Guest Article – A (Not-so-Brief) Summary of Time Midrange

This is a guest article by VSarius.

Sandstorm_Titan

Introduction

Hello folks, my name is VSarius and I am back here at RNG Eternal for my second guest article (after my theory article collaboration with Neon). It’s certainly been awhile and unlike the last time where I largely talked on card game theory today we are going to examine something more practical.

The idea for this article came from a discussion with a newer player on Discord who asked “So what’s the difference between all of the Time/X decks?” It seems like a bit of a simple question at first since it’s information that is kind of within the “hive mind” of the community, but it’s never really been concisely written down. When you get down to the nitty-gritty, which flavor of Sandstorm Titan should you play?

That is the aim of this article. We will be slowly examining each of the faction pairings in which Time is present and then further going through each archetype present within that pairing. For the sake of my own sanity and this articles length, we will be focusing ourselves only on what are the commonly considered ‘Midrange’ decks and only ones which retain to 2 factions, with a small section on 3 faction builds near the end. In addition, we will be categorizing them for future reference into 3 distinct subsets of Midrange;

-Aggro-Midrange: Seeks to win fast with powerful early tempo plays and above curve early units but can carry on a longer game with cards that scale in the late game such as Siraf or Xenan Obelisk.

-Beatdown Midrange: Play bigger units than the opponent starting from the mid turns, overwhelm the opponent by playing larger and more threats than the opponent.

-Value Midrange: Rely less on pure brute size and more on the card advantage that its units provide. Seeks to out-resource most decks, while combating control with high threat density or haymaker silver bullets.

This will be a long read given the size of this introduction, but bare with me and I hope it proves informative!

Part I

Elysian Midrange: Dinosaurs, Frogs, and Pig People Oh My!

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4 Initiate of the Sands (Set1 #74)
4 Permafrost (Set1 #193)
4 Seek Power (Set1 #408)
3 Lightning Storm (Set1 #206)
4 Power Stone (Set1002 #4)
3 Xenan Initiation (Set2 #44)
4 Dawnwalker (Set1 #86)
4 False Prince (Set1 #356)
4 Sandstorm Titan (Set1 #99)
4 Xenan Obelisk (Set1 #103)
4 Cirso, the Great Glutton (Set1 #362)
2 Crystallize (Set1 #232)
3 Predatory Carnosaur (Set1 #118)
3 Scouting Party (Set1 #488)
8 Time Sigil (Set1 #63)
5 Primal Sigil (Set1 #187)
4 Elysian Banner (Set1 #421)
4 Seat of Wisdom (Set0 #63)
4 Diplomatic Seal (Set1 #425)

Shifstone Cost: 40,800

Elysian is the quintessential example of Beatdown Midrange and unlike the other faction pairings, this is basically the only way to play it. This is one of the oldest decks on the list and started appearing as a dominant ladder force in the middle part of Closed Beta. Credit for it’s creation is commonly attributed to lv13David of Eternal Titans.

Elysian Midrange relies a lot on it’s multifaction cards such as False Prince and Cirso for it’s threats backed by recurring Dawnwalkers, Sandstorm Titans, and Xenan Obelisk synergies. Coupled with this, while it does not have a lot of good interactive options it does have a pseudo-catch all with Permafrost and access to the fantastic Xenan Initiation.

One of the most forgotten aspects of this deck, though, is that it is the only Midrange deck which can be tuned to have a favorable matchup against extreme go-wide decks such as Shimmerpack, Stonescar Sacrifice, or Stonescar Rally. This is primarily due to the deck having access to Lightning Storm. While later iterations have stopped playing this card and have instead loaded up on dorky 1-3 power creatures, the deck can be tuned to not play Xenan Obelisk and rely on less dorks while including Lightning Storm to dominate these matchup.

However, Elysian has some very noticeable and glaring weaknesses. It does not have many forms of card advantage, largely relying on Friendly Wisp or Scouting Party to refuel it’s hand which are lamentably exposed forms of card draw. It is also very soft to decks which can out-tempo it from the early game with units that can survive Lightning Storm. Elysian does not really start to play till turn 3, and by that time if the opponent already has units on the board backed by interactive spells you are looking to die rather quickly.

