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Monday Morning Metagame (4/23)

Monday Morning Metagame, 4/23

I think they remembered

Remember that time, like, oh, pick a number, 7 days ago?  When for some reason all the Diamond-Wild Momentum Players decided to take a sabbatical and let Sapphire-Wild Rowdy run rampant?  They showed up this week.  18 players brought Diamond-Wild Momentum with Lady Avalanche, and they won 60% of their matches and took the top 4 spots in the Bash.

What?  Play the best deck in a competitive tournament?  Seems unsportsmanlike.  SOMEBODY CALL COUNT DRAGOMIR, HE’S NEEDED.

Notably absent this week:  Candles.  Which was good, because Candles has a long and storied history of getting butchered by Diamond-Wild.  Only 4 people showed up with it.

I’ve got a couple mini-takes from this week, so let’s run them off:

Diamond-Wild is still an underdog to interactive decks with good removal.  Blue Sparrow decks beat it 4 times in 6.  Bar’dak the Butcher decks beat it 4 times in 7.

Sapphire-Wild seems to have fixed its Momentum Problem.  A few weeks ago, Sapphire-Wild was in the crosshairs and every DW Momentum deck was packing 4 Eldurathan’s Glories and 4 Wise Magistrates.  A lot of DW decks have trimmed a copy or two of these cards, and SW decks have become more refined.  That matchup sits at an even 50/50 at the moment.

Both of these decks brutally slaughter fringe decks.  At their core, these are two decks playing very good cards.

Control Decks are fiddling around the edges of the format.  Obliteron Solis decks did well against SW Rowdy, awful against Momentum.  Soptrup’s was probably the cleanest, going only two-shards.  Blue Sparrow decks did a lot better – it turns out, when the two best decks in the format are doing infinite damage to you, starting at slightly lower health doesn’t matter.

Blood-Based Grind is back.  Two Blood Bardak decks in the top 8, both 5-1 in the swiss.  This deck was never bad, at Massacre is a serviceable card against Momentum, Candles, and SW Rowdy.

Neat Stuff

Etruia’s Diamond-Wild Momentum

WHAT?!  How can a Diamond-Wild Momentum deck qualify in “Neat Stuff”?  Isn’t it, by definition, the most mainstream, normcore of decks?  Well, check this puppy out:

Pureflame ProtectorSkylance CaptainMylaanth the Lifebinder

May I present…Diamond Wild Momentum staples!

Yeah.  That’s right.  Excuse me, I’d like to cut some Shamrock the Goldfathers from my deck and add Mylaanth the Lifebinder?  What’s that you say?  Palm of Granite is bugged?  It’s cool, I’m going to play 5 wild shards, 4 Palm of Granite and two Verdant Rifts because my level of fucks given is absolute zero.

Here’s Etruia’s point, though:  The fact that your second Palm of Granite probably reads “Spend 3 Resources.  Do Literal Nothing.” is not a problem for him, because he’s planning to get his opponent SUPER dead by then.  While other people are trying to grind out incremental advantage with value cards like Brilliant Annihilix, he’s playing 4 Skylance Captain.  That thing flies.  You know how many fliers under 7 resources every other DW Momentum deck played?  Zero.

Plus, think of how it looks to face a Skylance Captain as a SW Rowdy or DW Momentum player.  That card’s going to probably kill you on turn 5, you can’t chump block it with a Grapes of Wrath or Candlekin, and it creates free chump blockers.

If you think of each card, and each deck as lying somewhere on the spectrum from “explosive” to “grindy”, most of the standard DW cards are somewhere in that sweet spot in the middle.  Shamrock, Pathfinder, Annihilix…all potentially explosive but also grindy.  Etruia split the difference:  he added cards that are super explosive (Pureflame Protector, Skylance Captain), but also cards that are super-grindy (Dragonspeaker Daliah with Major Diamond of Battalion, Roaming Pulsagath and Mylaanth the Lifebinder).

Some comments:

  • Srsly? Only 5 wild shards with 4 Palm of Granites, 2 Verdant Rifts, and an active Palm of Granite Bug?  Surely at least that diamond shard could become a 6th wild shard.  I get that Pureflame Protector makes the resources a bit tougher, but this seems like it can be overcome.
  • Surely either Dragonspeaker Daliah or Roaming Pulsagath is better. Same with the singleton Brilliant Annihilix and Shamrock, the Goldfather

Hororizon’s Ruby-Sapphire Actions

Much like my boy lightmre, you have to admire somebody who has an idea for a deck and executes on it.  Hororizon (I feel like this name should have an extra R. Was there a 10-character limit?  Horrorizon!) wanted to play a lot of freaking actions and make a lot of decisions in a beautiful deck.  So let’s go through the steps:

  1. He put in the best action-based win condition, 3 Psychic Ascension, and then one more for the lulz:
  2. Psychic Ascension is a pretty crummy card to have in your opening hand, so he put in some ways to discard it (Briny Ray, Excruciate, Hero Power), as well as a way to cheat it into play (Scribe of the Flayed Man)
  3. He added in the best interaction in his shards, to get to a powerful late game. Runebind, Dingle, Weave into Nothing, Scars of War, Excruciate.
  4. He played 6 copies of 4-of resources. This guy gets it.  8 Ice, 8 Drop Shards, 4 Remnants, 4 Wells.  A++ resource-base building.

Chaos BoltExcruciateYetigeddon

I love all 3 of these cards.  Chaos Bolt does not love me back.

He ran into the Rabid Rider twice (2-0).  Must be nice to be packing all quick-speed removal there.  He split games with DW Momentum and blood.  I’ve played the heck out of this deck, and you’re going to be shocked…but I have some questions:

  • Is Chaos Bolt good? It doesn’t seem good.  It seems like you’re paying 2 resources to randomly trash some of your hand, and there’s a chance that it doesn’t even remove the thing you want removed.  Can I introduce you to my friend Primordial Sabretooth?  Sure, he’s basic speed, but you can also cheat him out with Scribe of the Flayed Man, cast him on turn 7, and he kills Shamrock the Goldfather without giving them any cards.  I know you need a lot of actions to power down Psychic Ascension and up Yetigeddon, but…
  • Speaking of which, did you win any games with Yetigeddon? It seems like it would take a small miracle to put enough actions in your crypt to make it lethal.  Maybe Candlelight is a better damage-oriented, win-the-game option here?
  • I feel like no Ruby-Sapphire action deck is complete without Runic Upheaval. These are my feelings.  There are many like them, but these feelings are mine.
  • 4 Scars seems maybe a bit excessive in a deck that’s also playing 4 briny rays and a lot of ways to find them. Maybe sideboard some to make room for more Dingles?  That card is excellent.

Very sweet deck.

Okay.  In a post-note, ThufirHawat pointed out to me that he lost twice to the following awesome sequence:  Discard Psychic Ascension, Play Yetigeddon, and Runebind the Psychic Ascension Yeti to cheat Psychic Ascension into play.  That 3000-Scoville-Unit hotness may be worth playing Yetigeddon for.

Conclusions

DW Momentum is king!  Fliers are pretty friggin’ good.  Interactive decks do pretty well against Momentum, so keep tuning those control brews for next week!

Monday Morning Metagame (4/16)

Monday Morning Metagame

Hey guys.  Bit of a weird column today, to follow a weird Bash.  Let’s review:

Pictured: Choices.

  • Apparently people got bored of playing the best deck, DW Momentum. Only 7 people registered it, as opposed to the 20 from last week.  Those 7 still performed about as well.
  • SW is the next best deck. It murders interactive decks by packing a lot of value as well as a combo kill.  Without DW to prey on it, it put 4 copies in the top 8 and won.
  • Interactive Decks with quality quick-speed removal like RS and Blood variants can beat DW. They can’t beat SW.  Without DW to keep SW down, they didn’t do particularly hot.
  • RD Candles has a puncher’s chance against anybody except DW, particularly if they didn’t show proper respect.

All in all, Doombringer has introduced the SW Rowdy archetype, and added in a couple of options for RS decks.  But big cards like Count Dragomir, Scribe of the Flayed Man, etc, have found an extremely limited home, and the metagame has changed relatively little since Week 1.

I think it’s tempting, in these circumstances, to blame DW Momentum.  It’s a good deck playing good cards that are good at everything with a good champion…you could say it’s a Good Plan.  The interactive decks posting good win-rates against it have glaring weaknesses against aggressive decks like candles and BR Refuel.

But, as it turns out, there are a number of good decks that have been introduced by the new season.  A lot of them have game against DW.  A lot of them are also freaking sweet.  Let me introduce you all to my baby, Sparrow Reanimator.

