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Cash ‘n’ Guns to Top 4 in Austin

On January 26, 2019 I took Han and Qi’ra to the Top 4 in the Austin Regional. This is my story.

I have a bad habit of not taking tournaments seriously until it’s too late. I have quite the full life with a family, three jobs, and a full-time hobby, so my ability to cruise to “good enough” in most local tournaments tamps down the burning fires of ambition that would drive me to extensively prepare for larger events. Because of that, I seem to always tank the first event of the season, and this year was no exception. A few weeks ago in Dallas I rode Vader and Greedo on about three days of work to a resplendent 4-3 embarrassment of a finish. After that humiliating wake-up call, I buckled down with a vow to make up for it come Austin-time.

Our local group had hit on Han/Qi’ra (which shall henceforth be referred to as “Cash ‘n’ Guns“) just before the Dallas Regional,. Some of them even rode it to success (Richard Urich made Top 8 with it), but I just hadn’t seen it enough to be convinced that it was the real deal. I’d been playing Vader/X since days of yore when Snoke and Thrawn were a thing, and I’d be damned if I wasn’t going to represent at the first big event I got to play it at. Whelp, that turned out to be 

But I digress, you’re here to listen to me opine on the good times, not my past of shame. After returning with my tail between my legs, I gave Cash ‘n’ Guns the hard look it deserved. I enlisted the services of everyone I could play with to grind out games. The Collective began pushing on this mono-Yellow monstrosity, shoving it right into the teeth of every deck rearing its head in a meaningful way at Regionals around the world. Every single time the deck stood toe to toe with the big boys, and, more often than not, came away with the ‘W’. An obscene amount of health, action cheating, powerful dice (both per die and in quantity), infinite money, and powerful events gave the deck some way to outplay the opponent every time. It just required the right mixture of cards to maximize the odds for each expected situation. 

  • Against Leia2/Yoda it was too fast and too wide.
  • Against Snoke/Tarkin it had too much health, too much damage, and too much multi-die removal.
  • Against Vader it does just enough sticking and moving to stay alive until Vader hits the jackpot, and then either resolves his dice for him or blasts him in the face with all of those giant dice to finish off the game.

Having settled on the deck, we spent our final few nights agonizing over the last card slot (*spoiler alert* I was wrong). A (mostly) good night’s sleep later, and our caravan was off bright and early for the pilgrimage to Dragon’s Lair Austin. ​

Round 1: BYE: Since I’d forgotten my bye card in Dallas, I had an opportunity to scope out the competition before sitting down to play. Turns out I nailed my expected metagame. VaderLeia2/YodaCash ‘n’ Guns, and Snoke/Tarkin made up the majority of the lists I was seeing. There was a smattering of other decks sprinkled throughout, but most folks brought either tried-and-true or new hotness to this final Texas Regional. (Side Note: My boy Julio rocked Plo Koon/Jedi Instructor/Jedi Acolyte to a +.500 finish. I was crazy happy for him because he’s been working on it for months, and he finally got it to work. Read about it here, although he has the name wrong. The deck is lovingly called “Garbage”) After smashing that BYE fella in the face, I was on to Round 2 at 1-0.

Round 2: Well fuck, I don’t ever want to sit down across from my friends early in the tournament, but dream crushing Julio immediately was about as far as could be down the list of situations I wanted to be in. RNJesus decided that was to be our fate, however, so we went to town. The downside of working on Silly Fun Deck for months is that the people who help you work on it know exactly how to smash it, and that’s exactly how this played out. Trey running “Real Deck” with intricate knowledge of everything Julio was trying to do was kinda unstoppable in this match-up. Han and Qi’ra sniped one blue dude after another, all while preemptively bobbing and weaving cards that shouldn’t be expected in serious competitive play. After about five minutes of real time, Han and Qi’ra stood over a pile of Jedi bodies with barely a singed jacket between them (Han took 4 damage, Qi’ra none). 2-0, so far, so good.

