Hey everyone! Androod here taking a look at some potential sweet new decks that are made possible by Dead of Winter. With new sets come new brews and I’ve been itching to get started since the beginning of spoiler season. What I have for you today is a few points I’ve been kicking around waiting for the new set to drop. Without further adieu let’s hop right in!
Verdict is a mechanic I’ve heard a lot of varying opinions on. While the mechanic in a vacuum is not very powerful since your opponent gets to choose and will likely have a choice that isn’t greatly impactful presented to them I think there is some potential here. The Hex design team has made it very clear that single instances of verdict are not intended to be powerful. Many verdict cards have either a repeatable trigger, multiple instances of the keyword, or simply have the word verdict stapled onto a card that could still be reasonable otherwise. All these factors give us the workings of a reasonable engine which brings me to the following shell that has a few things going for it.
4x Sunrise Specter 4x Dawn Charger 4x Umbral Guard – Gems: 4x Minor Blood of Tombs 2x Day Rider
4x Blood Ice 5x Blood Shard 4x Diamond Ice 4x Wax Sacrament 4x Well of Retribution
The deck has a low-curve, proactive game plan which is always a bonus in a new format.
The deck is FULL of fateweave meaning it’s going to have a wide range of keepable opening hands and be able to consistently make plays every turn.
It is more than happy to take a nightfall or daybreak off of a verdict trigger due to Day Rider and Dawn Charger
It is an aggressive game plan with a bit of reach. It is not unreasonable to think Umbral Guard can get buffed up to 5 ATK between the Minor gem of Tombs, Gloaming Edict, and verdicts. This means your verdict triggers are hitting the face for five! In addition to this direct damage you also have the evasive troops in Hail Hawks, Sunrise Specter, and random Phantoms from verdicts.
Incidental life gain is also nothing to scoff at. The deck has ways to gain little bits of life between Daybreaks, Sunrise Specter, and Guiding Light.
Dawn Charger also has a lot of synergy with the rest of the shell. Bouncing our Guiding Light over and over gives us repeatable fateweave which means control over our draw step and more Hail Hawks. Even when it has to bounce itself it triggers additional verdicts off the Gloaming Edict. These combined with the whole being a 4/4 for two thing bring a lot to the deck.
Zeddek’s cheap charge power lets us get away with playing some chargeless Wax Sacraments. These free bodies can act as roadblocks when we are racing another aggressive deck or even grow a little bigger with our verdict triggers and be a real threat against a control deck.
The Pippet revolution is upon us! Corey has been Jonesing for a good transform deck and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these new additions where from him bribing Burkhart to make it happen. I tried REAL hard last season to make a Puff deck work but it just didn’t have all the pieces. However we got some new toys with Dead of Winter so let us take a look at what this shell could look like!
Champion: Puff the Rainbow
4x Merrymaker 4x Whimsy’s Familiar 4x Party Fungi 4x Sour Grum’puss 3x Vision of Zeota 4x Whimsy Witch 4x Changeling Cuties 3x Jinglejinx Witch – Gems: 4x Major Sapphire of Clarity
4x Evaporate 4x Runebind 2x Jubilant Destiny
4x Ludicrous Libations 4x Sapphire Ice 4x Sapphire Shard 4x Well of Instinct 4x Wild Ice
This is an archetype that is hard to evaluate without getting a feel for it first hand since it has not really existed before but it has some cool tools and synergies.
The curve in this deck is obnoxiously low. Especially when you throw a Major gem of Clarity in the Jinglejinx Witch to make it a two cost. Eight upgradable one cost troops backed up by Runebind and Evaporate leads to some fast openers.
Our Drop of Whimsy from Ludicrous Libration combos nicely with our Puff power giving us a free upgrade to a five cost troop. I wouldn’t be surprised if this interaction is what prompted the Puff nerf lowering the cost of the Butterfly and increasing the activation cost.
This deck has a high level of synergy but individually weak cards. When this thing is firing on all cylinders it can steamroll someone but it won’t have much in terms of come back potential.
Merrymaker is a great addition that the archetype did not have last season. It was hurting for more recurring transforms and this one drop fits that bill while being relativly easy to enable with Ice and Vision.
I’m not convinced Runebind is a great card for this deck but wanted to try it before dismissing it. There is notable anti-synergy with Vision of Zeota giving the opponent the ability to Fateweave a resource and Mat Bimonte’s vanity card Sour Grump’puss preventing our own cards from returning to their normal state.
Candles is a deck that never really caught fire. It saw some play shortly after the release of Frostheart but was quickly pushed out by Eternal Seeker and Lazgar’s Vengeance. Now that Lazgar’s is banned and Kagu has rotated it may be time to bust out these cute little fire hazards again. Below is what I would consider a reasonable starting point.
Champion: Cassia Goldenlight
4x Scion of Lyvaanth 2x Lyvaanth
4x Guidance 4x Light the Votives 2x Return to Cinder 4x Wrath of Elements 4x Runic Candescence 4x Wax Dawn 2x Wings of Wax 3x Confession of Embers 4x Choir of Lumos
4x Diamond Ice 4x Diamond Shard 4x Ruby Ice 3x Ruby Shard 4x Wax Sacrament 4x Well of Conquest
Dead of Winter gave us quite a few of quality Illuminate cards. If the last few seasons have taught us anything it’s that cost reduction should be respected and Choir of Lumos gives us the potential to have a heavily reduced Illuminate three. It is almost arguable you should just be playing Wax Sacrament in any diamond deck and it’s obviously much stronger in this shell than any other.
Wrath of elements is the best piece of removal we have seen in a long time (ever?) but due to its elemental stipulation this is one of the only decks that can really abuse that. Combined with Return to Cinder and Confession of Embers Candles has access to some top shelf removal. Note that it can also be used to get rid of pesky constants and artifacts.
Confession of Embers also combos nicely with Lyvaanth himself. This dragon doesn’t mind taking a hit for three and gives us a few candlekin for our troubles.
This deck also has an easier time refueling than most aggressive decks. A Light the Votives into a Confession of Embers can bring your board from 0 to 100 real quick when the game enters top deck mode.
Wings of Wax also gives us a nice bit of evasion by letting our candles take to the air with Lyvaanth
Rotation is always an exciting time, no one knows what is good, bad, or otherwise but hopefully this is a good starting point. Dead of winter brought us some exciting new mechanics as well as new tools for existing ones. I look forward to experimenting with these new cards and hopefully bringing you all some new brews once the set releases. Happy hexing!
Hey everybody, Androod here with a sweet new spoiler! However, first let us take a look at a few cards that have always been on the fringe of standard.
Both of these cards have the powerful mechanic of gaining control of an opposing card. This action is inherently a two-for-one since it takes a card from our opponent and forces them to invest another one to deal with the stolen card. The problem with these two cards is that they don’t consistently get to achieve this.
Playtime uses the ever room dividing “punisher” mechanic which gives your opponent the choice which means you are not usually going to get the card you target. While Lapidary has to sit on the board for a turn and connect in combat. Both of these can be hard to accomplish especially when behind but have some amount of constructed history despite this proving the power of stealing opposing cards.
Luckily the card I have for you today doesn’t suffer from either of these problems and pulls a troop over to your side of the board with no questions asked. My Dead of Winter spoiler for you today is Heartsworn Mordrom!
This card has A LOT going for it. The most important thing about this card that you may miss at first glance is that payment power is a square. Yes, this power is activated by paying five charges not resources! This means he can come down and activate right away with no additional resources. If you are using the recently spoiled Frostshaper Gorkrog as your champion it gives you the fifth charge itself meaning it can be activated right away on turn four.
Initial thoughts may have you thinking that the three cost limit on what it can steal is restrictive but you have to remember we live in a Crusader standard. The crusaders are arguably the best cards in standard and have been for awhile and this guy can take them both as well as count towards our deck building requirement for Underworld Crusader. Other powerful hits include Emsee and Scion on Lyvaanth.
We still have a lot of spoiler season to go and the Necrotic side of things has not had a ton a spoiled yet but I am anxious to see what else Hex is hiding from us. I envision Mordrom sliding in along side “Lixil, Heartsworn” and Underworld Crusader. The racial payoffs like Sepulchra Crypt Dust and Prodigy of Volosolov are rotating but I have faith we are going to see some new ones. The Necrotic race is pushed with a dedicated champion and Lixil being in the spot light story wise.
On the other hand we have the option of going the Ruby Sapphire route and taking advantage of the Major Galvanism gem with our charge based payment powers. Currently Naagan Lapidary is our only Necrotic with a Major Socket which is a little lack luster with only 2 ATK but we still have some spoiler season to go. Webborn Apostate is another great charge generator we have available to us.
The Necrotic have always been my favorite race in Hex and I’m glad to see them getting some love to stay relevant through rotation. I look forward to spending far too many hours trying different builds to take advantage of the racial pay offs and charge payment powers.
Charge costed payment powers have the potential to be incredibly powerful. Between Mordrom and the new “Lixil, Heartsworn” Hex has proven they are willing to experiment with alternative resources and I am loving it. A long standing question with card evaluation has been “how many charges equal a card” and I think that is going to become very clear with this set. I don’t think we have enough information to start brewing with these cards yet but I think a Blood/Sapphire Necrotic deck is practically begging to be made with the pieces we are starting to see.
So, I’ve written about Haraza Ardent decks and Turbo-PA. Uh, soo…last bash had 25 Haraza decks, and the turbo-PA decks won 68% of their matches. The only other deck with over 5 entries were 9 valiant BW Kagulichu decks who clocked in at a whopping 41% win percentage. Roughly speaking, this puts the state of the format at: Turbo-PA beats everything but Ardent, and Ardent beats Turbo-PA while also being an aggressive/straightforward deck that punishes slow draws.
I’m not here to tell you I’ve found the deck that beats Turbo-PA and Haraza Ardent. Because I have not. What we do have is a deck that is fun as hell to play, favored against Ardent and a lot of other stuff, and not favored against Turbo-PA. I’m going to repeat this, and also probably write 500 words on it in a later section: This deck is not favored against Turbo-PA. Best case it’s about a 60/40 underdog.
Credit where credit’s due: This is a fusion of the player Yasi’s “Crow Combo” deck and an old idea for Reanimator. One of the things I like to do as a deckbuilder is, any time I see an interesting deck on the ladder, just play it and try to figure out: Is there a part of this that’s powerful and re-usable, and if so, what’s the right shell for that powerful component. So let’s take a look at Crow Combo:
This deck is cheating resource cost in two ways: first, by putting big troops in the crypt and reanimating them, and second, by using Coralcove Witch’s -2 Cost power to play cards like Eternal Seeker ahead of schedule. Finally, if you reduce the cost of Sorcerous Sculpting to 0, and sculpting a Crowbones, that sculpted crowbones can return the 0-cost sculpting to your hand, giving you infinite 3/3 flying speed troops. Cute, huh?
Problem is that the best decks in the format are killing you fast, and playing a 6-drop is probably a bit too slow. Playing Yasi’s version, I felt like I had too many clunky cards, but boy was reanimating an Eternal Seeker on 4 great. And going Coralcove Witch on 4 into Seeker on 5 was also great. Once I had a seeker out, it was easy to get more seeker triggers with Sorcerous Sculpting and Runebind, and it felt like I couldn’t lose.
Unfortunately, the Hex Devs have forbidden me from putting 7 or 8 Eternal Seekers in one deck. However, there’s a card that does a remarkably okay Seeker impression against decks that are light on removal: Chronodaemon. So what if we just focused on a simple game play: delay for the first 3-4 turns, and then wipe their board repeatedly while playing enormous fatties on 4, 5, 6, etc? Here’s the result:
This deck has almost all 4-ofs (good sign), and the cards break down as follows:
Arcane Focus, Change Course and Heart’s Whisper help us filter through our deck. The first few turns, we’re just trying to slow the opponent down and set up a board wipe. All of these cards have some other uses, but mostly they’re there to make sure that on turn 4 or 5 we can do something dumb.
These cards enter the battlefield and immediately stabilize a board. In a world where Massacre and Clash of Steel are the best action-based board wipes, it’s almost hilarious how much better these troops are. They clean up the best threats and also present a clock. But obviously, we’re not going to be paying 7 and 8 resources for them. That would be too honest.
