Constructed Set Review Part 5 – Shadow, Argenport and Neutral

S + Arg.png

Hi Friends! This is the last section of my constructed set review! Please check out part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4! I also wrote a short “Hot takes for Filthy Netdeckers” article, in case you having a hard time starting in the new format. The first section of my limited set review podcast also just dropped yesterday! Thank you all for checking these out and giving feedback. This was a big undertaking, and I have learned a lot that I will apply to next time! Hope you enjoy!

★★★★★Total rock star – either a headline card in a one of the most popular decks, or a common inclusion in multiple high-level archetypes. Tier 1 decks are built around these cards. Examples: Sandstorm Titan, Harsh Rule, Oni Ronin

★★★★Popular but not as powerful – either a common support card in popular deck or an important inclusion in a tier 2-3 deck. Very good in the right situations, but sometimes they just don’t fit in the metagame, or are simply one of the less exciting inclusions in major decks. Examples: Cirso, Deathstrike, Sword of Icaria

★★★Tech and/or Niche: maybe this is a powerful card without a home, or maybe it is a niche role player that sneaks up in the right situations. The best deck builders will know when to use these, but do not expect them on ladder every day. These are often in competition with other cards for limited space. Examples:  Sabotage, Crownwatch Cavalry, Thunderstrike Dragon

★★ Long Shot: Some cards are powerful, but cost a lot. Some are do-nothings that could fit into weird combo decks. Some cards are largely there for the memes and end up getting showing up in some fringe decks. All those cards get 2 stars! A lot of these cards are actually 1s or 4+, and but are too difficult to predict at the moment. Examples: Crown of Possibilities, The Last Word, Sporefolk

★ Unplayable: I do not expect these cards to see play. Either there are better options, or the stats:power ratio is just how high enough. Many commons made for draft land here. Examples: Xenan Guardian, Forge Wolf, Mithril Mace

Shadow

Brash Shorthorn

Brash_Shorthorn (1).png

★★★ I have a very hard time giving a 2/1 for 1 anything less than 3 stars. Obviously there is a very specific type of deck that wants 2/1 for 1, but they are usually willing to take as many as they can get. I kinda feel that Stonescar has the density of 1-drops that it wants just in set 1, but there may be an aggro Argenport deck that wants this, even though it is certainly not an important card in the deck.

Fallen Oni

Fallen_Oni.png

★ The joke here is that this is an undead Oni Ronin? Reverse stats and it counters warcry rather than having warcry? I guess that is something, but 1/2 for 1 is just abysmal stats, so I am not looking to play this in any variety of deck.

Jack’s Knife

Jack's_Knife.png

★★★ Ya know what? I don’t mind this. Heavy Axe had the major issue where your 2/1 would still trade with your opponent’s 2/1, or die to Lightning Storm. The extra point of health on a weapon like this matters a lot, and the fact this costs 1 means you get to play it out very early while developing other threats. This isn’t the kind of card that is always going to make the cut in aggressive decks that can play it, but I would be surprised if this saw 0 play.

Swear Vengence

Swear_Vengeance (1).png

★★★★ As of this writing, there are some changes being made to revenge and how it interacts with echo (check out LocoPojo’s video if you haven’t seen it to see the old version). Even if a change is made where revenge interacts with echo in a more logical way, it could still be a superb combo. I also feel like there is something degenerate that can be done with this. Can this be played in Haunting Scream? 4 stars looks really weird for what is ultimately “awkward Dark Return”, but there is part of me that thinks this card is broken, and I just can’t figure out how to break it yet.

