Constructed Analysis – A (Not-so-Brief) Summary of Feln

Champion_of_Cunning.png

Introduction

Welcome back everyone for my third installment of “A Not-so-Brief Summary”! In our previous articles (Time, Fire) we looked over how a particular color and it’s usual archetype can differentiate itself across different 2 and 3 faction pairings; today we are going to do something slightly different.

Instead of continuing with “Primal Control” I have decided to do an article covering specifically the faction Feln, and the different decks which are found within it – both historical and currently relevant.

Why Feln you might think? Well, an interesting element of Feln is that it has probably evolved the most of any other faction and has seen the greatest variety and diversity in its deck builds presenting everything from Aggro-Control to Combo to Tap-Out Control.

While it has had less Tier 1 & 2 relevant decks perhaps than those which rely on the Combrei Core, it has used a greater amount of cards and strategies than those. Instead of relying solely on extremely powerful and omnipresent multifaction cards, Feln instead picks a strategy and then aligns the powerful cards around them.

We will be going over the entire time frame of Eternal and examining different strategies, lists, and the evolution which they display within the way that Feln decks were being constructed. Let’s start from the beginning then, shall we!

 

Part I: Closed Beta

Feln Unstable/Funstable: Epitome of Unfair

Funstable is the first real game changer and format breaker that we had in
Eternal even though it was a short-lived one. Let’s take a look at the list,
shall we:
Funstable.jpg

I was unable to find an old deck list image so I have recreated it here. The primary change at a glance is that Madness used to cost 2. So what’s really going on here with this deck. Well, it’s a pretty strange Midrange deck which relies on certain powerful synergies to do extremely unfair things. What are some examples of this?

The namesake combination of Madness+Unstable Form allowed the deck to steal your unit and then upgrade it to one that cost more… keeping it permanently; then follow this up by dropping a now free North-Wind Herald which would be ready to be evolved into a 7-drop on the following turn. This series of plays could happen on turn 3.

Funstable became popularized after Peppr won the Season 2 championship of the Scion’s League (a precursor tournament series to the ETS). It had a lot of other small synergies ingrained in it such as Magus of the Mist+Unstable Form giving you a 7-drop and a 6/6 Dragon that no longer had their bond. Madness+Devour was of course another way to exploit this extremely pushed and powerful effect.

What is most interesting with this deck is that it shows perhaps a complete combination of Feln’s powerful cards and synergies except Haunting Scream. It played Midnight Gale, it played Champion of Cunning, it played Witching Hour, and it even played Withering Witch. While this might show a certain lack of refinement and concentration within the deck construction – it also shows just how much Feln was able to get away with.

Due to the very high power-level of its cards and synergies it could afford being scattered. Most likely one of the combos or cards would be enough to win the game. The success of Funstable pioneered adoption of the Madness-Unstable Form package into another popular deck at the time.

 

Tempo Scream: I Scream, and I Scream

This was perhaps the most popular budget deck in the early days of Closed Beta,
but it’s low price tag did not mean that it lacked power.

While the combination of Haunting Scream and high-value Infiltrate had been figured out earlier, the addition of the Unstable package gave the deck a new element of attack:
TempoScream.png

The core of this deck is very similar to the core of every Haunting Scream deck. The interaction that made this deck perhaps an even more powerful version of Funstable is that Unstable Form unto a Scream’d unit would allow you to keep it around.

This allowed the deck to develop tempo at an extraordinary rate since something like a Direwood Beastcaller+Haunting Scream would develop a 4-drop and 2 5/5s at the same time. While this removed the unit from future potential Haunting Screams, it did not matter since the pressure was often too much to handle.

It of course also had the powerful combination of Madness+Unstable Form as well as North-Wind Herald combos. Tempo Scream’s popularity largely meant that any creature based strategy was removed from the metagame due to how backbreaking Madness+Unstable Form was.

Tempo Scream is perhaps the first and last time that Haunting Scream has ever been a Tier 1 strategy and it shows to us the reason for why the Void hate and Silence effects in the game are so strong. Both of these early decks played from an incredibly unfair angle and became oppressive to the format. They were not around for very long though as I mentioned before.

