Hello, I’m LightsOutAce, and I like control decks. As I always say: “Some people play card games to cast dragons, some people play to attack with swarms of goblins. I play because I love to draw cards.” Last month, I played a deck that draws a lot of cards to another top 20 finish:
4 Inspire (Set1 #129)
4 Seek Power (Set1 #408)
4 Torch (Set1 #8)
4 Lightning Storm (Set1 #206)
2 Lightning Strike (Set1 #197)
3 Vanquish (Set1 #143)
3 Eye of Winter (Set1 #210)
3 Valkyrie Enforcer (Set1 #151)
4 Wisdom of the Elders (Set1 #218)
2 Auric Runehammer (Set1 #166)
2 Rise to the Challenge (Set1 #320)
4 Harsh Rule (Set1 #172)
2 Obliterate (Set1 #48)
2 Staff of Stories (Set1 #234)
1 Starsteel Daisho (Set1 #328)
1 Stonescar Maul (Set1 #52)
2 Icaria, the Liberator (Set1 #329)
1 Sword of the Sky King (Set1 #186)
5 Fire Sigil (Set1 #1)
6 Justice Sigil (Set1 #126)
4 Primal Sigil (Set1 #187)
4 Seat of Fury (Set0 #53)
4 Seat of Glory (Set0 #56)
4 Seat of Order (Set0 #51)
If the deck looks familiar, that’s because it is exactly the stock list of FJP Control from rngeternal.com. I believe this version is pretty close to optimal for laddering. The card that’s closest to not pulling its weight is Stonescar Maul, but it has its moments (basically being a better Obliterate against relic weapons protected by 2 power units) and sometimes you can burn people out with it. Push Onward would be the replacement if you decide to cut it.
Icaria Blue plays a 7 cost angel that loves to attack, but make no mistake: it is a hard control deck that almost always has inevitablity and wants to extend the game. I’ll cover some situations where this is not the case in the matchups section later on, but in general err towards making conservative plays that keep you alive instead of aggressively trying to win. An example of this is Auric Runehammer when your opponent has no units. You could throw it down and attack for 4, but if your opponent has any units at all you are going to miss out on a 2-for-1 opportunity, and you are probably not going to be able to finish the game with a 4/1 relic weapon. Similarly, running out Valkyrie Enforcers on a clear board is generally not advisable since they are one of very few targets for your opponent’s removal and will likely die before being able to attack. They are better used to break aegis or disable powerful units like Siraf or Dawnwalker.
The general strategy of the deck is to use Eye of Winter to set up multiple-for-1 trades with your sweepers, Harsh Rule and Lightning Storm. The position you try to set up is one where every turn you are stunning your opponent’s unit(s) with your Eye of Winter(s), playing a power, and passing the turn with a Staff of Stories in play. When your opponent plays more units than you have Eyes, you kill one with a removal spell or wipe the board, and then continue this play pattern until your opponent runs out of stuff and you kill them with Icaria or a relic weapon. It is perfectly okay, and actually desirable, to go “activate Eye, play power, end turn” multiple turns in a row.
The decision point that drives most games with Icaria Blue is what order to play your relic weapons in, and by extension, what to tutor for with Rise to the Challenge. A lot of this is matchup and board state dependent, but the ideal game plan is as follows:
- Stabilize the board. This usually happens around turn 5 or 6 and involves Harsh Rule, Vanquish, and Torch.
- Get an engine up that provides continuous card advantage. This is either Eye of Winter (because it acts as an additional removal spell every time you sweep the board) or Staff of Stories, or ideally both. If you aren’t under any duress you should grab Staff with your first Rise to the Challenge.
- Play Icaria. She usually acts like a 7 mana spell that says, “give the top unit or weapon of your deck +5/+5. Your opponent loses 5 life and discards 2 cards.” It’s fine if she dies right away; you expect her to. What she does is buy you a free turn while your opponent spends 2 cards on her and makes your next threat game-ending. It’s important not to get to antsy with Icaria; if your opponent has a unit you’re locking down with Eye of Winter it’s better to wait until 9 power to play Icaria so you can still deny attacks from that unit after your opponent kills Icaria.
