Competitive Standard Metagame Decklists

Introduction

So a common question I get is “What do you think about X deck?” or “What deck should I play?”.  While my normal articles try to identify the reasons a deck exists and go super deep on the tips and tricks, I felt like it might be useful for people to have a reference for the decks that are currently pretty good in a standard format.  For each deck, I’m going to provide a decklist I’d be comfortable registering for something like a Bash or Arcanum Vault, a quick overview/reserves guide.  The idea is that if you’re just in the market for a new deck, or want a gauntlet of decks to test against, here’s a reasonable snapshot and a few reasons why you might want to play each.

It’s worth noting that these decks are decks that I like.  I’ve played, tested and tweaked most of them.  If you want a list of decklists that won tournaments, I highly recommend HexPVPTools.

State of the Metagame (12/18/17)

Weeks 1-3 of the Season 8 Bash saw dominant performances by value and control decks.  Diamond Sapphire Control won all 3.  This week, our savvy Bash Competitors showed up with decks tuned to beat a control metagame.  24 players registered Haraza, a champion whose Speed Banner and explosive starts gives reactive players fits.  4 of those played Ardent, and whopping 19 of them played Ruby-Sapphire Sockets.  The result was the first balanced top-8 in Dead of Winter:  4 midrange and control decks alongside 4 aggressive decks.

Takeaways

  1. Ruby-Sapphire Haraza Sockets are the biggest control-killer we have in this format.  They’re explosive, resilient to dark heart, and can do a ton of damage from hand.  If you’re looking to play control, pack your Arcing Rusts and Stalking Quarries.
  2. There’s still a lot of room for innovation in this format.  JeffHoogland and Battleshopper’s ThufirHawat brought entirely new archetypes into the top 8 (Blood-Ruby Grind and Sapphire-Wild Portal)!
  3. The staples are still good:  A well-prepared, well-balanced and well-piloted mono-blood deck took down the tournament.
  4. Candles is an incredible competitive, inexpensive deck:  ChironTheMage made the top 8 with a deck you can buy for about $40.

Tiers

…seriously, who doesn’t love a good, mindless tier list?  I want to emphasize that I’m not putting any genuinely unplayable decks in these articles.  You can win a tournament with anything here.

A Tier (No truly awful matchups):  Mono-Blood, DS Control, RS Sockets, BD Verdict

B Tier (Some bad matchups, but also advantaged over some Tier 1 decks):  DW Momentum, RD Candles, DS Turbo-PA, SW Pathfinder

C Tier (Competitive but very few free wins.  All games are hard.):  BD Sockets, BR Aristocrats, RS Candle Control, Crow Reanimator, BS Bury

F Tier:  Boglam Jank.  I lied to you when I said I wasn’t putting any genuinely unplayable decks in here.

Decks

Aggressive

RD Candles

Overview:  An aggressive, synergy-based deck that floods the board with candles and crushes through your opponent.

Pros:  Aggressive draws.  Very robust to single-target removal because most of its cards make multiple candles.

Cons:  Board sweepers are really tough.  Because few of the troops have speed, you often don’t get value against decks that play a bunch of Massacres, From the Ashes or Scars of War.

RD Candles Decklist

DW Momentum

Overview:  The best curve-out deck in Hex:  play your stuff on curve, it all keeps getting bigger thanks to Momentum, and all of your cards are individually pretty great.

Pros:  Makes big troops and can also generate a lot of value from cards like Shamrock the Goldfather and Exalted Pathfinder.  High quality cards from top to bottom.

Cons:  Still doesn’t have speed, and there’s a window (during the ready step) where all of your troops are small.  So Massacre and Scars of War can still slow you down.  You’re not beating the big board wipes like From the Ashes.

DW Momentum Decklist

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BD Sockets

Overview:  A slower, grindier aggressive deck that can be challenging for control decks to interact with.  Relies on socket synergy and can generate both card advantage and tempo.

Pros:  Altar of Nulzann can run away with the game by drawing a card a turn (particularly with Cryptcurse Knight), and the socketed cards in this deck don’t die to Dark Heart of Nulzann.  It has explosive draws with Sentry of Nulzann, and can make arbitrarily huge troops using Animus of Nulzann.

Cons:  Vulnerable to targeted hate.  Arcing Rust and Stalking Quarry are absolute blowouts.  This deck can sometimes be a little bit slow against other aggressive decks, as it doesn’t quite have the consistently explosive early game that Candles and Momentum do.

