Going Deep – A Brave New Wipe (2 of 2)

This article has been divided into two parts. If you didn’t catch the first half of my article, you can read it here.

In the second half of this article, I wanted to touch on the various changes to individual cards and to the decks that play those cards.  In some cases I will group these cards together and talk about a deck as a whole, as the real question is how the deck itself is going to change in the near future.For each case, I will give an overall rating of how much the change affects various decks, chosen from the following:

  • Minor: Noticeable card changes, but unlikely to change the composition of the deck.
  • Medium: A change large enough to warrant some adjustment to at least a few slots in the deck, but not one that requires rethinking the entire archetype.
  • Major: Card changes that imply the total restructuring of a deck, or that the deck may be killed altogether.

Let’s get started!

Gilded Glaive (Rakano, Combrei Aggro, and Mono Justice Variants)

gildedglaive

Major change.

Gilded Glaive got hit with the nerf bat right to the jaw. Before the wipe, there were a number of lists that were built around the core of Silverwing Familiar + Gilded Glaive, a combination so powerful that it could power multiple different archetypes. In contrast, the current version of Glaive is probably not powerful enough for Ranked play. Are there other weapons available to substitute for it? Yes, obviously, but none are nearly as powerful as the old Gilded Glaive. Most Justice based decks have no way to control their draws, making power flood a very real concern. Glaive was one of the few cards that you could use as an outlet for the excess power.

Although Rakano will likely adapt and survive with some restructuring, and Combrei Aggro can shift to accommodate the change, Mono-Justice variants are dead for the time being. Gilded Glaive was exceptional in these lists. Maybe Hammer of Might and Mantle of Justice are enough to carry this archetype, but I have my doubts. Post-wipe aggro has been severely weakend by the loss of Gilded Glaive.

Elder’s Feather, Sparring Partner, Fearless Nomad (Rakano Warcry)

Major Change

In addition to being hit with a major nerf due to the Gilded Glaive changes, there are there are other reasons Rakano will need to undergo a complete restructuring. Sparring Partner is gone from the game (for now), and in exchange Fearless Nomad regained Overwhelm. For those newer to the beta, Fearless Nomad did have Overwhelm until patch 1.10 (when it was removed), and it was, well, underwhelming. Although it is certainly playable in Rakano, I don’t feel the Nomad is quite as good as Sparring Partner was, having played both cards a good deal.

The change to Elder’s Feather is relatively minor, but it will come up in certain cases (being able to Torch a Champion of Glory despite its Feather, for example). What is most interesting to me is how the new versions of Rakano Warcry will have their former weaknesses exaggerated. Rakano struggled against Token based strategies as the 2/1’s could not attack through a sea of 1/1s, and the massive monsters they would create could be chump blocked all day long. They will also have an even harder time racing decks like Jito, as the most common plan was to suit up a Silverwing Familiar with a Glaive and let your build-it-yourself angel carry you. Rakano lists will also be much more susceptible to Lightning Storm. The Sparring Partner lists could often play in such a way that Lightning Storm did minimal damage to their board, but current lists lack both an X/3 or larger 1-drop, and don’t receive a Health bonus from playing Elder’s Feather. Given the depth of cards in the archetype, I am confident that a new list will emerge in time, but the archetype will need some rebuilding to be successful.

Champion of Cunning (Feln Midrange, Felnscar and Reanimator)

champion-of-cunning

Major Change

I think the changes to Champion of Cunning may be much more impactful to the metagame as a whole than most people realize. Champion of Cunning was such an absurd haymaker that it was played in all aggressive-to-midrange Feln decks. When you played it, your opponent often died on the spot, even if you had entered your turn with nothing on board. The previous version had often been criticized as being overpowered, especially when Party Hour was the deck to beat.

Conversely, the current version may be unplayable in ranked. PPPPP and SSSSS are insane costs, which were only regularly hit when you included Feln Stranger in your deck. (Fun Fact: Feln Stranger has won more tournaments than Sandstorm Titan) The current version of the Champion appears to be designed more as a finisher for control decks, but I fear that the influence requirements are too steep to really warrant the inclusion of Champion of Cunning. Although I could be wrong, my current instinct is that the Feln midrange decks no longer have a “reason” to exist, especially with the nerf to Scouting Party. You will mostly be interested in a more aggressive build, using some combination of Infiltrate, Haunting Scream, and flyers synergies, or a more controlling build leaning on Withering Witch, Black Sky Harbinger, and the like, as the main attraction to midrange builds has always been the Champion.

As I said in the first half of the article, I think Reanimator is probably dead unless someone can find a creative way to revive it. The real draw of the deck was always the “Vara chain” into Champion of Cunning for the surprise charge kill. That is no longer an option post change, so the explosive potential of that deck has been greatly neutered. Maybe someone will brew up a new version supported by Feln Cauldron, but for now I am sceptical.

