Shisogenius’s Meta Insight 3/11
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.
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.
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.
Snow Daria RuneSource
Giant Chimera/Daria RuneSource
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.
Daria Rune has even or somewhat favored matchups against board-centric decks like Midrange Shadow/Sword. Daria struggles against deck archetypes with strong reactive midgame cards (e.g. ETA in Neutral Forest, Lurching Corpses/Necroassassins in Midrange Shadow, Maisy in Neutral Sword, Conflagration in Ramp Dragon). Decks that can’t keep up with Daria’s explosive midgame turns are generally unfavored against Daria Rune (Midrange Portal, slower Forest lists, traditional Midrange Sword, Control Haven, Vengeance/Neutral Blood). If you look at the popular matchups of Daria Rune, it might seem that a lot of Daria’s poor matchups are popular and a lot of its good matchups are somewhat uncommon, which stems from the meta-warping popularity of Daria Rune. To put it simply, deck archetypes that can’t handle Daria Rune decline in playrate over time because Daria Rune is, on paper, the single best ladder deck in the format, being a fast and proactive deck archetype with huge high-rolling potential, well-suited for grinding ladder score. It’s really great when returning players have a fresh and exciting deck archetype that they can fall back on after coming back to the game, and the nostalgia factor of playing the same RoB deck with 3-5 new exciting cards is truly the driving factor for the lack of Daria nerfs of any kind. I am personally very thankful to Cygames for being mindful about the playerbase with the constant stream of updates and balance changes.
After the 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.
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?
The line between Dirt Rune and Neutral Rune has blurred over time, with a few Neutral lists adopting some elements of the powerful Dirt Rune cards, be it the Oz-MutaBolt package/or powerful “standalone” Dirt Rune cards like Master Mage Levi and Professor of Taboos. More on that in the Neutral Rune section, but in general the Dirt Rune section is more focused on the dedicated Dirt Rune builds, and Neutral Rune builds with some splashed Dirt elements are covered in the Neutral Rune section.
Dirt Rune has a well-rounded set of matchups, with popular board-centric decks in the format being even (Midrange Shadow/Sword) or slightly unfavored (Daria Rune, Midrange Portal, Neutral Sword/etc.) against Dirt Rune. The reason for that lies in the fact that a lot of decks in the format have powerful swing turns around turn 6 (the most prevalent of those being Daria Rune), and answering wide boards with Oz+MutaBolt or Master Mage Levi is Dirt Rune’s specialty. You were right about one thing, Master Mage Levi. The negotiations were short. The big weaknesses of Dirt Rune are healing and 1-damage pings in the early game, the former found in Ramp Dragon/Neutral or Control Forest/Control Haven, and the latter being common in non-Neutral Forest lists in general due to Wood of Brambles and Fairies in general.
The provided skeleton is for the traditional slow Neutral Rune build. Some Neutral Rune builds play only 1 copy of Ginger or none at all (Cocokull). Naturally, aggressive Neutral Rune builds like Reijing’s one don’t include the Sahaquiel package. In addition to that, some lists cut Neutral 2-drops like Happy Pig and Elta for various Earth Rite synergy cards like Dwarf Alchemist and Silent Laboratory.
If you were to compare the Neutral Rune lists from the WD era to the current ones, the most interesting development is the trend of including the Dirt Rune 6-drops (Master Mage Levi/Professor of Taboos) combined with Dwarf Alchemist and Silent Laboratory as a supply of Earth Sigils. An extreme example of this is Cocokull’s list, which includes all 12 of the Dirt Rune cards. The neat thing about this “Dirt package” is that most of the lists include either Levi or Professor, and not both of them at the same time, thus eliminating any semblance of randomness in Dwarf Alchemist pulls. Professor of Taboos also has some synergy with Illusionist, if the decklist includes both of them, of course. As a rule of thumb, Dwarf Alchemist is usually prioritized over Silent Laboratory when building a deck; Professor of Taboos is better against Ramp Dragon, while Master Mage Levi is better against Midrange Shadow/Portal.
What does Mysterian Grimoire do?
Playing the magic card Mysterian Grimoire allows you to draw two cards from your deck and put them into your hand. This is fairly important because it allows you to fill up your hand for Abomination Awakened, a card that has been gaining some traction in Neutral Rune. Neutral Rune naturally has a lot of cards that either cycle themselves in one way or another (Witch of Sweets/Goblin Mage/Khaiza/Dwarf Alchemist), or gain you card advantage (Purehearted Singer/Grimoire), so if there’s ever a deck that can activate Abomination Awakened, it would be Neutral Rune. You could always just spend an evolve point on the Abomination, because then it’s kind of like a 3-costing 4/4, which is decent tempo, but you don’t get the AoE portion of the Abomination activating. That said, the main downside of Mysterian Grimoire is that it’s not a Neutral card, so it lowers your Falise/Witch of Sweets consistency. Decks without Grimoire can opt for more Neutral cards and play Impartial Strix instead, another overstatted mid-game follower with a different condition.