Unstable Form was nerfed or bug fixed to no longer replace all temporary effects on the unit. What this meant is that a unit that was Scream’d would still be destroyed at the end of the turn, and a unit that was under Madness would return to its owners control.

This led to a new wave of decks which abused Madness in the form of early Stonescar Queen decks, but that is a story for another time. Feln had to find a new identity now that it lost perhaps it’s most powerful and broken tool. Where did it find this? Well in the next most powerful card it had access to – Champion of Cunning!

 

Feln Midrange (Machiavelli): The Great Prototype

Machiavelli as I dubbed it (because I love dumb deck names) was the first ‘quality’ oriented Feln Midrange deck to achieve sizeable success, with extremely high ladder performances from many pilots during its creation and peak. The deck was the result of a cumulative effort between many different players including myself, AhornDelfin, Peppr, and others.

While we saw adoption of Feln Stranger and Champion of Cunning into the storm of
power that was Funstable, Machiavelli made Champion of Cunning its main game plan
and what the rest of the deck centered around.

To newer players, at the time Champion of Cunning was a 5PS 4/4 with the text “PPPP: +1/+1 and Flying to all friendly units. SSSSS: +1/+1 and Charge to all friendly units”. Functionally it was a 6/6 Flying Charge that enabled a host of broken combos and surprise kills:
Machiavelli.jpg

Aside from running a far less greedy power base, this deck abolished a lot of the clunky and now defunct synergies and micro-combos in favor of just playing generically good cards. It had a solid early game backed by a large number of removal cards and Argenport Instigator which translated into a solid mid game.

All of this could potentially just be used to beat down on a slow opponent or a cumbersome Time Midrange deck – but it could likewise be used to stall time.

What were we stalling towards? Champion of Cunning and The Witching Hour. While
we did not have the full set of tools to truly break this combination, the deck employed them as a fallback Plan B for when it’s beat down plan was unable to materialize.

This is also one of the first decks that began to play the (at the time) 3/4 Black-Sky Harbinger as a way to win the game against the popular go-wide Aggro decks of the time. Machiavelli was what I consider a transient archetype.

It had in it elements that would go on to later be incorporated in Control builds (high removal counts, sweepers, Black-Sky Harbinger, Vara) as well as elements which would become the cornerstone of our next deck and perhaps the most memorable of them all from Closed Beta.

 

Party Hour: F-F-Format Broken

Ah, Party Hour. A deck that is remembered incredibly fondly by some and with
vitriolic hatred by others. Party Hour was the result of these earlier experiments that we have seen with Champion of Cunning-Witching Hour interaction boosted by an extremely powerful card in Scouting Party:
PartyHour.png

While this is an early version of the deck and it later went into a deeper state of refinement, I think this best illustrates what Party Hour was really about.

The deck plays no real units; everything is either removal, card draw, or enablers for its endgame finisher of Champion of Cunning+Scouting Party/Witching Hour. It is a brilliant example of what compact but powerful combos can do when inserted into an otherwise strong Control shell.

This deck was extremely warping to the format since very few strategies could really deal with what the deck was attempting to execute by the time that it was able to execute it (Turn 7/9 on average). Slowly the format devolved into hyper-aggressive linear decks such as Mono-Justice or Jito Queen, over-tech’d hard Control decks like the TJP of the era, and Party Hour. No other deck was playable.

As we saw in the previous decks, Feln always played a bit unfair – Party Hour took that to its logical extreme. The deck was around for about a month after the release of Scouting Party. Afterwards, it was nerfed such that Witching Hour’s cost decrease applied only to actual cards while before it would also apply to any Sigils played.

This slowed the deck down significantly enough that it was unable to sustain itself within the metagame and the genesis of new archetypes that followed. However, what we learnt from Party Hour was that Feln could be played more reactive than we had built it before. It was actually a fantastic shell for a Control deck!

