Written by: Jasper Birch
Battle for Sularia nationals: The road to almost champ
Last year I had to miss nationals for Battle for Sularia, because I was not able to get the day off. Therefore I had decided that this year I was gonna prepare extra good for the tournament, so I would have a good shot at winning it all.
Yeah, that ended up not happening. Being busy with work, family and just life in general I had not played much Sularia in the months leading up to nationals. With less than a week until the tournament I still had to pick what faction I was going to play, let alone put a deck together. In my head I thought that Protoan was probably the strongest faction at this point, but the deck I had in mind for it was not necessarily one I was desiring to play. So I decided to just build one deck for each faction that I thought would be strong. Even within deck building I noticed that Jotune, as much as I like them, did not seem in a very strong position right now. Exsularian seemed pretty promising, but with the lack of play and the complexity of some of their faction I thought playing it might not be the best idea. So it came down to Protoan or Synthien. As much as I wanted to favor Synthien, the Protoan deck kept beating it in test play.
The day of nationals I had still not really decided. I asked myself if I’d rather play for foil Projectus than for the title (and the foil Johnny’s!). I decided against the Protoan deck, partially because I wanted to play what fits my playstyle, partially because I felt there might be a lot of answers against the Protoan deck I would play. So Synthien it was. My Synthien deck was mostly a renewed version of the Hekaton Experiment deck that won Dustin Rogers the title last year and had been successful before the release of the Protoan and Exsularian factions. Now my version was not as heavily depending on the combo going off, or protecting it by any means necessary. I brought in just a bunch of overall good cards to just have several potential threats coming out. I was planning to make a bunch of sularium with Master Mining and Hero’s Boon and then I had multiple options to bring into play that could become a big threat. After having tested so much against my own Protoan deck I had made a last minute change where I took out the one STAB I had in the list plus a System Scramble (which I never liked in the list anyways), to replace it with two It’s a Traps, since I had issues dealing with the super aggressive Protoan list I had and was expecting to show up at nationals as well.
So here I was, not as well prepared as I had said I would be, with a deck I was unsure about that it was the strongest. Round 1 would be a first test to see how it would perform. I was playing a mirror match-up against Thomas and the first game was not promising for my deck. I kept a slightly questionable opening hand that was light on Sularium generation and my small sites got stomped before I could even get anything going. My confidence level in the deck plummeted immediately. I was just hoping to not lose all my matches now. Game 2 fortunately was the complete opposite of the first game. I played a turn 2 KYZR/Hekaton, and even when that got blown up right away with a STAB, I played a Johnny right afterwards, which controlled the rest of the game. Game 3 was close. It was pretty slow as we both got some dudes out and both had a Centropolis on the field, which prevented any possible attacks on either side. That was, until I drew my one copy of Harp from my deck. I flipped 2 Defense Overrides, played Harp, so I could play a third copy, which killed three sites and left Centropolis open in the back row, so I could hit it with my combatants. After taking out Centropolis, I took control of the game and won. I was happy with the win, but it was not a convincing win to say the least, so I was not very optimistic about my chances to reach the top 4.
In round 2 I was facing Zach and his Protoan list. I had not very high hopes for a good outcome in this match as I was facing Protoan, a faction I had lost so often to in testing, and I was facing Zach, which I know is a very skilled player. Game 1 I quickly got behind and I could never get back into it, the Protoan just making too many tokens. Game 2 went pretty quickly my way as I managed to get a pretty quick KYZR/Hekaton combo going that took care of the little sites that Protoan have. Game 3 was the closest game of the three, and every time I thought I had an answer to Zach’s rapidly growing board, he flipped either an Evasion or a Frenzy to make any combat a bad trade for me. So I went to 1-1, but the loss was not as devastating as could have been. Still I was hoping not to face two more Protoan decks.
