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Friday, November 20, 2015

#FoWTCG - Valentina's World Overview (Post-A1)

I find it pretty crazy that my last Force of Will related blog entry is still about Jeanne d'Arc post-TAT. So much has happened since then but until recently, I never really found a deck I liked so much that I would want to write about it. I mean, I really enjoyed Faria Knights when she first came out, but the american meta was at a strange place at that time and Bahamut made every other decks other than itself irrelevant. 

Anyway, I've been tweaking and playing around with U/W Valentina for about two months now and I gotta say, as far as combo/control decks goes, it's probably the one I've had the most fun piloting in a while. It proven to be very consistent in playtest sessions and I've had pretty good results in local tournaments; my best result being getting 3rd place with 2 wins, 0 losses and 2 draws. It's definitely a tournament viable deck because not only it is a very powerful one, but it's also very slept on and the surprise factor can play a huge role in the deck's success. Anyhow, without further ado, here's the main board list...

There's so much to going on in this deck, but let's first start by explaining what the deck does and how does it actually wins. First off, Valentina's World is a control/combo type deck. It thrives from defending early aggression, keeping the pace in tempo with card advantage and finally burst out with a combination of different cards in the mid to late game.

As much as I like Valentina's J-Ruler side, this strategy is mostly possible because of her Ruler side. In a way, that's great because it means that, like Vlad Tepes, Grimm and other Ruler oriented decks out there, there's very few ways to counteract with the deck's main strategy. Her Ruler side's [Activate] ability enables the player to flash in any 2 cost or less water resonator from the hand at any time. This essentially means that all 2 cost or less water resonators in the pilot's hand gain [Quickcast] and, in a way, [Swiftness] if they are played during the opponent's turn. As if that wasn't already good, because the resonators played that way are "put" onto the field and not summoned normally by summon spell, it also means that they are not susceptible to summon spell cancellation spells like Xeex and Exceed. Consequently, that advantage comes with the downside of not being able to trigger resonator's [Enter] abilities. However, that will hardly matter in this case as that will affect very few cards in the deck.

So how exactly can the deck stop early aggression from popular aggro decks? Well, there are multiple ways in both of these attributes, but I found that these three are the most reliable cards to do so. Cinderella is self-explanatory : she's a 2 cost resonator with a huge body upon arrival that can be flashed in with Valentina's passive ability. Being 800/800 on turn 2 is actually very relevant in the current meta as she can easily come out of nowhere and chump block and/or straight up kill almost any popular aggressive cards like Lancelot and Snow White.

The other card in the middle is Alice's Soldier and while he's not as big as Cinderella, he's very useful in guaranteeing you a chump block or a kill when he's flashed in. Artemis, the God's Bow is a very popular card in current aggressive decks as it allows their attackers to go through even if we try to chump block with small resonators. Soldier's ability prevents him from getting targeted by the bow or any other sort of removal before the battle and chump block/trade/kill the aggressor. Unfortunately, without Shangri-La on board, his body is not huge enough to handle the likes of Lancelot and Snow White but at least he's big enough to safely stop smaller resonators like Hunter in Black Forest and Zhu Que. On the other hand, if he ends up dying from chump blocking, it leaves space for Sign to the Future to shine.

Since the ruling of Standby spells being able to also be used as Instants, Sign to the Future has been a really good card for control players that runs white in their list. Sign to the Future allow us to have a cheap and very strong removal spell if the opponent overextends his board presence. Since Valentina is very reactive and conservative, Sign to the Future is a great way to hardly punish aggressive players that tries to take advantage of our slow pace and set them back 1 or 2 turns behind in term of tempo. What's also great about Sign is that even if we're not able to use it because our opponent tries to play around it, it's a positive situation for us. Indeed, playing around it also means that they're purposely holding back their aggression to avoid it and as a result, it buys us time which is what we want the most and it's one more card in our hand for Shangri-La to be consistently active.
Speaking of Shangri-La, this is the other relevant aspect of the deck I need to talk about. Constantly drawing cards and having the hand advantage is a very crucial thing for the deck's success as not only does it help us dig through the deck faster for our answers/combo pieces (which we only run 3 copies of), it also fuels both Shangri-La's bonus requirement and Valentina's J-Ruler side if we ever decide to [Judgement]. Of course for that we need the infamous Cheshire Cat who acts as a draw engine as well as another reliable blocker, and Hanzo who's also a draw engine as well as a relevant flier. As a backup, the likes of Alice's Little Scout and Little Mermaid of Tragic Love are also in this deck to keep the player's hand steady.

