North American Cup's Report from Dave Stegman

most of it has already been said, but this is my worlds report.
it was honestly one of the most fun times i've ever had.  period.
everybody i met was a HUGE meccg fan, and had such a reverence for the
game, very emotional, almost like a religious experience for me.
i truly appreciate all of my opponents, i had some very memorable
games.  and all the familiar faces from nationals and new people
from the list - i think i managed to meet most people there.

well, that's all you need to know.  for those of you with extra
free time, the gory details are written below, maybe you're name is
in there somewhere...

you may know i went by train from new york.  this was cool.  i had
to show up at like 8 am, meet gene berry, charles B., and bill kenyon.  
i had a little trouble finding penn station, had to use underdeeps
movement, but found them in time.  was worried about gene finding
it after he took the red eye to arrive at 6am and shuttle over to
penn station.  he shows up in time, with Jim Gutt.  out of nowhere!!
jim also took a red eye (wasn't preregistered so it was a total
surprise to me) and tried to take the same shuttle from jfk as gene. 
but the shuttle was broke down, so he asked if anyone wanted to
split a cab to penn station and gene says, that's where he's going too..
so gene plays A Chance Meeting and they're off to penn station where
they meet us.

next issue, Jim forgot his passport, and even though their security
appeared quite lax, you did have to have one and there was the fear
that you could be detrained at the border without a passport.  they
were really scaring us.  Jim asks what other form of ID they'll 
accept (driver's license they say is not enough), and they give him
a list, birth certificate etc..  So Jim played Lucky Search and pulls
out .... a voter registration card!!  

next they won't tell you what track the train is leaving from until
20 minutes before so everyone waiting has an equal shot at a nice
seat. But since Charles is in the STate Dept, he uses Diplomat skill
to play A new Friendship, and they tell us the track early.  we
get seats all togother and it's off to Tolen Mar.

on the way after the train left, we start talking cards and freaking
out the general public that has to share the train with us.... so
we move to the dining car and have big tables, we get two games
together..  first i play Jim and Bill and Gene play each other.
then i play against bill, he has a morannon deck and i play a muster
of rohan squatting at amon hen deck. i'll always remember that ride
with Tom, the surly conductor, coming through yelling at, well, everybody, 
and Winston in the back selling beer at the cafe, and us playing MECCG
and watching the mighty Husdon meander beside us through huge picture 
windows all the way to montreal.  Charles was building his deck the whole
way and came to check on us periodically.

so we get in pretty late, cab over to our apartment but the desk is
not just closed, it's locked and we can't get  in to even ask anyone
to get the key to our apartment.  and i'm wondering where is chad martin
who was supposed to stay with us.  if he's playing in the sealed deck
and we can't get in the apt... big trouble.  so we buzz the intercom 
for our apartment out of pure desperation and someone answers.  
my first thought is the worst - that i didn't show up and they rented 
it to someone else, so i say hey,
"this is dave, i'm supposed to stay in apt 303", and the voice says,
"good, this is Chad, i've been waiting for you", and buzzes us in.
We had just used on only Favor of the Valor right there.

FRIDAY, Aug 24  open for worlds
i just need to get enough points with 4-2 wins to get into the top half of
the field to advance.  I play a malady deck with akhorahil unleashed.
first round against Alicia, she throws down sam fatty galadriel and
elledan?  i think - one ring.  stop one ring.
soon into the game she moves company to moria.. and found nothing to eat
or drink... whoops, and then she tapped the lady, oh no... my turn
move to moria, and ahhh ahhh ahhhcheewww - one big sneeze on galadriel 
(rolled a 9) and she's gone.  the look on her face is "ohh no!!" and i'm 
certain the game is turned in my favor.  she then calmy proceeds to 
carry on the plan, gets gollum, walks up to mt. doom and voila, gollum's 
fate.  0-7.  i shake her hand in admiration.  the pinnacle of the malady
deck had just occurred in the first round.  getting Galadriel is the 
ultimate goal of a Malady deck,  it had never happened and I thought it
never would, but it came so early in the tournament.  i figured, probably
all down hill from here, at least there's the drinking game..

next i draw chris scott, a local player.  he is fairly inexperienced
and i worry when he tells me he doesn't know the lidless eye cards and
such.  oooof.  soon enough his entire starting company finds nothing
to eat or drink and thrain, balin, some others are reminded to the
reason they should have their childhood immunizations. 6-0 me. 

