Battling with Dragons in the GEICO Summer Brawl

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Over the weekend, I was invited to compete in the Summer Brawl, a deckbuilding tournament sponsored by GEICO and put on by One Nation of Gamers. The event was set up in a similar vein to ChallengeStone, with eight players all building decks in a limited timeframe based on a specific ruleset. This event featured quite a few strong players, including both of my Value Town teammates Trump and Dog. At the last minute, Savjz subbed in for Eloise, who was unavailable due to a schedule conflict.

When we got the deckbuilding rules, I was somewhat overwhelmed at first. Unlike ChallengeStone, which had fairly straightforward rules for both of the events I competed in, the GEICO rules were quite complicated, and the penalties were merciless.

Here are the rules:

 

Special Rules

“15 minutes can save you 15% or more on insurance”

Rules:

Rule 1. All cards must contain at least TWO instances of the factors of 15(1,3, 5, 15). These numbers can appear in the Mana Cost, Attack, HP, Durability, or text of the card.

TLDR: All cards must have a combination of 1, 3, 5, or 15 twice on the card.

References to (1/1 minions) do not count as two separate instances. For example, you cannot put Dr. Boom into your deck even though he spawns 1/1 Boom Bots. However, Haunted Creeper is eligible because he has 1 attack in addition to spawning (1/1 tokens).
That these rules apply only when adding cards to your deck, disregarding the various discounts that are available in Hearthstone(Preparation, Emperor, Giant discounts). As long cards can be added into your deck based on these rules, they can be played in the game.
The number “50” does not count as an instance of 5.
The words “a” or “an” do not count as 1. The number “1” must be in the text of the card for it to count.

Examples of Acceptable Cards:

  • Argent Squire (1 Mana Cost, 1 Attack, 1 HP)
  • Scarlet Purifier(3 Mana Cost, 3 HP)
  • Spider Tank(3 Mana Cost, 3 Attack)
  • Anodized Robo Cub(+1 Attack, +1 Health)
  • Fireguard Destroyer(3 Attack, Gain 1-4 Attack, Overload (1))
  • Siege Engine(5 Mana, 5 Attack, 5 HP, +1 Attack)
  • Drakonid Crusher(15 or less Health, gain +3/+3)
  • Light’s Justice(1 Mana Cost, 1 Durability)
  • Perdition’s Blade(3 Mana Cost, Deal 1 Damage)
  • Stormforge Axe(3 Durability, Overload: (1))
  • Frostshock: (1 Mana Cost, Deal 1 damage)
  • Blessing of Might: (1 Mana Cost, 3 Attack)
  • Velen’s Chosen(3 Mana cost, Spell Damage +1)
  • Demonheart(5 Mana Cost, 5 damage, +5/+5)

Examples of NOT Acceptable Cards:

Rule 2. Your deck must also include Nozdormu.

Penalties: 
If you do not put in Nozdormu into your deck, we will remove the highest costing minion in your deck and add in Nozdormu.

If any of your cards do not follow the guidelines, we will remove them and add in the following in this order:

That was quite a lot to take in, especially in the very limited timeframe that we had – just 15 minutes to build three different decks!

My first inclination was that Shaman seemed like it would be strong, since unlike most classes, it actually gets to play many of its best spells still, like Rockbiter Weapon, Earth Shock, Lightning Bolt, Hex, and Lightning Storm. The rules eliminate most spells entirely, which makes it difficult to come back if you ever fall behind, since most minions don’t have an immediate impact on the board. Shaman also gets to use Fire Elemental, which is a very powerful minion that can also help swing games back in your favor.

I looked to Paladin next, because the class similarly retains some of its best cards in Muster for Battle and Quartermaster. I’m also a huge fan of Coghammer, which is also legal, but is often pushed out of Paladin decks because you can only really play so many weapons, and Truesilver is usually too good not to play – but it isn’t legal here. I was digging through Paladin cards trying to figure out what all to play when I came across Dragon Consort, which made me realize that both Blackwing Technician and Blackwing Corruptor are legal. Given that every deck has to have Nozdormu anyway, and both cheap oversized minions and battle cries with board impact like Corruptor are very strong, I decided to use that shell for my Paladin deck – and also decided to look at Dragon Priest.

