2021 Canadian Nationals

Wow. What. A. Weekend.

Let us rewind a bit to go over my path leading up to nationals. After the RTN season ended labor day weekend (first weekend of September for those outside of Canada reading this), I took a nice, long break from FAB. It was only when prerelease season began for TOA that I got back into playing at LGS events (this was around mid-late September?). I guess it wasn’t actually that long of a break! September was a pretty busy month for me, given it was my birthday as well as ultimate nationals that I was ramping up towards. Basically, I had 0 time in September to actually put in any time to getting ready for Nationals. The other factor was that Chris did not make the cut for Nationals based on his 90-day XP ranking, as he had to take the last two weeks off before the XP cut-off date, which meant he had no time to grind, whereas everyone else in Canada was grinding events online. That meant one of my major playtesters was out.

Fast forward to October -> club ultimate was over, so I had a lot more free time (or so I thought). Everyone across the world was figuring out the impact of TOA on the meta and most people were busy putting their attention to sealed and draft because of the Calling events in USA. There were some rumblings of what the new meta would look like based on the ProQuest CC events, but the meta was clearly not settled yet.

Then came UK Nationals, USA Nationals, and it was clear what the new meta was starting to shape up to be. Honestly, Canadians had no idea what was going on with our own Nationals event because the organizer had been basically AWOL the entire time. It was only because of the community members in Ontario posting frequently on the Canada Discord that we even had a clue as to what was going to happen. There was no email communication – we had to figure things out on our own or through word of mouth. Most of us were half-kidding when we said we would show up to the venue the day of, only to find out it was canceled. In the week leading up to the event, those who called the convention center were met with responses saying they have never heard of Flesh and Blood, nor anything about such event being hosted. If you went on the convention center’s website to check out what events were happening, there was nothing posted. We’ll circle back to this later.

In terms of playtesting, I can give you a quick summary of what I ended up doing. In total, I drafted 6 times with the TOA set. Majority of those drafts were on Briar, because that was the comfort pick from playing the TOA prerelease weekend. I tried Lexi twice, but did terribly both times with her. It was only on the Thursday leading up to Nationals that I tried Oldhim for the first time just to get a feel for him. In terms of CC practice, I barely got any playtesting in. Most of it was all within the last two weeks leading up to Nationals, with the majority of it on the same day that I tested drafting Oldhim. So as you can see, I was severely underprepared for the event. In my heart, I really did not feel like I wanted to bother making the trip anymore, because I felt I would just end up fizzling out early on Day 1, making it waste of a trip. There was a lot of regret sinking in: spending a weekend flying across the country, food, hotel, transportation for a event that I was not remotely prepared for and also wishing I had made more time for preparation. It has just been a very busy September/October for me. The good thing is that the flight and hotel were redeemed via points, so that was my only saving grace. My flights were booked to minimally impact my work, so I left Friday evening after work ended, which landed me in Toronto 2 AM local time (Saturday). My flight was booked for Sunday 5 PM. I thought the event would have ended by 5 PM and tried to factor in what were the chances I would even make Top 8 anyway.

So the deck I ended up on was Lightning Briar, as it felt like the only deck I could feel comfortable with within the short amount of time that I had. I think I have always been more of an aggro player, so it was a comfort pick. I had trouble deciding whether to play the pure 0 red-line Briar, or the one that splashed more blue pitch cards and played 1-cost cards like Rites of Lightning, Razor Reflex, so I just brought everything onto the plane with me. The plane ride was me spending the time to create the SB guide for both decks. When I finally landed in Toronto middle of the night, I made the snap decision to just go pure red-line 0-cost. The Thursday leading up to Nationals was when I playtested the 1-cost version vs the 0-cost with Chris. We played about 8 times with him on the 0-cost and myself on the 1-cost version (basically John Siadak’s deck from USA Nats Top 8 – shoutout to him for giving me a bunch of tips and advice on the deck). It felt like a 50/50 matchup, and I was still very undecided, as I kept messaging Chris the next day about which deck I should bring. The problem was that we never swapped decks, so I never got the feel for the 0-cost version. TL;DR: I made a decision 2 AM on the day of the tournament to play the 0-cost version, with basically no reps on that specific deck, but at least I had a SB guide ready for it.

