Fallen Angel – Second Place at the Pennsylvania ARG

arla2

Hello fellow Force of Will players!!  Halloween has come and gone and I spent my holiday participating in the ARG here in Pennsylvania.  I began playing trading card games starting with Magic the Gathering back in 2001, and have been playing competitively for four years. When I first found out about Force of Will I was immediately hooked and have been playing for roughly 5 months.  I was excited for this event as it was the first competitive Force event I would be able to attend and was eager to play.  For the past few weeks, my group of friends have been brewing different decks.  We felt that darkness had some of the most powerful support and believed that it was the best color to bring to the event. I had always been very impressed with the power of Seth the Arbiter and it was Seth that originally inspired me to brew this deck. After a few weeks of testing, I finally came up with a list I felt was strong and would work out well in the current meta. I felt confident in my choice as we drove up to the event from King of Prussia up to Allentown. This is the list I submitted at the ARG:

 

Arla, the Winged Lord/Arla, the Hegemon of the Sky

4 Perceval, the Seeker of Holy Grail

3 Rasputin

2 Cinderella, the Ashen Maiden

4 Mozart

3 Seth, the Arbiter

4 Scion of Ancient Lore

3 Nyarlathotep, the Usurper

3 Arthur, the Dead Lord of Vengeance

4 Artemis, the God’s Bow

3 Soulhunt

4 Stoning to Death

2 Spiral of Despair

1 Endless Night

 

Ruler: Arla, the Winged Lord/Arla, the Hegemon of the Sky

I expected to see a lot of Blazer decks at the event since 3 of my friends and playtesting partners were bringing blazer decks to the event. I wanted a ruler that provided a relevant and powerful effect on their ruler side and did not require to J-activate to be good.  From the beginning of testing, it was obvious how powerful of a regalia Artemis, the God’s Bow was. I figured that playing the ruler that maximized the bow’s power would be a good choice. In a meta where Blazer punishes you for J-activating and is a very popular ruler, I utilized a deck with Arla as the ruler and was not dependent on her flipping.

 

The Resonators:

Perceval, the Seeker of Holy Grail

Since I was main decking the 4 bows, I ran these to help improve my chances of finding these regalia.  Though there are not a lot of targets for Perceval to hit, they dig very well. Just to get an idea of how effective Perceval is, playing one turn one with you on the play lets you see the 5 cards in your opening hand and the next 5 cards of the deck.  That’s a 25% of the deck! Even if you cast Perceval and fail to find a valid target, the impacts of this are minimal.

 

Rasputin

This card was honestly one of the weakest cards in the deck, however she was still very strong.  She provides a recursive body that can chump block constantly and combos very well with Cinderella.

 

Cinderella

She is a strong combo piece and provides a sac outlet for Mozart and can sweep your opponent’s field of smaller resonators. With Rasputin, she can even take down larger resonators. She also provides a decently sized body to put some early pressure on the opponent.

 

Mozart

This card is amazing.  It blocks profitably, it attacks well, and I think this card is one of the best 2 drops in the game. This is one of the main reasons I wanted to play a dark deck in the first place and recommend it if you’re playing darkness.

 

Scion of the Ancient Lore

scion1

The MVP of the deck, this card did so much work it was crazy.  For those of you who play magic, this is very similar to Siege Rhino in power level.  For three will, it enters the battlefield your opponent loses 400 life and you gain 400 life. It also provides a solid 700/700 body.  It can block and trade with most threats and attacks very well.  As a midrange deck this is that important “pivot” card that helps shifts the deck from early game stabilization to closing the game out in the mid to late game.  It also helps after siding into Vlad Tepes to drain the opponent and applying pressure which is very good.

 

Seth the Arbiter

The primary reason I wanted to play black/white. When I was testing I originally has this as a 4 of because it turns all the 1 for 1 spells to become 2 for 1 spells which I thought was insane. Plus, having 2 or more Seths in play usually spells disaster for your opponent.  This card also enables a resonator lockdown in combination with Cinderella and Mozart.  With these three cards, you can keep your opponent from keeping any resonators on the field at all times which can be debilitating for some decks to recover from.  As good as this card is, I ultimately cut one to add a fourth Scion to the deck. Seth does not do much by himself and I found myself never wanting to play him before turn 5.  I always wanted to play him then immediately cast a spell like stoning or spiral to take advantage of his abilities.  Once Seth is on the field for a few turns he really takes over the game providing huge amounts of recursion and is great late game.

