Gencon 2001 Tournament Report By Brandon Flores

In a tale of near-epic proportions, I shall spin a story much akin to the
Titanic.  A journey cut short, tragic to the last.

Let us start with the hero (*cough*), hopes high and revelling amidst the
debauchery of friendship and liquor (AKA: Party at Brandon's Haus).  His
errant ways come back to haunt him in his first adventure causing him loss
and tribulation.  He fails, and vows to never let that happen again. 
Through much pain and anguish (READ: extended hangover), our protagonist
manages to beat down the wall and proceed to the holy ground, the land where
the mighty all gather to test their mettle.  Through grit, quick thinking
and a few instances of the "lighter side of Sears" (explanations
forthcoming), he manages to claw his way to the top tier, finishing with
only the best of the elite.  The following day, he overcomes the one nemesis
he managed to accumulate...only to fall pray to machinations beyond his
control, spiralling into an endless void of suck (yeah, uh, meaning
"redemption next year, dumbass").

All analogies aside, let's get this rolling.

People start rolling into town as early as Tuesday (Aug 1st) but the action
doesn't start until Wednesday evening (Aug 2nd), when everyone starts
congregating at the Center to amass badges/tickets and plan for the weekend.
  My posse meets up with other posses and we come to this one conclusion:
liquor sounds sweet, and my haus is taking refugees.  I do believe it's
party time at the Chamorro Stronghold.  The Kentucky Boys (Lucas, Drew and
Lenny) arrive, as well as Craig and Scott from KC, Spags swings by, we score
Aaron, Jared, Dan and Josh from the east coast, and even summon Bob and Bret
from Normal, my friend Jason staying over from Arizona as well.  Not too
shabby, and I'm positive I'm forgetting people. ;p

Amidst this party, there comes to pass the Legend of Mirumoto Tokeru.  This
man, this myth, this legend of...pretty lame proportions had his honor
defended by none other than Spags.  His justification for why he's ok in
Gold: "He's 6C.  Who needs double chi when you start ar 6?  He's old
school!"  The passion in which he held to this belief is unheralded.

We gather the bodies for the morning qualifier.  I'm thinking I'm pretty
"Street Tuff" today after the party last night, so I dress
accordingly...even though I'm playing Tsudao Shiro honor.  "Street Tuff"
very well be an oxymoronical Crane statement.  I start off hot, having been
paired off with Bob (yeah, from my house, playing Shiba honor) right away in
round 1, knocking the snot out of him at around a 47-23 pace.  Then I hit an
Ancient Halls Lion tact Naseru deck and smoked him too, followed by another
outrunning of a Naseru Shiro deck in round 3.  Hot streak intact, 3-0, I'm
feeling pretty good.

Then the day before sets in.  I've had mmmmmmno sleep, mmmmmminiscule food
tidbits and mmmmmmmassive exhaustion levels.  I make counting mistakes in my
4th round and lose to Tsudao Shiro honor, then lose like a champ to Dave
La's Tsudao (I think) Kaiu honor deck.  By this time I'm pretty sure I was
close to physically wasted since the rest of the night is fogging up, I
troop it out waiting for Hadsall to finish his qualifier.  He has some ill
luck as well, and we both get our shiz together for the Friday morning
qualifier.  We grab tickets, head back to my place, and make deck changes.

I axed Noritoshi, Arts, Shiryo no Hotei and Counterattacks.  I added Asahina
Sekawa, Walking the Way, DNW and swapped around my Challenge/Duel/FtE setup.
  After summoning my strength and performing the Nik Vincent Ritual of
GenCon Finals Rite of Passage (READ: shower and sleep before the g'damn
tournament) I rallied the gang and we headed back down to right the wrongs
of yesteryear.  Since I didn't keep any real notes aside from clan/wind
during the qualifier, I apologize for lack of names.  My journey came to
pass like such...

