The Guardian of the Ancient Seasonal Top 32 rounds have concluded, with Duckling claiming the NA shard crown and $10,000.
Decks were played with the following frequency. While the story would normally be about Azir/Irelia, Duckling’s novel deck choice stole the show.
Rubin's Pile 7
Turbo Thralls 5
Noxus Shurima Burn 5
Feel the Rush 2
Matron Cithria Combo 1
Shurima Burn 1
Noxus Invoke 1
Tahm Kench/Soraka 1
Targon's Peak 1
Getting into each round specifically now:
Round of 32
The broadcast starts off with the hotly anticipated match of Cephalopod vs MajiinBae, where both players have a long pedigree in tournament settings. Majiin in prior seasonal tournaments and Cephalapod being one of the most successful grassroots tournament players.
Cephalopod brought Trundle Lissandra control, Teemo Ezreal, and Deep, while Majiin brought Zoe Vi, Draven Ezreal, and the infamous Azir Irelia.
The players kick things off with an old school matchup with Draven Ezreal vs Deep.
Cephalopod is off to the depths quickly with double Dreg Dredgers and a Jettison, but Majiin has a close to ideal start with Ballistic Bot and both champions for some early aggression.
The players take it slow on turn 4, but Majiin develops Ezreal on turn 5, and Cephalopod hangs on with Vile Feast. The attack from Majiin levels Draven, and Cephalopod has an exceptionally clunky hand with all three copies of Nautilus.
A Devourer of the Depths stabilizes the position for Cephalopod, and he manages to make it to turn 7 with a clean board.
Both players develop a champion on turn 7, but Cephalopod’s Nautilus is over three times as large as Majiin’s Draven.
After three Devourer of the Depths on turn 8, Majiin is forced to chump-block away his entire board, and still is facing 27 power in play. A Tribeam Improbulator provides a glimmer of hope for Majiin, producing a Windfarer Hatchling, which would provide Majiin with lethal burn if it connected. But a Nautilus’s Riptide drags Majiin’s chances to the bottom of the sea.
Cephalopod is forced to swap decks to Teemo Ezreal, but Majiin stays with Draven Ezreal.
A Teemo from Cephalopod is killed on sight by a Thermogenic Beam, and both players develop a 2 drop: Ballistic Bot vs Veteran Investigator.
Hexcore Foundry is answered by Scorched Earth, but a trio of Veteran Investigators keeps the cards and damage flowing.
A second Hexcore Foundry sticks, but Majiin is able to build up a strong attack with Sump Dredger, Arachnid Sentry, and Draven. Cephalopod manages this with a Mystic Shot and blocking, and Majiin lets a Tribeam Improbulator for 7 rip, finding Overgrown Snapvine.
Majiin then fires off two more Tribeams, which finds something that instantly become Overgrown Snapvines themselves. This allows Cephalopod to develop a leveled Ezreal, surviving combat, and taking Majiin to 7. Majiin has lethal burn in hand, but Cephalopod also has lethal at burst speed and takes the win.
Round of 16
The broadcast moves to follow the most exciting lineup in the event: Duckling with Champion-less Spectral Matron Cithria, Teemo Ezreal, and TF Fizz. Against Briguy with Azir Irelia, Deep, and Taliyah Lissandra Thralls, where the players start with Teemo Ezreal vs Deep.
Briguy has triple Dreg Dredgers thanks to Stalking Shadows, but Duckling has turn 3 Hexcore Foundry, with double Puffcap Peddler and a Teemo. Briguy thankfully has an Abyssal Eye to stop Teemo from connecting, but the shrooms are flying!
A third Puffcap Peddler, and Duckling can simply vomit shrooms into Briguy’s Deck. Briguy goes from 0 shrooms to 27 in a single turn cycle, and dies on his next draw.
Both players swap decks, leaving Duckling on the Champion-less Matron Cithria deck and Briguy on Thralls.
Briguy is forced to play a Time in a Bottle on turn 3, having no Thrall to countdown.
Duckling simply plays Cursed Keeper into Spirit Leech.
While Duckling had a very mediocre start, he is building to the combo of Spectral Matron + Cithria Lady of the Clouds, and Briguy has no Thralls to be building to at all.
The first Matron on Cithria lands, and Duckling is far ahead, taking Briguy to 3.
Briguy finds his first Thrall on turn 9, but is far too behind for it to matter, and just dies on the next attack.
For the Quarterfinals, the broadcast focuses on two players featured in the Open Rounds. Jacowaco brought Azir Irelia, Ashe Leblanc, and Overwhelm, against Big Ogre’s Azir Irelia, Thralls, and Garen Sivir Midrange.
The players begin with Overwhelm and Garen Sivir, having both banned Azir Irelia.
Jacowaco has an early Preservarium to establish some advantage, and both players play Merciless Hunter on turn 3.
Big Ogre develops a Sivir, and a flurry of combat tricks follow. Exhaust is cast from both sides, and then Troll Chant and Sharpsight allow Sivir to eat Jacowaco’s Merciless Hunter. Jacowaco then develops a Ruin Runner and uses another Exhaust to kill the Sivir, but it is promptly replaced.