BD Sockets Decklist

Champion: Bishop Elijah
8x Diamond Shard
5x Blood Shard
4x Animus of Nulzann – Gems: 4x Major Diamond of Hope
4x Altar of Nulzann
3x Emsee, Etcher of Nulzann – Gems: 3x Major Diamond of the Seraph
2x Shard of Retribution
3x Cryptcurse Knight – Gems: 3x Minor Blood Orb of Frenzy
1x Soulspeaker Revenant – Gems: 1x Major Diamond of the Seraph
4x Grim Skull Tactician – Gems: 4x Minor Diamond of Protection
2x Decree of Banishing
4x Withering Gaze
4x Sentry of Nulzann
1x Spiritbound Vicar – Gems: 1x Minor Diamond of Fate
3x Strangle
1x Wakuna Lookout – Gems: 1x Minor Diamond of Fate
4x Well of Retribution
4x Blood Ice
1x Nefarious Corruptor – Gems: 1x Major Blood Orb of Fleshcraft
1x Dragonspeaker Daliah – Gems: 1x Major Blood Orb of Fleshcraft
1x Duskwing Scout – Gems: 1x Minor Diamond of Fate
Reserves:
1x Dark Heart of Nulzann
2x Diamond’s Favor
2x Herofall
1x Totemic Elder
3x Cheap Shot
2x Stalking Quarry
1x Dragonspeaker Daliah
1x Arcing Light
2x Winter’s Grasp

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RS Sockets

Overview:  A sockets deck that’s slightly more tempo-oriented than the BD version.  A couple of neat things here – the can socket Animus with Major Gem of Clarity to make it faster, and Quenchinator with Charges to enable a bunch of speed troops on turn 4 with Haraza’s champion power.

Pros:  Because of speed banner, this deck lines up reasonably well against control decks; it can push damage from hand and is a bit more resilient to traditional board wipes.  Doesn’t grind as hard as BD, but is more explosive.

Cons:  Somewhat inconsistent.  Vulnerable to the targeted hate that most sockets decks are.  Can be a bit slow against other aggressive decks.

RS Sockets Decklist

Champion: Haraza the Incinerator
6x Ruby Shard
6x Sapphire Shard
4x Well of Innovation
4x Animus of Nulzann – Gems: 4x Major Sapphire of Clarity
4x Emsee, Etcher of Nulzann – Gems: 4x Major Ruby of Twinstrike
4x Altar of Nulzann
3x Shard of Innovation
1x Blamsmith – Gems: 1x Minor Ruby of Zeal
3x Consult the Talon
4x Warpsteel Shardsworn – Gems: 4x Minor Sapphire of Wit
4x Sentry of Nulzann
1x Scrios Forgefist – Gems: 1x Minor Ruby of the Arena
4x Runebind
3x Ruby Ice
4x Heartsworn Caller – Gems: 3x Minor Ruby of the Arena, 1x Minor Ruby of Zeal
2x Quenchinator – Gems: 1x Major Ruby of Galvanism
1x Jinglejinx Witch – Gems: 1x Major Ruby of Galvanism
1x Riftwarp Badger – Gems: 1x Major Ruby of Galvanism
1x Firesoul Gemsworn – Gems: 1x Major Ruby of Zeal
Reserves:
2x Halt
4x Verdict of the Ancient Kings
1x Stifling Sting
2x Vandalize
4x Return to Cinder
2x Arcing Rust

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BR Aristocrats

Overview:  An Aggro/Combo deck built around the Deathcry mechanic.  This deck strings together a lot of deathcries, often culminating in a big turn where you drain the opponent for a ton of life thanks to Blightbark Burster.  I wrote an article on it here.

Pros:  Deck has a lot of reach – it can kill opponents who are at extremely high health.  It also can do big, explosive things with Boltwing Phoenix, Nightbloom, Lady Violet Blightbark and Doomed Guardian.  This deck tends to line up well against control decks and slower decks that can’t gain life.  Isabella the Cursed has one of the most powerful champion powers in the game.

Cons:  Resource base of the deck is a bit inconsistent, and it’s vulnerable to void removal.  It can also occasionally get run over by the faster decks here.

BR Aristocrats

Midrange

Mono-Blood

Overview:  All the good blood cards make a very good deck.  Bride of the Damned and powerful interaction like Herofall, Primordial Cockatwice and Massacre make this deck very consistent.  Vampire Princes and Thought Collectors generate value and help you win by damage as you disrupt slower opponents.

Pros:  Great resource base, extremely strong against troop-based decks because of blood’s superb removal.  Bride of the Damned can take over any game after the 5th turn.  This deck is always in it: it has aggressive draws, plenty of disruption, and a powerful mid->late game.

