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Author Topic: The Straywood Aviary (GenCon 2014 Championship Spellbook)  (Read 24781 times)

Alexander West

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The Straywood Aviary (GenCon 2014 Championship Spellbook)
« on: August 20, 2014, 07:34:02 PM »
My tournament report from winning the championship at GenCon is now up on Arcane Wonders' Mage Wars page:
http://www.arcanewonders.com/arcane-wonders/gen-con-champions-tournament-report

If anyone is interested in discussing the book, I'm happy to talk about it here.

For reference:
Straywood Beastmaster
Attack:
3x Acid Ball
1x Geyser
1x Hurl Boulder
Creature:
6x Thunderift Falcon
4x Timber Wolf
Conjuration:
1x Deathlock
1x Etherian Lifetree
1x Lair
2x Rajan's Fury
1x Renewing Spring
3x Wall of Thorns
Enchantment:
1x Enfeeble
1x Jinx
1x Rhino Hide
1x Reverse Attack
Equipment:
2x Bearskin
1x Dancing Scimitar
1x Eagleclaw Boots
1x Elemental Cloak
1x Leather Boots
1x Leather Gloves
1x Mage Staff
Incantation:
1x Banish
4x Dispel
4x Dissolve
3x Force Push
1x Minor Heal
1x Purge Magic
1x Purify
2x Seeking Dispel
2x Teleport
« Last Edit: August 21, 2014, 09:33:47 AM by Alexander West »
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Re: The Straywood Aviary (GenCon 2014 Championship Spellbook)
« Reply #1 on: August 20, 2014, 08:04:58 PM »
My tournament report from winning the championship at GenCon is now up on Arcane Wonders' Mage Wars page:
http://www.arcanewonders.com/arcane-wonders/gen-con-champions-tournament-report

If anyone is interested in discussing the book, I'm happy to talk about it here.

That was an amazing and very insightful report, thanks so much for writing it! It's awesome to see into the mind behind tournament winning books. Congrats again on your victory!
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sIKE

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Re: The Straywood Aviary (GenCon 2014 Championship Spellbook)
« Reply #2 on: August 20, 2014, 09:10:06 PM »
Couple of Questions:

So you never had any focus on your Falcons?

Did you see any creatures? lots of small/few mid/Ranged (like the Crossbowman)

Did anyone use Guard to counterstrike your birds?
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ringkichard

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Re: The Straywood Aviary (GenCon 2014 Championship Spellbook)
« Reply #3 on: August 20, 2014, 09:24:15 PM »
Damn fine report.
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Re: The Straywood Aviary (GenCon 2014 Championship Spellbook)
« Reply #4 on: August 20, 2014, 09:36:54 PM »
When I used to run swarm Beastmaster, I ran into issues getting my Falcons picked off one by one, usually by Arcane Zap + Ranged Attack (usually Gorgon) + Wizard's Tower. How should I avoid this? Is Lifetree sufficient? The hard limit of 6 Falcons became an issue, and Bats just aren't as good or as cheep.

If you knew your brother was bringing a book with Orb + Obelisk + Gargoyle, would you still want to play Aviary?
I'm having a hard time imagining bringing three Suppression Cloaks. Is that common where you play?
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Re: The Straywood Aviary (GenCon 2014 Championship Spellbook)
« Reply #5 on: August 20, 2014, 10:15:53 PM »
Yeah, I was surprised by the Falcons, and really thrown off when you put your Lair in such an aggressive spot. Great report for the tournament.
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That's a nice spell you have there. It'd be a shame if something happened to it.

Alexander West

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Re: The Straywood Aviary (GenCon 2014 Championship Spellbook)
« Reply #6 on: August 21, 2014, 01:35:03 AM »
@sIKE:
So you never had any focus on your Falcons?
Yes and no.  Several opponents seemed to have plans to shoot them down (Lash of Hellfire, Ivarium Longbow, Ring of Fire, Chain Lightning, Mage's Tower + Jet Stream, Gargoyle Sentry), but I was mostly able to break it up with Dissolve, Etherian Lifetree, falcon damage, or in one case extreme good luck.  That said, I felt like no one dedicated to focus fire fast and hard enough.  I was very surprised none of the Wizards used their Arcane Zap to shoot down birds, and none of the Warlocks seemed to have Flameblasts to trade with falcons.  I feel like a good plan vs. swarm is to kill the creatures as quickly as they come out, but I think a lot of books lacked the tools, and possibly some pilots lacked experience playing against swarm.  (One of the advantages of playing a book widely regarded as "not viable".)