Scribe of the Flayed ManMordrom's GiftDoombringer Kha

We have many fair and balanced ways of winning the game.  Many.

My first experience with seeing somebody Mordrom’s Gift Doombringer Kha was on the ladder, when it didn’t even occur to me that doing 20 damage straight to my face thanks to Ruby Gem of Twinstrike was even a thing.  Later, MustacheMagic took it to a second place Bash finish (he did pretty well this week too).

  • It plays all the cards I love: Scribe of the Flayed Man, Voice of D’endrahh, Briny Ray, Primordial Sabretooth, Doombringer Kha, Scour the Archives
  • It does powerful things. It can grind.  It involves a ton of decisions.  It sees a lot of cards.
  • It’s great against DW Momentum – they often have no way to stop fliers, and their removal isn’t quick speed. Game 1 is easy, and the part where they can’t really spend their resources for fear of getting murdered lets you run them over.  Your removal (Primordial Sabretooth, Jouncing Carnage, Excruciate) lines up well with their big troops.  Amazingly, your cards are as good as their cards!
  • It’s one of my absolute favorite decks in any TCG I’ve played.
  • As of the writing of this article, it costs 34,167 Platinum to build.

In order to have an evolving metagame, and tuned decks, and brewing, people have to have access to the cards.  If you wanted to switch between DW Momentum, SW Rowdy, Candles, and this deck, you’d need to invest nearly 70,000 Platinum.  That’s an insane price tag to have access to the best decks in the metagame.  Doombringer, as a set, is incredibly sweet.  I’d bet there are sneaky-awesome decks out there with Rebirth, maybe discard-based control in Blood-Sapphire…there are all these mechanics that haven’t been explored.  Because nobody’s going to spend 15,000 platinum to try out a new idea.

The effect of prices on the metagame is tangible:  People are locked into decks, and so they play what’s best.  Battleshopper writer ThufirHawat is probably the most successful constructed player in Hex – he’s not brewing, he can’t afford it.  Plays DW Momentum because he has it.  If the best players can’t switch between decks, why should we expect the metagame to evolve?  This is a problem that needs to get dealt with if Hex is going to have a healthy competitive scene.

Neat Stuff

Felucius’ Shadow Fuel

We didn’t see a lot of the traditional Tork refuel decks this week.  What we did see was a lot of people asking “What could a third shard do for me?”  Felucius found a couple of things he wanted in Wild, so he put in Eternal Pathfinder and Palm of…oh, wait.  No.  He put in Pack Frenzy; a card I had to go look up, and played Shadow of Blightwood.

FuelmasterPack Frenzy

Who needs Lord Blightbark or Baroness Fiona, when you’ve got this bad boys?

Let’s take it from the top:  This is an anthem deck that creates a sticky board that’s difficult to remove, then boosts the power and toughness of its troops in one go to  create an overwhelming attack.  The anthems?  Shadow of Blightwood is one:  On turn 4, you can sacrifice one of your troops to give the rest +1/+1 permanently.  If you’re doing this using a Blightbush, a Corpse Lily, or something you just brought back from the crypt using Refuel (or Zomboyz), this is pure profit.  Fuelmaster is the second:  So long as its in play, all of your troops are entering with a permanent gladiator 1 bonus.

Finally, Pack Frenzy.  This is a a very neat twist, because it’s effectively an uber-anthem:  Every one of your troops gets +1/+1 (good)…and when socketed with Major Ruby of Pyromancy, summons a 3/1 to attack.  So basically, each of your troops adds 4 power to the board, and it’s insanely hard to block all that power.

The numbers in this deck look pretty good.  It’s playing 4 of its best cards (Fuelmaster, Zomboyz, Replipopper and Burster), 3 of the cards it can’t afford to draw more than one of (Pack Frenzy), or are bad (Corpse Lily).  I’d ask a couple of questions:

  • Is Scrios Forgefist better than Escape Goat? With the wild gem, it can attack for 3 on turn 2, but Escape Goat attacks for 1 on 1, and 2 more on 2.
  • Sideboard seems a bit slapdash. Deck’s natural weakness is going to be DW Momentum.  Pyre Strike is pretty resource-inefficient there.  Have you considered Primordial Sabretooth or Burning Ire?  I think I’d want more cards for this matchup.
  • Corners of the World is neat tech – it’s going to be a repeated mini-refuel for you. What matchups does it come in against?  Blood-based stuff?

JoeZimmers’ Diamond/Ruby/Sapphire Fog Control

“Fogs”, in TCG terms, are cards that prevent all the damage that a player would do in a given turn.  JoeZimmers top-8’d this week with a very cool tri-shard deck that leaned on Fractured Faith and Blinding Light to keep him alive long enough to get to his powerful late game.

Fractured FaithBlaze of GloryBlinding Light

This deck has a lot of ways to stay alive.

Fractured Faith is a hell of a card.  For X,  you can force X troops to attack you, and no other troops can.  So…if you choose X=0, for 0 resources you can’t be attacked that turn.  Control decks have plenty of cards; their problem isn’t how to have more cards than their opponent.  Their how to spend cards efficiently early to not die.  Fractured Faith, for no cost, buys you an entire turn to get to Sunlit Sentence or Annihilate.

This deck, in particular, has some elegant twists.  First, Obliteron Solis shuffles all your prismatic cards back into your deck.  So Fractured Faiths and Hawkward Turns and Blaze of Glories that have been used go back in.  Second, your opponent is under a fundamental pressure:  every turn, you’re holding resources up on their turn, bluffing that you have Fractured Faith or Blinding Light, and they need to attack in, in case you don’t actually have these things.  But if what you actually have was Sunlit Sentence, attacking in gets their board destroyed.

I like how Joe leaned hard into quick speed cards, and prismatic cards for Solis’ ability.  He’s not playing Silver Talon Adjudicator, because it doesn’t power out Psychic Ascension, nor is it quick speed.  Eventually, when he Ascends, the X-cost of Faith and Blaze of Glory will let him make Immaculate Mortruses to his heart’s content (It’s the only 6-cost RD troop).

I’m not going to ask about the resource base (I think it’s pretty clear that people don’t have genuine tri-shard resource bases figured out yet), but I will ask:  Joe, what would you change if you wanted to have a shot at beating SW Rowdy?  Because you were 4-0 vs. other decks, and 0-3 vs. SW.  I understand that value/combo decks like SW traditionally just maul control decks, but what would you change?

If you want to give feedback, or say Hi, or just thank Matt at Battleshopper for sponsoring these articles, stop by Battleshopper’s Discord channel!  Thanks for reading!

Monday Morning Metagame (4/9)

Monday Morning Metagame (4/9)

Happy Monday, everybody – thanks for coming and reading.  This weekend’s events were interesting, largely because a pair of bugs threw some wrenches in the metagame.  The first was a known bug with Diamond-Wild Momentum staple Palm of Granite, in which Palm of Granite might randomly choose the same two Wild Shards, thus only giving you 1 Wild Shard and putting it into play.  This caused a couple players to play less Palm of Granite…and probably caused a couple Palm of Granites to fizzle unfortunate.  We’ll mention this in the next section when we talk about how DW performed.

The second was that Trial of Totems, with Major Gem of Battalion, provided a permanent +1/+1 bonus to all your troops.  We didn’t know about this one (and it’s not super clear that that’s…not how it’s supposed to work?), but a player named HellCrescent lit the swiss on fire with a 6-1 take on DS Thk’tatcha tempo.  HexEnt asked him to drop from the top 8, so as not to impact the semis or finals with a bug.  He said he understood, asked for the battleboard and sleeves, and the Hex guys gave them to him.

I thought this was worth highlighting – in this space, we often talk about good brewers, good players, and good decks.  We don’t often talk about good sports, and people playing this game with their eyes on the prize: that it’s a game, played for fun.  HellCrescent could have been upset that he’d been denied a shot at Bash cash prizes, but both sides were refreshingly adult about things.  So that deserves a tip of the hat.

Tracking the Favorites

So it’s always good, when checking on the results, to see how the favorites did.  First, let’s put it out there:  DW Momentum is still the best deck in the format, and everybody knows it.  22 out of 79 people brought the deck, and it still won 53.4% of its games.  This deck is just super hard to hate out:  it’s doing a fundamentally fair thing and playing good, valuable troops on curve.  What it specifically does is absolutely murder aggressive decks:  It won 14/18 matches, good for a 78% win-rate, against aggressive and tempo decks, while coin-flipping with the second most popular deck, SW Rowdy.

The new-comers this week, as the format continues to evolve, were interactive decks designed to beat DW Momentum.  These decks had some simple plans:  Try to minimize the number of Shamrock the Goldfathers and Exalted Pathfinders that hit the battlefield.  Foremost among these was trusty old mono-blood, packing Strangles, Herofalls, and our old favorite Bride of the Damned.  Mono-Blood posted a 71% win-rate vs. DW Momentum.

