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, tech cards and common play patterns.

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Ramp Dragon

The presented deck skeleton is for the “standard” variation of Ramp Dragon, with the primary win condition of Prince of Cocytus (colloquially referred to as “Satan”). Alterplane Arbiter can be swapped out for other 7-drops like Steelclad Minotaur and Vile Violet Dragon (VVD is a “7-drop” since it usually needs an activator). Azi Dahaka builds can occasionally cut cards like Roy and Annerose for other early game options.

Mulligan priority

  • Always keep Dragon Oracle, Dragoncleaver Roy.
  • Keep Aiela/Annerose going second. Against Portal/Rune or in Dragon mirrors keep either Aiela or Annerose even when going first.
  • Keep a 2-drop against board-centric classes like Sword/Forest/Shadow. Good 2-drops include Filene, Servant, Zealot and Masamune.
  • Keep Servant of Disdain with an early activator (either Disciple of Disdain or Disdainful Rending). Servant with an activator can be played on turn 3, so ideally you’d want a 2-drop along with that if you’re playing against Sword/Forest/Shadow.
  • Keep Poseidon and Righteous Dragoon against specifically Forest.

Ramp Dragon mulligans are fairly straightforward, the best thing to do as Dragon in the early game is ramping. In my personal statistics, Dragon Oracle is the best performing card to keep in your opening hand, followed by Roy. Oracle and Roy make perfect sense since they’re part of the “Dragon high-roll suite”, meaning cards are extremely good early on and fall off in usefulness as the game continues. Aiela/Annerose also fit into that category, and Aiela is generally a higher priority since it costs 1 less; e.g., you can play Roy into Aiela+Dragonlife Blade, but you can’t do that with Annerose. Against decks that try to put pressure on the Dragon player (with 1-drops and good 2-drops), it is important to contest the early boards and not take too much face damage early on since Dragon doesn’t really have much healing. The most egregious examples of that include Forest and Sword, since those classes punish you for not contesting the board with either board-wide stat buffs (Forest) or spell damage (read: Galmieux) immunity (Sword).

What does Ramp Dragon do?

Ramp Dragon is a deck archetype focused around getting extra play points with cards like Dragon Oracle, Aiela and Dragoncleaver Roy and playing big followers earlier than they’re supposed to. The finishers of the archetype include Galmieux, Alterplane Arbiter, Poseidon (especially combined with Masamune), as well as either Satan or Azi Dahaka (depending on the build). Satan builds usually run more ramp effects, while Azi Dahaka builds include tempo cards like Waters of the Orca in the Roy/Annerose slot.

(Satan) Ramp Dragon skeleton

Ramp Dragon

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(Hybrid) Ramp Dragon

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(Azi Dahaka) Ramp Dragon

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(Azi Dahaka) Ramp Dragon

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(Azi Dahaka) Ramp Dragon

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(Azi Dahaka) Ramp Dragon

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Optional inclusions and tech cards

  • Dragoncleaver Roy and Annerose are (technically optional) ramp cards that I would personally consider core in the Satan build. The exact amount of desired ramp cards depends on the type of Dragon build and the overall meta. Doing the math (see Addendum 1) leads to the conclusion that at least 9 ramp cards are required to consistently ramp twice by turn 6, and the common build for Satan Ramp Dragon usually includes 11 or 12 (with either 2 or 3 Annerose). Azi Dahaka builds sometimes cut either Roy or Annerose, skirting close to the “magic number” of 9 total ramp cards.
  • Alterplane Arbiter is the “default” 7-drop in Ramp Dragon after the Vile Violet Dragon nerf, but it can be swapped out for either Steelclad Minotaur or Vile Violet Dragon. Alterplane Arbiter is the most well-rounded and proactive option of the three, generally being the best option against Portal, Haven, Rune and in Dragon mirrors. Doing the math of Alterplane Arbiter outcomes (see Addendum 2) shows that it commonly generates a lot of proactive tempo, making it the most common option of the three. Steelclad Minotaur is the defensive anti-aggro option that does well against specifically Forest and Shadow. Vile Violet Dragon is still preferred by some players even after the nerf, but I personally consider it the worst option of the three. VVD specifically demands a board where it can evolve into something with 4 attack or less, and you have to constrain your play by saving an activator for it. Against a lot of common meta decks (MidSword, Mysteria Rune, Lishenna Portal), VVD is very awkward to find an opening for.
  • Righteous Dragoon is a tech card against Shadow/Forest/Sword. 1-damage AoE is valuable in more ways than one: not only does it clean up Fairy/Knight tokens, but it can also serve as an activator for Servant of Disdain and even VVD (in decks that play the card). In the late game, it’s possible to set up “miracle” turns with Masamune and Servants and draw cards in a similar fashion to the Wild Pyromancer/Commanding Shout utilizing Masamune‘s damage prevention effect to get multiple card draw procs. The Demonic Strike option is the one you usually pick against Dragon/Rune/Haven, . Righteous Dragoon competes with Roy/Annerose, and can be a correct inclusion as a 2-of or 3-of in that card slot, and not only for the tokusatsu nostalgia factor.
  • Purevoiced Dragoon is a tech card against Rune/Blood/Forest. Dragoon provides healing against decks that try to hit your face with burn damage and can get you out of range of various Maisha/Anne’s Sorcery-type effects (although Wards are better against Maisha, since getting to the 16 damage threshold with Maisha is very common). Standard Dragon lists can default to 1-2xPurevoiced Dragoon to get a little more value in the midgame.
  • Lyria is a greedy tech card against Lishenna Portal and for Ramp Dragon mirrors. Lyria naturally is only played in specifically Arbiter/Satan Dragon builds, where it’s played on turn 8 and either pulls an Arbiter and generates a lot of immediate tempo or tutors out Satan for next turn. Naturally, Lyria works the same way in Steelclad Minotaur decks as well. The problem with Lyria (apart from the RNG factor) is that Dragon has a lot of competition among the early game cards and cutting any of them for a (more or less) vanilla 1/1 makes your early game less consistent. I personally think that Lyria is worse than Filene/Righteous Dragoon/Annerose/etc. and it’s too greedy to include it in your deck unless you’re specifically only facing Ramp Dragon and Lishenna Portal.
  • Waters of the Orca is an optional card in Azi Dahaka builds, since those usually include less value-oriented cards, and Waters of the Orca is very flexible and commonly generates a lot of tempo if you ramp into it. Waters is fairly weak against Lishenna Portal (due to Refrain) and decks that generate wide boards like MidSword/Shadow/Lion Haven/Mysteria Rune, but it’s a proactive option on neutral board states or when you’re slightly ahead. Waters don’t fit well into Satan lists, since those prioritize ramp effects and have proactive plays like Arbiter/Satan that do more than a pile of vanilla 2/2s.
  • Pyrewyrm Commander is a tech card for Lishenna tokens that is sometimes played in Azi Dahaka lists. Satan builds don’t really need extra Amulet-banishing cards because the Satan deck has 2 such effects already.
  • Tllaloc saw a bit of play in the early post-mini-expansion Dragon builds as it is a good play on turns 4 and 7, but since it competes with Aiela/Annerose for evolve points and the effect doesn’t really ever get to go off outside of evolve turns, it’s not really a desirable card.

Impact of the mini-expansion

There are 2 factors that led to Dragon’s rampant popularity after the mini-expansion: firstly, Annerose makes Ramp Dragon a lot more consistent at what it does, and secondly, although it’s mostly relevant for ladder play, the popularity of Lishenna/Maisha Portal bodes well for Ramp Dragon because of Satan‘s amulet-banishing effects. Both of these factors have even changed the “default” build for Ramp Dragon from tempo-based Azi Dahaka lists to Satan-centric, more reactive builds, at least in my opinion (since there were players who preferred Satan before the mini-expansion and there are players who prefer Azi Dahaka now). Generally, most Satan lists play 2-3 Annerose with full playsets of Dragon Oracle/Aiela/Roy, and Annerose is mostly just a worse Aiela that has a bit of extra oomph in the mid-late game since it can ping 1-health followers and enable Filene‘s tokens. A neat thing about Annerose is that you can ramp and get the 1-damage ping on the same turn if you get to 7 total play points, e.g. if you play Oracle on 2 and evolve Aiela on turn 5, you still get the 1-damage ping and still fit in a Rending/Disciple of Disdain, which can be relevant against Sword/Forest/Shadow.

From a design perspective, Annerose is supposed to be a (powered down, arguably) replacement for Aiela which will rotate out at the end of March. The awkward part of the story is that both Aiela and Annerose are legal in the same format, so Ramp Dragon has access to 4 different playable card effects. Ironically, Dragon had the same exact “problem” before the format split, when the archetype had access to 4 different ramp effects (Dragon Oracle/old Aiela/Sybil/Draconic Fervor) combined with powerful neutral finishers with the “Saha package”. Of course, one could point to other design mistakes (with such examples as the entire Tempest of the Gods set or narrow cases like Prime Dragon Keeper or Queen of the Dread Sea or the Bahamut “nerf-but-we-forgot-about-this-one-silly-interaction-because-we-only-do-playtesting-with-paper-cards-from-the-basic-set-whoops-haha”) that made Dragon powerful in the past, however, in my opinion, Dragon as a class has always had a tricky balance between having few playable ramp effects and relatively slow high-cost class-specific cards. The balance gets broken whenever Dragon’s ramp cards are too high in quality and whenever there’s a Neutral finisher that slots into the deck. So why is the number of exactly 4 good ramp effects so important? The main factor is that with 8-9 total ramp cards the “ramp plan” works 70% of the time, and with 11-12 the probability goes up to roughly ~90%, thus making the archetype that much more consistent. There’s clearly a fall-off point, where adding more ramp effects wouldn’t really affect the odds too much (since ramp effects become redundant after ramping 3 times). For concrete probabilities, refer to Addendum 1.

Is Satan bad?

Satan is a bit of a controversial Dragon card, in more ways than one: on one hand, it’s a vanilla 7/7 for 9, and even in Dragon, unless you’ve ramped 2-3 times, the card can be stranded in your hand and difficult to play; and on the other hand, the draw variance of the “Cocytus deck” is extremely high, so even if you play Satan without being under too much pressure, you can still sometimes draw poorly and lose after the fact. Regarding the “7/7 for 9” point, there are 2 aspects to this: on one hand, Satan is on average bad against a lot of decks like Mysteria Rune and Midrange Sword/Shadow, but, on the other hand, if you’re having a high-roll ramp draw and play it on turn 6, it can close out games very quickly if you draw your deck in the right order. It’s good to plan for the post-Satan turn because Satan can whiff if you draw the wrong part of the deck, and either saving card draw in the form of Dragon Oracle/Disciple of Disdain or a good follow-up option, e.g. Galmieux or Poseidon with or without Masamune, can smooth out the more awkward Cocytus deck draws. And saving card draw for after you play Satan is generally correct because the cards in the Cocytus deck are on average better than regular Dragon cards (with rare exceptions).

Regarding the draw variance part, it is important to keep track of the cards in the Cocytus deck, and a simple way to do so is to split the Satan cards into parts that are easier to keep track of, based on the card function:

  • Card draw: Infernal Surge (draw 3), Infernal Gaze (draw 1), Heavenfall (draw 1). These cards give you more options and are generally what you should play first on any turn that you get the chance to do so. Saving Infernal Gaze against Mysteria Rune’s turn 10 usually gives you an extra turn, and you should save Heavenfall against Lishenna tokens; but aside from those cases, cycling cards is a lot better than not doing so, when your deck is as good as it is.
  • Reactive cards: b>Vicious Commander (Fanfare: deal 4 to a follower, Evolve: deal 6), Earthfall (destroys all non-Neutral followers), Heretical Hellbeast (8/8 Ward, destroys all other followers, hits your face), Wrathful Icefiend (recovers 2 Evolve points) and Scion of Desire (destroys a random Follower and heals you at EoT). These cards are board control tools and are often what you’re looking for against most regular decks in a game of Shadowverse. The most notable of those is Earthfall, which deals with most midrange things, with the exception of Gilnelise (mostly relevant against MidShadow), as well as Arbiter/Satan and Satan‘s tokens (particularly relevant in Dragon mirrors). Apart from that, Icefiend can be used with Storm followers for extra face damage, Heretical Hellbeast is a Ward, and Scion of Desire can snipe Ambush followers (particularly relevant against Gilnelise in Shadow, sometimes matters against Sword as well).
  • Face damage: Scorpion of Greed (7 damage Storm Drain), Flamelord of Deceit (5 damage Storm, banishes Amulets), Gluttonous Behemoth (7-9 damage at EoT) and Astaroth’s Reckoning (1 damage off). These 4 cards are what you’re digging for if you’re not in an immediate danger of dying. Among them, the most efficient card by far is Scorpion of Greed, since it only costs 6 and also heals you for 7. Behemoth goes through Wards, which is often relevant against Mysteria Rune. Astaroth’s Reckoning costs 10 and is generally not something that you look to play unless you’re under no pressure and can set up a 2-turn lethal; or if your opponent doesn’t clear a Follower from your board or play any Wards for some reason. This category of cards is important to keep track of when playing Dragon or against Dragon, on one hand, so that you don’t run out of damage and have enough to close out the game (the entire Cocytus deck has 19 damage without using Evolve points for face damage, not counting Astaroth’s), which can be relevant in Dragon mirrors, and, on the other hand, so that you know what clock you’re on against Dragon. It is important to note that all of these effects don’t work against Nilpotent Entity-type damage prevention effects.
  • Amulet-banishing effects: Heavenfall and Flamelord of Deceit. These are the cards that you’re digging for against Lishenna Portal to answer Destruction in Black. It may seem tempting to Heavenfall a Destruction in White sometimes, but it’s generally incorrect because even a 5-damage clock is not something to scoff at. Against Lishenna Portal, it can even be correct to play Satan for its Accelerate cost (before your 9 mana turn) to get a shot at extra amulet-banishing effects, since that deck can’t really build a board and usually doesn’t apply much pressure. This is only to be done when you have more than one Satan in your hand, of course. In addition to that, getting rid of Acceleratium or the Barong amulet is also valuable against non-Lishenna decks.
  • Demon of Purgatory (6-drop that discards a random card from the opponent). This card has a very narrow effect and is fairly expensive, so it often gets stuck in your hand and commonly never gets played. While it may seem tempting to go for a 1-in-X discard on cards like Anne’s Sorcery/Maisha/etc., it is usually only correct if it’s your only possible out, and if you’re betting the outcome of a game on winning a specific 1/4 or 1/5, that means you’re in bad shape to begin with. Demon of Purgatory is more or less a trap that you should try to avoid if it’s at all possible.