Another notable development in Neutral Rune is the inclusion of Wordwielder Ginger, a 9-drop that can provide for a huge tempo swing. Apart from the obvious use of Ginger, playing a couple of Israfils and some Zeuses for “free” to protect yourself, there are 2 common Ginger play patterns that you should look out for when playing with or against Neutral Rune. The first one commonly comes into play against Ramp Dragon, where the Rune player saves an evolve point for turn 9 and makes a Ginger turn followed by Wandering Bard Elta and evolving it to play around Bahamut. Naturally, that doesn’t work against MutaBolt (or Themis/Homecoming in Unlimited), for example, so you’re going to have a bad time if you try doing that against Dirt Rune. The second play pattern once again comes from the Rune player saving an evolve point, but this time it requires your opponent to leave a follower with 6 or more attack or Bane. Playing Ginger with 2 or 3 Zeuses, then evolving Ginger to kill it off removes the “unable to attack the enemy leader” effect, thus allowing for 10-15 burst damage out of hand.
Aggro Neutral Rune
Another approach to playing Neutral Rune is getting rid of the Sahaquiel package and Ginger altogether, and instead including Neutral 1-drops like Goblin and Wise Merman; “Oz package” with Piercing Runes and some expensive spells, and Master Mage Levi. I personally have never played against this particular build of Neutral Rune on ladder, so I can’t vouch for its viability, but Reijing’s list is a good reference point for such aggressive Neutral Rune lists.
The matchups of Neutral Rune look somewhat deceptive due to two main factors: firstly, the sample size is moderately low in the grand scheme of things (for example, the matchups against Control Sword and Neutral Aggro Sword don’t even have a total of 100 recorded games throughout the month), so there is some variance in the overall data sample; secondly, Runecraft is the most played class in the format and Neutral Rune is the least common deck archetype among Rune decks, so the deck has a lot of surprise factor which helps its winrates. To put it simply, players usually mulligan for Daria Rune, or (after seeing a turn 2 Lyrial) expect Dirt Rune while playing the match, so deck’s stats poorly reflect its actual power level. Even with me talking smack about the archetype, the power of the Saha/Israfil turn 7 shouldn’t be taken in board-centric matchups like Midrange Shadow/Portal. It should be noted that the archetype generally does well against slower decks like Ramp Dragon/Control Sword/Haven by virtue of having a lot of threats, and a big Ginger turn with an evolved Elta has literally no Rotation-legal answer aside from Mutagenic Bolt. You could even go as far as to say that it gives Bahamut a real scare, or a Sheer Heart Attack, if you will. Because it has no weakness, you know.
Notable rotating Runecraft cards
The obvious part of the occurring rotation for Runecraft is the complete obliteration of the Daria Rune, since all the core cards of the archetype are gone from the format (Daria, Oogler, Blade Mage, Piercing Rune, Clark/Craig, so in total 12-18 cards). In addition to that, a lot of high-quality early-game Neutrals are rotating out (Khaiza, Goblin Mage, Lyrial, Angel of the Word), so Neutral Rune is losing a fair chunk of cards as well (8-10 cards from a standard decklist, without taking Sahaquiel into account). Naturally, slower Neutral Rune lists also lose Sahaquiel and Bahamut, which is another 3-5 cards. Dirt Rune loses Lyrial (0-2 cards), Piercing Rune, Dwarf Alchemist and Professor of Taboos (+6-8 cards on top of Lyrial, so 6-10 cards in total). Piercing Rune is a very unique tempo tool, so it probably won’t receive a replacement, however, Lyrial and Dwarf Alchemist can be replaced by Evelisia, Stella or Happy Pig in some combination. With the current card pool, it looks like the best Rune deck post-expansion is going to be Dirt Rune with somewhat awkward 2-drops, but the archetype will largely remain unchanged. Neutral Rune is going to need a lot of help to stay playable, but it wouldn’t be strange if the new expansion had a new neutral 2-drop and a neutral 3-drop or two, which would make an aggressive Neutral Rune variant somewhat playable.
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, anti-amulet tech cards have started seeing 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.
As a general rule of thumb, Ramp Dragon does well against Daria Rune (the most popular deck in the format) due to having the best AoE in the format and as such being able to answer explosive Daria turns. What’s more explosive than a turn 6 Bahamut? Jokes aside, Ramp Dragon struggles against a lot of deck archetypes in the format and needs particular tech cards to really beat the various difficult matchups like Neutral Forest, Midrange Shadow, Control Sword or Haven. Neutral Forest (somewhat) demands Fall from Grace, Midrange Shadow demands cards like Conflagration, and Control Sword/Haven require various greedy cards like Windmills/Queen of the Dread Seas/Ouroboros/etc. Ramp Dragon has a very peculiar place in the metagame as the most reliable Daria counter that struggles against a lot of different decks, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that as Daria Rune popularity drops, so too does Ramp Dragon’s. Nowadays, with the rising popularity of Midrange Portal, there is another deck for Ramp Dragon to prey upon, but then again, Midrange Portal is still the single worst performing deck in the format (well, technically second worst performing deck if we include Control Sword in the equation) despite its apparent popularity, so it’s not hugely surprsing.
