When Lazgar’s Vengeance got banned, it opened the door for a whole bunch of decks that might be interested in playing troops with less than 4 toughness, or playing games longer than 5 turns. Sapphire-Wild dreadling decks (Furiko, Ivan Slagpot, Shoku the Botanist), Blood-based midrange decks (Xorath, Renner, Kagulichu) overtook the big 4 of Ruby Tork, Diamond-Sapphire Control, Takahiro Deathcry, and Ivan Slagpot Redlings. I’m usually a control deck player, but couldn’t resist the opportunity to brew, and some ideas had been simmering for a few weeks. So I’m here to write about the deck I took to cosmic this season: Ruby Diamond Ardent “RDent” Sockets, an aggressive midrange deck that draws cards, makes big troops, and rams them into your opponent..
Champion: Haraza the Incinerator
8x Diamond Shards
2x Ruby Shards
4x Carloth Cobblestone
1x Cosmic Shaman – Gems: 1x Major Ruby of Twinstrike, 1x Minor Ruby of Zeal
1x Blamsmith – Gems: 1x Minor Ruby of Zeal
1x Hero of Legend
4x Ardent Crusader – Gems: 4x Minor Diamond of Protection
1x Dark Heart of Nulzann – Gems: 1x Major Ruby of Twinstrike, 1x Minor Ruby of Zeal
1x Exalted Knight
4x Animus of Nulzann – Gems: 4x Major Ruby of Galvanism
1x Moonrise Elder – Gems: 1x Major Ruby of Twinstrike
2x Altar of Nulzann
4x Well of Conquest
1x Daughter of the Poet
4x Decree of Banishing
1x Llama Herder
4x Sentry of Nulzann
1x Totemic Elder – Gems: 1x Minor Ruby of the Arena
4x Emcee, Etcher of Nulzann – Gems: 4x Major Diamond of the Seraph
4x Ruby Ice
1x Templar of Lumos – Gems: 1x Minor Ruby of the Arena
1x Grim Skull Tactician – Gems: 1x Minor Ruby of Zeal
1x Righteous Outlaw
2x Totem Trap
2x Crackling Magma
1x Wise Magistrate
1x Altar of Nulzann
1x Pride’s Fall
3x Scouring Light
1x Wakuna Lookout
2x Blinding Ire
1x Silent Sentinel
1x Inquisitor of Lumos
What is it…you say…you do here?
So first, credit where credit is due: This archetype got on my radar when Etruia played it to a 9th-place finish in the first Bash. What struck me was how many troops there are that checked both Ardent and Socket boxes. This got me to asking the question: How many embarrassing cards do we have to play to satisfy Ardent Crusader’s ten ardent troop requirement and Emcee, Etcher of Nulzann’s ten socketed troop requirement?
The answer is less than you think: Cosmic Shaman, Totemic Elder, Templar of Lumos, Moonrise Elder, and Ardent Crusader are all both Ardent and Socketed. All are pretty reasonable cards.
This leaves us with only 5 socketed troops and 5 ardent troops left. Sockets are easy to fill: Blamsmith, Emsee, Grim Skull Tactician, Dark Heart of Nulzann, Animus of Nulzann are staples of aggressive socket decks.
And, because we are in Ruby-Diamond, there’s an abundance of good ardent troops that also round out our curve: Llama Herder, Daughter of the Poet, Righteous Outlaw, Hero of Legend and Exalted Night provide us with aggressive draws that generate value later. We pick these cards not only because they are Human, Ardent and powerful, but because they have 1 threshold requirements – while William Rowan and Wise Magistrate are strong cards, they have double thresholds which can be hard to hit if you also want to have RR by turn 4.
We add in some obvious socket synergy cards: Sentry of Nulzann and Altar of Nulzann
…and we add in the best cards you can play in diamond: 4 Decree of Banishing and 4 Guidance. A note on these cards: Sockets decks previously had problems with consistency. If they drew their best cards, they were unstoppable, and if they didn’t, they were borderline unplayable. Set 7 introduced fateweave – specifically, we can run between 8 and 12 fateweave effects (depending on whether or not we have troops socketed with Minor Diamonds of Fate) to help the deck curve out well. When combined with the ability of Emcee, Etcher of Nulzann to find impactful cards from your deck (it only pulls socketed cards out, and all our socketed cards are great), this build ends up being significantly more consistent than it has any right to be.
Why are we playing RD?
