The Eternal Tournament Series World Championship is an interesting tournament.
There are only 16 players, so the meta is not that wide. It is a round-robin, so no matchup lottery comes into play once the decklists have all been submitted. All of the players are good, so you won’t get many free wins from opponents making egregious mistakes.
These factors combine to make deck choice the most important variable to tournament success in my mind. If you have the best deck for the tournament, you will have an advantage that will be difficult to overcome with player skill or lucky matchups. If you bring the expected deck that everyone is targeting, you will fail miserably. I thought Xenan and Praxis were the ‘big bads’ coming into the event, but were so strong and resilient that a few people would end up playing them anyways. In addition, there would certainly be a couple Burn Queen decks since several players specialized in them and a couple Combrei decks since Combrei is generally favored in pseudo-mirrors against smaller Time decks.
With that in my mind, I set off with Sir Rhino to find the right deck for the tournament. While the Xenan Control deck we settled on may have been aiming for a meta that didn’t quite materialize, it isn’t horribly positioned as is an all-around solid deck. We experimented with a few more out-there options first, though, and maybe something can be made from them:
4 Seek Power (Set1 #408)
2 Annihilate (Set1 #269)
4 Temple Scribe (Set1 #502)
2 Vara’s Choice (Set2 #206)
4 Vara’s Favor (Set0 #35)
4 Ayan, the Abductor (Set2 #204)
4 Banish (Set2 #207)
4 Knight-Chancellor Siraf (Set1 #335)
4 Slay (Set2 #236)
4 Sandstorm Titan (Set1 #99)
4 Steward of the Past (Set1 #287)
2 The Great Parliament (Set1 #338)
4 Waystone Infuser (Set2 #63)
4 Mystic Ascendant (Set1 #116)
5 Time Sigil (Set1 #63)
1 Justice Sigil (Set1 #126)
3 Shadow Sigil (Set1 #249)
1 Combrei Banner (Set1 #424)
4 Seat of Progress (Set0 #58)
4 Seat of Vengeance (Set0 #55)
4 Seat of Mystery (Set0 #61)
3 Xenan Banner (Set2 #201)
Combrei splashing Shadow has been around for basically the entirety of Eternal’s existence, as hard removal is basically all Combrei lacks. This list, however, is more interested in Steward of the Past and Ayan, and only lightly touches Justice for Siraf and Slay, which are upgrades to the removal and grinding suite. The sideboard would have also included some number of The Great Parliament and Protect.
The reason to play this deck is that Steward of the Past is good, Mystic Ascendant is good, and you want even more grinding power than Waystone Infuser can provide for you. Enter Siraf. The deck is fine, but not particularly exciting, and Siraf and Slay aren’t big enough upgrades over Champion of Mystery and Deathstrike to justify the added power awkwardness. I value consistent power very highly, and two-faction midrange decks with are always going to be the most consistent. Champion and Siraf both break a board stall wide open, but Champion is actually better against Praxis and Xenan since it dodges their damage and cost-based removal, and the aggro matchup is already very good with Vara’s Favor, Ayan, and Steward of the Past and Darude in the 4 slot. The extra 3 drops just aren’t necessary.
4 Permafrost (Set1 #193)
2 Sabotage (Set1 #252)
4 Seek Power (Set1 #408)
4 Annihilate (Set1 #269)
4 Argenport Instigator (Set1 #268)
2 Backlash (Set1 #200)
2 Feln Stranger (Set1 #409)
2 Vara’s Favor (Set0 #35)
2 Whispering Wind (Set1 #202)
3 Cabal Countess (Set1 #506)
4 Midnight Gale (Set1 #378)
2 Deathstrike (Set1 #290)
4 Impending Doom (Set1 #286)
4 Steward of the Past (Set1 #287)
4 Champion of Cunning (Set1 #371)
3 Pearlescent Drake (Set2 #127)
7 Primal Sigil (Set1 #187)
2 Cobalt Monument (Set1 #418)
8 Shadow Sigil (Set1 #249)
4 Feln Banner (Set1 #417)
4 Seat of Cunning (Set0 #62)
This is the really spicy list, courtesy of Sir Rhino. The idea is that huge flyers are difficult to deal with, so we’re packing the maximum amount of huge flyers with some protection and early pressure to keep the opponent on the back foot so they can’t race. Pearlescent Drake is a brutal 6/7 Flyer for 5 much of the time, and Champion of Cunning is a proven winner.
The problem with this deck, and why we ultimately abandoned it, is that it is extremely draw-dependent and has no deck manipulation. If you draw more than 7 or less than 5 power in the first 8 turns or so you are hard-pressed to win with what amounts to a pile of efficient units and removal spells with no reach. You’re also playing the underpowered Feln Stranger to enable Champion of Cunning, and if you don’t draw a Champion your 2/2 for 2 is pretty embarrassing.
That said, in the games where it works, it WORKS. It’s hard to race a bunch of giant or Lifesteal Flying units, and 4 Annihilate ensues that no pesky Sandstorm Titans will be keeping your guys on the ground. Midrange value-oriented decks with lots of ground blockers are a cakewalk – removal is the only axis of interaction you care about.
The matchup against aggro is surprisingly good, as Sabotage can often take care of Torch so your Midnight Gales go unchecked, and 5/5s are good blockers against small aggro units. Once you’re ready to turn the corner, they can’t do much to stop your flying armada from finishing them off in two turns. Pearly D can even block as a 6/7 the turn it comes down before Recklessly rushing into combat.
The best thing about the deck it that it FEELS tricky – Cabal Countess can come down end of turn while you threaten removal or Backlash, you have Aegis and Ambush to play around Harsh Rule, and you get to dictate the pace of the game because you can block if you want to and your opponents generally can’t. I think something powerful can come out of this shell.