Deck Drilldown – Sapphire-Ruby Sockets

Jan 3, 2018

Traditionally speaking, TCG decks fall into one of a few categories:

  • Aggro
  • Midrange
  • Control
  • Combo

Sometimes, a deck blurs the lines between these archetypes and becomes something in-between. One of these in-betweens that we frequently refer to is an archetype known as “tempo.” Tempo decks tend to have an aggressive slant, but they also play interactive cards that get you ahead on board at the cost of card advantage.

Today, we are going to take a look at a tempo deck that has been putting up consistent results in HEX’s current standard format:

1x Scrios Forgefist Minor Ruby of the Arena
1x Blamsmith Minor Ruby of Zeal
3x Emsee, Etcher of Nulzann Major Ruby of Twinstrike
3x Heartsworn Caller Minor Ruby of the Arena
1x Heartsworn Caller Minor Ruby of Zeal
1x Trapper Keeper Minor Ruby of Zeal
4x Warpsteel Shardsworn Minor Sapphire of Wit
1x Jinglejinx Witch Major Ruby of Galvanism
3x Quenchinator Major Ruby of Galvanism
4x Animus of Nulzann Major Sapphire of Clarity
1x Buzztech Innovator Minor Ruby of Zeal

Champion: Haraza the Incinerator

For those who have been playing HEX for the last season or two, the socket synergy archetype is something you may have seen before. For those who are unfamiliar, the sockets decks leverage the synergy of the following four cards to do powerful things:

Emsee, Etcher of NulzannAltar of Nulzann

Emsee, Etcher of Nulzann and Altar of Nulzann keep a steady stream of cards flowing for the price of just doing what we want to be doing in the first place—attacking and playing socketed cards. While Emsee is a bit vulnerable to spot removal, Altar of Nulzann is easily our best card against removal-heavy decks. We do not care if our opponent is 1-for-1ing us or even clearing our entire board if every troop we played out has drawn us a card.

Sentry of NulzannAnimus of Nulzann

Sentry of Nulzann lets us cheat on resources a bit to play out all of the extra cards we are drawing. Something to keep in mind with Sentry of Nulzann is that unlike many other pieces of acceleration, Sentry starts making resources the turn you play it. This means it can generate explosive turns immediately by reducing the cost of multiple cards the turn it is played.

Animus of Nulzann is the most powerful payoff in the sockets archetype. Getting even one trigger from our Animus often puts us in a great spot. Against other aggressive decks it grows all of our troops to be larger than theirs, and against control decks it gets our Animus out of range of cards like Massacre. Whenever possible, we want to sequence our Animus against the more interactive decks such that we can guarantee at least one trigger from it. We do this by ensuring that the turn we play out the Animus we can also play out an additional socketed card before our opponent has a chance to remove the Animus.

After our sockets payoffs, we have a smattering of one and two cost troops that allow us to apply pressure quickly to our opponent:

Heartsworn CallerWarpsteel ShardswornBlamsmith
Trapper KeeperScrios Forgefist

These cards fill out the core of our deck. They apply pressure to our opponent and trigger our Altars and Animuses. Heartsworn Caller’s trigger helps us get to Haraza’s Burning Banner faster. Warpsteel Shardsworn is good with both the plus power from the Burning Banner as well as triggers from Animus, since it creates two bodies to power up. Blamsmith, Trapper, and Forgefist are all reasonable one-of cards to allow us to meet the 10 socketed cards requirement for Emsee.

We round out the socketed cards in our deck with a few major sockets and a big buzz:

QuenchinatorJinglejinx WitchBuzztech Innovator

Our three drops with major sockets are one of the things that allow this deck to have such aggressive draws. Thanks to the Major Ruby of Galvanism, these three drops often propel us into a Burning Banner from Haraza the Incinerator by turn four. While Jinglejinx Witch is slightly worse than Quenchinator, the two are functionally close enough that splitting the difference between them allows us to have more slots for non-socketed cards elsewhere in our deck.

Buzztech Innovator is kind of a “go over the top” card that we can draw in the late game. It can allow us to steal games we are otherwise out of with speedy Bumblebots. When we have a Burning Banner in play, Buzztech creates 13 attack worth of troops for a single card.

Finally, we have a couple of non-socket focused cards that round out our main deck:

RunebindPrimordial Sabretooth

Runebind is one of the most powerful tempo cards in the current format. For a single resource, it can take any threat off the board for a short time or put any card our opponent is trying to play into stasis. It does not matter that our opponent might get to replay their Massacre the following turn if they are dead this turn.

Runebind is probably one of the most complex cards to play in HEX’s current standard format. While sometimes the lines are obvious, like removing your opponent’s only blocker and killing them, the card has many other uses as well. One play that comes up fairly often that you should be aware of is that, when your opponent tries to kill one of your troops, it is generally correct to Runebind your own troop as opposed to the opponent’s removal. This makes the opponent’s removal miss our troop, which is now a constant, and eventually our troop will come back from being a Mysterious Rune whenever we draw a resource.