…and cheating costs pays off. Mordom’s gift, gemmed with Major Sapphire of Clarity, allows us to reanimate a troop from the crypt (ideally one of these big bad boys) on turn 4, after using our champion power or Change Course to put it there. Sorcerous Sculpting lets us run out copy after copy of these troops until our opponent stops playing. And Coralcove Witch provides a reasonable ambush blocker (quick 2/4) that simultaneously allows us to hard-cast Seeker on 5, or store up resources for a future turn by making interaction or filtering cheaper.
We gem Sorcerous Sculpting with Major Sapphire of Sorcery because then it’s a Sorcerous Sculpting of Sorcery. Also because we can discard the extra action created with our champion power if it’s bad.
Finally, we play 4 transmogrifade, because we’re trying to stall, and it’s efficient and cheap removal. Nice and easy, right?
How to Play It
This deck packs more value than any other popular deck in the game. If the game goes long, you will be getting 5 or 6 seeker and chronodaemon triggers, while slamming 5/5 and 6/6 fliers onto the battlefield and doing grotesque and unfortunate things with runebind. But it’s also a board-wipe deck – it doesn’t aim to counter everything your opponent does, just clear it off the board. So against decks that have potent action-based threats, remember that you do need to actually kill them.
Your #1 priority is to set up something silly to do on turn 4 or turn 5. Your #2 priority is to slow down your opponents’ primary game plan. Try to spend your resources efficiently, because in the games where you do, you will probably win.
Our reserves are pretty simple. We’re rarely changing more than a half-dozen cards in our deck because its game plan is pretty solid.
These are all cards we play to give our deck some more early-game plays. Cheap Shot is a great way to have stuff to do in the early turns vs. aggressive decks. It frequently gains you some life by producing a blocker, and it can eliminate threats like Intrepid Conjurer, Righteous Outlaw and Wartorn General.
Verdict of the Ancient Kings and Confounding Ire help us deal with action-based decks like Furiko, as well as Culmination in Blood and other problematic actions.
Aegilus is here because some decks have a relatively easy time removing Chronodaemon…but have absolutely no answer for double Aegilus.
Finally, we have a legion of unblockable troops because I haven’t found a better way to deal with Turbo-PA other than trying to kill them through their infinite blockers.
Haraza Ardent (…and other aggressive decks):
We are close to pre-boarded for this matchup – with 7 cards that wipe their board (and clear their banner), we are a strong favorite. Most notably, current Haraza builds eschew removal and interaction, which means that Chronodaemon is just a 6/6 that wipes their board. Post-board, we want to make ourselves a little bit more robust to interaction and also bring our curve down a little bit:
-1 Sorcerous Sculpting
-1 Heart’s Whisper
+2 Cheap Shot
Cheap shot lines up well with Wartorn General and Intrepid Conjurer, while also provided a body to throw in front of things. Aegilus is more resilient than Chronodaemon to removal, and also effectively blanks their troops. These matchups tend to be good for us – post Lazgar’s ban, most decks are a little bit too slow to effectively get under our cheated-out fatties
BW Kagulichu (…and any blood-based grindy deck)
Kagulichu was a powerful deck because of its ability to play effective 3-drops with deathcries (Promiscuous Succubus, Rune-Ear Heirophant and Underworld Crusader), as well as interaction (Strangle, Herofall) and, most importantly, being able to Rotten Rancor an Eternal Seeker on turn 5.
I am here to tell you that we are much, much better at cheating out Eternal Seekers than BW Kagu, and that voiding all of their 3-drops is an absolute beating. In this matchup, you need to: not let culmination in blood resolve and not let your Eternal Seeker get Herofall’d. If you do this, you will very likely win. This matchup is great (…most of our midrange matchups are great).
Because we’re just throwing bombs, Aegilus is better than Chronodemon. Eternal Seeker is the only way they have to get double-Aegilus off the table, and we have ample ways to interact with it. We trim some transmogrifades to make room for hard counters for culmination in blood.
+2 Confounding Ire
This matchup is very tough, because you are actually the beatdown here. Given enough time, they are going to draw cards and build up a critical mass of runebinds, and arcane soil/hero power you for a million damage. We are a board wipe deck, and they’re a deck that can win from hand.
However, if you don’t get Arcane Soil’d, this matchup is virtually impossible to lose. So we’re going to bring in 4 hard counters to Arcane Soil. We bring in Aegilus because it also addresses their primary game plan of combo-ing us from hand. While they have a lot of ways to deal with it (their own Transmogrifades, Pippit Hustler), it forces them to have more interaction.
+2 Verdict of the Ancient Kings
+2 Confounding Ire
Easy matchup. All our board wipes hit constants. Whee! Just make life a little bit better in the post-board:
+2 Verdict of the Ancient Kings
+2 Confounding Ire (…they’re usually blood)
…well, we saved this one for last because I have the most to say about it. First, let me say that this matchup is bad. Not unwinnable bad, but nothing I can do to get it over 50% when both decks are played by good players. I have tried, with little success:
Fifth Book of D’Harsis: It turns out that spending 6 resources just to make sure your opponent won’t cast Psychic Ascension isn’t really worth it. They are going to murder you with candles.
Demented Ascension, The Librarian, Cult of the Nameless City: While you sometimes get to have a lot of fun screwing with fateweave, this isn’t close to fast enough. These are long-term game plans against a speedy combo deck.
Interacting With Them (Subterfuge, Indigo Trickster with Speed Gem, Verdict of the Ancient Kings, Transmogrifade, Massacre): They have more redundancy and card draw than you do. If the game goes on long enough, they’re going to do their thing – without a good clock, this disruption isn’t a winning plan.
Tribunal Magistrate and Blight Knight: Too slow, and too easy to interact with for them. Good Turbo-PA players know these are coming and can play around them easily.
Bogberg, the Great Gobbler: …desperate times, desperate measures. I just wanted you to know how deep the attempts went.
Looking at my reserves, I bet you can guess what game plan I settled on: Over whelm them with threats and pressure their life total. Underworld Officer and Rizzix effectively act as reach, and you will rarely have problems casting Rizzix on 3 against them (plenty of cards in the crypt). You want to slam these cards on the table and race. We play 3 Rizzix because he’s unique and significantly worse with Sorcerous Sculpting. When this primary plan (play unblockables) does not work, Turbo-PA can also stumble by lacking the interaction required to stop our flying fatties from resolving.
In this matchup, you want to focus on establishing an early threat, and then forcing your reanimation actions through. You are the beatdown – eventually, they’re going to ascend and make arbitrary numbers blockers/damage. You need to kill them. Here’s the board I settled on – this matchup is not great, but you can punish stumbles:
–1 Sorcerous Sculpting
-2 Coralcove Witch
+4 Underworld Officer
Tips and Tricks
This deck is the best Runebind deck in Hex, and it cheats resources in a weird way. It’s tough to play. So here are some tips that might help you:
Two Aegiluses are a hard lock against decks that can only destroy troops (most non-sapphire/diamond decks). Use Sorcerous Sculpting to get two Aegiluses into play as soon as you can against aggressive decks.
Aegilus doesn’t make you immune to life loss, like Necropolis Coin. It does make you immune to damage. Note that you can also die from running out of cards in your deck.
Runebind can save your giant troops from removal. If you can afford to, don’t reanimate them until you can protect them.
Runebind can re-buy triggers from Chronodaemon and Eternal Seeker, enabling multiple board wipes. Notably, Runebinding Chronodaemon doesn’t give them their board back, because it hasn’t left the board yet. When it reverts and you re-cast it, it will give them their stuff back…at which point you can promptly remove it all again.
Remember that you can runebind opponents’ actions, and then void them with Chronodaemon and Seeker. This is a reasonable way not to get Culmination in Blood-ed.
Sapphire decks have relatively few ways of getting their stuff back from Chronodaemon – transformation effects don’t do it.
If you think you’re about to get into a Runebind fight, you can give yourself some edges:
Leave up resources for Change Course – if somebody Runebinds your Runebind on the chain, you can get another one into your hand at quick speed and revert/replay it.
Fateweave a resource to the top of your deck and use your hero power to draw it.
Use Arcane Focus or Heart’s Whisper to find a resource to re-flip your
In general, don’t put troops into your crypt until you’re about to reanimate them – you’re just turning on your opponent’s crypt hate or Culmination in Blood.
Coralcove Witch can also be used to give Spellshield to one of your fatties – it and runebind are very important against blood-based Herofall decks for this reason.
Mordrom’s Gift and Sorcerous Sculpting grant the gemmed powers to the targeted troop. This comes into play in a few ways:
A Sorcerous Sculpting’d troop is better than the original. If you reanimate it, it will give you another random action. If you Sculpting it again, it will give you two random actions.
Casting Mordrom’s Gift repeatedly lowers the resource cost of a card. When you can, try not to have too many cards of the same resource cost on the board; you never know when you’re going to need to cast Eternal Seeker for that number.
Feel free to tuck an Eternal Seeker or two under your Chronodaemon. This puts your opponent in a bad spot: Either his board is gone forever, or when he gets it back you get to get rid of some of it with your new Eternal Seeker triggers.
…this deck is super fun. I don’t want to mislead you – it’s not unbeatable by any stretch, and I think I’ve laid out its weaknesses: if your opponent is playing to the board, it’s an excellent deck. If they’re not, it’s less good because the fatties we currently have selected don’t help much.
However, I also expect this deck to be consistently good in the future: It’s only losing Arcane Focus, Transmogrifade and Chronodaemon at rotation. As it’s in Sapphire, I expect that Arcane Focus’s filtering will be replaceable (perhaps with Theorize), and that there will be some cheap, efficient blood removal or interaction to replace Transmogrifade. If the format slows down and a dual-shard appears, it may even be reasonable to maindeck Herofall and take a more controlling role. Finally, Chronodaemon is only dramatically better than Aegilus vs. Turbo-PA, a deck which preys on this deck. If you’re budget-conscious, I’d recommend replacing Chronodaemon with Aegilus maindeck, and playing Shackling Strands. The rest of this deck should be a staple of this format for a while.
Greetings Hex enthusiasts! Today I am thrilled to share an exclusive Dead of Winter spoiler with you all that I’m sure will make you think of another Standard all-star. Hex Standard players are no stranger to the artifacts from Nulzann, and this new addition will be right at home with its brethren:
Welcoming the first socketed spoiler of the new set, Dark Desire of Nulzann is strongly reminiscent of Dark Heart of Nulzann, which brings a huge level of power to whatever deck it becomes a part of. For this set, however, the Nulzann legendary is letting our opponents keep their cards, while giving us more!
Sadly, though, I am worried that this card may be lost by the wayside when compared to its dark-hearted counterpart in Standard; lacking the ability to remove cards from our opponent’s battlefield, I fear, is a large setback, even when able to copy socketed abilities. Compared to Dark Heart of Nulzann, this card lacks any striking evidence of immediate playability beyond the copy effect. It just seems like any old double-socketed card that could potentially see play in the right environment. Now, if we were to give it a bit of a push with, say, double Major sockets or something, perhaps you could gain my attention.
Welcome the first-ever double-Major socketed card to Hex! Color me excited, for sure!
Let’s break down this new artifact:
Two Major sockets, which can also be socketed with Minor gems, if wanted.
Colorless – like Dark Heart of Nulzann, this can be slotted into a large number of decks.
Copies itself – think Spiders, but actually good for you!
Created copies have Major sockets – particularly good for mono-shard decks.
When evaluating this card, we have to remember that is not like Mad Robomancer – copies of Dark Desire of Nulzann will grant two random Major gems that match thresholds you have available (think Warpsteel Shardsworn). This makes mono-shard decks particularly interesting, since you can be guaranteed of the gems that will be socketed in later copies.
Now, let’s remember the current round of Gems in Standard:
If I did the math correctly, there are 190 possible gem combinations for Dark Desire of Nulzann! That said, there are a few places where I really think Dark Desire of Nulzann can shine and augment the new world of post-rotation Standard.
The first level of thought will be mono-shard strategies, as alluded to above. I think that mono-Ruby is the de-facto choice for this, with double damage and charge increase being extremely powerful with champions like Haraza. That said, I see strong potential in mono-Blood and mono-Diamond builds using Dark Desire of Nulzann, as well.