Sleep was pretty rough that night, and I woke up pretty much looking like a zombie. Breakfast was included at the hotel (very sweet looking hotel and room – Element @ Pearson Airport, highly recommend). Called an Uber since I didn’t feel like walking 20 minutes in the chilling cold and got to the venue within 5 minutes. Since there had been 0 communication from the organizers, I had no idea where to go, but again, Canada Discord to the rescue with the tidbits, and I managed to get in with enough time to spare after all the vaccine checks and bracelets. The venue itself is quite nice, and there was a sports cards event going on. The room that we had dedicated to FAB was a decent size – I say decent because it fit everyone, but there was no ample spacing between the players. It was quite snug. I saw some of our local BC players (I think we had 10/11 of us there) and sat down with them to get deck registration completed. We got our participation gifts and just tried to chill before the start of the tournament.

GEM gets everyone paired and round 1 begins.

Round 1 – Donghee (Briar)
This really sucked. Donghee is from BC and someone that I playtested a couple games in the final two weeks leading up to Nationals. This guy is a machine. He was nowhere near the top of the 90-day XP chart in the final few weeks before the cutoff, but he grinded to the top of the 90-day leaderboard to qualify for Nationals. This is the type of matchup you want to avoid, playing against your local community players. Everyone knows how important it is to win the first round of a tournament. 81 players final count at this tournament and somehow we get paired up first round. This was a pretty one-sided matchup, and I basically never managed to grab back tempo. The one key moment I remember in this game is that he kept a Sonata on a big turn I pushed damage at him. His Sonata was for x=1, and he hit 2/2 split, which gave him back a 4 card hand with arsenal, which basically ended me. He has improved a lot since I first met him at RTN, and if there was anyone I would rather lose to, it’s someone from BC. But basically at this point, I was feeling affirmation about my feelings leading up to Nationals – that I should not have bothered to make this trip in the first place, and my mind started spiraling. I checked in with our other players, and it was basically a split with half of us 1-0 and the other half 0-1. I went to the hallway to just clear my head and get refocused. I think it helps coming from a competitive sports background, since you’re constantly training your mental toughness.

Round 2 – Angelo (Lexi)
I sit down across Angelo, and I see him flip up a Lexi, and my heart sinks. One of my two worst matchups, and all the refocusing I did started to slip away and depression started to creep back in. I had my SB plan against Lexi, with siding out the only 1-cost card I have in my deck, putting in a bunch of blues and hoped for the best. I won’t deny that my first thought was “well, 0-2 here we go.” The thing I remember the most about this game was that I played very cleanly, never missed any triggers, and that I always had a blue-pitch card in hand when he played Blizzard (which he played 3 in this match). Anytime he gave me a Frostbite token, I always had a yellow/blue in my hand to get around it. He never managed to get back tempo from the turns he tried to slow me down, and I locked this game out by chipping in damage turn by turn. Checked in with my local buddies again. Some were now 0-2, 1-2, 2-0.

Round 3 – Aled (Rhinar)
I felt good from my last game knowing that Ice Lexi is winnable. I won’t lie though, I had prepared nothing against Brute in my playtesting. But this match basically came down to me drawing very well and constantly pushing damage through. He had some big swing turns, but I never felt too worried about dying. He had one Bloodrush Bellows turn, but he rolled a 2 on his Scabskin Leathers, so he was unable to go wide on that turn (he was playing Romping Club).

At this point, I was 2-1. I kept telling myself to just take it one game at a time and refocused myself for draft. Only 2 BC players were 3-0, Jay and Donghee. Everyone else was 1-2, 2-1. Jay found himself at the top draft pod.

This was my first time ever drafting at a competitive event, and it was a new learning experience. You are timed strictly between each pick, you are told when exactly to pick/pass/pick-up next pack. You are told exactly when you can review your pack for a limited amount of time. My pack 1, pick 1 was a Blizzard. I had told myself that if Oldhim was open to me, I was going to take him because my one and only draft of Oldhim told me that I am very comfortable at playing a fatigue style game (which is ironic because I’m an aggro player at heart). What ended up happening in this draft was that I ended up with 44 playable Oldhim cards, even with an Oldhim player sitting to my right. I felt very confident about my deck, as I had d-reacts, Summerwood Shelters, Glacial Footsteps, 20 blues, a bunch of Earth/Ice blues. I also had Oldhim’s common shield and Plume of Evergrowth.

