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North American Continental Championships Weekend Tournaments Report (Part 3)

by Kris Sonsteby, Freelance Writer

27th July 2009

Good Evening, ‘Trek fans! For Matt “The Original Champion” Frid, I’m Kris “The Old Pro” Sonsteby welcoming you to another action-packed edition of T2E Confidential, the only show that brings you, the audience, through the ropes for an 'up close and personal' look at the game’s greatest superstars. Over the course of our last two episodes, my broadcast partner and I have provided ringside commentary on the recently-completed North American Continental Championships, beginning with the Last Chance Qualifier house show and continuing through the NACC’s Day 1 pay per view. For those who missed one or both of those documentaries, reruns of our program can be read here and here. In this closing installment of our three-part series, we’ll be taking you behind the scenes for a player’s perspective on the weekend’s final showdown -- NACC’s Day 2 -- as narrated by yours truly, Kris “The Old Pro” Sonsteby. So, without further ado, let’s get down to business by outlining my Day 2 strategy as it developed Saturday evening, followed by jumping right into the action that unfolded on Sunday morning as we whittled the Elite Eight down to a Sole Survivor, the 2009 Continental Champion.

As mentioned in our last episode, the bracketed matchups for Sunday’s Day 2 finale were as follows: Mike “The Ultimate Opportunist” O’Shogay (1) vs. Nat “The Beast from the East” Kirton (8); Kris “The Old Pro” Sonsteby (2) vs. Steve “The Full Nelson” (7); Nate “The Warlord” Lindgren (3) vs. Ray “The Ray-ted R Superstar” Linton (6); and Mike “The Natural” Harrington (4) vs. Zach “Herr Oberth” Magnuson (5). Being the two seed, I knew Saturday night that I was scheduled to play Steve in the 1st Round (for the third consecutive day) the following morning, with the winner of our match advancing to face either Ray or Nate, as our foursome comprised the bottom half of the Elite Eight finals bracket. Based upon the experience that only hundreds of games played over nearly fifteen years could provide, I deduced that Steve’s most logical deck choice for Sunday was his tried-and-true Maquis version; by his own admission it’s his best deck and seeing as he hadn’t showcased it on Friday night nor had he played it on Saturday afternoon to qualify, I figured it had to be locked and loaded for Sunday morning. However, being the equally-crafty veteran that I am, I too opted to defy the odds by playing a different deck for the third straight day, this time planning to go to war with a revamped version of the K.Ri.S. (Klingon, Riker, Sword) deck that has become my calling card in the greater Minnesota area since it was debuted prior to Worlds in 2004. As I mulled over minor tweaks to the deck well on into Sunday morning’s wee hours, I was suddenly overwhelmed by the tranquil peacefulness of knowing that the difficult question of what to play on Day 2 had such a simple, albeit personal answer... if fate had a defeat scheduled for me, at least I could take solace in the fact that I lost with the deck that carried my namesake. And if I were destined to be the victor, it would only be fitting to have won by playing what in essence was the Second Edition (Past Klingon) variant of the First Edition (Blood Oath) deck that carried me to a Continental title in 2001. Was it even possible? Could history truly repeat itself? Was I up to the challenge that faced me in a mere seven hours? Those were just a few of the myriad of questions that kept turning over inside my cranium as I slowly drifted off into a restless state of sleep before Sunday morning’s final showdown.

Round 1 – Game 1: Steve “The Full Nelson’s” Maquis Mayhem – As the morning sun rose and players filed back into Outpost 2000 & Beyond for our final day of competition, Kevin “The Champ” Jaeger paired off the Elite Eight before starting the Race to the Gamma Quadrant side event, banishing each match to separate corners of the store. Despite how calm I had been in the dark hours of morning while revising my deck, I was very nervous as the opening bell with Steve was set to ring. Sure, I’d been here before, chasing down history and winning major tournaments along the way, but that was in a different time and in a different arena. As I wondered aloud if I could pull a rabbit out of my hat one more time, I was happily greeted by the all too familiar site of Athos IV (Maquis Base), meaning I had guessed right... and poor Steve had played right into my hands. His facial expression told the story, turning from a rosy smile to a pale frown as I slowly flipped over Investigate Alien Probe, Brute Force, and the dead giveaway, Qo’noS (Heart of the Empire). Up to this point, my plan had worked to perfection, as I had trotted out an unpolished Cardassian deck on Friday night, followed by the same boring Starfleet deck I had been running throughout regional season on Saturday, both of which heeded no warning to Steve or to the other seven combatants that I had Klingons on deck for Sunday. Now, I could only hope that the rest of the script for the day would follow suit...