Tock Tick

Tock_Tick.png

★★★ TLDR If revenge is really good, it seems like a 1 drop with revenge might be a really powerful place to put it, I am just confused by revenge. I am going to go on a tiny rant here, which wasn’t necessary in Justice – I don’t know how to value revenge. I have played with the cards some (but not a lot) and it just hasn’t gelled for me yet. There is half of me that thinks it is broken, and if I figure out the right combination of effects, some revenge deck will come together and do degenerate stuff. The other half thinks most of the revenge units are terrible. In this case – a 1/1 for 1 is not relevant. A free 1/1 later in the game is also not really relevant. Other cards with revenge we get include a (functional) 2/1 for 2, a 3/3 for 4, a 3/3 flyer for 5, and an 8/4 for 8 (Makto is in a separate category, we will touch on that later). These cards are below rate when they come down on the grounds that they may come back for free later – but the catch is they matter even less when they come back! By then your opponent is playing real cards, and your army of 2/2s and 3/3s are just invalidated. Yes, I know there are combos with things like Xenan Cultist or Oathbook, but those sorts of incremental improvements just seem like nonsense in a world where Skycrag, Stonescar or Rakano will just kill you, or Combrei and Armory overpower you. Are the combos really powerful enough to build a deck around? If so, how do you put them together? What effects do you prioritize and in what numbers? What kind of deck are you actually supposed to be? Is Grinva part of the secret to cracking the deck wide open? Is revenge just supposed to be a draft mechanic? As you can see, this is something that has been bothering me a lot, and I just felt like I wanted to get it out here. In some ways, it is similar to Echo, since it gives you two copies of the same card, although one requires spending power to get the second copy, while the other requires time. Personally, I find Revenge much harder to evaluate, especially since it has largely been put on units that are utterly embarrassing rather than slightly below rate. I know others have expressed similar frustration in various ways, but I wanted to say it here. My ratings for some revenge cards is going to feel almost arbitrary as a result of this uncertainty and confusion. I am giving this a 3 star rating because if there is something busted you can do with revenge it feels like a 1 drop with that ability will be involved. Even with the nerf to revenge Roaches I expect this card to see play in echo themed decks, although it is very difficult to guess how popular/powerful it will be.

Longshot Marksman

Longshot_Marksman.png

★ A 2/1 for 2 is just not good enough, and although it has 2 interesting abilities, I feel this is a little too inefficient to ever make the cut. I think Lethrai Ranger is just a better card, and that only barely saw play. Surprising close to playable though.

Piercing Grief

Piercing_Grief.png

★★ At its core this is a burn spell that is broken up over multiple turns, but I think evaluating it through that lens is naive. The case of revenge Roaches has already shown us that this card plays in a bizarre mechanical space. I don’t think it was great in the revenge Roaches deck, but it certainly was very interesting. If revenge is broken this is a card that could be responsible, but I am very skeptical as you can imagine. If you are playing this as just a fair card, I think you are doing it very wrong.

Scare

Scare

★★ This is permanent, which actually interests me. I am wondering if there is some really crazy combo deck that can be put together. Play Combrei Healers and Refresh until you build a unit to be an X/12 than Scare > Righteous Fury? I I know that this sounds like total jank, but that is part of me that wonders. Maybe part of the Lifeforce deck? Certainly a long shot, but this is actually powerful in the right deck.

Threaten

Threaten.png

★ I know that this is a permanent buff, but this is basically like a Heavy Axe at fast speed for twice the cost. There are more complexities than that, but I have a hard time picturing a deck that wants this. Combat tricks should actually save your unit in combat!

Amethyst Ring

Amethyst_Ring.png

★★ I could see some version of the lifeforce deck playing this as an enabler. This is more in line with Mask or Torment or something. It is very slow, but if you are getting most of a card worth of value out of every activation this is totally legit. Clearly this is a very narrow kind of deck, but I have certainly seen worse. I have also been wondering about a unitless control deck with something like this as a finisher. That is probably not good enough, but it is an idea.

Cabal Slasher

Cabal_Slasher

★ Even if lifeforce aggro is a deck, I am not excited about playing something like this. 3 health for 3 sucks so badly, and you just never get any bigger than that! I should probably give this an extra star, but I have an irrational hate for this card that I cannot explain, so I am going to leave it at 1.