The absolute worst matchup for the deck is Burn Queen. Burn Queen is an extremely high-tempo Stonescar deck that packs tons of interaction into it’s lists. The fact that your 3-drops of False Prince and Dawnwalker both die to the 2-power Vara’s Favor, and your only real turn 4 play is Sandstorm Titan which dies to the 2-power Annihilate can quickly leave you too far behind to catch-up. Even Cirso isn’t safe as he trades for an Obliterate or a unit that is blocked + transformed into a Pig coupled with Rapid Shot.

Another weakness for the deck is found in the form Praxis Heart. These decks have cheap spells to deal with your False Prince and Dawnwalker while they themselves are chocked full of large creatures such as Heart of the Vault and Predatory Carnosaur, and they even have Shatterglass Mage to tear down your Obelisk or Permafrost. While in many ways this is an unusual Time matchup as it is more reliant on Tempo than Value or waiting out for key stall-breaker cards, the side which is ahead tends to win, and Praxis is more set-up to achieve that.

In conclusion, Elysian is a fantastic deck against a field which is heavily slanted towards Midrange or Control decks with a notable secretly good matchup vs. many aggro decks but tends to struggle against decks which can out-tempo it in the early turns of the game or produce serious tempo swings in the midgame while efficiently dealing with it’s early pressure.

To conclude here is a summary of it’s Pros and Cons alongside it’s matchup breakdown.

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Part II

Xenan Killers: You CANNOT put out the light!

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4 Dark Return (Set1 #250)
2 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)
3 Ayan, the Abductor (Set2 #204)
3 Banish (Set2 #207)
4 Dawnwalker (Set1 #86)
2 Deathstrike (Set1 #290)
4 Sandstorm Titan (Set1 #99)
3 Twinbrood Sauropod (Set1 #113)
2 Predatory Carnosaur (Set1 #118)
6 Time Sigil (Set1 #63)
4 Amber Monument (Set1 #420)
6 Shadow Sigil (Set1 #249)
4 Seat of Mystery (Set0 #61)
4 Xenan Banner (Set2 #201)
4 Diplomatic Seal (Set1 #425)

Shiftstone Cost: 45,450

Xenan Killers is a funky deck. Let’s just get that out of the way straight off the bat. This is an Aggro-Midrange deck that has been revisited and revived multiple times. I find rather amusing given that the core of the deck is ultimately about generating more value from recursion than is normally reasonable or permissible. The deck was originally created by Peppr and is considered to be responsible for the nerf to Dawnwalker since originally Dawnwalker would come back un-exhausted, allowing you to recur killer Dawnwalkers several times in a turn to decimate your opponent. It was later revived by Tiger_Hc originally on ladder but eventually in the ETS as well. With Set 2 it faded away a bit since new cards overshadowed it, however with the release of Horus Traver it has seen a second revival thanks to the work of SirRhino and the card Auric Interrogator.

Enough with the history lesson though, what is Xenan Killers? The core of the deck is built on it’s strong single faction units such as Dawnwalker, Sandstorm Titan, Argenport Instigator, and Predatory Carnosaur. It compliments this unit package with access to Shadow’s great removal options, and sprinkles a few choice multifaction Xenan cards such as Ayan, Banish, and Blistersting Wasp. However, simply saying that this is a Time deck with Shadow removal would be disingenuous. What really stands out about Xenan is how synergetic of a deck it is.

This deck thrives on the engine of Dawnwalker and Xenan Initiation. Thru this it is able to generate card advantage by reusing the killer effect of the Dawnwalker to remove the opponents units while simultaneously developing it’s own board position. In addition, it runs the full 4 Dark Returns to enable it to recycle units which allows Dawnwalker to double-dip on this recursion. This package of cards along with Xenan Obelisk also happen to work marvellously at enabling Auric Interrogator’s ability. This adds another angle of generating card advantage while developing pressure.

The fact that the deck works so well with Xenan Initiation means it never feels bad with running the full 4-of. Even units such as Blistersting Wasp become a removal spell that might stick around as a 2/4 Flying Deadly threat. This means that the deck is very good at producing tempo-swings in the early and midgame regardless of whether the opponents unit has evasive keywords such as Flying, Aegis, Quickdraw, or Unblockable – Killer can still hit and well, kill it.