Round 3: I sat down across a buddy from the expanded Texas Destiny-verse, and he flips over Snoke/Rebel Traitor/Ciena. Confusion reigned. What the hell is this you’re doing to me, Cruel Universe? I’ve not tested against this! How am I supposed to fulfill my destiny (lol, puns) if you throw this stuff at me? *sigh*, I guess I have to play this. I decided to work on Ciena first. Her low health plus powerful ability seemed to give me the best bang for my buck in taking down this foe. Of course, he promptly smashes down a Fist, so removing that power action was in no way helpful. I flailed about for a bit and took down some characters, but by the end there was no way I was going to survive the two more rounds of ULTIMATE FACE SMASHER I would have needed to in order to pull out the win. 2-1, not where I’d hoped to be, but still in the game.

Round 4: Well, fuck again. This time I was paired up against Jonathan, another really good friend. Jonathan has started seeing some success in competitive Destiny just this year, and I whoop and holler on the inside (and sometimes on the outside) every time I see it. Hearing about his X-0ing both KeyForge and Destiny tournaments at PAX South was just a big warm fuzzy for me. He’s a genuinely good guy who works really hard at getting better, all while maintaining a positive outlook when things are… struggling. It’s hard not to root for people like that. Even Saturday I managed to pull off the full body fist pump in Round 1 when he slammed the Bait and Switch to take his match. Sitting at 2-1 was a huge deal for Jonathan, and I was genuinely sad that my path to glory went straight through him. We’re playing the Cash ‘n’ Guns (28 card) mirror, so it’s going to come down to dice rolls and play skill. I won the roll off, and started with the smoking hot play of Theed > Hidden Blaster > Hidden Blaster > Roll Han > Guns and Specials (eating both of his shields while putting immediate pressure on). He panicked. Feeling behind, he started making plays he knew to be wrong just to try and steal back some tempo. From there he never recovered, and my side of the table emerged victorious. 3-1, bittersweet. Happy with the record, but not what I had to do to get there.

Round 5: Let’s just jump to the start of Round 2 to give you a feel for how this one started. Before I take my first action of Round 2 I have Han with Fast Hands, X-8, and no damage, and I have Qi’ra with Fast Hands and no damage. He has a full health Leia Boushh and a Yoda with five damage on him. You’d take that, right? Full grip, your battlefield, both your guys tarted up to make their best dice untouchable? Yeah, somehow I lost that game. Now I know it was wrong to go after Yoda first, but even so, that start should have pulled me straight through that poor choice. Nope, and I have no idea what happened. Looking back, I couldn’t tell you what else I did wrong. Ryan is one of the good players out of San Antonio, but I don’t think even he should have been able to pull that one back. I know there was a Hyperspace Jump to switch battlefields. I know that things were already south when he started eating my resources with Salvage Stand while hitting Leia specials. I remember that Yoda lived far too long on the back of Force Illusion. I remember having to fight through multiple Second Chance. Otherwise, \_(ツ)_/¯ I’ve got no idea. I just didn’t do damage for several rounds there, somehow, and he made me pay. 3-2. At this point I am just hating life. Apparently, if you’re not an ethereal non-person named BYE or someone I play every Wednesday night I just can’t beat you. I have no mojo. Life is terrible. We’re all in pain and the only release is the oblivion of death. I want to leave. Oh, pairings are up? Whatever, I’m going home in a box anyway.

Rounds 6 and 7 can best be described in a single image.

Round 6: I fought against Slater on Vader/Greedo. “Fought” is probably too strong a word. At every turn I had the perfect answer card. My dice hit every time. His dice hit just about never, and the few times they did I went ahead and resolved them for him. He, correctly, dumped Han‘s special damage onto Greedo twice, so I figured I would help out and snipe ole Shot Last to save him the work of playing a Price of FailureGreedo ability rolled a blank. He hit an early Fist. Yeah? I will resolve that 3 Ranged side for you there, sir. You rolled it again? Let’s Jump. Oh look, Fist on 3R again? Resolve it again. Umm, let’s Jump again. I believe the quote from Slater after the match was, “Well, that wasn’t fun.” This is not me tooting my own horn here. My deck delivered up every answer at exactly the right time. My dice rolled exactly the right way. His went cold at just the right moment. Despite the victory this game went so quickly that it didn’t really register that I’d won. Not in a way that offset the funk I was in after the previous loss. 4-2