Cat Burgler

Cat_Burglar

★★★ To me, this is a classic 3 star card. In the right metagame this is sick technology. She is an efficient 2-for-1, but only if most opponents are playing relics. In a world defined by Skycrag or Stonescar this card is utter trash, but moves up dramatically if Armory or Obelisk decks become popular. The fail rate here is real, so don’t just include her in every Shadow deck, but don’t forget about her either!

Extract

Extract

★★★★ There is no question that every lifeforce deck includes 4 of these. 3 damage for 3 at slow speed is inefficient, but you just need the lifegain, and this is a low-downside way to get to the density that you need. Do non-lifeforce decks include this? Probably, but not in large numbers. I can think of times that Feln control (or aggro) would consider a card like this, even though it is below rate relative to what Fire gets. I really like this card personally, but that may be a partially a bias.

Lethrai Memory-Keeper

Lethrai_Memory-Keeper

★ We avoid playing vanilla 4/1s for 3 in draft, so we don’t even consider it in ranked.

Means to an End

Means_to_an_End

★★ TLDR- this card might actually be good, but it is really hard to guess right now. I feel like there are too many weird relics in this set. Above I went on a rant about revenge, and how it is an unintuitive mechanic to evaluate and build around for ranked. The second thing that I would note as a point of criticism of set 2 is the density of build-around relics, especially at legendary. In The Empty Throne (AKA Set 1) there were 3 relics at legendary out of 55, which is about 5% of the total. Omens has 5/30, which is about 16%, meaning we have 3x the density of build-around relics at legendary. The same phenomenon continues at rare, though less pronounced. We had 6/101 relics in set 1 at rare and 5/47 for set 2. The “weird build around-ness” of these relics has also jumped substantially in my opinion. That is hard to quantify, but I feel like “draft playable” is a good barometer. There is only 2/11 rare or legendary relic in set 2 that I think is draft playable (Flamestoker and Knucklebones) while set 1 had at least 4/12 that are very powerful draft cards (Obelisk, Oathbook, Eye of Winter and Chalice). I know that building around these relics and exploring their implications is going to take a lot of time, and some may end up being a defining element of the set, but I think the density of these cards might be off-putting to some players. Take a look at Means to an End. I look at this card and my brain spasms at first. “How does this even work? It wants me to do what? Is this worth building around?” If I can’t figure it out at first, I put it on the back-burner, and move on through looking at the spoiler. If there are a few of these, that is fine! Maybe I ignore them entirely, or I revisit them once I have the time to focus and have had more time to adjust to the card pool. After someone reads half a dozen cards quick succession with dizzying text boxes at high rarities one might begin to feel frustrated. It gives the impression that there are no powerful cards in the set. A less experienced player may stop there, and feel frustrated that they don’t “get” what is happening. My personal inclination is to hold back judgement, and wait until I can actually experiment with these weirdo cards before passing judgement. I also know that having a bad build-around relic at legend is not much different than having something like Ancient Terrazon at legend – neither is going to see high-level competitive play, so you might as well put something in that will excite some brewers right? Except I feel that ignores the experience of the beginner to intermediate player flipping through the preview gallery for the first time. Legends are supposed to generally be exciting rather than confusing. Some may take this as meaning that I don’t like the set so far, which would be mistaken, but others have expressed some frustration and I am trying to explain why that may be the case. In the other sections of my review I have gotten comments every time complaining about the power-level of the set. I don’t think the power level of the set is much less than Set 1 given its size, but the confused feeling you may get when looking through the Legends may give you a feeling that there is nothing worth playing. All that being said, Means to an End might end up being very powerful in the right deck, but building that deck correctly will take a lot of work. I can’t guess right now if it is worth building around, but it is worth a try.

Skeeter

Skeeter

★ If this is what you need to play for lifeforce to be competitive, this deck is not worth playing in my opinion.

Sorros’ Shroud

Sorrow's_Shroud

★ Lethrai Falchion is a much better card than this, and that saw very little play. Healer’s Cloak is a better card than this, and that saw very little play. I hope you get the point.

Spur On

Spur_On

★ Ghostform did not see any serious play in set 1, so I am inclined to say that a spell that costs 3 times as much for a similar effect is unlikely to make the cut.