next round against spence carney.  spence did a truly epic job on
getting the Tolen Mar expansion cards printed with help from James K.
and he was playing a minion deck with orc scouts.  the low hazard limit
sucks but luckily i drew Gandalf the white rider very early. i went for 
the rangers and maladied them, then it was river river river and dumping
spawn for darkness made by malice for his ever shrinking companies.
malady deck sucks in the way that it doesn't generate kill points from
the minions i malady, but they have a ranger skill shortage usually..
i don't know how else to stop a balrog. gotta think some more on that one.
but i know since orcs have a discard number when I put out the press gang...
so Shagrat got discarded to press gang for -2 character MPs, spence got 
big factions out already but i slowed him down enough. 
final score was 12-6 me so a very close 6-0.

finally against Patrick Kochran.  my brain was mush.  i scared the
heck out of him and i don't remember the score.  i ended up with 
enough points to qualify. it was 4-2 him or me i think..
he got terrified and figured out two rivers wasn't enough to stop me, 
since taladhan taps for one and deeper shadows the next.  hmmm..
how to stop it??

later that night....
we went to the drinking game, after one round i wanted to leave and
go home and tweak my deck.  around 1 am chad and patrick played heedless
revelry and showed up somewhat loaded after being the top two finishers
in the drinking game.  patrick crashed at our apartment and ended up 
staying there for the rest of the time he was in montreal and we were 
glad he did.

patrick either played or heard josh grace played a malady deck and maybe 
someone else did too so he was expecting lots of malady decks in the semis..
so he stayed up quite late and realized he needs lost in free domains
and he can hide in gondor.  yes, i tell him he would succeed with that
and stop any malady deck cold.   no way i was playing a malady deck in 
the semis - i would never make the final 4.  me and gene tweaked my deck 
until 5 in the morning.  this deck (the so-called Infinite Cheeze deck 
to compliment his Infinite Hazard Strategy deck) was still in the prototype
alpha version.  then he tweaked his deck until 7 in the morning.  
i had got my 2 hours sleep  and him his 1 hour and we were off to the semis - 
very excited.  so excited, obviously, we couldn't have slept if we wanted to.

Saturday Aug 25,  Worlds semi-finals (very nervous)
first game Thomas Bovinder (yeah my first intercontinental opponent).
basically his cheezigast kicked my cheezy ass, i had overlooked that
without a shadow of mordor, radagast would cycle before me and i would lose.
simple.  he had dwarves and elves and i had 3 unhappy blows in the SB,
didn't matter, i lost 0-6.

next up was chris scott from canada.  i played him the day before and
waited and waited and he never shows up.  so i got a forfiet and since
i had a minion one ring deck it was 7 points for me.  Bill K., hey
buddy - i aint on the menu, got a bye so we decided to play for fun.  with 
lots of luck, part of which was bill not remembering how a certain card 
(which he knew i was going to play) worked, i was able to get THE ONE out but 
had to trek for two turns to get it home.  so he came over with 15 dwarves 
or so and his wizard with 10 GI and tries to influence it away.  well
sauron has 12 unused out of 30, hador's mind is 6, and his DI is 6 with
the ONE, and +5 GI across allignment, and +5 minions always get, i
rolled 43 for my influence check.  he pulls down a friend or three and
some other goodies and my heart jumped when i thought he had 2 of
them, but he only drew up one and rolled 37 or so.  this is the high stakes
superpowerful stuff i came to worlds to see.  a great practice round
for me still trying to learn my newly constructed deck.  thanks bill,
it's always a real bender when you're playing.

