The “Meta Insight” series covers the differences between popular ladder decklists, showcasing the core cards of each of the archetypes (“deck skeletons”), as well as various optional inclusions, tech cards and common play patterns.

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Ramp Dragon

The presented deck skeleton is for the “standard” variation of Ramp Dragon. Some of the 2-drops can potentially be excluded from lists in favor of different optional and tech cards.

Mulligan priority

  • Always keep Dragon Oracle, Dragoncleaver Roy.
  • Keep Aiela going second.
  • Keep Vile Violet Dragon if you’re already keeping an early ramp card (meaning any ramp card that isn’t Aiela when going first).
  • Keep Serpent Drake with an early activator (either Disciple of Disdain or Disdainful Rending). Servant of Disdain works for this as well if you’re aiming for a turn 3 play.
  • Keep a 2-drop against board-centric classes like Sword/Forest/Shadow. Good 2-drops include Filene, Servant, Zealot, as well as Sneer (going second). Zealot and Sneer of Disdain are a particularly high priority against Forest and Sword.
  • If you’re already keeping a Dragon Oracle, try to prioritize having a good 4-mana play (e.g. Sneer of Disdain, Waters of the Orca, Servant+Zealot, Serpent Drake+activator, etc)
  • Against slower classes (Rune/Dragon/Haven/etc) keep Vile Violet Dragon (even without any early ramp).

Ramp Dragon mulligans are fairly straightforward, the best thing to do as Dragon in the early game is ramping. In my personal statistics, Dragon Oracle is the best performing card to keep in your opening hand, followed by Roy and Vile Violet Dragon. Oracle and Roy make perfect sense since they’re part of the “Dragon high-roll suite”, meaning cards are extremely good early on and fall off in usefulness as the game continues. Aiela also fits into that category. Vile Violet Dragon is an extremely important mid-game card since it draws a lot of cards and allows you to curve out with big bombs (cards like Galmieux, Poseidon, Satan and Azi Dahaka) more efficiently. Against decks that try to put pressure on the Dragon player (with 1-drops and good 2-drops), it is important to contest the early boards and not take too much face damage early on since Dragon doesn’t really have much healing.

What does Ramp Dragon do?

Ramp Dragon is a deck archetype focused around getting extra play points with cards like Dragon Oracle, Aiela and Dragoncleaver Roy, drawing through the deck with cards such as Vile Violet Drake and Servant/Disciple of Disdain, and playing big followers earlier than they’re supposed to. The finishers of the archetype include Galmieux, Poseidon (especially combined with Masamune), Azi Dahaka (discounted by natural evolves and enhanced Galmieux) and occasionally Satan.

Non-Standard Ramp Dragon builds include dedicated Satan lists (that usually cut Azi Dahakas to play 3 copies of Stan) and Hastewing Dragonewt lists (that either play it as an extra Storm follower without any activators for extra reach, or include some of the weaker late game cards like Elios and even Otohime). Currently, there aren’t enough Dragonewt activators in the format, since you need on average 10-ish followers that cost 7 or more in your deck to consistently pull it with the Invocation effect around turn 9-10, and playing suboptimal cards make your overall deck consistency worse. Dedicated Satan Dragon lists used to be popular at the very beginning of the expansion, since they perform well in Dragon mirrors, however, the recent metagame shift has led to Satan being a 1-of (at most) in standard Ramp Dragon lists.

Ramp Dragon skeleton

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Optional inclusions and tech cards

  • Waters of the Orca is an optional card that gives Dragon a proactive option at many points of the curve. Waters work well when you’re ramping and the opponent isn’t doing anything proactive (which happens against Rune and in Dragon mirrors), but the modality and flexibility of the card make it a frequent 2-3-of in Ramp Dragon lists. Waters is the most cuttable Dragon 2-drop, and if you’re trying to fit in an additional early game tech card, Waters of the Orca is the first thing to get the boot.
  • Sneer of Disdain and Zealot of Disdain are tech cards against Sword/Shadow/Forest. Sneer is more universally useful, but Zealot is significantly better on curve. Unlike most cards of that type, Zealot of Disdain doesn’t need a friendly target to go off. Both of these cards can be awkward in Dragon mirrors since they proc Serpent Drake/Violet Dragon/Gally when you can’t help doing it (Zealot more so, since you can always just Sneer for 3 damage). In my opinion, Sneer is a fine 2-of currently, and I personally dislike Zealot because of the RNG aspect and the negative impact on mirror matches.
  • Dragoncleaver Roy is an optional inclusion in Ramp Dragon that makes ramping slightly more consistent against Rune and in mirror matches. Roy is a bit of a high-roll card since it’s amazingly good on 3 and fairly mediocre at all other points of the game, so it’s difficult to fit in more than 1 copy.
  • Prince of Cocytus (colloquially referred to as Satan by most players) is a tech card for Dragon mirrors. Satan has various implications on the way Dragon decks are built, which are covered in more detail in a later section. Generally, the standard Ramp Dragon lists include 0-1xSatan due to the high popularity of Ramp Dragon.
  • Lyria is an optional inclusion in lists playing Satan as a tutor effect. Pre-Satan, it can fetch Satan itself, and after Satan is played, it gets a 50/50 between the 7/7 card that does 7 face damage or the 8/8 Ward that destroys all other followers in play. If you think that Satan is a good card for the environment you’re playing in, Lyria is a way to play multiple copies of the effect without actually having them in your deck. The problem with Lyria is that Dragon 2-drops are all premium cards and cutting any of them for a (more or less) vanilla 1/1 makes your early game far less consistent.
  • Purevoiced Dragoon is a tech card against Rune/Blood. Dragoon provides healing against decks that try to hit your face with burn damage and can get you out of range of various DFB-type effects. Dragoon somewhat competes with Satan, so they’re difficult to fit in the same list.
  • Frenzied Drake is a tech card against Shadow/Sword. The card can clear most midrange boards, and (most importantly) clears ambushed Gilnelise. Frenzied Drake is usually played in the Satan/Purevoiced Dragoon slot as a 1-of, and if Sword players keep cutting Chromatic Duel, the card could become a lot more common in the format.

Loathsome lavender lizard

Aside from optional tech cards, the single most impactful Dragon of the set is Vile Violet Dragon. Before the rotation, the primary source of card draw in Dragon decks used to be Purehearted Singer, however, there are no good neutral card draw options in the current Rotation format, so Vile Violet Dragon slots perfectly into the pre-existing Ramp Dragon shell, which already has plenty of activators for the thing. Most of the time, the play pattern with VVD is playing it on 5 mana (not necessarily on turn 5), and Evolving it into something to draw 2 cards. Cheap activators (Rending/Disciple) draw an extra 2-3 cards each. Drawing 4-5 cards for 6 is an extremely powerful midgame effect, especially since it comes with an almost vanilla-statted follower. There are a few points that should be mentioned in regard to this card:

  • Evolve points in Dragon are valuable and limited. It’s necessary to prioritize evolving VVD or other cards, based on the matchup and exact board state. For example, against Forest/Shadow, evolving Filene can help contest the board better; or if you have a specific curve in mind that is enabled by ramping an additional time, evolving Aiela over VVD can be correct. It is also occasionally correct to evolve followers at the opponent’s face since that makes them have less life, which is a highly advanced technique that is only apparent to extremely good players.
  • Masamune‘s “damage prevention and Rush” effect works with VVD and allows you to draw at least 2 cards if you’re out of activators and Evolve effects. It’s not quite the same tempo as Poseidon into Masamune, but VVD with a 2-drop into Masamune still clears most midrange boards, especially if the 2-drop is a Servant of Disdain, since you double down on the card draw.
  • Against evolved Cerberus, you can get multiple VVD triggers, similar to what used to happen before the Galmieux nerf.
  • “When damaged” effects don’t trigger when attacking Bane followers since the follower doesn’t survive. It’s a pretty obvious interaction, but I’ve seen a few players make that mistake at the start of the expansion.
  • Overdrawing cards doesn’t matter. It is a lot better to draw an extra card and burn 2-3 than not do so, since it gives you more options and most of the important cards (aside from Satan that you could need in specific matchups) are a 3-of. Drawing cards is better than not drawing cards, who would’ve thunk it?

