What’s up guys! 2 articles in 2 months? I must be going out of my mind! But I thought it would be good, since I proposed this Meido deck as the new meta deck for Crab, that I circle back around and let you all know how everything went at Gencon!
For a quick recap (granted, the deck has changed a bit since that article), you can find the general description of the Meido deck concept here.
The main differences are more low costers (recurring 1 and 0 costers out of Meido to fuel sacrifice effects and generate excess fate is so helpful. Plus, using a Hida Guardian to give someone +4/+4 and then sacrificing them to get a card from Funeral Pyre and then buying them back for 1 fate to give that same someone another +4/+4 is pretty silly), the addition of Assassination and Way of the Crab (really good cards for protecting your low fate board on turn 1 against aggressive breaks. Plus, buying 1 costers out of your discard pile basically means you have as many 1 cost conflict characters as you need, making Way of the Crab significantly easier to set up), the addition of In Defense of Rokugan (Crane is building massive towers, Phoenix is charging in 6/6s and making 1/1s into 6/6s, Crab and Dragon play attachment heavy military decks and Unicorn and Lion are amazing at randomly breaking Meido on turn 1 before you have a chance to have a discard pile. All of these clans do these things in military conflicts, rather than political conflicts) and removing Adorned Barcha (It was too expensive early in the game and unique characters were not consistently on the board as you are preparing the combo, except for Satoshi).
When I wrote that article, and in my ensuing testing over the last month, I was very confident that the deck was robust, consistent and powerful. However, in second hand accounts of other players testing the deck and decks like it, many people came away relatively unimpressed, with several of them calling it straight jank that relies on bad cards to function and is terrible unless the full combo assembles. This was concerning because…like…
…Have you ever had a thought, and you’re like “yea, this is a good thought and everyone should have this thought” and then you encounter people and discuss that thought with them and their general vibe is like “that thought is trash and that makes you trash and I hope you die for having that thought” and then you start to think “Am I a piece of shit for having that thought? Or are they the crazy people?” and then you start to doubt your ability to have good thoughts?
…No? Just me?…
Well, anyway, that was kind of happening to me as Gencon grew closer. Was I play testing against bad people and about to get crushed in a competitive tournament? Was I overestimating the consistency and power level of the deck and just blind to it because it was kind of “my baby” as a concept (along with my testing group of Jared, Max, Riley and Dan)? And was there any chance I wasn’t just going to get destroyed against good players?
By the time the tournament arrived, I fully expected a 2-4 or 3-3 finish, based on the level of skepticism the deck had received up to that point, including from players I respect and recognize as quality players.
On top of all that, FFG has this really interesting strategy of releasing their product on a timeline that just so happens to make a super duper broken card or combo become legal right before the tournament at Gencon. Last year it was Hawk Tattoo. This year it was Forebearer’s Echoes and the subsequent “Birb deck” that it solidified. But we’ll get to that later…
For now, on to the report!
Round 1: Hussain Bandy, Crab Splash Lion, Seeker of Void
When the pairings first came up, I knew I recognized the name of my first opponent. I couldn’t remember exactly why though. When I sat down and saw he played Crab, he reminded me that I beat him for the cut and Hatamoto at Gencon last year by percentage points of SoS haha. So I knew this wasn’t going to be an easy round 1. Crab mirrors in general are rough. Luckily, I flopped 2 Kisadas on turn 1, so I just bought him with 2 fate and had a fate to spare. I was looking for kaiu envoys and funeral pyres (as one does), but my mulligan didn’t work out that way. Luckily, I had an Iron Mine so I wasn’t in danger of WotC quite yet. The game went relatively smoothly for me. Hussain was playing Lion Splash for Time For War, from what I saw. He was likely playing the Blade of 10,000 Battles as well, if I had to guess, but I didn’t see it. He played more cards on turn 1 than I did, so I was able to bid 1 on turn 2 and only have 2 fewer cards than him. It dropped him down to 4 honor and I had 2 Watch Commanders in hand. I was able to get a break that round. Unfortunately for me, he got a Hida Yakamo out the following round and put a Jade Tetsubo, Fine Katana, a Finger of Jade and 2 Pathfinder’s Blades on him. Because of my honor bid dive, he had Yakamo comfortably activated, which was terrible to deal with. He attacked Gateway to Meido and I had the full combo ready to go, but he played a Watch Commander and then clouded my Mystic when I bought him out, which sucked. But Kisada stood up to his son in the end and I was able to fend off his attacks for the most part and was able to get back down to even on his honor later in the game, causing his Yakamo to bow and letting me break his stronghold.
