Coral Reanimator: Spamming Seekers in Standard

Introduction

Disclaimer

So, I’ve written about Haraza Ardent decks and Turbo-PA.  Uh, soo…last bash had 25 Haraza decks, and the turbo-PA decks won 68% of their matches.  The only other deck with over 5 entries were 9 valiant BW Kagulichu decks who clocked in at a whopping 41% win percentage.  Roughly speaking, this puts the state of the format at:  Turbo-PA beats everything but Ardent, and Ardent beats Turbo-PA while also being an aggressive/straightforward deck that punishes slow draws.

I’m not here to tell you I’ve found the deck that beats Turbo-PA and Haraza Ardent.  Because I have not.  What we do have is a deck that is fun as hell to play, favored against Ardent and a lot of other stuff, and not favored against Turbo-PA.  I’m going to repeat this, and also probably write 500 words on it in a later section:  This deck is not favored against Turbo-PA.  Best case it’s about a 60/40 underdog.

The Deck

Credit where credit’s due:  This is a fusion of the player Yasi’s “Crow Combo” deck and an old idea for Reanimator. One of the things I like to do as a deckbuilder is, any time I see an interesting deck on the ladder, just play it and try to figure out:  Is there a part of this that’s powerful and re-usable, and if so, what’s the right shell for that powerful component.  So let’s take a look at Crow Combo:

Champion: Blue Sparrow
8x Sapphire Shard
2x Blood Shard
4x Arcane Focus
4x Ruinforge Rummager
4x Sorcerous Sculpting – Gems: 4x Major Sapphire of Sorcery
2x Crowbones
4x Change Course
4x Well of Cunning
4x Coralcove Witch
4x Heart’s Whisper
4x Mordrom’s Gift – Gems: 4x Major Sapphire of Clarity
4x Eternal Seeker
4x Sapphire Ice
4x Blood Ice
4x Runebind

This deck is cheating resource cost in two ways:  first, by putting big troops in the crypt and reanimating them, and second, by using Coralcove Witch’s -2 Cost power to play cards like Eternal Seeker ahead of schedule.  Finally, if you reduce the cost of Sorcerous Sculpting to 0, and sculpting a Crowbones, that sculpted crowbones can return the 0-cost sculpting to your hand, giving you infinite 3/3 flying speed troops.  Cute, huh?

Problem is that the best decks in the format are killing you fast, and playing a 6-drop is probably a bit too slow.  Playing Yasi’s version, I felt like I had too many clunky cards, but boy was reanimating an Eternal Seeker on 4 great.  And going Coralcove Witch on 4 into Seeker on 5 was also great.  Once I had a seeker out, it was easy to get more seeker triggers with Sorcerous Sculpting and Runebind, and it felt like I couldn’t lose.

Unfortunately, the Hex Devs have forbidden me from putting 7 or 8 Eternal Seekers in one deck.  However, there’s a card that does a remarkably okay Seeker impression against decks that are light on removal:  Chronodaemon.  So what if we just focused on a simple game play:  delay for the first 3-4 turns, and then wipe their board repeatedly while playing enormous fatties on 4, 5, 6, etc?  Here’s the result:

Decklist

Champion: Blue Sparrow
8x Sapphire Shard
2x Blood Shard
4x Arcane Focus
4x Transmogrifade
3x Chronodaemon
4x Change Course
4x Well of Cunning
4x Coralcove Witch
4x Heart’s Whisper
4x Mordrom’s Gift – Gems: 4x Major Sapphire of Clarity
4x Eternal Seeker
4x Sapphire Ice
4x Blood Ice
4x Runebind
3x Sorcerous Sculpting – Gems: 3x Major Sapphire of Sorcery
Reserves:
2x Verdict of the Ancient Kings
2x Cheap Shot
3x Rizzix
4x Underworld Officer
2x Aegilus
2x Confounding Ire

Card Breakdown

This deck has almost all 4-ofs (good sign), and the cards break down as follows:

Arcane Focus, Change Course and Heart’s Whisper help us filter through our deck.  The first few turns, we’re just trying to slow the opponent down and set up a board wipe.  All of these cards have some other uses, but mostly they’re there to make sure that on turn 4 or 5 we can do something dumb.

These cards enter the battlefield and immediately stabilize a board.  In a world where Massacre and Clash of Steel are the best action-based board wipes, it’s almost hilarious how much better these troops are.  They clean up the best threats and also present a clock.  But obviously, we’re not going to be paying 7 and 8 resources for them.  That would be too honest.

…and cheating costs pays off.  Mordom’s gift, gemmed with Major Sapphire of Clarity, allows us to reanimate a troop from the crypt (ideally one of these big bad boys) on turn 4, after using our champion power or Change Course to put it there.  Sorcerous Sculpting lets us run out copy after copy of these troops until our opponent stops playing.  And Coralcove Witch provides a reasonable ambush blocker (quick 2/4) that simultaneously allows us to hard-cast Seeker on 5, or store up resources for a future turn by making interaction or filtering cheaper.

We gem Sorcerous Sculpting with Major Sapphire of Sorcery because then it’s a Sorcerous Sculpting of Sorcery.  Also because we can discard the extra action created with our champion power if it’s bad.