Satan is a card that, while somewhat random, is an example of a finisher card that takes a bit of finesse to execute or play around. On one hand, the range of possible effects varies by a lot, but on the other hand, all the outcomes are only 1-ofs, so both players have the information on which of the effects are left. At this point in time, it appears that Satan is the more consistent finisher that Azi Dahaka, although that is somewhat meta-dependent, and it could be argued that without Lishenna decks being as popular as they are currently, Satan could be worse than Genesis Dragon, for example, if decks like Aggro Forest and MidShadow were more popular. As much as the first half of the following statement contradicts my religious beliefs, Satan is good, even if it could get worse in the future.

Addendum 1: ramp probability

A simple way to estimate the probability of drawing a particular number of ramp cards is to use the hypergeometric distribution (where the lot size is 40, number of successes in the lot is equal to the number of ramp effects in the deck, and the sample size is equal to the number of cards drawn). I made a few additional assumptions in my calculations and made a decision tree to estimate the impact of card draw and establish a correlation between the turn number and the amount of cards drawn. The assumptions are as follows:

  • The deck contains a number of ramp cards from 6 to 12.
  • I assume that the there are 6 total card draw effects in the deck (full playsets of Disciples and Servants of Disdain). This assumption is a little dubious since both of those cards are conditional, and take a simplified idea of the cards, where if you draw any of them, you draw an extra card if it’s turn 3 or later. This is obviously not what’s written on the cards since both of these effects are conditional, which is why it is a simplification. In addition to this, some lists play 2xDisciples instead of 3, but the difference between 5 and 6 card draw effects is not that significant and is omitted (since it would double the amount of calculations, basically).
  • Sometimes (50% of the time) you get to draw 1 extra card because you’re going second.
  • I assume that ramp effect are redundant after drawing 3 (drawing 4 or more counts as drawing 3 for the averages), because at that point you get to 9 play points on turn 6, and 10 play points is the maximum amount.
  • I make the assumption that you don’t get to draw more than 3 cards from Disciples/Servants for two reasons: on one hand, the odds of getting more than 3 out of 6 card draw effects are diminishingly small so adding up all the 3+ card draw probabilities (basically, the odds of hitting 3+ card draw effects are calculated as a sum of hitting 3, 4, 5 and 6) doesn’t affect the overall probabilities much, and on the other hand, in a real game of Shadowverse, you eventually run out of activators for Servants and targets for Disciples, so you rarely get to draw more than 3, if only due to “common sense” constraints. Naturally, if you’re going second, you can draw up to 4 extra cards.
  • In previous calculations of this type, I made the assumption that mulligans can be estimated as drawing 1-2 extra cards, however, after further consideration and discussion with other players, I’ve come to a realization that such an assumption inflates the probability numbers and isn’t really founded on reality. For that reason, I didn’t include any estimate on how mulligans affect the odds, in essence, I assume that mulligans are done randomly. Personally, I’m not entirely sure if there is a simple way to estimate the impact of mulligan decisions, since they depend on a variety of factors: deck composition, matchup, going first or second, etc. Long story short, I’m out of ideas.

The resulting graph shows the probabilities of having a specific number of ramp cards in hand by turn X for different deck configurations. The button in the lower left corner switches the graph to show separate lines based on the turn# for different numbers of ramp cards in the deck (the “change projection” refers to the fact that the resulting function is based on two parameters, turn number and number of ramp cards, so it’s possible to plot it as a 3-dimensional graph). Notable conclusions here are that in order to on average ramp twice by turn 6, it it necessary to have 8 (preferably 9) different ramp cards in the deck. Raising the number of ramp effects to 12 improves the average by roughly 0.6 ramp cards in hand (to about 2.6 ramp effects on average). Notably, there’s a small incline in the graph that happens after turn 3, which corresponds to the impact of card draw effects (since the estimate I used only allowed to draw cards after turn 2). In addition to that, changing the projection and looking at the lines for turns 5-6 shows that ramp cards have diminishing returns, since the lines start to converge to a constant value. E.g., the difference between decks with 6 and 7 total ramp cards is 0.228 average ramp cards by turn 6, but the difference between 11 and 12 is only 0.111! Specific probability numbers are shown in tooltips if you hover over specific points on the graph.

Addendum 2: Alterplane Arbiter probabilities

A point of interest in recent Ramp Dragon builds is the random aspect of Alterplane Arbiter pulls. A simple way to estimate the impact of Alterplane Arbiter is to look at the costs of the cards that you get from Arbiter and see how often it gives you something that is immediately playable. With that in mind, I have sorted through the possible 2-card Arbiter outcomes using the following assumptions:

  • Each class has 11 basic cards, meaning that there are 110 possible 2-card combinations (because Arbiter pulls different basic cards), and if they’re sorted in order of ascending cost, half of the combinations are thus duplicates, meaning a total of 55 unique combinations per class.
  • In each of the combinations, there’s a cheaper card and a more expensive card. The costs used are with the 3-mana discount applied.
  • I assume that there are 2 “unplayable” cards: Royal Banner and Hallowed Dogma. The costs for unplayable cards is set to 10, and Dogma is only unplayable if it doesn’t come in the same 2-card combination as an Amulet. E.g., a Scripture/Dogma pair is assumed to cost 0/10, while Beastly Vow/Hallowed Dogma costs 0/0. Counting Royal Banner as unplayable may seem dubious, but in my experience of playing Ramp Dragon the card often gets stuck in your hand and playing it either has no effect or is actively detrimental due to board space concerns (since it can block Poseidon, for example).
  • I assume that getting a 0-cost spell discounts Flame Destroyer or Fiery Embrace by 1 if they’re in the same 2-card combination, e.g. a Sammy/Fiery Embrace pair costs 0/5, while Magic Missile/Fiery Embrace costs 0/4.
  • The chart has 2 modes of operation: it either uses the class popularity data to calculate average costs across all ladder classes (the week can be selected using the filter in the upper left corner, and the class distribution is shown to the right of the filter) or it shows the probability distribution against a specific class. The 2 modes can be switched using the button in the upper right corner (if the image doesn’t show up, the button is still functional, it likely just means that Tableau servers are acting up).

As of time of writing (for the week starting 25.02.2019), Alterplane Arbiter on average gives at least 1 0-cost card roughly 75% of the time. Naturally, this value depends on the exact class distribution, it appears that Alterplane Arbiter does indeed create a positive tempo swing more often than not. A notable point here is that the effect rarely “bricks” (e.g. the combined cost of the 2 cards is 4 or lower around 83% of the time) so it’s reasonably consistent in that sense as well.

Naturally, this approach doesn’t really touch upon the intrinsic synergies and potential downsides of specific cards, e.g. how Ghost Rider is better than most Shadow pulls since it creates 2 Wards which is valuable against both Arcus Ghosts and Gilnelise, or how vanilla Dragon followers can be used with Masamune for extra tempo, or how a lot of Blood cards can get stuck in your hand since deal damage to your leader (which is thankfully, not particularly relevant currently), and so on. However, the overall conclusion here is clear: Arbiter is a fairly consistent card on average, and it’s particularly good against either slower decks (e.g. in Dragon mirrors or against Lion Haven) or against classes with strong basic sets (e.g. Rune/Portal).

Ramp Dragon matchups

Ramp Dragon is currently the most popular archetype of the Rotation format and is (arguably) the third best performing deck of the format overall, following Lion Haven and Aggro Forest. Ramp Dragon is generally close to even against a lot of decks in the format, but it’s favored against Lishenna Portal (due to Satan’s amulet-banishing effects against Lishenna tokens and Poseidon blocking Maisha damage) and slower midrange decks like Midrange Sword and Shadow. The weaknesses of Ramp Dragon are Burn Rune and DFB Blood, both of which are not particularly common decks. After the mini-expansion, when Dragon lists received an upgrade in Annerose and Rune/Shadow didn’t get any new cards, even those previously rough matchups have improved and are now even (Mysteria Rune) and heavily favored (MidShadow). Due to its versatility, ease of play and overall consistency, Ramp Dragon is also the most popular archetype in tournament play as well, with many players regarding it as the best deck in the format. While the “best deck in the format” distinction is somewhat debatable, Ramp Dragon is, nonetheless, one of the most consistent and well-performing decks of the current Rotation environment, and not just due to the favorable meta with abundant Lishenna Portal to prey upon.

Lion Haven

Mulligan priority

  • Always keep Sealed Tome or Featherfall Hourglass, Temple of the Holy Lion, Holy Lion Crystal.
  • If you don’t have Temple, keep at least 1 proactive 2-drop, which includes Moriae Encomium, Legendary Fighter, Gemstone Carapace.
  • Against midrange decks like Shadow/Sword/Portal, keep Scripture/Prism Swing.
  • Going second, keep Holy Lion of Salvation or Elysian Saint-Hares.
  • Keep Seraphic Blade in Haven mirrors.
  • Keep Petra/Hares against Forest/Sword when going first as a 1-drop. Petra is a better than Hares on 1.

The overall mulligan strategy for Lion Haven isn’t too different from what it was previously, your goal should be to hit key cards like Temple of the Holy Lion, and in order to do so, it’s necessary to get as much card draw as possible, which includes Sealed Tomes and Moriae. Naturally, in certain matchups you’re inclined to contest the board in one way or another, but the general focus should still be on drawing cards and getting enough Holy Lion Crystals to advance your win condition without losing too much tempo. Elysian Saint-Hares is a 4-drop and playing it on 1 is generally a bit of a trap if it doesn’t contest anything, because the effect on it is generally a downside, since it muddles your future draws and a 1/2 usually gets value-traded and effectively loses you card advantage. It’s similar to playing Icarus on 2: it’s only good if it contests the board; putting 2 Ancient Artifacts into your deck is only good if you already have a Deus in hand.

Optional inclusions and tech cards

  • Elysian Saint-Hares and Petra are an optional inclusion that helps the deck’s midgame consistency. Generally, the correct composition is 4-6 1-drops, with Petra having slight priority over Hares. Having exactly 4 1-drops runs the (small) risk of having 3 in your hand by turn 4 and being unable to play bunnies for their Enhance cost (the odds of having 3 or more 1-drops in the first 10 cards is 4.17%), and 5 1-drops is generally safer (odds of having 4 or more 1-drops in the first 10 cards is 0.99%), and 6 is extremely safe (0.2%), so in my opinion, the “mathematically correct” composition appears to be a 3/2 split of Petra/Hares. Naturally, there’s also a school of thought that is of the opinion that it’s better not to play any 1-drops at all, but in my opinion, playing “the bunny package” is generally better since it’s good tempo and builds Shadows for Eachtar. There’s technically a point to be made about deck thinning as well if you pull Petra, but since you always put a 1-drop into your deck, at most you’re thinning your deck by 1 card, which is statistically completely irrelevant.
  • Cheap Amulets, which include Gemstone Carapace and Fount of Angels, are optional inclusions that improve your early game curve and help with Legendary Fighter consistency. Since Lion decks have way more Spells than Amulets because of all the Crystals, cheap Amulets help balance out the distribution. The Carapace is good when going second since you can play it on 3 with Temple of the Holy Lion up and then it pops next turn; Fount of Angels cycles itself (eventually) and often pushes 1 face damage. The very fact that Fount is seeing play in Haven decks is testament to how good Globe of the Starways is.
  • Hallowed Dogma is an optional card that work well with low-cost amulets. Dogma cycles itself and activates Moriae/Gemstone Carapace/Hourglass/Fount. I personally don’t really like Dogma since it can get stuck in your hand for so long, but for a deck that is as starved for card draw as Lion Haven, it could be a justifiable inclusion.
  • Seraphic Blade is a tech card that is mostly there for the Haven mirrors, although it has targets in most matchup so it’s never really that bad.
  • Craving’s Splendor is an optional inclusion that competes for the Seraphic Blade slot. The number “3” is generally a good cost to see in Lion decks (which is why Featherfall Hourglass is as common as it is) because it it breaks up the Enhance costs on Holy Lion Crystals and allows to develop the board/progress the “lion quest” without losing any tempo. Splendor also has a bit of extra utility since it can push damage if you ever stick a >4-health follower (Holy Lion of Salvation/Eachtar/evolved lions, etc.), you get to push 4 face damage.
  • Assault Priest and Forgotten Sanctuary are both big Wards that are an optional inclusion in non-bunny Lion lists. Assault Priest gives card advantage and has a useful evolve ability that makes it good against midrange decks, while Barongs can’t be targeted by Spells, which makes it good against Mysteria Rune and Lishenna Portal. If you do end up with a deck that has both the “bunny package” and the Barong amulet, you can set up Barong+Petra, which results in a Ward-less 5/4 that can’t be attacked or targeted with Spells that only gets cleared by a stray Galmieux shot, but other than that, Sanctuary into Petra usually sets up for a 7-damage Eachtar follow-up turn.
  • Zealot of Repose and Sekhmet are both tech cards against Sword/Forest which can’t really be played in the same deck. Well, if you do find yourself playing a deck with both Zealots and Sekhmet, it could at least serve as a valuable learning experience on importance of order of end-of-turn triggers.
  • Alexiel is a tech card against Lishenna Portal/Mysteria Rune/DFB Blood that has similar problems to other cards of this type: while it does prevent lethal damage from Maisha/Anne’s Sorcery/etc., you often don’t get the leisure of playing a 7-cost 5/5 in the matchup that it matters in, since you’re not addressing the opponent’s board presence, which is relevant against Mysteria Rune. Lion Haven is generally favored against Lishenna anyway, so teching for that matchup seems a little counterproductive.
  • Lorena is a budget replacement for Legendary Fighter and can be a justifiable inclusion.