Round 2: Brian McCullough Dragon Splash Unknown, Seeker of Void
Brian was an Old L5R player from Denver and was a really nice guy. Unfortunately for him, I flopped Karada District on turn 1. He was playing a Mirumoto Daisho deck so he had a lot of attachments and a relatively expensive character pool. He did make one really bad mistake early in the game where he forgot about Karada and played his Daisho and then he was forced to Let it Go off of my character, which was pretty painful to watch, even for me. I was able to get a lot of value out of Gateway to Meido just buying and rebuying Envoys, but the pieces never arrived for the combo before I ended up breaking his stronghold.
Round 3: Travis McDaniel, Phoenix Splash Lion, Keeper of Air
Ah yes. The “Birb deck” in all its glory. For those of you who don’t know, there was a Phoenix deck that was everywhere at Gencon which used Fushichō and Charge for easy 6/6s. And then it also runs Forebearer’s Echos to replay Fushichōs from the discard pile. And then he leaves immediately, which triggers his effect to bring in a big guy from the discard pile with a fate. It also runs My Ancestor’s Strength to make little shitty shugenjas 6/6s for an attack. And it uses Satoshi to fill the discard pile with characters to Fushichō in as well as Fushichō itself for Forebearer’s Echos. And a cute little side effect of Satoshi is he gets them Kanjo District pretty easily too…
It’s a super unreasonable deck. And, spoiler alert, it made up 5 of the top 8, 3 of the top 4 and ended up winning the entire tournament.
Travis is from my local meta, so I was familiar with him and his deck (I believe he was kind of the architect of the Birb deck. He convinced a few prominent Phoenix players to test it when they were fairly certain they were just gonna play Dragon splash). The game went pretty well for me. I was stocking fate really well early game and, at one point in the game, I actually had the combo ready to go. But, as I said, the birb deck gets Kanjo District way too easily. He Kanjo’d my Broker home right before the combo started. I had 0 fate remaining. So I used my Witch Hunter to ready the Broker by sacrificing a character, generating 1 fate (due to Taka) so I could play my Fight On. But wait! I just fucking stood my Broker with the Witch Hunter! So now I couldn’t Fight On her! What a dumb mistake! Luckily, I had a Rebuild in hand, so I could just use Favorable Ground instead. But wait! There was no Favorable Ground in my discard pile? Seriously? In 25 cards discarded, not a single one of my three Favorable Grounds showed up? I’m so stupid… I had a Hiruma Signaller in my discard pile, but I was 1 fate short and if I used my Vanguard Warrior to get to 2 fate and bought the Signaller, I’d only get 1 fate when he sacrificed to bring the Broker back in, so I couldn’t buy the warrior back. I had a Miya Mystic who was bowed and out of the conflict who I should have readied with the Witch Hunter effect rather than the Broker but…the mistake was made. So I just Vanguard Warrior’d a few times and went along with my life. Travis didn’t attack for an entire round because of the combo being set up, which was nice. It allowed me to break 2 of his provinces. Because of that Meido conflict, we burned a lot of time as I was doing all the math to try and get the combo going (Travis also did a lot of math to make sure he could stop it) so we hit time in the final round, with him on my stronghold and me with only 2 breaks. When time was called, I had all 3 witch hunters out, but two were clouded. He attacked my stronghold, I defended with all 3. I had my third Talisman, so when I played it, he conceded to me. He was going all in to break my stronghold and I had a lot of fate left. So I could have bought Miya Mystics to clear the clouds and then eager scouts and envoys for fodder for the ready effects once I moved us to Meido. It was a close game, but every game with Birb is close for Crab, I think.
