Shisogenius’s Meta Insight 6/16
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.
Identifying cards: Goblin, Leaf Man, Elf Song, Beetle Warrior, Ipiria.
Aggro Forest is one of the tightest decks in the format, in that the deck only has 3 “flex spots” as far as optional cards go, and even then most of the decks present in this section only include extra copies of the same 14 cards featured in the deck skeleton.
The vast majority of an average Aggro Forest list costs 3 or less, so it may seem that the deck has a lot of early game, however, a large portion of the cards can’t really be played on curve in a traditional sense. For that reason, we can distinguish the “proactive early game” cards that can be played on curve and “combo-centric” cards that lose a lot of value when played on curve. Proactive cards include Goblins, Water Fairies, Fairy Whisperers, Storied Falconers and Starry Elves. In addition to that, the vanilla 2-drops such as Leaf Man and Rayne can be reasonably played on curve as well if that is your only option. It’s easy to see that a good opening hand with Aggro Forest should ideally have a proactive 1-drop and a proactive 2-drop, and for that reason the newly released 2-drop, Storied Falconer, has added a lot of consistency to the deck’s early game, improving the odds of getting a proactive 2-drop by about 33%.
The rest of the cheap cards in Aggro Forest revolve around the magic number of “2 Fairies”, either by requiring 2 Fairies to get value (Rayne, Beetle Warrior, usually Insect Lord), generating 2 Fairies (Wood of Brambles, Fairy Whisperer) or both at the same time (Elf Song). With that in mind, it’s important to remember to save enough Fairies to get value out of these effects, for example, if you’re going second and you have Rayne in hand, you should usually save 2 Fairies if you’re planning to get value out of the Evolve effect. The same logic applies to Elf Song and Beetle Warrior. Naturally, the 2 card requirement on some of those cards can be fulfilled by playing a 2-cost card and 1 Fairy/Goblin/Water Fairy/Airbound Barrage, so the “2 Fairy rule” is somewhat arbitrary, for example, to apply it to the Rayne example, if you’re going first, you can play Wood of Brambles into Fairy into Rayne to assemble your 2-card Dragon Warrior, so you don’t have to save the Fairies on previous turns if you keep Wood of Brambles around instead. In the above example, you can also substitute Brambles with Elf Song or Insect Lord for mostly the same effect.
The game plan
The general plan for an Aggro Forest game involves going wide on board while trying to control the board using efficient tempo tools like Insect Lord and Wood of Brambles/Elf Song to help trades. The end goal of going wide on board is to get your opponent into the damage range of whatever reach you have available, which can include Ipiria, Beetle Warriors, Skystride Raptor tokens from Falconers and Fairy Driver. It should also be mentioned that saving your inexpensive Storm cards (Beetles and Raptors, basically) to use in conjunction with Elf Song to get some extra damage in. The magic number here is usually 8, which is the maximum damage from a full turn 8 Fairy Driver, so if you can get your opponent to 8 health and below, you’re probably well on your way to winning the match.
In general, Aggro Forest is a fairly straightforward deck to play, however, there are a few specific points I’d like to touch upon. The first card that presents you with a choice in the deck is Airbound Barrage, in 2 different ways: firstly, what you should bounce on your side of the board, and secondly, what you should be saving Barrage for on the other side of the board. Most of the time you will have to bounce Fairies, however, aside from Fairies, other good bounce cards are Wood of Brambles and Insect Lord. Bouncing Wood of Brambles lets you get extra turns of the Brambles effect, protecting your board from trades, which is particularly important when playing against PDK Dragon, as well as Midrange Shadow and Portal. Bouncing Insect Lord is usually a good tempo play because you can reuse the Fanfare and double down on the amount of cards played on that turn to clear big followers or wide boards (3 or more followers). Most of the games it is fine to play Barrage on whatever is a good target at the time, however there are a couple of key follower cards that you should save Barrage for, which are Prime Dragon Keeper and Waltz in particular, because both of those cards can run away with the game if they do stick for an extra turn. The reason for clearing PDK should be obvious, however, to elaborate on the Waltz point, a common early curve from Vengeance Blood is Spiderweb Imp into Waltz, which doesn’t let you trade into Waltz. For that reason, Sylvan Justice also has seen some play in Aggro Forest as a 1-of, specifically to answer early Waltz, despite not being a particularly good card in the archetype.
Another small point that bears mentioning is the usage of enhanced Leaf Man. Most of the time it is correct to play Leaf Man if you’re ahead on board and it can buff at least 2 or 3 followers, at which point it passes the “vanilla test”. E.g., if it buffs 3 followers, it effectively does 3 extra damage, it’s the same amount as a 2xFairy into Beetle Warrior, or the 5-drop that was played in a lot of Sword decks a few expansions ago, easily recognizable for his blonde head of hair and strikingly good looks, Hector. Or Percival (with enough officers). Aside from that, there are a couple AoE cards that you can play around with Leaf Man. They include Force of the Dragonewt in Dragon, Dark Jeanne and enhanced Jeanne in any Haven archetype, Wrath Drake in Ramp Dragon, Cassiopeia in Tempo Forest and Lancer of the Tempest in Sword. For that reason, the important turns to keep in mind are turns 5, 8 and 9 against Dragon, turns 6 and 7 against Haven, turn 6 against Tempo Forest and turn 7 against Sword. In addition to that, Odile is a card in some Midrange Shadow lists, which comes out on turn 6, so it’s important to remember to leave a board space open for Odile even if you can’t play Leaf Man into it.
The last thing that I’d like to briefly mention is the Clash order, which matters a lot not only in Aggro Forest, but in Forest mirrors in general. Clash effects of the same type resolve first for the active player, e.g. if both players have Wood of Brambles in play, and a Fairy attacks into another Fairy, the attacking player’s Fairy will survive and the defending Fairy will die to the Brambles proc. In essence, it means that if you have the initiative in a Forest mirror, it’s good to get the “free” trades when you can, because otherwise you can lose the board control on the backswing.
Aggro Forest is essentially the only aggro deck in the format and is probably one of the best decks for ladder games due to relatively short game duration and its matchup spread. The archetype is favored against the two most popular decks in the format, PDK Dragon and Vengeance Blood, as well as a variety of less popular decks, such as Haven, Giant Chimera Rune, Midrange Shadow and Portal. The weaknesses of archetype include AoE and Wards. Ramp Dragon has a lot of AoE, Tempo Forest has strong Ward cards, Cassiopeia and a very similar early game package, and Midrange Sword has good early game with various inexpensive Ward followers, so those archetypes usually fare well against Aggro Forest.
Elephant Tempo ForestSource
Yggdrasil Tempo ForestSource
Slow Tempo ForestSource
Slow Tempo ForestSource
Marduk OTK Tempo ForestSource
Identifying cards: Purehearted Singer, Lilac, Jungle Warden, Venus, Cassiopeia, Aerin, Greenglen Axeman.
It should be noted that Purehearted Singer and Aerin can also be seen in Neutral Forest lists, so these cards primarily distinguish Tempo from Aggro Forest, however, Neutral Forest plays very different cards throughout the game, so there should still be a clear difference between the 2 archetypes.
Some of the cards included in the deck skeleton can be excluded for different cards in the same mana slot, e.g. Storied Falconer is not included in slower lists, while Lilac is not included in some more aggressive lists. Similarly, Greenglen Axeman can be cut for alternative finisher-type cards.
