In the couple of weeks leading up to the European Marshal event, I was throwing all kinds of deck ideas around, but I couldn't settle on one I was happy with and was feeling a real lack of inspiration. With the event getting ever closer, two days beforehand I decided I'd go with an old favourite. I've been playing 108 Dead Man's Hand since the faction were released, and it's probably the deck type I've had the most fun with in Doomtown. I was confident I could do well against a variety of deck types with it while having a great time.
I wasn't sure how well the deck would fare against landslide and stall decks, so I threw together a 108 Slide to run myself through some test games and managed to beat it three times. I noted that I got some lucky breaks and needed a way to get more incontestable Control on the table as well as some more influence removal. In came Allie Hensman for Benjamin Washington, and two more Kidnappin's for La Quema and Yunxu Jiang. Deciding which cards to drop was tough. In Yunxu's case it was because a lot of my shootouts take place in the town square or at my opponent's home, so his trait didn't trigger very often. Removing him seemed more sensible than losing a stud dude who could always provide an extra bullet. La Quema was cut because I was switching up my start to include Companhurst's due to dropping Benjamin, and I decided that as my eights were down to fifteen in-deck I'd do the same for my aces. The fiery magic horse was the most expendable ace card.
Since all the 108 sliders are using Worldly Desires these days, and as I was tweaking my starting posse anyway, I decided I'd go for a default start of Randall, Xiaodan Li, Asakichi Cooke, Hamshanks, Hiram Capatch and Companhurst's with the intention of potentially wrong-footing opponents by looking a bit like I'd set up for slide. I'm not sure if it actually worked. Only Dan Knight commented on the starting posse and quickly decided it was a bluff due to the low starting ghost rock. I did switch around the starting posse a little depending on the home my opponent was playing, with old stalwart Michael "The Badger" Dodge taking the place of Randall or Hamshanks when I felt I needed some early shootout power. One advantage this new line up gave was the guarantee of triggering Worldly Desires on the first lowball hand. Having five influence, zero upkeep and four income combined with cheap one-turn studs generally kept me safe early on which allowed me time to figure out my opponent's plan and play accordingly. Rico Rodegain would have been nice, but I wanted as many 108 dudes as possible for Daomei Wang movement trickery so he didn't make the deck.
Armed with my trusty DMH shooter, I went into the event hoping for six rounds of fun games, thinking it'd be nice if I finished in the top half of the standings. Not only did I get six rounds of fun games, I also ended up with a 5-1 record in Swiss which took me to second place in the standings and thus the top eight cut. Making it all the way to the final the next day somewhat exceeded my expectations! More on how that happened later, first up here's some ramblings on strategy:
The general approach is still the same as always. Play carefully early on and try to get your off-value dudes and deeds into play. Try to spend as much ghost rock as you can each turn to keep the home ability working. If you can't play a card, ditch it with Asakichi, even if just to move someone into the Town Square or Companhurst's. Cycling cards is good, and moving a dude to any location is good. Asakichi rocks, so keep her safe. Getting rid of Jokers, Jack-value deeds and copies of Daomei Wang/Steven Wiles that you don't need that turn is usually what she's for. Her ability can let dudes bypass town square blockades to camp opponents' deeds and deny their income or lure them out of position, or chase after dudes who booted out of town and call them out away from backup. Daomei Wang's react also enables similar tricks. Extra movement is the boss.
Keep up pressure with your cheap one-turn studs. Daomei and Steven can keep coming back with Hired Guns and supporting your other dudes in fights. Be careful with these guys - getting them aced will hurt both your game plan and your draw structure. This doesn't just apply when they're in play, but also in cheatin' draw hands if your opponent is playing This'll Hurt in the Mornin' and you don't have the cash spare to save them. The extra influence you get from one or both of these dudes joining your posse can also help against the Eagle Wardens' current hot pick Mariel Lewis.
Build up your economy and your army of dudes. Give people Tlaloc's Furies, even if you don't have The Badger or another stud dude out yet. Get Forster Cooke behind a bar, and have Longwei Fu barking orders across town from your home. Spend all your money and stop for a drink at Charlie's Place before starting a fight if possible. Travel in numbers. Basically maximise your stud bonus going into a fight and you should draw well. The more cards you get into play, the more likely it is you'll hit that Dead Man's Hand.
