The Card Merchant International Cancer Society Charity Drive Classic Constructed online event took place between June 1 and July 4 2021. It featured 170 players from around the globe in what is, to date, the largest Classic Constructed event in Flesh and Blood history and thanks to many prizes and money donated by players all around the world, raised over NZD$55,000 to aid in the fight against cancer.
The organisers of this event, two prolific players of the game, Nick Butcher and Matt Rogers were inspired to run the tournament after hearing of the passing of close friend and Flesh and Blood community superstar, Cayle McCreath’s father, after a long and hard fought battle with cancer.
Cayle has been on the frontline of building the Flesh and Blood community since day one, travelling to upto four different stores a week, making sure friends have rides, decks and anything in between. It is without doubt that Cayle’s contribution to the Flesh and Blood community has been critical in helping it become what it is today. With Cayle being the first player to hit the fabled 1000XP mark and an inspiration to many both in and outside of the arena, the idea of the event was born as Nick and Matt wanted to give back to the community. An attribute that is synonymous with Cayle
In light of this and the fact that almost everyone who reaches their mid twenties has, in some way, a negative experience with cancer, it was decided that a Charity Drive was on the cards. Community is very much at the core of Flesh and Blood, so this event in many ways, was very special.
This international collaboration saw companies, Local Game Stores, content creators, community superstars and more come together in the fight against cancer. Today we have the privilege of hearing from two players from the event. First place finisher after swiss, Rohan Khanna and overall winner, Kieran McEntegart.
To see this amazing event from the player’s perspective, today Rohan Khanna, who finished in first place at the end of the swiss rounds and fifth overall controlling Chane, Bound by Shadow, puts the tournament experience in his own words and shares his thoughts on matchups, MVPs and key takeaways from the Charity Drive.
With Monarch being introduced to the Classic Constructed metagame, we were bound to see people experimenting with new heroes and builds. In this environment a very aggressive Chane felt like it would do well, because (as I'm sure most people have experienced by now) playing against it with either an unoptimised deck or lacking a clear gameplan, can be extremely punishing. It was a common opinion within our testing group that Chane would initially dominate the meta, until people started to figure out how to properly counter it. We worked on a rough idea of what the deck would look like and went into the tournament with very similar Chane lists, with two of us finishing first and second after swiss.
The popular Prism deck, ‘Luminaris Heralds’, was a flat out race. I don't think the matchup is too bad but I included some Ninth Blade of the Blood Oaths in the sideboard, since I thought being able to stop seven damage with one card when racing is huge. It's important to note that the Herald deck's turns get significantly worse if they are forced to block with a card, so forcing blocks is huge in this matchup.
MVPs: Consuming Volition, Plunder Run
This was one of the matchups where the strategy I chose diverged from many other people, more specifically, choosing not to run Dimenxxional Crossroads. To avoid getting fatigued, Chane needs to play this matchup as efficiently as possible with his damage. I felt that Crossroads contradicts this by forcing you to play out cards from your banish zone early to keep it alive. My approach to Guardian was taking Blood Debt from a very early stage to make sure the cards I play had the highest impact they could in the game, while also applying enough pressure in the early and mid game to force blocks. I believe this is a high skill matchup, where a single mistake from either player can be game ending.
MVPs: Huge Rift Bind turns, Carrion Husk to stop a Spinal Crush
Aggro Katsu and Dorinthea
I've grouped these together because neither are a great matchup for the current Chane builds, for a similar reason. The damage these decks can pump out (not to mention the on-hit effects they threaten) in the first few turns of the game can be huge. With no defense reactions, the options were to inefficiently block or race the opponent. Yes, you could win a race if you hit well off your Soul Shackles, but I believe both these decks can pull too far ahead before Chane becomes threatening with four to five Shackles. Similar to the Prism matchup, forcing these decks to block can significantly decrease the damage they do on their next turn, so cards that did this were amazing. I believe if either of these decks try to take a defensive approach and block you out early, Chane gains a huge advantage in this matchup as it lets the deck get to a high Shackle count more consistently.
MVPs: Plunder Run, Consuming Volition, Carrion Husk
Dorinthea was eventually the deck I lost to in Top 8 (piloted by Aaron Curtis, a great player). The game actually went relatively well, with me banishing enough gas to keep up. We ended up in a situation where I was on 20 and Aaron was on five with a full hand plus an arsenal card, taking what he knew was his last shot to kill me before being in trouble. Long story short, he had a huge turn with Steelblade Supremacy and Twinning Blade and made it happen.
The dreaded mirror match on Chane. I played a few of these throughout the charity event and believe that yes, it is a high variance matchup, but a few crucial cards as well as sideboard decisions can help tilt the balance in your favour. First off, as most people know already, Chains of Eminence can be devastating in this matchup, being able to name Seeds of Agony or Carrion Husk to blow your opponent out. One thing I'd like to point out here is that if you assume your opponent is playing Chains against you, it's possibly correct to side out some Seeds of Agony to minimise the effect that card can have. Shoutout to Dan McKay who gave me that tip after beating me in the mirror at the ProQuest.
MVPs: Chains of Eminence, Banishing well off Soul Shackles in the early game.
Chane is a powerhouse, with a very high ceiling, but comes with the tradeoff of also having relatively high variance regarding your banishes. Against decks like aggressive Katsu, Dorinthea and Prism Luminaris Heralds, where your opponent is going to try kill you as soon as possible, I feel Chane either needs a reliable way to defend till mid-game or needs to make its early game much more consistent (which is something we saw in Jason Chung's Chane deck from the Dev-astation! Classic Constructed series).