A branching path
In general, Tempo Forest is a deck archetype that uses the same early-game shell as Aggro Forest, with some exclusions (Goblins, Leaf Man, sometimes Elf Song/Water Fairies) that allow to fit in more midgame cards that don’t rely on having a board advantage. Generally, there are two different ways to build Tempo Forest: a more aggressive one with Water Fairies, Elf Songs, Falconers and Fairy Drivers (ゼロ’s and Aguno’s lists are good examples), which essentially strip away the absolute minimum cards from an Aggro Forest shell to fit in some midgame tools; and a more defensive, value-oriented one with Aerin, Venus, Nelcha, etc (Otaku’s list is an example).
And my axe!
So, what exactly is new in Tempo Forest after the mini-expansion? The new addition to the archetype, Greenglen Axeman, is something that slower Forest lists have wanted for quite some time, a source of face damage that doesn’t require 10 play points and that wouldn’t be better suited for an Aggro list. Previously, the archetype boasted excellent 6-drops (Cassiopeia and Aerin), solid midgame tools and a good value engine (Venus), however, it had trouble closing out games without King Elephant or enhanced Jungle Warden. Essentially, Tempo Forest can do 8 Storm damage (or 10 with an evolve) without playing suboptimal cards, and this fact has largely remained unchanged after the mini-expansion. Axeman helps bridge that gap. It should be noted that the current format is pretty unique in that most of the classes don’t run any healing, with the only exceptions being Ramp Dragon and Tenko Haven, so while doing 2 damage a turn may not seem like much, it adds up quickly nonetheless. In addition to that, the base statline on Axeman is that of a vanilla 6-drop with Rush, so it affects the board on the turn it’s played and the permanent leader effect essentially comes as a free bonus.
Taking it slow
The more aggressive variants of Tempo Forest work in much the same way as Aggro Forest, except the early game is slightly less consistent without the Goblins. An extreme example of that is ちくわ’s list, which is card-for-card the same deck as Kukuku’s Aggro Forest list, except it cuts Goblins and Ipiria for Cassiopeia and Axeman. For that reason, discussion of Tempo Forest’s early game is fairly redundant, since a lot of the same ideas are expressed in the Aggro Forest section. The slower lists, on the other hand, usually include some different cards, so this section will be focused on the different advantages (and disadvantages) of those.
The other quintessential Tempo Forest card is Cassiopeia. Generally, when playing with or against the archetype, Cassiopeia is a card that provides the most decision-making opportunities. On one hand, the onus is on the Tempo Forest player to hold enough cards in hand to have Cassiopeia clear the board or at least come close to doing so, and on the other hand, for players playing against Tempo Forest, it’s important to always keep in mind the opponent’s hand size and take care as to either not overextend into Cassio or to play enough defensively statted followers so as not to get blown out. In addition to that, it is very important to clear the Cassiopeia after it’s been played (unless you’ve seen the Forest player play 2 or 3 Airbound Barrages already) because not doing so risks getting Cassio’d again, but this time with 3 non-random extra damage to your board! Conversely, as Forest, it’s sometimes correct to go for the Cassiopeia + Barrage on turn 7, which can lead to frustrating RNG, but is optimal against a board with 1 high-health follower and a few low-health ones that are slightly over the damage threshold when added up.
Last, but certainly not least, archetype-defining card is Greenglen Axeman. It is correct to play Axeman on most neutral and even slightly unfavored board states since it can usually at least clear 1 follower. It is important to keep some resources in reserve to get the Axeman proc every turn after you play the card. What that usually means is not throwing up Fairies on the board at every opportunity and saving whichever other token cards you may have. Those token cards can include Harvest Festival from Venus, the Dresses from Fashionista Nelcha and even Yggdrasil tokens. Personally, I really enjoy Venus in Tempo Forest since it creates a constant stream of value. Two damage and draw a card every turn? It’s basically a reverse Life Tap.
Aside from the commonly-seen Tempo Forest tools, optional cards can include Purehearted Singer (card draw, can trade up with Brambles since it usually doesn’t get removed from the board), Fairy Saber (seen in Rockwell’s list, most of the time is outperformed by Elf Song, replaces Aerin), Fashionista Nelcha (good against Summit Haven/Ramp Dragon, fairly mediocre otherwise, albeit very flexible), Paula (extra bounce option, can serve as a pseudo Insect Lord in a pinch). In addition to that, a few players have had success without Axeman with more traditional King Elephant/Elf Queen builds, similar to the ones played before the patch. As a continuation to the Marduk OTK list featured in the previous article, えそり’s list utilizes the Axeman as well, which lets you use the cheap amulets as fodder for Axeman, giving them additional utility. For example, if you have one active Axeman effect, then play Marduk and 3 Spring-Green Protections/Firesprite Groves, you can do 8 damage on turn 10. Can you imagine playing a card that doesn’t let you play followers in a deck, 60% of which is comprised of followers, and 32,5% interact with your followers? Think of the value!
Tempo Forest has a really good matchup spread, the only classes that the archetype struggles against are Dragon, Haven and Sword. The latter two are not as common on ladder, however, PDK Dragon is, which is a big problem for the archetype. With that said, Tempo Forest does well against its Aggro counterpart, Vengeance Blood, Giant Chimera Rune and Midrange Shadow, so it’s a fairly consistent, if slow, deck for climbing. Compared to Aggro Forest, Tempo Forest has less draw variance due to having slower games and not relying as much on a good early game curve and going first, so on paper it should have a slightly higher winrate over a large number of games. Tempo Forest can be really strong in a format with class bans, since the only big weaknesses of the archetype are Dragon and Haven.
Identifying cards: Neutral 2-drops, ETA, Impartial Strix, Oceanus, Hector, Beauty and the Beast, Arriet.
What is new in Neutral Forest?
The only Neutral card in the mini-expansion, Oceanus, is a perfect fit for Neutral Forest, since it’s a Neutral 4-drop (4 has been a weak spot in Neutral decks for quite a while), that puts a Neutral card into your hand when you play it, for that reason it naturally synergizes with ETA, Hector and Beauty and the Beast. Most of the time you should pick the 3-cost removal option, since it generally has more impact than healing for 2, but occasionally you can get healing as well.
Math checks out
The problem of Neutral Forest is that the archetype requires the inclusion of at least 12 Forest cards (ETA, Warden, Aerin, B&B), and there’s not nearly enough good Neutrals (like the Sahaquiel package) or pseudo-card draw (like Khaiza). For that reason, many lists have started cutting Kindly Treant to improve ETA/Hector/B&B consistency because ideally the deck would like to have at least 70% Neutral cards for the Neutral synergy to be worthwhile. To give a simple example, if you play ETA on curve, you need it to do at least 3 or 4 damage for it to be worthwhile (or in different terms, you need to have at least 3 Neutral cards to activate Hector, same thing).
On turn 2 you can have 5 or 6 cards in hand, so if you’re playing a card on every turn, your hand size generally doesn’t change, so on average your ETA is consistently staying at Pn*Nc damage, where Pn is the relative percentage of Neutral cards in your deck, and Nc is the number of cards in your hand, which is equal to 3,5 going first and 4 going second if 70% of your deck is Neutrals. For that reason, basically every optimized Neutral Forest list contains exactly 28 Neutral cards and 12 Forest cards, because 28 is the magic number that corresponds to 70% of a 40 card deck, a breakpoint that you should aim for when building Neutral Forest. Naturally, some cards put extra cards into your hand and make the odds better. Those cards include Purehearted Singer (+2), Moon and Sun (+1), Oceanus (+1), and even Staircase to Paradise (initially +0, but +3 later on) as well as Bellringer Angel (+0 immediately, +2 later).
