Slightly slower aggressive decks that were kept down by Lazgar’s Vengeance are once more a reasonable choice. A variety of Diamond based aggressive decks have popped up to fill the void that was left by the weakened Ruby Aggro decks. A key component in many of these Diamond decks is the powerful card Ardent Crusader. A couple of weekends ago, I made the top 8 of the HEX Bash with a new take on the Diamond Aggro archetype:
The first thing many people will notice about this deck is that it is not just a Diamond deck; in fact, it is not even a two shard deck, but a Tri-Shard deck! Tri-Shard decks historically struggle in HEX because the payoff of playing in three shards is not worth the inconsistency of needing three different thresholds. That being said, this deck has a number of tools that allow it to play a third shard with a good deal of consistency:
Howling Plains Bluegrass is really what allows us to play three shards with minimal cost since it can provide any of our thresholds. While Carloth Cobblestone does not provide all of our thresholds, it acts as an additional dual shard for us since it can provide Diamond and Sapphire.
Guidance may seem like an odd card to list as threshold fixing, but this is what it often does in the early game for us. Being able to draw a random shard out of our deck helps us have a higher chance of having all of the thresholds that we need. Past the fixing it can help provide in the early game, Guidance also helps us find additional threats in the late game as well when we have our resources fully established.
So what exactly are we getting for jumping through the hoops of playing three shards? Let’s take a look:
Ardent Crusader is a powerful troop based on its 4/4 stats alone. When we take on the ability to customize it with a minor gem and factor in its Deathcry trigger, then we get a really potent threat. We start our Crusaders with Skyguard and Steadfast in order to allow our large troop to play offense and defense simultaneously.
Auspex of Lanupaw is a card that has always been in the back of my mind as doing something powerful, but it never really had a good home. Part of this is because of the threshold requirements – Sapphire and Wild – that Auspex has, but also because of the deck building constraint Auspex imposes. Auspex wants our deck to be full of troops in order to make the most out of the bonus it provides, but at the same time we need to have a critical mass of actions in our deck to trigger Auspex consistently. Thankfully, the Herofall and Scars of War sets gave us the perfect solution to this constraint:
All three of these troops generate Valors for us. This allows us to have plenty of actions in our deck to trigger Auspex of Lanupaw, while also having a critical mass of troops to make larger. Hero of Legend on its own is a fairly powerful HEX card. While the 3/4 is not quite as large as Ardent Crusader, the fact that Hero can produce a steady stream of power ups for our troops is fantastic. The number of Valors Hero of Legend makes over time tends to snowball since, thanks to the fact that once Hero becomes valorous itself, it can attack as an invincible 4/5 every turn.
Moonrise Elder is a card that allows us to go over the top of our opponents both literally and figuratively. Often generating multiple Valors the turn it comes into play, Moonrise Elder can generally help our troops make profitable attacks into whatever board state our opponent has created. Should the ground be too clogged up though, the Major Diamond of the Seraph allows our Moonrise Elder to Fly over for the last few points of damage we need.
Dawn Mesa Duo is certainly the weakest of our Valor producers, but it helps us meet the ten ardent troops deck building requirement Ardent Crusader imposes, while also providing both a Coyotle and Human for our racial shards. The Lifedrain Dawn Mesa Duo provides helps us win races as well.
In addition to our Auspex of Lanupaw, we have two other ways to take advantage of the large number of Valors our deck can produce:
Intrepid Conjurer is everything an aggressive deck like this wants to be doing. On turn one, Conjurer is a 2/1 for one that starts applying pressure to our opponent’s health total. As the game goes long though, Conjurer turns every Valor we generate into not just a power up, but also an additional troop.
Howling Plains Alpha not only generates a Valor itself, but provides a bonus on attack to all of our Valorous troops. This means on its own, Howling Plains Alpha can be played on turn two and then be Valored and attack for four starting on the third turn.
We round out our main deck troops with a smattering of other Ardent troops to meet our requirement for Ardent Crusader:
In addition to being another Ardent troop, Brown Fox Scout also enables Howling Plains Bluegrass for us. Brown Fox Scout is a powerful card because it mitigates one of the biggest drawbacks a smaller troop like this tends to have: being a bad top deck in the midgame. This is because past turn three, Brown Fox Scout essentially “draws itself” due to being played off of the top of our deck, instead of requiring us to ever put it into our hand.