Satan is bad

Satan is a bit of a controversial Dragon card, in more ways than one: firstly, it’s a huge value bomb that makes (most of) your consecutive draws a lot better; secondly, it’s a vanilla 7/7 for 9, and even in Ramp Dragon lists, unless you’ve ramped 2-3 times, the card can be stranded in your hand and more or less unplayable; lastly, the draw variance of the “Cocytus deck” is extremely high, so even if you play Satan without being under too much pressure, you can still sometimes draw poorly after the fact. Regarding the first point, decks that you need value bombs against are fairly uncommon in Shadowverse, and include decks like Ramp Dragon and Tenko Haven, so in that sense Satan is not great if the format doesn’t have a lot of Ramp Dragon presence. For this reason, Satan started out as an extremely popular card choice at the start of the expansion (due to how popular Dragon was) and slowly tapered off as the meta shifted to Rune/Sword. Regarding the “7/7 for 9” point, there are 2 aspects to this: on one hand, Satan is on average bad against a lot of decks like Manaria Rune and Midrange Sword/Shadow, but, on the other hand, if you’re having a high-roll ramp draw and play it on turn 6, it can close out games very quickly if you draw your deck in the right order.

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

  • Card draw: Infernal Surge (draw 3), Infernal Gaze (draw 1), Heavenfall (draw 1). These cards give you more options and are generally what you should play first on any turn that you get the chance to do so. Saving Infernal Gaze against Manaria Rune’s turn 10 usually gives you an extra turn, and you should save Heavenfall against problematic Amulets like Destruction in Black (Lishenna token); but aside from those cases, cycling cards is a lot better than not doing anything with your turn.
  • Cheap cards: Wrathful Icefiend (recovers 2 Evolve points) and Vicious Commander (Fanfare: deal 4 to a follower, Evolve: deal 6). The card draw effects are also low-cost, but these 2 cards generate a lot of proactive tempo for very little cost. The great thing about these cards is that you can weave them in with other cards you play, either to clear Wards or to use up the remaining cheap Dragon cards in your hand. Restoring 2 Evolve points is notable since it lets you send 2 more damage upstairs with most of the cards from the next category.
  • Face damage: Scorpion of Greed (7 damage Storm Drain), Flamelord of Deceit (5 damage Storm, banishes Amulets), Gluttonous Behemoth (7-9 damage at EoT) and Astroth’s Reckoning (1 damage off). These 4 cards are what you’re digging for if you’re not in an immediate danger of dying. Among them, the most efficient card by far is Scorpion of Greed, since it only costs 6 and also heals you for 7. Behemoth goes through Wards, which is often relevant against Manaria Rune. Astaroth’s Reckoning costs 10 and is generally not something that you look to play unless you’re not under any pressure and can set up a 2-turn lethal; or if your opponent doesn’t clear a Follower from your board or play any Wards for some reason. This category of cards is important to keep track of when playing Dragon or against Dragon, on one hand, so that you don’t run out of damage and have enough to close out the game (the entire Cocytus deck has 19 damage without using Evolve points for face damage, not counting Astaroth’s), which can be relevant in Dragon mirrors, and, on the other hand, so that you know what clock you’re on against Dragon.
  • AoE: Earthfall (destroys all non-Neutral followers) and Heretical Hellbeast (8/8 Ward, destroys all other followers, hits your face). These cards are what you’re trying to find against midrange decks. Heavenfall is a lot more efficient since it can be played with a Storm follower on the same turn, however, it can be awkward in Dragon mirrors since it doesn’t clear any of the Satan cards. Hellbeast is a lot slower and hits your face when played, however, it also puts a big Ward into play, preventing Storm damage from Ghosts in Shadow and various Storm cards in Sword. Since your opponent is generally incentivized to clear the Dragon player’s board (to play around Astaroth’s Reckoning) AoE cards are more or less one-sided.
  • Duds: Demon of Purgatory (discards a random card from the opponent) and Scion of Desire (destroys a random Follower and heals you at EoT). These cards are narrow in function and very high in variance. Scion of Desire can be situationally good in Dragon mirrors since you can set it up to not be random (against a single follower), but, against the vast majority of decks in the format, the card’s too unreliable to hit anything bigger than a 2/2. With that said, healing can be valuable against Blood/Rune, and Scion of Desire is one of the only 2 healing cards in the Cocytus deck. Demon of Purgatory is a 9/6 with a half of a Hymn to Tourach attached to it. Well, at least it’s not a Mind Rot. Demon of Purgatory can potentially snipe Anne’s Sorcery (or less commonly, Darkfeast Bat), but most Rune players are savvy enough to keep multiple cards in hand, and betting the outcome of a game on a 1/4 or 1/5 is wrong (unless it’s your only out).

All in all, Satan is an interesting, if greedy, inclusion in Ramp Dragon that changes how players approach that matchup with different deck archetypes. The presence of Satan in Dragon decks changes a few archetypes on a metagame level: e.g., since the Cocytus deck has a few different Amulet-banishing effects, it makes Lishenna, Tenko’s Shrine and Seraph decks so much less reliable; other deck archetypes are inclined to play cards that can either win out of hand with incremental Storm/burn damage or put a hard limit on the number of turns the game lasts (e.g. Anne’s Sorcery, Darkfeast Bat), which is a more of a general trend in Shadowverse, to be fair. As should be evident from my overly verbose summary of Satan in Ramp Dragon, I personally dislike Satan as a card due to how random it is, how reliant it is on the high-roll potential of Ramp Dragon (in family-friendly terms, on the so-called “Dragon nonsense”) and how the card limits the design space of finisher cards and expensive Amulets even further than Anne, Darkfeast Bat and Arcus/Ferry have already done. With that said, in my opinion, Satan is a perfectly balanced card and it does place an emphasis on the mechanical skill of playing Shadowverse (since you know exactly which cards are in the Dragon player’s deck), so there are definitely reasons to like the card’s influence on individual matches.

Ramp Dragon is the best-performing and (just barely) the most popular deck archetype of the format. The recent shift in the meta to Rune/Sword has led to a decline in Ramp Dragon popularity, since Rune (both Manaria and Burn builds) is a poor matchup for Dragon. Compared to Manaria Rune, the archetype does better against DFB Blood and other aggressive decks (which are not very popular at the moment). Ramp Dragon is comparable to swingy midrange decks like Midrange Sword/Shadow in terms of matchup polarity, so on paper, the archetype is less consistent than Manaria Rune, which is likely instrumental in its recent decline in popularity.

Manaria (a.k.a. Mysteria) Rune

Identifying cards: Tico, Grea, Ms. Miranda, Anne.
The provided deck skeleton includes Zealots of Truth, which I would consider a core card for the archetype, despite some lists not running Zealots. Some Mysteria Rune lists only include 2xGrea, Mysterian Dragoness, but it’s uncommon enough to the point of being considered suboptimal.

Mulligan priority

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

Manaria Rune mulligans are fairly straightforward, the idea here is to try and hit early discounts on Miranda (which is why you keep all the card draw). The best early game card in the deck is Owen, since it gives you the best probability of finding Miranda (up to 33% in Manaria-light lists). I’ve seen some arguments against keeping Knowledge when going first since 50% of the time you get a card that you don’t usually want to play on 2 (Missile), and I’m not sure if I agree with that point since tempo is so important in Shadowverse. Of course, it’s better to prioritize Insight over Knowledge, since it draws cards that you actually put in your deck, but I personally think that missing a turn 1 play is on average worse than getting an “extra” card in your opening hand.

What does Manaria Rune do?

