Controlling Gomorra, One Clown at a Time: or The Road to GenCon, Becoming a Marshal, and Thoughts for the Future

Originally published at:</smallThe Road to GenCon, Becoming a Marshal, and Thoughts for the Future

By David Hammond

First and foremost, I humbly apologize for writing this so long after the actual AEG Marshal event that took place at GenCon. The event itself was an amazing experience and personally humbling, as I had never attended GenCon before this year and was blown away by the scope and size of it. I enjoyed seeing so many passionate and skilled Doomtown players not only competing, but also sharing in a game that they clearly loved. I’ll do my best to accurately recount my matchups during the qualifiers and the Marshal tournament itself, but despite taking notes as the tourneys unfolded, I may have made a mistake or nine.

I pre-purchased three qualifier tickets to increase my chances of grinding through to the quarterfinals, but ultimately I only needed one. Well beforehand, I decided that I would run some form of huckster control, as it was the deck that I had the most success with in my local OP tournaments and felt most comfortable playing. At times, the high resolution density of the deck, coupled with the best board control the game had to offer felt unbeatable. A somewhat weak showing at Myrtle Beach’s Sheriff event almost made me reconsider my choice of faction, as I succumbed to several first turn, first action Kidnappin’s and Judge Somerset jobs. The experience ultimately led me to rethink my deck structure and approach, as well as my play style when facing ultra-aggressive shooter archetypes.

With Desolation Row decks gaining so much momentum, and many players running Law Dog decks as a counter, I knew I was going to get caught up in the crossfire. The first step was to tighten the draw structure of my deck to match theirs and rely on them eventually acing all the Jokers in their decks. Within the draw structure, I made sure that the deck ran a plethora of hand rank and cheatin’ resolutions to manipulate shootout draws. Buffer dudes like The Brute and Travis Moone bought time until I could either outshoot aggro decks or draw into enough resolution cards to swing shootouts my way. My original decks of what eventually became Doomtown: Reloaded’s dominant archetype (not to my credit, but just the result of Fourth Ring Hex Control winning a majority of Sheriff events) drew a bit loose. These builds planned for a pure control strategy, ramping up as the game went along and overwhelming the opponent with blood curses and Paralysis Mark/Leon lockdowns. Since every other deck forces quick aggression, there is no time to attach hexes and then discard them for value or Hex Slingin’. Hard-hitting, pure cheatin’ punishers like It’s Not What You Know… were needed, along with rank-swinging resolutions such as This’ll Hurt in the Mornin’ ensured that I still had game even when low on resources. The metagame also forced me to create as pure a 3-value deck as I could manage, so that even when seeing six cards then a redraw, I consistently made full boats and four-of-a-kinds with the occasional five-of-a-kind. With only two off-value cards in the deck and my starting posse entirely off structure, I was ready.

The road trip from South Carolina to Indiana wasn't terrible, as I didn’t making the trek alone and someone else drove. Good company makes any long ride bearable. We got to Indy in a decent amount of time, and the wait for badges and tickets wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be (judging from the way the lines looked when we came in, I thought I'd be there till midnight). After a good night's sleep, we headed to the convention center. I jumped in the AEG line as soon as I could to grab Nightmare at Noon and Immovable Object, Unstoppable Force (the latter of which which had just been confirmed to be in stock). While standing in another line, I unpackaged IOUF and snapped spoiler pics to post online, since I hadn't seen them up yet. It was a nice experience and put me in a good mood, ready to play with a focused mind. My Thursday qualifier was at 6:00 pm, so I had plenty of time to prepare, eat, and get settled. I went to the AEG hall and met up with Origins winner Laura Marie Scott. She had crashed our Sheriff event (I invited her :]), running over nearly everyone else en route to a narrow second place finish. Many of the community leaders were also there, and I got acquainted with Doomtown Classic's champion Richard Carter, who asked me to sign some Warlord CCG cards that I had done artwork for a few years back. After a small wait, we were all set to play. I felt confident, but also content with the results whatever they might be.
Qualifier Round 1 – Charles Penn: MCC Gadgetorium
Charles was running a Morgan Gadgets deck which I didn't get to see too much of. His draws were slow and he never really got his Mad Science rolling, while my deck did what it was made to do: play spells and filter cards. The match wasn't too eventful, as he never got what he needed in hand.

Qualifier Round 2 – Bye

I drew a bye! Lucky me!

Qualifier Round 3 – Johnathon Causey: LD

Johnathon was a super nice guy. Once he threw down the Law Dogs core outfit, I knew this would be a test against the first round blitz I had prepared for. Sure enough, he went the experienced Somerset route and came in on the first action courtesy of Andrew Burton’s pre-start detective work. Tommy Harden, the Judge, and the token moved in and I decided to oppose, holding a full grip of resolutions plus a replacement dude if things didn’t go my way. He took the first round of the shootout by Pinning Down Travis Moone in addition to pulling a legal hand. I decided to stay for one more go around and managed to crush his next attempt with an It’s Not What You Know… After a few moments of contemplation he scooped, deciding he wasn’t going to be able to come back from the swing. My feeling is still that he may have conceded prematurely, but I didn’t have knowledge of his hand and he might have felt losing two dudes was too much to recover from. We chatted about the Cthulhu LCG afterwards and wished each other luck.

