Shisogenius’s Meta Insight 2/6
The “Meta Insight” series covers the differences between popular ladder decklists, showcasing the core cards of each of the archetypes (“deck skeletons”), as well as various optional inclusions and tech cards.
[ps2id url=’#rune’]Rune[/ps2id] [ps2id url=’#dragon’]Dragon[/ps2id] [ps2id url=’#shadow’]Shadow[/ps2id] [ps2id url=’#sword’]Sword[/ps2id] [ps2id url=’#blood’]Blood[/ps2id] [ps2id url=’#forest’]Forest[/ps2id] [ps2id url=’#haven’]Haven[/ps2id] [ps2id url=’#portal’]Portal[/ps2id] [ps2id url=’#stats’]Stats corner[/ps2id]
In the Daria deck skeleton, a couple cards are cut sometimes in favor of different options in the same mana slot, those cards are Conjure Golem and Concentration. Conjure Golem sometimes gets replaced by Silent Laboratory, while Concentration gets replaced by a wide variety of different cards. The unusual off-meta decklists here are ちてん’s Summon Snow list, つー’s Oz/Daria list and Makku’s Giant Chimera list.
In the Rotation format, there are only 2 1-cost spells available to Daria decks, Insight and Mysterian Knowledge. Well, there is technically Mystic Ring and Treasure Map, but the former loses you card advantage, while the latter is Treasure Map. Mystic Ring has seen some play as 1-of in Daria decks in the past, however, it’s been out of Daria decks since the release of Chronogenesis.
The most flexible spot of the Daria mana curve is the 2-drops. The common options are Golem Assault, Wind Blast, Chain of Calling and Craig. In lists running Golem Assault and Concentration, Silent Laboratory is an option that can be a proactive 2-drop instead of Conjure Golem. A turn 2 Silent Laboratory into a turn 3 Golem Assault provides 2 spellboosts and a proactive curve 2/2 into 3/3. In extended games it can also provide additional value from enhanced Golem Assault and extra Concentration draws. It’s important to note that Chain of Calling usually isn’t played in decks with Craig/Clarke, because it’s preferable for CoC to pull either Magic Owl or spellboost-heavy followers like Oogler, Blade Mage, Daria, Chimera, etc. A cute alternative to Chain of Calling is Into the Looking Glass which draws a generic card instead of a follower which can be somewhat better, however, most Daria players opted against paying 2pp for an Insight.
Clarke, Arcane Scholar is a card that keeps finding its way into Daria decks as a 2-of or a 3-of, but is one of the first cards to be cut from the deck, similar to Concentration. In the same vein, some players have tried cutting Piercing Rune from the deck in favor of extra 2-drops and Fiery Embrace, but it’s not a common trend.
On top of the usual Ooglers, Blade Mages, Daria and Chimeras, a one-of Flame Destroyer and 2-3 copies of Enchanted Sword are common inclusions in the deck that serve as extra pay-off for all the spellboost cards. Less orthodox options in this category of cards are Fiery Embrace and Frozen Mammoth, the latter not being reliant on spellboosts itself, but activating from a discounted Daria/Chimera. Another cool idea is Summon Snow which technically only needs 2 spellboosts to pass the vanilla test, which was tried in ちてん’s list.
Lightning never strikes twice
Except if it’s a Chain Lightning, a popular 1-of in Daria decks that can provide reach in matchups with a lot of board clears. Mutagenic Bolt is also played in the same slot, and some players even include 2xMutaBolts or 1xChain and 1xMutaBolt. Mutagenic Bolt is very slow in Daria decks, but is a great tool against midrange decks like Midrange Shadow/Sword and in mirror matches. Some players even opted for a copy or two of Wizardess of Oz that allows to capitalize on those expensive spells and negate some of the tempo loss. Some example of such “OzDaria” builds are earlier nukoota’s lists and tsub4k’s list.
Giants, giants, giants
Another example of a card that benefits a lot from spellboosts is Giant Chimera. Although Giant Chimera doesn’t benefit from being discarded by Daria (technically “banished”, semantics), there were a few different players experimenting with Giant Chimera in Daria lists. Makku’s list is an example of such Giant Chimera lists. In my opinion, the addition of Giant Chimera makes Daria decks worse since it significantly increases the chance to brick and most Daria games don’t last to turn 9 anyway. A significant amount of games you won’t be able to play the Giant Chimera and even when you do play it, it doesn’t win the game outright. “What rings you got?” You actually don’t have any rings, because Giant Chimera decks usually don’t run Mystic Ring. This is obviously the factor that is stopping Giant Chimera from becoming unstoppable.
Snow Daria RuneSource
Giant Chimera/Daria RuneSource
After the recent Magic Illusionist nerf, the card has been cut from some lists, however, due to the decreased popularity of the deck most of the Dirt Rune lists are extremely similar, for that reason, the deck skeleton contains 36 cards. The lists straying from the deck skeleton here are Rizer’s Mysteria Burn Rune and Reijing’s Neutral Rune, discussed in the later sections. In addition to that, a few examples of the emerging Neutral Ginger Rune are represented by the last 3 decklists.
Dwarf Alchemist and Silent Laboratory are the premium 2-drops in Dirt Rune. Magic Illusionist even after the nerf is still run in most lists, at least as 2 copies. Dirt Rune’s options for additional 2-drops include Lyrial (the more common option), as well as Evelisia. Evelisia has fallen out of favor lately, and most Dirt Rune lists include 2-3 copies of Lyrial.
