That’s the one! A look into Mjerrabaine theorycrafting
Mjerrabaine, Omen of One poses an exciting deckbuilding challenge and could potentially be an archetype-defining card for “Highlander” archetype, or decks that don’t contain duplicate cards aside from Mjerrabaine. Can one really play a singleton deck in Shadowverse? Is it possible to play more than one copy of cards other than the Enrico Pucci look-alike? Which classes seem like good candidates for a highlander deck?
What are we working with?
Mjerrabaine, Omen of One is a card with a very wordy Fanfare effect, however, there are 3 main parts that can be pointed out:
- Your deck has no duplicate cards aside from Mjerrabaine, so an optimal Mjerrabaine deck contains 37 unique cards and 3 copies of Mjerrabaine. It could potentially be possible to play some duplicates, more on that in later sections.
- After it is played, you get a leader effect that conditionally does damage to the opponent’s leader and a random enemy Follower every turn, providing reach and some board control. Since the Follower damage is random, there is a natural synergy between AoE and Mjerrabaine effects. In addition to that, the allied Follower gets +2/+2, which has synergy with Ward Followers.
- The leader effect requires you to have exactly one Follower in play to go off, and there are 2 sides to this condition: on the one hand, you have to have enough Followers in your deck to be able to play one every turn, on the other hand, since Mjerrabaine demands to have exactly one Follower, cards that generate multiple bodies are a slight liability.
The question of consistency
Personally, the first thought in my mind upon seeing Mjerrabaine revealed was how consistently the card can be active, particularly in decks with duplicates of some cards. What if you were to play, let’s say, two Tenko’s Shrines? In order to answer this question, I’ve put together a simple model using hypergeometric distribution to estimate the probability of drawing Mjerrabaine by turn 6. The following assumptions were used:
- Highlander decks contain 3 copies of Mjerrabaine.
- The deck has a specific amount (up to 20) of cards that draw an extra (+1) card, adjustable with a slider to the right of the graph. The default value is set to 8 card draw effects.
- Card draw effects cost at least 2 play points, and you can draw 1 extra card per turn on turns 2-4, and 2 extra cards on turns 5-6.
- Card draw sources are independent from one another, which means that the events when you draw a card that draws a card from another card draw effect (on the same turn) are not taken into account, which is a limitation of the used method.
- The graph presents two different lines, one for a deck with no duplicates, and another for a deck with some amount (up to 3) of duplicate cards. The available options include the following setups: one 2-of, one 3-of, two 2-ofs, as well as a 2-of and a 3-of.
There are a few conclusions that can be drawn from the obtained results. Depending on how much card draw you run, in a deck with no duplicates, Mjerrabaine is active 70-80% of the time on turn 6. Naturally, the percentage is higher with more card draw.
Including even a single duplicate card reduces the percentage twofold; including 2 duplicate cards reduces the percentage by a factor of about 3-4, with a double 2-of setup Mjerrabaine is active ~30% of the time he would be active in a deck with no duplicates, and with a single 3-of that drops to ~25%. With 3 duplicate cards, the factor comes out to be about 7.
What do the numbers mean?
For comparison, using a similar method of analysis, a Ramp Dragon deck can ramp twice before turn 6 roughly 80% of the time, and Ramp Dragon is generally considered fairly consistent at what it does. Thus, in a deck with no duplicates, Mjerrabaine goes off about as consistently as Ramp Dragon does. Is that good enough? Well, it depends on the card pool, but in all likelihood, if we consider the deckbuilding constraints in singleton decks, the handicap is too large for Mjerrabaine decks to be viable. It should be mentioned that including duplicate cards reduces the consistency even more.
If one were to compare Mjerrabaine to cards like Reno Jackson and Kazakus from Hearthstone, which have had a significant impact on the limited format in Hearthstone, played in highly competitive decks like Renolock and Razakus Priest that could capitalize on the card effects. With that said, there are some important differences between Hearthstone and Shadowverse, the two main differences being deck size (30 in Hearthstone and 40 in Shadowverse) and number of unique cards in a deck. Optimized Shadowverse decks run exactly 14 unique cards, while optimized Hearthstone decks run between 17-20 unique cards due to Legendary cards being limited to 1 copy and all other cards to 2 copies. Looking at the ratios, 17/30 is significantly higher than 14/40, putting it simply, playing a singleton Shadowverse deck is a bigger disadvantage than playing a singleton deck in Hearthstone, by about 40%.
