MECCG World Championships 2001
Copyright Chad Martin ©2002
Edited by Nigel Buckle for The Guild Companion
This was my first real opportunity to go to the World Championships for MECCG since the game began, and, having recently volunteered to assume the position of the head of the Council of Lorien, North America's MECCG council, I felt some responsibility to attend. Most of the World Championships were previously held in Europe, and, being a poor college student, I never really had the means to attend. Though my wife, Pam, and I had recently moved to Indiana for her to start on her Master's degree, I wasn't going to miss this.
The Worlds were held in Montreal, Quebec, Canada from August 24th to the 26th. When I landed on the afternoon of the 23rd, I grinned at all the bilingual signs. This was familiar territory, I thought, since I have some Canadian relatives but I soon found out that I wasn't quite right. Montreal is the most thoroughly bilingual place I've ever visited. Everybody seemed to know both English and French, from the bus drivers, to the teenagers working at Subway to the people on the street. French was most commonly used, but looking sheepish and saying "Je parle Anglais" usually got you a smile and a language you could understand.
I came fairly prepared, with maps and directions to the wonderful apartment we were staying in for the weekend. Taking the bus from the airport to the central bus station as directed, I couldn't find the shuttle to the apartment, as I was told I could. I got on one that was headed roughly in that direction got off when I could and walked for about a mile to the apartment. My intention was to drop off my things, find my way to Charles Jenkins's hotel room to play a booster draft. When I arrived at the apartment, I found that I was the first one there, and the management was about to leave for the day. It turned out that Dave Stegman, the man in charge of getting us this apartment, was seriously delayed. I got the keys to the apartment, and ended up napping until they showed up at 8 pm, missing the booster draft. I would get enough games in this weekend, anyway, I figured.
We woke up on Friday and took the subway to the Atwater Library, where most of the proceedings for that weekend would take place. Riding on a subway was also a new experience to me, but the system is set up well in Montreal, and I felt quite comfortable on it by the end of the day. At the library, we met up with many people, both familiar and unfamiliar. We found our way in, went through the registration process, received our Worlds swag, and ended up starting the Open almost an hour late.
Since ICE went bankrupt, the fans of MECCG have been running things. One particular change that I feel is for the best is that Worlds now has an Open tournament that anybody can enter to try to win a spot into the Semi-finals, for which people like the National Champions from around the world are already qualified. This is where my cards first saw their use.
My first game was against Michael Guilbault, a very friendly man from Quebec City, who was playing a minion deck that gathered allies around the Rivendell area. I was playing a hero deck chock full of big elves itching to kill some bad guys. It's a deck I've had for a while, and the idea wasn't an uncommon one at Worlds. His characters generally stayed in one big company throughout the game. On my first turn, I met his company in Moria with some mad elves that had just found a sword in the guardroom. His next turn saw his company limping out, with four wounded characters. This cost him a lot of time, and he never really recovered. I got a lot of weapons and kill points. Near the end of the game, I attacked again, leading with Elrond using his ring to its fullest. He took down Aradan, and that Stinker known as Gollum ran off. One of his wolf allies also died in the fray. When the dust cleared, I was ahead 29-16, earning me a 5-1 win.
After lunch at the nearby McDonald's, I sat down in front of James Vollmer and shuffled my famous 'Forod deck'. It's not famous because it's that good, just because it's unique. The idea is to start with some very weak sages, Beorn, and a big elf diplomat. Eventually, I plan to get Radagast out, split into two companies, and use Forod to teleport all across the north, getting items, factions, and a Noble Hound. I use Radagast to draw cards, and Riddling Talk and Flatter a Foe to cancel the inevitable dragons and drakes and lower the hazard limit. In this game, it worked quite well. My influence hazards worked well at the beginning, but, once you Call of Home someone like Thrain, your opponent has a lot of influence to spare. He was able to mount a bit of a comeback by the end of the game, but I still came out on top, 23-16, one point away from another 5-1.
Two rounds in, and I've got two wins and nine tournament points. I'm feeling pretty good. Then, I get paired with Josh Grace. Ugh. We're both from Minnesota originally, and have played each other many times. Josh is often near the top of whatever CCG rankings he's in, so this game wasn't going to be easy. We sit down, and he already knows what I'm playing. To my surprise, he offers me a 4-2 win without a game, since he was afraid of losing worse. I should have accepted. He was playing a minion 'Malady Without Healing' deck with covert characters. His companies would be easy pickings in combat with my elves. We were both slow in drawing something to do, but he got going a little quicker than me. Eventually, I decide it's time for somebody to die, so I track down his company, but only manage to wound two of them. He sends them back to Dol Guldur to heal and then they head to Moria. Thirsting for more blood, and remembering my fun in Moria against Michael, I wade in for another attack. This time, however, I've found that I was too noisy running around, and Durin's Bane swoops down for the kill. Celeborn bravely sacrifices himself in hopes to save the rest, but the Balrog manages to catch up to Gandalf and kill him as well. At about this time, Josh's company finds mine weeping and mercilessly Maladies them. I try to run away on my next turn, but Josh's hazards bounce one of Elrond's sons back to Moria, where Josh's company eats him with another Malady. The game was topped off with Elrond suffering from Alone and Unadvised all on his own. I come out of that with 5 points to Josh's 27. I should have taken that 4-2 win when I had the chance!