Did you see any creatures? lots of small/few mid/Ranged (like the Crossbowman)
I saw few mid from several players, Ranged from just one, and never lots of small.

Did anyone use Guard to counterstrike your birds?
Frequently, but it doesn't help much.  The pet and the beastmaster both have plenty of health to soak up a counterattack, so I usually just have them trigger the guard first to clear a path for the more fragile birds.  Even if those two characters aren't available, each bird is usually able to soak a single hit since most guards hit for 3-4 dice and the falcons have 5 life.  I had games where each bird took turns soaking 1 hit to set off a Guard.  One of the huge advantages of Flying is being able to completely dictate the sequence of attack interactions.

@RingKichard:
When I used to run swarm Beastmaster, I ran into issues getting my Falcons picked off one by one, usually by Arcane Zap + Ranged Attack (usually Gorgon) + Wizard's Tower. How should I avoid this? Is Lifetree sufficient?
I think whether the ranged attacks or the falcons win has everything to do with tempo.  Like, if I've summoned 2 falcons on turn 2 and 2 falcons on turn 3, they have enough attack between them to destroy a source of ranged attacks possibly in a single turn.  On the other hand, a smaller force of falcons might be destroyed in detail if they are coming a few at a time due to a slower deployment schedule.

When facing a Wizard's Tower (presumably with Jet Stream), it's obviously crucial to stay away from the wall unless absolutely necessary.  I'm also quite willing to burn extra mana on an attack spell to kill it early (usually Acid Ball to get rid of the armor, or Geyser because it's cheap).  A lot of Wizards have just 1 Jet Stream in their book, and it going away when a tower dies is a big perk.

Gorgon is pretty expensive.  Depending on the circumstances I'd consider Acid Ball + Birds to kill it, or even Banishing it if there were enough other threats that my birds needed to keep busy taking apart some other threat.  I could also see it being worthwhile to Teleport/Force Push a Gorgon so birds were able to get to it without taking a hit on the way in due to its range of 2?

Lifetree can be very good or useless, depending on what spells and ranged attacks they are using.  My general rule is that if I can make a falcons life total equal to the sum of some attacks + 1, I want to play it.  For example, vs. a Wizard with Mage Zap, Etherian Lifetree makes a falcon go from 2 zaps on average (3 + 3 > 5) to 3 zaps on average (3 + 3 < 7).  However, if a Wizard had an Ivarium Longbow, I'd want not to use the tree since (4 + 3 = 7) it's going to die in two shots either way (4 + 3 > 5).  The math changes as your birds acquire injuries, of course.

If you knew your brother was bringing a book with Orb + Obelisk + Gargoyle, would you still want to play Aviary?
That's a good question.  After playing Nick I was contemplating what I would do if an opponent cast Orb + Obelisk at the end of a turn, and then on the next turn played Mana Siphon.  I think my Beastmaster plus pet can dish out enough damage to destroy those things in a reasonable span, but maybe with a Guard getting in the way it could get ugly.  (Though I'm uncertain a Guard could survive long enough to get an action token if my swarm is sizeable.)  My instinct is that unless the trap is laid perfectly the Aviary could overcome it, but if each piece is played and supported in the right order, I could see losing several birds to Upkeep effects to pay for movement.

I think an interesting line of counter play might be to keep around 10 mana banked so that the turn the Orb/Obelisk do get dropped the swarm can move and attack as normal?

I'm having a hard time imagining bringing three Suppression Cloaks. Is that common where you play?
Nope!  Thankfully, I've never seen 3 Suppression Cloaks.  However, vs. opponents from an unknown metagame, one must always consider the possibility.  I thought against Nick the odds of 3 were low, given that so much of his book is designed to beat swarm anyway via stacking armor with the Veteran's Belt.

