Judicial Activism - 1st Place 2017 Portland Winter Event

published Feb 26, 2017 | | |
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Yipe 45

The Portland, OR gang held a "Doomtown Lives!" tournament to celebrate the game's renewal by Pine Box Entertainment (third time's a charm, right?). This deck came in 1st place after 4 rounds of Swiss, going 3-1 in a field of 8 players.

It was played by my 10-year-old daughter.

This is her 4th Doomtown tournament, of which she has won 3 (including our 2016 Portland Deputy event). As the only minor that plays in our group she's a brave kid. My daughter played her first tournament at the age of 9 and everyone went easy on her because she was "just a little girl." The kid gloves came off for our Deputy event, but she won that as well, going undefeated with the same deck in both tournaments (a Clyde Owens + Legendary Holster Law Dogs deck called "Aim Low").

She is a hyper-aggressive player that likes to press her luck in shootouts even when the odds are against her. If there's a nail sticking up she wants to hammer it, so I design decks that cater to her aggressive nature. This deck is a hybrid of an older Judge Somerset Law Dog deck I built called "Mandatory Sentencing" and an all-clubs Desolation Row deck I've used in the past.

I build her decks but she has the final say on what cards go in them. For example, I initially had x2 An Accidental Reunion after getting repeatedly hit with it during one of our weekly Gunfight Nights. However, she likes to throw down 5oaKs so requested those be removed for more Pinned Downs instead. I also try to keep things streamlined for her, which is why there are doubles of several key deeds and not very many dudes. And as she likes shootouts I give her lots and lots of actions to play.

Design Notes
This deck wants to go first. Therefore, the structure is a little looser than most of my decks to help it win lowball. It's important to run the job with Judge Harry Somerset (Exp.1) before any hexes, weapons or gadgets can be played. Andrew Burton kicks off the action and Willa Mae MacGowan is your get-out-of-jail free card in case things go sideways. I feel Willa is critical to the deck. Otherwise, the risk is too great that the Judge may die which would be an almost guaranteed loss - always a problem with aggressive decks built around one particular dude.

Faster on the Draw or Bowie Knife are good second-round shootout plays if you have to ace the Gunslinger on round one but don't want to use Willa to send everybody home quite yet.

Steven Wiles is there to protect the Gomorra Jail or as a sneaky follow-up to the Judge's job. After your starting posse goes home booted, your board position looks weak which can lure your opponent into a sense of complacency. If they boot someone for an effect, a surprise late-day Steven can hunt them down. Finally, I included Hawley's Rose over Blue Tick to help bolster the deck's influence in case Tommy Harden unexpectedly dies.

Turn 1 Win 1-0
She played another Justice In Exile deck that had a similar starting posse - Andrew, Tommy, the Gomorra Jail, Philip Swinford and "Thunder Boy" Nabbe. However, that deck was more balanced in its approach, specializing in getting dudes wanted and then flooding the board with dudes and deeds from GR earned by collecting bounties. She went after "Thunder Boy" right away and was able to out-action and out-rank her opponent for a win.

Turn 2 Win 2-0
It was a family feud as she battled against my Sanatorium deck, murderizing my starting posse even after I played No Funny Stuff and discarded her Faster on the Draw.

Turn 3 Win 3-0
She went up against a Desolation Row Huckster deck that has done quite well in previous tournaments - it ended up taking 2nd place in this event. She successfully ran the Judge's job against Emilia Vivirias on turn one (though her opponent wisely didn't commit the rest of his posse to oppose it). She looked weak as he started to throw down control points, but she then brought out Steven to shore up her influence, ran the job again the next day to take out Theo Whateley-Boyer and that was it.

Turn 4 Loss 3-1
She squared off with our best player who brought a Gateway To Beyond deck that would ultimately take 3rd place, and this time she met her match. It had the staying power to fend off her aggressive attacks, harrowed token spirits to drag out the gunfights and decent economy to bring back discarded dudes. She was able to discard all of his starting posse but they slowly returned one-by-one and he eventually out-controlled her. It was a fairly long game.