It appears that the best 3-drop setup in Dirt Rune is 3 copies of Karl, Pious Instructor and 2-3 copies of Mage of Nightfall. With that said, slower and less optimized versions of the deck can occasionally include Gingerbread House and various Neutral 3-drops.
EZ Big EZ Spells EZ
If you’re playing Dirt Rune, then naturally you want three copies of Wizardess of Oz in your deck. So which spells do you want for the “Oz package”? Piercing Rune is a 3-of in most Dirt lists because it is a great card in terms of midgame tempo, but other spells have a bit of a split. The 3 main options are Mutagenic Bolt/Grand Summoning/Chain Lightning and you should try to play 4-7 of those “big spells”. Mutagenic Bolt is a great card in a Shadow-infested meta, so most lists run 2 or 3 copies. Grand Summoning and Chain Lightning do somewhat different things though. Chain Lightning is great against slower decks with good AoE options such as Dragon and Haven because it provides the deck with extra reach. Grand Summoning is better against midrange decks.
The yellow-brick road
The idea of a slower Dirt Rune build omitting aggressive cards such as Magic Illusionist, Mage of Nightfall and the “Oz package” is not exactly new and it is showcased in Rizer’s list that includes the Mysteria/Silver Blade Golem “package”, as well as various cards aimed at either slowing the game down (like Gingerbread House) or gaining value in those longer games (like Concentration and Professor of Taboos).
What about Neutral Rune?
After the Falise nerf Aggressive Neutral Rune has mostly fallen off because ultimately Dirt Rune has better aggressive tools like Halo Golem, Master Mage Levi, etc. While Neutral Rune deck that consisted of around 34 Neutral cards with 3xWitch of Sweets and 3xFalise saw some play before Chronogenesis, they were mostly slower Neutral Rune builds with the Sahaquiel package and an occasional Ginger or two. An alternative to that is showcased in the reijing’s list that is a mix of an aggressive Neutral shell with some elements of Dirt Rune, namely Master Mage Levi with 6 Earth Sigils, and an “Oz package” with 1xChain Lightning and 2xMutaBolt.
Most of the provided Ramp Dragon decklists feature Tilting at Windmills, with the exception of the last 3 decklists.
A majority of Dragon players still utilize the Holy Trinity of 3xSahaquiel/Israfil/Bahamut. A turn 6 Saha/Isra combo can clear the board very effectively while also dealing some chip damage to the opponent. In slower matchups Saha/Zeus can also be used to poke the opponent for 5 face damage. That being said, Zeus is somewhat optional in Ramp Dragon. Sahaquiel package is the cornerstone of Ramp Dragon, ironically, even more so after the Bahamut change.
Greed is good
While ramping, healing, drawing cards and having AoE is great and all, how do you win games as Dragon when you can’t just play Bahamut on turn 6 and move on with your life? Basically, how do you win the mirror matches? To this end, you have a few “greedy” options, with the most common one being the Queen of the Dread Sea/Arriet package which can double up on the storm damage of Azi Dahaka for 12/16 damage and do other neat things like playing Zeus and Azi Dahaka for 11/13 damage, playing Bahamut together with an expensive Dragon card like Draconic Fervor/Azi Dahaka/etc. Another popular tech choice is Ouroboros, which is usually played as a 1-of. In a similar vein, Canyon of the Dragons is a card which has a lot of similarities with the rotated out Polyphonic Roar, basically demanding an anti-amulet tech card as an answer and continuously applying pressure.
After the recent Bahamut change, and even before it, there has been a trend of Windmills builds gaining some popularity. The main difference between regular Sahaquiel and Windmills decks is the replacement of Purehearted Singer for Khaiza, which allows for a repeatable source of 2-damage pings (which is considered strong in a different CCG that I’m not allowed to talk about); as well as the exclusion of Zeus due to its anti-synergy with Windmills. To add to that, followers summoned with Sahaquiel do not get destroyed/gain Storm, which makes your Sahaquiel combos do an extra 4 face damage instead of summoning a 4/4, which is better in slower matchups like Haven and Dragon mirrors, and worse against midrange decks. In the past Windmills Dragon was considered a “meme” deck with Hamsas, Lokis, Hydras with Into the Looking Glass (hardy har har self-promotion), or other inconsistent wacky combos, but these days giving Storm to Israfil/Bahamut is a legitimate strategy.
Other tech cards
With the popularity of the aforementioned Windmills and Canyon of the Dragons during the first few days after the patch, anti-amulet tech cards have seen some play in Dragon decks, namely Fall from Grace and Burly Axewielder. In addition to that, in order to improve the Daria matchup, Conflagration has been seeing a fair bit of play, with players running 1-2 copies of the card.
Zirnitra and Frenzied Drake
The new and improved Zirnitra can take the Midrange decks by storm (by rush?) by coming down on turn 6 and creating 3 bodies on the board, all with immediate board impact. Since Zirnitra does a similar job to Sahaquiel without being a Neutral card, it allows you to include Frenzied Drake, which is a solid board clear that can usually some down on turn 7 or 8. The upside of Zirnitra compared to Sahaquiel is that the former doesn’t require to have 2 cards in hand to be effective and creates more bodies on the board, but the downside is that Zirnitra is another evolve target in a deck that already has Aiela and Israfil. So, which one is better? There are merits to playing Zirnitra, however, most Dragon players shifted back to the Sahaquiel package after the initial “honeymoon period” of the expansion. It should be noted, however, that after the next expansion, when Sahaquiel and Bahamut get rotated out, there will likely be a resurgence of Zirnitras/Frenzied Drakes in the Rotation format.