Speaking of Haraza, where I really see this card shining from the get-go is in a sockets-oriented deck. Haraza has already proven to be a great home for socketed cards, and players have found the Ruby-Diamond variants of Haraza sockets to be most effective in the current Standard metagame. With Sentry of Nulzann and Altar of Nulzann sticking around in Standard, this archetype will likely be the best day-one home for making our dark desires known. Given that Dark Desire of Nulzann creates copies of itself when deployed – and the Major gems in Ruby and Diamond are all powerful in this deck, even if randomly granted – we never need a full four copies in any deck. One or two will do just fine, which is perfect when a Sockets deck builder needs as many different socketed cards as possible to make Emsee an inclusion in the deck. In Ruby-Diamond sockets alone, we have multiple combinations of Major and Minor gems to power Dark Desire of Nulzann; I’m sure that Sockets players can find a home for a strong attacker and blocker with two Major sockets in Ruby-Diamond. There’s no reason to believe this deck is going anywhere, so look out for it alongside Dark Desire of Nulzann soon!
While Ruby-Diamond is one of the current mainstays in Standard, perhaps Dark Desire of Nulzann would thrive in a different type of already-existing core – one where we can draw a lot of cards to get multiple copies of Dark Desire of Nulzann on the battlefield. Where do we naturally go to draw all the cards? Sapphire! And of course, when given the choice for sockets and champions that blend well with Sapphire, Diamond lends itself to some great synergies that I feel could fuel our malicious deeds:
With a large toolbox of strong effects, and the potential of being able to cast this for only 3 resources, I’m confident that deck builders will be able to find a combination of Sapphire and Diamond cards that can help make the most out of Dark Desire of Nulzann in the upcoming standard meta.
Finally, I want to take a swing out into left field and try something That we haven’t seen in Standard yet. We’ve been gifted some really powerful cards and effects in Blood-Ruby with the spoilers we know now; consider a core of cards that would start with the following:
While obviously untested and unproven (plus, who knows what lies ahead in this set’s spoilers), I see a lot of potential in a new Blood-Ruby deck; perhaps it’s a strong midrange deck with the cards above utilizing Haraza instead of the newly-spoiled Venoma of the Nox, and perhaps it’s a more sockets-oriented Blood-Ruby strategy where Dark Desire of Nulzann shines. Either way, I’m definitely excited to try out some Blood-Ruby builds with Dark Desire of Nulzann and see where the deck-brewing winds take me!
Whatever the home(s) end up being for Dark Desire of Nulzann, one thing is for sure – I believe that it has a place in post-Dead of Winter Standard, and I am convinced it will be a powerful threat from day one. What does malice truly want? I think we’re all about to learn together.
What do you think? Is Dark Desire of Nulzann here to stay, or do you think it will fade into the abyss? Leave a comment with your thoughts!
I thank you, as always, for reading, and enjoy the rest of spoiler season!
Hello again Androod here! Class is back in session here at the Academy of Cerulea, where we dive into game theory and more advanced play concepts. Today’s lesson is going to be about effective use of your reserves. A lot of players tend to treat their reserves as an afterthought when building a new deck, and I’m guilty of this myself on occasion. Reserves are just as important as your main deck, however, since they come into play in at least half of your matches. So let us take a look at how to sharpen our fifteen-card tool.
Making your deck able to be effectively reserved is the first step. Below you will see a reanimator deck I tinkered around with for a bit. The deck has a lot of synergy between the underworld races and gets to take advantage of two racial shards, both of which are very appealing. The problem is that this deck cannot make use of many reserves slots. It needs to keep racial counts high for two different races and Mistress of Bones and Machinations both rely on a high underworld count.
These conditions mean our deck gets a very minor power boost from swapping out individual slots in reserves since they weaken the overall game plan of our deck. The ideal situation for reserves is taking out an F and replacing it with an A+ and that just simply isn’t possible with this configuration since we need so many cards just to make our deck function. For example we know Exarch of the Egg is bad against control decks but if we take it out our resources don’t work.
Above you see how we alleviate some of these issues. We have removed some of the need for a dense troop count. We have slightly reduced our deck’s solitaire power but have greatly increased its matchups in a diverse meta. This list acknowledges we may need to take out some of our troops in reserves by replacing the machinations with more consistently powered removal and having a Tribunal Magistrate to take the place of Exarch of the Egg in control matchups.
Having the correct number of cards
Sometimes when discovering a bad matchup the first response is “oh I’ll just throw four X in my reserves and it will be fine.” This is not an effective approach. When making a reserves plan for a new matchup you should first evaluate what cards you do not want from your main deck. For example, if you put six copies of cheap removal in your reserves because you think mono Ruby is a poor matchup, but you only have five cards from your main deck you really do not want the sixth slot is sort of going to waste. As we stated earlier, reserves ideally upgrade an F to an A+. Sure, you can probably find a sixth card to swap out if you have to, but it is likely upgrading a B to an A+ which probably isn’t worth the slot and can make you short a card somewhere else forcing you to leave in an F.
Something the Hex Heroes testing team does before every event is work together to come up with a reserving guide for every matchup we can think of writing down what comes in and what goes out. Doing this helps you identify matchups you have too many or too few slots and really helps optimize your slots. This isn’t something that needs to be elaborate and professional looking.
Recognizing you do not have as many slots that you want to spare for a matchup can also change the cards in your reserves. For example: Redlings can only spare so many slots for DS Control that do not deal damage to the opponent so we have to make sure those slots are punching the clock and working overtime when we bring them in. Culmination of Blood fits this description perfectly by having an immediate and powerful impact on the game.
CHANGE YOUR FREAKING SOCKETS
Sockets are easily my favorite aspect of deckbuilding in Hex. They take deck design a step further allowing cards to function differently across multiple archetypes. Much like main deck cards your main deck slots may not be ideal for the matchup. Far too often I see people neglect to consider changing them during reserves. Below are a few examples of how effective this can be.
1.) On the draw in a Redlings mirror? Change your underworld Crusaders from Speed to Gladiator 1. This has directly won me a number of games by correctly addressing that I am on defense by going second. My Crusaders are able to block the opponents Crusaders and Matriarchs more efficiently and most importantly they are able to survive opposing Lazgar’s Vengeance.
2.) Playing reanimator vs DS control? During testing for the CCS we had Hogarth as a reserves card for the DS control matchup. When Hogarth came in when changed Mordrom’s Gift from -1 cost to Speed to be able to catch the opponent off guard and transform our champion the same turn.
These changes and other similar ones can give you an edge in a matchup for absolutely zero slot investment in the reserves which is huge!
Identifying what matters
Are you just trying to survive till a key turn? Do you just need a little more tempo on the draw? Or do you just need to run them out of cards? Properly identifying what matters in a matchup is key to identifying what cards you include in your reserves to help you out. Let’s look at a few examples.
Redlings VS Mono Ruby
As the Redlings player I could look at cards like Herofall or Primordial Sabretooth to handle the large threats like Matriarch of Flame and Mama Yeti but those aren’t the cards that are deciding the game. This is a matchup where both sides are just looking to kill each other as fast as possible, preferably with little interaction. Matchups like this are typically decided by tempo and who gets out of the gate quicker which is a tall order for the player on the draw. By correctly identifying that our role in this matchup is to slow my opponent down and steal their tempo we find Runic Missile being an all star. This card removes every one cost troop in their deck as well as some of the twos and does all this for one resource. By allowing first turn interaction followed up by potentially free interaction on the following turns this card allows us to buy back huge amounts of tempo and swing the game in our favor.
BS Reanimator VS Sockets
As the Reanimator player your goal is typically to just get an Aeglius on the table and make sure it stays there. However the sockets deck put you in an interesting spot because they have a reasonable clock and have ways to remove a double Aeglius lock with Transmogrifade, Rune Bind, and Naagaan Lapidary which poses a problem for us. You could just bring in some ways to counteract their interaction like Verdict of the Ancient Kings but then you just die to their big troops while holding resources open. If we take a moment to analyze the matchup however we can see that the sockets deck needs a critical mass of stuff to be scary. It is easier for us to adjust our game plan to break up what they are doing instead of trying to defend ourselves. We adjust our play to focus on getting advantage with Eternal Seeker and bring cards like Chronodaemon and Into the Unknown to take them off their game plan. We take the role of the control deck and try and grind them out instead of trying to protect a cheesy victory.
Constructing effective reserves is a key component for competitive success. Properly preparing for a meta can mean all the difference between tournament success and failure. If you have any questions or comments please don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments section. Until next time class is dismissed!
Repeat after me: cost-reduction mechanics are busted. Behind every hilarious design mistake, behind every truly screwed-in-half deck, you will find a person who looked at a cost-reduction mechanic and innocently mused, “this seems fine.” The Hex Dev Team is very ambitious – they are always printing cards that reduce costs, and in the average deck, they’re usually fine. But, as brewers and deckbuilders, we should always be on the lookout for these mechanics – they can be used to propel the right deck far ahead of the field.
Cost Reduction in Hex
Don’t believe me? Let’s look at the last format, dominated by Ruby Tork, Slagpot Dreadlings, Diamond Sapphire Control, with a splash of Blood-Wild midrange in the form of Takahiro Deathcry or Kagulichu. Take a peek at the mechanics they employed.
Lazgar’s Vengeance: Nobody thought that 4-damage to the face and a board wipe should cost 0 resources. But that’s frequently what aggressive decks like Tork and Slagpot got to do. This card single-handedly rendered a dozen decks unplayable, and was one of the only recent bans in standard.
Culmination of Blood: Should you be able to empty your opponent’s hand, effectively locking the game up, as early as turn 4? Probably not. But that’s what decks like Kagu and Takahiro Deathcry could do, by creating a bunch of small troops, feeding them to sacrifice outlets like Emperor’s Lackey, powering out a game-ending effect before the game has gotten going.
Major Sapphire of Clarity: Dark Heart of Nulzann was a really good 5-drop the previous format. Turns out it’s an even better 4-drop. While this gem only reduces the cost of a thing by 1, we should always be on the lookout for places that matters – for example, it allows Sapphire-Diamond Sockets to re-buy an Animus of Nulzann with Bishop Elijah’s hero power.
Psychic Ascension: A 15-cost card that reads “Win the game, unless you’re embarrassingly far behind” isn’t very good – heck, we can already do that for 8 with Absolute Power. But with cantrips like Guidance and Arcane Focus able to cycle through our deck and reduce its cost, it frequently became reasonable to ascend for 5 or 6, holding up resources to spend to protect your action. This action has been a staple win condition for control decks since its initial printing.
Now let’s look at the current format. The most popular deck is Blood Wild Kagulichu, an innocent-looking pile of incredible cards: blood removal, powerful 3-cost cards like Underworld Crusader and Rune Ear Heirophant, and…cost reduction. That’s right – Rotten Rancor frequently lets you put a 7 or 8 cost troop onto the battlefield on turn 5. In the case of Eternal Seeker, it has a Lazgar’s-y effect: it can destroy an opponent’s big board and establish a huge blocker. This tempo swing, combined with the threat of Culmination of Blood, has lead this deck to take up 50% of the top-8 slots in bashes.
The biggest overperformer from last week’s bash, though, was RDent Sockets, which five people played, resulting in two 5-2 records, a 6-1 record, and two entries into the top 8. This deck has a wide range of draws, but the ones where your opponent is never had a chance tend to prominently feature Sentry of Nulzann. For a 1-resource investment, 19 troops in your deck all cost less, which often allows you to giddily spew your hand onto the table while your opponent is stuck honestly playing on curve.
What’s Busted Next: Cyclone Shaper Turbo-PA
So this deck began popping up on the ladder last week with an interesting fundamental idea: What if we just played 1-resource actions that filtered through our deck, Cyclone Shaper, and Psychic Ascension? In case you missed the theme of this article, Cyclone Shaper is a 3-cost flying coyotle that…reduces the cost of every action you play by 1. Eventually, all these actions find you a Psychic Ascension that costs virtually nothing, and the opponent is buried under an avalanche of cheap troops. Let’s go through this deck design, because it’s beautifully simple:
First, we’ve got all these cards that reduce the cost of our actions. Cyclone Shaper is the big payoff in this deck. With Cyclone Shaper and enough troops on board, you can play TWENTY-EIGHT of the actions in this deck for free.
As for Light the Votives and Thunderfield Seer…bet you thought that these were just great chump blockers that generated value. Little did you know that they allowed you access to extra resources! We play Cosmic Calling and Consult the Talon, so every troop on the board will usually give you about 2 free resources of cost reduction per turn. Light the Votives and Thunderfield Seer, plus candles from our champion Cassia Goldenlight, are both great ways to have access to far more effective resources than you should have.