Cons:  Due to a lack of filtering, its draws can be somewhat inconsistent.  Sometimes you draw troops vs. a deck that’s more aggressive than you, or removal vs. a deck not playing troops.  Against Troop-free decks, it can be tough to have enough cards in the reserves to swap out your bad removal.

Mono-Blood Decklist

Champion: Bar’dak the Butcher
18x Blood Shard
4x Herofall
4x Dark Heart of Nulzann – Gems: 4x Minor Blood Orb of Tombs, 4x Major Blood Orb of Fleshcraft
4x Vampire Prince
2x Withering Gaze
1x Vampire Queen
4x Strangle
4x Necropolis Coins
4x Bride of the Damned
3x Journey Into Nightmare
2x Massacre
2x Primordial Cockatwice
4x Blood Ice
4x Zeddek’s Judgment
Reserves:
1x Casualty of War
2x Primordial Cockatwice
2x Massacre
2x Withering Gaze
2x Cheap Shot
1x Waltz of the Damned
3x Stalking Quarry
2x Disruptor Drone

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SW Pathfinder

Overview:  These midrange decks are looking to curve out with powerful cards.  They try to keep the board relatively stable until 4 resources, then play a powerful card on turn 4 (Dark Heart of Nulzann, Pippit Hustler, Exalted Pathfinder) and try to snowball from there.  These decks come in a couple of flavors:  We’ll look at a few here.  Some utilize Portal cards, others combo-off with Furiko, others grind out long games with Timophy the Turtle.  But they share a lot of the same strengths and weaknesses.  Our author ThufirHawat has gone 5-2 or better for the last 3 Bashes with this style of deck, and is looking to post a deep dive on it soon.

Pros:  Exalted Pathfinder, Play a Shard, Hold up Runebind is one of the most powerful things you can do in this format.  With Lady Avalanche or Palm of Granite, you can do this on turn 4 with this deck.

Cons: This deck can get run over by decks that get under it.  It’s not packing a lot of ways to stabilize a board that’s out of control, relying instead on tricks and sneaky 2-for-1s to stabilize before protecting a dark heart or a pathfinder to victory.

WS Furiko Decklist

Champion: Furiko
6x Sapphire Shard
6x Wild Shard
4x Dark Heart of Nulzann – Gems: 4x Major Sapphire of Clarity, 3x Minor Sapphire of Wit
4x Arcane Soil
4x Well of Instinct
4x Warpsteel Shardsworn – Gems: 4x Minor Wild Orb of Blossoms
4x Deny
4x Pippit Hustler
4x Sapphire Ice
4x Heart’s Whisper
4x Wild Ice
4x Runebind
4x Palm of Granite
4x Exalted Pathfinder
Reserves:
3x Verdict of the Ancient Kings
4x Dread End
4x Dreamcall
2x Blightbush
2x Eternal Seeker

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Control

DS Control

Overview:  The staple control deck of the format since I built it a year ago.  Does everything well – draws cards, interacts early, and plays the most powerful end-game finisher in the format:  Psychic Ascension.  If you want a deck that will be in every single game, this is the deck for you.

Pros:  Very consistent, can play from ahead or behind.  Had access to excellent board stabilization in Clash of Steel, Sunlit Sentence, and 4/6 Dark Heart of Nulzann for 4 resources.  Silver Talon Adjudicator is good against both aggressive and Control decks, as it will either buy you time or draw you cards.

Cons:  None.  This was the best deck before Frostheart.  It was the best deck before Lazgar’s Vengeance was banned.  A different Diamond-Sapphire deck was the best deck briefly.  It won the first 2 Bashes for Dead of Winter.  If it has a weakness, it’s that it is possible for other decks to be greedier than it is.

DS Control Decklist

Champion: Calilac
7x Sapphire Shard
3x Diamond Shard
4x Silver Talon Adjudicator
4x Dark Heart of Nulzann – Gems: 4x Major Sapphire of Clarity, 4x Minor Diamond of Protection
4x Well of Purpose
3x Eldurathan’s Glory
2x Psychic Ascension
2x Clash of Steel
4x Heart’s Whisper
4x Guidance
4x Diamond Ice
4x Weave into Nothing
2x Into the Unknown
4x Sapphire Ice
4x Runebind
2x Wax Sacrament
3x Winter’s Grasp
Reserves:
3x Verdict of the Ancient Kings
1x Clash of Steel
2x Scouring Light
3x Confounding Ire
1x Hogarth the Mad
4x Robogoyle
1x Sunlit Sentence

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BD Verdict

Overview:  A verdict-based grindy deck that’s extremely powerful vs. troop-based decks.  I also wrote an article on it. I have an adjusted decklist to deal with the current standard metagame below.

