This is a guest blogpost by Jonah Acosta, who was in the Top 8 of the 2016 Epic Card Game World Championship.

top8My name is Jonah Acosta.  I am a 25 year old gamer from Poughkeepsie, New York.  I am an Engineer for The RIU Hotel down in New York City where I spend most of my week.  Outside of that I spend a lot of time with my family and girlfriend while managing my gaming workload in addition to all of that.  I play Epic as well as a ton of online games like Solforge, Hearthstone, Eternal, Elder Scrolls Legends, Overwatch and more.  I can’t wait for the Epic app to go live so I can add that to my repertoire!

I qualified for the Epic World Championships through the constructed qualifier hosted at Connecticon earlier this year.  In that event I played a deck that was designed in its inception by CJ Moynihan and later tweaked by me and my teammates at Pluck You that we dubbed Blitz Zero Alpha!

Sage 0: 11
1 Amnesia
3 Forcemage Apprentice
3 Muse
3 Shadow Imp
1 Vanishing

Sage 1: 22
3 Crystal Golem
3 Erase
3 Ice Drake
2 Memory Spirit
3 Mist Guide Herald
2 Temporal Enforcer
3 Thought Plucker
3 Time Walker

Evil 0: 9
3 Corpse Taker
3 Dark Knight
3 Guilt Demon

Evil 1: 18
2 Angel of Death
2 Apocalypse
1 Army of the Damned
3 Drain Essence
3 Final Task
3 Medusa
3 Necromancer Lord
1 Zombie Apocalpyse

time_walkerThe deck was quite aggressive and was able to keep pressure on my opponent forcing them to react unfavorably.  The deck tried to break the symmetry of Time Walker by playing a host of 0 cost Blitz creatures and some strong Tribute champions.  It was also a deck designed around having a lot of value inherent to all of the cards, almost all being two for ones or being free.  During the finals I cast a very large Army of the Apocalypse after an Amnesia and Nathan Davis remarked that it was the biggest one he’d ever seen resolve.   The deck was a blast to play, especially since a lot of people hadn’t picked up Ceasefire yet.

From here, it was time to prepare along with my team for the main event.  We did a lot of Dark Draft to hone our skills.  Unfortunately, my work schedule prevented me from getting into the boot camp the week before the event so I missed out on a lot of constructed testing.  The format we had the least experience with was Cube Drafts.  I spent a lot of my time on site trying to get the Cube Drafts to fire so that I could get more comfortable with the format and its challenges.  Here is the list I ended up drafting in the Main Event:

Cube Draft Deck list
Sage 0: 3
2 Muse
1 Vanishing

Sage 1: 11
1 Helion, the Dominator
1 Ice Drake
1 Knight of Shadows
1 Temporal Enforcer
1 Thought Plucker
1 Ancient Chant
1 Stand Alone
2 Temporal Shift
1 Transform
1 Wave of transformation

Evil 0: 2
1 Guilt Demon
1 Thrasher Demon

Evil 1: 3
1 Final Task
1 Hands from Below
1 The Gudgeon

Good 1: 10
1  Angel of Mercy
2 Angelic Protector
1 Avenger of the Covenant
1 Avenging Angel
1 Master Zo
1 Royal Escort
1 Silver Dragon
1 The People’s Champion
1 White Knight

Wild 0:
1 Flashfire

1 Chomp
1 Rampaging Wurm
1 Gladius, The Defender
1 Standard Bearer
1 Vital Mission
1 Plague Zombies

thought_pluckerI started the Cube Draft with a first pick, Thought Plucker and then a pick two Muse!  From there I valued discard and tempo cards highly.  I ended pack 1 with a lot of GOOD Ambush cards, two Temporal Shift, and a Knight of Shadows.  I wanted to stick with the themes of Ambush, evasion, and tempo because that is the place I feel comfortable drafting in limited formats.  It applies pressure and maximizes your usage of Gold on every turn, which is an easier path to victory than playing a more binary style of champion on my turn, event on your turn.

In round 1 and round 2, I won both my matches through hand control and racing with unblockable damage off of a Knight of Shadows or Airborne creatures.  The deck performed exactly as I wanted it to, even though I was lighter on 0 cost cards than I would have liked to be.  Luckily the cards I had were very strong and carried me through.

In round 3, I had a Feature Match against Mike Siegrist.  I drafted an Evil, Sage and Good, well rounded deck and ran out of the gates with a quick 2-0 victory.  Tempo was my ally here, and I played with relentless aggression.

psionic_assaultIn round 4, I played another Feature Match against Derek Arnold.  I lost game 1 but then rebounded and won game 2.  In game 3, Derek ran out of the gates with a Psionic Assault and I ran out of cards way too early.  When my hand size was healthy I felt my deck allowed me to make strong plays against him, but his start left me scrambling for any play, let alone good ones.