Round 4 – Raymond (Lexi)
Raymond was playing Ice Lexi, which told me he would have ways to dominate his tall arrows to get around me. I also know him from playing online against him, so I also knew he was a good player. Unfortunately for him, I always had a d-react ready or Summerwood Shelter for the tall arrows. This game almost went to time, but I fatigued out Raymond, and he gave me the win.

Round 5 – Andrew (Briar)
I had played Andrew previously at the Calgary RTN, so I also knew he was a great player as well coming from a MTG background. I also had lost to him in a Chane mirror back then, so I was playing for revenge. I remember blocking out everything he threw at my physically in this game, but I took a ton of arcane damage. Basically all 16 damage he had dealt to me in this game was arcane damage, but he ended up fatiguing as well. Truly insane numbers of arcane damage that he threw at me in this game.

Round 5 – Adam (Lexi)
Adam was playing Lightning Lexi with Voltaire, so I knew he’d be going wide in this matchup. I remember that I lost the die roll, but he had chosen me to go first. I came in first turn with a lucky hand – blue dominated Glacial Footsteps. This game also ended with Adam going to fatigue, and I had an okay life total at the end to feel comfortable for most of this game. I had the blocks and the blue Earth cards when I needed to block out the damage.

End of draft – 5-1. At this intermission, I felt like I was in the zone. I didn’t feel ecstatic, overconfident, nor did I feel any negative emotions. I just kept telling myself, take it one game at a time, and we’ll see where we go from here. Checking in with everyone, it looked like BC was half and half. Jay went 1-2 in draft, leaving him 4-2. Yuki played a perfect 3-0 draft, so she was also 4-2 (she was sitting next to me in the final draft round, and I could see her winning comfortably with her Lexi deck). Donghee was 5-1 as well. Eric had some rough matchups and was sitting at 3-3 I think. Lucas and Bui had some bad beats – they were 1-2 going into draft and had to play each other first round of draft. They were teetering on x-3 records, and I think Ross/Tyler/Matteo as well. Wasn’t too sure what Shawn was sitting at though. If I happened to see people’s matches going on when I was done, I would swing by to check on them or chat with those who also finished, but I also spent some of the downtime just trying to focus and rest up. The organizer’s had bought pizza and drinks for everyone which was very nice of them. Was not expecting that, so we all had a nice lunch intermission. We all chatted it up during this time and then got ready to get back into the final three rounds of CC.

My 3-0 Oldhim Pool – my pod was 2 Oldhim, 3 Briar, 3 Lexi

Round 7 – Sau (Briar)
I did not recognize Sau’s name, so I did not know what kind of background he had in terms of FAB or TCG’s in general. But this was a mirror match, and I think it came down to the dice roll. I opted to go first, and I pushed in with two E-strikes. I know they say if you go first, you should arsenal, but after I saw him block the first E-strike for only 4, I knew his hand blocked poorly, so he had to use armor on the 2nd E-strike. The other big play was he had to Tome first early in the game, and I managed to draw mine later in the game. This game still ended up very, very close, but those were the two big swings in the game. Very nice guy – really enjoyed playing him. Super cool sleeves too.

Round 8 – Gabe (Lexi)
So I was in table 2 last round, and Gabe was sitting beside me in table 1 (kind of crazy how I ended up table 2 given the start I had to this tournament). I could tell Gabe was not having a good game because I overheard him talking to his opponent about how he was playing very poorly. In this game, we got to chat it up a bit since we both knew each other from the online Canada Discord. He was telling me how he started the day 6-0 (the only player who was undefeated after round 6), but he got overconfident and started losing focus. This game was somewhat similar in that he missed some triggers, but also was super unlucky with whiffing on arrows or his 3OAK. I felt lucky in this matchup, since this is supposed to be one of my worst matchups. After our game ended, I tried to talk to Gabe to help him get back his groove – found out later he won Round 9, so his refocusing evidently worked! Found out later that it was a mirror match into Yuki, so that was unfortunate so I would have wanted both of them to win.

