Pub Wars - PAX Unplugged 1st Place

published Nov 20, 2017 | | |

jordan caldwell 369

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

Wonderful report and thanks for sharing! Was great meeting you at PAX and looking forward to more DTR events!

Nov 20, 2017 Harlath

Congratulations Zac! Pleased to see Raven do well in a tournament after some healthy debate over how viable a 2GR Legend is. Really pleased to see a "tool-box" style deck can work well beyond the 4R, as I'm most frequently seen that phrase applied to Hucksters using their box of tricks to answer a variety of decks. Thanks for explaining how this works rather than just leaving it as a catchy phrase.

Additionally, appreciate match reports as they help highlight key plays and cards. These take hard work from players (so delighted enough with decklists), but they're both fun to read and helpful for the playtest team. Particularly the adjustment in the final (rematch in the final and the outcome is reversed, a not infrequent result) and the thinking behind it. Good to read your most enjoyable match was a hard fought loss with an entertainingly profitable bank (presumably a conservative bank management team with a very well capitalised bank and shareholders frustrated at management's lack of willingness to dividend out the profits! The world could have done with more of these fifteen years ago, and then the subsequent crash would have been less of an issue.)

Pleased that you've got the chance to make a story choice and contribute to the Deadlands world. :)

Reads like a number of games went reasonably long as well, bar an early "all-in" experience. This is good to read.

Look forward to your next deck project if this is being retired in a blaze of triumph!

Nov 20, 2017 Projectwinterstorm

How did you find Raven overall? I'm keen to put together a PR deck myself with that particular legend before the Servitor Series is out (if I can break my current Fourth Ring habit!) and see if I can make it fly. :)

Nov 20, 2017 jordan caldwell

Ooh good question. It's really a threefold question based around the distinct mechanics that make up Raven:

1) How does the negative trait impact deck/play-style?

2) How useful is the Noon ability?

3) How useful is the positive trait (control point)?

I think Raven incentivizes a distinct a deck/play-style that I am going to call "passive aggression" - simply put, putting your opponent into a situation where they want to call you out (instead of vice versa). To contrast, I am currently experimenting with running Raven in a "classic" 3/5/7 Sloane deck sporting Kidnappin' and the usual tricks and finding that there are many counter-plays my opponent can make to activate the -2 stud (which is killer). I am also experimenting with cards like Rope and Ride and Tail Between Yer Legs to work around - currently with mixed success. The only surefire way to manage the trait is to create situations where you are always "on the defense," or as mentioned above, to only get aggressive with your draw dudes. I think once you find a way to solve this problem, you can start having fun.

After that, I find that the Noon ability has three primary functions. The first is to "declare war" on a deed and head straight in ready for a fight. If you have unlimited time to make all your plays, this is an incredible shootout boost - but conversely, if you are crunched for time, you may find yourself deciding between playing the action or sending in another back-up dude (perhaps a "bullet-catcher"), which can be a tough choice. The second function is to increase your dude's bullets permanently. If you know your opponent won't fight you, you can get a free permanent bullet just by parking there at night. This is especially helpful for dudes who already have low stud bullets, and theoretically can eventually build towards mitigating the negative trait further - there is also limited play with cards that already exist in the cardbase (like Outgunned). The third function is to bluff. There were times where without actually committing forces to a deed, I merely "declared" war, and my opponent responded in some way that they might not have if I hadn't - playing a Steven Wiles for example, or booting another dude there. In short, it is a slow, but strong and durable ability.

Finally, in at least half of the games I won, the difference was precisely the extra "occupation" control point. And not just because people forget about it (sometimes they do), but also because it raises the stakes on one of their deeds - I think a lot of Doomtown games are decided on the battleground of a 2-CP deed, and this servitor lets you essentially dictate exactly where that battleground is going to be.

On a final note: I think that this servitor, despite my comments above, is largely unexplored, marking it as unique especially as compared to Darius Hellstromme and Ezekiah Grimme, whose primary purpose seems to facilitate archetypes that already exist. Instead, I think we have yet to see all of what Raven, and similarly Jasper Stone, are capable of.

In the specific vein you are thinking, I could see Raven playing very nicely with Fourth Ring, not only because the -2 cash is totally affordable to them, but also because they have lots of low-bullet studs, and because each of the homes could synergize well the style of deck/play the servitor incentivizes.