 

Nyarlathotep

Thoughtsieze on a big body is really good.  As with most resonators in the deck she provides immediate value when she is played.  She provides valuable information about your opponent’s hand and allows you to remove the best card from it.  She is also able to be cheated in with incarnate but this deck has a little bit of trouble pulling that off consistently, as a decent portion of the cheap resonators in the deck are light.  Even with having to pay her full cost most times, she is very good and a very powerful card.

 

Arthur

He is big, he buffs your guys, he usually weakens your opponent’s guys, and he has built in recursion. What’s not to love about this guy? He works great with soulhunt and provides an excellent finisher against everyone but other darkness decks.

 

Spells and Regalia

Artemis, the God’s Bow

Artemis

Why play Arla? Because 4 counters is amazing.  This card is so strong it doesn’t seem fair.  It provides cheap and repeatable removal and in multiples is extremely hard to break through.  It makes the aggressive resonator matchups highly favorable as it is very tough to fight through all the removal this card provides. While many feel the bow is lackluster compared to the other regalia, I feel this deck would not have worked out as well without this card.

 

Soulhunt

I’ll be honest I wasn’t sold on this at first.  It is a very tricky card to play effectively and get the full value off of it. It took a while before I figured out how to use this card correctly, but I have to say when used right, it is very good.  For example, in one of my Top 8 rounds, I had 2 bows in play, no resonators on the field, and a Perceval in hand, along with several other cards. I knew the Perceval would most likely not hit another bow, so it was not favorable to cast it. I used the Perceval as the discard part of Soulhunt’s casting. Soulhunt resolving not only got a dead card out of my hand, but also removed a card from my opponents hand as well as had them sacrifice one of their resonators. Soulhunt can be a 2 for 1 in the right situation and the extra cheap removal is very nice.

 

Stoning to Death

It kills everything but rulers at instant speed for cheap. Great removal spell.  Play 4 in the deck. They are essential.

 

Spiral of Despair

Good on the play and amazing on turns 2 and 3 but not as good on the draw.  It is very helpful against control decks but lackluster against aggressive decks past turn 4.

 

Endless Night

Another unconditional removal spell that also kills all the small resonators.  I liked it but at 3 will to cast I wouldn’t run more than 2 of them.

 

Stone Base

Little_Red__the_Pure_Stone

1 Little Red, the Pure Stone

4 Magic Stone of Heaven’s Rift

5 Basic Darkness Stones

Pretty basic stone base.  I ran 4 B/W dual stones to get the white while also providing black and the Little Red helps make our guys better in combat.  The rest need to tap for black as you want double black on turn 2 to cast Stoning to death on the potential Lancelot.

 

Sideboard

1 Blazer Gill Rabus

1 Vlad Tepes

3 Deathscythe, the Life Reaper

3 Marybell, the Steel Doll

1 Spiral of Despair

2 Mephistopheles

4 Dark Pulse

 

Blazer/ Deathscythe

This is my anti-ruler package.  I bring it in against 28 regalia and any other deck that heavily relies on their ruler J-activating.

 

Vlad

vlad

One of the big weaknesses of the main deck is that it has trouble in the very long games against control. The game one match up is definitely not in our favor as their card advantage is a bit better and our clock is not very quick. Vlad turns the deck into a late game powerhouse giving us an effective way to pressure our opponent and keep mana open to deal with threats as the game progresses.

 

Spiral of Despair

I originally has 2 in the board but never found myself wanting to play 4 spirals against any opponent so I cut this back to one. Spiral helps in the longer games against control decks by helping reduce the number of cards they are able to use.

 

Mephistopheles

A large beater with built in protection all at a fairly cheap price.  I bring them in against control as more threats that are a pain to deal with.  They can be helpful in walling other large resonators like Blazer or rulers like Jeanne d’Arc.  They are not particularly helpful in the aggro matchup so I feel they are better as a sideboard card than in the mainboard.

 

Marybell

They are useful for dealing with opponent’s regalia but the main reason I used them was as more threats against the slower decks especially Blazer Cthulhu.  They act similarly to man-lands in magic as solid beaters that are hard to deal with as they dodge chant speed removal like Hastur and Carmilla.

 

Dark Pulse

As good as the removal in the deck is, 1 for 1ing all your opponents threats just isn’t very possible against opponents like Blazer Knights or Grimm.  They go wider much faster than you can effectively remove all their threats which is why this card is so good.  These aggressive resonator decks run mostly converted mana cost 2 or less resonators so this basically acts as a board sweeper. Our bows and spot removal can take out any of their remaining guys, plus its instant speed which is pretty silly.  I think 4 might be a bit of overkill, as usually resolving just one of them is good enough to close out games, but I expected to see a lot of Blazer Knights and I wanted to really be sure I could bury them in removal.  I’m most likely cutting this down to 3 moving forward.