Cards That We Play For Free (to find other cards)
With Cyclone Shaper out, these cards all cost 0. Notably, the card you find with Cosmic Calling will also have mobilize. So we can use that to make a Heart’s Whisper effectively also cost 0 (-1 from Cyclone Shaper, -2 from Mobilize). You want to use these cards to help you find your payoffs and smooth out your draws.
Cards That We Play for Free (for protection)
Runebind doubles as pseudo-removal (it will generally prevent you from taking damage from an opposing troop for two turns), as well as protection for Cyclone Shaper. Given that you’re an overwhelming favorite to win any game where Cyclone Shaper sticks to the board, the strong game plan against this deck is to try to keep Cyclone Shaper off it. Runebind lets you protect Cyclone Shaper for the low, low cost of 0 resources.
Evaporate, in this case, represents a 5th and 6th Runebind – it can buy us time, or protect Shaper. Transmogrifade is a flexible spell that can be used to delay aggressive decks until we can combo off with Cyclone Shaper.
Cards That We Play For Free (to draw more cards…to play for free…)
Consult The Talon, mobilized with 3 troops, costs 1. With Cyclone Shaper, it costs 0. A 0 cost action that draws 3 cards is pretty good. As a general rule, if you cast Consult the Talon with Cyclone Shaper out and it resolves, you’re going to run your opponent over with cards.
Heart’s Whisper…isn’t free. It costs a few cost. But, unlike just about every other card in our deck, it requires no enablers – neither Cyclone Shaper nor a troop for Mobilize. And sometimes it’s convenient to be able to draw more cards to set up a really big next turn.
Cards That We Play For Free (to win the game)
Psychic Ascension is the bomb of bombs. Even decks that don’t play an overwhelming amount of actions can use this to generate a reliable stream of troops and free actions. But our deck…our deck is all actions. And we can cast many of them a turn. The turn we play psychic ascension, we’ll usually create an incredibly wide board. The turn after, we probably kill our opponent. This deck is called Turbo-PA because it can power this card out as early as turn 3, and will regularly power it out by turn 5.
See? This is a deck that knows what it’s doing. It gets to play 18 resources because of its excellent selection and low curve, it plays 2 win conditions, some cards to cheat cost, and a whole ton of ways to find cards to cheat cost. This deck knows how to win TCGs.
Like any deck with a phenomenal Plan A, we don’t have a lot of cards to bring in and out in any given matchup. In general, we don’t want to mess with drawing cards, cheating cost, and winning the game (…after all, those are the only things we want to do) – we want to mess with the card we use to delay the game and protect our important pieces. So we’re usually looking at siding out some set of Transmogrifade, Evaporate or Runebind and siding in cards that are better in a particular matchup.
To anybody who read my article on RDent Sockets, we’re going to take an awfully similar approach to using reserves: Keep the pro-active cards the same, and change out the interaction to line up better with our opponent. Our options for alternative interaction are:
Transmogrifade and Martyr are flexible interaction for troops. Notably, always bring in martyr if you suspect Misery or Crackling Magma. Being able to preserve your board as well as be flexible maneuver is terrific. Into the Unknown gets brought in if the opponent has a specific troops(e.g. Wise Magistrate, Tribunal Magistrate, Vampire Princess) that’s incredible against us.
We also have specific answers targeted at decks that can interact with us: Confounding Ire for blood disruption, Tribunal Magistrate and Verdict of the Ancient Kings for control decks and the mirror.
Kagulichu is the midrange deck that beats other midrange decks. Thanks to powerful hand interaction like Culmination of Blood and Primordial Cockatwice, it can also grind out control decks. But, compared to what we’re doing, its cheating on cost is adorably honest – its best draws cheat out a 7 drop on turn 5. We might well have drawn our entire deck by then.
The only thing that’s scary for us in this matchup is Culmination of Blood, so we’re going to bring in Confounding Ire. This doubles as protection for Cyclone Shaper, and they usually board out removal (it’s a little embarrassing to strangle a candle):
+3 Confounding Ire
If the deck looks like it’s pre-boarded for this matchup, it’s because it is – Kagu has been the most popular deck at both of the previous bashes, and I imagine it will continue to be so, so it behooves us to be ready for it.
Mono-Blood Decks (Renner, Zorath)
I usually don’t mention these decks, as they’re not much of the metagame, but Mono-Blood decks, such as the one that placed 10th at last week’s bash, are some of the hardest decks to beat with Turbo-PA. They have some early disruption in the form of Withering Gaze, early evasive/disruptive threats like Vampire Prince and Vampire Princess, and actions that end the game in the form of Culmination of blood. Bride of the Damned will kill a card every turn. Finally, drawing your whole deck is a lot less fun when your deck is full of spiders from Xentoth’s Malice. Massacre’s one of the only genuinely clean answers to our board.
In this matchup, our goal is to keep Vampire Princess and Bride of the Damned off the table, build up card advantage, stick a cyclone shaper, and power out a Psychic Ascension. We want the Into the Unknowns and Confounding Ires in the reserves, and they’re going to replace less useful interaction. We’re also going to trim thunderfield seers, as 1/1s get picked on by Bride of the Damned.
+3 Into the Unknown
+3 Confounding Ire
-2 Thunderfield Seer
Control Decks (Dreaming Fox DS and Wintermoon)
These decks are basically byes. We are the beautiful, troop-less flower they wished they could be. Their removal is bad against us. Cards like Dark Heart of Nulzann are bad against us. They have to hold up resources to try to 1-for-1 us when our entire deck is filled with cards that draw other cards, and our interaction is cheaper.
In these matchups, Runebind is often bad – runebinding your cyclone shaper does not save you from Into the Unknown or Pippit Hustler. Further, you tend to have plenty of time to draw multiple shapers and bury them under a mountain of cards.
+2 Verdict of the Ancient Kings
+2 Tribunal Magistrate
Vs. Dreaming Fox
+3 Into the Unknown
The difference in boards here is because casting Into the Unknown on multi-shard cards Pippit Hustler, Brown Fox Scout or Windsinger generally results in the opponent getting more hustlers, scouts and Windsingers. Whereas casting it on Dark Heart of Nulzann generally results in the opponent getting resources and useless artifacts.
They are an aggressive, turn 6 or 7 combo deck. We are a turn 3-5 combo deck. This is a good place to be. But, as a general rule, this matchup goes to whoever gets to Consult the Talon more. In this matchup, we adjust our board to counter their high-impact actions like Arcane Soil. They generally don’t have enough pressure to beat us if they can’t resolve an Arcane Soil.
+2 Confounding Ire
+2 Verdict of the Ancient Kings
BD Constants Decks (Goot, Fateweave, etc)
This deck is actually sometimes tricky, because you can’t block Twilight Eclipse or Twilight Archon. Happily, we have plenty of space in our deck for scouring light, and these constants decks have plenty of extremely slow draws. We change our board to focus a little less on interacting with troops and a little more on interacting with constants.
These decks are surprisingly good matchups. We have plenty of blockers, and we combo off extremely fast. In these matchups, we’re just looking to bring in additional interaction, and worry a bit less about protecting Cyclone Shaper. It can be tough for aggressive decks to continually hold open resources on your turn.
-1 Heart’s Whisper
Cyclone Shaper Turbo PA (The Mirror)
You might be seeing this mirror a lot. Here’s what’s important: Game 1, one of you is going to stick a cyclone shaper, disrupt your opponent, and ascend first. That person is probably going to win, because you have almost no permament answers to an opposing cyclone shaper. Try to be the person who combos off first. In game 2, we board in more interaction and an alternate win con: Tribunal Magistrate.
+2 Verdict of the Ancient Kings
+2 Tribunal Magistrate
With our board, you want to use your verdicts to counter their big draw actions (Heart’s Whisper, Consult the Talon) and Psychic Ascension. If you manage to stick a Tribunal Magistrate, protect it at all costs – it is virtually impossible to lose with one on the table, as an ascending opponent will fill their deck with spiders and give you an unblockable army before they can kill you.
Tips & Tricks
This deck is all cantrips. It mulligans well. If your opening 7 doesn’t have 3 cards that are cantrips you can cast or resources (ice counts as 2 cards for these purposes), mulligan it.
Remember that un-exhausted troops= 2 resources. If you’re going to throw a candle in front of a charging Underworld Crusader, wait until it’s necessary, because that candle can generate a lot of resources first.
You can empower a Cyclone Shaper in your hand in response to a spell like Herofall which targets one on the battlefield. Empowered Cyclone Shaper has a different name from Cyclone Shaper, so it won’t be taken out of your hand.
Cyclone Shaper reduces the cost of actions in your hand by 1. Once they are cast, they still have the regular cost. So for the purposes of generating troops with Psychic Ascension, Consult the Talon will generate a 7-drop (…all of which are evasive), and most of your other cards will generate 1-drops
There is no Diamond-Sapphire 3-cost troop in Standard. Cosmic Calling will never generate a troop with psychic ascension.
Don’t forget your champion power. Either use it to get extra resources when you have a mobilize spell, or to power up a bunch of candles created by Light the Votives.
If the opponent doesn’t have pressure on the board, feel free to just poke and them with candles and draw cards. There’s rarely any hurry to combo off – in addition to being a fast combo deck, we are generally the better late-game deck.
Try to think about which troops you use to mobilize – do you need to use one as a chump blocker? Does cyclone shaper profitably block? Remember that Cosmic Calling is quick – you can do it after blocks or at the end of the opponents’ turn.
If you see Crackling Magma or Misery out of your opponent, make sure to bring in Martyr – not only is it mostly unconditional removal, it can save your 1/1s from dying.
This was a bit of a two part article – I wanted to talk about how, as a brewer, you should always be on the lookout for cost reduction mechanics, and I wanted to show an example of an incredibly powerful new deck that exploits a couple of them (Cyclone Shaper, Mobilize, and Psychic Ascension).
The deck itself involves a lot of decision making, draws a ton of cards, and has aggressive draws that can race even the fastest decks in the format. It is also the deck that I think will probably break the stranglehold that Kagulichu decks currently have on the format…by doing something even sillier.
When Lazgar’s Vengeance got banned, it opened the door for a whole bunch of decks that might be interested in playing troops with less than 4 toughness, or playing games longer than 5 turns. Sapphire-Wild dreadling decks (Furiko, Ivan Slagpot, Shoku the Botanist), Blood-based midrange decks (Xorath, Renner, Kagulichu) overtook the big 4 of Ruby Tork, Diamond-Sapphire Control, Takahiro Deathcry, and Ivan Slagpot Redlings. I’m usually a control deck player, but couldn’t resist the opportunity to brew, and some ideas had been simmering for a few weeks. So I’m here to write about the deck I took to cosmic this season: Ruby Diamond Ardent “RDent” Sockets, an aggressive midrange deck that draws cards, makes big troops, and rams them into your opponent..
So first, credit where credit is due: This archetype got on my radar when Etruia played it to a 9th-place finish in the first Bash. What struck me was how many troops there are that checked both Ardent and Socket boxes. This got me to asking the question: How many embarrassing cards do we have to play to satisfy Ardent Crusader’s ten ardent troop requirement and Emcee, Etcher of Nulzann’s ten socketed troop requirement?
The answer is less than you think: Cosmic Shaman, Totemic Elder, Templar of Lumos, Moonrise Elder, and Ardent Crusader are all both Ardent and Socketed. All are pretty reasonable cards.
This leaves us with only 5 socketed troops and 5 ardent troops left. Sockets are easy to fill: Blamsmith, Emsee, Grim Skull Tactician, Dark Heart of Nulzann, Animus of Nulzann are staples of aggressive socket decks.
And, because we are in Ruby-Diamond, there’s an abundance of good ardent troops that also round out our curve: Llama Herder, Daughter of the Poet, Righteous Outlaw, Hero of Legend and Exalted Night provide us with aggressive draws that generate value later. We pick these cards not only because they are Human, Ardent and powerful, but because they have 1 threshold requirements – while William Rowan and Wise Magistrate are strong cards, they have double thresholds which can be hard to hit if you also want to have RR by turn 4.
