Hello all! We’ve been derailed somewhat by all the tournament hype that’s been going around (MSM is coming up!) but I’m finally back in the writer’s seat. Today we’re going to do our much-alluded-to card-by-card breakdown of a deck. For today’s article, I chosen to write about Traditional Armory, both because it’s a deck I’m very familiar with and because it is a synergistic deck with a nonlinear strategy. Let’s start by examining the Strategy and Means of an Armory deck.
Strategy and Means
We won’t dive too deep on how to identify these two with this deck, since it’s going to be a long article as is and the Means will be discussed at length in the card by card review. In general, the strategy of any Armory deck is to keep your opponent’s board clear. With nothing on your opponent’s side of the board, they often have a difficult time removing your relic weapon while you can freely go face. Armory decks run into problems when faced with a unit they can’t remove or lots of units that hop in the way of your swords. Relic weapons pull triple duty in this deck, serving as wincon, removal and lifegain, and the deck is built to optimize their use.
Card By Card Review: Core Strategy – Enablers
Rather than talking about cards in the order they appear, I’m going to break up the review into section based on the role cards play in the deck. Some cards will have multiple roles, I’ll talk about them in their most important role. The two most important roles cards can play are those that are key to your Strategy: Enablers and Payoffs. Enablers allow your deck to function by setting up your core strategy – from cheap Warcry units in Rakano to cards like Grenadin Drone in token decks. Payoff cards, as their name implies, are what pay you back for whatever setup you did with the enablers. Sometimes Payoff cards are finishers, like Shimmerpack, sometimes they just generate value, like discarding Privilege of Rank. The next most important role for cards is the Means. While not quite core to your strategy, they help you accomplish it in a variety of ways. Cards that draw cards, kill units or otherwise provide needed but generic effects will often fall into this category. Finally, you have tech cards/flex slots. These are cards that aren’t dedicated to your core strategy, but might improve a specific matchup or deal with an otherwise tough to handle card. Disruption effects like Sabotage or targeted hate like Ruin would fall into this category.
Now that we’ve discussed the four categories that cards, can fall into, let’s take a look at an Armory list and do a card by card review!
Rakano Artisan: The first, and most important enabler in Armory is Rakano Artisan. The whole deck is built on the back of his powerful summon effect, which gives every Weapon in your deck +1/+1. Only one other card in the game gets to enhance your entire deck, and she costs double and needs to attack.
Rise to the Challenge: A powerful and flexible card, Rise to the Challenge costs 2 less than Celestial Omen but offers nearly the same flexibility in this deck. Depending on the situation, Rise can grab removal (in the form of a weapon), a finisher (weapon or Icaria), health (Throne Warden or a large weapon), or a tech card. Aside from the flexibility of grabbing anything, Rise pulls double duty and buffs the target as well. The +2 attack bonus is also incredibly powerful on weapons, turning a Starsteel Daisho from an unassuming 4/4 to a two turn clock 6/4.
Throne Warden: The longer a relic weapon sticks around, the more value it generates. Four armor goes a long way to keeping your relic weapons around longer, and the 4/4 Aegis body is difficult to remove, giving your weapon a defensive blocker. Throne Warden helps stabilize your life total when behind and makes it very difficult to remove your weapon when ahead. He has mostly replaced the old Rolant’s Favor/Armorsmith package in Armory decks.
Inspire: While it looks like the definition of a filler card (and in other decks often is) Inspire is actually quite core to Armory’s gameplan. All of the other cards on this list buff your Relic Weapons, and Inspire is one of the cheapest ways in the game to do that. +1/+1 isn’t a huge bonus for units, but increasing a relic weapon from 3/2 to 4/3 or 4/1 to 5/2 can be gamechanging. Due to Inspires unreliability (Warcry can hit units, only targets what’s on top of your deck) it’s definitely the least important of the enablers, but its ability to buff Relic Weapons makes it an enabler nonetheless.
The Weapons: A blanket category that covers 5 cards – Charchain Flail, Sword of Icaria, Auric Runehammer, Starsteel Daisho, and Stonescar Maul. Armory is a weapon based deck, so it comes as no surprise that the weapons are the payoff. Charchain Flail is a flexible removal spell that ends games when the board is clear and plays very well with Smuggler’s Stash. Sword of Icaria is a hybrid Enabler/Payoff card, using its warcry to buff your other weapons. Auric Runehammer is mostly a removal spell, a 6/1 Runehammer can smash down a Sandstorm Titan. Starsteel Diasho is your primary weapon finisher, using its double attack to get extra value out of every buff you put on it. Finally, Stonescar Maul is an insurance policy, killing large units even when unbuffed and using overwhelm to push the last points of damage through when the board is not clear.