Most decks in Shadowverse have a specific balance of cards that fulfil specific roles. If one is trying to build a deck around Mjerrabaine, since the win condition of the deck is a 6-drop with a slow effect, a generic singleton deck is likely to be a slower midrange deck, since you’re aiming to start getting payoff from Mjerrabaine on turn 6, which is way too slow for an aggro deck. It’s likely impossible to build a singleton control deck since control decks in Shadowverse are very rare in the first place and demand having a lot of AoE effects. In addition to that, decks that rely on specific 1-card win conditions like Giant Chimera and Darkfeast Bat don’t really work in a singleton shell. With that in mind, the components for a midrange deck can be split into the following parts:
2-drops: playing a Follower on turn 2 to contest the board is by far the most important thing a Shadowverse deck can do in the early game. Historically, midrange decks usually run 12-15 2-drops. Early removal spells like Sylvan Justice can fill in a similar role when going second and can contest the board in much the same fashion. Powerful midrange decks usually primarily run Followers, however, classes with fewer early game Followers (e.g. Haven/Blood), usually run 3-6 inexpensive removal spells like Blackened Scripture or Snarling Chains to compensate.
Card draw: faster decks usually don’t have to include additional card draw, and some midrange decks don’t include any card draw at all. With that said, since a lot of historically popular midrange decks include pseudo-card draw effects, e.g. Arthur in Swordcraft (pulls out cards from your deck into play). Slower midrange decks like Midrange Shadow that don’t have access to those types of effects often include generic card draw effects like Soul Conversion, Demon Eater and Purehearted Singer with roughly 6-9 total cards.
Spot removal: slow, high impact Followers can be a huge pain to get through for midrange decks, so cards like Dance of Death, Cuhullin, Lococo, etc. are often a mainstay in midrange decks. Midrange decks run 3 copies of every good spot removal option (making it 3-6 total cards), depending on the options available to the class, however, answers to big threats are that much more valuable in a singleton deck, so even worse cards like Pitfall can potentially be good enough to make the cut.
AoE effects: the inclusion of AoE cards largely depends on the meta, however, midrange decks tend to at least run the one-sided AoE effects like Basileus and Lancer of the Tempest at 2-3 cards. Since highlander decks are weaker that other midrange decks, AoE is more important since you’re likely to be behind on board fairly often. An example of an AoE card that is better in singleton decks is Proto Bahamut.
Reach and burn damage: different classes deal with closing out games in various ways, however, most decks in Shadowverse have to look for that last bit of face damage in one way or another, be it in the form of Storm Followers or cards with the word “damage” on them like Demonic Strike. Most midrange decks include all the efficient Storm cards they can, which is particularly prevalent and Portalcraft (Orchis, Noah and even Safira/Radiant Artifacts), for example. The only classes that have access to burn spells in Rotation are Blood and Rune, for that reason there isn’t going to be much focus on burn spells in particular. With that said, even mediocre face damage cards like Feather Rush can potentially fit into a highlander deck if necessary.
Class-specific synergy: all of the parts mentioned above are present even in good Take 2 decks, however, constructed decks live and die on the power of their respective synergy packages, be it Puppet generation in Portalcraft, Ramp effects in Dragoncraft, Countdown Amulets in Havencraft, and so on. Compared to regular constructed decks, highlander decks are likely to find themselves lacking in specific areas of class-specific synergy. Most synergy packages get increasingly better with more cards of that synergy type, up to a specific threshold. For example, in Dragoncraft decks you want to have at least 9-12 Ramp cards, and it’s difficult to reach that threshold without duplicates. With that in mind, let’s take a look at specific examples of different types of synergies in a few classes and see how the singleton restriction affects them.
There are 3 main cards that demand having a critical mass of Amulet cards in Haven: Globe of the Starways, Ceryneian Hind and Heavenly Knight. Of the three cards, Globe and HK are the less restrictive of the bunch. Globe only needs 5-6 Countdown Amulets to draw 2 cards consistently, which is an easy enough requirement to fulfill even with unique cards. Heavenly Knight works with persistent Amulets like Summit Temple and Tenko’s Shrine, so it’s usually active even with fewer amulet cards so long as you include those two. The tricky card here is Ceryneian Hind since it requires 2 Amulets to be active, and while it works with persistent Amulets as well, having 2 persistent amulets in play is fairly unlikely in a singleton deck. Early Haven decks that tried to utilize Ceryneian Hind ran 11-12 Countdown Amulets with a playset of Summit Temples, which resulted in 14-15 total Amulets. Unique Amulets that see competitive play currently include Globe of the Starways, Summit Temple, Sealed Tome, Jeweled Priestess, Moriae Encomium, Gemstone Carapace, Whitefang Temple and Tenko’s Shrine, which is 8 cards in total. If we stretch the definition of “competitive play” to 1-of tech cards, we can also include Red-Hot Boots, Beastly Vow, Featherwyrm’s Descent and Featherfall Hourglass, which brings the total number of amulets to 11, which is likely good enough to consistently activate Ceryneian Hind.