Of course, Xenan is not without it’s downsides. It is the Time deck which is the worst at dealing with a stalled board. In fact outside of sitting on a 5+ strength Auric Interrogator and simply finding enough answers to shoot down each relevant unit on the opponents side of the board or finding enough units to keep triggering it’s Killer Dawnwalkers, there isn’t really anyway for Xenan to break a stall. It also sacrifices a lot of late game for it’s synergies and tremendous early game.

There are no Hearts of the Vault, Great Parliaments, Cirsos, or Sirafs in this deck. At some point in the game, every other Time deck will be able to take over the game from Xenan. Even Elysian which is vulnerable to the Shadow removal in Xenan can produce a board stall with Cirso and then wait out till Crystallize, given that the Killers deck usually only has 2 answers to a Cirso in the form of Deathstrike. A Killer Wasp won’t work here due to the Cirso trigger.

In conclusion, Xenan Killers is the most proactive of the Time Midrange family. It plays aggressively statted early units and seeks to out-tempo against slower decks while out-valuing decks with a similar speed. It’s anti-aggro is among the best given how well it takes advantage of Ayan, the Abductor coupled with it’s very cheap near universal early interaction in the form of Initiation or Banish.

It’s weakness interestingly enough, are the other Time decks as well as Void Hate such as Statuary Maiden and Steward of the Past as these cards break up a lot of the synergies that Xenan Killers relies on for it’s power plays and card advantage engines. Nonetheless, this is one of the most powerful decks in the post-Horus Traver format.

To conclude here is a list of it’s Pros and Cons alongside it’s matchup breakdown.

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Big Xenan: Mysterious Ascendance

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4 Seek Power (Set1 #408)
2 Annihilate (Set1 #269)
3 Power Stone (Set1002 #4)
4 Temple Scribe (Set1 #502)
3 Vara’s Choice (Set2 #206)
4 Vara’s Favor (Set0 #35)
4 Ayan, the Abductor (Set2 #204)
4 Banish (Set2 #207)
2 Deathstrike (Set1 #290)
4 Sandstorm Titan (Set1 #99)
4 Steward of the Past (Set1 #287)
2 Stray into Shadow (Set1001 #9)
2 Waystone Infuser (Set2 #63)
4 Champion of Mystery (Set2 #213)
4 Mystic Ascendant (Set1 #116)
8 Time Sigil (Set1 #63)
5 Shadow Sigil (Set1 #249)
4 Seat of Mystery (Set0 #61)
4 Xenan Banner (Set2 #201)
4 Diplomatic Seal (Set1 #425)

Shiftstone Cost: 55,000

Big Xenan is the newest archetype to really formally join the Time family but it is showing itself to likely be a real contender. Big Xenan is a Value Midrange deck which seeks to prolong the game to generate large amounts of value off of it’s top end Champion of Mystery and Mystic Ascendant package as well as multiple Ayan, the Abductor ultimates. As I understand, some of the first builds of this deck can be credited to BruisedByGod though it has been brought to greater exposure and prominence by LightsOutAce and SirRhino both opting to play it during the ETS World Championship.

Due to Champion of Mystery having the fantastic keyword when it’s Shadow side is activated of Unblockable this deck solves the issue that Xenan Killers has with board stalls in multiple ways. It can both hit past the opponent’s units with a 7/7 multifaction unit each turn while drawing cards, or it can churn power into an ever growing Mystic Ascendant. In a stall, the guy who is drawing an extra card a turn will win.

Unlike it’s smaller brother who relies on fancy combos and synergies, Big Xenan is far more straight-forward of a deck. It buckles down on it’s anti-aggro with lots of Banish and Annihilate, it then slams down brick-walls for it’s 4-drop with Steward of the Past and Sandstorm Titan to grind the game to a halt, and then it just draws cards and plays power until it can deploy it’s bevy of 6-drop threats.

Outside of Carnosaur this deck is not particularly adept at generating tempo swings, but it makes up for that by playing Stray into Shadow. In a deck with units this large, Stray into Shadow is often a one-sided board wipe, and although it leaves your units battered, it allows you to beat in while generating great value. Additionally, as a big 2 faction deck with Shadow that can safely get to the late game, Big Xenan has access to the most disgusting Control-Killer card in Eternal in the form of Azindel’s Gift.