Manaria Rune is a deck archetype that hasn’t changed all that much compared to its pre-rotation iteration, and it’s still a deck that revolves around discounting cards with Mysteria and Spellboost synergy. The deck has 2 primary win conditions: on one hand, it can curve out with Mysteria cards and build a wide board around turns 7-8 with a chain of Mirandas and Annes, which feed into themselves since they’re all Mysteria cards, and then try to push damage with Zealots of Truth. If that board gets answered (as it often does), then the win condition switches over to the “Anne’s Sorcery plan”, where you try to clear the board and stay alive and then use Anne’s Sorcery on your opponent’s face for lethal damage. When playing the deck or playing against it, it is imperative for both players to keep track of the total number of Mysteria cards played (shown in the “played cards” column) to know how much damage the Sorcery token deals, and (for the opponent of Manaria Rune) to have an estimate for the number of potential discounts on Miranda/Anne.

Manaria Rune skeleton

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Optional inclusions and tech cards

  • Zealot of Truth is technically an optional card that I personally consider core. The good thing about Zealot is that it’s not a Mysteria card and doesn’t dilute the Owen card pool, it helps push damage to get the opponent to Anne’s Sorcery range. The downside of Zealots is that the card can be a bit of a brick if you draw it too late.
  • Witch of Foresight is another optional card that many players consider core. It’s not quite as good as Owen, but it draws a card and can hit Fate’s Hand, Wind Blast and Fiery Embrace, which are all cards that benefit from being in your hand from early stages of the game.
  • Tico, Mysterian Spellnerd is an optional 3-drop that gets a Mysterian Circle when it dies, or Rite if it dies while evolved. Tico is a fine play on curve, however, the evolve effect has a lot of competition in a deck with Grea/Miranda, especially since it doesn’t get any stats when evolved (for some reason).
  • Eleanor is an optional 3-drop that makes Zealots better. The card is similar to Grea in a lot of ways, but doesn’t discount Mysteria cards and is better outside of evolve turns.
  • Nova Flare is a tech card against Forest/Sword/Shadow. Nova Flare is a dead draw in a lot of other matchups, but it does help shore up Rune’s inherent weakness to wide boards.
  • Truth’s Adjudication is a tech card against Rune/Blood. Adjudication is the only playable healing Rune card and is valuable for getting out of lethal range. The downsides of the card are its high cost (meaning it can be a bit of a brick) and the random variance, the latter of which is covered in the Addendum.
  • Seraphic Blade is a tech card against Blood/Haven to deal with evolved Vira and Temple of the Holy Lion.
  • Sweet-Tooth Medusa is a (very slow) tech card against Dragon. The effect is similar to Adjudication, but instead of healing/face damage, you get a 3-for-1 trade if the card is spellboosted enough. There aren’t a lot of cards that can clear a Poseidon and put a body into play, but Medusa can do just that. Sometimes.
  • Craving’s Splendor is an optional inclusion in Zealot lists that helps push face damage or can be played as a 3-cost removal spell in the early game. 4 damage for 3 is a decent breakpoint (comparable to Fran), especially if the 4 damage can (sometimes) go face.
  • Lyrial and Palla are both (suboptimal) tech cards for the Manaria Rune mirror. The problem with Manaria mirrors is that they often come down to which player went first since they get to turn 10 first to cast Anne’s Sorcery. Palla can discount Anne’s Sorcery token to 9, and Lyrial can make you immune to spell damage for a turn. The problem with both of those cards is that they’re bad on curve, bad against non-Rune (and non-Blood, alright) decks, and don’t address the board in any way. Adjudication does very similar things and is better against a broader swathe of decks.
  • Investigation and Peacemancer are optional 2-cost spells played in the Witch of Foresight slot. Since these cards are spells, they spellboost your hand. Imagine drawing a card for 2 and not contesting the board with a powerful 1/2 body. (This card discussion was brought to you by the Witch of Foresight gang)

Miscellaneous notes

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

  • Against Ramp Dragon, the main difference compared to how this matchup was played pre-expansion is made by Satan. Satan itself is not too threatening since you usually have enough removal to keep up with tall followers, however, there are 3 key cards in the Cocytus deck that you should be aware of. Firstly, there’s Astaroth’s Reckoning. It’s not usually possible to play around the 2-turn setup of Astaroth’s into Behemoth, but the general point is that you have to set up Wards either after Astaroth’s or to contest the opponent’s followers so that you’re not dead to Astaroth’s on board. The other card that you should be aware of is Infernal Gaze, which makes Anne’s Sorcery unplayable. The counterplay to that is to keep a 0-cost Anne in hand, since then it doesn’t get affected. Generally, it’s incorrect to do so, since it doesn’t put a 4/4 into play, but if you have enough damage to burn the opponent through a 7-point heal (from Scorpion of Greed), it can be the correct line of play. The last card that can occasionally blow you out is Demon of Purgatory, which you play around by having more than 3 cards in hand. Or by picking a second Anne’s Sorcery, if you’re feeling that unlucky.
  • Against Sword, it’s important to keep track of how much Storm damage you can take, which basically comes down to playing as many Wards as you can around turns 7-9. In the MidSword matchup, the Sword player is the beatdown, and as a Rune player, you have to play defensively until you can establish a tempo lead. A small thing to keep track of is the Blazing Lion Admiral breakpoint, so, for example, if the Sword player has 3 1/1s in play and is at exactly 12 dead followers, it’s correct to leave a 1/1 up so that the Admiral doesn’t come out next turn to push damage through your Wards, and push one extra damage with the Admiral buff with Dragon Knights, Quickbladers, Beatrix, etc. It’s a fairly rare scenario (since leaving 2 1/1s is not worth it), but keeping track of the “Admiral quest” is a practice that will make you play better against Sword regardless of what deck you’re playing, so it’s a good habit to get into.
  • Against Shadow, a thing to look out for is, of course, the Gilnelise 15-damage burst on 10, which you can play around by either playing Wards or not going second (like a bad player), as well as the (this primarily applies to post-Arcus stage of the game), “Nicola quest” progress. If the Shadow player is around 16-ish total Shadows, it’s possible for the Shadow player to set up a 13-14 damage turn with Nicola’s spell token as early as turn 8, so try to play Adjudication or generic Wards to play around that. Generally, this matchup should be Rune-favored so long as the Shadow player doesn’t get an early lead since Mysteria Rune builds a wide board around turn 7, which usually doesn’t give the MidShadow player enough breathing room to play Arcus or Gilnelise.

Addendum: Adjudication probabilities

Below is a simple chart presenting the probability of getting any of the 3 outcomes from Adjudication depending on the total number of times the card was Spellboosted. The number of Spellboosts can be adjusted with the slider in the upper right corner, ranging from 1 to 30. If you manage to go over 30 Spellboosts with a Mysteria Rune list, feel free to send a replay either to Shisogenius#1155 on Discord or through our contact page (does it actually work?), so that the chart can be expanded to accommodate for your record.

Mysteria Rune is the second best-performing deck in the Rotation format and is very close to being the most consistent deck of the format in terms of matchup polarity, mainly because the deck has the same game plan regardless of what it’s playing against. The deck is favored against the 2 most popular archetypes of the format aside from it, Ramp Dragon and Midrange Sword. The weaknesses of the archetypes include aggressive strategies and burn damage, which are a part of such as DFB Blood, Aggro Forest and (Orichalcum Golem) Burn Rune.

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

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

Mulligan priority

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

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

Optional inclusions and tech cards

  • Goblins are an optional card that make the archetype more aggressive. Goblins are good against Sword/Rune since they contest the board and push early damage, but the card is often fairly low-impact and mediocre against Dragon. In my opinion, with the current meta trend, Goblins seem like a necessary inclusion.
  • Beastfaced Mage and Rabbit Mage are both slightly worse Silent Laboratories that usually compete for the same card slot. Personally, BFM seems like the better option of the two, since Rabbit Mage has a worse statline and is worse than Beastfaced Mage in the midgame, since you usually can’t help having an Earth Sigil in play. Rabbit Mage is better on curve, and is a lot cuter.
  • Chain Lightning and Veridic Ritual are both optional burn spells that compete for the same card slot. Chain Lightning isn’t conditional. Veridic Discovery does the same amount of damage, can be split over 2 turns (e.g. you can Discovery on turn 3 and save the Ritual for later), but does eat up an Earth Sigil. Discovery is better in games when you can’t find Golem and getting flooded with Earth Sigils without any payoff.
  • Slumbering Calamity has a similar function to Staff of Whirlwinds, but is a lot slower as an AoE effect, especially since it isn’t affected by the Mysteria leader effect. 4 damage is an awkward breakpoint since it doesn’t clear things like Gilnelise, Zealots of Truth and Poseidon. On turn 3, a 4/3 Ward isn’t particularly impactful either. I personally think that Calamity is a poor inclusion for the archetype.