Going into constructed at a  3-1 record, I felt confident with the first four rounds played even though they were my least tested formats.  Here’s hoping I could lean on my gaming experience and Epic knowledge to keep pressure on my opponents.  Although I played a lot of constructed before Uprising, I knew the game was going to drastically change after the expansion.  Not only did the control decks gain Kark, the Burn decks had less blanks, and the Good decks had playable 0 cost cards that weren’t just Blind Faith or Brave Squire.  I was unfortunately kept away from much of the post Uprising testing and relied heavily on my teammates for advice on what to play.  Tom Dixon designed a Kark deck that was stomping everything that we could throw at it.  Then, Rich Shay designed an evil based Aggro Control deck that was grinding Tom’s deck out. They went pretty far down the rabbit hole and came up with a deck that has a very favorable Kark match up.  In all it’s glory, here is the end result of Rich’s brew:

Evil 0: 15
3 Consume
1 Corpsemonger
2 Heinous Feast
2 Plentiful Dead
1 Raxxa’s Curse
2 Spawning Demon
1 Unquenchable Thirst
3 Wither

Evil 1: 30
1 Grave Demon
1 Demonic Rising
3 Drain Essence
3 Final Task
3 Medusa
2 Necromancer Lord
1 Raxxa, Demon Tyrant
1 Raxxa’s Displeasure
1 Reaper
3 Rift Summoner
2 Soul Hunter
3 The Gudgeon
3 Zannos, Corpse Lord
3 Zombie Apocalypse

Sage 0: 5
2 Amnesia
3 Muse

Sage 1: 10
3 Ancient Chant
3 Thought Plucker
1 Erratic Research
3 Lesson Learned

In round 5, I got to play against Gabriel Costa-Giomi, and he was playing Kark.  In game 1 he ran out of the gates with a quick Kark and that forced me into playing very reactive cards.   Game 2 was long and drawn out with me having a ton of tokens and board presence in play when time was called and in 3 turns I was not able to win, so I fell to 3-2.  I wonder if I had played more with the deck against Kark beforehand if things might have turned out differently.  Gabriel’s deck was similar to Tom’s, yet his deck had a few differences, mainly Soul Hunter and Frantic Digging.

I knew at this point I was going to have to win the next 2 rounds to even have a chance.  Time to shuffle up and power through!

zannos_corpse_lordIn round 6, I got paired against Colin Bevis.  We exchanged pleasantries while we received a random deck check.  In game 1 I had a ton of board presence in play from various token makers and their creators.  Colin conceded to save time, as the writing was on the wall.  In game 2, I played an early Zannos revealing a demonic rising and a few other token generators to which Colin extended the hand.  After the match, Colin mentioned that he and Gabriel were actually playing the same deck which made me feel like I could have won the previous round to have at least secured a draw, but was satisfied with my 4-2 going into round 7.  Whew, one down and one more to go!

I looked at the standings and I am in 11th place and have an outside shot, but need a few things to go in my  favor, to secure that 8th place seat or finish in that dreaded 9th place bubble.

I am paired against James Kandziolka. James was playing a 4 color value deck playing a similar style to my Evil Sage deck but reaching into other colors for Second Wind, Blind Faith, Wolf’s Bite and adding in a singleton tech Drinker of Blood to combo off with Wither and either Wave of Transformation or Zombie Apocalypse.  I win game 1 and we enter a long winded game 2.  We go to time and James was not able to kill me in the 3 extra turns.  5-2. I enter the mindset of it’s time to hope we get lucky and advance to Monday’s top 8.  The announcement for top 8 is a spectacle.  They start at number one and count down.  Rob Dougherty lets everyone know one of the 5-2’s made it in.  Anxiety sets in as he starts reading the names…

Top 8 is announced
1 John Tatian
2 Jonathan Lewis
3 Gabriel Costa-Giomi
4 Jason Smith
5 Matt Sperling
6 Will Morgan
7 Benjamin Cosman

My stomach sinks.  I prepare for the worst as I look at my team mate, Thomas Dixon and my girlfriend, Alexis Morgan, shrugging my shoulders thinking, “Hey we tried.”

And in 8th place with 15 points…
Jonah Acosta.

