Lights Out – Big Combrei Matchup Guide

This past weekend I had the pleasure of competing in the Last Chance Qualifier for the ETS Invitational next weekend. While I lost in the top 8 and will not be playing in the Invitational, I did have a fun time and gained some valuable experience. I did a lot of thinking about and discussing of Big Combrei, its roles in various matchups, and what the best and worst cards are in each matchup. Since I believe it is still the best deck in the game, I think it is valuable to cover what I discovered so that you can tweak your version for the ranked ladder in the coming week.

Here is the list I played in the LCQ:

*For the Ranked ladder, I would recommend swapping the 4th Great Parliament or 4th Valkyrie Enforcer for the 4th Combrei Healer, as aggro is more prevalent in the best of 1 format

Big Combrei.PNG

4 Seek Power (Set1 #408)
4 Desert Marshal (Set1 #332)
2 Find the Way (Set1 #513)
4 Temple Scribe (Set1 #502)
3 Vanquish (Set1 #143)
3 Combrei Healer (Set1 #333)
4 Knight-Chancellor Siraf (Set1 #335)
3 Scorpion Wasp (Set1 #96)
4 Valkyrie Enforcer (Set1 #151)
4 Sandstorm Titan (Set1 #99)
4 The Great Parliament (Set1 #338)
4 Harsh Rule (Set1 #172)
3 Marshal Ironthorn (Set1 #174)
4 Mystic Ascendant (Set1 #116)
7 Justice Sigil (Set1 #126)
8 Time Sigil (Set1 #63)
4 Combrei Banner (Set1 #424)
2 Diplomatic Seal (Set1 #425)
4 Seat of Progress (Set0 #58)

I’m going to go through my sideboard plans for each common archetype, which may seem useless if you don’t play in tournaments, but the information is valuable even in ranked. Constant adjustments to your deck based on what you’re facing are essential to your success in aconstantly -changing ladder environment.

Sideboard plans

Combrei

-3 Combrei Healer
-2 Scorpion Wasp
-1 Temple Scribe
+1 Vanquish
+2 Stand Together
+1 Marshal Ironthorn
+2 Steward of Prophecy

The Combrei mirror is long, complex, and requires a lot of practice. Neon wrote a great article about it a while back, and what he wrote still holds true. My sideboard plan maximizes the cards that matter – Siraf, Mystic Ascendant, Marshal Ironthorn – and the ways to deal with them. Steward of Prophecy allows you to preemptively answer a Siraf, Ascendant, or Ironthorn and also gives you some good information on your opponent’s hand.

Neon’s article goes over pretty much everything you need to know, so just read that. Sandstorm Titan basically doesn’t matter, don’t attack with your units that matter into possible Scorpion Wasps, and save your silences for those units that matter. Another mirror-breaker is Xenan Obelisk, but it’s hard to find cuts for it.

Obelisk Elysian/TJP midrange
-3 Combrei Healer
-4 Valkyrie Enforcer
+1 Vanquish
+2 Reality Warden
+2 Stand Together
+2 Decay OR +1 Marshal Ironthorn +1 Valkyrie EnforcerCrystallize

This is the category I’m putting Cirso/Crystallize decks into, as both decks play out very similarly whether or not they have Siraf and Vanquish.

The key to this matchup is surviving. They have some bigger units on curve like False Prince and Cirso, but your late game is SO MUCH better than theirs. Elysian generally isn’t maxed out on Mystic Ascendant. Since you just need to survive to have your superior late game take over, prioritize blocking and trading over pushing for damage. Trading units is especially important against Elysian’s best late-game spell plan: Crystallize.

Crystallize is how Elysian steals games that you’ve successfully stabilized. Do everything in your power to not die to Crystallize. For example, say your opponent has a couple of units that could attack past any Sandstorm Titans you have for lethal (Titan’s endurance prevents it from being stunned by Crystallize) and you have 6 power. With a hand of Mystic Ascendant, power, and a Desert Marshal, you should NOT play the Ascendant to draw a card. That makes you die to Crystallize, and you don’t have to die here. Play a 7th power, then next turn play Ascendant plus 8th power and hold up that Desert Marshall! Marshall counters Crystallize fairly well by chump-blocking and silencing (and therefore un-stunning) one of your large units for a surprise block. Scorpion Wasp is another good card to hold up to prevent a surprise lethal attack.

A card that I see a lot of people play against Crystallize that I think is awful is Infinite Hourglass. Stand Together counters Crystallize just as well while also being great in other matchups. Sideboards are supposed to contain cards that are powerful in certain matchups but are too narrow to play many copies of in your main deck. Don’t play cards that are unplayable in draft in your sideboard! Yes, Hourglass lets you play out your hand without fear of Crystallize, but it is unnecessary training wheels and the card is bad. You can play around Crystallize by being patient and saving your Desert Marshals, Scorpion Wasps, and Stand Togethers.

I like to side out Combrei Healers because they are too small to matter and Valkyrie Enforcers because most of Elysian units are good because of their stats and not their abilities, so you don’t need many silences. I bring in more removal for giant units in Vanquish, giant blockers in Reality Warden, and Stand Together to counter Crystallize. If the opponent is playing a bunch of Xenan Obelisks and permafrosts, you can bring in a couple Decays. If they don’t have Obelisk you can leave in an Enforcer and put in the 4th Marshal to block and clean up the board in the late game. The threat of Ironthorn’s ultimate is real in a board stall.