Before we got to that though, we took a slight detour back into its Tempo and Aggressive roots.

 

Feln Fliers: Tempo but hold the Scream

At the time of starting this article, I had actually not known that this was a deck due to my break from Eternal during the month it appeared but looking back this is perhaps the first example of the Feln Tempo/Aggro/Delver strategy that re-appeared later in Eternal’s life cycle. The deck was originally posted to the Eternal Forums by Lighteningball:
FelnFliers.jpg

This is the first entirely ‘fair’ deck that we have to look over. It doesn’t really have any broken combos or synergies that push it over the top. It simply wants to disrupt you a slight bit, and beat you over the head with evasive threats. Of the cards in the deck, the only one that has changed is Rapid Shot which used to cost 1 power instead of the current 2 – though this nerf came far further down in time.

It’s a pretty simple strategy and it missed some of the more interesting things that are available to this archetype, but it showed that you could still play aggressive and proactive Feln strategies even without resorting to Haunting Scream and Unfair combinations.

I am not sure how popular this deck was but it shows an interesting and novel development so I feel it is necessary to highlight it since the later iteration became a very impactful deck. While this was going on though, the deckbuilders and pilots that recognized the power of Feln’s control suite were still hard at work and they presented perhaps the biggest leap in developing Feln.

 

Feln Control v1.0: When ‘Bad’ Cards turn Good

While I have been unable to track down an exact list from this era, the main implementations which changed the deck were a wider adoption of Withering Witch,
Azindel’s Gift, Black-Sky Harbinger, and Vara. The core of the deck was still Champion of Cunning, but instead of aiming to set up for extreme alpha strikes or combo-kills with the card. It simply became another threat within a very threat dense deck.

While the deck was unable to achieve major levels of success due to the format at the time being very saturated with Armory decks and other Control decks which went even more over the top. It showcased that there was a future for Feln and Champion of Cunning in the post-Party Hour world.

The other big change to the deck was the buff that was given to Feln Bloodcaster. Prior to this change it had an effect which gave all of your units Deadly until the end of your turn, it was around this time that Bloodcaster was changed to its current Ultimate of drawing a card from your deck and the opponent’s deck for 7-power.

In some ways, the buff to Black-Sky Harbinger (3/5 up from 3/4) and Feln Bloodcaster is what gave this archetype the bump that it needed to become different enough from the more Midrange builds which were not as interested in such defensive units.

While then it was not hugely successful, it has remained the longest lasting mainstay of the Feln faction – remaining viable to the present day.

While a bit anachronistic, our journey throughout the Closed Beta history of Feln would not be complete without taking a look at the deck which it influenced the most and which was its own powerful force in the metagame at around the same time as Machiavelli.

 

Felnforge: Just play all the Champions

This is a greedy deck created by Jaffa. In fact, greedy in many ways does not even begin to describe it. At its core this was a Feln Champion of Cunning deck which wanted to leverage Champion of Cunning more as a way to end the game on turn 5/6 than as a combo piece together with The Witching Hour.

The name comes from combining Feln with Velforge, which was the name for Fire-Shadow before its current iteration of Stonescar:
FelnForge.png

So yeah, as you can tell this deck is greedy. It plays 8 Champions together with Wisdom of the Elders, Deathstrike, and the biggest bounty of high-quality creatures you could find outside of Combrei at the time.

We have already gone over Champion of Cunning and what a monster he was in the format, but Champion of Chaos was not far behind. Prior to a much later nerf, it would gain +1/+1 for each Influence activation. Leading to this card being a 3-power 4/4 or 5/5 very often.

The deck lacked the subtlety that many other decks we have covered had, but it made up for it via the sheer power-level of the cards it was playing. It fell out of favor after the printing of Scouting Party pushed it out of the metagame and never really truly bounced back in this Midrange-Beatdown incarnation.

The biggest lesson from Felnforge is that Statuary Maiden and the sideboard cards which Fire gives Feln access to give it a great new dimension and fix a lot of the weaknesses which it has when played purely as a 2 faction deck. Specifically, to Relics and other Attachments.