Finally, we play 4 transmogrifade, because we’re trying to stall, and it’s efficient and cheap removal.  Nice and easy, right?

How to Play It

This deck packs more value than any other popular deck in the game.  If the game goes long, you will be getting 5 or 6 seeker and chronodaemon triggers, while slamming 5/5 and 6/6 fliers onto the battlefield and doing grotesque and unfortunate things with runebind.  But it’s also a board-wipe deck – it doesn’t aim to counter everything your opponent does, just clear it off the board.  So against decks that have potent action-based threats, remember that you do need to actually kill them.

Your #1 priority is to set up something silly to do on turn 4 or turn 5.  Your #2 priority is to slow down your opponents’ primary game plan.  Try to spend your resources efficiently, because in the games where you do, you will probably win.

Reserves

Our reserves are pretty simple.  We’re rarely changing more than a half-dozen cards in our deck because its game plan is pretty solid.

 

These are all cards we play to give our deck some more early-game plays.  Cheap Shot is a great way to have stuff to do in the early turns vs. aggressive decks.  It frequently gains you some life by producing a blocker, and it can eliminate threats like Intrepid Conjurer, Righteous Outlaw and Wartorn General.

Verdict of the Ancient Kings and Confounding Ire help us deal with action-based decks like Furiko, as well as Culmination in Blood and other problematic actions.

Aegilus is here because some decks have a relatively easy time removing Chronodaemon…but have absolutely no answer for double Aegilus.

Finally, we have a legion of unblockable troops because I haven’t found a better way to deal with Turbo-PA other than trying to kill them through their infinite blockers.

Haraza Ardent (…and other aggressive decks):

We are close to pre-boarded for this matchup – with 7 cards that wipe their board (and clear their banner), we are a strong favorite.  Most notably, current Haraza builds eschew removal and interaction, which means that Chronodaemon is just a 6/6 that wipes their board.  Post-board, we want to make ourselves a little bit more robust to interaction and also bring our curve down a little bit:

-2 Chronodaemon

-1 Sorcerous Sculpting

-1 Heart’s Whisper

+2 Aegilus

+2 Cheap Shot

Cheap shot lines up well with Wartorn General and Intrepid Conjurer, while also provided a body to throw in front of things.  Aegilus is more resilient than Chronodaemon to removal, and also effectively blanks their troops.  These matchups tend to be good for us – post Lazgar’s ban, most decks are a little bit too slow to effectively get under our cheated-out fatties

BW Kagulichu (…and any blood-based grindy deck)

Kagulichu was a powerful deck because of its ability to play effective 3-drops with deathcries (Promiscuous Succubus, Rune-Ear Heirophant and Underworld Crusader), as well as interaction (Strangle, Herofall) and, most importantly, being able to Rotten Rancor an Eternal Seeker on turn 5.

I am here to tell you that we are much, much better at cheating out Eternal Seekers than BW Kagu, and that voiding all of their 3-drops is an absolute beating.  In this matchup, you need to:  not let culmination in blood resolve and not let your Eternal Seeker get Herofall’d.  If you do this, you will very likely win.  This matchup is great (…most of our midrange matchups are great).

Because we’re just throwing bombs, Aegilus is better than Chronodemon.  Eternal Seeker is the only way they have to get double-Aegilus off the table, and we have ample ways to interact with it.  We trim some transmogrifades to make room for hard counters for culmination in blood.

-2 Transmog

-2 Chronodaemon

+2 Confounding Ire

+2 Aegilus

Furiko

This matchup is very tough, because you are actually the beatdown here.  Given enough time, they are going to draw cards and build up a critical mass of runebinds, and arcane soil/hero power you for a million damage.  We are a board wipe deck, and they’re a deck that can win from hand.

However, if you don’t get Arcane Soil’d, this matchup is virtually impossible to lose.  So we’re going to bring in 4 hard counters to Arcane Soil.  We bring in Aegilus because it also addresses their primary game plan of combo-ing us from hand.  While they have a lot of ways to deal with it (their own Transmogrifades, Pippit Hustler), it forces them to have more interaction.

-4 Transmogrifade

-2 Chronodaemon

+2 Aegilus

+2 Verdict of the Ancient Kings

+2 Confounding Ire

Constants

Easy matchup.  All our board wipes hit constants.  Whee!  Just make life a little bit better in the post-board:

-4 Transmogrifade

+2 Verdict of the Ancient Kings

+2 Confounding Ire (…they’re usually blood)

Turbo-PA

…well, we saved this one for last because I have the most to say about it.  First, let me say that this matchup is bad.  Not unwinnable bad, but nothing I can do to get it over 50% when both decks are played by good players.  I have tried, with little success:

  • Fifth Book of D’Harsis: It turns out that spending 6 resources just to make sure your opponent won’t cast Psychic Ascension isn’t really worth it.  They are going to murder you with candles.
  • Demented Ascension, The Librarian, Cult of the Nameless City: While you sometimes get to have a lot of fun screwing with fateweave, this isn’t close to fast enough.  These are long-term game plans against a speedy combo deck.
  • Interacting With Them (Subterfuge, Indigo Trickster with Speed Gem, Verdict of the Ancient Kings, Transmogrifade, Massacre):   They have more redundancy and card draw than you do.  If the game goes on long enough, they’re going to do their thing – without a good clock, this disruption isn’t a winning plan.
  • Tribunal Magistrate and Blight Knight: Too slow, and too easy to interact with for them.  Good Turbo-PA players know these are coming and can play around them easily.
  • Bogberg, the Great Gobbler: …desperate times, desperate measures.  I just wanted you to know how deep the attempts went.