Why?  Pretty simple.  In order to boost its win-rate vs. SW Rowdy, Momentum decks are playing more aggressive cards, straying from the card-value version that showed up towards the end of last season.  As a result, it’s worse against Blood decks that can take away their powerful threats.  It’s tough to build a midrange deck like DW with a good sideboard plan against aggression while devoting 4 slots to Wise Magistrate.

So why didn’t Mono-Blood, the deck which beats the best deck, do better than 4-3?  The aggressive decks.  It was 0% (yep) against Blood-Ruby Refuel and Candles.  ITMensch, on Candles, went on to win the whole thing.

Rise of Ruby-Sapphire

Finally, it’s worth touching on a few of the Ruby-Sapphire decks that popped up in response to Momentum’s dominance.  These came in a couple of flavors, but the idea was pretty straightforward:  keep the problematic cards off the table, then play a crazy game-winning spell.

DiscombobulateStifling StingExcruciate

Just playing all the best Ruby-Sapphire interaction.  Eat your heart out, Brilliant Annihilix.  Protection from non-prismatic THIS.

CheekyBreeky’s deck is a good example.  I don’t think this is the finished version of this deck, but it does a couple things very well:  It kills troops early with Primordial Sabretooth, then just plays a beautiful curve of quick speed disruption.  Stifling Sting, Discombobulate, Excruciate, Candlelight.

These decks posted an 83.3% win-rate against DW.  If they can figure out a way to do well against aggressive decks (0-3 there), this could be a contender.

Neat Stuff

NephilimArmy’s Twisted Sister Combo

This deck is absolutely awesome, and it’s great to see it do well at a Bash.  I would tell you how neat this deck is, but Androod already has.

Lightmre’s Bury Control

So this was one of the better finishes by a deck with a bury theme in it ever.  Lightmre played this deck to a 9th place finish, narrowly missing the top 8.  He did so by feasting on other control decks (4-0), but I mostly wanted to highlight the deckbuilding that went on here, because I think it’s neat.

The LibrarianCult of the Nameless CityVoice of D'endrrah

This deck picks up a ton of take-over-the-game cards with Sapphire.

This deck is basically Mono-Blood, but instead of better answers (Bride of the Damned), it’s playing better threats.  By playing some Sapphire cards, it attacks at an angle that’s hard to answer:  burying the opponent’s entire deck, and also gets some hard-to-remove cards.  Here’s some questions and comments on the deck.

  • Big thumbs up on the threat diversity. The Librarian is a tricky card to answer fairly and will take over the game if left unchallenged.  The same can be said of Cult of the Nameless City.
  • Good job using all the buffalo. Mono-Blood already wanted to play Demented Whispers for the discard, why not get use out of the bury?  Vampire Prince buries cards too.
  • By going sapphire, we pick up a lot of card advantage. Cult of the Nameless City can draw 3, the Librarian can get you an extra card every turn, Voice of D’endrrah can take over games and Demented Destiny is also nuts.  We have none of these things in mono-blood.
  • We then play 4 Massacre, 4 Vampire Prince and 4 Herofall because we know we need to get to the late game.
  • We also pick up all the good Sapphire cards which interact on the stack in the sideboard.
  • I like the restraint on Cult of the Nameless City. 4 might be right, but there’s an argument for 3: this is a miserable card to draw multiples of early game.

This is a well-crafted deck (…aside from the resources: this is a 23/24 resource deck, not a 22 resource deck, and you probably need more ice).  It’s lightmre’s third Bash with Yarna, and you can sort of see him zeroing in (Try 1, Try 2) on good versions of the deck.  I’m excited to see where he takes it.

Rolfusius’ Mystery Skyshaper

You might look at this deck and see 2 Arena Regular and 2 Unhenge.  You might, foolishly, believe that here goes a man who can’t make up his mind.

I see a fiendish dedication to craft and curve.  I see a man who would play 6 Righteous Outlaws if he could, but instead is forced to play another ruby 2-drop that pressures life total.

You might ask why we’re playing 3 Runic Missiles…and 1 Return to Cinder

I would tell you that you should study the Way of Fire…that damage done to the face is never wasted, and Briny Ray will discard your sins.

You might question Rolfusius.  You might ask what this singleton Boltwing Phoenix is doing here.

I would ask you, Seeker of Knowledge, if you were feeling discombobulated.

Why are we playing Typhoon Skyshaper, a 4/5 with double-sapphire threshold in our ruby aggressive deck?  When we have no good troops to bounce to hand except our 7-cost Primordial Sabretooth?

There is a reality even prior to heaven and earth;

Indeed, it has no form, much less a name;

Eyes fail to see it;

It has no voice for ears to detect;

Absolutely quiet, and yet illuminating in a mysterious way

Typhoon Skyshaper allows itself to be perceived only by the clear-eyed.

 

If you want to give feedback, or say Hi, or just thank Matt at Battleshopper for sponsoring these articles, stop by Battleshopper’s Discord channel!  Thanks for reading!

#HotTakes: A look forward and back at new formats

The Setup

Hey Guys, I’m Matt, owner of Battleshopper. I am here today to start a fun new series. Sadly this won’t be a weekly event, or even a monthly, but about twice a set. Card evaluation is really hard, and I thought it would be fun to ask the Battleshopper content producers what they thought would be the most influential cards would be. This is something I’ve seen very often in other reviews, but I wanted to do something a bit different: right before the next set drops we revisit this article and see how right or wrong everyone was. And then do it again for that set and so forth. The goal of this is not necessarily to be right, but to have fun in the process (and be right.) Now it is definitely worth mentioning that all the opinions written here were sent to me BEFORE the set was released, the fact that its being released now is entirely my fault. Now on with the random guesses and assumptions!

ThufirHawat

 Brilliant Annihilix
1. Brilliant Annihilix: This is Rune Ear Hierophant 2.0. While it may not have the potentially broken power level of Scribe of the Flayed Man, this humble little Ender is the ultimate value card, capable of generating card advantage every turn with either the Major Blood Gem of Migraines or the Major Wild Gem of Calling (aka Oakhenge ceremony gem), difficult to block, and difficult to remove. Terrific card.

 

2. Scribe of the Flayed Man: This creepy Sister of Pain on the other hand asks quite a lot of you. She almost requires that you run Blue Sparrow as your champion, requires two different thresholds, and is not particularly impressive unless you are using her to cheat things into play. But for all that she asks, the power she offers is worth it. Turn 4 kill combos have already been found, turn 4 Psychic Ascension is downright easy to pull off, and even turn 4 Candlelight or Primordial Sabretooth are not half bad. Easily the most potentially busted card in the set.
Moon'ariu Sensei
3. Moon’ariu Sensei: A quiet addition to the core commons, this little fellow is one of the cards I am most confident will see consistent Constructed play. It smooths out draws, trades well against aggro, can contribute meaningful chip damage, fixes the curve for many decks, and now you can even turn it into a real threat with Lady Avalanche. A very welcome reprint.

 

4. Treacherous Search: This is among the best cantrip cards Hex has printed yet, and a worthy heir to the dearly missed (by me) Arcane Focus. You can Search on turn one with a clear conscience if you need to dig for more shards or a play on turn two, but late game it scales up into a near-tutor. Search for 10 or 11 has an excellent chance of finding whatever you are looking for. Its flexibility means it is a welcome card to have in hand at any point in the game. Further, as a card with a cost of just “X”, it has some other interesting corner case applications. It can trigger any Rowdy cards you have (particularly useful with Lord Blackberry), even if they’ve already triggered a few times, without messing up your curve by including too many expensive cards in your deck. And there are possible shenanigans afoot with cards such as Auspex of Lanupaw (play it on turn for, search for x=0) or Monk of the Sacred Stones.

ProfessorYana

Scribe of the Flayed Man

1. Scribe of the Flayed Man: Shenanigans. That is what Scribe of the Flayed Man will do in constructed. It enables so many silly, abuseable tactics that I’m actually surprised this got printed. Scribe of the Flayed Man will be an absolute all-star, and is the most powerful card in Doombringer.