The first 2 provided PDK decklists are the standard PDK builds, with Yuu’s Chronos build and ElsaMaria’s Aggressive PDK build. The 2 other decklists include Dragonclaw Pendant, チクネコ’s list is a slow variation of Dragonclaw Pendant PDK, while Matomo’s is the more aggressive one.
Why would you play PDK over regular Ramp?
The main difference between the two archetypes is the improved Midrange Shadow matchup due to the deck being a fair bit faster compared to regular Ramp. However, at the time of writing, the performance of PDK is worse than regular Ramp (PDK’s winrate is 47.5%, while Ramp’s winrate is 52.8%), which is likely caused by the poor matchup against Haven and regular Ramp dragon. Is PDK viable? Abolutely. Is PDK better than regular Ramp? I’m not so sure, it likely depends on the used list. The sample size on Shadowlog is not large enough to really get a fair judgement. Notably, in a faster format PDK Dragon does a lot better, which is evident from the archetype’s performance in Unlimited, where PDK does perform better, however, Dragon is still the least played class in Unlimited, so it might just be stats being muddled due to low sample size.
Some new Dragon cards are pretty sweet in a PDK deck, namely Dragon Aficionado, Dragon Horde and, to an extent, Zirnitra. Naturally, since you’re playing Dragon, you’re already playing 3 copies of Aiela in your deck, which is coincidentally also good with PDK. To add to that, you still have Star Phoenix and Dragoon Scyther, generally good Dragon cards with nice PDK synergy. Dragon Summoner is also a lot better in a PDK deck since it cycles itself; as well as Matilda that serves as a pseudo-card-draw.
PDK finisher: a new popular card for PDK decks that gets even better with the prevalence of Midrange Shadow is Phoenix Rider Aina. Together with tokens from Dragon Horde it’s fairly easy to do more than 10 Storm damage. Of course, there’s no rule that prohibits you from playing Bahamut or Azi Dahaka in a PDK deck, so those can also serve as a solid late-game finisher of sorts. The more innovative idea for a PDK finisher comes in the form of a Chronos/Imperial Dragoon package that replaces the Ainas and Bahamuts. The synergy between Imperial Dragoon and Chronos’ leader effect is obvious, but in addition to being a flashy finisher with Dragoon, Chronos also helps out as a draw engine, since PDK decks have a lower curve compared to Ramp Dragon lists and can run out of gas faster for that reason.
Is that a JO crystal reference?
The Bahamut change opened up a few possibilities for decks utilizing various amulets, one of example of that being Dragonclaw Pendant. And if any Dragon deck can utilize the Dragonclaw Pendant efficiently, it would be a PDK deck due to the deck flooding the board. In addition to that, Prime Dragon Keeper itself doubles the face damage, while the damage to followers increases from 2 to 3 for each of the pings. For this reason, a few players have tried Dragonclaw Pendant in a PDK shell with somewhat decent success.
Looking at the skeleton of the deck, it only has 27 cards all in all which are really core. It looks so bare-bones due to the fact that shadow has a lot of options in different mana slots, which I will discuss below. Among the provided decklists, the last 4 are different from regular Midrange Shadow with Rin’s Reanimate Shadow list, Sansan’s and Bakuman’s Dark Alice/ToS Neutral Shadow lists and Ananegeki’s Nep Shadow.
A new thane will follow
If you were to compare Midrange Shadow to its pre-patch, the obvious change is that Immortal Thane is gone from many lists. Immortal Thane doesn’t have a 1-for-1 replacement, so most Shadow players either choose to play extra 3-drops and 6-drops instead. The biggest result of this is the resurgence of Shadow Reaper and Attendant of Night in Midrange Shadow. That being said, while some players completely cut Immortal Thane, it is not unreasonable to play 1 or 2 copies of the card as it still provides a lot of gas, even if played a turn later than before.
The first flex spot in the deck that comes to mind is the 1pp slot. With the loss of Skull Beast shadow lost access to a good proactive 1-drop, so naturally a few players included Goblins as an obvious replacement. The upside of playing Goblins is the synergy with Prince Catacomb and Thane, as well as shoring up the class’s weakness against Sword’s Quickbladers and Forest’s Fairies/Kittens/etc. The downside of playing Goblins is that the card has a very low impact against slower decks, such as Dirt Rune, Haven, and to an extent in Midrange Shadow mirrors.
The deck skeleton only has 14 2-cost cards, and most Midrange Shadow lists run around 20. What are the other 2-cost cards you can include? There is a split between Lyrial/Bone Bug/Andrealphus. For example, if you want to improve your Forest matchup, your best option would be to play Lyrials and Bone Bugs, but if you want to do better in slower matchups, such as Dragon or Haven, you should consider adding Andrealphus or even a third Soulsquasher. There’s also some less orthodox options, namely, Usher of Styx, which can be used to fish up extra copies of Thane/Eachtar. Basically, your best bet would be picking cards based on the current meta and personal preference so that you can hit the threshold of 20-ish early game cards. Naturally, if you play 3xGoblins, you can run fewer (17-ish) 2-drops.
Most common options for Midrange Shadow 3-drops are mostly Neutral cards, such as Purehearted Singer, Goblin Mage, Khaiza and even Badb Catha. Recently Shadow Reaper and Attendant of Night have been seeing some play as well and, of course, Angel of the Word is also a solid choice. You should aim for around 4-8 3-drops.
