Blessed Dogs - We're There! - Top 8 Gencon 2017 Marshal

published Aug 24, 2017 | | |

Prodigy 695

This is the deck that went 5-1 in swiss, with its one loss in the final round, to make it into the top 8 at the Gencon World Championship this year. Take a look at this list, and you will notice something missing that previously many people (including me) thought was necessary for a blessed deck (at least with Law Dogs) to win. More on that later...

After some rough losses with the previous version of this deck in the recent OCTGN Epitaph league, I was frantically searching for another deck to bring to the world championship at Gencon this year. I was able to top 8 that league (dropping out, though), so while I was able to recover from some early losses in the league, I was more importantly able to see more clearly some deep flaws of the deck. Check out the deck this one was derived from for its details.

The biggest flaw was income! I started with 2 GR most games, after losing lowball, and that's usually not enough to put down a deed turn 1, or even turn 2 in some cases - especially if I have a miracle or two that I need to put on my blessed. Out went Tommy Harden and Jake Smiley, in went "Thunder Boy" Nabbe and Willa Mae MacGowan. 3 more starting GR makes all the difference in the world, even if my income was reduced because of Thunder Boy. It's enough to kick start my economy, greatly speed up the deck, and give myself a great location to start a fight and get bounty on opponents if they are brave enough to stick around and fight on my private property.

That change in starting posse kicked off a whole chain of other changes. Losing Tommy is a MASSIVE blow to my ability to punish cheatin' hands, so more cheatin' punishment was brought in, both in goods and in actions. Even so, I often found myself without a cheatin' res when I really needed it, so if it weren't for the income factor I'd rather have Tommy over Thunder Boy on most occasions. Don't get me wrong, Thunder Boy is amazing, especially with Onward Christian Soldiers, which makes for an unstoppable 4 stud dude, but this deck doesn't need more than a total stud rating of 2 to do well.

At its core, though, it's mostly the same deck, so see my previous description for those details.

Have you noticed what is missing, yet? Lose to win and attrition!!! More specially, there is no Takin' Ya With Me or Point Blank, just pure, uncut casualty reduction and shootout actions with a 15/15/11 draw structure. Unless you've been closely following discussions on blessed lately, you won't realize how important this is.

There has been a lot of recent discussion around blessed decks, and how it could be bad for the game if their main winning strategy was a lose-to-win type that some people find very unfun to play against. There have been a deck or two posted that use 108 blessed with Onward Christian Soldiers, and maybe one other miracle, but overall most blessed decks (especially the Law Dog variety - here's a perfect example by our new Marshal ) all had some sort of point blank attrition and/or lose-to-win strategy employed. My goal, foolish as I worried it might be, was to buck this trend and see if it were possible to do well without either of those strategies. Employing casualty reduction, admittedly, has some element of attrition just by itself, but that isn't the main strategy. The casualty reduction is there mainly to either allow Cheating Through The Pain, or acting as a 'get out of a bad shootout free' tactic. That, combined with Willa Mae MacGowan, allowed me to be extremely aggressive from turn 1. If you're sitting on my deeds, I will most certainly call you out, even without any miracles.

I'm very happy it worked well, and with future expansions I have high hopes that lose-to-win will most certainly not be necessary for blessed decks to perform well.

Onto the tournament, which I attended after an extremely long and exhausting, but fun day at the Evil Is A Choice tournament. I will blame my poor memory and likely mistakes below on that... :)

Round 1 Tom with Protection Racket

I was worried in the beginning, as Tom was able to get some good cash going early on, but I was able to bring the fight to my own deeds, and in combination with the bounty on his dudes and my miracles, it was too much for the Sloane gang to handle. 1-0

Round 2 Jevon with Justice in Exile

The first mirror match. I was lucky the first 2/3rds of the game in that I never cheated in lowball or any shootout hands, so not having any bounty on my dudes stalled his efforts quite well. We had a lot of back and forth with no major gains on either side, but I was able to build up quite the pile of miracles so there was no way I was going to lose before time. I hate when games go to time, but when it did I was expecting to be ahead by a lot as I had a lot of dudes (including Wiles), but after counting it was only a 1 point difference! Very close, and overall very well played by Jevon. 2-0 (at time, only 3 points)