now a game that would decide if i could get into the finals, i needed
to dunk or it was over.  i drew brian satterly.  he is way fun to play.
brian told me he is retiring after this trip.  but then he said he had
retired before and come out of retirement for this trip.  then i said
maybe next year it will be in belgium if luc's worlds bid is successful
and he contemplated, maybe he'll come out of retirement for that... well,
fortunately for me, the micheal jordan of meccg was out of retirement for 
the moment that we played our game.  he had big strong characters getting
big strong items and factions and i had - well, i had sauron.  i had no
characters and no companies and no site cards out and no resource perm
events, just a lone sauron card sitting there.  he went about his business
and i just sat there.  he commented, "freeeaakkyy".  and that he was
nervous about whatever sauron is up to, it couldn't be good for him.
i played a character, he had sideboarded in a hazard, the LADY, (i thought
i got rid of her yesterday....) and drew it and played it the one turn
he got to play hazards against me.  me without a great eye to cancel it
at the moment, said whoops.  i sideboarded in two voices of malice and
figured i'd zap her when i drew a sage, but i had discarded ALL my sages
that i drew earlier and the back to the fray was not a very good way to get 
them back at the moment.  I was screwed.  I told brian he won, but we would
finish the game.  Bill came over and observed, chuckled to himself. pointed
out some misplay i did because i was tired and nervous. went away.  Brian
was elated at the end with his self-proclaimed dumb luck that had foiled 
Sauron's best laid plans.  I sat in awe about how he didn't even have the Lady 
straight up against minions, but in the sideboard?!?! - and that he drew her!!
a comedy of errors but fun mind games with Brian.  i lost 0-6 and hope he
doesn't retire for too long.

so the final game and no chances of the finals i played Daniel Driezinger.
Daniel is going to be a superstar.  he is very young but is the closest
thing to a prodigy for MECCG i've ever seen.  when i played against Joe
Bisz last year at nats, i felt Joe had this very keen awareness for 
everything that was going on, every card in his deck, every play seemed
effortless but was optimized.  me, i sit and agonize over how to play what
in which order and which card to save and what to drop, but joe is just
somehow naturally talented.  and daniel's like this too.  i felt like i was
playing the Bobby Fischer of meccg.  he had a one ring deck that experienced
some bad luck, a snake eyes to kill saruman, and another game that something
pathologically unlucky happened, but daniel was very strong and so was his
deck.  but bad luck happened and no emotion whatsoever, just keep going.
i great secrets buried his precious gold ring, he didn't care.  well, he
got the ring out faster than me and a rolled down to the sea and a mouth
ain't enough, i needed a few outposts and they weren't there so he dunked.
Watch out for this guy in the future...

it was quite an exhausting day and by the end i was making tons of terrible
mistakes.  i actually played the great eye and wasn't even sauron yet.
guess i was just halucinating, i had drawn him first turn 2 other games
and was playing like i had already played him.  time for beer, food and
comraderie at the dragon rouge.  Michel Guilbault drove me, Gene, and Patrick
to dragon rouge.  Michel is great and he loves minions and especially Ugluk!!
at dinner, i discovered my new favorite beer, Blanche de Chambley, reminds 
me of the Leffe Blanche (belgian beer) I had in france, but this beer 
is Canadian!!!  Josh Grace-iously bought me a beer or three, little did
we know we would play each other twice in the next two days. 

Sunday, Aug 26, North America Open
the day started alright, i organized the country cup and helped get them
going with deck building, 8 teams.  that was going to be cool.  most of
the rules were clarified on the spot.  Fortunately, Charles B. had an 
interest in this event and saved me by taking over running that event.  I 
don't know what I would have done without his help.  that bought me time to 
write down my decklist and make final changes - back to the Malady deck..

first round drew spence.  i had already played him on friday, so the 2nd
time i drew an opponent i'd already faced.  he had a different deck and 
wished that i did too.  he was playing fallen gandalf and i'm trying to 
guess what he's up to, but early on i got a rolled down to the see-what-
you're-doing and saw roadblock roadblock roadblock.  ok, i better get to
gondor quick before the storms come out.  try to go to rohan first turn
but got rivered, by the Anduin river!!  see that big red line on the map,
that's the anduin river, you can't go to anorien from mirkwood.  doh!!
so m/h phase is over for me and lost a turn.  next, i do the same stupid
thing!!  he let me change my site card to go to a legal site this time. he
could see my head was not attached.  next turn i make it to his site without
getting rivered.  most of his company is untapped and here i go, i declare
an attack to try and tap out his guys so i can malady them.  we fight a
little bit but i don't recall anyone dying.  then i go for a malady and
he says no you don't.  CVCC is the last thing in the site phase you can do.
Lesson #2 for the day for me courtesy of spence.  Dave, i tell myself, 
learn the freaking rules one of these days...  so no maladies that time.  
next turn i follow him over to the wizard haven minas tirith, i'm covert
in gondor and they're all detainment attacks against me which is fine cause
i'm just here to malady.  so this time, i don't declare an attact and go
straight for the malady which by this time were seriously clogging my hand.
i played two maladies and two akhorahil unleasheds.  he had had a few body
checks on my characters last turn during CVCC and no luck killing them, then
he insisted on rolling the body checks for his characters due to the maladies
and his dice would whack his own characters but not mine. at this point, 
spence had had enough of that, and so had i.  i had told my playgroup before 
i left that if i made it into finals, that malady deck is getting retired.  