Round 9 – Dante (Briar)
It is so incredibly fitting that Dante is the last person I face on Day 1. If I win this match, I am basically a lock for Top 8. If I lose, I need to do well in the draft the next day to solidify entering Top 8. This is the first time I met Dante in person, and our game actually was the recorded match for the round. I won the die roll, so I opted to go first. I know this is a hotly contested topic about who goes first in the mirror, but I just hate it when I draw a hand that cannot block and end up taking a bunch of damage. In this matchup, going first helped me since I had a bunch of Ball Lightnings to start. I actually missed 1 damage tracked in this game, but it didn’t matter in the end. Dante always had a Plunder Run from arsenal which helped him a ton. He also had a blue pitch on the opening turn, which helped him prevent damage off of the Sting -> Ball Lightning combo I pulled first turn. Then I also whiffed on two Rabbles into blue pitches, and I just couldn’t win from there on out. At the end, Dante mentioned how he got revenge from back in Skirmish season 1, so I felt honored that he remembered all the way back to that event. Great guy – even said after the game that if I had brought him down to 1 life, he would have given me the game because he also noticed the missed damage trigger in the opening turn.

So I ended the day on 7-2. Yuki ended the day x-3, Jay as well was x-3 (he lost to Yuki round 8). Donghee was x-3. Eric/Lucas/Tyler/Danny/Ross/Shawn/Matteo were out. I think most of them had signed up for ProQuest for the next day. One thing I really liked from the was the camaraderie between all the BC players. We often would go check how each other was doing, chat in between games, help each other out. I don’t know how I managed to pull out a 7-2 ending to Day 1 after the start that I had. Dante mentioned that I basically went Super Saiyan, which I quite enjoyed the reference. Looking at the final standings of Day 1, I was seeded third. Only Dante and one other player were at 8 wins, so that made me the top of all the 7 win players.

I headed back to the hotel because I was completely pooped, running off of 4-ish hours of poor sleep. I ordered UberEats, watched some TV, and passed out for the night. I initially had tried to rearrange my flight for the next day in case I made top 8, but it was not feasible to change the flight. I also was told I needed a 2-1 record to make top 8, but I actually I would have made the cut on a 7-4 record since I would have have the best 7-4 record out of the rest of the players at 7 wins, but anyways, like I told myself, one game at a time.

Day 2 – Draft Pod #1
So here I am, sitting in draft pod #1 with all the 8 and 7 wins players. Benson sits beside me asking if I know about the pack composition, I guess to make sure he and I do not take the same things since we were sitting next to each other. Draft begins, and once again, I open a Blizzard first pack – I slam that down. I don’t see much equipment throughout the draft, and I see very limited Earth cards, but I see a lot of Oldhim cards, so I start going in that direction. I end up with a another 40+ playable Oldhim pool, but much worse equipment, but I did get a Cracker Jax and a red Thump. The only other Oldhim in the pool had a Winter’s Wail. Our pod ended as 4 Briars, 2 Lexis, 2 Oldhims.

Round 10 – Dimos (Lexi)
Mr. Dimoist – the guy with some very terrible Internet connection whenever we played online. I knew Dimos would be a great player from all the times I have played against him. He was playing Ice Lexi, but he was never really able to push much damage. With my high number of blue pitch cards, I was never too fazed about the Frostbites or discard effects. With my split of Ice/Earth cards, I was always able to prevent damage/disrupt his hands to prevent him from arsenaling. This game didn’t end up going to fatigue. With this win, I felt a sigh of relief, but wanted to lock in my next round to feel confident about my Top 8 chances.

Round 11 – Shawn (Lexi)
Shawn was the only player with 10 wins at this point. His only loss was from a game with a IP given to him. Seems like he knew his stuff, and his crew were all MTG players apparently. I never really had a shot in this game, as he kept coming in with wide turns opening up with Electrifies from arsenal, managing to always push through damage with Ball Lightnings, Lighting Presses. This game ended very fast and was not close. And so now here I am. I was still thinking I had best the tie-breakers, but I also wanted to fight for good seed, even though I knew I wouldn’t be able to finish the tournament if I made Top 8 anyway, but I still wanted to end on a positive note.

Round 12 – Benson (Briar)
Benson was the guy who sat next to me in draft, and he was playing Earth Briar. He came in hard with big turns. This game came down to me siding in a red Rejuvenate, which actually made a difference based on all the arcane damage he dealt to me in this game. There was a key turn where he came in with a first attack, I blocked, I pitched a blue Earth to prevent next 2 since I knew he had go again. I had 2 cards in hand, but none of it blocked since one was an Amulet, and the other was a Blizzard. He came in for 8 damage, and I was at 8 life. So that turn, I ended at 2 life on his turn, but he was at 1, so he could not close the game, as he decked out at that point.