Icaria, the Liberator: The combination of Rise and Icaria has proved strong enough to spill over into multiple other decks. Icaria is one of the strongest finishers in the game, between her fifteen keywords and Warcry 5 making whatever’s on top of your deck enormous. I’m also contractually obliged to inform you that she, and not Siraf, is Best Girl. Some decks simply have no answer to Icaria and those that do generally can’t beat whatever her Warcry hit.
Smuggler’s Stash: The most soulcrushing payoff card to face, Smuggler’s Stash lets you bring back your buffed weapons for a second round. Because it lets you pick the best four cards out of your void, Smuggler’s Stash is actually more powerful than a 5 power draw 4. Strong enough to be worth splashing a whole faction for.
Seek Power: At the end of the day, Armory is a three color deck with heavy influence requirements. Most of your weapons need FF, JJ, or both to function. Icaria needs FFFJJJ and Quarry means you want early Shadow influence. Seek Power helps solve all these problems at once while also keeping Armory’s effective power count high.
Torch: Some players have been on the anti-torch train in recent times, but there’s no better one power removal spell. It kills what you need to kill and even goes face when its your opponent you need to kill.
Quarry: Quarry is an extremely powerful effect for this deck, as Armory can effectively use all the parts of it. The cost reduction is extremely valuable as Armory plays a number of expensive cards, and anything that goes to the void can be brought back with Smuggler’s Stash. It digs for enablers and power in the early game or buffed weapons and removal in the late game. Not a card worth splashing a whole faction for, but a powerful one if you’re already in those colors.
Vanquish: Small units get chopped down by relic weapons or burned out by torch. For everything large, there’s Vanquish.
Harsh Rule: “In general, the strategy of any Armory deck is to keep your opponent’s board clear.” Few cards clear a board like Harsh Rule. Armory’s general indifference towards the survival of its units allows it to make excellent use of this card, wiping away opposing threats and bashing through for (hopefully lethal) damage.
Furnace Mage: This particular build of Armory is light on tech cards, choosing to include only a single Furnace Mage. A silver bullet that can be grabbed by Rise, Furnace Mage breaks everything from opposing Relic Weapons to Permafrost to Deepforged Plate to Xenan Obelisk.
The Importance of Roles
Understanding the different roles that cards play in a deck is critical to understand both the decks strategy and its construction. These roles are valuable in determining how a deck plays, how to tweak it, and how to build whole new decks. When modifying decks, it’s critical to understand what cards are core to the strategy and which merely flesh it out. Removing cards that are core to the strategy can change the strategy or simply cripple it. Modifying payoff cards will often change the strategy of the deck, as you’re now building towards a different gameplan.
When building decks, its important to think about what role each card plays in a deck. In a synergistic deck like Armory, many cards play multiple roles. While this is useful, its merely one way to build a deck – a highly focused gameplan or a loose, flexible one can also work. However, you need to make sure that every card in the deck fits into one of these roles and builds towards your core strategy – if it doesn’t, that card probably doesn’t belong. An exception is when you’re intentionally diluting your deck with a backup strategy that wins in a different way. While this can be powerful, be very careful when employing this strategy. The card you’re including had best win the game on its own or serve some role towards the core strategy, otherwise the card likely requires too much support to be worth it.
Closing Thoughts: Tech Cards for Armory
Thanks for reading everyone! I know this article has been a long time coming, and I thank you for your patience. In my next column, we’ll use everything we discussed in this and previous articles to start looking at the deckbuilding process itself.
The Armory list we examined today is pretty focused and light on tech cards. However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t leave you with at least a few choices to mull over. Copperhall Baliff is a good way to reduce your weakness to go wide strategies and rush decks. Valkyrie Enforcer provides some much-needed Silence. Statuary Maiden is your best bet against void recursion, I don’t think Steward of the Past is particularly splashable anymore. Obliterate is strong in the mirror, handles most midsized units, and closes out games. For the ambitious, Runic Revolver looks terrible but is extremely strong with attack buffs. If your curve feels small Sword of the Sky King is the biggest, most legendary weapon around (but it’s not usually necessary). Finally, if you really want to grind, Treasury Gate can provide some extra value with every weapon played. Hone is theoretically good but in practice has never been good for me. Maybe you can make it work?