@Jon.Ambriz:
When doing the math on whether I wanted to play the Lair, I was definitely crediting it for getting my falcons 1 square closer to an opponent who was turtleing in the corner.  The fact that a Falcon deployed T2 at B2 can attack a mage at A1 on T3 is great.
« Last Edit: August 21, 2014, 07:42:20 AM by Alexander West »
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Re: The Straywood Aviary (GenCon 2014 Championship Spellbook)
« Reply #7 on: August 21, 2014, 02:17:07 AM »
Congratulations on your win, I know you've heard that plenty already, but in all honesty congrats man. Given that swarms, especially the Beast Master, have been given such a bad light do you see your victory changing perceptions?
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Re: The Straywood Aviary (GenCon 2014 Championship Spellbook)
« Reply #8 on: August 21, 2014, 07:02:06 AM »
Well done man! Congrats on the win and I appreciate the fantastic report. I really enjoyed your breakdown of each card and how they attributed to your overall plan. I am very interested in trying out that Aviary build!
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Alexander West

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Re: The Straywood Aviary (GenCon 2014 Championship Spellbook)
« Reply #9 on: August 21, 2014, 08:14:35 AM »
@SilverclawGrizzly:
Thanks for the congratulations!  Don't sweat that I'm going to get tired of being congratulated, it feels great, and I don't think it will ever get old!  ;)

Given that swarms, especially the Beast Master, have been given such a bad light do you see your victory changing perceptions?
It's too early to know for sure, but I think the answer is yes.  Public opinion is a powerful force, and it's been against swarms for some time.  However, the tools have been there for swarms to work for a while (since DvN in my opinion), and it's pretty hard to ignore a swarm winning the biggest annual Mage Wars tournament.

Looking at the cards available, I wouldn't be surprised at all to see a viable Anvil Throne soldier book or any Warlock demon book do well.  The "Fast" Battle Order for the soldiers, and the teleport power on Wildfire Imp both get the creatures where they need to be, while both Altar of Carnage and Pentagram offer powerful economic engines to support them. 

Heck, even a Wizard's Blue Gremlins have the sort of mobility I want from a swarm creature, and Gate to Voltari isn't too shabby at mana generation.  Though, Wizard is slightly lacking in the mass buffs I want for my swarm.  I guess everyone has access to Marked for Death, but no other mass buffs like Armory or Bloodfire Helmet make it a little harder.  On the other hand, the little buggers are pretty hard to kill due to their dodge and point of armor, so that's something.

To be successful, these books will have to overcome two hurdles that the Beastmaster doesn't face:  1)  They will have to figure out how to deal with the fact that summoning is a slow action.  Not being able to move and summon a creature means they will have to adopt at least slightly different strategy than Straywood.  2) They must pay either mana or actions for high mobility.  With falcons, there is no ongoing cost to keep forces mobile, but that isn't true of either Battle Orders or the Teleport powers on the various imps.  Mana in this game is often pretty tight, so there is some struggle.

Even if the other books can't make it work quite as well, I'm pretty sure Straywood based swarms are going to be a long term part of the metagame.  Though, it's certainly possible they will fall our of favor from time to time if players go overboard on playing tons of hate against them.
« Last Edit: August 21, 2014, 08:16:09 AM by Alexander West »
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Re: The Straywood Aviary (GenCon 2014 Championship Spellbook)
« Reply #10 on: August 21, 2014, 09:07:38 AM »
Big gratz for winning the tournament. I wish we would have something like this in Germany.

While reading your report i noticed that you only faced four of the twelve mages.
What would you have done against a defensive priestress with knight guards, lot of healing to stay alive? Or a necromancer with zombie guards and Idol of Pestilence to bring bloodthirsty to full effect?
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Re: The Straywood Aviary (GenCon 2014 Championship Spellbook)
« Reply #11 on: August 21, 2014, 09:35:50 AM »
Most zombies have pest, he could have easily ignored them. Now, the Zombie Brute could be quite a problem. However, If his mage is in the same zone then the zombie would have to attack him instead of guarding. Clever play could really help here. However, Idol of Pestilence does have real potential.

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Re: The Straywood Aviary (GenCon 2014 Championship Spellbook)
« Reply #12 on: August 21, 2014, 09:51:30 AM »
What an awesome game report.