In the previous section, I made the assumption that Tenko’s Shrine is playable in a singleton deck and this might seem like a questionable idea with the card pool restrictions. Current Tenko lists include playsets of Whitefang Temple, Lorena, Ceryneian Hind, Jeanne and De La Fille as an absolute minimum. All of those cards are staples in Havencraft decks of all shapes and sizes and are strong enough to see play even without Tenko’s Shrine, however, there are some Tenko synergy cards that are optional, namely, Happy Pig and Jeweled Priestess, which are played based on player preference and are certainly good enough to make the cut in a singleton deck. So, this brings us to 7 good cards that conveniently also have Tenko synergy. A few Tenko cards have also been pushed out of Tenko lists by format changes and nerfs, they include Bashful Al-mi’raj and Pegasus Dullahan, which are both probably good enough in a singleton deck since they help fill out the weak spots in the curve of 3 and 4 play points, respectively.
One thing to note about Mjerrabaine decks is that they try to aim to play this 6-drop that the deck is built around, so powerful 7-drops are more valuable to the deck as they provide follow-up to the most “unfair” play pattern of the archetype. Two cards that fit the bill aside from Heavenly Knight are Curate and Moon and Sun, which both happen to have synergy with Tenko’s Shrine due to their healing effects. Both Moon and Sun and Curate saw fringe play in Tenko decks in the past, so it’s likely that the 2 cards make the cut in a Mjerrabaine deck. In a similar vein, Marwynn, Omen of Repose also has positive synergy with Mjerrabaine since it’s possible to follow up a turn 4 Marwynn with a turn 5 Mjerrabaine, which is a powerful curve even considering that your opponent gets extra initiative before you do. All in all, this brings us to 12 total “good enough” cards that happen to have Tenko synergy, and while it’s certainly less than what regular Tenko lists have, in my opinion, having one third of a deck dedicated to Tenko synergy make the inclusion of the amulet worthwhile.
Skipping over the minutiae of how good other specific cards are, I’ve arrived at the following distribution of playable cards in a singleton Haven deck. The base idea is that a singleton deck wants to include all the “Excellent” and “Good” card and then fill out the weaknesses of the deck with either “Playable” or even “Mediocre” cards when needed.
All the “Good” and “Excellent” singleton cards amount to 35 total cards, with the presented mana curve. The early game seems sufficient with 11 2-drops and some 1-drops. The weak points of the deck seem to be the midgame (4-5 cost cards) and removal effects. Spot Removal effects can include Pure Annihilation and Fall from Grace, and even potentially Pitfall, which brings the number to about what you’d expect of a non-singleton deck (5-6 cards if you count Moriae). Generic early removal effects include Red-Hot Boots and Craving’s Splendor. Red-Hot Boots already come with Amulet synergy, so Boots seem like a good fit. Craving’s Splendor has a lot of flexibility and can potentially provide some reach in combination with beefy Havencraft Followers.
The midgame hole is significantly more difficult to fill, because there’s very few good cards in those mana slots. Oceanus is a fine 4-drop, but that’s about it. One could try out cards like Khaiza, Temple Ogre or Apostle of Repose to try and do something productive on the evolve turns, but it remains to be seen how good those options are. When all is said and done, it appears that if you shore up the immediate weaknesses with the mentioned cards, you still have 1-2 blank card slots which can include some random effects based on preference. It could be a Proto Bahamut if you want to deal with wide boards better, or a Genesis of Legend to make for better trades, it could be a Mr. Full Moon or Tart Man to answer the angry 20/20 Runecraft guy, it really depends on what is popular in the format and what you’re trying to answer. Below is an example of what a list would look like using this line of thinking.
