Philadelphia was smaller than I expected. I felt like I could walk from downtown to the bridge in like 15 minutes. They have one of those new snazzy bars that are popping up all over urburbia, with folks waiting in line like at a club or concert for a seat upon a hand-crafted wooden bench. Somebody spilled a beer all over Clementine Lepp and didn’t even apologize. I ordered pickles and they were delicious.
Thanks to the Pinebox crew for all their work organizing this tournament - the “Fannin’ the Hammer” playmats are gorgeous (especially to Classic enthusiasts), and the Bottlecaps of specific cards (including a pink Shiny Things!) really emphasize the art and add to the visual and “manipulable” appeal of playing what is effectively a table-top card-board game. Brilliantly done.
This deck I like very much, and this is it’s fourth incarnation: born in Berkeley, growing up in San Diego, hitting maturity in Portland, and finally retiring in Philly. A “toolbox” at it’s core, it can slide or shoot in the same match - you just need to decide at which stage of the game you want to put your dudes at risk (early, mid, late), and go for it.
The newest addition to the deck is Raven, which didn’t really change the overall strategy - development and passive aggression - but did alter the ratio of the two slightly by allowing the deck to make stronger early bids at opposing deeds, which, resulted in needing to increase the number of “hard” cheatin’ resolutions to give teeth to those runs: enter It's Not What You Know.... And while I adore using cute movement and position tricks to maximize the threat of Jael's Guile, which this deck can handily deliver, a clever player and/or a movement-focused deck can mitigate that aspect completely. Keeping 2 ghost rock at all times is also pretty easy given the sheer power of this deck’s economy.
What I still find most appealing about Protection Racket in general is that it is your opponent (not you!) that dictates the flow of your game by the pace with which they play their deeds(!). And like it’s predecessors, this deck takes advantage of that by making your opponent think twice about playing them, because you can make kegs of money from occupation (we need a better word for the phrase “control but do not own”). Only now, the servitor gives you the means to survive the callout that will invariably follow your unwelcome arrival. As a result, many opponents will simply withhold playing a deed, at least at first, putting their capital “on strike” as it were. But, you can respond to this by building and defending your own - or even better, if you are lucky enough to draw a Saloon, to do so without risk.
Perhaps the best workaround Raven’s negative trait is the fact that it doesn’t penalize draw dudes for being agressive - indeed sometimes the best callouts are issued from non-stud dudes - I often find myself deciding exactly when and how to deploy Travis Moone on a serious mission, hoping to “luck into” beating or tying his mark, or, fail miserably (by more than 1 rank) so as not to muddy the structure in the long term. Outside of these scenarios, I often find that I rarely need to issue callouts to my opponent (instead letting the board pressure mount passive-aggressively), unless I want to explicitly draw dudes booted into a shootout where I can threaten to hammer them by the pair (often with the help of Make 'em Sweat or Unprepared here).
Anyhow, this deck is super fun, and here was my match-by-match breakdown for the PAX Unplugged Story Tournament:
1st match vs Landon's Hand-layin' Holy Deputies, run out of Abram's Crusaders fronted by Father Tolarios to the sermonizing of Ezekiah Grimme. As Landon didn't hold church, or any deeds for that matter, I headed over to the saloon instead, and we both built up for a few turns - me and my money, him and his absolution from losin' faith (plucking low-value pull-failin' Miracles from his deck using Grimme) - including Lawrence Blackwood giving a full Confession (edit: redacted). We skirmished here or there across the pub crawl - at times the same dude twice in the same day (thanks to Rev. Perry Inbody and the Lay On Hands miracle) - but the only luck he seemed to have was pullin' legal hand rank 8 off of low bullet posses when the stakes were decidedly low (like when taking down a solo Travis Moone in the Townsquare) while being forced to cheat (and get caught!) when the stakes were decidely high (like when fighting Maria Kingsford (whose soul is riding on these tourneys!) at a key deed). These defeats, while not hard removal, were sufficient to clear the board for a path to victory.
2nd match vs Tayler's Mechanical-Arm Knife-fighters, run out of The 108 Righteous Bandits, head by fragile but fearless Michael "The Badger" Dodge just waiting for his latest tech (Tlaloc's Furies) to integrate into his bionics. During those few turns while I was making my money sellin' beer and protection, Natalya tried to sneak into the bar and steal all the cash from the register - so we had to 86 her (permanently). I think this ploy doubled as a structure test for my opponent, and seein' that the deck could in fact shoot, reinforced the plan to build up before going on the full offense. This final fight was fought on the other side of the street, with round one the bandits serving up a wallop hitting a natural Dead Man's hand, but subsequent rounds either resulting in a tied or by-one difference, broken bottles and all, with Sloane herself coming out on top at the expense of pretty much the rest of her entire gang, like some 109th bandit.