Looking at my reserves, I bet you can guess what game plan I settled on:  Over whelm them with threats and pressure their life total.  Underworld Officer and Rizzix effectively act as reach, and you will rarely have problems casting Rizzix on 3 against them (plenty of cards in the crypt).  You want to slam these cards on the table and race.  We play 3 Rizzix because he’s unique and significantly worse with Sorcerous Sculpting.  When this primary plan (play unblockables) does not work, Turbo-PA can also stumble by lacking the interaction required to stop our flying fatties from resolving.

In this matchup, you want to focus on establishing an early threat, and then forcing your reanimation actions through.  You are the beatdown – eventually, they’re going to ascend and make arbitrary numbers blockers/damage.   You need to kill them.  Here’s the board I settled on – this matchup is not great, but you can punish stumbles:

-4 Transmogrifade

–1 Sorcerous Sculpting

-2 Coralcove Witch

+3 Rizzix

+4 Underworld Officer

Tips and Tricks

This deck is the best Runebind deck in Hex, and it cheats resources in a weird way.  It’s tough to play.  So here are some tips that might help you:

  • Two Aegiluses are a hard lock against decks that can only destroy troops (most non-sapphire/diamond decks). Use Sorcerous Sculpting to get two Aegiluses into play as soon as you can against aggressive decks.
  • Aegilus doesn’t make you immune to life loss, like Necropolis Coin.  It does make you immune to damage.  Note that you can also die from running out of cards in your deck.
  • Runebind can save your giant troops from removal. If you can afford to, don’t reanimate them until you can protect them.
  • Runebind can re-buy triggers from Chronodaemon and Eternal Seeker, enabling multiple board wipes. Notably, Runebinding Chronodaemon doesn’t give them their board back­, because it hasn’t left the board yet.  When it reverts and you re-cast it, it will give them their stuff back…at which point you can promptly remove it all again.
  • Remember that you can runebind opponents’ actions, and then void them with Chronodaemon and Seeker. This is a reasonable way not to get Culmination in Blood-ed.
  • Sapphire decks have relatively few ways of getting their stuff back from Chronodaemon – transformation effects don’t do it.
  • If you think you’re about to get into a Runebind fight, you can give yourself some edges:
    • Leave up resources for Change Course – if somebody Runebinds your Runebind on the chain, you can get another one into your hand at quick speed and revert/replay it.
    • Fateweave a resource to the top of your deck and use your hero power to draw it.
    • Use Arcane Focus or Heart’s Whisper to find a resource to re-flip your
  • In general, don’t put troops into your crypt until you’re about to reanimate them – you’re just turning on your opponent’s crypt hate or Culmination in Blood.
  • Coralcove Witch can also be used to give Spellshield to one of your fatties – it and runebind are very important against blood-based Herofall decks for this reason.
  • Mordrom’s Gift and Sorcerous Sculpting grant the gemmed powers to the targeted troop. This comes into play in a few ways:
    • A Sorcerous Sculpting’d troop is better than the original. If you reanimate it, it will give you another random action.  If you Sculpting it again, it will give you two random actions.
    • Casting Mordrom’s Gift repeatedly lowers the resource cost of a card. When you can, try not to have too many cards of the same resource cost on the board; you never know when you’re going to need to cast Eternal Seeker for that number.
  • Feel free to tuck an Eternal Seeker or two under your Chronodaemon. This puts your opponent in a bad spot:  Either his board is gone forever, or when he gets it back you get to get rid of some of it with your new Eternal Seeker triggers.

Wrapping Up

…this deck is super fun.  I don’t want to mislead you – it’s not unbeatable by any stretch, and I think I’ve laid out its weaknesses: if your opponent is playing to the board, it’s an excellent deck.  If they’re not, it’s less good because the fatties we currently have selected don’t help much.

However, I also expect this deck to be consistently good in the future:  It’s only losing Arcane Focus, Transmogrifade and Chronodaemon at rotation.  As it’s in Sapphire, I expect that Arcane Focus’s filtering will be replaceable (perhaps with Theorize), and that there will be some cheap, efficient blood removal or interaction to replace Transmogrifade.  If the format slows down and a dual-shard appears, it may even be reasonable to maindeck Herofall and take a more controlling role.  Finally, Chronodaemon is only dramatically better than Aegilus vs. Turbo-PA, a deck which preys on this deck.  If you’re budget-conscious, I’d recommend replacing Chronodaemon with Aegilus maindeck, and playing Shackling Strands.  The rest of this deck should be a staple of this format for a while.

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