(3/19/2020) Portland Prime Tournament Report

By Peter "SadCryBear", Towering Strategist


There were 23 players, with 4 of us coming down to play from Seattle. It was a nice group of players, and everyone was welcoming. I was surprised the turnout wasn’t larger. It felt like a group of competitors, with more casual players oddly absent.

Deck Selection: 3 deck Age of Ascension Sealed. Open 3, pick 1 to play. All rounds Best of 1.

With AoA Sealed deck selection, my priorities are a little different than if I were playing Archon or CotA sealed. In AoA sealed, you know you will be playing against board heavy decks and capture, and have to worry less about Aember burst. With this in mind, I prioritize board and creature control over almost all else in AoA deck selection.

While I’m looking for overall quality of deck most of all, my priority is:

    1. Overall card quality – and do the cards support each other
    2. Creature Control / Board Wipes
    3. Aember Control
    4. Creatures – quality and number
    5. Aember Burst

I opened all three decks at once and gave them a quick sweep. I was pretty sure immediately I only needed to consider two, and it was looking like the choice was reasonably clear.

Decklist images courtesy of SkyJedi's Archon Matrix

Awesome Shadows package + 3x Grey Riders. What’s not to like. Then I see there is almost no creature control, and very few creatures I can expect to stick to the board. I know this deck is going to lose the board most the time. It does get bonus points for some great Aember generation (Free Markets, Prince Derric).

This deck felt like it didn’t do anything particularly well. The Shadows was extremely underwhelming, and it didn’t excel at board or Aember control. Between the Binate Ruptures feeling like dead cards and no way to easily kill my own Brend this deck felt like an easy pass. Still no board wipes and little creature control.

I had a hard time evaluating this deck. It looked to have an interesting strategy. The Dis lineup is straight Aember rush, with 3x Dust Imp and some nice cards with pips. Add to that 2x Lifeweb and 2x Dharna, and it felt like this deck could make 3 keys of Aember fast. Add Strange Gizmo, and it feels like you have a pretty solid win condition. This deck felt like it would win when it landed Gizmo, but didn’t feel like it could control anything my opponent did otherwise.

I was unhappy to find no board wipes and very little creature control across the decks. Vaultwatch was definitely the most straightforward; its Aember control put it a good ways above the others to me. I had my pick and knew I would be looking at a day of trying to get ahead on Aember while behind on the board.

The Matches

(0-0) Match 1 - Mary: Mary playing Mars, Dis, Shadows

She started the game with a Lifeward, so I adjusted my plan to ensure I could play a reasonable turn without playing creatures. I played out Lash and a Dis creature. Turn 2 Mary plays a Destroy Them All!, killing my creature and Lash. She then plays a Yxilx Dominator, a Glyxl Proliferator, and another Mars creature. I know I’m in major trouble. With Proliferator able to return Destroy Them All! to continually replay it, this could be a quick game. I have no card in my deck to deal with Dominator except stalling with Banish or Lights Out. I play out some Sanctum and fortunately draw into Life for a Life. Mary hits one of my guys, then plays Mars Needs Æmber, then returns it to archives with Proliferator. I play Bad Penny and Life for a Life the Proliferator. Mary is still sitting on the Lifeward.

At this point with Proliferator dead, I’m slowly able to pull ahead with both Routine Jobs and a nice turn with both Free Markets and Prince Derric. I’m thinking I have a good shot when Mary plays a second Lifeward, remembers she has the first, and pops it. I’m holding 5 creatures. I play Swindle, which I’ve been chaining myself with for a while to respond to Lifeward. It’s 2 keys to 2 but I can’t get to check and I’m staring down a nasty board. Mary pops the second Lifeward, functionally locking down my hand (including Ronnie), and gets up to 4 Aember. She then kills my Bad Penny and plays A Fair Game (for the second time this game), with 3 cards in her hand to 7 in mine. I Fair Game a miracle Sanctum card off the top of my deck, giving Mary 0 Aember, and she pulls Mars, giving me 2 Aember. This gives me exactly enough Aember to reap out of range of her Mars Needs Æmber, and I squeak away with the victory.

This was an incredibly stressful first game, and I knew the lack of creature control in my deck was going to haunt me all day. Mary leaving the Lifeward on the table for so long ended up being much worse for me than using it right away would have been. I lucked out on the Fair Game draw at the end.

(1-0) Match 2: Opponent playing Mars, Shadows, ???

I don’t remember my opponents name but he was nice and seemed like a solid player.

I was able to jump out fast in this game with some basic Aember generation and pull my first key early. I was slowly losing the board but was able to pull a major swing turn with both Routine Jobs and Lights Out. I dropped a Bad Penny, hoping she wouldn’t die, which set up a Prince Derric the next turn. I was now well ahead in Aember and felt confident I could race it out. He dropped 6 Mars creatures onto a board which already had 3 Mars creatures on it. I knew I had to win immediately, or it was over. I was able to generate into check for third key. Despite my opponent having an absolutely dominating board, he couldn’t stop the key. If he would have drawn that Mars to start I would have been sunk.