Aggro and PDK Dragon
The first provided deck skeleton is for Aggro Dragon, while the second one is for PDK Dragon. Decks after the first skeleton are Aggro Dragon decks, decks after the second skeleton are PDK Dragon decks. The deck archetypes share a common origin point, so they’re covered in the same section despite the difference in builds. As of the time of writing, there isn’t enough stats about neither Aggro Dragon nor PDK Dragon so there is no matchup section, however, if the Aggro Dragon archetype continues to increase in popularity, it will be added in the following weeks.
What’s the deal with Aggro Dragon?
Aggro Dragon is a deck archetype that has initially started to see play in the Unlimited format, and was initially popularized by a player by the name of Three_Ten back in January. Following his success, in February, 2 different players have reached positions among the top 5 of the Unlimited ladder format, and UMA has won JCG Vol.13 on February 18th, after which the deck exploded in popularity in Unlimited. Thus, an idea of building a similar deck in the Rotation format came about as well.
Unlike Unlimited, Dragon doesn’t have any 1-drops in Rotation, so in order to make an Aggro Dragon, you have to settle for the second best thing: Neutral 1-drops, Goblins and Mermen.
The 2-drops used in Aggro Dragon are essentially the same ones that were used in PDK lists before, with the only new addition here being Lyrial (since the deck doesn’t actually require you to play Dragon-specific followers because there’s no PDK). The other 2-drops include Matilda, Aiela, Dragon Summoner and Breath of the Salamander.
The 3-drops include some of the PDK 3-drops, namely Dragoon Scyther and Dragon Aficionado, as well as Neutral 3-drops like Purehearted Singer and Angel of the Word. Lisa’s list also contains Griffon Knight, which can discard Wise Mermen in a pinch to help control the board.
Aggro Dragon’s midgame is very similar to aggressive PDK lists of the past like ElsaMaria’s one, with the exception of well, PDK, and Sibyl. The 2 main midgame cards here are Hippogryph Rider and Phoenix Rider Aina. Hippogryph Rider’s damage scales with all the weenies you put out on the board, while Aina also grows with the opponents’ board. In addition to Aina and HippoRider, Eyfa is another source of Storm damage in the deck. If you compare Unlimited and Rotation Aggro Dragon lists, Eyfa is played in the same slot as Dork Dragoon Forte. In addition to Storm followers, people have tried out Basilisk Rider, an incredibly sticky and annoying card to deal with for most classes that aren’t Portal/Haven. Lisa’s list also includes a 1-of Ouroboros as a very slow, reusable source of face damage.
What happened to PDK?
PDK is not particularly great at the moment and, from the limited data we have on hand, performs worse in every single matchup compared to Aggro Dragon, so there isn’t much reason to play PDK over Aggro Dragon at the moment. However, after the new expansion hits, Aggro Dragon is going to lose a fair bit of aggressive cards like Lyrial, Angel of the Word and Eyfa, so PDK could come back in a big way.
Notable rotating Dragoncraft cards
The 2 most important cards that Dragoncraft is losing are Draconic Fervor and Sahaquiel. Draconic Fervor is, first and foremost, a ramp card, and the newly revealed Dragoncleaver Roy fills in that niche quite nicely. The card draw can to an extent be replaced by a combination of Dragon Summoner, Dragon’s Foresight and potentially Avowed Strike. The second part of Dragon problems is losing Sahaquiel and Bahamut, and in a similar vein, Breath of Salamander as well. In my opinion, the rotation of Sahaquiel and Bahamut is going to make Tilting at Windmills mostly unplayable (unless there are new expensive neutral cards), since without Sahaquiel Israfil likely isn’t good enough to see play, which renders Windmills unplayable by proxy. Oh and Hamsa is also rotated out. Goodnight, sweet prince.
My prediction is that Frenzied Drake is going to become the new standard “package” in Dragoncraft in place of Sahaquiel. The “Frenzied Drake package” includes cards like Frenzied Drake (duh), Canyon of the Dragons, Conflagration, the new Zirnitra, Azi Dahaka and potentially Ouroboros/Avowed Strike.
Interestingly enough, PDK Dragon doesn’t really lose a single card in the rotation and Dragoncleaver Roy seems pretty great in PDK decks. Waters of the Orca is a very cute potential addition to PDK Dragon, allowing to play PDK and 3 Orcas on 10 play points. Well, it’s still worse than Dragon Aficionado/Aqua Nereid, but at the very least, creating weak and creatively bankrupt cards is acceptable if the card is cute, and Orcas are very cute. Come to think about it, Shadowverse already has a card named “Forbidden Ritual”, so it couldn’t be the very same card, could it? What’s the MtG equivalent of this effect? Jade Mage? Entreat the Angels? Can’t really think of one.
The provided deck skeleton includes the Sahaquiel package since most Neutral Forest lists include it, examples of lists without the Sahaquiel package are SVPlayer’s and Ananegeki’s ones. In addition to that, Kindly Treant and Aerin occasionally get cut from lists.
Neutral Forest doesn’t have a lot of wiggle room in terms of 2-drops, the only neutral options, aside from Lyrial and Happy Pig, are Feria and Sektor. Elf Twins’ Assault is not technically a 2-drop, but it is one of the major reasons to play the archetype (and I would say the strongest card in the deck), so every Neutral Forest list includes 3 copies of ETA. Staircase to Paradise is a greedy tech card that is also technically not a 2-drop, but it does provide a lot of value and is one of the ways to shore up your (already heavily favored) Ramp Dragon matchup.
