Originally published at: http://gomorragazette.com/2016/06/27/putting-108-flushes-together-or-how-i-won-the-chicago-outlaw-event/
by Joe James
Ok, maybe not 108 flushes, but it sure felt like it.
The Chicago Outlaw event had the unfortunate timing of being held just a few days after AEG's announcement, but we still managed to rustle up a dozen folks. If my memory serves me (and often it doesn't) - in the mix was a two time Sheriff winner (John), another Sheriff winner (Jake), a previous Outlaw winner (AJ), and a top 8 Marshal tournament finalist (Adam), among several other very tough players, so I knew going into this that the competition would be rough.
We went 4 rounds, and after the last round it was decided the results were clear enough that no top cut was necessary. I assumed there would be a cut to the top 4, or maybe even just 2. After four rounds I was famished and ate a banana, so I basically missed the announcements and prizes! Oops...
As far as the deck goes, this has been a work in progress since not long after Putting The Pieces Together was released. I sloppily threw something together right away, but wasn't immediately impressed. After Db0's's report on his quasi-bicycle deck featuring 4 PTPT's, I decided to give the deck another try. I must say that PTPT is, in my opinion, the single most complex and difficult card to include in a deck. On the surface it seems somewhat straight forward: You want to have a deck that doesn't cheat, and maybe has some cheatin' punishment so your legal hands won't be outdone by a cheatin' 5 of a kind.
But there are some complications:
How do you build a deck that doesn't cheat (even in lowball), but won't be completely dead in the water during the first part of the game? You'll need a way to stay alive while you find those PTPT's and trim up your draw structure. The single best way to do that - Buried Treasure - is out of the question because it shares the same value. What else does that leave? Gomorra Parish? You'd have to start it with Ol' Howard to make it consistent. Eagle Wardens original home? Out of the question - we can't have a booted guy in the town square while we are weak and building up.
And what happens if you don't get your PTPT's at all? If you have a deck that doesn't cheat, that means sub-par shootout hands. You aren't going to win any tournaments if you depend 100% on getting a single card unless you have insane luck.
Ok, maybe we'll just start out with a normal straight flush build that comes out ready to shoot. I can tell you from a lot of experience playing with PTPT that you will regret it. Sometimes you can't help but cheat when you have lots of 4-of's of any single value/suit. Cheating when you have PTPT out is just about the worst thing ever. Not only are you opened up, like normal, to cheatin' punishment but your hand rank is automatically reduced. And not only that, but for the entire rest of the turn any shootouts you are also down hand ranks. Any booted dudes outside your home are screwed, and you are forced into hiding at home the rest of the turn.
What happens if you get 2 or 3 PTPT's in your opening hand? You will be at -2 or 3 income indefinitely, and you'll never be able to afford anything else the rest of the game. Even 1 or 2 right away in a typical deck likely means 0 income. Income is another big consideration with this card.
My final deck is the culmination of my answers and compromises to these questions. I am still not convinced it is the best approach, even after dozens of games and weeks of constant tweaking. I am confident, even with that uncertainty, that this is probably the best deck I have ever made.
108 Worldly Desires is an obvious choice to help with both income and making sure your lowball hand isn't cheating. It also ensures that even if your dude's bullets are all reduced to zero, that you oftentimes have a quasi-stud in every shootout.
Longwei Fu ensures yet another auto-stud for every shootout. With just him and the home you can often face down armies with a solitary draw dude if you have some PTPT's on your side.
Randall and Asakichi Cooke both help with card cycling that makes sure you find your PTPTs and Comin' Up Roses (CUR). From turn 1 you need to be cycling through every card possible. Even if you suspect early aggression in the form of Kidnappin, you will probably just need to let it happen. Get rid of those Sun In Yer Eyes and really any other card that isn't a PTPT or CUR. There have been times that I have sent Xiaodan Li into an early shootout by himself just to get rid of an entire hand of shootout actions. I won't do this unless I have a cheatin' punishment, as with that you have a good chance to inflict some casualties with him. Sometimes it ends up being a blatant suicide, but it can be worth the 6 new cards in your hand. I also like the "f'in with your opponents mind" aspect of it.
Companhurst's, along with Clementine Lepp, gives you both an extra income and another influence to make you start with 6 if she moves over. It also means they have to commit 3 influence worth of dudes just to deny you 1 income. Not usually worth it for them. This, along with ALWAYS winning lowball means that you have the extra income to handle an early PTPT or two without any additional income. 2 is a little risky, but you have a nearly guaranteed 4 income a turn so 2 isn't bad. Ideally, though, you'll save your income to put out some dudes and a deed or two so your deck structure begins degenerating for flushes. At that point if you have 2 or more PTPTs, it's a massively uphill battle for your opponent. 3 PTPTs is basically game over - how can your opponent consistently beat the equivalent of a legal straight flush EVERY SINGLE SHOOTOUT? And if you happen to get a straight flush? Even better, but simply not necessary unless you have no cheatin' res in your hand and they pull a very high cheatin' hand.
