Set 2 is coming out later this month, and with it a whole new batch of synergies, build-around cards, and cards for the unsupported faction pairs. We won’t know what the build-arounds and new combos are until we see the cards, but we can identify gaps in current decks that we hope are filled by set 2. There are a ton of decks that are almost there that only need one or two more good cards to become tier 1 contenders. Here are a few of the things on my wishlist.
A 2- or 3-drop for Xenan Control
Xenan Control is a fun deck built around the two best 4-drops in the game (Steward of the Past and Sandstorm Titan), and it is actually pretty decent (don’t listen to Neon; he’s a hater). The problem is that it is a slow deck and is often too far behind before it can drop one of those beefy 4-drops. Stray Into Shadow is its only option for mass removal, and doesn’t line up well against 4 and 5 cost units like Impending Doom and Marshall Ironthorn. In order to not fall behind, the deck plays a pile of Shadow removal and Temple Scribe, but those often don’t line up very well. Lumen Defender and Umbren Reaper can pick up some slack by gaining health in the mid-game, but it’s preferable to never fall behind in the first place. A solid 2 or 3-cost multifaction unit would help a TON. It doesn’t have to be Siraf-level, but a 3/4 that can block well against aggro, survive Torch, and be a decent source of pressure against control would be ideal. I tried splashing in Siraf, but the results weren’t super promising.
Sweet deck, though
This isn’t to say that Xenan is only one card away from dominating the format. It is a slow deck that wants to get to the late game and it’s only options for card advantage are Mystic Ascendant, which is slow, and Ancient Lore, which is bad. This leads to either losing against control or playing glacially slow cards like Azindel’s Gift and The Last Word. A powerful sweeper could help shore up the aggro matchups and allow playing those expensive cards. Xenan Control is definitely what I’ll be working on first when set 2 drops.
Another Sacrifice Payoff or Card Advantage Tool for Stonescar Kalis
Kalis is a super-fun deck when it works, but it’s plagued by inconsistency. Often your Bloodrite Kalis isn’t in your top 30 cards or you don’t have a Devour to go with your Madness. Torrent of Spiders, one of the payoff cards, is anemic until the late game and useless against flyers and units that don’t need to attack like Siraf. The deck is prone to flood and has no power sinks. If another sacrifice payoff or Devour variant is printed in set 2, this deck could take off. Imagine a relic that lets you sacrifice a unit once per turn to draw a card and gain 1 health. The rate is worse than Devour, but it’s repeatable so you can use it to dig for action when your tiny units aren’t useful. Who knows, such a card might even make Scraptank an all-star!
Kalis is so fun when it works that I want it to succeed.
A Looting Effect at a Good Rate for Reanimator decks
Reanimator is another deck archetype that is super fun when it works, but not quite consistent enough for the big time. Vara bringing back Vara bringing back Snowcrush Animist is awesome, though, so I wish it was good. In order to get the consistency it needs, reanimator desperately wants more looting effects (cards that draw and then discard) with good rates. Herald’s Song and Blind Storyteller can do it, but at 2 power per loot they are a little slow. Sporefolk helps, but if you don’t mill anything good in your top 5 cards he’s a crappy 1/2 for 2.
For reanimator to be good, we need a way to consistently get a grasping at Shadows in hand and a fatty or two in the void by turn 5. Something like “3PP Spell. Draw 3 cards and discard 2 cards” or a decently-statted unit that draws a card and discards a card on summon could push Vara into the forefront of the competitive Eternal scene.
A Mid-Game Card Draw Effect for Reactive Control Decks
Glacially slow control decks are my favorite archetype, but they aren’t the best ladder choices with the tools we have in set 1. They can remove threats and survive for a long time, but the reward for extending the game isn’t proportional to how hard it is to get there. There are very few true inevitability tools to bury an opponent once you hold off their initial game plan. Staff of Stories is close, but fragile and sometimes tough to set up.
What we really need is more decent card draw. A midrange or aggro deck can keep pace with you in the late game since you have to play more power in your deck for your high-cost cards. Siraf and Feln Bloodcaster are nice if you are in Combrei or Feln, but Channel the Tempest is really expensive and the game is often over before you can cast it. I’ve also often killed a unit and drawn 3 power and then died to running topdecks from my opponent while I floundered and died. Running out of gas in the late game as a control deck against midrange is embarrassing, and makes you question why you’re playing such a reactive deck in the first place. Some card draw better than Ancient Lore would go a long ways towards making sure the control decks don’t run out of gas and have the right answers for the threats they are presented.
More Power Sinks
Speaking of Siraf and Feln Bloodcaster, they are the only two powerful power sinks right now (Pyroknight kind of counts, too, but she is an aggro card for decks that don’t want to see the late game). When I say ‘power sinks,’ I mean cards with effects that are useful early, but can do something more later if you have a lot of extra power to spend. Ultimate and repeatable abilities are ways of doing this, but other good ones are mechanics like Investigate in Magic: the Gathering or effects that help you draw more action late game like Courser of Kruphix or Scry.
I think games are more fun when both players have plenty of things to do the whole game, and incremental card advantage and power sinks are the best way to ensure that. When everyone has access to power sinks and card draw tacked onto other effects, they can play more power in their decks and have more consistent openings while not really flooding since they can always pay 7 to draw 2 cards or whatever. Basically, I want more cheap units that can attack and block early and use card-advantage-providing Ultimates later.
Until next time, don’t die in anticipation of set 2!