I jump into Tom’s arms with such joy.  I was so stoked to make it and Tom was the whole reason I got into competitive Epic in the first place.  I hug Alexis and make my way to the stage.  My heart is pounding and I cannot believe what had just happened.  It was so surreal.  This was the most important tournament I had ever played in and had advanced so far in with so much on the line.  This was totally new and foreign to me.

The top 8 is all on Twitch so I won’t do a full recap on that match with John.

Going into Monday I knew I would have to win a game in Dark Draft to feel like I had a shot at winning my match with John.  John is a limited master and well rounded Epic player to boot as the final results showed.  Even though my deck was strong against Kark, I still wasn’t really confident in the match up.  I hoped that the deck carried me through.

heinous_feastJohn takes me in game 1, but I win game 2 setting the score at 1-1 going into a 3 game set of constructed.  In game 3, I get a quick win through Zannos interactions coupled with some Graveyard tricks.  In game 4, John has a quick Kark trigger and I have little pressure.  Game 5, what a game. There are so many turns in this game that talking through all of them would be impossible.

At a few key turning points I try grinding out cards when I really needed more pressure.  At one point I make a line with Thought Plucker but Heinous Feast away his Graveyard and immediately realize the Ancient Chant from a few turns earlier was still there to undo the hand pressure I had created.  I also chain off a few of my own Ancient Chant’s instead of attacking John’s life total and I get to a dangerous point where John has a bunch of life and I will die to a Kark.

I was playing around his hand that I knew from his reveals: 1 Inner Peace, 1 Angel of Mercy, 1 Palace Guard, and a card that I didn’t know and assume was a Kark.  So I started digging for cards and drew the reactive cards in my deck instead of the aggressive ones I was fishing for. It’s revealed that John’s 4th card is a Fumble and I realize he does not have a Kark.  chamberlain_karkPerhaps if I had turned up the pressure with cards like Rift Summoner the game might have played out differently.  Zannos was the only card I could have found that would have dropped him low enough that Inner Peace and a Kark wouldn’t have killed me, and it was a long shot to find it.  John draws into his Kark a few turns later and it’s tournament over.  After reviewing this match I realize I needed to play more aggressively and the game may have gone in a different direction.

It was still a very exciting and interactive match against a strong opponent, which I valued greatly.

This event was run very well.  I got to meet and talk to a bunch of players that were just excited to play the game and I mirrored their excitement.  I had the pleasure of participating in a Cube Draft Saturday night with Gary Wise and we even played a match of Cube Draft Sunday morning before pairings were posted.  I got a genuine appreciation of the game from Gary which was really exciting for me.  I think Epic has the foundation to be a well respected and appreciated game outside of playing at the kitchen table or at a local game night.  I’ve recently seen a few of the “invited pros” comment on how great Epic is as a game and that gives me hope for the future of Epic continuing to grow and reach a larger audience.

The Epic App that is coming to Kickstarter later this year will be amazing.  It’s tough for me to find the time during the week to head over to Tom’s or my local game store, but turning on the app and playing some games can be accomplished during my commute home on the train.  I am hopeful that this will expand the player base significantly.  I am expecting a lot of revisions and updates as people voice ideas and constructive criticism.  Talking to Darwin Kastle and Gary Wise before top 8 left me with nothing but good things to hope for with this app.

Being fortunate enough to make top 8 in this event would not have been possible without the incredible minds of Thomas Dixon and Rich Shay.  In all honesty I had played 6 games with the deck before the event only playing against another creation of Tom’s.  A Sage Wild splash Evil Aggro deck. They were the driving force behind our deck for the event.

I put my trust in my team mates and believed that if I could get through the limited portion, there was a chance I could rattle off a few wins just from my past gaming experiences.  The only issues I have in hindsight is that I made a line that played to my playstyle as opposed to another approach that was more suited to the deck I was playing.  Whether or not it was correct, it was the choice I made and since I had chosen to live by the sword I was fine dying by it too.  I am nothing but grateful for my team mates ability to create decks and put their faith in my ability to perform.  It felt really good to get as far as I did and I look forward to competing in more Epic qualifiers and hope to be playing in Worlds again next year.  Tom took his Kark deck to the qualifier the next day and took that home for Pluck You, using some of the technology that Gabriel’s team had shown us in conjunction with a few tweaks of his own based on the previous day’s meta.

After returning home from the event I have been contacted from several other Championship competitors and spectators.  It shows me how large this community is and I have a lot of high expectations for Epic in the upcoming months and years to come.

Hope you enjoyed this recap, feel free to contact me if you have any questions or insight.

Seasons Beatings and Pluck You Very Much,

Jonah “TheAce” Acosta