Primordial Sabretooth is a fantastic modal card. In the early turns, it can kill most threats our opponent deploys, while in the late game it can become a lethal threat very quickly and end the game all on its own.

Match Ups and Playing the Deck

The most important thing to keep in mind when playing this deck is that just because we are an aggressive deck does not mean we always have to go as fast as possible. When we are playing against more interactive decks, it is often right to mulligan fairly aggressively for Altar of Nulzann, which lets us accrue significant card advantage. It will often be right, as the game goes long, to play out only a single threat each turn so that every threat we play can trigger our Altar to draw additional cards.

Diamond-Sapphire Control

This is one of our better match ups. Our best draws can simply get under their answers, and Altar of Nulzann allows us to grind them out when the game goes long. Their most important cards against us are Clash of Steel, Dark Heart of Nulzann, and Sunlit Sentence.

Clash of Steel is something we can definitely afford to play around. Only committing 2-3 threats to the table at a time is more than enough pressure and leaves us some gas in the tank to recover post sweeper. Saying Dark Heart is good against our deck full of socketed cards may seem odd, but remember, we said Altar of Nulzann is one of our best cards in this matchup, which Dark Heart can force us to sacrifice. Also keep in mind that Dark Heart can allow Runebind to essentially remove any of our socketed cards from play.

Because of Clash of Steel and Dark Heart, do not just make a Burning Banner for no reason or just to push a couple points of damage. Often we want to save our charge power for a lethal burst of damage post sweeper.


Primordial SabretoothPrimordial SabretoothPrimordial SabretoothRunebindRunebind


Verdict of the Ancient KingsVerdict of the Ancient KingsVerdict of the Ancient KingsVandalizeVandalize

Primordial Sabretooth is pretty embarrassing in this matchup. Dealing 5 damage does not line up well against 6 defense Dark Hearts. Vandalize, however, is an ace. Trading a single resource for our opponent’s four resource Dark Heart is often game winning tempo.

Blood Midrange

This is another matchup that is generally favorable for Ruby-Sapphire Sockets. Their only cards that really matter pre-reserves are Bride of the Damned and Massacre. Again, it is often right to pace our threats to allow us to draw as many cards as possible with Altar of Nulzann.


RunebindWarpsteel ShardswornWarpsteel ShardswornWarpsteel Shardsworn


Primordial SabretoothConfounding IreConfounding IreConfounding Ire

Post reserves, we need to do our best to play around Stalking Quarry whenever possible. While this card will just “get us” sometimes, between Runebind and Confounding Ire, we can play around it.

Ruby-Diamond Candles

This matchup can be a bit tough for the sockets deck. Their deck can build a large board much faster and more consistently than we do. One of the things to keep in mind is that killing their Candlekin with spot removal is often correct. Remember that every Candle you kill is one more Candle they will likely want to make before they start growing their Candles larger.

Our key cards in this match up are Sentry of Nulzann and Animus of Nulzann. They are our best ways to build a large board quickly.


RunebindRunebindRunebindAltar of NulzannAltar of Nulzann


Return to CinderReturn to CinderCrackling MagmaCrackling MagmaPrimordial Sabretooth

Unlike when playing against the removal heavy decks, Altar of Nulzann is one of our worst cards in this matchup, because the card advantage is not likely to matter.

Other Sockets Decks

Sockets mirrors tend to vary in gameplay a good bit from game to game. Sometimes, someone has a powerful, fast start with Sentry and runs the other player out of the game. Other times, both players sit and build large boards until someone finally pulls far enough ahead to end the game in one single attack.


RunebindRunebindRunebindAltar of NulzannAltar of Nulzann


VandalizeVandalizeArcing RustArcing RustPrimordial Sabretooth

If your opponent is playing one of the socket variations with a Blood splash for Stalking Quarry, it is often correct to leave in more Runebind.

Gameplay Videos

If you want to see the Ruby-Sapphire Sockets deck in action, check out this video archive from one of my Twitch streams:

Wrapping Up

Normally, this is where I highlight what this particular deck does best and tell you that if you like doing that thing, whatever “that” is, you should check it out. This deck really does a lot of things well, though. It has aggressive curves on the back of fast Burning Banners. It draws lots of cards with Altar of Nulzann and Emsee. It interacts with its opponents as efficiently as possible with Runebind. I find myself hard pressed to choose just one strength.

If you are a fan of tempo decks, this is certainly the deck for you. Not only is it a blast to play, but it is also quite powerful. It’s even competitive—the deck has consistently been putting up results every week in the HEX Bash events with one of the highest win rates among the field each time.

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 Hoogland

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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