NA Nats 15th Place - baniRien

Written by baniRien

Created 03 April, 2024

Last updated 03 April, 2024

Personal tournament reports have always been some of my favourite content to read in other games so I figured I should fill in that missing niche for Grand Archive.

I’m baniRien and I represented the Montreal scene at the NA Nationals in early March. As someone with a very small local scene and no prior big tournament experience, I had no real expectations going into Nationals. I went there to have fun and get promos, while Qualifying for Worlds was just a pipe dream.

As good as some of the faster decks in the format are, I am an eternal control player regardless of the game. I knew I had to focus on the water archetype which has access to reliable answers, namely Counterspells and Damage Prevention. These are things I value very much, even though I feel the element is lacking in some areas. I usually run a Water Merlin build but I knew for a fact that it was not at the power level needed for Nationals. In the end I ran a fairly different Tonoris brew: View the deck on Shout

It is much slower than the standard Water Allies list. It aims for a gameplan where you control the board using your numerous answers which helps to accrue value. Any ally that survives is eventually a 2-for-1 after all. The level 3 is an option but not a focus of the usual gameplan. It can close out very grindy games due to accrued value from the obelisks and it’s an extra HP buffer if needed, but throughout the tournament I only leveled to 3 a grand total of 2 times.

There are 5 points that I want to bring up in this deck as its main focus. The Academy Guides serve as pseudo-taunt since most people assume I want to force level 3 and provide value as an option if I choose to continue leveling. Lunete is the other very slow addition to this list that doesn’t provide as much value in the usual aggro ally build but fits in this shell. Now onto the side board. Blanche is required in this meta where a lot of non-combat kill options exist, Stillwater Patrol is seldom seen but deals really well with fairies, through even a layer of protection such as Favorable Winds or Attune with the Winds. As for the Scepter of Lumina, the usual plan of getting it out early to rack up damage is a bait, since it costs me the Influence I need to deal with the opposing board. I usually materialize it very late around level 2 to threaten that last bit of damage for lethal, or just for the card draw.

Day 1

Round 1:

My first opponent was on Arcane Rai, a deck that isn’t as popular as it used to be. I’m fairly confident about the matchup since I have a big HP pool and Storm of Thorns to mitigate a lot of Advent of the Stormcaller’s effect. The incidental healing from Allied Warpriestess also provides great value, as Rai often kills you over 2 or more turns, if you have answers. They usually put everything down to barely reach for a kill, and so some damage prevention or a Frostbind means they will need another turn and another threat. Game 1 goes by pretty fast, with me racking up damage thanks to allies and Heavy Swing, while Rai usually has most of their ally countermeasures in the sideboard. Those countermeasures didn’t end up mattering as my opponents bricks horribly game 2, drawing 8 Arcane cards in their first 10 and dying as a Spirit. A lesson for you Rai players, run Serene Spirit and Orb of Regret, it could save your life. 1-0

Round 2:

When going to a big event like this you can have conflicting feelings. While you always hope for an opponent you can win against, small-time no experience players that only won their local Store Championship like yours truly, there’s also a desire to have some nice competition. True Champion Gaming Caban, however, is not someone I wanted to face early on in brackets. He was on a Wind Lorraine list very similar to decks he’d played previously, but this one had a focus on going to Lvl3. Game 1 is heavily in my favour, Gildas and Attack cards, including a Seeking Shot going face to take advantage of Tony2’s attack bonus, securing me a win fast enough I don’t even see that he is Crux. This is very relevant as I sideboard Nullifying Lantern out and forget to bring it back in against Crux Sight in game 3. Game 2 is the complete opposite. The card advantage of repeat Ghost of Pendragon and Ascension discarding and drawing through Prismatic Edge crushed me thoroughly. I feel like he misplayed by not using a sword with his Hurricane Sweep leading me to use a Storm of Thorns that saves my board. This game is much slower than the first one, as most ally matchups tend to be. Game 3. I don’t draw quite enough pressure and end up losing in overtime. Looking at his decklist after the tournament, the only thing in his sideboard against me was Tariff Ring, it really was the luck of the draw. 1-1

Round 3:

The opponent this round is another Wind Allies, perfect for a rematch. This one leans towards the classic build that does not go to level 3. A pure ally list that has a lot of issues dealing with Gildas when Taunt is protecting her. Both games close out very swiftly. Game 2 I used one of my favourite techs, Alliance Gearshield on Lurking Assailant, to prevent the opponent from making any good attack. 2-1

Round 4:

Fire Zander is probably my best matchup. My deck is mostly built to face the lower to the ground allies lists, like Water Diana Allies, but incidentally shuts down aggro completely. Warpriestess healing outpaces the deck once they are out of gas so they can’t close out, and Storm of Thorns negates everything they can do, turning an 11 damage turn into one. I did learn here that Storm of Thorns kills Rococo, poor her, as abilities in GA aren’t divorced from their source. The games go rather long but I never feel threatened as I always keep spare protection in hand and slowly grind out the victory. 3-1

Round 5:

I'm matched up against a Water Merlin, something I am very familiar with even though his list is quite different from mine. Still, it makes me very happy that he ended up in top 32, and not just for the sake of my tiebreakers. Game 1 drags on. I’m unable to deal with The Majestic Spirit and fumble a Smoke Bomb. To note, he was able to kill one of my Snow Fairies using a Refracting Missile, thanks to me Fracturizing his sword. I’m scared of losing 1-0 in time, but my starting hand tells me I have a chance. Take Point and 2 Academy Guides, combined with the fact his deck is fairly low interaction, means I can level up every turn and start accumulating value with the Obelisks for the first time this tournament. It is still very close. To find lethal and secure the tie, I have to go through all 4 of his Incarnate Majesty, most of the time with a Heavy Swing combined with a Greatsword token, and a random ally to finish the job. 3-1-1