Potential Tweaks
For the future, she has asked me to drop the Shotguns in favor of x4 Bowie Knives, and I may cut the Jail and Tommy in exchange for Jake Smiley and Hattie DeLorre. The Jail doesn't play nicely with the Justice in Exile home ability, Hattie is another aggressive shootout tool (though Tommy's trait was quite effective all day) and Jake would give the deck 5 starting influence so it's easier to do the job and then sit at home, especially with Philip and x3 Steven Wiles waiting in the wings.

Feb 28, 2017 Harlath

Congratulations to you and your daughter as co-designers. Nice to see a shootout deck with a slightly looser structure doing well (this makes Bottom Dealin' shine!). Excellent timing for a tournament and good to see solid attendance.

Liked the notes on the potential tweaks, also I wonder if losing Tommy might be an issue - he's a handy back up stud and cheatin' punishment, as you noted!

I suppose that if you're adding 4x Bowie Knife his back-up studliness is less of an issue, and I can see the argument for the knives given the low starting rock and income here.

Slightly light on control points, which might make victory tough even if you wipe out a few opposing dudes. It looks like few of the games were long enough to make the lack of reliable ways to make people wanted a big issue? I'd be concerned about relying on Justice In Exile, as it really struggles to make people wanted against 108 Worldy or any slide decks, both occasions where you'll really need it. 2x The Evidence is a solid idea, but there's a risk of it flying past in lowball.

Anyway, bravo to both of you again! :)

Mar 01, 2017 Yipe

Harlath, thanks for the kind words and the suggestions. Her deck did struggle to make dudes wanted in that last game vs the Eagle Wardens as he didn't cheat during lowball. Here are some ideas I've been kicking around to address the deck's weaknesses:

-2 Quickdraw Handgun
+2 The Evidence

Between the home ability, x2 Notary Public and x4 The Evidence, you should be able to run the Judge's job most turns. The Quickdraw Handgun is nice, but hopefully the other 8 cheatin' resolutions can pick up the slack.

-1 Pat's Perch
+1 The Gomorra Gazette

This gives the deck a little more access to control and more economy. There are several deeds at the 2 and 3 value with 2 Control Points each, but they're expensive and I'm not sure they would see play. The best choices would probably be Hustings and The Town Hall for their interaction with Notary Public. If I cut the Gomorra Jail then I'd have to include at least 1 of these, if not both.

As for dropping Tommy Harden, I'm not 100% convinced it's a good idea as he's quite useful. However, x4 Bowie Knife and x4 Faster on the Draw + Hattie DeLorre makes for a nice surprise stud and her ability is quite strong. I could also see swapping out Shelby Hunt for Olivia Jenks as he she would benefit from the Bowie Knife and give the deck more mobile influence.

If you have any more advice, please share it!

Mar 01, 2017 DoomDog

Hattie is amazing. -5 bullets will wipe out most decks' main shooter, so definitely worth trying out.

The Orphanage is another Government deed on 3 that works with Notary Public to add bounties. Town Council is another cheap option to consider.

I'd consider doubling up on the Circle M Ranch over The Gomorra Gazette. The Gazette is great if you can reliably place bounties, but the Ranch has better basic production and a great ability.

Olivia in for Shelby sounds like a good idea for those longer games where mobile influence is key. I'd also look into making a space for "Thunder Boy" Nabbe as he's cheap and amazing for any deck that wants to go after wanted dudes.

The thing to be wary of if you're thinking of going for 4x The Evidence is that to add bounty to a dude you have to ace the card, so it'll be permanently removed from the draw structure.

Mar 03, 2017 Lapp

@Yipe, what is your daughter's name? We'd like to congratulate her on the Pine Box page!

Mar 03, 2017 Gazette_Alex

Please do @Yipe. Email us at pineboxentertainment (at) gmail {Dot} com.

Mar 03, 2017 Yipe

@Lapp and @Gazette_Alex,

That is very kind of you. She will be over the moon to see her name on your site!