We add in some obvious socket synergy cards: Sentry of Nulzann and Altar of Nulzann
…and we add in the best cards you can play in diamond: 4 Decree of Banishing and 4 Guidance. A note on these cards: Sockets decks previously had problems with consistency. If they drew their best cards, they were unstoppable, and if they didn’t, they were borderline unplayable. Set 7 introduced fateweave – specifically, we can run between 8 and 12 fateweave effects (depending on whether or not we have troops socketed with Minor Diamonds of Fate) to help the deck curve out well. When combined with the ability of Emcee, Etcher of Nulzann to find impactful cards from your deck (it only pulls socketed cards out, and all our socketed cards are great), this build ends up being significantly more consistent than it has any right to be.
Why are we playing RD?
First and foremost, we’re playing Ruby because Haraza solves a classic sockets problem – most sockets can build a terrifying board, but the opponent gets a turn to answer them. With Haraza’s champion power, you can play out your big, under-costed troops from hand and beat face immediately. With Major Ruby of Galvanism, you can also regularly hit your champion power on turn 4, enabling big swings before your opponent can really get going.
Second, we’re playing Diamond over Blood because of Guidance and because Diamond’s socketing options are far superior to Blood’s. While Speed is a nice minor socket, Blood’s major sockets are built to accrue advantage over time – we’re interested in pressuring our opponent’s life total, not getting value out of our troops.
Finally, we get a free Human sub-theme. We have 10 humans in our deck, and this enables this deck to have some of the most consistent resources in Hex by playing 4 Carloth Cobblestones. Our threshold requirements are easy – we can cast all but 1 of our cards and our hero power with just RR and W thresholds. We play get to play 8 dual shards, guidance, and sentry of Nulzann…and we also play 15 cards with no threshold requirements.
While you could build this as a Blood-Ruby Underworld Sockets deck, and Underworld Crusader is generally a better card than Ardent Crusader, the power of guidance and the quality of the ardent troops far outweighs the advantages of going Blood.
Oh god. Somebody put 19 socketed cards into this deck. What were we thinking? How could we ever make socketing choices?! Well, let’s go with some basics:
We want Major Ruby of Galvanism in Animus of Nulzann, because it allows us to play Animus on 4, gain 3 charges, and hit our hero power.
We want Major Diamond of the Seraph in Emcee, Etcher of Nulzann because we need that card to be evasive so it can diligence and be a card-advantage engine.
After that, we just want to make sure the best gems are in our deck:
Protection is the best minor gem available, so we put that in Ardent Crusaders – this helps them win combat vs. other crusaders, dodge strangle and pyre strike.
Major Ruby of Twinstrike is an absolute beating when you put it on a card that is big or can get big. It gets put on Moonrise Elder, Dark Heart of Nulzann and Cosmic Shaman – all cards that can have 4+ attack when they attack.
Minor Ruby of Zeal pairs really well with Major Ruby of Twinstrike, making it really hard to block cards that…sort of have to be blocked. We put them in Dark Heart of Nulzann and Cosmic Shaman. It’s also great at stalling early attackers in aggressive matchups, so we put it in Blamsmith and Grim Skull Tactician.
Finally, Minor Ruby of the Arena is a flexible way to get a bit more damage or a bit more defense. We put it in our remaining minor slots – Templar of Lumos and Totemic Elder.
Do you even sideboard, bro?
The Big Ideas
Let’s agree that sideboarding with decks that have deckbuilding constraints is really challenging. We just don’t have that many cards to trim while still doing our most powerful thing. In this sideboarding configuration, we’re mostly looking to:
Adapt our removal suite to reflect the matchup. Sometimes Decree of Banishing isn’t good – you need quick speed removal or removal that targets non-troops.
Tweak your ardent troops a bit – there are a fair number of ardent troops that are specifically good vs. certain decks.
Shift your curve up or down – get a little slower in grindy matchups, and a little faster vs. aggressive decks.
All of these cards do something that Decree of Banishing doesn’t. Pride’s Fall and Totem Trap are quick, Blinding Ire and Scouring Light hit constants, and Crackling Magma is great vs. wide boards of small troops like you will commonly see in dreadling decks.
Wise Magistrate is very good against combo decks. Inquisitor of Lumos punishes decks that aren’t fighting you with troops. Silent Sentinel is a card that deathcry decks have to get off the table to do their thing. You’ll frequently find that these are better cards than Righteous Outlaw, Llama herder, Daughter of the Poet and Exalted Knight.
Shift the Curve:
You want to think of Wakuna Lookout as a very tiny and feeble version of Cosmic Shaman or Totemic Elder. In matchups where you need to lower your curve, you can just board in a 1/1 with fateweave, swiftstrike or gladiator…or 3 toughness for blocking. In other matchups, you can shift your curve up by taking out bad removal spells and boarding in Altar of Nulzann.
Here are some general plans for matchups. Note that you should follow the guidelines above to deal with particular versions of each of these decks. For instance, Takahiro is a midrange blood deck – but it also has a deathcry theme, so Silent Sentinel and void removal are really good against them.
Haraza decks tend to have good DS matchups, because of how the Haraza’s hero power makes every troop get value. Also, a lot of our troops can pretty casually attack into a 6/6. Finally, Dark Heart of Nulzann and Eldurathan’s Glory don’t hit a lot of our cards. However, Decree of Banishing is bad against Dark Heart decks, so we need to tune up a bit to be more threat-dense.
In this matchup, look to pressure your opponents’ life total early and force them into making tough decisions when your hasty creatures hit the board. Try to get at least one activation out of Animus – two activations will usually result in an unbeatable board.
-4 Decree of Banishing
+1 Pride’s Fall
+1 Altar of Nulzann
+1 Wise Magistrate
+1 Inquisitor of Lumos
Move our Ardent Crusader gem to to Minor Diamond of Fate. This gives us virtual card advantage, and there’s no particular reason that 6 toughness is great here.
Blamsmith and Grim Skull Tactician should get Minor Diamond of Protection to dodge Eldurathan’s Glory.
Ruby Aggressive Decks
We can absolutely get run over by these decks. But at the same time, swiftstrike blockers can give them fits, we play a reasonable number of troops, and our troops tend to be fatter. In these matchups, we want to go faster. So we’re going to board our curve down, change our sockets, and alter our removal to interact better.
In this matchup, trade. Trade often. Your life is a valuable resource, and if the game goes long, you will be able to burst them down as your troops are much bigger than theirs. An early Ardent Crusader can provide a pretty impenetrable roadblock, as can any of our 5 swift-striking two-drops.
-1 Cosmic Shaman
-2 Altar of Nulzann
-2 Decree of Banishing
+2 Totem Trap
+1 Wakuna Lookout (Minor Ruby of Zeal)
+2 Crackling Magma
Ardent Crusader gets Minor Diamond of Protection – we want to be able to block Mama Yeti Profitably.
Very solid matchup. Our cards are very big, we have reach, and they have difficulty interacting with some of our card advantage engines. A lot of their tools for fighting slower decks, like discard and Withering Gaze don’t really do anything against us – we can empty our hand and play relatively few non-Troops. Our maindeck is relatively well set up here – I tend to trim to play around herofall.
-1 Emcee, Etcher of Nulzann
-1 Ardent Crusader
-1 Animus of Nulzann
+2 Blinding Ire
+1 Altar of Nulzann
If they are deathcry-oriented, you may find it profitable to bring in a Silent Sentinel for either a Llama Herder or Righteous Outlaw, depending on whether you’re on the play or draw. Remember that this is basically a matchup about 1-for-1ing – if can blank cards like strangle, do so.
And let’s talk about a deck that attacks from a very strange angle – constants. Game 1, this is a race. Games 2 and 3, you have a lot of ways to win. In game 1, you need to build a giant board and kill them before you get got by Twilight Eclipse or Twilight Archon. Generally, your troops are bigger than their troops, but Twilight Eclipse is often tough to race. Our boarding plan relies on our troops to kill their troops, and brings in a number of cards that can kill constants.
In this matchup, you’re on one of two plans: If they have Twilight Eclipse and you don’t have Scouring Light, it’s time to race. If they don’t have Twilight Eclipse, you can often grind them out. Our troops get big and synergize well, so we can frequently outrace even a pretty scary constants board.
-4 Decree of Banishing
-1 Altar of Nulzann
-1 Daughter of the Poet
+3 Scouring Light
+2 Blinding Ire
+1 Inquisitor of Lumos
Tips and Tricks
Resources – you need 1 diamond first, then you need 2 Ruby. Sequence accordingly. Then get to 5 Diamond for Daughter of the Poet.
Remember that you can access diligence triggers like Righteous Outlaw and Emcee, Etcher of Nulzann using Llama Herder without actually having to attack.
Sentry of Nulzann costs 1 and reduces the cost of all socketed troops by 1. If you’re not setting up for spending all of your resources the next turn, and not playing a troop this turn, you might want to do something else to spend your resources efficiently.
Remember that Haraza’s Banner gives speed- you can replace your old copy of Emcee with an Emcee from your hand and trigger Animus to make a wide board taller, and still have the new copy attack.
Our troops don’t really have crush or evasion, but two troops, Daughter of the Poet and Grim Skull Tactician can make blocking unpleasant. If you’re behind on board but the opponent is at a low life total, sometimes you want to save these cards in your hands to sneak damage past an unwary opponent.
This is a deck that can do a lot of things. Diamond and fateweave mitigate a lot of the problems that sockets decks used to have in terms of consistency and finding the cards they wanted. It has card advantage engines, valuable cards, and solves problems in the best way – running people over with huge speedy troops.
Greetings! If you’re reading this, you’re probably interested in trying out, or are just now getting your feet wet with, the Hex Trading Card Game. Welcome to what is, in my opinion, the best Digital TCG in existence.
This article is focused on the Magic player who is coming into the Hex world, and is designed to provide the comparisons and contrasts with Magic: the Gathering and Hex in order to quickly get you into the Battlegrounds with as much knowledge as possible. Let’s get started!
Below is a Hex card, highlighted with key areas to take note of:
Let’s take a look at some of the main areas, along with as close a comparison to a Magic card as possible:
The cost of a Hex card is fairly straightforward. This is the amount of resources you need to play a card. You gain resources by playing Resource cards. Think of Resources as Land cards in Magic, as there are five different basic Resource cards: Diamond, Sapphire, Blood, Ruby, and Wild.
Unlike lands, however, Resource cards do not remain on the battlefield. Once played, a Resource card increases your total resources by one. Resources can be “fast” or “slow” – fast Resources, when played, provide you an available Resource immediately, while slow Resources become available during your next turn; think of these as untapped and tapped lands, in a sense. In the image below, you’ll see an example of a Resource card; the “1/1” annotation denotes a fast Resource, while a Resource that shows “0/1” would denote a slow Resource.
Along with resource additions, Resource cards typically add Shards to your total Threshold. Thresholds consist of the minimum required type and number of Shards played in order to play a Hex card. In our example card above, Crimson Slayer requires 1 Ruby Threshold. That means that throughout the course of the game, you must have played, at minimum, one Resource that produced a Ruby threshold. Once that requirement is met, you simply need to have available the number of resources required (two, in this case), to play the card.
Additionally, Thresholds are not depleted on a card-by-card basis. Say, for instance, I have 5 resources available, and my total Threshold is:
2 Blood, 1 Wild, 1 Diamond, 1 Ruby
I could play any combination of these cards during the same turn:
A Hex card can have zero or one faction. There are two types of factions: Ardent (Yellow) and Underworld (Red). Some cards in Hex require the presence of a certain number of faction-based troops:
Other cards give benefits to you based on the number of factioned troops currently in play:
Traits of a Hex card are usually given to troops. A strong comparison to Dungeons and Dragons can be considered here; Hex troops will typically have zero or one Race, and 0 or more Classes. Like factions, some cards and abilities in Hex rely on the presence of various Races and/or Classes of Troops:
Card Types and Restrictions
There are several different card types in Hex. Below is a quick comparison between Hex card types and their Magic counterparts – I’ve also included Uniqueness here as, while not a card type, it is a key characteristic of a Hex card:
Hex Card Type/Restriction
Magic Card Type/Supertype
Sorcery / Instant
Quick vs. Basic
With all Actions, and some other Hex cards, you will see an identifier of either Basic or Quick. Think of these as Sorcery speed or Instant speed. Basic cards can be played on your turn, when you have priority, and Quick cards can be played anytime you have priority.