Pros:  Absolutely terrific vs. troop-based decks, and can establish powerful constant-based win conditions against control decks.  Once it can control its verdicts with Twilight Justice, can generally run its opponent out of resources.

Cons: Can be a bit slow to get out of the gates, and doesn’t have the best filtering. Vulnerable to big constant-wipes like Scouring Light and Grove Warden.

BD Verdict Decklist

RS Candle Control

Overview:  A control deck based on casting quick spells and eventually burning your opponent out with Candlelight, Stifling Sting and candles from Candlelight.

Pros:  Scars of War gives this deck game against aggressive decks without speed/reach.  Candlelight, if it resolves, can absolutely take over games and also attacks on an axis that most control decks are ill-prepared to defend:  their life.  Also gets to play Primordial Sabertooth, which is just an incredible card.

Cons: Tough matchup against decks with speed or that can deploy a lot of troops fast.  This deck relies on 1-for-1ing and taking advantage of playing almost entirely at quick speed.  It has no way to recover life, so you have to be extremely careful about the damage you take.

DS Turbo-PA

Overview:  Play out a lot of elementals, play a lot of 1-cost actions, eventually play Psychic Ascension and run your opponent out of the game with a whole board full of 1-cost troops.

Pros:  You’re going to be shocked, but the deck that plays entirely 1-cost actions is extremely resource-efficient.  It also casts the best late-game finisher the fastest, in Psychic Ascension.

Cons:  Often has to use its troops as chump blockers against decks that play larger troops.  Because it does not play a lot of hard removal, nor troops that actually stabilize the board, it can get run over.  Its draws where it gets to cast Consult the Talons are very powerful, but when it misses on that card the deck can feel anemic.

BS Bury

Overview:  The bury deck in the format!  ProfessorYana wrote an article about it!  Bury cards out of your opponent’s deck and profit while destroying their troops.

Pros:  A lot of decks are not prepared to defend their library against this deck’s savage attacks.  Less aggressive decks often fail to close out the game before this deck can run them out of cards.  It also gets to play a whole bunch of perfectly solid interaction like Herofall.

Cons:  Robogoyle.  This deck can’t beat a Robogoyle that’s backed up with pressure.  Generally, working your way through the opponent’s Robogoyles takes long enough that you lose.  Happily, sometimes people don’t play Robogoyle, so that’s great.

BS Bury Decklist

Champion: Yarna of Lost Voices
1x Sapphire Shard
6x Blood Shard
3x Casualty of War
4x Herofall
4x Dark Heart of Nulzann – Gems: 4x Major Sapphire of Clarity, 4x Minor Sapphire of Lunacy
4x Well of Cunning
4x Massacre
4x Sapphire Ice
4x Blood Ice
2x Nameless Truths
4x Cult of the Nameless City
3x Demented Destiny
4x Nameless Draught
4x Demented Whispers
4x Howling Madness
3x Emerging Blasphem
2x Nameless Devourer
Reserves:
1x Casualty of War
3x Cheap Shot
4x Runebind
2x Archive Dweller
2x Disruptor Drone
1x Demented Destiny
2x Nameless Devourer

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Combo/Control

BS Crow Reanimator

Overview:  This is a unique Reanimator/Combo deck that generates a lot of value from putting large troops into the crypt and bringing them back with Mordrom’s Gift.  I wrote an article on last season’s version of this, and it hasn’t changed too much in terms of the big picture.  This version features the ability to make actually infinite crowbones with speed.

Pros:  This deck grinds value extremely hard.  It does big, powerful things, and its individual card quality is superb.  Given time, this deck will typically out-grind even the grindiest control decks thanks to Crowbones buying back Mordroms Gifts, and the ability to play multiple Primordial Cockatwices.