General game plan
An average game of Neutral Forest involves careful planning and a lot of decision-making at every point of the game. At the start of your turn, locate the upper number under the “End Turn” button, after that find a card in your hand with the closest cost to that number and then proceed to play it. The cost of cards is displayed in the upper left corner of the card. Generally, cards in your hand can have either a green or a yellow border, and the ones with the yellow border are better. Sometimes, multiple cards of the same cost can have the green border at the same time, in which case the priority should generally go as follows: for 2-costing cards Happy Pig>Feria>Paradise Vanguard, for 3-costing cards it’s Moon and Sun>Purehearted Singer>Grimnir, for 4-costing cards it’s Impartial Strix>Oceanus, for 5-costing cards it’s Hector>Jungle Warden, and for 6 it is Beauty and the Beast>Aerin.
Brambles Neutral ForestSource
Elephant Neutral ForestSource
Yggdrasil Neutral ForestSource
(Owl Tribal) Neutral ForestSource
Aggressive Neutral ForestSource
Of particular note is the previously mentioned card Elf Twins’ Assault (ETA for short), that does damage to two followers under your opponent’s control. It is important to save this card for key minions such as Prime Dragon Keeper, for example. In matchups other than Dragon, ETA can be played when you’re behind on board. Naturally, selecting good targets for ETA is very important if you want to be successful with Neutral Forest, which gets particularly difficult if your opponent controls more than 2 followers. In these scenarios it is of utmost importance to believe in the heart of the cards.
There’s not a whole lot of stats on Neutral Forest, however, it should be noted that the shift in the meta caused by the mini-expansion made it so the worst matchups of the deck (Artifact Portal, Midrange Sword, Neutral Rune and Summit Haven) lost popularity, which gives the deck a lot of breathing room in the format. The archetype preys on slow reactive decks like Ramp Dragon, Spellboost Rune and slower Haven builds and can deal with some of the popular board-centric decks like PDK and Aggro/Tempo Forest due to having access to ETA. Neutral Forest gets outpaced by Vengeance Blood and Midrange Sword, so the archetype definitely has weaknesses despite an overall positive matchup spread.
Identifying cards: Dragon Aficionado, Waters of the Orca, Dragonrearer Matilda, Prime Dragon Keeper (duh), Phoenix Rider Aina.
Most of PDK Dragon lists include 3 copies of Roy and Force of the Dragonewt, which realistically leaves the deck with 1-2 flex spots in terms of optional cards. Purehearted Singer can sometimes be cut from the list entirely, but is usually played at 2 or 3 copies.
What is new in PDK Dragon?
The new Dragon 2-drop, Whitefrost Dragonewt Filene, is an excellent Dragon card in general that also happens to have great PDK synergy. The 1/3 statline is good against Forest and in PDK mirrors, and the spell you get from Filene usually can do anywhere between 3 and 5 damage, providing solid value and tempo. The high quality of the 2-drop itself is (somewhat) balanced by the mediocre evolve effect and lost stats on evolution. Even then, the evolve effect can be used to ping off Fairies/Skeletons/etc. or used to activate the spell you get from Filene. In my opinion, out of the “1/3 2-drop with an upside” cycle in this expansion, Filene is the best one. I would even go as far as to say that Filene is the best 2-drop Dragoncraft has ever received, even when compared to Mushussu and Aiela. Come to think about it, Filene is to Siegfried what Lurching Corpse is to Necroassassin. Or what Cuhullin is to Jeno. And that’s just beautiful.
What does PDK Dragon do?
PDK Dragon is a midrange deck centered around board control and consistent board pressure. The archetype’s gameplan is centered around 4 main concepts: ramping (Dragon Oracle and Aiela), going wide on the board (various cards discussed in a later section), board control tools (Force of the Dragonewt, Filene, PDK) and Storm finishers (Aina and Azi Dahaka). Depending on the matchup, you can prioritize various parts of the plan over others, but in general the order in which games progress goes as either first ramping or going wide on board, then playing PDK (when you want to take back the board control) or Aina (if you’re ahead) and then finishing the game with either more Ainas or Azi Dahaka(s).
The aforementioned idea of “going wide” involves various cards including Dragon Summoner, Filene, Somniferous Whitewyrm, Dragon Aficionado and Roy. In your mulligan decisions, you should preferably think about getting a proactive 2-drop into a proactive 3-drop. One thing that should be mentioned is the importance of Dragon Oracle, for example, Dragon Oracle into double 2-drop (or even Waters of the Orca) is a good curve as well, despite technically skipping turn 2. Generally, if you’re not expecting to be pressured early on, you should try to ramp and cycle cards (with Singers/Dragon Summoners) in the early game to get to the PDK turns earlier, but if you’re playing against Blood, Dragon or Forest, you should try to get ahead on the board early on. One of the best cards at doing so is Dragon Aficionado. The best part about Dragon Aficionado is that the baby dragon has a little friend. That’s right. And tell you hwat, even a dragon needs a little friend.
Ideally after reaching Overflow you should try to have a PDK turn, where you can play PDK with at least 2-3 PDK procs to help control the board and do some chip damage to your opponent. The dream scenario is that you play Prime Dragon Keeper and your opponent can’t clear it, so you get another turn to go off with PDK, which usually means winning the game. To help PDK survive, you can preemptively evolve it if you can afford doing so and since most of the removal in the format does exactly 3 damage, it’s problematic to clear it when it has 5 health. With that said, evolving PDK in PDK mirrors is ill-advised since it gets cleared by Roy, so don’t do that. In a similar vein, against classes that can do more than 3 damage with an AoE effect (namely Ramp Dragon, Haven after turn 9+, Portal after turn 8+, etc.) it is also not worth it to evolve the PDK.
Ending the game
PDK Dragon has a lot of sources of chip damage between PDK procs, Force of the Dragonewt and early-game followers. Closing out the game usually involves playing Aina and Azi Dahaka on the back of the accumulated chip damage. Playing Aina usually takes priority over Azi Dahaka because if your board gets cleared, then Aina does less damage, while Azi Dahaka is basically unconditional. However, against some opponents you can sneak into lethal range by holding on to a couple of 2-drops and Aina and dealing 7-8 damage after your opponent fills the board. In a similar vein, keep in mind that Dragon Scyther can also be used for a bit of reach, but that much should be obvious if you have played any Dragon deck in the past. In addition to that, some PDK lists can include extra sources of reach, for example, Keito’s (けいと) list includes a 1-of Ouroboros that can help in long grindy games, and Akashikifu’s Aggro Dragon list includes Hippogryph Rider. HippoRider is usually outperformed by Aina, so it’s generally not included in PDK lists, but it might come into popularity if the archetype needs more reach in the future.
PDK Dragon is the single most popular archetype in the format and with good reason, the only deck that it really loses to is Aggro Forest. At its core, PDK Dragon is a midrange deck that does very well against other midrange decks, and the vast majority of the Rotation format happens to be midrange decks and so the only aggro deck in the format does well against it. This is a little worrying for the future of the Rotation format, because PDK Dragon only loses 2 cards in the upcoming rotation, and if there are no new Aggro tools or good forms of AoE, the deck might just continue its dominance. With that said, I personally don’t think that any single card in PDK Dragon deserves a nerf (aside from maybe Filene), because for the most part they’re all balanced in a vacuum, and the archetype is only going to continue its dominance for another 2 weeks, so I don’t expect any changes to it.
Identifying cards: Sibyl, Wrath Drake, Elder Tortoise, Frenzied Drake, Canyon of the Dragons, Jerva, Zeus.
The provided deck skeleton is for a traditional Ramp Dragon build, and not a Lindworm-oriented one. Out of the listed cards, Zeuses can be substitutes for other high-end cards, however, most of the optimized Ramp Dragon builds include 3 copies of Zeus.
What is new in Ramp Dragon?