Henry Moran is a rock star, and any PTPT deck that doesn't include him is doing it wrong. I wish I had the room to start him, but my starting posse is just too tight right now. Not a single one can be replaced. An besides, Hired Guns helps with 4 total chances to get Henry if we need him.
Speaking of which , Hired Guns is an absolute champion. Getting Henry if we need to stay legal in lowball, Allie Hensman vs landslide or slower decks, and Mario Crane or Xui Yin Chen if we need some muscle. All around fantastic card, which also helps to keep our GR low enough to activate the home. Once I had so much money that I needed to use a hired guns for Steven Wiles, and not only got huge muscle but solved my money "problem" at the same time.
For those games where income is a problem (which are rare), Fiddle Game is a huge help. I've played this deck many dozens of times, and I think there has been one game where a cheatin' res caused me to discard a fiddle game. This deck very rarely cheats, and when it does it's usually in lowball when most decks don't have cheatin' res answers.
Mugging is also clutch. This deck can be weak to shotguns, soul blasts, and legendary holsters. This solves that quite well. I'd love to have another Bottom Dealin', but the Muggings were just too important when they actually were needed.
Comin' Up Roses is self explanatory - any flush/straight flush deck needs to include as many of these as possible. It was an absolute rock star, but also partly because of my non-club draw structure.
And as far as draw structure, that is what makes this deck. I've tweaked it and gone back and forth enough that this was where I was most comfortable. Ideally I wouldn't have any cards as a 4-of, but exceptions had to be made.
4 PTPTs was an absolute - the deck is made around this card. Plus as you put them out, they are out of your draw structure permanently and the cheating worry goes away.
4 CUR's grew from an original 2, then 3, then 4. It's simply too good of a card, and it is just about the only card that if I see it in my hand I will never discard it. That helps with keeping only 2-3 others in the deck, which helps to not cheat.
And having four each of 4's and 4 5's was my compromise between having some early potential aggression, and also helping to make straight flushes later in the game as well without too much of a cheating possibility. I found I was often just lacking one 4 or one 5 to make the set. Plus, having 2 fiddle games means one or two 5's might be out of the mix permanently anyway, so that just leaves the potential hazard of 4 of clubs. Everything else is a 3-of or less, so cheating is very rare. Straight flushes are also not super common (unless you are drawing a ton of cards), but that doesn't matter if you have a couple of PTPTs. The dudes and deeds are designed to help make the straight flushes and legal flushes more likely if you have a CUR in your hand. There have been many, many times I've made a straight flush using the regular resolution on CUR (and sometimes even using 2 at once). It's a great feeling to go into a shootout knowing that you'll either use your CUR to get a straight flush... or use it's cheatin res to go to rank 11. Win win either way, and you don't need any PTPT to make that happen.
That's enough of an explanation. Basically you stall the game as long as you can until you can get your non-clubs onto the table and get some PTPTs on your home. If you're forced into early aggression, make sure you have a CUR or other cheatin' res in hand along with some shootout actions if possible.
I don't know that a game by game report will be all that exciting, but for those who are curious I will sum up what I can remember.
Game 1: Original 108 Kung Fu - Dan Jacobson
Dan mentioned he hadn't been keeping up with all the newest sets, so there were a few cards he had to read. If he was rusty, it didn't show very well as he played very well and didn't make any obvious mistakes that I remember. He did what 108 kung fu does and immediately dominated the town square and camped my home with Bai Yang. I think this was also the game where my Longwei got kidnapped (I did not oppose). I didn't see a single PTPT the whole game, but I had enough CUR and other shootout actions, along with plenty of money and dudes (including Xui Yin) that a fight at my home, after I called out Bai Yang, saw a ton of studs on my side. A cheatin' res (I think it was CUR) along side a straight flush made quick work of his posse. It was basically over after that fight.
Game 2: Original Sloane - Jake Laird
Two of my fears, right off the bat. #1 - the only guy who managed to beat me at the Madison Sheriff event last year and #2 - an original Sloane deck starting Allie. This deck's main weakness is a fast, aggressive deck, so this would be an uphill battle. As is usually the case with Sloane, the control points built up fast and it wasn't more than 2 or 3 turns before I had to come to the town square and fight. Again, another game without a single PTPT on my side. I did, however, have plenty of shootout actions and cheatin' res, along with a shotgun with Allie's name on it.
