The balance changes in last week’s patch have shaken up the ranked ladder in a big way, and my favorite deck is poised to benefit – Icaria Blue!
The biggest change was to Champion of Chaos, an undercosted beatstick that ends the game in short order if unanswered (and who usually comes with 6-8 big burn spells worth of backup). With Champion’s health permanently fixed at 3, she will always be vulnerable to Lightning Strike. Lightning Strike is also the best answer to relic weapons that isn’t relic removal, and straight relic removal is too narrow to play a lot of copies of on ladder. Lightning Strike’s stock is at an all-time high, and I am playing 4 copies because of that.
Here’s my current list:
4 Inspire (Set1 #129)
4 Seek Power (Set1 #408)
4 Torch (Set1 #8)
2 Eilyn’s Favor (Set0 #24)
2 Lightning Storm (Set1 #206)
4 Lightning Strike (Set1 #197)
4 Vanquish (Set1 #143)
2 Sword of Icaria (Set1 #315)
1 Valkyrie Enforcer (Set1 #151)
4 Wisdom of the Elders (Set1 #218)
3 Auric Runehammer (Set1 #166)
2 Rise to the Challenge (Set1 #320)
4 Harsh Rule (Set1 #172)
1 Obliterate (Set1 #48)
2 Staff of Stories (Set1 #234)
3 Throne Warden (Set1 #514)
1 Starsteel Daisho (Set1 #328)
2 Icaria, the Liberator (Set1 #329)
1 Sword of the Sky King (Set1 #186)
4 Fire Sigil (Set1 #1)
6 Justice Sigil (Set1 #126)
3 Primal Sigil (Set1 #187)
4 Seat of Fury (Set0 #53)
4 Seat of Glory (Set0 #56)
4 Seat of Order (Set0 #51)
The number of fast go-wide decks has decreased drastically with the nerf to Frontier Jito, so I’ve cut down on Lightning Storms to max out on Vanquish and Lightning Strike. Both are pretty key against certain matchups and can still find targets in the ones they are bad. I’m not playing any Permafrost because it works poorly with weapons. Often you will kill your opponent’s only unit with a relic weapon and would like to start hitting them directly, but can’t because a Permafrosted unit is in the way. Harsh Rule helps alleviate this tension somewhat, so you could play a couple Permafrosts if Stonescar is popular, but it is definitely the worst removal spell in the deck.
A card that has been included in many previous versions that is not present here is Eye of Winter. Eye was critical to the deck’s strategy when I first wrote about it, but much has changed since then. Eye of Winter used to let you get a 2-for-1 with each Harsh Rule and you dragged out the game forever against Big Combrei and Stonescar Midrange. Now, the slower Stonescar decks have a bunch of burn spells and will kill you if you try to stall the game out forever, and Big Combrei often plays Vodakhans and Mystic Ascendants to make your Eyes look silly. Eye of Winter is a relic of another time and has no place in Icaria now.
Another card I’m not as high on as many others is Rise to the Challenge. Rise is great. Don’t get me wrong, but it is glacially slow when your opponent is playing to the board in the middle turns. Taking turn 4 off to tutor your deck will often end up with you dead with cards left in hand. Rise needs to be enjoyed in moderation. Drawing one late-game or against slow opponents is awesome, so it’s definitely a tool I want to have access to.
In place of Eye of Winter and Rise to the Challenge I have a couple Sword of Icaria. Sword is fine as an early removal spell (it even kills Champion of Chaos now), excellent against aegis, and a great way to fight the relic weapon battle against Armory. Just be sure to not be the one to play the first relic weapon against Armory!
The best ‘new’ tool Icaria Blue has picked up since I last wrote about it is Throne Warden. Warden really does everything in the deck – he’s a tough-to-remove blocker and source of health gain against aggro, a buff to your relic weapons against Armory, and a way to put your Staff of Stories out of range of burn spells and ambush attacks in grindy matchups. I would play even more if Harsh Rule wasn’t so good, but you can’t load up on expensive cards.
Armory has a few more relic weapons than Icaria Blue, but we have way more removal for those weapons with Lightning Strike and Torch. Try to clear up Armory’s units without using weapons (besides Auric Runehammer, since it will survive anyways) so that you have the maximum amount for removal for their weapons. Try to always play the waiting game and equip a weapon second. Staff of Stories is rather poor here, as it can’t attack opposing weapons and is very likely to get attacked down itself. Throne Warden is the MVP as a way to block opposing attacks and let your weapons survive if they do get hit.