The 3-drops include the natural Neutral 3-cost followers like Khaiza, Purehearterd Singer and Goblin Mage. Angel of the Word is usually not played in Neutral Forest because it makes you lose card advantage which is a pretty big deal for the archetype due to the way ETA, Kindly Treant, Hector and B&B operate. In addition to that, Angel of the Word is not that great in Rotation overall because most decks in the format (save for Midrange Shadow and Portal) don’t play 1-health followers, so the 1-damage ping is wasted a lot of the time.
Apart from the Hectors/Aerins, staple cards in Neutral Forest, somewhat optional mid-game cards include Impartial Strix (0-3 copies, depending on the exact list), and Jungle Warden (0-3 copies) that bolster the mid-game of the deck (heh, bolster, because it has Ward) or occasionally help close out long games with the 8-damage Storm.
Considering the usual Neutral Forest list usually includes 3 copies of Sahaquiel/Israfil, it stands to reason that including another expensive Neutral card of a similar caliber can be a good option as well. The two main options here are Bahamut and Zeus. Bahamut is a good reset button if the game ever gets to that point, while Zeus can provide some reach, either with Sahaquiel or on turn 10. Arriet has somewhat phased out of Neutral Forest lists because the card is awkward without B&B and the matchups where Arriet is good (Ramp Dragon, for example) are heavily Forest-favored anyway. In general, Arriet is better in lists without Sahaquiel package, and those usually include 2-3 copies of the card. A 1-of Elf Queen is an okay tech card against Dirt Rune, but Neutral Forest usually doesn’t want super-specific tech cards like Fall from Grace, for example, because the deck is proactive enough that it doesn’t need to answer specific cards like Tilting at Windmills/Canyon/etc.
Neutral Forest is an emerging archetype that can deal with a wide variety of deck archetypes in the format. The main strengths of the deck are its good matchups against Daria Rune (due to ETA), Ramp Dragon (due to B&B which Dragon can’t really interact with) and various aggressive strategies like Dirt Rune, Neutral Aggro Sword/Blood, Aggro Forest, etc. (due to having access to early game wards and some healing). Having said that, the archetype does have its weaknesses: it gets beaten at its own midrange gameplan by Midrange Shadow and is weak to transform/banish effects found in Midrange Portal (Otherworld Rift) and WolfBolt/Control Forest (Crystalia Lily). In general, Fall from Grace is a good tech card against the Neutral Forest, but there’s not a lot of decks (Ramp Dragon and Control Haven, to name a couple) that can really afford to play it without losing percentages in other matchups, and even with 1 or 2 Fall from Grace those matchups are not particularly great. Neutral Forest seems like a bit of a balance problem as the game continues to develop, but at least it loses a lot of good cards with the upcoming rotation, so unless a good Neutral 2-drop and a few Neutral 3-drops are printed, the deck archetype should, on paper, completely disappear off the radar after the expansion. At the very least, I hope it does. Wishful thinking.
Fita Tempo ForestSource
Fita Tempo ForestSource
Standard Aggro ForestSource
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. There are 2 different skeletons provided: the “conventional” Aggro Forest skeleton and the Fita variant.
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.
Aggro Forest is probably the deck with the single most consistent early game tools in the game. It generally does well against most popular decks in the meta, being able to outpace Daria/Dirt Rune and rushing down Ramp Dragon. The deck also does well against Midrange Portal, Wood of Brambles is a huge problem for Portalcraft in general because it makes Ancient/Analyzing Artifacts/Puppets completely useless. The main weakness of the deck is Ward followers, so it stands to reason that the archetype has problems against Neutral/WolfBolt Forest. Aggro Forest doesn’t have a particularly large sample size and it has never really been the most common Forest archetype due to being fairly hard to pilot. Yes, an aggro deck is hard to play, you heard that right. There is generally an inverse correlation between the deck’s winrate and its popularity, meaning that the more players play the deck, the lower its winrate becomes, and there are two main reasons for that: firstly, decks with low playrates are more commonly played by dedicated players (who make less mistakes); secondly, if the class has multiple viable archetypes (as Forest does), uncommon archetypes get some advantage out of the surprise factor (e.g. the opponent making different mulligan decisions, not playing around certain cards, etc.).
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.
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.
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.
Slower Forest lists generally have a fairly low sample size due to two main reasons: long games and very high vial cost of the deck itself. When people think about “Wallet decks”, the first thing that comes to mind is obviously Ramp Dragon, since it is, without a doubt, the most expensive archetype in the format, with roughly half of the deck being Legendary cards; however, WolfBolt or Control Forest are a close second, with most lists being in the 60-70k vial range. Well, deck cost has no relevance to its competitive viability, of course, but it should still be mentioned since it makes it hard to judge some of the deck’s matchups. The strengths of the deck include the inevitability of Wolf/King Elephant combos, which makes it great against slow greedy decks like Ramp Dragon and Control Sword; strong proactive healing and Ward cards, which work nicely against Dirt Rune and Aggro Forest; the polymorph effect of Crystalia Lily, which is a great boon against Neutral Forest, a hugely popular deck in the format. The deck does have 2 glaring weaknesses: Daria Rune and Midrange Shadow. Cassiopeia doesn’t quite have enough oomph to clear healthy Daria boards and Cassiopeia can’t really kill off the bonus skeletons from Prince Catacomb either, in other words, WolfBolt Forest can struggle to keep the board clear. Doing poorly against Midrange Shadow is somewhat acceptable, but consistently losing to Daria makes the viability of slower Forest archetypes somewhat dubious in the current metagame.