Cons:  It can have trouble interacting with aggressive decks, and frequently has opening hands that just involve nothing to do before turn 3.  It does have post-board interaction for these decks, however, and a reanimated Aegilus can be a real barrier

BS Crow Reanimator

Champion: Blue Sparrow
2x Blood Shard
8x Sapphire Shard
4x Change Course
2x Crowbones – Gems: 2x Minor Blood Orb of Frenzy
4x Well of Cunning
2x Necropolis Coins
3x Coralcove Witch
2x Cheap Shot
4x Heart’s Whisper
4x Dreamcall
4x Mordrom’s Gift – Gems: 4x Major Sapphire of Clarity
4x Eternal Seeker
4x Sapphire Ice
4x Blood Ice
4x Runebind
2x Primordial Cockatwice
3x Sorcerous Sculpting – Gems: 3x Major Sapphire of Sorcery
Reserves:
3x Halt
4x Verdict of the Ancient Kings
2x Cheap Shot
2x Aegilus
2x Primordial Cockatwice
2x Archive Dweller

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Nonsense

5-shard Boglam Jank

Overview:  This deck wins by spending its first 3 turns fateweaving Boglam the Mad Marsh, Glyph of Speed and Communion of Wax to the top of their deck.  On turn 4, they cast communion of wax (with double damage gem) to put Boglam into play, use Glyph of Speed on it, and summon 10 Dementia Daisies.  They use their hero power, play a resource, a bury your top 20 cards.  The next turn, they attack you for another 10 damage, put 10 more Dementia Daises into play, and bury your top 40 cards.  You lose.  Jank wins.

Pros: If your opponent doesn’t have interaction, this deck is going to ruin them.

Cons:  Does your opponent have blockers?  Removal?  Clash of Steel?  You probably can never win.

Boglam Decklist

Champion: Lady Avalanche
13x Wild Shard
13x Sapphire Shard
1x Communion of Wax
1x Glyph of Ferocity
4x Ayotochi Coins
4x Blood Ice
4x Diamond Ice
4x Ruby Ice
4x Sapphire Ice
4x Wild Ice
4x Rift Core
4x Broomball
Reserves:
4x Robogoyle
4x Gargalith
4x Hap’ie the High Hero

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The Price is Wrong: Cyclone Shaper Turbo-PA

Introduction

Repeat after me: cost-reduction mechanics are busted.  Behind every hilarious design mistake, behind every truly screwed-in-half deck, you will find a person who looked at a cost-reduction mechanic and innocently mused, “this seems fine.”  The Hex Dev Team is very ambitious – they are always printing cards  that reduce costs, and in the average deck, they’re usually fine.  But, as brewers and deckbuilders, we should always be on the lookout for these mechanics – they can be used to propel the right deck far ahead of the field.

Cost Reduction in Hex

Don’t believe me?  Let’s look at the last format, dominated by Ruby Tork, Slagpot Dreadlings, Diamond Sapphire Control, with a splash of Blood-Wild midrange in the form of Takahiro Deathcry or Kagulichu.  Take a peek at the mechanics they employed.

Lazgar’s Vengeance: Nobody thought that 4-damage to the face and a board wipe should cost 0 resources.  But that’s frequently what aggressive decks like Tork and Slagpot got to do.  This card single-handedly rendered a dozen decks unplayable, and was one of the only recent bans in standard.

Culmination of Blood: Should you be able to empty your opponent’s hand, effectively locking the game up, as early as turn 4?  Probably not.  But that’s what decks like Kagu and Takahiro Deathcry could do, by creating a bunch of small troops, feeding them to sacrifice outlets like Emperor’s Lackey, powering out a game-ending effect before the game has gotten going.

Major Sapphire of Clarity: Dark Heart of Nulzann was a really good 5-drop the previous format.  Turns out it’s an even better 4-drop.  While this gem only reduces the cost of a thing by 1, we should always be on the lookout for places that matters – for example, it allows Sapphire-Diamond Sockets to re-buy an Animus of Nulzann with Bishop Elijah’s hero power.

Psychic Ascension:  A 15-cost card that reads “Win the game, unless you’re embarrassingly far behind” isn’t very good – heck, we can already do that for 8 with Absolute Power.  But with cantrips like Guidance and Arcane Focus able to cycle through our deck and reduce its cost, it frequently became reasonable to ascend for 5 or 6, holding up resources to spend to protect your action.  This action has been a staple win condition for control decks since its initial printing.

Now let’s look at the current format.  The most popular deck is Blood Wild Kagulichu, an innocent-looking pile of incredible cards:  blood removal, powerful 3-cost cards like Underworld Crusader and Rune Ear Heirophant, and…cost reduction.  That’s right – Rotten Rancor frequently lets you put a 7 or 8 cost troop onto the battlefield on turn 5.  In the case of Eternal Seeker, it has a Lazgar’s-y effect: it can destroy an opponent’s big board and establish a huge blocker.  This tempo swing, combined with the threat of Culmination of Blood, has lead this deck to take up 50% of the top-8 slots in bashes.