Sometimes you don't have the luxury of time to get all this set up, but as long as you get enough of it in place you should still draw good hands. Opportunistic Kidnappin's against isolated draw dudes with the likes of Daomei and/or Wiles backed up by your home and Xiaodan Li's Six-Shooters are probably a safe bet for a decent legal hand. Be careful to note what you're putting into play and how that will affect your shootout hands. Likewise, keep an eye on what's happening to your jokers and DMH values. If both jokers and four jack deeds have gone into the discard pile early on, you aren't getting a Dead Man's Hand until you shuffle again. Unless you're playing slide or need the control points to seal a win that turn, don't play your jack deeds. Same with Allie - don't play her unless you really need her to push a win.
Another top tip would be if you don't fancy your chances defending a Kidnappin' and it won't lose you the game, just let it succeed. I've seen plenty of games decided when someone goes in heavily to defend a Kidnappin' when losing the mark wouldn't cost the m the game, and suffers more casualties than they otherwise would have done. This deck can get discarded dudes back easily with Hired Guns. Hamshanks gets kidnapped, Hamshanks comes back, Hamshanks gets kidnapped again while dudes like Asakichi and Randall stay safe. Hired Guns is also great for pulling the off-value dudes from your discard pile so you can get them in play. Hired Guns is a great card.
Hopefully that all made sense. Here's how the games went down. As always, I apologise for any errors in my recollections. On with the show:
Round 1 Vs Sean's Morgan Cattle Company
I'd played a couple of games against Sean on OCTGN recently and even discussed the (then upcoming) Marshall event with him, so to get drawn against him in the first round and finally put a face to the name was nice and he's a great guy. I went with my default starting line up as I didn't know what sort of Morgan deck this was going to be. Turns out it was gadgets featuring Chuan "Jen" Qi with a Yagn's Mechanical Skeleton and Force Field and Arnold Stewart and his ghost rock detecting Currency Presses. Sean started with quite a bit of ghost rock, and began by booting Irving to build an out-of town deed. One of my shooters showed up and Asakichi helpfully directed them to the whereabouts of Irving so they could have the kind of friendly chat that ends with one party in a pine box. Following Irving's untimely demise Sean played a lot more carefully. An exo-suited and force-fielded Jen kept his scientists safe. While I was able to keep denying him income through movement trickery, William Specks' discount for Arnold's Currency Presses kept Sean in funds and able to rebuff my attacks with his force fields. A couple of Dead Man's Hands did ensure his stash never got too big.
Eventually enough chess shenanigans gave me an opportunity to remove another scientist, but he still had several influence and I only had one control point as the ten minute warning went out. With Jen booted, I played Allie to grab a control point and got a deed into play for another. I'm not sure if Sean forgot I had an unbooted Hiram Capatch on his Lula's Exploit or if he was just desperate for the income and forgot about its downside, as with all his dudes booted out he played Cooke's Nightcap. I then moved Hiram there to get enough control for the win.
Round 2 Vs Neil's Desolation Row
I swapped out Hamshanks to start the Badger here. Neil got off to a quick start, moving into the town square, using Allie to get control then pulling her home by having her join a Des Row posse. I didn't see an early Furies or any cheap studs so I let this happen for a couple of turns, while taking a risk by playing The Mayor's Office as I needed the income. I let a Kidnappin' on Randall though and was in a shaky position, but was able to get Steven Wiles in play to keep me in the game. A very tense game then followed during which I was just hanging on to the game through repeated hirings of Wiles and the occasional other dude while Neil kept running Des Row unopposed. I did manage to threaten town square enough that Allie stayed at home which certainly helped, but I didn't fancy trying to start a fight with a beweaponed Barton Everest with Experienced Travis Moone waiting in the wings on a Pinto.
My continued hanging on to the game paid off when Neil made a couple of moves that he realised were mistakes immediately after doing them. I was able to move out and start choking his economy, and sent my shooters after Travis who was camping in B&B Attorneys, deciding Barton would be easier to handle without his backup. I managed to defeat Travis, also removing a Des Row control point, and then let Barton run Desolation Row because it left Charlie's Place undefended and only gained Neil some ghost rock. I moved a dude in to take the control point. The bounty money also meant I could afford Longwei Fu. I had a booted dude left at B&B, so Neil moved Allie over for a callout. Away from the protection of Barton she was an easy target for the Kidnappin' I'd been holding, and Fu took her out. Time was called and the control and influence swings I'd managed on that last day tipped the scales of victory in my favour.
Round 3 Vs Mark's Sanatorium
I'd last played against Mark at the Edinburgh Sheriff event, which he won, and I was expecting a tough game. I wasn't sure what Mark's deck was going to do so I went with my default start. Mark's starting posse of Arnold, Valeria, Ambrose, Freddy and the Brute still left me guessing, but it became quickly apparent that this was an Abomination-based shooter as Valeria got a Raising Hell and Freddy an Essence of Armitage. The appearance of the latter made me hold back on an early Steven Wiles attack as that and Steven being hit by the Sanatorium's ability didn't leave me confident of my chances. Mark played a Carter's Bounties to make Freddy even more annoying, and more control points appeared in the form of The Whateley Estate. Wiles appeared again next turn and stayed at home so Hamshanks took the hit from the Sanatorium. Wiles went into the town square and called out The Brute. Mark committed heavily and though I took out The Brute, the second round didn't go as well with Steven unfortunately getting aced. With his dudes all booted in town and CArter's Bounties used this did leave Arnold McCadish vulnerable to a Kidnappin'. "The Badger" arrived in town to pick up his Furies from Hiram and successfully ran the job. I played the Tax Office to get some more control points on the table and the pressure was now on Mark as his only influence was from Valeria, Ambrose's ability and The Sanatorium's ability, meaning that at the start of the next turn he was in check.
Another attack saw me wipe out the rest of his dudes with a Dead Man's Hand. There were enough abominations around for a discounted Ivor Hawley to hit play, bringing back Freddy and the Brute. Unfortunately this left him without the ghost rock to pay his upkeep and I didn't forget about my Tax Office as he hoped, so Ivor was quickly discarded. With only one influence and me able to guarantee control of at least two control points, the game was over.
Round 4 Vs Robert's Beyond the Veil
Another round, another of last year's Sheriffs. I guessed this was the Deputy-winning Spirit Fortress deck that Robert had recently posted on dtdb so went with my default start in case of an early Nic rush. As it happened, Nic did show up early - twice in his first lowball hand. Mine was legal, so I played This'll Hurt in the Morning targeting both Nics and as Robert only had one ghost rock and no Plan B he was immediately on the back foot with his victory condition aced. For all that, this game still nearly went to time thanks to the resilient influence of Beyond the Veil and some clever movement by Robert, but I managed to correctly predict and counter a lot of the tricks he was trying while building up my forces. A large posse successfully Kidnapped Mariel with a Dead Man's Hand, and from there it was a process of chasing down his dudes and eliminating them. The Mayor's Office helped me finish the game by providing a four point swing as I stripped the influence from a booted Warden who was controlling the adjacent deed.
Round 5 Vs Anders' Morgan Stables
I thought this would be an aggressive deck, so swapped out Randall for "The Badger" in my start. Anders opened with Maggie Harris to grab a Personal Ornithopter, and very quickly got her set up with both that and a Force Field. We both played a very aggressive early game, which we remarked was a bit odd based on our previous rounds. Force Fields and smart use of Outgunned saw Anders weather my attacks and chip away at my dudes. While I unfortunately can't remember the details of this one, the game slowed down a bit and entered a very tight chess phase as we tried to grab control points and deny each other income. In the final ten minutes Anders began to get the upper hand. We went into a new turn and I had the perfect hand to get back into the game, but time was called just after Anders had played "Lula" Morgan and her four influence was a big enough bump to ensure him the victory on total control + influence.
Round 6 Vs Dan's Eagle Wardens
It was round six before I encountered someone from my local meta, which was nice as at previous big events I've played quite a few games against my regular opponents and so not faced as many other players. I didn't know what Dan was running, but going off the style of deck he's been playing recently I figured it was a town square blockade so went with my default start for some economy, which did cause Dan to worry I might be playing slide. Warden Blockade it was - Dan was running his take on David Hammond's deck, if not the very same list. Dan quickly took the town square and began digging through his deck for Allie Hensman. Luckily for me he didn't venture out of town square often and I was able to get some economy in place. Dan didn't see many deeds and for those he did play I had Asakichi send someone across town to deny him production. He did leave the middle of town to run a couple of Kidnappin's, but Hired Guns helped me get my dudes back into play quickly.
I was eventually able to build up a force to attack the town square. While Dan hadn't found Allie, he had found plenty of Sun in Yer Eyes and blinded most of my studs. Willa Mae saw him survive the assault. Next turn I went for it again, rehiring Wiles and Wang for more studs. I ran into two more Suns, but I pulled off a Dead Man's Hand regardless and This'll Hurt turned Dan's cheatin' 5oaK into a 3oaK. Turtle's Guard kept Dan in the fight but next round a cheatin' 5oaK got rid of enough of his dudes and Dan conceded the game.
25 match points saw me take second place in the swiss standing, just behind Anders. Not bad! Dan had made it to seventh, so we were set for a quarter finals rematch the next day. A fun evening was spent hanging out with some of the Doomtown guys outside.
So, on to the top eight. First up was a rematch with Dan Knight's Wardens. Dan let me know he'd found my deck online and had been discussing strategies with Hammond. Since he's looked through my discard pile yesterday, and his deck didn't seem too flexible, I wasn't fussed. At this point I was just enjoying the ride. Knowing Dan was packing Kidnappin's and that I would benefit from having a shooter around for an early rush, I switch Randall out for "The Badger". The game played out in a similar fashion to the previous day, though Dan managed to get more deeds in play. My ability to bypass town square and sit on his deeds worked in my favour as it started to spread his dudes out and he couldn't get Mariel, Zachary and Enapay all positioned where they could support each other. This gave me opportunities to pick off Mazatl with a Kidnappin', and also Allie when she finally arrived. Dan may have scouted my deck, but I also now knew that his main cheatin' resolution was One Good Turn with some backup from Coachwhips, so I was more confident with going for cheatin' hands and managed to avoid getting badly hit.
The ten minute warning was called. Dan had Marcia Ridge in play, but not in the town square. I played The Mayor's Office for some more control points, and then booted it before Dan could get it with Marcia. The next turn started, and I felt I had to win lowball to get to use The Mayor's Office first. Worldly Desires did its thing and got me initiative, and I hit Mariel's influence. Dan sent Marcia to my Charlie's Place, and as she had little support she was a nice juicy Kidnappin' target. I landed a Dead Man's Hand and Dan didn't have enough time to recover from the influence loss which gave the win to me.
The semi-final saw me squaring off against Robert's Spirit Fortress again, and I went with my default starting posse again. While we didn't see a repeat of the opening lowball disaster this game still didn't go well for him. He built a deed and put a couple of Fires of Nanahbozho down, I played Charlie's Place, Daomei Wang and a Pair of Six Shooters. My other cards were Kidnappin' and This'll Hurt in the Mornin'. Against Spirit Fortress early aggro is key, so I decided I'd get Wang liquored up then sent him and everyone bar Hamshanks on an attempted Kidnappin' of Mariel Lewis. Sending in so many dudes was risky, but the only way to get her before everyone moved into the fortress and their influence skyrocketed. Robert went all-in on defence. Three shootout rounds later and a Dead Man's Hand, legal 4oaK and legal full House saw Robert without any dudes and a very quick semi final victory for me.
The other semi final was won by Vince, so I knew I'd be getting a very challenging final. Vince has been playing Doomtown for years and is a regular fixture at the top tables in UK tournaments. I knew he was playing a Spirit Fortress, but I guessed it was different to the one I'd seen previously as that exploited the Turtle's Guard/Hot Lead Flyin' combo which no longer worked post-errata. Not knowing quite what his deck was packing, I went with "The Badger" in place of Hamshanks for some potential aggro. I got an strong start, seeing Tlaloc's Furies and the likes of Steven Wiles and Daomei Wang early, but I couldn't capitalise as no Kidnappin's made their way into my hand and Vince was able to build a Maza Gang Hideout and Fortress up. As I've noted recently, Maza Gang is a far more annoying place to set up a Spirit Fortress than the Whateley Estate due to it not being adjacent to the town square, and unfortunately for me Vince had also picked up on that. My deck stalled on me for a few turns, giving me nothing but jokers, dudes, cheatin' resolutions and jack value deeds in my play hand and I couldn't cycle through them quickly enough, while lowball saw all the cards I wanted go into the discard pile.
Vince lured me into a shootout to draw "The Badger" out of position so I was unable to defend against Mariel and friends' subsequent Kidnappin' of Randall. This dropped my influence enough that if Nic appeared next turn I wouldn't be able to stop him voting his way to victory and conceded to Vince when Whateley entered play.
The final was best of three, and for the second round I decided to switch Randall out for Hamshanks now I knew Vince had Kidnappin's. Vince again set up an early fortress at the Maza Gang Hideout but I managed a successful Kidnappin' of Mariel with my cheap studs. Unfortunately I didn't see another one for a while and this gave Vince time to recover and start building a strong fortress, while I camped the town square building up my economy and getting plenty of dudes out. I brought out Allie and to start applying pressure, but by this point Vince had several Silver Pheasant's Bounties in play and a Monte Bank that everyone forgot about for a couple of turns, which crucially left him short of a ghost rock later on. I launched a successful Kidnap on Laughing Crow, but after that Vince started turning his massive pile of ghost rock into dudes so I held off on further kidnaps waiting for Nic to appear and kept building up. I think I got every dude but Daomei, Wiles and Abuelita into play and plenty of control points so I was in the better position if things went to time, as long as Vince didn't get the opportunity for everyone and their (dearly departed) granddad to fix vote for mayor. When Vince finally played Nic, I had a Kidnappin' ready and Vince opted to discard Nic. I thought he might have a second Nic in his hand but I looked at his ghost rock and he was one short, which he also realised at that point. Moooooontteeeeeeee Baaaaaaaank!
We were close to time. Next turn indeed saw another Nic, but I'd been lucky enough to draw into another Kidnappin' so launched that straight away. Time was called during the shootout, which meant that Vince didn't have a chance to balance out the chips and I won on total points.
On to round three. I went with the same start as last time. Vince didn't get an first turn Maza Gang Hideout, so set up a Pack Awakens at home then Mariel and Lydia Bear Hands made their way across town to Companhurst's. My opening hand didn't give me too many options and I was fearing a repeat of round one's deck stall. Next turn Vince started building totems at Companhurst's and with Mariel and Red Horse's Tail there I left him alone as I still didn't have the tools to evict him. I did have a Kidnappin' and a Furies, so when Vince gave Butch deuces a Monte Bank I fancied my chances with four stud and Worldly Desires against two stud, as I'd realised that Vince's early game draw structure also wasn't strong. Removing Vince's income, a shaman and a dude with potential influence all made it seem worth a shot so "The Badger" and Xiaodan Li grabbed their Kidnappin' sack and went after Butch. I drew my hand, looked at my cards and had to choose between a cheatin' 5oaK and a legal 4oaK. I went for the 4oaK, discarded my cards, checked my hand. All good. Vince was still deciding what to go for. I check my hand again. Cheatin' four of a kind? Ooops. I'd discarded the wrong card. That was a bad time to make such a mistake, especially as Vince called my three-cards-in-hand bluff and went for a cheatin' 5oaK then hit me with It's Not What You Know... to ace both dudes. Given he had It's Not what You Know and was two ranks higher, he could have got them both anyway so my error was probably moot.
With my Kidnap to deprive Vince of income spectacularly backfiring and losing me two dudes and giving him a net gain of ghost rock, the game swung massively in his favour. I used Hired Guns to get more influence out, with Forster Cooke being my best option. Next turn saw the arrival of Nicodemus, which put me in trouble as Vince had five dudes able to vote and they'd all made their way over to Companhurst's. I blocked town square so Vince had to use Beyond the Veil to move Nic, booting The Pack Awakens to carry him safely through the Hunting Grounds to the other side of town. I was left with no option but to throw all my dudes into Companhurst's knowing that two of them would probably be sent home. Since Forster would be the first target of Mariel anyway, he instead moved to The Joker's Smile to boost my other dudes' grit as Vince might then fail the Red Horse's Tail pull. Hiram got removed from the fight by Mariel, and Vince pulled just high enough to kick Hamshanks out with Red Horse's Tail leaving me with Asakichi Cooke and the Worldly Desires home to try and miraculously top deck at least one Dead Man's Hand and save the game. It didn't happen, and my cheatin' full house saw Asakichi discarded with Jael's Guile and Vince had the game.
After the very close first two rounds it felt a bit anticlimactic, but sometimes things just happen like that. I wasn't disappointed - I'd had an awesome weekend filled with fun games and great opponents, and finishing second in the largest Doomtown tournament to date was way beyond what I was expecting going into the weekend. Massive thanks to everyone involved whether as a player, judge or organiser for an excellent event!
|Jun 07, 2016 DoomDog|