Qualifier #3, Friday 11:00 AM

Before the rounds start, we see none other than WILLIAM O'CONNOR doing
autographs at the AEG booth in the CCG Hall.  Like true troopers, I go and
have my foil Kuro'CONNORs and foil GIFT OF O'CONNOR (Kurohitos and Imperial
Gift) signed, thereby blessing the deck by the hand of O'CONNOR.  The man is
too cool for words.  He is truly a hero.

Round 1 vs. Utaku Palaces, Akodo Kaneka

This game was bent in his favor due to my lack of holdings for the first
three turns, yet somehow I almost managed to win.  His paranoia/wastefulness
saved him in what would normally seem like such a lame moment in the game. 
My slow start let him take a few provs uncontested, and I slowly climbed to
40.  He was hovering in the teens in honor; after taking one of my last two
provinces with his whole army, he debated for a second and played a Rallying
Cry.  Of course, my phat meta showed up and his paranoia paid off.  Imperial
Funeral resolved...and all his guys were unbowed instead of bowed.  How
tortuous...looking at his 11 units, 7 non-samurai and two Shames in
hand...realizing his Rally saved his game from an untimely demise.  How cool
would it have been to say you did 30+ points of dishonor in one turn in
Gold?  I wouldn't know, HE RALLIED.  *ahem*

Record: 0-1

Round 2 vs. Kosaten Shiro, Hantei Naseru

So my back's against the wall already.  I need to win five straight to make
Saturday; I decide to just do some damage before dropping out of the
tournament.  I'm not a fan of streaky play so I bank on losing sometime
later in the tournament.  Thankfully, it didn't happen this game.  I managed
to take down three of his provinces with aggressive behavior, my Doji Haus
Guard helping to tear down the paper walls.  Not much a Crane can do when
being outproduced in a mirror match, I walk easily, choosing to win by honor
and letting him keep his last province.

Record: 1-1

Round 3 vs. Yogo Towers, Toturi Sezaru

There's not much this guy could do in this game, he couldn't find his In
Time of War and I managed to easily run on his low gold showing while I just
scorched.  His Suspicions went off early but I had already had a PPG on the
table offsetting it.  By the time he had reasonable enough force to attack,
I had about 25 honor, a fistful of "bring it on" actions and pipe dreams of
what to eat after the game.  I honored out without losing a province.

Record: 2-1

Round 4 vs. Kosaten Shiro, Toturi Tsudao

I've played against this guy when I went to the Evanston Seeds of War
tournament in Illinois, so I know exactly what he's playing: honor/dishonor
whoring Scorps.  I get to an early honor jump and pretty much harass him the
rest of the game, causing him minor grief with my own Imperial Funeral on
his bowed Nagoris/Kimita and Shaming whenever possible, dropping him as low
as 0.  His Nagoris really didn't do much over the course of the game, final
honor totals was around 45 to 13.

Record: 3-1

Round 5 vs. Warrens of the Nezumi, Toturi Sezaru

I really didn't want to play this game, I was paired up against a relative
local and he was this far in the tournament playing Rats.  And it was a
sweet deck too...pretty tight, running Alliance to snag the Kuons and
Tenshus quicker.  Anyhow, he has three guys out and he's chillin' at his
starting honor around the 4th turn.  I resolve my Imperial Funeral with
Sekawa in play and decide to dishonor him.  Scharrer (the Rat player, duh)
decides to just let his guys get dishonored and lose 3 per, most likely
figuring he'll just Lies x3 on his turn to get back up to par since he
dropped to -8 honor.  I'm not sure if it was that or his fear of a Touch of
Death from matter.  I box for a Walk on Sekawa and search out a
Shame, with another in my hand.  Show both and we scoop...4th turn dishonor

Record: 4-1

Round 6 vs. Eternal Halls of the Shiba, Toturi Tsudao

My heart sinks as I flip Sanctified as my only holding, and watch as he
flips Sanctified and a Taeruko...that means 2nd turn PPG, 3rd turn PPG, 4th
turn PPG...only not.  He buys the Temple and discards the rest of the
dynasty.  I cry tears of joy on the inside when he does this, since I can
safely assume he's military or just plain stupid.  I'm able to stabilize my
gold and eventually pop out a PPG and some guys, he puts out his own.  I'm
around mid-twenties in honor; he attacks and I stifle it with a To the Last
Man and save province, next turn I cross 40 and he attacks.  I figure he's
harmless at one of my provinces with the other three still holding
strong...then he starts using Riake and SupTacs to try and take another.

