Drafters’ Corner: Who Dares Disturb the Sentinels?

Hi everyone! For today’s article, I’ll be continuing on the tribal theme and talk about another tribe that is playable in Set 3 draft, Sentinels! I talked about Yetis previously, so if you’re interested in those furry terrors, check the article out here!

What are Sentinels all about?

Sentinels are a tribe that is present in the Praxis faction, but a huge majority of the playable and desirable sentinels are present in Time, so similar to how any Primal-X faction pairing can be yetis, any Time-X faction pairing can play a fair chunk of Sentinels. Sentinels also embody the key characteristics of most Time cards, powerful and defensively stated ground units and nearly non-existent fliers. This means that most Sentinel decks will often run into huge board stalls and can easily lose if it is unable to answer opposing fliers.

Sentinels are also a pretty loose tribal as there are actually very few true Sentinel synergy cards. Most drafts often begin by just picking Sentinels because they are good quality, well stated units that go into any Time deck. There are also some random relic synergy or Explorer ally effects, however, I don’t think any of these effects are worth heavily switching up your pick priority.

Important Sentinel Pieces

Scourstone SentinelScourstone_Sentinel

Scourstone Sentinel is probably the major reason why Sentinel Tribal is actually playable. Being able to bond out this card on T5/6 can just win you games on the spot. Moreover, this is a card that often gets better in multiples, since bonding out 1 Scourstone Sentinel often means you can bond out a second one next turn! Most importantly, this card has the Overwhelm keyword, which gives it pseudo-evasion. This is extremely important because it helps to break through board stalls and prevent your opponent from simply chumping every turn and racing you with fliers.

This is a card that I am often happy to speculate a pick on early, but I would not pick it highly if I have any suspicion that Time might not be open since you ideally want at least 4 decent Sentinels before playing your first Scourstone, and probably 6+ Sentinels if you are playing multiple Scourstones.

Serene ExcavatorSerene_Excavator

Now, I know this is going to be pretty controversial because a conditional 2/3 flier for 3 is not a great rate. However, because of the nature of Sentinels being prone to getting into board stalls, having copies of Serene Excavator can help you hold back opposing fliers or clock your opponent in the skies. Of course, if you have better options for fliers, such as multiple Vainglory Patrol in Xenan, you should play those.

However, I’ve had my fair share of Time decks that often degrade into a board stall, and ultimately a loss because my opponent finally manages to stick a flier. Thus, I have come round to picking Serene Excavator slightly higher and I’ve seen good results with it. (Note: while I’ve put Serene Excavator as an important Sentinel piece, I definitely wouldn’t recommend picking it over good quality cards in the Sentinel Core segment unless you are already flooded on those cards. So for example, the 1st Serene Excavator will probably be better than the 4th Ageless Sentinel.)

Sentinel Core

Ageless Sentinel, Insistent Automaton, Awakened Sentinel, Timeworn Sentinel, Tomb Protector, Dormant Sentinel, Pillar of Amar

These category of cards basically encompass all the good quality Sentinel cards. They will often go into most Time decks, so picking them doesn’t really commit you to any Sentinel strategy, but also leaves you open to picking up the above cards in future. All these cards are playable on their own, but often gets better if you have Scourstone Sentinels in play.

Sandbinder Sentinel

This is a special sentinel that I want to highlight as probably one of the key picks because it helps deal with a weakness to fliers (I know I’m harping on this a lot!). Sandbinder Sentinel is already a very high priority pick, but even more so if you are drafting Sentinels because it provides you a way to answer fliers.

What does Fire Bring to the Party?

Fire is the natural companion to the Time Sentinels, but sadly, the Praxis multi-faction cards in the Dusk Road are all pretty lack luster. Monolith Guardian can occasionally high roll, but the required investment into relics is often not worth the high roll potential. While Fire brings only a few cards to the party, these few cards are extremely impactful.

