Hi folks and welcome! My name is Sterling Monroe and I recently took 5th place at day two of the Spring Championship. Before I launch into my report of the tournament, I want to share a bit about myself. I've been playing Storybook Brawl for about nine months, every since I saw it on an LSV Magic: the Gathering Stream. Since then, I've spent around 620 hours playing the game, and many more listening to Twitch streamers like Ikarus, Jebas, Honk, Karlim00, Redrame, Trynet123, and many others playing the game. I am not a streamer, and there are many other players with much more experience than me playing at these highest levels of competition. And yet, learning from the skill and experience of these streamers, along with a lot of luck on my part, has led me to where I am today, writing to you. I think that's pretty cool! Without further ado, my report of the tournament.
From my experience from SBB tournaments (I've played in the October, December, and February Champ Qualifiers), I've decided that there are two things to keep in mind when playing in tournaments: Tournament Metagame and Dominant Archetypes.
"Tournament Metagame" refers to the way that people play games in tournaments, as opposed to the way they might play on the competitive rank ladder. When playing tournament games, I try to play more safely than I would while playing on the ladder, and in my experience, most other tournament players do this as well. This is because the tournament points structure penalizes players for finishing lower in their lobby more than it rewards players for finishing higher. For example, an 8th place finish is only worth 1 point, while a 1st place finish is worth 10 points. Even a 4th place finish is still worth 6 points, or six times as many as an 8th place finish. Also because of this, combat spells are more valuable to play, and better earlier than they would be on the ladder.
"Dominant Archetypes" refer to the SBB archetypes (sometimes referred to as "comps") that have performed the best for me over the course of the season, and have the best chance at taking 1st place in a round. In other words, you can win with anything in Storybook Brawl, but if you complete a Dominant Archetype build, you have a good shot to win against anything. This patch, the Trees archetype was the clear winner, with Burning Tree, Ashwood Elm, and Echowood forming a trifecta of killer-treant power. The new Burning Tree was so good that a properly put together Tree Comp had hundreds of stats more than any other comp built with the same amount of gold spent, without any required treasures. Slay Comp, composed of Jormungand, Baba Yaga, and some combination of Grim Soul or Riverwish Mermaid and Lightning Dragon, was also very strong, but required too many things to go right in order to consistently beat Trees.
Keeping these in mind, I began my first round.
Day 1: Round 1 - 0 Points Total
My hero options are Krampus, Beauty, Pan's Shadow, and Loki. As Krampus isn't that powerful of an effect, and Beauty is too situational for my taste, I am choosing between the newly changed Pan's Shadow and good ol' lucky Loki. I'd had pretty good games with Pan's Shadow during the season, but I wasn't completely comfortable with their new hero power, so I went with Loki.
I start the game with typical Loki troll spells: a For Glory against a Sad Dracula with the shop full of low health characters, followed up with a Free Roll for exactly zero value. I ignore a singular Blind Mouse in favor of a mighty Tiny with the hope that it might trade off with a large character against the Skip or Wonder Waddle in our lobby, and bide my time with a flexible Golden Chicken. My first touch of the Loki luck comes with a turn 2.2 Roll the Dice giving me a Wizard's Familiar, much needed economy and one of the strongest units on Loki during the early game. I pick up a Mad Mim and Black Cat duo just as Loki graces me with a timely Spinning Gold, and from there we are off to the races.
I ride the snowball effect of Loki economy spells into the midgame and begin to pick up Polywoggles and look for triples to cement my early advantage, as I haven't gotten any XP spells from my hero power. Unfortunately for me, my first Polywoggle turns into one of the worst characters in the game right now, Feasting Dragon, which becomes even worse when I feel forced to play it as one of my stronger units and it eats up a Grim Soul trigger instead of transforming the Polywoggle on my back row.
My health running swiftly towards the bottom as I lose several fights in a row, I finally find Burning Trees and get a reprieve in the form of a ghost fight, before getting my first XP spell at 5.2 to catapult me to level 6. My tripled Burning Tree is a massive 41/118 while holding Sting, a Sporko buff, and a couple of Fancy Pants buffs, and that combined with 11 health allows me to survive with 2 health after facing Wonder Waddle wielding Aon, Forking Rod, Crystal Ball, and Spear of Achilles. The Hand of Midas I got from tripling the Tree lets me buy a golden Ashwood Elm, and together we eliminate players from the lobby until I am forced to die against Waddle, who has only hatballed harder in the meantime.
