Going Deep – Is Obrak Good?

Hello Friends!

As most of you likely know, I do a Brewer’s Challenge each month that forces me to build a deck around some underplayed card. The purpose of this challenge has many levels. The first is to flex my muscles in deck building; tuning decks to be calibrated against the meta is a worthy pursuit, but building something from scratch is much more difficult and much more rewarding. My second objective is to test my play skill; I generally know how to pilot traditional aggro, midrange, and control decks, but certain cards will force me to just assume a different play style. The final goal is to actually discover new decks. This goal has always been last since I assume building decks around Rilgon, Nightmaw or Triumphant Stranger will generally aspire to be tier 4 at best. Today, I am actually here to say I may have found (to my surprise) a real contender. Let’s take a look at the list that got me to Master.

Stonescar Obrak

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3 Combust (Set1 #392)
4 Grenadin Drone (Set1 #5)
4 Slumbering Stone (Set1 #255)
4 Torch (Set1 #8)
4 Dark Wisp (Set1 #264)
4 Devour (Set1 #261)
4 Vara’s Favor (Set0 #35)
4 Assembly Line (Set1 #29)
4 Shadowlands Guide (Set1 #280)
2 Torrent of Spiders (Set1 #272)
4 Memory Dredger (Set2 #159)
3 Obrak, the Feaster (Set2 #164)
4 Scraptank (Set1 #391)
2 The Witching Hour (Set1 #310)
4 Fire Sigil (Set1 #1)
13 Shadow Sigil (Set1 #249)
4 Seat of Chaos (Set0 #60)
4 Stonescar Banner (Set1 #419)

One quick note off the top: The Witching Hour is probably slightly more fun than good. Although it is certainly powerful when you can play it, you could easily substitute it for something like Torrent of Spiders + Deathstrike. If you did this you could easily take out 5 Shadow Sigils and add 4 Diplomatic Seal and 1 Fire Sigil. I am very happy with everything else in the deck, but if you wanted a slightly more “budget” version that is where I would cut.

Ok, so the core of this deck is clearly the “Stonescar Value” package. This is referring to the Grenadin Drones, Shadowlands Guides and Slumbering Stones. These cards have all seen a good deal of play in decks like Brimstone Altar or Kalis. This collection of cards is both great for countering aggro and feeding the sacrifice synergies of the deck. In this case they are feeding Obrak rather than Kalis or Altar. These other “sacrifice outlets” are not well positioned right now in my opinion. Banish and Shatterglass Mage are all over the place, meaning a big Kalis is rarely safe for long, and a Brimstone Altar can be eaten by a Shatterglass mage. Obrak on the other hand is out of reach of Banish.

Before moving on to discuss the pay off cards of the deck, I want to take a moment to emphasize how brutal this “Value Package” for aggro. We are living in this weird “post-Rakano” world, where Champion of Glory and Silverwing Familiar have decided to take some time off. In this world, you can really cheat on your removal. Grenadin Drone is often able to trade for 2 of your opponent’s 1-drops, and you get to bring it back with Shadowlands Guide for a second round! Slumbering Stone will often trade for a card in addition to saving a lot of life. Devour gives you enough life gain to stay out of burn range. Even the “finishers” of the deck – Scraptank, Obrak and Dredger – effectively counter aggro against aggro. The Queen and Skycrag match ups are a joke, and Burn leans very heavily on its limited fliers. Just having a good anti-aggro game plan should already be interesting, since there is a lot of it on ladder.

Ok, now lets talk about the big boys. One of the advantages of ditching a card like Kalis is that we get to play some beefier threats. Core “business” cards of the deck are pretty obvious when you look down the list. We play 4 copies of Memory Dredger, 4 Scraptank and 3 Obrak. All of these have impressed me in individual match ups. Let’s start with Dredger. People that I talk to that have messed around with the card comment on how it dies a lot. That is true, but I don’t think that gives full credit. If Memory Dredger doesn’t die he can rapidly take over a game. It is pretty rare that he has no units to bring back, and recurring sticky threats like Slumbering Stone will give control decks and midrange decks fits. He is also somewhat awkward to hit with removal. Being immune to Vanquish and Torch still matters. Eating a Slay or Annihilate is obviously not “the plan” but at least it will clear the way for Obrak.