The biggest overperformer from last week’s bash, though, was RDent Sockets, which five people played, resulting in two 5-2 records, a 6-1 record, and two entries into the top 8.  This deck has a wide range of draws, but the ones where your opponent is never had a chance tend to prominently feature Sentry of Nulzann.  For a 1-resource investment, 19 troops in your deck all cost less, which often allows you to giddily spew your hand onto the table while your opponent is stuck honestly playing on curve.

What’s Busted Next: Cyclone Shaper Turbo-PA

So this deck began popping up on the ladder last week with an interesting fundamental idea:  What if we just played 1-resource actions that filtered through our deck, Cyclone Shaper, and Psychic Ascension?  In case you missed the theme of this article, Cyclone Shaper is a 3-cost flying coyotle that…reduces the cost of every action you play by 1.  Eventually, all these actions find you a Psychic Ascension that costs virtually nothing, and the opponent is buried under an avalanche of cheap troops.  Let’s go through this deck design, because it’s beautifully simple:

Decklist

Champion: Cassia Goldenlight
6x Sapphire Shard
4x Arcane Focus
2x Transmogrifade
4x Well of Purpose
2x Psychic Ascension
4x Thunderfield Seer
4x Cyclone Shaper
4x Consult the Talon
4x Cosmic Calling
4x Heart’s Whisper
4x Guidance
2x Evaporate
4x Diamond Ice
4x Sapphire Ice
4x Runebind
4x Light the Votives

Reserves:
2x Tribunal Magistrate
2x Transmogrifade
2x Verdict of the Ancient Kings
2x Scouring Light
3x Into the Unknown
3x Confounding Ire
1x Martyr

Cost-Reducers

 

First, we’ve got all these cards that reduce the cost of our actions.  Cyclone Shaper is the big payoff in this deck.  With Cyclone Shaper and enough troops on board, you can play TWENTY-EIGHT of the actions in this deck for free.  

As for Light the Votives and Thunderfield Seer…bet you thought that these were just great chump blockers that generated value.  Little did you know that they allowed you access to extra resources!  We play Cosmic Calling and Consult the Talon, so every troop on the board will usually give you about 2 free resources of cost reduction per turn.  Light the Votives and Thunderfield Seer, plus candles from our champion Cassia Goldenlight, are both great ways to have access to far more effective resources than you should have.

Cards That We Play For Free (to find other cards)

With Cyclone Shaper out, these cards all cost 0.  Notably, the card you find with Cosmic Calling will also have mobilize.  So we can use that to make a Heart’s Whisper effectively also cost 0 (-1 from Cyclone Shaper, -2 from Mobilize).  You want to use these cards to help you find your payoffs and smooth out your draws.

Cards That We Play for Free (for protection)

 

Runebind doubles as pseudo-removal (it will generally prevent you from taking damage from an opposing troop for two turns), as well as protection for Cyclone Shaper.  Given that you’re an overwhelming favorite to win any game where Cyclone Shaper sticks to the board, the strong game plan against this deck is to try to keep Cyclone Shaper off it.  Runebind lets you protect Cyclone Shaper for the low, low cost of 0 resources.

Evaporate, in this case, represents a 5th and 6th Runebind – it can buy us time, or protect Shaper.  Transmogrifade is a flexible spell that can be used to delay aggressive decks until we can combo off with Cyclone Shaper.

Cards That We Play For Free (to draw more cards…to play for free…)

 

 

Consult The Talon, mobilized with 3 troops, costs 1.  With Cyclone Shaper, it costs 0.  A 0 cost action that draws 3 cards is pretty good.  As a general rule, if you cast Consult the Talon with Cyclone Shaper out and it resolves, you’re going to run your opponent over with cards.

Heart’s Whisper…isn’t free.  It costs a few cost.  But, unlike just about every other card in our deck, it requires no enablers – neither Cyclone Shaper nor a troop for Mobilize.  And sometimes it’s convenient to be able to draw more cards to set up a really big next turn.

Cards That We Play For Free (to win the game)

Psychic Ascension is the bomb of bombs.  Even decks that don’t play an overwhelming amount of actions can use this to generate a reliable stream of troops and free actions.  But our deck…our deck is all actions.  And we can cast many of them a turn.  The turn we play psychic ascension, we’ll usually create an incredibly wide board.  The turn after, we probably kill our opponent.  This deck is called Turbo-PA because it can power this card out as early as turn 3, and will regularly power it out by turn 5.