Round 6:

A couple of things happen before the round: we are offered the feature match but my opponent declines, quite fairly, due to nerves. This is made irrelevant not a minute later as an error is noticed and we are re-paired. My new opponent is my second Fire Zander of the day. It goes pretty similarly. Game 1 has me taking a fair amount of damage, but never being quite in danger. Game 2 has me build a board too quickly for my opponent to do anything, helped by a Lunete. 4-1-1

Round 7:

Last round of the day I’m immediately rematched with the failed pairing from last round. So we start considering the most important decision of end-of-day low top table players: Do we Intentionally Draw? We are currently ranked 15th and 16th, taking an intentional draw is a very safe pass to day 2. More importantly, it means you can go find food earlier at the end of a long day. It is a very hard decision, my opponent is more in favour of the draw, but I hesitate and do the math. I’m fairly certain even if I lose, I’m probably safe to stay in top 32. Since there is no difference in prizing between 32nd and 9th, to get top 8 with a 4-1-2 day 1, I would probably need to win all 4 games the next day. I decide to play it out, and I feel like it’s a good matchup for me.

It is the wrong decision. He starts game 1 with two Increasing Dangers. He then follows it the next turn by leveling up, and using two Dungeon Guides to go to Diana 3, getting a Tasershot and a Shadow’s Twin along the way. With 6 damage, no ability to level up and 2 Creeping Torments, it makes for an unwinnable game. Game 2 goes pretty much the same way, if a little slower, with me never seeing a Fracturize or a Song of Frost to deal with his very one-track assault. 4-2-1, and I end the day at 30th, narrowly making day 2.

Day 2

Round 8:

My first opponent was on Arcane Rai, a deck that isn’t as popular as it used to be. Wait… This one though learned his lesson, and is running Serene Spirit of Fire, which I do think is the optimal choice for the deck. Game 1 is pretty much a race, that I end up losing with the Blanches yet in my sideboard. Game 2 is grueling, I manage to get my opponent to 24 damage, but he finds every single piece of mitigation early enough, saving himself from having to crack the Spirit and thus blocking himself from casting 2 Fireballs, the last remaining source of damage in the deck. My biggest misplay was swinging into a Spellshield: Arcane, however this is often a game where you force them to have the answer. 4-3-1, and I know at this point I’m out of the running for top 8, it’s only fun from now on.

Round 9:

It took 9 rounds to see my first Erupting Rhapsody deck. The matchup is very dependent on both players finding their answers. Mine being Fracturize and Blanche, and theirs being Spurn to Ash and Dusklight Communion. Game 1 is pre-sideboard, so without Dusklight a Fracturized Lantern makes the game mostly a formality. Game 2 I draw almost no answers, so I try to race him instead of playing Lantern hoping he doesn’t have Spurn. It’s a losing proposition so we go to game 3. His draws are not the best, I build up a good board of allies, and his attempt at clearing them with an Innervate Fury is foiled by my Storm of Thorns. Quick work from there. 5-3-1

Round 10:

A third Fire Zander, from an opponent who got a game loss day 1 because of a decklist error. Because of that, he had both level 2 Zanders in his Material deck. Otherwise, a very normal build, nothing to note. Of the 3 matches against this archetype, this was the closest. I lost game 1 to a Rending Flames, not drawing enough mitigation. Game 2 was more of a race, where I do manage to clear the board but he still tries to sneak in as much as he can with non-combat damage, drawing and showing a good spread of Rococo, Planted Explosives and Blazing Throw. Leveling up Tony provides me enough of an HP margin to continue swinging until the win. Game 3 goes how the matchup usually does, a Warpriestess and some protection to a slow and safe win. 6-3-1

Round 11:

My last opponent is the first fellow Canadian I meet, running Fire Diana to allow me my redemption. It goes exactly how my loss round 7 didn’t, seeing all of my answers. Game 1 has him commit everything to rush to Level 3, only for me to Fracturize Shadow’s Twin leaving him with no ressources. It’s always a gamble, and it can pay off so much that I feel it is usually the right play, even if it does sometimes blow up in your face. Game 2 is slower, but just as decisive. It is the most control I had played that weekend, in the attrition way I love, but isn’t really viable most of the time. I draw all of my Fracturize, along with the Frostbind I need to counter his Deploy Gunshield. Even the otherwise protected Seeker’s Rifle is dealt with safely, using interceptors and damage prevention. Once all the guns are out of the way the deck has little left it can do, and I push damage until the win. 7-3-1

I finished up Day 2 Nationals at 15th place, a single win away from top cut and the Worlds invite. I did finish as the best ranking Canadian there and having played no big or even mid-size event before I made off like a bandit, elo-wise. The best feeling was slowly climbing up to the top table, even if I then dropped all the way to the bottom of day 2 and had to crawl back up again. I also managed to dodge Luxem decks completely, which was a great help to my final placement as I’m not confident in the matchup. Overall a fantastic event followed by the opportunity to finally meet some great people in person. For now, it's time to play some jank builds to change my mind until the next event.

Luxera's Map is a fan-made website. Grand Archive and all official assets are owned by Weebs of the Shore.