Like Magic, Hex has differing card rarities. The rarer the card, the more powerful it typically is. Additionally, the set symbol is included in the same area as the card rarity. Much like the card types comparison above, we can roughly map the rarities in Hex to Magic counterparts:
Certain cards in Hex are also Promos. These are usually cards with a different art than their non-Promo counterparts, and are given as prizes or come as part of theme decks.
Many Hex cards contain keyword abilities that modify how that card behaves. I’ll start with a comparison below between common abilities between Hex and Magic, and then explain some of the more nuanced abilities in Hex. The following is a non-exhaustive comparison of abilities in Hex that act in roughly the same as a similar ability in Magic:
Now, for a few different noteworthy abilities in Hex:
Fateweave– Fateweave is a newer mechanic (as of the time of this writing) in Hex that is a great example of the added benefits of a digital-only atmosphere. The closest example to Magic would be the Scry mechanic. A card with Fateweave allows the controller to choose whether the next card in their deck will be a Resource card or non-Resource card. Once chosen, a random card in the deck meeting the chosen qualification will be placed on top of the deck.
Rage X – a card with Rage X modifies the attack power of a troop. For instance, if a troop has 0 Attack and 1 Defense, a Troop with Rage 1 would gain 1 Attack power when it attacks. Unless specified on a card, the added Attack gained is permanent and does not only last until the end of turn – the troop in our example (see below) would become a 1/1, then a 2/1, and so on.
Prophecy – Another mechanic that shows off the digital card space, Prophecy modifies certain cards in a Hex deck. Take, for example, this card:
Lanupaw’s Sight modifies the first action, resource and troop currently in the deck, and adds card text to each. In the case of Lanupaw’s Sight, each of these cards would gain the text “Draw a Card” to them. Prophecy is an inherently powerful ability that a paper TCG simply cannot achieve.
Gameplay Similarities and Differences
Deck Size and Game Length
Deck sizes for Hex are identical to that in Magic – you must have a 60-card minimum deck with a maximum of 15 cards in your “reserves” (sideboard). Players are allowed to enter reserves between games during a Hex match. Matches are best 2-out-of-3 games, and players have a chess-style clock to enforce time limits; players have 25 minutes each to play a match.
Champions may be new to those of you who only play Magic. Many current digital TCGs (Hex, Hearthstone, Eternal, Shadowverse, etc.) employ Champions as a way to enhance a player’s deck. Hex has a large variety of champions to diversify the way a deck can be played. Some have Threshold requirements, while others do not. Let’s take a look at a champion in Hex:
Champions grant players the ability to perform an action, once per turn, at Basic speed, as long as you have an appropriate number of “charges” to use the action. Charges, unlike resources, are depleted when used and must be regained over time, usually by playing resources. Some actions and abilities also increase the number of charges you have. Use champion abilities carefully!
Champions also define your starting life total. While in Magic, your starting life total is always 20 for one-versus-one constructed play, champions will alter your starting life total from the get-go. For instance, Angus the Arsonist, a champion that is best used in an aggressive Ruby deck comes at the cost of making your starting life total 17, as your game plan aims to end the game quickly; however, a champion designed for more control heavy decks like Dreaming Fox typically gives you a higher starting life total, since they are designed to be used in longer, more grindy games. Life totals range from 17 to 25, depending on the champion selected.
Socketing and Gems
Something that will be completely new to Magic players is the concept of socketing. Hex cards will sometime have the ability to be socketed; this is denoted by a bronze (Major Socket) and/or silver (Minor Socket) circle on the right side of a Hex Card, and will also include the phrases “SOCKETABLE MAJOR” and/or “SOCKETABLE MINOR” in the card text. This allows a deckbuilder to further customize what an individual card can do beyond the base card’s abilities. These types of cards are socketed with major and minor gems, and have Threshold requirements in order to be played. Major sockets can use major and minor gems, while minor sockets can only use minor gems. As of Frostheart, Hex’s seventh set, the current Gems available for use in Standard constructed play are:
Similar to the 4-of restriction for cards in a deck in both Hex and Magic, a deck may contain no more than 4 of the same gem. Also, players are allowed to socket different copies of the same card with different gems, and are allowed to change gems during reserving, allowing for even greater flexibility of gems in different types of matchups!
The Chain vs. The Stack
The Chain is quite similar to Magic’s Stack in that one ability/card resolves at a time, and, in most cases, can be responded to. Cards and abilities on the Chain resolve from right to left, similar to abilities on the Stack resolving from top to bottom.
Combat in Hex is very similar to combat in Magic; there are steps that occur before attackers are declared, before blockers are declared, and before damage is dealt (both Swiftstrike and regular damage). The same rules for Magic’s “Summoning Sickness” apply in Hex.
Unlike Magic, most modifiers that affect a card (i.e., Rage abilities, other attack/defense changes, card text changes, etc.) are permanent! Unless specified, most modifiers last beyond the end of turn.
Hex currently has two major constructed formats: Standard and Immortal. Think of Immortal as the Legacy format in Magic; cards and gems do not rotate in Immortal. However, in the Standard format, rotations occur on a rolling basis, as follows:
New gems are introduced with every ODD-numbered set. When this occurs, the oldest set of major and minor gems are rotated out of Standard.
The oldest two sets of cards are rotated in Standard with every EVEN-numbered set.
At the time of this writing, sets 3-7 are legal for play in Standard. New sets are released roughly every 4 months. The next rotation will occur with set 8’s release (name TBD), currently planned for late October or November. At that time, sets 3 and 4 (Armies of Myth and Primal Dawn) will rotate out of Standard.
Hex’s card sets, by number, are as follows:
Hex Set Number
Hex Set Name
1 (NOT LEGAL IN STANDARD)
Shards of Fate
2 (NOT LEGAL IN STANDARD)
Armies of Myth
Scars of War
HexSets is a fantastic resource to see, on the fly, which sets and gems are currently in Standard. If you’re ever confused, check it out!
How to Get Cards
Auction House In-Game
The two core currencies within Hex are gold and platinum. Either can be used to acquire cards in the in-game Auction House, though platinum is usually the more sought-after currency. The conversion rate between gold and platinum varies, though a usual benchmark is around 200 gold : 1 platinum. Players are always looking for both in the in-game chat client.
One of the core facets of Hex is that it can be a completely free-to-play game. While the focus of this article is on Player-Versus-Player (PvP) constructed gameplay, a rich Player-Versus-Enemy (PvE) environment exists, and players can earn gold to acquire cards by playing through the various PvE offerings Hex has to offer. You can alternatively purchase platinum in-game in order to buy cards without having to grind through PvE quests.
While the Acution House is one way to acquire cards in Hex, the quickest and easiest way to acquire cards for constructed gameplay is to use a third-party site such as Battleshopper.com! From the perspective of a Magic player, think of BattleShopper as a site similar to StarCityGames or ChannelFireball. BattleShopper has a great selection of cards at prices comparable to or cheaper than their Auction House counterparts, and you avoid the hassle of having to first buy platinum before heading to the Auction House. Simply search for the cards you want to buy, checkout using PayPal or a Credit Card, and you’re done! The cards will be delivered through your in-game client’s mailbox – no waiting all day for a package to arrive, and you don’t need to be present for your cards to arrive – they’ll be waiting in your mailbox in-game for you with same-day delivery!
Hex has a robust laddering system available to constructed players once you acquire a deck. Best of all, the constructed ladder is 100% free to play, and players earn rewards while they climb the ranks of the Hex constructed ladder. Hex has 5 different tiers of constructed rankings: Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Cosmic. The Bronze through Platinum tiers of play each have 5 sub-divisions (i.e., Bronze 5 – Bronze 1), while Cosmic has a ranking system to show the top Hex players in the world. Progressing all the way to Cosmic in a ranked season nets you 7 booster packs (15 cards/pack) of the most recent Hex set, two copies of the current ladder promo card, a plethora of gold, and a season-specific deck sleeve that you can use to share your achievement! Ranked seasons last for approximately two months.
Like constructed, Hex has a free-to-play Limited ladder as well; players need only pay for the packs used in Limited Draft gauntlets and Sealed/Evolving Sealed gauntlets.
Hex also has a variety of scheduled offerings for those that enjoy the tournament and competitive atmosphere. You can always find the most up-to-date scheduled event offerings by visiting Hex’s event calendar, accessible from the home screen in-game, or by visiting the Hex Forums.
The most popular events are as follows:
Five Shards Weekly Series – Free to Enter (Standard)
Occurs twice weekly, and awards prizes to the top 16 players. The winner receives 10,000 platinum, and the remaining 15 players earn booster packs that scale down with rank.
Five Shards Arcanum Vault – Free to Enter (Standard) Occurs twice per day, weekly, on the same weekday each month. These events are always 4 rounds in length, and prizes are based on final Swiss standing. Booster packs and promos are awarded to anyone finishing 2-2 or better.
Hex Bash – 700 Platinum (Standard) Occurs every Saturday at 8am PST (11am EST), and is a Swiss tournament with top 8 playoff. These tournaments pay $1,000 cash and a variety of special battleboards (think playmats), deck sleeves, and promo cards. Prizes scale with attendance and are usually given to the top 32 competitors. Door prizes are also given at random to players in the event.
Hex Clash – 1500 Platinum (Sealed) Same style of tournament and payouts as the Hex Bash, but using a sealed deck instead of a constructed deck. This event occurs on Sundays, at the same time as the Hex Bash.
Cosmic Crown Showdown – Free (By Invitation Only) The Cosmic Crown Showdown (CCS) is a $5,000 tournament that brings together the top 64 players in both the Standard and Limited ranked season for a two-day event, held on an announced Saturday at 9am PST (12pm EST) after the ranked season ends. Day one is a seven-round swiss event using the Standard constructed format. After those seven rounds, the top 8 players return for a single-elimination Draft on day 2. Prizes for this event are:
1st: $2,000 and a special CCS animated deck sleeve
9th-16th: 25 current set booster packs
17th-32nd: 10 current set booster packs
33rd-128th: 5 current set booster packs
Data, Data, Data!
Something that will come as a very pleasant surprise to Magic players coming to Hex is the ease in which you can see deck and tournament data. Whereas Magic Online restricts which decks are visible based on arbitrary limitations set by those in charge of the software, Hex freely allows users to utilize the API for the game for multiple purposes. This allows us to easily see full tournament data, all the way down to a full listing of decks a player has encountered over the course of an event! I highly recommend HexPvPTools – any data you would ever want about every deck played on the constructed ladder, the Hex constructed meta, and specific tournament results, can be found here.
I would like to welcome each of you into the amazing Hex community, and I hope that you enjoy Hex! This primer should provide you with a great head start as you find a new kind of spark in the Hex Trading Card Game, and I wish you the best of luck in the Battlegrounds. Please provide any feedback to me via Twitter (@ProfYana_Twitch), and I sincerely thank you for reading. Cheers!
Hello everyone! My name is Tom Davis, and I’m thrilled to be writing content for BattleShopper! For my first BattleShopper Breakdown, I wanted to focus on a deck that hasn’t been discussed at length already (i.e., Redlings, Ruby Deck Wins, Diamond-Sapphire Control), but also provides fantastic lines of play that requires a bit of thought to master. For that, I turned to midrange decks. Midrange decks, many claim, have fallen a bit out of favor in the current Hex Standard metagame; Aggro decks make up a large portion of the metagame right now, and on the other side of the spectrum, Diamond-Sapphire “Durdle” has been a successful control archetype, as seen in recent tournament results. Midrange decks, however, have only been fringe players in the metagame, popping up occasionally on the constructed ladder, but not finding a true home. The common complaint I hear about midrange decks presently is that they are slower to develop – Aggro decks can go under and win before midrange decks can deploy their gameplan, and control decks have enough time to set up their disruption package before midrange decks can really do anything about it. Moreover, both aggro and control decks have multiple ways to destroy troops in midrange decks, a core facet of the archetype’s success.
So, what’s the solution?
Be okay with our creatures dying!
