The current standard format has shaken out to be in a fairly good place. There are a variety of tier 2 decks that are competitive and there are three different decks that I would consider to be in contention for the “best deck” in the current format. For reference I think the strongest decks in the current standard format are:
Today, we’re going to go over the only one we haven’t covered on the main site: Diamond-Ruby Ardent.
Let’s start with our champion of choice:
The Burning Banner that Haraza creates is every aggressive champions dream mode for all of their troops. It makes every troop that we draw, or create, immediately threatening. Speaking of troops we create, let’s take a look at two of the cards that make this Ardent deck pack a heck of a punch:
While these are not the largest troops around, both of these allow the Ardent deck to go as wide as you could possibly want. On the back of some powerful Valor generators Intrepid Conjuror and Scion of Lyvaanth create entire armies on their own fairly quickly. Thankfully, we have access to a few very powerful Valor creators:
Wartorn General allows us to have a troop that goes big as our board goes wide with Conjurers and Candlekin. Hero of Legend allows us to press our advantage while generating additional Valors. Once we have a few Valorous troops, Hero of Legend allows us to constantly pressure our opponent without fear of losing our own troops inside of combat.
Moonrise Elder is probably one of the most powerful cards in the Diamond-Ruby Ardent deck. In addition to providing a grip full of Valors to make our board state more imposing, the Major Ruby of Galvanism provides us with a nice jump towards creating our Burning Banner. In fact – we can create a banner on the fourth turn when we play the Moonriser Elder out to start beating down right away.
Rounding out our Ardent troops which are important enough to warrant multiple copies of, we have a hateful two drop, another Valor payoff, and a powerful three drop:
Wise Magistrate is pretty well positioned right now. In addition to hosing Turbo PA, it is also fairly annoying against other decks trying to deploy a bunch of Valors. After Moonrise Elder, Heart of Embers is probably the most powerful troop in our deck. Not only does Heart provide some interaction, but it also provides an often lethal amount of reach. I do not think I have ever lost a game in which I had two Heart of Embers active to deal six damage per Valor played.
Ardent Crusader is an extremely powerful and resilient card. It gives a troop based aggressive deck like this some staying power against removal heavy decks since it generates some value when it dies. In order to meet the deck building requirement Crusader imposes, we round out the main deck with a couple of one of these troops:
William Rowan is just an individually powerful card. The floor on him is a 3/2 for two resources, while the ceiling is a game ending threat that spreads its power across two bodies. Exalted Knight is a Speedy threat that applies reasonable pressure, while also acting as a main deck card that hoses Dreadling strategies. Making Candlekin out of Turbo PA come into play exhausted is also a valuable upside.
We round out our last couple of main deck cards with a powerful Dragon and some Guidance to add consistency:
Lyvaanth gives us another method of making the Candlekin our Scion generates more powerful, while also providing additional pseudo reach thanks to its Speedy, evasive body. In any game we are behind, Lyvaanth also plays defense well, due to generating extra Candlekin when it takes damage.
Guidance is just a Diamond staple at this point. It allows us to hit resources consistently early, while also guaranteeing we find gas in the late game. Guidance adds an insane amount of consistency to any deck that can play it.
You are the beat down. The turn you start taking a break from applying pressure to start blocking is likely the turn you start losing. Our goal is to get under or go around whatever our opponent is able to play out. You will note that in all of the following reserves plans we never change out more than a few cards. Remember, when our deck has a proactive baseline, we do not want to dilute our primary game plan too much.
The most important thing we can do against the Kagulichu deck is diversify the costs of our cards in play whenever possible. Eternal Seeker is their best tool against us, so minimizing the impact this card has on our board state is the most important thing we can be doing.
Hereafter is one of our best tools for stopping them from cleaning up our board with a fast Rotten Rancor. Do not be afraid to use Hereafter proactively if your opponent only has one bomb in their crypt. This lets us use our resources efficiently and add more pressure to the board while being disruptive.
Game one we just want to be as fast as possible in this matchup. Their deck’s best draw is slightly faster than ours, but our deck is a bit more consistent with how fast it kills. Offer to trade your troops for theirs early and often. Even though our Intrepid Conjurers have better stats than their Thunderfield Seers, their Seers are valuable combo pieces the turn they go off with Mobilize cards.
Post-reserves we have seven must answer hate cards that make the Turbo PA player’s life fairly difficult. They have answers like Transmogrifade and Runebind though, so we still want to be as aggressive as possible.
The Mono Blood matchup is generally reasonable, but occasionally they can steal a game with a well timed Massacre or an unchecked Bride of the Damned. Whenever possible we want to avoid over extending into a sweeper when we are able to both apply pressure and still keep some tools back. The Burning Banner we create gives us the ability to immediately flood the board again with pressure post-sweeper.
Similar to the Turbo PA matchup, I feel like Redling’s best draws are slightly faster than ours, but our average draw likely bests their average draw. This is the one matchup we can afford to play slightly defensively while we build a board to go wide with. While they no longer have Lazgar’s Vengeance to clean up with, we do need to be careful to not die randomly to Commander PROMPT or Zanya Bloodfist.
While this matchup will often feel like a bit of a mirror match, we definitely need to be the aggressor from the non-socket side. Their access to cards like Altar of Nulzann and Animus of Nulzann mean that their long game is generally more powerful than our own.
If you want to see this variation of the Diamond-Ruby Ardent deck in action, check out this video archive from one of my twitch streams:
If you’ve been looking for an aggressive deck to battle with since Lazgar’s Vengeance was banned, this Diamond-Ruby Ardent deck should certainly fit the bill. This deck hits hard and fast, while also playing some powerful threats to allow you to keep up in games that go long. If you enjoy running people down with Speedy troops I would highly recommend giving this deck a try.
Have a question about this archetype that I did not cover in the article above? Let me know by leaving a comment in the forum!
Thanks for reading,
Jeff is a professional gamer who enjoys the competitive aspects of HEX: Shards of Fate. Constructed is his preferred format and he is always looking for that new piece of technology to give him a leg up on the competition.
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