The boys in her class all play Magic. When she tells them she plays Doomtown they say it's a stupid game and she's dumb for playing it (ah, the joys of 5th Grade). This makes her sad, and at times she feels like she chose to like an unpopular game. It will be nice for her to have some recognition that Doomtown is, indeed, a cool and fun card game to play.

Mar 08, 2017 bithlord

Someone else may have noticed this, but the Jail plays just fine with the home ability. It sequences as follows:

I lose a shootout, and have 1 casualty. I discard my wanted dude. Your jail sees another players wanted dude getting discarded and says "sweet, I can get a CP". Does so. [jail triggers off "when X happens"]. Then, after the dude gets discarded, and your jail has triggered, the home says "round up the mob, and we'll ace this jerk". [home triggers "after X happens".]

So, no negative interaction there, just a matter of sequencing.

Mar 09, 2017 jaythejester


I believe this was ruled it doesn't work like that.

Mar 09, 2017 jaythejester

Judge decks are great fun, and this looks really solid. A couple off value cards you can consider are The Law Goes Underground or No Turning Back for if things go wrong, (you can ace/discard the gunslinger),

I'll also add a counter strategy when playing against this deck. It may be best to simply let the job succeed. Remember that they must have a deputy at the location when the dude leaves play, which happens after their posse goes home booted.

Mar 10, 2017 jordan caldwell

Somebody can tell them 5th graders that Magic is a one-dimensional strategically-shallow game that contains at most half the complexity of interfacing the intersections of probability and meaningful decision-making.

In Doomtown, nothing is guaranteed, and independent of cards in hand (which both games have), even a dude with zero "combat skill" (bullets) has a chance to take down a foe with superior combat skill. You don't get that level of uncertainty with Magic, which in turn raises the stakes for every single move in the game.

I could go on but I'd be preaching to the choir - suffice it to say that if the "young boys club" can't get down with some serious critical thinking skills, probably better to let them wallow in their ignorance and go play some hard-to-earn matches with gamers who relish the delight of pushing the envelope of friendly competition within a welcoming community.

And congratulations!

Mar 13, 2017 Yipe

@jordan caldwell

Thanks for the words of encouragement! I'll make sure to pass them along.


I like the No Turning Back suggestion. I could see my daughter going for that card as it keeps her in the shootout and buffs her dudes. I'm not sure she would use The Law Goes Underground as it's more defensive in nature. I have a hard enough time getting her to trigger Willa Mae MacGowan when things go south on the Judge's job.

Mar 13, 2017 jaythejester

I consider No Turning Back to be invaluable to decks like this. Glad the suggestion might help.

From your description of her I had a mental image of her playing black jack; 17, hit me, 19, hit me, 20, hit me.... :)

Mar 16, 2017 Yipe

She plays all of our "press your luck" games that way.

In her first tournament, she had Clyde Owens with the Legendary Holster set to ace a dude. Then Clyde's bullets were lowered so she had to pull an Ace in order to trigger the Holster.

If she failed, Clyde would likely die and her deck would fall apart. She also had a Make the Smart Choice in her hand to have Clyde run home safe. Did she back down like any other normal player?

Of course not. She top-decked an Ace and won the gunfight.

What would you take out to put in x2-4 No Turning Back?

Mar 17, 2017 jordan caldwell

What about Henry Moran?

Not sure the exact probabilities, but he could serve roughly three functions by improving the chances of Judge going first while improving early economy and insulating lowball somewhat from cheatin' hands (giving improved choice with Justice) and can always be expended for one or two casualties in a job gone south - He is also pretty good in a knife fight.

Mar 18, 2017 Yipe

Taking Henry Moran over the Gomorra Jail is a definite option, thanks for the tip! He does pair well with the Bowie Knife, is another body to soak up hits and helps in lowball for a variety of reasons.

With x3 Steven Wiles, Willa Mae MacGowan, the Gunslinger token and Henry, I could change the deck's name to "The Expendables".