 

Summary

That concludes the first part of our article. As we see from looking back, Feln was in many ways the most ‘Unfair’ of the 4 supported factions at the time. It often developed a broken synergy or combo that led to it doing degenerate things to the format. Likewise, even early on we were able to asses what are the 3 key ways to approach the faction.

You either want to be a Champion of Cunning deck, a Haunting Scream deck, or for
lack of a better card – a Twilight Raptor deck.

Each of these strategies focus upon the powerful things which you can do with Feln. Whether that is playing extremely devastating Midgame threats, assembling difficult-to-interact with early game combos, or relying on early evasive threats backed by disruption.

While it can be argued that Azindel’s Gift is the fourth pillar of Feln as it allows it to compete with essentially any strategy that attempts to go over the top, every Azindel’s Gift deck will be playing Champion of Cunning; and if there is a better Champion of Cunning deck, you very well may not have the leisure of playing a 7-power card that does not interact with the game-state.

In hindsight, this factor of Feln being the ‘Unfair’ faction is what led to its descent from greatness. In the transition to Open Beta it received perhaps it’s biggest nerf to date, the powerhouse Champion of Cunning was reworked to it’s current form. Likewise it lost Push Onward which was extremely important to almost all Control decks of the time.

These two changes and the evolution of aggressive strategies away from being hyper-vulnerable to Lightning Storm can be considered responsible for Feln languishing in Tier 2 and 3 for most of Open Beta. However, while Champion of Cunning is a far weaker card, he is still one of the best creatures in the game – the core of “What you want to be doing in Feln” has remained in tact.

Part II: Open Beta

Feln Control v2.0: Higher States of Refinement

While we touched on this deck in our overview of Closed Beta, it truly came into its own following Closed Beta and the change to Champion of Cunning. The nerf largely meant that heavy unit builds of Feln while still synergetic with Champion, were no longer really required to fully tap into the power of the card.

This shifted the paradigm of being the best Champion deck further into Control’s favor, where a 5/5 Flying Aegis for 5 that hastens the clock with each turn is a premier threat:
FelnControlRhino.jpg

This list from the Season 2 Invitational of the ETS, piloted by SirRhino shows just how much more refined the deck became over the months. It is now a firmly slanted Control deck relying less on bombs (though still playing a 1-of Vara), and more on generating slow gradual advantage coupled with powerful evasive midgame threats – while also harnessing the power of Withering Witch to allow it to play a full set of 4 Lightning Storm without having them become stranded in non-Aggro matchups.

We can also see the emergence of Eilyn’s Favor being played, a response to the dominance of aggressive Stonescar strategies playing high amounts of direct damage. In addition, the deck is now running a full 35 power! Compared to how greedy the early decks that we looked over were with their power bases, this is a very conservative take, and is largely possible due to the utility that is gained via the Primal and Shadow Favors. We finally realized just how great Vara’s Favor is!

The last notable aspect of this deck is that it played Staff of Stories. This was a Relic Weapon that was extremely popular during this time frame as it allowed for any Primal-based Control deck to have an engine via which it could generate sustained advantage. At its worst, the card was also +5 Armor, which could matter against the aggressive decks of the era as a source of pinch life gain.

Staff of Stories and Withering Witch were nerfed shortly after this iteration achieved success to the puzzling of many players as Feln had largely been considered a mere shell of its former Closed Beta self. The nerf to Staff of Stories was particularly destructive since the card became far more vulnerable at 4 Armor.

One other take on this same archetype but also an evolution of Felnforge was achieving pretty size able success at the same time.

 

Felnscar: The Old New

If before the FPS deck was named Felnforge and relied on enormous creature quality to win its games, now it was named Felnscar and relied more on supplementing a few weaknesses in Feln with a light Fire splash. This iteration of the FPS deck was built by NeonBlonde:
Felnscar.jpg

As you can see, this deck from the Season 2 Invitational piloted by IlyaK is extremely similar to the previous 2 faction Feln Control deck played by SirRhino. These are very much the same decks. Felnscar traded off some of the power that Feln had in Champion of Cunning for a way to answer Relics, and a slightly better grind card in Statuary Maiden.