First and foremost, we’re playing Ruby because Haraza solves a classic sockets problem – most sockets can build a terrifying board, but the opponent gets a turn to answer them. With Haraza’s champion power, you can play out your big, under-costed troops from hand and beat face immediately. With Major Ruby of Galvanism, you can also regularly hit your champion power on turn 4, enabling big swings before your opponent can really get going.
Second, we’re playing Diamond over Blood because of Guidance and because Diamond’s socketing options are far superior to Blood’s. While Speed is a nice minor socket, Blood’s major sockets are built to accrue advantage over time – we’re interested in pressuring our opponent’s life total, not getting value out of our troops.
Finally, we get a free Human sub-theme. We have 10 humans in our deck, and this enables this deck to have some of the most consistent resources in Hex by playing 4 Carloth Cobblestones. Our threshold requirements are easy – we can cast all but 1 of our cards and our hero power with just RR and W thresholds. We play get to play 8 dual shards, guidance, and sentry of Nulzann…and we also play 15 cards with no threshold requirements.
While you could build this as a Blood-Ruby Underworld Sockets deck, and Underworld Crusader is generally a better card than Ardent Crusader, the power of guidance and the quality of the ardent troops far outweighs the advantages of going Blood.
Oh god. Somebody put 19 socketed cards into this deck. What were we thinking? How could we ever make socketing choices?! Well, let’s go with some basics:
- We want Major Ruby of Galvanism in Animus of Nulzann, because it allows us to play Animus on 4, gain 3 charges, and hit our hero power.
- We want Major Diamond of the Seraph in Emcee, Etcher of Nulzann because we need that card to be evasive so it can diligence and be a card-advantage engine.
- After that, we just want to make sure the best gems are in our deck:
- Protection is the best minor gem available, so we put that in Ardent Crusaders – this helps them win combat vs. other crusaders, dodge strangle and pyre strike.
- Major Ruby of Twinstrike is an absolute beating when you put it on a card that is big or can get big. It gets put on Moonrise Elder, Dark Heart of Nulzann and Cosmic Shaman – all cards that can have 4+ attack when they attack.
- Minor Ruby of Zeal pairs really well with Major Ruby of Twinstrike, making it really hard to block cards that…sort of have to be blocked. We put them in Dark Heart of Nulzann and Cosmic Shaman. It’s also great at stalling early attackers in aggressive matchups, so we put it in Blamsmith and Grim Skull Tactician.
- Finally, Minor Ruby of the Arena is a flexible way to get a bit more damage or a bit more defense. We put it in our remaining minor slots – Templar of Lumos and Totemic Elder.
Do you even sideboard, bro?
The Big Ideas
Let’s agree that sideboarding with decks that have deckbuilding constraints is really challenging. We just don’t have that many cards to trim while still doing our most powerful thing. In this sideboarding configuration, we’re mostly looking to:
- Adapt our removal suite to reflect the matchup. Sometimes Decree of Banishing isn’t good – you need quick speed removal or removal that targets non-troops.
- Tweak your ardent troops a bit – there are a fair number of ardent troops that are specifically good vs. certain decks.
- Shift your curve up or down – get a little slower in grindy matchups, and a little faster vs. aggressive decks.
All of these cards do something that Decree of Banishing doesn’t. Pride’s Fall and Totem Trap are quick, Blinding Ire and Scouring Light hit constants, and Crackling Magma is great vs. wide boards of small troops like you will commonly see in dreadling decks.
Wise Magistrate is very good against combo decks. Inquisitor of Lumos punishes decks that aren’t fighting you with troops. Silent Sentinel is a card that deathcry decks have to get off the table to do their thing. You’ll frequently find that these are better cards than Righteous Outlaw, Llama herder, Daughter of the Poet and Exalted Knight.
Shift the Curve:
You want to think of Wakuna Lookout as a very tiny and feeble version of Cosmic Shaman or Totemic Elder. In matchups where you need to lower your curve, you can just board in a 1/1 with fateweave, swiftstrike or gladiator…or 3 toughness for blocking. In other matchups, you can shift your curve up by taking out bad removal spells and boarding in Altar of Nulzann.
Here are some general plans for matchups. Note that you should follow the guidelines above to deal with particular versions of each of these decks. For instance, Takahiro is a midrange blood deck – but it also has a deathcry theme, so Silent Sentinel and void removal are really good against them.
Haraza decks tend to have good DS matchups, because of how the Haraza’s hero power makes every troop get value. Also, a lot of our troops can pretty casually attack into a 6/6. Finally, Dark Heart of Nulzann and Eldurathan’s Glory don’t hit a lot of our cards. However, Decree of Banishing is bad against Dark Heart decks, so we need to tune up a bit to be more threat-dense.
