Lights Out – Spare the ‘Rod, Spoil the Ladder

There’s no denying it: there’s a new cow in the format, and he can’t be ignored. Tavrod frequently effectively ends the game after one attack, so every deck needs to have a plan for him, whether that’s hard removal or killing the opponent before the minotaur comes down.

Tavrod_Auric_Broker

Because of his obvious power, people have been jamming Tavrod into every deck imaginable. As you might imagine, I have been playing some Tavrod decks, and there are a few I like and a few I don’t like. Let’s start with one of the latter:

Tavrod ‘Armory’

tavrod armory.PNG

4 Seek Power (Set1 #408)
4 Torch (Set1 #8)
4 Quarry (Set1001 #15)
4 Rakano Artisan (Set1 #312)
2 Vanquish (Set1 #143)
2 Privilege of Rank (Set1 #157)
3 Slay (Set2 #236)
4 Sword of Icaria (Set1 #315)
4 Auric Runehammer (Set1 #166)
2 Rise to the Challenge (Set1 #320)
4 Statuary Maiden (Set1 #387)
4 Harsh Rule (Set1 #172)
4 Tavrod, Auric Broker (Set1002 #18)
2 Smuggler’s Stash (Set1 #396)
1 Starsteel Daisho (Set1 #328)
1 Icaria, the Liberator (Set1 #329)
4 Fire Sigil (Set1 #1)
5 Justice Sigil (Set1 #126)
3 Shadow Sigil (Set1 #249)
1 Rakano Banner (Set1 #427)
4 Seat of Glory (Set0 #56)
1 Argenport Banner (Set2 #231)
4 Seat of Vengeance (Set0 #55)
4 Seat of Chaos (Set0 #60)

This deck is extremely popular, and I think it’s atrocious. Tavrod is a great card, and it has nice synergy with Smuggler’s Stash, but it goes against Armory’s game plan. Armory wants to make opposing removal spells useless, and Tavrod turns all of your opponent’s Vanquishes, Slays, and Harsh Rules into good cards against you. I’ve talked before about how I hate Statuary Maiden in Armory, and Tavrod doesn’t belong for the same reason. Yes, Maiden gives you an answer to Dawnwalker, but if Dawnwalker is popular a better response is to just not play Armory. If you want to play Armory, play more Daishos, Icarias, and Throne Warden instead.

Tavrod ‘Armory’ trades a lot of equity in its good matchups for more equity in its bad matchups, but I don’t think it’s worth it to make stuff like Feln control an even matchup for a few points against the aggro and Dawnwalker decks. Tavrod with Stash and Quarry and Torch is a fine strategy, but then you can just play FJS midrange and abandon the armory plan altogether – get those crappy Rakano Artisans out of there, trim or remove the clunky Rise to the Challenge and Sword of Icaria, and add more minotaurs and good spells. Even then, I’m not convinced it is actually better positioned in the meta than what I affectionately call MaktoxIcaria Garbage Fire:

4 Seek Power (Set1 #408)
4 Torch (Set1 #8)
4 Quarry (Set1001 #15)
1 Vanquish (Set1 #143)
2 Vara’s Favor (Set0 #35)
4 Copperhall Bailiff (Set1001 #5)
1 Privilege of Rank (Set1 #157)
4 Slay (Set2 #236)
3 Valkyrie Enforcer (Set1 #151)
2 Auric Runehammer (Set1 #166)
3 Rise to the Challenge (Set1 #320)
4 Statuary Maiden (Set1 #387)
4 Harsh Rule (Set1 #172)
4 Inquisitor Makto (Set2 #242)
1 Throne Warden (Set1 #514)
1 Starsteel Daisho (Set1 #328)
4 Icaria, the Liberator (Set1 #329)
2 Fire Sigil (Set1 #1)
3 Justice Sigil (Set1 #126)
2 Shadow Sigil (Set1 #249)
4 Rakano Banner (Set1 #427)
4 Seat of Chaos (Set0 #60)
4 Seat of Glory (Set0 #56)
4 Seat of Vengeance (Set0 #55)
2 Stonescar Banner (Set1 #419)

The band of removal that interacts with large, multifaction flying units is rather narrow, so taxing it heavily while packing tons of spot removal isn’t a bad plan. This deck is actually really good against slower or removal-laden metas, but I’m getting a bit off topic here.

