The Hustle is Real - US Marshal 2nd Place

published Aug 08, 2016 | | |
Card draw simulator
Odds: 0% – 0% – 0% – 0% more
Derived from
None. Self-made deck here.
Inspiration for
None yet

jordan caldwell 118

First off I'd like to say that I love the Doomtown community. I look forward to hopefully meeting all you lovely folks again at future Gencons where I assume that even though this great game is being shot down there will still be a casual and tournament scene in one capacity or another. And special thanks to David Orange for organizing a fun and crazy Outlaw culminating event - definitely the highlight of the con for me.

Speaking of being shot down, to summarize my Gencon 2016 experience, I feel like I struggled for 3 days to climb a very tall and steep mountain only to be shot right down when I reached the top. The finals match wasn't even really close - I found myself sitting across from a player whose deck was not only finely tuned but whose game was impossibly airtight. Congratulations to David Lapp for taking the tournament by storm!

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Before going into rounds, I'd like to share some of my learning experiences. I think I can narrow down the skills needed to play at a high competitive level to five items:

1 - Construction 2 - Piloting 3 - Research 4 - Nerves 5 - Luck

Construction: You need to build a deck that is ready to either execute a plan and/or respond to those executed by your opponents. I've heard it said that North American players "play to win" whereas European Union players "play to not lose" - both of these play styles are valid to me. Personally, I do tend to favor the latter style, because I enjoy exploring the strategic depth this game offers that is unmatched by any other card game that I know of. That said, I do feel the Den of Thieves, coupled with some powerful card/information-gathering grifters, is particularly strong because of the flexibility it offers. Whereas some homes commit you immediately to defending the townsquare whether you are ready or not (Desolation Row, Eagle Wardens, Oddities of Nature), and others necessitate that you stay safe at home to build up first (Morgan, Fourth Ring, Beyond the Veil), there is that third type of home that offers the flexibility of choosing between the two, allowing you to make your big moves when you are good and ready. The Den of Thieves really excels at both of these, between having lots of cheap (discounted) dudes to either use as casualties to back up a few solid shooters and early aggression, or by allowing you to camp your home and develop your economy and combos first mostly undisturbed by interaction. It's one of my favorite homes, if admittedly a little too good with the options available to it.

Piloting: I have been playing iterations of this deck against my Berkeley playgroup for awhile now - pretty much the moment Hustled made an appearance in the card pool. But, as a late-comer to Reloaded, I knew I didn't have the sheer number of games under my belt needed to play at the level of competition Gencon offers. Fortunately, I had two days and three mini-tournaments to get in as many games as I could with some veteran players who travelled from all over, and did a lot of learning about how to play my deck against people other than my home group. However, the last minute changes I made to the deck included cards that I had not really gotten used to playing, and I made many play mistakes partially as a result of that, leaning on the strength of the deck (and home) to allow me to bounce back in many cases. The deck, even if really strong, won't pilot itself, and I knew I had my work cut out for me.

Research: It's one thing to casually peruse the database and take a look at strong archetypes and quite another to actually play against them. Again I used the two days to explore the Gencon meta, not really having an idea what to expect (except "watch out for slide"). I saw other players doing this as well, but as I was focusing on still learning how to play my own deck, I wasn't really ready to assimilate all of the information gleaned from watching other people play theirs. Maybe a little bit? The last minute changes I made to the original version included pulling back my structure a little bit to add Jacqueline and Mugging and to replace my Devil's Jokers for regular ones. I saw a lot of aggressive decks that used tricky goods/attachments and had lots of Cheatin' punishment. So I tried to adjust accordingly.

Nerves: This one got to me especially. This is the biggest tournament I have been to and had lots of stellar players that have developed their skills over the two years since Reloaded's release. Some of these folks have impenetrable poker faces and nerves of steel. I found myself intimidated at times by the composure my opponents would keep across the table from me - whether they were ahead or behind! Between games, because of the intensity of the match-ups, I needed to walk off some nervous energy - a need that has never surfaced for me in casual play.

Luck: Is luck a skill? Not entirely sure but I caught a few lucky breaks at a few critical moments where I gambled that my deck would come through for me in one way or another - usually in pitching and redrawing for a drawhand or playhand - and it did. Other times, especially in the earlier tournaments or for my finals match, I felt my luck had run out.

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The Three Finals Cut Rounds

My first match-up was with my longtime Classic friend Mike Zarat. We actually had dinner the night before and discussed how to beat eachother's decks. He was running an aggressive Jia Mein and Forced Quarantine deck, and each turn for several turns took out one of my dudes and accumulated control points, and got just shy of winning on day 3 or 4. It started to look bleak, so I decided that instead of saving my Coachwhips for fighting him (he didn't cheat), I would use them to boot Jia during lowball. This strategy bought me some time to build up for a couple turns, and I was able to turn it around with the culminating event of serving Avie Cline with papers via the Tax Office.