Jacowaco develops two units, but is caught by a Relentless Pursuit killing Renekton. He ends up just a few points short of being able to go for a Battle Fury lethal, letting Big Ogre get one final swing. Jacowaco, luckily draws Three Sisters, letting him barely survive. But it is still just short of lethal, and he dies on the next attack.
For the semifinals, we return to Duckling. His opponent is SirTurmund, another player in this event with a deck many players would disregard, having Tahm Kench Soraka.
Duckling has Champion-less Spectral Matron Cithria, Teemo Ezreal, and TF Fizz, while SirTurmund has TK Soraka, Thralls, and Azir Irelia.
The players begin on Thralls vs Teemo Ezreal.
Duckling starts off with the T1 Teemo that all control decks fear, and Thralls is no exception.
Double Puffcap Peddler means that when SirTirmund tries to Ice Shard away Teemo, Duckling can respond with a Teemo’s Mushroom Cloud, leveling him.
Sirtirmund does have a Blighted Ravine to try and stabilize, but Duckling has a tech card in Aftershock to answer, and Sirtirmund already has 64 puffcaps in his deck.
For a few more turns, Sirturmund is able to continue playing the game, but taking 3-5 damage a turn is just too much to fight through.
Duckling moves to his signature Matron Cithria, while Sirturmund remains on Thralls.
Unlike Duckling’s previous experience with this matchup, Sirturmund does have a Frozen Thrall, and gets it to only a single counter for a turn 5 Taliyah with Time in a Bottle to proc the first Thrall immediately.
Unfortunately for Sirturmund, while 8/8 overwhelms are strong, Duckling has a turn 6 Spectral Matron into Cithria thanks to two Mobilize, and thanks to the Mobilize, has a wide board to make use of the trigger as well.
Both of Sirturmund’s Thralls are challenged and killed by huge units from Duckling.
Sirturmund has a small glimmer of hope with a Lissandra, aiming for either a burnout win off Ice Shard, or eventually being able to play The Watcher. Unfortunately, Duckiling has a second Spectral Matron going too wide for Sirturmund to stay alive.
The two players in the finals are Jacowaco and Duckling, with their prior mentioned lineups of Azir Irelia, Ashe Leblanc, and Overwhelm against Champion-less Spectral Matron Cithria, Teemo Ezreal, and TF Fizz respectively.
The players start off with TF Fizz vs Overwhelm, and Duckling’s hand shows a clear plan with three Mystic shots and a turn 1 Fizz.
Jacowaco has his own aggression with a Ruthless Raider and a Merciless Hunter.
Jacowaco then continues to curve out with a Renekton, but Duckling just ignores the board and flings all the burn directly at Jacowaco.
With a second Fizz, Wiggly Burblefish, and an Iterative Improvement, and Duckling is just attacking for one off lethal with elusive.
While Jacowaco does have an open attack for lethal, Duckling already has a Get Excited and just fires it off for lethal.
Jacowaco remains on Overwhelm, while Duckling moves to Champless Spectral Matron Cithria.
Jacowaco has a slower start this game, with only Merciless Hunter into Renekton, while Duckling has decent stabilization with Cursed Keeper into Last Wind. While Duckling does have Spectral Matron, he is missing a Cithria Lady of the Clouds, and thus is missing the ability to combat tools like Battlefury from Jacowaco.
Duckling ends up going for some aggressive blocks to try and stabilize with a Radiant Guardian, but gets completely blown out by Troll Chant from Jacowaco.
Duckling tries to get a block out of Jacowaco, but just hits for 4 instead and Jaco develops two Ancient Yetis.
Thanks to a combination of Sharpsight and Single Combat, Duckling lives at 2 life through Battlefury and manages to find the Cithria he has been looking for all game.
With no board, he is reliant on the top of his deck to provide enough bodies to fight for the board back, but unfortunately finds a Spirit Leech, which is useless in the situation.
Duckling clears Jacowaco’s board and is left with a 12/12 Spectral Matron.
Jacowaco plays Rockhopper and Alpha Wildclaw, pushing lethal without even using the second Battlefury in hand.
The final game of the event is Ashe Leblanc vs the Duckling Special.
Duckling has the entire combo in hand on turn 1, even having Mobilize to speed the whole process up.
Jacowaco has an extremely aggressive start for Ashe Leblanc, having a Trifarian Gloryseeker and a Leblanc. Thanks to the Mobilize, and a Last Wind, Duckling is able to defend with a turn 4 activated Radiant Guardian.
Jacowaco then plays a Trifarian assessor, building to a better late game. He then tries to kill a 0/1 for free with his Gloryseeker, but is punished with a Glimpse Beyond.
Duckling draws a Mobilize, speeding up the combo by another turn, letting it happen on the very next turn.
With almost 40/40 in stats, Duckling runs over Jacowaco’s board, despite any resistance put up.
The event ends with a perfect story finish, with Duckling’s novel deck that he has been working on for multiple months being rewarded on the biggest stage yet. Hopefully, the story can continue at Worlds later this year and Duckling can find success there with Spectral Matron Cithria. While the spotlight is on Duckling for the off-meta deck choice, three other players directly qualified for Worlds and we should remember their success:
And more generally, all the members of the Top 32 should be applauded for their strong finish.