By Tim Willoughby
Sitting down for this quarterfinal match at Pro Circuit San Francisco, I had trouble working out who to support. On one side was my teammate and fellow Englishman Ian Vincent. On the other side was the only Tim in the Top 8. Us Tims have to stick together; only a few have done really well for themselves—the guy who wrote the lyrics for The Lion King, Mr. Orange from Reservoir Dogs, the guy from The Shawshank Redemption, and Tim Batow. That’s about it.
Regardless of which player I was to support, I would be in the Ahmed Samsarra, White King fan club. Each of the players in this quarterfinal match would be using a Checkmate toolbox approach to winning the game, fetching the appropriate powerful locations every turn to take things down.
Tim had the odd initiative and played Connie Webb for first blood against an empty board from Vincent. He did have a 2-drop, though, in the form of Talia, Beloved Daughter, who stood front and center on Ian’s board. Without a natural 2-drop, Batow had to use Connie Webb to find Sarge Steel, who duly traded with Talia.
For turn 3, Tim used Enemy of My Enemy, discarding the essentially useless Mikado and Mosha to find Ahmed Samsarra, White King. Tim played his in the support row behind Sarge and passed. Ian gave a little chuckle and made the same play, except that he found Maxwell Lord, Black King. Ahmed was already in Ian’s hand, and he played the powerful 3-drop in the hidden area.
When Sarge went for Talia with a +1 ATK pump thanks to Brother Eye, Ian fetched a Checkmate Safehouse] with his 3-drop and used it to team-up and get +1 DEF before powering-up for the one-way stun. Talia was in the back row, so there were no further attacks for the turn. Tim’s Ahmed also found a Team-Up that was unable to be flipped for the time being.
Going into turn 4, with the endurance 47-46 to Ian, he played Merlyn, Deadly Archer with his cosmic counter. Seeing that there was now a real threat to his King on the board, Tim was forced to under-drop with Dr. Psycho, Mental Giant in order to team-up with Villains United and be able to use The Science Spire that was fetched by Ahmed. Connie Webb made it 3 points of recruits, and Tim formed up with an exhausted Ahmed and Connie Webb standing in front of Sarge Steel and Dr. Psycho respectively.
At the end of the formation step, Ian used his Ahmed to fetch Rook Control so that he could get his Merlyn into the hidden area. He then flipped Coast City and Brother Eye to let Merlyn take a shot at Ahmed. Even though all this did was force a Science Spire activation, it was pretty effective at turning Tim’s board into a collection of tiny drops and slowing down Batow’s development significantly. Talia attacked into Connie Webb, pumped up with Brother Eye, which prompted an activation by Tim to find a new Connie Webb. Ian had no more attacks following this. His job of shrinking Tim’s board was complete, and he didn’t want to risk his own characters unduly. Tim used Brother I Satellite to find Maxwell Lord, Black King, then attacked with Sarge Steel and a Brother Eye activation of his own to take the endurance to 44-41 to Tim.
Ian used his Rook Control to move Merlyn to the hidden area, and it was on to turn 5.
Tim had Maxwell Lord with Knight Armor, while Ian had to have a little think before recruiting. If he played a second King, then he could in theory get stuck with two Kings stunned at the end of turn, which is not a happy place to be. He did recruit Maxwell Lord, Black King in the end, and hid him behind Talia. Coast City would ensure that Tim had to keep his attacks honest, and Ian set up looking for a longer game, making the most of the Merlyn advantage.
Dr. Psycho attacked Talia and the 2-drops traded. Talia then targeted herself with her vengeance ability, suggesting that Ian was unconcerned by the potential of both his Kings getting stunned and perhaps preferring to use a White King activation to find a location that would help him out if that did happen. Tim’s Black King (with a Knight Armor) swung at Ian’s, and when Tim tried for Brother Eye, Ian responded by using Maxwell Lord to stop his doppelganger having the Checkmate affiliation. Tim had him trumped, though, using Enemy of My Enemy to fetch a power-up. From there, Batow had no further attacks.
Ian cracked back on Sarge Steel with Merlyn, pumped by Brother Eye, which forced another The Science Spire activation from the Team Alternate Win Condition member. Merlyn then activated to KO Dr. Psycho, leaving Batow with just a 5-drop. Ahmed fetched a Brother I Satellite and it was on to turn 6.
On turn 6, Ian played Asmodeus, Duke of Hell with a Knight Armor. This card (suggested for the deck by one Tim Willoughby, of London, England) could prove critical in holding Batow off from ever being able to play the Deathstroke that could otherwise end the game decisively with Kings on Vincent’s side of the board.
Tim played Genis Vell ◊ Photon, Transformed for turn 6 and was forced to use Maxwell Lord to turn off Merlyn’s ability in order to have any shot at staying in the game. Intriguingly, Vincent chose to attack into Maxwell Lord with Asmodeus, forcing a Slaughter Swamp for a power-up from Batow. Ian fetched a second Team-Up to let Asmodeus join up with the Checkmate team, then used Brother Eye to find the 7-drop Sasha Bordeux and flipped a Pit of Madness to allow for a colossal Brother Eye pump that took Batow down to 33 (the same endurance as Vincent).
Genis Vell attacked Maxwell Lord, who, even after being pumped by Pit of Madness, could not survive a power-up for the stun.