Consuming volition is a great card when racing, as it can disrupt your opponent's turn by forcing cards out of their hand.
I believe Snag is criminally underrated and should be played by anyone trying to fatigue a Chane.
Soul Reaping is absolutely busted.
Tournament fatigue is much more of a factor than I initially thought. Being able to play rounds spaced out over weeks really highlighted the difference in the level of play in the later rounds.
Congratulations to Kieran McEntegart AKA. Mr. Classic for taking the tournament out on aggro Katsu, which was a great meta call into a field full of Chanes without defense reactions. Thankyou to everyone who played and donated to help us raise a significant amount of money for a great cause.
The eventual tournament winner, Kieran 'Mr Classic' McEntegart, caught up with us to answer a few quick questions about his tournament experience. He shares with us the reasoning behind his hero of choice, Katsu, thoughts on his opponents and some predictions for the upcoming Road to Nationals season.
How does it feel to win the largest Classic Constructed tournament in history?
Pretty good! Having ended up second and third at some pretty competitive Classic Constructed events in the past, it was nice to come away with a win for change. It was great to get a chance to meet and play against people from all over the world.
What was your most memorable moment in the event?
There were a few memorable moments from throughout the tournament so it’s difficult to name one in particular.
I remember in round three, my game against Mani Gardwell on Prism came right down to the wire with both of us on one life for multiple turns.
In Round seven of swiss (my ‘win and in’ round) I built up a huge life lead against Alan Kernohan on Chane due to some pretty unfortunate early draws/Soul Shackle banishes on his side combined with some ‘pro plays’ on my side (ie drawing amazingly well off Snatch/Mask of Momentum triggers multiple times haha). I then started to get nervous when I ended up taking something like 20-25 damage on his big turn before managing to close out the game on the following turn.
In the final, the moment I felt that I was actually going to win the tournament was when I managed to connect with a Mugenshi: RELEASE in the end-game against Aaron Curtis due to a timely Ancestral Empowerment.
Finally, it was incredible to hear after the match that the tournament had raised over NZD$50,000 for the Cancer Society. What an achievement!
Who was your toughest opponent?
This is a tough question to answer as there were a number of strong players playing in the event. I think I’ll have to hedge a bit here and say my Top 8 opponents collectively proved to be a tough gauntlet. Jordan Nelson-Fussell, Matthew Clarke and Aaron Curtis are all excellent players in the NZ and Australian communities and I felt pretty fortunate to come away with wins against those three.
What made you decide to play Katsu, the Wanderer?
Katsu was the first hero I played in Flesh and Blood and has always been a hero that I’ve enjoyed playing. The potential of the Belittle/Minnowism ‘combo’ is something that has intrigued me from the moment I saw these cards, and Katsu felt like the natural shell to play it in.
For this particular tournament, I had a feeling that Chane would make up a significant percentage of the overall field. While I hadn’t extensively tested the matchup, I believed that Katsu might be a deck with a true chance at racing Chane due to the number of powerful built-in on-hit effects in the deck (such as Katsu’s hero ability and Mask of Momentum). I also felt that players may be running fewer defence reactions than usual due to the difficulty of relying on a defensive strategy against a deck like Chane that progressively builds up more and more card advantage over the course of the game.
How did reality differ from any expectations you may have had going into the event?
I wasn’t too sure what to expect going in. I actually missed the original deadline to sign up, but luckily Matt allowed a few late entries so I managed to get myself on the list!
Once I saw the player list I noticed that there were a ton of good players that I recognised on there, both from local events and international leaderboards. I figured it was going to be a pretty tough event.
I don’t have the chance to play in that many tournaments these days, so I was really hoping to challenge myself against the international community and see if this old dog could still keep up with some of the fantastic rising (and current) talented players in the scene these days!
Any predictions, thoughts or hopes for the upcoming Road to Nationals season?
I’m predicting that Bravo, Chane, Katsu (both Aggro and Control) and Prism will make up a high percentage of the field in the early Road to Nationals season. These seem to be pretty strong decks that a lot of players have been putting a bit of effort into building and playing from what I’ve seen.
I’m hoping that if any of the above decks start to become a bit too dominant that the meta will adapt to figure them out. I’d love to see some cool rogue decks show up and take out a few tournaments as well (looking at you Azalea, Levia and Rhinar!).
Lastly, I’m confident that this will be the biggest and best Road to Nationals season yet with events being held in over 20 countries worldwide. I can’t wait to see what decks the community comes up with!
Any advice or comments for anyone wanting to become the next….Mr Classic?
Give yourself a nickname then claim it’s a ‘community thing’ haha.
For actual advice though, I’d say practice makes perfect! The more games you play, the more situations and decision points you’ll encounter that you can learn from and apply to tournament play. Learning what works and what doesn’t against different heroes, when to take risks and when to play more conservatively, and how to adjust your strategy based on the game state are things that are difficult to learn purely from reading articles and watching videos.
I also think it’s very important to identify the decks you expect to see in local metagame and ensure your deck has a clear path to victory against these. What works in Auckland may not work in Austin!
Any final words for the Flesh and Blood community?
A huge shoutout to Cayle McCreath, Matt Rogers (and the Card Merchant team), and Nick Butcher for organising and running the event, as well as all the awesome community superstars who so generously contributed their time, cards and money to the event. I believe it was a great example of why the Flesh and Blood TCG community is the best TCG community around!
p.s. For anyone interested in an overview of the deck I played (strategies, card choices, sideboarding guide etc), we covered it in the latest Session Blood podcast here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=InnZmRNJdXE