I love that u included purge magic in a BM book. I dont think any 1 would ever expect that.
Its a spell that see little play already, and when its played its almost always a wizard that casts it.

Your use of healing spring is also very inspiring - especially combined with life tree. I have not yet been able to figure these 2 cards out myself.


Did you ever feel action starved with this build?
(like: wanting to dispell, forcepush, equip armor and quickcast another bird in the same round)

Alexander West

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Re: The Straywood Aviary (GenCon 2014 Championship Spellbook)
« Reply #13 on: August 21, 2014, 09:52:12 AM »
@Schwenkgott:
I wish we would have something like this in Germany.
Yes.  I hope lots of Mage Wars players sign up to be Ambassadors, partner with gaming stores, and keep growing the community.  It would be great if this game got big enough to have anything like the global organized play some TCG, LCG, and miniatures games have.

What would you have done against a defensive priestress with knight guards, lot of healing to stay alive?
Aganist the Priestess I'm pretty sure there are no quick mage assassinations, so I think I would play a game of total attrition.  I'd want to use my pet and my Beastmaster to blow Guard tokens so that my falcons would be free to attack whatever target I'd decided to focus down.  I might also need to play Etherian Lifetree so that a regular falcon could take a 5 dice hit, depending on the circumstances.  Either way, I'm guessing I'd make extensive use of Renewing Spring to top off characters that had gotten injured in action.  I'd try to pick off the Priestess' summons one by one as they came into play, until I built up a critical mass of birds to push for the mage herself.

Or a necromancer with zombie guards and Idol of Pestilence to bring bloodthirsty to full effect?
I'm pretty sure this is the circumstance where my Force Pushes and Teleports would really shine.  If there weren't a lot of guards, I'd take a hit on the Beastmaster or pet and then focus the guard down.  If there were a lot of guards I would use my movement spells to pull the Necromancer away from the entourage so the Falcons could get at him.  Depending on the type of Zombie, I'd also consider using Etherian Lifretre to make it so a regular falcon could soak a guard hit, and combine it with Renewing Spring to make the process repeatable. 

Using the falcons to destroy the Idol of Pestilence would also be in the consideration, but might not be feasible if there were a lot of Zombies guarding it.  In general, I'd probably be wanting to keep my Beastmaster away from any large number of Zombies because they hit so hard, or I'd have wanted to armor up before wading in.
« Last Edit: August 21, 2014, 09:54:31 AM by Alexander West »
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Alexander West

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Re: The Straywood Aviary (GenCon 2014 Championship Spellbook)
« Reply #14 on: August 21, 2014, 10:21:06 AM »
@jacksmack:
I love that u included purge magic in a BM book. I dont think any 1 would ever expect that.
Its a spell that see little play already, and when its played its almost always a wizard that casts it.

My brother and I both love this spell, and nearly always have 1x in our books.  Sure, it's expensive, but having a card that can punish an opponent for some lines of play means blow-out opportunities in games that aren't open to everyone.

One kind of neat thing about playing an aggressive proactive book like Aviary is that I know the struggle is going to revolve around my birds and my life total.  As long as I can protect those two things, (and by protect, I also mean make sure my birds aren't negated by lots of armor or a Suppression Cloak) I'm pretty sure I can win.  Therefore, I don't have to play as many cards that work in a broad range of circumstances and can just play narrower cards that will be relevant to the scenario I know I will create.  This leaves SP for things like Purge Magic.

Did you ever feel action starved with this build?  (like: wanting to dispell, forcepush, equip armor and quickcast another bird in the same round)
No, I usually feel like I have plenty of actions.  So much so that I am usually running around the field punching my opponent when I'm on the offense, or hiding in a corner drinking from a Renewing Spring when I'm protecting my life total.

What I am constantly feeling short on is mana.  The Beastmaster channels 9, and the Lair channels 2, which isn't enough to break even when summoning two 6 mana birds in a turn.  As such, I must sometimes give up summoning one, or even both falcons in order to cast other spells or save up for the next turn's summons.

During the tournament I came to appreciate cards with low costs like Leather Boots, Leather Gloves, and Rhino Hide since they often fit well with spending 6 on a falcon and having 5 mana left over to invest in other magic.
« Last Edit: August 21, 2014, 10:52:59 PM by Alexander West »
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