Priest actually just seemed great. While you can’t play with any of its best spells, you can use both Twilight Whelp and Zombie Chow, which are certain to be good against opposing aggressive decks, along with Blackwing Technician, Dark Cultist, and Velen’s Chosen, all of which can run away with minion-focused games, especially with the Priest hero power.

Having that many strong early minions helps support Hungry Dragon, which is quite powerful in the absence of spells that can easily dispatch it. Twilight Drake similarly felt stronger than usual without any Silence effects (besides Earth Shock) in the format, and both obviously support the dragon synergies. I included Azure Drake, as well, despite having no use for spell power, and actually even played some Drakonid Crushers since there was no potential to lose to Big Game Hunter.

I ended up rushing to finish my decks as time wound down, and made some definite mistakes in doing so. Both my Priest and Paladin decks ended up with essentially no Taunts, because I skipped over Sludge Belcher while I was filling out my curve with dragons. I also should have certainly included Defender of Argus, which is extremely strong with oversized minions like Chow, Technician, and Dark Cultist, probably at the expense of some of the higher drops. I even accidentally left Sylvanas out of my Priest deck entirely despite fully intending to play it – I just didn’t have it in the list when time was called.

Here’s what I put together:

geico3geico2geico1

My first round was against Dog, and our match was quite close. We split the first four games, and it came down to my Shaman against his Priest. I managed to get down an early Mana Tide totem and defended it with Feral Spirits, and just kept drawing extra cards for literally the entire game. I’m sure I could have closed things out earlier than I did, but I was playing to leverage my card advantage knowing there was literally no way he could come back from the board state I’d created with the cards that were legal in the format.

Thanks to some awkward scheduling with competing events, that was the end of my first day, with my semifinal match to be played on Monday. I would be playing the winner of Firebat and Lifecoach, the latter of whom was playing in the Vulcun league finals in the morning. It turned out that Lifecoach played pretty much all day, getting knocked out of the Vulcun league by Cipher in the last possible match, leaving us several hours behind schedule by the time he was available. Then, thankfully, Firebat SMOrc’d him in about 20 minutes, and met me in the semifinals.

All three of Firebat’s decks had the same basic aggro Mech core. I felt like I had a really good matchup against that style of deck, since all of my decks were based on oversized early minions to dominate the board. It ended up working out, as while I lost the first game, I managed to come back and win three straight after that, sending me to the finals against Forsen.

I’d known I’d be up against Forsen if I made the finals since the day before. The rules had the two finalists build an additional deck each to play a best of seven rather than best of five. All of Forsen’s decks were very aggressive, so I felt like I was best served building a low-curve control deck in order to combat them. My best option seemed to be Warlock, since cards like Voidwalker, Mortal Coil, and Imp Gang Boss are all really good against decks full of small minions.

Here’s what I put together:

geico4

Unfortunately, the deck didn’t look anything like that when I played it in our match. I mulliganed an expensive hand into an even more expensive hand, and despite having so many cheap minions and spells in my deck, found myself using my early turns life tapping against his beatdown deck. Similarly, my draws with my other decks just didn’t come together either, with lots of early game hero powering since I didn’t have anything else to do with my mana, while Forsen went SMOrc all over my face – even hitting me with one of his deckbuilding penalty Magma Ragers at one point!

I ended up losing the match four games to one. While it’s always disappointing to lose, I certainly can’t complain that I won $1000 from winning a couple of matches! I had a lot of fun in the tournament, and hope to see more of these kind of deckbuilding challenge events in the future. I do think that these particular rules were a bit too difficult to follow and didn’t make for great gameplay due to the lack of spells, which made games often snowball heavily toward whoever got an early lead. That said, I still had a lot of fun, and hope to get a chance to play more similar events down the road.

Thanks to GEICO for hosting the event and to One Nation of Gamers for inviting me, and congratulations to Forsen for his win. First beating Value Town in Archon Team League (despite me 2-0’ing him there) and now this – Dad, you really are getting kind of abusive…

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