There are 2 standard options for 4-cost minions, Prince Catacomb and Necroassassin. After the release of Skull Ring and the general decline of Aggro deck usage, Ceres is not so commonplace anymore. How uncultured. Most lists run 4-6 4-drops.
The 2 most common 6-drops are Skeleton Prince and Odille. Skeleton Prince is a good card in the Dragon matchup, while Odille is a good card against decks that flood the board, such as Sword and Forest, while also being great in the mirror matches. Shadow 6-drops are optional, you don’t have to play any if you don’t want to, however, if you do opt to play 6-drops, try to play no more than 3.
Shadow has a fairly large variety of goofy decks that utilize the Midrange Shadow shell to some extent. One example of such deck is Rin’s Reanimate Shadow list that omits a lot of the skeleton-centric part of the deck in favor of the “reanimate package” consisting of Gloomy Necromancers, Sow Death, Reap Life, Death Dragon Caller and Zeus. Another archetype that has seen some experimentation after the Bahamut change is Dark Alice/Test of Strength deck similar to sansan’s list. The idea of the deck is to replace most of the Midrange Shadow late-game tools and instead include a Sahaquiel package with the Dark Alice/ToS combo. The great thing about the deck is its great matchup against Dragon, especially the Windmills builds. Lastly, with the Immortal Thane change, you finally have a Rotation-legal 8-drop for Nepthys decks, so you can play a 3478 Nepthys deck that pulls 2 Liches, a 4/5 Ward with Bane and procs Khawy on turn 8. You really shouldn’t, but you can. Nobody’s stopping you.
Dark Alice/ToS ShadowSource
Ledger DAlice/ToS ShadowSource
Midrange Sword has a lot of variance in builds, with some being more aggressive and others being slower and more value-oriented. For that reason, the deck skeleton is only 21 cards. Naturally, the deck skeleton doesn’t apply to Neutral Sword, since it is a different archetype that is still technically a Midrange Sword deck. The first 3 lists are regular Midrange Sword lists, 揚げ豆腐’s and Shiro’s list are the so called “Control” Sword and the Refuge’s list is the Cannon Sword build. After the N Skeleton tab, the 6 last decklists are Neutral Aggro Sword builds.
Looking at the deck skeleton, you can see that the only core Arthur pulls are Bladed Hedgehog and Cuhullin. Since Arthur pulls 4 unique followers, you need at least 4 different 2- or 1-drops. Popular options for those are Kunoichi Trainee, Homebound Mercenary, Perseus and Quickblader. On top of that, some Sword players choose to include Lux, Solar Lancer, which, while not being a good Arthur pull, is a solid value-oriented card in its own right.
A few Midrange Sword lists feature a more aggressive Princess Julietx3 and Round Table Assembly package, the most popular being Agni’s decklist. Playing RTA makes it harder to justify playing Lancer of the Tempest and Mars, Silent Flame General because they dilute the RTA pool. It should be mentioned that White Paladin rotating out significantly impacted the usage of RTA/Mars in Midrange Sword lists. In addition to the knights of the Round Table, aggressive Midrange Sword decks tend to utilize 1-drop such as Quickbladers and Perseus, as well as Angel of the Word that can help contest the board in unfavored matchups like Aggro Forest or mount pressure early on by doing some chip damage.
Taking it slow
If you don’t want to play Juliets and RTA, you can instead fit in the aforementioned Lancer of the Tempest, a fantastic card against any Shadow list, as well as various solid midgame options such as Frontline Cavalier, Mars and Council of Card Knights. As was mentioned in the Arthur section, Lux, Solar Lancer is a card more common in slower Sword lists, the Enhance effect on Lux ensures having Arthur by turn 7. Sword has a few good removal tools, ranging from single target ones like Shield of Flame and Young Ogrehunter Momo; to area-of-effect ones in Lancer of the Tempest and Confront Adversity, the latter being a tech card against Forest and Shadow. Most of these removal cards are optional but can be included to improve faster matchups like Dirt Rune/Aggro Forest/etc. Some players also chose to play Captain Walfrid in the Fangblade Slayer slot. That being said, most Midrange Sword lists are a mix of aggressive and slow cards, because the deck has a lot of flex spots and there is little anti-synergy between different Sword packages, the only exception to that being the Juliet/Lancer split.
After the Bahamut change, Roland has started seeing play as an anti-dragon tech card, usually as 1-of in Midrange Sword lists. A few players took the idea of playing Roland in Sword decks a step further and completely removed Arthur from the deck in favor of exceptionally slow cards like Bahamut and Hero of Antiquity, thus creating the “Control” Sword archetype. I’m not entirely sure if the deck quite qualifies as a new archetype as it is not hugely different from regular Midrange Sword builds, but judging from its Shadowlog stats, it has a worse winrate than most Portalcraft decks, which is, frankly speaking, incredibly impressive. A similar build to “Control” Sword is the “Support Cannon” Sword which includes additional suboptimal cards like Gawain, Cinderella, Barbarossa and Support Cannon into a “Control” Sword shell.
What about Neutral Sword?
There’s an emerging archetype dubbed Neutral Aggro Sword which runs Juliet/RTA, every Ambush/Storm card available to Sword, as well as a variety of aggressive Neutral cards to take advantage of Maisy’s effect. There isn’t much to say about the deck, but we can see a clear pattern of Neutral decks being Aggro decks due to having access to Goblins and Wise Merman in a format with a relative lack of 1-drops.