Notable rotating Forestcraft cards
Neutral Forest is losing a lot of Neutral cards (9-15 total cards, depending on the exact list), so the deck will likely need additional good Neutral cards to be playable, most notably in the slots of 2- and 3-drops.
Aggro/Tempo Forest loses Felpurr Kitten, which is a fairly optional card in slower builds. WolfBolt/Control Forest loses White Wolf of Eldwood which as a consequence also makes King Elephant a lot weaker. Crystalia Lily is somewhat optional, but if Neutral Forest is going to continue to be playable, it might very well a replacement as well (which can potentially be found in the newly-revealed Forest Whispers). With that said, if Forest receives some sort of supporting card for King Elephant, slow Forest could still be a playable archetype. My prediction for Forestcraft is that Aggro/Tempo Forest is going to be the best Forest archetype, and WolfBolt is going to have trouble closing out games and will likely fall by the wayside. Well, it wouldn’t be WolfBolt anymore, because there’s no White Wolf or Silver Bolt in Rotation, that’s for sure.
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 are discussed below.
A new thane will follow
If you were to compare Midrange Shadow to its pre-nerf form, 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.
Dark Alice/ToS ShadowSource
Ledger DAlice/ToS ShadowSource
Shadow has a fairly large variety of goofy decks that utilize the Midrange Shadow shell to some extent. One example of such deck is じゅむ’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.
Midrange Shadow has a well-rounded set of matchups, with a few of its popular matchups (Daria/Dirt Rune, Neutral Forest) being even or slightly favored. Interestingly, the matchup against Ramp Dragon has improved after the Immortal Thane nerf, probably due to Catacomb Prince and Necroassassin becoming common 3-ofs in Midrange Shadow. Midrange Shadow naturally does well against weaker midrange decks like Midrange Sword, Neutral Forest and Vengeance/Neutral Blood. The 2 main counters to Midrange Shadow are Midrange Portal (due to Substitution becoming a staple in the deck) and Control Haven, the traditional Shadowcraft counter. Midrange Shadow is probably the single most consistent deck in the format due to not really losing to any deck archetype super hard.
There is an interesting “seesaw effect”, so to speak, between the 3 “meta layers”. The first “meta layer” is Daria Rune and Ramp Dragon, the 2 decks which are generally considered as the most powerful decks of the format. As the first “meta layer” becomes more popular, the counters to the first “meta layer” become popular, decks like Midrange Shadow, Dirt Rune, Neutral Forest form the second “meta layer” because they consistently beat Daria Rune and Ramp Dragon. Following that, in response to Neutral Forest and Midrange Shadow gaining traction, the third “meta layer” starts to emerge that consists of decks that beat Neutral Forest and Midrange Shadow. Now, which deck archetype does well against both of those? That’s right, Midrange Portal. At the moment we’ve reached a phase in the meta where Daria’s playrate is declining, so the decks from the second “meta layer” become the go-to deck to beat, so Midrange Portal is seeing an explosive increase in popularity. As a FYI, the increase of Neutral Forest/Midrange Shadow (and a consequent decrease of Daria) started around the 20th of February and lasted up to the end of the month. As of last week, Midrange Portal has become the second most-played deck, so we’re currently in the phase of a rising third “meta layer”, for that reason Neutral Forest/Midrange Shadow are falling in popularity. It stands to reason that the near-future meta development will lead to Daria Rune rising in popularity again due to popularity of the third “meta layer”. So, to put it simply, the second layer pushes out the first one, the third one pushes out the second and then the first layer pushes out the third one again. It is not unlike a Rock-paper-scissors system, except with a roughly 10-day period of oscillations between the three “meta layers”. So, if my prediction is correct, then we’ll see Midrange Portal falling in popularity in a week or so, and around the 20th of March Midrange Shadow and Neutral Forest are going to become super popular again. It’s the circle of life.
Notable rotating Shadowcraft cards
Midrange Shadow is losing Lurching Corpse, Necroassassin and a whole lot of 3-drops. Despite the overall high number of lost cards (6-15 cards depending on the list), I think that Midrange Shadow Is going to turn out as one of the strongest deck archetypes after the expansion. Losing all the high-tempo “spot removal” (quote marks because they’re not technically spot removal since they’re random, but you know, semantics) is going to hurt Shadow’s matchup against Ramp Dragon, but if push comes to shove, maybe the deck can play Troth’s Curse or something. The newly revealed Shadow cards help it in the early game, providing for a decent-ish 1-drop and a 2-drop that you can’t play on turn 2, which somewhat help fill out the hole left by all the 3-drops rotating out. Oh, and Dark Alice decks are probably completely dead with Sahaquiel and Bahamut gone, because the “Sahaquiel package” is one of the big reasons to play Dark Alice/ToS decks in the first place. Nep is similarly completely dead, but she’s been dead for quite some time already, so there isn’t much of a difference in that regard.
