Team USA gained three new members this weekend in Providence, Rhode Island. Void and Moon had the pleasure of speaking with Stephanie Shaw about her triumphant finish with Pandora of Dark.
1) How did you learn about Force of Will? Have you played other TCGs?
My first CCG was Magic: the Gathering back when I was in college. I only played EDH at first, before I moved on to a more affordable game in Pokemon: TCG. When I moved down to Virginia, I started going to this game store called Curio Cavern, where I now work. Through working there, I got deeper into CCGs in general, expanding to Modern in MTG for example. Working there also introduced me to Force of Will, as I was working with my employer to build up an interest at our store. Our store community then built up a team and took the trek up here together.
2) Why did you chose to play Pandora of Dark for the Rhode Island regional?
Pandora of Dark has always been my favorite ruler; I’ve pretty much mained it since the game came out. Even for Edison ARG, we tested Dracula for a long time, but I made the morning-of decision to make a throw-together Pandora list. Through my experiences there, I was able to refine the deck to what it is now. I feel that the card advantage gained from her can be so ridiculous that I couldn’t imagine maining any other CMF-MPR ruler.
3) Did you choose to play any cards from the new set, The Millenia of Ages?
Millennia didn’t really add any mainboard utility, but I did play 2 Dark Pulse in the side (for Elves that never appeared) and 2 Susanowo, the Ten-Fist Sword for Bahamut, the Dragon King. I’m not sure I’d keep the Susanowos at this point as good Bahamut builds expect them in their 55, but I think the Dark Pulses are very important as fast rush decks are one of the few glaring weaknesses of Dark Pandora. This is the same reason I side Pandora of Light, even though I rarely bring it in.
4) What was the “MVP” card in your deck?
The MVP card was absolutely Mephistopheles, the Abyssal Tyrant. It gives the deck the push it needs to end games quickly once you empty your opponent’s hand, and the combo with Bind of Gravity cannot be understated if your opponent doesn’t run Feethsing, the Holy Wind Stone. I’ve stolen many games with that combo by itself, whether for a partial 4 or the full 7 mana. Mephistopheles also gives you a pushback against burn, allowing you to put them on a clock simultaneously.
5) What card underperformed for you?
Honestly, while there were a lot of sideboard answers to this (not seeing Bloody Moons ever despite siding in 3 multiple times, for example), the biggest mainboard answer to me was…Stoning to Death. This card used to be incredible, but with the additions of other removal, especially Flame of Outer World, it becomes a “kill target Mephistopheles” or “kill target Hamelin’s Pied Piper” spell. It just felt bad Stoning to Death Elvish Priests, for example. And it doesn’t do much against some of the more common threats that escape the damage reach of Flames, like Blazer or Gilles de Rais.
6) How did you prepare and practice for this event?
My team and I worked on a lot of theory day-to-day at the shop. We didn’t get much physical testing done unfortunately (I had only played one game ever with this build before piloting it today), but the discussions of various deck archetypes and knowing what each deck in format wants to do also helped us each build our individual decks to combat those strategies. I flirted with a 5-color mana base for a long time to maximize answers, but I ultimately decided that the speed of Gretel was too important to pass up just for the versatility of a rainbow base. The life saved from not running Moon Shades was also nice.
It still hasn’t really kicked in that I’m going to Japan, to be honest. I still feel like this was just any other tournament that I went to and had fun at. But I’ll put a lot of effort into making sure I maximize Team USA’s production at Worlds . It’s a really awesome thing that FOW is doing for us.
8) Do you have any advice for new players entering competitve play for Force of Will?
Honestly, the best way for a player to get involved in the competitive scene is to just make sure they understand how each deck works. You don’t need to personally proxy or playtest each deck (though it certainly does help), but just seeing the main strategies utilized in each deck helps you understand how to maximize disruption. I was mostly on clock when my team was in shop, hence why I wasn’t able to physically test as much, but even just watching games and seeing the decisions people make can help you understand the archetype’s goals and weaknesses. Force of Will YouTube channels are great in this regard too, for those who live in an area without a large community or potential testing partners.