Aw, hell no.  We can't have that!  So I Flattery, pitching the cards in the
right order so all I have left is two cards post-Flattery.  Then I play
Earth.  Then I play Void.  Baby Jesus smiles next turn.

Record: 5-1

I find out Hadsall did the exact same thing I did, we both had lost in the
first round and came back to win the next five to qualify for Saturday. 
Boom boom, homeskillet, we did exactly what Bob Beverage did the day before.
  Thus...we dubbed ourselves the Souls of Bob Beverage, doing the same thing
he did in a later date.  Well, *we* thought it was funny.

We attribute our successes to the ever-forgiving WILLIAM O'CONNOR, pay our
countenance upon him and search out some food.  It's time to rest before the
semi-finals on Saturday.

Saturday Semi-Finals

O'CONNOR be with you, always.  After conferring with my Underhand (Scotty
Mo), I've been given unwarranted confidence.  I was glad enough to make it
this far, yet my journey was far from over.  O'CONNOR truly was with me as
the following commenced...

Round 1 vs. Towers of the Asako, Toturi Tsudao (Richard Williams)

A rematch of the Origins '99 finals, Richard is playing the same clan as
yesteryear while I ventured back home to represent the Crane.  Today we
shall see whom has improved since our last encounter.

Our starts weren't anything to write home about, with myself winning the
cut.  I was able to keep his honor in the 0-5 range almost all game as I
slowly cruised to 40.  He managed to get one attack off that I deftly
defended against, Asako box notwithstanding.  For a game with such personal
implications, I didn't expect it to go as smoothly as it did.

And in the distance, O'CONNOR smiled...

Record: 1-0

Round 2 vs. Towers of the Asako, Toturi Tsudao (Scott Prince)

Sweet Baby Jesus, two Asako decks in a row on a Saturday?  Is there
something here that I missed in playtest?  Are people dying horribly to
cheap gold, cheap personalities, and the MegaUnit style of play?

Apparently, since that's what he was doing.  And in our testing of Asako
Towers, people get pretty confident that their SH will cancel near anything
you fling at them.  Also, most take no account of Fall on Your Knees, a card
I absolutely adore in this environment.  I use the favor early and often
(Tsudao temporarily read 'Political Battle: Discard the Imperial Favor to
force target opponent to bow a shugenja.'), using FoYK to cancel his last
remaining shugenja's box-react.  By the time he had ample force to do any
kind of damage to my provinces, I had already crossed 40.  Towers is good,
but I still don't see it doing anything important unless it gets the box
shug/CSM/Truth opening combo.  Anything else is just too slow.

Record: 2-0

At this point I began to joke around with some friends about the good
fortune I've had, and everything goes back to the blessing of the deck by
WILLIAM O'CONNOR.  In an extra, tasteless step, Hadsall started the "WWWOCD"
movement.  Like any true zealot, I signed on for the ride.

Round 3 vs. Kosaten Shiro, Toturi Sezaru (Sau Hoang)

I've heard about Sau from the Toronto contingent, seen him play some and
know his playstyle.  Unfortunate for him, of course, since his tricks
shouldn't surprise me.  Mirror matches suck, for the record, so here we go. 
The Hand of O'CONNOR blesses my start and cuts me for first.