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. In addition to that, Dimension Cut is becoming more common in recent lists due to the popularity of Daria Rune. Most of the provided decklists are the regular Midrange Portal builds centered around Deus ex Machina and artifact synergy; the last 4 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.
As mentioned in the Midrange Shadow matchup section, Midrange Portal is the anti-anti-meta deck, or a deck archetype of the third “meta layer”, as I dubbed it earlier. The main strengths of Midrange Portal are its favored matchups against board-centric midrange decks like Midrange Shadow/Sword and Neutral Forest. Otherworld Rift is one of the more efficient 1-for-1 answers for BnB and is one of the main reasons to play the archetype. The main weaknesses of Midrange Portal are aggressive strategies and AoE, the former found in Aggro Forest and Neutral Aggro Sword/Blood, while the latter is common to Dirt Rune, Ramp Dragon and Control Haven. Daria Rune is not exactly an Aggro deck, but Portalcraft in general has trouble containing Daria Boards because a lot of followers in Daria Rune have more than 3 health so they don’t die to Ancient Artifacts/Substitution. In addition to that, a lot of explosive Daria turns happen on exactly turn 6, and Midrange Portal can only start doing the “unfair” Deus Ex Machina/Acceleratium things on turn 7, so it gets outpaced by about 1 turn in that matchup. To summarize: Midrange Portal is bad against the 2 best decks in the format, but is pretty good against the counters to the 2 best decks in the format.
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 25 cards. Naturally, the deck skeleton doesn’t apply to Control and Cannon Sword, because those decks play somewhat different cards and don’t have a standard list of core cards that are consistent across all the lists. More on that in the “Control Sword” section.
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. The most common and established “Arthur package” at this point is 3xQuickblader/Bladed Hedgehog/Cuhullin/Lux, Solar Lancer/Homebound Mercenary. There is thus some randomness to Arthur because there are 5 different followers you can pull and Arthur pulls 4, but you can generally predict the Arthur outcomes based on the cards you played up until that point. Example: you played 1xQuickblader, 1xLux and 2xCuhullins throughout the game, so your most likely Arthur pull is Quickblader/Hedgehog/Lux/Mercenary. Pretty straightforward.
A more aggressive variation of Midrange Sword (take, for example, Kanitayu’s list), can include aggressive cards that help pressure your opponent in the early game, like Princess Juliet, Kunoichi Master/etc. These cards are particularly good against Ramp Dragon, a fairly popular deck in the format.
Taking it slow
If you don’t want to play Juliets, you can instead fit in the aforementioned Lancer of the Tempest, a fantastic card against any Shadow list, as well as Young Ogrehunter Momo, a great card against Daria Rune and Ramp Dragon. As was mentioned in the Arthur section, Lux, Solar Lancer is a common card in 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 (generally okay removal tool) and Old Man and Old Woman (does very similar things to Momo, but requires an evolve point); 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. Walfrid is a good follow-up to a turn 7 Arthur, but is a very clunky card otherwise, so most players prefer Fangblade Slayer, with an occasional 1-of Walfrid here and there. Hero of Antiquity is a similar card to Fangblade Slayer, has immediate board impact and is tricky to remove for Midrange Shadow/Control Haven, however Hero doesn’t hit the opponent’s face the turn it’s played so it’s not a great Swordcraft card overall. There are also a couple defensive cards like White Ridge Swordsman and Roland which are more common to Control Sword, but are fairly reasonable in Midrange lists as well. 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.
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. Control Sword generally does well against Ramp Dragon because Durandal is incredibly annoying for Dragon to deal with after the Bahamut changes. And seeing as how Swordcraft can generally put pressure on Dragon decks fairly well, it makes sense for a deck like Control Sword to exist in the format if Dragon is very popular. 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.
Midrange Sword matchups
Midrange Sword struggles against 4 out of the 6 most popular decks in the format, Daria Rune, Midrange Portal, Neutral Forest and Midrange Shadow. The saving grace of the archetype is its reasonable matchups against Ramp Dragon and Dirt Rune. With that said, just looking at the fact that Midrange Sword gets outperformed by essentially 4 different midrange decks, the decline of its popularity doesn’t seem surprising.
Control Sword matchups
Control Sword doesn’t have a particularly good sample size, but the biggest evident strength of the deck is its matchup against Ramp Dragon due to having Roland, a card that slows down Dragon decks in a very considerable fashion. Control Sword is also slightly favored against Daria Rune because of Young Ogrehunter Momo. With that said, Control Sword has pretty miserable matchups against Midrange Shadow and Portal, as well as Neutral Forest. The archetype’s matchup against Midrange Shadow is so dreadful that it’s the only case in which the winrate axis had to be expanded down to 30% just to show how poorly the deck deals with hordes of skeletons. Based on the recorded sample of games, Control Sword excels in two main areas: beating Ramp Dragon with Durandal and losing games.
Neutral Aggro Sword
The deck skeleton includes cards most common to Neutral Aggro Sword lists, you can argue that RTA doesn’t belong in the deck as a 2-of, or that Evelisia the Fallen is not a core card in the deck, but these 33 cards are the most commonly seen cards of the Neutral Aggro Sword archetype.