What about Scraptank? This card had developed a meme reputation, but it might actually be really good right now. Two of the most popular deck on ladder are Praxis and Xenan, and both have a really tough time against this card. I am sure many of you have heard the “joke” that Praxis can’t beat a 7/7. In playing this deck I can confirm that this is basically true. Scraptank may not look like it, but he is essentially a 5 power 7/7. You can also pair him with a Devour or Combust to get him out of Torch range the turn you play him, but this really isn’t necessary. Once Scraptank starts getting big Praxis basically just has to sit there while they get memed to death. A lot of this applies to Xenan as well. They are a little bit better at dealing with big monsters since responsible players are still playing the Blistersting Wasps and Deathstrikes, but these are rarely both 4-ofs right now. Since Banish and Annihilate can’t hit ol’ Scrappy, he can quickly take over the game. I really feel like Scraptank is underrated, as he really over-preformed.

Now onto the featured card – Obrak, the Feaster. I was very surprised by how good he was. Remember above how I said Praxis can’t beat 7/7s? You know what they really can’t beat? 7/7s with flying and revenge. This may sound like I am oversimplifying things, but I don’t really think that I am. If they don’t have a Titan Obrak is going to kill them is a hurry. If they do have a Titan they will at least need to 1-for-1 trade with your revenge unit. A lot of aggro decks are ice cold to Obrak as well. Compare him to Tavrod. Cowthulu is actively good against aggro decks, but the problem is that you are usually mostly dead by the time you play him. When you land Obrak in this midrangy-value-Stonescar deck you are typically still at a comfortable life total with a couple Grenadin hanging around. Obrak is even solid against control. It is hard for them to totally starve him of food, so they will typically need to spend a real removal spell on him. Hitting the revenge on Obrak is also super easy. It doesn’t take many turns of Devouring Dark Wisps to draw into your free 7/7. He really does a great job of plugging some of the holes in the deck. Stalled ground? Hit them with a 7/7 flyer! Getting killed by overwhelm threats like Rhinarc and Dawnwalker? Get a 7/7 blocker! Opponent plays Impending Doom or Firemaw? Obrak is here to save you again! Need to play into Harsh Rule? Obrak can come back for a second round! He really is a great addition to the deck in my experience.

Playing Obrak is a little tricky. There have been multiple times that I value trade with my opponent only to realize that I am left myself with only Obrak in play at the start of my turn. You also need to try and limit the chance that you only have one unit in play outside of Obrak, as you risk losing your 7/7 to a Torch. Sometimes these things happen because you have no choice, and that isn’t the end of the world, but it certainly takes some practice to make sure you don’t accidentally need to sacrifice your dragon. I feel like 3 is the maximum number of Obrak you can play in the deck at once, since it is hard to continually feed two at once unless you are way ahead. One important interaction – if you only have two Obrak in play at the start of your turn they both die. The sacrifice “trigger” for both happens at once, meaning that even if you sacrifice the first Obrak to the second, the “trigger” for the second Obrak is still there. It is also impossible to sacrifice both Obraks to the same Obrak, although if you get a destiny Obrak from your draw you can sacrifice that to Obrak’s ability. If you are thinking of picking up this deck, be sure to take your time in sequencing and planning properly with Obrak, since he is a very difficult card to play properly.

Torrent of Spiders is actually an incredibly important inclusion in the deck. This card is totally stupid against Time decks. When your 3 power card trades for like 3 cards and 10 power, it is really hard for them to recover. Beyond that, Torrent is really good against Chalice as well. They are good at playing out little value idiots, but if you Torrent for 5 in the late game they are forced to trade off a lot of material. Obviously this card is trash against Storm or Black Sky Harbinger decks, but if those cards are common you basically just shouldn’t be playing this deck. As I mentioned at the top, The Witching Hour is optional for this deck, but I have had a lot of fun with it, and it is quite strong. It is great reload after a sweeper, and it often trades for multiple cards against basically every deck. Harsh Rule is not that popular right now in my experience, and The Witching Hour is a card that punishes people for not packing real sweepers.