It is necessary to understand that the format at the time was very heavy in Shimmerpack decks. While Feln could deal with the early swarms, multiple Xenan Obelisks taxed it’s removal extremely heavily, and presented a vulnerability for Shimmerpack to alpha strike with its namesake card for far more damage than is necessary for lethal.

This adoption of the Fire splash made playing dorks dangerous into Statuary Maiden as they could be turned into +2/+2 Cudgels, which would make the Maiden even harder to deal with while providing Felnscar a rather quick clock given enough of them.

The was played extensively but eventually fell out of favor much as it’s 2 faction brother. The reason behind this though was slightly different. As the aggressive decks of the format became more and more refined, they also became faster and more punishing to stumbles.

Felnscar had an extremely ambitious set of Power Requirements for its cards without the fixing necessary to consistently play them. It forced itself to play these slow 14 Seat+Banner configurations, and even then could often be stuck with an unplayable Wisdom of the Elders or a non-activated Champion of Chaos.

While these issues plagued the Closed Beta version of this tri-faction deck as well, Felnforge was able to make up for it somewhat via just how powerful it’s cards were when you could cast them. The eventual nerf to Champion of Chaos can be considered the final bell-toll for Felnscar as it lost the only reason besides sideboard access and Statuary Maiden to justify the Fire splash.

It may seem like Feln did not adjust well to the new environment that was present in Open Beta, and this is largely true. The faction suffered a lot of pains in adjusting to its new ‘fair’ identity. While Control had its systemic and format-specific issues but was a more explored direction, it was not the only direction to explore.

 

Feln Tempo: Not Quite Delver

The origin of this deck is traced to an unsuccessful run by SirRhino in the Midseason Major of the ETS, but it is extremely reminiscent of the earlier Feln Fliers deck from Closed Beta. After the Major it was picked up by ManuS and refined a great deal:
FelnDelver

This is the second generation of the ‘Twilight Raptor’ deck and it definitely shows. The unit base is concentrated a lot more on quality, it has more disruptive elements, and it has a lot more individual threats rather than relying more on equipment to push thru damage. It also showed the adoption of Cobalt Monuments, which provided the deck with not only flood insurance but another rather large evasive threat. The best lesson from this deck though is the inherent power of Whispering Wind.

Whispering Wind allowed this deck to play a slightly higher power count than it’s curve requires to help hit its high Influence requirements and have a consistent early power development, but then it allowed it to turn those excess Sigils into real relevant cards. Alongside being another evasive creature to carry Amulet, Whispering Wind provided the deck the engine that it really needed to be powerful.

The combination of heavy disruption in 4 Sabotages as well as 2 Backlash, a hefty removal suite for the few relevant units it cared about (Sandstorm Titan, opposing Flyers), and the ability to out race aggro decks with Midnight Gale made this deck quite the force to be reckoned with. While it had a weakness to Relic Weapons much like many other non-wide aggressive strategies it had a lot of good matchups and showed just how much potential there is in the ‘Twilight Raptor’ decks of Feln.

Unfortunately, before it could leave more of an impact on the format, the deck was hit by a crossfire nerf. Stonescar Aggro decks were still outperforming in the format even after the hit to Champion of Chaos, Umbren Reaper, and Soulfire Drake. Therefore, Rapid Shot had its cost increased from 1 to 2. This made it a lot more difficult for Feln Tempo to really leverage its low curve and high tempo generation. A 100% increase in cost for this style of deck really hurts.

As such, Feln Tempo joined several other decks we have examined on the “Powerful
but Short-Lived” list. However, the exploration of Whispering Wind and realizing
how powerful the curve of Whispering Wind->Beastcaller’s Amulet was; led to the
creation of another deck.