Qualifier Round 4 – Chris Briley: LD

I was already tiring of the Law Dogs madness, but this time I didn’t have to stare down the barrel of a first turn job. Chris instead played it slow and smart, taking control of Town Square and patiently applying effective pressure. Once I felt comfortable enough to get into a fight, he did a good job of neutering my draws with shootout actions and repeatedly pulling legal hands to kill off my crew. Between that and using Wendy to send The Brute home, I was in a tight spot. At one point I managed to get a round of a shootout in my favor, and if I had managed to win the next round the game could have turned. Sadly I ended up pushing with my last dude and took my first loss. 3-1 was enough to qualify however, so I didn’t mind at all. Getting a loss under my belt actually took some pressure off, and reminded me that I was there to have a fun vacation.

My crew and I grabbed dinner and headed back to the hotel. Luckily, I managed to qualify on the first day, so I could spend Friday scouting a bit to see what was popular in the other qualifiers and also just relax. I noticed a large amount of Law Dogs decks as well as a surprising number of Landslide decks (not an overwhelming number, but more than I had expected). When we returned to our rooms I decided my deck wasn’t going to cut it, and made some changes that I felt appropriate for what everyone seemed to be piloting. The small adjustments ultimately proved to be a good decision.

Quaterfinals Round 1 – William Gentry: LD

William was running Law Dogs, but also decided to go the slow route and avoid running a Judge into my trap. I suffered a pretty bad first shootout and just about lost my whole posse, but a timely Steven Wiles and Eve Henry got me back in the game. I was forced to pay both of their upkeeps to retain enough influence to survive, but I had good economy by that point. The repeated upkeep stifled my ghost rock, and I never saw another dude to shift the burden. Will dropped his own Wiles and won on tie-breakers. It was a very tight game, and Will was gracious in victory.

Quaterfinals Round 2 – Jim Despaw: LD

Law Dogs! Bah! Jim was not running a normal build of the bounty collectors though, and I generally outdrew him in poker hands as well as resources. He attempted an Ol’ Fashioned Hangin’ on my Leonardo, and stuck around a bit too long after losing some dudes. I finished off his Abram and he finally scooped.

Quaterfinals Round 3 – Ariell Burch: 4R

I was glad to see another clown player, and Ariell kindly gifted me a custom Gunslinger token. I hadn’t gotten much experience playing the mirror match. My playtest partners lacked the experience to run the deck, so I had to go a little bit off of what I thought would work in theory. We both had solid draws, but my advantage came from moving to Town Square first and utilizing Paralysis Mark to keep her dudes booted at home. I managed to gain enough positional advantage to occupy her deeds while stacking my huckster with Blood Curses and more Marks. Eventually I won through attrition and better positioning, along with couple of solid shootouts.

Quaterfinals Round 4 – Johnathon Causey: LD

Rematch. This game was intense. We both realized we couldn’t draw into the semifinals, so there was a lot riding on the win. Johnathon had wised up and changed his build as well. That plus the previous experience gave me the feeling that I wasn’t getting an easy victory here. Travis mulliganed, but I still ended up with a play hand sans resolutions. I did, however, manage to nab a Steven Wiles. Losing lowball meant hoping that he wouldn’t immediately send out the Judge. With his first action, he played Cookin’ Up Trouble, which was a mixed blessing. It meant I would get a chance to play my Steven Wiles, but it also meant he wouldn’t blindly walk into the unknown. He knew I had no hand rank reducing resolutions. I play Steve, and he boots the Judge and brings his token onto the board. I suffered one dead dude before deciding it wasn’t wise to continue, discarding Leo. I had to spend my next turn leveraging his Judge’s upkeep by emptying my hand as quickly as I could to find a resolution. I managed to get what I needed, and the next turn This’ll Hurt in the Mornin’ and It’s Not What You Know… ate both the Judge and Tommy, earning me the win. Gracious in defeat, Johnathon again reminded me that Doomtown has an awesome community.

After confirming that I was indeed one of the elite eight, I went to the bar with my friends, drank quite a few shots, chased with a couple of beers, watched the fights, and decided sleep was for losers. And I was a winner; at least up until that point. After waking up late, I realized that there was no time to spare. Skipped the shower and encouraged my fellow GenCon-ers to drive as quickly as possible so I wouldn’t forever curse the day I missed Top 8 of the Doomtown Marshal tournament. We made it with three minutes to spare, which I spent frantically resleeving my deck to opaque sleeves as instructed by the AEG officials.

Top 8 – Adam Brancato: LD
Aaaand surprise. Luckily this was the last Law Dogs deck I would face, albeit another Judge from Hell game. He sent the Judge plus deputies and bounty hunters quickly as expected, continually refusing to pull a cheatin' hand. I decided to stay in the shootout, with diminishing returns, knowing in my gut that if I could force him to pull one dishonest hand that I could win. On the literal last round that I had to win, he finally showed an illegal draw hand, and I showed him a This'll Hurt in the Mornin', dropping his hand from a full house to two pair. I sweated bullets over this game, and felt lucky to get through, along with maybe a little bit of idiotic stubbornness on my part.