My last game of the Open sees me paired against James Gutt. He's playing a Fallen Radagast deck, and I'm using my Forod deck for Fallen Wizards. Since he is using Fallen Radagast, I'm forced to use a different wizard. This means that I won't have a good part of my card drawing power. On top of that, I have a Favor of the Valar in my Fallen Wizard sideboard, so I can shuffle all the nasty hazards back into the deck from my sideboard. All of this adds up to me not getting any further than halfway through my deck before the game ends. He killed my weak sages on the first turn with a vicious series of Orc attacks, but my Man hazards wouldn't leave him alone, either. At the end, I never drew an ally, and he had no items. Unfortunately for him, he didn't have many marshalling points other than his allies, which caused me to win 30-22.
All told I finished the Open with 13 tournament points, which was enough to advance me to the semi-finals. I'm happy. This is all I really expected to accomplish, so the pressure was off for the rest of the weekend. I found some of the flaws of my decks, but I didn't bother to pack many cards to tweak them between events. I just decided to borrow a couple cards and try to play around the problems.
Before I had to deal with that, however, I participated in another round of arguably the best variant to MECCG ever conceived. Thank God that he blessed the members of the Guild of Crippled Masters with the idea of Middle-Earth: the Drinking Game. There are few better combinations in the world than card-geeks and alcohol. This particular tournament was a sealed deck event held in a huge sports bar called Jillian's in the Montreal Forum. I pulled a lot of good cards, including Army of the Dead, Anduril, Smaug Ahunt, Traitor and others.
The first game was against Spencer Carney. Before I get into the details of the game, I need to describe the distinct disadvantage I was faced with. Spencer is a big guy. I'm 5'9" and 150 lbs and I don't hold my liquor well. Secondly, I hate beer, so I was drinking White Russians, which are quite a bit stronger. My cards, however, made up for all this wonderfully. Spence started the game by discarding a Cram and running all the way to the Lonely Mountain to grab a big palantir. Smaug is out on the prowl, however, and snacks on some of his company, leaving 4 people to get the palantir, which is just enough to carry the thing. On his next turn, he tried to lug the thing back to Lorien, but some Hobgoblins took him by surprise and killed off another person, forcing his company to leave the big thing by the side of the road and run to the elves crying. Later in the game, I managed to catch Pallando off guard bearing Glamdring with a Were-worm. One successful strike later, and the worm is running off with a sword in its stomach. To top it all off, I managed to make his Thranduil become a Traitor at the Council, but he wasn't able to kill anybody. My resources worked as well as one would expect in a sealed deck game. I won 24 to 8.
The second game of the night was against Patrick Cochran. I didn't do as well in this game, and Patrick is another big guy, so I don't remember as much about the game. I do remember, however, that by the end of the game all I had left was a blood spot in front of me. All my characters were either dead or corrupted away. It was frustrating at first, but with enough booze it became comical. We started with the same characters at the character draft, and it just went downhill from there for me. Patrick beat me 16 to -1. By the end of the game, everybody had left, and the bar was about to close. I think the people running the show just assumed that since we were the last ones there, we were playing the game that would decide first and second place for the tournament. I ended up winning a signed print of the One Ring art by Donato Giancola for that showing, and I didn't even suffer a hangover.
The Drinking Game didn't leave me with much time to change my decks for the semis, or with much sleep. I made it back to the library in time, though, and ready to go. My first round was against the famous Joe Bisz playing a Fallen Pallando deck. I found out later that he was a little apprehensive coming into this game, since I volunteer a lot of time to this game. As he learned, and as others know, this doesn't mean I'm that good at playing! It was a fun game though. On my side of the table, I never saw my Long bottom Leafs, so my sideboarding was seriously hampered. I also made the mistake of going to the Iron Hill Dwarf Hold after I shuffled the Iron Hill Dwarves back into my deck with Favor of the Valar. In an effort to pour salt in the wound I opened up, he played Siege on the Dwarf Hold. After I got out, I was attacked my Scatha Ahunt. Ioreth managed to fight him to a draw wielding Glamdring, and then a tapped Elrond killed a Cave Worm with no help. My influence hazards were mildly annoying to him, and my Fallen Wizard hazards were just starting to kick in when time was called. The game ended with him on top 26-10, but it would have been even worse without my sick die rolls.