The most defining characteristic of Dragon decks in general and Ramp Dragon in particular is its eponymous mechanic of gaining additional play points, or Ramping. The current standard variation of Ramp Dragon includes at least 9 Ramp effects between Dragon Oracles, Dragoncleaver Roy and Aiela. Some lists include Scathacha, and variations of Jabberwock Dragon occasionally include Dragon Sanctum; and those are the only available Ramp effects in the Rotation format. Even if you choose to include all of the available Ramp effects, 5 is significantly less than 9, thus, as a rough estimate, singleton Dragon decks ramp about 40% less consistently than regular Ramp lists. This means that the curve in a singleton deck has to be significantly lower, in other words, include fewer threats than regular Ramp lists.
Light at the end of the tunnel
Even considering the relative lack of Ramp effects, Dragon on paper still has a vast advantage over other singleton decks due to two main reasons: firstly, you can play Mjerrabaine earlier than any other class on average; and secondly, Dragon has way more flexibility when picking powerful late-game Followers that consistently get Mjerrabaine procs. Dragoncraft’s specialty is playing tall Followers that provide some semblance of board impact; and that is exactly what Mjerrabaine demands in terms of deckbuilding. Cards like Frenzied Drake, Canyon of the Dragons and Proto Bahamut essentially guarantee that you can get Mjerrabaine procs. Another thing to mention is the synergy between powerful 7-drops and Mjerrabaine, since you can follow up a Mjerrabaine on 6 with a 7-drop, and cards like Adramelech and Galmieux both work great with the Mjerrabaine leader effect. Even weaker cards of that type like Zirnitra and Frostfire Dragon can get strong board swings to potentially make them worth including.
With that in mind, I have arrived at the following distribution of cards in a singleton Dragon deck. The basic idea is that you usually include all of the “Excellent” and “Good” cards and then try to shore up the weaknesses with “Playable” or even “Mediocre” cards.
Combining “Good” and “Excellent” cards results in a 34 card deck. The main hole in the curve is the early game, since 7 2-drops (2 of which are Ramp cards) is way too few, and you need to have at least 3-4 more to consistently hit your early game. The prime 2-drops are Matilda and Servant of Disdain. While you can include some Neutral cards as well, it does lower consistency of PDK and Frenzied Drake. With that in mind, other options to bolster the early game can include 3-drops like Dragon Aficionado and Aliza. Disciple of Disdain is also a potential option that helps with PDK/Frenzied Drake consistency, but it’s difficult to judge whether the card’s good enough yet.
So, with those 4-5 extra early game cards, we can consider what goes into the remaining 1-2 card slots. The midgame looks fairly solid, with a curve comparable to regular constructed decks, for that reason the remaining card slot can either be filled with an extra fatty like Jerva or Dragonplate Warrior or an overly specific tech card like Mr. Full Moon or Tart Man or something. Lindworm could potentially be playable in that slot, but over 60% of the deck consists of Followers that don’t advance the Lindworm count, so it’s likely to be inactive quite often. Following this line of reasoning, an example of a singleton Dragon list looks a little something like this:
The main strength of Swordscraft is the individual power level of a lot of cards, many of the competitive Sword cards either have Enhance abilities or effects that allow to extend the game. The takeaway here is that Sword is very versatile and doesn’t need a lot of card draw. With that said, there are 2 specific cards that you have to build around to some extent when playing Sword. The first of those is Arthur, King Knight, which requires you to have at least 7-9 Swordcraft 2-drops. Staple 2-drops for Arthur include Cuhullin, Holy Bear Knight, Celia and Homebound Mercenary. Innocent Princess Prim saw some play in the past in the Holy Bear Knight slot; and Lux, Solar Lancer, while not necessarily a good Arthur pull, can tutor high-cost Commander cards like Arthur.
The other card that requires some building around is Round Table Assembly, which demands you play at least 4-5 3-cost Commanders. With just Charlotta, Lancer of the Tempest, Mars and Octrice, that threshold is technically achieved, but since the effect is random, especially in a singleton deck, I don’t personally think that RTA is good enough without playing Juliet. With that said, none of the RTA pulls are particularly bad, since Lancer has Rush, and Charlotta/Octrice have useful Evolve effects, and while pulling Lancer into Mars is a pretty sad outcome, RTA is a reasonable, if optional inclusion.
Another thing worth mentioning about Sword is that the class has a lot of powerful early game tools, and for that reason effects that capitalize on being ahead on board can potentially find a home, even in a singleton deck. Effects of that type can include Genesis of Legend, the “Spare Parts” generators like Octrice, Usurping Spineblade and Apostle of Usurpation, and Storm cards like Zeta, Dei and Juliet.
