Written by: Matthew Greenleaf
Eat Your Tokens: A Sularia Nationals Tournament Report
Before Nationals this year I went on record saying Nationals would be won in deck building. The format was so new and power levels were more theory than practice. No one really knew what was best in this new world where you need to worry about 4 match-ups instead of 2. That means the meta as a whole contains 16 matchups instead of 3. After winning the whole thing I think that was true.
I played a Protoan list whose main goal was not to move as fast as possible. My deck building ethos was generate so much free value that victory becomes inevitable. Even going into the tournament I did not know if this was the right way to approach it. Traditionally you won in Sularia by going as fast as you can. I am not saying Synthien should try to go faster than the Jotune but there was always little value in being the second fastest Synthien deck. Protoan changes all of that.
No card produces more free value than Agropholid Hatchery. With that as the founding principle building the deck becomes much easier. If we are hoping to rely on tokens to out value our opponents than there are actually 2 goals we have to pursue. The first and obvious goal is we need to make as many tokens as possible. The second goal is actually the more important one because it is easier to overlook. After generating these tokens we need to maximize the ways we can translate them into a concrete advantage. Level zero of this goal is maxing out on 4 Blood Lusts. Level one is running two Metamorphosis Chambers and two Ashfall Plains to have early surrender outlets for Tricentis and also pull double duty allowing you to cash in excess tokens for advantages in combat or resources. Level two is including 3 Materox and 2 Parasitex to gain value even in the face of loss. All these layers build an impressive value engine that takes time but output ridiculous amounts of damage.
As I said I liked my chances but was very concerned about fast decks. Right out of the gate I had to face off against the reigning Nationals Champion Dustin. That made me nervous but I was glad to see him on an Exsularian list and not a Kyzr Hekaton list closer to what he won last year with. The Exsularian also want to play a longer game and most of their removal is 1 for 1 so in general I like the match-up. Things to look out for are they are good at attacking sites outside of combat and they can generate surprising value from their combatants activated abilities. My deck did its best impression of an aggro deck and I was through round 1 with a win.
Round two I was up against the other Kansas City competitor Logan and it was a mirror match. Being the slightly slower Protoan deck is especially critical in the mirror match. The early aggression from things like Syrana are too easy to shut down by It’s a Trap. Even without having the answer their window of effectiveness is so narrow they quickly become bad top decks. Being slower and more focused on free value you will often find yourself with more tokens or at least more things to do with them. This match-up also highlighted the strength Disruption. There is so much token on token blocking that a Blood Lust advantage might as well be the game if it lasts any length. Having even just 2 Disruptions was pivotal to winning the Blood Lust arms race at instant speed.
Round three I was paired down and was playing against a newer player with a Synthien combatants list that was just too fair to fight against the free token spigot turning on consistently on turn 2. The Synthien match-up some people like because they see Satellite Network Facility as a breaker. While it can be, I think that as your plan A is short sighted. Despite being slower than the fastest decks tokens still usually end the game before round 7. Also Materox and Parasitex are there specifically to take advantage of tokens dying. Also Mount Killara comes down a turn sooner to consolidate your strength onto a smaller number of big combatants to finish out the game.
Round 4 I played against my play test partner Aidan with his Kyzr to Skobn combo deck. There is not much I can hope to do against a turn 2 or 3 Skobn but I dodged that bullet and won with a stronger mid game. An interesting card in the mirror match is Carapace Dome. Dome is a card that if played tactically can win you races where their damage output doubles yours but it just does not matter because of the hardened and lair keywords.Carapace Dome is an excellent choice when it comes to racing your opponent.
The Top 4
The Semis was a rematch against Aidan who I had just played. Again without a fast Kyzr hand I just out-valued the other Protoan deck. At this point I am pretty thankful for just how good my deck is in the mirror match since it to this point was half my matches. The finals are next and they are against Jasper who won the first ever Sularia tournament back at Great Plains Game Festival in 2016.
Jasper is on a Synthien Combatants list. Our games came down to both of us dead at the end of several of them. Disruption was again surprisingly useful just shutting down late Master Mining Programs forcing him to fight harder for his Sularium. They (Synthien) have to spend sularium for all of their sources of damage so any way you can fight that helps. Some games they will generate too much for the 2 lost to matter but when it does matter it can give you multiple turns of breathing room. At this point I was very happy with my choice of tactics in 4 Mind Shell, 2 It’s A Trap, and 2 Disruption. When the dust settled I had won the finals 3 to 1.
To win there is always an element of luck and I had that in spades. I had favorable match-ups across the tournament and dodged my worst possible match-up of Jotune decks. I also drew like a boss which makes things easy. The Blood Lust showed up for me and so did early tokens in the form of Hatcheries and Tricentis. All in all Nationals was a great event and I really feel I learned something about the game from playing in it. It was for value to chalk up a win against tempo.