Blood-Wild Deathcry is a deck designed to abuse, as you could guess, Deathcry abilities. In order to get around a lot of the disruption and blazingly fast troop pressure that the established metagame decks tend to employ regularly, a midrange deck needs to be able to accept that some of their troops are going to be sacrificed to the cause. Blood-Wild Deathcry does so admirably, allowing the player to block often, gaining incremental advantages along the way, even if some of our troops bite the dust. Without further ado, here is the decklist:
This iteration of the Blood-Wild Deathcry deck recently put up two Top 4 finishes in the hands of Icecon
Tributes to Takahiro
Starting with our Champion, Takahiro, we know immediately that this deck is okay with losing creatures. In the current meta, life gain is essential to staying in the game against some of the decks that are faster than us. Takahiro allows us to do just that, while gaining the incremental advantages that our Deathcry abilities grant us.
There are two key troops that allow us to take full advantage of the Deathcry abilities in our deck, providing us ways to use these powerful effects without even losing a troop in the first place!
Lord Blightbark is a must-include in any Deathcry strategy. He turns every Deathcry ability in our deck into, essentially, a Deploy ability, giving us the ability to absolutely dominate a battlefield before Aggro decks can get under us with fast attackers, and gives us ways to rebuild our battlefield quickly against some of the powerful control decks in the metagame. Costing only 2 resources, Lord Blightbark can be quickly deployed and begin working with our other troops to wreak havoc on our opponents in short order. There are only 3 copies in our 75, in an effort to curb having multiple copies in our deck; being Unique, we can only have one Lord Blightbark on your side of the battlefield at a time.
Where Lord Blightbark provides advantages when troops enter the battlefield, Grounds Creeper rewards us at the end of our turn, triggering all of the Deathcry abilities of one troop on our end step. Coupled with Lord Blightbark, even a Naïve Lackey during the late game isn’t a bad play, allowing us to draw two cards while having a reasonable ground-blocker, all for one resource. On its own, Grounds Creeper is a reasonable 5-cost troop; a 4/5 with Lethal can still block a pesky attacker in a pinch. Preferably, we’d like to have Grounds Creeper live, though, to truly turn the tides in our favor during the late game. Like Lord Blightbark, Grounds Creeper gives us the raw power to re-establish a board state, when multiple removal effects would otherwise give us some trouble.
The Deathcry Suite
The core of our deck revolves around 4 troops whose Deathcry abilities are consistently useful on their own against the prominent decks in the current metagame, while partnering fantastically with Lord Blightbark and Grounds Creeper. I’d like to point out a few key interactions that I have found great during my testing with the Blood-Wild Deathcry deck.
First off is the interaction between Lord Blightbark and Rune Ear Hierophant. In this deck, Rune Ear Hierophant is socketed with two gems that create a Blightblossom and an Abomination when Deathcry triggers. Also remember that Rune Ear, on its own, grows larger when other troops enter the battlefield. With Lord Blightbark in play when Rune Ear Hierophant enters the battlefield, you get a 4/4 Rune Ear, a 1/1 Blightblossom, and a 2/2 Abomination – all for 3 resources. You can then feel safe if you need to sacrifice or block with Rune Ear in a pinch, as it will create another Blightblossom and a 4/4 Abomination. This powerful interaction falls fantastically on curve, on turns 2 and 3 of the game.
Next is the interaction between Grounds Creeper and Promiscuous Succubus. Promiscuous Succubus, on its own, is a reliable 3/2 troop with flight, but moreover, when its Deathcry ability triggers, it grants another troop a Deathcry ability that creates a Carnal Demon – a powerful 6/6 flier that gets around Lazgar’s Vengeance and the other powerful damage-based removal in the Standard format. With a Grounds Creeper in play, however, you can grant a creature the powerful Carnal Demon Deathcry ability on the same turn Promiscuous Succubus enters play, and in subsequent turns, create a Carnal Demon on every End Step. Couple that with Lord Blightbark, and you can begin the Carnal carnage on the turn Promiscuous Succubus enters the battlefield! Promiscuous Succubus gives a ton of flexibility to a deck that is focused on Deathcry strategies, and lets us block safely while gaining value along the way.
Finally, I want to note the synergy between Emperor’s Lackey and…well, every other troop in our deck. Deathcry becomes inherently more powerful when you have a reliable sacrificing outlet, and Emperor’s Lackey lets us do that at any point in a turn cycle. Emperor’s Lackey is a fantastic 2-resource troop that works well with our Deathcry strategy, letting Lackey remain a 4/4 troop while letting us gain incremental advantages along the way with the rest of the troops in our deck. This also allows us to work around the powerful removal in opponents’ decks; we can sacrifice everything to Lackey to work around Clash of Steel and other actions that void our troops, we can work around Herofall by sacrificing the targeted troop (and should they Herofall Emperor’s Lackey, that lets us keep the troops with Deathcry around), and if a Lazgar’s Vengeance rears its head, we can work with Promiscuous Succbus to create Carnal Demons that won’t bite the dust to a 4-damage wrath.
The Disruption Package
A great midrange deck will combine a powerful troop suite with a powerful removal suite, to give us legs during the crucial mid-stages of a match. There are a few other iterations of the Blood-Wild Deathcry deck floating around, all of which include Underworld Crusader. Underworld Crusader is an undeniably powerful troop, but the deckbuilding constraints it requires can prohibit deckbuilders from maximizing the removal potential of the deck. After icecon showed off a Crusader-less version of this deck, I was hooked – he managed to maintain the consistency and raw potency of the Blood-Wild Deathcry deck, all while giving us solid removal in Herofall, Paw of Yazukan and Gruesome Deed, and gives deckbuilders the flexibility to fine-tune their deck without worrying about having 10 Underworld troops in the process.
Culmination of Blood is a hugely powerful threat that aims to disrupt the Redlings and Diamond-Sapphire Control decks of the format by getting rid of the end-game powerhouses of Lazgar’s Vengeance and Psychic Ascension before they can be played. Culmination of Blood puts Redlings players in a particularly precarious situation – their game plan centers on creating armies of Dreadlings to attack quickly and ruthlessly, but those Dreadlings also enter the crypt. This drastically reduces the cost of us playing Culmination of Blood, even allowing us to remove an opponent’s hand on turn 3 or 4, well within the time needed to get rid of Lazgar’s Vengeance. Against Diamond-Sapphire Control, we can use the power of Emperor’s Lackey to quickly fill our crypt to play a fast Culmination of Blood, which allows us to attack more confidently and remove the often game-ending Psychic Ascension before a Paragon of Thought can take control. Don’t leave home without a few copies of this card in your 75.
Stay woke! Woken Drokkatar is our back-breaking end-game threat, that provides an end to a midrange stalemate, or allows us to finally swing through a Redlings troop-base. Moreover, Woken Drokkatar works well with our Deathcry abilities in the deck; more troops entering the battlefield reduces the cost of Woken Drokkatar and lets us deploy the huge threat earlier. I like playing 2 in the maindeck, with the ability to reduce that number to one or zero against the Ruby Deck Wins and Redlings archetypes that can sometimes get under us before we can be truly Woke. The ability to break stalemates and end a game immediately is worth having the powerful threat in our maindecks, and it is an easy inclusion in any version of the Blood-Wild Deathcry deck.
Admittingly, there are some strategies that can give us some problems while playing the Blood-Wild Deathcry deck (mainly the Diamond-Sapphire Control deck), and our Reserves package aims to help hus get around those concerns.
First, I want to highlight the Artifact and Constant threats that our Reserves can help mitigate. The Papa Goot BD decks deploy multiple constants that can either aid in casting a fast Twilight Archon, void our powerful troops in Decree of Banishing, and employ an otherwise hard-to-remove threat in Twilight Eclipse. Being able to remove these threats – often repeatedly with Lord Blightbark and Grounds Creeper in play, helps give us legs against this and the other non-interactive decks of the format that care a bit less about our troop-base.
Withering Gaze is extremely powerful against the Diamond-Sapphire Control decks and other control strategies that use Psychic Ascension to ascend to a nearly unbeatable champion in Paragon of Thought. Withering Gaze lets us steal these from our opponent and employ them ourselves! It is a must-include against control decks, and is strong enough that we even play one in our maindeck as a hedge against control strategies, and can even remove Lazgar’s Vengeance in a pinch.
Cheap Shot and Misery are aimed at the powerful Redlings deck in the current Standard Metagame, allowing us to remove a Rustbucket Distractor or other pesky one-drop, or even a whole suite of Dreadlings in a pinch.
Noxious Glory is aimed to provide a hedge against the Mono Sapphire Empress decks in the format, as it can remove almost every threat in their deck at once. Tribunal Magistrate, Skittering Cultivator, and Empress of Ice all bite the dust when met with a timely Noxious Glory, and I would never remove these from my Reserves as long as Empress is in Standard.
Waltz of the Damned was a card that I toyed with in the earlier iterations of the Blood-Wild Deathcry deck, and I’m thrilled that icecon included it in their 75. I find Waltz to be a huge threat that is excellent against the other midrange decks in the format. Against opposing Deathcry decks, we can even take advantage of the Deathcry abilities that our opponent would normally have at their disposal, and use those to our favor! As it does cost 7 resources, I would only play one in the 75, and I would only bring it in against other midrange decks that allows us to reliably reach 7 resources.
Spellshield is important when dealing with targeted removal, and Gargalith helps hedge against those threats. Transmogrifade, Herofall, Runebind, and other powerful removal will typically require a target to be effective, and Gargalith stunts the effectiveness of those spells. In midrange matchups especially, Gargalith can not only prevent a one-time targeted spell from hurting us, but can also be reliably played in the late game to help keep our troops on the battlefield. I would recommend this against Midrange and Control matchups.
While we already have a powerful removal package in Herofall, Strangle (out of the reserves), and Gruesome Deed, Gemborn Prowler gives a bit more removal against Blood-Wild, Redlings, and the various Sockets decks in Standard, and gives a 3/3 body on the backend to block reliably.
Lullaby is fantastic against the Ruby Deck Wins strategies in the format. It can give us an extra turn to help solidify a matchup that we are already typically favored in, all while being able to match up profitably against Escape Goat, Frothfang Cackler, and Righteous Outlaw. In a pinch, it can also be brought in against Redlings to stave off an attack from an army of Dreadlings.
I’ve provided a set of videos that will let you see the power of Blood-Wild Deathcry and observe the many different ways that this deck can be played against a variety of opponents. Please give them a watch and provide any comments!
I want to thank you for reading and watching the first of my BattleShopper Breakdowns, and I’m thrilled to be able to provide content for you all. Please reach out on Twitter (@profyana_twitch) with any questions and feedback! May you provide plenty of blight and carnage to your opponents!
(Editor’s note: I really wanted to name this “Teach me how to durdle” but I was told not to by the author. So there.)
Hi. I’m burgleburgle. I’ve been playing Diamond-Sapphire control in Hex since somebody first played Silver Talon Adjudicator against me on the ladder and I realized what a messed-up card it is. I’ve played a dozen variants of it, and recently top-4’d the first Hex Bash with my latest. I have been called a filthy netdecker, accused of making the game no fun, and being lucky: these are all true, but mostly I am just a simple man who likes to draw cards and have the most fun in every match. Diamond-Sapphire is the deck for me.
Traditionally, control decks in TCGs have run into the “Wrong Half of the Deck” problem: you have answers for all kinds of problems, but sometimes your answers don’t line up with the threats your opponent is presenting. Totem Trap is a great card against Redlings…except when they go Emperor’s Lackey into Underworld Crusader. Frostheart changes this, by giving Diamond-Sapphire decks 12 new ways to filter their deck: Guidance and 8 Ice Shards, in addition to the 4 arcane focus already in the deck. It can be easy to look at cards like Culmination of Blood, Lazgar’s Vengeance, and Underworld Crusader and ask “how can we do anything more powerful than that?” – the answer is that we can’t, but we can do something almost as powerful every single game.
The Game Plan:
The Diamond-Sapphire game plan unfolds in 3 stages: Slow them down, Stabilize the board, and Bury them in a barrow of card advantage. Let’s go over each step, and how it manifests in our decklist:
Slow them down. In the first 3 turns, we’re looking to accomplish 2 things – prevent the opponent from progressing their game plan too much, and use our abundant filtering to set up a good turn 4 or 5 play that will stabilize the board. Our primary main deck tools for this are Runebind and Transmogrifade, and to a lesser extent, Into the Unknown. Note that our best tools, as well as our cantrips, are all 1-resource. This is convenient because it means that playing tapped shards (our 8 ice) rarely prevents us from using our resources on a given turn. In general, try to play your tapped shards on 1 and 2, to have 3 resources open for a turn 3 weave into nothing, or into the unknown. Your goal during this point is just to keep the board under control – don’t worry about getting a ton of value out of your cards, just spend your resources efficiently.