We jockey back and forth in honor, our starts none too stellar.  I
eventually jump out on him, but a little trick of his I didn't expect let
him catch up (I bought Hachi full, he Nagori'd it and Truthed the total gain
netting him 5 honor at my expense).  In an attempt to kill that little
bastard Nagori, that same Hachi challenged him to a duel and he accepted. 
We both focus twice, he strikes, and the chi count comes to 11-7 in my
favor.  He plays Poisoned Weapon, and I wait.  And I wait.  And I wait.

"Sau, that puts it 8-7 in my favor."
"Oh...*reaches for the PW in the discard*"
"Um, I can't let you take that one back, this is Saturday.  All your
mistakes should be out and done with after the qualifiers."

That play cost him the game, he woulda been fine without the PW.  I hate to
be a prick about taking back actions, but like I said, it was Saturday.  I'm
not about to let any of the players in this skill-stacked lot take back
actions, and I expect the same to happen to me.  If it were still the
qualifiers, I'd let him take it back 'fah sho'.  Sorry Sau, had to stick ya.
Record: 3-0

I'm feeling kinda weird after the game, I usually don't stick people with
play errors.  I told myself before the semis that I won't let people take
back play errors today due to the amount of skill required to get here. 
Didn't seem to matter much in the end, I guess.  I sit down before the next
round, waiting for the cue to start up when I get assaulted by a couple
ladies, doing the whole hugging and kissing on cheek thing while I'm trying
to focus and shuffle cards.

I try to brush off the encounter as a random act of fangirlism.  I look
around the table to see everyone else staring at me, and Vaughn's walking
the aisle shaking his head with his hands in the air in disbelief.  I...have
no excuse.  Pardon my short stint as the soul of Hoturi and let me play,

Round 4 vs. The Great Walls of Kaiu, Toturi Sezaru (Jeremy Holcomb)

I've got nothing but amazing things to say about this game, this guy was so
damn cool.  In costume and everything, I found out he was playing one of
those beefeater Crab honor decks.  You know, not the pansy
PPG/Taeruko/Megafort style, but the Kuroda/Kuon/Masagaro/Diamond Mine
variety.  And it got an early In Time of War, making me think about each and
every play from there on.  I may have dropped a Deeds on him at some point,
I'm not sure...I just know that every turn I somehow managed to stay ahead
of him in honor, and I topped out at 40 honor the turn before he did.

No tricks, lost a prov to an ornery Kuroda/Honorable/Atarasi's Armor, and
defended against his army of mechacrabs on his last attack while saving a
distant province by favoring home a Hida Osano-Wo...this game was nuts.  As
non-interactive as it seemed, I felt a sense of urgency the whole time.  One
of the few times I've ever said that about a Crab deck.  Great work, Jeremy!

Record: 4-0

At 4-0, I knew that I just didn't need to choke and I'd be in the finals.  I
didn't even need to win a game, just NOT LOSE two.  I figured this'd be ok,
my deck's been clicking pretty well, just don't flop.  Then...the
unthinkable happened.  O'CONNOR decided it would be time to place his
disciple in a position of moral strife...

Round 5 vs. Eternal Halls of the Shiba, Toturi Tsudao (Bob Beverage)

Oh good god, this can't happen.  The Soul of Bob Beverage has been pitted
against...Bob Beverage.  Before the match, our eyes locked.  A fire of
passion in his eyes I have not seen since the last time I looked in the
mirror, we sit Table 1...and the space-time theories we all hold
dear began to tear and rip and shred and generally defenestrate itself.

"Bob, this is unfortunate.  We cannot be at the same place at the same time
for the physical impossibility deems it so.  How can the Soul of possibly be
in existance if the person he's the Soul of is still alive?"

"Soul, I understand your plight.  I too do not understand the powers that
work upon here, for I do not begin to fathom that a Soul of myself would
dare stoop to playing Crane."

"Silence, Bob, or else I'll force you to listen to N'SYNC's new album."

"You wouldn't."

"Oh, I would."