 

Crystal Winds: Feln can still be Unfair

This is another creation of mine and a deck that I piloted to a 2nd place finish in a Weekly Event during Season 4 of the ETS (losing to Unearthly on Rakano in the Finals – poetic). The deck never really caught on and there are a multitude of reasons for that, but it did illustrate another direction that can be taken with the ‘Twilight Raptor’ styles of Feln. Even though this deck did not in the end play the card itself, it is closer to that style than anything else:
CrystalWinds

 

So what is going on here. Well, the genesis of this deck was experimenting with the Cabal Spymaster-WWH interaction. Ever since the release of Jekk’s Bounty, people had played with these cards trying to break them. The majority of this was done in a FPS build with Calderran Gunsmith to enable a nigh infinite damage combo with Spymaster-WWH-Mirror Image-Gunsmith, having the WWH recur Mirror Image on Gunsmith to keep the combo going.

The downside is that the combo itself was extremely unwieldy and expensive as well as requiring a splash into a third faction; which as Felnscar illustrated is in some ways not really worth the hassle it brings your power base consistency. I decided to take a different direction and see if the interaction of just WWH- Spymaster was strong enough of a shell to build around. Then the possibility of using Crystallize as a ‘prison’ for unit-based strategies occurred to me.

So this can be considered Part A of the deck, the Combo deck which tries to either generate infinite 2/2 Aegis Flyers with Mirror Image, generate infinite Yeti Spies, or lockdown your board indefinitely with Crystallize. Part B of the deck is the early game ported over from Feln Tempo. Beastcaller’s Amulet is the most powerful recursive Infiltrate besides West Wind Herald that can be played without major dedicated support (such as is required for Direwood Beastcaller).

Now the deck has a second direction from which it can attack, which is that of an evasive beat down deck that can curve into generating a 5/5 Beast every turn due to the interaction of Amulet with Spymaster. Finally, if your other plans aren’t assembling comfortably or if you need to hasten your clock of Yetis/WWHs the deck ran a 1-of Champion of Cunning to offer a third direction of attack.

Altogether, the deck had a ton of pieces and largely only functioned because it abused Whispering Wind so well. Unlike Feln Tempo which relied on the card mostly just as an engine to find ‘gas’, Crystal Winds used this element together with it’s ability to tutor further up your Power Curve. That tutor ability is largely the reason for why Scouting Party found it’s way into the deck – generally decks which were resilient to Aegis threats or Crystallize, were weak to Scouting Party.

Crystal Winds remains the single hardest deck I have ever played in Eternal and it’s success never really matched how hard the deck was to pilot. It remains the last great hurrah for the ‘Unfair’ era of Feln and a very interesting exploration of the ‘Twilight Raptor’ pillar for Feln.

 

Haunting Scream: Blast from the Past

So we have looked at how the Champion of Cunning and Twilight Raptor pillars adapted to the new format that came with Open Beta, but what about the last one?

Well, Haunting Scream faced a lot of problems as Eternal grew older and the metagame developed into something more coalesced and less primordially chaotic. The primary problem was how effective the hate was against Haunting Scream decks.

From Desert Marshall, to Sandstorm Titan, to Steward of the Past and Statuary Maiden – most colors had cards which could deal with what Haunting Scream was attempting to do.

While these were around even back when Tempo Scream was a thing, they were less ubiquitous to the format, and the deck was less linear.

However, much like Crystal Winds was merging several elements of Feln into one; Sunyveil merged Haunting Scream with Twilight Raptor in his take which he piloted
to a second place finish in a weekly ETS event during Season 5:

SunyScream.jpg

Wow! How far we’ve grown when building decks is pretty impressive when you look at the early Scream deck and this side by side. While Suny’s deck can attack from that Unfair angle that only Haunting Scream allows, it’s also perfectly functional without it which is the downfall of most Scream decks. It just runs a lot of high quality units that can beat you down perfectly fine on their own.

The aggressive slant of the deck plays well with what Haunting Scream wants from it’s support package as well, multiple ways to get thru units. Much like Crystal Winds, Scream did not really take off following Suny’s performance but it is interesting to see how the deck evolved since its early days. It’s certainly become a lot more fair.