What does Burn Rune do?

Believe it or not, Burn Rune is a Rune deck that uses burn spells combined with the extra spell damage effect from Mysteria, Magic Founder, to deal damage to the opponent. The aforementioned burn spell include Veridic Ritual(s), Orichalcum Golem’s Accelerate effect, as well as miscellaneous “ping” effects that happen to get amplified with the extra spell damage effect, namely Grand Spire, Magic Missile, Vesper and Staff of Whirlwinds.

Miscellaneous notes

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

Addendum: Orichalcum Golem damage

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

Burn Rune as a deck that preys on the 2 most popular archetypes of the format (Manaria Rune and Ramp Dragon), but struggles against midrange decks that can build a wide board such as Midrange Sword/Shadow. The archetype is also slower than DFB Blood and can’t deal with Lion boards, so the archetype isn’t particularly viable in a tournament environment, especially in an environment with open decklists (unlike ladder, where there is some surprise factor of queuing into Rune and seeing a Goblin on turn 1). With that said, Burn Rune is a surprisingly potent ladder deck since it has a linear game plan, is fairly straightforward to play and does well against Mysteria Rune. If Sword becomes more popular, Burn Rune is naturally going to perform worse, but so long as there’s enough Rune/Dragon in the format, Burn Rune is going to continue being a viable “off-meta” Rune build.

Spellboost Rune

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

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

Midrange Sword

Mulligan priority

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

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

Optional inclusions and tech cards

  • Blazing Lion Admiral is an optional inclusion that vastly improves slower midrange matchups like MidShadow. The Admiral changes the priority for a few cards in the standard Sword builds, namely, it makes cards like Oathless Knight/Latham (and 1-drops) better since they add to the Admiral counter. Partly because of that (and prevalence of Rune/Dragon), Servant of Usurpation has been pushed out of MidSword lists. Most lists include 2-3 copies of Admiral, having 2 copies reduces the odds of naturally drawing the card from your deck; having 3 gives additional value in slower games since you often get to pull multiple copies from your deck.. Sage Commander is a pretty terrible card by 2019 standards, even if it comes pre-equipped with Gilded Boots, but if you never have to pay for it, the effect is a lot better.
  • Goblins and Lucius, in an ironic twist of fate, are optionally played for much the same reason: they come into play on turn 1 and hit the opponent for 1 damage for a few turns in Rune/Dragon matchups. Goblins trade better, but lack (the fairly unimportant) Cavalier/Latham synergy. Lucius has an Enhance ability that is moderately useful against Dragon. Goblins are stupid, but they’re not fools, as they say.
  • Frontline Ramparts is a tech card for the Rune matchup, since it effectively gives access to 3 face damage over 3 turns. Ramparts also speed up the Admiral counter since the card generates 4 followers.
  • Zeta is a tech option against Rune/Dragon that gives the archetype slightly more reach. Zeta is pretty mediocre against decks that generate wide boards (MidShadow/Aggro Forest/Artifact Portal) since it at most trades 1-for-1, and Beatrix can get blocked by Wards. I personally think that Zeta is too slow to be played as more than a 1-of, and even against Rune, Beatrix often can’t connect with the opponent’s face.
  • Token-generating cards like Ascetic Knight and Goblin Fighter improve the speed of the “Admiral quest” and improve midrange matchups like Sword mirrors and Midrange Shadow. I personally think that both of these cards are a little overkill, and Shadow already feels fairly favored, so teching for it doesn’t make sense.
  • Axe Princess is a fun little build-around card that draws a card with Rapier Master and Lucius. Having a 1/1 on turn 1 with small upside (draws with Rapier Master on curve) is not that unreasonable, especially since the thing often sticks around.

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What does Midrange Sword do?

Midrange Sword is a deck archetype centered around playing efficient Sword followers. The defining characteristic of Sword, compared to other midrange classes, is the abundance of 1-drops, flexible Enhance and Accelerate effects that allow the archetype to not lose out on card advantage, as well as a few minor sub-themes. One of the sub-themes is the “Loot” mechanic, seen on cards like Usurping Spineblade/X of Usurpation, which generate random 1-cost Spell token as a form of quasi-card advantage with some board control-centric payoff when used with Apostle of Usurpation. The second sub-theme of the archetype is Latham, which has synergy with Rush/Storm followers, 1-drops and tokens that generate 1-cost Knights. The third (somewhat optional) Sword sub-theme is the inclusion of Blazing Lion Admiral, which incentivizes the inclusion of token generating effects. The card can swing midrange matchups around turns 9-10, as well as push face damage with Storm followers. When playing against MidSword, it is important to keep track of the exact number of dead followers in order to prepare a response against Admiral.

Compared to other midrange decks in the format, Sword has the best early game of any of the midrange decks, and despite the recent cutthroat direction the class is taking, Midrange Sword still packs enough value to outvalue slower archetypes due to having various Enhance effects, Valse and late-game board swing potential with Admiral. While there are decks in the format that are more or less impossible for midrange decks to outvalue (Manaria Rune) and decks that have way better card quality (Ramp Dragon), Sword is still regarded by many players as the premier midrange deck.

Miscellaneous notes

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

  • Aether of the Warrior Wing frees up a lot of room in standard Sword lists since it allows you to specifically play a 1-of Frontline Cavalier. Aether is a poor play on turns 4-6 since it draws Admiral which you’d much rather have stay in the deck. Playing Aether on turn 7 or later reliably tutors out Latham, in a similar fashion to Lux.
  • As mentioned earlier, recent Sword lists are on a gradual trend of becoming more and more aggressive, the reason for that is the prevalence of Mysteria Rune, an archetype that has significantly better swing turns and limits the length of the game to 10 turns. The Rune matchup is quite miserable for Sword, and the only way to win this matchup as Sword is to push enough damage and close out the game around turn 9. In order to do so, it’s often correct to save cards like Usurping Spineblade and Valse bullets to clear Wards in the later stages of the game and push damage with Storm follower(s). Having a 1-drop, evolving at the opponent’s face (particularly relevant with Leod), using Gilded Necklaces and Apostle of Usurpation for 1 face damage are all factors that can make the difference between winning and losing against Rune. Remember the fundamental rule of playing Swordcraft: if you hit your opponent in the face, they have less life!
  • Against Dragon, the game comes down to dodging a few “pitfalls”, which include the Vile Violet Dragon turn and not giving it good targets to Evolve into, playing around Enhanced Galmieux (by evolving your Followers to reduce the impact of the 1-damage AoE and/or saving a Magnus), as well as not overextending into Poseidon+Masamune.
  • In Sword mirrors, it is important to keep track of the Admiral count for both players, mainly to know which one of you can get it into play first. If you’re on track to getting it earlier than your opponent, you can play more aggressively and take fewer trades, since the player that is behind on the “Admiral quest” is inclined to clear the board to reduce the impact of the Admiral buff.

Midrange Sword is an archetype that excels at dealing with other midrange decks such as Midrange Shadow and Lion Haven. Due to the inherently aggressive nature of the class and Chromatic Duel giving immunity to spell damage, the deck does well against damage-based board clears, present in decks such as DFB Blood (Evil Eye Demon) and (Golem) Burn Rune. The archetype struggles against Manaria Rune and Ramp Dragon, 2 of the most popular archetypes of the format, so despite its well-rounded matchup spread, MidSword is actually not the best-performing midrange deck of the format (that would be Midrange Shadow). With that said, Midrange Sword is one of the better decks in the format for both ladder and tournament play due to being proactive and extremely flexible.