next round played jimmy chen.  he threw down some hobbits and so i think
one ring.  i so wanted to see his "A Short REst" deck but he says it's no
good against minions.  he says his deck is untested.  oh boy.  that's not
good.  i make sooo many mistakes building a deck... well, i say "shhhh, 
i'm hunting wabbitt" in an elmar fudd voice.  in our playgroup, andy calls
hobbits - rabbits.  i go for bilbo, the ring bearer.  my body check song
is "kill da wabbitt, kill da wabbitt," etc sung to a Wagner song from looney
tunes.  every good player needs a dance or song or something to help those
body checks.  bilbo gets maladied.  meanwhile, my hazards are great secret
buried x3 and rolled down to the sea, i think i mouthed for GSBT and hit
him four times. he ran master of esgoroth to Easterling camp to draw 4
cards and back to lorien to draw 4 more and i'm fishing for the scroll, he's
fishing for the scroll, everyone wants the scroll.  next turn my 4th GSBT
and i tell him to count his playdeck, he counts 11 cards. I play GSBT.
no freaking scroll.  Jimmy, go to mt. doom, you have to test without the
scroll because you forgot to put it in your untested deck!!!  jimmy is 
trying out for the guild of crippled masters even though he doesn't know it,
leave out the most important support card for your deck and play it anyway, 
then you too can be a crippled master one day...  so i win 6-0.

final round against josh grace.  whichever of us wins will be in the finals.
josh jests, want to just tie 3-3 so we can both be in.... we sigh.
josh sees the shadow magic casters and runs, off to get big points with
pumped elves and fallen alatar rousing the dragons.  he's got my precious
slowing down by MP gathering at mt. doom and they're just having a bad
day out there.. meanwhile, it's taking a while for the spellcasters to make
their way out to his site.  finally we get there.  he built a smart deck
and only ever goes to ruins and lairs so plenty to eat and drink for him.
he gets a few big swords and i get scorba and itangast at home, some other
corruption in play, and we fight.  he kills elerina but not taladhan.
on my turn, here come the maladies. 5 of them.  i got one guy.  he made
about 4 cc's on his guy at greater than 5, and i couldn't roll a 9 on the
body check for the life of me so there was the game.  i rolled terrible and 
he rolled fantastic, i can't even come close and i lose 6-0.

so i figure i'm done for and there is one game left going on, Gene against
Patrick Kochran.  Jimmy tells me and Andrew Sitte (we had the same number of 
points) that if that game doesn't end in 6-0 victory for either person, we
both get in the finals.  wow, what a surprise, so we go take a peak at 
that game and it looks soo close.  it comes down to the wire apparently
and when we get back to it after it finished, it was 40-19 patrick, a 6-0.
now andrew, me, and patrick are all tied and there is a 3-way tiebreaker to
get 2 of us in.  since i got 6-0'd by the overall winner josh, he had 18
points and my opponents had the most overall tournament points.  since
patrick had given gene 0 tourney points that turn, he ended up with the
"weakest opponents".  me, josh, andrew, and jim montanus were in the finals.

i think great - now i can finally retire malady deck and get out a new one
(i had brought 6 decks and was happy to play any of them for finals),
maybe my fallen alatar... but then it's decided no deck changes and we
have to play one more round that night (the first of the round robin)
because chad has to leave at 2pm the next day and there isn't time for all 
3 rounds that day.  ok, maladay deck gets 3 more games and since i don't
play with sleaves, even i'm starting to wonder how much more abusive 
shuffling and playing on dirty tables that deck can take...  chad had put
in so much time and expense to come and organize the nationals that no way
would I argue for 3 rounds the next day and new decks.

Jim Montanus's (and Patrick Karchers and Joel P.'s hotel room) First round 
against Jim Montanus.  boy were we tired and making tons of mistakes, playing 
very slow, and the time keeping wasn't exactly swiss...  i struggle to wake 
up and stay alert and focused.  he's playing hobbits on boats, i had good 
rolls, drew all the most devastating hazards at the right times, i would 
think i need this card and then bamm, i would draw it up..  the deck worked 
all too well and it was a rough day at sea for the hobbits.  i was too tired
to sing any kill da wabbitt looney tunes but didn't need it.  i took my 6 
points and went to bed exhausted..

