Shadowfist Deck: Tiki God by Benjamin Barnett
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[posted 23 Sep 2006]
Published with permission. Thanks Benjamin!
Benjamin Barnett made it to the finals of the GenCon 2006 World Championship (multiplayer, constructed) tournament with this deck.
I built Tiki God because I'm generally a pretty low-average multi player. I have no local playgroup in Cleveland and only a little time during the year for Gatling to keep my skills sharp. So when I decided to go to Jacktown (last fall) and to GenCon I figured my only good shot at victories in tournament multiplayer was to build a deck that was much lower on interaction than is typical in multi -- an engine deck in other words. From the name, you'd think the deck runs Purists (well, it runs one, but we'll get to that in a minute), or Lotus, or Darkness Monarchs, but it's primarily Ascended and Hand. I wouldn't normally post a non-winning deck, but this one's notable for a couple of reasons.
I looked at and discarded several power-efficiency models (Battlematic, Ice Commandoes, various flavors of weenie horde and force multiplier) and then took a good long look at some big power-gen deck models I'd tinkered with in the SS era. Bull Market with Into the Light and Wind on the Mountain is a mighty engine for massive power gen, but always suffered from the problem of fueling someone else's win as often as it fueled mine if I couldn't win quickly enough (same turn is what's generally required.) The problem was only aggravated by having so many slots in the deck taken up by the engine instead of Cards That Win.
I realized that the best way to offset that weakness is to add massive card draw, via all the Ascended and Hand draw boosters (The Enemy of My Enemy, Order of the Wheel, Leaping Tiger Troupe, and especially Elderly Monk). All things being equal, if everybody's sitting on 50+ power, but everybody else has 6 cards and I hold 30 or so, well, that's a lot more good stuff to spend power on, right?
With Leaping Tiger Troupes in for card draw, Xiaoyang Yun seemed like a natural fit for denial denial, so I added in one (and only one) of each faction foundation that allowed any sort of card draw, plus one Kunlun Clan Assault for extra early game disruption and late game removal, and one Resistance Squad (mostly because Who's the Monkey Now could conceivably screw this deck on its winning turn.) Iron Monkey to steal back all that power I was churning out for everyone, Laughter of the Wind (!) to unturn my army of attackers multiple times, plenty of Blade Palm to force all the big sticks back into opponents' hands when I'm ready to go off, and lots of Confucian to take care of any events not covered by Xiaoyang Yun, and I was ready to start tweaking the recipe.
To give an idea how hideously effective this deck is, in the four rounds of Swiss leading up to the final Tiki God timed out once (in a verrry slow 3-player game) then won three times, taking two or more often three sites on its winning turn. All games it won were over in less than 40 minutes, even taking into account that in the turn Tiki God wins there's about 10 minutes of setup -- endless Bull Market, character playing, Into the Lighting, Blade Palming, card drawing, Wind on the Mountaining, and Bull Marketing some more -- before I make the winning attacks. Typical table state at the end of the game had 60-90 power in everybody's pool (except mine, LOL -- the engine is actually pretty power-hungry, as is the 10-12 character horde).
All this fearsomeness worked against me in the final. Gavin, Brian, and Julian (and even I!) agreed that holding me down relentlessly was definitely their best strategy from round one. It was effectively Attack to the Ben for most of the game. All 3 of the New York players are great enough at multi that they struck the balance just about right, standing on my neck without radically destabilizing the effectively 3-player game that resulted. If Julian hadn't suffered an unusually bad draw the table probably would've held at least once more around, and I would've had my chance. I did what I could, throwing the occasional Op Killdeer to foil significant attacks and trying to cycle to the cards that would help me out. And in fact, if Brian hadn't won that turn, I held a hand of cards that gave me about a 30% chance of firing up my engine of doom. Alas, we'll never know.
The comment I heard most often from players who saw the deck in action (besides just "Holy shit!") was, "Holy shit -- Benjamin brought a Magic deck to a Shadowfist tournament!" or (from Brian I think) "Wow, I didn't think there WERE any broken decks in Shadowfist."
Despite all its success, the deck is not as much fun to play as you might think, and certainly no fun to play against. There's satisfaction in building a deck that gets such an extreme combo to work really reliably, but playing it is pretty rote and the turn it goes off is just tedious for everyone. Once it's ready there's also almost nothing anyone (or three anyones) can really do to stop it. And getting to ready only takes about 5 or 6 turns. Gavin crafted a little disclaimer speech for me that goes like this:
"OK, does anyone have effects that monkey with recursion? No? Fine -- I'm going to win now, but it's going to take me about 10 minutes to set up first. If you want to watch me play a LOT of cards and make a LOT of power in everyone's pool you can stick around, but this is also a great time for a bathroom break or a soda run. I'll let you know when I'm ready to win."