Cabal Blungeoner

Cabal_Bludgeoner

★ Unless minotaur tribal becomes really big, I am inclined to moooove on. Just play Impending Doom.

Cripple

Cripple.png

★ This is like the 10th best removal spell in Shadow. I suppose there is a chance that some future mechanic triggers off -X/-X effects, but that is not a thing for the time being.

Hatecleaver

Hatecleaver (1).png

★★★ This is a bullish take on the card, but I think Hateclever has some potential in the aggressive lifeforce decks. The curve of Oasis Seeker into Ayan into Equip Hatecleaver, and then attack with the units would give you a 5/4 Cleaver. This has a lot of snowball potential as well. Probably only playable in aggressively slanted decks, but it is real in my opinion. Kaleb’s Favor sits on it a little, so I will contain my excitement to 3 stars.

Memory Dredger

Memory_Dredger.png

★★★There has got to be something busted that can be done with this right? 3/4 are obviously great stats for avoiding removal, and any sort of recurring infiltrate ability sounds potentially busted. I am thinking about trying a new take on infiltrate aggro that is focused on generating value off things like Torgov and Memory Dredger.

Relentless Gorhorn

Relentless_Gorehorn.png

★★★ If the revenge deck is actually a thing in ranked I feel like Gorehorn must be a big part of that. There are a lot of Minotaurs in this set, many of which have revenge. This means that you get to constantly replay your units that all have buffs. Once again, this rating almost feels arbitrary since I don’t get how revenge is supposed to work in Ranked, but there is something about this that feels like it is important.

Savage Stranger

Savage_Stranger.png

★★When the new Champion of Cunning came out many people said they felt +2/+0 wasn’t a shadow “thing”. Well, DWD heard your feedback and decided to make this a shadow thing! If strangers is a deck I guess this is a card in that deck, but I am not truly convinced of either of those statements. I don’t think this is a reason to add shadow to your strangers deck, but if you are there already, why not right?

Xenan Fanatic

Xenan_Fanatic.png

★★The wording on this card is important – the end of turn clause means that you are not able to deal infinite damage if you give this lifesteal. That is a rough break for old Xenan Fanatic, because that was his best bet for seeing play. 3/1 for 4 is horrid, and on a utility unit I am worried this card is just way too clunky. I could imagine this as a finisher in a bigger lifeforce aggro deck. Set up a big hit where you gain 10 life and deal 5 damage, then drop 2 fanatics post combat and end the game! I would treat this more as a burn spell that happens to have a 3/1 attached rather than the other way, since you are almost never powering up with this alive.

Minotaur Lighthoof

Minotaur_Lighthoof.png

★★ Given that I have talked myself into this deranged Minotaur/revenge deck that may be utter garbage, I guess I need to give this 2 stars. I expect I will come to regret such ratings but I feel like this this belongs in the bizarro world there Minotaur tribal is a thing.

Obrak, the Feaster

Obrak,_the_Feaster.png

★★★ Oh jeez, another revenge card that I don’t know what to do with. 7/7 flyer for 5 is bananas! Revenge is insane on such a powerful body! But that drawback is…..steep. Maybe the revenge plan is just feeding Tock Ticks and Alchemists to Obrak, and hope she carries you? The fact that you must either overcommit, or be weak to something like a single removal spell is maddening. I can’t give a 7/7 flyer for five lower than a 3, and I can’t give a card with that drawback higher than a 3, so I guess it is 3.

Direwood Prowler

Direwood_Prowler.png

★★My time playing Scream Reanimator has helped me appreciate the value of Devour. This is no Devour, but a reasonable facsimile of Devour on a unit seems totally fine. Possibly an inclusion in the revenge deck? Shadow doesn’t get a ton of card advantage, but this is a legit 3-for-1 in some cases.

Slimespitter Slug

Slimespitter_Slug.png

★★★ This is a very bullish take on this card. Very few people are talking about it, but this could be totally bonkers in the right metagame. Hooru skies is a problem? We have a a great solution. The lifegain trigger is also worth noting given the lifeforce theme in Xenan. Still, that base of 6/4 for 6 is not exciting, so I will keep my enthusiasm under control.