It’s a simple plan but there is a lot to be said for simple plans. As with all decks though, Big Xenan has a couple of vulnerabilities. The big one is definitely fast Combrei decks which have access to Stand Together, these decks tend to have units which invalidate the anti-aggro potential of Ayan while presenting fast clocks and lots of pressure. Backed by Stand Together this can prove to be a difficult situation for Big Xenan to deal with as the Combrei decks still have access to the extremely powerful 1-card-value engine that is Siraf.

In addition, if the deck fails to dig to it’s Azindel’s Gift it will still be out-valued and grinded out by decks like Chalice Control or Big Combrei (especially with a Vodakhan combo top-end). The final weakness is to decks which simply do not care about all of this removal that Big Xenan has access to and can play on another axis. Armory and Chalice rear their heads once again, backed by the powerful Harsh Rule. While Big Xenan does not typically need to play into Harsh Rule, they cannot really counter either outside of a proactive Sabotage. While Big Xenan can slow down Chalice by Banishing the namesake card, it’s limited forms of life gain leave it soft to Channel the Tempest.

To conclude here is a list of it’s Pros and Cons alongside it’s matchup breakdown.

 

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Part III

Combrei Midrange: Stand Together My Students

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4 Initiate of the Sands (Set1 #74)
3 Protect (Set1 #132)
1 Seek Power (Set1 #408)
4 Awakened Student (Set1 #331)
3 Desert Marshal (Set1 #332)
3 Vanquish (Set1 #143)
2 Xenan Initiation (Set2 #44)
4 Dawnwalker (Set1 #86)
4 Knight-Chancellor Siraf (Set1 #335)
2 Stand Together (Set1 #334)
4 Valkyrie Enforcer (Set1 #151)
4 Sandstorm Titan (Set1 #99)
4 Reality Warden (Set1 #343)
3 Predatory Carnosaur (Set1 #118)
7 Time Sigil (Set1 #63)
4 Amber Monument (Set1 #420)
7 Justice Sigil (Set1 #126)
4 Combrei Banner (Set1 #424)
4 Seat of Progress (Set0 #58)
4 Diplomatic Seal (Set1 #425)

Shiftstone Cost: 52,450

True Combrei Midrange is a deck that has faded away from the meta for the most part, occasionally reappearing in different incarnations. This deck is one of the more flexible to be built as there are a lot of playable cards which can be included in it to suit the exact angle from which you are trying to attack. It can curve up to 5 as an Aggro-Midrange deck, or go all the way up to 6 for Predatory Carnosaur and drop some of the tricks/equipment to be closer to a Beatdown Midrange deck.

The core of this deck is really in the tagline. Awakened Student is on-stats value the most powerful 2-drop in the game. If left unchecked, it is an incredibly fast clock that maintains late game relevance due to it’s sheer massive size. Without the existence of Awakened Student, there would not be a reason to explore this direction with the Combrei faction. The other real power player in the deck is the bane of any Control player – Stand Together. Stand is the best answer to sweepers in the game, not only does it negate the sweepers effect only for your side of the board, but it also develops even more stats unto the board at the same time. Given that the cost of sweepers is at least 5 the opponent’s turn will likely be used up casting one spell, and when it is negated by Stand, conceding is common.

The other powerful parts of the deck are those that are enjoyed by Combrei as a whole. Access to an excellent removal spell in Vanquish, a plethora of the ‘anti-fun’ silence effects, solid scaling via Siraf and Vodakhan’s Staff, an extremely large body in Reality Warden, access and unit variety to support Dawnwalker, and of course the usual Time culprits of Predatory Carnosaur, Sandstorm Titan, Xenan Obelisk, and Xenan Initiation.

As with it’s larger brother, the main draw of Combrei is in how flexible it is. A lot of it’s units can play multiple roles depending on the situation and it’s deep card-pool allows it to be tuned to combat essentially anything. With that said, Combrei Midrange does have a weakness in that unlike the other Beatdown Midrange decks it does not have a great way to break stalls against other unit-heavy decks and it does not have any real way of accruing card advantage (before Siraf becomes active). While Elysian shares this weakness, it can at least resort to cards such as Friendly Wisp to draw cards while waiting to find a Crystallize – while Combrei Midrange doesn’t have those options. This means that a lot of the time you have to be very careful in squeezing out the value from your cards.

