Xenan is the most exciting faction for me right now. There are just so many ways you can build it – grindy control with Waystone Infuser and Mystic Ascendant, ramp into fatties with Power Stone and Predatory Carnosaur, aggressive with Xenan Interrogator and Dawnwalker, go-wide Lifeforce with Katra and Xenan Obelisk, and more. I don’t think all of the builds have even been discovered yet!
There are a couple common themes in all Xenan decks, however – Ayan, the Abductor and Banish are absurd 3 drops in any strategy. It doesn’t matter if they help push through Argenport Institgator and Xenan Initiation or if they buy time for Champion of Mystery; these two versatile and powerful cards are almost never bad draws.
Since there is a strong core and many potential build paths, the best Xenan build to be playing depends on what opposing decks you expect to be popular, Right now, that is Argenport and Armory. What do we want against each of these decks?
Killer to stop Bartholo (Xenan Initiation)
Removal for Tavrod (Deathstrike, Killer + Blistersting Wasp)
Answers to Lifesteal weapons (Banish)
Removal for relic weapons (Banish, Ayan)
Reach or card advantage for the long game (Umbren Reaper, Auric Interrogator)
So given that we want to play Xenan Initiation and Dawnwalker, Auric Interrogator and Dark return are shoo-ins, and Xenan Obelisk gets added as a card that is super strong with all of the 3-drops. Add some Sandstorm Titan and you have a recipe for a Tavrod-slayer that I call Xenan Interrogator:
2 Dark Return (Set1 #250)
1 Seek Power (Set1 #408)
1 Annihilate (Set1 #269)
4 Argenport Instigator (Set1 #268)
4 Blistersting Wasp (Set2 #202)
4 Vara’s Favor (Set0 #35)
4 Xenan Initiation (Set2 #44)
4 Auric Interrogator (Set1002 #13)
4 Ayan, the Abductor (Set2 #204)
4 Banish (Set2 #207)
4 Dawnwalker (Set1 #86)
2 Deathstrike (Set1 #290)
4 Sandstorm Titan (Set1 #99)
4 Xenan Obelisk (Set1 #103)
4 Umbren Reaper (Set1 #299)
6 Shadow Sigil (Set1 #249)
4 Time Sigil (Set1 #63)
3 Amber Monument (Set1 #420)
4 Diplomatic Seal (Set1 #425)
4 Seat of Mystery (Set0 #61)
4 Xenan Banner (Set2 #201)
This is based on a deck Sir Rhino built a couple weeks ago, with Inspiration from the Xenan Killers deck of old. I have been doing extremely well with this deck on ladder and used it to win the last chance qualifier for the ETS invitational last Sunday. Videos can be found here.
Xenan Interrogator is strong because all of the cards are individually powerful, and there is a beautiful network of synergy between almost everything. Really only the removal spells and Argenport Instigator DON’T combo with something to greater effect. Additionally, there are a lot of hard-hitting units with more strength than their power cost, so we have a deck of powerful, synergistic cards that can beat down or grind. It really does everything.
One card that might stand out since it hasn’t seen play in a while is Umbren Reaper. Many will look at the deck list and cut it without a thought for Predatory Carnosaur or Impending Doom or Twinbrood Sauropod, but I think Reaper is the right Radiant for the slot.
Carnosaur is great, but costs 6 in a deck that otherwise only goes up to 5. If you add Carnosaur, you need another power (I chose Amber Monument for when I sideboard in the big dino) and it can make your Amber Monument decisions awkward. Without Carnosaur, you just always assume Monuments will be 5 drops unless you don’t have 5 power. Also, Umbren reaper flies over Tavrod, and Carnaosaur needs help from a block or Xenan Obelisk to kill the minotaur.
Impending doom is one of the best 4-drops in the game, but Xenan Obelisk just does more for this deck by allowing Dawnwalker to be brought back by Dawnwalkers or Interrogators, activating Interrogator’s card draw, pumping Ayan out of Torch range, and winning board stalls. Additionally, you are often in a tight race against other aggressive-leaning decks, and Reaper is great in a race since even if he is removed you gain some health and deal some damage.
Twinbrood Sauropod is another popular card in decks like this, but the 2-for-1 and grinding potential and Sauropod + Dark Return just aren’t necessary in today’s Eternal. The game is very rarely about grinding incremental advantage and is mostly tempo. Put Sauropod in the board for Armory and control matchups – you’ll know when you want it.
It’s been a while since I’ve done a proper matchup guide, but the field is narrow enough now that I think it’s warranted and useful.
I alluded to this earlier, but the Argenport matchup comes down to lining up your answers with the right threats. Get down some pressure, then try to have Initiation for Bart, Banish for a unit with a weapon, and Deathstrike or Wasp + Initiation for Tavrod. Don’t get too aggressive and Banish a random blocker so you can get in with your 3 and 4 drops for medium damage; you’re going to need an answer to the eventual Bloodletter or Lethrai Falchion. Umbren Reaper is a reliable ‘blocker’ when you’re racing since even if they kill it you gain 5 health, which essentially negates an attack.
The Armory matchup doesn’t change much if they have Tavrod or not, and you won’t really know on ladder until the opponent plays a Tavrod or Throne Warden anyways. The goal is to get down two units at a time so that neither Auric Runehammer nor Harsh Rule blow you out, then sit back on Ayan or Banish for blow outs. Dawnwalker is as busted as ever in this matchup, and lets you pressure the opponent with only one fatty at a time. Hold Umbren Reaper as your last threat, as getting it killed by Auric Runehammer feels miserable, and you want your opponent to be out of Runehammers or you to have a Banish when you play Reaper.
This is the only place where you aren’t the aggressor, but Xenan is very well situated to play defense when necessary. Ayan is obviously insane, and Argenport Instigator and Blistersting wasp are good blockers. Dawnwalker and Xenan Obelisk are low-priority, but trading with a Dawnwalker and bringing it back to block every other turn isn’t bad. Eventually you’ll stabilize the board and win as an afterthought with random fatties. If the opponent has weapons in their deck, save a Banish or Deathstrike to make sure you can’t lose to anything.
If the opponent ever misses a turn or runs out of gas, don’t be afraid to turn the corner quickly. The main worry is going aggressive and leaving only one blocker back, then losing to removal spell into another removal spell the next turn when you leave your other unit back. If your health is high enough that two attacks won’t kill you or you have 3+ units, swing away.
You generally want to be attacking, as you can’t match Combrei’s late game grinding or a Crystallize from Elysian. Save Deathstrike for the most important threats or to set up 2-for-1s in combat – killing a Siraf generally doesn’t matter, but killing a Titan or Cirso holding back your team does (especially save Deathstrike for Cirso, as Killer cannot get rid of him). Killer Dawnalker is at its best here, as you can use it as a removal spell every turn. Interrogator’s card draw is also at its most valuable.
If your initial push doesn’t quite get the job done, all is not lost – Xenan Obelisk is an amazing stall-breaker. Pack Hunt is a pretty good topdeck sometimes.
Xenan Interrogator is a powerful deck with lots of good matchups in the current metagame, and has quite a bit of play to it for an aggressive deck. I highly recommend giving it a try.
Until next time, may all of your Auric Interrogators draw cards.