My second game was against David. I unfortunately don't remember his last name, but he had a great One Ring deck. It was the typical hobbit deck with Stealth and cancellers, but he played it to a tee. I couldn't do anything. He got out two A Short Rests, flew through his deck and dunked with no problems. This game made me realize that my One Ring hazards were a little lacking. Kudos to him, because he played a flawless game with a flawless poker face, he had a very professional attitude for somebody so young.
My third game was against James Gutt again. This time he had a minion covert ring deck, and my elves were looking for some revenge after that whipping they received at the hands of Josh Grace. My deck worked well again. I attacked Hendolen and Tros Hesnef at Dunharrow after they had been tapped out by a Heedless Revelry, and killed them both. I tried some other attacks in Minas Tirith and Moria, but didn't kill anybody else. By this game, James had gotten very sick of playing against decks like mine, and had essentially conceded the win to me after the attack at Dunharrow. I won 38 to 10.
My final game of the weekend was against the honorable Charles Bouldin himself. I've known Charles online for quite some time, and I was pleased that I not only was able to meet him for the first time at Worlds, but play him as well. This being the last round of the semi-finals, we both realized that we had no chance at getting any significant place in the tournament, so we decided to take our time and have fun with the game. It was, however, still a tournament, and we were under a time restriction, so the game was cut unfortunately short. I started by deviating from my standard first character at the draft by starting Beorn. He played Elrond. I still don't know why I did this, but that meant I had to start with Cirdan, who is common bait for big hazards, and often dies. This game was no exception. I was, however, lucky enough to play Galadriel at the Grey Havens on my last turn, and muster the Elves of Lindon with her. My Man hazards had Charles tied up. He made it to The Stones safely on his first turn, but on his next turn to Bree, I took him down to no general influence with a hazard, hit Elrond with a Call of Home, then attacked the remainder with a Corsairs of Umbar and an Assassin. He spent most of the rest of the game stuck with that company at Bree, desperately trying to get in, and getting nailed by Man hazards repeatedly. The final count saw us both at 16 points, but I was holding Wormsbane in my hand, which is what he picked up at The Stones, final result 16-15 in my favor.
That night we, as a group, went to dinner at the Auberge Dragon Rouge, which was a blast. It's an actual tavern in the middle of Montreal. Everybody spoke French, so most of what the minstrels had to say went over our heads. The food was wonderful; I had some wild boar. I had a great time talking to Arco den Boer, Patrick Cochran, Spence Carney and others.
The next day it was my turn to run a tournament. I got to the library early to organize the North American Championships, which was attended by 16 people. It went rather smoothly, and in the end, Josh Grace, Jim Montanus, Andrew Sitte and Dave Stegman advanced to the finals. Andrew and Dave were tied with Patrick Cochran for third place, but Patrick missed the finals on the third tiebreaker. Andrew Sitte was an interesting case, because his first real tournament experience came at Worlds. He did so well because he had spent a lot of time playing NetMECCG against some very fine opponents, including Josh Grace and Brian Wong.
While this was going on, the finals for Worlds was going on, between Jonathan Yost, Joe Bisz, Brian Wong and Nicholas "Big Red" Dewiere. After some intense games, Brian Wong emerged as the new world champion. Nicholas came in a close second, Joe third and Jonathan was fourth. Unfortunately, I was working at rules questions, administrative duties, and taking pictures for Wim Heemskerk to watch the games that much.
That night, we held the awards ceremony at Nick and Mario's restaurant near the library. I received my print of The One Ring, others got their prizes, I handed out the initial prizes for those not in the finals for North America, and we all discussed the time we had and the games we played. I was dubbed the American to screw up the pronunciation of Luc Schruers last name the least. I also spent quite a bit of time arranging when the finals would take place, since I had an afternoon flight to catch on Monday. We decided that one game would be played that night, and the other two would be played at a cafe with which the locals were familiar.
Dave Stegman and I headed to Jim Montanus's hotel room, and they played the first round of the finals before heading to bed. Andrew Sitte and Josh Grace played their game at their place, since they were staying together for the weekend. After another short night of sleep and some difficulty in finding the cafe, we settled in for another two rounds of MECCG to determine the North American champion. After all the games were played, Josh Grace was the new champion, Andrew Sitte came in a close second, with Dave Stegman and Jim Montanus coming in third and fourth, respectively. We had a short, informal awards ceremony, and I was off to catch my flight. The decks these gentlemen used in the finals are posted on the Council of Lorien website.
It was a terribly fun time, and terribly busy. I probably got only twelve hours of sleep all weekend, but staying awake was so much more fun than sleeping. I want to personally thank Dave Stegman for arranging for the place for me to stay, and getting support for a silver One Ring for the North American Championships, along with all the organization he did for Worlds. I also want to thank Dina Bennett, Jimmy Chen, Gary Devouges and especially Steven Wark for all the time they put into making Worlds 2001 so successful.
More information and a lot of pictures are available on the Tolen Mar website at http://www.chirographum.com/tolenmar/meworlds.html
The Council of Lorien website is at http://www.treebeard.com/col/