This deck was way better than I thought it would be. Below I have a series of pictures from my match results. I will admit that I hit a little bit of a rough patch after this, but going on such a sustained streak felt amazing (I don’t actually keep stats so this is the best I have). The only match up that I actively want to avoid is Feln based control. Storm + Harbinger + Steward of the Past is just a lot to work through. The rest of the field felt like something between beatable and favorable. Obviously this is a synergy deck at some level, so you are slightly more likely to lose to a nonsense draw than the average deck, but this felt much lower variance than many other synergy decks I have played.

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Gaonan’s Obrak

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4 Combust (Set1 #392)
3 Dark Return (Set1 #250)
4 Grenadin Drone (Set1 #5)
4 Slumbering Stone (Set1 #255)
3 Annihilate (Set1 #269)
4 Devour (Set1 #261)
4 Quarry (Set1001 #15)
3 Vara’s Favor (Set0 #35)
4 Assembly Line (Set1 #29)
2 Brimstone Altar (Set1 #399)
4 Madness (Set1 #267)
4 Statuary Maiden (Set1 #387)
3 Obrak, the Feaster (Set2 #164)
4 Scraptank (Set1 #391)
5 Fire Sigil (Set1 #1)
8 Shadow Sigil (Set1 #249)
4 Seat of Chaos (Set0 #60)
4 Stonescar Banner (Set1 #419)
4 Diplomatic Seal (Set1 #425)

I am sure some of you might be curious about some of the various card choices in my deck. Why am I not playing Madness? Wouldn’t Brimstone Altar be a better engine card than some of this other nonsense? Well, I have an interesting counter-case! Gaonan has been a fan of the “Brewer’s Challenge” series, and this month he decided to take it up himself, and was even able to finish before me! His list is much closer to a conventional Altar deck at first glance, but there are some interesting card choices if you look closely. First, he goes go the direction for 4 Madness. This is obviously great with Altar, Combust and Devour. It should be noted that Madness is not a combo with Obrak. “Steal your unit” effects generally pair well with sacrifice effects, but given that it isn’t possible to Madness before the Obrak’s ability, the pairing is not amazing.

One of the inclusions that caught my eye was Statuary Maiden. As I mentioned above, Time based midrange was a pretty solid match up for my deck, but the only card that I actually found annoying was Dawnwalker. Having Statuary Maiden will hopefully put out the light of the pesky overwhelm beater. The Cudgels could help in getting the Scraptanks out of Torch range, as well as grow Grenadin into legitimate brawlers. Gaonan is playing 4 Dark Return, which will provide a pretty juicy set of options by the mid game, whether it be oversized Scraptanks, destiny 7/7 fliers, or just more food for your Altar or Obrak. I am a touch worried about the volume of Obrak food in the deck, since he is not playing Dark Wisp or Shadowlands Guide, but it will probably be fine.

The mix of removal here deserves some commentary. Gaonan is not playing Torch, and instead is playing 3 Annihiliate (and 4 Combust). I am not convinced this is correct, but I think I understand the logic. Most units that die to Torch just don’t matter to you. Oni Ronin, Pyroknight, and even Argenport Instigator all die to Annhilate and are just not a serious concern versus your army of Grenadins. The cards you actually card about would be an Impending Doom or Crimson Firemaw when you don’t have an Obrak, or a Sandstorm Titan when you do have an Obrak. Relic weapons are also just not a serious concern. It is almost impossible to battle past an Assembly Line with a relic weapon, and half this deck is just different versions of that kind of effect. I would need to test to make sure this was actually right, but I can certainly get where it is coming from.

Apparently Gaonan was able to score a 64% win rate on his trip to master with this deck, which is impressive. Clearly I am not the only one having success with Obrak and Scraptank, even though a surprising amount of the rest of the deck was different. If anyone has questions/comments for him about his deck be sure to tag him in the Reddit thread.