In this matchup, look to pressure your opponents’ life total early and force them into making tough decisions when your hasty creatures hit the board. Try to get at least one activation out of Animus – two activations will usually result in an unbeatable board.
-4 Decree of Banishing
+1 Pride’s Fall
+1 Altar of Nulzann
+1 Wise Magistrate
+1 Inquisitor of Lumos
Move our Ardent Crusader gem to to Minor Diamond of Fate. This gives us virtual card advantage, and there’s no particular reason that 6 toughness is great here.
Blamsmith and Grim Skull Tactician should get Minor Diamond of Protection to dodge Eldurathan’s Glory.
Ruby Aggressive Decks
We can absolutely get run over by these decks. But at the same time, swiftstrike blockers can give them fits, we play a reasonable number of troops, and our troops tend to be fatter. In these matchups, we want to go faster. So we’re going to board our curve down, change our sockets, and alter our removal to interact better.
In this matchup, trade. Trade often. Your life is a valuable resource, and if the game goes long, you will be able to burst them down as your troops are much bigger than theirs. An early Ardent Crusader can provide a pretty impenetrable roadblock, as can any of our 5 swift-striking two-drops.
-1 Cosmic Shaman
-2 Altar of Nulzann
-2 Decree of Banishing
+2 Totem Trap
+1 Wakuna Lookout (Minor Ruby of Zeal)
+2 Crackling Magma
Ardent Crusader gets Minor Diamond of Protection – we want to be able to block Mama Yeti Profitably.
Very solid matchup. Our cards are very big, we have reach, and they have difficulty interacting with some of our card advantage engines. A lot of their tools for fighting slower decks, like discard and Withering Gaze don’t really do anything against us – we can empty our hand and play relatively few non-Troops. Our maindeck is relatively well set up here – I tend to trim to play around herofall.
-1 Emcee, Etcher of Nulzann
-1 Ardent Crusader
-1 Animus of Nulzann
+2 Blinding Ire
+1 Altar of Nulzann
If they are deathcry-oriented, you may find it profitable to bring in a Silent Sentinel for either a Llama Herder or Righteous Outlaw, depending on whether you’re on the play or draw. Remember that this is basically a matchup about 1-for-1ing – if can blank cards like strangle, do so.
And let’s talk about a deck that attacks from a very strange angle – constants. Game 1, this is a race. Games 2 and 3, you have a lot of ways to win. In game 1, you need to build a giant board and kill them before you get got by Twilight Eclipse or Twilight Archon. Generally, your troops are bigger than their troops, but Twilight Eclipse is often tough to race. Our boarding plan relies on our troops to kill their troops, and brings in a number of cards that can kill constants.
In this matchup, you’re on one of two plans: If they have Twilight Eclipse and you don’t have Scouring Light, it’s time to race. If they don’t have Twilight Eclipse, you can often grind them out. Our troops get big and synergize well, so we can frequently outrace even a pretty scary constants board.
-4 Decree of Banishing
-1 Altar of Nulzann
-1 Daughter of the Poet
+3 Scouring Light
+2 Blinding Ire
+1 Inquisitor of Lumos
Tips and Tricks
- Resources – you need 1 diamond first, then you need 2 Ruby. Sequence accordingly. Then get to 5 Diamond for Daughter of the Poet.
- Remember that you can access diligence triggers like Righteous Outlaw and Emcee, Etcher of Nulzann using Llama Herder without actually having to attack.
- Sentry of Nulzann costs 1 and reduces the cost of all socketed troops by 1. If you’re not setting up for spending all of your resources the next turn, and not playing a troop this turn, you might want to do something else to spend your resources efficiently.
- Remember that Haraza’s Banner gives speed- you can replace your old copy of Emcee with an Emcee from your hand and trigger Animus to make a wide board taller, and still have the new copy attack.
- Our troops don’t really have crush or evasion, but two troops, Daughter of the Poet and Grim Skull Tactician can make blocking unpleasant. If you’re behind on board but the opponent is at a low life total, sometimes you want to save these cards in your hands to sneak damage past an unwary opponent.
This is a deck that can do a lot of things. Diamond and fateweave mitigate a lot of the problems that sockets decks used to have in terms of consistency and finding the cards they wanted. It has card advantage engines, valuable cards, and solves problems in the best way – running people over with huge speedy troops.