Round 4: Josh Sanders Scorpion Splash Phoenix, Keeper of Air
My opponent for round 4 had a broken leg, so the judges decided to put him off in the middle of nowhere (“In Egypt,” as he put it) so we were a little late to start because the judges had to come fetch me from my table to take me to him. Luckily, it was a Scorpion, so those games usually go quick. He was playing Phoenix splash and BHC for the Exodia dishonor deck, so that was cool. On turn 1, he bought the 3 cost 1/5/2 blank courtier with 2 fate on it and immediately attacked with it…which was interesting because BHC decks usually don’t bother with that whole “trying to win conflicts” thing. I had bought a Kaiu Envoy and defended with it. I Court Games’d him down to 3 strength, but he was still winning, so he passed. I WotC’d it. The Court Games prevented the Forged Edict and we moved onto the next round. He got me to 5 honor, which is close to the danger zone for Scorpion but I had favor. He had 3 courtiers on the board. 2 with no fate and 1 with 2 fate. He attacked with the 2 fate courter. I defended with Witch Hunter, played a Tetsubo, knocked the 2 fate off of the courtier and then, after his board left I played Prayers to Ebisu in the fate phase to go up to 9 honor, which is pretty safe against Scorpion. He couldn’t Forged Edict it, because all his courtiers were gone. From then on, I had a 7 military strength Witch Hunter who kept knocking the fate off his guys and breaking provinces. Without enough ways to cause dishonor, I was able to break his stronghold. He said after the game that I was the first Hatamoto he’d played and said he thinks he may have been intimidated by the H next to my name in the pairings sheet. Which I totally get.
Round 5: Aneil Seetharam, Phoenix Splash Lion, Keeper of Air
My second foray into the Birb deck. This time played by, in my opinion, one of the best card game players the community has. Funnily enough, I actually had a crazy good set up against him. My flop was the three combo pieces (Vanguard Warrior, Taka, Broker) and a Hida Guardian. And my opening hand was In Defense of Rokugan (which I hadn’t seen all fucking day to this point!), Banzai, Way of the Crab and Talisman. I drew a Watch Commander, 2 Fight On, Iuchi Wayfinder and…something else. So…I had tools to defend against the big birb combo turn 1 if he found Meido and I had the combo already set up. Thinks were looking pretty good. Unfortunately, Aneil walked right over and immediately found Meido on his first attack. I defended with the Guardian. He charged in Satoshi. I played Banzai. He activated Satoshi. And I think he Echos’d in something. I forget what exactly, but I played the Wayfinder and put a Watch Commander on him. He Against the Waves’d my Wayfinder. So I played the Talisman on the Wayfinder and moved him to Upholding Authority. He broke it, I saw his hand. He had Strength in Numbers, two Supernatural Storms, Cloud, Walking the Way and Against the Waves. I decided to discard the two Storms, but I knew he was going to be able to break Meido because of Against the Waves and Strength in Numbers. There were just too many cards that needed to be removed haha. So he stood his little 1/1 shugenja with AtW, played a Court Games, which he just drew from the Earth Ring and broke Meido on the second attack. From there it was pretty difficult to recover. And I didn’t.
Round 6: Micha, Crane Splash Dragon, Seeker of Void
Here it was. The defining game. I needed to win this game to make the cut, because for some reason only 5-1s made the cut this year due to the size of the tournament (rather than just playing an appropriate amount of rounds).
I started off really strong. On turn 1, I Way of the Crabbed his 1 fate Brash Samurai with a Kaiu Envoy in the dynasty phase, so that he didn’t have a window to Way of the Crane it or something (not that I thought he would, since Brash self-honors, but you can never be too sure with Crane’s eagerness to turn on Voice). So the first round went pretty well. I played a Wayfinder, found Upholding Authority and did a nice little military poke. On turn 2, he bought and immediately honored Uji. I made a pretty critical mistake because I had Satoshi and was able to win a fire ring…but instead of dishonoring Uji, I honored my Satoshi. At the time, I thought he might not want to spend a Way of the Crane on some chud, but he’d be happy to do it to Uji, so I decided to honor my guy to turn off Voice. It was dumb, because that left Uji still turned on. With that Uji, he was going to break provinces in consecutive turns due to his 9 military strength when honored, but in defense of Rokugan turned him off both times. It was very helpful because that Fire Ring deactivated voice for me to play IDoR with comfort.
