BftPII – Ultra Squirrels!

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 second part fast forwards a few months to February 2017 – James’s third WKO. Beholder has entered the fray as a Bard killer, and people have begun to poison the BAC well with End of Days. But what if EoD could be weaponised… with squirrels?

After the central European Bard-off of 2016, it was time for a change. Just after our last WKO, BFF Beholder teams burst onto the scene. I’d run a Beholder/minion team in an all-commons tournament last year, inspired by one of Necromanticer’s reddit replies. That might be just about the closest I’ve come to DM originality (confession: I netdeck and tweak – sue me!). Unfortunately, I never made the leap to the Turn 3 kill with just sidekick minions – so close!

As much as I enjoyed November’s Bard/Imprisoned chess, I have to say the idea of at least one or two quick games (and slightly less brain-fry) was appealing. But most of the teams had bard as a backup (in case of End of Days etc) or to force the damage through, and I just didn’t want to bard.

Then the ever-inspirational Ben Said Scott wrote about his Ultraman/Squirrel Girl team. I liked it – it had End of Days, not just as a counter to the Beholder team, but as a central part of the strategy. Plus Squirrel Girl (a kind gift after I just missed out on winning the promo due to Strength of flipping Schedule), Rarecrow (a long -time favourite), Rip Hunter (a new favourite) and BEWD (which my daughter had miraculously pulled from a couple of YGO packs we bought). I don’t have SR Ultraman, but I knew a man who did (thanks, Dano!).

Ben’s Team

The team basically involves buying Squirrel Girl, Rarecrow and Ultraman, and then triggering UM’s ability with Kryptonite. This knocks out all but one character on each side. The KO activates Rarecrow’s ability, and you get to steal your opponent’s last defender. You keep Squirrel Girl and then field any characters you’ve rolled that turn, plus whatever Squirrels you’ve accumulated. And all of this in the main step, before needing to pass priority. You then attack into a clear field, and all the unblocked attackers get +3A from The Front Line. 

It sounded complicated but fun. And did I mention it had squirrels 🙂 I tried it out a couple of times a week before the WKO and couldn’t quite get it going as fast as I’d like. In the last few days before the tournament, I was all over the place with work, so had to practice by playing with myself in the wee hours. I tested Rip vs PXG, and reluctantly decided to go with the latter, thinking my opponents would be more likely to bring Rip, and hoping that they’d maybe forgotten how to use PXG 🙂 I also replaced Elf Thief with Ronin (UC, as I don’t have the SR), as I felt like I need a bit more protection while building up to my win condition.

My team (click on it for a teambuilder link)

Honestly, I wasn’t that confident of beating bard control teams (I lost to myself when I tried it out), but a week before the tournament, word came through of a potential gentleman’s agreement not to play the bard. That sealed it – squirrels FTW!

Swiss

The event was hosted by ihrysko, Bratislava, as in November, with participants from Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary (I’m from the UK, but I’ve been in Slovakia for nearly 20 years!). All was awesome, as usual, with lovely people, a great atmosphere and a Deadpool draft and other side events for those who didn’t go all the way to the final. The twelve of us sealed our pact to go bardless, and we began with four rounds of swiss, followed by a cut to the final eight.

Dan’s Team

Round one was against Dan, who confessed he’d put his team together not long before the tournament. It was a Kobold/unblockable Stirge/Anger Issues/Lantern Ringmashup with not one, but two fist pump globals (Too Big To Fly was the second). As his board started to look increasingly scary, I began to sweat, but Hellblazer slowed him down long enough for Ultraman to go off, and Dan was savaged by squirrels. 

1-0. So far, so good. 

Daniel’s Team

My second opponent was Daniel, who’d brought his Mask Ring team. I could see I was going to have trouble – he had Elf Thief and Oracle to spoil my ramp, rare Ravento stop me targeting his characters with Rarecrow or Kryptonite, OP Scarecrow to prevent my tiddlers from attacking, Rare Cold Gun, and Blink-Transmutation, which meant I needed more Squirrels and/or characters to field on the critical turn. Basically, everything I didn’t want to see. I struggled manfully, but he won deservedly. 

1-1. Hmmm. 

Prochi’s Team

Next was Prochi with his OP Apocalypse. I was naively thinking “Apocalypse is brutal, but at least it’s when fielded, so Constantine will see to that”. But then he brought out FUS Beholder and Dwarf Wizard and things didn’t seem quite so simple any more. Between the two of us, we had almost every ramp global you can imagine – PXG, Res, Villainous Pact, Rip Hunter’s and two BEWDs, and he could use two of them for free every time he fielded a Beholder (as I usually needed to name something else). Luckily, the Ultra Squirrel team doesn’t need to keep too much in the field, so I didn’t suffer too badly when Apocalyse struck, and between this and Prochy not realising till his 2nd turn that PXG was on the board, I managed to scramble to a second win. 

2-1. Still not a cert for the final 8.