Ramp Dragon is a deck that has not changed much since the start of the expansion (not mini-expansion, mind you), with the only new cards in the deck being Filene (a generally really good Dragon card), Roy (not exactly a new card, but still) and an occasional Jerva or two. If one were to compare the Ramp Dragon decks from before the mini-expansion to the current ones, Filene is played in the Blazing Breath slot. In addition to those, Dragon Summoner and Somniferous Whitewyrm are competing for the same slot in the deck and are basically interchangeable, so there’s another half of a new card. Other than that, Ramp Dragon has basically retained the same build as it had 2 months ago.
Where did Lindworm go?
As mentioned in the April’s Meta Insight, Lindworm places some extremely heavy deckbuilding constraints on the Ramp Dragon shell, and frankly, some of the best tools in Ramp Dragon are attached to followers and thus have a natural anti-synergy with Lindworm. Ironically, even the newly released Lindworm support card, Dragonplate Warrior, is also a follower for some reason. Basically, the biggest strengths of Ramp Dragon are its AoE cards (Wrath Drake and Frenzied Drake) and Sybil, and when you compare those to their Lindworm build counterparts, they are quite lacking; e.g. Galua is a worse 5-drop than Sybil, and Conflagration is worse than any other AoE card in Dragon, most of which also have a body attached. Part of the reason for that is that with the prevalence of PDK and generally a bunch of new 1/3s coming out, 3 damage AoE is mostly equivalent to 4 damage AoE, which makes Wrath Drake really good. In addition to that, Frenzied Drake is the biggest AoE card in the format period, sans a gigantic Magna Legacy or something, and none of the pieces of the Lindworm-centered build can even come close to comparing to Frenzied Drake.
An example of a Lindworm build was seen in the JCG5-40, which happened 2 days after the mini-expansion. An exaggeration of the Lindworm build constraints can be seen in Matomo’s list that includes every cheap spell or amulet possible to ensure the timely activation of Lindworm. The decklist has quite literally become a meme, and includes some pretty dreadful cards like Treasure Map, Fount of Angels, Dragon’s Foresight and so on.
I like turtles
One particularly interesting development in Ramp Dragon is the recent prevalence of Elder Tortoise, which is a reactive card that can also be saved for late game for extra face damage from the accumulated evolve points. In essence, Elder Tortoises reflect the role of Ramp Dragon in the format: a highly defensive reactive deck with access to healing and AoE, but low overall tempo. Because real life turtles have area-of-effect attacks, naturally. This is a terrible analogy. To phrase it differently, Ramp Dragon excels at shrugging off wide boards from Forest/PDK and has a wide array of reactive defensive tools, but is one of the slowest decks in the format.
The game plan
The general gameplan of Ramp Dragon usually involves playing your ramp cards (Dragon Oracle, Aiela, Roy, Sibyl), drawing cards with Purehearted Singers/Whitewyrms/Dragon Summoners/etc. and using your AoE cards like Force of the Dragonewt, Wrath Drake and Frenzied Drake to control the board. After establishing neutral (or even favored) board states, Ramp Dragon can drop bombs that help close out the game which can include Zeus, Azi Dahaka, Canyon of the Dragons, Jerva, Israfil, etc.
Ramp Dragon has been gaining popularity as a Forest counter that also happens to be even against PDK, so it stands to reason that the latest JCG events had a lot of Ramp Dragon players in the top 16. If a format is almost exclusively Forest and PDK Dragon, then Ramp Dragon is a great answer to that environment, and it just so happens that since JCG has a 2-deck format, a lot of players brought Forest/PDK Dragon lineups, so Ramp Dragon is pretty great there. However, ladder has a lot more matchup variance because people play archetypes that aren’t the 2 best things they could be playing, and due to having fairly long games, Ramp Dragon is a fairly impractical deck for ladder games.
Identifying cards: Silverchain Disciple, Blood Drinker’s Brand, Dark General, Belphegor, Vania, Emeralda.
Identifying cards (slow build): Mask of the Black Death, Reach of the Archdemon, Maelstrom Serpent, Spawn of the Abyss, Wardrobe Demon.
Realistically speaking, there is no need to list identifying cards for Vengeance Blood, because there are no other Blood archetypes popular enough to warrant distinguishing. To put it simply, if you’re playing against a Blood player, you’re playing against Vengeance Blood. The important thing, however, is the distinction between the slow Vengeance build and the regular one, in essence, if you see a Mask of the Black Death in play, you can expect seeing Reach of the Archdemon/Maelstrom Serpents or Spawn in that same deck.
What is new in Vengeance Blood?
The main factor that propelled the popularity of Vengeance Blood is definitely Waltz, King of Wolves, a new Vengeance activator for the archetype. Waltz allows the archetype to essentially double the consistency of having a Vengeance enabler by turn 4, thus making all the bonus Vengeance-requiring effects that much more usable. Waltz is a very versatile card, and while most of the time the 3-drop itself and Blood Moon are played on separate turns, on turn 6 and later you can play them in succession, resulting in a 5/4 Rush follower and a Blood Moon in play. Unlike Belphegor, Blood Moon doesn’t reduce your health to 10 when played, so Waltz a lot of the time is a safer Vengeance enabler than Belphegor since you’re not just taking damage for no reason. This matters a lot against Aggro Forest, PDK Dragon and in Blood mirrors, basically against any deck that has some sort of reach. Previously Blood Moon couldn’t really fit into Vengeance Blood lists, since the deck still wants to primarily be proactive and aggressive and Blood Moon itself is neither of those things. On the other hand, if Blood Moon is attached to a vanilla-statted 3-drop, then the whole idea is a lot more appealing. To summarize, thanks to Waltz, we can finally say that Blood Moon… is back with a vengeance. Hardy har har
The common idea between most standard Vengeance Blood lists is the inclusion of cards such as Razory Claw, Dark General, Vampy, Emeralda and occasionally Savage Wolf. All of those cards have a common point: they deal 3 or more damage directly to your opponent on the turn they’re played. In many card games there is a concept of burn damage having synergy with burn damage, basically, after a certain threshold of burn cards they can just dictate the main strategy of the deck. While Vengeance Blood is not really a RDW-type deck, it’s still the archetype with the biggest amount of reach in the format, depending on the exact decklist, 30-35% of the deck can be comprised of Storm followers and direct face damage. This is not meant to be sarcasm, because the huge amount of effectively-costed reach is legitimately one of the biggest strengths of the archetype. With that in mind, the importance of using evolve points for face damage can’t be overstated either. Quoting a certain professional card game player, “If you hit your opponent in the face, he has less life” and this profound wisdom is something one should keep in mind when playing Shadowverse. To rephrase that, Vengeance Blood can often be the aggressor in many matchups, and pressuring your opponent’s life total is an important aspect of playing the deck.
Carabosse Vengeance BloodSource
(Very Slow) Vengeance BloodSource
Card choices and general strategy
Most Vengeance Blood lists usually attempt to play a proactive 2-drop into a proactive 3-drop, preferably Waltz. Some more aggressive lists also include Goblins as the only 1-drop available to the class, and playing a Goblin on turn 1 is pretty amazing most of the time. The downside of Goblins is that they are mediocre plays on later turns and muddle up your Dark Airjammer pulls. The dream scenario (a fairly common one at that) is going into Vengeance on turn 4 by either playing the Blood Moon or Belphegor, which enables Dark Generals, Vampy and Emeralda, and also vastly improves Silverchain Disciples, Dark Airjammers and Blood Drinker’s Brand.
Previously, there was some competition in the 5-cost slot of the deck between Airjammers and Sabreurs, however, with Waltz I personally think that Airjammers are the vastly superior option and Sabreurs are pretty optional, even in a deck with Goblins. A Vengeance list with Sabreurs can often have a questionable turn 5, where you have to play Blood Drinker’s Brands in conjunction with the other available tools to help bridge the gap before Vampy and Emeralda can come down. Some Vengeance lists choose to include a Reach of the Archdemon as anti-PDK/Forest/Sword tech, or an optional 8-drop like Maelstrom Serpent or Spawn of the Abyss, and all of those can naturally only be played after turn 6 as well.