Xenan Obrak

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1 Dark Return (Set1 #250)
4 Dark Wisp (Set1 #264)
4 Devour (Set1 #261)
4 Ephemeral Wisp (Set1 #84)
4 Temple Scribe (Set1 #502)
1 Vara’s Choice (Set2 #206)
4 Vara’s Favor (Set0 #35)
1 Xenan Initiation (Set2 #44)
4 Amber Acolyte (Set1 #93)
4 Ayan, the Abductor (Set2 #204)
3 Banish (Set2 #207)
2 Torrent of Spiders (Set1 #272)
1 Deathstrike (Set1 #290)
4 Vault of the Praxis (Set1 #480)
2 Xenan Obelisk (Set1 #103)
3 Humbug Swarm (Set2 #60)
2 Obrak, the Feaster (Set2 #164)
2 Whispers in the Void (Set1 #303)
7 Time Sigil (Set1 #63)
10 Shadow Sigil (Set1 #249)
4 Seat of Mystery (Set0 #61)
4 Xenan Banner (Set2 #201)

Before caving and turning to Stonescar I spent a lot of time working on some Xenan build of Obrak decks. Although incredibly fun, this deck was just not good enough given the meta I was facing. The game plan of the deck is to just grind your opponent into dust from a combination of Ephemeral Wisps, Whispers in the Void, and Vault of the Praxis. Though this is not as strong as the Stonescar version, I am still going to discuss it because I actually put more work into this deck, and it is fairly unusual. There is something interesting going on here, and maybe I am just missing something to get it fully functional. If someone else wants to pick this up and work on it I would be very happy.

At its core this is really just a Vault of the Praxis deck. Until playing this I have always felt like Vault is just a bad Ancient Lore. Both cost 4, do not effect the board, and draw cards, but one takes multiple turns to get active, does not give units +1/+1, and is vulnerable to relic hate. Back when Vault was more popular people would tell me that I just didn’t understand, and that it was actually an engine card, but I never really “got” it… but now I do! Vault has a way of feeding itself. Once you draw the first card off of it you have an increased chance of drawing a card next turn since you now have an extra card to work with. It also doesn’t take much to get things really moving. Ephemeral Wisp empower trigger + any unit is a card. Whispers of the Void gives you the first unit each turn. Something like Swarm of Humbugs gives you the trigger immediately. Once you have one running adding a second or a third just supercharges the whole machine. After playing Vault of the Praxis a lot I feel like it typically draws 0-1 card, or like 5-10 cards, and very rarely anything in between.

This deck clearly has some issues though. You spend a lot of time durdling, so you really need your opponent to cooperate. Unlike the Stonescar deck you don’t quite have the same anti-aggro “core” that you can lean on. Amber Acolyte and Temples Scribe are good cards, but they are just much less sticky than Slumbering Stone + Grenadin Drone + Shadowlands Guide. In addition, you have a much worse time with Overwhelm units. Scraptank is able to bail you out against a Dawnwalker/Amber Monument deck, while Whispers of the Void will not. You do have some choices to counter these strategies, but you really need to work for it.

Though the deck has problems it does do some interesting things. There are a lot of control decks that cannot beat Whispers of the Void. Obrak + Xenan Initiation is a sweet combo since Obrak comes back as a free killer 8/8 (though this version has gone down to only 1 Initiation). You get to outdraw Chalice and out board control Praxis. My personal favorite were the games against Argenport where I would deck my opponent. Tavrod burns through one’s deck in quite the hurry, and there were a couple games where my opponents would have multiple Tavrods in play trying to attack through my Ephemeral Wisps and Spitelings. It was great. The deck has a lot of important weaknesses, but I still love it, so I thought I would share it to see if anyone else had more luck.

That is what I have for today! These sweet Obrak brews are a lot of fun, and might actually be pretty good. I really do feel like Obrak is underrated since he has wildly over-preformed for me. I am not sure if any of these decks are even close to the right configuration for him, but I would encourage all of you to try him out if you have not had a chance, because it might be a great piece of tech for the current meta! Try out these decks and let me know what you think in the Reddit thread, or share your own Obrak decks, or “Stonescar Sacrifice” decks.