Ježko’s Team

The last round of swiss was against Ježko (pronounced /yeshko/, meaning ‘Hedgehog’), who was playing Tsarina, Constantine, Rare Wasp and another three when-fielded nasties: Wind-rider, Dwarf Wizard and FUS Beholder. The last of these could give him free use of his Ultron Drone global (‘force an opposing character die to block a character of your choice’). He used this global to great effect to KO my Ultraman with his Beholder, and then name UM with Constantine. Between this and Dwarf Wizard, he managed to keep my win condition in check, while whittling down my life with Wasp and Tsarina’s abilities. 

In the penultimate turn, it was 18-6 to Jezko. I managed to roll three Kryptonites and not one sidekick from 8 white dice. I could trigger Ultraman once, keep Squirrel Girl and field four squirrels, but because I didn’t have Rarecrow, he would block SG, leaving me 2 short of lethal. Alternatively, I could keep Ultraman and trigger him twice more. Presumably the +3 Front Line buffs would have stacked, but without SG active, I couldn’t send in the squirrels and I had no SKs to field, so there would be noone except UM to buff (+9), and he would be blocked by Jezko’s one remaining character. And I’d been hoping to avoid brain-fry!

I didn’t use any Kryptonites, fielded 4 squirrels as emergency blockers, bought a Rarecrow, kept some energy, and named Beholder, forgetting that Wind-rider was on her way. Jezko rolled Storm and a SK plus 4 energy, including two from the Beholder. This gave him 10 attackers to my 7 defenders (including 1 Dwiz with zero attack). All my characters were level 1, so his two Tsarina’s did the final 4 damage he needed (plus he had one Wasp sting in reserve). He even declined to use Storm’s when-fielded ability in case he actually rolled my characters up a level, which would have let me evade Tsarina’s when attacks ability. 

tl;dr: Jezko won and it was epic 🙂

2-2. There are 4 people on 2-2! Only two of them will go through to the final 8! It’s all down to Strength of flipping Schedule!

Final 8

I made the cut! And I had a lovely burger for lunch! Due to time constraints, all top 8 matches were best of 1, apart from the final, which was best of three. Two of my games were rematches, so I’ll be brief. My ‘quarter final’ was against Jezko and it was another great one. I managed to get UM, SG and Rarecrow up and running more quickly, and thought I had it, but Jezko also had the End of Days BAC, so if I’d activated UM, left SG standing and stolen Jezo’s last blocker with Rarecrow, I would have had to have knocked out the stolen character with the second EoD, leaving me short of lethal again. Luckily, I got another bite at the cherry next turn, and finally managed to do it, though not without Jezko pinging one of my Squirrels with Wasp’s global. Squirrel-killing hedgehog! 🙂

My top 4 game was against mask ring Daniel, and I’m sorry to say I didn’t perform much better than the first time. I triggered UM for just 5 damage in a last ditch attempt to disrupt Daniel’s board state and it almost worked – Daniel was just short of lethal next turn, so I had one more turn to reroll the stuff I’d knocked out previously. Sadly, I rolled maybe 2 of 5 characters, and UM was not one of them. Even if I’d managed to trigger him again, it’s possible that Daniel would have had enough masks for blink to prevent lethal. Anyway, it was not to be, and next turn I was crushed by ring damage. 

Balazs’s Team

Daniel went on to play Balazs in the final. Balazs was playing the only BFF Beholder team of the day and managed to beat Daniel using (non-targeting) Cloudkill and The Front Line, plus a wall of characters, from what I saw. Meanwhile, in a repeat of the November WKO, I had an third place play off with Peter, who was running a very effective modern version of Flying Sidekicks – The Front Line, Polymorph, Falcon, FUS Ring, Star Labs, Wong, Prismatic Spray. I was a little lucky to win – I had no way of removing his SKs and he could evade my Constantine by polying Falcon in. I did a bit of early damage by stealing his Falcon and attacking, and later managed to do just enough to finish him off, without ever triggering UM. 

Peter’s Team

For the record, the only person in the Top 8 I didn’t play at some point during the day [edit: apart from Balazs] was another Peter, with his Yu-Gi-Oh Dragons of Death:

The Other Peter’s Team

Final Thoughts

In stark contrast to the November WKO, where I played a virtual mirror match in 5 of my seven games, every opponent I played this time (and every single person in the top 8) had a different win condition – imagine that! It was a fantastic event and everyone I talked to felt that it had really benefited from the absence of Mr Bard. I went 4:3 for the day, and came third, same as last time, which I was pretty happy with. 

The Ultra Squirrel team was a lot of fun, but it was pretty exhausting, and I’m not sure I’m anywhere near as good a pilot as its originator. It was a little weak to the ring team – if I played it again, I’d consider using Rare Elektra in place of Ronin. She would stop me using BEWD on my sidekicks, but if I bought her just before triggering UM, I think she would be an answer to Blink/Distraction. I must say I have no regrets, though – squirrels are awesome!

This blog first appeared on 27/02/17 on http://www.thereservepool.com/entries/778-WKO-Results-Bratislava-Slovakia-25-02-17 (sadly, no longer reachable)

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