to the organisers and to all the participants – I had an absolute blast, and I hope you did, too! Dice Masters rulez!
This blog first appeared on 27/02/17 on http://www.thereservepool.com/blogs/1509-Central-European-Nationals-Bratislava-Slovakia-27-05-17 (sadly, no longer reachable)