Cabal Rouge

Cabal_Rogue.png

★ You can find much better units to finish the game. Way too fragile.

Inspire Obedience

Inspire_Obedience.png

★If Cripple is like the 10th best removal spell in Shadow, I guess this can be the 11th.

Sleepless Nights

Sleepless_Night.png

★★★ Although I am not sure how they got a hold of my picture after working on the set review, this card is very interesting. This is really powerful right? Get to see 8 cards between the two halves? I am most interested in the combination with West Wind Herald, or something. Certainly an interesting card.

Argenport

Auric Bully

Auric_Bully.png

★★ I do think this 2-drop is better than Crownwatch Paladin in many Argenport decks. You should be able to get the density of good weapons needed to get this card to function, and having the leg-up in the early game. Still not very good, and only fits into an aggro Argenport deck, but stranger things can happen!

Auric Vigilante

Auric_Vigilante

★★★ Another revenge card? I still don’t know what is going on here. This card is just way to fragile! Clearly a good card in the Minotaur/revenge contraption I have been discussing, but that doesn’t make her actually good. Whatever! 3 Stars! What am I supposed to do!?!

Bartholo, the Seducer

Bartholo,_the_Seducer.png

★★★★ I went to high school with this guy, so let me tell you – he may look merely annoying, he becomes a major issue when he steals your girlfriend gets buffed. Aegis + unblockable is a powerful combination, since it basically means killer and relic weapons are the only was to profitably interact. I don’t think this is the kind of card every Argenport deck wants, and the ultimate is really weird, but if you can consistently support him, Bart looks like he has the potential to be dangerous.

Bloodletter

Bloodletter.png

★★ This is very close to Lethrai Falchion in power level, though in a more restrictive influence requirement. Lethrai Falchion was roughly 2-3 stars itself, so I am willing to pass along a 2 to Bloodletter as well. I am not sure if this is the pants Bart wants to be using, but it is certainly enticing if you are just looking to race. Might also be part of the Xenan Fanatic OTK deck?

Slay

Slay (1).png

★★★★★ This is now arguably the best removal spell in the game. I think that almost every deck that can consistently cast it should consider playing 4. This is truly one of the reasons you want to be in Argenport.

Champion of Vengeance

Champion_of_Vengeance.png

★★ So the joke is that when she is fully activated you get to just attack with impunity on your turn, and she slowly grows to an unstopppable monster. That sounds like an appealing win condition, but this card is laughable on defense. If Argenport aggro materializes I suppose they will want this as a top end. I originally had this at an optimistic 3 stars, but I was talked down to 2 stars because that fail state is so uninspiring.

Sanguine Sword

Sanguine_Sword.png

★ Though I can conceive of a world where you will want to sacrifice a unit to this most of the time, the fail stat is just so bad. Inside Argenport there are not ways to recycle this, so you cannot really abuse multiple activations unless you are in Fire, in which case…why are you playing this over real Armory cards?

Stonepowder Alchemist

Stonepowder_Alchemist.png

★★ This card is particularly low impact for a 4 drop. I am sure this is really annoying for a mono-Fire deck, but I don’t think the card matters enough to be worth a card most of the time. If there is some Xenan Fanatic OTK or revenge theme deck this looks acceptable, but this is certainly a long shot.

Streetwise Informant

Streetwise_Informant.png

★ Even is a minotaur deck does materialize, I have my doubts that a 1/4 for 4 will be a part of making it happen. If you are looking for a target to carry weapons there is much better, and the activated ability is pathetic.

Bereaved Stranger

Bereaved_Stranger

★★ A 4/4 lifesteal for 5 is really not that bad, especially if Oathbreaker, or lifeforce splash Justice become possible. Strangers is also at least interesting, and this could be involved there. Giving your whole team lifesteal sounds like a combo with Xenan Fanatic. I know most people just ignore cards like this off-handedly, but there may be a home, even if it is narrow.