Assuming direct control
What happens if you include multiple copies of the aforementioned Reach of the Archdemon, Maelstrom Serpent and Spawn of the Abyss into a regular Vengeance Blood shell? A lot of resources call the resulting archetype “Control Blood”, however, at its core the deck still remains a midrange tempo deck, so in this article those types of decklists are denoted as Slow Vengeance lists. Slower Vengeance usually exclude some of the aggressive tools like Goblins, some of the 2-drops and Dark Generals in order to fit in extra copies of Reach of the Archdemon, Mask of the Black Death, Spawn of the Abyss and Maelstrom Serpent. Now, don’t get me wrong, playing Maelstrom Serpent/Spawn on turn 8 and not dying in the process more or less guarantees winning the game, however the “not dying” is an important clause here. Bloodcraft doesn’t have access to quality AoE like Revelation in Rotation, so getting to turn 8, skipping the turn 8 and hoping that your opponent doesn’t have lethal or Ward followers on the following turn is naïve to say the least. In my opinion, playing more than 1 copy of Reach of the Archdemon, Maelstrom Serpent/Spawn actively makes the archetype worse. In other words, 8 is greater than 3. Who could’ve thunk it?
Vengeance Blood has generally the same matchup spread as it did pre-patch, its weaknesses include PDK Dragon, Aggro/Tempo Forest and Midrange Sword. However, the deck fares well against most other things in the format, making it a reasonable, if not the most optimal, choice for ladder games.
Midrange Sword is essentially the only playable Sword archetype, so including a list of distinguishing cards is not really possible.
What is new in Midrange Sword?
To be frank, nothing, aside from a couple of new tech options. A recent trend in Midrange Sword is the inclusion of 1-2 copies of Support Cannon, seen in a few ladder decks (SOS and Mirorin, for example) and some of the recent JCG decks. In addition to that, one of the JCG5-43 includes a copy of Assassination Jutsu as anti-PDK tech. PDK Dragon in general is a tough matchup for Midrange Sword, so teching for it makes quite a bit of sense. Council of Card Knights is a solid card and a fairly good card against Forest, which can be quite useful in a meta with abundant Forestcraft presence. In all honesty, I personally think that the best MidSword lists are something along the lines of Aguno’s list back from April, and the fancy shiny tech cards generally make you lose percentages in other matchups that you could be winning in. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, in other words. Midrange Sword has been a “solved” archetype for more than 2 months now and I don’t really understand the reason to reinvent the wheel here.
For additional explanation on the archetype, I would recommend referring to the previous report which provides additional details on the archetype. It can be found here.
Regardless of the lowered popularity, Midrange Sword is still one of the most consistent decks in the format. The main glaring issue of the archetype is its unfavored matchup against PDK Dragon, which is to be expected. The archetype’s previous counter, Artifact Portal has lost a lot of popularity due to the prevalence of Forest, and the only other currently unfavored matchup for MidSword, Summit Haven, is tough for Sword because a lot of Sword lists have dropped Momo from the deck, making it very difficult to push through a Heavenly Knight. Previous data suggest that the Summit Haven is supposed to be about even with Midrange Sword, however, that is not currently observed in the current data set, likely due to awkward tech card choices.
Identifying cards: Summit Temple (duh), Beastly Vow, March Hare’s Teatime, Featherwyrm’s Descent, Heavenly Knight
What is new in Summit Haven?
Similarly to Midrange Sword, not a whole lot. The main change after the mini-expansion is the increased popularity of Dark Jeanne, which is true for all Haven archetypes. Dark Jeanne is a good card against Forest and occasionally PDK Dragon, so most lists usually include one or two copies of the card. Out of the new cards, Tutankhamun is obviously out of the question due to its heavy anti-synergy with Summit Temple and Whitefang Temple, while not strictly bad in the archetype, is usually outperformed by Featherwyrm’s Descent, a card that was already not included in many Summit lists. When a card is outperformed by a basic card, one should really reconsider its inclusion in the deck. Whitefang Temple can be begrudgingly played in lists similar to Matomo’s one, that runs a playset of Pegasus Dullahan, however, it works awkwardly with the Dark Hind/Hallowed Dogma due to its naturally long countdown, and a somewhat unintuitive part of the card is that effects like Dullahan or enhanced Jeanne, that restore defense to multiple targets, only provide a single proc. It’s no Northshire Cleric, that’s for sure. With that said, Ceryneian Lighthind does reduce the countdown of it, which is occasionally valuable. If you manage to get two heal effects off while it’s in play, it’s a slightly better Featherwyrm’s Descent, so there might be some deckbuilding possibilities to be explored there still.
For additional explanation on the archetype, I would recommend referring to the previous report which provides additional details on the game plan and deckbuilding decisions. It can be found here.
Summit Haven is still a fairly consistent deck, having some good matchups across the board. The weaknesses of the archetype in this environment are Aggro Forest and Vengeance Blood, which are the second and fourth most popular archetypes, respectively. The good points of the archetype are its even matchup against PDK Dragon and its heavily favored matchup against Tempo Forest, which can, however, make laddering with the deck frustrating because of the matchmaking RNG. Tempo and Aggro Forest are about equally popular, so matches with Summit Haven against Forest are essentially a coinflip and depend on what you happen to be up against. Nonetheless, Summit Haven is still one of the best performing decks in the format overall, so it’s not like it’s not competitive by any means.
Hybrid Tenko HavenSource
Hybrid Tenko HavenSource
Midrange Tutankhamun HavenSource
Tutankhamun/Zodiac Demon HavenSource
Identifying cards: Happy Pig, Holy Bowman Kel, Whitefang Temple, Moon and Sun, Oceanus, Tenko’s Shrine (duh), Octobishop, Tenko, Star Priestess, Curate.
It should be said that Tenko Haven is still an emerging archetype, so there’s a lot of variety between the various decklists, e.g. Happy Pig or Snow White are cut from some lists, and Gemstone Carapace is excluded from some decklists altogether.
What is Tenko Haven?
Tenko Haven (technically Tenko’s Shrine Haven) is a midrange deck centered around Tenko’s Shrine and a large variety of healing cards. The archetype has been gaining popularity due to the newly released amulet, Whitefang Temple, providing the deck with both extra healing procs and an added reason to play healing cards. In essence, Whitefang Temple is a combination of 2 existing cards, Pegasus Sculpture and Featherwyrm’s Descent. Since it combines both effects, it is naturally slower compared to Featherwyrm’s Descent and only heals your leader instead of all allies (the latter doesn’t really make any difference). More importantly, Whitefang Temple provides Tenko Shrine with repeated healing procs every turn, and conveniently costs 3, letting you curve out with Temple on turn 3 into Tenko’s Shrine on turn 4 and mitigating some of the tempo loss of playing a 4-cost amulet.
What is the history of Tenko Haven?
It bears mentioning that the current Rotation Tenko’s Shrine Haven is loosely based on the previously existing Unlimited deck based around the Holy Bowman Kel/Pegasus Sculpture/Tenko’s Shrine package. Fascinatingly, the latest Unlimited JCG events had a lot of representation of that same Haven deck, except with the addition of Whitefang Temple. The Unlimited version of the deck essentially contains ~20 2-drops, full playsets of Kel/Pegasus Sculpture/Whitefang Temple/Tenko’s Shrine as its win condition, 3xThemis Decree and the rest of the deck consists of card draw and cycling cards. The Unlimited version of this deck basically plays 0 mid- or late-game cards and is probably one of the most unusual Shadowverse decks I have ever played. The deck feels like playing OTK Roach for the first time, in that you have to carefully plan your turns to stay alive and set up amulets for future damage turns; and also similarly to OTK Roach, your damage turns are limited by available board space.