Midrange Shadow

Mulligan priority

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

The general mulligan strategy for Midrange Shadow is to try and get an early game start that would allow you to get to the Lady Grey/Orthrus/Cerberus turns. Most of the Shadow 2-drops are quite mediocre on curve (aside from Manifest Malice, which is not really a proactive 2-drop), and it’s generally not that great to play things like Nicola on 2, since it sets you back in terms of tempo too much. Since Shadow lists are a little all over the place, the best 2-drops to keep depend on the exact list, but generally, having a vanilla 2/2 on 2 is good enough. Unconditional Evolve effects (Osiris is active on curve most of the time, and even if it isn’t, it often cycles a card) help you to curve out into Cerberus. Against Rune/Dragon, getting a 1/1 into play on turn 1 pushes 3-4 points of damage and demands an (eventual) answer, especially if the 1/1 is Gremory, that could start getting card draw in the midgame.

Optional inclusions and tech cards

  • Various proactive 2-drops, which include Neutral cards such as Goblin Fighter, Paradise Vanguard, Happy Pig and Ephemera, as well as some of the worse class-specific 2-drops like Buffalo Bones and Danua. Shadow doesn’t have enough playable 2-drops, so including 1-2 playsets of some of these cards is a necessary evil. In my experience, the best options are Buffalo Bones and Goblin Fighter. Buffalo Bones works awkwardly with Arcus due to its Enhance cost; and Goblin Fighter trades poorly against Sword and draws a bad card 50% of the time. The 2-drops in MidShadow don’t make me happy and I’m not sure what the optimal build is.
  • Zebet and Osiris are optional 4-drops that compete for the same card slot. I generally find Zebet too random and bad at trading (since a 4/4 post-evolve lines up poorly against Grea/Aiela/Vile Violet Dragon/etc), but it does give more value and healing. Osiris is better tempo and can often cycle a card “for free”. Since I’ve been aggressively mulliganning for 1-drops, I’ve found Osiris to perform very well as a 2-of. On paper, Osiris is bad against Sword, but since a lot of Sword lists are cutting Octrice, Osiris is made better by proxy.
  • Cheap Burial Rite-based cycling effects like Gloomy Necro and Everdark Strix are an optional inclusion that helps against Dragon. Shadow has a lot of redundant followers like Nicola, Arcus and Goblin Leader (from Goblin Fighter), that you can dump to draw actual cards from your deck. As a bonus, these cards also generate extra Shadows, which helps with the Nicola plan and makes Osiris/Orthrus/Fran easier to activate.
  • A similar card to the previous section is Death’s Mistress, which cycles 2 dead cards (itself and something else), but doesn’t develop the board. Mistress can also be played to set up lethal with Ferry in a similar fashion to Gilnelise. Unlike Gilnelise, this thing doesn’t draw into the other pieces of the combo, but it does 18 with just an active Ferry, without any additional buffs.
  • Big Soul Hunter is an anti-Dragon tech card. Has very few targets against Manaria Rune.

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What does Midrange Shadow do?

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

This better not be a second「Fallen Empires」reference

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

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

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

Miscellaneous notes

  • A card that I personally vastly overestimated after the initial set reveal is Zebet. That is not to say that Zebet is bad or anything, but the extreme variance on Zebet’s Evolve effect can cost you matches if you get unlucky and roll a 2/3 instead of a 4/4. Zebet is a little awkward, since on every single turn that you could play it efficiently, there are better things to be doing, e.g. on turn 4 when going first, you’d rather play Orthrus, and on turn 5 you’d much rather play Cerberus; on turn 7 it’s better to play Arcus or, if you’re really ahead Gremory/Gilnelise. Zebet is decent when going second and is a fine play against midrange decks if you get to turn 10 without Arcus. On turn 10, Zebet summons 3 different beetleborgs, which means that you have a 67.23% probability of getting the 4/3 Ambush, which does 18 damage with a Ferry into Gremory/Gilnelise combo, similarly to the regular Gilnelise setup. Getting to turn 11 is a very rare event in [CURRENT YEAR] Shadowverse, but it’s not really that improbable either.
  • Since Shadow lists now often include Goblins and Goblin Fighters, a card that has gotten a lot better is Osiris, since it’s more or less guaranteed to Reanimate 2 different things. In addition to that, even though it makes for an awkward curve (somewhat works when going first), Buffalo Bones also puts a 1-drop into the Osiris revive pool.
  • A small interaction that has gotten a lot more significant after all the Shadow card draw rotated out is drawing cards with Gremory, meaning that you can save a Gremory in hand (or hope that it sticks around from an earlier turn) to draw a card for 1 mana on an evolve turn. This has become more notable recently since against decks like Manaria Rune it is more or less impossible to keep a board around and you don’t really get the leisure of playing Gremory for 7 pre-Arcus.
  • There’s also a slight change to how Cerberus is played. Against Dragon, it is dangerous to evolve the main Cerberus body since you can give away a lot of card advantage to the opponent if the 1-damage pings land on Vile Violet Drake, so it’s better to evolve one of the dogs if the board state allows for it. In a similar vein, against DFB Blood, it is often correct to evolve the 2/1 token to kill it off during your turn, since doing otherwise makes Darkfeast Bat/Evil Eye Demon do 1 extra damage, but more importantly, gives away an extra proc for Flauros, potentially enabling the Invocation effect when it wasn’t possible otherwise. Without Snarling Chains, Flauros has one less cheap activator, and giving your opponent a free 5/3 is worse than not doing so.

Midrange Shadow is (just barely) the best-performing midrange deck in the format. MidShadow is slightly unfavored against the 3 most popular decks in the format, Ramp Dragon, Manaria Rune and Midrange Sword, but all 3 of those matchups are still close to a 45/55. The archetype does well against burn-based decks like Burn Rune and DFB Blood because it has a few tempo-efficient healing cards like Lady Grey, Cerberus and occasionally even Gilnelise, which also contribute to building wide, difficult-to-answer boards. MidShadow is a decent ladder deck, however, it sees little success in tournament play since it gets outperformed by Sword and, to an extent, Portal/Blood, against the field where Sword/Rune are as popular as they are.

Artifact Portal

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

Mulligan priority

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

The mulligan strategy for Artifact Portal hasn’t really changed since the release of the Chronogenesis expansion, and involves trying to find one of your win conditions (Deus or Lishenna) while cycling through your deck with the Artifact-fetching cards like Fervent Machine Soldier. I’m personally not too sure of when it is correct to keep Alterplane Onslaught, I usually don’t keep it unless there’s a very specific line of play that enables it to draw 2 cards on turn 4, since Resonance is only active on even turns when going second, and if you switch the Resonance state by drawing an extra (Artifact) card when going first, then you’re likely to only have 1 Artifact in your deck on 4. Alterplane Onslaught works fine if you don’t have a better play on 4 (Lishenna/Icarus).

Optional inclusions and tech cards

  • Lishenna is an optional card that I personally consider a staple of the archetype. Artifact Portal traditionally has a problem of not drawing into Deus and running out of steam even in matchups where it’s supposed to be favored, and Lishenna remedies that by being a secondary win condition that doesn’t technically require Deus to function. Other “greedy” cards that compete for the “Lishenna slot” include Enervating Mail and Hakrabi, and none of these cards can function independently in the same way Lishenna does.
  • Mech Wing Swordsman/Angel of the Iron Steed/Cat Cannoneer are all optional cards that improve the early game consistency of drawing Artifacts with Fervent/Alterplane Onslaught. In my opinion, Angel of the Iron Steed is the best option of the 3 since it’s the best proactive play and puts really good early Artifacts into your deck. Sworsman is a card that I personally dislike due to its random nature. I find it difficult to keep track of the exact artifacts remaining in my deck with Swordsman lists. Long story short, I don’t like taking notes during my games and I tend to forget what got shuffled into the deck, so Mech Wing Swordsman is a detrimental card for mediocre players such as myself. Cat Cannoneer is decent against Sword, but shuffling a lot of Ancient Artifacts early on can be dangerous since you run out of gas easily, especially without Deus.
  • Substitution is a tech card against Shadow/Sword/Forest.
  • Nilpotent Entity is a tech card against DFB Blood and Manaria Rune. The problem with it is that it doesn’t address the board state and doesn’t prevent incremental burn damage, and is a dead draw in a deck that already has 12-15 of those in the early game, but a 1-of Nilpotent Entity is an okay tech choice.

