Bardroom Blitz – by Jason Evans
EDITORS NOTE: This article was written before the May 1st ban was announced, on Relentless and Swords of Revealing Light.
After seeing thereservepool.com blog post about the new Bard Blitz team that took the top 3 spots at the Ottawa WKO, I took a closer look at the team. After playing around with it, I quickly realized how powerful and flexible it really was. I saw that I was going to either want to play it or build a team to answer it that could still be competitive against other aggro and control teams. With a week until the Ohio PDC, I decided on the former approach. I briefly toyed with some substitutions, but decided against them. I needed to see how this team worked in highly competitive play before I tweaked it.
For those of you who haven’t seen Bard Blitz yet, the original TRP post is a great place to start, including all of the comments from people suggesting ways to beat it. Also I will refer you to another great TRP blog post by Wargfn breaking it down in even more depth. Basically it centers around the D&D FUS starter card, Half-Elf Bard: Master Lords’ Alliance which grants each attacking die a +1/+1 for each other attacking character. I lost my first match to this card at the Detroit WKO when a player paired it with Green Goliath, Dwarf Wizard and Punisher to clear my field and swing big. My bolt/Lantern Ring team got him to 5 life before he used my TCFW global to get enough bolts to Hulk my board and swing through for 30-40 points of damage. It took too long to set up that overkill damage and the Ottawa 3 found the key to quick lethal: Miri Riam bringing in a 1 cost character, Morphing Jar into the field on hopefully turn 3 with a Bard and a SK. Those 4 characters yield a +3/+3 to each other’s attack, which is 12 damage before you start counting the dice’s stats. Those 4 can easily get to the other 8 points you need for lethal on your turn 3. Relentless clears a few blockers, Parallax and the FUS Ring give you more control on what die faces become available. Doomcaliber Knight’s global keep them from being distracted/transfer powered/etc. BEWD & Resurrection make it easier to get Bard or Prismatic Spray, which is the answer to Jinzo, ScareCrow OP, Zombie Magneto, & Hulk and lets you use your opponent’s PXG while denying them access to it for a turn.
My prep involved rolling out my first 3-5 turns at home to get used to what I would buy when the rolls were ideal and what I would do when they weren’t. I practiced 4 scenarios:With & Without PXG available and with & without having to buy Spray. I brought it to the Ohio PDC at Frogtown Hobbies and pitted it up against some of the best players in our region. Frogtown once again hosted a great tournament and Isaac and Joel were gracious TO’s/Judges. Once again, some of the Detroit Eternal Games crew came down to bring their best as well. My first match was against young Carter. He had not seen the team, but quickly picked up on what it could do and where all of the pieces fit. His team didn’t stand a chance against it, but he eagerly took me up on my offer to play against it again, this time with him going first. I wanted as much practice with it today as I could get, but for the second game, we talked it out more, including me pointing out cards that he had that could slow me somewhat. His Dad had gotten the 1st round bye, so he came over to see how it was going. His son excitedly proclaimed, “Dad, you’re playing the Bard all wrong! Yours is too slow.” I never got to play his dad to see if that was true, but I believe that Carter knew what he was talking about.
Next I got to play my only near-mirror match, vs TO/Judge Isaac. He & Joel weren’t taking prizes, but they brought their A games to the table. He had playtested this matchup all week and said that his team won more than 60% of the time with a huge advantage to whoever went first, which this time was me. Isaac’s team had a couple of differences that I think he will be writing up or talking about on TRP this week, but those differences made me have to end up buying THREE Bards to get enough damage on the board that he couldn’t stop. The Bard’s power is “When attacks”, which stacks for each Bard die, so my 3 Bards helped all of my attacking characters get +9/+9, so when I swung, he could block all but 5 SKS, but they were swinging for 50 points of damage.