I take third place, happy with my Tree Comp pivot, but disappointed that I wasn't able to damage second place enough to knock them out when I played them a round before dying to Waddle.
Day 1: Round 2 - 7 Points Total
Here, my hero options are Hoard Dragon (HD), Mihri, Muerte, and Potion Master. From my experience, Hoard Dragon is the strongest of these, though I've had a rough time playing with him this patch.
My opening shop has a Labyrinth Minotaur, a pair of Tinys, and a Shard of the Ice Queen for the spell. While you generally want to triple as many 2-cost characters, Tiny is the worst of these to do so, as it turns your 6 gold into a 12/2, making you much weaker. I take the Minotaur and let the shop refresh. Next shop I take a B-a-a-d Billy Gruff to go with my Mino and cast Magic Research on it, but lose the next fight to early econ paired with a Humpty Dumpty.
My next shop is terrible: no evil units, no pairs, and a bad spell. I take Fanny and Tiny to save myself some life, but lose a 50/50 fight to a Wonder Waddle, taking another 5 damage. My level 3 shop is also bad, giving me the choice of Shadow Assassin or Princess Wight paired up with an egg or Happy Little Tree if I don't roll it away. As I have no paired units at this point (and no hero power without them), I refresh the shop once, and settle for a Trojan Donkey with Sugar and Spice on it.
Having won the fight, but faced by an almost-identical shop to my first level 3 shop, I start making mistakes: this time I buy the Princess Wight and a Crafty along with it. As it is turn 3.1 when I am taking this action, it is going to end up costing me way too much in health and resources to finish the quest on Wight, and all that effort will only net me a level 4 treasure as HD. I use my final gold to roll and find another Donkey, which I lock for. Now I am well and truly splitting my resources between two ways of getting treasures, since there are no other dwarves in the shop with the Donkey.
I lose the next fight to Peter Pants, but then manage to find the third Donkey, which gives me a choice of Coin of Charon, Horn of Olympus, and Deck of Many Things. I take the Coin and run my golden Donkey first with an empty slot to win the next fight. The Wight continues to haunt me as I fall for the Sunk Cost Fallacy, buying a Doubly ("good with Coin!" I tell myself as I cry through another bad loss) and doing little to improve my situation.
I am at 16 life as I buy more dwarves and pairs, thinking I'll be able to stabilize, if I can only get one more treasure. It is not meant to be, as I get paired off against a 25 health King Midas ("must be weak!") and die to their board of golden units. 7th place. Oof.
Luckily I have a lot of time before my lobby is done, because I need all of it. I spend the first few minutes beating myself up, the next asking myself where it all went wrong, and then I take several deep, powerful breaths. I remind myself that I decided my mental game would be the most important thing during this tournament, and I decide to put the round behind me. Whatever decisions I made, however they affected the match, they are done, and the next round will be completely I tell myself.
Day 1: Round 3 - 9 Points Total
I pick Cursed King (CK) out from Mrs. Claus, Evella, and Muerte. CK's ability is very strong, and might even be stronger than Sharebear's according to data from Raschy's Storybook Brawl tracker.
My opening shop is a blessing from the SBB gods: a trio of Craftys and a Shrink Spell. With my extra gold from CK, I shrink the shop and buy one of them. Next turn, I triple the Crafty, pick up Fairy Tail, and buy a Rainbow Unicorn, opting to take 3 damage rather than buy Genie's Wish and risk not being able to get another unit this turn. I win most of the next fights (losing to only a golden Polywoggle slaying and surviving on a Wonder Waddle's part), and use my strong position to greedily play my own woggles and buy XP. I get to level 5 a turn early with a golden woggle, a Grim Soul, and a strong board of gold Crafty, gold Happy Little Tree, and Darkwood Creeper/Ring of Meteors and a pair of Heartwood Elders for scaling.
My gold woggle turns into a Doombreath, and I am able to spend my gold digging for Burning Tree, then XP and digging for Ashwood Elm. Even better, when I lock a shop with the Ashwood, spending my free gold to open up slots around it, the shop refill deposits an Echowood into my lap. I'm clearly in the sweet spot: healthy, ahead 2 XP, and finding pieces of the Trees comp, so that's what I continue to do, knocking other players out as I run into them, and so strong that I beat Peter Pants even after they get first attack directly into my Doombreath. When I manage to triple my Burning Tree on turn 6.1, I find Evil Eye and send my Ashwood Scaling to the moon. My Burning Tree, a 120/280 once combat starts, dodges double Pigomorph from Hoard Dragon playing mages, and is the last one standing with 29 health.