Satyr’s Roost Bard is a “fun of” to enable our Ardent Crusader, while also providing an additional payoff for the Valors we produce. Speaking of payoff, we finish off our troops with some powerful four drops at the top of our curve:
Silver Talon Adjudicator is just a powerful catch up card that we are playing again to meet our Ardent Crusader requirements. Pippit Hustler, on the other hand, is a powerful and flexible answer that doubles as a threat. Because Hustler can interact with any type of card in play, it provides a catch-all answer we can main deck. The 3/4 body is also nothing to scoff at, often allowing Hustler to be played inside of combat to make one of their troops worse and also eat something while blocking.
Past all of our threats, we have a smattering of interactive cards that allow us to slow down decks that might be a touch more aggressive than we are:
Transmogrifade is simply one of the most efficient pieces of pseudo removal HEX currently has. It takes our opponent’s must-answer threat and often downgrades it into something much worse for the cost of a single resource. Runebind is an extremely flexible card that can be used to save our own threats from removal, stop an interrupt, delay a critical card, or simply get a blocker out of the way so we can push through lethal damage. Decree of Banishing is here because we cannot play five copies of Transmogrifade, but we want more than four pieces of removal.
One of the reasons decks like this Tri-Shard Ardent deck are enjoyable to play is because of the dynamic nature of the deck depending on the matchup we are playing. While we have an aggressive slant, not all of our aggressive games play out the same way. Sometimes we are building up a single large troop with a pile of Valors and smashing in every turn with it. Other times we go wide on the back of Intrepid Conjurer to swarm our opponent out of the game. Then there are some matchups where we assume a more controlling role.
This is one of those matchups where our role will largely depend on how their draw lines up against ours. More often than not, we will be assuming an aggressive role trying to eke as much value as possible out of each of our troops while our opponent uses one-for-one removal. Occasionally though, our opponent will put multiple Vampires into play and simply try to race our ground troops.
Ardent Crusader is our best card in this matchup, not only because it leaves behind more threats after it is killed, but also because having Skyguard and Steadfast allows it to apply pressure while also defending from Vampires. Bride of the Damned is the most important card on the Blood side of the table. Whenever possible, we want to save our copies of removal for answering Bride or she will quickly take over a game as she steals our troops.
While Intrepid Conjurer going wide is good against their one-for-one removal, it lines up very poorly against Bride of the Damned and Massacre. Hero of Legend is a good card in this matchup, but trimming the fourth copy means we are less likely to get 2-for-1’d by a Herofall in the early game. Runebind and Transmogrifade are not strictly bad cards in this matchup, but we are simply replacing them with more powerful ones such as Blinding Ire and Pippit Hustler.
This is a matchup where we tend to play defensively until we have stabilized the board. Our large troops double as great roadblocks, and our Ardent Crusader quickly puts the game away while also being defensive. Boltwing Phoenix is the most important card on the opponent’s side of the board. Not only can it Fly over most of our threats, but it can also double as a sweeper for our smaller troops. Whenever possible, we want to save our Transmogrifades for this evasive threat.
Post reserves we are simply swapping some of our cards that go over the top for things that help us interact with the board.
We are always the beat down against Diamond-Sapphire Control. Our goal is to get under them while mitigating the impact of their interaction as much as possible. Their most important cards are Eldurathan’s Glory and Dark Heart of Nulzann. Not only do these cards interact with our board, but they also allow them to put us under a clock to end the game.
Re-gem Ardent Crusader to Minor Sapphire of Lunacy.
While it is important to keep their threats off of the table, drawing too much removal in this matchup means we will not have enough pressure. This means we want to trim cards like Transmogrifade for things like Pippit Hustler that double as a threat while also being an answer.
Psychic Ascension may seem like an odd inclusion in a troop based deck like this Ardent one, but because so many of our troops generate Valors we can often play this for a fairly low cost in the late game.
The difficulty of this matchup is directly proportional to how quickly they can get an Eternal Seeker into play. The games they play Eternal Seeker on turn five or seven, we often struggle to win, while the games they do not they will often have a hard time dealing with the pressure we create on board.
While Transmogrifade is fine against cards like Underworld Crusader and Rune Ear Hierophant, it is pretty embarrassing against more expensive threats. Runebind is a fine card for generating some tempo, but often our opponent is going to be able to stall the game and replay their powerful card before we can kill them.
If you want to see the Tri-Shard Ardent deck in action, check out the video below of me recasting some of my matches from the HEX Bash that I top 8’d with the deck:
I have been enjoying this post Lazgar’s constructed format a lot. The number of “big board” stalls that largely did not exist previously are both interesting and skill testing. I think this Tri-Shard Ardent deck has the tools we need to be competitive in longer games, while also offering some aggressive draws to get under the slower decks in the format.
If you are looking for an aggressive deck that gets to play powerful cards like Auspex of Lanupaw while also getting to play flexible cards like Runebind, then this Tri-Shard Ardent deck could be the deck for you.
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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