Lion Haven skeleton

Lion Haven

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Lion Haven

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Lion Haven

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Lion Haven

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Midrange Haven

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Seraph Haven

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Tenko Haven

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What does Lion Haven do?

Lion Haven is a deck that is built around the idea of playing at least 7 (realistically, a minimum of 12) Holy Lion Crystals to get to a stage where your Lions are 4/4s with Storm. At that point, if you have at least one Temple in play, you can repeatedly generate 12-damage boards, which beat most decks after a few of turns. Notable traits of the deck that distinguish Lion Haven from other midrange decks of the format include the inevitability factor, Temple of the Holy Lion discounts and reliable access to Holylord Eachtar.

Regarding Eachtar

Eachtar is a big deal and affects Haven decks in general. The very existence of the card emphasizes the importance of clearing Haven boards, since the effect is too punishing otherwise. Eachtar is generally what makes Haven as good as it is, and there can even be games where you don’t get to go off with Holy Lion Crystals and just play back-to-back Eachtars on curve, which can beat board-centric decks. Apart from that, Eachtar can be used with Countdown Amulets that summon followers (e.g. Gemstone Carapace or Featherfall Hourglass) with some setup on a prior turn, allowing to get immediate tempo. In addition to that, inexpensive low-attack followers like Petra and Jeweled Priestess can be played on the same turn as Eachtar to get immediate additional value out of cards that wouldn’t be able to trade by themselves otherwise. There are minor matchup-specific points that can matter, for example, with an Evolve point, Eachtar can fully clear a Poseidon, which does unfortunately leave it vulnerable to Galmieux on the backswing. Against Sword/Shadow/Portal, Eachtar puts up 2 Wards which can play around Maisha, various other Storm followers and (occasionally) the Gilnelise 15-damage setup against Shadow.

On Midrange Haven

After the mini-expansion, there have been a fair bit of experimentation with midrange-y Haven builds built around the “bunny package”, proactive amulets like Gemstone Carapace/Forgotten Sanctuary and Eachtar/Laina/Gilnelise to close out games. Generally, the deck is not particularly well-optimized and it doesn’t appear that cutting the 12-card lion package for generic 2-drops and random Amulets make for a better Haven deck than Lion Haven, but Midrange Haven has seen some very fringe competitive success: for example, ミルト won a JCG event at the start of March playing a midrange list with a full playset of Godscale’s Banquet and double Garuda (which are the unusual cards that stand out to me). Banquet is pretty cute because you can play it on 4, and then Eachtar on 7 for a huge board swing, which is fairly good. Forgotten Sanctuary and the “bunny package” also work together well to set up good Eachtar turns. If you play good Haven followers and some of them stick, then Eachtar is generally pretty good. It can thus be concluded that Eachtar is a good card.

Jokes aside, Haven has a lot of good mid-game cards and 3 different effects that can capitalize on having a board (Laina/Eachtar/Gilly), so it’s a reasonable assumption that the good-Haven-cards.dec could be a real deck, but the archetype still has glaring weaknesses in my opinion, at least compared to Lion Haven. The big one is the lack of good 2- and 3-drops. Lion Haven can make way better use of Legendary Fighter and has access to, well, Holy Lion Crystals and strong lion-centric 3-drops. Midrange Haven has, well, Unicorn Knight/Jeweled Priestess, 3 unique 2-cost Amulets, and that’s basically it. Sure, there’s stuff like Colette/Sister Falconer, but neither of those is particularly good. I’m not asking for a Snow White, of course, but the archetype really needs better early game if it’s trying to be proactive. The other problem with Midrange Haven is the lack of card draw, which is somewhat intrinsic to the current Haven decks in Rotation as a whole. Lion decks can get by with Sealed Tomes (since that deck doesn’t play that many followers) and Holy Lion Crystals generation effects that are more or less pseudo-card draw, but Midrange Haven runs out of steam a lot faster and you more or less have to hope that you have an Eachtar in your top 14-ish cards of the deck (73.68%) and that doesn’t really happen every game. I personally don’t think that Midrange Haven can be a better deck that Lion Haven at this point, but I wouldn’t be surprised to be proven wrong when the next set is released.

Lion Haven is one of the best-performing decks of the format and is only behind Ramp Dragon in terms of tournament success. The only real weaknesses of the deck are Artifact Portal (which has a similar game plan, but usually goes off faster) and Aggro Forest (which can present aggressive early boards that Haven can’t interact with). It is clear that Lion Haven is one of the 3 biggest winners of the mini-expansion (the other two being Artifact Portal and Ramp Dragon), even though its matchup percentages are only a bit better against popular decks (since it’s compared with other decks that got upgrades) and the only significant improvements are against decks that haven’t changed after the mini-expansion, Mysteria Rune and Midrange Shadow.

Artifact Portal

Identifying cards: Magisteel Lion, Miriam, Icarus, Metaproduction, Deus, Acceleratium.

Mulligan priority

  • Always keep Magisteel Lion, Miriam Fervent Machine Soldier or Maisha.
  • Against slower midrange decks like MidShadow/MidSword, keep Deus if you’re already keeping some early game cards.
  • If you’re keeping Miriam/Fervent, consider keeping a 2-drop (or a 3-drop) that shuffles Artifacts into your deck, which can include Icarus/Mech Wing Swordsman/Angel of the Iron Steed/Cat Cannoneer. Metaproduction also works for this, but you still need a 2-drop.
  • If you’re already keeping a 2-card combo that shuffles Artifacts into your deck and draws one, also keep Hamelin, e.g. a Magisteel Lion/Fervent/Hamelin hand is usually a 3-card keep.
  • If you’re keeping Deus and a 2-drop that shuffles Artifacts into your deck, Alterplane Onslaught is a fine keep going second.
  • Keep Substitution against Sword/Dragon/Shadow/Portal.
  • Do not keep Acceleratium, Biofabrication or Mechanization.

The mulligan strategy for Artifact Portal hasn’t really changed since the release of the Chronogenesis expansion, and involves trying to find Deus while cycling through your deck with the Artifact-fetching cards like Fervent Machine Soldier. Maisha in the early game serves the same role as Fervent Machine Soldier, except it’s unconditional (doesn’t need an Artifact in the deck). The whole “unable to attack the enemy leader” clause is often irrelevant since you’re trying to trade in the early game anyway.

I’m personally not too sure of when it is correct to keep Alterplane Onslaught, I usually don’t keep it unless there’s a very specific line of play that enables it to draw 2 cards on turn 4, since Resonance is only active on even turns when going second, and if you switch the Resonance state by drawing an extra (Artifact) card when going first, then you’re likely to only have 1 Artifact in your deck on 4. Alterplane Onslaught works fine if you don’t have a better play on 4 (which either means Icarus when going second or some proactive play that puts a lot of stats into play when going first).

Optional inclusions and tech cards

  • Maisha is a card that some players consider optional in Artifact Portal, mainly players that don’t play Artifact Portal, that is. Saying that Maisha is an optional card is like saying that Dragoncleaver Roy is an optional card in Ramp Dragon, which can technically be considered correct, but sensible people understand that having good cards in decks makes those decks better. Maisha is commonly played at 2-3 copies in most Artifact Portal lists.
  • Mech Wing Swordsman/Angel of the Iron Steed/Cat Cannoneer are all optional cards that improve the early game consistency of drawing Artifacts with Fervent/Alterplane Onslaught. Swordsman is a card that I personally dislike due to its random nature. I find it difficult to keep track of the exact artifacts remaining in my deck with Swordsman lists. Long story short, I don’t like taking notes during my games and I tend to forget what got shuffled into the deck, so Mech Wing Swordsman is a detrimental card for mediocre players such as myself, but it’s generally the best option of the 3 since it costs 2 and curves into Fervent. Angel of the Iron Steed shuffles very good artifacts into your deck, but it’s a 3-drop that competes with Fervent/Maisha. Cat Cannoneer is decent against specifically Sword, but shuffling a lot of Ancient Artifacts early on is dangerous since you run out of gas easily, especially without Deus.
  • Substitution is a tech card against Shadow/Sword/Portal/Forest. Most sensible players play it as a 3-of because of its versatility of application, but it does have matchups where it’s not that great (e.g. Mysteria Rune/Lion Haven).
  • Nilpotent Entity is a tech card against Lishenna tokens, Maisha, Mysteria Rune and DFB Blood. The problem with Nilpotent Entity is that it adds to the “brick” factor alongside cards like Biofabrication/Mechanization/Acceleratium that you don’t really want to draw pre-Deus. With that in mind, Nilpotent Entity is a reasonable 1-of, but you often end up cutting a Biofabrication for it.
  • Hakrabi is a greedy tech option that helps against Dragon. Hakrabi is slow, but drawing 2 “cards” gives the archetype a lot of gas and helps dig through the deck for cards like Deus. Hakrabi is fairly uncommon, but it occasionally sees play as a 1-of in some lists.

Artifact Portal skeleton

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(Pre-mini-expac) Artifact Portal

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What does Artifact Portal do?

The game plan of Artifact Portal involves resolving Deus ex Machina and then continuously shuffling Artifacts into your deck which either control the board (Ancient/Analyzing) or push face damage (Radiant). Post-Deus, keeping track of the Resonance status is fairly important, since you don’t necessarily want to redraw 6 cards every turn, and it’s often correct to hold back on drawing cards using “Resonance switches” like Biofab/Metaproduction until all the resources in hand are exhausted. Apart from that, closing out the game (without Lishenna) requires access to Radiant Artifacts, which can be obtained from Miriam/Mechanization and later duplicated with Biofabrication. Notable distinguishing traits of Artifact Portal, when compared to other midrange decks, include efficient card draw, powerful tempo turns enabled by Deus/Acceleratium discounts and the inevitability factor.

What does Maisha do in Artifact Portal?

Maisha is quite often more or less an extra copy of Fervent Machine Soldier, except it draws random cards instead of Artifacts (which is better pre-Deus and slightly worse post-Deus). That alone would make Maisha a good card in the archetype since Fervent Machine Soldier is arcuably one of the best cards in the deck (draws a card “for free”, switches the Resonance state, etc.), but Maisha has another application: face damage, a whole lot of it. Unlike the other deck that uses Maisha for reach, Artifact Portal doesn’t necessarily needs to get to turn 10 to hit people with Maisha. A fairly common setup is that you play Deus, redraw a hand, and then if you have Acceleratium and a few 1-cost Artifacts with Maisha, you can play Maisha, then play the 1-cost Artifacts (each of which refund 2 mana due to Deus and Acceleratium) and get to 7 play points and evolve Maisha and get about 10-14 Storm damage. Since you’re not playing a Puppet deck, Maisha isn’t going to do 20, but it speeds up your Radiant Artifact clock by a 2-3 turns and leaves a 5-health body in play that the opponent has to clear. In addition to that, against Ramp Dragon/Mysteria Rune you can sometimes get to a spot where your opponent cheekily leaves Maisha up against an empty board since it can’t attack the enemy leader anyway. In those cases, you can still evolve Maisha for 4 face damage and use the Purgation’s Blade later with an Ancient/Analyzing Artifact for 6-7 face damage (so long as you don’t discard it with Deus redraws).

On Alterplane Onslaught

Alterplane Onslaught is a card that has for the replaced Hakrabi in previous iterations of Artifact Portal. The fact that it costs 1 less, doesn’t require a board slot or an Evolve point to have immediate board impact make the archetype a lot more consistent post-Deus. The neat thing about Onslaught/Hakrabi is that the card always leaves you in Resonance once it resolves, which matters for cards like Miriam and the Deus redraw. On top of that, since it is a Banish effect, Onslaught is also valuable against cards like Liza/Osiris. The current build of Artifact Portal is the strongest and the most consistent the archetype has ever been and will ever in the future, since after Chronogenesis rotates out, roughly 20 cards from a standard Artifact Portal list are going to rotate out, including cards like Deus, Fervent Machine Soldier, Icarus, Hamelin, Biofab, Metaproduction, Acceleratium, Swordsman, Hakrabi, Safira, etc. As good as Alterplane Onslaught is, the release of the Alterpshere set is likely the swan song of the Artifact Portal archetype as we know it.