Unfortunately, Steve had other plans. On his first turn of our match, he dropped a Shankar (Maquis Soldier) to bounce my entire hand to my deck, and played another cannon-fodder personnel to (eventually) help staff the incoming U.S.S. Defiant (Stolen Warship) which hit the table on turn three. Meanwhile, I drew back up and played Chang (Gorkon’s Chief of Staff) and Kruge (Instinctive Commander), which was enough to kick-start the past personnel discount mechanism. I attempted Investigate Alien Probe with eight on turn five, which was a turn later than usual due to Steve’s constant defiant-ce at Rescue Prisoners. After a two-dilemma stop and play of Ro Laren (Maquis Sympathizer), Steve headed out to his own space mission with eight where he was promptly greeted by a vicious Slightly Overbooked / Hard Time / Dal’Rok combination that put smiling Ro on time out and killed Shankar, effectively de-staffing his ship. This proved to be only a minor inconvenience instead of a game changing circumstance though, as on his next two turns Steve dropped a Guingouin and adequate staffing to rescue his Defiant crew. It did, however, still give me a big enough window to complete Investigate Alien Probe and crop dust Rescue Prisoners. While Steve muddled through his space mission, eventually completing it in two more attempts, I completed Rescue Prisoners and went to Brute Force for the win, only to be extremely victimized by bad timing and bad luck. Miraculously, Steve selected Chang (Gorkon’s Chief of Staff) and William T. Riker (Exchange Officer) via an Old Differences, neither of which I could Relentless through, and who in total comprised 75% of the mission's requirements. This forced the remaining five Klingons, whose Strength was not at all in question due to the presence of The Sword of Kahless, to stand around blank faced and fail the mission attempt. Then, on Steve’s turn he not only drew into a Biogenic Weapon, but had enough counters to play it on Brute Force too, forcing me to head out to the Delta Quadrant to complete Instruct Advanced Drone if I wanted a full win before time ran out. On his next turn, Steve attempted Evacuate Colony using For the Cause, but in a case of turnabout being fair play, was harshly reprimanded for locking me out of my mission as four of his seven personnel disappeared due to a well-timed Unfair Terms followed up by yet another Hard Time. De-staffed again, Steve spend his last few precious turns digging for people and his Strange New Worlds, which he dropped onto my final mission after I had attempted it and failed twice. Luckily for me, however, time was called during my turn, and seeing as I had gone second, the Round 1 Game 1 victory went to me by a margin of two missions to one.

Round 1 Game 2: Steve “The Full Nelson’s” Maquis Mayhem – After an hour-plus-long battle, I was in the mood for a quick and either painful or painless game, and that’s exactly what was on deck as Steve and I shuffled up and started over. Despite a second straight opening hand dump a la Shankar (Maquis Soldier), his engine seemed to keep misfiring as he couldn’t draw into the Defiant early enough to slow down my crazed Klingons. They completed Investigate Alien Probe in one attempt, and with Mara (Science Officer) in play at the time, I was then able to download an At What Cost?. That led into a Fajo’s Menagerie, allowing me to get my Sword of Kahless (and a copy of both Relentless and Escape for good measure), all of which put tremendous pressure on Steve’s dilemma pile to hold its ground. While Steve’s solid dilemma play forced me to attempt Rescue Prisoners with two crews a total of three times, he was having a great deal of trouble completing his first mission, and simply had no answer for the seven-man crew that attempted Brute Force; the remaining four-personnel team of Kahmis, Kang (Vigilant Commander), Kor (Courageous Governor), and Chang (Gorkon’s Chief of Staff) had all the skills and just enough Strength to punch my ticket into the quarterfinals following the 2-0 match win.