3rd match vs Eric's Eagle Wardens run out of Beyond the Veil with Sarah Meoquanee at the helm. This game was short, sort of an “all-in-early" sort of affair, and I made the "hard read" decision to strike when the deck was at it's most vulnerable - the first few turns while all of the spirits are still "in" the deck. So, I didn't play any deeds and nor did he, until about three turns in when suddenly St. Anthony's Chapel was church-raised - I played The Fixer, who, fixin’ for a fix, piled on and was immediately followed by Barton Everest and the rest of my starting posse taking turns with his Shamans, in rapid succession, all in an effort to prevent (or for him, to expedite) it's inevitable transformation into an insurmountable Spirit Fortress. Instead, we fought a few quick rounds where he ran clean and I ran dirty but went unpunished, and the game was over. This very easily could have swung a different way. We then proceeded to play 2 or 3 side games, which were an absolute blast.
4th match vs Max’s Dog Days Backpocket-Straightflush Shooter, starring the “the man the myth the legend” "Thunder Boy" Nabbe, his friends Philip Swinford, Henry Moran, Tommy Harden, and Hattie DeLorre, and his hounds (Bluetick and Faithful Hound) out of the original home. This is perhaps a Sloane player’s toughest match-up, as this posse is especially mighty if you fight them on their own private turf. Knowing this, I tried to stay to my side of the board, only to be descended upon relentlessly, harranged by a constant onslaught of jobs coupled with bullet-reduction. Despite never seeming to be permitted to keep a stud in a fight, I lucked some pretty impressive draws (legal full house on 2 draw at least twice), only to tie and trade casualties with sidekicks. To add insult to injury, on turn one he played 2nd Bank Of Gomorra, and every day banked two ghost rock upon it, and never emptying it, tempting me with money into silly and reckless plays, only to cut my schemes short with clever cardplay. I think by the time he closed out the game, he had “saved up” 12 ghost rock, utterly unspent. This game, in spite of or perhaps due to this nonsense, was the highlight of the tourney for me.
My 5th game was a rematch with Landon. I sent Gomorra’s greatest hero, Travis Moone, to the Townsquare to “Head ‘em Off at the Pass” - having witnessed his bounty-search-cash engine and wanting to stall it by shorting the adjacency access - who was quickly cut down. So I let him alone to work and pray, and instead focused on my own development and general economic disruption, booting back and forth between deeds in- and out-of-town, with a key moment being playing La Quema just before he called me out, allowing me to boot his Blessed and prevent the saving grace that was his lifeline, and forcing a retreat. Twice-cursed, I believe the nail in the coffin was him botching a pull to unboot his dude, condemning Inbody to an unhappy fate in the back alley of a bruisey bar while leaving his backup stranded on the other side of Gomorra.
My 6th and last game was a rematch with Max. I made an adjustment, which I honestly should have done the first time, by starting Makaio Kaleo, Esq. in Lawrence’s place, which had the side effect of (if slightly) loosening my structure to better compete in Lowball. And, although I was able to delay his full range of tricks by shifting bounty off of key dudes, this game started to go similarly to last game until he made a play-mistake, most probably due to fatigue (from the “Walrus Punch” that was his prior match-up with Jevon!?), in which he grossly overcommitted to a shootout against the unintimidating Darragh Mèng, an unlikely MVP, leaving a ripe board exposed. To be fair, by this time we were both pretty brain-fried, but the play mistake I made was “correctable” - I forgot to draw back my play hand at Sundown, and asked him after Lowball if I could retroactively recoup that loss, to which he sportingly acquiesed, ever eager to play a “good game” as they say. A true gentleman, and a reminder of why I love the Doomtown community so much.
|Nov 20, 2017 BeastEG|
|Nov 20, 2017 Harlath|
|Nov 20, 2017 Projectwinterstorm|
|Nov 20, 2017 jordan caldwell|
|Nov 20, 2017 Projectwinterstorm|
|Nov 21, 2017 jordan caldwell|
|Nov 21, 2017 Projectwinterstorm|
|Nov 21, 2017 DoomDog|
|Nov 21, 2017 Projectwinterstorm|
|Nov 21, 2017 crx3800|
|Nov 22, 2017 davido|
|Nov 22, 2017 davido|
|Nov 22, 2017 jordan caldwell|
|Dec 19, 2017 Ike|
|Dec 19, 2017 Harlath|