What about the Rotation format?
The obvious difference between the 2 formats is that in Rotation there’s very few actual healing cards available, as well as Themis Decree not being in the format basically requires any type of Haven deck to at least attempt to be a more tempo-centric deck. So, what exactly are the good Haven healing cards in Rotation? There’s Happy Pig, Moon and Sun, Whitefang Temple, Oceanus and Curate. Looking closely at that list, it’s plain to see that 60% of the mentioned cards are Neutral, and even if we include Jeweled Priestess into the mix, there’s still not a lot to work with. Curate is very slow, Moon and Sun is a Clash effect, which means that if it gets removed by a spell, you’re not even getting the healing proc.
The issue of not having enough healing sources can be sidestepped in a couple of different ways. The first thing one can turn to is follower healing, since you don’t need to heal your leader for Tenko’s Shrine/Whitefang Temple to go off. Follower healing cards include Pegasus Dullahan, enhanced Jeanne and Star Bishop. The problem with those cards is that they require you to have another follower to get any benefit and since Haven doesn’t have any 1-drops or a way to stick a follower on the board, especially if you cut the early game amulets like Jeweled Carapace. A similar problem happens with the titular character of this deck archetype, Tenko. It’s difficult to get more than one healing proc off of Tenko and in a lot of games you have to use an evolve to get at least a single point of healing from Tenko altogether. Fun fact: did you know that Star Bishop’s English text has been incorrect for the last 8 months, and it can specifically only heal allied followers? It makes perfect sense, since there are no cards that can heal your opponent in Shadowverse, but still.
Anyhow, another way to get healing procs is playing followers with the “Octobishop effect”. Those can include Octobishop (duh), Ceryneian Lighthind and one of the choices from Opposing Statues. Octobishop is a card that is on the verge of playability and Ceryneian Hind is something that should be in most Haven decks in the first place. The two problems with playing Opposing Statues are the awkward statline of the token and the fact that there’s Opposing Statues in your deck. Lastly, there’s another card that I’ve personally found surprisingly good in the archetype, Star Priestess. Since Whitefang Temple usually sticks around in play for 3 or 4 turns, it’s usually still in play by the time you get to turn 6, usually with a 1 or 2 remaining Countdown. Playing Star Priestess refreshes the Countdown and summons a 6/6, which gives pretty great tempo and a lot of extra value. In addition to that, playing Star Priestess on a Moriae Encomium can be used as a quasi Necroassassin in a pinch.
To summarize, playing some combination of the aforementioned cards together with the “Tenko’s Shrine package” is the way to go. Out of the lists I’ve personally tried, the most sensible one was Berserk’s first list, which cuts Carapace to improve the odds of finding Whitefang Temple off of Globe, runs 2 copies of Kel for some extra reach and 2xPure Annihilation as anti-PDK tech. Realistically, further developments of the archetype are likely to involve combining it with a Summit Temple shell, similar to Oceanus’ list and Berserk’s second list. Taking into consideration the upcoming TotG rotation, which includes Dark Jeanne and Heavenly Aegis rotating out, Tenko’s Shrine might just be the value engine that Haven can utilize in Summit Temple lists.
Tutting your own horn
While this is not directly related to Tenko’s Shrine, I would still like to briefly mention how disappointing Tutankhamun is as a card. The last 2 decklists presented in this section are the two Tutankhamun-related decklists, the first one of which is a janky aggressive midrange Haven list that tries to stick Tutankhamun on the board and then use it with Arriet for 12 damage burst. This strategy in general doesn’t really work because clearing a Tutankhamun is surprisingly simple, you either have to deal 3+1 damage to it, or kill it regularly and then ping it for 1. In contrast with that, KoJ’s list involves utilizing Zodiac Demon with Tutankhamun, so you can play Zodiac Demon, then the Tutankhamun deals 6 random damage to something, after which it gets summoned as a 6/1, and then you can evolve it and trade with something to get another Tutankhamun for the sweet triple Tutankhamun value! Except that doesn’t work, because Tutankhamun doesn’t gain health upon evolving if he’s a 6/1 already because that would’ve made him better than an Island Whale and we can’t have that. My disappointment is immeasurable and my day is ruined.
The stats on Tenko Haven are fairly limited and the deck is not very optimized, but the deck has some potential against midrange decks that try to go wide on the board with low health followers like PDK Dragon and Tempo Forest, however, more resilient followers pose a problem for the deck, so it can struggle against Sword and Blood. In addition to that, the deck is fairly slow and doesn’t put on that much pressure, so it gets crushed by Giant Chimera and Neutral Rune. Tenko Haven is in most circumstances worse than Summit Haven due to having slower games and generally worse matchups, so it’s not really worth playing in any environment over Summit Haven, however, the deck has a lot of novelty and is about 20-30 thousand vials cheaper to play than Summit lists. To put it simply, Summit Haven is a better archetype for Spikes, and Tenko’s Shrine is better suited for Johnny players, so the archetype has some merit.
Identifying cards: Insight, Mysterian Knowledge, Magic Owl, Magic Missile, Runie, Fiery Embrace, Chimera, Giant Chimera, Flame Destroyer.
The deck skeleton includes the key cards of a regular Spellboost Rune decklist. Some of the 2- and 3-costing spells can be swapped for one another based on preference.
What is new in Spellboost Rune?
Spellboost Rune has not gotten any playable new cards in the mini-expansion. Bergent is a really bizarre card that is probably supposed to be a card for some sort of Conjuring Force/D-Shift deck that totally exists out there. Bergent almost passes the vanilla test and the Onions are cute, so while the card itself is currently unplayable, it could potentially find a home in a deck somewhere down the line.
The main changes to Spellboost Rune come from refining the previously-existing decklists and trying out different cards and card packages. The general trend in Spellboost Rune is the inclusion of Nova Flare, since the environment is finally populated with enough small followers that get swept up by Nova Flare. Another thing that comes to mind when thinking about the conventional Spellboost lists is the common 1-of inclusion of Unbodied Witch. Unbodied Witch is a very slow card that can be used to copy cards that reduce their cost with spellboosts, namely Fiery Embraces, Chimeras and even Flame Destroyers. If you can somehow save an evolve point until turn 9, you can even play the copied cards immediately. In that scenario Chimeras are preferable since they impact the board immediately and are followers that provide pressure. Fiery Embraces don’t provide any board development, and Flame Destroyers don’t interact with the opponent’s board.
In addition to the conventional Spellboost Rune builds, a few players have tried hybrid builds with some elements of Dirt Rune that could allow to enable Master Mage Levi as a source of AoE. In a similar vein, utilizing various card generation tools such as Stella, Beastfaced Mage and Moon and Sun can potentially be an activator for Abomination Awakened.
For a basic game plan and card choices of Spellboost Rune, I would recommend referring to the previous report, which can be found here.
Snowy Spellboost RuneSource
Hybrid Spellboost RuneSource
Hybrid Spellboost RuneSource
Abom Spellboost RuneSource
Abom Spellboost RuneSource
Manaria Burn RuneSource
Manaria Burn RuneSource
Hulking Giant Dirt RuneSource
Spellboost decks usually prey on slower decks such as Ramp Dragon, most forms of Haven and Neutral Rune. Essentially, if the Spellboost player can stall the game long enough to play Giant Chimera without dying on the backswing, the Spellboost Rune should be well on its way to winning. However, fast openings (e.g. a Goblin on turn 1 and a 1/3 on turn 2) are usually too much pressure for Spellboost Rune to handle, and the early chip damage can add up quick, which is dangerous against decks with a lot of reach such as PDK Dragon, Aggro Forest and Vengeance Blood. Spellboost Rune is not a very competitive ladder deck, however, in a tournament environment it can be used in certain lineups as an answer to Ramp Dragon, for example.
