I’m still somewhat in shock myself but this past Sunday I finished in 1st place at the 2nd Masters Series Qualifier and will be headed to QuakeCon in just a few weeks.
While my journey in TESL has been long and much of it was self driven, in the past few months I have become increasingly engaged with the community and I would not have had the success I have without the help of my friends in game and especially my teammates. I’m excited to be joining plzdonhakme in QuakeCon (and praying we don’t have to play each other until the finals) and can’t wait to see more of my teammates qualify. All are fantastic players with qualification well within their ability.
For a sense of the scale of this qualifier here is an extremely zoomed out low-res screenshot of the entire bracket:
During the first qualifier I managed to make it to the third round before ValeryCry was able to win 3 straight games against my Hlaalu despite my other two decks winning their first games. While there is an outside chance that I could have had a winning line in 1 of those 3 games this demonstrated an unfortunate reality of the deck to me: it can high roll like crazy but it can also brick hard. Over the next week before the 2nd qualifier I vowed to find a more consistent deck to play instead in my lineup but at the end of the day the raw power of Hlaalu, particularly in my lineup, proved impossible to give up. On the night before the qualifier I played a set with one of my teammates on the deck against a string of strong meta decks, put up a 75% win rate, and reluctantly locked it in for the 2nd week in a row.
Luckily my top 64 finish from the prior week was enough to earn me a round 1 bye, however my bracket was extremely difficult for the entirety of Saturday.
Round 2 I faced Tolunay on an innovative qualdruple control lineup. A combination of solid play and I’ll admit some pretty solid draws made the match a pretty clean 3-0 in my favor taking out his Rage Hlaalu in 3 consecutive games. It felt like redemption after losing to Valery’s Rage Hlaalu and Dagoth the previous week.
Round 3 against Fafal was arguably the closest I came to elimination all tournament long. Fafal had a very diverse lineup with the full range of aggro, midrange, and control. I started Mid Battlemage as it had the ability to be successful in a wide range of matchups and lost the first 2 games in a row to control Tribunal and Aggro Hlaalu (The only 2 games I lost on the deck in the entire tournament). Somehow though I managed to claw it back and took the next 3 games reverse sweeping against his mid monk. The 5th game where I finally returned to my Battlemage was one of the most challenging games I played in the tournament and one of the ones I am most proud of.
If my match against Fafal wasn’t the closest I came to elimination then my Round 4 match against Thuldir was. Thuldir and I traded blow for blow with me taking wins off of his mid Telvanni with Scout and his Hlaalu Aggro with Battlemage and him giving me 2 of my 3 losses on Assassin of the tournament. Game 5 was absolutely horrifying for me as I was forced to play Assassin into Tribunal Control for my tournament life. I had a very strong draw and the game only lasted 5 turns (I believe my fastest game of the tournament) however it was extremely challenging and I think I used my entire turn timer for each of my first 3 turns. My threat sequencing was key as I was able to get Mournhold Traitor online which was unanswerable by his early interaction, followed by Goblin Skulk to bait out removal to allow my Cornerclub Gambler to have a higher chance of survival.
Round 5, which was the last round before the top 8, I played against Wagmaster. I have a great deal of respect for Wagmaster as he in no way feels beholden to the preconceptions of most commpetitive players and always finds innovative ways to attack the meta. His lineup was very innovative, looking to race very well so that it could pray on the slightly slower Hlaalu Aggro decks running around. At the same time his decks could get under the equally or potentially more popular Scout control decks that have been dominating tournament play. I was able to take him out 3-1 but I was very concerned that he might be able to prevent me from getting a single win on Hlaalu. The game I won with Hlaalu I was forced to play it like a control deck, using any guards I could get my hands on to gum up the board, take favorable trades, and break 0 runes until I could secure a win. Look out for him in the coming weeks, he is a player to watch.
After round 5 I joined hakme to close out commentary for Saturday’s play and then, if I’m being completely honest, didn’t know what to do with myself for basically the entire night. I poked my head into my quarterfinal opponent Silverfuse’s stream for a little bit to see her test. I was surprised to see that her friends who she was testing against were not playing my decks so seeing that there probably wasn’t to much to learn about the upcoming match up moved on and tried to get some sleep… not very successfully. I am glad that I made the decision not to play any more games between round 5 and the top 8 as I was completely exhausted anyway and it was better to digest the games I had played and think ahead. It was hard not to focus on the ramifications of the games I would play in the top 8 when I wasn’t engaged with the game, but thankfully whenever I was talking to my teammates or in a game I think I was able to forget about what was at stake and just focus on playing the best I could.