Since these are notable extensions of Combrei Midrange I feel it necessary to briefly mention the two builds of TJP Midrange. One is the version being run by most of team Eternal Titans in the Season 6 Invitational and the ETS World Championship. This version, called Combrei Party, is very much a Combrei Midrange deck with the inclusion of Primal mostly for specifically that stall-breaking ability in the form of Crystallize and a better utilization of Xenan Obelisk alongside additional card draw via Scouting Party. The second version, which was piloted by LoveUP in the Season 3 Invitational, the Midseason Major, and at the ETS World Championship is heavier on the Elysian splash including cards such as Cirso and occasionally False Prince. It is even better suited for fighting drawn out ‘play giant creatures’ games but has a very high influence requirement threshold leading it to often have very slow development and as such bad tempo in the early game.

To conclude here is a list of it’s Pros and Cons alongside it’s matchup breakdown. Note that due to the sheer variation in possible Combrei Midrange builds the matchup breakdown is only for those that are constant across all Combrei Midrange builds.

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Big Combrei: Tuner’s Delight

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4 Seek Power (Set1 #408)
4 Desert Marshal (Set1 #332)
2 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)
4 Harsh Rule (Set1 #172)
3 Marshal Ironthorn (Set1 #174)
4 Mystic Ascendant (Set1 #116)
3 Vodakhan, Temple Speaker (Set1 #347)
7 Time Sigil (Set1 #63)
6 Justice Sigil (Set1 #126)
4 Combrei Banner (Set1 #424)
4 Seat of Progress (Set0 #58)
4 Diplomatic Seal (Set1 #425)

Shiftstone Cost: 69,900++

Big Combrei is one of the oldest decks in Eternal as of the time of this article. It has been around in some shape or form since at least June of last year and grew to prominence in the wake of the Witching Hour nerf in late August/early September. The core of the deck is very similar to Combrei Midrange, but where Midrange opts to take an aggressive stance – Big Combrei aims to go over the top of every other Midrange deck by utilizing cards such as The Great Parliament, Marshal Ironthorn, and Mystic Ascendant (with an occasional cameo by Vodakhan, Temple Speaker). It is essentially a deck that synergizes around playing Power, backed by that flexible suite of removal, utility units, and value threats.

Big Combrei is a Value Midrange deck bordering on a Control deck and the debate as to which one it is can often be seen happening on Reddit or Discord. Big Combrei much like Combrei Midrange can be tuned a lot for whatever specific metagame you expect to face, except with an even broader range of options. It can include in it the ultimate late game combo of Vodakhan + Voice of the Speaker/Mystic Ascendant to generate tremendous amounts of power while drawing your entire deck; or it can be tuned lower to the ground with Combrei Healers, Awakened Students, and Valkyrie Enforcers to have a great shot at dealing with the aggressive deck in the format.

This is I think the real strength of Big Combrei and why it has attracted to it several notable specialists is precisely this aspect: the core of Big Combrei is so powerful that there are a lot of things you can tune around that core. This means you have perhaps the most timeless and stable deck in Eternal. No matter what the meta is, Big Combrei can be made to be decent or even favorable against that meta.

As with all decks though, there are certain downsides. The biggest for Big Combrei is in a sense the same as it’s strength, due to the flexibility in it’s deck construction it can never really cover all of it’s bases. Yet when it doesn’t cover it’s bases, it can be very vulnerable to what it is opting not to be prepared for. It is difficult to make Big Combrei beat both Aggressive decks, Beatdown Midrange, and Control at the same time. Often, it can only really be tuned to beat two of these at any one time. This means it will be vulnerable to at least one of the large archetypes.

Another weakness for Big Combrei are Obelisk decks such as Praxis Tokens, FTS Vault, or Shimmerpack which can overload it’s limited forms of interaction while invalidating large swaths of Big Combrei’s units. Finally, Armory remains a weakness for Big Combrei no matter it’s exact tuning. The combination of Relic Weapons and Harsh Rule forces Big Combrei to commit more than it tends to like to into the board to keep up with the value of Auric Runehammers and other large weapons, which in turn leads to it losing a lot in subsequent Harsh Rules. Due to how slow Big Combrei can often be in actually winning in the game and how much Power it has to play to consistently execute it’s game plan, it can often end up on the receiving end of a beatdown as it fails to top deck one of it’s impactful cards.

To conclude here is a list of it’s Pros and Cons alongside it’s matchup breakdown.