 

2. Brilliant Annihilix: Scribe of the Flayed man may be the most powerful card, but Brilliant Annihilix has the most flexibility in potential for game-play options. Sockets? Check. Ruby-Diamond Ardent? Check. Momentum? Check. Control? Check. Beats Mono-Blood? Finally. I personally think this card has the most potential in decks running Sapphire that can use the Minor Gem of Mists, but Brilliant Annihilix gets my #2 slot because of its adaptability.
Rowdy Piper
3. Rowdy Piper: I’m kind of scared about Rowdy Piper. I think it will be inherently powerful – most cards in TCGs that replenishes resources can be abused. I’m scared that this card will send DW Momentum over the edge in terms of power level; it slots perfectly with the deck and the Momentum strategy, which is already Tier 1. Beyond Momentum, I’m curious to see what this deck does in Sapphire-Wild Rowdy decks. This card is fantastic, almost too much so.

 

4. Voice of D’Endrrah: I love card draw. I love 5/5’s with flight on turn 4. I love being able to discard at my leisure to keep it strong. Where this card becomes great is in Discard strategies that can interact with crypts (Reanimator, perhaps). Chaostouched decks were seeing fringe play before Doombringer (and I love Blood-Sapphire Chaostouched decks). I’m hyped about this card’s ceiling in terms of power.

 

Honorable Mention – Soaring Cataclyst: While not properly on my top 4, this card will boost the power of Ruby-Diamond decks. For 2 resources, you get a 2/2 with flight and provides permanent buffs to your troops in hand. It’s on curve, provides evasion, and has further upside. It’ll definitely see play, but will fight with Wartorn General on curve.

 

Honorable Mention – Doombringer Kha: Call me crazy for not having this in my top 4, but make no mistake: this card is strong. It warps the way players can design control decks, as this can be a control deck’s endgame over, say, Psychic Ascension. Beyond control, the deck screams ‘Cheat me into play.’ If this finds a home in fast reanimator decks, I’ll eat my words in a few months, as it should have been a top 4 choice.

 

YungDingo

Count Dragomir

1. Count DragomirThis card has fantastic synergy with a lot of the new, powerful rebirth creatures, and will quickly take over the late game. Being on the five drop spot of the curve means that this fits nicely with powerful four drops, such as Exalted Pathfinder, and can be followed by Rakaanozov the Starved in order to destroy a card every draw step. The one con of this card is that it looks foolish in the face of strangle, as the rebirth trigger would bring it back as a 0/0.

 

2. Brilliant Annihilix: This card is the literal swiss army knife of Hex. It does it all if a variety of different decks. It can be played as a sacrifice outlet that makes the opponent discard with migraine and ghoul gems in a sort of rebirth shell, while dodging all of the most popular removal in the format and it can be a vanishing, double damage threat in a Doombring Kha deck. It really does it all. The only downsides to this card is that it is going to make hailhawk turn a chase uncommon, and it’s soft to blight.

Sugar Rush

3. Sugar Rush: This is the finisher that SW Turns has been waiting for. This generates insane amounts of card advantage in that deck, in combination with Merry Caravan and Eyes of the Heart. With cards like Palm of Granite being the format, it shouldn’t really ever be a dead card, and who doesn’t want to loop Sugar Rushes and Eyes of the Heart?

 

4. ChugThis is a bit of an underrated card as of right now, but this card has serious potential when put in the correct aggro shell. In a world with Escape Goat, Righteous Outlaw, Boltwing Phoenix and Refuel, this card will become very large very quickly. This feels like a card that aggressive decks have wanted for a long time, as it provides the deck with powerful top-decks in the late game. The only downside is that it forces wild to be in the deck. However, with the new Remnant Shard fixing, aggressive decks don’t mind taking two points of damage here or there. Remember the last time there was a standard legal card that got better when troops attacked? Lazgar’s Vengeance anyone?

ProfessorFrench

1. Brilliant Annihilix: “Excellent card design complemented by versatile gems” would be the tagline for Annihilix. It’s literally a Swiss Army Knife. If you want discard, you got discard. If you need an ever-growing threat, you got it. Did I mention that it has even more text? The untargetable and unblockable by non-prismatic cards gives it an edge most decks would feel comfortable playing.

Eternal Curator

2. Eternal Curator: The Eternal cycle sees another fine addition with this bad boy. It has excellent stats, a relevant keyword (invincible), and an insane ability. Removing all duplicates in a deck is absolutely busted, especially if you ramped Curator out before turn 7 as this also hits shards.

 

3. Rowdy Piper: Replenishing resources is busted. Being able to chain replenish resources is even more busted. All that needs to be said is this ideal Turn 4: Lady Avalanche Hero Power -> Exalted Pathfinder -> Verdant Rift -> Wildlife for 3 -> Eternal Curator. That’s a draw 3, ramp 3, play 5 creatures, and still having resources available for anything else you happen to draw into.

Assimilate

4. Assimilate: Removing a creature, gaining its thresholds, and being able to summon additional copies of the creature you took from your opponent spells value. The downside to playing this quick spell in a control deck is practically non-existent.


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Monday Morning Metagame (4/2)

Monday Morning Metagame (4/2)

Okay!  3rd Bash of the season, and the best decks are starting to separate themselves from the rest of the crowd.  I thought I’d start today’s article with an overview of who’s doing well and why.  These are the decks you need to be keeping in mind and testing against: even if you don’t end up with a favorable matchup, you need a plan.  So here’s the list:

The Final Bosses

Diamond-Wild Momentum

This deck has won all 3 Bashes this season.  It couldn’t possibly have a bigger target on its head.  But the keys to its dominance are simple:

  1. Every card in its deck is individually high powered, and a potential 2-for-1. From Leprechaun Artist to Shamrock and Palm of Granite and Exalted Pathfinder, every card demands removal or it begins to take over the game.
  2. It has potentially aggressive draws that kill on turn 4 or 5
  3. It has draws that are grindy and can produce a lot of card value.

There are two versions of this deck.  The more aggressive version (consider Ramundi’s Bash-winning version) features Righteous Waxshot, and is generally favored in the mirror.  The more grindy version (consider Bobinchese’s semi-finals version) features Guidance, and a slightly more reactive plan; it’s better against interactive decks typically because its cards are better off the top.

If Diamond-Wild’s cards hit the battlefield, they’re really tough to stop.

The best way to beat this deck?  Stop their big payoff cards from hitting the table.  Exalted Pathfinder and Shamrock are virtually guaranteed to 2-for-1 if they hit – the solution is to play interrupts and don’t let them.  Weirdo Obliteron Solis control decks won 75% of their matches against DW this Bash, the only decks to put up a positive winrate repeatedly.

Sapphire-Wild Rowdy

One of the most powerful mechanics to emerge, and a force from the first Bash, this deck continues to put up numbers while not winning anything.  Last week, SW got murdered by aggressive decks.  During the Arcanum Vault, Diabunny and MTGCollector both tinkered with the versions we saw in last week’s bash, adding more 2-drops like Moon’iaru Sensei and Warpsteel Shardsworn.  Not only do these troops play nicely with Consult the Talons, they provide key blockers to buy you time to perform your combo.  You can see this in the BR Refuel matchup – last week it went 1-3 and this week it went 4-2.  Small sample sizes, but shows what some blockers and maindeck runebinds can do.

This deck’s scariest thing is that it can both grind, thanks to potent card-advantage cards like Dreamsmoke Diva, and combo off from hand once it hits 7 resources (a thing it will often do on turn 5 or 6).  It basically never loses to control or slower decks.

Sapphire-Wild can struggle with consistent pressure, but is pretty unbeatable if the game goes long.  

To deal with this deck, you want to apply early pressure and disruption.  Every single DW deck in the top 8 played 4 sideboard Wise Magistrate, 3+ Eldurathan’s Glory (a clean answer to both Rowdy Piper and Dreamsmoke Diva), and well as more ways to find them (Oakhenge Ceremony and Guidance).  One player described his deck as a “Turbo-Eldurathan’s Glory” deck, if that gives you any indication of how focused on disruption it was.

For bonus points, try to have an evasive game plan, or more reach.

It’s worth watching how this deck evolves – I don’t think we’ve gotten to the final build of this deck.

BR Refuel

Tpeezy and martypunker have been tweaking this deck for a couple of weeks now, and have put up reliably good results in the Bash.  It punishes decks that stumble, it has a ton of reach with refuel and Blightbark Burster, and it has powerful draws that stack up with other decks.

The problem?  It’s bad against Momentum.  Like every other aggro deck, it runs into a lot of trouble dealing with the steadfast keyword on a Leprechaun Artist that just gets bigger and bigger every turn.

It is, however, terrific at beating control decks without lifegain, because Blightbark Burster just keeps draining for 3 damage, continually.

RD Candles

We’ve written about this deck a million times.  It’s good.  It’s cheap.  If you come ready for it, you’ll beat it.  If you don’t, it’ll beat you.  It goes wide.  It makes a lot of troops.  Don’t forget about it.  We all know what this is…but last time we forgot about this (2 weeks ago), candles came in and ruined everybody’s tournament with its darned face-smashing.

