[EN-OP5] Rafael Abreu: The old man is still running fast and furious

Hello everyone, I'm Rafael Abreu, writing from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. First of all, I wanna thank the whole One Piece Top Decks team for giving me this opportunity to share my thoughts and my experience playing Straw Beard.

I started playing One piece Card game since the start here in Brazil but initially I was also interested in collecting the cards as I’m a huge fan of One piece since my childhood. I already have experience with other cardgames like magic the gathering and after playing a few local tournaments with the starter decks I really like the game and decided to continue playing it. Here at Rio de Janeiro the level is reasonably high, problably one of the strongest communities in Brazil, for this reason I decided to play it more serious and became quite competitive giving a lot of efforts to get better.

I am an engineer, married and father of 2 children. Time is not something I have in abundance. That's why I try to study and develop myself by optimizing my resources as much as possible.

In the last two months I managed to make top 4 at na tournament with 33 participantes and 1st place at the 25 players tournament, playing with Whitebeard, Strawhat variation (Straw Beard).

Why White Beard?

The reason why I decided to bring WhiteBeard was that, first, it is my favorite character by far, and, obviously, the deck is pretty strong and consistent. At the first wave of restrictions of 9-Beard and 1 Marco blocker, I decided to test the deck to see how it performed and to make people understand how WB wasn’t a dead strategy. I quickly realized how much stronger the deck was than before. The data at the pre- and post-restrictions tops in English-format tournaments during this period shows how much WB, instead of being nerfed, had improved. Also, WB going first or second has a very strong curve, and winning or losing the die role is not that important except at most in mirrors.

Another discussion that is quite interesting is Pure Beard versus Straw Beard. Let’s talk about the history of the SB deck first. The deck originated from the end of Japan's OP03 meta, and it first showed up with no 9-Beard. It was a rush alternative to WB Moby Dick decks, but then at the very end of the format, SB began to start running 9-Beard because he was very strong in the mirror match. Naturally, SB makes a lot of sense because it's a rush deck, and Nami conveniently searches for Rush Luffy and a bunch of defensive events.

Both of these decks are extremely similar. The main differences are the bases of the searches, Nami and Izo, but even with this difference, the content of the decks is still relatively the same.

Maybe swap Frankie for Speed and Chopper for Fossa, but those are the main diferences (Figura 3). The event and the majority of the unit lineup are the same. At OP3.5, the PB version features one copy of 9-Beard and Marco Blocker due to it being searchable by Izo, while the straw hat version doesn't include both of those cards but instead includes, like, more of the four drops (6k) and a total of four Rush Luffy. Then came OP04's ban.

Figure 3 – Units variation.

Now in OP05, with the list of restrictions dropped, 9-Beard and Marco are back in the game, bringing with them more than just material “impact “at the table.

Let's now discuss the two approaches a little better, considering the current meta game (OP05). The first one we're going to look at here is PB, based on Izo, and due to it being based on easily we have cards like Fossa instead of Chopper, but we're able to run very powerful units such as 9-Beard, Marco Blocker, five-cost Marco, and Ace. I think the main benefit to PB is that it is stronger in the mirror match considering that we're able to search for 9-Beard and Marco Blocker, two cards that are very powerful at the mirror, and we're able to search for five-cost Marco and Ace against various other decks outside of the mirror match as a punish card. Being able to search for Ace is huge indeed; SB can't really search for Ace. Can run like three to four copies and hope to reasonably draw because the SB goes through a lot of cards very fast, but having Izo is a kind of insurance to search for what you want when you do need it, which is absolutely fantastic. I also think that five-cost Marco being searchable is also amazing. That said, I do think there's some disadvantage to PB compared to SB.

SB features a Nami base instead of the Izo base, and then we have a lot more defensive. Rather than searching for a bunch of our units, instead we search for, like, our defensive events, and we have a total of 12 defensive cards that are able to search for Nami, and on top of that, we are able to search for Rush Luffy. Rush Luffy is very strong in the meta right now against the sketchier matchups such as Sakazuki and Purple Luffy. Sakazuki is going to the bottom deck or K.O. units anyway, so why not have our unit immediately get value before they get rid of it? Against matchps like Blue Crocodile, if they only bounce into our hand with Sogeking or something like that, we can just play it again next turn and swing with it once again. Also, Rush Luffy ability to swing unblockable is amazing. Than, with ST-10, the deck now has one more powerful rush unit on Rush Sanji. The drawback of the card is almost negligible, and it is also a 1K counter.

