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Deadlands: Doomtown» Forums » Strategy

Subject: Zach Seldon's Blackjack Toolbox, Gencon 2012 championship deck rss

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Eric Jome
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This is the deck Zach Seldon used to win the 2012 Gencon championship tournament. Zach's excellent play skill carried this motley assortment to 5 victories in a round robin style event with 6 participants. At first that might not seem like much, but the field was filled with grizzled veterans and there were some hard fought contest in the mist.

This deck is a "toolbox" - that is, it doesn't have a direct, planned strategy for winning, but instead responds to the situation and adapts with specialized cards and play tactics. Zach varied his starting posse, for example, from game to game. This is the kind of thing the Blackjacks excel at in Doomtown because of their virtually game breaking access to free economic resources - it's no accident that this outfit has been seen in the top tier many, many times in the past.

Let's take a closer look at the deck.

The Starting Posse (5 cards)

1 Spike Dougan
1 Andrew Garret
1 William Rose exp
1 Flint Parker
1 Cletus Peacock

Total cost: 5 + 5 + 4 + 2 + 3 = 19 (0 remaining)
Total upkeep: 0
Total influence: 1 + 2 + 0 + 0 + 0 = 3

This is remarkably light on influence and doesn't even set aside one for lowball on the first turn. But that's shenanigans the Blackjacks can afford, especially with 3 dudes who can boot for 6 more rock at no cost of mobile influence on the first turn. Still, this would struggle immensely with a dedicated Sweetrock deck, frequently losing on the first turn to Gomorra Ltd. Rails - none were represented at the event. Zach could have switched up his starting posse in that case to include dudes like Alfred Barkum Jr or the Navarro brothers to adapt - that's the toolbox in action.

The Sixes (19 cards)

1 Arson
1 Fanning The Hammer
1 Nowhere To Run
1 Pistol Whip
1 2nd Bank of Gomorra
1 Boat Yard
1 The Gilded Feather
1 Golden Mare Hotel
1 Icehouse
1 Clell Miller
1 Juliet "Jewel" Sumner
1 Peter Motambu
2 The Twitch
2 Labor Dispute
3 Sawed-off Shotgun

This is the deck's shooting core. Note the spread amoung suits; 4/5/4/5 in Clubs, Diamonds, Spades, and Hearts - this avoids Cheatin! while hitting a reliable Full House, Four of a Kind, or a Cheatin! Five of a Kind. The few drifters here are easily left in as they won't be booting for the Blackjack home ability. Note the inclusion of specialize cards like Icehouse and Labor Dispute, part of the toolbox ethic.

The Threes (9 cards)

1 Massacre At High Noon
1 No Mas
1 Bakery
1 The Intelligence Shop
1 Father Juan Navarro
1 Natalie Sherman
1 Victor Navarro exp
1 Coleman Is Killed
1 Eureka!

There's something of a backup value at Threes in this deck. A backup value is one where you hold a pair in your shootout hand during re-draw to help improve your odds of a Full House. Again, cards at this value are easily left in the deck or played. Coleman Is Killed is classic Wanted defense, but it's too random to really count on and there's far too little in the deck overall to deal with dedicated Wanted punishment - to Zach's good fortune, no Law Dogs were present at the event.

Other cards (19 cards)

1 Cheatin' Varmint
1 Hot Lead Flyin'
1 That's Two Pair
1 Yer Cheatin' Too
1 No-Tell Hotel

1 Alfred Barkum Jr.
1 Andra Miles
1 Black Jack
1 Eddie Bellows
1 Jason "The Kid" Jung
1 Jordan Caldwell
1 Lilith Vandekamp
1 Rachel Sumner
1 Sam Horowitz exp
1 Vampiric Dance Hall Girl
1 Wendigo Garrison

1 Jack's Left Shooter
1 Jack's Right Shooter
1 Kenny

2 Death's Head Joker

In this section are cards Zach is hoping to get into play and use to win. The core strategy for winning for this kind of Blackjacks deck is the shootout - controlling the contents of their deck, a host of overwhelming dudes, and solid shooting power. This deck lacks much in the way of instigating fights, but that's okay; it's going to sit at home and degenerate down, giving it time to find the rare card and put them to use if needed. Against my Whateley's, Zach expertly played William Rose exp and Jason "The Kid" Jung to provoke early shootouts, costing me before I could get set up with Shadow Man and Puppets.

This deck is highly vulnerable to a heavy Cheater - it won't draw high enough in shootouts and has two unreliable Cheatin! cards itself. It's going to get taken to the cleaners by a stronger shooter. It has weaknesses in other areas too; no anti-spell, no defense against influence reduction, no surprise movement effects, no shootout control - this all shows Zach's good play skill helped him to make the most of it.

It would be fairly easy to tune this up into something more fierce with perhaps a Mr. Bones and a few different deeds ... and maybe a Deputize too. But all that matters is that it was fast enough on the day. Someone must have told Zach to listen for the click before the strike...
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zachary seldon

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Small Time

that is what the deck is named because of the thematic elements within it. no dude, deed, goods or action is thematically out of place. i wanted to keep the original blackjacks 'feel' without sacrificing too much substance for flavor. possibly why it seems in needs of a 'tune-up' lol!

but yeah, i like the 'toolkit' adjective because that sums it up.
to start, my strategy is to vary the starting posse according to the opponent's home information. generally, this means choosing between higher influence or higher 'boot for 2' potential. i was allowed to maximize the latter in all five games because the opposition presented homes which didn't seem to pressure me to keep my influence high early on:

Landed Rats (Russel) - Kung-Fu Shooter
Coalition (Nick) - Imprisonment Tech/Shooter
Black Circle (Eric) - Puppet Tech
Original Sweetrock (Rich) - Lion/Diablo Tech (of which i was familiar)
Texas Rangers (John) - Ezzie/value Shooter/Tech

second, the goal is to evaluate, based on lowball information, or by sending Rose in to 'test the waters', two things: the shootout capability of the deck, and the decks general strategy for winning. from that evaluation, i have to figure out when the best time is to strike - early on, or late in the game.

early on:
Landed Rats Kung-fu Shooter is most vulnerable before all those Fu powers come out and the deck degenerates into it's final form, provokes a shootout, and picks up the whole deck to make the perfect hand. You got to take down the Master.
Black Circle Puppet Tech, especially one starting with Enoch, needs to be shut down before the Puppet combos with the home ability, or worse, with Shadow Man, to create a near-unstoppable one or more (per Puppet) dude/turn veritable blender! aaahh!!!
Original Sweetrock Lion/Diablo Tech, with that extra lowball card, is basically a race against time, as events take down dudes on the board, the dude with the highest value's number always being 'up' - a tenuous atmosphere... having played against this deck numerous times, i had a total head's up though.

late in the game:
Coalition Imprisonment Tech/Shooter is not too vulnerable early one, and nor is it without a late-game strategy (Thomas with her spells). thus the attrition strategy: remain on the defensive, pick a fight here or there using numeric dude superiority to create an advantage, and slowly ramp up the CP for the slow squeeze.
Texas Rangers Ezzie/value Shooter/Tech is a strong shooter right off the bat (J.P.) that immediately gets to work freely kissing off the low-value dudes (Ezzie). fortunately the Jacks can actually out-purchase (!) dudes by booting for 10+ GR per turn. thus the bait and switch strategy: provoke minor shootouts and play the highest hands you can muster, pressurin' your opponent to do the same, then lure them into a higher stake-shootout this time packin' the proper Reaction to tip the scale - 'toolkit' style. (in this case, it was Yer Cheatin' Too!)

thanks for hosting this tournament!
next time we ought to play more games than just the tourney ones!
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Good writeups, thanks.

So Zach, can we expect your TCP card to have a value of "6"

PS- can we have a summary of how each deck did via the matchups?
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Having played Zach (and the BJ Toolbox) over the last year or so, I'll weigh in briefly on a couple of thoughts:

Metagame: On the GenCon thread, Cosine opined that heavy cheaters never win (or words to that effect). Experienced players use Cheatin' as a calculated risk vs. an 'all in' strategy. By NOT going heavy on Cheatin' tech (e.g. Jackalopes, Flight of Angels, Start Agains), Cheatin' Varmint is basic hand rank manipulation and Yer Cheatin' Too likewise rudimentary anti-Cheatin' tech. So Zach's defense was essentially letting other decks 'do the dirty work'-e.g. a heavy Cheatin' deck may well have defeated the 'toolbox', but would have undoubtedly gone down before the other decks Cheatin' cards.

EDIT: Note that the Tournament metagame is different than your usual 'friendlies' at the local FLGS. "Champions Honor" is an unwritten code that Championship decks are de facto retired-By this token Zach (and others) knew they would not be facing the tournament winning decks (or outfits) as the champs would have something new and it would be ultimate cheese for a non-champ to essentially 'net deck'. Also note that Cosine swore off the super-shooter and presumably would not bring an inferior shooter to the party. So it was pretty clear that Cosine would bring something non-shooty to the tourney. So no Law Dogs Mob Justice, Dixie Rails, Landed Rats or Spirit Warriors. Not saying it couldn't happen or someone else do a riff on these outfits, but in terms of likely or unlikely the metagame said 'unlikely'. Of the one of the other possibilities:

Old School Lawdogs-strong vs. BJ, weak against everyone else-would have given Zach trouble, but unlikely to win a tourney, hence the metagame-Zach knew he'd be unlikely to face a 'one trick' deck that targeted HIS outfit

Shootouts w/ a purpose:
I love shootouts. You love shootouts. Boy does Cosine ever love shootouts. Face it, when we think "old west/weird west" we think town square-high noon- 3 paces n draw. And yes, I know your first games the first time someone dared to move in on you (if you didn't move in first) leather was slapped and dudes were aced. Shootouts are great for reducing influence and removing threats, but it is still WHO you shoot and why.

I can't add anything to Cosine's analysis but emphasize the obvious-William Rose xp and Jason the Kid are 'fishing trips' to gain as much info about draw structure and 'power cards' to set up the game. Zach's shootouts (and top players) have purpose-to identify and remove threats.

Card mix: Motley assortment is right (dare w/ call this deck Motley Crue?) Most of the cards are easily obtainable-the only 'chasers' in the deck are the promos No Mas and Jack's Left Shooter, maybe Victor Navarro xp (not a chaser, but not that easy to get ahold of in hurry) or the brace of DHJs.

Moral: you don't need to be Mr. Suitcase/Moneybags to build a competitive deck. You do need to play the heck out of it and know it inside and out.

Combos: Enoch/Puppet/Shadow Man is a nice combo, but you have to get the cards into play, move to a location, move the dudes to Enoch etc. Once the engine is rolling, it is lethal, but it takes time to set up-as Cosine noted, Zach used the time to essentially short-circuit the combo and power to the win.

For the Jacks, the only real combo is BJ + his left and right shooters. In my plays against the deck, what has happened is that once the Jacks are bootin' the Rock out the Wazoo, is the shooters get purchased and attached and then given to BJ once he shows up. If BJ shows up first, then free shooters is just gravy. At the same time, this deck can win with out BJ/shooters.

Moral: Combos are kewl, but 'cards with a purpose' and different ways to achieve the same end with a single card is more reliable. You got the card, use the card.

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