So what we have here…

Is a classic pincer maneuver.  RD Candles and DW Momentum are decks that crush you if you don’t come prepared to interact.  SW Rowdy and BR Refuel are really tricky to interact with.  Diamond-Wild Momentum is the deck that’s currently walking the line:  it’s fast enough to kill non-interactive decks and has enough grind to brawl with interactive decks.  So it’s won 3 Bashes in a row.

Neat Stuff

MustacheMagic’s 4-Shard Reanimator

First, let’s salute the first top-8 by a legitimate 4 shard deck:  a deck which actually has the ability to create thresholds of the four worst shards in Hex.  Blood, Sapphire, Diamond and Ruby.  This deck features a number of great ways to do very stupid things to people, and MustacheMagic rode them to victory.

The plan?  As always, straightforward.  Take a champ who discards things, 4 Briny Rays and 3 Voice of D’endrrahs to let you pitch cards to the crypt.  Add 4 Scribes of the Flayed Man to cheat them into play on the way there.  Add 4 Mordrom’s Gifts socketed with Twinstrike to try to cheat them back out once they get there.  Add in your fatties of choice (Doombringer Kha, Primordial Sabretooth and Eternal Seeker), some runebinds to make sure they stick, and stir.

Scribe of the Flayed ManMordrom's GiftDoombringer Kha

Now this is just clean living.  Nothing shady to see here…

Most notably, this deck kills somewhat faster than the best combo deck, and most builds of Diamond-Wild Momentum actually can’t interact any with of its fatties at quick speed.  Voice of D’Endrrah is a particularly cute addition, as it enables a quick-speed discard outlet for acting at the end of the opponent’s turn (Excruciate can also do this, albeit a bit more expensively).

Ultimately, this deck is pretty easy to disrupt – if you want to beat it, pack Gravebane Vials, Loregoyle Curators, and keep Scribe of the Flayed Man off the table.  Still, keep an eye out for when people’s crypt hate starts slacking, and this deck will be there to prey on you.

StorrowN’s BRS Discard…Aggro…Elemental…Nameless?

Somebody saw Smradd’s deck from last week and thought:  “I can do that!  But like…this is a prismatic set, right?  So we should be more prismatic?  Great.”  Enter:  Sapphire, Ruby and Blood Elementals…and Discard…and Nameless?!  And a bunch of other stuff!

Briny RayUnhengeMalevolent Mi'go

Yes…Yes…what?!

So first, let’s get this out of the way:  StorrowN played a @#$%ing murderer’s row of players.

  • Parni Top-8’d with SW Woken Combo in the first bash. But he was not @#$%ing prepared for Flare Imps.  Easy 2-1.
  • Heaton’s won the Clash twice and Top-8’d 4 Bashes. He was no match for Nameless Dustman.
  • ProfessorFrench brought Mono-Blood. Let’s ignore him, it’s the nicest thing we can do.
  • AstroSquirrel has 2 Bash Top 8s, but didn’t play Malevolent Mi’go in his deck, so he never stood a chance.
  • Khendral top-8’d just last week…but was deeply unprepared for 4 maindeck Demented Whispers in an aggro deck. You know who loves Demented Whispers?  Nameless Dustman and his Mi’gos.
  • Enyma and YungDingo finally put this beast down (8 Bash Top 8s between them).

Basically, it’s possible that Storrow had the hardest draw in this whole tournament.  And he still went 4-3 playing a vicious assortment of draft chaff.  The basic theme?  Somebody’s going to be discarding, and we don’t know who, but we’re going to profit off of it.  Needless to say, I have some questions:

  1. This deck looks like Nameless Dustman invited an RS discard deck and a Mono-B Bury deck to a three-way. Aside from Dustman, there’s little interaction between the two halves of your deck.  Why?  Couldn’t we just go full RS?  Maybe even splash Dustman?  What about other evasive threats, like Shred of Gloon or Voice of D’Endrrah?
  2. Talk to me a little about Unhenge. It seems like a wicked tempo play…that you should be building your deck around, rather than these blood cards?

Anyhow, this deck is sweet…but probably a bit of a stretch.  Aggressive decks generally want to hit their shard drops and colors correctly, and playing Briny Ray along with Demented Whispers and Nameless Dustman is likely asking too much of Hex’s opening hand algorithm.

Conclusions

DW wins again.  Thanks to some tweaking, the master of midrange flipped its matchup vs. SW Rowdy (the second most popular deck), while keeping its overwhelming advantage vs. aggressive decks.  If you’re brewing this week:

  • Try to find a profitable way to keep Shamrock and Eternal Pathfinder off the table, or deal 22 points of damage to champion before they can spend all their cards.
  • Try to find a way to sneak those same points of damage past an SW Rowdy player…or get ready for a long, hard fight on the chain when they’re trying to combo off.
  • Don’t forget about the aggressive decks. They’re lurking right outside of the top tier.  And they hungry.
  • Nobody’s come up with the defining control deck of the format yet.  Possibly this is because the format is so broad, and attacks from so many angles; we also do not have a clear control build-around like Dark Heart of Nulzann with Clarity Gem.

If you want to give feedback, or say Hi, or just thank Matt at Battleshopper for sponsoring these articles, stop by Battleshopper’s Discord channel!  Thanks for reading!

Deck Tech: SRb Sisters

Introduction

Hey everyone, Androod here back from a brief Hex hiatus with some new sweet Doombringer content! Saying Doombringer has done a lot to shake up the standard meta game is putting things lightly. If you frequent the Battleshopper blog site or even just play a ladder match here and there you are already aware of all the sweet new possibilities this set has brought to us. I’m here today to talk about my personal favorite of these new possibilities with a combo/control deck I have been working on and really enjoy playing.

 

Champion: Blue Sparrow
Actions:
4x Theorize
4x Scour the Archives
2x Light ‘Em Up
4x Return to Cinder
2x Jouncing Carnage
1x Scars of War
1x Casualty of War
Resources:
4x Remnant of Innovation
4x Remnant of Hatred
4x Root of Cunning
4x Well of Innovation
4x Nameless Draught
1x Sapphire Shard
2x Feralfuel
Troops:
1x Eternal Seeker
4x Briny Ray
4x Primordial Sabretooth
4x Conjured Candleghast
3x Voice of D’endrrah
3x Painstoke Sister

Reserves:
4x Verdict of the Ancient Kings
2x Brink of Madness
2x Glaciate
3x Scars of War
2x Nameless Truths
2x Gravebane Vial

Combo

“Hey Androod what is the combo?!”

I’m glad you asked random Battleshopper.com patron! The two sisters combined with Light ‘Em Up give us the infinite damage loop below.

 

  1. Discard Light ‘em Up to Voice
  2. Point Painstoke Sister trigger at the opponents face
  3. Return Light ‘em Up to our hand
  4. Go to 1

This combo is great for a few different reasons:

  1. It kills them from any health total assuming your clicking finger doesn’t give out
  2. All of the cards are reasonable outside of the combo. Sister combined with our card filtering provides some extra damage and removal. Voice is a large body that draws us extra cards. Light ‘em Up can act as a chump blocker or just get filtered away since we can start the combo with the card in our crypt.
  3. It can kill at quick speed. If we get to a point where both troops are in play we it’s VERY hard to stop the combo since we can just discard another card in response to a piece of removal and get our Light ‘em Up back again.

 

Card Choices

Spot Removal – The cards that kill that particular thing over there

 

 

There isn’t much to say about this collection of removal. It’s the best removal in the format short of Herofall (which we cannot reliably play) so that is why it’s here. Plain and Simple.

 

Filtering – The cards that make the deck work

 

I think there is a strong argument that Briny Ray is the best card in Doombringer. The amount of consistency this card adds to your deck is incredible. It can just start netting you cards as early as turn two when combined with Nameless Draught and Feralfuel. This interaction is so potent we are playing FeralFuel with zero targets for the drop in our deck. Also due to the wording on the card if you are empty handed you just get to draw a card with no downside. All of this stapled onto a speedy and evasive two drop is all you can ask for. The first time I played Briny Ray after Doombringer was released I wanted to find a home for it.

 

Similar synergies as Briny Ray but less good because it is not Briny Ray.

 

I had to read this card a few times when I saw it spoiled to make sure I was reading it correctly. A two cost unconditional search effect is very powerful. This card allows us to more easily assemble the combo and play one of bullets to help us out of certain situations. Our main deck bullets are pretty conservative consisting of a Scars of War and an Eternal Seeker. The downside of the first copy saying “pay two draw a card” is pretty minimal in this deck because we can filter that copy away.