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What does Artifact Portal do?

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

Miscellaneous notes

  • Alterplane Onslaught is a card that has for the most part replaced Hakrabi in previous builds of Artifact Portal. The fact that it costs 1 less, doesn’t require a board slot or an Evolve point to have immediate board impact make the archetype a lot more consistent post-Deus. The neat thing about Onslaught/Hakrabi is that the card always leaves you in Resonance once it resolves, which matters for cards like Miriam and the Deus redraw. On top of that, since it is a Banish effect, Onslaught has also somewhat freed up the Substitution card slot, which has always been a fairly low-impact (but still powerful) card in Artifact lists. The current build of Artifact Portal is the strongest and the most consistent the archetype has ever been and will ever in the future, since after Chronogenesis rotates out, roughly 20 cards from a standard Artifact Portal list are going to rotate out, including cards like Deus, Fervent Machine Soldier, Icarus, Hamelin, Biofab, Metaproduction, Acceleratium, Swordsman, Hakrabi, Safira, etc. As good as Alterplane Onslaught is, the card is likely the swan song of the Artifact Portal archetype as we know it.
  • Lishenna can get a little tricky with Deus since one of those cards requires you to keep a thing in your hand for a while and the other discards your hand every turn. I’ve found that in a lot of matchups it’s instrumental to identify which win condition of the two you intend to go with (depending on the draw), and if Lishenna is the answer, then it’s fine to hold on to Deus until turns 8 or 9. Even if you play Deus on curve after Lishenna, there are still ways to hold on to the Lishenna wincon; the most common of which is the following: discount Destruction in White until it’s cheap enough to play, and then use Biofabrication to put extra copies of Destruction in Black into your deck. With Acceleratium discounts and the Deus, it is usually possible to redraw into a 7-card hand with a couple of Artifacts and Destruction in Black, use Ancient/Analyzing Artifacts to discount it to lower the cost to 5-6 and then play it. Doing so puts your opponent on a 2- (or sometimes even 1-) turn clock and still sufficiently answers the board state. Once you get to your turn, you have free reign to play Radiant Artifacts, hopefully closing out the game. It should also be noted that both of the Lishenna tokens are Artifacts, so they refund 1 play point with Deus/Acceleratium, which can open up some sequencing opportunities with 1-cost Artifacts.
  • Against Sword, the Lishenna win condition is a little unreliable because of Valse, but the Sword matchup should be winnable even if the Lishenna plan fails and rarely comes down to a value game. Aside from that, when playing against Ramp Dragon, Satan can sometimes also answer the Lishenna plan, but it’s generally too slow to do so and there’s only 2/13 cards that do so in the Cocytus deck, so the Dragon player either has to get a lot of early ramp or get extremely lucky to get there.

Artifact Portal does fairly well against the 5 most common archetypes of the format (Manaria Rune, Ramp Dragon, MidSword/Shadow and DFB Blood), and despite its medium overall winrate, the archetype has one of the lowest matchup polarity of any deck in the game, meaning that its game plan doesn’t really depend on the matchup, which makes Artifact Portal a good (if a little slow and difficult to pilot) deck for both ladder and tournament play. On top of that, Artifact Portal is a very inexpensive deck to play since it only requires a playset of Deus and 1-2 Lishennas to be competitive. It’s not quite as cheap as Manaria Rune, but it doesn’t use any expensive cards from the newer sets aside from Lishenna (which is somewhat optional).

Puppet and Lishenna Portal

Identifying cards (tempo-centric Puppet lists): Goblin, Sylvia, Silva, Ardent Sniper, Lococo, Rukina of the Resistance, Cucouroux, Spinaria, Gilnelise.
Identifying cards (Lishenna-centric builds): Joy of Destruction, Inspired Inventor, Disciple of Destruction, Puppet Room, Windup, Apostle of Destruction, Destructive Refrain.
Note: decklists for the non-Artifact Portal lists are presented in the Artifact Portal tab menu as the last few lists.

What does Puppet Portal do?

(Tempo) Puppet Portal is an aggressive tempo-centric Portal archetype centered around the synergy between Silva, Ardent Sniper‘s Accelerate effect and Rush followers (namely Puppets and evolved followers). A defining card of the archetype is Sylvia, a card that uses up an Evolve point for a massive tempo advantage against board-centric decks like MidSword/Shadow. A variation of the archetype that uses a minimalistic Artifact package (Icarus/Miriam/Fervent/Spinaria) is what I’d personally call “Tempo Portal”, and lists with Flower Doll/Lococo/Rukina/Gilnelise/Orchis is what is commonly described as “Puppet Portal”.

What does Lishenna Portal do?

Lishenna Portal is an offshoot of the Puppet Portal build that omits cards like Cucouroux, Silva and Sylvia in order to include cards that work better with the Lishenna win condition, which includes “X of Destruction” cards as well as Destructive Refrain/Inventor to get additional payoff. The weakness of the deck is its poor card draw and the fact that the deck doesn’t really function without an early Lishenna. The advantage of dedicated Lishenna lists is that it can complete the “Lishenna quest” a lot faster than other Portal decks due to abundant Puppet generation effects and effects like Junk/Puppet Room which give multiple discounts each.

Reported Portal games which can be distinguished as the (Tempo) Puppet and Lishenna Portal are comprised of Shadowlog buckets #82r and #87r, which are lumped together as “Puppet Portal” in my statistics due to the likely possibility of Puppet Portal games being misreported as Lishenna Portal and vice-versa. The combined sample size for these deck archetypes is fairly low overall, so it’s difficult to gauge the actual power level of the archetypes, but judging from the (extremely low) level of success these archetypes see in tournament play, these types of decks appear to not be very competitive. Inherent weaknesses of these decks appear to be the more proactive midrange decks like MidSword and Shadow (in part due to Valse being so effective against Lishenna decks). Personally, I haven’t been able to find a well-tested decklist for any of these archetypes, and even if such a list was there, the overall viability of the archetypes is dubious at best.

In addition to that, the archetype category of “Aggro Portal” likely refers to the same type of tempo-centric Puppet decks, as it is consistent the combined “Puppet Portal” category in most of its matchups. I’m not entirely sure how to interpret it at this point.

Darkfeast Bat (DFB) Blood

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

Mulligan Priority

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

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

Optional inclusions and tech cards

  • Disciple of Lust is a (somewhat ubiquitous) tech card against Rune/Dragon. The card usually does more than a Goblin would, since it not only does an extra point of damage when it dies, but also starts increasing the DFB/EED/Valnareik counts with each attack. Naturally, the card also helps Invoke an early Flauros as well. I personally think that 3xDisciple is a necessity in the current format, even though it’s not great against Sword.
  • Kiss of Lust is a tech card against Sword and DFB Blood mirrors. The card is highly efficient at clearing 2-drops, but has the unfortunate side effect of healing both players for 1. Kiss of Lust is kind of a direct replacement for the rotated Snarling Chains, but, Kiss is obviously a lot lower in impact and doesn’t advance your win condition. I don’t think Kiss is the best card for that slot, but it’s a fine 1-of or even a 2-of if you’re playing against a lot of proactive decks.
  • Apostle of Lust is a tech card against Dragon and a replacement for the rotated Purehearted Singer. Card draw in Blood is difficult to come by, and Apostle is the third best class card with that function. Apostle of Lust is neat against Dragon since it’s a 5/4 with full Evolve stats, which lines up nicely against Vile Violet Dragon/Galmieux, draws 2 cards and does 1 point of chip damage. Apostle is quite slow and works poorly against midrange classes like Sword/Shadow since those usually have multiple followers in play in the midgame, and cards like Celia in particular are great against Apostle because of the 1/1 Ward.
  • Diabolus Agito is a very bad highly optional Blood 5-drop that can save Evolve points which are very valuable for the archetype. The problem with Diabolus Agito is that it doesn’t really help with the game plan of the deck, and is (for the most part) a vanilla Rush follower. The destruction immunity can be relevant against Bane followers and Fiery Embrace or Valse bullets, but the card generally lines up poorly against most playable 5-drops in the format. 4 damage is an awkward breakpoint in the midgame, since a lot of followers that you’d want to clear at that point are either 5/5s (Cerberus/Galmieux/Ms. Miranda) or even 6/6s (Vile Violet Dragon). Diabolus Agito sees occasional play as a 1-of in the Apostle/Kiss of Lust slot.