- Play your buffed weapon and kill the opponent with it. Sometimes you get unlucky and hit a Valkyrie Enforcer with Icaria’s warcry, but usually you get to crush with a 9/6 Auric Runehammer or 13/13 Sword of the Sky King for lethal. You can sometimes manipulate the warcry by checking what is on top of your deck when you cast Rise to the Challenge – you don’t see the exact order of your deck, but you see what the next card is. If it is a Valkyrie Enforcer, you can simply wait to play Icaria until you draw it.
Combrei decks of all varieties are pretty easy matchups because their midrange-beatdown unit-based game plan plays right into your Eye of Winter+ Harsh Rule strength. You can go over the top of them quite easily.
Combrei’s biggest threat in the early game is Sandstorm Titan since it can’t be stunned with Eye of Winter. If you don’t have a Vanquish handy, it is often correct to Rise to the Challenge for Auric Runehammer, which will then have 6 power and be able to kill Darude. When attacking with relic weapons it is important to consider Desert Marshall and have a backup plan if he interrupts your attack. Similarly, attack before using Eye of Winter so that Desert Marshall can’t un-stun another unit and waste your Eye activation.
Once you get to the late game, there is very little Combrei can do to break out of the Eye of Winter-Harsh Rule lock. You have plenty of removal for Mystic Ascendant or Vodakhan (including silence, which instantly kills Vodakhan), Siraf can be cleared and the unit she summons can be stunned if they wait until 11 power to play her, and even Sword of the Sky King can be easily handled with your own relic weapons and Obliterates. You should almost never tutor for Icaria, since she is shut down easily by Sandstorm Titan. Overwhelming card advantage from Staff of Stories is what usually ends the game here. It is generally correct to replace your Staff with a big Sword of the Sky King or Starsteel Daisho once you have 9 cards in hand and a bunch of removal spells to clear the way (if your opponent doesn’t just concede first).
The Rakano matchup is very draw-dependent and close to 50-50, as Rakano is against most decks. There’s not a lot to be said here; you either have 2 removal spells for each aegis + weapon they assemble and you win or your draw doesn’t line up and you lose. This is one of the few places where tutoring for Icaria is better than tutoring for Staff of Stories.
In the early game, Lightning Storm is important to clean up their 1-drops and break the first wave of aegis. Chaining Harsh Rule and Eye of Winter activations will usually win you the game if you can survive past turn 5, but lasting that long when you spend a whole turn playing Eye of Winter just to break an aegis is tough. The games you win are generally with Lighting Storm or Torch followed up with a couple Vanquish or Auric Runehammer. Valkyrie Enforcer is also a really good roadblock.
Always play to prevent the most damage possible on the next turn, as you won’t have time to play all of your cards. Lightning Storm on a single Oni Ronin or Crownwatch Paladin is fine, and even advisable. Icaria is better than your other expensive cards because she can block and trade with many Rakano units, and if you draw the warcry 5’d card you should be able to ride it to victory. As far as threat prioritization goes, it is more important to kill Crownatch Paladin than Silverwng Familiar since Paladin has one more power and warcry. You don’t particularly care about your opponent’s life total and you don’t have any non-flying blockers than Silverwing invalidates.
It seems like this should be hard for you since you can’t interact with Champion of Cunning very well, but Lightning Storm and Harsh Rule to clean up Scouting Party, plenty of removal for the other units, and lots of life gain from hard-to-interact-with relic weapons makes this actually quite favorable for Icaria Blue.
It’s okay to take some early damage from Feln Strangers, Argenport Instigators, and Feln Blodcasters while you set up to make all of your power drops and develop Eye of Winter. As long as you stay out of Champion of Cunning range (about 13 life) you should be fine, so start looking to clear the board on turn 4 or 5 before a fully-powered Champion comes online. Be sure to keep a sweeper in reserve for Scouting Party, as them drawing 2-4 cards off of it is a way to lose.