Finally, it's just me and Wonder Waddle, with them on a combo Good Boy / Animals strategy. Waddle wasn't strong enough against the trees, and it didn't help when my Doomy-B ate their Bearstein in the first attack. 1st place sure takes away the sting of last match's 7th.
Day 1: Round 4 - 19 Points Total
This round I grab Xelhua, ignoring Hoard Dragon, Celestial Tiger, and the Headless Horseman (sorry Keith!). Xelhua is my highest-ranked hero this patch, and the typical Xelhua strategy of playing safe early game, consolidating your board, then going for an endgame build is ideal for a Treant-infested meta.
First shop has the ideal second-turn economy with Forbidden Fruit, so take a Wizard's Familiar and lock up the spell along with a Baby Root and Mad Mim. The damage I take from losing the round with my pitiful 1/1 is worth it when I spell into grabbing the Mim and the Happy Little Tree (HLT) that dropped into the open slot. My 2.2 shop presents a real choice with 4 gold to spend between two Labyrinth Minotaurs, a Baby Root, a Kitty Cutpurse, and Sugar and Spice for the spell. The Minos don't improve my board that much, and (like the earlier Luckys) will make me momentarily weaker when tripled. The Root makes me strong against multiple small units, but against single large units might not even help me. I decide to take a small risk and go with the Cutpurse, paired with my Mim for the pretty good odds that I get an extra gold on level 3. I grab the Mino and drop him into my position 7 slot for extra power to my Mim. In the fight, my opponent's Sherwood Sureshot shoots straight into my Cutpurse. Meh. While we have both gotten an extra character through the turns, my opponent has two Mims and three x/1s, so my Mino-powered Mim ends up winning me the fight.
The level 3 shop is not the best, with only a Spell Weaver for a 3-cost, and a very expensive Flourish for the spell. Taking a look at my opponent for the round, I realize that I am most-likely losing the fight against a Fallen Angel. With that in mind, I make a play for the future and take the Weaver and Flourish my HLT so that it has a massive butt for future fights. I lose the fight, but only by one unit, and come away with Prized Pig and Cutpurse gold as well. In my next shop phase, I ignore the 3.1 Brave Princess (it's a trap!), grab a Golden Chicken, and roll looking for XP or board improvements. I grab a White Stag, cast Witch's Brew on my Weaver, and hold my chicken, finding nothing with my final roll. I lose as expected to Peter Pants, and then buy another HLT, and once more Flourish my first one. The next fight doesn't look good for me, as the Jack's Giant player is already on level 4 with a Sheep in Wolf's Clothing and two huge frontline Spell Weavers. I get lucky though and avoid the 7-8 damage I would have taken when my backline Weaver is just big enough to clean their team up.
Finally! Level 4! Our hero power is now active. My gold is spent picking up a pair of Sporkos and a Lady of the Lake, selling several crappy 2-cost units to end the turn holding two Chickens. Uh, Wonder Waddle has Dragon's Nest and two huge Baby Dragons backed by a Riverwish Mermaid? I take my beating to 20 life and pray that we don't see Waddle again until the finals. I find the third HLT and Chicken in the next shop phase, leading to Ring of Meteors and picking up a Darkwood Creeper. Another roll and I sell Chicken to buy a Heartwood Elder, preparing for my full Trees transition. With my final gold I see a shop with The End, and lock it up. I eat my Lady for 4 health and go up to level 5 and roll into a Burning Tree, picking up a Baby Bear to strengthen my board.
I take a bit more damage before I make it to level 6, picking up an Ambrosia from a tripled Rotten Appletree along the way, but then I use my hero power to roll into and purchase an Ashwood, Echowood, and second Burning Tree. A Feed the Kraken into two rolls even allows me to sell three units from my hand for a second Ashwood. My poor Peter Pants opponent is eliminated from the game by a 6.0 full Trees board. While I am not able to triple any of my trees, I do roll into a Knighthood and use it the next turn on an Ashwood after locking it. At this point in the game, I move my second Ashwood into the Ambrosia slot (having greeded scaling previously) and clean up the last couple of players. Another 1st place in the books, and I am feeling pumped.