Not the kind of deck to bring to casual play with friends or (God forbid!) new players -- try it once if you like, as a curiosity, but it's going to earn you a beating in the parking lot if you try to steamroll your way through a proving ground season with it.
So why's the deck called Tiki God? It used to be called ATM, but once I actually used it against other human beings I made a promise to Gavin and the rest of the new design team that once GenCon was over I'd post the deck list for posterity, put a stake through the heart of the deck, put it back in its box with a scrap of paper on its forehead, pour a circle of salt around the perimeter of the box and leave it there forever. Don't pick it up, Bobby Brady, it's cursed!
Meanwhile, the deck also earned me a new Shadowfist subtitle from the design team. I'm now "Master of the Forbidden Stance". Hmmm, what an honor!
Here's the deck in its GenCon tournament-ready final configuration.
by Benjamin Barnett (91 cards)
Foundations - 26
5x Gangsters (early site protection)
5x Jade Wheel Society
1x Rat Clan Spies
1x Order of the Wheel
5x Golden Candle Society
2x Little Grasshopper
1x Arcane Scientist (card draw)
1x CDCA Scientist (card draw)
1x Gonzo Journalist (card draw)
1x Kunlun Clan Assault
1x Man With No Name (card draw)
1x Queen of the Ice Pagoda (mentor protection, hitter)
1x Resistance Squad
Utility / Hitters
1x Cassandra (fantastic in this deck, with all the in-turn card draw)
3x Elderly Monk (card draw boost)
1x Jia Baoyu (card draw)
2x Leaping Tiger Troupe (card draw)
2x The Iron Monkey
2x Xioyang Yun (event defense)
Events - 27
In general, there are less than 5 of many events (Blade Palm, I'm looking at YOU) that most people would say, "The deck would be even better with 5 of those." Trust me, with all the recursion in the deck these numbers are all juuuuust right. The other nice thing about all the recursion is you're never afraid to just play an event and get it out of your hand -- it'll be back when you need it.
3x Blade Palm
4x Bull Market
3x Confucian Stability
4x Into the Light
1x Invincible Chi (great in the win turn)
2x Laughter of the Wind
1x Mole Network (sometimes useful in the early game, when you're still racing to 3 ASC resources)
4x Operation Killdeer
1x Secrets of Shaolin
4x Wind on the Mountain
Edges - 3
1x Chinese Connection
2x The Enemy of My Enemy (kill-resistant card draw)
NFSS - 2
1x The Bazaar (filtering card draw)
1x The Forest of Fallen Banners (GREAT card draw accelerator -- when Elderly Monks are out it trades each weenie for 2 or 3 cards)
FSS - 12
4x Coral Reef (card draw)
1x Festival Circle (XYY backup)
1x Gambling House (early game - irrelevant late game)
1x Heaven's Peak (card draw)
1x Stone Dolmens
2x Temple of Celestial Mercy
1x Whirlpool of Blood
PLAY NOTES: For a mega-combo deck it's surprisingly simple to play. Discard aggressively early game to get to 3 ascended foundations and a FSS. It's fine to ditch one copy of Iron Monkey, Laughter, and XYY, but it's a bit harder to win if you pitch all copies of any of these. You can chuck up to 2 Into the Light and Wind -- more could be a problem. Don't worry about holding onto any of the off-faction foundations early -- they're nice but not critical, with the possible exception of Gonzo Journalist (Brawl defense via XYY late-game). Ditch GCS at will but hold Elderly Monks if at all possible. The deck is very light on FSS -- another reason for extremely aggressive discard in the early game.
Once you've got your 3 ASC, ride Op Killdeer (augmented by Into the Light possibly) until you can increase your hand size and grab some Bull Markets. It's fine to lose FSS now -- you don't need 'em so much. Try not to put out Elderly Monks unless you can give them a LOT of Op K love and support -- smart opponents HATE Elderly Monks. That said, if they die, they die; Into the Light can bring 'em back later just in time for the end-of-the-world party.
Once you've got even one Bull, an Op K or 2, and an ITL or 2 all in your smoked pile, pretty much any method of additional card draw in play or in your hand, plus a Wind in your hand, you can go off. Just keep recursing the Bulls along with all the other support and denial events, Bulling again, drawing cards (via The Enemy of My Enemy, Leaping Tiger Troupes, Coral Reef, etc.) and gradually building a huge wave of characters. You can even Blade Palm your own LTT to play them again for additional card draw if you haven't got everything you need yet.
You'll end up with XYY out for event defense plus 21 fight or so of characters, a mitt full of most of your denial and punchthrough events, and Laughter of the Wind. And a giant pile of power in reserve to Confucian / Blade Palm anything that does manage to get in your way, and to recurse Laughter as many times as you need to take your 5th site.
schmeee (Benjamin Barnett)
[writeup by Benjamin Barnett]