Welcome to another ETS champion interview! The player "Almost" took down this week and Mantidman sat down with them discuss the win. Almost is known for their tendency to play highly synergistic decks and has been arguably the best player on the ETS in the last half year or so. Enjoy!
MantidMan - Almost... The man at the top of the mountain. How does it feel leading in champ points? To win ANOTHER ETS? To have, essentially, everything locked up for the next couple of weeks to have something to do? How are you feeling buddy?
Almost - It feels pretty good! I qualified for the community championship a while ago from my results in ETS weekly and invitational events last season, but until this week me qualifying in the current season's invitational wasn't a sure thing. I just needed to get a decent record in the swiss but ended up getting first in the last weekly of the season, so it went much better than I was hoping.
MantidMan - Obviously, I have been of following you and been a fan for a long time. I have to know, it is killing me, how do you come up with what to play? Is it just fun? Is there a plan? What is the process for you coming into this tournament with the intention to "do well in the swiss, and end up winning the whole thing."
Almost - I play a bunch of ladder games with different lists to get some sense of how good they seem to be. Sometimes these are experimental decks that really don't work out, and sometimes these are variations of decks that I've had success with in the past. Talir combo is a deck that I've been playing a lot recently, since I think it is strong in general and that it has good matchups against the grindy midrange and control decks that seem to be popular.
MantidMan - With Talir Combo, we know what the good matches are in that mid-line. We saw it in the finals for sure. But what are the bad matchups, what were you worried about seeing on your road to victory?
Almost - Aggressive decks can be hard to beat unless you get the right combination of early game blockers and ramp. Getting hit by teacher of humility is particularly painful with how much market swapping and last chancing the deck does. Jennev midrange can be tricky when played correctly, since they have good fast interaction with the display and with equivocate.
MantidMan - And now that the secrets are all out, and you crushed the competition, there will be tons of people picking up the list, maybe crafting some cards, and making that climb to masters with it. Are there any changes you would recommend for Ranked play over the tournament scene? Can you tell us the best way to play and prioritize? Maybe a little deck tech?
Almost - The deck should work in ranked more or less as-is. I found today that this particular list probably doesn't have enough 5 attack units to justify the friendly wisp, so swapping that for temple scribe is probably better.
As for how to play the deck:
I demonstrated the main combo a few times on stream: Talir into merchant into destiny Vodakhan, draw the whole deck, play Grinva, sac Vodakhan. The main thing is to plan ahead based on how much pressure the opponent is putting on you. If the board is stalled, you can wait until you either have 11 power for Talir + merchant, or wait for the opponent to not have any power open for fast removal and go for Talir + last chance. If you only have a couple turns to live or if the opponent's deck is low on removal, you can play Talir and some card draw without a guaranteed merchant. Against aggro decks you can win without the combo by just stabilizing on board with midrange units like Sandstorm Titan and Ravid.
MantidMan - Were there other decks that you were testing out that you thought about playing? Or, what is more, did you see any decks during the tournament that you really liked and want to try?
Almost - I played the Stonescar Grenadin list last week because I've seen a few people get good results with it and I liked the way that it played out. However, it seems to have a bad matchup vs temporal which was popular that week, and had the potential to show up again this week. Knifebloom had solid showings on FJS paladin decks these last two weeks, and I might play something like that in the future.
MantidMan - Last question so we can both get a little bit of sleep, or do whatever it is we would like... Can you give anyone who has not read your TRAIL STORIES article just a taste of who you are, or maybe something you want to promote?
Almost - I'm a member of Team TGP, I like to play combo decks or high-synergy decks and enjoy the experimental part of deck building. A lot of my decks can be found on EternalWarcry and I occasionally stream on Twitch.
Thanks to Mantidman for their awesome column as always and thanks for The Eternal Tournament Series for their high quality and content and support over the last year! There are big things coming up for Eternal Card Game and we hope that you'll join us on the ladder!
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The Inked Gaming Team