See?  This is a deck that knows what it’s doing.  It gets to play 18 resources because of its excellent selection and low curve, it plays 2 win conditions, some cards to cheat cost, and a whole ton of ways to find cards to cheat cost.  This deck knows how to win TCGs.

Reserves

Like any deck with a phenomenal Plan A, we don’t have a lot of cards to bring in and out in any given matchup.  In general, we don’t want to mess with drawing cards, cheating cost, and winning the game (…after all, those are the only things we want to do) – we want to mess with the card we use to delay the game and protect our important pieces.  So we’re usually looking at siding out some set of Transmogrifade, Evaporate or Runebind and siding in cards that are better in a particular matchup.

To anybody who read my article on RDent Sockets, we’re going to take an awfully similar approach to using reserves:  Keep the pro-active cards the same, and change out the interaction to line up better with our opponent.  Our options for alternative interaction are:

Transmogrifade and Martyr are flexible interaction for troops.  Notably, always bring in martyr if you suspect Misery or Crackling Magma.  Being able to preserve your board as well as be flexible maneuver is terrific.  Into the Unknown gets brought in if the opponent has a specific troops(e.g. Wise Magistrate, Tribunal Magistrate, Vampire Princess) that’s incredible against us.

We also have specific answers targeted at decks that can interact with us:  Confounding Ire for blood disruption, Tribunal Magistrate and Verdict of the Ancient Kings for control decks and the mirror.

Specific Matchups

Kagulichu

Kagulichu is the midrange deck that beats other midrange decks.  Thanks to powerful hand interaction like Culmination of Blood and Primordial Cockatwice, it can also grind out control decks.  But, compared to what we’re doing, its cheating on cost is adorably honest – its best draws cheat out a 7 drop on turn 5.  We might well have drawn our entire deck by then.

The only thing that’s scary for us in this matchup is Culmination of Blood, so we’re going to bring in Confounding Ire.  This doubles as protection for Cyclone Shaper, and they usually board out removal (it’s a little embarrassing to strangle a candle):

-2 Evaporate

-1 Runebind

+3 Confounding Ire

If the deck looks like it’s pre-boarded for this matchup, it’s because it is – Kagu has been the most popular deck at both of the previous bashes, and I imagine it will continue to be so, so it behooves us to be ready for it.

Mono-Blood Decks (Renner, Zorath)

I usually don’t mention these decks, as they’re not much of the metagame, but Mono-Blood decks, such as the one that placed 10th at last week’s bash, are some of the hardest decks to beat with Turbo-PA.  They have some early disruption in the form of Withering Gaze, early evasive/disruptive threats like Vampire Prince and Vampire Princess, and actions that end the game in the form of Culmination of blood.  Bride of the Damned will kill a card every turn.  Finally, drawing your whole deck is a lot less fun when your deck is full of spiders from Xentoth’s Malice.  Massacre’s one of the only genuinely clean answers to our board.

In this matchup, our goal is to keep Vampire Princess and Bride of the Damned off the table, build up card advantage, stick a cyclone shaper, and power out a Psychic Ascension.  We want the Into the Unknowns and Confounding Ires in the reserves, and they’re going to replace less useful interaction.  We’re also going to trim thunderfield seers, as 1/1s get picked on by Bride of the Damned.

+3 Into the Unknown

+3 Confounding Ire

+1 Martyr

-1 Transmog

-2 Evaporate

-2 Thunderfield Seer

-2 Runebind

Control Decks (Dreaming Fox DS and Wintermoon)

These decks are basically byes.  We are the beautiful, troop-less flower they wished they could be.  Their removal is bad against us.  Cards like Dark Heart of Nulzann are bad against us.  They have to hold up resources to try to 1-for-1 us when our entire deck is filled with cards that draw other cards, and our interaction is cheaper.

In these matchups, Runebind is often bad – runebinding your cyclone shaper does not save you from Into the Unknown or Pippit Hustler.  Further, you tend to have plenty of time to draw multiple shapers and bury them under a mountain of cards.  

-3 Runebind

-2 Evaporate

+2 Verdict of the Ancient Kings

+2 Tribunal Magistrate

Vs. Dreaming Fox

-2 Transmogrifade

+3 Into the Unknown

Vs. Wintermoon

+1 Transmogrifade

The difference in boards here is because casting Into the Unknown on multi-shard cards Pippit Hustler, Brown Fox Scout or Windsinger generally results in the opponent getting more hustlers, scouts and Windsingers.  Whereas casting it on Dark Heart of Nulzann generally results in the opponent getting resources and useless artifacts.