The provided deck skeleton is for the regular Neutral Aggro Blood, slower Neutral Blood builds can utilize different cards, for example, the 1-drops are not present in a Neutral “Control” Blood variant. Rizer’s and Wing’s lists are the “Control” build, while the rest of the decks are regular Midrange Neutral Blood.
The 2-drops in Neutral Blood are more or less set in stone, however, there is a split in the third Neutral 2-drop, because Lyrial and Feria are naturally great in their own right, however the other Neutral 2-drops do somewhat different things. The 2 main cards competing for this spot are Happy Pig and Evelisia the Fallen. Happy Pig is better at fighting for board since it’s a 2/2, while Evelisia is more aggressive. The other 2-drop that is very important is Baphomet. A huge strength of Neutral Blood lies in its ability to play very few Bloodcraft followers, thus making the Baphomet pool extremely narrow, which heavily reduces the RNG of Baphomet draws and improves your odds of having Phantom Cat on turn 6. For that reason, Neutral Blood doesn’t play strong early game followers like Yurius or Spiderweb Imp and only includes Bloodcraft followers that are either high-value or provide reach, such as Phantom Cat, Savage Wolf and Scarlet Sabreur. In addition to that, Neutral Blood can also include Snarling Chains/Hungering Horde because those cards don’t dilute the Baphomet pool.
In the 3-drop slot Neutral Blood can include any of the usual Neutral 3-drops such as Goblin Mage, Khaiza, Angelic Knight, Grimnir and even Badb Catha. To add to that, although Savage Wolf is not a Neutral Follower, it is a reasonable option if you’re trying to make the deck more aggressive. If your Baphomet pool includes Savage Wolf and Phantom Cat, then you’re more or less guaranteed to find extra reach (unless you draw another Baphomet, of course). Slower versions of the deck can also include Purehearted Singer and even Burly Axewielder as an anti-dragon tech card.
Aggressive Neutral Blood decks are usually fairly light on midgame cards, only including Strix, Hector and Phantom Cat, however, there are a couple options here as well. The main ones are Helblindi and Scarlet Sabreur. Sabreur is more defensive and helps contest the board in the midgame, while Helblindi can provide a bit of reach in a pinch. As a rule of thumb, decks with Evelisia prefer Helblindi if they want any extra 5-drops at all, while decks with Happy Pig decks prefer Sabreur. It’s not set in stone, but it basically depends on what you’re trying to beat.
When I think of Neutral decks, the card that immediately pops into my mind is Sahaquiel, and there are other players who seem to agree with that notion. As an example, rizer’s list doesn’t include any 1-drops or Feria and instead has a relatively small “Saha package” consisting of 3xSahaquiel, 3xIsrafil and 2xZeus. Taking it a step further, Wing’s list doesn’t include Razory Claw or Impartial Strix on top of that, and instead has a playset of Emeraldas, 2xSpawn of the Abyss and a couple of Bahamuts, making the deck somewhat to pre-Chronogenesis Control Blood decks. Ultimately making Neutral Aggro Blood slower makes it worse against Daria, but somewhat improves the Dragon matchup. At the end of the day, Bloodcraft doesn’t have any playable Rotation-legal AoE, so trying to make it into a Control deck is somewhat questionable.
The deck skeleton is the list of cards most commonly present in Vengeance Blood. That being said, it is not unheard of to cut one of the Savage Wolves/Scarlet Sabreurs/Hungering Horde/Goblins for something else. Most of the provided decklists are the regular Midrange Vengeance Blood, with the 2 exceptions of Knight and makku, that are the slightly more aggressive Carabosse variant.
The early game cards of Vengeance Blood are fairly limited because the deck basically includes every single good Bloodcraft 2-drop it can afford to. In addition to Bloodcraft followers, you can include Lyrial, a solid Neutral 2-drop, as well as Snarling Chains, which is either played instead of Hungering Horde or as an additional removal tool together with it. The other consideration is the inclusion of Goblins in the deck, and the rule of thumb here is to not play 3xDark Airjammers and 3xGoblins in the same deck because, firstly, Goblins make Airjammer worse and, secondly, if you’re trying to be super aggressive with Goblins, then Airjammer might be a little too slow for what your deck is trying to do.
As far as 3-drops go, the two common options are Purehearted Singer and Angel of the Word. Similarly to the Goblin dilemma, the deck can either include a more aggressive or a more value-oriented option, or alternatively, a mix of both. In addition to playing Purehearted Singer to improve longer games, less aggressive Vengeance builds can opt for a Blood Pact for extra card draw, or Mask of the Black Death as a source of pseudo-healing.
Most of the Vengeance Blood midgame cards are the reason to actually play the deck; Belphegor, Sabreur, Emeralda, Dark General and, to an extent, Blood Drinker’s Brand, are the metaphorical backbone of any Vengeance build, for that reason, none of those cards can really be cut from the deck. With that in mind, there are 2 optional inclusions in Vengeance Blood: Dark Airjammer and Carabosse, the former being a more board-centric option, providing good tempo if you’re in Vengeance already and okay-ish tempo if you’re not; while the latter is a more aggressive option that can somewhat help you in longer games at the cost of losing some tempo. In my opinion, Carabosse is a little too slow because it’s an understatted 6-drop that you can’t really play on turn 6 because doing so disables Emeralda for the rest of the game. That being said, since any Blood build is generally unfavored against Daria, trying to beat on slower decks like Dragon isn’t that unreasonable, and Carabosse is great at doing exactly that.