Monday, Aug 27.  N. American  championships
played against Andrew Sitte.  This game was the most fun all weekend.
Andrew mostly plays on the net, almost exclusively, and I hope after our
game, he appreciates just how much fun a face to face game can be.  He
had dwarves and yep, they moved to moria, and yep, found nothing to eat
or drink, and yep, he foolishly and knowingly tapped them all.  So Thrain
and company had a really bad day.  Thrain's last words were, Gloin, you're
in charge.  Gloin's last words were, Balin, you're in charge, Balin's last 
words were,  Oin you're in charge.  Oin lived through at least one malady
and 2 assassins while wounded.  it was a bloody match and he stored 
Cheezebane at Lorien the turn I was moving there.  that won the game right
there since he had enough factions with some lucky rolls and would have
double factions.  with cheezebane he got 4 MPs so would finish with 8 min.
and I was not doing so well.  Elerina died at the auto attack at dead 
marshes, leaving taladhan with a blasting fire.  Taladhan with a bag full
of bad medicine moves over to Lorien, wounded.  Facing down 3 auto attacts
at 2 vs. 11 and his body now 8, he realizes he can reduce his corruption AND 
walk into lorien for free by discarding his blasting fire... kaboom!  elf 
body parts everywhere but the maladies don't work this time.  we joked and
laughed a lot during that game, but like every 5 seconds here comes another
corruption check or body check and each roll of the dice mattered so much,
it made the game very exciting and tense.  i rolled twice or so for snaga
hai and couldn't get them in, so his factions doubled and he won 18-12.

Last game against Josh.  The winner would most likely be N. American champ.
Maybe I could eek out a 4-2 against him with a lot of luck, and I expected
josh to play nothing less than flawlessly, and he did.  He had tweaked his
deck to add in 3 lost at seas and went to the coast.  that's same as hiding
in gondor with 3 lost in free domains to me.  i'm hosed.  my deck needed
of course doors of night and winds of wrath to bring him to me, but my deck
didn't have that.  It would have been slow to bring in from the SB anyway,
but it's usually a build up at the end with all his item points on one 
company, and then i would get one shot at him with the maladies that would
decide a game anywhere from 6-0 for him or 4-2 for me.  I've seen some huge
point swings with maladies where they whole game's worth of efforts are
lost and kill points rack up. But not this time, Josh certainly had my 
number (again) and cruised to 6-0.  same as Patrick Kochran had figured out 
on Friday night, the turn hosers are the key to stopping maladies.  if i don't
have a deeper shadow, then two rivers work just fine, or hiding in an area
where you play no escape from my magic (how ironic that would be) if you
had enough rangers and sages to not be effected, and of course, lost at sea
and lost in free domains, and maybe darkness made by malice if you play 
your deck to be at the right sites.  I could never touch josh and he know
he needed one item, one faction, one ally and some of those would double
and he only needed a 4-2 to win.

later that night Me and wendy had dinner with Arco, Luc, and Steve Wark.  
Luc tried all kinds of things he'd never had in those few days we spent
together in montreal.  fearless.  and on his first trip out of europe even.
That's what worlds is all about for me, people going 

Tuesday, Aug 28
Finally some sleep and a free day.. Me and wendy went to the Biodome, the
coolest zoo type thingy i've ever been to.  we cruised by the Basilica 
Notre Dame which IS the Ruins of Tolen Mar site card, and went into China
town to buy food to cook for dinner.  We invited Brian Wong, his girlfriend
Anne, and Jimmy over and had a nice dinner.  Francios Petticler came over
and then Brian suprised all of us with a copy of the video, Crippled Masters.

looking back at worlds, in the end, i think the thing that disturbed people 
the most was my constant shuffling of my deck with 80% rares and not a 
single sleeve among them.
seeing people wince at that, maybe even shocked, is fun.  I wanted to trade
Luc for hoarmurath unleashed but was too afraid to ask him since he knew the
abuse it would face if i made a deck with it, he would be reluctant to
trade it to me...

thanks again to everyone for coming, hope to see you all next year.
Dave "No Sleeves" Stegman