Day 1: Round 5 - 29 Points Total
Sitting at 2nd place on the leaderboard, I was focused on maintaining a high points score. When presented with Hoard Dragon, Fallen Angel, Morgan le Fay, and Mask, I went for the safe early game and snagged Angel.
Fallen Angel's (FA) early game is about activating their hero power as quickly as possible, so I am perfectly happy with locking my first shop of HLT, Lonely Prince, Chicken, and Genie's Wish. First I buy and sell the Chicken (money laundering!) to open up another space, then pick up the HLT. Next shop phase, I cast the Genie's Wish first, getting a Sugar and Spice on my HLT (Nice!) and pick up the Mim that dropped into the empty slot, locking again for the good units. A 5/4 will often solo two enemy unit, but in this fight, my opponent had an egg. I ignore a Cinder-Ella (doesn't activate my hero power) and grab up the Prince and Root to activate the health side of FA's hero power. I set my board up to spread my power between two strong units, winning the next fight.
The level 3 shop is pretty awkward (a trend in these matches), with three 3-cost units I want, a Baby Dragon (blegh) and a Genie's Wish. As I can't sell down without losing a majority of my board presence, and the Baby Dragon is 2 gold for a unit that might not even be good enough to kill a backline unit, I take a chance on the Genie's Wish. It's a Shrink Spell! The absolute best outcome, as it allows me to buy both a Vain-Pire as well as a Queen of Hearts, though I let the Dragon and Good Witch of the North roll by, since I'm running out of space on my backline. With both parts of my hero power activated, I easily roll over my next two opponents, and am even able to cast a Spinning Gold on turn 3.2 to spend on level 4. My gold turns into Heartwood Elder, several rolls, and a pair of Monster Books with the help of a Feed the Kraken. On 4.1 I find more pairs, then comfortable cast The End, looking to get to level 5 a turn earlier and start looking for more trees.
My level 5 shop pays me back for all of the bad shops earlier in the day with a pair of sweet Burning Trees, just waiting to get slotted in front of my pair of Heartwood Elders. My next fight goes not as well, as I am kicked in the teeth by a Peter Pants with turn 4.2 Merlin's Hat, Crystal Ball, and Forking Rod already assembled. Since I still have a comfortable health total of 29 and am only looking to finish Trees as this point, I cast another The End to reach level 6 at 5.1.
My first turn on level 6 involves tripling HLT (taking the gold over useless treasures), tripling my Monster Book, and buying a Shrivel spell, and locking Ashwood for purchase next turn. Very ahead of most of the lobby (except Peter Pants), I find more Ashwoods and between Pants and me, we eliminate the rest of the lobby. I lose to Pants with large Hatballfork units. 2nd place!
Day 1: Round 6 - 37 Points Total
It's the final round before the cut to the top 8. I'm pretty sure based on the standings that I make top 8 with anything other than an 8th place. I gear up to finish as high as possible. I pick Pied Piper from Pup the Magic Dragon, Sharebear, and Morgan le Fay. Since Piper has been updated several patches ago, they have been among the safest and strongest heroes to play, so I feel great going into the round.
Another opening shop with the 2.1 economy play, so I take the buffed slot B-a-a-d Billy Gruff and lock the Forbidden Fruit and friends. Next round I buy a matching Billy and pick up a buffed Rainbow Unicorn. Feeling pretty strong after two wins in a row and paired against a Wonder Waddle already 6 health down, I grab a buff Blind Mouse and a Mim to strengthen my board. Despite having a Shepherd's sling the Waddle's golden Chicken is no match for my 5/6 Unicorn and friends.
At level 3, I can buy a buff Prized Pig, or a Wicked Witch of the West, as well as a Mino, ignoring the bad dwarves also in the shop. Even faced with the also-undefeated Potion Master, I buy the Pig, since Piper's hero power gives you much better odds to triple it. I'm slightly unfavored in the fight, and do indeed lose, but only by one unit. The lone Mouse has looked pretty bad on my board so far, but I have had faith that Piper will show me more eventually, and the 3.1 shop opens with a Pig, a Mouse, and a Free Roll to look for more. Of course I take them, and cast the Roll, finding another Pig and a Billy. I sell the Mino to triple the Billy, taking Ring of Regeneration, the only playable treasure for my board as I was also shown Dancing Sword and Book of Heroes. My board is not strong with all these pairs, so I lose another fight, but then I am able to triple my Pig, grabbing Haunted Helm out of Eye of Ares and Tell Tale Quiver, neither of which help me keep my Pig alive. With the remaining gold I cast the Shrink Spell (should have cast that pre-Pig, but the light from the Pig blinded me), and buy a Billy and Egg as essentially combat spells. The 8/17 Billy and 8/14 Pig put in work, even against a Loki who got a random XP spell and is on level 4 already, and I carry my Pig gold and the victory into the next shop.