Going to town saw both my shotgun-wielding Longwei and his shotgun wielding Angélica Espinosa pistol whipped home. With his only stud gone and not drawing a great hand, his Rick Henderson bit the dust. I called out a booted Allie and was able to finish her off as well since she was isolated and without backup. Then, on the same turn, I conducted a Mugging on the booted Angélica at home. She defended herself, not wanting to give up the shotgun, but another pistol whip in my hand saw the job instantly successful. He didn't see any helpful cards in hand, and it was over not long after that.
Game 3: Morgan Stables - Adam Brancato.
Adam is a semi-regular at our game store in Madison, and we had both played each other with earlier versions of our decks only 2 weeks prior in a Deputy tournament. He won on time in that earlier game, so I knew this one would be hard as well.
His deck starts the Wagner Memorial Ranch, Maggie Harris, and Chuan "Jen" Qí, so pretty much every game of his sees a turn 1 YAGNs and a ranch that quickly builds up income, defended by a 4 stud Jen. I can't fight early, so Maggie does her job every turn, pumping out Yagns, Ornithopters, and lots of massive, scary studs. I know I can beat him in the long run if I get some PTPTs, but this was looking like it was going to be 3 games in a row with no PTPT, despite massive hand cycling. Finally, late in the game, I got one PTPT out and a big shootout saw his many 4-bullet stud dudes vs my 2 or 3 stud total rating. Despite drawing something like 15 cards in his shootout hand, he couldn't manage a good legal hand so he cheated, and a single bottom dealin saw him reduced to a rank 2. It was pretty much game over at that point.
3-0, and while I'm frustrated that my PTPTs aren't showing up, I am very happy the deck is working without them
Final game 4: Original Law Dogs - Luke Gregory
I think Luke, along with Adam and I, were the 3 players undefeated after round 2. I'm not sure what happened with him in round 3, but I assume he won if he was playing me. He was starting Mortimer Parsons, and in this game he quickly put out all sorts of high income-producing deeds allowing him to quickly build up some scary dudes. I hid at home for a long time while he bountied up my dudes and built up himself. This game was different from my others, however, and it wasn't long before I had 2 fiddle games and 3 PTPT's on my home. He had a couple of shotguns, so I had to plan this carefully.
I used Ambush on Mortimer to lower my 'getting uncomforably high' pile of GR. I sent in Xui Yin, Henry Moran, and Mario, my only three non-shotgunable dudes. With the help of CUR on my side (regular resolution), we both ended at a legal rank 9. I lost Henry, but that would be the last time I'd lose a dude. My 3 PTPT's were just too much, and 2 more CUR's a turn later saw him concede. It's just too hard to beat a permanent legal rank 9-11.
4-0, and I didn't know it at the time, but after what felt like a million (or 108) shootout flushes, that concluded Chicago's Outlaw Event.
While I had been hoping for 16 players or more, recent news considered, 12 players attending wasn't too bad. The Chicago crew is always competitive and fun, and we even had some folks come from even further north than me in Wisconsin - 5 or more hours away. Between the tourney, and all the games I played before, in between, and after the tournament it was a good day of Doomtown!
Thanks again to everyone who made the Outlaw event possible!
Post Script and Thanks:
It Takes A Village (or community)...
A previous article discussed the different styles of playtesting, along with how OCTGN could be incorporated into it. Much like eating healthy, I try to follow my advice from that article as much as possible when preparing for a tournament. Sometimes, though - just like with eating healthy - it doesn't always happen. My attention span for sticking with decks usually hovers around that of a 2 year old, because I love the process of brewing new and exciting decks. This time, however, I not only followed my own playtesting advice, but I stuck with the same deck for 4-5 weeks straight. Ok, I admit brewing and testing one other deck during that time, but it was short lived. I just can't quit cold turkey, give me a break!
I theory crafted in private conversations, I tested the deck with friends, I tested it with my local stores players, I self-playtested against a variety of decks, and I playtested the heck out of it on OCTGN with as many people as I possibly could. The playtesting on OCTGN was what really made the difference. Since most of those folks are Gomorra Gazette regulars, I want to thank them for putting up with my playing the same deck game after game. Inverted, Shekky Ducky, Jayjester, and especially SirLargeness for running me through a gauntlet of a dozen games with him playing various top tier archetypes. Their time and advice really helped make the deck go from mediocre to tournament ready. I am always willing to return the favor - you guys know where to find me.
Long story short: playtest your decks, and many heads are always better than one!