My second match-up was with a solid player who I had seen the day before who beat me good with a Warden Blockade deck. Today, he showed Morgan, and I pulled out my "slide starters" duped into thinking that if he was running Force Field that he'd choose a different home card. Whoops. Rico saved my tail here, and a lucky opening draw gave me 3 extra dudes to his 3 extra gadgets. I wanted to play a big deed uncontested, so I sent Travis to town to Hustle his Jen and sent Miranda out to lure his other dude out of position, and sacrificing them both, dropped Market Street without contest. Next turn I drew and played Sloane and slid everybody into the townsquare and still having the dude advantage won an attrition shootout that sealed me the win.

My third match-up was for the Marshal Badge: two Dens of Thieves. I won the coin flip, and four grifters did their thing. Finally, after the long pre-game planning, I made an early bid to contest a deed and got beat in a long shootout where he played a key Sun in Yer Eyes on the third round, sending my posse home booted. He pressed the advantage from there, forcing me into a situation where my only "good" moves were desperate ones. Game two played out only slightly differently, with me trying out a different starting posse, and attempting to move him out of position by offering Allie Hensman as Shotgun bait, which he didn't take, and left me with a whittled posse and again trying to rebuild economy to no avail. Yup. Gomorra doesn't have enough room for two Dens...

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If anybody has any questions about the deck, or ideas for improving it, let me know here. Enjoy!

2 comments
Aug 08, 2016 Prodigy

Great write up, and congratulations! Those 5 points are right on - I had always considered 4 of them, but your point of bringing up Nerves is a good one. I tend to spend a lot of time in the 'construction', 'research', and 'playtest' categories, so I've always found that going into the tournament with a lot of confidence makes the 'Nerves' category almost non-existent.

Do you mind talking a little about your starting posse strategy? Did you start with a 'false' posse, intending to use Rico every time no matter what? What was your base/typical line up after Rico, and what sorts of things would make you change, and to what?

Aug 10, 2016 jordan caldwell

Totally. I start combination of Starters, Dupes, and Replacements.

Starters: Rico (always), Travis (always unless I suspect slide or semi-slide), plus 2-4 Dupes who I typically swap out picked from among dudes who I feel will contribute the least based on opponent's Home information.

Dupes: Typically Sanford, Ulysses, and/or Sammy, who get subbed in for the Replacements. If I need a fourth I usually go for another dude who I would rather draw later than sooner - usually Lawrence as he can contest a deed while exercising a persistent threat, or another non-A-4-7 dude if I expect an early fight.

Replacements: These folks will replace the Dupes based on the information gained from my opponent's first play hand (courtesy Rico). Allie if I need to ignite immediate board pressure, Lawrence similarly and they are running deeds, Jake if I expect to build up at home a few turns, or Clementine similarly if I draw a saloon, Marion if I want to contest deeds and their cheatin' resolutions look loose, Barton if I draw a Kidnappin' and they lack an opening cheatin' resolution and I need to strike early, or for a mirror match, Makaio and Milt if I see moderate aggression and plan on also developing economy while defending my own deeds (this is probably the most frequent), Willa if I expect aggression but their cheatin' punishments are likely only rank-based, Angelica if I expect shootout actions that can remove a my dudes from a fight (like Mariel or Wendy), Jacqueline if I need a second cheap stud for "passive aggression" (like having more influence at their deed, or to protect Allie or Sammy from their call out), and finally I may switch back in Ulysses if I see them running Clementine or Sammy if they are playing an early turtling gadget or goods deck.

Against Slide: I will usually finalize with Rico, Jake, Allie, Lawrence, and Makaio - this combination maximizes economy and allows the immediate contest of 3 deeds. If they don't draw 3 deeds and I draw a Hustled, I will use Travis in place of Lawrence here for an even bigger cash boost.

It's worth noting that as the deck has 20 dudes, I can usually count on drawing a few more over the first few turns - I will frequently take an early chance with my starting dudes by going a little lighter than needed in order to save extra cash and drop some bigger players in the adolescent phase of the game - Hustled really helps here because it allows me to not only make money but also potentially stall their onboard threat cards (big studs, dangerous attachments, or even clutch deed abilities) - I can frequently take my opponent by surprise with it.

I almost feel bad about the amount of time this takes in the early game where most decks are ready for lowball - but these early knowledge-based decisions are really half the fight for the Den player, and the true source of power for the home.