 

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Part IV

Praxis Midrange: Heart of the Vault is Good

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4 Initiate of the Sands (Set1 #74)
4 Torch (Set1 #8)
1 Flame Blast (Set1 #2)
2 Friendly Wisp (Set1 #82)
2 Purify (Set2 #176)
4 Temple Scribe (Set1 #502)
2 Xenan Initiation (Set2 #44)
4 Amber Acolyte (Set1 #93)
4 Dawnwalker (Set1 #86)
1 Diogo Málaga (Set2 #179)
3 Praxis Displacer (Set1 #100)
4 Sandstorm Titan (Set1 #99)
4 Obliterate (Set1 #48)
2 Shatterglass Mage (Set2 #181)
4 Heart of the Vault (Set2 #183)
2 Predatory Carnosaur (Set1 #118)
5 Fire Sigil (Set1 #1)
7 Time Sigil (Set1 #63)
4 Amber Monument (Set1 #420)
4 Praxis Banner (Set2 #171)
4 Seat of Impulse (Set0 #54)
4 Diplomatic Seal (Set1 #425)

Shiftstone Cost: 41,700

Praxis is what happens when bad meets evil, or in this case, large creatures are combined with Burn. It’s a deck that is very much reliant around drawing specific powerful cards and as such it’s results can vary a lot depending on whether you draw these powerful cards or not. Specifically, Heart of the Vault and in certain matchups Shatterglass Mage alongside Sandstorm Titan. The origins of this Omens of the Past deck can be traced to kcnabrev who pioneered Praxis to a very powerful performance in Season 5 of the ETS.

So what is the power of Praxis outside of perhaps the most over-texted unit in the game? Well, it is the best abuser of the midgame pressure that Time can exert via it’s large creatures and because of that one of the best at generating a decisive tempo swing turn which leads to a win soon thereafter. It achieves this via either Praxis Displacer, a well-aimed Obliterate, or a disgusting turn with Heart of the Vault hitting a relevant card with it’s discount. Due to the amount of Burn which Praxis is able to pack into it, these 10-12 points of damage that it can achieve off of the tempo swing can often put a player into close to lethal range.

Unlike every other Time deck, due to it’s alliance with Fire, Praxis actually has reach. This means that even the Overwhelm chip damage from Amber Monument, Dawnwalker, and Shatterglass Mage have to be considered as important – especially for decks with little life gain. But that’s not all, given it’s recent buff Praxis is now one of the few non-Combrei decks which has access to a main deck form of Silence in Purify, this means that in grindy midrange games it is perfectly capable of dispatching the enemy Dawnwalkers permanently, while it’s remain in play.

So we have determined that Praxis is very capable of playing a beatdown role given it’s out-of-hand reach, but in truth it’s a Value Midrange deck. It’s strongest cards are all potential 3 or even 4-for-1s and even at their worst are usually a 2-for-1 that is also generating tons of aggressive pressure. This means that in a drawn out game outside of Big Combrei; Praxis Heart will have access to the most resources. It even manages to have main deckable Relic Destruction in Shatterglass Mage and tempo-efficient removal in Torch. Hell, it can even use Diogo Malaga as a potential inevitability tool – it’s hard to win against a deck when all of it’s units have Double Damage and Charge.

Right now you might feel that I have painted of Praxis this almost unstoppable force, and right now at the time of this article the deck is extremely powerful. However, it does have it’s weak spots. For one, it is a very power-hungry deck but one which cannot really exploit flooding out very well. The deck really needs to hit 6 Power but it doesn’t really ever need more than that. It is also packing cards with rather difficult casting requirements such as the infamous Heart of the Vault. Even Predatory Carnosaur can be occasionally problematic. Finally, the deck has a glaring hole where it’s early game could be. Praxis only really starts playing the game around turn 4, which can make it very vulnerable to early pressure.

Praxis also has no answers to multiple units, or to units with more than 6 health. Finally, while it has reach, Praxis has no way of breaking a stall so against other large unit decks which have even stronger value plans and which have sufficient tools to stop the midgame onslaught of Praxis, it can end up in an unwinnable position in very short order.

To conclude here is a list of it’s Pros and Cons alongside it’s matchup breakdown.

 

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Praxis Dragons: Who Needs Titan Anyway?