(2-0) Match 3 - Nick: Nick playing Dis, Mars, Shadows

I mulligan a bad hand going second and redrew into the dream. I crossed my fingers and was happy to see Nick start with a Bloodshard Imp. I dropped Prince Derric, Grey Rider, Grey Rider, and proceeded to combo myself into 6 Aember first turn.

Nick’s only answer was to play a Phloxem Spike to kill one Grey Rider and pass. I was able to take another nasty Sanctum turn and put up 4 more Aember on turn 2. Nick played things out well but wasn’t able to do much against the Aember generation. He was forced to take another poor turn to deal with the Grey Rider, and my Shadows steal took him off his only check and gave me a third key.

I drew the nuts this game, and it took maybe 10 minutes. We played a casual game with some World’s Collide decks and I got absolutely stomped by a giant pile of Star Alliance.

(3-0) Match 4 - Sean: Sean playing Untamed, Brobnar, Shadows (Hrollaugr, Redmore Ogre)

Sean started with a Witch of the Wilds, a big value threat I had no answer to. I played out a few guys, and he follows on turn 2 with Groggins and Ganger / Drummernaut combo. This clears my board, generates a ton of Aember, and lets him drop a Nepenthe Seed with Witch of the Wilds. I play out to try and stop him comboing the next turn, and he follows up with a handful of Shadows steal. I’m not clear why he didn’t just combo me again here. I don’t expect I have much of a chance in this matchup but am happy that he makes the mistake of playing a Marmo Swarm on his Shadows turn covering up his Drummernaut, turning off his combo for now. I do my best to eke my way back into the matchup, but then run into Chota, Regrowth, and Lifeweb. This was followed by a Routine Job and he Nepenthe Seeded Chota again for game.

I felt pretty good about my play in this matchup and was able to capitalize on a few play mistakes by Sean, but was so outmatched by the deck I didn’t really stand a chance. I lost 3 keys to 1 and think I may have been the first person to forge against Sean.

(3-1) Match 5 – Eric: Eric playing Sanctum, Shadows, Brobnar (Overis, the “Shadow” of Sleep)

I know Eric from locals and know he is a very strong player. We are both 3-1 at this point, and not excited that playing each other may mean one of us out of Top 8.

I don’t remember the details of the early game against Eric, except that it played out similar to others. I jumped out to an Aember lead, and being ahead on Aember and keys forced Eric into some unproductive turns. I was able to Banish his Brend before it was killed, and get in Swindle at a good time. His Sanctum board is growing, but I’m feeling pretty good still. When I pop Lifeward, to see Eric Swindle in return, the game starts to even up. I Shooler and kill the Shooler with a Skullion, trying to keep my board reasonably clear to protect from Maruck capture. This is when Eric suicides his flank creature, activates Abond, the Armorsmith, and with Haedroth’s Wall boosting Maruck, captures 3 on fight. Then he drops two more Maruck the Marked. I’m now in a position where playing any creature provides negative value, as I have almost no way of getting back captured Aember. I’m able to sneak back to check for the third key a few times, but never have a way to do it which Eric can’t respond to. With 3 Marucks and Abond he is able to reap to victory from behind.

I’m not excited to have dropped the last match, but know my tiebreakers are very good. I lost to a 4-1 and 5-0, and my other three opponents finished 3-2, 3-2, and 2-3. I ended up being the highest seeded 3-2 and was into Top 8.

Top 8

(3-2) Top 8 Match 1: Opponent playing Logos, Dis, Sanctum

This is the first game of the tournament where my opponent isn’t playing Shadows.

I see Logos and Dis and hope I can out-value in this match.

I don’t remember this game well, except the end of it. My deck was playing out fairly poorly, but despite feeling like I was continuously stuck with a 2-2-2 hand, I was ahead on Aember and looked to be slowly pulling away. At some point in the early game my opponent drops Interdimensional Graft for a steal of 1. I’m ahead 1 key to 0. A turn or two later, he uses Chaos Portal to reveal a Binate Rupture on top of his deck. Now I know I have to race the second key before I get hit by BRIG (Binate Rupture/Interdimensional Graft), but with the Graft in discard expect I have a while. I’m able to generate up to check for a second key twice, only to see an Aubade and two Charettes pull me off check both times. At this point my opponent drops 2x Jargogles, which my discard pile count tells me are holding Dis cards. I generate back up to 8 for check again and pass with 1 key 8 Aember to his 1 key and 1 or 2 Aember. My opponent calls Logos and drops Binate. I know I got trapped. He has a second Interdimensional Graft in deck. He proceeds to reap, then ram a Jargogle into my guy to play the Unlocked Gateway underneath. I forge my second key, and Graft steals 13. He is now sitting at 20ish Aember, and I’m at 0. With no creatures in play and no Miasma in deck my only winning play here would be to generate 6 out of hand, which I couldn’t do.

I was bummed to lose this game, but happy it meant I could join my wife and son for a Day of the Dead food truck dinner.

Also pretty happy to head home with a Grim Reaper playmat.

-Peter "SadCryBear", Towering Strategist