 

Summary

While there were other lists of Feln Control that grew to popularity here and there, as there were experiments with 3 faction Haunting Scream decks, for the most part everything remained largely the same. Feln as a faction did not really adapt to a metagame filled with massive Midrange monstrosities (Heart of the Vault) and extremely difficult to kill threats (Bartholo). Likewise, the popularity of Armory before it was struck down kept the deck from becoming present in the metagame at large.

It remained a practical counter to the dominant Control strategy of the era in Chalice, but even there the match-up was so dictated by drawing and resolving Azindel’s Gift that it did not truly feel ultimately satisfying. Neither Twilight Raptor nor Haunting Scream decks benefited in the slightest from the releases of Omens of the Past or Horus Traver, while Control only had a few playable cards added to it’s already extensive pool.

Perhaps the darkest time for Feln came with the release of Tavrod, Auric Broker. This absurdly powerful card catapulted Argenport Midrange into becoming a ridiculously powerful deck while dragging its nemesis Armory up with it in popularity and win rate. This two-punch duo left Feln with terrible match-ups across the board as the decks it tended to be good against rapidly disappeared.

However, after the effective banning of Bartholo via his nerf the metagame
instead entered that sort of primordial soup that is more reminiscent of Closed
Beta than anything else. You can play anything!

But then the Fire nation attacked, as it often tends to do. In the words of Buckwheat, “Cinder Yeti is so good you have to play it so all Aggro decks have become Cinder Yeti decks” – I can’t agree with these words more and the genre that Cinder Yeti pushes towards (low curve go wide) opened up an opportunity for astute rebuilding.

Part III: The Present Day

Feln Control v3.0: Adapt, Survive, Thrive

There is a phrase I read in an article about deck building before about how sometimes when it is right we must “kill our darlings” – in a sense this phrase means that even formerly considered core cards at times must be re-evaluated and if they do not stack up, should be cut from the deck.

Since the time of his buff to his current state, Feln Bloodcaster was considered an automatic 4-of in every single Feln Control deck list. However, when I played with this card it always rubbed me the wrong way. It always felt just a bit weaker than what I want to be doing or what I want to spend my Power on.

Then of course there were the Midrange match-ups where it was perhaps one of the single worst cards I could draw from my deck. So what did I do? I killed the darling:

FelnControlVS.jpg

2 Sabotage (Set1 #252)
2 Seek Power (Set1 #408)
3 Annihilate (Set1 #269)
2 Eilyn’s Favor (Set0 #24)
4 Lightning Storm (Set1 #206)
2 Lightning Strike (Set1 #197)
2 Trailblaze (Set2 #111)
4 Vara’s Favor (Set0 #35)
4 Wisdom of the Elders (Set1 #218)
3 Deathstrike (Set1 #290)
1 Feeding Time (Set1 #381)
4 Steward of the Past (Set1 #287)
4 Champion of Cunning (Set1 #371)
2 Swindle (Set2 #129)
3 Withering Witch (Set1 #368)
4 Black-Sky Harbinger (Set1 #385)
2 Azindel’s Gift (Set1 #306)
2 Vara, Fate-Touched (Set1 #307)
8 Primal Sigil (Set1 #187)
7 Shadow Sigil (Set1 #249)
4 Feln Banner (Set1 #417)
4 Seat of Cunning (Set0 #62)
2 Diplomatic Seal (Set1 #425)

While this is not the exact list that I have popularized recently, this is the more refined version I have reached in further collaboration with ManuS and my own play with the deck. The core difference from previous iterations of Feln Control are the presence of maindeck Sabotage, higher card draw density, and main deck Azindel’s Gift in multiple copies.

To make space for these cards, I cut Feln Bloodcaster, and then piloted the deck to a Top 3 placing on Ladder. Lately, I’m sure everyone has either played some Feln or played against some Feln and it’s effect on the metagame can be readily observed.

What differentiates the deck besides the absence of Feln Bloodcaster and how does it change how you are supposed to play are the most obvious questions. Well, in a sense Bloodcaster was a card that served double duty by being both part of your Anti-Aggro package as well as having a relevant Ultimate in the late game against Control.