New Stranger, Yeti Troublemaker, and Crown of Possibilities (Clockroaches)

Major Change

Everyone that has looked at the patch notes should be aware that New Stranger was removed from the game, and Yeti Troublemaker has been introduced, which seems like an interesting change for the Clockroaches deck. What you may not realize is that this archetype has probably been killed, because the biggest change to the deck isn’t noted in the patch notes. A minor change to the templating of Echo implies that you do not draw the second copy of the card, so it does not gain a second skill off of Crown. Loading up on keywords was the whole gimmick of the deck, so having this synergy crippled likely kills the archetype altogether, which is sad as it was a neat deck. I believe Scarlatch (DWD Community Manager) commented that this was a frustrating deck for new players to play against, as it is quite complicated and unintuitive at first glance. I hope something in the future allows this deck to re-emerge, as it was certainly a sweet list.

Shimmerpack

shimmerpack

Major Change

Finally, a buff! The change to Shimmerpack is a massive boost. If you have not had a chance to play Shimmerpack decks in the past, your often got into a position where using the Shimmerpack effect on your entire team was a little bit problematic for one reason or another. For example, if you had a Sandstorm Titan or Cirso in play, you often didn’t want to downgrade them into 4/4s. Now you can keep all the best units on your side, as well as Shimminate any pesky units on your opponent’s side. Shimmerpack has often been on the fringes of high level play, and this buff, the addition of Vaul of the Praxis, and major nerfs to some of the more aggressive decks, could give this deck the room it needs to see mainstream play. Although we will need to wait for people’s collections to develop, I wouldn’t be surprised if some version of this deck makes it into high-level competitive play.

Dawnwalker (Combrei Midrange, Elysian Midrange, Xenan Killers)

dawnwalker

Medium-to-Major Change

Dawnwalker has been changed such that it now re-enters the battlefield exhausted. This card has generally been played in two capacities – in midrange decks that just want a value unit against control decks, or in Xenan Killers, which utilizes the unique synergy of Dawnwalker and Predator’s Instinct. In the first type of deck, Dawnwalker is certainly worse, but not unplayable. Although they did a great job chump blocking Rakano, the primary role of Dawnwalkers was to annoy control decks, and they do that task just as well as ever. The Killer decks are probably dead though, as many of the important “tricks” of the deck involved attacking with Dawnwalkers multiple times in a turn, or finishing up a unit (or opponent) with a Killer Dawnwalker. There may be some way to salvage those decks, but for now I feel it is unlikely.

Secret Pages

secretpages

Medium Change

I am very sad to see this change to Secret Pages. I know, deep down, the card was too good, but it was so excellent at smoothing out your draws! This card was such a heavy lifter in so many different Time decks. I had all sorts of rules carved out in my head about how to best play this card in order to have the smoothest curve possible, but now all that is gone! Three and four faction Time decks are going to miss the abundance of influence fixing this card provided.

With that said, the new version isn’t necessarily a nerf, but rather it is “side-graded”. Now that we can play 8 early game ramp effects, there may be space for an honest-to-goodness ramp deck in Eternal! Being able to consistently cast Harsh Rule on turn 4 is no joke, just as ramping up to a fast A New Tomorrow could now be a viable route to victory. This card also synergies well with Empower units, allow you to either get multiple Empower triggers the turn you play your unit, or get an Empower trigger at Fast speed, allowing you to grow something like an Awakened Student during blocks. It even fits well into the natural play patterns of some decks, as you are able to hold up Ambush units like Scorpion Wasp and Desert Marshall at the same time you hold up Secret Pages.

Overall, I feel the change to this card has been slightly overstated by some. It certainly matters, but there are ways to get around the loss of Secret Pages. Four Faction Control only played two copies of the card by the end of Closed Beta! I am most interested to see if a true ramp deck can develop, although I expect it will take some time for a list to solidify given the the fluidity of the meta and high legendary count likely required.

Knight-Chancellor Siraf and Desert Marshall (Combrei)

Medium Change

I group these together as the obviously heavily overlap in terms of the decks they are found in, although there is a reasonable amount to say about each change. Ultimately, I don’t feel that either change is very substantial, though I think in combination with everything else that is happening in the format any deck with a “Combrei core” will need to reevaluate how it approaches the early game. I would also say that similar to the changes to Rakano, Combrei has become substantially weaker to Jito.

Let’s start with Desert Marshal. This change is almost irrelevant in 90% of matchups. The difference between 1 and 2 health basically doesn’t come up, as there are so few 1-damage effects or 1 strength units. Sure, this makes a difference for multi-block situations, but whatever. The only match up that this really matters is against Jito, a deck packed with 1 strength units. Combrei already struggled navigating the early game against this style of deck, but at least it could occasionally eat a Frontier Jito or Grenadin for free in the developing turns. Now the Marshal will trade with even a lowly 1/1. As I said though, this is essentially the only match up where you will notice the difference between the new and old Desert Marshal.

The change to Siraf at first seems almost irrelevant, but the more you think about it the more you realize its significance. The first impression of the change for me was something like the following:

“Oh, that’s not that bad! I certainly activated Siraf multiple times per turn in certain games, but that wasn’t very common. Also, how often did I attack with her when I was on 8 power? Not too much. This is barely a change.”