Everything was going well. I had an honored Satoshi with a Jade Tetsubo (who, incidentally, removed the fate Uji from the game after Uji was set to 0 by the 2nd IDoR), a Watch Commander and a Talisman. But because I didn’t dishonor Uji with that fire ring, he was able to use that fate from Uji to buy Yoshi, which made me feel even dumber haha. I broke 3 provinces to his zero in the first few rounds. I avoided Magistrate Station because he had two of those dueling holdings and he discarded one (but looked at what provinces they were before deciding which one to discard). I assumed the one he kept the holding on was Magistrate Station (later confirmed it with a Wayfinder), so I was able to ignore Mag Station all game. I even broke his Upholding Authority with my Shinjo Ambusher, cancelling its effect. This was the same Ambusher who later Favorable Grounds’d into his second Uji attack and was the sacrifice for the IDoR that allowed Satoshi to clear Uji’s fate. So things were going pretty well…
But the tables turned when I had no fate left on my Satoshi. I had just broken his 3rd province. I knew I needed a save for Satoshi, so I decided to test how many voices he had in hand. I played 2 rebuilds to get Iron mines for Satoshi. He voiced both. Stupid Mistake #2. I decided to get a little bit of fate with a poke on his stronghold with my Keeper Initiate. He defended with Yoshi and immediately policy debated me. Stupid Mistake #3. But I had a Vanguard Warrior, so it was okay. I passed. Then he assassinated the Vanguard Warrior. Stupid Mistake #4. Time was beginning to run out and I had a 3 province advantage, but his board state was massive because of the discount Uji gave him on a few big guys and because of free attachments that Cranes run.
So I lost the Talisman on that Satoshi (as well as the Tetsubo and Watch Commander), but I had 2 others. At least I did, until he Gossip’d them the next round and then had let goes for both of them the following round…
I had bought a Kisada, but he Noble Sacrificed it because I had no saves left…It was looking pretty dark. I was holding him off for a while, but he did eventually break two provinces and got the favor back.
In the final round, I flipped 3 holdings and Hida Guardian with no other characters on the board. He had way too many characters for me to even remember. He broke his second province that round and then time was called. We finished out the round. I still had more honor than him though, so I had tie breakers (5 to 8).
He then attacked with a Doji Challenger, pulled in the Guardian, played 2 Kakita Blades and Dueled the Guardian. He gained 2 honor to go up to 6 honor to my 5. He now had honor and was winning on points 7 to 6. He passed and we went to the fate phase. He had a little guy who was honored with no fate. So he left in the fate phase and his honor went up to 7 to my 5.
Then I played Prayers to Ebisu to go up to 9 honor, taking the tie breaker points back and winning 8 to 5.
I couldn’t play it in the conflict phase because he was at 6 honor at the end of the round, meaning he would have received the 4 honor as well. But because of that honored chud leaving play and taking him to 7 honor, I was able to get over him and win the game.
Top 16: Tom Maisonville, Crane Splash Dragon, Seeker of Void
I got a BYE in the top 32 due to my strength of schedule putting me at the 8 seed in a 22 person cut. Interestingly, I got to the tournament area at 9:30 am the day of the cut and was told that I actually had to play in the top 32 because my last win was changed to a modified win. This shifted the standings around and made Mark Armitage the King of Swiss instead of Aneil. However, after I discussed it with the judges, they determined that since we didn’t go to overtime, winning on points is still a full win (or something like that. The tie breaker rules for this game are so confusing). This made Aneil King of Swiss again. Sorry Mark :(.
So my first match, in the top 16, was against Tom playing Crane. It started off very well for me. I was able to get some witch hunters out, giving me really strong attack/defend flexibility and I saw 2 Wayfinders in the first two rounds, which allowed me to go scouting. Unfortunately for me, the two provinces I saw were Pilgrimage and Shameful Display. So I was forced to attack into each of them as I revealed them (because I couldn’t risk running into Magistrate Station). I broke both provinces with relative ease and was able to defend my provinces pretty well overall. I was up two breaks to one, but with the provinces broken, I had a choice to make. I could have either passed conflicts and waited for my third Wayfinder (which could have taken several rounds) or I could have taken the 50/50 gamble by attacking into a province blind.
For one round, I completely passed my conflicts. This lead to me lagging behind a little bit. He hadn’t broken a second province yet, but he was beginning to build a really threatening board, with an honored Toshimoko with a Fine Katana, a New Name, A Formal Invitation, a Duelist Training and a Daimyo’s Gunbai. He was a house. And since all those attachments combine for a cost of…1 fate…he was able to put lots of fate on lots of guys, giving him a pretty intimidating board. The good news was I had In Defense of Rokugans going and was able to farm like 6 envoys out of Gateway to Meido. So my delaying tactics were working, all I needed to do was draw that third Wayfinder.