While it was not spectacular at either of these roles, it had relevance. This means that by cutting the card we have to somehow supplement both sides of the equation.

The way I went about this was to up the amount of late game that I was playing with the 2 copies of Gift and the second Vara. The absence of Celestial Omen is a nod to the popularity and power of Eilyn’s Choice in the match-ups where Gift is at it’s best, as well as a recognition that the format is still too tempo-intensive in the mid game to allow you to spend both turn 6 and turn 7 not interacting with the board or game state in a direct way.

Running 4 top-end cards however necessitates that we have ways to get to those lofty Power counts as well as survive till we get there. This led to the deck adopting originally a couple of Extracts along with Permafrosts for its early game, and the characteristic 2-of Swindle. Why is Swindle so important? It allows the deck to not only continue hitting Power drops in the mid game but also refuels you after you spent your early game trading 1-for-1 with the opponent.

Since Feln doesn’t have access to a powerful engine, it has to play enough card draw spells to allow this sort of approach to resource exchange. The transition to a more removal heavy early game also meant that the deck is actually better at surviving early aggression than if it were using a blocker. To illustrate, if you play a blocker on turn 3 you expect it to stop your opponent’s attack.

However, every modern Aggro deck is well equipped to deal with blockers due to how popular Time Midrange strategies have been for most of Eternal’s history. What this means is that your blocker is removed for less than its cost and often the opponent can develop another threat alongside that while hitting you in the face, you are now behind even further on Tempo and have a smaller life total to work with.

In comparison, playing a removal spell leaves you at likely tempo parity while removing that attacker. Put simply, it is almost always better for your early game to be reliant on removal spells as a Control deck since it gives you a more reliable and guaranteed outcome than creatures.

The last two additions to the list are Trailblaze and Sabotage. Sabotage is I feel an actual core card to Feln, you simply leave yourself completely open to too many avenues of interaction and threat-types by omitting the card. Right now is the best time to play it since even the premier Aggro decks of the format are susceptible to it, hitting Rally or Assembly Line is not much worse than hitting an opposing Gift or a 5/2 Runehammer. With Trailblaze it is a bit more complicated and requires understanding Cantrips-as-Mana Sources.

You can find out more about this by reading up on Turbo Xerox Theory, but to cut it short, Feln Control wants to have about 34 sources of Power in its list. However, you do not want to actually play 34 sources as this leaves you prone to flooding out without sufficient ways to mitigate flood. By playing these 2 Trailblazes, we artificially increase the power count of the deck to 34 for when we need to hit Power drops. While on the flip side, when we have enough Power – we can use them to instead filter our draws to find more action cards.

This list is in many ways a product of the format and lacks the decks which could punish this sort of construction due to them either being hated out or just being under-powered; it also illustrates that even decks which have been in many ways abandoned can be revitalized and brought back not just to relevance but dominance if we find what makes them strong and what holds them back.

Conclusion

With that ends our overview of Feln. This ended up being a lot longer than I had originally anticipated and featured a bit more of my own decks than I perhaps would be ideal, but hey what I can I say I love to work on Feln! I’m pretty sure this is the most comprehensive analysis that I will be doing on any singular faction for a long time.

I hope you enjoyed reading over and observing the evolution of the three branches that Feln has displayed thus far as much as I enjoyed researching and writing about them, and I hope some of the lessons that we can see on display with these lists help you out when constructing new decks or updating old ones.

With The Dusk Road looming around the corner the ability to quickly find what you want to be doing or what is powerful, and how to best exploit these powerful interactions or cards seems more topical than other. Judging by the spoiled cards thus far, it definitely seems like Feln will be entering a new and bright era with multiple card additions to multiple branches as well as potentially a completely new branch in the form of Unseen Tribal!

Next week we shall be taking a break from A (Not-so-Brief) Summary to start looking over and really breaking down what some of those powerful interactions might be in Set 3!

Until next time.

-VSarius