Both of these versions have their place in the field, but if you want a better matchup into non-mirror matches, I think SB is the deck of choice. However, if you want to see the mirror match while also still being relatively good into "bad matchups," I do think that PB might be the deck for you.

But wait! How about the Hybrid Beard? Personally, I think having Nami or Izo just streamlines the deck and brings more consistency to the main strategy of both decks. So I just don’t go in this Hybrid direction at all.

StrawBeard Deck Building and Game plan

I think SB is currently the strongest aggro deck in English because this version performs a lot more consistently than PB and the Hybrid versions, it's a lot more straightforward to play, and it has the potential to have a positive matchup with every other popular meta deck with a few exceptions.

Some people look at SB lists and wonder why the leader isn't just Red Luffy, and the reason is that the advantage of developing early games is absolutely insane, even though we are losing a life every turn. Essentially, drawing two cards every turn is a resource to see our units and defensive cards more consistently.

This is what the decklist for SB looks like to me right now.

Click into the image for decklist in One Piece Top Decks

The general game plan for this list is to build resources with our Nami or drop a Sanji in the early game, attack with Frankie, two-cost Sanji and our Rush units in the midgame, and then go for the late game, dropping a Rush unit for turn keeping the initiative and pressure. 

“Keep initiative and pressure” is primarily a chess concept but can be easily translated to any competitive activity. In a nutshell, this is the point at which you force your adversary to play uniquely in contrast to what they ordinarily would in light of the fact that they dread the repercussions of making the plays they typically would. Remove your opponent from their comfort zone.

Another important factor at the moment is the weight that the 9-Beard Unban has. Most opponents, as soon as they see the leader on the table, assume that we are playing with a full set of Marco blockers and 9-Beard, respecting these cards too much. This psychological effect has an absurd practical advantage because, by letting him play around the 9-Beard, the opponent exposes himself even more to the rush strategy. 

“You must take your opponent into a deep dark forest where 2+2=5, and the path leading out is only wide enough for one.”

― Mikhail Tal

With PB, traditionally drop our 9-Beard in the late game. It's important to notice that we want to be in two life. In order to stay at two left naturally, we need to guard every attack in life early. If the opponent's swings are too big number then I think it's fine to let at least one attack during the early game. Having one life on your 9-Beard return isn't the end of the world, but you ideally want to have two life. Note that this is a fairly linear strategy that is relatively easy to play around with and make a plan for, but SB is quite different. In this strategy, you have room to take some hits, depending a lot on how your hand is. Ideally, it is an interesting balance between defending the units to maintain pressure and reaching turn 4 with at least 1 life. This way, you can still drop a rush unit like a Rush Luffy or Sanji and still have Don!! open to defend against possible tall attacks.

It is important to know how to use your life as a shield; it is a very valuable resource that allows you to make plays without worrying about lethal damage. With enough 6/7K attacks, getting into life can leave the opponent with one or two lives very quickly, and when their life count is low, this is now part of each of your opponent's turns. Now they will have to dedicate some portion of Don!! to play defensively, whether doing blockers, events, or clearing your board; however, you still have a leader swinging every turn and dropping rush units. When you do this, pressure will start to build.

When you get to your opponent's very low life, they also know pressure starts to form, but this is also where your opponent has to start countering with cards they want to play most of the time. Sakazuki, for example, when you start swinging for 7K, of course they can discard Tashigi or Tsuru in the beginning, but with enough of them, they will now have to discard Tashigi and Borsalino, or if they're running low on counter, discard Rebecca and Brannew (Figure 7). You are forcing your opponent to start countering with cards that they want to play, and that is putting them in the corner. Also, if your opponent has to attack your characters, they are giving you more time to kill them with more Rush units.

Figura 7 – Counter examples for sakazuki

When pressure has already been formed, your opponent has to react to it in a certain way to either clear your board or play with less Don!! and when they clear the board against an aggressive strategy, we are more than happy to take that life, and then we will probably be one of these Rush units that can help end the game. It doesn't matter if you've lost board control because their life is so low at that point that they have to play very defensively, and they're not going to be able to kill you at the end of the game because they don't have enough Don!! to get past a Radical Beam, Guard Point, or multiple of those.

I'm also a fan of Red Hawk right now due to its strength against Sakazuki, for example. Being able to open a window to your opponent's attack and defend yourself when dealing with characters like Brannew, or in the best scenario, Rebecca, is one of the lines that absolutely goes in the direction of keeping the pressure. At its worst, it's a 4K counter against any deck, but also against decks like Law or Zoro, it's very strong to hold up early just because it stops attacking, which is like a free block. Then, against the mirror match, you can just kill random blockers, or you can kill random one-drops, like Makino.