For the sake of simplicity, the WolfBolt Forest lists will be treated as the same archetype as Control Forest, because they share the “slow Forest” shell, which consists of cards like Jungle Warden, Venus, Aerin and Cassiopeia that distinguish it from its Aggro/Tempo counterpart. The first 4 provided decklists are the conventional White Wolf/King Elephant; the last 4 decklists are Neutral Forest.
Awaken, my elephants
The “King Elephant package” consists of 1-3 copies of King Elephant, 1 or 2 copies of White Wolf of Eldwood and an occasional Loki/Arriet. Loki is a tech card that helps in slower matchups, allowing to double up on the King Elephant damage, while Arriet is used in decks utilizing a neutral Forest shell since it can also be used on Beauty and the Beast and Impartial Strix, more on that in the later sections. Aside from playing King Elephant for a straight-up 9 storm damage, the common combos are Loki into King Elephant (17), Jungle Warden into King Elephant (19) and, well, King Elephant into King Elephant/Arriet (18), with the latter two only being possible on turn 10. The numbers listed here are under the assumption of the Forest player having a full hand and no evolve points, naturally, if an evolve point is available, the combo does 2 extra damage; and for all the King Elephants the damage is reduced by 1 for each card missing from your hand, which gets increased to 2 if you double up the King Elephant damage in one way or another.
The White Wolf problem
So, is there some sort of downside to playing the Wolf/Elephant package, apart from the tempo loss of playing an 8-cost 4/4? The problem with White Wolf is that you have to draw White Wolf of Eldwood without drawing all of your King Elephants from your deck. Sure, playing an Elf Queen, Cassiopeia or Aerin for 0 is not so bad, but it’s not so great either. So, what is the probability of “drawing Patches”, so to speak? It drastically depends on the number of copies of Wolfs/Elephants that you play in the deck and, to a lesser extent, the amount of cards you draw from your deck by the time you play White Wolf. By turn 8, you naturally draw 11/12 cards (going first/second, respectively), in addition to that, you draw 2 extra cards from Purehearted Singer and a 1-2 cards from Venus. For that reason, in a game you can draw 0-9 extra cards, which means somewhere between 11 and 21 cards in total. So, we have two probabilities, the probability of drawing a White Wolf by turn 8, and the probability of having at least one King Elephant in your deck by that same turn. Multiplying the two, we can obtain the probability of having a 0-cost King Elephant. Assuming the 2/3xElephant and 2xWhite Wolf build, we can obtain the following results:
As you can see, on average, with 2xWolves and 2xElephants, we can estimate the combo probability as 53.1±3.5%, and with 3xElephants 59.5±5.7%. So, more or less 60% of the time, it works every time! By adding in an extra Elephant, the slower matchups improve by around 6%, depending on the amount of card draw you run in your deck.
Another direction that you can take a “slow Forest” shell is getting rid of the entire “King Elephant package” in favor of high-cost Neutral cards, such as Bahamut, Sahaquiel and Israfil, as well as a variety of tech cards. Doing so allows the deck to perform better against Dirt Rune and Midrange Shadow, but makes slower matchups like Ramp Dragon significantly worse.
There is a variety of tech cards available to Forest, the most popular of those being a one-of Elf Queen, which can swing games against Dirt Rune, as well as help in other matchups. Elf Queen also improves the aforementioned Wolf/Elephant failures, because at the very least you’re getting a 0-cost Elf Queen and not a 50/50 between Aerin and Cassiopeia. Another universally popular tech choice lately is Fall from Grace, on top of dealing with Tilting at Windmills, it can occasionally hit Roland as well, seeing as how Durandal can be a huge thorn in the backside for OTK decks. In a similar vein, Mr. Full Moon is an occasional anti-haven tech card to deal with Heavenly Aegis. Against aggressive decks, Starry Elf can reliably fish for Wood of Brambles, a very important card for the board-centric matchups. In order to further improve the Midrange Shadow matchup, a few players played Maahes instead of Aerin, using the discounted Harvest Festival from Venus to activate Maahes’ condition by turn 7.
What about Neutral Forest?
The main difference between the pre- and post-Chronogenesis Neutral Forest lists is Unica being replaced by Happy Pig. Similarly to other current Neutral decks, Impartial Strix has become a mainstay in Neutral Forest as well. The main split between Neutral Forest decks is the Sahaquiel package, where some lists run Sahaquiel/Israfil/Bahamut at the cost of having less neutral 2-drops. Another idea is cutting Impartial Strix and a few Neutrals from the deck to include the “King Elephant package” to ramp up the fun and interactivity of the deck to 11. Since Neutral Forest lists usually run Arriet to double the Beauty and the Beast damage, she can also be used with a discounted King Elephant to deal up to 18 damage (22 with an evolve point).
Aggro Forest has a fair bit of build variety, you could argue that Beetle Warrior and some of the 1-drops are not core cards in the deck, however, for the most part these 32 cards will be in most Aggro Forest decks. Some of the provided lists are centered around Fita the Gentle Elf, namely Krone’s, Kuroebi’s, しゅー’s, Ym’s and いっしー’s ones. The rest of the lists are conventional Aggro/Tempo Forest lists, with Heimu’s list including Arriet for Ipiria.
