Sometimes, a deck comes around that is just too sweet NOT to play. It’s using powerful cards, some underused and under-rated role-players, and awesome finishers. Last week, Zoochz played a Xenan control deck in the ETS that fits the bill.
3 Sabotage (Set1 #252) 3 Suffocate (Set1 #251) 3 Annihilate (Set1 #269) 3 Find the Way (Set1 #513) 4 Temple Scribe (Set1 #502) 4 Vara's Favor (Set0 #35) 2 Decay (Set1 #95) 2 Scheme (Set1 #213) 4 Scorpion Wasp (Set1 #96) 3 Deathstrike (Set1 #290) 4 Sandstorm Titan (Set1 #99) 4 Steward of the Past (Set1 #287) 3 Subvert (Set1 #289) 1 Lumen Defender (Set1 #115) 4 Mystic Ascendant (Set1 #116) 1 Shadowlands Feaster (Set1001 #10) 2 The Last Word (Set1 #309) 7 Shadow Sigil (Set1 #249) 8 Time Sigil (Set1 #63) 2 Amber Monument (Set1 #420) 4 Seat of Mystery (Set0 #61) 4 Xenan Banner (Set0 #52)
Just look at this deck! It has TWO copies of The Last Word! Add in a full set of Mystic Ascendant (the best card advantage-producing threat in the game), three Subverts for hilarious shenanigans and card advantage, a pinch of a cool new card in Shadowlands Feaster, and an 8-pack of powerful 4-drops, and you’ve got a deck that everyone can enjoy.
The early game plan of the deck is to kill cheap threats and set up for the mid-game. There are a whole bunch of spot removal spells, Temple Scribe to draw and block, and Vara’s Favor to draw and kill cheap units or pop aegis. Find the Way is often clunky, but it’s much better than Seek Power at helping get to 7 power for Ascendant and 9 power for The Last Word. Paying 2 for your power search spell and having depleted sigils are a cost you have to pay for the powerful late game.
Xenan Control is a control deck that wants to extend the game, but it can play a fairly proactive game once Steward of the Past and Sandstorm Titan hit the board. Both of those units can put on pressure and are also great blockers against aggro. Being able to play both is definitely the main selling point to this deck (if The Last Word wasn’t enough to convince you). There is a lot of cheap removal to help bridge the gap to 4 power and show off these all-stars.
The endgame for Xenan control is unparalleled by anything short of Vodakhombo. It has the full 4 Mystic Ascendants, a Shadowlands Feaster, 2 Last Words, and 3 Subverts. Subvert is best played when the opponent has missed a power drop or only has a few cards left in hand. You want to try and hit key cards they are depending on or powerful cards they can’t play yet, but even if you hit power it is a 2-for-1 and gets you closer to playing The Last Word. Sabotage is also excellent at taking away dangerous weapons or removal for your threats. You should also hold a power or two in your hand at all times so that you can immediately trigger the empower of any Mystic Ascendant you draw.
Decay, Scheme, and Lumen Defender fill in the flex slots in the deck. Zoochz played 2 Steward of the Past in the ETS tournament last weekend over the Defender and an Annihilate. He plays Plagues over them on ladder, but I just love the card Lumen Defender, and this deck can use the time it buys very well. Multiple Decay looks strange in a ladder list, but everything except Stonescar has good targets for it, and Armory in particular is a matchup it shines in. Control isn’t very popular, but Azindel’s Gift and Staff of Stories are cards that would be problematic if not for Decay. Scheme is the ultimate filler card, but it’s nice here to fetch for specific answers or threats in games that go super long. You could easily cut one copy of Subvert or the Last Word for Azindel’s Gift, but Subvert and Sabotage make the control matchup good enough and Subvert is much, much better against Stonescar (it usually grabs an Obliterate or Flame Blast and lets you win a close race).
If your early game removal lines up well enough that you can get to Sandstorm Titan and Steward of the Past while above 20 health, you’re probably in good shape. Ascendant demands a burn spell immediately and Subvert can often steal one, so it’s rare you get burned out from 20. The more aggressive your opponent is, the worse it gets for you, though – Burn Queen depends entirely on how good your opponent’s draw is and Jito is an atrocious matchup.
Prioritize killing every unit immediately, as if you take more than 10 damage from units against Stonescar you are likely dead to burn. Save Sabotages for the turn before the opponent hits 5 power, as you want the maximum chance of ripping an Obliterate or Flame Blast out of their hand. Torch is fairly useless against Xenan, as all of the units save Scorpion Wasp have high health.
The Decays look really smart here! Your 4-drops are usually big enough to eat an early weapon, so you can usually stop armory before it starts Warcry snowballing. Play out Steward of the Past before Sandstorm Titan if given the option to dodge Vanquish and kill their early weapon. Save the Decays for late-game relic weapons, as Auric Runehammer and Sword of Icaria are pretty easy pickings for your large mid-game units. Don’t forget that Scorpion Wasp can intercept a relic weapon attack aimed at an important unit!
Subvert is also amazing against Armory, as they don’t play any card draw and are often waiting for their 6th or 7th power with a Starsteel Daisho or Icaria in hand. It turns out that Icaria is pretty good in Xenan! Sabotage should be fired off before the opponent hits 3 power for Sword of Icaria or before the opponent would have a good Smuggler’s Stash. Usually all of the units in their void are silenced, so Subvert after Stash is less valuable than Subvert before Stash.
Combrei is sort of a mirror match. Both players are likely to stall the board with Sandstorm titans, and Scorpion Wasps make attacks with important units a losing proposition, so it usually comes down to who gets an unanswered Mystic Ascendant. Fortunately you also have The Last Word to really put the hurt on them late game – just watch out for Desert Marshall and make sure you can protect your valuable weapon from an ambush threat!
Subvert is way worse here than usual, as the opponent will always be holding power in hand for Mystic Ascendant. Sabotage, on the other hand, is great for picking Harsh Rule and Vanquish out of the enemy hand before you play your Mystic Ascendant. The game will likely come down to The Last Word with 12+ power so that you can protect it with one or more Scorpion Wasps. Be patient; you have just as many late-game bombs as they do.
The control matchups are kind of weird for Xenan. You are often the aggressor with Titan or Steward, but you are also fine going deep with Ascendant and Shadowlands Feaster. Sabotage is important to see the texture of your opponent’s hand so you know how aggressive to be. Subvert will often hit bad cards like Lightning Storm or Torch, so try to wait on Subvert until your opponent plays some of those or has very few cards in hand. Generally there will come a point where the opponent uses 2 or 3 smaller burn spells to kill one of your units, and that is the time to Subvert.
There is no need to over-extend into Harsh Rule or Withering Witch + Lightning Storm; one threat at a time is more than enough. If the game drags to the point where you have 18 power you can even play The Last Word and use its ultimate in the same turn for a one-hit KO! The key to all of your power plays is knowing what answers your opponent has access to, so save your Sabotages to protect key plays rather than throwing them out early. The one exception is if you don’t have any units or Decay and will lose to Staff of Stories if you don’t force them to discard it.
Zoochz’s Xenan control deck is a blast to play, and is a legitimate contender on the ranked ladder. It has solid matchups against all of the popular decks, and is robust enough to have game against any rogue brews you may encounter. I highly recommend it for any enthusiasts of grindy midrange or control decks.
Until next time, may your Mystic Ascendant always go un-answered.