Swordcraft has the most 1-drop followers in the format of any class, so it stands to reason that an aggressive Sword deck might want to utilize all 2 of the good 1-drops in Swordcraft: Perseus and Quickblader. Goblins are not a big downgrade from Perseus, so they’re usually a 3-of as well. The only other remaining option is Wise Merman, which is mostly dropped from lists because a 1/1 for 1 doesn’t have a lot of impact unless it lands a buff on something, some lists do play 2-3 Mermen. Wolf Fang Swordsman is… suboptimal, to put it lightly. We don’t talk about Wolf Fang Swordsman.
The important part of 2-drops is that they should do one of two things: either do guaranteed face damage or control the board well. Cards of the first category are Evelisisia and Kunoichi Trainee, cards of the second category are Maisy, Bladed Hedgehog and Oathless Knight. Lyrial and Feria are somewhat in-between those 2 categories, they occasionally help you get value-trades or just push extra damage with evolves. The most important 2-drop in Neural Sword is Maisy, the card’s evolve effect is amazingly powerful against Daria Rune and is one of the main reasons to play the deck.
The 3-drops in Neutral Aggro Sword usually include cards that hit the opponent’s face the turn they’re played like Angel of the Word, Princess Juliet and Badb Catha/Angelic Knight. With that said, there are some more “old-school”, more midrange options like Rabbit Ear Attendant and Kiss of the Princess, which saw play during the peak popularity of Neutral Sword in the past, during the third month of the Wonderland Dreams expansion, when Neutral Sword was a more of a midrange value-oriented deck, with Khaiza’s, Goblin Mages, Rabbit Ear Attendant, etc.
Neutral Aggro Sword is very light on midgame cards because, well, it is an aggro deck, after all. Common midgame cards in the archetype usually specialize in doing face damage, cards like Albert, RTA, Kunoichi Master and so on. Additional Ambush cards like Vagabond Frog and Ephemera have also seen some play, but seeing as how both of those were previously nerfed, the viability of those cards is somewhat dubious.
Some others cards which can be included in Neutral Aggro Sword are the usual solid Midrange Sword cards like Jeno and Fangblade Slayer, although adding those in does beg the question “Why wouldn’t you just play Midrange Sword instead?”. The answer to that question is that Sword decks are on a kind of scale between an Aggro and Midrange deck, so a very aggressive Midrange Sword can look like an Aggro deck, while a very midrange-y Neutral Sword deck can look like a Midrange deck. To easily offended people out there, no, I am not making a reference to what you think I’m referencing. Please. We’re just talking about anime card games here, okay?
Neutral Aggro Sword has traditionally done well against Daria due to the power of Maisy in the midgame. The deck can also outpace Ramp Dragon and Midrange Portal, and taking into consideration the quick game duration, Neutral Aggro Sword made for a decent ladder deck immediately following the Bahamut/Magic Illusionist nerfs. However, as the meta developed, Neutral Forest became hugely popular and the matchup is pretty miserable for the Neutral Aggro Sword due to Neutral Forest having a lot of wards and some healing. In addition to that, the previously-unfavored matchups like Midrange Shadow and Dirt Rune haven’t gone away either, which ultimately led to the decline of Neutral Aggro Sword.
Notable rotating Swordcraft cards
Swordcraft is losing a lot of important midrange cards like Albert, Jeno and Fangblade Slayer (just based on those cards alone, every Midrange Sword deck immediately outright loses 8-9 cards). In addition to that, a lot of aggressive Neutral cards like Lyrial, Angel of the Word, etc. are gone as well, so a Neutral Aggro Sword list is losing somewhere between 9 to 15 cards, depending on the exact list. Even Control Sword, statistically the worst Swordcraft archetype, is losing important Control-specific cards like Bahamut, for example. So, Sword and Rune are looking to be the big losers of this rotation, however, the remaining playable archetype for Rune is Dirt Rune (an already good archetype that is likely to dominate the post-expansion meta), while the remaining Sword archetype is… Support Cannon Sword, I guess? So, with that in mind, I think that Swordcraft is going to need a lot of good cards in the upcoming expansion, which it might get. We shall see how that turns out soon enough.
The provided deck skeleton is for the most common Control Haven build with Summit Temple and Aether of the White Wing. It should be mentioned, however, that Haven decks aren’t technically limited to Summit/Aether builds, and there are 2 main splits between Haven decks based on the inclusion of Summit/Aether or lack thereof.
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. Most of the recent Haven lists opt to include the “Summit package”, however, 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. An interesting idea of improving Aether’s power in the midgame is showcased in kuroebi’s list, which includes 3 different 1-ofs: Temple Ogre, Eagle Man and Taurus the Great, so that Aether has reasonable pulls on turns 6, 7 and 9 in addition to the usual 8 and 10.
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. Dark Jeanne is a solid card against Midrange Shadow and Portal, but isn’t that great against Daria Rune and has anti-synergy with Summit Temple, so Dark Jeanne has been slowly phasing out of Haven lists as of late. 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/Durandal/etc.