 

Event Breakdown

Round 1: Blazer Zoo

I was a bit bummed to play one of the guys I rode to the event with especially round 1, but alas we had to play and I ended up beating him game 3.

1-0

 

Round 2: Blazer Cthulhu Control

He won game one as I ran out of steam and I Vladed him to death game two with a finishing life total of 5200.  We ran out of time game three and drew.

1-0-1

 

Round 3: Banzai Grimm

Game 1 I had 3 bows by turn 4.  Game 2 he cast Blazer turn 5 and I ran out of removal.  Game 3 I had 2 bows turn one and an early Scion beat down most of the game.

2-0-1

 

Round 4: Blazer Knights

This version played multiple Gareths but a combination of multiple bows and spot removal helped me to close out games 1 and 3.

3-0-1

 

Round 5: B/W/R Blazer Cuthulu

It was a B/R Cthulhu deck but it splashed white for Seth. He locked me out game 1 with 2 Seths in play. Game 2 was close but he wasn’t able to bring me low enough before I drained him with Vlad.  Game 3 I had mostly on lockdown with a life total of 6000 until he played a Yog-Sothoth then a Susano next turn hitting me for 2700 in one turn.  It was a great comeback but unfortunately he was low enough that I killed him with Vlad when I recovered next turn.

4-0-1

 

Top 8 Quarterfinals Blazer Knights

I had 2 bows in play on my first turn both games which is really tough for the knights to get through.  I Dark Pulsed him game two wiping his field.  His health was too low to cast the 2 Split Heaven and Earth in his hand to kill me as he would take lethal from his own split and I would survive.

 

Top 8 Semifinals: Blue Blazer

This deck was awesome. It played Cheshire Cats and Lancelots which is a sweet combination in my book.  Our game 1 was close but I managed to pull ahead thanks to Scion (this card did so much work!!!).  Game 2 he sided into nameless girl and J-activated turn 2 and I stumbled to slow him down.  I managed to stabilize turn 5 with a Mephistopheles walling his Jeanne d’Arc but I was at 200 and he top decked an Alice’s Little Assault Force and we went to game 3.  This game was close but ultimately I pulled a victory with Scion and moved on to the finals.

 

Finals B/R Blazer Cthulhu

I was happy to hear my last opponent was a friend of mine and part of my playtesting group.  He was playing a B/R Cthulhu deck that was very strong and the matchup was very close between our decks.  Ultimately he won in game 3 and won the event.

 

This deck was a blast to play and is very powerful.  With almost every card giving some value immediately, the deck top decks very well. I really enjoyed Arla as my main ruler and she proved to be very powerful.  I had a great time at the ARG and look forward to playing more events as season 2 continues. I hope you enjoyed reading about the deck and my experience at the event!

Rules VS Setting

A lot of RPGs have their own painstakingly detailed setting and core adventures which the players are intended to at least read through beforehand. I have never run a pre-generated encounter. To me, over half of the fun of GM-ing is world building. So using someone else’s world is just not as engaging to me. On top of that, using a premade world usually means I have to learn about that world. I tend to make up the characters, plots, encounters, and most other things on the spot tailored to what the group seems like they want to do. Doing that in a set world always concerns me, because I don’t want to contradict an established piece of lore, or character. I use general settings as a basis for the stories I tell, but usually change what appears on the map.The players may be on a different continent than any that are listed in the book.

Everything I just mentioned falls under the setting of a game. Separating the rules from the setting can be fairly difficult, or incredibly easy. In the case of Dungeons and Dragons or Pathfinder, as long as the world you make is in a fantasy-esq setting then you are pretty much good to go. What if you wanted to run a modern era game with the Pathfinder rules? That is also fairly easy. Make up the stats for guns and other technology, decide if magic is present, then limit some of the gear (walking around in a full plate suit of armor is not normal in the modern era… usually). Dungeons and Dragons usually has its rules slightly separated from the setting, at least enough so that it is easy to fudge them to fit into a new world.

The interesting challenges come up when you’re dealing with a game where the setting influences nearly every rule used. Eclipse Phase, Shadowrun, and (to a lesser extent) Numenera come to mind for me. In the first two games the setting is a post human society either with technology (Eclipse Phase) or magic and technology (Shadowrun) having a huge impact on the world. In these cases, the rules are what I wanted to lose. The settings were ones which I actually wanted to make stories for.