While I had generally been banning scout throughout the tournament, I decided to ban Silverfuse’s Rage Dagoth for the quarterfinal as I expected her to ban either my Scout or my Battlemage and was concerned about my ability to consistently win a game with Hlaalu against a lineup of Aggro Crusader, Rage Dagoth, and the Hlaalu mirror. I believed that I could more consistently win the Hlaalu vs Scout matchup than any other match up with my Hlaalu. In the end she banned my Hlaalu, which I completely understand as the deck has the ability to high roll basically any match up, and we sat down to play. Do I think that I played better? Yes. Do I think that I drew better? Also yes. Our match was a pretty clean 3-0 for me and while I did hit double lighting bolt prophecies in our first game, and had a great early interactive hand in our 2nd game, I don’t think I even needed the prophecies to win the first game and I do think that my play throughout justified the outcome. I felt somewhat lucky that I didn’t really have to sweat much throughout the match as this was arguably the most important match I’ve ever played, seeing as making the top 4 is very close to qualifying seeing as even if you finish 4th the 7 points on the line make you a strong favorite to qualify that way.
My teammates and I were somewhat concerned about my Semifinal matchup against Volchenok as there didn’t seem to be a single deck in his lineup that my Assassin would be favored against. There was a fierce debate about whether to ban his Tribunal or Scout Control and ultimately I decided on banning the Tribunal. Similar to the match against Silverfuse, despite the extremely high raw power of Scout we felt that it was the deck that I could most easily beat with my Assassin and that other than my Scout, which we assumed he would ban, I didn’t really have any favorable match ups into his tribunal. He ended up also banning my Hlaalu and I was able to pick up the first two games with my Scout and Battlemage both against his Rage Dagoth. The tricky part then was trying to find a win with Assassin. I wasn’t able to quite close out game 3 against his Scout, although it was close, but in game 4 I was able to take the 3rd game against his Dagoth off the back of a bear and crab. All I really remember after that is all of my teammates jumping in a call and Chris (Lateralus) screaming “BOY YOU’RE GOIN TO TEXAS”, everyone went completely berserk and the TRS discord chat got clogged with text based screaming and keyboard smashing: I gotta admit its one thing to grind tournaments on your own, its another thing to do it knowing you have people behind you. I’m not sure, but I’m happy to say that this may have also been my best played match of the tournament.
My finals match against Dust was another story… While I did end up winning and my play was.. decent, a combination of extreme fatigue, excitement in knowing that I was already qualified, and a poor decision to have some caffeinated tea led to me making some rather glaring mistakes: being off lethal by 1 due to forgetting to play my Tree Minder before attacking with Thorn Histmage, and as I’m sure everyone remembers, getting extremely flustered after making such a mistake in the final and queuing up Scout again after having just won with it. I’m thankful to Dust for his sportsmanship in understanding my error and dazed state after having played some of the hardest Legends I’ve ever played for two days straight. I agree that the inconsistency between the ruling on my match and hakme’s the prior week was a little odd but also agree that since I had only one deck left there was no information for me to gain from my misqueue which explains the difference in ruling. In the end I am happy that I won game 4 anyway to close out the series 3-1 since whether or not I had received a game loss wouldn’t have impacted the match result. The match was well played by dust but I do think that my flexible but largely anti-aggro lineup was well positioned against his own.
And like that I was 1st. It honestly still feels a little surreal but it’s awesome to see all the work I’ve put into Legends these past few months, and CCGs for basically my whole life, pay off.
Overall my lineup records from the tournament were:
Uprising Scout: 7-1 (no bans) [1 loss against Dust]
Mid Battlemage: 6-2 (banned by Dust) [Both losses against Fafal]
Tempo Assassin: 6-3 (banned by Wagmaster) [2 losses against Thuldir, 1 against Volchenok]
Aggro Hlaalu: 2-1 (banned by all 5 of my other opponents) [1 loss against Wagmaster]
Combined game record: 21-7 (75% wr)
In order I banned: Uprising Scout, Uprising Scout, Uprising Scout, Aggro Hlaalu, Rage Dagoth, Tribunal Control, Mono Red Crusader.
I’m very excited for QuakeCon and looking forward to attending with my teammate plzdonhakme and hopefully a few more of us!