Inquisitor Makto

Inquisitor_Makto.png

★★★★★ This is the only revenge card that actually makes sense to me. 5/5 flyer for 5 is totally playable, and Makto has the potential to come back 2 or 3 times in drawn out games. Maybe Makto is part of the reason most of the other revenge cards look so pitiful. He is just sitting on everything else, since a deck with 3 or 4 revenge units at this level would be enraging and toxic. If Makto has some issue, it is the rest of Argenport holding him back rather than some problem with him.

Rolant’s Choice

Rolant's_Choice.png

★★★ Oddly, I think this card is important. Having a permanent +3/+3 for a revenge unit feels like a recipe to actually take on control decks, while the -1/-1 is obviously great against aggro. 5 is a lot for this kind of buff, but it looks like it has a chance.

Valkyrie Denouncer

Valkyrie_Denouncer.png

★ As much as I am confused by revenge, I am not confused by the competition at 5 in Justice. This is just so far behind a ton of other cards at the same cost.

Grinva, Judge of Battles

Grinva,_Judge_of_Battles.png

★★★ I was very sceptical of Grinva when I first read her, but the Legendary event reversed some of those doubts, though not all. 7 is so much for a unit without a summon effect. There are some applications worth seriously considering, but none seem truly compelling. She is also a Minotaur I suppose? My guess is that you see her around on occasion as a niche roleplayer in either big revenge/midrange or some variety of reanimator/combo, but is not a fixture of ladder.

Neutral

Faction Strangers

★★★ It is a cop out to include these in 1 grade, but I am going to do it anyway! There are a number of cards available to us now that really like lots of time influence. I am thinking about things like Sand Warrior or Wandering Wisp. There is a world in which the Time fixing strangers see play in some deck to power out those influence requirements. In addition, Praxis Stranger could be very helpful for casting Heart of the Vault. It is very difficult to hit FFFTTT by turn 6 (or earlier with ramp), and Heart is a card that is very much worth playing on time, especially if you are hoping to play any additional factions. I am also thinking back to Champion of Order. I know that I said I am not interested in that card, but some people seem to be, so if they are able to make a deck, Hooru Stranger is probably involved to hit the needed thresholds. I have also said earlier that the Strangers deck is actually interesting to me now that they have nice things like +2/+2 etc. Which one will see play in which deck is very hard to call right now, but I can promise that these little 2/2s could easily see competitive play.

Reunite

Reunite.png

★★ I have been giving the top-shelf Strangers 2 stars for the most part, so I guess this one gets the same grade. This is probably totally self-explanatory, but if there is a “Stranger deck” this sees play, but if there isn’t this is garbage.

Spirit of Resistance

Spirit_of_Resistance.png

★★ Weird card! extremely expensive, but certainly powerful. It is hard to imagine an Eternal equivalent of Deathwing would see no play, but it certainly extremely limited given the extreme cost. Maybe part of the top end for Xenan ramp? This could easily end up being anywhere between 1 and 5 stars, and it is very much worth testing, but boy is 12 a lot. I will say that I generally agree with LocoPojo’s review of the flavor (you can see that in this video starting at 10 minutes). This is not the place to rant about that, but I will say that I am not a fan.


giphy.gif

With that we are finished the entire set review! Thank you so much for joining me! I did really enjoy it, even if it was a lot more work than I expected. I learned a lot from doing this, and I assure you that next time will be much better! If you haven’t checked out my other sections, be sure to look at my Fire/Praxis, Time/Xenan, Justice/Hooru and Primal/Skycrag reviews, and give me your feedback on Reddit! I have also released the first part of my limited set review podcast with SirRhino with the second part coming very soon, so check that out if you have a chance. Even though I did pick at some parts of the set that I found confusing in this section of the review, I do genuinely like the set, and look forward to mining its depth. Hope you are all liking it as well!

Love,

Neon

One thought on “Constructed Set Review Part 5 – Shadow, Argenport and Neutral

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s