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Metagame Review and Tournament Report with EC_John

Get a two for one with EC_John, as he brings you a metagame breakdown AND an in-depth tournament report.

Hey everyone,

I'm EC_John, a Bronze-level Pro and one of Storybook Brawl's original dedicated content creators.

I've been playing since Beta, but going into this tournament, I knew things were going to be different.

This was the first time I've had to do more than just play ladder games in order to get a grip on the metagame. As such, I've decided to do a patch breakdown in addition to my tournament report, just in case there are other players (like me) who feel a little lost this patch.

Patch Panic

On ladder, I was struggling to get above 4-5th place. It felt like no matter what I did or what hero I played, my opponents were always just a little bit ahead. Frustrated, I started getting more involved with the Storybook Brawl Competitive Discord server and discussing with the other Pros what they thought of the metagame and what I could be doing wrong.

After lengthy discussions and a lot of scrimmage matches with other pros, I found that success in this metagame required me to completely relearn my approach to the game.

Avoiding XP Spells

For the past several metagames, almost every hero wanted to rush to level six to gain access to the most powerful characters. Experience spells were practically an auto-purchase, regardless of level or life total. Ahead? Buy XP and push your advantage. Falling behind? Buy that XP and find more impactful characters.

This patch contradicts that methodology almost entirely. Several level six characters have recently been nerfed, and outside of Bearstain (which requires a good bit of set-up) and The Great Pumpkin, most level six characters are just not comp-defining enough as-is to justify forcing XP spells and forgoing mid-game composition.

Previously, XP spells were commonly purchased between level 4.0 and 5.0. Now, this level range is all about character quality, composition, and staying ahead on board. Pound for pound, level 4 shops have the best tempo characters for the midgame. Sporko for example, is widely considered to be the one of the best characters right now, as it checks multiple boxes — providing stats, enabling slay for characters like Feasting Dragon, and plus it's a great ranged character that can catch buffs from your existing level 3 characters like The White Stag.

Even if you're at a healthy life total, choosing to spend 3-5 gold on an XP spell rather than picking up strong level 4 pieces can put you behind significantly. Obviously, there are exceptions to this rule, and times where buying XP on level 4 is still fine, but as a general rule, value your level 4 shops and characters and look to buy your XP earlier on level 3.

Monster Mash

This patch is defined by two characters — Medusa and Oni Tyrant.

Since things have slowed down, players are building their boards and deciding on comps earlier, making Medusa a great slot 1 or slot 5 choice to try and take out a much stronger opponent. As you progress from level 4 to 5, finding a single Oni Tyrant represents a huge power spike. On a board full of monsters, a single Oni Tyrant represents a potential 49/49 worth of extra stats and is the equivalent of a level six treasure (Spear of Achilles).

Plus, it's not like Monster comps have any shortage of powerful supporting characters. A scaled Water Wraith can remain on your board through level 5, Friendly Spirit can transfer the extra stats from a Tyrant, Southern Siren and Baba Yaga are always dangerous threats, and Nian, Sea Terror represents an easy level 5 treasure.

If I could assemble my perfect early to midgame for this metagame, it would look like this:

Black Cat / Mad Mim / Labyrinth Minotaur >
Evil Queen / Water Wraith / Wicked Witch of the West >
Sporko / Medusa / Monster Book >
Oni Tyrant / Southern Siren / Nian, Sea Terror

In essence, play evil comps if you want to climb the ladder.

Treasure Quality Is Crucial... and Random

One of the most discussed topics in the pro scene currently is the imbalance of level 3 treasures. It's no secret that an early Treasure Map, Bad Moon, or Crystal Ball can be comp defining, but the take-away is that there are level 3 treasures head and shoulders better than others.

A player who gets the choice between Bad Moon, Treasure Map, and Ancient Sarcophagus is going to place infinitely higher than someone who's options are Eye of Ares, Cloak of the Assassin, and Power Orb. This element of RNG can be extremely frustrating, and while it's nothing new, it feels much more relevant this patch because the number of "valid" compositions has shrunk considerably.

In my experience, picking treasures like Sting, Treasure Map, Ancient Sarcophagus, Crystal Ball, Bad Moon, and Merlin's Hat, usually equate to a Top 4 finish, while the bottom half of the treasure pool leads to... well... the bottom half of the lobby.

An aside, don't be afraid to pop your Treasure Map on a level 5 treasure. An early Ambrosia or Dracula's Saber are absolutely brutal in this metagame.

Tournament Report

Ok, on to the tournament!

I played 12 games across two days and my results were... ok. Despite making Day Two and locking up Top 64 for 4 pro points, I felt that I could have done better. Below I've included YouTube videos of all my games and timestamps for those I found most interesting. I'll do my best to break down those games.