Furiko

They are an aggressive, turn 6 or 7 combo deck.  We are a turn 3-5 combo deck.  This is a good place to be.  But, as a general rule, this matchup goes to whoever gets to Consult the Talon more.  In this matchup, we adjust our board to counter their high-impact actions like Arcane Soil.  They generally don’t have enough pressure to beat us if they can’t resolve an Arcane Soil.

-2 Evaporate

-2 Transmog

+2 Confounding Ire

+2 Verdict of the Ancient Kings

BD Constants Decks (Goot, Fateweave, etc)

This deck is actually sometimes tricky, because you can’t block Twilight Eclipse or Twilight Archon.  Happily, we have plenty of space in our deck for scouring light, and these constants decks have plenty of extremely slow draws.  We change our board to focus a little less on interacting with troops and a little more on interacting with constants.

-2 Transmogrifade

-2 Evaporate

-1 Runebind

+2 Scouring Light

+3 Confounding Ire

Aggressive Decks (RDent Sockets, RD Ardent, Tork, Redlings)

These decks are surprisingly good matchups.  We have plenty of blockers, and we combo off extremely fast.  In these matchups, we’re just looking to bring in additional interaction, and worry a bit less about protecting Cyclone Shaper.  It can be tough for aggressive decks to continually hold open resources on your turn.

+2 Transmogrifade

+1 Martyr

-2 Evaporate

-1 Heart’s Whisper

Cyclone Shaper Turbo PA (The Mirror)

You might be seeing this mirror a lot.  Here’s what’s important:  Game 1, one of you is going to stick a cyclone shaper, disrupt your opponent, and ascend first.  That person is probably going to win, because you have almost no permament answers to an opposing cyclone shaper.  Try to be the person who combos off first.  In game 2, we board in more interaction and an alternate win con: Tribunal Magistrate.

-4 Runebind

-2 Evaporate

+2 Transmogrifade

+2 Verdict of the Ancient Kings

+2 Tribunal Magistrate

With our board, you want to use your verdicts to counter their big draw actions (Heart’s Whisper, Consult the Talon) and Psychic Ascension.  If you manage to stick a Tribunal Magistrate, protect it at all costs – it is virtually impossible to lose with one on the table, as an ascending opponent will fill their deck with spiders and give you an unblockable army before they can kill you.

Tips & Tricks

  • This deck is all cantrips.  It mulligans well.  If your opening 7 doesn’t have 3 cards that are cantrips you can cast or resources (ice counts as 2 cards for these purposes), mulligan it.
  • Remember that un-exhausted troops= 2 resources.  If you’re going to throw a candle in front of a charging Underworld Crusader, wait until it’s necessary, because that candle can generate a lot of resources first.
  • You can empower a Cyclone Shaper in your hand in response to a spell like Herofall which targets one on the battlefield.  Empowered Cyclone Shaper has a different name from Cyclone Shaper, so it won’t be taken out of your hand.  
  • Cyclone Shaper reduces the cost of actions in your hand by 1.  Once they are cast, they still have the regular cost.  So for the purposes of generating troops with Psychic Ascension, Consult the Talon will generate a 7-drop (…all of which are evasive), and most of your other cards will generate 1-drops
  • There is no Diamond-Sapphire 3-cost troop in Standard.  Cosmic Calling will never generate a troop with psychic ascension.
  • Don’t forget your champion power.  Either use it to get extra resources when you have a mobilize spell, or to power up a bunch of candles created by Light the Votives.
  • If the opponent doesn’t have pressure on the board, feel free to just poke and them with candles and draw cards.  There’s rarely any hurry to combo off – in addition to being a fast combo deck, we are generally the better late-game deck.
  • Try to think about which troops you use to mobilize – do you need to use one as a chump blocker?  Does cyclone shaper profitably block?  Remember that Cosmic Calling is quick – you can do it after blocks or at the end of the opponents’ turn.
  • If you see Crackling Magma or Misery out of your opponent, make sure to bring in Martyr – not only is it mostly unconditional removal, it can save your 1/1s from dying.

Conclusions

This was a bit of a two part article – I wanted to talk about how, as a brewer, you should always be on the lookout for cost reduction mechanics, and I wanted to show an example of an incredibly powerful new deck that exploits a couple of them (Cyclone Shaper, Mobilize, and Psychic Ascension).

The deck itself involves a lot of decision making, draws a ton of cards, and has aggressive draws that can race even the fastest decks in the format.  It is also the deck that I think will probably break the stranglehold that Kagulichu decks currently have on the format…by doing something even sillier.