Haters Gonna Hate: Presenting Soul Severance

Why “Hate Cards” Are Awesome

Since the release of the Dead of Winter set, we’ve had amazing diversity in the constructed meta-game. Of the ten possible two-shard combinations, nine have placed in the top 8 of Bash or Cosmic Crown Showdowns (and it’s possible I missed a Blood/Wild somewhere). This is an impressive achievement for Hex design, and a big reason it was possible is a very important development philosophy that Hex has embraced: Print powerful cards, but print even more powerful narrowly targeted answers. This means we get to do ridiculous things like have a 20/20 attacking momentum troop or four 6/6 candlekin on turns four or five, play with a range of extremely potent mill options, or the entire Ruby/Sapphire Sockets deck (it’s just utter nonsense how powerful that deck is in a vacuum). But none of these have managed to dominate the meta-game. Why? In two words, Hate Cards.

Hate Cards are narrowly targeted answers that are generally bad against most decks but extraordinarily good against the decks they are designed to beat. Hex right now has fantastic hate cards. An incomplete list would include Arcing Winds, Disruptor Drone, Rotting Chompknight and Scouring Light against Constants, Arcing Rust, Rust-Tongue Lasher, and Rotting Chompknight against Artifacts, Robo-Goyle against mill, Blight Knight against dreadling or illuminate decks, and Wise Magistrate against Turbo Psychic Ascension, along with shard-directed hate in Iremaw, Confounding Ire, Burning Ire, and Blinding Ire.

Bride of the Damned
Making a Hate Card for “Decks That Play Troops” may have taken a good idea a little too far.

Meet Soul Severance

We’re pleased to introduce you to the latest potent Hex Hate Card: Soul Severance. (Editor’s Note: We know that there is some ambiguity to the wording of this card, and how many phantoms it makes, and we reached out to Hex to get clarification, and this was their response on the matter: “We changed the wording slightly on Soul Severance yesterday once we saw that there was some confusion over how people expected it to work. It does make a phantom for each troop that dies”)

Let’s break this down. Soul Severance does two separate but related things: First, opposing troops currently in play get -1/-1 until the end of turn. Second, whenever an opposing troop dies this turn, you get a Phantom. It doesn’t matter how or when during the turn an opposing troop dies. For instance, you could play this on your Diamond/Wild Momentum opponent’s ready step to kill a Leprechaun Artist and a Righteous Waxshot, get two phantoms, then after they play an Exalted Pathfinder later in their turn, kill it with a Strangle or Herofall to get a third phantom. So that’s what the card does mechanically. But how does it fit in the meta-game?

This card destroys illuminate decks. Picture a nearly perfect first two turns for Ruby/Diamond Illuminate on the play: Turn one, Light ‘Em Up. Turn Two, Acolyte of Flames. Turn Three, ready with no troops and facing three Phantoms. Ouch. Soul Severance is the best anti-illuminate card we’ve seen yet – and there are a number of good ones already, such as Withering Gaze, Scars of War, Massacre, Verdict of the Ancient Kings, Crackling Magma, Blight Knight, and Arcing Light. But none of them do more than deal with the opposing troops in play – Soul Severance kills their stuff and gives you a Phantom for every troop thus removed.

More Than a Hate Card

This is not the only use for the card however. Fundamentally, Soul Severance is a hate card against troops with one defense – which is almost but not quite the same thing as a hate card for aggro decks. While Ruby/Diamond Illuminate is the deck that this is most hateful towards, it is not the only deck where this is useful. Sapphire/Diamond Turbo Psychic Ascension counts on its 1/1s to chump block and mobilize. Mono-Ruby Aggro with Thakra the Ember and any Dreadling decks will also be excellent victims. Blood/Diamond Spirits commonly plays both Cryptcurse Knight and Sunrise Specter. Many versions of Mono-Ruby run some combination of Righteous Outlaw, Boltspasm, Escape Goat and Baby Yeti. It will most likely find a place as an extremely potent reserve card if there is a good Blood/Diamond deck.