Round 3 Eventual finalist DeVon Green with Desolation Row

This is always a rough match, and DeVon did not disappoint. I can't remember the details of the match (seriously, we've played this match up so many times!) but I remember at one point (maybe turn 3, at the latest) I was in a very bad situation where if something major didn't go my way, I'd lose that turn. I ran a do-or-die kidnappin on Fred Aims, which was opposed by his single Mario Crane. I think Tolarios was coachwhipped in the process, but finally he managed to show a cheatin flush, so while he only took 1 casualty and sent him home booted, the job was successful and Fred was discarded. That put me out of check. This was one of the few times I managed enough self control to leave a dude with influence unbooted at home, instead of bringing everyone into the fight (I have major problems with this usually), and I was able to waltz over and seal the win as his Lawrence was booted on my deed. Very close game. 3-0

Round 4 Greg with Law Dogs Hangin Judge

Yikes, another hyper-aggressive deck! I think Greg made a grave mistake in marking Thunder Boy with his Andrew Burton. I let the Judges job pass, grabbed my confession with Tolarios, and henceforth transferred each bounty he placed into my bank account. Normally I can do very well against early aggression, and had he chose to run the job on Tolarios I would have opposed, but this bought me enough time to get miracles and economy going, and after running my own Bounty Hunter backed by Steven Wiles and aggression against him, the game was over in short order. 4-0

Round 5 David Hammond with Justice in Exile

My 3rd Law Dogs match of the day, good lord! I expected a more typical Law Dogs match up, but was very quickly brought to my heels by turn after turn of Bounty Hunter and Ol' Fashioned Hangin'. The aggression was constant and unrelenting, and while I held on fairly well, it was becoming too much. At one point he very wisely risked cheatin, and found I didn't have a response, so that made for a very uphill battle as I frantically searched through my deck for some sort of cheatin' res. It wasn't long before I had lost both my blessed AND Thunder Boy, and it was not looking good. However, his constant intrusions into my home made for a TON of bounty being built up on his dudes, and when I would snag the occasional casualty, I raked in large piles of cash. My timing on knowing when to cut my losses and let the job succeed helped, as well - this is a trait I have historically been poor at.

The combination of 2 lucky legal 4oaKs, and pulling in all that bounty let me survive and build up with lots more dudes, including Wiles which could easily be paid for many rounds (I must have had at least 15-20 GR piled up in addition to 8+ GR a turn from deeds). Unlike me, Hammond couldn't seem to find any dudes to hire, so again I had luck on my side. It was getting very close to time in the round, and I think Hammond sent off one final spot removal (Ol Fashioned Hanging or Kidnappin, I can't remember). This would most certainly be the last fight of the game, and finally I found myself with a This'll Hurt in the Mornin' in hand. He risked cheatin' again (4oaK I think), and again luck was on my side as my This'll Hurt turned his rank 8 into a rank 3. He lost all his dudes, and that was game, with about a minute or less on the clock. Definitely one of the most difficult, intense, and fun games. 5-0

Round 6 Stephen Holder with Gamblin Regulators

Within the first couple of turns I saw The Gambler's Gun hit the table, and in combination with his clearly weak draw structure made it very clear what kind of deck I was facing. Chances are I could lean on Hattie and my other club actions to hit his studs hard, use my Get Behind Me, Satan! to survive the first round of hand rank bumping against his Calling The Cavalry, then dominate all subsequent rounds. I was pretty confident, and things were going pretty well, but he built up a few deeds pretty quickly and I wasn't able to find any decent income or influence, myself.

He built up a few dudes and had 2 gamblers guns, one on a Nathan Shane (who was later able to snipe my one cheatin' punishment from my hand, at one point). I had a It's Not What You Know... in hand, just waiting for him to cheat in lowball, but when the single opportunity arose, I didn't have the 2 GR! I could have swept up his 2 most powerful dudes in one blow, but my lack of income really was a problem (I think all I had was a single Maza Gang Hideout).

It wasn't long before I moved into the town square with Rev. Perry Inbody, since I was in check and something had to be done. I figured if I won the fight and his dudes either died or went home booted, I'd be able to use Perry to unboot whoever was left with influence and take over a deed. My 3 dudes with influence were all desperately needed for that fight, so they all had to join booted from home.