Stabilize the board: The reason that Diamond-Sapphire control far surpasses other sapphire variants is that it can stabilize the board far more consistently. It relies on 4 cards for this: Clash of Steel, Dark Heart of Nulzann, Silver Talon Adjudicator and Eldurathan’s Glory. These cards are all important enough to warrant their own bits:
Clash of Steel: Clash of Steel punishes decks that go wide. For 3 resources, it leaves an opponent with only their best threat. Generally, we have a lot of ways (Dark Heart, Into the Unknown, Transmogrifade, Runebind) to deal with 1 threat efficiently. Particularly, as a follow up to a dark heart, this card is brutal. Most importantly, unlike a lot of our cards, Clash of Steel hits all permanent types, including constants and artifacts, which can help DS Control deal with cards it normally has trouble with.
Dark Heart of Nulzann: Socketed with Minor Diamond of Protection and Major Sapphire of Clarity, Dark Heart is a 4/6 for 4 that causes each player to sacrifice a non-socketed permanent at the beginning of their upkeep. A 4/6 for 4 doesn’t die to Lazgar’s vengeance, it can block almost anything profitably, and, most importantly, every turn it’s on the board is another creature your opponent has to sacrifice. If you ready and have the ability to protect your Dark Heart, you’re probably winning the game.
Silver Talon Adjudicator (STA): This card is the ultimate come-from-behind card. Are you down cards? It draws 2. Are you down health? It gains 5. And it’s a perfectly acceptable 3/2 flier who is willing to be roadkill for the nearest Mortartrike Driver. While it will not take over the game, it will often tax your opponent’s resources to the point where the next bomb can take it over.
Eldurathan’s Glory: A 5/5 for 5 that voids all troops with toughness 3 or less, Eldurathan’s glory usually comes down, gets rid of the opponent’s board, and puts a real clock on the table that’s difficult to remove. The set of main deck cards that deal efficiently with this card are…slim, and 5 damage a turn while blocking almost everything profitably is tough for decks to race.
Bury them:Congratulations! You didn’t die, and you stabilized the board. You’re now overwhelmingly favored to win any given match. Protect your cards on the board. Hit your resource drops with cantrips. Use your hero power. Draw to Psychic Ascension and eventually win, if beating them up with dark hearts, glories and adjudicators doesn’t get you there.
The important thing to consider, at this point in the game, is not how you win…but how you could possibly lose. Maybe this means you need to gain some extra life with an adjudicator…maybe it means you should leave a dark heart back to block. But understand that, at this point, you can probably mathematically eliminate the opponent by making conservative decisions, so do that.
There are two primary differentiators between my deck and the most common builds of DS Control: Our main deck draw spell of choice, and our sideboard.
To the first, they play dreamcall, and I play Lanupaw’s sight. Lanupaw’s sight draws me 3 more cards from my deck. Dreamcall draws them X random cards. I want to draw cards from my deck – I put the best cards in it on purpose. Those random cards that weren’t in my deck? They’re worse. Nobody wants them. I’m not really sure why this is an argument.
A more interesting discussion is in sideboarding strategy. Hex doesn’t lend itself well to specific hate cards, because it has a diverse metagame with a lot of different threats. So I wanted my sideboard to be equally diverse, so I could tailor it every game.
Totem Trap, Pride’s Fall, Diamond’s Favor: These are conditional removal spells – if they’ll work more often than not against the deck you’re playing, in they go. With a few notable exceptions, you’d rather see a creature dead than transmogrified. Remember that Diamond’s Favor doesn’t target, so it can get around spellshielded cards like gargalith.
Confounding Ire, Verdict of the Ancient Kings, and Weave Into Nothing: Situational counterspells. Bring confounding ire in if it will hit important spells, bring Verdict of the Ancient Kings into control matchups, and bring Weave into Nothing in if the opponent has some medium, slow cards that you can’t afford to allow onto the battlefield.
Dread End: A pretty unconditional board wipe – the only one currently in Hex.
Lanupaw’s Sight, Tribunal Magistrate, Mad Robomancer: This is the primary place where my board will differ from other boards. While other people slot in multiple copies of halt, or 4 verdicts of the ancient kings for control matchups, I want additional threats. Many people see sapphire control mirrors as a race to see who can psychic ascension first, and thus stock up on interrupts. But all of these cards are perfectly capable of taking over games on their own, and your opponent will frequently have to spend resources he’d rather spend fighting over psychic ascension to deal with these other cards.
A core idea to remember is this: Threats are better than conditional answers, because conditional answers trade 1-1 with threats only when one player has the threat and the other has the answer. In the other situations, the threat resolves…or the answer sits in hand. This doesn’t become less true just because we’re playing No Rush 10 Hex.
This deck has fairly good matchups with all of the best decks, which tend to be aggressive at the moment. I’ll go over what I consider to be the 4 best other decks (Redlings, Ruby Deck Wins, Blood-Wild Deathcry, and Empress of Ice):
Redlings: Redlings is an aggressive deck that relies on scrounge. Look to hold up resources on turn 3 to transmogrifade or runebind their turn 3 threat (it’s usually a lot better than their turn 1-2 threats), and deny them a dreadling from Ivan Slagpot’s hero power. Mulligan 7-card hands that don’t have both a way to slow and a way to stabilize…or significant ability to filter your deck.
Out: -1 Weave into Nothing, -1 Lanupaw’s Sight, -2 Psychic Ascension, -2 Clash of Steel
Note that clash of steel is not actually great in this matchup – this deck usually has 1 big threat that’s pounding you for 4-6 every turn, as opposed to a go-wide board. This matchup is marginally favored for us.
Ruby Deck Wins: This deck is just aiming to do as much damage as it can. The cards that are really scary are Escape Goat, Righteous Outlaw, Matriarch of Flames and Mama Yeti – everything else is just pretty adorable. Try to make sure these cards don’t stick on the table: Good news, you have 25 life. This matchup is great.
Clash is mediocre against most RDW variants, again, because they don’t have any innate go-wide mechanics. We bring in conditional removal because it hits a lot of their important cards, and because we want cards that affect the board. We already have plenty of card advantage. This matchup is very favored for us, because we have 25 starting life and and ample maindeck lifegain.
Blood-Wild Deathcry: This is a synergy deck that also gets to play a bunch of independently good cards. They’re looking to put two things together: A deathcry-enabler, and a card with a sweet deathcry. Their best deathcry-enabler is Lord Blightbark. Their best targets are Underworld Crusader and Rune-ear Heirophant. If you can Into the Unknown any of those 3 cards, you should do it. Our game plan here is to keep their board under control and wipe it with Clash of Steel or Eldurathan’s Glory. Pay careful attention to how many cards are in the crypt – try to play around Culmination in Blood by either caching draws on the top of your deck with Lanupaw’s sight, not using your hero power, holding up countermagic, or keeping cards out of the crypt using Clash of Steel and Eldurathan’s Glory.
Out: -1 Dark Heart, -1 Weave Into Nothing, -2 Runebind
We board in some unconditional counterspells against their deck (Ires), card advantage, and board wipes. We board out some cards that are not card advantage (runebind), some more expensive counterspells, and a card that makes them sacrifice things…which they already wanted to do. This matchup is also pretty good – if you can play around culmination in blood, you should be favored.
Empress of Ice:
Empress is a weird deck. It has draws that are very aggressive, but can also board up and be controlling. Into the Unknown is your best card in this matchup – you will generally fight a lot over Tribunal Magistrates and Commander Prompts.
In: +2 Pride’s Fall, +1 Diamond’s Favor
Out: -3 Eldurathan’s Glory
If you see that your opponent has gone super-late game, you can bring in some of your control mirror cards, such as verdict of the ancient kings. However, because our mainboard can fight that control mirror just fine, I like to hedge against their more aggressive draws.
Diamond-Sapphire Mirror: My favorite matchup. In this MU, you want to hit your resources, draw cards, and protect a threat. Because we play two maindeck psychic ascensions, we tend to be favored in game 1s. Chill. Hit your resources. Don’t play threats without protection. Sit down and get ready for a long game with a lot of play on both sides.
In: +1 Weave into Nothing, +2 Verdict of the Ancient Kings, +2 Tribunal Magistrate, +1 Lanupaw’s Sight, +2 Pride’s Fall, +1 Mad Robomancer
Out: -3 Eldurathan’s Glory, -4 Transmogrifade, -2 Clash of Steel
We’re bringing in 3 threats that matter (2 magistrates and 1 robomancer), more card advantage, and more countermagic. We’re shaving threats that don’t do anything (Glory), and clash of steel. We basically swamp the last 2 transmogrifade for pride’s fall, because pride’s fall hits everything important and doesn’t leave a lingering body.
Tips and Tricks: This deck likes to make plays. Here are some of them.
Sequencing your filtering spells is important. Arcane Focus/Guidance first. Then Fateweave. Then Lanupaw’s Sight. Then draw cards with Oracle’s Song or Silver Talon Adjudicator.
Runebind can be used to blank removal, by turning a creature into a rune. It can be used re-buy deploy effects like Silver Talon Adjudicator’s life gain or card draw. It can be used to save a creature, after blocks are declared. Try to think about these situations 1 turn in advance, so you can fateweave a resource to the top of your deck. Alternatively, turn 7 is a good time to do these tricks, because you have dreaming fox’s hero power to draw you into a resource. Remember that you don’t have to naturally draw the resource – you can arcane focus for it. Finally, it can just be used to delay an effect: If you don’t have a hard counter for culmination of blood, you can Runebind it and Into the Unknown the rune…or hope they don’t draw a resource.
Into the Unknown is a terrific card that allows sapphire decks to deal with constants and artifacts. In every matchup, you should have a mental list of what cards are core to the opposing deck’s strategy…and try to send them where they belong: the unknown. If you Into the Unknown your own dark heart in a DS mirror, all of their dark hearts get turned into random cards, your single dark heart gets turned into a random card but the rest of your hearts are safe. Remember that Into the Unknown does not revert: counters, prophesy effects, etc. will still be on the new card. Because it transforms into a card of the same shards, you can sometimes bounce a transmogrified card to hand that they can’t replay, because they don’t have the shards for it.
Silver Talon Adept should be used as a card-drawing spell in a control matchup. Don’t be afraid to use spells inefficiently to draw more cards with it.
Change your Sockets:
Is there a big difference between 6 toughness and 4 toughness? If your opponent doesn’t have Pyre Strike, Lazgar’s Vengeance or Strangle, and blocking isn’t too important, Dark Heart’s +2 toughness gem should change
Does the opponent rely heavily on a few key cards, or prophecy? Use the Minor Sapphire of Lunacy
Just want to hit your resource drops? Use the Minor Diamond of Fate
Psychic ascension board stalls are generally broken by evasive troops – give your Dark Heart flying and swiftstrike in PA mirrors.
Mad Robomancer should generally be a Major Sapphire of Sorcery and a Minor Sapphire of Lunacy. At two robomancers per turn, we can deck a control player in about 5 turns, while having a ton of blockers and free spells.
Updates for an Aggressive Metagame
You may have noticed that Lazgar’s Vengeance got placed on the watch list. Probably because Tork Slamstyx and Ivan Slagpot decks have been running rampant over the constructed scene. Don’t worry – this deck, like any powerful archetype, can be tuned to fight against any metagame. Here’s are the changes I’d make if I was playing the tournament this week:
1 Lanupaw’s Sight (From the main)
2 Pride’s Fall
Moved to the Side:
Weave into Nothing
1 Into the Unknown
Added to the Main:
4 Thunderfield Seer
Playing against aggressive decks requires consistency and the ability to efficiently spend your mana in early turns. Thunderfield Seer is a delayed cantrip – we’re eventually getting that card back, but it may take some time. However, it frequently uses resources that we weren’t going to use, and it is the bane of baby yetis, escape goats, boltspasms and righteous outlaws everywhere. Worst case, it’s a speedbump to throw in front of an underworld crusader.
In testing, I’ve found that adding the thunderfield dramatically improves our Tork matchup, and helps make our redlings matchup solidly favored. But this is the fun of having a thriving control deck in the standard format – there are always tweaks you can make to gain percentage points in matchups. I hope you guys have as much fun controlling the board, drawing cards, and grinding out that sweet v-owl-ue as I have.