Round 2 Game 1: Ray “The Ray-ted R Superstar” Linton’s Klingon E-Party – Following what seemed like an eternity of a three-plus-hour match against Nate, Ray finally advanced into the quarterfinals to face "The Old Pro," who once upon a time had helped him build a deck for Day 3 of Worlds. Despite the odds being stacked against him in what turned into a three-on-one handicap match as the two other advancing players were both Big Goodbye life members Mike and Nat, Ray was determined to fight his way into the finals come hell or high water. Our first game started off pretty well for both of us as Ray played K’Tal (Senior Council Member) and Duras (Son of a Traitor) early to start his Energize, Guidance of the Council, Alexander Rozhenko (K’mtar)/a>, No-Win Situation mechanism. Meanwhile, I countered with two copies of Ro’suv, William T. Riker (Exchange Officer), and a trio of cost-discounted Past Klingons in Khod (Conniving Captain), Mara (Science Officer), and Koloth (Ingratiating Captain). Despite never seeing Ray play this deck, I knew what to expect for the most part, as Mike and I had talked through the K’mtar’s No-Win Guidance deck several times. So, as I went out and attempted Investigate Alien Probe on turn four with a ship and eight personnel (to Ray’s four personnel and seven events), I couldn’t help but kick myself for taking the Zero Hour out of my dilemma pile, as I could have really abused it in this matchup. Compounding my frustrations in last-minute deck changes, I ended up desperately missing my copy of The Promise in my first mission attempt of the match, as I was hit with a nasty Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? and Tsiolkovsky Infection combo that didn’t hurt nearly as bad as Ray had anticipated yet still managed to do the trick. As I encountered the Guess Who’s? I opted to Relentless through the selected stop, thus resulting in a random death (and avoiding two more stops from the dual copies of No-Win), which led to Ray miraculously picking Koloth -- my only Exobiology -- before Tsiolkovsky could try and take out three more bumpy foreheads. When I realized my error in not simply having Riker gain Exobiology before Koloth died, coupled with my inability to just play The Promise to dial the newly-perished Koloth’s skills in as I would have liked, I elected to Escape the three selected and fail the attempt, losing a Relentless in the process. Had I not been forced to jump the cliff, I should have completed the mission as a five-Klingon team (following the No-Win stops) and would have cakewalked through the Integrity > 25 requirement thanks to King Khod providing all of the mission’s skills. Failing when I should have completed ended up being the turning point in the match, as I was then forced to bang away at Investigate Alien Probe for three more excruciating turns while Ray chipped away at his planet mission and moved on to space. As time wound down and Ray’s continued Hindrance and trio of No-Win Situations reeked havoc on my micro-crews and away teams, I went for the desperation play on my final turn, attempting Brute Force with a squad of six and a follow-up team of four. To my glee, the first group overcame two dilemmas and avoided hitting a Skeleton Crew or Timescape, but to my complete and utter dismay, the second team was promptly shut down by a Kolaran Raiders thanks to a perfect pull by Ray in a low draw / low spend situation, leaving him with a 'two mission to one' first game modified win.