Running an Eclipse Phase game in a custom setting is nearly impossible. One of the key features is that your mind can be separated from your body in the form of a digital back up (think Ghost in the Shell), when you die you wake up in a temporary body somewhere at the last time you backed up you memories. It becomes incredibly paranoia driven as you try to find out how much time you are missing and how exactly you died. The setting is one of the coolest I have ever read about, and just writing this now makes me want to play it again. The downside, because of course there’s one, I’m not a huge fan of the rules. Well, I nearly completely hate the rules. It uses a percentile system, something I already don’t like very much, which is varied in slight ways that I don’t fully understand. It’s essentially entirely my own fault I don’t like the rules, but still… percentile systems are lame! The creators have good heads on their shoulders, but my personal dislike of percentile systems makes this game not as appealing to me as others. Though I think I’m going to convert the setting to a D20 system simply because it’s so incredibly cool.

Shadowrun has a similar issue to me. The setting is also super incredibly cool. Essentially, technology has reached new heights and corporations own the world. On top of that, dragons returned to the world bringing Mana with them and re-infusing magic with the Earth. Technology and magic play off of each other in interesting ways throughout the world. You have some pretty cool interactions as a character may pilot a laser tank into a hail of gunfire, fireballs, and magic missiles trying to commit corporate espionage (gone wrong, in this case). Again, I love the setting, but the rules leave much to be desired. This is a dice pool system. Say you attempted to shoot a gun, for instance, you total up the value of the ‘shooting’ skill (we’ll say 4), the value of the ‘aiming’ stat (2, maybe he’s got crappy eyesight),and any additional modifiers (-1, it’s raining. Probably acid rain because it’s the future) to get the total for that skill (5 in this case). You roll that many d6s and total up the ‘hits’ you receive. Hits are usually 5s and 6s, though sometimes they can be 4s, 5s, and 6s. You then total up the ‘misses’ you roll, which are usually only 1s. Then the number of hits minus the number of misses determines if you are successful, and the degree of your success. This system is better than percentile to me, but it can be very punishing. it sucks having a total of over 10 and still rolling 8 1s. In a D20 system you usually only have a 1 in 20 chance of automatically failing (rolling a natural 1), so adding modifiers to your roll has a much more noticeable effect on the game.

The cypher system (used in Numenera and The Strange) is great, they have done a fabulous job making the rules just vague enough to enhance play more than hamper it. There are very few things which actually alter the D20 roll, instead you alter the number you have to match. As the difficulty decrease (because of training or having your character focus on the task) the target number decreases in turn. This makes each encounter much faster to make and run as you essentially pick a bunch of numbers instead of looking up stats and variant rules. In the cypher system character creation is streamlined into writing a sentence about your character. I won’t go in depth into what that means, but just know that it’s really super easy. Making different options for characters in the Cypher system is simple, just follow the power level given by the other options and try not to make the characters incredibly OP (but, again, OP in Numenera is kind of hard to determine). The more challenging part of adapting the rules in Numenera to a new world is all the equipment. It’s not so much a challenge as it is a disappointment. The little items that you can randomly find throughout the world are one of the more fun parts of the experience. Removing the setting from them takes away some of the character they have. Throughout the game characters are intended to find small objects, fittingly called Numenera, which usually have 1 and done effects. Grenades, pills, and single shot guns come up frequently, but sometimes you find something more interesting. Gloves that accelerate someone along a surface, a belt which prevents ALL metal from coming within 5 feet of you, and an emitter which gives everyone around it hallucinations are just the ones which I can remember off hand.

Some RPGs have great settings and poor rules, while some have cruddy settings with fabulous rules. Some have both! To me the setting is more important than the rules for a game. I like learning new rule sets and seeing what different designers come up with for common issues, but what’s most important to me is that the players are having fun. If they are engaged in the setting then, to me, its good enough. It is also important to note that nothing is going to be perfect. There is no ‘quintessential’ RPG world, just as there is no pinnacle of RPG rules. There doesn’t need to be though. The rules just need to be good enough and the setting needs to be interesting enough. The rest is up to the players and the GM.