 

Threats – The cards that kill them

 

This card has really impressed me. It is effectively a two cost 4/4 that draws a card when you cast it. As early as turn three we can have a 4/4 in play while holding up Return to Cinder against aggro decks. It also does a good job of pressuring more controlling decks and forcing them to spend removal on it which means less removal pointed at our combo troops.

 

Another card that has really been impressing me in a lot of different situations and I would not be surprised to ultimately find four copies being the correct number. Combined with Conjured Candleghast does a great job of gumming up the board and generating value. She also does a good job of doding defense based removal like Strangle and Primordial Sabretooth the turn she comes into play meaning you are likely to get a two for one at minimum. The discard ability also allows you to cheat out your Candleghast at quick speed which can make combat messy for your opponent.

 

On the surface outside of the combo she really looks like an expensive draft card but sister is quite strong with the right shell. Decks with lots of X/1 troops like Candles have a hard time building a board presence since all of the sudden our filtering effects are killing their troops for free. She also enables your filters to just be straight card draws if you have a Light em’ Up Handy. There is also some great racing potential with her and Voice even without the combo. Every card in your hand essentially turns into a zero cost burn.

 

Notable Exclusions – The cards that ended up not being that good

 

Initially when I started taking working on this deck a little more seriously I tried out Scribe of the Flayed Man over Conjured Candleghast and it just felt too clunky. Scribe is an objectively powerful card there is no denying that but it was often a three cost 2/3. In maybe 10% of the games I tested her I got to cheat a Sabretooth into play and it felt awesome but the other 90% she was just 50% more than Candleghast for 50% of the body.

 

Cremate looks like it might be appealing over Return to Cinder since it can return our Light ‘em Ups and be played for zero but the basic speed is a real downside. It also falls short against the BR Zomboyz aggro strategies since voiding the troops is very important.

 

Double blood isn’t really possible until at least turn six without disrupting your other development. The minor upside over Jouncing Carnage is really not worth the added inconsistency. Also with Brilliant Annihilix a Carnage being prismatic is an advantage over Herofall.

 

Reserves – The cards the help us win the bad matchups

 

I’m not going to dive to deep into these, you should know where these cards are good by now.

 

DW Momentum is not a stellar matchup and it’s something I’m hoping to sure up with some more testing. The best option I’ve found so far is Glaciate. It’s easy for this deck to cast early and can hit a troop or a Merry Caravan. It doesn’t remove the problem but it puts it somewhere else for awhile and makes it come back worse due to the reversion. We just hope to buy enough time to combo kill them.

 

The combo kill isn’t a guarantee in a long game against Mono Blood since they have Herofall so we need to pad our grindy backup plan a little more. Nameless Truths can get back enough value to help us craft a win or it can just get back a combo piece that previously ate a Herofall. This card also got a minor buff with the release of the Root resources. Since these are discarded we have the ability to bring these in against matchups that have cards we cannot naturally play making things like stealing a Doombringer Kha a reality.

 

Vial is just a card you want to see against the BR Zomboyz decks. They have the ability to make big comebacks with cards like Refuel so having a way to take them off that at some point during the game can be important. It’s possible this should just be a one of to fetch up with Scour the Archives.

 

This is a card I’m trying out against Sugar Rush and Reanimator. Being able to Verdict a Sugar rush and strip it out of their deck or take reanimator off of Doombringer Kha for good is appealing but I’m not convinced it is where we wanna be yet.

 

Wrap Up

In conclusion I’ve been playing Hex since Set 3 and this deck is the most fun I have had in standard. It has a powerful proactive plan that will just kill the opponent on turn 5-6 most of the time. There is a lot of built in consistency and card advantage with the filter/search effects. I never feel like I am out of a game until my health total hits zero because there are so many different lines you can take every turn. The deck has a lot of play to it and rewards good sequencing on your resources to minimize damage from your remnants.

 

-Androod (Mike Kletz)

@Androod27

Monday Morning Metagame (3/26)

Introduction

Guys, I have a confession to make: I love the first month of a new Hex season.  Right now, the metagame is in flux, people have no idea what’s good, and nobody has any idea how to build a tri-shard resource base, or even if it’s a good idea.  Now is the time where anything is possible, where nobody’s even figured out the good Count Dragomir deck, and where ridiculous nonsense is running wild. Second Bash (and first important one) of the season this week.  Let’s see what happened.

Something Rowdy This Way Comes

The most popular decks this week were Rowdy Sapphire-Wild decks playing one of the cards we told you might be @#$%’d-in-half good:  Rowdy Piper. We told you this card might be busted before the set was published, and last week, we highlighted the first instance of this deck to place well.  I’ve long been a fan of “if you think a deck’s Plan A is busted, make that deck’s Plan A the best it can be”, and it looks like people followed our advice.  Pippit Hustler got cut, Sugar Rush got added, and 11 copies of this deck got registered (though champions were split between The Blackberry Knight and Balthasar the Elegist).

Rowdy PiperDreamsmoke DivaSugar Rush

Why play a few cards in your deck when you could play all of them?

This deck combos off by getting Dreamsmoke Diva and Rowdy Piper on the table at the same time, and repeatedly triggering Piper’s Rowdy ability to draw more and more cards, take extra turns with Eyes of the Heart, and eventually either burying the opponent’s deck by using Sugarpuss’ Dandy Candies, or just attacking people with a giant Grapes of Wrath over your extra turns.

Last week, this deck interacted too much, and got run over a bit.  Let’s check this deck out vs. the decks that we know or suspect are good:

  •         1-3 vs. Mono-Blood.  Only 4 people registered it, but it turns out that the deck that relies on 3 specific cards (Rowdy Piper, Dreamsmoke Diva and Exalted Pathfinder) has a tough time vs. Herofall and Massacre.  Weird.
  •         71.4% vs. DW Momentum.  Ah-ha. I see why we’re playing this deck.
  •         2-1 vs. Candles – consistent with results from last week
  •         25% vs. Thk’tatcha and Tork.  Are these the good all-in aggressive decks?

Let’s not be too surprised here:  At the beginning of any season, one of the “pre-cons” (the dominant mechanic in a shard pairing) will emerge as the deck to beat.  SW beats up on fairish midrange decks like Diamond-Wild Momentum a reasonable chunk of the time, and that gave it pole position as the most popular deck.  Expect to see this change as aggressive decks round into form and interactive decks evolve to face it.

Don’t Forget About Aggro

This was a good week for aggro.  The Top-8 of the Bash featured a BR Tork deck, a Mono-R Thakra deck, a Candles deck that squeaked in at 4-2, an incredible DS aggro deck that we’re going to go in-depth into later, two DW Momentum decks and two SW Combo decks.  SW decks aren’t looking to interact – they’re looking to combo off, so any deck that can just go ahead and deal 22-25 damage to the face before SW combos off can generally get there.

ZomboyzRefuelBlightbark Burster

Get ready to see these guys in every metagame where nobody’s playing early interaction.

Specifically, I want to briefly appreciate martypunker and tpeezy, who 5-1 and 4-2’d the swiss with an RB Tork deck involving a lot of Zomboyz and Refuel, in the spirit of Metronomy’s deck from last week.  This deck eschews slightly clunkier cards like Feralfuel Alpha for 4 Refuels, 4 Zomboyz, and 4 Blightbark Bursters, as well as 4-of the best reanimate targets at 1 cost (Escape Goat and Boltspasm).  Their records speak for themselves: they savagely beat down every deck that wasn’t Momentum.

I’ve always considered aggressive decks to be format police – they make any competitive deck be prepared to interact, or face death on turn 4-5.  Refuel and Zomboyz give this particular BR deck a lot of reach and explosiveness that wasn’t available last set. With luck, we’ll see interactive decks that can handle both these aggressive decks and the combo goodness of SW.

Neat Stuff:  Entirely DS Aggro Section

Normally we talk about a lot of decks here.  Not this week. Because, I gotta be honest, I’ve been wanting this deck to exist since the new gems got revealed.  I’ve been saying “I want to see evasive threats and Battalion Gem in Brilliant Annihilix”. And my prayers have been answered.  An angel has been sent to us, and his name is…uh…Smradd.  As in U SMRADD BRO?  This deck is great.

Brilliant AnnihilixExalted Commander

Bounce your troop.  Make all of my troops enormous.

So, the core principle of the deck is this:  There are a lot of effects in Hex right now that give +1/+1 to all troops.  Major Gem of Battalion and Exalted Commander both show up in Diamond. It might be tempting to pair them with Gloaming Edict in BD for a third “Anthem” effect, but what Smradd figured out is what Turbo-PA players have known forever:  Consult the Talons is a much better payoff for having a bunch of small troops than a +1/+1 effect.