So, why exactly is Shangri-La good? Well for one, it makes all the resonators we flash in with Valentina bigger defensively. Remember when I talked about how the God's Bow was very popular? Well, on some resonators, the +200/+200 bonus Shangri-La gives make it so that it's safe for us to attack/block with them even with one or two recovered Bows on the opposing end. The same reasoning applies if they play any other sort of damage-based removal spells like Thunder or Flame of Outer World.

On the other hand, the attack bonus it gives is also very useful. Making Cheshire be able to deal damage, making Hanzo be able to occasionally burst significant unblockable damage and make Alice's Soldier big enough to kill both Lancelot and Snow White are all beneficial things Shangri-La grants to the deck. Pair our buffed up resonators with Gleipnir and all of a sudden, we can control the opponent's board at will. Shangri-La does so much for the deck that I could say it is somewhat of a win condition when we pair it with the big threats of the deck.
Incidentally, here are the three main big threats of the deck : Alice, Guardian of Dimensions, Alice's World and Medusa. These three cards are the ones we'll want to see on board during the late game in order for us to take control of it.

For starters, Alice, the Guardian of Dimensions is probably the strongest and most valuable resonator in this entire deck. From my two months of testing, she has proven to be a force to be reckoned with when she comes down at turn 4 or 5 with one or two recovered will at her disposal waiting for the opponent's response to her presence. In that particular situation, removing her from the board can be a really hard task for the opponent and they either decide spend a lot of resources to get rid of her or resign and decides to try to deal with her presence next turn. Ultimately, either way is fine for us and this is why the card is so valuable. She is protection, spot removal and a flying beatstick with "hexproof" all by herself and with Shangri-La's bonus on board, she becomes big enough so that Flame of Outer World doesn't straight up destroy her. Don't want to deal with Susanowo's [Enter] shenaningans? Pay 1 blue and protect one of your resonator with hexproof. Want one of your resonator to safely attack/block when the opponent has Bows? Do the same thing. Tired of Arthur shrinking your resonators? Pay 1 white and remove him permanently from the game. It's crazy how strong this card truly is when she's played at a good timing. She would definitely be a 4 of if it wasn't for Alice's World being an integral part of the deck.

On the other hand, we have Alice's partner in crime, Medusa, who, by herself, is not that great but can be really scary when she's backed up by Alice. Indeed, in this day in age, a 3 drop, 600/600 without an ability upon entering the field or an ability to protect itself is deemed pretty slow. Don't get me wrong, Medusa's ability to remove anything that blocks or is blocked by her before damage calculation is great, but she's just an easily answerable threat once she hits the field with no backup plan. On the flip side, when Alice, next to her, is able to give her "hexproof" almost all the time, she becomes extremely scary as she can either take the role of an impenetrable wall or an unblockable beatstick. Medusa is really essential to the deck's winning image because of the fact that she's the only real unblockable resonator of the deck and she can reach insane numbers if everything falls into her hand (Shangri-La, Little Red Stone, Gorgon pump). She greatly helps in pushing for game and paired with Gleipnir, she can act as spot removal while dealing a ton of damage to the opponent's life points, so her spot here is definitely warranted.

Finally, we have the most broken card in the deck : Alice's World. Like in any other card game, the ability of taking an extra turn is something extremely powerful for obvious reasons. That's why those type of abilities always come with a very steep cost. In Alice World's case, though, that steep cost can be reduced by the number of different races we control. As you may have already noticed, aside from Cheshire Cat and Cinderella, not a single resonator in this deck share the same race as another.  If we add in the fact that a lot of our resonators are hard to get rid of because of "hexproof" and that we can safely flash in our resonators at the end of the opponent's turn with Valentina's ability, it makes it extremely easy for Alice's World to consistently cost 4 or 5 wills instead of 8. Once under an Alice World, the goal in the following turn would be to set up another one so we can press our massive advantage even further or deal as much damage with the threats available so that the opponent can't really recover from the situation the turn he can actually play. Setting up a second or third Alice's World is pretty doable considering the deck's draw power. It can easily dig for those extra copies or, worst case, for a Speaker of Creation that can tutor an Alice's World out of it. Once a second Alice World is on the field, it's usually curtains for the opponent because of the huge advantage we get from it.

Alright, that's pretty much it. There are a lot of little things I didn't touch up on like using Valentina's J-Ruler side effectively and not overextending yourself as a player, but as far as the main streategy of the deck goes, I think I covered most of it. I am aware that the next set is coming very soon and that this overview might not be entirely viable when it does, but I felt like it was important for me to write about it. I plan on updating the deck with the new support and writing about works for me, so stay tuned if you're interested in this deck!

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