Well, that’s it. Heart of the Vault is pretty clearly the best card in Eternal.
Praxis won three ETS tournaments in a row, Heart of the Vault is unbeatable, and Fire + Time is the endgame of the format, right? Wrong, you can get bigger. You can get greedier. You can put Mystic Ascendant in your Heart of the Vault deck. You can put Dark Return in your Heart of the Vault deck. You can put Siraf, Marshall Ironthorn, Rise to the Challenge and freaking ICARIA in your Heart of the Vault deck and play greedy over-the-top Combrano, or as I like to call it, FFFTTTJJJ midrange.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. There are paths out of the Time-based midrange slog-fest where Heart of the Vault reigns supreme. One such path is preventing the resource grind altogether by hitting your opponent with an Azindel’s Gift. Another is killing before any 6-drop triple-influence nonsense matters with Oni Ronin or Bartholo. My favorite, ironically, is another Time deck:
2 Protect (Set1 #132)
4 Seek Power (Set1 #408)
4 Desert Marshal (Set1 #332)
3 Find the Way (Set1 #513)
4 Temple Scribe (Set1 #502)
3 Vanquish (Set1 #143)
3 Voice of the Speaker (Set1 #78)
4 Combrei Healer (Set1 #333)
4 Knight-Chancellor Siraf (Set1 #335)
4 Sandstorm Titan (Set1 #99)
4 The Great Parliament (Set1 #338)
3 Marshal Ironthorn (Set1 #174)
1 Waystone Infuser (Set2 #63)
4 Mystic Ascendant (Set1 #116)
3 Vodakhan, Temple Speaker (Set1 #347)
9 Time Sigil (Set1 #63)
8 Justice Sigil (Set1 #126)
2 Combrei Banner (Set1 #424)
4 Seat of Progress (Set0 #58)
2 Diplomatic Seal (Set1 #425)
Who cares how many 6/6s the opponent has or how many dudes they draw – I’ll just make a bunch of 14/14s and draw my whole deck and Ultimate Ironthorn before attacking for a hundred damage!
The old classic Vodakombo can easily go over the top of the relatively slow Combrei, Praxis and multi-faction greed pile decks by drawing 4+ cards per turn, and it has enough respect for aggro with early blockers and health gain to have a passable matchup there. Doing something pro-active so you don’t lose to Rise to the Challenge for Icaria into Heart of the Vault is important, and Vodakombo can quickly get out of control if the opponent doesn’t present some heavy disruption.
My favorite part of the deck is the pseudo-modal mid-game cards. Siraf and The Great Parliament are fine early blockers when you need that effect, and both are wonderful top decks in the late game when you have 8-12 power. I always feel more comfortable with those two cards in my deck, as drawing cards in the correct order doesn’t matter as much. I wish there were more cards in Eternal that were reasonable early and powerhouses in the late game due to activated abilities or scaling based based on power.
Sandstorm Titan comes in and out of Vodakombo decks, but right now I think you want him to block opposing Sandstorm Titans, Silverwing Familiars, and Champion of Furies. The fact that the deck plays Protect means your Titan will live to block a lot more often, and in the matchups where Titan doesn’t matter, Protect is great and keeping your Mystic Ascendants and Vodakhans around. Many slower decks are switching all of their copies of Vanquish to Eilyn’s Choice, which also helps Vodakombo’s positioning. Marshall Ironthorn, Mystic Ascendant, and Vodakhan don’t need to attack to gain value, and the 3 power held up for Choice is very telegraphed until the super late game, where you have enough resources to run your units into removal anyways.
Vodakombo’s late game is so dominant that basically any early interaction is favorable for you. Normally when you block a 2/2 with your Siraf, you’re happy if they have Torch (since you get a 2-for-1) and sad if they have Finest Hour (since then it’s a 1-for-1, but at least you gained some health). With Vodakombo, you don’t care if they use combat tricks on removal on your Siraf, your follow-up Great Parliament, and your Ironthorn with no power drop the turn after – you’re still going to win the late game due to your overwhelming density of great late-game draws. If you can just SURVIVE and get the opponent to trade resources so they don’t overwhelm you, eventually you will pull ahead.
In almost every matchup save the slowest control decks, you should just run out your Siraf and Great Parliament early to contest the board and pressure you opponent. you don’t have Harsh Rule, so you can’t afford to get too far behind on board. You will generally only be able to produce one unit per turn, so it’s important to start blocking early if your health will be under any duress. Protect is great against Flame Blast, but it’s less than optimal against a Deepforge Plate-wielding Rakano Outlaw.
Once you have 7 or 8 power, every card becomes amazing. Even Seek Power becomes a 0 cost draw a card at worst with Vodakhan in play, and depending on what else you have it often just fills your hand and board. With an Ascendant or Vodakhan almost no draws are bad, and an Ironthorn or Voice of the Speaker turbo-charges everything from “close game” to “absurd beating.” Saving Seek Power and Find the Way for explosive Vodakhan turns is advised if you have enough power to make your power drops for the forseeable future.