Identifying cards: Elta, Happy Pig, Witch of Sweets, Shining Bellring Angerl, Hector, Illusionist, Falise, Lion Champion, Ginger, Israfil, Zeus.
Where’s the Oceanus?
The new neutral 4-drop, Oceanus, has found a home in a couple existing decks such as Tenko Haven and Neutral Forest, however, since the card replaces itself with a spell after it’s played, Oceanus has awkward anti-synergy with Mysterian Grimoire and disrupts the consistency of Abomination activations.
Aside from that, the general changes to Neutral Rune come from the refinement of the archetype over the course of the last 2 months, in particular, there’s the common inclusion of 2xLion Champions in every list as a countermeasure against Forest that can also be played on Ginger turns. In a similar vein, most recent Neutral Rune lists include 2xShining Bellringer Angel because the presence of Haven/Portal, classes with banish effects that can deny the card draw from Bellringer, has gone down significantly with the meta shift, so Bellringer has become that much more reliable as an Abomination activator and a way to refill your hand after Ginger turns.
The general game plan of Neutral Rune has largely remained the same, however the overall environment has become a lot more aggressive after the mini-expansion. In particular, the Vengeance Blood matchup is pretty miserable for Neutral Rune because the deck doesn’t include any reactive cards to deal with an early Waltz. In addition to that, PDK Dragon and Aggro Forest, decks that can go wide on board early on, are an issue for Neutral Rune, since aside from an early Abomination activation the deck can only answer one follower at a time, or two followers starting from turn 5. So, against those archetypes, some chip damage inevitably slips by. In addition to that, Emeralda (and Vampy with an evolve point) is a great card at pushing through Wards, the main defensive measure present in Neutral Rune. To address the wide board problem, it’s possible to include a copy or two of Nova Flare, but adding in spells generally reduces the effectiveness of Grimoire by 2.5% for every included spell, so if you have 2 Nova Flares in your deck, for example, there is a 5.06% chance that your Grimoire is a fluke and the Abomination doesn’t get activated when you expect it to, so there is a delicate balance to maintain here. With that in mind, hybrid Dirt/Neutral Ginger lists similar to Anenegeki’s one that use Concentration in place of Grimoire can more easily include Nova Flares and even Master Mage Levi as sources of AoE, however the price for doing so is losing access to Witch of Sweets, Hector and Falise, which makes you lose percentages in other matchups.
For basic information and card choices in Neutral Rune, I’d recommend referring to the previous Meta Insight report, which can be found here.
Neutral Rune is a deck with a lot of favored matchups, and the only archetypes it really struggles against are Vengeance Blood and PDK Dragon, for reasons discussed in the previous sections. In general, however, Neutral Rune is a very versatile and straightforward archetype to play, so unless you’re literally playing against exclusively Vengeance Blood, it’s a good choice for ladder games. Neutral Rune also sees a lot of tournament play, because a lot of lineups in JCG, for example, are Dragon/Forest, and both of those classes are what Neutral Rune does fine against.
Identifying cards: Lord Deathskull, Skull Ring, Prince Catacomb, Mischievous Spirit, Badb Catha, Eachtar.
All of the 2-ofs in the provided deck skeleton can range from 1 to 3 copies in most lists. Lord Deathskull can be swapped out for other 2-drops.
What is new in Midrange Shadow?
Shadow got 2 playable cards in the mini-expansion, one of which (Arcus) has become a staple in most Shadow decklists, and the other one (Lord Deathskull) is, in my opinion, the weakest out of the cycle of the new 1/3 2-drops. Lord Deathskull is essentially the Bone Bug 2.0, since it’s a defensively-statted 2-drop that requires you to have another follower in play to get a small extra benefit. It should be mentioned that the prevalence of Forest and PDK Dragon makes 2-cost 1/3s good plays against those classes, since it can trade with Fairy tokens and various 1-health followers in PDK. I personally don’t think that Lord Deathskull is a particularly good 2-drop, since it trades pretty awkwardly against anything that is not Forest/Dragon, but it’s better than other options available to Shadow at the moment (Paradise Vanguard/Bone Bug/Spartoi Sergeant). It should also be mentioned that Lord Deathskull is the only one of the new 2-drops that gains full stats on evolve and even upgrades his Last Words effect. I haven’t seen the scenario come up often, but it can potentially provide some good tempo. My impression of the card probably has to do with the dissonance between the name/card art and its puny stats combined with the low-impact Last Words effect. I have no doubt in my mind that there is an obscure metal band called “Death Skull” somewhere out there.
Something strange in your neighborhood
The other new Shadow card in the mini-expansion is Arcus. After the Thane nerf, Midrange Shadow has been in need of a proactive 7-drop that can be played on a neutral or advantageous board state, and Arcus at the very least fills that niche in the archetype. Arcus is a very unique card, if we were to compare it to another existing card, I’d say that Arcus is the Shadowcraft’s Deus ex Machina, because after playing Arcus the playstyle of the deck changes completely. Before Arcus, Midrange Shadow is a deck that uses small weenies to get ahead on the board, but playing Arcus essentially turns all your cheap followers into shadow generators that spawn Ghosts when played. Basically, every cheap follower in your hand is transformed into a Phantom Howl.
Most followers that cost 3 or less deal 1 damage worth of Ghosts when played, however there are a few important cards that break that formula. The first one is Mischievous Spirit, which costs 1 and spawns 2 Ghosts. This is not particularly impressive in and of itself, but when used in conjunction with Eachtar, Mischieveous Spirits can deal a lot of Storm damage. For example, if you have 5 shadows, double Mischievous Spirit into Eachtar does 12 damage. Fortunately, Eachtar doesn’t give your leader +2 attack when played, because that type of combo would be pretty obnoxious if it dealt 14 damage on turn 9. With that said, you can emulate the HCT 2014 experience if you have an evolve point available at that point in the game.
Another card that breaks the formula is Badb Catha, due to its Enhance effect. For example, playing 2 2-drops into Badb Catha on turn 10 does 10 damage, a 3-drop (e.g. Purehearted Singer/Strix) into Badb Catha does 9, and so on. Theoretically one could play Mischievous Spirit into a 9-cost Bad Catha, which does 8 damage on that turn and adds 3 more damage on the following turn, but personally I haven’t seen it come up yet in a real game. There are also some miscellaneous effects that come up from the individual card’s abilities, e.g. Purehearted Singer drawing 2 cards instantly, Belenus dealing 1 random damage, using Demon Eater on Ghosts which creates 2 more Ghosts, using Troth’s Curse on a Ghost after attacking your opponent, and so on.
Aggressive Midrange ShadowSource
Dark Alice ShadowSource
(Essentially pre-patch) Midrange ShadowSource
There are a few splits between played cards at a few important mana slots. The first split is between Mischievous Spirits and Goblins, the former are better post-Arcus, while the latter are better at contesting the board in the early game, particularly against Aggro Forest. The 2-drops in Midrange Shadow are almost entirely based on preference, but the general idea is that you should have around 15 2-drops (not counting Zombie Parties and Troth’s Curse), which can be some combination of Paradise Vanguards, Soulsquashers, Belenus, Andrealphus, Demon Eaters, Lord Deathskull, Bone Bugs, Orators of Bones, and so on.