Abzan Tokens, or Dark Mentor’s Spirits! (Modern)

Main Deck

Creatures (7)
Monastery Mentor
Dark Confidant

Sorcery (11)
Thoughtseize
Lingering Souls
Maelstrom Pulse

Instant (13)
Raise the Alarm
Abrupt Decay
Path to Exile
Surgical Extraction

Enchantment (2)
Intangible Virtue

Planeswalkers (3)
Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
Lands (24)
Plains
Swamp
Forest
Windswept Heath
Godless Shrine
Temple Garden
Overgrown Tomb
Murmuring Bosk
Isolated Chapel
Sunpetal Grove
Woodland Cemetary
Vault of the Archangel

When I first started getting into Modern this is the deck I came up with. This was a Standard deck during Innistrad block and I was absolutely blown away by the new Sorin. He was my favorite character in the lore at the time, and I really wanted a BW Planeswalker for my Teysa, Orzhov Scion EDH deck. He was perfect for me. I made a deck using him and Lingering Souls to swarm the board. I had Garruk Relentless backing them up with spot removal and death touch wolves. It was a lot of fun to play, and this deck is similar. It is much more of a control deck though. When Monastery Mentor was printed I wanted to abuse the crap out of it. This shell was still around, so I stuck him in there and have never been happier with how it turned out.

Sideboard

(15)
Timely Reinforcements
Rootborn Defenses
Sundering Growth
Nihil Spellbomb
Intangible Virtue
Beast Within

The sideboard kinda sucks unfortunately. I really like Timely Reinforcements against aggro and burn decks. Taping three in this deck makes people assume it’s Lingering Souls but then to get three creatures off the bat plus a huge life swing feels great. With Thoughtseize, Surgical Extraction, and fetch lands it can be fairly easy to get 1 or 2 points below your opponent to trigger the life gain. The rest of the Sideboard is not terribly exciting to me. I don’t use this deck in tournaments very often, so I don’t get to test out different cards.

GW Hatebears (Modern)

Main Deck

Creatures (27)
Noble Hierarch
Birds of Paradise
Leonin Arbiter
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Scavenging Ooze
Mirran Crusader
Loxodon Smiter
Aven Mindcensor

Planeswalkers (2)
Elspeth Knight Errant

Artifacts (2)
Sword of War and Peace

Instants (4)
Path to Exile
Lands (25)
Forest
Plains
Temple Guarden
Canopy Vista
Razorverge Thicket
Windswept Heath
Gavony Township
Ghost Quarter

This is my primary competitive Modern deck. While I don’t get to tournaments very often, this is usually what I pilot. I built the deck over the course of a year and some change. Trading for bits and pieces at a time. I wrote the list myself, but I used This article to find which cards I wanted to use. The list went through many versions before I decided on this particular build. The one before this actually ran Sun Titan and a fourth copy of Ghost Quarter as a land destruction package. I took it out because it was super slow and not terribly effective. If I could cast a 6 drop and have an untapped land ready to go, then chances are either destroying their mana base won’t do much or I’m already ahead and it is just rubbing salt in the wounds.

Sideboard

(15)
Voice of Resurgence
Kataki, War’s Wage
Leyline of Sanctity
Spellskite
Qasali Pridemage
Sword of Fire and Ice
Vryn Wingmare

This is the latest iteration of the sideboard. I’m not crazy about the single copy of Vryn Wingmare, but nothing else came to mind for that slot and it was the night before a GPt at a local shop. I may run a fourth Loxodon Smiter to go against control decks, but I’m already fairly well positioned against them. If I can get my hands on a second copy of Sword of Fire and Ice then I think I’d run that instead. The swords work really well with Mirran Crusader, so I may end up putting the one of in the main deck and running additional tech in the sideboard. Spellskite{/mtg_card] is quite good against Twin and Infect, so I may get a third copy of that.

My Custom Fellblade Variant

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So what do you guys like more: Baneblades, or Fellblades? These moving gun platforms are some of the coolest models in Warhammer universe, which is why this one was particularly fun to build. The whole thing is magnetized, so that I can switch between the two Fellblade variants.

The Fellblade – x1 Twin Linked Fellblade Cannon, x1 Battle Cannon, x4 Twin Linked Lascannons, x1 Twin Linked Heavy Bolter

The Baal Fellblade – x1 Twin Linked Megabolter, x1 Battle Cannon, x3 Twin Linked Assault Cannons, x2 Twin Linked Heavy Flamers

This beautiful transformation could not have been possible, without the sculpts from Blood and Skulls Industries <– Link provided. If you are avid mod’er and want a challenge, I suggest taking a look at some of his stuff. It all doesn’t fit perfectly with the original 40k models, so there is some finagling work needed. This was an incredibly fun project, and I can’t wait until I’m done painting it, so I can show you all the finished product.