Lightning Storm, Vanquish, and Harsh Rule are of limited usefulness against Armory, so use them anytime you can to kill Rakano Artisans and Throne Wardens and save your Torches and Lightning Strikes to help win the relic weapon war. If you can afford to play a weapon with burn spell backup it is worth waiting a turn to protect your weapon. Both fast spells can save you from anything besides Auric Runehammer, Sword of the Sky King, or a buffed Starsteel Daisho.
Rise to the Challenge should hit either Throne Warden or Icaria (if you have enough power and influence). Save Icaria to break relic weapons – she’s basically a giant relic weapon that goes over ground blockers and makes your next weapon game-ending. If you play her and just hit face, however, she can be easily removed by a weapon and you can get beaten down before you draw your warcry-boosted card.
Matches against Combrei decks of all varieties usually come down to resource allocation – whoever uses their cards more efficiently will win. It is okay to take extra damage to get better value out of your cards, as Combrei has no reach once you’ve stabilized (besides ambush units like Desert Marshall and Scorpion Wasp, which are easy to handle). Be wary of those same ambush units when attacking with your relic weapons – for example, attack a Sandstorm Titan with your Auric Runehammer BEFORE Torching it. If the opponent intercepts the relic weapon attack with a Desert Marshall you don’t have to commit the Torch.
Harsh Rule is your primary card-advantage tool, and you should sculpt the game around saving your Harsh Rules for as long as possible. If the opponent doesn’t have Siraf, Mystic Ascendant, Vodakhan, or lethal damage, you probably don’t need to Harsh Rule. Sandstorm Titan and owls from The Great Parliament, for instance, can usually be contained with spot removal and blockers until the opponent commits one of those card advantage engines to the board.
The other way to win the game is to stick a Staff of Stories and protect it with a stream of removal until you bury your opponent in cards. When you are drawing 2 cards a turn it is okay to use Harsh Rule on a lone unit since that Harsh Rule essentially draws you an extra card by allowing the Staff to survive another turn. Eventually you will have a bunch of relic weapons in hand that you can’t play because of the Staff, but you don’t NEED to play them since you’re winning. Wait until you have 9 cards in hand to replace the Staff – you will win if you take your time. As rekenner is so fond of quoting me on, “A mistake a lot of Icaria Blue players make is they try to win the game.” If your opponent is not playing something way over-the-top like Flame Blast you can just wait, play it safe, and win eventually. There is no need to get aggressive and open yourself up to losing to ambush unit into Mystic Ascendant.
All of that “take it slow” rhetoric gets thrown out the window against Stonescar. You need to turn the corner in a hurry to race Obliterate and Flame Blast. Throne Warden and Icaria with their aegis are the best threats since they take multiple cards to remove, and relic weapons are nice because they block part of a burn spell with their armor gain, but you can’t stall forever. Rise to the Challenge for Icaria and attack!
The thing that causes me to lose the most games to Stonescar is actually Impending Doom – it is out of range of Auric Runehammer (unless you combine the Runehammer with a Lightning Storm or Torch), so you need to save Vanquishes for it and use other removal spells on Champion of Chaos. Steward of the Past is also oddly difficult to deal with, but thankfully doesn’t attack for nearly as much damage.
One more trick is to hang on to Auric Runehammer as long as you can so that you can kill an Umbren Reaper with it – the Runehammer’s summon effect blocks the Reaper’s entomb!
Rakano is no longer the ladder-dominating beast it once was, but the Crownwatch Paladin nerf doesn’t hurt it at all here. The matchup is much better than it ever has been thanks to Sword of Icaria providing extra ways to kill aegis units without losing value. Prioritize killing everything as soon as it hits the board so they can’t get suited up with weapons. This is actually a pretty straight-forward and easy matchup.
Xenan Obelisk and Dawnwalker decks
All of this good news has to come to an end sometime. Go-wide decks and Dawnwalker decks are nearly impossible to beat, as the constant stream of units prevents you from dealing any damage with relic weapons and there is no way in the deck to interact with relics. There is a single Valkyrie Enforcer to silence a Dawnwalker, and you could put in a Furnace Mage as a Rise target, but the matchup is so poor I’ve just chosen to punt it. Your best chance of victory is an early Icaria followed by your opponent not drawing enough units and dying to your Warcried cards, so grab Icaria early and try to keep the board clear until then. You simply do not have enough blockers to contain the board for long when removal doesn’t gain you value, so you need to get aggressive.
Icaria Blue is my favorite deck in Eternal, and I’m glad that the metagame is back in a place where it can shine. Dust off your legendary valkyries, polish your relic weapons, and get ready to draw some cards.
Until next time, may you always draw what got boosted by Warcry 5.