So Smradd played all the best troop-creators: Warpsteel Shardsworn, Llama Herder, Skittering Cultivator, Replipopper 4000.  He paired them with Arcanovex and Cosmic Calling to hit his most important cards. Finally, he added anthems in Major Gem of Battalion and Exalted Commander…and Runebinds to slow down the opponent.

He also plays the new champion Thk’tatcha – I have to admit, this one flew under the radar for me.  Basically, this champ clears out a blocker and taxes the opponent 1 mana at a relatively low cost, automatically gains tempo.  Also, when you’re trying to attack with a huge amount of low-power troops, getting rid of a big blocker means a lot of your attackers survive.  Very good design.

His sideboard has a nice clarity of purpose to it:  He needs to clear out Wild troops efficiently with Blinding Ire, he needs to be able to interact with sweepers like Massacre and Scars of War, he needs to not lose to combo with Robogoyle.  But it does leave me with some questions:

  •         What is Dark Heart of Nulzann for?  Are you going to try to pivot to a control deck?  What does it come in against? Surely something like Gravebane Vial or some other plan to shore up weird aggro/combo matchups does a better job here.
  •         Why is Minor Gem of Mists in Warpsteel Shardsworn?  You care infinitely more about Brilliant Annihilix surviving than a 1/1.  Feels like Minor Gem of Tactics should be in the Warpsteel. I know the shards don’t line up perfectly, but protecting Annihilix from cards like Hawkward Turn seems very worth it.

I love this deck.  I’m not sure it can survive in a world where everybody comes to their senses and starts playing more Mono-Blood, but I like that it establishes a quick clock while being able to play plenty of interaction and grind.  It’s everything a good, aggressive deck should be, and it showed it in this Bash: Beating every deck except DW Momentum, which it went 1-2 against.

Conclusions

  •         Mono-Blood is still excellent.  Massacre is a strong solution to a lot of the stupid stuff people are doing, including the “counter” to Mono-Blood, Brilliant Annihilix.
  •         DW Momentum is still the best deck in the format, particularly so long as people aren’t playing Mono-Blood.  It has explosive draws, value, and punishes the opponent for stumbling.
  •         There are still a ton of combo decks happening in the format.  As a general rule, you want to have a clock right now – some big troops that can attack or a combo of your own, because eventually Sapphire combo decks are going to stock up enough Runebinds and interaction to beat you on their turn.
  •         There are a ton of amazing aggressive decks happening right now.  It’s a great time to be attacking with all your troops.
  •         Bring your Eldurathan’s Glories.  That card shores up aggressive matchups, can clear up an SW Rowdy Board, and also does wonders against go-wide anthem decks.

If you want to give feedback, or say Hi, or just thank Matt at Battleshopper for sponsoring these articles, stop by Battleshopper’s Discord channel!  Thanks for reading!

Monday Morning Metagame (3/19)

Everything must be different now!

So, it’s a new season!  With the biggest set release ever!  I can’t wait to see how these new cards invigorated new archetypes and cracked the old format in half!  Let’s take a look at the Bash Results!

Okay, cool, cool, so DW Momentum and RD Candles were two of the top 4 decks of last season, but I bet these have some new twists!  Wait.  Literally, not a single Doombringer card in any of the top 4 decks?  Not one?  Not a Brilliant Annihilix with Battalion gem?  Not a single …guys.

Oh god! Last season’s decks! Why you do this to new season’s decks?!

HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?  The cards in Doombringer must be terrible!  The new archetypes must be terrible.  Nothing can stand up to the all-consuming power of candles and momentum!  Oh wait.  This happens every single first Bash of the season.

…oh right. Because people are relying on 4 copies of runebind to stave off aggro.

Remember the start of last season?  When the best aggro decks from the season before that (Ardent Haraza) took 2 of the top 4 spots, and an Angus deck took the rest?  Remember how those decks ended up being basically unplayable?

Great.  Because here’s what happens:  The first week of the season, everybody tries to do new crazy stuff, and often fails to answer the simple question:  “Can my deck beat a good aggressive deck?”.  What’s awesome is that RD Candles and Momentum aren’t even phenomenal aggressive decks.  RD Candles got stomped by the prevailing midrange decks last season, and Momentum is certainly a midrange deck.

But in the interest of trying out interesting things in the set, people put together new, weird decks.  And the plan is always to do something sweet…but it’s not always to beat the decks that people might play.  Somewhere in between the awesome, go-for-it combo and a boring regular deck is usually a sweet deck that can be competitive.  So instead of focusing on the results this week, let’s spend our time checking out some decks that went for it and got lit on fire.

Those Who Dared

Parni’s SW Silent Woken

This deck is just a flavor fail.  So the Silent Auctioneer is selling a Woken Drokkatar?  What the hell is the point of being silent when there’s a giant 25-cost troop stomping around?  The plan of this deck is super simple:  Play Silent Auctioneer, use Theorize or Blue Sparrow’s Hero Power to discard Woken Drokkatar and bury the top 24 cards of your opponent’s deck.  Use a Copycat or a second Silent Auctioneer to bury 48 or 46 cards, respectively, and you should be within rock-throwing distances of burying all of your opponent’s deck.  Do we have a backup plan?  Absolutely not.

Silent AuctioneerWoken Drokkatar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This deck is sweet, but it needs to evolve a bit if it’s going to deal with aggressive draws.  It went 6-0 vs. non-aggressive decks (so it probably kills pretty fast, and is hard to stop!), but it also has only tools for delaying (runebinds, dingles, Weave into Nothing); if it can’t combo off, it’s going to die.  It went 1-2 vs. aggressive decks – while that might work for Durdle Nirvana, it’s not going to get it done when 12 people bring RD Candles.

Thoughts: This deck reminds me of a great deck from a few seasons past:  Mono-Sapphire Empress.  Mono-Sapphire’s in for otherwise useless bodies to trigger Consult and be blockers.  And that deck was relatively great vs. aggro.  Maybe instead of the linear combo pieces, put some blockers that can make it tricky for an aggro opponent to attack through for lethal?  Either way, we need a real plan vs. other aggressive decks other than “Be faster” – it’s not THAT hard to kill a 0/3 Silent Auctioneer, and this deck has no plan to win if it can’t stick a Silent Auctioneer.

Metronomy’s RB Thakra

Metronomy has been trying to make this deck work and punish greedy stuff all year.  Doombringer gave him a bunch of new tools – great new cards up the curve like Flare Imp, Zomboyz and Refuel along with the Remnant of Hatred to make the resources more realistic.  All of a sudden you can play both Fatalfuel Alpha and Boltwing Phoenix without fretting the resources.

ZomboyzRefuel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holy god, we got some aggressive cards!

The curve on this deck is just gorgeous – and it features some neat tricks.  Fatal Dose can combo with Boltwing Phoenix to do 6 damage to all an opponent’s troops at instant speed, or just make an attacker do 4 more damage.  Heart of Agony gets you halfway to another set of blaze elementals.

This is a pretty well-made deck that knows exactly what it wants to beat in the sideboard:  Other aggressive decks.  I’d ask the following simple questions:

  1. How often was the 2nd or 3rd Fatal Dose dead? You only play 14 troops with more than 4 toughness.
  2. Refuel seems like one of the draws to this archetype. Seems like a no-brainer to play 4 in the deck.
  3. Did you consider Necropolis Coins? They provide much-needed reach, and you have plenty of blood shards.
  4. Surely either Flare Imp or Escape Goat was better. Which was it?
  5. Would a Crackling Magma be a useful thing to have in the sideboard, as opposed to all the Cheap Shots?

Fluquor’s SW Turns

Rowdy PiperDreamsmoke Diva

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is not the last time you’re going to see these two together.

We said Rowdy Piper was a messed up card.   When paired with Dreamsmoke Diva and all the other Rowdy cards, it can also make for a heck of a good time.  This deck’s plan is simple:  Get a whole ton of Rowdy triggers off Dreamsmoke Diva and Rowdy Piper while still just playing the whole suite of great cards:  Pippit Hustler, Exalted Pathfinder, Consult the Talon.  It’s worth noting that The Blackberry Knight’s champion power also helps to power out early Consult the Talons for serious draw power.

This deck seems to have done a bit better vs. aggro than the other combo decks, going 3-1 vs. Candles.  Looking at the interaction, it doesn’t seem good enough to stay alive – so that suggests that this deck is reliably comboing off or killing on turn 5.  If that’s true, it bears checking out – it’s tough to disrupt and can play a very reasonable quick speed game.