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4 Initiate of the Sands (Set1 #74)
4 Oni Ronin (Set1 #13)
2 Seek Power (Set1 #408)
4 Torch (Set1 #8)
3 Purify (Set2 #176)
4 Rakano Outlaw (Set1 #20)
4 Sauropod Wrangler (Set1 #83)
4 Dawnwalker (Set1 #86)
4 Crimson Firemaw (Set1002 #3)
4 Praxis Displacer (Set1 #100)
4 Obliterate (Set1 #48)
4 Soulfire Drake (Set1 #47)
4 Predatory Carnosaur (Set1 #118)
7 Fire Sigil (Set1 #1)
7 Time Sigil (Set1 #63)
4 Praxis Banner (Set2 #171)
4 Seat of Impulse (Set0 #54)
4 Diplomatic Seal (Set1 #425)

Shiftstone Cost: 38,050

This is a brand new deck that has been worked on by multiple members of Eternal Titans lately. The core of the deck can be explained as being the more Fire approach to Praxis, while decks with Heart of the Vault and more value are the Time approach to Praxis. Praxis Dragons seeks to quite simply beat you over the head with large fiery dragons while adding dimensions of acceleration and interaction with Time.

It has the same reach package in it as Praxis Midrange while adding to it a more aggressive start with 1-drops and Rakano Outlaw. While it omits Diogo as the deck is unlikely to reach that high on the curve, it does still run a full 4-of Soulfire Drake so it is unlikely that many decks can relax too for too long before they are overrun by Flying Charging monstrosities.

This is by far the most aggressive out of the Aggro-Midrange decks I have chosen to feature and it’s inclusion lies mostly in the novelty of it cutting Sandstorm Titan and in embracing the other side of it’s T/x combination. While it remains to be seen whether Praxis Dragons will remain as a notable player in the metagame, it’s fast starts and ludicrous pressure can create a very perilous situation for the opponent very quickly.

It’s weaknesses however are many, it doesn’t play many of the most powerful cards that Praxis has access to which means it is more reliant on hitting it’s curve and applying pressure quickly. Likewise, it still has a similar problem as Praxis Midrange in that if it doesn’t draw it’s Soulfire Drakes, Crimson Firemaws, and Burn it can peter out in the midgame. It’s small units simply cannot win a game on their own unlike say the Argenport Instigators commonly found in aggressive Shadow decks, nor does it have the same amount of interaction and tricks as those decks.

To conclude here is a list of it’s Pros and Cons. Omitting a matchup breakdown due to how new this deck is and a lack of definitive testing.

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Part V

The 3 Faction Lists: Greed is Good

I shall be avoiding doing a case-by-case breakdown of each possible list that can be made for 3-factions including Time, due to the sheer amount of possibilities. Even something like Fire-Time-Shadow can be built as either a Stonescar Core with a Time splash, a Xenan Core with a Fire splash, or even a Praxis Core with a Shadow splash. Each of these decks would be remarkably different in their speeds, strengths, and matchups. Instead I am going to briefly talk about a few of the 3 faction lists that have made their impact into the metagame both prior to Omens of the Past, and in the current format. It is worth noting that playing 3-factions in Eternal is a risky prospect inherently as it greatly impacts either your consistency or the speed of your powerbase. As such, the third faction has to add a lot to the original core in order to be worth playing. It is also in this writer’s opinion, that in general, 3 faction lists should always be built around a Harsh Rule gameplan as this alleviates a lot of the tempo loss that they can suffer in their early turns.

Unlike previous sections that had more detailed discussions, we are going to rapid-fire through these 3F decks. I will not be sharing lists for any of these decks, but feel free to post your build in the Reddit thread.

TJP Midrange (Elysian Core)

This can be considered to be the original variation of TJP Midrange and was played to remarkable success by LoveUP during the Season 3 Invitational and Midseason Major. It seeks to solve some of the vulnerability in Elysian by adding the powerhouse early-game Combrei cards. However, this deck greatly stretches the possibilities of curving Influence and as such is very often playing depleted power for it’s first few turns which leads to it having terrible early tempo. It’s very much a metagame specific deck, if the format is slow enough to where you can spend multiple turns developing your Powerbase before playing Elysian threats backed by Stand Together, Silence, Awakened Students, and Siraf – you are in great shape. But if the format is fast, you are often even more dead in the water than straight 2-faction Elysian.