Round 7: If Round 6 was a bad dream for my opponent, Round 7 was the nightmare you don’t wake up from. I played a guy local to Austin in what was, apparently, a match vying for Top 8 contention. I had zero clue at the time, however. I was living in the tri-world of life-sucks-funk, my last match was astonishing, and buckling down because I want to win this one. He was on Leia2/Yoda, which is a very good match-up for me. I didn’t want to get cocky, though, because that was the path that led to my ruin two rounds earlier. After the match he told me that he pretty much knew it was over when he saw my team. In his testing this was something like 80/20 for me, and that’s about where I tested it. Anyways, on to the game description. Before he ever got to take a turn in Round 2 his Leia was dead and Yoda had three damage on him. That’s all you need to know. This match lasted exactly as long as it took you to read that sentence. The only play sequence of note in this game was when he Commando Raided 3/4 cards in my hand and missed the Bait and Switch that let me drop six damage on Leia. That included two modified sides, so if he gets Bait and Switch I get a whopping zero damage.  5-2

After blisteringly fast final rounds I still wasn’t even thinking about making the Top 8. That’s just silly talk. After my performance early in the tournament I was genuinely just hoping I’d squeaked in to the Top 16 to take home one of those sweet Mother/Plo Koon flip cards. Standing around chatting with my buddies, both Houston and Remote (another side note, this is a huge part of the reason to make these trips. You get to meet and hang out with all those people you talk to on Facebook, and they’re generally cool as shit people. People you’d never know without this shared hobby we have. If you’re on the fence or just have some anxiety-thing, seriously, take the plunge. Destiny is, by far, the best community of people I’ve been hobby-associated with). Sorry, digression. Standing around chatting with buddies, I started hearing murmurings from people who’d seen the final standings sheet. Surely sir, you jest. I’m 100% certain you misread that. Maybe you saw 18th place? Moments later, Sugi starts reading off names of Top 16 folk. 16, not me. 15, not me. 14, not me. 13, nope. 12, 11, 10, 9. This is either very good or very bad. 8th Place: Trey Dismukes.

I have a confession to make, and this is one I’m genuinely embarrassed about. My whole life I’ve been on the receiving end of polite clapping. You remember when you were in a list of people who got their name called out? Whether its Graduation Day at High School, Senior Day on the football team, or something similar, the accompanying applause has always felt to me like the most honest barometer of social status there is. Prom King or Football Star? Wild cheering. Random kid who keeps to themselves? Smattering of polite applause. My entire life I’ve been that latter kid. Little League awards, high school graduation, college graduation, and more. Parents cheering heartily and a smattering of polite applause. It’s not something that’s made any real negative impact on my life, but it’s something I’ve always noticed. My name being called Saturday night at Dragon’s Lair was, by far, the loudest applause I’ve ever received. I 100% understand how silly it is, but the applause there made that moment truly special. If you were there, thank you for that. 

After a dinner break, the Top 8 sat down across from each other to play the quarters. Being the lowly Eight Seed I’d drawn Mr. One Seed himself, Lawton Burkhalter. One thing I love about Lawton is how fiercely competitive he is. Dude does not back down, and if you manage to pull it out against him you know that you’ve beaten someone who didn’t give you an inch. He’d cruised all day on Snoke/Tarkin. Not only winning, but taking down other people who made the Top 8. Fortunately, this was a match-up I’d expected, and I knew the buttons to click. This was my only match on stream all day, so it should be watchable if you’re really interested. I actually don’t remember all that much about it other than things, again, really breaking my way. At one point I had three or four cards in my hand. I’d shown Lawton the Jump off of a Han special, so he went ahead and Probed me, promptly dumping Jump in my grumper. Fist pump for him right? I raked three resources off the table and plop down the second Jump to Timewalk him. Brutal beat. In the second game he Probed me again and took both copies of Easy Pickings, one of the best cards in my deck against him. Didn’t matter. I rolled hot. He rolled… ok, but I had all the right removal. Entangle at just the right moment to break the Tarkin power action. Bait and Switch to kill his last guy after he had to blow all of his removal on dice already on guns. Shit like that. At one point near the end of the second game he had to pitch nearly all of his hand just to get anything out of Snoke + Force Wave. On the third reroll he finally hit Wave special. Indifferent. On to the semis. Sweet Vader Hat tokens are MINE!