Shimmerpack
-3 Vanquish
-3 Scorpion Wasp
+3 Decay
+1 Marshal Ironthorn
+2 Copper Conduit

Shimmerpack is a tough matchup, but it isn’t a difficult-to-play one due to how straight-forward Shimmerpack decks are. Play big units to block, push for damage when it’s safe, Harsh Rule after Scouting Party or before Shimmerpack kills you, and hope you draw better than them.Decay

Bringing in Decays for Xenan Obelisk really helps the matchup, as you will win any race where your opponent’s little dorks aren’t buffed. The Ironthorn comes in because there’s nothing better in the sideboard and you really don’t want spot removal. Copper Conduit has overwhelm, which really helps push damage through Shimmer’s puny chump blockers. The best cards against Shimmerpack are the flyers already in the main deck – Valkyrie Enforcer and The Great Parliament. Deploy the flyers as soon as possible and start pressuring your opponent before their draws all become 2 cost 5/5s and 4/6s that draw extra cards.

Armory
-4 Harsh Rule
-2 Vanquish
+3 Decay
+2 Reality Warden
+1 Stand Together

Armory is a good matchup for Big Combrei – all of the Combrei units are larger than the Armory relic weapons without buffs, so Armory must draw a lot of Vanquishes or multiple buffs to not 2-for-1 themselves on every unit. Don’t overextend into Harsh Rule – you only need two units out at once to avoid getting 2-for-1’ed by Auric Runehammer, or only one unit if you have an ambush unit to absorb a hit.

The sideboard plan is to take out the useless mass removal and most Vanquishes for relic destruction and some more big bodies. Having one Stand Together to blow out Harsh Rule or throw off the opponent’s relic weapon attack is nice, but you don’t want to draw multiple copies.

Stonescar Burn
-1 Mystic Ascendant
-1 The Great Parliament
-1 Harsh Rule
-1 Marshal Ironthorn
-1 Valkyrie Enforcer
+1 Vanquish
+2 Reality Warden
+2 ProtectReality Warden

You need to be the aggressor against Stonescar Burn, as all of the value in the world won’t protect you from a Flame Blast to the face. Prioritize removing all enemy units in the early game so you don’t take more than 5-8 damage from them, then start pressuring.

The sideboard games against Stonescar should go much more smoothly once you cut some of the top end and add more cheap removal, some Protects to counter burn spells in the late game, and Reality Warden. Stonescar can’t easily deal with Reality Warden, so he lets you get your beatdown on. I wasn’t expecting much Stonescar in the tournament, but if you think there will be a lot for some reason, Healer’s Cloak is the best sideboard card against them. It undoes a big burn spell and puts your units out of Obliterate range.

Kalis
-3 Vanquish
-1 Scorpion Wasp
+3 Decay
+1 Ironthorn

Kalis decks of all varieties are volatile matchups. Sometimes you beat them down while their combos fail to come together, and sometimes all of your stuff gets Madness + Combust combo killed and you die horribly. In general they play like a more synergy-based Shimmerpack deck, so err towards aggression so they can’t put together large a Bloodrite Kalis or multiple Madness combos.

Spot removal is bad against Kalis, so cut some for cards that actually do things. Reality Warden could be okay to prevent cards from coming back with Smuggler’s Stash, but he just gets chump-blocked by 1/1s all day.

Icaria Blue
-4 Harsh Rule
-3 Combrei Healer
-3 Valkyrie Enforcer
+2 Stand Together
+2 Protect
+1 Decay
+2 Reality Warden
+1 Ironthorn
+2 Copper Conduit

Control decks are pretty good matchups for Big Combrei. You can hang with them in the card advantage game, and all of your units demand an answer or they win the game in short order. Run out your Sandstorm Titans and Marshal Ironthorns first given the option, as they don’t snowball as hard as Siraf and Mystic Ascendant.

You’re sideboarding a lot of cards, but mostly they are just upgrades to weak units. The Stand Togethers and Protects are interaction with spells, and the Decay is just in case the opponent has a Staff of Stories you can’t attack down. Don’t use Decay on an Eye of Winter if they have it, as most of your units provide plenty of value even when stunned.

Hooru/Feln Control
-1-3 Vanquish (depending on number of Champion of Cunning)
-2-3 Harsh Rule
-3 Combrei Healer
-0-2 Valkyrie Enforcer
+2 Stand Together
+2 Protect
+0-2 Reality Warden
+0-1 Marshal Ironthorn
+2 Steward of Prophecy

ProtectSlow control decks without Icaria are super interesting, and the builds vary widely. The default plan against all of them is basically the same as the Icaria Blue plan, with the caveat that Valkyrie Enforcer actually has useful silence targets. Don’t just run them out on turn 3 for no value.

The sideboarding against Feln is where it gets super interesting. If they have 3 or 4 Champion of Cunning, you need to respect the brutal clock they represent. Keep in a couple of Vanquishes and Valkyrie Enforcers to fight them. They can bring back an enormous board instantaneously if they also have Vara, so leave in a couple of Harsh Rules as emergency reset buttons. Harsh Rule is also helpful to catch up after your opponent wipes your board with Lightning Storm into Withering Witch. Feln decks will almost always have Azindel’s Gift into Last Word to beat you in the super late game, but Decay is generally too narrow so just try to pressure their health total and don’t give them time to Gift you. Protect can save valuable cards in your hand for a turn. Steward of Prophecy is amazing against Feln, as it makes Champion of Cunning an unexciting vanilla dude and basically makes Withering Witch and Black-Sky Harbinger not cards.

That brings my current sideboard to:
3 Decay
1 Vanquish
2 Stand Together
2 Protect
1 Marshal Ironthorn
2 Reality Warden
2 Copper Conduit
2 Steward of Prophecy

Conclusion

While sideboarding advice is only relevant for the small subset of the population who plays in tournaments, tweaking your deck based on your expected metagame is always valuable. I hope that you can take these sideboarding notes and use them to modify your deck to always be the best it can be.

Until next time, may you always have a plan for each matchup you face.

LightsOutAce