Then I began to really think about it, and I realized the true impact of the nerf. First, let’s consider the play pattern of Big Combrei against Jito. Often your path to victory involved developing a tenuous hold on the board, just outside of burn range. You then attempt to build up to 8 power before your opponent can find the firepower to break through. Once you hit 8 power, you can then bury the opponent with Siraf activations. In the old days, just activating Siraf was often fine, as even the smallest unit would give you an additional blocker. Now, since Siraf is exhausted, she is no longer able to block. If you miss on your first Siraf activation, getting a 2/2 Valkyrie Aspirant or a 0/0 Idol of Destran, you will often not survive to get a second activation. This same issue holds true for the Rakano match up, although it is not quite as bad since you are often able to chump block your way out of the problem until you hit some oversized monster.

The second note for Siraf’s change is her newfound weakness to stun effects. A unit cannot exhaust itself if it is exhausted already, which means that Eye of Winter and Permafrost can now “take care of” a Siraf. Permafrost is an exceptionally powerful card, but was held back by its inability to handle some of the most important threats in Combrei. Although it still cannot touch Titan, and has limited effectiveness against Mystic Ascendant, you can at least now control Siraf.

All-in-all, Combrei is actually positioned to take a bit of a beating in the upcoming weeks. It lost a little bit of power here and there, one of its most favourable match-ups was nerfed heavily, and one of its worst match ups lost almost nothing. I would not be surprised if the optimal list in the post-wipe world are 10-16 cards different than pre-wipe builds to recalibrate for the new environment.

Pyroknight

pyroknight

Minor Change

We have finally reached the minor changes, and we will start with one that is somewhat controversial. Pyroknight cost 1 more to Ultimate, which certainly hurt her playability. I suppose I don’t rate this change because you are unlikely to build your decks any differently based on this change. Pyroknight is one of the best 1-drops in the game now just as she was before the change. I will admit that this change affects different decks to varying degrees. Stonescar Jito very rarely activated her ability, while it was much more common for the Stonescar Burn or Rakano builds. There will certainly be a number of games decided by this change, but relative to the balance shifts across the rest of the format, I doubt this will register as one of the most important.

Stronghold’s Visage (Visage Control)

strongholdsvisage

Minor Change

This change is surprising, as I don’t feel it was really needed for balance concerns. Stronghold’s Visage based control decks are certainly frustrating to play against, especially when you don’t know when to concede, but they certainly weren’t tearing up the place in ranked. This might be partly a concession of the “Health Gain Matters” mechanic rumored to be in Set 2, as well as the new player experience. All that being said, I imagine Visage Control style decks can probably adapt, although this certainly messes up their early game curve of Visage-into-Harsh Rule. These decks have not been a major play in the meta-game for several months, so the importance of this change is very small in the big picture.

Soulfire Drake (Stonescar Midrange and Rakano Midrange)

soulfiredrake

Minor Change

Our last card, and it’s another buff! Soulfire Drake has always hovered on the fringe of competitive lists, but now has an extra point of Strength to really make a case for itself. I’m not sure how many 5 drops you can fit into a deck, as this is competing with Obliterate, Umbren Reaper in Stonescar decks, and Deepforge Plate in Rakano decks, but I suspect he will make an impact in ranked play. If Combrei takes a bit of a back seat, this dragon will be very happy to take advantage of the fewer Desert Marshalls and Sandstorm Titans to battle against. There is potential synergy with 5-power-matters cards, but those are largely centered in Time, so it strikes me as an unlikely home for the dragon.

Conclusion

PHEW! That’s a lot of cards. I skipped a couple that I didn’t feel were particularly important, but I think I hit almost everything that I wanted to talk about. The decks that lost the least were Jito, Stonecar Midrange, Feln Control, and the Relic Weapon heavy decks of Armory and Icaria Blue. These will be the starting point of the new format. I for one plan to start working on building my collection, and will begin figuring out what new aged Combrei decks look like, or if Shimmerpack is now the real deal. I’m also going to bust my ass to hit Master this season, as I have hit it every season up until now, and I don’t plan to let having only 10 days be the excuse to break my streak! Anyway, I hope you all enjoyed this. Please leave comments in the Reddit thread, or reach out to me in Discord if you have any comments/questions.

Special thanks to Jellomoose for having images up on eternaldecks.cards so quickly. I pulled all my images for this article from his site, and it wouldn’t have been the same without it. Check it out if you want a resource for deck building!

3 thoughts on “Going Deep – A Brave New Wipe (2 of 2)

  1. Considering the beating Xenan got, for a ramp deck, I’d honestly begin my search at Elysian. T1 initiate -> T2 pages -> T3 Cirso/amber monument is no joke. Also, Cobalt and Amber are easily the two best monuments, though cobalt monument in a deck with Sandstorm Titan doesn’t sound like the best of ideas either.

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  2. Yeah, I’m not sure if the best “ramp” shell is something like you are saying which is closer to the vein of “Red Green Monsters” or something that is planning to ramp into true haymakers like A New tomorrow. Either one is certainly worth considering

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