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What does DFB Blood do?

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

Miscellaneous notes

  • Before the expansion, Darkfeast Bat used to be an extremely optimized deck, to the point where a significant percentage of Blood players used the same exact 40 cards. After Singer and Snarling Chains rotated out, the archetype now has a few card slots open, and there is no exact consensus on what the optimal DFB Blood list looks like anymore (which is a good thing, of course, since variety is generally a good thing for the health of the game).
  • There isn’t a whole lot to say about DFB Blood apart from what was said in the previous reports, and even the individual matchup percentages have remained very consistent with December data, however the Manaria Rune matchup has become more difficult for Blood after the patch since Rune decks now get a lot more Wards and a Valnareik+Wings of Lust isn’t as much of a death sentence for Rune as it used to be previously, because there’s usually 2 or more Wards in play at that point. The matchup is still Blood-favored, but it does feel a lot more manageable as the Rune player.
  • While this is not directly related to the DFB Blood, there has been some minor experimentation with “Handbuff Blood”, a deck that tries to utilize Vuella/Furfur to increase damage of Storm followers like Savage Wolf, Dark General and Milnard. At present, there isn’t enough support in the Rotation format for this type of deck, partly because of the Vengeance activators (Waltz/Narmaya) being so mediocre, but there are Aggro Blood builds based on the previous OBK Blood shell which can fit in, well, Old Blood King itself, Savage Wolf and Imp Lancer as the payoff effects for the “handbuff” followers.

Darkfeast Bat is an archetype that traditionally does well against Rune and can manage the Dragon matchup, but struggles against midrange decks like MidSword/Shadow. This trend has remained consistent after the expansion, however, due to the increased popularity of Sword, DFB Blood’s performance has become worse, both in terms of overall winrate and matchup polarity. At the time of writing, an incredible coincidence is that Blood has an exact 553/553 recorded win/loss record against Ramp Dragon, meaning an exact 50% winrate. This metric will likely shift overtime, however, the December aggregate shows a 49.81% winrate, with a very similar sample size, so the 50% number is (probably) not actually that far from the truth.

Aggro Forest

Identifying cards: Goblin, Leaf Man, Lyria, Gilnelise.

Mulligan Priority

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

Aggro Forest is a deck that wants to establish the board in the early game, which can be achieved by starting the game with a 1-drop, and trying to buff your board on turn 4 with either Lily or Lila. Liza is one of the best cards in the deck since it usually fetches an additional Liza and makes it so the deck doesn’t run of resources. Keeping generic 2-drops is not that important since roughly half of the deck consists of 2-drops and shouldn’t really be a big priority.

Optional inclusions and tech cards

  • The 3 cards that can be rotated in and out of Aggro Forest lists are Tia, Sylvan Justice, Rayne and Leaf Man. The first 3 depend on how much Sword/Shadow you’re facing, if you’re seeing a lot of Sword/Shadow, then Sylvan Justice/Rayne get better, if you’re seeing a lot of Rune/Dragon, then Tia slightly improves the percentages there. Leaf Man is a pretty specific tech card against Dragon that lets you play around Galmieux and push damage at the same time.
  • A single impactful 4-drop like Licoris or Metera are a potential inclusion if you want the deck to have a little extra oomph against midrange classes like Sword and Shadow. The downside of doing so is that it breaks the “Liza loop” and makes it so you have less gas in longer games.
  • Since Aggro Forest can’t include any Forest followers that cost more than 3, it’s difficult to find any other card that one would want to play. Some potential options can include Badb Catha (since it’s Neutral and works with the strategy), Fairy Circle (fairly mediocre since it’s not an actual 1-drop) and card draw options like Ward of Unkilling, which are not terribly necessary with the “Liza loop”.

What does Aggro Forest do?

Aggro Forest is a deck archetype that attempts to seize the board control in the early game, and then buff the board with either Lily, Lila‘s Enhance effect, Leaf Man, or even Gilnelise in the late stages of the game. The defining characteristic of the archetype compared to other decks with a similar game plan is the “Liza loop“, which means that the deck is built in such a way that Liza always draws into another Liza when it dies. The “Liza loop” is a quite substantial deckbuilding limitation, but the payoff is significant enough to make it worthwhile. Aggro Forest is a deck that exists to punish slower decks that don’t include AoE and midrange decks that can’t deal with boards full of 1/1s.

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Aggro Forest

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Midrange Forest

Identifying cards (Tempo): Fairy Circle, Luxglaive Bayle, Godhunter Selwyn, Yggdrasil.
Identifyings cards (Korwa): Forest Defender, Fount of Angels, Craving’s Splendor, White Vanara, Korwa, Nelcha.
Identifying cards (shared): Metera, Lycoris, Gilnelise.

There are 2 primary types of Midrange Forest decks, either ones with a focus of token generation, that enables Bayles, which can be categorized as (Tempo) Midrange Forest decks; or decks that have various payoff effects for buff cards, centered around Korwa, Ravishing Designer.

What does (Tempo) Midrange Forest do?

Tempo Forest lists have an early game build that is extremely similar to Aggro Forest, and try to get an early board advantage with low-cost followers and board buffs. Since the early game is weaker than what you’d see in Aggro Forest, the archetype has a fallback plan focused around discounting Luxglaive Bayle and getting another powerful tempo swing in the midgame. Some lists also include Yggdrasil, that enables the archetype to have an OTK setup with the 0-cost Bayles, Lila/Lily buffs and Wrath of Nature. These types of Midrange Forest decks usually get outperformed by Shadow/Sword decks, as well as its Aggro counterpart.

What does Korwa Forest do?

Midrange Forest builds focused around follower buffs are built around a card called Forest Defender, which deals 2 damage to all enemy followers whenever it gets buffed, which gets enabled by Korwa tokens and Lila. The archetype can also get up to even more monkey business with White Vanara, that gets Storm whenever it puts on a dress (?). In addition to that, Craving’s Splendor is also a card that works well with White Vanara (or Gilnelise), resulting in 9 (or 7) Storm (or Ambush/Drain) damage. The awkward part about Korwa Forest is that the deck doesn’t really have a good finisher, and while Forest Defender is good, 2 damage isn’t really enough to clear a lot of Sword/Rune boards without a second activation, so it gives most decks in the format enough time to do whatever their wincondition is. Personally, I find Korwa Forest to be a very mysterious archetype. The two questions that pop into my mind whenever I queue into Korwa are “how is this deck supposed to win games?” and “why is this deck as popular as it is?”. I don’t really understand how these decks spread around, aside from players facing the deck in ladder games and then trying to build similar versions. Monkey see, monkey do, as they say.

Aggro Forest is a deck archetype that consistently does well against midrange decks like Midrange Sword/Shadow and Artifact Portal, has a roughly even matchup against Mysteria Rune and really struggles against Dragon. This peculiar matchup spread means that, on average, the deck has an incredibly high winrate and the highest matchup polarity of any deck in the format. While this is a bad point of the deck, it has more to do with the fact that most aggro decks have inherently high polarity, which is not really a fault of the archetype itself. With the decreasing popularity of Dragon, it can be expected that Aggro Forest will remain a powerful, if highly polarizing, deck. Aggro Forest is a fairly good deck in tournament play as well, since it doesn’t run into Dragon as commonly as on ladder in that environment due to matches usually being not best-of-1-s.