Top 4 is Vader/Greedo vs. Cash ‘n’ Guns… and Vader/Greedo vs. Cash ‘n’ Guns. Despite the outcome of both Vaders winning, I genuinely think this match-up is slightly tilted in our favor. Obviously Vader has those moments where he just whips it out and destroys your team in Round One no matter what you do, but that’s a situation that doesn’t come up that often. It takes some calculated playing, but I would still take my deck every time over Vader in a straight up fight. This time around, however, it was not to be. Hunter was too skilled for me to cruise, and I didn’t play well enough. Again, day long Destiny has worked it’s curse on my memory and not formed a full narrative of the game. I know I lost Game 1 when Rise Again and Force Illusion made it take far too long to kill Vader. I actually ripped Price of Failure from his hand with a random discard and was really sad about it. Even though I could have offed Vader I would have had to deal with a lot of Fist action while trying to knock down Greedo. I would much rather he killed Greedo for me. By the end of the second game I was getting punchy. Not really sleepy punchy, more giddy punchy. I was playing for the out of blasting Vader from the table with his own dice via Wanton Destruction, but his dice went cold. I could have figured out a way around it, but I was so fixated on Wanton for kill that I didn’t explore alternate lines of play nearly enough.

Ending up in the Top 4 was not something I’d expected going into the day, and definitely not something I’d seen coming after blowing it in Round 5. I have some niggling twinges of regret that I let my play get too loose there at the end, but overall I’m pleased with doing this well. 

​I guess you want to see the deck, huh?

Notes that Didn’t Fit Above

  • My 30th card choice was Truce. My teammates and I waffled for days about what to run there, and just went generic resource with the intention of surprising someone by resolving a 3 for 1 when they felt they’d stopped me. This was incorrect. The biggest unanswered threat to this deck is Force Illusion. That means Vandalize. Many times on Saturday I sat there holding Truce on the promise of some obscure, future use when Vandalize would have just been better.
  • The Six Seed was a teammate of mine also on Cash ‘n’ Guns. At the last moment he swapped a couple of cards from our stock list, but overall it was the same deck. It was cool to see the Ryan that lives just a few blocks from me Top 8 and receive payoff from all of our testing. There were a lot of Ryans there Saturday.
  • It’s possible that Quick Draw should be Drop In. They achieve the same thing, but have different drawbacks. For Quick Draw, you have to be holding a gun to make it work, and with only 6 guns in the deck that doesn’t always happen. Drop In doesn’t require the gun, just that you’re playing on your own battlefield. This deck consistently wins the roll off, however, and does play two Hyperspace Jump to get to it if you miss.
  • Despite having no Regionals wins, this deck is real. Three of the Top 8 were this deck. It’s all in how you build it. There are so many good yellow events that you can push it at any metagame to gain an edge. Once you’ve got it tweaked to fight an opponent, recognize which cards you need for which opponent and play to them.
  • HOUSTON REPRESENT! Houston sent 12 people to this Regional, and put 7 in the Top 16. Half of the Top 8 were people who made the trek back down 290 that night including the one hoisting the acrylic plaque.
  • Screw you FFG for not giving Houston it’s own Regional. I don’t care that we won’t pull people from the Gulf of Mexico to play. We will pull people from Western Louisiana as well as the rest of Texas. Destiny is thriving in Houston, but we’re not feeling any FFG love.
  • The finals of this event was truly a thing of beauty. Vader v. Vader. Like watching Mike Tyson fight himself, these two decks stood in the middle of the ring chucking haymaker after haymaker at their opponent’s face.
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