Artifact Portal is currently the single most consistent deck in the Rotation format in terms of matchup polarity, with its only real weakness being Aggro Forest. Artifact Portal also sees a lot of success in tournament play, in part due to the popularity of Haven. Going off of tournament performance, Artifact Portal is the second best deck in the format and arguably does better on average than Lion Haven. In addition to that, it should be mentioned that historically Artifact Portal winrates on ladder are a lot lower than one would expect because the archetype has quite a high skill ceiling on a mechanical level, so it naturally does better when piloted by players experienced with the deck. I always find it surprising that Artifact Portal is as unpopular as it is on ladder, because the deck is at the strongest point it has ever been (and likely will ever be, with the upcoming Chronogenesis rotation), is highly consistent and does well against a lot of popular decks. The deck’s also really cheap to build since it doesn’t need Lishenna anymore.

Lishenna Portal skeleton

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(Tempo) Lishenna Portal

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Orb of Desecration Portal

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Lishenna Portal

Identifying cards: Joy of Destruction, Inspired Inventor, Disciple of Destruction, Puppet Room, Windup, Junk, Lococo, Marionette Lad, Apostle of Destruction, Destructive Refrain.

Mulligan priority

  • Always keep Substitution, Maisha and Lishenna.
  • Try to keep a proactive 2-drop, those include Flower Doll/Hamelin/MarioLad/Lococo and, going second, even Windup (since you’re in Resonance on 2 when going second).
  • Against slower decks like Rune/Dragon, keep Disciple of Destruction.
  • If you’re already keeping a Puppet-generating card or Inventor, keep Joy of Destruction against proactive midrange decks like Sword/Shadow. Keeping Inventor is generally wrong since the card does very little, but it does enable Joy/Disciple of Destruction and 2-damage Refrain.
  • If you’re keeping Lishenna, keep Junk or Puppet Room.

The mulligan plan for Lishenna Portal is to try to have a Lishenna on curve, which makes life a lot easier for the Portal player since it enables cards like Joy of Destruction/Destructive Refrain, even if the game doesn’t ultimately come down to Destuction in Black damage. Maisha and Substitution are generally the best early-game cards of the deck because they contribute to your win condition (if you don’t have an early Lishenna) and draw cards/control the board. The 2-drops are all quite mediocre and not a particularly high priority to keep.

What does Lishenna Portal do?

Lishenna Portal is a deck centered around synergy between Puppet cards and the “ally-destruction” effects, with the 2 primary finishers of the archetype being Lishenna and Maisha. The game plan of the deck depends on whether the Portal player has an early Lishenna or not. The odds of having at least one Lishenna in the first 9-12 cards of the deck is 54.50-66.84%, so roughly half of the time the Portal player has to save an evolve point until turn 10 to get lethal damage with Maisha‘s evolve ability, which usually does 20 damage at that point due to all the Puppet cards in the deck (since Maisha only needs 16 dead followers to deal 20 damage).

When playing against Lishenna Portal, it is important to keep track of the cost of the Lishenna tokens, and if the Portal player is saving an evolve point for turn 10, to play Wards that can prevent Maisha lethal. Notably, the Ramp Dragon-Lishenna Portal matchup is pretty unique in that Ramp Dragon lists often include Satan, which (usually) answers Lishenna, so in that matchup it’s common for the Portal player to forgo the Lishenna plan altogether, thus the matchup usually comes down to whether the Portal player can get to turn 10 without the Dragon player having a Poseidon in the way, since saving 6 Puppets is quite unrealistic. Similarly, the Midrange Sword matchup has a comparable dynamic with Valse, but Sword doesn’t really have much card draw, so the scenario is a little less relevant, and the Sword-Lishenna Portal matchup mostly just comes down to tempo.

There’s also a subtype of Lishenna decks that are close to what pre-Nicholas-nerf Puppet lists looked like, running cards like Cucouroux/Silva/Orchis/Sylvia which are closer to a tempo deck than the standrard Lishenna list. These types of decks have seen some experimentation in the early days of the mini-expansion, with タヌキ’s being the most well-tested decklist that I’ve come across. While these types of “tempo” Lishenna builds are not well-optimized currently, it could potentially be a direction that Portal could take after the Chronogenesis rotation because it only loses Hamelin/Flower Doll/Puppet Room, and that is not a lot by “Portal cards rotating out with Chronogenesis” standards.

Optional inclusions and tech cards

  • Marionette Lad/Windup/Lococo/Ephemera are optional 2-drops, and you generally have to pick 3-5 total cards from those 3 options. Windup is the most commonly played one, since it’s “free” with Lishenna, and MarioLad/Lococo do very similar things, in that they’re vanilla 2-drops that can save you evolve points with their 5-cost Enhance abilities. MarioLad is generally better tempo since it can be evolved manually, but Lococo is a lot better against specifically Ramp Dragon since it can answer Poseidon, as well as generic tall followers like Arbiter/Gally/Satan. Ephemera is effectively a 3-damage removal spell that adds 1 to the Lishenna/Maisha “counter”. I personally think that Windup is quite overrated and that Lococo is a lot better than what the looking at popular lists would lead one to believe, primarily due to popularity of Ramp Dragon. My preferred build is a 2/2 split between MarioLad/Lococo with 0xWindups, although I haven’t really seen anyone play that.
  • Inspired Inventor is a conditional healing card that improves the consistency of “X of Destruction” cards since it negates the drawback of having to actually destroying something. Also enables early Destructive Refrain and improves Nilpotent Entity.
  • Nilpotent Entity is a tech card against Mysteria Rune and the mirror match. The slight problem with Nilpotent Entity is that it discards an Artifact from your hand if you have one, and the only Artifacts in that deck are Lishenna tokens (which you’d rather not discard) and Inventor tokens (which you’d rather have in play), so the drawback can be significant if you haven’t completed the “Lishenna quest” yet.
  • Apostle of Destruction is a tech card for the mirror match and Ramp Dragon. Apostle can copy effects that the “can’t be destroyed” clause, namely Lishenna, Lishenna tokens, Inventor tokens (you can heal for 6 with two healing tokens if you’re below 10 health), as well as cards with Fanfare effects, namely Maisha and Junk. The neat thing about copying Maisha is that you get a 0-cost copy that can let you go for lethal before turn 10 (e.g. you Maisha+Apostle on 7 and then Maisha on 8 or 9) which is relevant in mirror matches. In addition to that, if Apostle sticks on the board, you can Apostle the Apostle, and then get a chain of 1-cost Apostle, generating a bunch of Lishenna discounts, which is pretty pointless, but quite hilarious.
  • Heartless Battle is a playable Ward option that is also a 6-7 damage removal spell that adds 2 to the Lishenna/Maisha “quest” and saves evolve points. Heartless Battle is pretty slow so it’s generally not played in most lists, but it does help in the mirror.
  • Seraphic Blade is a tech card for Lion Haven and an answer to the tech card Nilpotent Entity. Seraphic Blade is worse against followers than Lococo/MarioLad, but it does help the (miserable) Lion Haven matchup.

Lishenna Portal is one of the most popular ladder decks in the Rotation format, and the deck doesn’t really perform too well, since it’s weak to Ramp Dragon (read: to Satan), Midrange Sword (Valse is a factor), Lion Haven (since it can’t really defend itself) and Aggro Forest (since it can’t really stop the early boards). Lishenna Portal does alright against Mysteria Rune (since it can Refrain wide boards around turn 7-ish and since Lishenna decks often run Nilpotent Entity to stop Anne’s Sorcery). It’s difficult to say whether it’s due to decklists being unoptimized, people playing the deck poorly or some other factor, but Lishenna Portal is generally an inconsistent and heavily draw-dependent deck. Lishenna Portal has seen some fringe success in tournament play, but it’s generally outperformed by its Artifact counterpart. I personally think that Lishenna Portal is a “trap” deck that thrived in the early days of the mini-expansion because a lot of players were playing unoptimized decks, but it doesn’t do well against a lot of currently popular archetypes. Putting it simply, in my experience, Lishenna Portal only consistently beats bad decks and/or bad players.

Midrange Sword

The provided deck skeleton is for the standard Midrange Sword build. The last few decklists in the tab menu represent the Ambush-centric Aggro Sword build and 2 examples of Spartacus Sword decks, all of which naturally don’t fall under the “standard Midrange Sword” classification and have a different set of core cards (and level of competitive viability).

Mulligan priority

  • Always keep Chromatic Duel, Oathless Knight, Valse or Aether.
  • Against decks with weak early game, namely Dragon/Rune/Shadow, keep a proactive 1-drop, those include Quickblader, Goblin, Lucius and Rapier Master, in order of priority.
  • Against proactive decks (e.g. Sword mirrors, Forest/Portal/Blood) the vanilla 1/1 1-drops don’t quite cut it, but keeping Goblin or Quickblader is still fine if you’re going first. Going first, I wouldn’t keep QB, but Goblin does contest the board well.
  • Against most decks, keeping a 2-drop is a low priority since the deck has so many vanilla 2-drops, but having a Leod or Latham is valuable in the early stages of the game against Forest/Shadow.
  • Keep Octrice against Shadow/Portal.
  • If you’re keeping Aether, do not keep Frontline Cavalier.
  • Do not keep Blazing Lion Admiral.

Sword mulligans are fairly straightforward: the goal is to either try to get some early face damage/tempo lead in the matchups where the Sword player is in the beatdown role (Rune/Dragon), and even a measly 1/1 can hit the opponent for 3-4 damage. Against other midrange decks, the goal is to not lose too much from the opponent getting value trades, particularly against decks that can play a 2/2 on 2 (how powerful!), which is surprisingly not that common since Dragon can skip turn 2, and Shadow/Rune play 1/2s or even 1/1s on 2. Octrice is a card that can steal the Last Words from Analyzing Artifacts and a wide slew of Shadow cards.

Optional inclusions and tech cards

  • Goblins are optionally played for a simple reason: they come into play on turn 1 and hit the opponent for 1 damage for a few turns in Rune/Dragon matchups.
  • Servant of Usurpation and Oathless Knight are 2-drops that compete for the same card slot. Oathless Knight is slightly better against Rune, while Servant is better against decks with smaller followers like Forest/Shadow. I personally consider Oathless Knights to be the “standard” build, primarily because it’s the slightly more aggressive option which also has (fairly unimportant) Latham synergy.
  • Dionne is an optional inclusion that is commonly played as a 1- or 2-of. For most intents and purposes, Dionne is basically an extra copy of Usurping Spineblade, but the 10-cost 6-damage (7 with an active Latham) option can occasionally be relevant as well. The “one-sided Eggsplosion” mode rarely comes into play since it’s so expensive, but generally the figurative opportunity cost of playing 2xDionne in your deck is low since the card is so flexible. The difference between playing 1 and 2 copies mostly comes down to Aether of the Warrior Wing odds, e.g. playing 1 improves your odds of finding Latham in longer games, and playing 2 allows you to be a lot more lenient with using the effect for tempo. A cute interaction with Aether is that you can play Aether on 10 into Eggsplosion, making for a DIY Jeanne-type AoE.
  • Frontline Ramparts is a tech card for the Rune matchup, since it effectively does 3 face damage over 3 turns. Ramparts are commonly played in lists with a 1-of Gilnelise, since these 2 cards both take the deck in a more aggressive direction and synergize with one another.
  • Zeta is a tech option against Rune/Dragon that gives the archetype slightly more reach. Zeta is pretty mediocre against decks that generate wide boards (MidShadow/Aggro Forest/Artifact Portal/Lion Haven) since it at most trades 1-for-1, and Beatrix can get blocked by Wards. I personally think that Zeta is too slow to be played as more than a 1-of, and even against Rune, Beatrix often can’t connect with the opponent’s face.

Midrange Sword skeleton

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(Arthur/Admiral) Midrange Sword

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(Ambush) Aggro Sword

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What does Midrange Sword do?

Midrange Sword is a deck archetype centered around playing efficient Sword followers. The defining characteristic of Sword, compared to other midrange classes, is the abundance of 1-drops, flexible Enhance and Accelerate effects that allow the archetype to not lose out on card advantage, as well as a couple minor sub-themes. One of the sub-themes is the “Loot” mechanic, seen on cards like Usurping Spineblade/X of Usurpation, which generate random 1-cost Spell token(s) as a form of quasi-card advantage with some board control-centric payoff when used with Apostle of Usurpation. The second sub-theme of the archetype is Latham, which has synergy with Rush/Storm followers, 1-drops and tokens that generate 1-cost Knights.

Compared to other midrange decks in the format, Sword has arguably the best early game of any of the midrange decks, and even with that in mind, Midrange Sword still packs enough gas to outvalue slower archetypes due to having various Enhance effects, Valse and Latham‘s leader effect. While there are decks in the format that are more or less impossible for midrange decks to outvalue (Mysteria Rune) and decks that have way better card quality (Ramp Dragon/Lion Haven), Sword is still regarded by many players as the premier midrange deck.