Next up was my friend Gene who brought a Mask Ring team. On round 3 I swung for 19 instead of 20 because I miscounted, but he couldn’t recover before my next push. We also played again to get him some more practice against this kind of team and I took him again. He and I are still friends, but he does not like this team. He did come up with the name of this article though, as a take on the classic “Ballroom Blitz” song
Next up was against Alec, or Junior, as everyone calls him. At an earlier Store PDC I kept trying to get close enough to his head to read the word that was carved into the side of it: FAMILY. I hoped it referred to his loved ones and not the Mafia. At the Detroit WKO, I got a better look and realized it was a tattoo meant to look like a carving. Still pretty intimidating. Now I am sitting across from him on the Twitch stream and quickly realize that 1) he is whip smart about Dice Masters and 2) he is a super nice guy. He and his crew had built his team specifically to counter the Bard Blitz, yet still be competitive against other teams in the Meta. At its heart it was a Mask/Lantern Ring team, but the pieces were chosen carefully. I was happy to see alt art PXG, but was not happy to see Oracle: Master Investigator, which made all my globals cost one extra, Hellblazer, which held key pieces of my team for a round until he could ping them off with his Magic Missile at first, and later with Batgirl: Babs. He also had a few Morphing Jars and soon he had the Ring and lethal damage on the board. He made good use of my Ring and Parallax globals to give him all of the masks, bolts, and ?s he needed to wreak havoc on my team on my turn. He had to buy his pieces slowly because of all of the energy he had to spend to take my team apart, but it worked.
My last game of Swiss was against my friend Hank who had been taking my Lantern Ring and Guy teams apart in Unlimited matches in recent weeks prior with his Johnny Storm team. Bard Blitz got to lethal on Turn 4 before he had even gotten Johnny out. He did better in our second fun game, but it still wasn’t enough.
I made it to the cutoff semifinals, best of 3 in 50 minutes, with my 4-1 record. I got to play Isaac’s 9 year old son, Ethan, and his Bolt / Lantern Ring team that had been deadly BEFORE he added Nova: The Human Rocket and the rare Dwarf Wizard. That team and his savvy play had earned him his semi-final slot, but the Bard Blitz is too fast and I won back to back games. He saw lethal a second before I did and was already shaking my hand. Junior was undefeated in Swiss and had taken out Gary in his semifinal match, setting us up for the rematch on Twitch. This time I got to go first, but his strategy was still very effective. It took him 35 minutes to get me this time, but in the end the game looked much like our earlier match. As the loser, I chose to go first in our second game and started off badly. The dice were rolling poorly and I was sure that I would lose this game even faster. I was making mistakes, like Spraying him on my turn to get out from under Oracle long enough to PXG…Nope – his PXG had been Sprayed also. I Resurrected to refill my bag, forgetting that I had a SK still in there. Despite all of that, the rolls started going my way and I fielded several Morphing Jars and SKs, more than he had energy to stop, and I pushed in for lethal, just as the timer went off. We were tied with 1 win apiece and out of time. We paused while the judges double checked the rules. As usual, the losing player (Junior) could elect to go first and the game would be decided by highest life total after 5 rounds. Not 5 rounds each. Just 5 rounds. Or as I saw it, each of us buying characters on our first 2 rounds, and him swinging with his on his 3rd turn. Both of us started scrambling for SKs, but they wouldn’t come up. I bought a Miri Finals Round 2 and used Resurrection to set myself up to draw her on Finals Round 4. Luckily I got her on a level 3 face and brought in a Morphing Jar. Junior had saved a bolt and pinged it off, but otherwise had a naked field, so I swung through for 3 points of damage, emptying my field and hung on tight, hoping that he couldn’t roll a character. But the Morphing Jars he bought came up character faces and the SK he rolled clenched it, swinging for 5, winning the final game 17-15 in turns.
What did I learn? Bard Blitz is powerful out of the gate. If you have no answers for it, it has a lot of tools to reliably set up a turn 3 or turn 4 win, which is brutal if you go second. Since I am not forced to attack, like I am with Guy Gardner, I can wait for lethal. Many of the answers are negated by Spray. What I found I had no defense for was directly knocking out my characters with MM, Babs, etc. Junior didn’t have to take out Bard. Bard stands on the shoulders of those he brings along, so the team crumbles if you can shoot out his base. Cards that solidly neutralize Bard, like Dwarf Wizard or Loki/Joker have to be removed, or else Sprayed at the right time. I have been thinking about ways to improve the team before I face off against Junior and his crew again at the Michigan PDC in a week, the Detroit WKO Round 2 a few weeks after that, and one more try for a PDC win at the Regionals held here after that. I had a great time and look forward to seeing how this team gets taken apart between now and then. We’re on a hiatus during Spring Break vacation / school musical season, but check out past episodes of my son and I on our YouTube show, From the Field Zone.