Then all hell broke loose.  His slow corruption via the boy band craze (yes,
he started listening to the cd) began to erode his mind, forcing him to
allow my suggestive card plays to do things he wouldn't normally do. 
Deforming my host Soul, however, began to play on my mind as well.  I began
to not play L5R, but poker...based on my L5R hand.  Soon we lost track of
games altogether, and began tossing cards on the table.  When it was all
said and done, and time was called, Sweet Baby Jesus was attending the
Imperial Funeral and had been given both the Celestial Sword of the Phoenix
as well as the Celestial Sword of the Crane.

But like I said, time had been called.  Refusing to let my host Soul
advance, with he feeling the same about me, we settled on a draw.  Only
fitting seeing that we're one and the same.  Next time,

Record: 4-0-1

At 4-0-1, we did the math...there's no possible way I could gak my position
and not make the Top 16.  I do a little dance and calmly walk over to the
table, knowing I'm secure in making Sunday.  What little I knew, how quickly
we fall.

Round 6 vs. Kosaten Shiro, Toturi Tsudao (Justin Graesser)

I find out before the game that Top Crane seeding is placed on this
encounter.  Mmmyay.  He cuts for first (only the second time all weekend I
have gone second) and we both get average starts.  He manages to score
Welcome Home after avoiding my own Home twice.  Still, I manage to bite and
claw my way back into the game, neither one of us drawing a Deeds.  He
finishes his turn in the mid 30's, I start mine at 30.  I figure with two
PPGs, a Sanc, five provinces and enough gold to buy everything on eBay,
finding 4 honor in my provinces would be easy.

Mmm, yeah.  I was wrong.  Five provinces yielded five holdings; I wither and
die in a vortex of suck.  Unfortunate.  I feel kinda bad for losing, yet I
also feel a smidge happy that I didn't go waltzing into Sunday undefeated
after the Saturday swiss.

Record: 4-1-1 (11th) elated.  My goal was to simply make Saturday, but making Sunday only
made me happier.  Some would expect nothing less; I'm not about to delude
myself, however.  Deep down, I'm really a poor player with quirks that
disturb my opponents.  Honest.  Quit laughing!

I find out that four of the people I played today all made the Top 16 (Bob,
Justin, Jeremy and Sau).  That's downright outstanding, my strength of
schedule was absolutely massive.  We hear there's a vote for "Best
Sportsman".  I had such a blast playing against Bob Beverage that I signed
him down to be my candidate.  People asked me who I picked, I told who and
why, and pretty much just left it at that.  We deposit our decks for
overnight security and head out to Ichiban steakhaus, taking most of the
Dynasty in attendance with us.  Aside from needless chick drama drama drama,
we had a beatings time, even having a near-death experience thanks to wacky
Milwaukee traffic.  I was able to rally the troops post-meal, head back to
my place and catch some needed sleep before the Final 16 on Sunday.

I wake up, refreshed and raring to go.  I eye my wardrobe and pull out a
slick powder blue shirt, toss on some khakis and head back down.  We get
back to the Center in time to check in and score some Red Bulls to wake up
quicker, get paired up and sit down for our games.

Do you believe in omens?  Some people do.  I really should.  Before the game
starts, the large banner/pole of Akasha comes crashing down no less than two
feet from me.  A warning?  An omen?  A fangirl trapped on a banner trying to
cop a cheap feel?  Who knows?  It just happened so eerily...

Final 16 vs. Kosaten Shiro, Toturi Tsudao (Justin Graesser)

Amazing, I get to play the exact same guy who beat me in the sixth round of
yesterday's semis!  I was nervous since the game is in the Top 16, yet I'm
not totally psyched out because I figure my draw the day before was subpar.

Oh, uh, yeah, I totally forgot that means his start could be better too. 
Let's take a quick rundown of how events came to pass.

My Welcome Home was avoided.  He got his, then Deeds'd me on my turn.  He
gets Imperial Gift and attaches the sword to Kimita.  Mine just fizzles.  I
get Deeds'd again.  This is just silly.