Miscellaneous notes

While MidSword hasn’t changed much after the expansion, there are still some minute differences to the archetype caused by new cards and interactions coming up in certain matchups:

  • Aether of the Warrior Wing frees up a lot of room in standard Sword lists since it allows you to specifically play a 1-of Frontline Cavalier. Playing Aether on turns 7-8 reliably tutors out Latham, playing it on 4 tutors out Apostle of Usurpation, and playing it on 6 tutors for Zeta, and on turns 9 or later it fetches Dionne. Aether enables the “toolbox” approach to including specific Sword followers as 1-ofs.
  • The Mysteria Rune matchup is quite miserable for Sword, and in my experience the only way to win this matchup as Sword is to push enough damage and close out the game around turn 9. In order to do so, it’s often correct to save cards like Usurping Spineblade and Valse bullets to clear Wards in the later stages of the game and push damage with Storm follower(s). Having a 1-drop, evolving at the opponent’s face (particularly relevant with Leod), using Gilded Necklaces and Apostle of Usurpation for 1 face damage are all factors that can make the difference between winning and losing against Rune. Remember the fundamental rule of playing Swordcraft: if you hit your opponent in the face, they have less life!
  • Against Dragon, the game comes down to dodging a few “pitfalls”, which include playing around Enhanced Galmieux (by evolving your Followers to reduce the impact of the 1-damage AoE and/or saving a Magnus), as well as not overextending into Poseidon+Masamune.
  • Against Lishenna Portal, it is often correct to save a Valse to deal with Destruction in Black. If you can afford to, it’s useful to hold back from revealing that you have a Valse, since if you telegraph it too much, the Portal player is likely to change his gameplan; this is one of the cases where the tempo loss is worthwhile since it affects the gameplan of both players on a macro level. If the Lishenna player is setting up for a Maisha lethal, it’s correct to save a copy of Dragon Knights to have a Ward ready. The only other Ward in the deck comes from a defensive Celia, and a 1/1 Ward only takes a single Puppet to clear.

The current build of Midrange Sword is a surprisingly inconsistent deck in terms of its matchup polarity: it’s heavily favored against Lishenna Portal and does well against Forest, but struggles against Dragon and Lion Haven. In my opinion, MidSword is generally outperformed by Artifact Portal and Lion Haven, but it still sees a fair bit of tournament success and is a reasonable ladder deck if you want to beat Lishenna Portal without playing Satan Ramp Dragon. Sword is relatively straightforward to pilot and is intrinsically quite aggressive, which makes it a valid archetype choice despite its seemingly high matchup polarity.

Mysteria (a.k.a. Manaria) Rune

Identifying cards:Mysterian Wyrmist, Mr. Bertrand, Tico, Grea, Ms. Miranda, Anne.
The provided deck skeleton includes Zealots of Truth, which I would consider a core card for the archetype, despite some lists not running Zealots.

Mulligan priority

  • Always keep Insight or Mysterian Knowledge; Owen or Witch of Foresight.
  • Keep Grea going second. Against board-centric classes like Sword/Shadow/Forest, it’s fine to keep Grea even when going first.
  • If you’re already keeping a card, keep Miranda and Fate’s Hand. Keeping Anne/Zealot of Truth is too ambitious.
  • Try to keep a 2-drop against board-centric classes like Sword/Shadow/Forest, apart from Owen/Witch this can include cards like Seraphic Blade/Wyrmist/Mr. Bertrand/Wind Blast. Keeping Magic Missile is fairly greedy, I’d personally rather have a 1/2 that draws a card, but against Sword/Forest, classes that play a lot of 1/1s, it does technically contest the board.
  • If you’re keeping a turn 2 play, keeping Tico/Eleanor is fine. It’s preferable that Eleanor has a target in your hand if you’re keeping it as a 3-drop.
  • Keep Nova Flare against Sword/Shadow/Forest.
  • Keep Seraphic Blade against Haven.

Mysteria Rune mulligans are fairly straightforward, the idea here is to try and hit early discounts on Miranda (which is why you keep all the card draw). The best early game card in the deck is Owen, since it gives you the best probability of finding Miranda (up to 33% in Mysteria-light lists). In my experience, the Miranda nerf doesn’t significantly change how one would mulligan in Manaria decks, but it does make it so that keeping “greedy” hands (e.g. Knowledge/Miranda/Fate’s Hand) can backfire a lot more often. I’ve seen some arguments against keeping Knowledge when going first since 50% of the time you get a card that you don’t usually want to play on 2 (Missile), and I’m not sure if I agree with that point since tempo is so important in Shadowverse, and if the discounts are such a concern, you can naturally always skip the turn 1 Mysterian Knowledge if it doesn’t discount anything in your hand. Of course, it’s better to prioritize Insight over Knowledge, since it draws cards that you actually put in your deck, but I personally think that missing a turn 1 play is on average worse than getting an “extra” card in your opening hand.

What does Mysteria Rune do?

Mysteria Rune is a deck archetype that revolves around discounting cards with Mysteria and Spellboost synergy. The deck has 2 primary win conditions: on one hand, it can curve out with Mysteria cards and build a wide board around turns 7-8 with a chain of Mirandas and Annes, which feed into themselves since they’re all Mysteria cards, and then try to push damage with Zealots of Truth. If that board gets answered (as it sometimes does), then the win condition switches over to the “Anne’s Sorcery plan”, where you try to clear the board and stay alive and then use Anne’s Sorcery for lethal damage. When playing the deck or playing against it, it is imperative for both players to keep track of the total number of Mysteria cards played (shown in the “played cards” column) to know how much damage the Sorcery token deals, and (for the opponent of Mysteria Rune) to have an estimate for the number of potential discounts on Miranda/Anne.

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Optional inclusions and tech cards

  • Zealot of Truth is technically an optional card that I personally consider core. The good thing about Zealot is that it’s not a Mysteria card and doesn’t dilute the Owen card pool, and it helps push damage to get the opponent to Anne’s Sorcery range. Zealots are either not played at all, or are included as a 2-3-of.
  • Witch of Foresight is a greedy optional inclusion in the deck that serves a similar function to Owen. Good outcomes for Witch include Fate’s Hand, Wind Blast and Fiery Embrace, which are all cards that benefit from being in your hand from early stages of the game.
  • Mysterian Wyrmist and Mr. Bertrand are optional inclusions that help speed up the deck’s game plan at the cost of lowering the odds of hitting Miranda/Anne with Owen. After the Miranda nerf, most Mysteria Rune lists started including at least 2-3 extra 2-drops to mitigate the reduced overall speed of the deck. Of the two cards, Bertrand is better on curve, and Wyrmist can push extra face damage in the later stages of the game. Historically, Mysteria Rune used to have two standard builds in the Omen meta: ones that had extra 2-drops and ones that included “high-roll” Spellboost synergy effects like Concentration. I’ve personally always been of the opinion that playing more 2-drops is better on ladder, however, a lot of popular tournament lists at the time included Concentration/Chain of Calling, which were better for tournament play, which reduce the deck’s consistency, but can improve its high-roll potential, which is potentially better in a high-variance environment.
  • Truth’s Adjudication is a tech card against Lishenna Portal/Rune/Blood. Adjudication is the only playable healing Rune card and is valuable for getting out of lethal range. The downsides of the card are its high cost (meaning it can be a bit of a brick) and the random variance, the latter of which is covered in the Addendum.
  • Eleanor is an optional 3-drop that makes Zealots better. The card is similar to Grea in a lot of ways, but doesn’t discount Mysteria cards and is better (compared to Grea) outside of evolve turns.
  • Palla is a tech cards against Lishenna Portal and the Mysteria mirror. The problem with the Mysteria Rune mirror is that (outside of high-tempo swing turns) the matchup can often come down to which player went first, since that player gets to cast Anne’s Sorcery first. This is, of course, an oversimplification since there are other decision points that affect the matchup, but if you can discount Anne’s Sorcery with Palla, that gives you an out in games where you’re about even with your opponent and going second. A similar dynamic occurs with Maisha, and in that case Palla even gets additional utility since it also summons a 3/3 Ward if you’ve played enough Fate’s Hand. Palla is a common 1-of since it helps with the inherent issue of the archetype and the opportunity cost of playing a 4-cost 3/3 is not that high.
  • Seraphic Blade is a tech card against Lion Haven and Portal in general. The 2 main targets for Seraphic Blade are Temple of the Holy Lion and Nilpotent Entity, but Seraphic Blade is generally fairly versatile and hits a lot of followers in the format. It doesn’t hurt that it’s a cheap spell either, since Mysteria decks run a fair bit of Spellboost effects. Seraphic Blade solves a lot of problems and the downside to the card is that it’s not great against token-based midrange decks like MidSword/MidShadow/Forest in general.

Miscellaneous notes

Mysteria Rune is a deck that hasn’t changed all that much since the last expansion, however, there are a few points to how the archetype is played differently than before:

  • Against Ramp Dragon, the main difference compared to how this matchup was played pre-expansion is made by Satan. Satan itself is not too threatening since you usually have enough removal to keep up with tall followers, however, there are 3 key cards in the Cocytus deck that you should be aware of. Firstly, there’s Astaroth’s Reckoning. It’s not usually possible to play around the 2-turn setup of Astaroth’s into Behemoth, but the general point is that you have to set up Wards either after Astaroth’s or to contest the opponent’s followers so that you’re not dead to Astaroth’s on board. The other card that you should be aware of is Infernal Gaze, which makes Anne’s Sorcery unplayable. The counterplay to that is to keep a 0-cost Anne in hand, since then it doesn’t get affected. Generally, it’s incorrect to do so, since it doesn’t put a 4/4 into play, but if you have enough damage to burn the opponent through a 7-point heal (from Scorpion of Greed), it can be the correct line of play. The last card that can occasionally blow you out is Demon of Purgatory, which you play around by having more than 3 cards in hand. Or by picking a second Anne’s Sorcery, if you’re feeling that unlucky, but generally most Dragon players are not brave enough to actually play Demon of Purgatory because the odds are generally in the Rune’s player favor.
  • Against Lishenna Portal, the matchup usually comes down to generating a wide board with Miranda/Anne/Zealots/etc. and trying to dodge Destructive Refrain. To that end, it is important to not leave up followers like Lishenna/Junk/Maisha, because a 3-4 damage Refrain is usually enough to clear Mysteria boards with a few Puppets. If the Portal player doesn’t have an early Lishenna, then they have to save 1 evolve point for Maisha. Maisha is a very telegraphed win condition, and if the Portal player has an evolve point going into their turn 10, then it’s time to Ward up, especially if you’re going second. If you’re going first, a common scenario is that the Portal player plays Nilpotent Entity, which you have to wait out for 2 turns if you don’t have a Seraphic Blade. When that happens, it is imperative not to overcommit and save enough Wards to evade Maisha for 2 turns. Generally, you have the information on how many Puppets the Portal player is holding (barring edge cases like Hamelin that can slightly change the math) and removal spells cost mana so they can’t be played on the same turn as Maisha, so you have to commit Wards with the total health higher than the number of held Puppets. This explanation is overly verbose, but Mysteria Rune does occasionally have games where you don’t get to generate 20-power boards for 0 mana on turn 7, and it’s important to have a contingency plan for those (highly unfortunate) scenarios.
  • Against Sword, it’s important to keep track of how much Storm damage you can take, which basically comes down to playing as many Wards as you can around turns 7-9. In the MidSword matchup, the Sword player is the beatdown, and as a Rune player, you have to play defensively until you can establish a tempo lead.
  • Against Shadow, a thing to look out for is, of course, the Gilnelise 15-damage burst on 10, which you can play around by either playing Wards or not going second (like a bad player), as well as the (this primarily applies to post-Arcus stage of the game), “Nicola quest” progress. If the Shadow player is around 16-ish total Shadows, it’s possible for the Shadow player to set up a 13-14 damage turn with Nicola’s spell token as early as turn 8, so try to play Adjudication or generic Wards to play around that. Generally, this matchup should be Rune-favored so long as the Shadow player doesn’t get an early lead since Mysteria Rune builds a wide board around turn 7, which usually doesn’t give the MidShadow player enough breathing room to play Arcus or Gilnelise.

Addendum: Adjudication probabilities

Below is a simple chart presenting the probability of getting any of the 3 outcomes from Adjudication depending on the total number of times the card was Spellboosted. The number of Spellboosts can be adjusted with the slider in the upper right corner, ranging from 1 to 30.

Mysteria Rune matchups

Rune is one of the 3 classes that didn’t get any new cards in the mini-expansion, so it stands to reason that Mysteria has a slightly harder of a time against classes that got direct upgrades to their common builds (Portal/Ramp Dragon/MidSword/Lion Haven/Aggro Forest) and does roughly the same it did previously against decks that don’t play any of the new cards (Shadow/Blood/Burn Rune). With that said, Mysteria Rune is still one of the more consistent decks of the format that can go even with most of the popular decks of the format (Lishenna Portal, Ramp dragon, MidSword, Lion Haven). The weaknesses of Mysteria Rune involve decks that can generate wide early boards (Aggro Forest/Artifact Portal) and burn decks like Burn (Golem) Rune and DFB Blood. Despite falling out of popularity, the archetype still has a lot of tournament success and while it doesn’t perform as well as Dragon, it’s still one of the better archetypes in the format and is roughly on par with Lion Haven, Artifact Portal and MidSword.

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Burn (a.k.a. Earth Rite a.k.a. Golem) Rune

Identifying cards: Scrap Iron Smelter, Witch Snap, Beastfaced Mage, Rabbit Mage, Silent Laboratory, Veridic Discovery, Orichalcum Golem, Staff of Whirlwinds.

Mulligan priority

  • Always keep (one) Goblin, (any number of) Owen or Witch of Foresight and (one) Mysteria, Magic Founder.
  • Against board-centric decks like Sword/Shadow/Forest keep a 2-drop, which include Beastfaced Mage, Rabbit Mage, Silent Lab. Witch Snap is also a fine keep going second. Magic Missile, Vesper and Grand Spire are all a little too ambitious to keep.
  • Against slower classes like Rune/Dragon, Rabbit Mage, Beastfaced Mage or Silent Lab are fine to keep, but it’s preferable to have a 2-drop that draws a card (e.g. Owen/Witch of Foresight/Magic Missile/Vesper).
  • If you have a Veridic Discovery/Slumbering Calamity in your opening, Silent Laboratory is a high-priority keep, and either Vesper or Scrap Iron Smelter also make for a good 2-card keep. Keeping Smelter in other cases is a mistake.
  • Do not keep Chain Lightning, Staff of Whirlwinds or Orichalcum Golem.

The mulligan strategy of Burn Rune is fairly straightforward: you have to dig for Mysteria, Magic Founder, because while the deck has some really good early game tools, the archetype can’t really close out games without an active Mysteria leader effect (or multiple effects!). It is often correct to mulligan away every card that isn’t Mysteria, even if it seems strange to keep a 5-drop as the only card in your hand. One card in particular that I’d like to emphasize is Scrap Iron Smelter, which is usually wrong to keep in your opening, despite it being a 1-drop. Smelter doesn’t contest the board, doesn’t give any card advantage, and the early Earth Sigil doesn’t have much payoff aside from Veridic Discovery. Keeping Smelter is effectively similar to staring the game with 1 less card than your opponent.

Optional inclusions and tech cards

  • Goblins are an optional card that make the archetype more aggressive. Goblins are good against Sword/Rune since they contest the board and push early damage, but the card is often fairly low-impact and mediocre against Dragon. In my opinion, with the current meta trend, Goblins seem like a necessary inclusion.
  • Beastfaced Mage and Rabbit Mage are both slightly worse Silent Laboratories that usually compete for the same card slot. Personally, BFM seems like the better option of the two, since Rabbit Mage has a worse statline and is worse than Beastfaced Mage in the midgame, since you usually can’t help having an Earth Sigil in play. Rabbit Mage is better on curve, and is a lot cuter.
  • Chain Lightning and Veridic Ritual are both optional burn spells that compete for the same card slot. Chain Lightning isn’t conditional. Veridic Discovery does the same amount of damage, can be split over 2 turns (e.g. you can Discovery on turn 3 and save the Ritual for later), but does eat up an Earth Sigil. Discovery is better in games when you can’t find Golem and getting flooded with Earth Sigils without any payoff.
  • Slumbering Calamity has a similar function to Staff of Whirlwinds, but is a lot slower as an AoE effect, especially since it isn’t affected by the Mysteria leader effect. 4 damage is an awkward breakpoint since it doesn’t clear things like Gilnelise, Zealots of Truth and Poseidon. On turn 3, a 4/3 Ward isn’t particularly impactful either. I personally think that Calamity is a poor inclusion for the archetype.
  • Geos, Runehammer is a 2 mana 7/7 when you evolve it, and it even has Bane, in case 7 attack is not enough to trade with something! And it draws a card too! If you gimp your Rune deck in such a way that you don’t include Magic Missile/Witch Snap/Veridic Discovery/Grand Spire and include Grand Summoning, that is. There could be potential Burn Rune builds that are not as terrible as what I’m currently describing, but at this point in time Geos is to Shadowverse 2-drops what Tibalt is to Planeswalkers.

What does Burn Rune do?

Burn Rune is a Rune deck that uses burn spells combined with the extra spell damage effect from Mysteria, Magic Founder, to deal damage to the opponent. The aforementioned burn spells include Veridic Ritual(s), Orichalcum Golem’s Accelerate effect, as well as miscellaneous “ping” effects that happen to get amplified with the extra spell damage effect, namely Grand Spire, Magic Missile, Vesper and Staff of Whirlwinds.

Miscellaneous notes

  • Burn Rune lists include Owen without any other Mysteria cards aside from Mysteria, Magic Founder. Since Owen can’t draw itself, this guarantees that the most important card of the deck can be tutored out of the deck.
  • It is important to remember that Orichaclum Golem can be played as a 5-drop, which gives the Rune player 2 extra Earth Sigils to feed into itself, and the Golem can be reused for its Accelerate cost after the fact. For the Rune player, this means that you can get a lot of extra gas by playing Golem for 5 before going off with the Accelerate cost. When playing against Rune, this means that saving a Banish effect reduces the amount of damage you take by on average 3.33 and an extra 1.33 for every active Founder leader effect. Long story short, if you save a Valse bullet/Scripture/Alterplane Onslaught/Substitution/etc, you reduce the damage you take by about 5-6.
  • Since Burn Rune’s gameplan revolves around playing either a vanilla 4/4 or a vanilla 5/5 on turn 5 and evolving it into something, small midgame Wards slow the Rune player by a lot. This is particularly relevant for Sword/Dragon with cards like Celia and Poseidon (played for its Accelerate cost).
  • Staff of Whirlwinds is a card that most Burn lists run as a 3-of, and this type of AoE effect can be played around on a lot of board states by taking trades that make you less vulnerable to Staff of Whirlwinds. The damage breakpoints depend on the number of Founder effects and go from 4/1 to 6/2 to 8/3 to 10/4. In particular, when playing Sword, you can save a Magnus (Chromatic Duel token) for the turn after Mysteria gets played to protect your board from a (highly likely) sweeper.

Addendum: Orichalcum Golem damage

A question that I’ve personally been curious about (after getting 4 Clay Golems from 4 Earth Sigils) is “how much damage do you actually get from OriGolem?”. Each trigger of the effect is independent from the previous ones, and there are 3 equally likely outcomes. If Nf is the number of active Founder leader effects, there’s a 33% chance to get 2+Nf damage, a 33% chance to get 3+Nf damage (making the assumption that you get to cast the Veridic Rituals eventually) and a 33% to get the round boy (0 damage). Using multinomial distribution with 3 possible outcomes and a simple decision tree, this question can be answered analytically, the results of the calculation are presented in the chart below. The number of used Earth Sigils (number of trials) and the number of active Founder effects can be adjusted with the sliders at the top of the graph, changes to the sliders cause the chart to refresh to reflect the corresponding values. The default setting is at 4 Sigils and 1 active Mysteria, which was the exact setup I had during the 4 Clay Golem game. The upper bar chart shows the exact probability of getting a specific amount of damage, and the lower graph shows the cumulative probability (the probability of getting X damage or less). The graph also shows the 50% percentile point line (bottom graph) and the average amount of damage (in the title). Long story short, the probability of the scenario that happened to me is 1.24% (roughly 1/80 odds). This concludes the quarterly “high school algebra” section of the Meta Insight.

Burn Rune matchups

Burn Rune is a deck that usually outpaces slow reactive decks like Mysteria Rune, Ramp Dragon and Lishenna Portal, but struggles against archetypes that can generate early wide boards, namely, MidShadow/Sword, aggressive Forest builds and Lion Haven. The overall winrate of the archetype is higher than a lot of decks in the format, but the high matchup-based variance (in other words, odds of winning highly depend on what you queue into) makes the archetype frustrating to play both on ladder and in tournament play, which makes Burn Rune less competitively viable than its ladder winrate would lead one to believe.

After the mini-expansion, Burn Rune matchups against Portal, Lion Haven and Aggro Forest have become worse since those decks got some upgrades. Interestingly, there’s no observable change (within margin of error) to its performance against Ramp Dragon, which likely means that despite Ramp Dragon becoming more consistent, its overall game plan is still weak to burn strategies.

Spellboost Rune

Identifying cards: Conjure Golem, Absolute Zeroblade, Runie, Destiny’s Bard, Edict of Truth, Flame Destroyer, Prophetess of Creation, Raio.
Note: Spellboost Rune decklists are presented in the tab menu for the Burn Rune section, as the last few decks.

Spellboost Rune is an archetype that has mostly disappeared from the format after Giant Chimera and Magic Owl rotated out. The current win condition of the deck is either Runie tokens, Flame Destroyers or clunky win conditions like Prophetess of Creation and Unbodied Witch. While there are neat pieces of synergy with the new cards (e.g. Unbodied Witch with Zealots, or Prophetess getting new 7- and 9-slots), in my opinion, the current Spellboost lists have no competitive advantage over Mysteria lists, despite having new powerful tools (Eleanor, Edict of Truth, Zealot of Truth and, to an extent, Medusa); the archetype doesn’t have a finisher that can outpace Mysteria Rune, Ramp Dragon or any midrange deck in the Rotation format.

Aggro Forest

Identifying cards: Goblin, Water Fairy, Fairy Circle, Leaf Man, Gilnelise.
Aggro Forest is what I’d consider the “base” Forest archetype, and the so-called Tempo Forest is a slower off-shoot of the Aggro Forest builds, which often includes a lot of additional midgame cards. The distinction is somewhat arbitrary, but I personally consider Forest lists with <7 midgame cards (cards that cost more than 3, not counting Axeman) as “Aggro” Forest, and lists with more as “Tempo” or “Midrange Forest”. The number 7 is selected on the basis that if you were to include more than 6 cards, you’d have to start cutting 1- or 2-drops, taking the deck in a more midrange-y direction.

Mulligan Priority

  • Always keep (one) Goblin or Water Fairy, as well as Liza.
  • Against midrange decks like Sword/Portal/Shadow keep Sylvan Justice and Insect Lord.
  • Against slower decks like Rune/Dragon/Haven keep a 1-drop, even it it’s Tia or Lila.
  • If you’re keeping a 1-drop, keep a proactive 2-drop, some of the better options for those include Falconer and Fairy Whisperer.
  • Going first, if you’re keeping a 1-2 curve, keep Lily/Lila.
  • Against Portal (assuming Lishenna Portal), keep Greenglen Axeman if you’re already have a 2-drop.

Aggro Forest is a deck that wants to establish the board in the early game, which can be achieved by starting the game with a 1-drop, and (hopefully) managing to buff your board on turn 4 with either Lily or Lila. Liza is one of the best cards in the deck since it draws extra cards and makes the deck curve out better and fetches Axeman, which is the primary win condition against decks that can control the early board. Keeping vanilla 2-drops is not that important since the deck has a lot of early game and it’s a lot more important to find a playable 1-drop or Liza. After the mini-expansion, I’ve personally found that Axeman (or two) is really important to have against Lishenna Portal since it counteracts the healing from Destruction in White, so as silly as it may seem to keep the most expensive card in your deck in your opening, I think it’s generally correct, especially with how often Liza gets banished by Substitution.

What does Aggro Forest do?

Aggro Forest is an archetype that has 2 primary win conditions: on one hand, the deck can generate aggressive early boards states, which can often be enough to deal 10-15 damage to reactive decks, namely Mysteria Rune/Ramp Dragon; and on the other hand, Greenglen Axeman’s leader effect can deal incremental damage every turn. The game plan of Aggro Forest is to try and curve out and then proceed to find at least one Axeman before turn 6 to close out the game by turns 9-10, often in combination with Storm damage from Lina & Lena, which conveniently has the same trigger as Axeman.

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Optional inclusions and tech cards

  • Tia, Crystallian Noble is an optional 1-drop that has been pushed out of aggressive Forest lists and replaced by Fairy Circle. The reason for that is the improved synergy with Axeman, Lily and Insect Lord. Tia is a payoff card for those types of cards, and it appears that there isn’t enough token generation to feed into the “play x cards in a turn” effects. That is not to say that Tia is a bad card, however, Fairy Circle usually takes priority over it.
  • Grasshopper Conductor is an optional inclusion in lists that don’t play Rayne to tutor out Lina & Lena since it’s the only 2-attack follower in the deck. Including more than one Conductor runs the risk of missing on the tutor effect and drawing the other Conductor, which wouldn’t draw anything (since there are no 3-s in the deck). The neat thing about Conductor is that it curves out after Axeman very naturally, e.g. you can play Axeman on 6 and 7, and then on 8 go Fairy+Conductor+Lina & Lena, which does 8 damage. I personally really like Conductor, in part because the effect is so unique and partly because cutting Rayne makes me happy.
  • Hornet Soldier is a common optional inclusion that gives the archetype more gas against Dragon and/or additional burn that helps to close out games. Hornet Soldier is the most straightforward midgame inclusion in Tempo Forest, and is often included even in Aggro lists as a 1- of a 2-of.
  • Selwyn is a defensive alternative to Hornet Soldier that helps in the mirror and against midrange decks like Sword/Shadow as it also works as a removal spell.
  • Korwa is an optional inclusion that serves as a more or less guaranteed enabler for Greenglen Axeman. A neat thing about Korwa is that you can eventually get to a point where your Fils make Followers attack twice, which is useful for some extra burst when combined with Falconer tokens or if you ever manage to have something stick on the board at that point in the game. In addition to that, Axeman with a Fil can potentially clear two different followers as well.
  • Gilnelise and potentially Lyria are an alternative way for Forest to include some late-game cards. Having cards that interfere with Liza draws is undesirable, however, Gilnelise is neutral. I personally think that a 1-of Gilnelise is a reasonable inclusion in Aggro Forest, but it’s tricky to find a spot for more than 1.
  • Fount of Angels does 2 face damage with Lina & Lena and eventually cycles itself. Since you’re ususally cutting some 1-drops for it, I don’t think that it’s particularly good.
  • Ward of Unkilling is a cute tech card against Mysteria Rune/Lishenna Portal/DFB Blood that also draws 2 cards for 3 in matchups where the effect isn’t relevant. Drawing 2 cards is good and all, but getting a 1/3 for it is even better, so it’s difficult to justify Ward of Unkilling as anything more than a 1-of.

Is Beetle Warrior a good card?

Lina & Lena naturally fits into the Aggro Forest game plan by creating damage spikes on post-Axeman turns. While 4 Storm damage may not seem like a lot, it does add up over time with the Axeman procs and has synergy with follower buffs like Lily and (in rare cases) Lila. For example, a turn 8 2xFairy into Lina & Lena into Lily hits for 6 even without Axeman procs, and if you save an evolve point, it’s possible to evolve Lily and buff Lina & Lena to 5 attack, resulting in 10 damage (which goes to 12-14 with Axema(e)n procs). With that said, some classes (namely Sword/Haven/Dragon) have good Wards at that point in the game, so setting up for a 10-damage combo is incorrect in those matchups since a lot of that damage is going to be eaten up by Barongs/Siegfried/Eachtar friends/etc., so it’s better to cash in on the face damage as early as possible. However, against classes like Portal/Shadow you usually have breathing room for those setups and it’s fine to do so. From a design standpoint, Lina & Lena is an interesting card since it’s made to work well with Axeman (due to having the same activation condition) and supports the Forest’s identity of follower buffs. Unlike most other buff payoff cards, Lina & Lena works well without buffs and immediately translates said buffs into face damage, which makes it more or less the only worthwhile payoff effect of this sort, because dealing face damage has a direct correlation with winning Shadowverse games.

What makes for a Midrange Forest deck?

Apart from optional midgame options present in standard Tempo Forest lists, Midrange Forest lists can be built around two main “sub-packages”:

  • The “Korwa package”, or in less flattering terms, the ”Korwa trap” consists of a playset of Forest Defenders and potentially even 1-2 White Vanara. Forest Defender performs well against MidShadow/MidSword as well as Forest mirrors, and White Vanara is a card that primarily shines against Rune since it creates a lot of reach. The problem with the “Korwa package”, from what I’ve found from playing around 100 games with different variations of various Korwa lists, is that it makes you cut a lot of good early game cards to include high-value mid-game cards which don’t really work without finding Korwa first. In addition to that, White Vanara is a dangerous inclusion since it costs 6 and muddles the Liza pool, which means that you often (25% with one Vanara and 40% with two) can’t actually tutor out the Axeman. While Lila can technically activate White Vanara or Forest Defender for 1, both of the pay-off cards work a lot better with Fils, since they can either be activated multiple times in a turn (Forest Defender) or attack twice (Vanara). From my experience, the most reasonable “Korwa build” would be Reakuroe’s build, which plays 0xVanaras and only gets rid of Sylvan Justice to enable the package. In other words, cutting good cards to enable bad cards is not actually worthwhile.
  • Carbuncle, Immortal Jewel, as well as its support card, Apostle of Unkilling, which can tutor out Sparks after you play Carbuncle is an (extremely greedy) set of cards that can potentially generate card draw, a bit of healing and even restore Evolve points. There are two major problems with Carbuncle, however: firstly, it’s a 4-cost 2/2 that only passes the vanilla test once you evolve it, the 2pp refund is neat since you can fit something else into the same turn, e.g. Liza or Insect Lord, however, Carbuncle is more or less unplayable before evolve turns; and secondly, Sparks take a while to actually find. It’s not possible to draw Sparks with Liza, and if you play Carbuncle on curve, it will on average take you 7-8 drawn cards to find the first Spark. The neat thing here is that Carbuncle does feed into itself, since if you play multiple Carbuncles (even for its Accelerate cost), then the odds improve drastically, and each consecutive Spark digs further through your deck. In my opinion, as cute as Carbuncle may be, the card has no place in any remotely competitive Forest deck.

It appears that the competitive viability of Midrange Forest builds has an inverse correlation with the amount of high-value midgame cards, which is not only observable on ladder, but in tournament play as well: successful Forest decks in tournaments seem to be fairly aggressive, and usually include a playset of Axemen/Metera. With the current card pool, even decent “Korwa synergy” cards don’t really function without finding Korwa itself, which means that this specific approach to building Forest decks either needs a source of card draw, a tutor for Korwa or a redundant Korwa-type effect that can be played in the same deck as Korwa.

Despite its low popularity, Aggro Forest is currently the best-performing ladder deck of the Rotation format, and it does extremely well against reactive classes that can’t deal with 10-power boards on turn 4 like Rune/Portal. The class appears to be weak against proactive board-centric decks like Midrange Sword/Shadow, and is slightly favored even against decks one would expect it to struggle against (Ramp Dragon/Lion Haven).

It can be concluded that Aggro Forest is one of the decks that got a huge upgrade in the mini-expansion, because Beetle-Warrior-but-it-can-attack-twice fits into the archetype so naturally, so Aggro Forest is better across the board after the mini-expansion. Aggro Forest has seen some fringe tournament success, but the archetype generally performs better on ladder because ladder has comparably more Portal/Rune and a whole lot less Sword. In my experience, Aggro Forest is one of the better ladder decks in the Rotation due to its proactively aggressive nature and a generally favorable matchup spread.

Midrange Forest has fallen off in terms of popularity weeks before the mini-expansion came out, and since it didn’t get any support cards that wouldn’t work well in an Aggro build, the archetype is left in a spot where its best matchups are 40/60-s, the deck is barely played and generally considered non-competitive.

Midrange Shadow

Mulligan priority

  • Always keep Goblin and Fran.
  • Against board-centric decks like Sword/Forest/Shadow, keep Manifest Malice, as well as a generic 2-drop (Ferry/Goblin Fighter/Paradise Vanguard/Lady Grey/Buffalo Bones/etc). Manifest Malice is fine on turn 3, and doesn’t conflict with proactive 2-drops.
  • Against Rune/Dragon, keep a 1-drop, even if it’s Gremory or Mischievous Spirit.
  • Going second, keep Lady Grey, Zebet or Osiris. Keeping Orthrus is fine if you already have a 2-into-3 curve. Lady Grey is a higher priority keep if you’re playing against an aggressive deck (e.g. Sword/Forest) where healing matters.
  • If you’re already keeping 2 cards, keeping Cerberus is fine.
  • If you’re keeping a 2-drop, keep Arcus against specifically Portal (assuming you’re playing against Lishenna Portal).

The general mulligan strategy for Midrange Shadow is to try and get an early game start that would allow you to get to the Lady Grey/Orthrus/Cerberus turns. Most of the Shadow 2-drops are quite mediocre on curve (aside from Manifest Malice, which is not really a proactive 2-drop), and it’s generally not that great to play things like Nicola on 2, since it sets you back in terms of tempo too much. Since Shadow lists are a little all over the place, the best 2-drops to keep depend on the exact list, but generally, having a vanilla 2/2 on 2 is good enough. Unconditional Evolve effects (Osiris is active on curve most of the time, and even if it isn’t, it often cycles a card) help you to curve out into Cerberus. Against Rune/Dragon, getting a 1/1 into play on turn 1 pushes 3-4 points of damage and demands an (eventual) answer, especially if the 1/1 is Gremory, that could start getting card draw in the midgame. I’ve noticed that Arcus is a particularly well-performing card against Lishenna Portal, so I’ve been keeping it against Portal on ladder and I think it’s mostly correct, as silly as it may seem to keep a 7-drop. It’s similar to how keeping Frost Lich Jaina is usually correct if you’re playing Hearthstone, for example, despite it being a 9-drop.

Optional inclusions and tech cards

  • Various proactive 2-drops, which include Neutral cards such as Goblin Fighter, Paradise Vanguard, Happy Pig and Ephemera, as well as some of the worse class-specific 2-drops like Buffalo Bones and Danua. Shadow doesn’t have enough playable 2-drops, so including 3-5 of these cards is a necessary evil. In my experience, the best options are Buffalo Bones and Goblin Fighter. Buffalo Bones works awkwardly with Arcus due to its Enhance cost (which means that it’s more or less a dead card post-Arcus); and Goblin Fighter trades poorly against Sword and draws a bad card 50% of the time. I’m not sure what the optimal Shadow 2-drop composition is.
  • Zebet and Osiris are optional 4-drops that compete for the same card slot. I generally find Zebet too random and bad at trading (since a 4/4 post-evolve lines up poorly against Grea/Aiela//etc.), but it does give more value and healing. Osiris is better tempo and can often cycle a card “for free”. Since I’ve been aggressively mulliganning for 1-drops, I’ve found Osiris to perform very well as a 2- or 3-of. On paper, Osiris is bad against Sword, but since a lot of Sword lists are only playing 1xOctrice, Osiris is significantly better in that matchup than one would expect.
  • Cheap Burial Rite-based cycling effects like Gloomy Necro and Everdark Strix are an optional inclusion that helps against Dragon. Shadow has a lot of redundant followers like Nicola, Arcus and Goblin Leader (from Goblin Fighter), that you can dump to draw actual cards from your deck. As a bonus, these cards also generate extra Shadows, which helps with the Nicola plan and makes Osiris/Orthrus/Fran easier to activate.
  • Big Soul Hunter is an anti-Dragon tech card. Has very few targets against Portal/Haven/Mysteria Rune.
  • Fall from Grace is a tech card against Lishenna Portal, and quite a poor one at that, since it doesn’t really target anything else in the format and generally doesn’t have any synergy in the archetype. Getting blown out by an on-curve Lishenna feels bad, but having actual dead cards in your proactive midrange deck feels even worse.

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What does Midrange Shadow do?

Midrange Shadow is an archetype centered around powerful midgame Shadow followers that generate a wide board like Cerberus, Lady Grey and Osiris, which either allows to set up for a safe Arcus/Gilnelise turn and close out the game on turn 10 with either a combo using Ferry with Gilnelise/Gremory on a Ghost-generating 1-drop (Mischievous Spirit/Lyria) or a Gilnelise played on a previous turn.

Impact of the mini-expansion

Midrange Shadow didn’t receive any new cards in the mini-expansion, which is great from a design standpoint. Before the mini-expansion, Midrange Shadow was hovering at around ~56% winrate and I’ve seen many players clamouring for nerfs and it’s great that those are no longer necessary after the playing field was leveled by virtue of other classes getting card upgrades.

There is a bit of a worrying trend here, however, in that with the upcoming Chronogenesis rotation a lot of currently popular decks (Mysteria and Burn Rune, Ramp Dragon, all forms of Portal and Forest) are losing key cards in their respective archetypes, and the only classes that aren’t affected by the rotation are Shadow, Haven, Sword and Blood. Sword has never been particularly problematic in recent times, and DFB Blood is specifically only really strong against decks that are losing a lot of cards, but MidShadow and Lion Haven could potentially be a bit problematic. I can only hope that Shadow receives abundant Reanimate support in the upcoming set (because no “big Reanimate” support card has ever been playable apart from pre-nerf Ceridwen). Of course, it’s good for the long-term health of the game if the “big Reanimate” effects are unplayably bad because cheating tempo is generally a terrible mechanic in most card games. Do people really want Skull Ring+Lord Atomy? Is a 5-drop that summons an 8/8 when it’s evolved fun to play against? Is Barnes on 4 fun? I personally don’t understand the design philosophy behind the Shadowcraft class and I hope the class is taken in a more sensible direction in the future.

This better not be a 「Fallen Empires」reference

Nicola, Forbidden Strength is a card that gives Shadow an alternate avenue of dealing an unreasonable amount of face damage. Pre-Arcus, Nicola is a 2-drop that goes through phases of 1/1 to 2/1 to 3/1, after which it get set back to 1 Attack again. Notably, since the card’s attack is set to 1, it stays as a 1/3 even when Evolved, which is relevant for Gremory turns. Gilnelise buffs work fine, however, since the +2/+0 effect is applied after the “Attack is set to 1” effect. Stages of the chain can be skipped with Evolves (Evolved 3/3 Nicola turns into a 4/1 when it dies, going to its “active” stage immediately), Gilnelise buffs (a 3/1 Nicola buffed by Gilnelise turns into a 4/1 when it dies). The way the card works initially seemed confusing to me, but a simple way to think about it is that when Nicola dies, you get a fresh new 1/1 Nicola, which then gets the +X/+0 buff.

There are a few consequences of having a reusable 2-drop in Shadow, for one, the card can be replayed over multiple turns like an Ultimate Carrot, to get a “free” follower into play. The original Khaiza never quite was in the same rotation set as Arcus (as far as I remember), so the interaction between a 2-drop that you can replay over an over to generate Ghosts never really came into play in the Rotation format, which not only allows you to “activate” a Nicola in a single turn, but also rapidly feeds Shadows into the secondary 20-Shadows condition. As well as a lot of Ghosts, of course. Doing the “Arcus-Nicola loop” can set up an 18 damage turn 10 with Ferry, which is quite vulnerable to Wards, or alternatively sets up for a 14 damage turn, that goes through Wards, which does however require 19 Shadows and 2 copies of the Nicola token generated beforehand. Naturally, there are many possible Nicola setups post-Arcus, and the basic condition is that you need to play Nicola 4 times and get to 20 Shadows in the process of playing the combo.

