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.
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!