Argenport Midrange

argenport tavrod.PNG

1 Protect (Set1 #132)
2 Annihilate (Set1 #269)
4 Argenport Instigator (Set1 #268)
1 Talon of Nostrix (Set2 #74)
2 Vanquish (Set1 #143)
4 Vara’s Favor (Set0 #35)
4 Auric Interrogator (Set1002 #13)
4 Bartholo, the Seducer (Set2 #234)
4 Bloodletter (Set2 #235)
4 Slay (Set2 #236)
4 Valkyrie Enforcer (Set1 #151)
4 Auric Runehammer (Set1 #166)
4 Impending Doom (Set1 #286)
4 Lethrai Falchion (Set1 #285)
4 Tavrod, Auric Broker (Set1002 #18)
7 Justice Sigil (Set1 #126)
6 Shadow Sigil (Set1 #249)
4 Argenport Banner (Set2 #231)
4 Seat of Vengeance (Set0 #55)
4 Diplomatic Seal (Set1 #425)

This is currently public enemy #1, and for good reason. Tavrod is insane as a curve-topper in aggressive decks so you don’t run out of gas, Bartholo + 8 Lifesteal weapons gives you a plan against aggro that is very difficult for them to interact with, and the removal is plentiful and powerful. Auric Interrogator is not-so-secretly one of the most powerful cards in Horus Traver as well, and does a ton of work in a deck with so many threats that demand removal. Eventually, the last fatty kills them. As a side note, Interrogator does some great work in Xenan midrange, as well, with Xenan Initiation and Xenan Obelisk.

Camat0’s list that won the ETS the first week Horus was legal is a great start, and I have made minimal changes. You could shave another weapon and add another removal spell or Auric Sentry, but it works great as-is and is definitely one of the best decks right now. The whole “Tavrod is unbeatable and Argenport is unstoppable” craze is a bit overblown in my opinion, as hyper-aggro and Eye of Winter/Harsh Rule control still give this deck problems, but it is undeniably powerful. There’s not much room to innovate or improve, however, so I’ve been looking elsewhere:

Sleepless Argenport

sleepless argenport.PNG

1 Seek Power (Set1 #408)
3 Annihilate (Set1 #269)
1 Vanquish (Set1 #143)
4 Vara’s Favor (Set0 #35)
2 Auric Sentry (Set1 #146)
4 Copperhall Bailiff (Set1001 #5)
3 Privilege of Rank (Set1 #157)
4 Slay (Set2 #236)
4 Valkyrie Enforcer (Set1 #151)
4 Auric Runehammer (Set1 #166)
4 Steward of the Past (Set1 #287)
4 Harsh Rule (Set1 #172)
2 Inquisitor Makto (Set2 #242)
4 Tavrod, Auric Broker (Set1002 #18)
2 Throne Warden (Set1 #514)
2 Sleepless Night (Set2 #170)
2 Sword of the Sky King (Set1 #186)
8 Justice Sigil (Set1 #126)
5 Shadow Sigil (Set1 #249)
4 Argenport Banner (Set2 #231)
4 Diplomatic Seal (Set1 #425)
4 Seat of Vengeance (Set0 #55)

I keep trying to make Argenport Control work, and Tavrod is a great bridge between Harsh Rule and Sleepless Night. Makto might not be the best due to the anti-synergy with Tavrod’s attack trigger, but if you’re attacking with Tavrod you’re probably winning anyway so it doesn’t matter too much. If Argenport had a better 6 or 7 power threat I would play that instead, but Grinva and Whispers in the Void have proved disappointing. Auric Sentry is surprisingly good as an anti-aggro 3 drop, and the Warcry can be very helpful on Auric Runehammer or Makto.

Previously, the deck would frequently run out of stuff to do in the midgame while building to 8 power for Sleepless Night, but Tavrod fixes a lot of that by drawing cards to fill those turns. He’s so good at drawing cards that I was able to cut a couple Sleepless Night and have fewer clunky 8 drops! Sword of the Sky King still makes the cut as a powerful removal spell/face damage finisher and to increase the density of Tavrod hits (since I’m not running any weapons like Bloodletter or Lethrai Falchion). The rest of the deck is the pretty standard Justice control shell of Copperhall Bailiff/Auric Runehammer/Throne Warden, 2/3 of which Tavrod happens to work with. Convenient.

This version of Argenport is better against the mirror (I think – I’m just one person and don’t have enough data) and control decks, but trades some equity against aggro since it doesn’t have the Lifesteal weapons and has swapped some Throne Wardens for Tavrods (Warden’s armor gain is backbreaking against aggro). It also doesn’t get the free wins from Bart, so it isn’t as good of a ladder-climbing deck. That said, I think it has potential and I’d love to get some more eyes on it so we can improve it.

Until next time, may the unanswered Tavrods always come down on your side of the board.

LightsOutAce

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