Once you have the initial rush cleared off, it’s time to play a relic weapon and start drawing cards or bashing with it. Auric Runehammer is pretty bad since it dies to Vara’s Favor, but all of the other ones are huge threats that they can’t deal with outside of Champion of Cunning. If you can wait to play a relic weapon until you have a couple Torches or Lightning Strikes for Champion that is ideal.
This encompasses decks like the mirror, Excavate control, 4 faction control, and various Last Word decks.
In these matchups, Staff of Stories is by far your most important card. You should Rise to the Challenge for it at your earliest opportunity and jam it into play ASAP. Both decks have way more removal spells than units, so nothing is going to live long enough to attack the relic weapons. Save your removal spells that can damage relic weapons (like Torch, Lightning Strike, and Obliterate) if you can, as they actually have relevant targets. Against decks without relic weapons of their own you can just ride the Staff’s card advantage to an easy win.
Relic weapon mirrors like Icaria Blue and Armory are very interesting. Whoever attacks first usually loses, as you threw away a weapon for 4-6 damage, and your opponent’s follow-up weapon will kill yours. As such, you want to just sit on your weapons until you have a full hand and will win the relic weapon attack back-and-forth or you have protection in the form of enough mana to play the weapon and a couple Torches or Lightning Strikes to protect from your opponent’s attack. Staff of Stories is still good in these matchups, but isn’t a turn 5 play. It is a relic weapon you can play once your hand is set up to entice our opponent to act first, or one that you can play and protect with 7 or 8 mana.
If the opposing control deck has shadow influence, it has access to Azindel’s Gift and you need to take a more proactive gameplan. Staff is great and sometimes lets you bury them in card advantage, but you generally want to Rise to the Challenge for Icaria, bash them, then hope that the buffed weapon you draw later can finish off the game quickly before they put you in the Gift lock and play something you no longer have answers for. This is the only matchup I would run out an Auric Runehammer and attack my opponent from 25 down to 21.
I’m not going to give these matchups a whole section each because they are either similar to one described above or very simple.
Queen Jito – If you cast a Lighting Storm on turn 2 or 3 and follow up with anything reasonable you will likely win. Relic weapons gain you a lot of life so you don’t get burned out late game.
Justice flyers – This plays out very similar to Rakano in that you need to remove each aegis + weapon they assemble. Eye of Winter is better here because they are a little slower on average and have fewer units.
Stonescar midrange/Felnscar midrange – These decks have basically no way to deal with the Eye of Winter/Harsh Rule interaction for dragging out the game. If your opponent plays a Feln Stranger try to leave up fast removal for Champion of Cunning if you are low on life and more aggressively kill their small units so you don’t get hit for a bunch of buffed flying charge damage out of nowhere.
Elysian – Elysian is similar to Stonescar, but faster and with more big units (you don’t care about Statuary Maiden since you run very few units; you do care about Cirso since he hits for 6). Save your Valkyrie Enforcers for Dawnwalker, as it is the most annoying card by far. Eye of Winter does some good work in locking it down, but if they draw multiples you’re in trouble without silence. Tutoring for Enforcer is perfectly fine if you’re facing down Dawnwalker.
Xenan Killers – Killer does basically nothing until you’ve already attacked with Icaria, so they are basically a Dawnwalker deck similar to Elysian. The same plan applies here as there – Eye of Winter, Vanquish, Harsh Rule, Enforcer, clean up with anything after they run out of gas.
Icaria Blue is very resilient and powerful, and the best control deck you can play in Eternal right now. If you like drawing cards, stalling the game, and finishing your opponent off with huge relic weapons and Eternal’s version of Akroma, this is the deck for you.
I’m happy to answer any questions in the comments, and all comments are appreciated. Until next time,