Round 2 Game 2: Ray “The Ray-ted R Superstar” Linton’s Klingon E-Party: After a quick mental and bathroom break, we sat down for our second game, and in this showdown, I was determined to not dwell on what might have been in Game 1 and instead focus on slowing things down in Game 2. I knew that if I thought things through, played smart, and used the clock to Ray’s disadvantage as much as possible by shortening the number of turns this game went, I could probably pull out the timed win, all I really needed to even the score. With the new game plan, I attacked Investigate Alien Probe on turn three instead of turn four, thanks in part to a solid seven-person starting crew, trio of interrupts in Relentless, Surprise Amity, and Escape in my hand, and second ship in the D-7 Battlecruiser waiting to come into play the next turn. Ray stopped them fairly easily, but I overcame two dilemmas and chewed up some early game time for my troubles, so I was happy and sitting pretty. Sensing the gear change, Ray headed out to his planet with only five personnel and was promptly greeted by a single Captain’s Holiday, as I knew full well he had neither of either skill in play. On my turn, I ferried home, switched from the Qel’Poh (Clandestine Vessel) over to the D-7 and went back out with six more, which were then 'single dilemma stopped' courtesy of the copies of No-Win Situation. This game of cat and mouse between Ray’s No-Win Situation-based pile and my super-skill tracking-based dilemmas went back and forth for three more turns until the dam finally broke at Investigate Alien Probe. Following that up, I played an At What Cost? to take full advantage of the Surprise Amity I had waiting for Ray, who finally completed his planet mission on his subsequent turn, but had all of his personnel stopped before they could do any more damage. Armed with The Sword of Kahless and twelve angry Klingons, I blitzed through Rescue Prisoners over two turns and four attempts, successfully dodging the Timescape that Ray had hit me with earlier, and was well on my way to evening the count at one to one headed into Ray’s final clock-beating attempt at Amnesty Talks. Knowing I absolutely had to stop him, I overthrew a bit, tossing him four dilemmas that included Chula: Pick One to Save Two, Hard Time, An Issue of Trust, and Magnetic Field Disruptions. With only two personnel remaining in the attempt, Ray took his lumps like a true competitor and we headed off to a third and final game.

Round 2 Game 3: Ray “The Ray-ted R Superstar” Linton’s Klingon E-Party: In a match for all the marbles to determine who would face Mike in the final following his close 'two games to one' victory over Nat, Ray went full throttle with his mission lockdown gimmick, plopping down three No-Win Situations and Hindrance in his first three turns. I countered with another decent but not great crew that included both low Integrity Klingons in my deck -- Kruge (Instinctive Commander) and Chang (Gorkon’s Chief of Staff) -- both of whom proved to be heavy liabilities at Investigate Alien Probe. Specifically, in this game, I was twice between three and five Integrity short of completing during my barrage of micro teams. Overall, the match was following the same script as the first two games until I made a huge, game-losing error during Ray’s first attempt in which I gave him The Caretaker’s “Guests” and An Issue of Trust. Electing not to thoroughly read every personnel in the attempt, I simply chose to toss Alexander Rozhenko (K’mtar) to Ray’s deck so that he’d hit Energize on Ray’s next turn and I’d be rid of another future personnel for Hindrance. But in so doing, I mistakenly left Worf (Governor of H’atoria) unsupervised. Now for those who missed the message board question, Worf does not work the way Ray used him on the next dilemma, but in the heat of the battle, the onus is definitely on me to get a ruling and I simply assumed it had already been ruled on in his favor. Needless to say, Worf popped four of Ray’s events from hand to unstop four personnel leading to a downright shocking one-attempt complete. From there, Ray whittled away at his space mission while I played from behind, abusing Surprise Amity enough to even the tally at two missions apiece before Ray’s final attempt where I was allowed to draw and spend four. After drawing one and shuffling my pile to draw three more (searching for the Captain’s Holiday that would win the match for me as I had three dilemmas under Brute Force, no Skeleton Crew on it, and fourteen people in play), I examined the four dilemmas. Not seeing a sweaty Picard in a hole, I knew I was toast. I gave Ray all that I could, but in the end, his six-person away team completed and moved on to the finals. For giggles, I decided to see how far down Captain’s Holiday was, and was not at all surprised to find it sitting as the very next dilemma. True to the weekend’s overflowing mantra, following an unlucky thirteen games in which I only went first a total of two times and made a handful of game-/match-changing mistakes, I was once again so close, yet in the end still so far away.

Well, ‘Trek fans, that’s a wrap on T2E Confidential’s three-part coverage of the North American Continental Championship. We hope you’ve enjoyed our documentary coverage of round-by-round action, and hope to have left you all pondering a few of the questions we hope to have answered for you in the coming months. For example, can Mike “The Natural” Harrington hit the hat trick and come out on top at all three of the continent’s biggest events, navigating through Nationals, cashing in at Continentals, and possibly winning again at Worlds? Will Ray “The Ray-ted R Superstar” Linton recover from his tough NACC finals loss and once again light up the leader board at GenCon? Tune in next time to T2E Confidential to find out!

-djl-


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