Midrange Forest, based on my experience, are mostly comprised of recorded Korwa games, and the issues of the archetype are clear as day with a simple glance at the stats: the archetype struggles against Rune/Dragon, as well as midrange decks with a clearer game plan, like Midrange Sword/Shadow and Lion Haven. While I would’ve liked to see the difference in performance between the tempo-centric Midrange Forest builds and Korwa, the existing deck buckets likely mix up the 2 archetypes as “Midrange Forest”, so the difference between the two archetypes is difficult to gauge. Midrange Forest isn’t really seeing much success in competitive play, so there’s no real discrepancies here, but the it’s difficult for me to pinpoint the exact reason for that due to my limited knowledge. As it stands, Midrange Forest is currently the worst-performing deck of the format with a relative representation above 5%. I might be biased in this statement, but I don’t think Midrange Forest is a good deck.

Lion Haven

Mulligan priority

  • Always keep Sealed Tome, Temple of the Holy Lion, Holy Lion Crystal.
  • If you don’t have Temple, keep at least 1 proactive 2-drop, which includes Jeweled Priestess, Moriae Encomium, Legendary Fighter, Gemstone Carapace.
  • Against midrange decks like Shadow/Sword/Portal, keep Scripture/Prism Swing.
  • Going second, keep Holy Lion of Salvation.
  • Keep Seraphic Blade/Father Punishment in Haven mirrors.
  • Don’t keep Eachtar, Hallowed Dogma or Garuda.

The overall mulligan strategy for Lion Haven isn’t too different from what it was previously, your goal should be to hit key cards like Temple of the Holy Lion, and in order to do so, it’s necessary to get as much card draw as possible, which includes Sealed Tomes, Jeweled Priestess and Moriae. Naturally, in specific matchups you’re inclined to contest the board in one way or another, but the general focus should still be on drawing cards and getting enough Holy Lion Crystals to advance your win condition without losing too much tempo. I haven’t done a lot of testing witch cards like Temple Windbear and Featherfall Hourglass, so I’m not sure where they fit in the mulligan strategy, but, in my opinion, Windbear has a similar priority to Jeweled Priestess, and Hourglass is comparable to Gemstone Carapace.

Optional inclusions and tech cards

  • Cheap Amulets, which include Gemstone Carapace, Featherfall Hourglass and Temple Windbear, are optional inclusions that improve your early game curve and help with Legendary Fighter consistency. Since Lion decks have way more Spells than Amulets because of all the Crystals, cheap Amulets help balance out the distribution. The most straightforward of the 3 cards is Gemstone Carapace; Windbear can be used for card draw, and Hourglass is similar to a removal spell.
  • Hallowed Dogma and Garuda, Ruler of Storms are optional cards that work well with low-cost amulets and compete for the same card slot. Dogma cycles itself and activates Moriae/Gemstone Carapace, Jeweled Priestess tokens or Sacred Plea (well, almost), while Garuda costs 1 less and is more efficient to activate Sealed Tome‘s card draw option while dodging the drawback. I’m personally inclined to think that Dogma is the slightly better option since Haven is somewhat starved for card draw, but there’s an argument to be made for the importance of tempo in the current format.
  • Seraphic Blade is an optional card that performs well against Blood/Shadow and Haven mirrors. It doesn’t swing the matchup in the same way a real tech card would, and it’s more of a case that Haven doesn’t have too many better early game options in that card slot, and Seraphic Blade is generally a fine card that also happens to hit Vira/Temple of the Holy Lion.
  • Jeanne is a tech card against midrange decks like Sword/Shadow/Forest. The card is incredibly clunky and somewhat overlaps with Eachtar in function, so it’s difficult to include more than a 1-of. A more extreme version of this tech card is Zealot of Repose, which is even clunkier than Jeanne, but a one-sided Nova Flare can blow out Forest/Sword boards from a way earlier stage of the game.
  • Lorena is a budget replacement for Legendary Fighter and can be a justifiable inclusion.
  • Alexiel is a tech card against Blood/Rune that has similar problems to other cards of this type: while it does prevent lethal damage from DFB/Anne’s Sorcery, you often don’t get the leisure of playing a 7-cost 5/5 in the matchup that it matters in, since you’re not addressing the opponent’s board presence. In addition to that, against Manaria Rune lists with Seraphic Blades, it’s entirely possible to run out of Amulets, since Temple can be destroyed with Seraphic Blade and the rest of the Amulets have low Countdown values.

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What does Lion Haven do?

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

Miscellaneous notes

  • Eachtar is a big deal and greatly affects Haven decks in general. The very existence of the card emphasizes the importance of clearing Haven boards, since the effect is too punishing otherwise. Apart from that, Eachtar can be used with Countdown Amulets that summon followers (e.g. Gemstone Carapace or Featherfall Hourglass) with some setup on a prior turn, allowing to get immediate tempo. In addition to that, inexpensive low-attack followers like Temple Windbear, Father Punishment and Jeweled Priestess can be played on the same turn as Eachtar to get immediate additional value out of cards that wouldn’t be able to trade by themselves otherwise. There are minor matchup-specific points that can matter, for example, with an Evolve point, Eachtar can fully clear a Poseidon, which does unfortunately leave it vulnerable to Galmieux on the backswing. Against Blood, Shadow and Sword, Eachtar puts up 2 Wards which can play around Valnareik, various other Storm followers and (occasionally) the Gilnelise 15-damage setup against Shadow.
  • With Globe rotating out, board space is less of a concern for Lion decks, however, there is still a card draw problem with Lion Haven in particular and Haven decks as a whole. Having less card draw means that you have to play more 5-cost Crystals to get to your win condition, which is undesirable to say the least. Windbear doesn’t really feel like a solution to the problem because the card is so slow without Hallowed Dogma. I’ve personally tried Marlone and Manifestation of Repose, but neither of those seemed particularly impressive. It has barely been 2 and a half weeks and I already miss Globe of the Starways. Or even Sacred Plea. I would even take Temple of the Inquisition at this point!

Tenko Haven

Identifying cards: Unicorn Knight, Whitefang Temple, Tenko’s Shrine, De La Fille, Gem Princess, Themis’s Purge.

What does Tenko Haven do?

Tenko Haven is an archetype centered around Tenko’s Shrine and incremental sources of healing like De La Fille and Whitefang Temple as its primary win condition.

What doesn’t Tenko Haven do?

The biggest change to Tenko Haven decklists themselves is caused by Globe of the Starways rotating out, which makes the archetype fairly inconsistent because Tenko lists now can’t really get any card advantage. Apart from that, the rest of the format consists either of decks that are very aggressive or decks that can’t really run out of resources. Tenko Haven has situational answers to many decks in the format, however, a lot of them are too clunky or situational to play without good card draw. In addition to that, the popularity of Satan in Ramp Dragon makes it so that even that (previously manageable) matchup has now shifted to a 70/30 in Dragon’s favor. Long story short, Tenko Haven doesn’t draw cards, doesn’t outvalue Dragon and doesn’t have a reliable curve against midrange decks. All of those factors combined lead to Tenko Haven being one of the least popular and the worst-performing decks of the format.

Lion Haven is slightly unfavored against a lot of popular decks in the format (Manaria Rune/Ramp Dragon/Midrange Sword), however, it does fairly well against slower midrange decks like Midrange Shadow and Artifact Portal. Lion Haven saw a significant amount of tournament play at the start of the expansion, mainly because the environment was full of Dragon and DFB Blood, which is a good field for Lion Haven, however, the deck has become slightly weaker after the increased popularity of Rune/Sword. Even now, despite the meta shift, Lion Haven still remains as one of the most consistent decks of the format in terms of matchup polarity, and is still highly competitive despite the declining popularity of the archetype. In my opinion, Lion Haven is very similar to Artifact Portal, in that it’s not amazingly powerful, but it does the same thing each and every game and is very consistent at what it does.

Stats corner (07/01 – 13/01)

Notes on the Ladder Performance chart

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

How is score calculated?

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

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

Generally, the best decks are the ones that win the most games, but some of those can be very uncommon on ladder, which leads to greater variance. To factor in that fact, the default weight used here is 85-90%, heavily skewed towards winrate, with a small (10-15%) factor of popularity, which means that uncommon decks with very high reported winrate (e.g. PDK Dragon as of 05/08/18) are placed lower than decks with lesser winrates (e.g. Chimera Rune) that see significantly more play, because the former “lose” most of the ~15% percent of their score based on their popularity.