A long way from La Mancha, these knights in shining Espuelas, guided by their impermeable code of ethics, were able to Rope and Ride the Santa Clara Sheriff, taking down three formidable opponents before riding off into the sunset...
Thanks to Sky for organizing this final chapter for that region, and to all the players who attended the event despite the announcement of the game's demise - the attendance was down by more than half since last year, with the Berkeley folks (Tom, James, and myself) comprising the bulk of the entrants, two locals (Sky and Don), and David Orange booting the trip from Sacramento. We decided on 1-hour rounds because of the modest turnout and a collective dislike of the tie-breaker rules (Influence = Control = WTF!).
As I am sure many metas have discovered, the release of Calling The Cavalry changed the competitive viability of "horse-decks" overnight. The earlier incarnations of this deck (Chess Spurs) struggled with overcoming what I consider an essential question any deck that dares to shoot must contend with in order to exercise control over Gomorra - "How am I going to beat the (hand rank 7) tie"? This card not only provides an answer to that question, but solves two additional problems: Providing a native way to generate more stud bonuses, and providing a counter to other powerful Headlines. All in modern 19th century chivalric style!
Match Up 1 - Sky's "Lucy on the street with Deputies" OG Lawdogs. This match up kicked off with Zoe Halbrook failing to create a Yagn's Mechanical Skeleton in a stroke of incredibly bad luck. I moved in to further stifle her economy by squatting deeds while simultaneously building up my own - my fistful of Pistol Whips keeping her early Bounty Hunters at bay. One shootout turning south for me gave Lucy Clover (Exp.1) and the boys a second wind, dropping Rafi Hamid and Abram Grothe (Exp.2) (for free!!), but I was able to use Run 'Em Down! to isolate her stronger dudes and superior mobility to leverage advantageous shootouts, eventually winning "the" high stakes shootout at The Mayor's Office to clinch the win just before time. A very swingy match up.
Match Up 2 - Don's "Judge Jia" Sanitarium deck. Fortunately I have played against this aggressive style of deck in two other competitive events before - The Texas Outlaw by it's original engineer, and at Gencon piloted by Mike Zarat - and so primed for the coming onslaught, less tempted to go "all in" with the first Forced Quarantine, I instead focused on getting my economy going to hire replacements and build slow momentum until I was good and ready to fight. This plan paid out for me. For the first three days, when Don sent his whole posse after my dudes, I didn't oppose the job, sending the entire starting cast to The Sanatorium, and letting him rack up three control points. I played deeds and horses and dudes all the meanwhile, and did my best to camp his deeds to keep his economy slow. He whittled at my structure with Sight Beyond Sight - I was able to surprise ride Jake Smiley down. On day four, when his blue stack matched my red stack (yikes!), I was ready to full oppose him with Lane Healey and Chuan "Jen" Qí taking stage to support Travis Moone and Maggie Harris. Before "the" shootout in the town square, he Sighted my Cavalry, and winning lowball, played No Funny Stuff, I decided to discard two random cards but lost my Cavalry in doing so, he in-turn Blood Cursed my shooter, but when the poker cards fell, I had the better draw, and soon Jia Mein (Exp.1) was facing off solo against my understudies and squires in a last ditch attempt to salvage the tempo from the early turns - but to no avail. A very close shave.
Match Up 3 - a mirror match - James's "Shooty Horsies." By far the most tense match up of the tourney for me because of all the "horse math." James had an almost identical starting posse, instead opting to hire on Jarrett Blake as his resident stud. He rustled up two horses before I could get a single one, and had me on the defensive from the first turn - I was avoiding shootouts with him because we both use Cavalry tactics and he had the definite "horse advantage" for nearly the entire game. So much so that, to avoid getting ridden down myself, I fled my dudes to the Long Strides Ranch for the entire middle portion of the game. I think what allowed me to play hide and seek was the difference between our chosen horse breeds - for every Mustang I had he matched me with Roans - this gave me mobility between in-town and out-of-town deeds and enabled me to tamper with his economy a little without exposing myself to a disadvantageous shootout. After incredible care on both sides of the table, and a little luck in a mid-game shootout I was forced into, I think my opponent broke focus and called me out at my "hideout" ranch with his horse advantage compromised somewhat - we tied hand ranks and he lost a key dude and his horse - this development turned the table advantage to my favor and I came out of hiding. After a few skirmishes around town, resulting in the exhaustion and injury (booting) of nearly every rancher in Gomorra, I collected a bounty and was able to drop Doris Powell who promptly saddled up and whirred around town patching the bruises and bullet-wounds to rope 3 control for the win. One of the headiest matches I have ever had.
So that's the report. Like it's progenitor, but even moreso, this deck is incredibly fun to play, and is capable of executing and mid-course-correcting different strategies throughout a match-up or even a tournament - a real toolkit. If you want to get A Piece of the Action, I recommend you give this deck a try - maybe rename it after another 16th-17th century classic? - or try it under the forthcoming Morgan Regulators home when that hits the shelf in the coming weeks. Cheers!