Wandering ForgeWandering_Forge

Let’s begin with the most situationally playable card. Wandering Forge has a pretty poor stat-line for  a 4 drop, but with a relic, the stat-line becomes much more tolerable. Moreover, having a high attack value is great for bonding out Scourstone Sentinels aggressively. Even without a relic, you can go turn 4 Wandering Forge into turn 5 Scourstone Sentinel. I would only play this card if I had a good chunk of relics with an aggressive deck, or I have multiple Scourstone Sentinels that I want to bond out.

Ancient DefensesAncient_Defenses

With the lack of removal in this format, a 4-cost slow Torch is actually pretty playable. The next line is also extremely relevant for Sentinel decks, especially given that most Sentinels are defensively stated. This allows your previously defensively stated Sentinels to now be able to attack profitably. Moreover, the increase to Attack is also relevant if you are bonding out Scourstone Sentinels as it’s a 2-cost reduction.

Parapet SentryParapet_Sentry

Remember the key theme of Sentinels? A weakness to fliers! And this is exactly what makes Parapet Sentry great! Not only is it reasonably stated (on average), the ability to torch a flier on summon is extremely potent. There isn’t much else to say about this card, except that its GREAT!

A Sentinel’s Best Friend

Now that you’re drafting a Time/Sentinel deck, what other cards should you be looking out for? Well, a Sentinel deck is unlikely to lose on the ground, so what you really want from the other cards in your deck is an ability to win the game, either by fliers or by breaking up board stalls. You also generally want ways to answer fliers so that you don’t get run over by fliers.

Ways to break Board Stalls

This is a very broad category, but it can be broken down into 3 sub-categories:

1) Combat tricks

Combat tricks can often allow you to swing aggressively and blow out multiple blocks by your opponent. However, that said, combat tricks are often not as great in Sentinels because the deck is rarely suited to play the beatdown role. Thus, you are often unable to leverage as much value from your combat tricks as compared to an aggressive deck.

2) Evasion and Pseudo-evasion

The main form of evasion is flying, and thus Primal often acts as a good secondary or splash faction for Sentinel decks. What’s more scary that a giant Sentinel, why a giant flying Sentinel of course! Cobalt Acolyte and Skywalk Instructor are great for breaking up board stalls by giving one of your big fatties flying.

Without flying, other forms of pseudo-evasion also work, such as Overwhelm from Morningstar, removing blockers via Stonescar Sawed-off or stunning them, can also help you push damage. The important thing is to always be aware of how much damage you are able to push, and the amount of damage that you would take on the crack back when playing these cards.

3) Removal

Removing your opponent’s units is obviously another way to deal with board stalls. Removal also serves a dual purpose in that it is also able to answer fliers, which can often run away with the game against you. A key effect that I want to highlight is killer effects (Xenan Initiation, Predator’s Instinct, etc). I think that these effects really shine in Sentinel decks because it can often achieve multiple purposes at once. It can push damage with Overwhlem, act as a removal for a flier or lone blocker and allow you to steal games through that.

Fliers and/or Ways to Deal with Fliers

You also would really want fliers. Fliers provide you with an alternate wincon rather than having to push through a huge board with defensively slanted units. Even if you were unable to pick up your own fliers, you would want to make sure that you have ways to deal with fliers, either through removal or silences. Cards like Sandstorm are also great for the same reason as it can effectively remove fliers.

This is also why Archive Curator was probably the best common in Set 2. It is a flier and it also provides a way to deal with fliers (by silencing it). This card is amazing in most decks, and probably downright broken if you are playing Sentinels because it can easily shut down one avenue of victory for your opponent.

Conclusion

Well, that’s Sentinels down! Sentinels, similar to Valkyries, are pretty much a generic good stuff tribal, so there really isn’t a huge payoff for committing hard to Sentinels. The ideal way is to simply draft the best card in your factions for each pack, and if you end up with enough Sentinels for Scourstone, then you can play it. If not, you can just leave it in the sideboard. What do you think? Have you had much success with Sentinels, or Time in general, in draft? As always, thoughts are comments are welcome on the reddit thread!

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