I'm getting beat around 18-27 when I ended my turn, and he Challenges a
Sekawa with his sworded Kimita.  Baby Jesus is crying like mad, knowing if I
accept then he only needs one more turn to honor out.  If I don't, he could
whack me with Shame, leaving me limping at 4 honor.  I'm screwed if I do and
I'm screwed if I don't.  Since it's still relatively early and, heck, I'm
starting to believe in omens, I bust out a quarter.

I hold it up thinking "Heads, I save mine.  Tails, he kicks my ass."  I


"I refuse."

The look on his face was priceless.  I clicked down to 11, waiting for the
Shame to vain.  He continued his turn a bit flustered, finishing
at around 35.  But it doesn't stop there, oh no.  O'CONNOR be with me, I had
another trick up my sleeve.  I start to flip my provinces.

"Imperial Funeral."

I look over his guys, seeing three unbowed (one being Utagu Exp), a bowed
Hachi and a bowed Kimita w/Sword.  I lose three for Sekawa and bow my
others, a wash in the end.  He sacs Hachi, loses 3 for Kimita and bows two
guys, leaving Utagu unbowed to Truth the 3 loss from himself being unbowed. 
End Funeral swing, me -3 honor and him -2 honor.  I use Sekawa to Walk for a
Shame, dropping him down to 26 with me at 8.  I start my ascent and end
around 16.  He goes and gains some honor, Underhanding my provinces to try
and whack any honor holdings.  Thankfully he didn't get my hand, or else he
would have smacked the Shame I topdecked.  He climbs back to the mid 30's on
his turn.  My turn, I Shame him back down to size, gain some honor and grab
the favor away.

Then I attack and empty my hand to slap down Void.  The race is on.  I
topdeck 5 cards, one of which is Deeds, and end my turn at 28.

He gains some honor his first action to put him above me, I lay the Deeds
down.  Not much he can do, so he goes to re-snag favor and Underhand me. 
Not knowing what's in my provinces or hand, he needs to decide, so he looks
over my holdings in play and in the discard.  He sees all three PPGs (one
destroyed from a Fist, two in play) and two Sancs in play, and then there's
me with my last Dynasty card, face down in my provinces.  He asks how many
Sancs are in play, I say "Two."  He checks the discard again, then
Underhands my hand.  I show a couple BSLs and a couple Walks.  He nails a
Walk and finishes his turn in the mid-30's *yet again*, yay Shaming.  Me at
28, with two PPGs, two Sancs, a Hachi in my provs for honor and one last
Dynasty to reveal...

...Asahina Sekawa.  That's right, I only run two Sancs, and Sekawa will put
me over 40.  Did I mention I've been hit with all three of his Deeds and all
three of his Truths while all I've done is Deed him once?  Yeah, I use the
PPGs, the Sancs, walk for a Deeds, buy both Hachi and Sekawa at honor and
top out at 41.

Imperial Funeral.  I'll defend that card in honor until the day I die.

He extends his hand, nothing he can do.  I bit, clawed and scraped my way
from near defeat to pull a game so far out of my ass that it still hurts to
think about it.  Great been expounded upon by everyone there
watching.  Who'd have thought Crane vs. Crane would have taken the longest
to finish in the Top 16?  I see Mark Wootton making comments about
grapefruit sized balls.  I count my blessings and advance...

Final 8 vs. Spawning Ground, Toturi Sezaru (Britain Babione)

I jokingly ask him if he wants to cut for first.  He accepts, and cuts me to
something insignificant, I cut him a Take the Initiative.  Sweet!

...then he shuffles his deck.


I'm already pissed because he's blatantly going against floor rules.  You're
not supposed to shuffle your deck post-cut.  The solution they came up with
was to remove a Take, shuffle the deck, then reinsert the Take in the
middle.  Mmm, yeah, sounds fair and all, until he cuts himself and goes "oh,
there's a Take right there."