But Protoan it was in round 3. I was playing Aidan and he played a turn 2 Syrana. I answered by playing Johnny and after thinking about it briefly I decided that it was gonna be best for me to trade Johnny’s life for Syrana as I could not answer attacks at that point and I could not wait a turn, so he could answer with Evasion on top of Mind Shell. After Syrana’s death, I felt like Aidan had a hard time building up a good offense line and I had enough time to play bigger threats than his and win the game. The second game I was fortunate enough to draw the one card that can ruin Protoan really quickly, and that is double Defense Override. Aidan lost all his sites early on and never got enough Sularium production going after that to get back into the game. So I beat Protoan. It made me feel pretty good, and suddenly I was only a win away from making the top 4.
In round 4 I was facing Colin and his Jotune list. He was to my surprise still undefeated, because I didn’t think Jotune would do well this tournament. In game 1 he definitely proved me wrong. A turn 2 Oathki, turn 3 Fenris and 3 Art of Wars later I was very dead. In game 2 I fired back with Johnny, still my all-star guy, who is very good at killing early sites or taking out small combatants. Game 3 was slow as we both mulliganed into pretty poor hands, but eventually became a battle between the big guys. His Oathki and Fenris were up against my robot army. Fortunately he split his attack, so I could take out Oathki with a Trap and Feedback. Then my robot army was big enough to win me the game.
And suddenly I was in the top 4. I thought: ‘I might as well win it all now’. I think fortunately for me I was facing Colin again, so I avoided both Protoan decks in the top 4. I had more faith in my match-up against Jotune. Game 1 of our rematch went pretty quick. I was able to deny Colin of sites fairly early and snowballed it from there. Game 2 I mulliganed into a hand with 3 Hekatons. I was like: ‘Game 3 it is..’, until I saw Colin shaking his head after his mulligan. I think we both did nothing for 3 straight turns and eventually I drew cards that let me get out a KYZR/Hekaton and another Hekaton. Colin did not draw that well either, so I lucked out on that game. But.. I made the final table! I had not expected that with my last call deck decision.
Then I was facing Matt in the finals. I knew it was going to be rough for me as Matt had not lost a single game all day and he was playing a Protoan deck that makes as many tokens as my deck makes sularium. It was decided that the finals would be a best-of-5 match. Game 1 was a quick stomp. Multiple tokens plus double Blood Lust equals death. Game 2 was better for me, but I feel like the game changed into Matt’s favor after he flipped a Blood Lust make my Johnny trade for one of his many combatants. Without Johnny being able to take out some of the growing swarm of tokens I could not keep up the pace. Game 3 I was off to a good start. I got an early KYZR/Hekaton out and took out most of Matt’s sites. But Lifeblood still provided Matt with enough sularium to play a bunch of threats and Carapice Dome prevented me from getting in a lot of damage. It came down to a last round of attacks. I calculated the numbers and then attacked with everything, putting him at -13. On the swingback I just had to hope he didn’t have a Blood Lust or Frenzy or anything else that would increase his attack. He did not and took me to -12. I made it to game 4, but with him now being on initiative again a reverse sweep was not very likely. And game 4 proved just that. I could not overcome an early Materox and Matt quickly swarmed the board again, taking me out. Not completely to my surprise, Protoan won nationals, but I was very happy that my Synthien list came in second.
I think I also proved myself right to go with my gut instinct to play what I wanted, especially after playing Neil with my Protoan build and making a bunch of little play errors that ended up losing me the game. Overall, my deck performed well and did what it could do. KYZR/Hekaton remains pretty strong, though I did not play against Exsularian all tournament, which has a bunch of good answers for it. Johnny is still my favorite guy and I will pretty much auto include him in pretty much any deck right now. Centropolis still provides a lot of control and Harp was amazing every game I drew her. I was glad I included the 2 Traps, though I was slightly surprised how much sularium I sometimes made. A STAB or a fourth Feedback would have been very welcome sometimes. The one card that I was actually slightly disappointed in was Furtim. Every game I played him he seemed to be doing very little to nothing. I think I also played him over Johnny or a Terminator, where the attack threat would have been better probably. I am not sure if I should cut him, as he is still super strong against Exsularian, Synthien and any sort of Evasion, but just based on nationals I could use the 4 points elsewhere. And as far as dealing with these stinky Protoan, if you have seen some of the Alpha program cards, there will be an answer coming really soon!