So 12 rounds finally are over, and I end up 9-3. I knew I was in the Top 8 now, and I felt very, very happy. It honestly felt like a dream/goal achieved. I know that I said going into Nationals, I felt underprepared, lack of motivation to go, but originally during RTN season, my goal was to make Nationals and hit Top 8. Anything after that would have been a bonus. I was seeded 4th going into Top 8. I’m sure there will be a bunch of media posted later, as they did interviews with each of us and a group photo. It took quite a bit of time between the end of round and the start of the Top 8 matches, so I had to give the concession to Daniel, who was on Chane. Really wish I could have stayed, but it’s a learning lesson for next time to have more belief in myself. If all things had aligned, I might have met Yuki in the finals, which would have been an all BC finals. Of the Top 8, 7 of the 8 of us were from Pod 1 (sorry Gabe 😢 – your last draft game looked very unlucky), and Yuki was the only player to make it in. Oh, and Yuki takes the title of the first FAB Canadian National Champion!

It was a crazy whirlwind of a weekend. I came away asking myself what if I put in more practice, how far can I go in this game? Given the little time that I had for practicing and managing to get this far, it’s exciting to think about the potential ceiling. There was definitely a bit of luck with who you get paired up in GEM and the RNG behind card games, but evidently skill is important as well. The drafting portion definitely mattered, and I liked how LSS made sure the champion is someone who is good at both formats. The whole mental strength aspect also played a huge part in this weekend, not letting myself go down a downward spiral after my first round loss.

I absolutely love this game and the community we have here in Canada. Everyone I met over this weekend has been a pleasure to deal with, and we have a tightknit BC community. Yuki coming out with the win reinforces that BC is not to be overlooked. We had 4 players in the Top 24, 2 in the Top 8 and our local gaming community hovers around 16 on a good day for an Armory event (think about it, we had just under 30 players for our RTN). @LSS: don’t overlook BC and host some Callings/Nationals in BC next time please! And Yuki, a biggggg congratulations to you with a well-deserved win on a great meta-call on the deck. You rocked Lexi to 6-0 in draft and won the tournament with Lexi in CC as well. You are a true Ranger.

This post has gone wayyyy too long, but I just need to end this off with a list of shoutouts:

@Eric and Dillon for hosting consistent events and keeping FAB alive in BC. Without the two of you, I would have given up this game long ago from the shift from online to in-person gaming.
@Stronghold Games (Kevin) for hosting draft events weekly to give us more practice.
@Yuki, Lucas, Donghee for the very little, but still very much appreciated playtest games that we got in over TTS, even though none of those decks were the ones I ended up with, and I played like a buffoon in all of those games, which likely didn’t help any of you get any real practice in.
@Judges, Canadian FAB Community, Organizers for making this a positive and welcoming community that we are all proud to be a part of.

@Chris and Nat for hosting the draft at their place, gathering up enough people for 8 players so that I could one last draft practice in which sealed the deal for all of my Oldhim wins in draft. I hounded these guys all day in order to get my one real day of playtesting in for draft and CC. Without you guys, I would have been lost with actual 0 experience with Lightning Briar and Oldhim in draft. Chris hyped me up all weekend sending me positive vibes, and Nat is like the little sister you force to play FAB so we have enough players. She sent me the sweetest message that had all the FAB terminology used correctly right before the tournament started.
@MJ for being OK with me spending all the time and money sunk towards this game. I have sacrificed a lot of our time together in order to get reps in for this game, and I appreciate that she supports me. She said she would only feel like it’s worth it if I place 1st in a big tournament, so that’s the next goal!
@All my friends back home for cheering me on, as I had a ton of support from all of you over the weekend. You all know who you are! My Top 8 should solidify some sponsorships from Athlete’s Core (check out their swag in the upcoming media posts covering Nationals @Omang) and from my buddy @Wilson.

Spoils from the weekend. I absolutely love this playmat with the Top 8 National Championship logo. GF Vestige! Great looking card. Was bummed at first, but absolutely beautiful. Not pictured, 500$ USD and PTI.

Header image: Aria Key Asset Art pulled from LSS website – could not find artist credits

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