…And then the judges announced that there was 10 minutes left in the round. With his board, I knew he was going to be capable of breaking a province eventually, he had favor (and wasn’t likely to lose it) and we were pretty close on honor, so I needed that third break to secure the win. I took a 50/50 shot and found Magistrate Station.
Magistrate Station allowed him to break his second province with his tower Toshimoko. The following round was the final round. I knew I had to get a break and needed to get rid of Magistrate Station, so I attacked it as the first conflict…
In that attack, I had a Hida Guardian, two witch hunters, Satoshi and 2 keeper initiates, he had Toshimoko and Takamori. He Banzai’d his Toshimoko and played a few more attachments to get him to 14 military skill. I Banzai’d my Witch Hunter and gave him +2/+2 with the Hida Guardian to get to 10 military. He had already seen 2 Let Go and 2 Voice of Honor that round and he didn’t Voice the Banzai, so I thought he didn’t have them, so I Way of the Crabbed. And he played his third voice. I was able to bait his Esteemed Tea House with a Watch Commander because I had two Tetsubos in hand, which would have put my Witch Hunter up to 16 strength, but he had the third Let Go for one of the Tetsubos. I won the conflict, but fell short of breaking by 1 strengh. He Toshimoko’d. His 14 to my 13. It was a fire ring, which would have dishonored his Toshimoko, which would have meant he couldn’t unbow with Magistrate Station, so I thought maybe he would feel he needed to win the duel to come over and break another province and win. I was up by 1 honor, so I didn’t want to lose those tie breaker points by bidding 2 and risking him bidding 1, which would have made winning basically not possible for me, since he had favor. But he saw that line of play and also bid 1. I am not sure if I made a mistake in my bidding or if he just read my line or if I was just in a lose-lose situation, but it felt bad haha. From there, he came over and broke the province and won at time on points.
It was a really good, really close game. I probably could have played that last round better, but the game was really determined by the 50/50 flip on Magistrate station because my first two Wayfinders whiffed.
But, for the second year in a row, the person I lost to in the top 16 went on to get beat up by Aneil. So who’s the real winner of that game? ^^
Overall, I had a very good Kotei experience. I lost two games of seven. One was to a Phoenix high roll on turn 1 (flopping right into Meido with enough strength to threaten a break with both conflicts), the other was an extremely close game where my opponent saw the answers he needed (3 Voice, 3 Let Go, Esteemed Tea House) and I had an unlucky coin flip on provinces. But I can’t complain about placing 13th in a tournament of nearly 200 people…Can I? 🙂
I’m expecting the Phoenix deck, which was 3 of the top 4, 5 of the top 8 and the eventual winner, to get nerfed into oblivion, unless Tyler just thinks the role rotating out is good enough, and I kind of hope Crane gets nerfed a bit. That Stronghold has made their Voices way too reliable and their conflict deck is so cheap they can build 14 military strength towers that cancel any conflict they lose and can ready with relative ease unless you avoid or break a province that lets them defend with basically no consequence for like 1 fate (not including character cost). But maybe that’s just the loss talking :P.
After my testing and my (and Jared’s) success in getting to the top 16 with virtually the same deck (we were 7 cards apart total) I have regained my confidence in the fact that the Meido deck really is the best deck Crab has to offer at the moment. It appears as though it may be a higher skill cap deck than I originally thought because several Crabs took similar decks and seemed to struggle, to one degree or another, in closing out games, but it may have just been a series of bad luck streaks. I didn’t officially loop the entire tournament, but I had the combo set up in several games and it literally prevented my opponents from attacking me for turns at a time. Which seems pretty good…There was a third Crab that made the top 16, but I’m not sure if he was running the Meido deck or not. I assume he was, but I haven’t seen a list for him yet.
In addition to that, I think losing Fight On at the end of the month will only make this deck even better than other Crab archetypes (despite making it indisputably worse), since it is not really a tower deck (although it can behave like one if you need it to). It’ll probably need more Signallers to make up for losing Fight On to bring your brokers back into the Meido conflict, but I think we can work with that.
There is a deck type to keep an eye on though as the packs continue to come out. I don’t have a full deck list prepared for it yet nor have I gotten any testing data on it, but it’ll have something to do with Mark of Shame, Conflict Miyako, Back Handed Compliment and Warden of the Damned for targeted removal of high priority targets in addition to Assassination and Way of the Crab…Stay tuned.
Until next time guys, keep up that Crabbin’ and don’t let anyone crush your dreams!