Goblins and Kittens
There’s a bit of a split between players on which 1-drops are good enough in Aggro Forest. The core 1-drop in the deck is Water Fairy, while some players opt to take out Goblins and Felpurr Kitten for different cards. The main upside of Goblin is that it has 2 health which is important when going second, while the main upside of Kitten is that it can sometimes hit the board as a 2/2 on a later turn. Another 1-drop in the deck is Firesprite Grove, which is a card very similar in functionality to Fairy Circle. Lists utilizing Fita the Gentle Elf also usually include Spring-Green Protection. To add to that, slower Aggro Forest lists, usually dubbed Tempo Forest, run less 1-drops than “conventional” Aggro Forest.
The three main non-core 2-drops are Sylvan Justice, Rayne, Elf Smith and Leaf Man. Other reasonable options include Sukuna, Weedman and Tweedle Dum, Tweedle Dee. In the 3-drop slot you have Cybelle, Starry Elf, Purehearted Singer, Lilac and even Badb Catha. Most of those 3-drops are optional, for example, Starry Elf is an anti-shadow tech that helps fetch Wood of Brambles; Singer and Lilac help in slower matchups; Cybelle and Badb Catha are mostly played in Fita builds. A “conventional” Aggro Forest can contain no 3-drops at all, some lists even cut Beetle Warrior.
The midgame options for this deck include Fairy Saber, Aria, Guiding Fairy and Ariana, Natural Tutor. Some unorthodox options are Weald Philosopher and even Magna Botanist. Weald Philosopher is good in Fita builds, while Magna Botanist is a win-more card that has synergy with Aria. In order to improve Botanist consistency, Muteki also opted for a 1xFortunehunter Feena, a card you don’t see in Rotation too often. In addition to that, it’s not too unusual for Tempo Forest builds to borrow some of the slower mid-game options from Control Forest such as Aerin and Jungle Warden, which are used not only to prevent face damage, but to also protect the board of weenies in the midgame, setting up for a Fairy Saber/Elf Song/Badb Catha push, for example.
Thank you so moch!
A build of Aggro Forest popularized by krone is centered around Fita the Gentle Elf. Since a few Aggro Forest cards lend themselves nicely to Fita lists (namely Elf Song, Rayne and Fairy Saber) because they already provide follower buffs, including a few other buff cards allows to capitalize on Fita’s effect, making for a neat draw engine that also helps the gameplan of the deck. Those extra buff cards are Spring-Green Protection, Cybele, Badb Catha and Weald Philosopher, in descending order of popularity. Fita lists are usually better suited to a slower Tempo Forest shell, because buff cards get better if you’re ahead on the board already, for that reason they usually don’t include direct face damage cards like Fairy Driver and Beetle Warrior, as well as run fewer 1-drops, or even no 1-drops at all.
Fita Tempo ForestSource
Fita Tempo ForestSource
Standard Aggro ForestSource
The deck skeleton is common for Summit and Summit-less builds, so it’s only 27 cards all in all. It consists of essential Haven cards and is relatively small due to the fact that Haven decks can be split two into four separate categories based on the 2 criteria discussed in the following sections. The first 3 provided decklists are the various Control Haven builds, 藤宮もも’s list is a Neutral Haven build.
How to Summit all up
The first major split in Haven lists is between either running Summit Temple or not. The main reason for running the card is its synergy with Heavenly Knight. In essence, if you want to play a Summit list, you will want 3 copies of Heavenly Knight in your deck. Not running Summit allows you to fit in Curate, which is a fantastic tech card for the Dirt Rune matchup.
The other split in Haven builds is related to running Aether of the White Wing, which allows you to save a few card slots by playing only 1 copy of Heavenly Aegis instead of 2 or 3. However, aside from Heavenly Knight on turn 8 and Heavenly Aegis on turn 10, Aether doesn’t pull anything particularly unfair. Against Dragon and in Haven mirrors, for example, the earlier you can play Aegis the better, so in this matchup running Aether is worse. The main upside of playing Aether is being able to fit in an extra 2-drop on turn 8 and having 4 mana after getting an Aegis in play on turn 10, which can either allow you to play a Tribunal of Good and Evil or put an extra follower into play on the same turn.
Looking at the deck skeleton, it is obvious that having 6 proactive 2-drops in a deck is simply not enough. For that reason, the deck needs extra 2-drops, the most common of which being Happy Pig and Frog Cleric, as well as a few less orthodox options, namely the new amulets, Featherfall Hourglass and Godscale Banquet. In a similar vein, since in the year of 2018 the best 3-drop in Haven is a vanilla 2/3, it is also reasonable to add in neutral 3-drops to shore up your early game, which can consist of Grimnir, Angel of the Word and an extra Purehearted Singer. Star Torrent is also a reasonable option, it performs well as a tech card against Forest and Shadow.
Midgame: since the release of WD expansion, Haven decks have always had a “split” in used 5-drops between March’s Hare Teatime and Ancient Lion Spirit. The 2 cards do somewhat different things, Teatime is a better tempo play in most scenarios and doesn’t affect the Aether pool in any way, shape or form due to not being a follower; while Ancient Lion Spirit is more of a tech card against Shadow/Forest/Dirt Rune that helps contest the board. In Summit Temple lists Teatime has the added benefit of being a Neutral follower, which is an upside for midgame followers with even-ish stats. Overall, Teatime is the better card in a vacuum, but Lion Spirit can help you up the percentages in certain matchups.