Another minor (and somewhat harmful) interaction with Nicola is that if you play Nicola multiple times in the early game, it takes up multiple slots in your Reanimate pool and makes Lady Grey and potentially Osiris give you extra copies of the thing, which is not really a desirable effect; which is simply another argument to try and not play 2-cost 1/1s in the early game.

Miscellaneous notes

  • A card that I personally vastly overestimated after the initial set reveal is Zebet. That is not to say that Zebet is bad or anything, but the extreme variance on Zebet’s Evolve effect can cost you matches if you get unlucky and roll a 2/3 instead of a 4/4. Zebet is a little awkward, since on every single turn that you could play it efficiently, there are better things to be doing, e.g. on turn 4 when going first, you’d rather play Orthrus, and on turn 5 you’d much rather play Cerberus; on turn 7 it’s better to play Arcus or, if you’re really ahead Gremory/Gilnelise. Zebet is decent when going second and is a fine play against midrange decks if you get to turn 10 without Arcus. On turn 10, Zebet summons 3 different beetleborgs, which means that you have a 67.23% probability of getting the 4/3 Ambush, which does 18 damage with a Ferry into Gremory/Gilnelise combo, similarly to the regular Gilnelise setup. Getting to turn 11 is a very rare event in [CURRENT YEAR] Shadowverse, but it’s not really that improbable either.
  • Since Shadow lists now often include Goblins and Goblin Fighters, a card that has gotten a lot better is Osiris, since it’s more or less guaranteed to Reanimate 2 different things. In addition to that, even though it makes for an awkward curve (somewhat works when going first), Buffalo Bones also puts a 1-drop into the Osiris revive pool.
  • A small interaction that has gotten a lot more significant after all the Shadow card draw rotated out is drawing cards with Gremory, meaning that you can save a Gremory in hand (or hope that it sticks around from an earlier turn) to draw a card for 1 mana on an evolve turn. This has become more notable recently since against decks like Mysteria Rune it is more or less impossible to keep a board around and you don’t really get the leisure of playing Gremory for 7 pre-Arcus.

Regarding Reanimate Shadow

Reanimate Shadow is a build of Shadow that is focused on reviving Tartarus, the Tormentor by getting to 12 Shadows and using the Lurker in the Dark token on turn 8 to summon an 8/8 with Ambush. The problem with Tartarus is the same as it was with the previous Reanimate targets (e.g. new Mordecai): it’s conditional and painfully slow. A 3/3 Ward on turn 8 is more or less tempo suicide and Tartarus itself comes with a 1-time AoE that destroys enemy followers with 5 or less heatlh. Not even going into how 8 damage on turn 9 isn’t enough to win against a lot of decks, it’s really strange how vulnerable Tartarus is to Ward cards. The card would be considerably more reasonable (and flavorful) if it ignored Ward, there’s even a keyword for that effect! How does a Clay Golem with a funny shield stop the 12-cost Tartarus?

Jokes aside, even the 12 Shadow requirement is tricky to reach without straying too far from the standard Midrange Shadow build, e.g. you can’t really play Orthrus, Osiris, Big Soul Hunter, etc. in a Tartarus deck. Even after jumping through all these hoops, Tartarus realistically still requires you to get to turn 10, where it can swing for 24 with Ferry, so you have to more or less skip the attack on 9 to get there. Well, there’s a certain other card with Ambush that also asks of the player to get to turn 10 with Ferry, which is Gilnelise. Sure, Gilnelise does “only” 15 damage, but it also feeds into itself by drawing 5 cards to find the required cards. With that in mind, the most sensible Reanimate Shadow build that I’ve come across is NeDo’s build, which more or less is a slightly gimped MidShadow list (Zebet instead of Osiris, no Orthrus/Big Soul Hunter) and 2xTartarus in the Arcus slot. If there’s a playable Reanimate build, it would likely look somewhat similar to that, in my opinion.

After the mini-expansion release, Midrange Shadow is more or less worse across the board, which is particularly noticable when looking at Portal/Dragon/Haven matchups. Currently Midrange Shadow appears to struggle against Ramp Dragon and Lion Haven. Due to the popularity of those 2 decks in tournament play, MidShadow sees very fringe competitive success. However, the deck is still reasonably competitive on ladder, although it does get outperformed by MidSword and Lion Haven.

Darkfeast Bat (DFB) Blood

Identifying cards: Servant of Lust, Wings of Lust, Valnareik, Flauros, Apostle of Lust, Evil Eye Demon, Darkfeast Bat.

Mulligan Priority

  • Always keep Restless Parish (even multiple copies) and Servant of Lust.
  • Against decks with weaker early game like Rune/Dragon/Shadow, keep Disciple of Lust. If you’re going first and have a 2-drop, it’s reasonable to keep Disciple against other classes.
  • Against midrange classes like Sword/Shadow/Forest/Portal, keep Kiss of Lust/Evil Eye Demon.
  • Keep Vira going second.
  • Against slower classes like Rune/Dragon, keep Blood Pact/Alexandrite Demon.
  • If you’re keeping 2 cards for an early Flauros setup (e.g. Blood Pact+Parish), also keep Gift for Bloodkin.
  • Do not keep Flauros/Darkfeast Bat.

The goal of Blood mulligans is to either have an aggressive early curve, or get an early (usually around turn 4) Flauros activation. Focusing on these general goals also accelerates the progress of getting Valnareik online, improves the AoE of Evil Eye Demon’s Evolve effect and against slower decks, makes your opponent have less total life. An important card in the early Evolve turns is Vira, which is ideal to use with either 2-self-damage cards like Blood Pact/Razory Clawb> or Wings of Lust, since most classes don’t have convenient Bane followers or destruction effects at that stage in the game, and a 6/6 Vira is very difficult to clear with regular minion combat.

Optional inclusions and tech cards

  • Disciple of Lust is a (somewhat ubiquitous) tech card against Rune/Dragon. The card usually does more than a Goblin would, since it not only does an extra point of damage when it dies, but also starts increasing the DFB/EED/Valnareik counters with each attack. Naturally, the card also helps Invoke Flauros as well. I personally think that 3xDisciple is a necessity in the current format, even though it’s not great against Sword.
  • Kiss of Lust is a tech card against Sword and DFB Blood mirrors. The card is highly efficient at clearing 2-drops, but has the unfortunate side effect of healing both players for 1. Kiss of Lust is kind of a direct replacement for the rotated Snarling Chains, but, Kiss is obviously a lot lower in impact and doesn’t advance your win condition. I don’t think Kiss is the best card for that slot, but it’s a fine 1-of or even a 2-of if you’re playing against a lot of proactive decks.
  • Apostle of Lust is a tech card against Dragon and a replacement for the rotated Purehearted Singer. Card draw in Blood is difficult to come by, and Apostle is the third best class card with that function. Apostle of Lust is neat against Dragon since it’s a 5/4 with full Evolve stats, which lines up nicely against most mid-game Dragon cards, draws 2 cards and does 1 point of chip damage. Apostle is quite slow and works poorly against midrange classes like Sword/Shadow since those usually have multiple followers in play in the mid-game, and cards like Celia in particular are great against Apostle because of the 1/1 Ward.
  • Diabolus Agito is a very bad highly optional Blood 5-drop that can save Evolve points which are very valuable for the archetype. The problem with Diabolus Agito is that it doesn’t really help with the game plan of the deck, and is (for the most part) a vanilla Rush follower. The destruction immunity can be relevant against Bane followers and Fiery Embrace or Valse bullets, but the card generally lines up poorly against most playable 5-drops in the format. 4 damage is an awkward breakpoint in the midgame, since a lot of followers that you’d want to clear at that point have too high of a health total to clear with Diabolus Agito. Diabolus Agito sees occasional play as a 1-of in the Apostle/Kiss of Lust slot.

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What does DFB Blood do?

DFB Blood is a deck built around the synergistic mechanics of Blood cards that deal damage to your leader. The main payoff effects include Valnareik (a powerful tempo card), Evil Eye Demon (AoE), Flauros (healing and “free” tempo) and the eponymous finisher card of the archetype, Darkfeast Bat. The defining characteristics of the archetype include powerful face damage effects, cards that can “cheat” tempo like Flauros/Valnareik and an 8-cost win condition, which is 2 turns faster than what decks like Lishenna Portal/Mysteria Rune/Midrange Shadow are working with.

Miscellaneous notes

  • Before the expansion, Darkfeast Bat used to be an extremely optimized deck, to the point where a significant percentage of Blood players used the same exact 40 cards. After Singer and Snarling Chains rotated out, the archetype now has a few card slots open, and there is no exact consensus on what the optimal DFB Blood list looks like anymore (which is a good thing, of course, since variety is generally a good thing for the health of the game).
  • There isn’t a whole lot to say about DFB Blood apart from what was said in the previous reports, and even the individual matchup percentages have remained fairly consistent with December(it’s been more than 2 months, mind you!) data, however the Mysteria Rune matchup has become more difficult for Blood after the patch since Rune decks now get a lot more Wards and a Valnareik+Wings of Lust isn’t as much of a death sentence for Rune as it used to be previously, because there’s usually 2 or more Wards in play at that point. The matchup is still Blood-favored, but it does feel a lot more manageable as the Rune player. In addition to that, Portal in general has become a lot better against Blood after Maisha, in part due to the increased popularity of Nilpotent Entity and in part due to improvement of overall deck consistency.
  • While this is not directly related to DFB Blood, there has been some minor experimentation with “Handbuff Blood”, a deck that tries to utilize Vuella/Furfur to increase damage of Storm followers like Savage Wolf, Dark General and Milnard. At present, there isn’t enough support in the Rotation format for this type of deck, partly because of the Vengeance activators (Waltz/Narmaya) being so mediocre, but there are Aggro Blood builds based on the previous OBK Blood shell which can fit in, well, Old Blood King itself, Savage Wolf and Imp Lancer as the payoff effects for the “handbuff” followers.
  • The mini-expansion didn’t bring any DFB support, but it did include 2 Vengeance-centric cards, neither of which really fit into the standard DFB shell. Laura has some potential and has been seeing some play in Unlimited, because a 5/5 Storm for 4 is actually quite powerful, but just having access to the “Vengeance bear” is not a big enough push for that type of deck to exist in Rotation. There have been some experimental lists going around with Calamity Bringer or Thunder Behemoth for the Laura-enabled finishers, but at this point these decks appear to be pretty janky and unrefined.

Despite the stigma that Blood gets as the least competitive class in the Rotation format, DFB Blood still does fairly well against slower decks like Ramp Dragon/Mysteria Rune/Lion Haven, but stuggles against Portal in general, and aggressive midrange decks like MidSword/MidShadow/Aggro Forest. It could potentially be possible to build a tournament lineup that tries to ban out Portal and includes DFB Blood, however, since JCG is a 2-deck conquest format with no bans, players generally aren’t brave enough to bring Blood. If memory serves me right, there has been a player (whose name I unfortunately don’t remember) in a recent SVO event that had a 8-0 run through the Swiss bracket playing MidShadow/Mysteria Rune/DFB Blood, and since that event is a 3-deck-1-ban one, if you ban Portal and look at the expected field (Dragon/Rune/Sword/Haven), DFB Blood is on average the best deck in that lineup. With that said, DFB Blood is not very competitive for ladder play, but not to the point of being the absolute bottom of the barrel; it’s roughly on par with Lishenna Portal in terms of its overall performance and it could do better in specific pockets of the meta, but due to the highly-polarized matchups of the archetype, it can be frustrating to play on ladder.

Stats corner (01/04 – 07/04, STR preliminary)

Notes on the Ladder Performance chart

The first chart in the Stats Corner is a table sorted based on so called “Score” of a particular deck archetype. The deck archetypes are assigned to arbitrary score ranges for different tiers (>80%, >60%, >40%for tiers 1 through 3, respectively). The table also lists win percentages and relative frequencies of the deck archetypes with their respective weekly changes. For information on previous weeks, use the “Week” dropdown menu in the top left corner of the chart.

How is score calculated?

The score system is loosely based on the one used in Vicious Syndicate’s Data Reaper reports. Each of the archetypes is assigned 2 score values, one based on its popularity (Rel. Frequency) and one based on its winrate. Each of those lies in the range from 0 to 100. For the winrate, the highest winrate (in the sample) is set to 100 of the “Winrate Score” and the lowest winrate is set to 0 of the “Winrate Score”. The most popular archetype has 100% Relative Frequency, and 0% Rel. Frequency corresponds to 0 recorded games. Both of those use a simple linear correlation between the type of score and the corresponding recorded value.

The overall score is a weighted average of the “Winrate Score” and “Rel. Frequency”, with the weight defined by the Meta score parameter, which can be adjusted using the slider at the top right of the chart. A value of 0 means that the decks are listed in order of descending popularity, and a 100 means a list in order of descending winrate. A value of 50 means a simple average of the two scores. A deck with 100% overall score is the theoretical best deck in the format, since it means that it has the best winrate and is also the most popular archetype (e.g., PDK Dragon or Neutral Blood would have 100% score during their heyday).

Generally, the best decks are the ones that win the most games, but some of those can be very uncommon on ladder, which leads to greater variance. To factor in that fact, the default weight used here is 70-90%, heavily skewed towards winrate, with a small (10-30%) factor of popularity, which means that uncommon decks with very high reported winrate (e.g. PDK Dragon as of 05/08/18) are placed lower than decks with lesser winrates (e.g. Chimera Rune) that see significantly more play, because the former “lose” most of the ~20% percent of their score based on their popularity.