Questions:

  1. Seems like you need to find a Dreamsmoke Diva or Rowdy Piper. Why not play 4 of each?
  2. What is Pippit Hustler doing for you here? It’s medium at dealing with wide boards out of Candles, and it’s probably too slow/fair to deal with most stuff.  Your Plan A maindeck should probably be comboing off.
  3. I’d love to see some more troops to power out Consult the Talons.

Conclusions

There was a lot of other stuff that didn’t make it – bunch of very interesting ideas going around.  But here are some takeaways:

  1. Srsly, guys. Test your decks vs. the best decks from the last season.  Don’t try to make “meta calls” in week 1.  Ask yourself:  What is my plan to beat an opponent who wants to play efficient threats and kill me?  Looks like most players didn’t ask that question this week – we can do better!
  2. Puts some Robogoyles in your sideboard. With just a single Robogoyle, you can’t be combo’d off by a single activation from Silent Auctioneer – your entire deck will be buried, and then 5 cards will return to the deck.
  3. Reminder: Mono-Blood is probably still great.  A lot of these strategies are still dead to Massacre.  Then again, who wants to play mono blood when there’s so much sweet stuff to do.  Leave it to Heaton.

All in all, looks like there’s a bunch of promising stuff.  Looking forward to seeing these decks get refined!

 

If you want to give feedback, or say Hi, or just thank Matt at Battleshopper for sponsoring these articles, stop by Battleshopper’s Discord channel!  Thanks for reading!

 

Dirty Deeds:  Major Sapphire of Vanishing

Dirty Deeds:  Major Sapphire of Vanishing

That’s right – the last in my trio of pre-release articles on silly and potentially powerful things you can do in Doombringer isn’t even a card.  It’s a gem. I waxed rhapsodic about this gem when it was released; a major gem that made it incredibly difficult to get rid of a troop once it hit the battlefield.  Of course, the good folk at Hex design noticed too…

Before…
…After.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and promptly slapped a tax on that bounce effect, taking away any number of lovely infinite combos we could have assembled.  I remain undeterred – if this was gross enough to balance even before it got released, there are probably some pretty crazy things we can do with it now.  Let’s get into it.

You Never Get to Kill This

Herofall’s a great card – format defining for its entire run in standard.  It’s quick  speed and not only kills every troop, it occasionally snatches one out of the opponent’s hand…and the rest of them out of their deck.  This can be brutal if, for instance, you’re playing a Sockets-oriented deck and your Animus of Nulzann gets Herofalled. Or if you’re playing Dark Heart of Nulzann in a control deck…and it gets Herofalled.

Animus of Nulzann

Hey, man!  That card was, like, important to me!  Not cool!

Vanishing is a gem that guarantees that, for the low cost of 1 card and 1 resource, your troop is going to be available to re-cast.  Think of it as turning every single card in your deck into a potential Tomb Swap. Here’s an example of how hard it is to get a card with Vanishing out of your life forever:

  1.       I play Animus of Nulzann with 1 resource up.
  2.       Filthy Blood player that you are, you play Herofall targeting Animus of Nulzann.
  3.       In response, I activate the Major Sapphire of Vanishing, pay 1, and discard a card.
  4.       But you were ready for this.  You had a SECOND HEROFALL, and I’m all out of resources!  With the Sapphire of Vanishing activation on the Chain, you herofall my Animus again.

…A lot of people would think that I got got in this situation.  But, spoiler: The end result of this whole exchange is that Animus of Nulzann is in my hand, and you’ve blown two Herofalls.  Why?  Because Hex tracks through zones.  So that second Herofall sends Animus to the crypt…but then the Major Sapphire of Vanishing effect happens, and the card goes back to my hand.

Same deal with Void removal like Pyre Strike – the Void is just another zone.  Cards that transform (like Hawkward Turn) will work, if you manage to play them while the opponent has zero resources available, but trying to destroy or void the Vanishing card is going to have very little effect.

What does this mean?  It means that if the card that powers your deck has a major socket, and you want to always have access to at least one copy of it, you’re in luck!  Put Major Sapphire of Vanishing into that puppy. All I’ve ever wanted in a sockets deck was to be able to make sure Animus of Nulzann was always available to me; I’ll happily discard virtually any other card to make that happen.

Pairs Well with Card Advantage

Yes.  Mmm. Delicious.  Major Sapphire of Vanishing and Card Advantage go together like fine scotch and pretension.  As noted, so long as you’ve got cards to blow, Major Sapphire of Vanishing is going to keep your best socketed card safe.  So let’s take a look at some easy ways to pick up some extra cards.

Nameless DraughtDreamcallShamrock, The Goldfather

All of these cards can give you some discard fodder to buyback your best troops.

  1.       Drop Shards don’t always make a useful card…but they always make a card.  Clever folks have long been playing these to mitigate Mono-Blood’s discard effects.  Discarding a Drop of Chaos doesn’t feel great…but it’s better than discarding a real card.
  2.       Dreamcall draws you a lot of cards – 5 cards for 6 resources!  The problem, of course, is that most of those cards are crap.   
  3.       Filthy Leprechauns like Leprechaun Artist and Shamrock, the Goldfather generate Lucky Coins.  Often, you’ll have way too many of them. Good news is, you can throw just a single one of these lucky coins away to save your socketed troop if you’re in tri-shard DSW.

Some socketed troops bring their own card advantage!  Riftwarp Badger gives you a card…bounce him back to hand if you don’t like it.  Moonrise Elder, if you’re in an Ardent deck, could give you a ton of Valors. If you need more, discard one to vanish him back to your hand and replay next turn.

This is Insufficiently Dirty for Me

Fine.  Then let’s do things we’re not supposed to do.  Let’s stick major gems in troops that definitely were not supposed to have major gems.  Hex gives us four ways to do this: Destined to Lead, Communion of Wax, Sorcerous Sculpting and Mordrom’s Gift.  Let’s see what the silliest things we can here.

Pippit HustlerEternal SeekerBrosi-Buk, Mischief Master

Silly, Sillier, Silliest.

Level 0 Silliness:  We could Sorcerous Sculpting a Pippit Hustler in Sapphire-Wild.  Just buy ourself a ton of quick Transmogrifades on a quick ¾ body.  Sculpting would go nicely in a deck that probably wants to ramp up to play Eternal Seeker.  As Yasi is so fond of showing, the only thing that beats 1 Eternal Seeker deploy trigger is 2 Eternal Seeker deploy triggers.  I’m pretty sure no artifact or constant-based deck is ever beating a Grove Warden with Major Sapphire of Vanishing stuck in it, either…

Level 1 Silliness:  We could play Destined to Lead in a Diamond-Sapphire Control deck.  Silver Talon Adjudicator goes great with having to discard cards, because my favorite owl draws you two!  And often gains you 5 life. Not many aggressive decks are beating this – Silver Talon blocks, bounces back to hand, and is right back there next turn to gain you some more life and draws some more cards.  Repeatedly playing Eldurathan’s Glory seems great against Rebirth and Refuel Gnolls, too!

Level 2 Silliness:  Now that Cost Reduction is no longer an option, Major Sapphire of Vanishing seems like a great thing to stick into Mordrom’s Gift.  Getting an Eternal Seeker with a gem that sticks around is probably game over if you get to turn 7 where you can re-cast it (Coralcove Witch plays nicely here, making it even cheaper).  But even just repeatedly getting deploy triggers from Blightwater Ferryman probably gets the job done.

Level 11 Silliness:  Let’s be serious here – all I really want to do is play Brosi-Buk and Destined to Lead or Sorcerous Sculpting.  What a shit show. Picture Brosi if you could bounce him whenever you wanted:

  1.       Play Brosi at the end of your opponent’s turn – he comes with his own cards!
  2.       Play the cards out of your new exciting random hand.  Save the worst. Bounce Brosi-Buk.
  3.       Do it again!  Do it multiple times in one turn!  Pick up as many new hands as your resources can afford!  Your opponent only gets 1 hand full of stuff to cast, because most of the random stuff you generate won’t be quick.  Yours is a world of infinite possibility! Mischief is made!

The Verdict

I would be slacking if I didn’t mention that, of course, this gem also provides a cheap discard outlet for Scribe of the Flayed Man.  Duh. But I doubt this mechanic is truly busted. What it is going to do is enable some decks to hold onto their key pieces longer, and also give Sapphire-based decks some interesting ways to loop their best cards and manage the cards in their hand.  This gem is awesome, and I bet it’s going to generate a bunch of interesting game states.

I hope you all enjoyed this little mini-series.  If I find other cards or mechanics that I get disproportionately hyped about, you’ll probably see it make a return. If you want to give feedback, or say Hi, or just thank Matt at Battleshopper for sponsoring these articles, stop by Battleshopper’s Discord channel!  Thanks for reading!