As planned, I beat back the Regulators and they fled back into his home. I searched my discard and found there was only 1 card in my 30+ card deck that could fail Perrys pull. Guess which one card I pulled when trying to unboot Thunder Boy? It was instantly game over! I think it still would have been a tough fight with all his dudes and income, but fate wasn't having it. Fun game, and I really like Stephens deck. 5-1, onto the Top 8

Top 8 Round 1 Max with Classic Law Dogs

Time for Max to get his revenge from the previous days tournament. I saw the terrifying trio of Tommy Harden, "Thunder Boy" Nabbe, and Hattie DeLorre and knew this would be a tough match. I had a very solid chance if I could grab an early Confession, which would essentially turn off 2 of those dudes, but Max did very well in maneuvering outside of Tolarios' reach. He also had an early B & B Attorneys so he effectively cut off each bounty I would place every turn, which was exactly the strategy I was trying to employ. By the time I was finally able to use Tolarios, he had a Xiong "Wendy" Cheng in play (along with a steady income) so I had to search instead for a Walk the Path. Tolarios had a Pedro, so in combination with Walk the Path, everyone would be staying in my posse unless he had multiple 'send home booted' actions.

There was a somewhat early fight in the town square, but I had to use Willa (can't remember if I caused any casualties in the fight). My income was terrible in this game, too, and I wasn't able to build up my economy or dudes. It wasn't much longer before an Ol' Fashioned Hangin' came my way into my home, and while I had all the tools to properly defend it, I made my first huge mistakes of 2 days of tournaments. He had Wendy unbooted, and the rest of his gang with her. I had an Unprepared in hand, an Onward Christian Soldiers, and Tolarios with Pedro and Walk the Path, and a booted Thunder Boy at an adjacent deed. All I had to do was use Unprepared on wendy, bring in Thunder Boy, use Onward Christian Soldiers, then use Thunder Boys ability for an untouchable 4 stud. What did I do?

I will blame the following events on 2 exhausting (but fun) days of Doomtown. I first used Walk the Path to bring in Thunder Boy, who was quickly booted back home by Wendy. I then used Unprepared on someone (didn't matter at that point, I think he'd already used his Thunder Boy), then Tolarios got Sun in his Eyes. At that point, my Onward Christian Soldiers was completely useless on a bunch of draw dudes, and my fate was sealed as he proceeded to destroy my posse rather easily, and with his multiple deeds on the board it was game over.

Well played by Max, very poorly played by me, but I was not disappointed. I had a very good run over the past 2 days, and couldn't have been happier with how I did. Only one major misplay over 2 days is very good, as I'm usually prone to at least a few per tournament. My decks did unexpectedly well, and in combination with the sportsmanship, humor, and competitiveness of my opponents I couldn't have asked for more! Thanks again to all the volunteers and to the Pinebox crew for everything!

Post Script

I don't think I would have changed anything with the deck, as my few last minute changes seemed to be very solid. However, it seems that income is still a very big problem for this style of deck, and until some better dudes come out it will probably remain that way. My one strategy to get around this was to start with a higher starting GR, but I sacrifice income in the process. That means if I don't get a deed early, I am doomed.

Tolarios makes the blessed so powerful that perhaps this is not a bad thing, as they might otherwise become too unbalanced, but I look forward to seeing what new cards are heading our way. Here's to the successful Kickstarter to come!

Aug 24, 2017 InvertedGuard

After reading the report and looking the list over, only suggestion I have would be -1 dude +1 deed. Clyde is one of those cards that seems great to have in principle but I've never actually gotten into play, so he could be could candidate to replace with a 2nd Carter's or Baird's

Glad to see the deck doing well.

Aug 24, 2017 Prodigy

I do like that suggestion a lot. I never played him, and rarely intended to as he's mostly there for draw structure or vs slide, but a deed instead would keep the structure in tact and help with the income problem.

I said it in the original list, but thanks again @InvertedGuardfor your ideas along the way in helping shape this list.

Aug 24, 2017 InvertedGuard

No problem :)

Aug 28, 2017 Harlath

Excellent report! Really helps give a feel for your matches.

Congratulations on showing LD Blessed can't compete - they have some issues but a powerhouse like Father Tolarios can cover up a lot of weak spots.

I look forward to seeing what you and others can do with Sentinel. Tolarios's Blessed 2 skill means this deck could fit it in and still pass its Miracle checks. Do you think you'd tweak this deck and use Sentinel or rebuild from the ground up to hold Town Square?

Aug 28, 2017 Harlath

Can compete dammit. Noticed just as I clicked Submit...

Jan 18, 2018 Prodigy

In reviewing this deck, I apologize for missing your question ``@Harlath`. I was, and still am, excited about Sentinel. However, I have found that the blessed dude pool being as weak as it is, I feel more or less forced to use Tolarios and Perry. Being able to reliably use Perrys ability is crucial, so 5's don't fit into this starting posse. I've tried 5's, and while I like the value a lot for this deck, it's too low for Perry.

If some better blessed choices come out, I will most certainly be using 5's. Likely 5/7/8 is the strongest option.