Control Haven’s favored matchups (and the reason to play the archetype, frankly), are its favored matchups against Ramp Dragon, Dirt Rune and Midrange Portal. In general Control Haven struggles to catch up against decks that can eke out a tempo advantage in the midgame by either having explosively high-tempo turns (the most notable example of that being Daria Rune), or decks with a more consistent early game like Neutral Aggro Blood/Sword. Naturally, Neutral Forest matchup is pretty miserable for any Havencraft deck due to being unable to interact with Beauty and the Beast. Stastically speaking, even if you play one or two anti-B&B tech card (Fall from Grace/Total Annihilation), the probability of a Neutral Forest played having B&B is higher than the probability of a Control Haven having an answer, simply by virtue of playing additional copies of the corresponding card.
Notable rotating Havencraft cards
Haven overall is essentially losing a single playable card, Tribunal of Good and Evil. Tribunal is a powerful part of Havencraft’s removal suite, but it’s not completely irreplaceable, so in my opinion, the expansion is going to leave Control Haven in a very good shape. Of course, a lot of good Neutral cards are rotated out, so Neutral Haven is going to be a lot worse, but it’s not exactly that great at present anyway. Personally, the only card that I will miss after rotation is Frog Cleric. I have always been a huge proponent for Frog Cleric in Haven, but the card has a 1-for-1 replacement in Happy Pig, so Frog Cleric rotating out doesn’t technically make a huge difference. I have a lot of fond memories of Frog Cleric because I got to Masters with 2xFrog Clerics in my Seraph Haven list a while back. See, I still remember! Frog Cleric ran out to his death on turn 2 just to protect my face, he healed me when no one else did, he really made the pain go away.
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.
Vengeance Blood doesn’t have a ton of stats behind it, however, it is hugely favored against Ramp Dragon and Midrange Portal, and slightly favored against Dirt Rune, Neutral Aggro Sword and Control Haven. The main reason for its favored matchups against Portal and Haven is the magic number 3. A large variety of removal spells and effects in those classes either deal 3 damage (Teatime/Ancient Artifact), or banish cards with 3 or less defense (Scripture, Priest of the Cudgel, Substitution, Judge of Retribution), so followers with 4 defense dodge most of the early removal in those classes. Aggressive decks are generally favored against Ramp Dragon for obvious reasons, but usually struggle against midrange decks capable of contesting the board like Midrange Shadow, Midrange Sword, Neutral Forest and to an extent, Daria Rune.
If you’re reading the matchup sections in order, you might’ve noticed a trend of certain deck archetypes rapidly losing popularity if their matchup against Daria Rune is not that great, and Vengeance Blood is another example of such a deck. If we lived in a parallel universe in which decks receive balance changes based on their performance, then the first decks to be hit by nerfs would be Daria Rune, Neutral Forest and Midrange Shadow, in that order; all 3 of those deck archetypes happen to be heavily unfavored matchups for Vengeance Blood. So, in that universe Vengeance Blood could very well come out on top of the metagame because it would literally only have Midrange Sword to hold it back. Thus, we should be thankful to Cygames for not allowing a particular deck to have a single unfavored matchup in the entire game, because then the game would get very stale and players would complain. Wouldn’t that be terrible?
Neutral Aggro Blood
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.
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.
Neutral Aggro Blood has a very similar matchup spread to Vengeance Blood, albeit the distribution is less polarized, meaning that the bad matchups (Daria Rune, Neutral Forest, Midrange Shadow/Sword) are a little better, and the good matchups (Ramp Dragon and Midrange Portal) are a little worse. Statistically speaking, Neutral Aggro Blood has better (safer) matchups across the board, however, the archetype still struggles against some of the more popular decks in the current metagame, such as Daria Rune, Midrange Shadow and Neutral Forest. Compared to Vengeance Blood, the archetype does a lot better against Dirt Rune after the Magic Illusionist nerf because it naturally includes 1-attack followers (Goblins/Mermen) and sources of 1-damage pings like Angel of the Word and Lyrial.
Notable rotating Bloodcraft cards
Neural Aggro Blood loses a lot of cards (9-12 depending on the exact list), so I somewhat doubt that the deck is going to remain playable after the Rotation. On the other hand, Vengeance Blood only really loses Yurius and Hungering Horde. Hungering Horde already phases in and out of lists in favor of Snarling Chains, so it’s not that essential in my opinion. Yurius, on the other hand, is a considerable loss for the deck, which also makes Dark Airjammer worse as a consequence. Interestingly, the new Vampy is kind of a different flavor of Dark Airjammer, but she has a lower board impact at the cost of potentially getting Storm/Drain, and is very mediocre without active Vengeance. The “Vengeance gate” on the new Vampy is very high, the card turns from a reasonably good play when in Vengeance into an almost actively harmful card without Vengeance. Vengeance Blood might turn out good after the rotation since its main problematic matchups are Daria Rune, Neutral Forest and Midrange Sword, which are all likely going to be a lot less common after the expansion, but Midrange Shadow still isn’t going anywhere, so we’ll have to wait and see.
Gift for Bloodkin is a cute piece of Jorm synergy, but Jorm is going to need at least 2-3 more cards with “deal 1 damage to your leader” to really be playable archetype in any way, shape or form. At least Jorm isn’t losing any cards in the rotation, right? Right?
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.