As I always knew, that dang third mouse finally showed up, and turned into a Horn of Olympus (ignoring Gloves of Thieving and Coin of Charon), as a Sporko and Soltek Ancient promise me many rounds of Pig gold. I roll the shop, and see another Soltek, with a Feed the Kraken to help pick it up this turn. My opponents' units slam helplessly into 8/20 Solteks, and their Monster Book bounces a Fireball harmlessly off their stout trunks. The Pig pays up. I triple the Solteks and find Forking Rod (ignoring Moonsong Horn and Coin again). Feeling strong and looking to snowball further, I pick up a pair of Polywoggles but ignore the Grim Soul, instead casting double Ride of the Valkyries before rolling into the third Woggle, which I sit in position 4, planning to wait to flip it until level 5 so I can get a golden 6-cost. To further that point, I lock a shop with Wish Upon a Star. My position 4 24/4 gold Woggle "unfortunately" slays, and I am left with a huge gold Lancelot, ready to complete its quest immediately. The rush to level 6 no longer seems so important, but I have 14 gold and the Wish gets me to level 5 with 8 left, so I still have a chance to find slay pieces, so I take it. I roll three times seeing no good 5 drops (though maybe I should have taken a Wombats in Disguise).
Despite my Lance, I lose a 50/50 fight, but afterwards Lance gives me Evil Eye (who would even look at Sword of Fire and Ice or Monkey's Paw in this situation). I'm all in on Slay Comp. Despite the loss, I still feel pretty strong, and then I run into Wonder Waddle at level 6 on turn 5.0, with a nasty board. I take 13 damage. I find a Mixawizzle, and turn my golden Soltek into a golden Bearstein. Meh. Then I roll the shop and find a Shard of the Ice Queen that transforms it into a gold Grumblegore. Nice! I find a Baba Yaga and a couple of Grim Souls, but my board is too weak, besides the Lance, and I fall to 5 health. I triple Grim Soul, pick up a Three Big Pigs, cast a forked Shrivel, and feel like I am about to stabilize. The next fight comes. Everything falls apart. The Shrivel hits my opponent's Doombreath, but also lands on their slightly-too-big Three Big Pigs instead of any of the other targets. Attacks go to the wrong targets. My huge Lance eats two ranged attacks, instead of a pig token. My units overkill their units instead of trading efficiently. I die. 6th place. I am dust in the wind.
End of Day 1 and Reflection: 40 Points Total
I take a moment to let the bad beats sink in, but then I remember my hope for the top 8. 6th place is not 8th. I wait. After agonizing minutes, the results are in: I made it.
The rest is history, and by history, I mean a closely documented Day 2 top 8 race format. For me, the race format is an entirely different metagame than even the tournament meta I talked about at the beginning of this article, so I will be saving my thoughts on that for a different time. All in all, I had a very good tournament (yes, yes, we know), but above and beyond that I felt that I learned a lot more about the game of Storybook Brawl by being able to participate. I felt validated in my hypothesis about Dominant Archetypes (Trees too stronk, plz nerf) after my and others' results, and that was further reinforced by patch 69's (nice) changes. I felt that my Tournament Metagame hypothesis was close to the mark based on the amount of combat spells I saw. Most importantly, my belief that I could successfully lean on the knowledge of the Storybook Brawl community, and more specifically, the many amazing people streaming the game on Twitch, has been confirmed in a manner I never dreamed of.
If you are new to Storybook Brawl (and if you are, a major round of applause for getting this far through a tournament report), or you want to improve at the game, watch and listen to the game on Twitch. Some of the best players stream there, and not just those with huge viewer counts. I also recommend watching many different streamers, the more the merrier. Even the best players of the game disagree on strategy, and you won't be able to be the very best unless you collect them all!
Until we brawl again,