After the Corpselord buff, a lot of Midrange Shadow decks started including the card, and a consequence, the archetype started including 1-drops almost universally. Having 4 shadows on turn 4 is pretty difficult without 1-drops or Skull Ring, after all. Ceres is another 4-drop that competes for the same role as Corpselord (since Ceres also costs 4 and usually demands an evolve), so most lists play one or the other. Corpselord is a better proactive card, while Ceres is specifically only really good against Forest, and fairly mediocre against other classes. A fairly common recent addition to the deck is Everdark Strix, which can cycle a card, healing for 1 and generating 1 shadow, which slightly helps out Corpselord consistency. A good target for Strix is Arcus if you have multiple copies in hand since the effect doesn’t stack and you don’t need more than one 7-cost 6/6. The only 2 other cards that should be mentioned are Aisha and Odile, both of which are somewhat optional in the archetype. Odile is good against Forest and PDK Dragon; Aisha is somewhat greedy, but having access to Aisha for when you can’t draw Arcus or don’t have enough time to play Arcus because you’re pressured can be a good backup plan.
Alice fair in love and war
I would also like to briefly mention Asahi’s Dark Alice/Test of Strength deck that takes a different take on the lockdown strategy. The plan for that deck is to play DAlice with ToS, after which you can use Dungeon Explorer Chloe in conjunction with Arriet to ignore the opponent’s Wards (caused by Test of Strength) and do damage through ToS every turn. The general idea with ToS/DAlice decks is that every time Test of Strength expires on your turn, you get to deal 5 damage for free, then play another ToS, and so on. Using Chloe instead doubles the speed of the clock, allowing you to attack for 5 on every turn instead of every other turn, and Arriet adds an extra 5 damage at the end as well. The problem, however, is that you have 10 total Neutral cards (which is 2-3 more than usual for that type of strategy), so you’re making a gamble on drawing your second ToS in time.
What happened to Reanimate Shadow?
In the previous reports it was mentioned that Reanimate Shadow needs another big reanimate target like Zeus to be consistent, and the mini-expansion didn’t have one such target, so Reanimate Shadow has mostly disappeared from ladder altogether. The upcoming rotation includes Zeus leaving the format, so the future viability of Reanimate Shadow remains to be seen. The new Bahamut might be a good enough Reanimate target for the deck, but it’s a little too early to tell at this point if the deck’s going to be playable or not. However, we should be able to see soon enough if there’s an Eternal Potion waiting for Reanimate Shadow in the new expansion or if the archetype gets buried completely.
Midrange Shadow is generally not very competitive and is unfavored against most of the decks in the format. MidShadow has traditionally been good against Ramp Dragon, but that’s just about the only good matchup that the deck can find in the current environment.
Identifying cards: Biofabrication, Acceleratium, Iron staff Mechanic, Can Cannoneer, Ironforged Fighter, Safira.
The provided deck skeleton is the list of cards included in the majority of optimized Artifact Portal lists. Hakrabi is occasionally replaced by Spinaria.
What is new in Artifact Portal?
One of the new cards in this mini-expansion, Electromagical Rhino, is a new mediocre tool for Artifact Portal. In a standard Artifact list Prime Artifacts are incredibly clunky because they cost 7, and so a 7-drop that shuffles more 7-drops into your deck, which in turn shuffle more 7-drops and so on, is essentially useless. A card that can indefinitely shuffle 3 copies of itself into your deck is a novel idea that has never been in any digital card game to date, especially if you take in consideration that every consecutive Rhino gets stronger and stronger. So, if you play an Electromagical Rhino, then later on it can allow you to summon an even larger Rhino, which will then allow you to summon an even larger and larger Rhino and so on.
If we were to evaluate Electromagical Rhino fairly, then for a 7-cost Rush minion it would need to have at least 6 attack to pass the vanilla test. Passing the vanilla test in Portal is not good enough, because Portalcraft can play cards that cost 2-3pp (Ancient Artifacts) at effectively 0pp, so the Rhinos have to have at least 10-12 attack to be worth playing, and even then you can’t play more than 1 Rhino per turn. Well, you can technically play exactly 2 if you have 3 Acceleratium in play or use the corresponding number of Biofabrications, but that’s not really realistic in an actual game. So, to put it simply, Rhinos are more or less completely unusable. If they had been slight less expensive (with lower stats to compensate, of course), you could potentially include a 1-of Rhino in a Miracle-type of deck, where you try to cycle through your deck as fast as possible and go infinite with Rhinos once your deck is empty. The problem with doing that, however, is that it’s literally 3 or 4 times slower than winning a game in a regular way. Anyhow, to give an example of how a deck with Electromagical Rhino might look like, I would recommend looking at Noah’s or Rizer’s lists. I wouldn’t recommend playing either of them, but there’s certainly no harm in looking.
New tech cards
To briefly go over what changed in actual Portal decks after the mini-expansion, the main point that jumps to mind is the various anti-PDK tech options. Prime Dragon Keeper is difficult for Portal to clear because it can’t be attacked by followers, which is how most of the board control is done in Portal. So, in order to overcome that weakness, the most popular option is Rocket Knuckles, which can even clear an evolved PDK, something that even Substitution can’t touch. In addition to that, Otherworld Rift is an expensive, but reliable way to get rid of any problematic follower. In addition to those 2 options, one card that I’ve personally ran into on ladder is Devil of the Gaps, picking Blade of Dark from it and using it on PDK allows you to remove its abilities and clear it in a conventional way. The major problem with Devil of the Gaps lies in the fact that in the flavor text of both of the Sword tokens, she’s referred to as “Demon of the Gaps”. Literally unplayable.
Aside from that, nothing really changed for regular Artifact Portal. For basic explanation of the archetype’s deckbuilding decision and strategy, I would recommend referring to the previous report, which can be found here.
(Pre-Patch) Artifact PortalSource
That Which Erases/Rhino PortalSource
Looking at the matchup spread of Artifact Portal, the reason for decline in the popularity of the archetype should be fairly evident. 3 out of the 4 most popular decks in format beat Artifact Portal 75-80% of the time. The archetype still does well against Midrange Sword and is a little unfavored against Vengeance Blood, but, unless there’s a massive shift in the metagame, Artifact Portal is going to continue having a miserable time in the current environment.
Identifying cards: Puppeteer’s Strings, Spinaria, Orchis, Noah.
All of the Puppet Portal lists come from a common source, so they share a lot of cards as a result.
Like a puppet whose strings had been cut
Puppet Portal has gotten a tiny surge of popularity after the realization that Puppeteer’s Strings might be a good card in the format against Forest and PDK Dragon. However, the archetype still has glaring weaknesses against other common ladder archetypes. For the most part, the main problem of Puppet Portal is that aside from the deck’s finishers (Orchis/Noah), there are a whopping total 2 good Puppet-generating cards in the entire game: Substitution and Puppeteer’s Strings. Mysteriously, every single Puppet card aside from those 4 is either attached to followers with unplayable statlines or overcosted by about 1 play point.
The newly released Heartless Battle is no exception here. The card is costed at 5 play points, and gives you the choice of summoning either a Victoria or a Lloyd. Victoria is slightly better than a regular 3/2 Rush follower, which makes her worth somewhere around 4 play points. Lloyd is a 1/4 Ward that has the Galretto effect, so it’s worth about 3 play points. Initially, when trying to remember what Lloyd does, I thought that he also comes with a “restore 3 defense at the end of your turn” effect, however, that’s actually part of defensive Orchis’s effect. Heartless Battle would be a fair card at 4, and could even cost 3 if Cygames wanted to push Portal really badly, but with its current cost it’s about as good as Europa. Has anyone ever played Europa in a deck? Europa could at least get Storm with the Enhance ability for 1 face damage, but casting Heartless Battle for its Enhance cost only enhances the disappointment.
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.