However, if there is an aggressively slanted mid-range deck in Blood/Diamond that is viable, this may even be a main deck inclusion. If you are attacking and blocking, Soul Severance becomes a rather nasty combat trick. It also has targets in most Tier One decks right now – Vampire Prince in Mono-Blood, Leprechaun Artist and Righteous Waxshot in Diamond/Wild, Warpsteel Shardsworn in Ruby/Sapphire Sockets, and almost everything in Ruby/Diamond Illuminate. This means that if you are only running one or two in your main deck and are aggressive enough that its potential as a combat trick means something, it will rarely be dead, while being the best card possible against Ruby/Diamond Illuminate.

There are a few interesting corner cases where this card could be useful. It is in the same thresholds as Wax Sacrament, and thus can be used to allow Wax Sacrament’s Candlekin to block and kill a 2 defense troop (it will generally be correct to block first, then play Soul Severance, so as not to get blown out by removal on your candle). This may be particularly valuable against Emcee Etcher out of Ruby/Sapphire Sockets. If the -1/-1 half of the card reduces a troop with Rebirth to 0 defense, that troop will die, trigger, and die again, giving you two Phantoms. It also can combine with Massacre to sweep the board of all troops with 4 or lower defense, while potentially generating a bunch of Phantoms. Notably, if you play Massacre on a Mono-Blood Dark Heart of Nulzann and then play Soul Severance, either on the same or on a subsequent turn, the Dark Heart will die, it’s Deathcry from the Major Gem of Fleshcraft will trigger, the Abomination will die, and you will get two Phantoms. There are numerous other scenarios that could come up in practical play, making Soul Severance a card that has a high skill cap. There is a lot of room to be flexible and alert for ways to get value out it.

Wait, Is That Lady Blightbark?

It is worth noting that this is in fact a Lady Blightbark card, as the Blightbark Clan is splashing Diamond these days! This has a few possible implications. First, we can reasonably expect improved threshold fixing, meaning that this card may be splashable in Tri-Shard decks such as Blood/Diamond/Wild or Blood/Diamond/Sapphire. Second, it seems likely that the new set will bring at least a few two or three cost troops in Blood and/or Diamond that are mostly played to attack and block. That is exactly the type of card that could help form the type of deck that could best use Soul Severance – a fairly low curve Mid-Range deck with plenty of cheap, aggressive troops. Phantoms are more valuable if you are applying meaningful pressure to your opponent’s life total. Soul Severance is more valuable if you can use it profitably as a combat trick.

I believe that if decks that rely on one defense troops are a reasonably large share of the Meta-Game, any deck that can meet the threshold requirements will do well to consider putting a couple of Soul Severance in their reserves, and it could well have even greater impact than that. This will also be a card to keep in mind as the Meta-Game shifts in the future. Even if it isn’t immediately an All-Star, it could be later if aggressive decks become more popular. Thoughts on the card or the article?  Please come talk to us at the Battleshopper Discord!

New Dead of Winter archetypes with Androod

Introduction

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!

 

Blood/Diamond Verdict

 

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.

 

Champion: Adoni-Zeddek

Troops:

4x Sunrise Specter
4x Dawn Charger
4x Umbral Guard – Gems: 4x Minor Blood of Tombs
2x Day Rider

Spells:

4x Guidance
4x Guiding Light
2x Winter’s Grasp
4x Gloaming Edict
3x Hailstorm
4x Herofall
4x Zeddek’s Judgment

Resources:

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.

 

Wild/Sapphire Transform

 

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

Troops:

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

Spells:

4x Evaporate
4x Runebind
2x Jubilant Destiny

Resources:

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.

 

Diamond/Ruby Candles

 

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

Troops:

4x Scion of Lyvaanth
2x Lyvaanth

Spells:

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

Resources:

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

 

Closing

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!

 

-Mike Kletz (Androod)

@Androod27

Spoiler – I’ll be taking that!

Introduction

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.

 

Existing comparisons

                                               

 

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.

 

Reveal

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!

 

 

Benefits

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.

 

 

Targets

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.

Possible Decks

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.

In Conclusion

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.

 

What is Your Desire? A BattleShopper.com Exclusive Dead of Winter Spoiler

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Much better.

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:

Gem guide courtesy of HexSets

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!

Cheers,
Tom