TJP Midrange (Combrei Party)

This is the ‘Combrei Party’ list which myself and large portions of my team played at both the Season 6 Invitational as well as the ETS World Championship. It takes a decisively different stance from TJP-E by opting to cut all of the Elysian cards from it’s list and instead concentrates on a soft Primal splash for a few key cards that help solve a lot of the problems for Combrei Midrange. These cards include Eilyn’s Choice for more interaction with big units, Scouting Party for a quick board refill and high-impact threat in 1 card, and Kothon, as an additional power-sink to synergize with the overall “start early but go long” plan of the deck. Most importantly, Crystallize breaks through board stalls that Combrei Midrange would simply stall out against. Due to running less intensive Influence requirements than it’s bigger cousin, Combrei Party plays a heavier Basic Sigil count alongside Diplomatic Seals and Initiate of the Sands. Seeking to accelerate it’s gameplan and have quick power development in the early turns – it’s trade off coming in meeting it’s second and especially third double-Influence requirement.

Dark Combrei

This is in the word’s of Big Combrei specialist HiThar “The next step in Big Combrei”. The addition of Shadow to a Justice and Time core might be one of the most impactful in that it instantly adds a tremendous amount of powerful removal options to a deck that otherwise struggled with them a lot. From Slay, to Banish, to Annihilate, to Sabotage and Dark Return – this is one of the most powerful single Influence requirement splashes that you can make. As a whole the deck is very similar to Big Combrei in how it plays out, it trades off a unit focused early-game for one that is heavier on spell-based interaction, and cuts some of it’s Silences for more removal. In some cases, it also trades off certain B-tier threats for additional copies of it’s A-tier threats by playing pseudo-copies of these cards via Dark Return. The main trade-off however for this splash is that it does limit the tuning that you can do to Big Combrei simply because a third faction even as a light splash does still tend to hurt your power-development.

Dark Heart

“What if I just play 8 Heart’s of the Vault” is the tagline for this deck and it runs with it. This is a similar approach as Dark Combrei in that it solves some of Praxis’ innate weaknesses (removal, not enough powerful threats) by adding Shadow for it’s removal and well more pseudo-copies of it’s A-tier threats. The main difference here is that Praxis is not as adept at playing a spell-based early game as Dark Combrei. Praxis would prefer to develop a threat and then remove things while pushing through damage so that it can then burn the opponent out in the late game or late-midgame; and while Heart of the Vault is an extremely powerful card, hurting your actual chances of playing Heart of the Vault in order to play more Hearts of the Vault is not really that wise. While the deck was popular for a certain period of time, it ultimately faded out of favor.

Combrano/Icaria Gold

This is perhaps the most “3-faction” of the lists I have chosen to present today in that it didn’t really splash anything. It played all 3 of it’s factions up and down it’s entire curve. The original deck was the brainchild of Jaffa, the founder of Eternal Titans. However, the deck was commonly piloted and popularized by Toth201 of Owls and Dragons. The core principle of the deck is that being able to play the entire Combrei threat base and early game supplemented by Torch, and then having Icaria as it’s top-end is just a winning combination. Oh, with of course a tutor package via Rise to the Challenge allowing the deck to play a slimmer top end. This deck had an extremely large card pool and as such could often have a very tailored main deck and sideboard for any specific metagame that it expected to encounter. It’s original success was against Felnscar Midrange lists that were popular prior to the printing of Scouting Party, although it was often also found feasting on the aggro decks that would try to slide in under Big Combrei in pre-sideboard games simply due to how powerful Torch is as early game interaction. Ultimately though, the fusion did not give all that much and was always a bit inelegant in how it simply smashed together powerful cards without a coherent synergy or game plan.


Phew! That was a lot to write, and a lot to think about. A lot of what I have covered in this look at Time Midrange has been in my thoughts before but when putting pen to paper you are forced to articulate and concentrate your stream of consciousness to a greater degree. Writing this article has forced me to even re-analyze my position on some of the decks mentioned and look at them in a new light. I hope it has had a similar effect for many of you, and I hope this rather lengthy piece did not exhaust you too much. If you have any comments, feedback or questions, be sure to check out the Reddit thread. As always, thank you to the RNG crew for featuring me as a guest writer and thank you to all of you readers out there for sticking with me!

VSarius

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