Talking about blockers, traditionally we have Chopper, Bartolomeo, and Marco (Figure 9). The reason we use none of these blockers is that after playing this deck, you kind of realize that you don't need blockers. I think it's generally better to run more events, like Guard Point or Bad Manners Kick Course.

Figure 9 – Traditional blockers

The Tournament

The tournament was held at the Goblin Hero Store, based in Freguesia, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. There were a total of 25 players and a Swiss format with 5 rounds (best of 1), plus a cut for the top 8 (best of 3).

Regarding the metagame, as expected, we predominantly had the most popular decks at the moment: Sakazuki (5 players), Katakuri (4 players), and Purple Luffy (3 players) were among the most played (Figure 11), together making up half of the field. Zoro and Whitebeard also had good participation, almost 30% of the field.

My matchups in the Swiss format were: Zoro (win/play), Purple Luffy (win/draw), Katakuri (win/draw), Zoro (win/play), and Katakuri (win/draw).

For all matches, the game plan remains the same as previously described, putting pressure on the opponent and keeping them in an uncomfortable position. With the exception of the Purple Luffy match, all opponents seemed to play around 9 beard, which was part of the deck's strategy. The matches I played in the draw were as expected, as we started and ended the turn by drawing two cards and managing to put pressure with two cost Sanji . Purple Luffy has very good weapons against our strategy, such as Magellan and, fundamentally, Law Blocker. Receiving two Law blockers in a row in the late game can be brutal and cost you the game. It's definitely something that needs to be played around. But my opponent didn't have the space to fit these cards correctly and ramped up aggressively. I managed to get through 5-0 without too many problems, as shown in the table below (Table 1) .

There are some observations I would like to make. First, players who have played with the same deck for a long time have a better understanding not only of their own strategy but also of what other decks can do. The top 8 were a representation of this, with exceptions. Second, regarding the Sakazuki deck, it is not intuitive to play at all. A player with little experience does not have the resources to deal with strategies beyond the mainstream of the meta, mainly those that are very aggressive in the early game. In this sense, I would like to highlight Heitor who reached the top 8 with his BP Crocodile, a completely original list. A skilled player with absurd knowledge of the deck's limitations and repertoire.

My matchups in the top 8 are: BP Crocodile (2-0), Katakuri (2-0), and Zoro (2-1).

Once again, I managed to impose the rush strategy with great efficiency. Sb for a BP Crocodile strategy is an absolutely bad matchup.

The matchup against Katakuri is a favorable one. When going second, I play Sanji first, then establish my 4/6000 and 5/6 rush on curve, and from turn 4, I start attacking the leader with as many 7k attacks as possible, rushing them down. Going first, the gameplan is similar, with Nami in the alternative, but it can get difficult depending on what they trigger from life. Turn one Nami, turn two Sanji, and 7k attack or 5k attack with Nami and 6k with leader; turn 3 attack 6k with Frankie and 7k with leader; from turn 4 you need to really start pushing for their life, playing more rush units and focusing on 7k attacks when it is Don!! efficient.

I ended up letting a game slip away against Zoro in the final due to my carelessness in dealing with my opponent's board, believing that I could do lethal damage. This is a really interesting matchup. For me, the key to winning is to spam 6K attacks and develop too wide of a board for the zoro to respond. The key cards for this strategy are again the rush units, which allow SB to be aggressive while countering important damage while being really Don!! efficient. Also, don’t be afraid to take the life when they swing for it in the first turns.

At the end of the day you have to understand what every deck wants to do and try to make them as uncomfortable as possible in their attempt to do so.

Message

I want to thank my entire local community, especially Alexandre Lomba, owner of the Goblin Hero Store, for promoting and helping to create a truly competitive and, at the same time, healthy and fun gaming environment.

The old man continues to be a top-tier deck for OP-05; I don't see that changing in any aspect. As mentioned previously, I believe Newgate only gets stronger, especially in fields where he is not expected. Expect to see him playing not only in local games but in any other tournament. If the old man is the leader in your heart as he is in mine, rest assured, he will continue to be successful and perform very well even in OP-06, I believe.

If anyone out there wants to share an idea, give their criticism, or make suggestions, they can find me on Twitter at @rafaelhvabreu.

Thank you very much, everyone. Good luck and good games!

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