The game went to turn 7, and with the initiative, Batow played Deathstroke the Terminator, Ultimate Assassin. Somehow, Ian had thought that the Deathstroke on Batow’s list was the 4-drop version, and he was visibly rocked by the entrance of such a deadly threat to his Kings. Luckily, though, he had a plan.
Spider-Man, The Amazing Spider-Man is a pretty good answer to various threats, and Deathstroke appeared to be one of them. Ian fetched a Team-Up with Ahmed, then used Big Spidey to exhaust both Deathstroke and Maxwell Lord. The game was still very much afoot.
Genis Vell attacked Ian’s Maxwell Lord, which Ian simply reinforced. Spider-Man then smashed back on Maxwell Lord, forcing a Knightmare Scenario from Batow just to save on endurance. The totals were 28 to 18 for Batow, who was now playing off the top of his deck for more threats, or at least for a way to make his Deathstroke stick.
Ian simply played a resource and passed. With a Brother Eye to return a 5-drop, and likely a Slaughter Swamp to get back his 7-drop, he was looking ahead on the board. Tim used The Science Spire on his Maxwell Lord in an attempt to improve his hand, then passed without recruits.
Ian did indeed fetch a Slaughter Swamp, and at the start of the attack step, he used Merlyn to KO Deathstroke, though not before Batow could team-up. All of a sudden, things looked very good for the Englishman. Spider-Man crushed Genis Vell like a bug, in spite of a double Checkmate Safe House and a power-up. As his last character on the board was stunned and he was facing down a huge set of attacks, Tim just scooped it up.
Ian Vincent wins game 1.
Tim elected to take the even initiative in game 2, and while Ian had to mulligan his opening four, Tim was more than happy to keep his. While Vincent had no turn 1 play, Tim again got to nip in for a cheeky 1 with Connie Webb before she did her main job of finding Sarge Steel on turn 2.
Ian didn’t have a 2-drop and took further beatings.
The speed with which Ian played his third turn seemed to imply that he might be missing his drops. This was not the case, though, as he fetched Ahmed Samsarra, White King, who went in the hidden area with Enemy of My Enemy, discarding Mikado and Mosha. Tim also made this play, albeit ultimately positioning Ahmed visible.
While Ian was busy fetching a Team-Up with his 3-drop, Tim was happy to beat down, taking Ian to 36 going into turn 4. Batow looked to press this advantage with a Bizarro, ME AM BIZARRO #1 that held a Knight Armor.
Ian looked at his recruits and had a little chuckle.
“I have all the wrong tech for you this game,” he declared as he played Metallo with a Knight Armor of his own. Sarge and Ahmed team attacked the Revenge Squad 4-drop to get the stun, and then Bizarro went in to take Ian to just 21.
Ian had no attacks back, simply using Ahmed to KO The Science Spire and fetch Sewer System. Ian flipped Leslie Thompson’s Clinic to gain 1 endurance, and it was on to turn 5 with a lot of work to do for the Englishman.
Vincent recruited a front row Maxwell Lord, Black King and passed. Tim had a similar plan, recruiting his second King and putting both of them up front to protect his two other characters.
At the start of combat, Ian used his Maxwell Lord targeting Tim’s version, to which Tim responded by doing the same to Ian’s Maxwell and using a Threat Neutralized from the hand.
Ian’s Maxwell (now no longer a Checkmate character) attacked Tim’s Ahmed Samsarra, who fetched a Team-Up and was then reinforced. Metallo then went for Tim’s other King with help from Brother Eye in order to ensure the mutual stun. With two Kings stunned, Tim had to have something to keep from losing the game during the recovery step, and indeed he did. He attacked Ian’s Maxwell Lord with Bizarro and pumped him with a Threat Neutralized from the row. On just 18, facing down a big attack and with no real outs, Ian scooped to save time.
Ian took the favorable even initiatives for the final game, and each player had a peek at their opening four. Vincent wasn’t happy with his, while Tim kept four without a drop before Ahmed Samsarra, White King.
The first recruit of the game was a Sarge Steel for Ian, fetched out with Brother I Satellite at the cost of a discarded Metallo. Ian didn’t seem too downhearted about discarding the Revenge Squad 4-drop. Tim made the same play, albeit discarding Dr. Psycho, and the 2-drops traded.
For turn 3, Ahmed came out for Batow without an Enemy of My Enemy for the first time in the match. He was mirrored by Vincent, though for Ian, the King was concealed rather than visible. Tim capitalized on this by smashing face.
At this point, Ian did the Enemy of My Enemy discarding Mikado and Mosha trick to find Merlyn, Deadly Archer, and then used his King to find Rook Control. Tim found his 4-drop Bizarro with an identical Enemy of My Enemy. Mikado and Mosha doing things in a no onesies matchup? How lucky!
For turn 4, there were no great surprises about the characters recruited. Merlyn stood diagonally behind Sarge Steel, and Ian passed. For Tim it was Bizarro with a Knight Armor.
At the start of the combat step, Ian flipped up some extra locations and KO’d Ahmed Samsarra. As it turns out, Tim had been playing for the topdeck to get to keep his King safe, as he absolutely had to be the beatdown in the matchup, so he had no defense against Merlyn.
With Ahmed Samsarra hitting the KO’d pile for Tim, it was all over. Team Alternate Win Condition got an alternate loss.
Ian Vincent wins!