Day One

Game 2, Day One

Timestamp: 0:22:22

Gwen is a hero that feels very middle of the road this patch. I played a decent early game, and opted to wait longer than nomal to use my Knighthood. I ended up using it at 20 life, on a Southern Siren. While I'm always happy to play Siren, I definitely overvalued her statline and underestimated my opponents boardstates. This lead to me getting greedy and positioning the Siren poorly, and combined with some poor fight RNG, I ended up dying in 6th place despite feeling very strong.

Game 5, Day One

Timestamp: 1:37:20

This was an interesting game. I ended up picking Grandmother and had a decent early and midgame, which is essential to success on this hero. Moving into the later stages of level 4, I was rocking a Good board with Fairy Godmother, however I made the read that sticking with that plan was going to plummet my life total, so I decided to actively pivot and pick up monsters. While it was a bit late, I was able to get them going, as well as my crucial hero power, leading to a reasonable 3rd place.

Game 6, Day One

Timestamp: 2:05:55

This was one of the only games all weekend where I felt like I played really well. In the midgame, I was worried, as there were three players, myself included, going for animals. There was a turn where I matched against a ghost that I knew had a Bearstain and took a speculative Doombreath to have a shot at stealing it, thanks to my Gloves of Thieving. Sure enough, my line paid off and I was able to ride that Bearstain to a first place finish, narrowly defeating fellow pro, Jebas, on a massive spell build. Had I gotten second in this game, I would have missed Day Two.

Game 7, Day One

Timestamp: 2:42:08

This lobby was absolutely insane. I needed at least 3 points (6th place) to make the cut for Day Two, but that meant fighting through several fellow pro players — some of the best in the game. This was my lobby:

I decided to take Morgan le Fay, a hero that I feel comfortable playing but wouldn't consider a top pick. I got off to a slow start, and took a lot of damage early, which netted me a Ring of Rage. One player died moving into the late game and myself plus two others were all one hit away from getting knocked out. I managed to survive at one life and get a level six treasure — The Ark, then won my next two fights, swapping to a patchwork Good Boy comp. The problem though? The other players weren't losing either. I was sweating bullets.

Last tournament, I missed Day Two by 1 point. If I got 7th here, it would be a devastating repeat. On my next fight, I barely lost, however the other two low-hp players did as well, and I managed to squeak out a 5th, pushing me into Day Two.

Day Two

I went into Day Two not feeling great — lack of sleep thanks to my newborn. Despite being tired, I felt like my play wasn't terrible, but definitely not as sharp as Day One.

Game 1, Day Two

Timestamp: 0:00:15

I started the tournament with what should have been the best possible combination — Sharebear and a shop of 3 Three Blind Mice and Shrink Ray. I was optimistic, until I saw my treasure choices — Reduplicator, Six of Shields, and Summoning Portal. While each of these have their own important implications, these are basically the worst level 4 treasures to get early from Three Blind Mice because the characters on these levels don't synergize. Taking Six of Shields, I proceeded to play a pretty mediocre early-to-midgame, and died out in 6th place on the back of some really poor fight RNG and very strong opponents. If I could go back, I'd probably still pick Six of Shields, but I'd change up my character positioning in the midgame to play less greedy.

Game 2, Day Two

Timestamp: 0:17:00

Another strong hero choice in The Fates, but my starting characters were not optimal. I ended up taking Sherwood Sureshot. I think my mistake was not just immediately taking the triple and instead getting baited into a Three Blind Mice pair, thus delaying the stat bonus to the ranged character. This set me back and while I did eventually find the mice, I had lost too much tempo to make a good comeback. My misplays cost me this game and I busted out in 5th.

Game 5, Day Two

Timestamp: 1:16:39

Another Fates game, this time I started with a Polywoggle that slayed into a Sleeping Princess. For those who may not be aware, when playing The Fates, if your original Polywoggle slays, The Fates ability will track the character it transforms into. Following this, I was able to triple the Sleeping Princess, pick up an early Romeo and a Cinderella. From here, I put together a nice little Royal comp. I crushed most of the field, but missing on key treasures like Reduplicator prevented me from taking 1st place.

Overall, my heroes were far better on Day Two, but my play was far worse, and against a much stronger field, it wasn't pretty. I was hoping to play a sixth game for chance to place higher, but an untimely bye round capped off my run at 51st place.

Key Takeaways

Thanks for reading and watching. I hope my article helped you learn something new. If you enjoyed, be sure to follow me on Twitter, Twitch, and YouTube. I'm less active than I'd like to be due to new Dad responsibilities, but I'm slowly getting back to content creation. Cheers!