ETS Season 3 – Week 4: Stonescar Strikes Back

So, Stonescar heard me trash talking it last week, and decided to show me (and everyone else) that it’s still the king of the hill. 4 Top 8 placements, 3 Top 4 placements, and a very high winrate in the faction show up once again. However, as everyone should have seen, a patch arrived just yesterday (we’ll say that that’s why this article is late) and Stonescar has been knocked down a peg. 20 changes, multiple Stonescar nerfs, and a potentially slower meta are in our future.

A playlist of the VoDs from the event can be found on our YouTube channel.

As always, the bracket and decklists for all events from Season 3 can be found on our tournament results page.

Meta Breakdown

Winrates:

Stonescar (57%)

  • Stonescar Burn (70%)
  • Stonescar Midrange (63%)
  • Burn Queen (39%)
  • Jito Queen (25%) – brought by one player

Rakano (53%)

Shimmering Combrei (53%)

Control (41%)

  • Big Combrei (50%)
  • Xenan Control (50%)
  • TJP Control (33%)
  • Traditional Armory (31%)

Yep, Stonescar’s Top 8 performance was predicated on very high winrates throughout the tournament.

This was not a kind week for Armory! Stonescar Midrange players were starting to bring weapons into their list which heavily fortifies the matchup vs Armory, and Shimmering Combrei came back into the meta. Between two Armory players, they faced these matchups five times.

Top 8:

1st: Francois (Stonescar Midrange)
2nd: Paradox (Stonescar Burn)
3rd: Angrychicken (Big Combrei)
     tvkelley (Stonescar Burn
5th: BobertJoe (Shimmering Combrei)
     Jaffa (Dark Combrei)
     Juaspas (Xenan Control)
     ManuS (Stonescar Midrange)

That’s a lot of Stonescar! Francois went with a much relatively slow version of Stonescar Midrange, but one that goes for flexible damage based removal, instead of hard removal.  ManuS’s list was a bit closer to the Stonescar Maulers list, as popularized by LocoPojo, though it was a more midrange build, cutting all the direct damage spells except for Torch. I’ll discuss these lists in a bit more detail below.

Jaffa brought a different take on Dark Combrei. Historically, the Shadow inclusion is for Dark Return on your high value units and Azindel’s Gift to give you a shut-out option vs Control. However, Jaffa’s list primarily splashed removal with a touch of disruption in Sabotage. Given the density of Void-hate in the current meta, the dropping of Dark Return does not surprise me.

Juaspas piloted Xenan Control to a Top 8 finish, with a slightly tweaked list, going down to 1 Last Word, cutting the main deck Subverts, and bringing Gift into the main deck instead of just in the sideboard. This list, I suspect, will have no issue with keeping in Gift and hitting its new influence requirement.

Balance Changes:

Champion of Chaos is the most popular unit among decks that made Top 16 in events run in this season and was tied for third most popular unit among Top 16 in last week’s event. This card has been the 3-cost workhouse for Stonescar decks for months, and before Cabal Countess was released, it was the only Stonescar 3-drop that saw play in competitive decks. None of the Top 8 decks this week included Cabal Countess, but her stock as the “other” Stonescar 3-drop has risen. Shedd did include her in his Stonescar Midrange deck that took 9th, however. If Stonescar Sacrifice ends up popular, Ravenous Thornbeast might even show up. It’s still a 5/5 for 3, after all!

But now… Champion of Chaos is dead! (Long live Champion of Chaos!) … Well, it’s not dead, it just dies to more things. Torch, Lightning Strike, un-buffed Sword of Icaria and Auric Runehammer all kill it, it trades with Siraf, Argenport Instigator, the 3/3 Marisen token, Champion of Glory, etc. It still has all of its offensive power, but it’s much easier to stop in its tracks.

Do the influence changes matter? My opinion is that it matters a lot more than people think. Champion of Chaos encourages players to hurry to 3 Fire or 3 Shadow, and in decks with Seek Power or Diplomatic Seals, if you have a Champ in hand and 2 sources of one influence and 1 of the other, it used to be correct to always go for the influence that would buff Champ. Now, this decision becomes a bit less clear cut. Steward might not be as easy to drop on 4, Umbren or Drake might not be as easy to drop on 5.

Francois’s winning deck from last week had every card in Stonescar that had its influence cost increased, except Azindel’s Gift. Paradox and tvkelley were both running Soulfire Drake and Umbren Reaper at 5 in their decks. ManuS’s list is the least “greedy”, post-patch, with only 1 triple influence card in Reaper.

All of these decks primarily rely on dual-influence power sources and only running Vara’s Favors instead of a mix of Vara’s Favors and Kaleb’s Favors. None of them run Seek Power.  3 of the 4 Top8 Stonescar decks ran Diplomatic Seals as either 3x or 4x, which is now less useful to achieve triple Fire and triple Shadow.

All of these lists seem a little bit clunkier, post-patch.While these changes won’t affect every game with these, they’ll cause 5 or 10% of games with these decks to miss a turn, which is the intended effect of these nerfs, along with making Void-hate and Gift a bit less splashable.These decks, if played as is, would be trading a higher power optimal curveout for consistency in curving out.

I predict that Drake and possibly Reaper will see less play. I also predict that power bases will take a little bit of time to find the optimal mix again, as Seek Power might start seeing more regular play. Further, the higher utility of 4x Vara’s Favor may need to be traded for some number of Kaleb’s Favor.

Conclusion:

So, last week, I said “Nerf Champion of Chaos”, though I had it struck through. Hm. Well, can’t win em all.

While this isn’t a general purpose column, here’s my 2 cents on the patch: I like the changes. I wasn’t sure about them when they were being drip-feed leaked last night, but now that I’ve slept on the bulk of them and seem the full notes, I like them. I think the meta is going to slow down enough that the changes to Witch and Staff will make sense, as those cards excel in slow metas.

Do I think Feln is a T1 deck now? Well, no, but I think its stock has risen relative to the field. Same for Icaria Blue, a deck that I think should come back in force, with some changes to the stock list. I feel like the direct changes to these decks are more than outweighed by the changes to the meta around them. I expect Combrei to rise to the top after these changes, and Feln has a very strong Combrei matchup.

And, of course, ETS this week is going to be interesting!

One thought on “ETS Season 3 – Week 4: Stonescar Strikes Back

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