Late game tech
The most common value-oriented card is Judge of Retribution, which is generally okay in most matchups, but not exactly spectacular in any of them. To add to that, the aforementioned Curate is a great tech for the Dirt Rune matchup, that has some unfortunate anti-synergy with Aether and is a worse 7-drop in decks utilizing Summit Temple and Heavenly Knight. Control Haven also has a couple of “hate” options which are reasonable 1-ofs, namely Pure Annihilation, a tech for the Dragon matchup to deal with Ouroboros, that sometimes hits Neutral Forest as well. A similar, but slower card is Fall from Grace, that has the upside of dealing with amulets, e.g. it can transform Canyon of the Dragons, Tilting at Windmills and an occasional Support Cannon or something.
The deck skeleton of Portalcraft has changed the most out of any archetype in the game throughout the month, despite not receiving changes of any kind. The most notable change to me is the exclusion of Safira, Synthetic Beast from most of the lists. Other notable change is Biofabrication and Substitution being played more or less universally. Most of the provided decklists are the regular Midrange Portal builds centered around Deus ex Machina and artifact synergy; the last 3 decklists are the Puppet-centered ones.
Biofabrication and Metaproduction are your main tools for manipulating Resonance. Biofabrication has the added benefit of shuffling extra high-value Radiant Artifacts from your Ironforged Fighter to get some extra oomph in slower matchups.
There is a bit of variance in the 2-drops ran in Portalcraft decks, Icarus, aka Old Levi 2: Electric Boogaloo, Hamelin and Magisteel Lion are the premium Portalcraft 2-drops, however, the other 2 drops can differ somewhat. Common options include Mech Wing Swordsman and Mechanized Servant, as well as solid Neutral 2-drops like Happy Pig and Lyrial.
In the realm of 3-drops, there are 2 main options of Cat Cannoneer and Iron Staff Mechanic, with Cat Cannoneer being more popular. Of course, Neutral 3-drops such as Purehearted Singer and Grimnir, which saw play in the earlier Portalcraft lists, are still acceptable options.
Apart from the universally played Spinaria, Ironforged Fighter is the most popular current midgame drop in Portal decks. As a consequence of the aforementioned shift away from Safira, most Portal decks these day are centered around shuffling Radiant Artifacts with Biofabrication as the deck’s finisher. Well, consequence might not be the best word for it, but to word it better, Portalcraft players at large moved away from Safira to Radiant Artifacts as the deck’s source of Storm damage. Other midgame cards played alongside Ironforged Fighter include Hakrabi, Gravikinetic Warrior and Silver Cog Spinner.
Portalcraft’s tech cards come in various shapes and sizes, ranging from anti-dragon tech cards such as Otherworld Rift and Nilpotent Entity, with the former being a solid removal tool against slow decks in general, and the latter specifically targeting decks such as Windmills Dragon and Aegis Haven; to anti-shadow tech such as Puppeteer’s Strings. The idea behind Nilpotent Entity is that Portalcraft is favored against midrange decks like Midrange Shadow and Vengeance Blood, so shoring up the weak Dragon matchup is fairly reasonable. Well, strictly speaking, it isn’t really favored, but it’s about as close as Portalcraft can get to being favored. Puppeteer’s Strings is a solid card against decks trying to flood the board with weenie followers, and as such can improve matchups like Midrange Shadow and Aggro Forest.
What about puppets?
Dedicated Puppet decks are built somewhat differently from regular artifact-centric Portal lists and usually include Flower Doll as its premium 2-drop in addition to Icarus, Hamelin and Magisteel Lion. With that said, Mech Wing Swordsman is not that bad in a Puppet deck either. Puppeteer has some potential as well.
The more interesting part of Puppet decks is its midgame that is considerably different from artifact-centric Portal decks due to Deus having anti-synergy with the Puppet game plan. So instead of relying on Deus as its draw engine, Puppet lists include different card draw tools, for example, Hakrabi and Otherworld Rift are universally played in Puppet decks. Magna Legacy, a card that is usually outperformed by Acceleratium/Deus board clears in a regular artifact build, is commonly played in Puppet decks as well, because, once again, Puppet decks can’t really afford to include Deus. Magna Legacy, being an 8-drop, can also help set up a clear Vengeful Puppeteer Noah turn.
This section is a representation of the meta trends based off the recent Shadowlog stats. In the matchup table below, rows represent the player’s deck archetype and columns represent the opponent’s deck archetype. For example, if you’d like to find out the details about the matchup of Midrange Portal against Dirt Rune, find the intersection of the “Midrange Portal” row with the “Dirt Rune” column. Hovering over specific cells in the table shows additional details about the matchup like the total number of games, for example. You can sort the table in descending order of any of the rows/columns by clicking on the sort buttons on the corresponding rows/columns; as well as exclude/isolate specific parts of the table with the selection tools. To revert back after making changes to the table, you can use the “Undo” and “Reset” buttons below the table. Some of the deck archetypes are not included in the matchup table due to low sample size, the cut-off point is at 2% of total presence in the metagame. To get an idea of which decks are popular (and have a large enough sample size as a consequence), you can refer to the Class distribution, as well as “Deck Archetype Map”, both of which are provided below the matchup table. The deck archetype map also shows weekly changes in the relative playrate (which is equal to the frequency of a particular archetype divided by the frequency of the most popular deck archetype, Daria Rune) and win percentages of every archetype. Hovering over the specific parts of the histogram or points on the map shows additional info about the corresponding deck archetype.