With that in mind, the distribution of Sword cards in a singleton deck takes the form presented in the chart below. The basic idea is to try and include all the “Excellent” and “Good” cards and then attempt to shore up the weaknesses of the resulting decklist with “Playable” or even “Mediocre” cards.
Jumbling up all the “Excellent” and “Good” cards results in a decklist with 34 cards. The early game appears to be sufficiently consistent, with 10 2-drops (counting Latham), but it’s possible to include a couple more 2-drops like Noble Chancellor or Oathless Knight. The glaring weakness of the resulting decklist is the lack of big threats and/or card draw. Spartacus comes to mind as a reasonable source of card draw, and one can reasonably include a goofy 6-drop like Melissa or Sage Commander, but Swordcraft doesn’t really have access to any high-end cards aside from Latham and Sky Fortress. When all is said and done, despite having the highest relative card quality of all the classes discussed up to this point, 2-3 cards in the resulting decklist will feel out of place. Below is an example of what a singleton Swordcraft list could potentially look like:
Midrange Forestctaft decks, singleton or not, try to balance out the dichotomy between two types of Forest cards, ones that generate Fairy tokens and ones that gain conditional effects from playing multiple cards in the same turn, which Fairy tokens help in a significant fashion. Cards that benefit from Fairy generation are Insect Lord, Rayne, Elf Song, Hornet Soldier, Venus and Selwyn. Cards that generate Fairies include Fairy Circle, Fairy Whisperer, Sylvan Justice, Elf Song and Aria (if we count Fairy Wisps). In addition to that, cards that generate non-Follower tokens like Korwa and Venus can achieve similar results on later stages of the game. So, at a glance, it seems that despite the anti-synergy between Mjerrabaine and cheap Followers, you need to include 1-2 extra Fairy generation cards like Water Fairy or Firesprite Grove.
Tangentially related to token cards, Midrange Forest decks have a sub-theme of hand size mattering, thus making card draw more valuable. Cards that care about hand size include Cassiopeia, Korwa and King Elephant. A bunch of different card draw effects in Forest come on efficiently-statted Followers like Sutera/Metera/Venus which you’re likely playing anyway. In addition to that, pseudo-cantrip cards that replace themselves with Spell tokens also help with hand size; those include Storied Falconer, Hornet Soldier, Venus, Shamu and Shama, Ariana and Fashionista Nelcha.
The singleton Forest list is based on Midrange Forest lists, with the staple MidForest cards going into the “Excellent” category and the odd 1- or 2-ofs going into the “Good” category. The idea is to play all the cards from the “Excellent” and “Good” buckets and fill out the weak spots with cards from “Playable” and “Mediocre“ sections.
Taking all the “Excellent” and “Good” cards results in a pile of 33 cards with fairly sufficient midgame and adequate early game. 10 2-drops is on the verge of being enough, but you could still add in 1-2 extra early game cards, like an extra 2-drop and Water Fairy. The curve has 2 weak points that stand out to me: few 3-drops and shoddy late-game. The 3-drops can include Craving’s Splendor for extra early removal, Demon Child Zain as an efficient body and Grasshopper Conductor for extra draw. Conductor is fairly random in what you’re getting from it, but you can reliably fish for reach if you play it for 5 (Hornet Soldier/White Vanara), or have a good chance to fetch AoE when played for 3 (50/50 between Selwyn/Cassiopeia or Aria/Ariana). Grasshopper is strong in a toolbox deck full of 1-ofs, and if you can isolate specific effects to specific Attack values, Conductor can make for a powerful tutor effect. If you cut some 2-drops like Fairy Whisperer, it can even be made to find King Elephant, for example. This type of effect is currently undesirable since it’s a bad idea to cut some of the best early game cards for a wacky combo-centric effect.
The issue of not having enough threats is exaggerated by the fact that Mjerrabaine has a natural anti-synergy with Fairy tokens, so you’re likely to miss out on a lot of Mjerrabaine procs, thus making big threats and Storm Followers more valuable. The 2 cards that help with that and saw some play in the past are Yggdrasil and Sky Devouring Horror. So far, with the suggested inclusions, there’s still 1 card slot remaining in the deck, which can either be another fatty like Proto Bahamut or a specific tech card. Following this line of logic, an example of (a fairly greedy) singleton Forest list looks like this: