Shisogenius’s Meta Insight 9/3
The “Meta Insight” series covers the differences between popular ladder decklists, showcasing the core cards of each of the archetypes (“deck skeletons”), as well as various optional inclusions and tech cards.
Identifying cards: Goblin, Flower Doll, Lococo, Automaton Knight, Puppet Room, Junk, Puppeteer’s Strings, Heartless Battle, Orchis, Noah.
Impact of the mini-expansion
Puppet Portal is one of the 3 big winners of the mini-expansion, and since the archetype was already good to begin with, at present Puppet Portal is an archetype played more frequently than any non-Portal class in the format; and while it doesn’t mean that it’s a 1-deck meta the same way as Neutral Blood or PDK Dragon were, it’s still slightly eyebrow-raising when a deck is so hugely popular and has the best (or at least second best) winrate of any deck in the Rotation format. The crux of this increase in popularity is Cucouroux, the newly-released 3-drop. Cucouroux replaces Automaton Knight in pre-mini-expac lists, and some lists run a combination of the two, with Cucouroux usually having priority over Automaton Knight, with some lists running 3/1, 3/2 or 3/3 Cucouroux/Automaton split. Cucouroux does a few different things, however, the main point of Cucouroux is that it’s a 3-drop with Silva synergy. Going first, Silva+Coucoroux gets a value trade against any 2-drop in the format (aside from Snow White), it kills off 2/2s for free and trades well with 1/3s. Aside from that, Cucourox is also a good 5-drop, very similar in function to Luminous Mage, except instead of the evolve-saving effect the card provides 3 damage to random enemies instead. I’ve ranted previously on how much I personally hate random damage effects, but it still seems very confusing as to why Camieux is literally the only card in the game with a literal Knife Juggler-type effect. It can be argued that if Camieux’s Last Words effect was Follower-only, the card would be stronger, but nonetheless, I don’t think that game-deciding RNG effects are fun or healthy for the game.
The recent post-mini-expansion trends in Puppet Portal is the increase of popularity of Basileus and Heartless Battle, a lot of the recent lists run 2-3 copies of both due to the popularity of midrange decks like Puppet Portal and Midrange Sword/Shadow. Following that logic, a lot of Puppet lists cut Goblins because they’re not good in midrange matchups since they get value-traded by 2-drops, especially when going second. Lists that cut Automaton Knights can also run 1-2 Puppet Room. Overall, Puppet Portal is one of the more solved and straightforward decks of the Rotation format, and it wouldn’t surprise me if some of the Puppet Portal staples receive small changes in the future. The 2 cards that stick out in Puppet lists are Silva and Nicholas, and some changes I’d expect would be Nicholas going from a 4/3 to a 3/3 (or replacing its Fanfare effect with an Evolve effect) and Silva’s Accelerate effect being limited to only targeting Followers that cost 2 or less, which would also bring down the power level of Cucouroux as a consequence.
Spelled with a capital “i” and not an “L”
Portalcraft has received a lot of cards that either don’t have explicit Artifact synergy or generate Puppets in the BoS expansion. In my opinion, the most defining out of those cards are Paracelsus, Nicholas and Silva. Paracelsus is Icarus 3.0. (Icarus 2.0. being Knower of History), with slightly more flexibility and potential value. It is usually correct to take the Rush option with Paracelsus, but if you anticipate needing a Ward later on, then picking the Guardform Golem can be valuable as well, especially with its Enhance ability. Nicholas is a midrange powerhouse, playing Nicholas on 4 is almost never bad, and playing him on 8 is downright insane tempo, about comparable to Sky Fortress.
Puppet Portal is an aggro/tempo deck that relies on dealing early damage with Silva in order to set up for lethal with its extremely powerful finishers in Noah and Orchis. The power of the deck comes from the unavoidable damage from Silva and the sheer flexibility its cards provide. The deck has Storm, Banish, Ward, Transform, and healing which allows it to adapt to almost any situation.
Possible Tech cards:
Goblin: Taking the deck in a more aggro direction, this is based on your playstyle. If you really hate 1-drops, you don’t have to run Goblins. Drawing it on turn 1 going first is insanely powerful. 0 or 3 copies.
Heartless Battle: A weak card on turn 5; its Enhanced version is much more powerful. Extremely solid card in the mirror. 0 to 1 copies.
Enkidu: A strong card going first if you curve out. It gives you an extra finisher on turn 8 in case you don’t have the puppets needed for Orchis or don’t draw her. Can be clunky going 2nd because you won’t have resonance on turn 5. 0 to 1 copies.
Seraphic Blade: This helps against Brambles and Holy Lion Temple. Can also be used vs Tenko but the matchup is bad enough that this should not factor into your decision about adding this card. 0 to 2 copies.
Junk/Purehearted Singer/Staircase: Your choice of card draw/card advantage. I recommend Staircase as it can be popped rather quickly with Puppets. 1 to 3 copies.
Puppet Room: Makes the most Puppets out of any cards but is a tempo loss to set down. 0 to 1 copies.
Puppeteer’S Strings: Really good vs Forest. If you are seeing lots of Forest, this could be a decent tech choice. Also makes 2 Puppets which is extremely useful. 0 to 2 copies.
Always keep Silva. Mulligan away everything 5-cost or more.
If going 2nd, keep Goblin based on the matchup. Against Sword and in Portal mirrors I wouldn’t keep Goblin going second.
You can keep two Nicholas’s if you have a 2-drop. Mull for Substitution vs Sword if you don’t have Silva.
Early game cards
Most early game cards in Puppet Portal are pretty straightforward, so there isn’t much variance there. Some Puppet lists choose to run Icarus because it’s a good Evolve target, but I personally find most Artifact cards to be pretty underwhelming in Puppet Portal, and Icarus is a bad card to play on 2 since she dilutes your future draws so I don’t think it’s correct to play Icarus. An optional 2-drop that is included in some lists as a 1-of or a 2-of is Bear Puppeteer, which is not that great in its own right, but can be a reasonable 2-drop if you think that 12 2-drops isn’t enough. One important thing to mention with the early game cards of the deck is the Paracelsus + Hamelin interaction to get extra Golems, but that should be pretty obvious to anyone who has seen Icarus/Fervent/etc. played in Artifact Portal before.
Lococo is a 2-drop that also doubles up as a Polymorph effect later on in the game. The important part to remember about Lococo is that paying its Enhance cost gives you a Puppet (sometimes multiple Puppets over the course of multiple turns). The 1/3 is also sometimes slightly relevant since it can get hit with buff effects like Elf Song or Sky Fortress, so occasionally you have to clear it off as well. Even with that in mind, Lococo is an absurdly powerful removal effect, about on par with Dance of Death, and it can even go through destruction immunity on cards like Beauty and the Beast, as well as powerful Last Words like Mordecai. Well, Mordecai is a poor example since literally no one plays Reanimate Shadow, but other examples of powerful Last Words that you can deny with Lococo include Jormungand, Shining Bellringer Angel, Corpselord of Woe and so on.
There is some debate as to whether to play Goblins or not, and it mostly depends on player preference. Goblins are good when played on turn 1 but are pretty mediocre otherwise. The good thing about Goblins is that they’re cheap so you can get extra Flower Doll value if you dump your hand faster. Goblins are pretty good against Forest since they trade with 1/1s really well, and can push 3-4 points of damage if played on turn 1 against reactive decks like Chimera RUne, for example. Goblins are pretty poor against Sword and in mirror matches because they just get value-traded and don’t amount to much. I don’t think that Goblins are good in the current format because of how often you run into mirror matches, but a few players have gotten good results with a playset of Goblins in their deck, so it’s not really set in stone.
Apart from the aforementioned Nicholas, Puppet Portal has a few midgame options. The most common of those is Spinaria, usually played at 2-3 copies because it’s a decent card for controlling the board on evolve turns that often nets you an extra card. The weakness of Spinaria is that if you trade with the token on your turn you don’t get to draw a card because you (usually) don’t run any artifact generation cards. The upside of Spinaria is that she has natural synergy with Puppet cards, since you can manipulate what targets the pings go on with Puppets, and the fact that Spinaria stacks with itself, so if you play Spinaria into Spinaria, you can get 3 random damage going off each turn. Spinaria is also the just about the only real card advantage tool you can get in Puppet Portal, because the only card draw you can get is Neutral, and there are only 2 different cards, Staircase to Paradise and Purehearted Singer. Staircase has some pretty sweet synergy with Puppets and Flower Dolls since they advance the Countdown. Purehearted Singer is fairly slow as a 3-drop, but is still faster than a Staircase while providing less value. While not really card draw in the traditional sense, Puppet Room and Junk are both cards that generate extra Puppets at the cost of providing very poor tempo and are occasionally played as 1-ofs.
Apart from those, you can choose to play 2-3 copies of Basileus (very good against Sword and Forest, can clear Arthur boards on its own, can clear enhanced Cucouroux in mirror matches to avoid the random damage) and a Puppet generation card that does a similar thing, Heartless Battle, that can usually trade 1-for-1 with whatever the biggest follower is at the time. A thing to note about Heartless Battle is that Victoria’s effect goes off before Clash effects occur, so she can trade with followers affected by Brambles, for example. When played for its Enhance cost, Lloyd becomes a 1/7 Ward with Bane, which can help setting up a turn 8 Orchis, but since Lloyd doesn’t trade well, most of the time you still pick Victoria because it has an immediate board impact and procs Silva if you don’t have board control.
The overall goal of Puppet Portal is to set your opponent into lethal range of Orchis/Noah. A full Ocrhis does 9 damage (+1 for each active Silva effect), and Noah does 11 on the first cast, with each consecutive Noah adding +4. It’s important to have enough Puppets for the finisher, but, for example, if you have an Orchis and a Noah in hand without enough Puppets, playing an inactive Orchis on 8 perfectly sets up a turn 9 Noah since you get just enough Puppets for that. In addition to that, you can sometimes play a defensive Orchis since it only uses 1 Puppet, so if you have 4 or more Puppets and your opponent is exactly out of Orchis range, but is in Noah range, that is something you can do. Against really slow decks like Tenko you sometimes have to set up a Noah into Noah lethal, where you play Noah on 9 with 2-3 Puppets (7-9 damage) into Noah on 10 for the remaining 14-ish damage, but you need to have at least 5 Puppets in hand to do so.
Puppet Portal is the most popular deck in the format and the second performing decks in the format. The only matchups that Puppet Portal can struggle in is Tenko Haven (the natural counter to the archetype) and Chimera (a.k.a. Spellboost) Rune, which is fairly tricky to play for the Rune player, but is on paper close to a 50/50. Below is a (slightly outdated, but still mostly accurate) look at Puppet Portal matchups graciously provided by MS Sprayquaza.
MS Sprayquaza on Puppet Portal matchups:
Tenko Haven (30-70): The worst matchup. You need Silva early and for the opponent to brick on Tenko. Sometimes you can sneak in a win if you tempo them out hard enough.
Holy Lion Haven (60-40): This matchup is made better if you run Seraphic Blade for Temple. Keeping the opponent off their Temples will let you reach your wincon faster then they can.
MidSword (50-50): A skill-based matchup. You need Basilius for when they drop Arthur (if you didn’t manage to do a lot of chip in the early game). Try to end the game early because Sword will eventually outvalue you.
Aggro Forest (45-55): This matchup is totally draw dependent. If you get a good start with Silva and transition smoothly into the mid/late game into your powerful Wards, the matchup could be super easy. If Forest gets down Brambles and creates a huge board, they can snowball the game to a close before you can stabilize.
Midrange Forest (55-45): Like the aggro matchup, if the Forest player drops Brambles and makes an insane board, the game is pretty much over. However, Midrange Forest can be slower and that works in your favor. You often reach your finishers just as they are getting close to killing you with Axeman.
G-Chimera Rune (60-40): One of the only decks where keeping Silva for turn 7 might be the correct play. They often don’t have followers for you to attack into, wasting a turn of Silva pings. Just play as aggressively as possible and you should win before Giant Chimera.
Lindworm/Ramp Dragon (60-40): Chip them out and finish with Storm damage. Sometimes the Dragon player has the perfect early game but Lococo can delay their big Followers enough for you to reach your finishers.
Aggro Blood (55-45): Same as Aggro Forest, but you have Wards for their Storm and they don’t have Brambles.
Jorm Blood (70-30): You have lots of Banish and Transform effects. Also they chip themselves for you.
Arcus/Ferry Shadow (60-40): Dodge Plagued City into the Ferry combo and you should be fine. The Shadow player needs to curve out with the combo to win against your pressure.
Aggressive Artifact PortalSource
Identifying cards: Biofabrication, Metaproduction, Miriam, Fervent Machine Soldier, Cat Cannoneer, Ironforged Fighter, Hakrabi, Safira, Deus Ex Machina.
The provided deck skeleton contains 2xParacelsus since the card is played as a 3-of in the more recent lists of the archetype, however, it can be cut for other 2-drops such as Mech Wing Swordsman. Recent lists usually include Mech Wing Swordsmen instead of Paracelsus, however, the archetype is not that well-tested in the format and there’s some debate as to whether Paracelsus/Mech Wing Swordsman is essential for the archetype at all.
Impact of the mini-expansion
Puppet Portal is still a statistically superior archetype to Artifact Portal, and the newly released Portal card, Cucouroux, works better in Silva decks which is usually not an attribute that Artifact Portal can be described with. The best way to fit in Cucouroux in Artifact Portal is in a deck similar to よーく’s list, that also runs Silva as well. The deck doesn’t really have much finishing power, but with creative use of Miriam/Biofabrications you can still get a few Radiant Artifacts if necessary. The problem with taking Artifact Portal in that direction (and Artifact Portal in general) is that constructing the Rube Goldberg machine of Artifact Portal with Deus, cheap Artifacts and Resonance-manipulating cards takes a lot of prior setup and requires a lot of card slots to pull off consistently. Essentially, all Artifact Portal decks have to run a playset of the 10 core cards (Biofab, Metaproduction, Acceleratium, the 4 main 2-drops, Fervents, Hakrabi and Deus), leaving you with 10-ish card slots which need to fit in 2-3 finisher cards like Safira or Ironforged Fighter, 3 copies of Substitution, and additional 2- and 3-drops to make the early game more consistent. I personally don’t think there is any further development for Artifact Portal in future sets, because the current Artifact Portal shell is the closest we can get to a consistency in that type of deck. Sure, there could be a better Substitution/Hakrabi or a tutor for Deus in the future, but in my opinion, we’ve reached peak Artifact Portal months ago.
The other new Portal card, clearly intended as Artifact support, is Malocchio. Some early theorycrafted Artifact Portal lists (like へるん’s one) proposed running it in combination with cheap “Resonance switches” like Metaproduction and Mystic Ring in an otherwise regular Artifact shell, and there could be some potentially be some merit to that. Malocchio can grow extremely fast and basically demands an immediate answer, but it’s not really that consistent. You can potentially get a 6/6 Malocchio on turn 4 with Metaproduction + Biofab if you start the turn out of Resonance, but since the final +2/+2 buff occurs at the end of the turn, you don’t hit the 10-attack threshold if you evolve it and therefore don’t get the AoE effect from it. Malocchio can also be activated for cheap with Analyzing Artifacts with Acceleratium in play, but it’s generally not really something you can do because you need 2 Artifacts per activation. I’m not sure if Malocchio will find a home in the future, but it seems slightly better that the regular Artifact-centric “win-more” Portal cards that require to jump through many hoops before getting their effect off like That Which Erases, Rhinos and Artifact Spark. There could be potentially a Portal list that wants a snowballing 3-drop like Malocchio if there are more cheap cycling (or pseudo-cycling, like Biofab) effects introduced in the future.
The game plan
Not much has changed since the new expansion as far as Artifact Portal goes, and it wouldn’t do to repeat the same things that I’ve said about the archetype for the last 5 months, so this section will cover the basic game plan without particular details. The basic plan for Artifact Portal is to get Deus Ex Machina online and then repeatedly play artifacts that control the board and/or draw cards from your deck using discounts from Deus Ex Machina’s leader effect and Acceleratium. The early game of Artifact Portal consists of cards that put Artifacts into your deck (Metaproduction, Magisteel Lion, Mech Wing Swordsman, Icarus) and cards that draw Artifacts from your deck (Miriam, Fervent Machine Soldier, evolved Icarus, Hakrabi, Otherworld Rift). Artifacts are usually very efficient in terms of tempo (except for Radiant and Prime ones, of course), so if you’re drawing your Artifacts in the early game, you should realistically have board control early on. It is important to note here that Hamelin can copy cheap Artifacts, so saving Artifacts for Hamelin is the best use of the card. There are 2 main win conditions for Artifact Portal: generating enough Radiant Artifacts post-Deus with Ironforged Fighters and sometimes Miriam, then copying them with Biofabrication for a constant stream of Storm damage; and cycling through enough Artifacts to have lethal with an Enhanced Safira. The important parts of Artifact Portal are not shuffling too many Artifacts into your deck before Deus and not running out of threats after Deus.
The most important new addition (in my opinion) to Artifact Portal is Paracelsus, since he allows you to replace Mech Wing Swordsman, thus eliminating any semblance of randomness from your Artifacts. Generally, when you’re playing Artifact Portal or playing against it, you should always keep track of the type (or at least number) of Artifacts shuffled into the Portal player’s deck to know what resources are potentially available to the Portal player. Previously, Mech Wing Swordsman occasionally messed up your Miriam/Fervent pulls by putting Radiant Artifacts into your deck, which happens 43.75% of the time, and it’s great that you no longer randomly shoot yourself in the foot by playing a 2-drop. A neat interaction with Paracelsus is that you can shuffle Golems with Biofabrication on 4 and draw them with Hakrabi on the following turn, providing for some huge value, and you can even pick which one you want, the Rush or the Ward. Guardform Golems are generally better tempo than Mystic Artifacts even when you consider the Enhance cost.
Running Silva is something you can do in Artifact Portal, but it’s more difficult to fit in an Artifact deck because your 3-drops are worse with it (and you have to use the thing on an Artifact a lot of the time, which is not great tempo) and also because your win condition is generally slower and chip damage matters less as a result. An example of a tempo-oriented hybrid Artifact list is よーく’s one, which includes Silva and Cucouroux. And therein lies the problem with Artifact Portal, in my opinion: a lot of the good Portal cards have no Artifact synergy. I’d love to just play an Artifact list with Nicolas, Basileus and Lococo, maybe even put in Spinaria white you’re at it. Then just add Orchis and Silva, and there you have it, a proactive midrange Portal deck that doesn’t make you twiddle your thumbs until you get to turn 10 or go through 80% of your deck. Why do you even have Deus in your deck in the first place?
Making the sparks fly
The last two decklists in this section represent a build of Artifact Portal centered around Artifact Spark that completely gets rid of the whole Deus/Ironforged Figter/Safira/Biofabrication package to instead include Silva, Devil of the Gaps, Goblins and Artifact Spark. Devil of the Gaps can give you Blade of Dark, which can either push 2 damage when you have a follower in play, or negate a Ward follower from your cheating opponent. Silva provides some chip damage over the course of the game, and Artifact Spark can be reused as an upsized reusable Demonic Strike which is pretty neat. When this card was initially revealed, I thought that it read as “Deal 4 damage, discard a random Artifact from you hand. If you do, add an Artifact Spark to your hand”, however, the actual effect is a lot more awkward and conditional. Realistically speaking, “Aggro Portal” is the third best playable Portal deck which is still better than some of the decks in less playable classes, but generally is not something one should play, as Puppet Portal is better at anything that Aggro Portal could ever hope to accomplish.
As far as the matchups of Artifact Portal go, the deck generally can deal with “fair” midrange decks, in particular, it is one of the better decks in the format against Midrange Sword, however, it does get mauled by Forest decks with Brambles and its Puppet counterpart. There’s very little reason to play Artifact Portal over Puppet lists at present, due to longer games and generally weaker overall cards.
Identifying cards: Goblin, Ariana, Grasshopper Conductor, Ipiria.
Impact of the mini-expansion
The recent changes to Aggro Forest are a consequence of refinement to the archetype and the new Forest cards aren’t great fits in Aggro Forest. With that said, a one-of Burst Shot is an emerging trend in Aggro Forest, since it can serve as a contingency plan if you ever get to turn 10 as Aggro Forest. In addition to this, Burst Shot can be a tool to get back on board, e.g. if you’re going first against Puppet Portal and you’re behind, you can sometimes clear the board with Burst Shot on turn 4 and then play Brambles/Fairy/Rayne on 5 to get back on board. An enhanced Burst Shot is not something one should play around against Aggro Forest since it’s not that common and pretty slow overall. Sky Devouring Horror costs 9 and does less than a Fairy Driver, so it’s not really playable in Aggro lists.
Impact of the Ipiria nerf
After the Ipiria nerf the Aggro Forest skeleton has become a lot less restricting, and the card has phased out of Aggro Forest lists in favor of other, often more midrange-y tools, usually borrowed from Tempo Forest lists. The most straightforward 1-for-1 Ipiria replacement is Greenglen Axeman, which provides similar pressure to Ipiria and further blurs the line between aggressive Tempo Forest lists and straight Aggro Forest. Metera has also started seeing playing over Ariana, because Metera provides card advantage and trades better against midrange decks.
The other approach to filling the lizard-shaped hole left by Ipiria is to simply play more card draw and weaker early game cards like Sylvan Justice that used to be considered subpar in the archetype. A recent example of the latter is Game_over’s list, that plays 3 copies of Sylvan Justice. The aforementioned card-draw option includes 3 cards: Starry Elf, Purehearted Singer and Grasshopper Conductor. Among those, Starry Elf is the best tempo card that also fetches the literal best card in the deck, so Starry Elf is (unsurprisingly) the most commonly played one. Purehearted Singer draws 2 cards and is the worst tempo of the 3 options and so is the greediest option. Grasshopper Conductor is the option which fetches your win condition (Fairy Driver, the only Follower with 3 attack in the deck) and is a 2/1, so it’s a tutor effect, similar to Starry Elf, that has a slightly worse statline than Starry Elf. Previously Grasshopper Conductor was incompatible with the regular Aggro Forest shell because of the overlap in attack between Ariana and Fairy Driver, but now that Aggro Forest has become slightly slower, Ariana is usually excluded from lists, which eliminates any randomness from Grasshopper pulls. The following sections are the sections published before the Ipiria nerf, covering the basic deckbuilding and game plan of Aggro Forest, which have remained unchanged after the Ipiria nerfs.
What changed for Aggro Forest?
Aggro Forest has not gotten any cards that one would want in a deck, and in fact, if one were to go back to previous MI reports, in all likelihood, it’s possible to find Aggro Forest lists that are card-for-card the same ones as some of the lists presented in this section. Naturally, this is impossible to accomplish after the previous MI reports have been erased from existence, but nonetheless, the basic Aggro Forest shell has remained unchanged. The only card that’s missing from its spot here is Beetle Warrior after its rotation, replaced by Ariana, Natural Tutor. Some new GBF cards one might try to fit into Aggro Forest are Devil Flower, a tech card against Tenko Haven; Myconid, a vanilla-statted Ambush follower that was present in some theorycrafts of the archetype as a replacement for Beetle Warrior, the card turned out to be a lot worse than expected; as well as Shamu and Shama, a proactive 3-drop that is generally outperformed by Starry Elf. Generally, as far as deckbuilding goes, there’s not a whole lot you can do with 4-5 available card slots, as there are only so many different cards you can play in those slots. Some options include the second (or even third) Ariana, third Starry Elf, 1-of Sylvan Justice, one or two Lilacs or 1-of Purehearted Singer, but at the end of the day, you can’t really go wrong with any early game cards that put followers into play or improve your board advantage.
The game plan
The general idea behind Aggro Forest is similar to traditional weenie decks found in any number of existing card games, you’re trying to play a 1-drop (Goblin or Water Fairy) into a 2-drop (the basic priority is Falconer > Fairy Whisperer > Leaf Man/Rayne), play whatever the board state allows to on turn 3 (Starry Elf/Lilac when on a neutral board state, Fairy into Insect Lord to clear a single 2-health follower, Fairy into Brambles if you can get really good trades out of it, and so on). Going second, turn 4 is the first turn when you can play Rayne with 2 1-cost cards to get Rayne value if you need to trade. Alternatively, if you’ve had a good early curve, you can land an Elf Song on turn 4 to push some damage and develop the board. On turn 5, the thing you want to do the most is to play Ipiria or an enhanced Leaf Man, but if good trades present themselves from playing other cards, it is okay to forgo the highest board development and play Rayne/Insect Lord/Barrage/Brambles/etc. to get the board back.
A few important things to keep in mind are the ability to bounce Brambles with Airbound Barrage to get extra value, Fairy Driver damage range (each Fairy equals 2 damage, +2 extra if you have an evolve point), and aggressive use of evolves (if you can do 2 face damage with an evolve point, it’s worth it most of the time; e.g. if you play Ipiria on an empty board, you can pre-evolve while it’s still Ambushed to get the extra damage if you don’t have any other evolve targets). A couple of interactions with the newly-released cards are that against Sword if Charlotta gets evolved, Brambles, Barrage and Insect Lord don’t do any damage; and sometimes your Brambles can get Seraphic Bladed, denying you trades or the ability to bounce the thing. I don’t have a lot to say about Aggro Forest, in all likelihood, if you’ve played Shadowverse at any point throughout the last 9 months, you’ve seen Aggro Forest and know what the deck does. Good deck, very speedy, goes wide a lot, buffs little dudes, uses tiny pointy sticks to trade up, hits face with a lot of little dudes, sometimes hits face with one big
lizard dude halberd man. It’s not exactly rocket science. I would know what rocket science is since I have a science degree. Depressing, isn’t it.
Aggro Forest has a pretty great matchup spread, the only archetypes it’s slightly unfavored against are Puppet Portal and Midrange Sword. Even if you take into consideration that the former is the most popular archetype in the format, Aggro Forest is still the best-performing ladder deck in the format since it more than makes up for that weakness by doing great against essentially any other archetype of the Rotation format. There are many decks in the format which Aggro Forest just auto-wins against, they include Artifact Portal (due to Brambles), Spellboost Rune (due to the fact that most Rune lists don’t run Nova Flare, and even with Nova Flare that matchup is still miserable for Rune), Ramp Dragon (since that deck usually skips early turns to ramp) and any Blood list (since Blood players hit themselves in the face so Aggro Forest’s game plan naturally aligns with that). Aggro Forest is currently the best-performing deck in the format, and if you consider the short game time, Aggro Forest is likely one of the best archetypes for consistently grinding ladder and the best aggro deck of the Rotation format period. The archetype is also fairly popular in tournament play due to the popularity of Chimera Rune.
Korwa Tempo ForestSource
Korwa Tempo ForestSource
Horror Tempo ForestSource
Horror Tempo ForestSource
Fairy Dragon Tempo ForestSource
Korwa/Okami Tempo ForestSource
Identifying cards: Devil Flover, Metera, Venus, Godhunter Selwyn, Fairy Saber, Korwa, White Vanara, Cassiopeia, Greenglen Axeman.
“Tempo Forest” is a blanket term for most midrange Forest decks that don’t involve Neutral synergy, and since there are a lot of ways to build a midrange Forest deck, the deck skeleton only includes the absolute necessities for the archetype, put simply, its early game shell. Among Tempo Forest decks there are a few subsets of lists based on the included packages, e.g. Korwa lists include Korwa/White Vanara package, Fita lists include Fita into the usual Korwa package, and Elephant lists include Lyria/Loki/King Elephant package as the finisher.
Impact of the mini-expansion
Tempo Forest has largely disappeared from ladder and tournament environments, mainly due to having a really rough matchup against Puppet Portal and Ramp Dragon. With that said, Sky Devouring Horror is a fun gimmick for slower Tempo Forest lists. Horror has slight synergy with Korwa since you can deal 12 damage on turn 10 if you complete the “Korwa quest”. Activating Sky Devouring Horror is a whole different matter, since playing 7 cards in a single turn is fairly difficult. The first problem is that there are only 5 board slots, so you either need bounce effects like Paula/Barrage or spells like Sylvan Justice and Korwa tokens. Tweedle Dum, Tweedle Dee counts as 2 cards while only taking up a single board slot. However, with those cards, you’re running into the problem of not having enough mana to play 7 cards, especially before turn 9. One way to solve this is using 0-cost tokens like Fairy Wisps from Aria/Flower of Fairies, or Yggdrasil tokens (difficult to utilize, because you have to skip turn 7). Enhanced Blessings of Creation also count as 3 played cards, which makes it relatively simple to activate Horror. With that said, the Horror lists are really inconsistent overall since you have to amass a 7-card hand that includes Horror and involves prior setup in a deck with very little card draw. Sky Devouring Horror is really awkward at present, and whenever I see a Horror Tempo list, I can’t help but wonder as to why you aren’t just running King Elephant instead. Korwa synergy and big Johnny dreams are the only conceivable reasons that come to mind.
“Standard” Tempo Forest
By far the more tried-and-true way to build Tempo Forest is to take a regular Aggro Forest build, cut some of the aggressive early game cards (Goblins/Leaf Man/etc.) and instead include card advantage tools and strong midgame cards like Lilac, Metera, Venus, Cassiopeia, Greenglen Axeman, and potentially Selwyn and even Fairy Saber. The overall game plan of the more aggressive Tempo lists doesn’t differ from Aggro Forest, where your win condition is still mostly Fairy Driver, however, even more aggressive Tempo lists (じげまゆげ, for example) don’t rely on topdecking nearly as much as Aggro Forest and can take longer games. In essence, the switch to Fairy Drivers after the rotation is caused by the fact that Aerin rotated out and her closest replacement (Selwyn) is nowhere near good enough, so Tempo Forest lists have to be that much more proactive, especially since its other previous source of late-game damage (Jungle Warden) has also rotated out. With that said, some current lists (like Ruby10’s, for example) are essentially pre-patch Tempo Forest lists that just cut Aerin/Warden for Metera/Devil Flower, so it’s not like it’s really necessary to reinvent the wheel here.
The other “generic” Tempo Forest card, Godhunter Selwyn, is quite awkward to utilize and is basically a 3/5 Ward for 5 that you can play as a worse Sylvan Justice when needed. Activating Selwyn usually requires 2 Fairies, so you can’t realistically do it before turn 7, at which point 4 damage is not even that impactful. The way around that is to use Aria, since Aria can come down as early as turn 4 giving you 1 (2) wisps going first (second), potentially allowing you to have an active Selwyn as early as turn 6 (5). I’ve personally never seen the AoE version of Selwyn happen in a real game, but with Aria it is potentially doable by turn 7 and could clear Arthur/Orchis boards. It could potentially be valuable with better Fairy Wisps generators, but as it stands, both pieces of the Aria/Selwyn package are fairly mediocre individually, so I don’t think that playing more than a 2/2 split of those two is worthwhile.
An alternative to the “standard” Tempo Forest build utilizes the Korwa/White Vanara package as its source of damage in the late game. Korwa’s effect gives you access to a Fil (1pp spell that gives +0/+1 to a follower) every turn, or occasionally 2 Fils per turn. Naturally, just giving a follower +1 defense for 1pp is not really worthwhile without specific synergy, and there are 2 worthwhile followers that greatly benefit from stats buffs, the first one being White Vanara, which gains Storm, so you can get a 5/6 Storm Ward on turn 7 which is worse than an active Heavenly Knight, but still quite a lot of damage. However, where the Korwa/Vanara package really shines is when you complete the “Korwa quest” that requires you to play 5 Fils. The earliest you can achieve that is turn 8 (turn 5 Korwa, take 4 damage on turns 6 and 7, you get your 5th Fil on turn 8), so it is quite slow and requires a few turns of setup. The White Vanara is also fairly vulnerable to Wards, in particular, it can’t get through Heavenly Knight, so it’s not even that reliable against decks as slow as Tenko Haven. There’s a similar, albeit more clunky idea for a finisher with Korwa synergy, (seen in ヨル’s list, who got to top 16 with the thing at JCG6-1) that includes a combination of Fairy Dragon and Swiftgait Okami. Swiftgait Okami and Fairy Dragon cost 7 combined, and a Fil on top of that adds it up to 8, which can potentially mean that if you do the entire Korwa setup by turn 8, you can get potentially get in for about 10-16 damage with the double-attacking Fairy Dragon. Also, unlike White Vanara, you can evolve Fairy Dragons for 4 extra damage, so it’s not even that unrealistic for it to do 20 damage if all the stars align in your favor and you still have an evolve point. I’d say the the Fairy Dragon/Okami lists are a lot jankier than Vanara because it is a 3-card combo and it can get sabotaged by Banish effects like Basileus, Scripture and Substitution on your Fairies, but it does do a lot of damage.
A sign of things to come
The other card that benefits from Fils is Fita, and before the expansion release there was a lot of theorycrafting for Korwa/Fita lists, but as it turns out Forest already has a lot of good 2-drops and Fita is not really that necessary in that deck. And in general, that same sentiment is echoed for Korwa as well. Why would you need Korwa in a tempo deck in the first place? Venus generally does very similar things and doesn’t Fil up your hand with mediocre cards while also having better stats. The White Vanara synergy is neat, but is not really necessary as a finisher and requires quite a bit of setup. Personally, I can’t say I understand Korwa at all. Obviously, Korwa’s card text mirrors her abilities in GBF, but there are currently 4 cards in the Forest class that benefit from increased defense, and 2 of them are unplayable outside of Take 2. Is Korwa a signal for upcoming buff payoff cards in Forest, similarly to how Orchis was released 1 expansion before Puppet Portal got a wide array of support cards? Or Tenko’s Shrine? A similar thing happened with Jorm Blood with Jormungand/Demonic Ram (SL), Nacht (CHR) and Darkfeast Bat (DBNE), where key pieces of the archetype were released in multiple consecutive card sets. There are probably other examples of that happening that I can’t think of, but nonetheless, it wouldn’t be too surprising to see 4-5 Forest cards that reward follower buffs in October’s expansion.
Tempo Forest has massively declined in popularity due to the 2 most popular deck archetypes of the format, Puppet Portal and Ramp Dragon, being heavily favored against it. Aside from that, Tempo Forest is generally the worst midrange deck of the format and gets beaten at its game by even the less popular midrange archetypes like MidShadow and MidSword, as well as its faster, more aggressive Forest counterpart. I personally don’t see much reason to play Tempo Forest over Aggro lists aside from playing around with the new 9-drop.
Identifying cards: Happy Pig, Paradise Vanguard, Legendary Fighter, Genesis of Legend, Elf Twin’s Assault, Hector, Beauty and the Beast, Proto Bahamut.
The game plan
Neutral Forest is a midrange archetype that utilizes cards with Neutral synergy such as Elf Twin’s Assault, Hector and Beauty and the Beast to get a tempo lead. The archetype usually includes Neutral 2-drops like Happy Pig and Paradise Vanguard, as well as the more optional ones like Feria, Lyria and Legendary Fighter. The 3-drops usually include cards that either cycle themselves or draw extra cards like Purehearted Singer, Moon and Sun, Starry Elf and even Lowain. One of the most important concepts in Neutral Forest is keeping enough Neutral cards in hand to get good value out of ETA and activate Hector/BnB, so the deck naturally leans towards cards that either fill up your hand or at least replace themselves with a card. Previously, Neutral Forest ran a lot less class cards because it included Impartial Strix, a potential 4-cost 7/7, but now there’s less restrictions on the archetype, so it can afford to fit in generic powerful Forest cards like Metera and Lilac, for example.
New additions to the archetype
It stands to reason that a ubiquitous tech card like Seraphic Blade that also happens to be Neutral has found a home in Neutral Forest. Aside from that, a common inclusion in Neutral Forest is the “Lyria package”, that consists of Lyria, a high-cost Neutral card that can get fetched with Lyria’s Enhance ability (either Proto Bahamut or Loki) and King Elephant (works with Loki, generally good in a deck with as much card draw as Neutral Forest as a finisher). Previously, the archetype relied on sticking an evolved Beauty and the Beast and then doubling down on its high attack with Arriet to get a lot of damage in, however, without Arriet, Zeus or Jungle Warden, Neutral Forest finds itself strapped for a source of damage in the later stages of the game, and King Elephant is the next best thing.
The last, but certainly not least, addition to Neutral Forest is Genesis of Legend, probably the single most infuriatingly random card of the GBF expansion. Genesis of Legend allows unassuming low-attack followers like Purehearted Singer, Lyria, Shining Bellringer Angel, Moon and Sun tokens, Lilac, etc. to trade up by giving them Bane. The card is vulnerable to Seraphic Blade as it’s a 2-cost amulet, but it can still provide a lot of board control against classes that can’t afford to play Seraphic Blade like Sword and Portal, that also (usually) happen to be midrange decks, and that’s where my personal problem with the card lies: if the Genesis proc lands on a Metera/Hector/B&B/etc., then it effectively doesn’t do anything since those cards would be able to trade anyway, but if it lands on a Purehearted Singer, for example, it essentially makes it so that Pureheated Singer demands a removal card to clear. Another powerful card that Genesis can land on is Lyria; because of the damage prevention effect, it can even trade twice and/or dodge damage-based removal. Lyria still dies to Seraphic Blade/Valse bullets/etc., but it could be a huge nuisance if you don’t have a proper answer. Neutral Forest has always had some elements of game-deciding RNG due to how ETA works, but Genesis of Legend is a new low for the archetype. Genesis is a very clever card in terms of flavor because it depicts Legendary Fighter in the art and can potentially give Legendary Fighter Rush and Bane so it can take down anything against all odds. Deepest lore. The card tells a story; I just don’t understand why it’s random. Couldn’t it be worded differently, like maybe giving the buff to the leftmost (the oldest) allied follower in play, so that the effect is more controllable and can be played around by your opponent? I doubt the card will ever get changed, because it’s not really that powerful in the first place, but I’d personally love to not see similar card designs in the future.
There’s not a lot of stats for Neutral Forest, but it is on paper unfavored against most decks in the format. A particularly bad matchup for the archetype is Puppet Portal due to the Lococo transform effect denying B&B’s destruction/damage immunity. Neutral Forest specifically only beats Chimera Rune, and even with how popular Rune is, there’s still very little reason to specifically play Neutral Forest to answer Rune, as there are better decks that not only beat on Rune, but also do well against other decks in the format. Neutral Forest has a similar problem to Tempo Forest, in that it’s a midrange deck that gets outperformed by literally any Midrange deck in the format, which limits the viability of the archetype.
Tenko and Summit Haven
Identifying cards (compared to Lion Haven): Jeweled Priestess, Ceryneian Hind, De La Fille, Gem Princess, Heavenly Knight, Themis’s Purge.
Identifying cards (Tenko): Happy Pig, Whitefang Temple, Tenko’s Shrine.
Identifying cards (Summit): Gemstone Carapace, Beastly Vow, March Hare’s Teatime, Aether of the White Wing, Garuda, Ruler of Storms.
The provided deck skeleton is a general core of recent Tenko builds. Some lists cut Themis’s Purge to 1 copy to fit in other cards, but I wouldn’t recommend 1-Themis lists for ladder games since the card is card to beat Ramp Dragon. That said, Tenko is vastly more popular in tournament play than on ladder, primarily because in a BO3 format you are that much more likely to face Puppet Portal that you’re trying to prey on with Tenko. For example, in the most recent JCG event (at the time of writing, Vol.33), Portal was in 11 decks out of the top 16, which is twice as much as its ladder popularity. To sum up, most recent optimized Tenko lists originate from tournaments and as such can be teched slightly differently from lists common on ladder.
Tenko and Summit lists are grouped together because they share a lot of common cards, in much the same way that the “Standard” Tempo Forest and Korwa Tempo Forest are grouped in the same category, however, the two archetypes are subtly different in their deckbuilding and general gameplan. Summit Haven is a midrange tempo deck that tries to get a lot of tempo from amulets that summon Followers and finishes the game with either 7 damage Heavenly Knights, Garuda or a combination of the two. Tenko lists usually aim to play a defensive game and get value out of the repeated healing procs from Whitefang Temple/De La Fille with Tenko’s Shrine in play.
Impact of the mini-expansion
Havencraft didn’t receive any new cards in the mini-expansion, or to put it more politely, none of the new cards have shown up in any successful Haven decks. Some early mini-expansion theorycrafting involved Summit lists that played Tzekibaba in the Garuda slot, but it turned out that the environment has been vastly too aggressive to play a 9-drop that doesn’t impact the board. Tzekibaba is potentially very powerful when combined with amulets that provide immediate board impact (such as Beastcall Aria), but the only Rotation-legal amulets of that type are Moriae and Featherfall Hourglass, the former of which is random and the latter of which is very low-impact and generally not a very good card (even more so with Summit Temple!). Tzekibaba can put a lot of stats into play, but against faster decks like Puppet Portal or Aggro Forest you often die on the backswing if you skip your turn 9, and against slower classes like Dragon or Haven you overextend into AoE like Frenzied Drake and Themis. Tzekibaba could potentially become more in the future, either if the format is very slow with no AoE, or if there are amulets that are either good tempo hits from Tzekibaba (like Aria, for example) or are worth cheating/tutoring out for 9 mana (like Seraph, for example) alongside other smaller amulets. The current amulet pool in Rotation is full of mediocre cards, and if your win condition requires you to have a playset of Dual Flames/Featherwyrm’s Descent in your deck, then it’s probably not a very good win condition to begin with.
The other new Haven card, Petra, has an incredibly small board impact and generally doesn’t work with anything that Havencraft decks are trying to do. Petra doesn’t work with high-end Haven cards because all of those have Ward. I’ve personally seen some players experimenting with Petra in Lion lists because you can sneak it into play with Temple discounts and protect your 4/4s from trades, but Lion Haven doesn’t really do too well in the current Portal-infested environment. In my opinion, Petra is an actively bad Haven card at present, but could potentially find a deck where it fits in future expansions.
General game plan
Tenko Haven is a primarily reactive control deck that tries to clear the board and stabilize in the early game and then set up 1-2 sources of repetitive healing (De la Fille leader effect/Whitefang Temple) around turn 6-7, and then play Tenko’s Shrine around turn 7 or 8. With Tenko’s Shrine in play, most AoE effects become that much more deadly because Tenko procs start hitting your opponent, allowing to eventually close out the game. Notable cards that become a lot better with Tenko’s Shrine in play are Ceryneian Hind and enhanced Jeanne, because they can provide multiple Tenko procs combined with their initial board impact. For example, a 2-drop with enhanced Jeanne on turn 9 can clear Orchis boards, and Hind provides an extra Tenko proc at the end of the turn after getting in the 3 (or 5 with Summit) Rush damage. The general mulligan plan is to always keep Globe, Snow White/Priestess/Happy Pig and Moriae. Against Sword/Portal/Shadow, Scripture is an acceptable keep as well. If you’re going second, Lorena is usually a good keep as well. If you already have an early game card (a 2-drop or Scripture), it’s fine to keep Whitefang Temple. Naturally, if you include narrow tech cards for some matchup (like Star Torrent for Forest or something), try to keep those against those specific classes.
The Summit package
Since the usual slower Haven lists included Heavenly Knight because it’s a good 7-drop even without Summit Temple (arguably the best Haven 7-drop in the format, and vastly superior to Curate in most cases), it’s reasonable to include 1-2 copies of Summit Temple, because it’s rarely a bad card and usually slightly upgrades your followers, a lot of which have high defense, Ward or both. The “Summit Haven package” also usually includes tempo-oriented amulets like Jeweled Carapace, Beastly Vow, Teatime and so on. The finisher of some Summit lists is a 1-2xGaruda, Ruler of Storms. The downside of Garuda is that it’s a 9-cost 6/6 which requires some setup to play and its Accelerate effect is extremely low in impact, only really useful for popping Moriae. With that said, it’s not that difficult to set up a 6- or sometimes even a 9-damage Garuda, so the card does provide a lot of potential reach. Cards that help Garuda include amulets with a long Countdown like March Hare’s Teatime, that can stay around in play for a while, or general inexpensive amulets with positive effects like Globes, Moriae, Carapaces and Beastly Vow.
Haven decks in general have small bits of synergy that one should keep in mind. Regarding Tenko’s Shrine, an important point to remember is that healing effects that go off at the end of the turn all happen during the same phase, what this means is that if your opponent has at least 1 Follower in play at the end of your turn, all the excess damage from Tenko’s Shrine procs is effectively wasted. The flipside of that interaction is that Themis’s Purge is effectively a burn spell with Tenko’s Shrine in play since all the Tenko’s Shrine hit your opponent without any Followers in play. Other small points include basic ordering mistakes that I still somehow still from some people, e.g. with Snow White/Carapace, or Lorena with Lorena’s Iron Fist. Yes, I’ve seen people trade with evolved Lorena before playing Lorena’s Iron Fist. More than once. Truly tragic. The flipside of the Lorena misplay is that in Tenko lists you can sometimes save Lorena’s Iron Fist for when your Whitefang Temples pop, dealing 6 damage, not picking Holy Water in that situation is usually wrong, but I’ve had this scenario come up occasionally.
Tenko has a very similar matchup spread to Spellboost Rune, except it does a lot better against aggressive decks like Puppet Portal. Tenko has roughly even matchups against a lot of the decks in the format, with the only exceptions being Chimera Rune (for obvious reasons) and Lion Haven (very uncommon deck that includes 3 copies of Father Punishment), so it’s a reasonable archetype to play if you don’t mind the slow games and want to beat up Puppet Portal. With that said, before the mini-expansion, the Puppet Portal matchup used to be significantly more favored, but even so I still think that Tenko Haven is the best answer to Puppet Portal that one could possibly find.
Summit Haven is played a lot less than Tenko because it doesn’t do as well against Puppet Portal. The two archetypes are extremely similar in their build, so it stands to reason that the more defensive and the more well-rounded of the two is better in the current environment.
(Super Budget) Holy Lion HavenSource
(Budget) Holy Lion HavenSource
Holy Lion Haven
Identifying cards: Father Punishment, Hallowed Dogma, Legendary Fighter, Naoise, Holy Lion Crystal, Temple of the Holy Lion, Peaceweaver, Prism Swing.
Among the listed deck skeleton, Father Punishment has been occasionally cut in lists with Seraphic Blade. Snow White and Legendary Fighter are interchangeable with Lorena. Naoise could be considered a tech card, but it’s usually a 2-of in most Lion lists.
The only card in Lion Haven affected by the recent nerfs is Sealed Tome, and while the card has been completely dropped from slower Tenko lists, it’s a lot more versatile in Lion lists due to being playable with Temple discounts (for 1), and even when you have to pay the Enhance cost, it can still be an acceptable play since you can always pick the Falcon option and the deck doesn’t run as many Followers (compared to Tenko/Summit lists), so you can draw 2 without much downside pretty often. In addition to that, Sealed Tome is still a solid Legendary Fighter activator after the nerf, but after the Sealed Tome nerf Lorena has become a lot more common than Fighter in Lion lists, and the more common set of 2-drops in Lion Haven these days is some combination of Snow White, Lorena and Naoise. With that said, I don’t think there are any fundamental changes to the Lion deck skeleton, and Legendary Fighter/Naoise/Snow White still work fine, but Lorena might push Fighter out in the future.
A small trend in Lion lists is the inclusion of random clunky value cards like Purehearted Singer and Themis’s Purge. Singer is played because the deck has lost some the card draw (because you have to play Tome for 2 more often now), and Themis is good against Puppet Portal, the most popular deck in the format. Compared to the “regular” Lion lists, Singer replaces some weaker 2-drops (like Naoise) and Themis replaces Jeanne.
Summon an even larger man
The centerpiece of Lion Haven is the 12-card Lion package (Holy Lion Crystal, Temple of the Holy Lion, Peaceweaver and Prism Swing). The most important card in that package is Temple of the Holy Lion because it provides additional payoff from playing other Lion cards and allows you to cheat tempo by skipping early turns. The “high-roll” for Lion Haven is a turn 2 Temple into Crystal and second Temple on turn 3 into 3 Holy Lion Crystals on turn 4, which leaves you with 2 2/2s, a 4/4, and 2 play points to play a Scripture/Seraphic Blade. Naturally, that scenario requires for stars to align in your favor, but as a rule of thumb, getting an early Temple with Lion Haven is almost as important as getting a Dragon Oracle with Ramp Dragon. Naturally, Temple is vulnerable to Seraphic Blade, so you can expect it to be destroyed by decks that include it, but it’s frankly not a huge problem, because you still effectively come out ahead on value (both you and your opponent use 2pp and a card, but you get a Holy Lion Crystal out of the whole ordeal). Another thing to note is that if you happen to draw all 3 Temples, playing more than 2 is a mistake because you don’t have enough board space to do anything useful with all of your refunds.
While a lot of people expressed surprise that Sealed Tome was the only card in the deck that was nerfed, its presence in the metagame was still hurt due to losing the free mulligan as well as the other nerfs which provided more breathing room for board-based aggressive decks to prey on Lion players before they could set up for the bigger lions.
Your game plan remains largely the same – from the beginning, you should mulligan aggressively for Globe and Temple (Sealed Tome is still an acceptable keep in slower matchups). If you have multiple Crystals and/or Crystal generators in hand, you should aim to dump as many of them while reasonably maintaining board parity until you have one Crystal left in hand which you should preserve for the Enhance refill. This game plan is slowed down massively if you are unlucky and do not manage to draw a Temple or two early, which is why this deck is much more difficult to obtain wins with in the current faster-paced metagame where other decks can overwhelm you with board pressure.
Q: How many Sealed Tomes do you play after the nerf?
MS Riripwn: I feel 3 is justifiable just for Forbidden Knowledge, it’s like Sacred Plea on super steroids since you have a lot of spells and amulets in the deck. Do remember that the Falcon option is valid if you desperately need to contest the board!
A fatherly figure of sizable proportions
One of the more interesting cards in Lion Haven is Legendary Fighter, a card that at its best in decks with a lot of amulets and spells. The most common thing to do with Legendary Fighter is playing a spell (Scripture/Seraphic Blade/Lion Crystal/Dogma/etc.) to give it Bane, then trading with a Snow White which effectively makes it a 4/2 with Bane for 2 and a huge threat for your opponent, since it threatens 8 damage with an evolve on a later turn. In addition to that, Legendary Fighter can be used as a hard removal piece in a pinch, where you play Fighter, followed by a 2-cost spell to give it Bane and a cheap amulet (Globe or Sealed Tome) to give it Rush, this is useful to keep in mind against Heavenly Knight and Ramp Dragon in general. In addition to that, Legendary Fighter is important against Sword because Bane goes through spell damage resistance and the double attack can get through Celia tokens and pick up some extra trades. Another minor point about Legendary Fighter is that for some reason its English text says “Whenever another follower evolves”, but it doesn’t actually work like Mushussu and only activates on allied followers evolving; the English localization has unsurprisingly messed up yet again. At least Magnus finally got fixed, so we can expect Fighter to be updated sometime in September.
Mulligans and early game
The cards that I always keep in mulligans are Sealed Tome, Globe, Holy Lion Crystal, Temple and Peaceweaver, preferably aiming for a good early curve. If you’re going second, then keeping Lorena (if you play it), Moriae and Prism Swing are also reasonable. Against Haven and Forest keeping Seraphic Blade is a good idea (against Forest it deals with Brambles and evolved Rayne), and if you’re going second against Haven, even keeping Father Punishment is acceptable, since it can be evolved on curve to deal with Tenko’s Shrine. One mistake I used to make with the deck was keeping Prism Swing, you only really need Prism Swing early on against specifically Sword (to answer Mars) and Portal, so I think it’s correct to keep it if you going second specifically against those 2 classes. Against a lot of other classes Prism Swing can either rot in your hand without a good target (Haven/Rune/Dragon), or not be good on curve because your opponent has multiple followers out (Forest). I’m not sure if it’s correct to keep Sealed Tome, but I usually keep it since it activates Fighter and at least replaces itself if need be.
Optional card choices
The first listed Lion decklist is generally the most common variation of the deck, but there are a couple of cards that sometimes get swapped out. The first one is Snow White, I’ve seen a lot of players swear by Lorena in that slot, because Snow White doesn’t trade well when going first (against 1/3s or 2/2s), and Lorena provides more pressure on curve, but I don’t really agree with that. The downside of Lorena is that she’s extremely weak after the evolve turns and is awkward when going second (on turn 2). Snow White also buffs Legendary Fighter early on. In general, Lorena is the greedier option and Snow White is the more tempo-oriented option. Another card that has been popping up in lists is Sister of the Sword, which is worse than either Lorena or Snow White in my opinion, but helps against Portal and is usually pretty good after you’re out of evolve points, unlike Lorena. Naoise is an important card against Ramp Dragon and Spellboost Rune, decks that usually play 3xSeraphic Blades and slow down your game plan. Against Rune, you should play Naoise going into Rune’s turn 9 and against Dragon going into either Dragon’s turn 10 (if you’re playing against conventional Ramp or Lindworm) and going into the Dragon’s Jabberwock turn (if you can identify it’s Jabberwock). In other matchups Naoise is essentially a vanilla 2-drop.
Jeanne, Beacon of Salvation has been phasing in and out of Lion lists, and a lot of lists include 2 copies to deal with Arthur/Orchis boards. The deck usually has better things to do on turn 3 than playing a 2/3, but against Rune/Dragon/Haven, it’s acceptable to play it out as a 3-drop because it’s not going to get much value as AoE anyway. In a similar vein, Hallowed Dogma is a tech card of sorts, the main use for Dogma is popping Moriae to deal with Ipiria and Sword’s “immune to spell damage” effects. I personally really dislike Dogma in the deck and I don’t think it does enough to justify playing, but a few players have included 2 copies of the card.
On Seraphic Blades and Father Punishment, I’m personally convinced that at least 3xFather Punishment is essential for ladder, and you could even justify playing 1-3 Blades. Father Punishment is particularly good in the deck because a lot of the time in the midgame you have turns where you have a Temple of the Holy Lion in play, play a couple of Crystals, and that leaves you with a 1 or 2pp to sneak in a Father Punishment to deal with a big follower/pesky amulet on the other side of the board. Seraphic Blade is good against Tenko Haven, but you should generally be favored in that matchup anyway since you’re likely running a playset of Father Punishment.
Filthy acts at a reasonable and honest price
One thing that sets apart Lion Haven from other decks in Shadowverse is that it’s very inexpensive and fairly complex to play, making it excellent for new players. For a budget variant of Lion Haven, I would recommend referring to the second Otaku’s list, that only really cuts Legendary Fighter from an otherwise standard Lion list. Realistically all the Gold-rarity cards in that list are either so ubiquitous that you’ll likely have to get them anyway (Globe, Seraphic Blade, Lorena) or Naoise, a tech card from a fairly old expansion. A more extreme budget version of the deck without any Gold cards is Liga’s one, that plays Cudgel over Lorena and Happy Pig for the early 2-drop. I think that it should still have 3xGlobes at the very least, probably over Pitfalls, but it’s honestly not a bad list overall. Realistically speaking, new players should have some useless cards that can get vialed without losing anything (like animated cards, leader skin legendaries, bad cards from Unlimited sets, to give a few examples), and getting an entire competitive decklist at the cost of a couple of leader skins is an amazing deal for any aspiring Spikes out there.
Holy Lion Haven is not played a lot, and is generally pretty weak to most decks in the format. The good point of the archetype is the inclusion of Father Punishment which allows it to do well against Ramp Dragon (to destroy Canyons) and Tenko Haven (to destroy their eponymous amulet), but aside from that, there isn’t much hope for Lion Haven in the near future. The archetype is difficult to pilot and is weak to angry decks that put on a lot pressure and the inevitability of the Lion engine doesn’t come into play in a lot of matchups due to being too slow and too fair.
Spellboost (a.k.a. Giant Chimera) Rune
Identifying cards: Insight, Magic Owl, Wind Blast, Runie, Fate’s Hand, Despondent Chimera, Fiery Embrace, Giant Chimera, Flame Destroyer.
The provided deck skeleton is for the standard Giant Chimera shell. Some cards from the skeleton can be cut from for different cards in the same mana slot, that includes Magic Owl, Wind Blast and Golem Assault.
Impact of the mini-expansion
Runecraft has gotten a new playable card in the mini-expansion in Vesper, however, the overall game plan and metagame role of Chimera Rune has largely remained the same and the archetype didn’t get a significant “upgrade” like Cucouroux that you can slot into the deck and make it better. Vesper is a good card, and there’s definitely things to say about Vesper, however, the main beneficial change to Chimera Rune in the mini-expansion is the prevalence of Puppet Portal. That matchup has never really been favourable for Chimera Rune, in my opinion, if both players know how to play the matchup correctly, it’s very close to a 50/50; however, since Puppet decks are so popular, a lot of the decks that lose to Puppet Portal are played significantly less. Decks that lose to Puppet Portal include Midrange Sword and various Aggro archetypes, which are all archetypes that Chimera Rune doesn’t do well against (either due to Charlotta in the Sword case, or generally aggressive strategies from Aggro Forest/Blood/Sword). In addition to that, the prime counter to Puppet Portal, Tenko Haven, is a favored matchup for Rune. So, less Aggro, less Charlotta, more Tenko and more Ramp Dragon mean that the archetype is a lot better suited for the format.
On Vesper and early game
The established early-game package for Chimera Rune is a playset of Magic Owls, Magic Missiles, Wind Blasts and Golem Assaults. Conjure Golem has become significantly worse due to the popularity of Portalcraft and is generally not something you should include. However, that’s exactly where the new 2-cost spell, Vesper, comes into play. My initial instinct with Vesper was that the card was a very bad 4-drop and would see no play, however, I didn’t quite realize how hungry Chimera lists are for early game spells that help cycle cards and have changed my opinion after playing with the card more. 2-drops that draw a card are traditionally very powerful in most Rune archetypes utilizing Spellboost synergies, and while Vesper is worse than, say, Kaleidoscopic Glow, having more than 3 Magic Missiles helps the archetype a lot. The current question with Vesper is “how many Magic Missiles do you want?”, and I can’t say there is a definitive answer yet. Playing a 3/3 split of Magic Missile/Vesper feels excessive, and the combination which is the best in my experience is 3 Magic Missiles and 2 Vespers, however, some players prefer Vesper to Magic Missile, and 2/2, 2/3 and even 1/3 splits are all fairly viable options.
The upside of Vesper compared to Missile is that it discounts Golem Assault and makes Concentration better (particularly with Abomination), and can allow for some great early curves. Vesper on 2 into Golem Assault on 3 feels fantastic. The downside of Vesper is that it doesn’t draw a card immediately (which is pretty relevant in the later stages of the game) and that sometimes you can’t draw a card from it altogether. I’ve played 40 games with a 2-Vesper list (with 3xGolem Assaults/Concentrations), keeping track of the Vesper usage, and in 7 of my games I wasn’t able to draw a card off of Cauldron for the entire game, which comes out to 17.5%. Naturally, that percentage is lower in a list with 3 Vespers since sometimes you can draw 2 Vespers and then play the second one as a 4-drop, but nonetheless, there is some potential to completely whiff on the card draw, which is something to keep in mind. A budget replacement for Vesper is Seraphic Blade, so if you don’t want to vial 3 and a half leader cards for a sidegrade of Magic Missile, but still want to have big fun with big chimeras and big Flame Destoyers, I’d recommend trying a list with 3xMagic Missiles and 1-2xSeraphic Blades.
Chimera Rune is a deck that relies on the player’s knowledge on their opponent’s deck. You would need to constantly predict the opponent’s next moves and prepare a suitable answer ahead of time. It is also a deck which the play pattern varies between games, due to the nature of the Spellboost mechanic. While this all sounds intimidating, you would steadily learn the deck’s play pattern by playing it constantly. Learning the deck is part of the fun after all!
Despite being the deck’s main win condition, doing a hard mulligan for Giant Chimera is often a mistake. Obviously, you would want to prioritize keeping removal cards against Midrange or Aggro decks. However, against slower decks and even in the mirror, it is safer to keep your cycle and draw cards instead of tossing everything for higher chance to draw Giant Chimera early. Being able to cycle through your deck constantly is in fact much more important than building a large Giant Chimera finisher.
As for mulligans in general, obviously the 1-cost spells are a must keep, but while having multiple Insights in your opening hand is great, you’d want to toss back the second Mysterian Knowledge back to the deck against non-midrange decks. When going first, Golem Assault is a really good keep against follower-based decks. Being able to call your 3/3 on turn 3 to contest their 2-drop. Concentration is also a very good keep when going first, especially against slower decks. You can still risk keeping it versus the Midrange/Aggro decks.
Q: Let’s say you’re playing against an unknown decklist and you mulligan blindly. What classes would you consider midrange, aggro and slower decks?
MS Kio: The obvious ones are Sword, Portal and Forest being midrange (or as I would like to call them, Follower-based decks). These are the classes which are looking to play followers on the early turns, so keeping removal cards against them is advisable. While Rune, Haven and Dragon are mainly non-Follower-based, so keeping removal cards vs them will just result in keeping dead cards, which is bad for Spellboost because you always want to play a spell every turn.
Q: What about Shadow/Blood?
MS Kio: I forgot about Necro and Blood, but those two are Follower-based, it has been a long time since I saw those 2 classes.
The prime 4-drop for Chimera Rune is Runie, most lists run 2-3 copies of the card. There are 2 main reasons for running Runie, firstly, against board-centic decks like Puppet Portal it is important to have evolve targets beside Magic Owls to contest the board and putting a wacky Fate’s Hand into your hand is generally pretty okay. The matchup where Runie really shines in my experience, however, is Ramp Dragon. The newer Ramp Dragon lists have a lot of threats between Canyon, Frenzied Drakes, Poseidon and Azi Dahakas and as the Rune player, you simply don’t have enough removal in your deck to deal with all of those, since you have to use 3 Wind Blasts and 3 Fiery Embraces to answer potentially up to 15 different threatening Followers. In addition to that, since Poseidon and Canyon put a lot of high-health Followers into play, Giant Chimera is usually not enough to close out games through all of those. For that reason, I’ve found that going for the Doom plan with Runie is a way to beat this matchup. Doing so opens up the possibility of using Giant Chimera for tempo as a board clear. Other 4-drops that are okay in Chimera Rune include Cagliostro (faded from popularity due to not being unfair enough) and Nova Flare (a reasonable 1-of against Puppet Portal/Aggro Forest).
Abomination Awakened and other highrolling
While Chimera Rune is a primarily reactive deck, it should be mentioned that the archetype can still do some very unfair Daria-type board swings in the midgame thanks to Magic Owl and Flame Destroyer. If your opening hand happens to have a Flame Destroyer, you can usually sneak it into play for 0 around turn 6, and if you happen to play some other threat on the same turn, your opponent has to respond to your Runie/Vesper/Magic Owl and a random 7/7 that is in play for some reason. This is particularly important against Puppet Portal, since their answer to big threats, Lococo, costs 5 and doesn’t allow for much wiggle room on the same turn, so if you set up a huge swing turn against Portal with 1-2 Flame Destroyers on turns 6 or 7, it is usually completely back-breaking for the opponent. Against Haven, you should watch out in order not to overextend into Themis, but if you manage to play a Flame Destoyer before turn 8, it’s usually great as well. If the Haven player could potentially use Themis, you should try and evaluate if you’re putting enough stats into play for a good Themis, and subtract 1 Follower from that so you can play something next turn, even if you have multiple 0-cost Flame Destroyers. It is important to have Followers in play in order to tank the Tenko procs and not take too much face damage so you don’t get into Heavenly Knight range.
The other powerful tempo tool in Chimera Rune is Abomination Awakened. While the card is pretty optional in Chimera Rune, it helps improve matchups like Puppet Portal and can be problematic for many classes to deal with. Activating Abomination around turn 4-5 is one of the most unfair things Chimera Rune can do in the midgame, and as the Rune player you should try to set up an opportunity to do so if you can. Ways to activate Abomination include Fate’s Hand and Concentration, which both add +1 card to your hand, as well as occasionally an enhanced Golem Assault, that adds +2. It is important to remember that Vesper’s Cauldrons draw one extra card when activated, so even a Golem Assault without Enhance adds +1, and a Concentration adds a whole +3. It should be noted that against Ramp Dragon and Tenko Haven it’s okay to manually evolve the Abomination to deal 6 face damage. When playing against Chimera Rune, the golden rule is to kill the Abom if the Rune player has 6 cards in hand on your turn, since they draw 1 card at the start of the turn, and two “+1 card” effects get the job done, which is reasonably likely to happen on turn 5.
Cold as Cocytus
A recent trend in Chimera Rune is the inclusion of a one-of Snowman King that can either put a bunch of Wards into play against Puppet Portal (after the Portal player is out of Evolve points, obviously!) or be used for extra pressure (and to block the Giant Chimera damage) in the mirror match with the Storm option. Having an out in 2 of the most popular matchups is a reasonable tradeoff for having a really clunky 7-drop that is unplayable against most decks. Playing Snowman King against Haven/Dragon as a defensive measure usually doesn’t work out well since they get to clear the Snowman King with Jeanne/Frenzied Drake/Dragonewt and potentially push some damage with the followers they have in play, so I’d recommend to avoid doing that if you can help it.
Chimera Rune is not the most straightforward deck to play so its ladder winrate is usually way below 50%, but it has pretty even matchups against a lot of decks in the format. Particularly notable matchups include Puppet Portal and Ramp Dragon, which are both pretty close to a 50/50. I get the impression that Chimera Rune when played optimally can have a 60/40 against Dragon and Tenko, which makes it a pretty solid choice for tournament play. All of the problematic matchups like Aggro Forest/Sword/Blood and Midrange Sword have faded from popularity due to the prevalence of Puppet Portal, so even on ladder a well-teched Rune list can climb pretty well in my experience.
Manaria (a.k.a. Mysteria) Burn Rune
Identifying cards: Mysterian Wyrmist, Mr. Bertrand, Ms. Miranda, Grand Spire, Karl, Wizardess of Oz, Mysteria, Cagliostro, Chain Lightning, Staff of Whirlwinds, Master Mage Levi.
What is Mysteria Rune?
Mysteria Burn Rune is an archetype centered around the 2-card engine of Mysterian Wyrmist and Mysteria, Magic Founder in combination with various damage-dealing spells that are amplified by the auras of the two cards. The central idea of the archetype is that spells that can deal 1 damage to the opponent like Mysterian Missile, Grand Spire, Magic Missile and Staff of Whirlwinds benefit the most from Mysteria’s leader effect, effective doubling the damage with just a single played Mysteria. Since Mysteria happens to have the Mysteria tag (duh), and since Mysterian Missiles from Knowledge do as well, there is a natural inkling that Rune decks trying to make use of the Mysteria aura naturally have some synergy with tribal Mysteria synergy, which is where Wyrmist comes in.
Most cards with the Mysteria either don’t fit into the kind of deck that Mysteria Burn Rune tries to be, and even cards with pushed “Mysteria token” synergy are pretty mediocre (Mr. Bertrand and Hanna, for example), or at least that was how it was perceived before. Enter Miranda, a Mysteria-brand Thing from Below, that can get discounted to 4 with a single Mysterian Knowledge. Miranda adds a bit of consistency to a previously janky archetype of Mysteria Rune, allowing the deck to have some additional pay-off from playing the Wyrmist/Knowledge/Mysteria package and giving the deck a proper evolve target. Miranda also fuels itself because it itself is a Mysteria card and generate two spell tokens (when evolved). It remains to be seen if Miranda is quite enough pay-off to include in Mysteria lists, but the card has already seen fringe competitive success in haruyuyu’s list that also runs 3xBertrand.
The “Dirt package”
While not the central point of Mysteria lists, since a few cards in the archetype (Vesper, Grand Spire, Master Mage Levi) require an Earth Sigil to do face damage, the “Dirt package” of Karl, Starseer’s Telescope, Vesper and Levi can create fairly unfair scenarios when all the synergy comes together. To that end, some lists even include the worse Dirt cards like Cauldron, Beastfaced Mage and Silent Laboratory.
The “Burn package”
Apart from the aforementioned Mysteria that works well with inexpensive spells like Grand Spire, Magic and Mysterian Missiles, there are clunky burn spells, Chain Lightning and Staff of Whirlwinds, which were both previously part of the “Burn package” in Dirt Rune together with MutaBolt. It stands to reason that if your deck includes 5-cost spells and a lot of Followers, Wizardess of Oz also makes for a reasonable inclusion with the Burn package. Wizardess of Oz is not really that useful for the card draw aspect, rather, the primary use of Oz is discounting spells to 1. Oz is more of a 7-drop in the archetype, that allows for tempo swings with Staff of Whirlwinds and Chain Lightning. In addition to this, Oz also discounts Mysterian Rites that you get from Miranda if you choose to run both of the cards. An honorable mention in regards to the “Burn package” is Cagliostro, which is usually a fancy Dragon Warrior, but can occasionally provide extra reach in slower matchups if you save the Ars Magna token. Cagliostro is usually a 3-of in the archetype, which always seemed surprising to me. If Cagliostro really is so good, how come her Evolve effect is so Ars?
Fitting the pieces together
Mysteria Rune in general is not a very well refined archetype and there is no single “best” list that one could point to. The archetype has seen some fringe competitive play, with small success. The main strength of the archetype is how much reach it has, which allows it to burn through reactive decks like Chimera Rune, Tenko Haven and Ramp Dragon with relative ease, because stacking multiple Mysteria and/or Wyrmist effects allows the archetype to deal silly amounts of face damage around turn 8-9, which outpaces Giant Chimera, for example. The weak point of the archetype is its weak early game, which is quite similar to Chimera Rune, since the average list only has 3xKnowledge and 3xWyrmist that it can contest the board with on turn 2. Grand Spire/Magic Missile aren’t enough to kill 1/3s, so the archetype is naturally really weak to Sword and Forest. Finding a solution to the weak early game of the deck is, in my opinion, the way to optimize the archetype to competitive viability. Is it the Silent Lab? Is it Mr. Bertrand? Can you perhaps fit in an Abomination Awakened package of some early? It’s too early to say at this point, but at present, there is little reason to play Mysteria Rune over Chimera lists since their strong point (inevitability against slow decks) is similar, however, Chimera Rune can do way more unfair things in the early- and mid-game.
Identifying cards: Witch’s Cauldron, Starseer’s Telescope, Witch of Foresight, Abyss Summoner.
What is Abyss Rune?
Abyss Rune is an emerging archetype centered around Abyss Summoner, a card that demands a deck with a lot of card draw to activate and provides a proactive tempo-centric effect of putting a lot of stats into play. Abyss Rune started out as an offshoot of Chimera Rune, and some lists still include a Giant Chimera. Initially, a few players have tried running Abyss Summoner as a 7-drop in Chimera Rune since that archetype draws a lot of cards and there is already some payoff for doing so since the Chimera Rune often includes Abomination Awakened, another card that likes having a lot of card draw. To that end, a lot of Abyss Rune lists are essentially Chimera lists that cut Giant Chimeras, and some reactive early spells like Wind Blast to fit in a playset of Abyss Summoners and 1-cost cycling Earth Sigil amulets like Cauldron and Telescope, essentially trying to have a deck with 9 copies of Insight. Vesper also is a natural fit in the archetype since it has synergy with Golem Assault and Telescopes.
How much card draw do you need to activate Abyss Summoner on curve? You start the game with 3-4 cards and naturally draw 7 cards before turn 7, so you have to draw additional 9-10 cards (depending on whether you’re going first or second). To put it simply, if all you have is cards that cycle themselves, you’d need to have 45% (18 cards, or 6 unique ones) or more of your deck to have cycling effects. Good Rune cards that cycle themselves are Insight, Cauldron, Telescope, Magic Missile and Vesper, which is 15 total, so it’s not quite enough on that end alone, even if you include worse cards like Witch of Foresight. However, if you add Fate’s Hand and Concentration into consideration, you can easily shoot past the 45% threshold, especially since both of those draw more than 1 card, so you can even afford to cut Vesper/Magic Missile, for example, and still activate Summoner reasonably often.
Abyss Rune is essentially an archetype that tries the tempo approach to the Spellboost-centric Rune archetype that we all love to hate. If Giant Chimera/Runie decks are the D-Shift of the Rotation format, then Abyss Rune is the janky Daria of the format. How good is Abyss Rune? It has seen some fringe competitive play since it can have blowout openings with Abomination and early Flame Destroyers, followed by Abyss Summoner, so it could on paper be better against decks like Aggro Forest, for example. I personally don’t think that Abyss Rune is better than Chimera Rune against Puppet Portal, but I could be proven entirely wrong about that in the future. I don’t think that Abyss Rune is better against the field than Chimera Rune since it’s not as consistent against Tenko Haven and Ramp Dragon, but a few players have had reasonable success with the archetype on ladder, so it’s not as bad of a deck as I initially assessed when it started cropping up. The neat thing about Abyss Rune is that it’s a lot more affordable than any other Rune lists, so if you have a playset of Abominations, you can have a pretty competitive Rune deck that doesn’t require Runies/Giant Chimeras or Mysterias/Oz. Hooray for new player experience!
Identifying cards: Chromatic Duel, Mars, Charlotta, Lancer of the Tempest, Frontline Cavalier, Arthur, Sky Fortress, White Ridge Swordman.
In the provided deck skeleton, Charlotte is included as a 3-of, however, some lists play Lancer of the Tempest in that slot instead. Zeta is a 2-of in a lot of lists, but she’s interchangeable with Barbarossa. Some lists also cut 1 or 2 Sky Fortress/Dragon Knights, but most lists include 3.
Impact of the mini-expansion
Neither of the new Sword cards are something one would want in Midrange Sword. Sky Gladiator is simply another example of the “Can’t be attacked” keyword being overcosted. If Cursed General has never seen any play, why would Sky Gladiator ever be in a Sword deck? Ironfist Beast Warrior, on the other hand, could potentially be a playable in a Sword archetype that can capitalize on the discount effect. This type of effect is potentially good when it hits an 8- or 9-drop, however the problem with that is that you can’t run a lot of Sword followers. This can potentially be done in a deck that only plays spells and Neutral cards and a few big Swordcraft followers like Latham/Sky Fortress, but as it stands, that archetype is not that great despite the few decklists of that type floating around. At present, Ironfist Beast Warrior is a funny lion man doing a mirrored Thanos pose with his giant gauntlet thing. That’s what the reference here is, right?
Joking aside, Midrange Sword has lost a lot of popularity since the Valse nerfs, and is now significantly less popular than the other midrange decks of Rotation format. The main problem with MidSword is that there are 2 main directions to take Midrange Sword, either utilizing the Charlotta/ETA package to beat up on Rune/Haven, or playing Lancer of the Tempest to do better against Portal/Forest, and those 2 packages conflict with one another. In theory, if you never play against Portal, you can tech to beat Chimera Rune about 70% of the time, but you can’t really do anything about the whole Puppet Portal problem. It doesn’t help that most Puppet lists run 3 copies of Basileus so it’s more difficult to ever stick a board, even with Arthur. In addition to that, Cucouroux farms all of Sword’s 2-drops, which is a bit of problem for a deck trying to stick Mars on the board. With all that said, on the basis of winrates, Midrange Sword still performs better than Midrange Shadow or Tempo Forest, so while the archetype is not in a great position in the format, it could potentially make a comeback if Puppet Portal receives balance changes.
What is the impact of nerfs to Valse and Chromatic Duel? There are some changes to the recent Sword builds. Any and all MidSword lists should still include 3 copies of Chromatic Duel, however, a few players have cut Valse to 2 copies. If we take the average number of Valse’s in the top 16 of the 3 most recent post-nerf JCG events, it still comes out to about 2.6, so I personally consider Valse more of a 3-of than a 2-of in the archetype. Valse is a lot worse against 1/3s like Falconers, for example, which makes the Forest matchup slightly worse after the nerf and affects your decision making during mulligans, but the card is still very much a staple in Sword decks of all shapes and sizes.
What is a sword?
The essential parts of Midrange Sword lists have mostly remained unchanged after the rotation. Any MidSword deck contains a 15-card Arthur package (3xArthur/Hedgehog/Cyhullin/Bear/Celia), because playing Arthur on turn 7 is really good; 3 copies of Sky Fortress because playing it after Arthur is really good; a whole bunch of powerful midgame cards (Chromatic Duel tokens, Mars, Charlotte/Lancer of the Tempest, Dragon Knights, Zeta, etc.) because getting to your Arthur turn is really good. So, in essence, Midrange Sword has 34-35 very good cards and a few flex spots that can be switched around. It stands to reason that when 85% of a deck consists of individually powerful cards, the whole deck should be pretty good as a result. Statistically, Midrange Sword is one of the most consistently well-performing ladder decks, because playing good cards on curve is good for your winrate. Who could’ve thunk it?
Justice is a miracle!
Apart from powerful Sword followers (such as Arthur/Sky Fortress/Dragon Knights/etc.), Midrange Sword lists include a swathe of utility and/or synergy cards such as Chromatic Duel/Mars/Valse/Charlotte/etc. Of particular note here are the 3-drops, Mars, Valse, Charlotte and Lancer of the Tempest. Of those cards, only Valse is an Officer, so most Midrange Sword lists usually include 2 copies of Round Table Assembly in lists without Lancer, since the only things it can pull are Mars and Charlotte. Pulling Lancer of the Tempest with RTA is pretty mediocre (especially if it’s pulled before Mars). Pulling Mars together with a 3-drop with Ward is not exactly a novel idea, since the Unlimited version of the deck has been utilizing the RTA/Mars/White Paladin package for months at this point, because protecting a kill-on-sight follower with a Ward is great, especially if you’re evolving the Ward while you’re at it. Charlotte’s evolve ability also protects Mars (and the rest of your board) from damage-based removal spells and effects, essentially shutting down reactive decks such as Tenko Haven, Spellboost Rune and Ramp Dragon when evolved. In combination with Magnus, Midrange Sword can reliably give their followers immunity to damaging spells and effects for multiple turns in a row, a turn 4 Magnus into turn 5 Charlotte into turn 6 enhanced Chromatic Duel is not a rare sight in Rune/Haven/Dragon matchups and is something you should plan for both when playing Sword and playing against it. With that said, RTA is still random, so if it pulls double Charlotte, or pulls Mars as the second card, it becomes slightly worse. In addition to that, one might want to include Lancer of the Tempest (which has slight anti-synergy with RTA) because it’s good in mirror matches and can serve as AoE against Puppet Portal, for example, but then you can’t really run RTA in your deck. Generally, you have to make a decision between RTA/Mars/Charlotte or Mars/Lancer with some extra early game cards as a result.
Realistically speaking, regular MidSword lists include 12 2-drops and 9-12 3-drops, but you can get some additional early game cards like Shield of Flame and the newly-released legendary 2-drop, Latham, Honorable Knight. Latham’s cost is technically 8, but realistically, you never want to play vanilla 8-drops in midrange decks, and using Latham for his Accelerate effect is a way better deal. Oathless Knight used to see play in aggressive Sword decks in the past, however, since Oathless Knight is a really bad Arthur pull, it has never been played in Midrange Sword lists. Latham sidesteps this problem due to his Accelerate effect and can be pretty decent with cards that benefit from summoning tokens (such as Mars or Frontline Cavalier). With Mars you get effectively 2 2/2s for 2 (great tempo), and with Cavalier you heal for 2 (good against the chip damage of Puppet Portal). And once in a blue moon you play it for 8, and it gets you a non-stacking leader effect that (basically) deals 1 damage to your opponent whenever one of your followers attacks and also has synergy with accelerated Latham. Latham is so good, it even has synergy with Latham! A neat little interaction is that if you have the Latham leader effect and play Dragon Knights, getting a Percival, the Knight gets summoned before the Percival trigger, so Percival gets +1 Attack. Some things never change, and the best way to play Latham is still to never play Latham.
Other optional cards
The other new Sword Legendary, Zeta, is a vanilla 6-drop with Rush that gives you some reach in the late game, and basically serves a similar function to Barbarossa. Zeta’s effect doesn’t work if you already a Beatrix, so you generally don’t want to have more than 1 Zeta at a time, for that reason the card is usually played as a 2-of and not a 3-of. Axe Destroyer is a very similar card to Zeta, but it requires an evolve point to get the effect. Axe Destroyer at its worst get a 2-for-1 when evolved, and the main strength of the card is that can destroy Tenko’s Shrine, Canyon of the Dragons and generic big Followers. Axe Destroyer for most intents and purposes is a better anti-Tenko card than Seraphic Blade, so it sees some play in Midrange Sword instead of or in combination with Zeta. That said, Midrange Sword already includes Valse, so if you can identify Tenko early on, you can scrape by without extra amulet hate cards. Other previously good optional Sword cards can also be included in Midrange Sword, they include Barbarossa (good in Sword mirrors), Council of Card Knights or maybe Confront Adversity (good against Forest).
On Dragon Knights
Dragon Knights fills the LumiMage-shaped hole left in the archetype after the ToG rotation. Dragon Knights has 5 playable modes, 3 options on turn 5 and 2 options on turn 8. When played on 5, the card conveniently displays the options in their order of playability from left to right. Generally, on turn 5, you almost always summon Vane and evolve it to trade into something, because it’s the best tempo play. A 5/7 is a lot of stats, and it even keeps growing/healing over time, so Vane basically demands hard removal/Bane followers as an answer. If 4 damage is not enough to trade and/or you want to protect the board/your face with a Ward because you’re behind on board, you can summon Siegfried instead. If the opponent’s board is empty (e.g. against reactive decks like Tenko Haven/Rune/Ramp Dragon), Lancelot and evolve is the option that provides the most pressure, very similar to Albert. Picking Percival on turn 5 is almost always a mistake, the only exception to that being a board state where you have multiple small followers out and you’re facing a card that’s immune to destruction effects (like B&B, for example), but I’ve personally never seen that scenario come up. On turn 8, your 2 main options with Dragon Knights are Siegfried into Percival (if you need to trade into something), and Siegfried into Lancelot (if you don’t). Against classes that don’t play Storm/Rush followers, Vane into Lancelot does 1 extra damage, but I’ve generally found that a 5/4 Ward with Bane is better than a 3/5 at that point in the game. With that said, if you expect a 3-damage AoE (enhanced Jeanne or Proto Bahamut), Vane into Lancelot is better, so if you’re playing against exactly Ramp Dragon or Haven and you’re ahead, that is something you can do.
Midrange Sword is a well-rounded archetype that does pretty well against most things in the format, however, after the mini-expansion, the Puppet Portal matchup has gotten significantly worse for Sword, going from an almost exact 50/50 to a 45/55 in Portal’s favor. Midrange Sword is still a reasonable and straightforward deck to play, but being weak to Puppets made Sword significantly less popular. Midrange Sword is a great ladder deck since it’s difficult to misplay with and does reasonably well against most decks in the format, which brings it to the third best-performing deck in the format (following Aggro Forest and Puppet Portal), so in my opinion, its decline in popularity is a vast overreaction to the power of Puppet Portal.
(Post-nerf) Aggro SwordSource
(Post-nerf) Aggro SwordSource
(Post-nerf) Maisy Aggro SwordSource
Maisy Hybrid SwordSource
Neutral Aggro SwordSource
Identifying cards: Goblin, Perseus, Quickblader, Princess Juliet, Tanya, Maisy, Kunoichi Master, Neutral cards.
The provided deck skeleton is for the more standard, Maisy-centric Aggro Sword build, and naturally doesn’t apply to the Maisy-less Aggro lists or Hybrid lists.
Impact of the nerfs
The Valse nerf doesn’t really affect Aggro Sword in any real capacity, however, the other nerfs have some benefit for the archetype. The Haven nerfs mean that there is less Tenko played and previous stats suggest that Tenko Haven used to be a bad matchup for Aggro Sword before the nerf, so that’s a big positive for the archetype. In contrast with that, Lion Haven didn’t lose as much popularity as Tenko, and Aggro Sword (and aggro decks in general) were previously commonly used to target Lion Haven, so Aggro Sword comes out slightly ahead in that way. With that said, Puppet Portal and Midrange Sword still do very well against Aggro Sword, so the archetype still has some weaknesses in the format, but is overall better-rounded and has even started seeing tournament success in double aggro lineups (Aggro Sword and Forest, for example). One example of such a lineup was seen in the JCG Vol.12 (21/07), where the final series was an Aggro Forest/Chimera Rune (Ruin) versus Aggro Forest/Aggro Sword (シャベル), and the outcome of that should be pretty obvious to most people, since Rune can’t really take a game against 2 aggro decks.
Why play Aggro Sword?
The main difference between Aggro Sword and its Midrange counterpart is the ability to include 1-drops and more diverse 2-drops. Most Aggro Sword lists play 9 1-drops (Goblins/Quickbladers/Perseus); that means that if you’re going first, you have a probability of 65.57% to have a 1-drop (and 74.18% going second) without an aggressive mulligan, so you can more or less open with a 1-drop into 2-drop every time, because 9 1-drops is a lot. Doing so is powerful because a lot of popular decks in the format just don’t play 1-drops (the only exception to that being Aggro Forest and Puppet Portal lists with Goblins), and furthermore, some popular decks often “skip” turn 2 (Haven playing Moriae/Temple on 2, Dragon playing Oracle on 2, Rune doing Rune things on 2, and so on), so Aggro Sword can realistically get in some early damage with a 1-2 curve.
So, apart from having the most 1-drops of any deck in the format, what makes Aggro Sword preferable to other Aggro decks? Does it have a better early game than Aggro Forest? Not without Brambles/Elf Song/Insect Lord/etc. it doesn’t. Does it have more reach than Aggro Blood? No, it does not. In my opinion, the best part of Aggro Sword are its midgame cards that can generate massive tempo, such as Maisy, Dragon Knights, Round Table Assembly (with Juliets). Valse is a really good tempo card as well. In addition to that, Celia is an interesting pseudo-combo card in the archetype, since you can use Celia to pick up your Storm cards and reuse them for extra damage, which is relevant with Dei tokens and Quickbladers, for example.
The Spanish Inquisition
Putting it simply, if you want to play good Sword cards on curve, Midrange Sword is a strictly better deck at doing so because it has more good cards and the curve is not as lopsided towards 1-drops. But that is also the main advantage of Aggro Sword on ladder, since no one expects to see a Perseus/Goblin on turn 1. Generally, if you queue into an unknown Sword deck, you look for ways to answer Hedgehogs/Mars and other key cards in the early game since you always assume that you’re playing against Midrange Sword. This is more of a case for reactive decks like Haven/Dragon/Rune, and generic midrange decks like Midrange Sword/Puppet Portal/Tempo Forest try to develop the board in the early game anyway so they’re not really affected by the surprise factor. Unlike Aggro Forest, where if you queue into Forest, you know that it’s about a 50/50 of being an Aggro Forest, or Aggro Blood, which is the most common Blood archetype; Aggro Sword can get a slight edge by sidestepping your opponent’s expectations. Naturally, this doesn’t work if you’ve played against the Aggro Sword player before or know their decklist for one reason or another.
The biggest relevant strength of Aggro Sword in terms of its matchup spread is its ability to consistently beat up reactive decks such as Spellboost Rune. The weaknesses of the archetype are Wards and/or better midgame (available to Puppet Portal, Ramp Dragon and Midrange Sword). Statistically, there’s very little reason to play Aggro Sword over Aggro Forest, because Aggro Forest overall has very similar strengths, but fewer bad matchups.
The most common type of Ramp Dragon currently is the “Standard” Ramp Dragon. Offshoots of Standard Ramp lists include Lindworm and Jabberwock characterized by their more limiting win conditions. A subset of Jabberwock lists also includes Prime Dragon Keeper with additional early game Followers not usually included in standard Jabber lists.
Identifying cards (Standard): Purehearted Singer, Elder Tortoise, Adelle.
Identifying cards (Lindworm): Dragon’s Foresight, Avowed Strike, Adramelech, Galua, Pyrewyrm Commander, Lindworm.
Identifying cards (Jabberwock): Lyria, Proto Bahamut, Jabberwock.
Identifying cards (PDK): Dragon Aficionado, Matilda, Aliza, PDK.
Impact of the mini-expansion
Ramp Dragon is one of the bigger winners of the mini-expansion, with Poseidon and Warbreaker Dragoon smoothing out the midgame of the archetype and helping bridge the early game turns when Ramp Dragon indulges in its namesake activity and late game turns when Dragon plays big threats a few turns earlier than they should be. Poseidon is the more important of the two cards, and in my opinion, one of the best cards in the set. After Sibyl rotated out, Ramp Dragon has been vulnerable to midrange decks because the archetype had very few defensive tools aside from AoE cards like Force of the Dragonewt and Frenzied Drake; and simply couldn’t contain board-centric decks like Puppet Portal or Midrange Sword. Poseidon is incredibly annoying to get through because it puts 2 Wards in play and the main body also demands removal against most decks. Poseidon is not quite as annoying as Giggling Inventor, but since it can come down on turn 6 pretty consistently, it’s pretty difficult to clear. On top of that, Poseidon is also an acceptable 2-drop against weenie decks like Aggro Forest and MidShadow.
Warbreaker Dragoon is not nearly as versatile as Poseidon, but is still incredibly valuable because it discounts late-game bombs like Frenzied Drake and Poseidon. One of the most unfair things that Ramp Dragon can do is play Dragoon on 6pp, discounting Poseidon down to 7, which makes for an incredibly strong 6 into 7 curve. In addition to that, Dragoon also has 2 important effects: it can discount an 11-cost Zooey to a playable card, and it adds +1 Attack to discounted Followers, which matters for Storm cards like Azi Dahaka and Zooey, as well as Adelle to gain +1 extra healing. Warbreaker Dragoon is slightly awkward in Lindworm lists and is usually excluded from those types of lists since discounting Lindworm is pretty useless and discounting Zooey is usually bad in that deck since cycling Zooey adds to Lindworm counter. In Jabberwock lists, Dragoon is occasionally played since it can discount your 2-drops to 1 mana, allowing you to combo it with Jabberwock more easily. Normally, Jabberwock only has 3 1-cost Followers (3xLyria) which you can combo with Jabber, but if you discount 2-drops or Jabberwock itself, it allows for a lot more breathing room against reactive decks. Dragoon is also an okay pull from Jabberwock itself since it has Rush and comes with a beneficial effect when attacking.
The Standard Ramp game plan and card choices
The most common variant of Ramp Dragon is cented around playing ramp cards like Dragon Oracle, Roy, Aiela and occasionally Scathacha to play Dragoons, Canyon of the Dragons, Poseidon, Frenzied Drake and so on. After stabilizing, the deck can close out games with big Storm Followers, Azi Dahaka and Zooey. Putting it simply, the main goal of standard Ramp Dragon usually is to get a Canyon into play and not be dead in the process. Frenzied Drake and Poseidon can achieve similar results. Aside from the core cards of the archetype, there are some optional cards that can be included based on preference and local meta. The 2 main splits among the early game cards is the Whitewyrm/Dragon Summoner split and the Blazing Breath/Force of the Dragonewt split. Whitewyrm is better tempo than Summoner and can provide some healing in Overflow, but Summoner draws a card immediately and improves your early Ramp consistency. Blazing Breath is 5 times cheaper than Force of the Dragonewt and is really good against Puppet Portal because a vast majority of that archetype consists of Followers with 2 Defense. Force of the Dragonewt is more clunky but is better against decks that go wide in the midgame like MidShadow and Forest; in my opinion, Force of the Dragonewt is better in a wider array of matchups than Blazing Breath. Two common midgame cards available to Ramp Dragon are Elder Tortoise and Adelle. Tortoise provides a lot of value in Overflow and can either help push face damage or provide trades with evolves. Tortoise also discounts Azi Dahaka which is a nice bonus. Adelle is essentially the only playable source of lifegain available to Dragon and is incredibly valuable against Puppet Portal to counteract the Silva chip damage despite demanding an evolve point. Most lists teched against Puppet Portal include some combination of the two because being alive is good and being dead is bad.
How high is a high roll?
In the previous sections I briefly mentioned that Poseidon usually comes into play on turn 6 as an example, but how much would Ramp Dragon ramp if a Dragon could ramp? Naturally, the answer is “it depends”, as in it depends on the matchup and used decklist, but we can make a simple estimate using hypergeometric distribution to estimate the basic probability of drawing specific cards. I used the following rules in my estimate:
- Aiela, Dragon Oracle and Roy count as “Ramp cards”, basically, a deck has 9 Ramp cards out of 40.
- The relevant metric is ramping before turns 5-6, because after those turns ramping becomes redundant.
- Ramping more than 3 times is redundant, e.g. if you have more than 2 Roys, you’re unlikely to use all of the for Ramp. The “redundant Ramp” number can be adjusted with the “Maximum ramp” slider.
- Zooey costs 1 and draws 1 card when played. All Dragon lists play 3 copies of Zooey.
- Dragon Summoner costs 2 and draws 1 card when played. Technically, Summoner draws specifically Dragon Followers, but the ratio of Ramp Followers to regular Dragoncraft Followers is about 6/30, and the ratio of Ramp cards in your deck (9/40) are relatively similar and for the sake of simplicity we will assume that it’s equivalent to regular card draw.
- Purehearted Singer costs 3 and draws 2 cards when played. Technically not what the card does, but it’s close enough.
- You can’t draw more than 4 cards before turn 5, because then you don’t have time to play your Ramp cards. This may seem like an arbitrary restriction, but it simplifies the probability tree significantly, especially on later turns. This restriction simplifies the probability tree from 64 terms down to ~30, which helps me take less SAN damage.
- Number of Summoners/Singers can range from 0 to 3 and can be adjusted with their respective sliders.
- The default setting used is ラムダ’s list, with 3xSingers and 0xSummoners.
- Card draw sources are independent from one another, which means that we don’t take into account events like when you Zooey into another Zooey, for example. This is a limitation of the used method.
- I make an assumption that the mulligan strategy is to keep Zooey, 2-drops, and all the Ramp cards, which is roughly 18-21 cards depending on the decklist. So, on average, you keep half your of your starting hand (1.5 cards), and 50% of the time you get an extra card due to going second, so before turn one you can see 3+1.5+0.5 = 5 cards from your deck before drawing any additional cards.
As seen from the graph, if we consider ramping up to 3 times not redundant, the average number of ramp cards by the time you get to midgame (turn 4-5) is around 2.4, which is naturally slightly more than what you’d expect in practice because you can’t always use Roy/Aiela to Ramp, for example, or you can’t always mulligan so aggressively, but as a basic estimate, you can expect to go into Overflow on turn 5 on average. If we were to consider ramping more than 2 times redundant, which is a realistic estimate against Puppet Portal or Aggro Forest, for example, the average number of Ramp cards comes out to be equal to about 1.7-1.8 in the midgame, which is consistent with my personal stats (which is ~1.71 over the course of 40-ish games), because you can’t always go crazy ramping a lot against most things in the format (besides mirror matches or against Tenko Haven).
Modern Lindworm lists are not that different from the Standard Ramp lists, with a few notable inclusions. Azi Dahakas are replaced by Lindworms, Singers are replaced by Adramelechs, and the midgame cards like Dragoon/Canyon/Tortoise/Adelle are replaced with additional removal spells or card draw like Force of the Dragonewt, Avowed Strike, Blazing Breath, Waters of the Orca and so on. In addition to this, Whitewyrm is a lot better than Dragon Summoners in Lindworm lists since Whitewyrms contribute to the Lindworm count. Generally, Lindworm lists now are not that limited in their deckbuilding, because most Dragoncraft Follower either generate spell/amulet tokens and have Accelerate effects. Playing Lindworm improves slower matchups like Tenko Haven/Dragon mirrors due to having bigger Storm cards, but makes matchups like Puppet Portal, MidShadow/Sword, Forest, etc. worse because you’re playing slightly worse midgame cards overall. If you’re suspecting that you’re up against a Lindworm list, an easy way to check for the Lindworm/Adramelech count is to take the shadow count of the Dragon player and subtract the number of dead Followers from the menu.
Beware the Jubjub bird!
The less common archetypes of Ramp Dragon are Jabberwock and Lindworm Ramp lists. Jabberwock lists usually limit the inclusion of the 4-6 cost cards to help improve Jabberwock consistency. The basic game plan of Jabberwock Ramp Dragon involves setting up a wide board with Waters of the Orca and/or other 2-drops and then play Jabberwock to pull a lot of Storm cards like Zooey and Azi Dahaka from your deck, potentially ending the game on the spot. Notable inclusions in Jabberwock lists are the Lyria/Proto Bahamut package. Enhanced Lyria effectively costs 1 and draws a Proto Bahamut, which improves your Jabberwock pool and combos with Jabberwock. Notably, if you choose to include Warbreaker Dragoon in a Jabber list, you can get discounts on 2-drops and/or Jabberwocks, allowing you to get better Jabberwock turns. Neutral cards can’t get hit with Dragoon, which is good because it doesn’t affect Lyria and Proto Bahamut, both poor discount targets.
PDK Dragon is a subset of regular Jabberwock lists and is not a very well-tested archetype. PDK seems weak to Puppet Portal because most Puppet lists include 2-3 Basileus, which is a huge problem for an archetype trying to go wide on board with 3-health Followers around turn 7. The neat thing about PDK is that Prime Dragon Keeper can be difficult to clear for some decks, and upgrading PDK to a 10-drop is a good deal. Poseidon is also a good card in PDK decks since it gets you 2 PDK procs if you have a PDK stick around from previous turns, and it’s also a 2-drop that puts a Ward into play.
Ramp Dragon is a lot stronger after the mini-expansion, but the archetype still has a long way to go before it can get to positive matchups against the popular decks of the format (Puppet Portal, Chimera Rune, Tenko Haven, Aggro Forest). With that said, since available stats mix together all the jankier builds of Ramp Dragon like Jabber and Lindworm together, the Standard Ramp likely does better than what the stats indicate. From my personal stats, it looks like the Rune and Tenko matchups are close to a 50/50, and while Puppet Portal, Forest and Sword feel pretty bad to play against, there might be a specific combination of tech cards that would allow Ramp Dragon to do better against those. Ramp Dragon has potential with further tweaks and it is in a pretty alright spot already.
Identifying cards: Mischievous Spirit, Gremory, Big Soul Hunter, Lord Deathskull, Skull Ring, Corpselord of Woe, Arcus, Ephemera.
Impact of the mini-expansion
The highlight for the mini-expansion in terms of Shadowcraft cards is Gremory, a card that has made a significant impact on both the Rotation and Unlimited formats. Previously, a big problem with MidShadow was that the archetype didn’t have an Elf Song-type card to capitalize on having a wide board. Gremory not only fulfils that role, but also provides card advantage and is also a conveniently-priced mid-game Follower. Gremory has 3 specific uses: firstly, if you’re ever ahead on board going into turn 6, you can pump up your board of inexpensive Followers to get great tempo, card advantage, and threaten a lot of face damage. Generally, if you hit 2 Followers with an enhanced Gremory, that is already great value. In addition to giving your followers +2/+2, Gremory’s forced Evolve has additional small benefits with some Shadow cards, e.g. it gives +2 extra healing with Lady Grey, upgrades Lord Deathskull’s Last Words effect, activates Corpselord, either letting it trade twice (start the turn, trade Corpselord with something, play Gremory, attack again) or activate it for free if it’s not active. In addition to that, evolving followers gives them Rush which is relevant for when Skull Ring pops, or with cheap Followers like Mischievous Spirit or Fran tokens that you can play on the same turn as Gremory. The general end goal of MidShadow is to play Arcus on turn 7, so having a powerful turn 6 play is incredibly powerful since it makes it easier to mitigate the tempo loss of playing Arcus on curve.
Secondly, another use for Gremory is getting card advantage in the midgame without its enhance effect. Since a lot of priority Evolve targets in Shadow are relatively inexpensive (Andrealphus, Lady Grey, Ceres, etc.), you can usually get a trade and then play Gremory to get a 1-cost 1/1 that draws a card and demands to be removed. If Gremory ever sticks on the board, it can continue getting tons of card advantage on later turns. You also get to draw an extra card if you have a Corpselord from a previous turn stick around; drawing 2 cards for 1pp is a fantastic deal.
Last, but certainly not least, way to utilize Gremory is pumping Ghosts after you play Arcus. Gremory has largely replaced Badb Catha in that sense, since the card is more flexible and does more damage with Ghosts. Gremory does silly amounts of Ghost damage, however, the main advantage compared to Badb Catha is that the damage comes into play a lot earlier. E.g., after you play an Arcus on turn 7, you can potentially follow up with 2xMischievous Spirit + Gremory, which does 13 damage and is still 1 turn faster than Force/Roar combo. Naturally, a lot of Shadow lists don’t play 3 copies of Spirit, so that scenario is fairly uncommon, and the 13-damage turn usually happens a turn later, with a 2-drop instead of one of the Mischievous Spirits. In a similar vein to pre-mini-expansion MidShadow games, an active Ferry with Gremory or Ephemera does 20 damage (so long as you don’t mess up the order), however, since that requires to get to turn 10, which is not really possible against Puppet Portal or Chimera Rune, and requires to have at least 5 different cards, it only comes up in slower matchups like Ramp Dragon and Tenko Haven.
Aggressive Midrange ShadowSource
MS Riripwn on Midrange Shadow:
A lot of people underestimate the power of this deck as it is not seen as often as the usual meta decks, but there are a few cards such as Lady Grey, Big Soul Hunter and Corpselord of Woe that are extremely difficult to deal with.
The main goal of this deck is to have a comfortable enough board state to slam Arcus on 7 (having Odile helps greatly as she allows you to preserve an evolution point on 6 and clear board), after which you can chip the opponent with Ghost damage or burst them with Ferry and Badb Catha (a more flexible win condition than Ephemera). Be aware of your hand size as you will usually want to be greedy in playing your followers early before your opponent has access to board clears and removal so that you can easily sacrifice them to Soul Conversions and Demon Eaters, but you are not an aggro deck at heart so remember to value trade (unless you are so far ahead that you can set up a lethal with a large board and Badb Catha on turn 6).
Game plan and card choices
Midrange Shadow is still primarily an archetype focused on playing inexpensive Followers with various bits of small synergy. The overall goal of playing Midrange Shadow is to get to turn 7, play Arcus and deal enough damage with Ghosts to close out the game. To this end, the archetype needs strong early and mid-game to get to the point where Arcus is playable despite the ensuing tempo loss. The core cards to that game plan are Belenus, Lady Grey, Fran and Big Soul Hunter, all powerful early game cards that can often 2-for-1 the opponent. The other part of the MidShadow engine is the card draw. The archetype usually has an extremely low curve, so card draw is all that more important. The basic card draw tools in MidShadow include Soul Conversion, Demon Eater and Purehearted Singer, all cards that sacrifice some tempo for huge card advantage. An important mention here is Andrealphus, it is extremely important to try and evolve Andrealphus against slower decks, because even if your board gets cleared, you can always reload with all the extra cards from Andrealphus. With the amount of card draw in Midrange Shadow, it’s extremely likely to have Arcus on curve, despite it being the archetype-defining 3-of card that you can’t tutor from your deck.
There are some splits in cards depending on what decks you’re trying to beat. Additional 2-drops help against faster decks like Aggro Forest, and can include Lord Deathskull, Undying Resentment and Bone Bug. The new 2-drop, Danua is pretty bad against Portal because that archetype runs 1/2s and Danua doesn’t do too well against those. In my opinion, Danua is an actively bad card in the current environment, which is evident from a lot of more well-refined lists cutting the card. If you’re trying to do better against Haven/Dragon, Troth’s Curse is a reasonable 1- or 2-of that helps push through tall Followers. Among the 4-drops, there’s a split between Ceres and Corpselord. Ceres is better against Portal/Forest because it can counteract the chip damage and trades well. Corpselord is vulnerable to Banish effects like Substitution and Basileus, but is really good against reactive decks like Chimera Rune and Ramp Dragon because it attacks for 5 and is annoying to clear. If you choose to run Corpselord, a powerful inclusion that helps activate Corpselord on curve is Skull Ring. The neat thing about Skull Ring is that it’s super annoying to clear for Chimera Rune since it generates 2 bodies and can usually do some chip damage. Skull Ring is fairly mediocre against decks that play defensively-statted 2-drops which can trade with Skeletons for free, so it’s not that great against Puppet Portal, as well as Forest and Sword in general.
Weaknesses of Midrange Shadow
All of the previous commentary praises many aspects of the archetype with tons of fanfare, but the archetype still has a lot of holes in the Rotation format. The main, glaring problem of the archetype is Puppet Portal, namely, a particular card that can wipe out most Shadow boards: Basileus. Basileus can clear the vast majority (literally >85% of an average Shadow list) of Followers in MidShadow, and denies all the Last Words effects, which usually means that you miss out on card draw from Gremory, Andrealphus and Singers. Basileus is a huge bummer for Shadow and a lot of Portal lists run 3 copies of the thing, which makes the Puppet Portal matchup heavily Portal-favored.
The other issue of Midrange Shadow lies in the fact that the archetype can’t defend itself after playing Arcus. On one hand, this is annoying because you can’t protect yourself from Storm finishers like Orchis/Noah/Heavenly Knight/Zooey/etc., which is just a consequence of not having any Ward followers, and that is fine in a vacuum, because decks need to have weaknesses and perhaps not having good Wards is the intended drawback of having the powerful effects in Midrange Shadow. On the other hand, not being able to ever develop a board post-Arcus means that you always take face damage from Tenko’s Shrine, Giant Chimera and even Cucouroux tokens, which makes these matchups (Haven/Rune) pretty miserable if you can’t close out the game fast enough. Both of these issues prevent Midrange Shadow from being better than decks that do similar things, Puppet Portal and MidSword, despite being able to do some very “unfair” things. Ultimately, all playable decks need to do something unfair, and MidShadow definitely has plenty of unfair effects and interactions, but at present the drawbacks are a little too noticeable for the archetype to be as good as the Unlimited variation of the archetype, for example.
From the available stats, it looks like Midrange Shadow is very similar to Midrange Sword, except slightly worse in most matchups. The archetype doesn’t do well against Puppets and Aggro Forest, but can potentially be successful against specific reactive decks like Chimera Rune and Tenko due to the huge amount of reach it has. The mini-expansion marks a historic point in time for MidShadow, since for the first time since the format split, Rotation Midrange Shadow has a positive winrate! How neat is that?
Impact of the mini-expansion
While Bloodcraft is still one of the worst classes in the Rotation format, the new Blood cards are a step in the right direction for the class. The more impactful of the two, Evil Eye Demon, is an extremely flexible 5-drop that can be a 2-cost removal spell if necessary. Quite often Evil Eye Demon is a better Ancient Lion Spirit. Another comparison would be Basileus, and EED comes out 1 turn earlier, is less of a brick since it can be used as a reasonable removal spell, and is a tool that Bloodcraft has desperately wanted for quite some time. EED fits well into any Rotation Blood decks and has even found its way into Unlimited decks as well, so the card is obviously powerful and will likely see play for at least 3-4 upcoming sets. The main downside of EED at present is that it’s a Blood card.
Thunder Behemoth is a 5-drop that fits into Aggro Blood lists and is fairly mediocre otherwise. Thunder Behemoth puts a lot of stats into play and deals 3 face damage when it’s played, so if you’re ahead as Aggro Blood, playing a 6/6 on turn 5 can be powerful, but the Overload: (3) effect is rough for most other Blood decks. How neat is it that Thunder Behemoth and Lightning Behemoth have the same cost and statline? That’s pretty neat. Probably the most interesting thing about Thunder Behemoth.
Identifying cards: Silverchain Disciple, Waltz, Blood Drinker’s Brand, Dark General, Narmaya, Vania, Emeralda.
The more standard Vengeance Blood, similar to Cashmere’s first list, that essentially uses most of the pre-rotation Vengeance cards, but replaces Spiderweb Imp for Vira, Belphegor for Narmaya, and Baphomet for Alexandrite Demon, relies on getting its health to 10 with Narmaya’s evolve effect to get various benefits on Vengeance-enabled cards. The problem with that approach is that individually all those cards are worse for the midrange tempo-oriented playstyle of Vengeance Blood, e.g. Narmaya is a lot worse than Belphegor since it’s an evolve effect and not a Fanfare, Vira doesn’t get Ward when you play her on turn 2 and only turns into a pseudo-Ward when you evolve it, Alexandrite Demon requires you to spend extra mana to actually get to the cards in your deck, and so on. I personally don’t really think that this playstyle can work in a format dominated by Midrange Portal, Lions and Puppet Portal, decks that can generate wide boards really easily and pack quite a bit of reach. Setting yourself to 10 against Portal in particular is just asking for trouble.
ElsaMaria’s slower Vengeance Blood is the better direction for the archetype, in my opinion, since it includes additional Wards (Disagreeable Demon), some healing (Sabreur), and reactive cards (Bandersnatch/Reach of the Archdemon) while retaining the powerful Vengeance cards like Brand, Disciple and Dark General. Instead of Storm cards it includes the Bandersnatch/Spawn package, I don’t personally think it’s that great and I would slot in Emeralda/Vampy and maybe even Fenrir, I don’t really think Bandersnatch is that great. If you play Bandersnatch on 7 and it dies, then you have Spawn in play on 8 and it can only attack on turn 9, so it’s more of an expensive tutor effect that opens up your turn 8. Another reason for my dislike of Spawn is the popularity of Tenko Haven, a deck that plays 2 or 3 copies of Themis, which banishes Spawn and negates all the damage. If you banish Spawn, it doesn’t do any damage. If you banish Storm cards, they’ve already done some damage and maybe even destroyed a Tenko’s Shrine while they’re at it. Tl;dr for Vengeance Blood: don’t kill yourself with Narmaya, maybe play some Storm cards, too.
Angry Jorm BloodSource
MS Riripwn on Vengeance Blood:
While Vengeance Blood currently struggles in Rotation due to the low tempo value of its cards early, the deck is still my go-to deck if I need to clear my dailies. It is very difficult to gain early game advantages (especially if you go second), so the main goal is to swing the board in your favour during the Evolution turns (with Narmaya or Scarlet Sabreur, preferably) and then to push as much damage as you can until you lose the board advantage so that you can more easily close out the game with Storm or direct damage. It is for this reason that I usually prefer more aggressive builds with Goblins, but slower builds that run Reach of the Archdemon should be much stronger against board-based decks like Forest and Sword until they protect their board from spell damage so pick the build that you are more comfortable with.
Identifying cards: Scorpius, Demonic Ram, Blood Pact, Fanged Serpent, Nacht, Jormungand, Darkfeast Bat.
“Jormungand Blood” is a blanket term for Blood decks that use a lot of different sources self-damage sources and a variety of payoff cards from that said self-damage like Jormungand and Darkfeast Bat. Jormungand itself is not really a core card in the archetype, but since the archetype started off as a support shell for Jormungand, it’s commonly referred to as Jorm Blood. I’ve personally played a few different Jorm lists after the expansion release and, in my personal (biased) opinion, it is the most interesting of any Blood decks one could play. The best-performing Jorm decklists from my playtesting are Dark’s and Sera-ya’s ones, which are 1 card apart (Blood Pact instead of Ram), and I would recommend Dark’s list.
So, first things first, the main misconception players have about Jorm Blood is that it’s a deck that is centered around Jormungand, which is incorrect in my experience. The 2 most important cards in Jorm decks are Demonic Ram and Darkfeast Bat. Demonic Ram is one of the main reasons to play the deck in the first place since it can generate a lot of healing for very little cost. The main thing to keep in mind with Demonic Ram is its synergy with Vira, often times you can have turns around turn 6 where you evolve Vira, play Demonic Ram and play self-damage effect cards like Blood Pact, Restless Parish, Gift, Razory Claw and so on. The self-damage is prevented by Vira and each effect gives you +2 healing and adds 1 damage to your future Darkfeast Bat counter. If you have a Jorm leader effect going, you also get some AoE damage out of the deal. It is pretty easy to get about 6-8 healing on turn 6, and since evolved Vira is still in play, you’re effectively gaining some extra from that too. An important combo to keep in mind is playing the enhanced Parish for the healing option (Madness Revealed), doing so prevents the initial 4 damage and heals you for 8 at the start of next turn. 8 points of healing for 2? Now that’s just madness!
The second part of the Jorm equation is Darkfeast Bat. It is important to keep the Darkfeast counter in mind when playing Jorm Blood or playing against it, because it is the main source of reach in the archetype. You should also keep in mind how the cheap burn cards interact with Darkfeast Bat, e.g. Gift for Bloodkin does 2 damage to your opponent if you’re playing Darkfeast on the same turn, Razory Claw does 4, and so on. Often times your gameplan against Tenko Haven, for example, is to set up a 2-turn lethal with back-to-back Darkfeast Bats, so count your damage and pick a good time to cash in on Gift/Snarling Chains/etc. to get the best lethal setup without risking dying on the backswing.
Other strong part of Jorm Blood lies in its powerful 2-drops. Alexandrite Demon is a good Blood card in general, Ram and Vira are part of the deck’s combo engine, but even with those in mind, one 2-cost card in the deck is simply fantastic in the environment, and that is Scorpius. Scorpius is a 1/2 with Bane, so the thing eats Hedgehogs, Flower Dolls, Falconers, etc. for breakfast and lives to tell the tale of its heroic exploits. Scorpius essentially demands to be traded into by either a 2/2 or a removal spell for risk of taking more value trades on the following turns, which is good for a few reasons: firstly, if you’re going second, you force the opponent to trade down at the risk of Scorpius taking a value trade with a 3-drop, so you get some initiative back on the backswing, secondly, if it gets removed by Seraphic Blade, that’s a Seraphic Blade that doesn’t hit your evolved Vira, and if it gets removed by Scripture and/or Substitution, then those can’t hit Nacht or Jormungand. I really like Scorpius and I’m happy to see it make the backwards long jump to get out of its Take 2 jail.
The weaknesses of Jorm Blood are many in number and quite common on ladder. They include banish effects that get rid of Jormungand/Nacht’s Last Words effects and there’s no a lot one can do to avoid them with how common Haven and Portal are. To play around Scriptures and Substitutions, you can either try to bait out the banish effect with Nacht or annoying early game followers (Scorpius/Fanged Serpent) or take worse trades/evolves to get your key Last Words followers to have 4 or more defense. Another weakness of the archetype is its inability to deal with wide bard without an active Jorm, so Orchis or Arthur usually spell disaster if you don’t have a plan for it. And there usually isn’t a plan for it. Finally, Jorm Blood plays a lot of damage-based removal between Snarling Chains and Razory Claw (yes, you have to remove things with Claw sometimes), as well as Jorm procs, which get countered by Charlotta and Magnus, which are included in every Sword deck. With that said, if you manage to dodge all those issues, and don’t include mediocre Jorm synergy cards like Lilith, Crimson Desire, Big Knuckle Bodyguard and Zodiac Demon, the archetype can perform reasonably well.
Identifying cards: Buller, Bewitching Succubus, Raven, Eventide Vampire, Summon Bloodkin, Nightmare Devil, Oldblood King, Carabosse.
Aggro Blood is a deck centered around efficient early game followers that can go wide on board with Forest Bat tokens and then buff the board with Buller and Red Talonstrike. In addition to that, Aggro Blood decks include Oldblood King, which turns any summoned Forest Bat into 2 damage, helping close out games in a way similar to Fairy Driver. The archetype received one explicit support card in Bewitching Succubus, a 2-drop with a useful Enhance ability which is great in a format with no early AoE, as well as some generally solid Blood cards like Parish (that summons 2 Bats with Storm for 2, which is actually quite relevant in the archetype, or can be cycled for 0, which is pretty powerful) and Alexandrite Demon, which can be used to dig for burn instead or in tandem with Carabosse. Overall, the archetype is essentially worse Aggro Forest that can plays some burn spells. Burn spells are good because when you use them, your opponent has less life.
An advantage of Aggro Blood to other aggro decks is that it’s more affordable since it doesn’t technically require any legendary cards (Carabosse is optional, and Vira is probably not even necessary in the first place), the cheapest lists can be about 10 thousand vials (like ネオニート‘s list), and if you cut Oldblood King/Gift, you can get as low as 5 thousand vials (like Yuriasu’s list) while still staying (relatively) competitive. You can’t really play Aggro Forest without a playset of Insect Lords and you can’t play Aggro Sword without Celias, so Aggro Blood is by far the most affordable aggro deck. Hooray for new player experience!
Aggro Blood doesn’t have a lot of stats behind it, but it does seem to do well against decks that skip early turns like Spellboost Rune and potentially Ramp Dragon. Generally, it has a worse matchup spread than Aggro Forest while having similar strengths, so there’s not a whole lot of reason to play it over Aggro Forest.
Stats corner (week of 17/09 – 23/09)
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%, >65%, >55% and <55% for tiers 1 through 4, 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.
Notice: as of 16th of September, the available Shadowlog stats have decreased drastically, so the meta score parameter is increased to account for that. For comparison, the overall number of recorded games has gone down by about 70% since the mini-expansion.