Top 4 – Brandon Schulte: OoN

Brandon’s deck was the only one I truly feared playing against, as I had no idea how to approach it. Secretly I hoped that he would lose before getting to this point, but sadly no. It was up to me to take the monsters down. Positioning and patience were huge in this game. He was running Smiling Tom coupled with Raising Hell, which could bring down a 5-stud Bobo at any time. I never gave him the opportunity, and after managing to isolate Tom at one of my deeds, I removed his other Fourth Ring dudes so that he couldn’t escape. Some careful placing of my own guys followed, and Brandon confessed after I won that if I had done any one thing differently it probably would have cost me the match.

Finals – Nick Glazer: 4R

I entered the finals against Nick feeling like everything was right with the world. I had made it this far, and was happy with the outcome at this point even if I managed to lose. In hindsight, this attitude probably made me drop my focus a bit and not play my usual careful game. Nick is an excellent player and technically sharp, with lots of experience playing hex control. Perhaps the giant golden badge sitting next to us threw me off my game. Either way, the first match went poorly for me. I forgot about his Carter’s Bounties at one point and allowed a shootout to occur with a Steven Wiles on his side of the board. He occupied my adjacent deeds and played the Paralysis Mark game with me, while cutting off my ghost rock. It was a slaughter. I’ve come back after getting shaken up before, so I knew it was just a matter of taking my time and regrouping.

Knowing that the typical mirror match is all about emptying your hand of spells and repeating your home’s ability, I went a different route. Instead, I kept a shootout-friendly hand with resolutions such as Hex Slingin’ and It’s Not What You Know… At the time, I felt foolish going with an improvised gameplan at a crucial moment. The gambit paid off as I eventually coaxed a large shootout and in a series of escalating resolutions I wound up on top.

The third game was a massive grind, with the most spell pulls I’ve ever witnessed in a game of Doomtown. Most of the time Leonard booted the opposing Leonard, and then trading Paralysis Mark activations. Slowly I managed to gain the advantage in spells and money, and finally moved to Town Square to drag his last bit of crucial influence away from home with Phantasm. A final contest of bullets secured the victory. Ultimately, we played for nearly three straight hours! I was exhausted, battle weary, unshowered… but I was the freakin’ Marshal.

After the event, I shared my victory with my fellow players back home and received many congratulations. The individuals that I met in Indianapolis are some of the nicest people I've ever had the pleasure of competing against. I certainly hope that I can face off against them again some day.
The future of Doomtown seems bright. I still have a love for the clowns. But with two new factions plus a Pine Box with additional homes about to drop any day now, there's no telling what people will be rocking at their gaming stores this winter. I'm growing fond of the Eagle Wardens and their deck-thinning power, and it seems like Landslide is surging again under the 108's might. Never fear, the hucksters aren't going away. You can count on that. And the abominations they've tried to keep hidden from the other residents of Gomorra are seeping out from the shadows, demented and dangerous. I'm looking forward to it.

And in all it’s glory, here is what a Marshal-winning deck looks like.

[edited for format - @Alex]


Great write-up.

I’d like to include that I played a control clowns deck for the first qualifiers and couldn’t win better than 3-2 so I switched to the OoN deck knowing it was fun for me at the least. Both you and Nick were more cautious with control (And therefore better) which I just can’t do. You both deserved top 2 (Though I really did hope you’d make a dumb mistake and lose ;)) Everyone’s playing them now, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to win. It takes finesse.

Something I want to point out looking at your deck, and from personal experiences: if you want to shoot out you better have 4 or less off value cards. Once you get above that, the decks lose their teeth. Your draw structure was the tightest I think I versed at Gencon.

Hope to verse you in the finals again next Gencon!

Edit: This is Brandon S. Forgot my name isn’t the same as Facebook.


So question, how often were you cheatin/losing lowball with your shooting structure?

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Wondering this too, since i’m trying to come up with a good structure for a blessed deck, that needs money/initiative … had some success with 15-12-11 + off-value for lowball wins and legal full houses but going a bit higher felt like killing my economy by losing lowball all the time.

Nice writeup! :slight_smile:

Great write-up. It was really weird to see my name in an article like that, I didn’t even think about the fact we played in a qualifier when I opened it up. I’m glad you took it all the way to the end, excellent job!

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As the first guy he played against (Charles), he was a great person to play against. He was polite and friendly.

As a player, he knew his deck inside and out, and helped me rethink my deck a bit (made easier with some of the new gadgets that have come out).


it’s a good question. i’ve been meaning to do some percentage tests on decks with structures this tight. i didn’t cheat too often, but i was also often planning on winning with a full house or four of a kind. my worst fear card was bottom dealin’, which is just NASTY when you have so few casualties you’re able to take and i tended to put a lot of my entire posse into each shootout. it’s definitely the card to watch for.

i definitely cheated most during lowball where i had less control.