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.

Dragon    Blood    Shadow    Rune    Forest    Haven    Sword    Portal    Stats corner

PDK and Ramp Dragon

Identifying cards (Ramp): Pure-voiced Dragoon, Force of the Dragonewt, Canyon of the Dragons, Frenzied Drake, Craving’s Splendor, Apostle of Disdain.
Identifying cards (PDK): Prime Dragon Keeper, Waters of the Orca, Dragon Aficionado, Serpent Drake.
Ramp and PDK Dragon are both offshoots of the same core of Dragon cards, categorized by either the inclusion of Prime Dragon Keeper and support cards for it or Pure-Voiced Dragoon, as well as occasional slower cards like Canyon of the Dragons and Frenzied Drake.

Mulligan Priority

  • Always keep Dragon Oracle, Whitefrost Dragonewt Filene, Dragoncleaver Roy or Dragon Aficionado.
  • Keep Aiela going second.
  • If you’re playing both Serpent Drakes and Servants of Disdain, keep Disciple of Disdain or Disdainful Rending, keep Rending/Disciple depending on the matchup (e.g. if you expect a slower deck, keep Disciple; if you expect a midrange-y deck, keep Rending).
  • If you’re already keeping Rending/Disciple or going second without Aiela, keep Serpent Drake.
  • Keep a playable 2-drop (includes Filene, Servant, Masamune, Aiela and Waters of the Orca, in order of priority) against Shadow/Forest/Blood/Sword.
  • Keep card draw like Purehearted Singer against Rune/Haven.

The basic mulligan strategy with Dragon is to keep all the suitable Ramp cards like Dragon Oracle, Roy and Aiela whenever appropriate. Apart from that, you also need to keep efficient 2-drops to contest the board against board-centric classes. In addition, cards with “Enrage” synergy are excellent with their activators, Disciple of Disdain and Disdainful Rending; and the activators are situationally fine on their own if you can land the effect on something, and since the payoff is huge when those effects do land on the cards that support them, it is fine to fish for synergistic openings (like Serpent Drake+Rending against midrange classes, for example).

Tech cards

  • Seraphic Blade against Haven/Blood. Clears Temple of the Holy Lion against Lion decks and answers Evolved Vira.
  • Dragon Aficionado as a proactive 3-drop against Midrange Shadow. Provides 2 PDK procs in the later stages of the game. Replaces Serpent Drake.
  • Blazing Breath and/or Force of the Dragonewt against Shadow/Forest, more commonly played in Ramp lists.
  • Frenzied Drake against Shadow/Sword/Dragon as a powerful AoE option, more commonly present in Ramp lists. Frenzied Drake is really slow and is redundant with the Poseidon/Masamune combo.
  • Apostle of Disdain andCraving’s Splendor as a generic reach package, more commonly used in Ramp lists, but occasionally played in PDK as well. Particularly useful against Blood. The Apostle/Splendor combo does 7 base damage which can be increased with Evolve points, Disciples of Disdain and Disdainful Rending. Apostle can be played without Splendor with just Rending/Disciples and still do a fair bit of damage.

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Both PDK and Ramp Dragon are archetypes centered around powerful Ramp effects available to Dragoncraft and efficient early-game Followers combined with powerful late-game effects that can come out 1-2 turns earlier than expected. Compared to previous expansions, the current iteration of common Dragon lists is a lot closer to a midrange tempo deck, and the average Dragon list looks close to what one would’ve expected from PDK lists of the past. The reason for that speedup is, of course, the cycle of cards with “Disdain” synergy.

Cycle of disdain

Regardless of how the lists are classified, the vast majority of current Dragon decks include a package of “Disdain” cards which either benefit from dealing damage to allied Followers or Followers that gain a benefit when damaged, consisting of activators (Disciple and Rending) and payoff cards (Servant, Serpent Drake, Galmieux and Apostle). The Disdain package is clearly lopsided towards payoff cards since Followers naturally get damaged when trading. Putting it simply, the main played Disdain payoff cards are mostly good standalone cards (Galmieux and Servant) and the activators dealing damage to allied Followers is either a negligible downside or a huge payoff when combined with Followers that benefit from taking damage. For that reason, the main 11-12 “Disdain package” cards are included in every competitive Dragon deck, which naturally brings the curve of Dragon decks lower. Of particular note here is Galmieux, which not only fills in 2 different parts of the curve (5 and 7), but also provides board control and face damage even without additional activators. Galmieux is the main reason why Zooey has phased out from Dragon lists, for example, since even slower Dragon decks don’t need as many threats or as much reach as before.

Impact of the November changes: Masamune

Dragon has gotten 2 very powerful new cards in the November mini-expansion, Masamune, Raging Dragon and Pure-Voiced Dragoon. Of the two, the former is significantly more prevalent in Dragon decks, unsurprisingly. Masamune’s pseudo-Enhance ability only kicks in after you get to 10 play points, which happens around turn 8 with an average Dragon draw and allows Dragon to have a pseudo-AoE effect that also generates a tempo advantage in conjunction with other Dragon cards. In a regular Dragon list (PDK or not), Masamune doesn’t play well with 3 cards: Azi Dahaka, Purehearted Singer and Waters of the Orca; and with any other combination of cards totaling 6-8 play points Masamune can provide an incredible tempo swing. A notable example of good Masamune synergy include Poseidon, which generates a huge board, clears 2-3 Followers from the opponent’s side of the board and puts 2 Wards into play which prevent your opponent from taking back tempo or dealing face damage on the backswing. The Poseidon/Masamune is backbreaking for a lot of Midrange decks for obvious reasons, and even decks that play AoE can struggle with clearing the Poseidon afterwards.

In addition to that, aside from giving Rush and damage immunity to allied Followers, a notable interaction with Masamune is that the “when damaged” cards work even when taking 0 damage, which matters for Servant of Disdain (letting you draw a card when you bump it into something and allowing you to cash in Rendings/Disciples for a card each) and (to an extent) Galmieux (since you can deal 6 damage to something, 3 damage to a random Follower and your opponent, and it sticks around as a 5/4, conveniently out of range of a lot of removal spells). These types of effects have always seemed confusing to me, but a lot of effects in Shadowverse work like that for some reason, other example include Bane and Tenko’s Shrine/Elana’s Prayer activating even when dealing 0 damage or healing at full health. In Hearthstone or Magic, if an effect deals 0 damage or heals for 0, it doesn’t trigger effects like “when healed” or “when damaged”. It’s a little strange, but most Shadowverse cards are balanced around that fact, so it makes some sense. Except Masamune. He’s not really balanced.

Jokes aside, Masamune is also playable as a 2-drop since he trades well with 1/3s and can often demand a removal spell as an answer so that he doesn’t trade up with 3-drops. The downside of playing Masamune is that the 10-pp effect is fairly slow and that Masamune isn’t great in the midgame and isn’t as good as Waters of the Orca with PDK, for example. Due to that slight anti-synergy, PDK lists can cut some copies of Waters of the Orca if they want to fit in 3xMasamune, and it is not unheard of to play 3xWaters and 1xMasamune, for example, so while the card is extremely strong, there is a lot of competition for 2-drops in Dragon, and if you want your PDK list to be more aggressive, Masamune can potentially not make the cut as a 3-of. In that sense, Masamune is a balanced card, but after PDK rotated out in 3 weeks, I could see it turning into a 3-of staple in Dragon decks. The name of the card is also a little strange, since (unless you’re playing a Dragon mirror match, of course), when Masamune comes down on 10, the player who’s going to be raging sure as hell isn’t Dragon.

Impact of the November changes: other factors

Compared to Masamune, the other mini-expansion Dragon card, Pure-Voiced Dragoon is not a card that just fits into any Dragon deck. Dragoon is a card that is not great on curve and essentially only starts providing value when in Overflow, either healing for a lot or generating a lot of value. As a rule of thumb, Dragoon is usually considered too slow for PDK lists and only really sees play in slower Dragon lists. With that said, healing is fairly valuable in the format, especially if you want to beat DFB Blood or Manaria Rune, so it’s not unheard of to play a 1-of Dragoon in PDK lists as well. Apart from healing, the card can also provide reach (on the following turns) and while the vanilla 5/5 token is not that useful, it works with Masamune because it’s a Dragon card. The prevalence of both Masamune and Dragoon also makes Dragoncleaver Roy more common since ramp effects are that much more valuable, and Roy is also a decent card that can get a lot of value in Dragon mirrors, since it improves the consistency of your ramping (and makes you get to a good Masamune turn before your opponent more often) and dealing 6 damage for 2pp is no joke.

The whole dynamic of getting a spell token is also fairly interesting because it showcases an avenue of player interaction that is commonly seen in other card games, but rarely present in Shadowverse: trading tempo for information. Holding the spell token (when you can play it) against a generic midrange deck is technically a wrong (tempo-based) play, but it does create uncertainty for your opponent. What if the Dragon player has healing? What if the Dragon player is saving the double dragon card to get an 11-mana turn later? The only other Shadowverse card that has a similar effect (that I can think of) is Chromatic Duel before you can play it for its Enhance cost. Examples of this type of interaction in other card games include cards like Tracking and Shadow Visions in Hearthstone, which you don’t really want to play before you have information of what you’re playing against, but sometimes have to if your curve doesn’t allow not to do so; and instant-speed card draw in Magic, which can either be played on your turn to potentially have better options during your main phases (and better tempo as a consequence) or played at the end of your opponent’s turn or when they’re tapped out to either dodge counterspells and to not give away information of you not having counterspells/combat tricks of your own.


Ramp Dragon is one of the more popular decks in the format and is the third best-performing archetype, following its PDK counterpart and DFB Blood. The weaknesses of Ramp Dragon include DFB Blood, PDK Dragon and MidShadow, but even those matchups are fairly close to a 50/50. Statistically, Ramp Dragon is the most reliable (if not quite the best-performing) archetype of the Rotation format due to a lot of its matchups being close to even. The extremely low matchup polarity of the archetype can partially be attributed to its high sample size and the fact that it likely mixes a lot of different specific Dragon lists together, which means that a lot of the matchups get averaged out to its weighted winrate (does that sentence even make sense?). Nevertheless, Ramp Dragon is a highly viable archetype both on ladder and in tournament play and I personally don’t expect that to change even after the new expansion.


PDK Dragon is the slightly less popular counterpart to Ramp Dragon, and as a consequence of its lower sample size, the polarity of the archetype is also higher, which is to be expected, of course. While the archetype is reportedly the best-performing ladder deck (and is extremely popular in tournament play as well), it has some (relatively) weak matchups, which include Manaria Rune, DFB Blood and Ramp Dragon. How can PDK Dragon be weak to Ramp Dragon if Ramp Dragon is weak to PDK, you may ask? A “weak matchup” for PDK Dragon is close to a 50/50, and since Ramp and PDK lists are very similar in terms of deck building and play style, it stands to reason that their matchup is close to a mirror match in terms of winrate, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out the aggregate winrate of any deck in mirror matches, right?

PDK Dragon has a bizarrely high reported winrate, but I personally don’t think that the deck is going to receive any balance changes since Prime Dragon Keeper is rotating at the end of December. However, it wouldn’t surprise me to see a change to one of the other powerful Dragon cards, potentially Poseidon or Masamune.

Darkfeast Bat Blood

Identifying cards: Gift for Bloodkin, Valnareik, Flauros, Evil Eye Demon, Darkfeast Bat.
Darkfeast Bat Blood is the most common Blood deck, most of the time when you’re queuing into a Blood player, it’s likely to be a Darkfeast Bat deck; the above cards distinguish it from other, less common Blood variants, listed as the last few entries in the decklist tab menu.

Mulligan priority

  • Always keep Restless Parish and Servant of Lust.
  • Against midrange classes (Sword/Shadow/Dragon) keep Alexandrite Demon, Evil Eye Demon. Alexandrite Demon is your second best 2-drop against midrange decks (after Servant), and Evil Eye Demon is the only way for Blood to deal with wide boards.
  • Against Sword/Portal/Blood keep Snarling Chains.
  • Keep Disciple of Lust against reactive classes like Rune/Haven and keep it against midrange decks if you already have a 2-drop.
  • Against reactive classes like Rune/Haven keeping card draw is fine, that includes Purehearted Singer and Blood Pact. Alexandrite Demon is a little awkward against Rune since it gets hit by Magic Missile/Vesper and trades poorly with Owen, so it’s best to avoid that.
  • If you’re already keeping 2 cards for an early Flauros, e.g. double Parish or Parish+Disciple, keep Gift for Bloodkin (even multiples) and Blood Pact.
  • Do not keep Flauros or Darkfeast Bat.

The basic idea of mulligans in tempo decks is to get a good 2-3 curve. The only 1-drop in Blood is Disciple (which is not played in a lot of lists), and the best 2-drops are Servant or Alexandrite Demon, while the 3-drops are somewhat conditional, so the best Blood curve is Servant into 2-drop or Singer, depending on the matchup. This pattern gets slightly disturbed by Flauros, however. Putting Flauros into play on turn 3 is the “unfair” factor of playing Blood and something one should aim for when playing Blood. To that end, you should keep Parishes and Gifts in your hand until you can get 4 damage procs in a turn in the early game. Realistically, getting Flauros on turn 3 is very difficult without Disciple, but it’s good to aim for turn 4 with two 2-cost damage effects (e.g. Blood Pact into Chains) with 2 0-cost effects (Gift/Parish). At some point (either when you get to turn 6-ish or draw all copies of Flauros), it’s fine to dump the Parishes with Vira for extra cards/healing and Gifts with Evil Eye Demon for extra damage.

Tech cards

  • Wings of Lust against reactive classes like Rune/Haven. Wings are good when going first and a win-more effect that helps push damage when going second. Giving a Follower +2/+1 and advancing your DFB counter is a good deal for 2pp, but it is conditional in that it requires you to have a Follower that can attack in play. In the midgame, you can use Evolves with Vira or (once it’s active) Valnareik’s Storm to get value from Wings, occasionally even getting healing from the Drain effect. Orthodox DFB Blood lists include 2 copies of Wings of Lust, but a 3-of is also not unheard of.
  • Apostle of Lust against slower classes that don’t threaten your life total or go wide on board, namely Rune/Dragon/Haven. Apostle is fairly slow, and giving your opponent cards is generally not a good idea against decks with little card draw, however, against decks like Chimera Rune that draw a lot and keep 6-8 cards in hand at all times, giving an extra card is not that important. Apostle saw fringe play in the past, but it’s difficult to find a spot for it with the recent, highly optimized Blood lists.
  • Seraphic Blade for mirrors to deal with evolved Vira and against Lion Haven to answer Temple of the Holy Lion. Fairly uncommon since DFB Blood should be a lot faster than Lion Haven.
Darkfeast Bat Blood is an archetype predated by its Unlimited counterpart which got relatively popular last expansion. The basic idea for Darkfeast Bat decks is to include effects that deal damage to both leaders or deal 1-2 damage to your leader with some upside, and then double down on the damage with effects from Evil Eye Demon/Darkfeast Bat for powerful board clears and reach.

Impact of the November changes

In the previous Meta Insight update, I made a prediction that if MidShadow gets nerfed, then DFB Blood will come out as the strongest deck of the format, and it appears that I’ve been wrong, since DFB Blood appears to only be the second strongest deck of the format, after PDK Dragon, which makes sense in hindsight, since my prediction was from before Masamune was revealed. Darkfeast Bat Blood is a fairly unusual deck in that there are literally hundreds of high-level players (both in tournaments and high-GM ladder) that play the same deck, and by “the same” I mean the same exact 40 cards, listed in the tab menu under the “nano9-be?” tab. The question mark is there since I’m not really sure of the origin point of that decklist since so many different players have played it, so it’s not really clear who to attribute the initial decklist to.

Apart from that, DFB Blood is an archetype that has been getting refined and tightened up for the last 3 months, so it stands to reason that it’s as highly optimized as it is. The main recent changes compared to the earlier lists is the complete exclusion of Disciple of Lust since it trades really unfavorably with most 2-drops in the format, and is an extremely bad play when going second; as well as an increased popularity of Wings of Lust. The main advantage of DFB Blood compared to other decks in the format is that its win condition is significantly faster than a lot of other popular decks. To give an example, if MidShadow/Manaria Rune have to get to turn 10 to finish up games, Darkfeast Bat can potentially close out games as early as turn 8, and 8 is less than 10. Apart of that, popular reactive ladder decks such as Holy Lion Haven and Manaria Rune take a while to start flooding the board and don’t run any healing cards, which is a perfect environment for DFB Blood, since Valnareik gets a lot of tempo and burn damage can reliably hit the opponent. I’ve personally never seen Manaria Rune come back from a Valnareik+Wings on turn 7 into Darkfeast Bat on turn 8, and statistically, Blood/Manaria Rune is the most common ladder matchup at present.

Cheating tempo

Most of the Darkfeast Blood gameplan is relatively straightforward and involves trying to stay alive while drawing cards and chucking burn spells that hit both your opponent and yourself, and trying to get your opponent into Darkfeast Bat range. When playing the archetype itself or against it, it is important to keep track of the number of self-damage effects, the 2 important break points are the Valnareik threshold (7) and your (or your opponent’s) life total with 2-3 additional possible damage from Gifts for Bloodkin.

The “trying to stay alive” part is the tricky aspect of playing the archetype. The 4 cards that stick out in that respect are Flauros, Vira, Evil Eye Demon and Valnareik. Cheating Flauros into play is incredibly strong, but highly conditional, so it’s somewhat unreliable. Notably, Flauros is a card that you want to have a copy of in your deck at most times, so most lists play 2-3 copies, with the standard being 3xFlauros, since the more copies you play, the more likely you’re to have at least 1 in your deck. Drawing 2 or more Flauros is unfortunate since you often don’t have time to play all of them, but it beats not having one in your deck when you’re getting a nut draw. Previously, 2xFlauros was considered sufficient, but after the October nerfs DFB Blood has become slower and most lists include extra card draw, thus shifting the scales towards playing it as a 3-of.

The other 3 cards are a lot more straightforward, Vira is a good Evolve target that lets you Blood Pact/Razory Claw without taking damage (which still adds to the Darkfeast Bat counter). Occasionally, you can play the healing option of Parish with Vira, effectively healing for 8 for 2pp. Evil Eye Demon is essentially a secondary “win condition” against Shadow since it allows to answer wide boards generated by Cerberus and take back tempo; against classes that don’t go wide or create powerful board swings (like Rune/Lishenna Portal), EED is still a slightly worse Snarling Chains that adds to the Darkfeast Bat counter. Valnareik can often be a 3-cost 2/4, which is a good rate if you’re going first and have a Parish/Gift to spare to pump it; however, it is often better to save it for after you’ve gotten 7 damage effects to use it as a pseudo-Dance of Death effect since it destroys a Follower and pushes 2 face damage.

It should also be noted that Last Words effects that deal damage to your leader also count for “damage taken during your turn” if you clear the corresponding Follower on your turn. This is relevant for Cerberus and Cucouroux tokens, for example. These sources of damage can naturally also be prevented by Vira and add to the Darkfeast Bat/EED counter.

On Vengeance Blood

Identifying cards: Waltz, King of Wolves, Dark General, Narmaya, Ephemeral Blade, Milnard, Dark Fiend, Vania, Nightshade Vampire.
With the release of Milnard, there has been some experimentation done with the Vengeance Blood archetype, centered around the synergy between “Vengeance activators” like Waltz/Narmaya and various payoff cards that have upsides when in Vengeance, namely Dark General, Milnard and Vania. In essence, the recent Vengeance lists are loosely based on DFB decks, and it should be obvious that the current pool of Blood cards is not well suited to support a Vengeance-centered archetype. In addition to that, all of the aforementioned payoff effects are essentially Followers that gain Storm when in Vengeance, and there are redundancy issues between the 3 main payoff cards.

For the archetype to be functional, there is a need for a Revelation-type payoff effect (similar to EED) because it’s necessary to contest wide boards in some way or another. In addition to that, the “activators” are also not really good enough, Waltz is fairly slow and Narmaya is tied to an Evolve effect, which is not great. With that said, even though currently the archetype is not playable, a lot of the same things were said about DFB/Jormungand Blood in the past, and all that it took for that archetype to be competitively viable is 4 (pushed) cards that made it playable outside of Unlimited, so if the upcoming set has a lot of pushed synergy cards, the archetype could come back with a vengeance.

Darkfeast Bat Blood is one of the decks commonly seeing play in 2-deck tournament lineups and is generally considered as the second best deck in the format. The ladder stats are in a slight disagreement with that notion, however, showing that the archetype is weak to PDK Dragon, Forest and MidShadow. In my personal experience, DFB Blood is not as well-rounded as MidShadow, for example, but it’s still a good ladder deck since it very convincingly beats up Rune and Lion Haven. The Shadow/PDK Dragon matchup feel highly reliant on drawing EED in time, and sometimes you can’t help having to use it only to have your opponent develop the board again. I’m personally not convinced that DFB Blood is as good of a deck as its tournament performance shows (which could certainly be a consequence of my lack of expertise), but it’s still one of the best ladder decks, if you specifically run into Rune/Lion Haven a lot.
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Midrange Shadow

Identifying cards: Gremory, Andrealphus, Orthrus, Osiris, Cerberus, Arcus.

Mulligan Priority

  • Always keep Belenus, Fran
  • Going second, keep Lady Grey or Osiris. Do not keep Osiris against Sword.
  • Keep a 2-drop against board-centric classes like Sword/Shadow/Dragon/Blood or if you’re keeping a 3-drop. Those include Belenus, Ferry, Paradise Vanguard and Lyria. Keeping Andrealphus is a little ambitious, especially when going second.
  • Keep Purehearted Singer against slower classes like Rune/Haven.
  • If you’re keeping 2 cards already, keeping a Cerberus is fine. Orthrus is usually not active on curve, but it can occasionally be if you have a good curve with Fran or with a turn 1 Gremory/Spirit.
  • Keep specific tech cards in their respective matchups, like Seraphic Blade against Blood/Haven, for example.

Shadow mulligans are fairly straightforward. Shadow decks don’t really have any good 1-drops (unless you’re playing Goblins), and have abundant 2-drops, the best of which is Belenus. After the Skull Ring nerf, the only standard good 3-drop is Fran. If you have a 2-3 curve, you can look to transition into the midgame with cards that generate wide boards for Gremory/Gilenelise buffs with cards like Lady Grey, Osiris, Cerberus and even Charon.

Tech cards

  • Paradise Vanguard for Shadow mirrors. Replaces some of the slower Shadow 2-drops like Andrealphus and Ferry.
  • Goblins for a more proactive and aggressive early game. Usually replaces Mischievous Spirit.
  • Goblin Fighter for an improved Osiris pool, since none of the 1-drops in Shadow are any good on curve, Reanimating a Goblin is better than nothing.
  • Seraphic Blade against Blood to deal with evolved Vira, also helps against Haven/Dragon to clear Temple of the Holy Lion and generic big followers.
  • Charon against Rune/Dragon, replaces 1-2 of your 7-drops, helps create powerful board swings on turn 6. Charon has some redundancy issues and a steep Shadow cost and competes with Orthrus/Osiris, and you generally don’t want to include more than 1 copy with Cerberus as your only 5-drop.
  • Stygian Warden against Blood to clear evolved Vira while generating a body. Quite literally one of the 2 playable Shadowcraft cards that can clear an evolved Vira on curve. Can discard extra 2-drops and additional copies of Arcus.
  • Big Soul Hunter against Haven/Dragon. Usually replaces Orthrus. Somewhat uncommon in recent lists since there are few targets for it. Has a slight synergy with Osiris as well.
  • Badb Catha against reactive decks like Rune/Haven. Provides a good curve after Cerberus. Replaces 1 copy of Gremory or some of the 4-drops.

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Midrange Shadow is an archetype centered around generating wide boards with Fran, Cerberus, Lady Grey, Osiris, etc. and, in the event that the board sticks, pump the boards with either Gremory or Gilnelise, pushing face damage or establishing tempo. Sticking a wide board is no easy task, however, and more often than not MidShadow wins by putting a Gilnelise into play on turn 9 and then doing (at least) 15 damage on the following turn with Ferry into Gremory or Gilnelise. That number can be higher if you have a Mischievous Spirit (18 damage) or an Arcus leader effect, effectively making it an OTK (with 1 turn of setup, of course).

Impact of the November changes

The change to Skull Ring effectively made the card unplayable, so recent Shadow lists naturally stopped including it. Ironically, despite being the only class to receive any actual nerfs in November, said nerfs haven’t changed the viability of the archetype all that much, and the changes to the archetype come more as a consequence of the overall meta shift caused by the mini-expansion. Midrange Shadow is still one of the best performing and consistent ladder decks, but it has been getting overshadowed by Blood and Dragon in tournament play.
A particularly notable part of the meta shift is the increased popularity of PDK/Ramp Dragon, which is a miserable matchup for Midrange Shadow due to powerful tempo swings caused by the Masamune+Poseidon combo, which also conveniently puts 2 Wards into play to block Shadow’s wincondition. In addition to that, the PDK Dragon matchup is still heavily Dragon-sided, in no small part due to its namesake card, which MidShadow has trouble clearing without saving cards like Fran and Orthrus.

The other reason for changes to MidShadow lists is Osiris, a card that requires a bit of building around and is considered by many as an optional inclusion to the archetype. Most certainly, Osiris is worse than Orthrus, but generating sticky boards is something that Shadow has a great interest in. The issue with Osiris is that it’s not great when going first (because it’s a 4-drop with an Evolve effect) and that you can’t always get back 2 Followers from its Last Words effect. The latter part of that can be slightly improved by prioritizing Fran in mulligans and including cards that put 1-drops into your res pool, like Goblin Fighter or Oracle of Bones. Generally, there’s little difference between Reanimating a 2- or a 3-drop in Shadow (since most Shadow 3-drops are not that great), but the difference between getting an extra 1/1 or not is pretty huge, especially when going into your Cerberus turn.

Osiris is a good card in midrange mirrors since it generates a fair bit of tempo (and draws a card!) at very little cost. The Shadow cost of 5 may seem like a lot, but since you get 2 Shadows when it attacks, 1 Shadow when it dies, and 1-2 Shadows when the Reanimated Followers die, Osiris essentially pays for itself. The weak parts of Osiris include Banish effects (Scripture/Substitution) and Octrice. Banish effects are surprisingly irrelevant to the power level of the card, since Shadow has so many good Banish targets already, and even if your Osiris does get banished, you’re still probably getting card draw out of it. Seeing Octrice certainly makes Shadow sad, but you can play around Octrice by not Evolving Osiris and instead evolving literally anything else against Sword. Ironically, Sword has a better Reanimate pool for Osiris than Shadow and can relatively easily generate the required Shadows with the Loot cards, especially since evolving Octrice gives 2 Loot cards.

My personal experience with playing the archetype leads me to believe that including 2xOsiris is the correct MidShadow build, and including any extra “Osiris support” cards feels wrong since it’s not a good idea to play bad cards to make your medium-to-good cards slightly better. While it’s a bit of an awkward curve, playing Osiris after Cerberus also Reanimates one of the Cerb tokens, providing extra healing/face damage. In addition to that, if you have an Osiris in your opening, you can aggressively play 1-drops like Spirit/Gremory on turns 1 or 3 without worrying too much about losing value. I personally think that Osiris is playable now and will certainly get better with new Shadow cards, particularly in the 1- and 3-cost slots.

The legend returns

Gilnelise, Omen of Craving is a central card to the win condition Midrange Shadow, and as mentioned earlier, the general game plan for Shadow is to get to turn 9-10 and deal 15 or more damage with Ferry combined with Gilnelise/Gremory. The 2 main reasons for as to why that works is that Gilnelise has Ambush and draws 5 cards at the start of turn 10, which either gets you the needed combo pieces (Ferry, either of the two 7-drops starting with the letter “G” and 2 random Followers). It is quite absurd that MidShadow has gotten to the point where the correct line of play is to play a turn 9 Gilnelise on an empty board (on the Shadow’s side), even when facing a large board from the opponent, since the opponent usually can’t develop multiple Wards if there’s no board space and since most finishers cost 10. It stands to reason that the decks that overshadow MidShadow in tournament play are decks that can win before turn 10, such as DFB Blood and PDK Dragon. Darkfeast Bat can come down on turns 8-10, and PDK Dragon can either clear the Ambushed Gilnelise with 3 PDK procs or play Poseidon into Masamune before turn 10 (due to ramping) and present a threatening board with 2 Wards that are difficult to get through.
In addition to that, MidShadow still has access to the Arcus engine, which works well with the Gilnelise plan, since it allows to negate some of the tempo loss of playing a 7-cost 3/5 as part of your win condition, and even contributes extra damage when you do get to turn 10. In addition to the aforementioned natural synergy, a little interaction between Arcus and Gilnelise that sticks out is that Lyria, the common tutor card for Gilnelise, effectively costs 1 and generates 2 Ghosts in the late game. Even without sticking a Gilnelise, Shadow still has some semblance of inevitability with Ferry combos, where the common combo is Mischievous Spirit/Lyria into Ferry, which conveniently leaves you with exactly 7 play points, just enough to play the big G (or the smaller G) and buff all of your Ghosts, doing well over 20 damage. The reason as to why this combo is not as common as just sticking Gilnelise in play is because it requires more cards (4/5 total, depending on whether you have a Lyria or not) and doesn’t draw into itself after the initial setup turn.

Good bones and calcium will come to you

Apart from having powerful midrange cards that generate wide boards, a notable part of MidShadow is its ability to get a fair bit of healing from cards like Lady Grey, Cerberus and even Gilnelise. Healing is very relevant against DFB Blood and Manaria Rune, 2 of the most popular ladder decks in the format. Against other popular decks (Dragon/Lion Haven/MidForest/etc.) healing is not a huge benefit, it can still somewhat matter. A lot of other decks in Shadowverse have to jump through hoops or play suboptimal cards to get healing effects, but Lady Grey and Cerberus randomly provide additional healing on top of having extremely powerful midrange effects, which is a huge part of what makes MidShadow as consistent as it is. While I am certainly extremely biased, looking back on the entire OoT set, it seems to me that the current state of the 3 most consistent decks in the format (Dragon/MidShadow/DFB Blood) points to blatant powercreep in the OoT expansion, with sneaky shifts to the vanilla test (3pp 3/3s and 5pp 5/5s) and cards with too many (metaphorical) bells and whistles and/or stats for their cost (Cerberus, Gilnelise, Galmieux, Masamune, Valnareik, Servant of Lust, Octrice, etc.). It is fine to have cards that do a lot of different things at the same time depending on the state of the match, in my opinion, Followers with powerful effects should come with either a base or Evolved stats penalty (if they have an Evolve effect). The general guideline among past Shadowverse cards was that if a Follower puts a card into your hand when Evolved, it gets +2/+2 from being Evolved, and if a Follower’s Evolve effect affects the board state in some way, then it either gets a +1/+1 or even +0/+0, but cards like Cerberus, Lady Grey, Holy Lion of Salvation, etc. do not follow that trend.

On Reanimate Shadow

With the release of Crow, Regent of Darkness, there’s been some experimentation with Reanimate Shadow. Naturally, Crow is an upgrade of Ceridwen, Eternity Hunter since he is a bird in a hat and not just some random anime girl, and that his Reanimate-centric effect is potentially a lot more unfair since it can go off 3 times off a single Crow. With that said, the problem with Reanimate Shadow is still not the amount of value it can get, but rather the consistency of Reanimating a powerful Follower, which don’t really exist in the Rotation format. The single best Reanimate target in Rotation is Gilnelise, especially considering the natural synergy between Gilnelise and the various effects that work well with it like Ferry and Gremory. Apart from Gilnelise, your options include Proto Bahamut (which affects your board) and Mordecai (which is a 7/7 with Rush). It seems that Crow (by design) has anti-synergy with existing Reanimate targets since Crown summons Followers at the end of your turn (so Mordecai can’t attack and Proto Bahamut’s AoE doesn’t go off). If nothing else, Crow should be applauded for its pun-centric design (a Crow wearing a Crown!), but until there are powerful Reanimate targets (a la Zeus) in the Rotation format, I personally don’t think that Reanimate Shadow has any semblance of potential competitive viability.

Midrange Shadow is one of the best performing ladder decks in the Rotation format, and even if its overall winrate is not as high as PDK Dragon or DFB Blood, it has one of the most consistent matchup spreads of any deck in the format. Weaknesses of the archetype include PDK Dragon (which has a lot of effects that conveniently answer or outpace MidShadow), as well as Ramp Dragon (see PDK) and Aggro Forest (which can go a lot faster and can outpace the slow gameplan of MidShadow). The archetype doesn’t see a lot of tournament play since Dragon is a miserable matchup for Shadow and is extremely popular there, so Shadow is only played outside of the standard Blood/Dragon lineups or in formats with class bans.

Manaria (a.k.a. Mysteria) Rune

Identifying cards: Owen , Mr. Bertrand, Mysterian Wyrmist, Grea, Mysterian Dragoness, Ms. Miranda, Light Mage, Anne, Mysterian Prodigy.
The presented deck skeleton is for the “standard” build of tempo-centric Manaria Rune with Spellboost synergy. A lof of Manaria lists include a wide variety of different (and often suboptimal) cards, but in my experience, this “deck skeleton” is the most consistent build of Manaria Rune there is. The last few entries of the tab menu include Rune decks centered around Orichalcum Golem.

Mulligan Priority

  • Always keep Insight or Mysterian Knowledge and Owen.
  • Going first, keep Mr. Bertrand.
  • Against midrange classes (Shadow/Sword/Dragon/Blood/Forest) try to keep a 2-drop when going first (this includes Owen/Bertrand/Wyrmist); going second Wind Blast/Seraphic Blade and Mysterian Knowledge work as well.
  • Going second against Forest/Shadow, keep Grea.
  • Keep Seraphic Blade against Haven.
  • If you’re already keeping a card, keeping Fate’s Hand or Mr. Miranda is good. Keeping Fiery Embrace or Anne is a little too ambitious.

The idea of mulligans in Manaria Rune should be pretty straightforward to anyone who has played a few Daria games in the past: ideally, you want to find cards that benefit from being in your hand, and draw into additional cards with the Mysteria tribe tag. The 2 best cards to start stacking up early discounts are Knowledge and Owen, and the best early payoff effects for those are Ms. Miranda and Fate’s Hand.

Tech cards

  • Mysteria, Magic Founder against Blood/Haven/Dragon to put up extra pressure on the opponent in combination with Wyrmist. Mysteria improves a lot of cards in the deck, but is fairly clunky, so it’s difficult to find a slot for more than 2 copies of the card without sabotaging the overall consistency of the deck.
  • Truth’s Adjudication for Rune mirrors and against Blood for random (and often fairly miniscule, see the G.Chimera section for actual numbers) healing and burn damage. Compared to dedicated Spellboost decks, Manaria decks run fewer “free” Spellboost effects (like Magic Owl, for example), which makes the variance on Adjudication that much higher.
  • Extra card draw like Concentration and Chain of Calling against slower decks like Lion Haven. The downside of including such cards is that they often replace cards with Mysteria tribe tags, which slows down your win condition and midgame tempo swings.
  • Nova Flare against Shadow/Forest as an AoE option. Generally a pretty reasonable inclusion, however, the card has some redundancy with Grea and affects your own board. I personally don’t think that Nova Flare is correct in the current environment, but if the format has a lot of Shadow, Forest or both down the line, then the card makes for a reasonable inclusion.
  • Lyrial, Archer Throne for Manaria mirrors, allows to survive for a turn, particularly relevant if you’re going second and your opponent is going into turn 10 with an Anne’s Sorcery prepared. Pretty interesting tech card, but unless the format is literally all Manaria Rune, the card’s going to rot in your hand in a lot of matchups.

(Tempo) Manaria Rune skeleton

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Manaria Rune is a deck archetype that utilizes synergy between cards with the Mysteria tribe tag, often providing discounts on the more expensive ones. In addition to that, since a lot of Mysteria cards generate Spell tokens, many Manaria lists can double dip on the discounting cards by playing Spellboost cards like Fate’s Hand and Fiery Embrace. The win condition of the archetype usually involves getting to turn 10 and casting Anne’s Sorcery, targeting the opponent’s face. Occasionally, the deck can scrape by enough damage to get the opponent into lethal range with combined Wyrmist procs and/or Mysteria, Magic Founder. The archetype is generally pretty straightforward to play, so instead of discussing things that a Manaria Rube player should do, it’s better to discuss the things that they shouldn’t do instead.

Common mistakes made with Manaria Rune

  • Playing cards in the wrong order. This might seem trivial, but it’s important to not mess up the order, especially when dealing with card draw effects and effects that generate Spell tokens. Particular examples of that include drawing last and playing cards like Mysterian Knowledge after taking an action.
  • Playing defensively against reactive decks and playing too aggressively against board-centric decks. It is important to realize which side of the board is playing the beatdown and which is playing a control game. Manaria Rune can do both of these things depending on the draw, so some confusion is unavoidable if you’re not too familiar with the matchup. Common examples of this is allowing a MidShadow opponent to drop a Gilnelise on an empty board, for example; or trying to save a Mysterian Rite for face damage in matchups where the Rune player really needs a 3-cost Flanking Strike.
  • Not counting damage. This primarily applies to Anne’s Sorcery, but other examples can include not counting the Wyrmist procs, for example. In addition to this, when playing against Manaria Rune, it’s extremely important to keep track of the number of Mysteria-tag cards played so far. Even if you don’t have an abacus on hand, it’s fairly simple to check the turn history menu and count the number of played Mysteria cards every once in a while.
  • Playing suboptimal cards. While this has less to do with playing the game and more with deckbuilding, I’ve seen numerous players include cards like Vayle and Hanna, as well as mediocre Spell cards like Chain of Calling and Staff of Whirlwinds. I am convinced that there’s little need to play bad cards in the deck because there are plenty of good synergistic cards available to the archetype. Vayle in particular is a pet peeve of mine, since the card actively makes one of the best cards in the deck (Owen) worse for very little payoff. In general, with a deck like Manaria Rune it is of utmost important to follow the KISS principle and not overcomplicate things with fringe synergy.

On Orichalcum Golem Rune

An emerging Rune archetype, Golem Rune, is centered around generating Earth Sigils and improving Spell damage with Mysteria, Magic Founder, to generate unfair levels of tempo with Golem’s Accelerate effect. With some prior setup, the Golem does a lot of things for just 1 play point, however, there are 2 significant problems with the deck: firstly, the effect is random, so you can’t really rely on using it as a conventional burn finisher, and secondly, the effect is unique in its functionality, in other words, it’s the only ER payoff card in the format. Both of those factors make the deck unviable and extremely inconsistent, so it stands to reason that the deck isn’t performing all that well.


Manaria Rune is currently extremely close to being the most popular deck of the Rotation format, which is a little surprising considering its overall unimpressive performance both on ladder and in tournament play. The archetype struggles against Shadow and DFB Blood, and can’t deal too well with PDK Dragon either, which makes it a poor choice to bring to tournaments. The good point of the archetype is its low matchup polarity, which means that even if the deck is not currently that powerful, it is at the very least fairly consistent at what it does. The reason for the popularity of the archetype on ladder is likely the novelty factor combined with the low cost of a competitive decklist. The Rotation format is fairly expensive in terms of vial costs, and Manaria Rune is a deck that generally works around a 12k Vial budget.

Spellboost Rune skeleton

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Giant Chimera (a.k.a. Spellboost) Rune

Identifying cards: Magic Owl, Concentration, Nova Flare, Runie, Truth’s Adjudication, Giant Chimera.

Mulligan Priority

  • Always keep Insight or Mysterian Knowledge. Keeping any number of Insights is fine, but keeping more than one Knowledge is awkward.
  • Against reactive classes like Haven/Rune, keep Magic Missile, Vesper and/or Concentration.
  • Against other classes, prioritize Wind Blasts and Seraphic Blade over Magic Missiles/Vespers.
  • Going second, keep Magic Owl, Runie or Cagliostro.
  • If you’re keeping Vesper, Grand Spire becomes a higher priority and Concentration becomes less of a gamble.
  • Keep Nova Flare against Shadow/Portal.
  • If you’re already keeping a 1-2 curve, keeping Fate’s Hand is usually safe.

The basic idea of mulligans with Chimera Rune is to try and utilize the early turns to get an early start on cycling through your deck and start spellboosting expensive cards like Truth’s Adjudication, Flame Destroyers and Giant Chimera.

Tech cards

  • Seraphic Blade against Blood and other generic midrange decks.
  • Grand Spire against midrange decks, competes with Seraphic Blade, gets a lot better if you’re playing Vesper or Cagliostro.
  • Absolute Zeroblade against Sword/Dragon. Doesn’t deal damage so it goes through spell damage immunity and “Disdain procs”. Gets better with Cagliostro, serves as a 4th or 5th Wind Blast.
  • Extra Nova Flares against Shadow/Portal/Forest. The standard lists include 2 copies, but anywhere between 1-3 copies is reasonable enough, depending on how scared you are of Shadowcraft.
  • Flame Destroyer against midrange decks. Provides some extra highrolling potential, but is generally another brick in a deck that already runs full playsets of Adjudications and Giant Chimera.

Spellboost (a.k.a. Giant Chimera) Rune is an archetype centered around the usage of low-cost spells to buff the damage of Giant Chimera until it is enough to kill the opponent. The archetype is a spiritual successor to rotated archetypes like D-Shift and Daria, and involves many of the same cards historically used in Rune decks of that type.

Impact of the November changes

Giant Chimera Rune is a deck that has largely been overshadowed by its Manaria counterpart at present, in part due to being the worse of the 2 decks when it comes to making use of Grea. The archetype is essentially unfavored against every single deck in the format and sees very little competitive or ladder play as a result. The archetype struggles against DFB Blood and doesn’t do too well against decks that can go off with their combo faster (e.g. Lion Haven/Manaria Rune).

Changes to the archetype in the OOT expansion

Particularly notable for Chimera Rune is the rotation of Golem Assault, a powerful 2-cost spell with Earth Sigil synergy. The 2 immediate replacements for the card are Seraphic Blade (generally accepted as a good card in specific matchups in other decks) and Grand Spire, which can be situationally better since it pops Cauldrons from Vesper. The general rule of thumb here is that the 2-drop split follows the same logic that the 4-drop split (between Runie/Cagliostro/Vesper) does: for example, if you’re playing a list with no Vespers, Seraphic Blade and potentially Absolute Zerobalde (if you’re playing Cagliostro) are preferred, while lists with Vesper work better with either Grand Spires or a combination of Spires/Blades.

The only new addition to the archetype from the OOT expansion is Truth’s Adjudication, which randomly provides healing and face damage and helps bridge your midgame turns to Giant Chimera. A slight problem with Truth’s Adjudication is, of course, the randomness of it. Even with high Spellboost counts, Adjudication can still whiff when you’re trying to get out of Darkfeast Bat range or setting up a Giant Chimera lethal. On average, you can expect it to heal/deal damage equal to one third of the Spellboost count, but with lower Spellboost counts the variance goes up by a lot. Well, to be pedantic, the perceived variance goes up, said “perceived variance” being equivalent to the standard deviation of a binomial distribution with a p value of one third, and since the standard deviation of binomial distribution is proportional to the square root of the number of trials (in this example, number of Spellboosts), the relative standard deviation turns out to be inversely proportional to a square root of number of Spellboosts, leading to “perceived variance” going up with lower Spellboost values. High school algebra? In my anime card games? It’s more likely than you think.

Below is an interactive chart that shows the distribution of any specific Adjudication effect happening a certain amount of times when the card is spellboosted a specific amount of times. The number of Spellboosts can be adjusted with the slider in the upper right corner.


The good part of Chimera Rune is its extremely low polarity value, which stems from the fact that the archetype is more or less unfavored against every popular deck in the format in equal measure. The 2 worst matchups of the deck include DFB Blood (at the time of writing, the most popular ladder archetype) and Holy Lion Haven. It appears that there is currently very little reason to play Chimera Rune, which is a little sad when you think about it. Prime Dragon Keeper is going on its final rampage in the Rotation format mere weeks before rotating out, but Giant Chimera appears to have finished its swan song long ago. Nevertheless, there is some hope for the archetype in the future, because perhaps Magic Owl and G. Chimera have been limiting design space for Spellboost effects and there could be room for powerful effects of that type in the upcoming expansion(s).

Midrange Forest

Identifying cards (Tempo): Goblin, Lyria, Gilnelise,
Identifying cards (OTK): Yggdrasil, Lily, Crystalian Conductor, Legendary Fighter.
Most Forest lists are fairly midrange-y, however, there are a few main subcategories of Forest that can be distinguished: slower and less consistent lists that often include the Yggdrasil “OTK package”; the faster and more proactive lists running Gilnelise/Lyria, dubbed Tempo Forest; as well as lists with an extremely low curve that try to utilize the “Liza loop” for extra gas, called Aggro Forest. The provided deck skeleton is the common base of cards played in Tempo and (OTK) Midrange Forest lists.

Mulligan Priority

  • Always keep Luxglaive Bayle, even multiple copies.
  • Keep one Water Fairy or Goblin.
  • Keep one 2-drop, the best one is usually Fairy Whisperer. Cards that aren’t 2-drops include Lily, Sylvan Justice and Elf Song.
  • If you’re keeping Fairy Circle or Fairy Whisperer, keep Insect Lord and Rayne, especially when going second. Going first against non-Rune classes, also keep Elf Song or Lily in those conditions.
  • Keep Liza if you’re already keeping a 2-drop or Fairy Circle.
  • If you already have a 2-drop, keep Metera going second; if you’re already keeping 2 cards, keeping Metera is also fine going first as well.
  • Keep Airbound Barrage against Sword/Blood.

By far the most unfair part of playing Forest is getting tempo swings with Bayle, and if playing with Corridor Creeper has taught me anything, it’s that the earlier you have Corridor Creeper in hand, the earlier it can cost 0 and decide midrange matchups right then and there. Liza is also a good play on curve, especially when going first, since it helps smooth out the curve with 1-drops and fetches Bayle. Apart from that, the general priority with Forest is to hit a good early curve with many 1- and 2-drops available to the class.

Tech cards

  • Sylvan Justice against Blood/Sword to keep up with the powerful 2-drop in those classes. Servants of Lust/Usurpation are a huge thorn in Forest’s backside, and you only have so many Airbound Barrages to deal with those.
  • Lyria/Gilnelise package as an optional inclusion in Midrange lists and an important part of Aggro/Tempo Forest. Since Gilnelise is a Neutral card, so doesn’t actually mess up the Liza pool.
  • Yggdrasil as part of the “OTK package”, usually consisting of Bayles, Lily and occasionally Legendary Fighters.
  • A 1-of Sky Devouring Horror or even King Elephant, generally worse against proactive midrange decks since you’re less likely to pull Bayles with Liza, better against reactive decks. Usually only included in Tempo Forest lists. Playing more than 1 copy is redundant due to Liza and only further reduces the consistency of Liza pulls.
  • Cassiopeia against Shadow/Forest, helps dealing with wide boards. Cassiopeia can also clear an Ambushed Gilnelise at later stages of the game, which is relevant against Shadow.

(Generic) Midrange Forest skeleton

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Korwa Midrange Forest

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Standard midrange-y Forest archetypes are centered around the notion of building a wide board with Fairy Tokens and 1-drops and buffing the board with Elf Song, Lily and Gilnelise once the Forest player gets an advantage. Compared to other token-based archetypes, Forest can snowball a lot faster than Shadow, for example, since Elf Song can come down as early as turn 4; and Forest gets to retake some of the tempo lost when trading with discounted Bayles.

Impact of the November changes

By far the most important part of the November mini-expansion for Forest is Liza, Queen of the Forest, which is a card that opens up a few new avenues for Forest decks. The simplest way to utilize the Liza tutoring ability is to make sure that the most expensive Forestcraft Follower in your deck is something that you want to draw into, and for most lists that usually means Bayle, since the earlier you have Bayle in hand, the earlier it can start getting discounts. In a similar vein, the ability to reliably fetch Sky Devouring Horror opens up card slots (since you don’t need more than 1 copy in your deck with Liza) and it can potentially allow you to start setting up for the buff earlier.

Yggdrasil OTK setup

A tangentially related application of Liza is in the recently emerging “OTK” Forest lists, and the idea for the combo is as follows: fetch 1-2 Bayles, discount them to 0 over the next few turns, in the process play an Yggdrasil while picking the Wrath of Nature option, after which a (not quite) OTK can be set up with other cards that work well when your entire board is given Storm, including Lily, Elf Song and occasionally even Legendary Fighter (which benefits from saving Evolve points). Depending on the exact setup and number of cards used, the combo does varying amounts of damage from 10 to ~15-ish. While it’s not an OTK in the strictest sense of the word since it technically doesn’t always kill the opponent, doing that much face damage and putting 1-2 big Wards into play is potentially backbreaking for a lot of decks. This build of Forest has seen some competitive success in tournament and ladder play, but I personally don’t think that it’s all that consistent since it does demand quite a bit of setup and requires to draw 4-5 combo pieces (none of which are individually bad cards, mind you), and is more of an out for Forest decks in slower matchups rather than a fully fleshed out build-around idea.

The “Liza loop”

Last, but certainly not least, archetype-defining application of Liza is in lists similar to カニバルフラワー同好会‘s (localized to Carnivorous Flower -> listed under the “Carnivorous” tab) one, which entirely forego including Bayles or any Forest card with a cost of >3. In order to do so, these types of lists include every single playable 1-drop and 2-drop available to Forestcraft, even including Goblins and Sylvan Justice. These types of lists are usually a lot more aggressive and even omit Fairy Circle to fit in more 1-drops, for example. The idea behind the deck is fairly simple: if your Liza draws another Liza, you can get a ton of extra gas, and using said gas allows you to have a lot of extra options and constantly redevelop your board. The most expensive card in the deck is Gilnelise which is Neutral and works well with the aggressive game plan of the deck. This particular application of Liza reminds me of a recent (~8 years recent) MTG deck colloquially referred to as “Caw-Blade” which revolved around 2 of its eponymous cards, Squadron Hawk (the “Caw-”) and Sword of Feast and Famine (the “-Blade”). The Hawk itself is an understatted Flying minion which draws 3 copies of itself from your deck when played, essentially guaranteeing that you have something to equip Sword to. It’s a bit of a stretch to compare the two cards, since Hawk is a lot better since it’s a bird a sword and not just some random anime girl, but I still find it interesting how similar one of the interactions is, even if it’s in a completely different type of deck. Jokes aside, the difference is that you have to play Liza multiple times and that the effect is a lot less controlled since you’re getting random 1-drops, but nonetheless, the “Liza loop” makes for an interesting (and competitively viable!) pseudo-draw-engine.

Additions to the archetype in the OOT expansion

The 3 playable OOT cards that stick out in Forest are Bayle, Gilnelise and Tia. The seemingly most impactful of the 3 is Luxglaive Bayle which can often come down as a 0- or 1-cost 4/4 Ward, swinging tempo in the matchups that require board control.

Gilnelise is generally an effect that Forest decks need redundancy in, since building wide boards is the specialty of the class. Gilnelise can often push 4-6 damage, and the 3/5 Ambush is not useless either. Occasionally you can even get a 1-drop/Gilnelise/Elf Song turn, which requires you to be ahead on board by a lot, but does push a lot of damage and generates good tempo.

The last, but certainly not least, important Forest inclusion is Tia, Crystalian Noble, which provides a lot of gas strapped onto a vanilla 1-drop. 3-cost vanilla 4/4s, while not particularly unfair, still generate a lot of stats for little cost. Playing a Tia as your third card in a turn doesn’t require much setup and is usually something you can do instead of playing an extra Fairy or something. A neat interaction with Tia is bouncing it with Airbound Barrage around turn 5/6 and then replaying Tia, allowing you to double dip on the Tia value and potentially even get a 1-cost Crystalia Eve, allowing for a powerful reload on the following turns. All in all, Tia is very similar to Rhinoceroach, but instead of dealing 20 damage to your opponent you get to have a bunch of 4/4s. It’s just as good, really.


The main strengths of Midrange Forest archetypes (which combines Tempo/standard Midrange and OTK decks) is its good performance against DFB Blood and Lion Haven. The weaknesses of the archetype include any and all types of Dragon since Poseidon and Galmieux (even without Masamune) are backbreaking for Forest decks, and Midrange Shadow since Cerberus is pretty difficult to deal with for Forest. With that in mind, it stands to reason that MidForest has seen some tournament play, since it deals well with one of the 2 popular decks in the format (DFB Blood) and can potentially dodge Dragon for long enough to avoid losing too many matches. Midrange Forest is a reasonable ladder deck, however, it is seemingly outperformed in most matchups by its Aggro counterpart, so it might not be the most optimal (but still acceptable) choice for ladder play.


Aggro Forest has a significantly lower sample size than its Midrange counterpart, and has a somewhat similar a similar matchup spread. The main difference between the 2 archetypes appears to be the Manaria Rune matchup, which is slightly unfavored for Midrange lists and favored for Aggro ones. Still, since the overall sample size is not particularly great, these stats (in particular, the high winrate of the deck) should be taken with a grain of salt.

Holy Lion Haven

Identifying cards: Sealed Tome, Legendary Fighter, Holy Lion Crystal, Temple of the Holy Lion, Peaceweaver, Prism Swing, Holy Lion of Salvation.

Mulligan Priority

  • Always keep Globe of the Starways or Sealed Tome, Temple of the Holy Lion (even multiple copies); Holy Lion Crystal
  • Keep Peaceweaver going first. Keeping it going second is a little ambitious, but usually works out fine against most classes that aren’t Blood or Forest.
  • Keep Holy Lion of Salvation or Lorena going second.
  • Keep a 2-drop against midrange decks like Shadow/Dragon/Forest if you don’t have Temple in your opening. Holy Lion Crystal, Legendary Fighter, Lorena and Moriae Encomium, in order of priority, count as 2-drops.
  • Against midrange decks keep Scripture/Seraphic Blade or Prism Swing, especially when going second.
  • Keep Seraphic Blade in Haven mirrors.

The general mulligan strategy for Lion Haven is to attempt to find Temple, the most important card in the deck. Apart from that, drawing cards with Globes and Moriaes (which are fairly slow) is good as well. If all else fails, contesting the board and putting 2/2s into play is never really wrong either. From my personal experience playing the deck and recording my wins/losses based on the cards I keep in the mulligan (which I do for most decks I playtest), having Temple on 2 doesn’t significantly affect the overall winrate, and the highest-winrate kept card in my stats is actually Holy Lion Crystal, surprisingly enough.

Tech cards

  • Lorena against midrange decks like Dragon/Shadow/Forest. I am really surprised that Lorena isn’t played more than it is, because the card has always felt pretty essential (as a 2-of at least) in most Haven decks for me. Lorena competes with Holy Lion of Salvation and the healing option is not that useful in Lion decks, but trading 2-for-1 is something that Lion decks can’t really do too well since they focus on tempo so much, and Lorena does exactly that. Also a good budget replacement for Legendary Fighter.
  • Extra amulets like Featherfall Hourglass and Gemstone Carapace against slower decks to improve Legendary Fighter consistency. Playing amulets other than the main 3 (Globe/Tome/Moriae) makes your cycling a lot less consistent.
  • Other (non-Dogma) countdown reduction cards like Garuda and Star Torrent to improve midrange matchups. I personally think that Garuda is almost strictly worse than Dogma after playing with the 2 cards, but it is potentially slightly better tempo, especially with Temple in play. Star Torrent is really clunky and fairly uncommon.
  • Aether of the White Wing is not really a tech card and more of an optional inclusion, but Aether is generally good against midrange decks since it pulls Holy Lion of Salvation and develops 3 bodies, one of which has Ward, and advances your Lion counter. Aether lists can’t include any 5-drops and should preferably avoid 6-drops.
  • Jeanne against Dragon/Shadow as the only AoE option available to the archetype. Jeanne is very clunky, but it does help in some of Lion Haven’s worst matchups and there’s no effect of that type that can be included in the deck, since Themis is symmetrical and way too slow.
  • Father Punishment for Haven mirrors to deal with Temples. Good with Temple discounts, but competes with Holy Lion of Salvation for Evolve points and is redundant with Seraphic Blade. Generally feels like a somewhat outdated and overall weak tech card.

Lion Haven skeleton

Lion Haven

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(Holy) Lion Haven is a deck archetype that includes all of the Havencraft cards that mention Lions, with the exception of Ancient Lion Spirit. The general game plan of the deck is to get to play enough Holy Lion Crystals to get to the third stage of the “Lion quest”. At that point you’re likely to have drawn into at least one Temple of the Holy Lion, which allows to set up lethal over two turns with a 12/12-worth of Storm damage. Apart from playing Crystals, it is important to cycle through your deck to find more gas and removal spells.

Putting 2 and 2 together

One of the most important parts of playing Lion Haven is to keep up with tempo early on, and an important part of doing so lies in dodging the Enhance cost of the Holy Lion Crystal by breaking up your turns into playing cards that get you below 5 play points (removal Spells, cheap Amulets or Followers) and then playing Crystals for 2 play points, potentially getting refunds from Temple of the Holy Lion in the process. It is important to keep in mind that you have access to an effectively limitless supply of Crystals in the late game, but getting there is what’s important. For that reason, cheap removal spells like Scripture and (to an extent) Seraphic Blade are so important in the deck. Some Lion lists even include mediocre cards like Craving’s Splendor to get to the needed level of redundancy.

Clean your room, bucko

Another important and often overlooked aspect of playing Lion Haven involves planning your future turns ahead of time, namely having enough board space on the turns where you plan to play multiple Lions. What this means in particular is holding on to Globes/Moriaes around midgame so that you have enough space to play Holy Lion of Salvation together with his son, especially if you have a Temple in play. To that end, in my opinion, it is important to include Countdown reduction cards like Hallowed Dogma which can get rid of Globes and Moriaes. I’ve seen a lot of players swear by Garuda in that card slot, but after trying both, I highly prefer Dogma because I value cycling and would recommend new players to not include Garuda, if only out of budget concerns. For similar reasons, I think it’s preferable to not have any Countdown Amulets that don’t draw cards since it makes Globes of the Starways a lot more consistent, and if you’re not cycling 3 cards with a single Globe, it takes a lot longer to find the 3 cards in your deck that you actually want to draw into (Temple of the Holy Lion).

Stamina, health, endurance

The reason to play extra Amulets, however, is to improve the balance of Spells and Amulets to enable Legendary Fighter more consistently. Lion Haven decks usually have a lot of Spells since every Holy Lion Crystal is a spell, however, Amulets are usually limited to only 12. Since tempo is so important for the archetype, playing effectively a 2-cost hard removal effect is powerful and the consistency of doing so depends on whether you can give Legendary Fighter Rush or not. Apart from that, an important piece of synergy here is with the aforementioned Countdown reduction effects, namely you can play Fighter into a 2-cost Sealed Tome (Forbidden Teachings) into Dogma/Garuda to respond to tall Followers in the later stages of the game. Naturally, other cheap Amulets also work, but popping Forbidden Teachings on the same turn effectively gets rid of the drawback and allows you to play Followers next turn as well.

Lion Haven is a deck with little tournament viability since it struggles against midrange decks of the 4 main classes that see play there (Dragon, Blood, Forest and Shadow), that can usually outpace the “Lion quest”. On ladder, however, Lions can prey on slower reactive decks like Manaria Rune, MidSword and Lishenna/Puppet Portal, which makes the archetype somewhat viable. Lion Haven is certainly not the most competitive ladder deck, but big reasons for its popularity are its affordability (most players likely already own a playset of Legendary Fighters and even if they don’t, there’re budget replacements like Lorena and Paradise Vanguard), relatively high skill ceiling and the inevitability factor which guarantees that games don’t last too long. Long story short, Lions are not that consistent or great, but the archetype’s fun to play, if your definition of fun includes beating on reactive decks, that is. Personally, I can’t think of a Shadowverse deck archetype that I despise more than Holy Lion Haven, so I am definitely biased, but I think I’m starting to understand what all the hype’s about.

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Tenko Haven

Identifying cards: Whitefang Temple, Tenko’s Shrine, Servant of Repose, Marwynn, Happy Pig.

Mulligan priority

  • Always keep Globe of the Starways, Unicorn Knight.
  • Keep Moriae Encomium against all classes other than Shadow/Forest.
  • Against Shadow/Sword/Blood/Forest keep any 2-drops, including Blackened Scripture, even over Moriae Encomium.
  • Against Rune/Dragon/Portal/Haven/Forest keep Lorena and Blackened Scripture when going second.
  • If you’re already keeping a 2-drop, keep a Whitefang Temple.
  • If you’re specifically keeping Unicorn Knight or Jeweled Priestess, keep Summit Temple.

The idea is to be as greedy as possible with mulligans in the matchups you can afford to. Unicorn Knight and Globe of the Starways are great since they smooth out your curve for the following turns. Moriae Encomium is the best card in the archetype to fill out the curve, even if you don’t play it on turn 2; and against classes that can’t go wide on board, it essentially guarantees a 2-for-1. Against cards that flood the board with 1/1s (Skull Ring, Fairy Whisperer, Fairy Circle, early Latham, etc.), Moriae can set you behind early on.

Some classes like Sword/Shadow/Blood can snowball the game from an early lead, so you have to contest the board on turns 2-3. Bloodcraft has 1-drops and 2-cost 4/2s that you have to clear as quickly as possible. Sword can protect their boards with Magnus (from Lorena and Unicorn Knight tokens) and Celia’s Ward tokens. Against those classes you have to keep your greed in check and try not to fall behind too much.

Tech cards

  • 1xSummit Temple and 3xHeavenly Knights for extra pressure against midrange decks. Previously, the Summit/triple Knight setup was the standard Tenko build, however, after the Alexiel buff there is more variety in lists, and some players drop HKs for either extra midgame cards or a “Seraph package”.
  • Lapis, Glorious Seraph, Marwynn, Omen of Repose and cheap countdown reduction cards (either Star Torrent or Hallowed Dogma) for additional threats against slower archetypes like Tenko Haven mirrors, Ramp Dragon and Rune/Portal. Seraph provides inevitability in grindy matchups. Compared to “standard” lists, Seraph replaces Heavenly Knights and Marwynn replaces Ceryneian Hind. Generally, Seraph appears to currently be too slow since a lot of decks in the Rotation format win by turn 10.
  • Happy Pig against Sword/Blood/Shadow for better early-game trades. Replaces Jeweled Priestess.
  • Seraphic Blade and Father Punishment for Haven mirrors. Seraphic Blade also has utility against Blood to kill off evolved Viras and big 2-drops like Servant of Lust. Usually a 1-of.
  • Fall from Grace as an answer to opponents’ Seraphs and Tenko’s Shrine and for the Lishenna Portal matchup. Fall from Grace is generally an answer to non-Follower win conditions and is the only way to actually clear a Seraph or a Destruction in Black; however, it still has uses against midrange decks, for example, it’s one of the better answers to a turn 6 Poseidon, since you can FfG the 5/7 and then play a 2-drop/Scripture and clear most of it, or at least set up for a good Jeanne on the following turn. I generally think that an exactly 1-of FfG is correct for ladder play.
Tenko Haven is an archetype centered around generating value from the Tenko’s Shrine Amulet combined with repeatable sources of healing from De La Fille leader effect, Whitefang Temple, active Ceryneian Hinds, as well as one-time healing effects like Jeweled Priestess/Unicorn Knight/Lorena tokens and enhanced Jeanne.

Impact of the November chages

Tenko Haven didn’t change much after the mini-expansion in terms of deckbuilding since neither of the 2 new cards really fit into a Tenko deck, however, there have been some changes to the archetype as a consequence of the meta shift. During the first week of the mini-expansion, Lion Haven was extremely popular deck on ladder, and since Lions can essentially generate infinite threats and play 3 copies of Seraphic Blade, it seemed that Tenko Haven was gone from the meta altogether. However, recently there’s been a small surge of Tenko popularity, in no small part due to MidShadow and Lion Haven declining in popularity. Tenko Haven is notably favored against Rune in general due to having Alexiel, which is particularly relevant against Manaria Rune.

One of the consequences of the meta shift is the increased popularity of Amulet destruction effects (to answer Temple of the Holy Lion), and Tenko Haven gets swept up by that as well in 2 different ways: on one hand, the popularity of Seraphic Blade (with archetypes such as Lion Haven and Manaria Rune decks even running 3 copies in the main deck) means that slower decks with enough answers can potentially answer every single Tenko’s Shrine and exhaust the Haven player of threats, which somewhat necessitates Tenko lists to include some sort of inevitability engine, with the best example of that being 1-2xSeraph. On the other hand, Tenko lists can naturally fit Seraphic Blade as well, and even Father Punishment is not that unreasonable in the archetype either if you want to get an edge over Lion Haven (although the matchup is still very much miserable).

On “Seraph package”

Since the Alexiel buff the 7-cost slot in Haven has gotten a little crowded, to a point that it’s no longer unreasonable to cut Heavenly Knight for some other late-game threats. The prime example of a slow threat in Haven is Lapis, Glorious Seraph, that provides inevitability at the cost of including some Countdown reduction cards. It is not unusual for lists to play a 1-of Seraph without any additional support cards to simply have an extra threat against Rune and in Haven mirrors, but if you play 2xSeraphs, you have to make space for some (4-6) Countdown reduction cards, which can include Marwynn, Hallowed Dogma and Star Torrent. Of the 3 different effects, Marwynn is the most natural inclusion in the deck, since it also has other useful applications like activating Tenko’s Shrine, drawing a card and providing an efficient body (4/4 for 4.5pp) with a relevant Evolve effect. Marwynn is very similar to Ceryneian Hind in that regard.

There are a couple of downsides to Marwynn, however, the biggest of which is that it gives your opponent the initiative since your opponent gets a +1 mana turn before you do. The extra play point is more relevant for specific decks, for example, ramping a Shadow/Dragon player to 7 is like asking for trouble, but ramping Sword to 7 is completely fine since Sword doesn’t have any 7-drops and is likely to use only 6 mana on that turn anyway. In a similar vein, ramping Shadow to 6 is usually safe since most lists don’t run Badb Catha or Charon. While ramping your opponent is usually a downside, against archetypes with “non-linear” mana curve, giving away an extra play point is irrelevant. What I mean by “non-linear” is decks like DFB Blood, Chimera Rune and Lishenna Portal, which can’t just play their big threat a turn earlier without additional turns of setup. In those cases, the ramp effect from Marwynn is almost strictly good, since you get to play your Seraph/Alexiel or Tenko’s Shrine faster and get more mana to work with. Another downside to Marwynn is that it draws a card for both players, which is usually a pretty negligible effect since it doesn’t generate any actual card advantage, but you obviously have to avoid playing Marwynn when your opponent is playing a midrange deck (like MidShadow/Sword) and is low on (at 1-3) cards to avoid giving your opponent an out. To summarize, Marwynn is usually a fine card, but you have to use an iota of common sense not to give away too much of an advantage with its symmetrical effect.

On other Countdown reduction effects, they’re both a lot more situational in their effects, Dogma draws a card, and reduces the Countdown of a single amulet by 2, which leaves it with 2 situational uses aside from activating Seraph: firstly, with a Globe of the Starways from a previous turn, it draws 2 cards for 2, making it a DIY Concentration of sorts, helping you cycle through your deck faster; and secondly, you can play Moriae+Dogma to destroy a (hopefully not) random enemy Follower for 4pp, making it a pseudo-Tribunal. Long story short, Dogma helps with cycling and dealing with big Followers. Star Torrent, on the other hand, advances the Countdown by 1 for all amulets and does 1 damage to opponent’s Followers, which can clean up Fairies, Latham, etc. Is Angelic Barrage good? You wouldn’t put Angelic Barrage in a deck, so no, not really, but if it has other situationally useful effects like the Seraph interaction, Star Torrent can be on par with Dogma if you need other Countdown effects.

Seraph Haven

Identifying cards: Aether of the White Wing, Hallowed Dogma, Garuda, Ruler of Storms.

A sub-archetype of “Hybrid Seraph/Tenko Haven” is, well, the eponymous Seraph Haven archetype, which excludes the Tenko-centric core of Tenko Haven (cards like Tenko’s Shrine, Whitefang Temple and De la Fille) to make space for additional (7-9 total) Countdown reduction effects like Garuda, Ruler of Storm.

The basic play pattern of Seraph Haven is to play Aether on 9, putting Seraph into play, then hopefully have it killed, and then use 3 Countdown reduction effects to win the game on the following turn. Compared to Hybrid lists, the advantage here is that you can have an extra 3 mana to work with on turn 9, and putting a Seraph into play is a significantly lower tempo loss. On top of that, against decks like Tenko Haven and Chimera Rune, you can put multiple Seraphs into play on turns 8-9, and even if the opponent uses a Fall from Grace on one on turn 8, you can still pull another one from you deck on 9, and you should be able to reasonably outrace your opponent with all of the extra Countdown reduction effects that you run. The downside is that in order to include all of the extra cards (Aether/Garuda), you have to cut your early- and midgame Followers, as well as most of your healing. In addition to that, if you’re not pressuring your opponent’s life total, most midrange decks can outrace an 8-cost 7/6 if they just let it stick around in play, so if your opponent isn’t clearing your Seraph, you might have to Themis it yourself, which takes yet another turn.

Drawing dead cards and not having a consistent early game is a problem against midrange decks, and Seraph Haven as a result is a lot less competitive than its Hybrid Tenko counterpart, and there’s not a lot of good Seraph lists. The most well-tested and reasonable list I could find is トノノ‘s one, which includes a Heavenly Knight package and is generally not too far off from a “standard” Tenko list. In general, Seraph Haven is a very polarizing deck that is fairly unreliable for ladder play.


Tenko Haven as an archetype is largely overshadowed by Lion Haven, so the overall sample size for archetype is fairly low, however, the deck does have some good matchups, namely, it does well against Rune and deals (comparably) well with Dragon, DFB Blood and MidSword. With that said, the high matchup polarity makes the deck somewhat unreliable for ladder play due to how much of an uphill battle Midrange Shadow and Lion Haven can feel. With that said, in a tournament environment, where Lions/MidShadow are not as common, Tenko Haven has seen fringe competitive play as a soft counter to Dragon, so the archetype has seen some fringe competitive play.

Midrange Sword

Identifying cards: Chromatic Duel, Lux, Solar Fencer, Octrice, Mars.
Midrange Sword is technically the only popular Sword archetype, so distinguishing it should be easy enough, the cards listed above differentiate it from Magnolia-centric lists.

Mulligan priority

  • Always keep Chromatic Duel and Valse.
  • Keep Servant of Usurpation against any non-Rune class. Keeping Servant against Rune risks it getting hit by Magic Missile, which is not a good exchange for the Sword player.
  • Try to keep 1 of proactive 2-drops (Servant, Celia, Rapier Master in order of priority) against predominantly midrange classes like Blood/Shadow/Dragon/Forest. If you’re going second, Usurping Spineblade is also fine.
  • Keep Lux, Solar Lancer against slower classes like Haven/Rune.
  • Keep Mars if you’re already keeping a proactive 2-drop.
  • Keep Octrice against Shadow as a 3-drop.
  • If you’re already keeping a 2-3 curve, keeping Apostle/DK is fine; in addition to that, if you’re going second, keeping Octrice/Cavalier also works.
  • If you’re playing a Quickblader list and going first, keep Quickblader. Going second, Duel is usually a better keep, depending on the matchup. I personally wouldn’t keep QB going second against Sword/Shadow/Forest/Portal.
  • If you’re playing a list with Charlotta, keep it against Rune/Haven.

The above section is significantly longer than it should be, and can be summed up as “try to hit a 2-into-3 curve”; the optimal Sword curve is Chromatic Duel into Servant into Valse. Some cards are significantly better against certain decks, e.g. Octrice is usually a card that you save for evolve turns, however, against Shadowcraft, it can hit Belenus, Andrealphus, Purehearted Singer, Osiris, etc. and provide additional early game value and/or tempo.

Tech cards

  • Quickbladers against Blood/Rune for extra pressure. Quckbladers replace Rapier Master or some of the 2-drops. Quickbladers are worse against midrange decks since they provide poor tempo and allow your opponent to get value trades.
  • Disciple of Usurpation against Shadow/Forest/Rune. This card is a recent addition to the “eat Skeletons for breakfast” club, previously comprised of Servants of Usurpation. In addition to its other abilities, the card also has Ambush and thus can’t be cleared by non-AoE removal spells, so it’s reasonably aggressive against reactive decks in Quickblader lists. Usually replaces Mars.
  • Jiraiya against Haven/Dragon as a 2-cost removal Spell. Works well with the 1-damage Loot tokens and Apostle of Usurpation.
  • Charlotta against Rune/Haven. Usually replaces Lancer of the Tempest, negates damage-based removal effects like Lorena, enhanced Jeanne, Wind Blast, Grand Spire, etc.
  • Mars as an optional 3-drop, competes with Disciple. Lines up poorly with removal spells in Blood/Rune/Haven, but is a reasonable inclusion against decks that run few early removal spells like Dragon/Shadow.

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Midrange Sword is a deck archetype that revolves around powerful midgame Swordcraft followers. The two defining characteristics of Midrange Sword is a multitude of modal effects (with Enhance or Accelerate keywords) that make the cards serve different roles at different stages in the game; as well as a “Loot” card mechanic which provides pseudo-card advantage and various small effects for 1pp.

Impact of November changes

Midrange Sword decks didn’t get directly affected by the mini-expansion since neither of the two new cards are that playable, and the overall meta shift doesn’t really favor Sword too much. Speaking of tournament play, the popularity of PDK Dragon already shuts out most experimentation with MidSword there; but even in ladder games, the 2 decks which were popular immediately after the patch, Manaria Rune and Holy Lion Haven, are defined by their inevitability and neither of them are decks that can realistically be outvalued by playing a curve of fair Followers and 1-cost spells. As a result of that change, recent MidSword lists have become more aggressive, playing Quickbladers and even Juliet, but generally, Sword is currently the least popular ladder class and sees very little tournament success.

In particular, the Dragon matchup feels miserable because of the Poseidon+Masamune combo which is backbreaking for the Sword player. Against Blood, the matchup is very similar to what it used to be in the past, which means that if you can get ahead on board and protect your board with a Magnus around the EED turn, it’s possible to put enough pressure on the Blood player to make them use cards inefficiently, but you can’t really take the value-centric approach against Blood since you will eventually get to a point where you take 20 damage over 2 turns. Against Lion Haven, the matchup depends on how soon the Haven player finds Temple of the Holy Lion. When playing Lion Haven, a common mistake I’ve seen Sword opponents do is to try and use Valse bullets to clear out Temples, which is a huge waste of tempo. In my opinion, the correct way to play that matchup is to treat is similarly to DFB Blood, where your opponent is trying to assemble a (very telegraphed) combo and, as the Sword player, you have to put on pressure (which can be difficult against a good Lion draw).

Eight equals two; five equals eight; one equals zero

A defining characteristic of Midrange Sword is the Enhance keyword present on a lot of Sword cards. Chromatic Duel, Rapier Master, Latham, Octrice, Valse and Dragon Knights are all cards that can provide powerful effects either in the early or late game using a single card slot. This effectively means that Midrange Sword doesn’t need any card draw (aside from Lux), since a lot of Sword cards are good topdecks in the late game. Particularly notable here is the increase of importance of Latham, which can generate a lot of incremental value if you manage to resolve it as an 8-drop. Latham’s leader effect generates 1/1s with Storm whenever you attack with a Follower, so whenever you attack with a Follower, you get a 1-damage ping, which has synergy with all the late-game Rush cards (Octrice, Dragon Knights, Chromatic Duel), as well as cards that put 1-cost Followers into play (speedy Latham, Rapier Master, defensive Celia, Chromatic Duel, and even Frontline Cavalier, once in a blue moon).

A consequence of this shift in Sword lists is the falloff of Sky Fortress in Sword decks, because despite the deck’s overall low curve, the 8-cost slot is oversaturated with cards like Octrice, Dragon Knights, Latham, Chromatic Duel, and so on. Personally, I’ve found this trend a little disappointing because landing the Bonemare buff and making horse noises is an inherently satisfying part of playing Swordcraft and it is difficult to fit that part of Sword’s class identity into currently standard decklists.

The “Gilded Goblet package”

The cycle of “Spare Part”-type parasitic synergy cards included in the OOT expansion include 4 different generators of so called “Loot cards” in Servant, Spineblade, Disciple and Octrice and one pay-off card that benefits from playing Loot cards, Apostle of Usurpation. All of the 5 cards are reasonably powerful midrange cards even without taking Loot synergy into account, and most lists usually include 11-12 Loot-centric cards to consistently enable Apostle procs. Apostle is the definite centerpiece and enabler of Loot cards, since it turns the random and situationally useful Loot cards into a board control mechanism. Generally, Gilded Blades and Necklaces are the more useful of the Loot cards, and Goblets/Boots get redundant if you get multiples and less desirable as a consequence. The play pattern with Loot cards is saving 2-3 of them to get a good turn 6-7 board clear with Apostle, much in the same way one would do with Tenko’s Shrine in Havencraft. Saving a Boot is fairly useful for making use of the clunkier Followers like Frontline Cavalier, Siegfried and Latham once you’re out of Evolve points. A lot of midrange matchups often come down to having a Boot for Latham since decks like Midrange Shadow/PDK Dragon won’t really allow you to play a vanilla 8-drop without contesting it.

On Magnolia builds

Sword lists built around Magnolia, Battlefield Muse are not terribly different from standard ones, however, there a few key differences. As a consequence of playing Magnolia, you have to slightly reevaluate the value of various 1- and 2-drops, much in the same way that one would do with Arthur in the past. Both of the viable Sword 1-drops (Quickblader and Rapier Master) are Officers, however Quickbladers are better Magnolia pulls, so you should try to prioritize them over Rapier Masters, possibly to a point of including no 1-drops other than Quickbladers. In addition to that, the 2-drops need some reevaluation as well. Naturally, any non-Celia Commanders don’t make the cut, but Officer 2-drops with useful keywords (Rush/Ward) that either actively benefit from the buff or get some immediate board impact. The cards that which those criteria are Cuhullin and Holy Bear Knight. Lastly, 4-drops that generate multiple Officer bodies also go up in value because they help get a good 4-5 curve. Frontline Cavalier is the first option that comes to mind, but even weaker cards like Frontline Ramparts and Floral Fencer can make the cut in Magnolia lists.

The main downside of Magnolia is that it’s a Follower that demands an Evolve point and doesn’t provide a lot of reactive tempo for it, since 2 attack rarely clears anything on turn 5. Compared to Cerberus, for example, Evolved Magnolia generates better secondary Followers, but can barely trade with anything more than a 2-drop. Naturally, comparing it to Cerberus is a little unfair, since Cerberus is (probably) quite literally the best proactive 5-drop in the game, but the difference should be clear enough. Without sticking a prior board of Officers, Magnolia seems difficult to build around. Is a (worse) conditional Wind God worth building around? It certainly isn’t at this point, but Magnolia has potential with future cards, and even some sort of 1-cost 1/1 Officer with Ward would go a long way in making Magnolia a whole lot more playable.

Midrange Sword is heavily unfavored against a lot of decks in the format, that includes Manaria Rune, any kind of Dragon deck and Lion Haven. Some of Sword’s (comparatively) reasonable matchups include DFB Blood and Midrange Shadow/Forest. It should be noted that existing Shadowlog ladder stats likely mix up Magnolia lists together with regular Midrange Sword, bringing the winrate of the bucket down as a consequence, although it’s not really clear at this point as to what extent that is happening. Still, MidSword is not really in a good spot in the format since the meta is so hostile to it, but after the expansion that could very well change, especially if Dragon receives balance changes (which it could since PDK Dragon is the best-performing deck in the format and Ramp Dragon is not doing too badly either), considering the fact that Prime Dragon Keeper is rotating out.

Puppet and Lishenna Portal

Identifying cards (Lishenna): Nilpotent Entity, Destructive Refrain, Apostle of Destruction, Seraphic Blade.
Identifying cards (Puppet): Silva, Cucouroux, Paracelsus, Lyria, Gilnelise, Basileus, Noah.
There are 2 types of decks that rely on Puppet synergy, and while the split is a little arbitrary, it can be said that there are Lishenna-centric Puppet lists, identified by additional card draw and synergy cards like Destructive Refrain; and “Classic” Puppet lists, identified by playing powerful tempo-centric cards like Silva and Cucouroux that provide board control and chip damage.

Mulligan Priority (Lishenna lists)

  • Always keep Lishenna.
  • If you’re already keeping Lishenna, you can keep Inspired Inventor and tempo-centric 2-drops like Hamelin, Flower Doll, Lococo, etc, as well as Substitution.
  • If you’re not keeping Lishenna, throw away literally every card that isn’t card draw (Disciple and Singer) or Substitution.

The mulligan plan for Lishenna decks is incredibly simple, since Lishenna decks quite literally don’t do anything without an early Lishenna, so you have to dig for the card even if it means sacrificing early tempo.

Mulligan Priority (regular Puppet lists)

  • Always keep Silva and Flower Doll.
  • Going second, keep Lishenna or Paracelsus.
  • Against midrange decks like Sword/Shadow/Blood, keep Substitution, and try to have a 2-drop of any kind (Lococo/Paracelsus/Hamelin with a target all work). Windup and Disciple of Destruction are not 2-drops.
  • If you’re already keeping Silva, prioritize keeping Cucouroux or Automaton Knight.

The mulligan plan for regular Puppet lists is to try to hit your Prince Keleseth (that costs 3 for some reason) to start getting chip damage in from the early turns. While the archetype doesn’t usually play Refrains and Disciples, Lishenna is still a good card on curve, since it essentially guarantees a 2-for-1 in your favor even if one were to disregard the whole “destruction quest”, and the inevitability factor does come into play occasionally.

Tech cards

  • Nilpotent Entity against Blood/Rune in Lishenna lists.
  • Rukina of the Resistance as an optional inclusion in Puppet lists. Works well with Gilnelise and allows to set up a wide board with 3 Puppets into Rukina into Gilnelise on turn 9 since it prevents the end-of-turn destruction clause on Puppets.
  • Destructive Refrain against Sword/Shadow/Dragon (mostly) in Lishenna lists. In the later stages of the game Refrain can get a full board clear with Destruction in White, but a DIY Nova Flare with Inspired Inventor tokens can be fine against Shadow as well.
  • Apostle of Destruction against non-Lion Haven in Lishenna lists. The main advantage of Apostle is that you can speed up your clock against Haven with an active Alexiel effect from roughly 10-15 turns down to only 5 or 6.
  • Seraphic Blade against Blood to deal with evolved Vira and against Lion Haven to deal with Temple of the Holy Lion. Playable in either archetype.
  • Fall from Grace as an answer to Seraph and in Lishenna mirrors.
  • Lyria is less of a tech card and more of an optional inclusion to fetch Gilnelise in classic Puppet lists.
  • Basileus against Sword/Shadow. Playable in either archetype, but is redundant with Refrain in Lishenna lists.

Lishenna Portal skeleton

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Puppet Portal skeleton

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Puppet Portal

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While there are 2 different archetypes centered around Puppet synergy, the classic tempo-oriented Puppet Portal has received a lot of good coverage in the past and the only real change to the archetype is Nicholas getting banned from the Rotation format and the increase of cost of Vengeful Puppeteer Noah. Those 2 cards got replaced by Lishenna and Gilnelise, respectively. Gilnelise doesn’t allow Puppets to hit face, but it makes Puppets trade really well as early as turn 7, which is powerful in its own right against midrange classes like Sword and Shadow.

On Lishenna Portal

The Portalcraft archetype centered around Lishenna as the win condition is considerably jankier than the classic Puppet variant, but also plays significantly differently from Standard Puppet lists. In most matchups, you’re trying to play Lishenna as early as possible, get the Amulet token, and start getting discounts on the thing. Generally, if you evolve Lishenna on curve, you can play Destruction in Black around turn 9, so the archetype is potentially on par with Chimera Rune and Tenko Haven in terms of speed. Similar to Chimera Rune, the archetype appears to be designed to do well against reactive decks like Tenko Haven; with Nilpotent Entity and healing from Inspired Inventor/Destruction in White it has some protection against cards that do a lot of damage out of hand like Giant Chimera and Darkfeast Bat. With that in mind, there is a small caveat with Nilpotent Entity, namely that Entity discards a random Artifact when played, which can be a bit of a problem when your win condition is a singular Artifact that you have to keep in your hand most of the game. You can slightly combat this issue by keeping Inventor tokens in hand and at least hope for a 50/50 of discarding your wincon, but since you usually don’t get more than one of those, it’s not that reliable. I’ve personally found that against Blood it is fine to forgo the “Destruction quest” entirely and just play Nilpotent Entity and discard Destruction in White/Black once you’re in Bat range. Since Blood players naturally take chip damage from their cards, it is often possible to set up lethal with a 9-damage Orchis once you exhaust the Blood player from most of their threats.

Against slower decks, you can usually outpace them with the Lishenna win condition depending on the draw. Destuction in Black is naturally faster than Giant Chimera since you can block some of the Chimera damage with a defensive Orchis and get enough time to get to play Destruction in Black into Nilpotent Entity. Against Tenko Haven, the matchup depends on how many Shrines the Tenko player gets up, Lishenna decks are significantly faster than a single Tenko’s Shrine, with 2 Tenko’s Shrines the matchup is about even and with 3 Shrines or an Alexiel leader effect the matchup is basically unwinnable.

Against midrange decks, the matchup really depends on whether you can find Lishenna in time and stabilize to play Destruction in White/Black. In particular, Sword matchups are seemingly unwinnable since you can’t win with Orchis and Destruction in Black is guaranteed to get banished every time. However, against Midrange Shadow or PDK, it is possible to clear the board with the suite of Puppet-based removal effects in time for Destruction in Black to start ticking down. However, even in those matchups you can still sometimes be forced into keeping an Evolve point for extended periods of time, while waiting to draw Lishenna.

Lishenna mirror matches can take up to 30 minutes and are usually not worth playing in a ladder environment. Generally, the mirror match is decided by two main factors: which player drew his Lishenna earlier, and which player has more Nilpotent Entities and/or Seraphic Blades in their deck. Unless you’re packing a Fall from Grace or Suttungr, I’d recommend not wasting your time once you identify that you’re playing a mirror match.


The Puppet Portal bucket combines both Lishenna and Puppet stats buckets. The surprising thing about the archetype is that it has been consistently falling in popularity (since it’s not all that competitive, so that makes perfect sense) and gradually improving in terms of its winrate and matchup polarity. Around the start of the OOT expansion, the archetype used to hover around 32-33% winrate with an extremely high (>20%) polarity value, and while it’s certainly not competitive at present since it’s weak to a lot of the popular decks in the format (PDK Dragon, Lion Haven, MidShadow, etc.).

I am cautiously optimistic about the future of the archetype, since the upcoming set will be the first time in the history of Shadowverse when Portalcraft is going to have the same amount of sets in Rotation as every other class. Sure, one could argue that Chronogenesis had a lot of extra Portal cards, but it should be noted that the majority of Portal cards from CHR follow a top-down design philosophy (meaning that the cards were created to be thematically cohesive first and playable second, particularly notable with all the early Puppet cards) and the majority of Portal’s basic and CHR set are more or less unplayable by current standards.

Artifact Portal skeleton

Artifact Portal

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Artifact Portal

Identifying cards: Biofabrication, Mechanization, Metaproduction, Acceleratium, Mech Wing Swordsman, Icarus, Miriam, Fervent Machine Soldier, Hakrabi, Deus, Enervating Mail.

Mulligan priority

  • Always keep Metaproduction, Magisteel Lion, Miriam, Fervent Machine Soldier.
  • Unless you’re playing against Blood, keep Deus Ex Machina.
  • Keep Icarus or Lishenna going second.
  • Keep Substitution against Sword/Blood/Dragon/Portal.
  • If you’re keeping Miriam or Fervent Machine Soldier, keep Hamelin.
  • Do not keep Biofabrication, Mechanization, Acceleratium, Hakrabi or Enervating Mail.

Tech cards

  • Nilpotent Entity against Blood/Rune. Also helps against Lishenna decks and big Storm followers like Heavenly Knight and Azi Dahaka in Haven and Dragon, respectively.
  • Hydro Alchemist, more of an optional replacement for Mech Wing Swordsman than a tech card, provides less card draw (on average), but decreases Artifact randomness.
  • Lishenna as an alternate win condition for when you don’t draw Deus. Replaces Safira/Mechanization/Mech Wing Swordsman.
  • Enervating Mail against midrange decks like Sword/Shadow. Extremely slow, but is “played” for free once you reach the Artifact threshold.

Artifact Portal is a deck that is centered around Deus Ex Machina cycling through your deck to supply Ancient/Analyzing Artifacts that can control the board with Acceleratium. The deck usually relies on Radiant Artifacts, that can be shuffled into your deck with Biofabrication or Mechanization, to close out games.

With the addition of Lishenna, the archetype doesn’t rely as much on drawing Deus in time, since you can go through the “Destruction quest” at a reasonable speed even without Junk and Puppet Rooms. Notably, since Destruction in Black is an Artifact, you can play Biofabrication on it and shuffle 3 copies of it into your deck so that once you discard your hand with Deus, you can still win through Lishenna at a later point.

Mechanization is also an interesting addition to the archetype, since it allows you to control exactly which Artifacts you want in your deck. After Deus, the best choices are usually Ancient/Radiant, and before Deus you should avoid playing Mechanization if possible, but if you can’t help playing it, the best choices are either Analyzing/Mystic or Analyzing/Ancient. Since Mechanization doesn’t do anything apart from losing you card advantage before Deus, the card is not that great in the early game.

Surprisingly, despite the name, Artifact Portal lists usually don’t contain a single Valve-shaped card.


In a similar vein to Puppet/Lishenna Portal, Artifact Portal is a surprisingly well-performing archetype in the Rotation format, considering how unpopular it is. Part of it likely has to do with low sample size, and the archetype certainly has weak matchups like PDK Dragon, DFB Blood and MidShadow, however, the deck (Mysteria-osly) has a positive matchup against Manaria Rune and Lion Haven, and is even close to being even with Ramp Dragon. I’d still recommend treating Artifact Portal stats with a grain of salt due to the extremely low sample size, but the archetype could have some potential if the format shifts away from Dragon. Well, that probably isn’t happening, but still.

Stats corner (31/12 – 06/01)

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 85-90%, heavily skewed towards winrate, with a small (10-15%) 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 ~15% percent of their score based on their popularity.