Nov 20, 2017 Projectwinterstorm

Thank you for such a wonderfully detailed answer! I shall ponder whether Raven will suit the deck style I go for and take it from there. I've tried out three of the Servitors thus far (Grimme, Stone and Hellstromme) and found vastly different results, with Grimme being the easiest for me to get behind thus far. As you say though, may well have been a result of the deck build. And I hadn't actually considered Raven via 4R, though now that you mention it, I can especially see uses within FMB on a suitably tailored build!

Nov 21, 2017 jordan caldwell

Yeah, with The Fourth Ring you will already be on your opponent's deeds, so getting the ability go off should already be part of your strategy. With Oddities of Nature you will likely be holding the line at the Townsquare, so it'd be a matter of putting cards in that can then contest opposing deeds. And with The Sanatorium, you not only help make the bullets math more favorable, but can gift an Influence to a dude as a tool to contest deeds. All very good. And Full Moon Brotherhood is just really versatile. Good luck!

Nov 21, 2017 Projectwinterstorm

Cheers! Plenty to think about there :)

Nov 21, 2017 DoomDog

There is definitely cool stuff that can be done with Raven and The Fourth Ring. @jordan caldwellhas some good suggestions there. I like the breakdown of Raven too - he's probably the trickiest of the Legends to get your head round and that is a good explanation of what to do with him. The comment about playing aggressively with draw dudes to avoid the drawback has made me wonder if there's any mileage in using Auto-Revolver in a Raven deck...

Nov 21, 2017 Projectwinterstorm


Nov 21, 2017 crx3800

It was an honor to lose to you twice. Luck was with my shootouts most of the day. Failing Inbody was just payback.

Nov 22, 2017 davido

FWIW - I've tried Raven out of 108 due to their plentiful cheap influence and movement tricks (card and fu-based). But I'm Oddities at heart (a hold over from my Whateleys Extended Family days in classic). My current Oddities deck runs Hawley Roses. I'm thinking tweaking that for a Raven deck with Roans and other attires plus bullet manips (lowering THEIR bullets helps ensure Raven doesn't take his bullet studliness and go home).

I'm also considering an oddities Bobo/Harvester Voltron-Stone deck. Coz Harve as Death's Servitor's messenger :D

Nov 22, 2017 davido

FWIW - I've tried Raven out of 108 due to their plentiful cheap influence and movement tricks (card and fu-based). But I'm Oddities at heart (a hold over from my Whateleys Extended Family days in classic). My current Oddities deck runs Hawley Roses. I'm thinking tweaking that for a Raven deck with Roans and other attires plus bullet manips (lowering THEIR bullets helps ensure Raven doesn't take his bullet studliness and go home).

I'm also considering an oddities Bobo/Harvester Voltron-Stone deck. Coz Harve as Death's Servitor's messenger :D

Nov 22, 2017 jordan caldwell

Projectwinterstorm, DoomDog - that is a brilliant idea and overflowing with theme! omg going to go make a new Raven/Auto-Revolver deck...

crx3800 - Luck is a thing. Just ask Rich Carter. Honor to play you as well.

davido - have you considered Essence of Armitage? That could be a useful tool for mitigating the negative trait. Or maybe Buffalo Rifles on Pagliaccios so that they can apply their shootout ability at deeds without having to vacate the Townsquare?

Dec 19, 2017 Ike

A friend and I copied a bunch of decks from this website to try out and test as we prepared for my first Doomtown tournament. I ended up choosing this one because 1) its a lot of fun and gets you into shootouts 2) it has consistent economy and 3) it has a lot of answers with all the kneeling tech and ant-cheating tech.

I found it to be very mobile, and you can play very aggressively towards your opponent's holdings. You are very mobile with the horses, and if you use Raven, you can generally either win a shootout there, or just have an opponent write the deed off as a loss.

Barton Everest is a very strong shooter to start the game with. I found the extra hand rank for having a cheating hand is great, and the fact that he is a stud really helps him control a location targeted by Raven.

I ended up winning our local servitor series with this.

Dec 19, 2017 Harlath

Great comment @Ike, helpful from a playtest perspective (deck does well in your environment too) and from a community point of view (that people are finding the decks useful, bravo @jordan caldwell).

Particularly appreciate the commentary on what appealed to you and which cards worked well. Congratulations on winning your local event. :)