Welcome back to our next installment of Limitless! In my first piece we examined one of the more controlling archetypes this limited format has to offer – Sapphire-Diamond Skies. Today we are going to be focusing on the other end of the spectrum a bit by looking at Ruby aggressive decks based around the “charges matter” theme. While the charges matters deck takes on many different shapes and forms, these two cards are the biggest reason to be in the archetype:
Both of these cards allow us to apply pressure to our opponent fairly quickly while just doing what we want to be doing anyways – making shard drops and playing out troops. In addition to being a quality aggressive threat, Rock Slider is also a fairly potent defense card as well. Having a fourth point of defense is fairly good in this limited format where many of the early threats people are playing only have two or three attack. Slider also dodges a lot of the common removal in the format such as Chastise and Feed the Flames.
Arena Regular is a touch more fragile than Rock Slider, but it also comes down a turn earlier. Arena Regular can help us push damage by attacking in the early game if our opponent has a slow start and in the mid-late game it provides consistent reach by turning otherwise dead draws into points of damage that chip away at our opponent’s health total.
Our payoff cards for this archetype would be fairly lackluster if we were only able to generate a single charge per turn, though. Thankfully, we have two fairly reasonable champions in this limited format to help enable these troops:
In general, I think Marzul is the more powerful champion for this archetype. Not only is Arena Regular an Ardent troop, but Marzul allowing us to push Rock Slider through a gummed up board is fairly valuable. That being said, occasionally we will get a few Rock Sliders while primarily drafting powerful Underworld troops. In this case, Therroz is obviously our go to champion and is still fairly reasonable since these decks often go wide playing out troops.
Because this is one of the more aggressive decks in the limited format, I want to talk about the aggressive threats that fill out the bottom end of our curve first as opposed to starting with top end bombs. It is important that we have a play by the second turn of most games with this archetype so we can apply enough pressure before our opponent outclasses us with larger threats.
Ayotochi Cavalry is one of the better uncommons in this archetype. Being a 2/2 means it can attack profitably into various one attack troops in the early game, while the ability to become close to unblockable means Cavalry can push through those final points of damage in the late game.
Flame Guard is a bit fragile, but is also packs a fairly sizable punch for a two drop. Most games where we are on the play with a Flame Guard and our opponent does not have a play until turn three they are going to lose. Once our Flame Guard starts triggering Diligence, our opponent will suddenly need two troops to block in combat, which quickly turns into three troops if we have a piece of removal.
Firebrand was easily the best common in the triple five format, so it should be no surprise that this aggressive threat is still reasonable in the Ruby aggro decks in 6-6-5. Because Firebrand grants Swiftstrike to attacking Valorous troops, it generally ends up being a three cost 3/2 Swiftstrike that we can pay for over the course of two turns. Three power with Swiftstrike means the Firebrand can attack into most early blockers, which means it will almost always push through some amount of damage before our opponent can gum up the board.
Intimidator is probably the worst of the powerful two drops, but is still a very reasonable card in this archetype. On an uncontested board it offers four points of attack for three resources that can start attacking on the third turn of the game. In the mid-late game, the ability to make an Underworld troop not be able to block is also valuable for letting us push through those final points of damage.
This format does not have a ton of turn one plays, so Ballad is often a turn one and turn two play. The average hit with Ballad is simply a two attack troop with Speed, but on occasion it will find us a total bomb like William Rowan or Tezozo.
The power of Stalagmage varies greatly depending on the other cards in our deck. If we have enough Mobilize cards, it is generally reasonable. Any time we have Mage turn one on the play it will often be able to push 3-6 points of early damage which, in conjunction with Mobilize cards, can often be enough to win most races. Should we be lucky enough to get any Outposts from our third pack, Stalagmage’s stock goes way up.
In most limited decks we want to prioritize drafting game winning bombs higher than removal, but in an aggressive archetype like the Ruby charges deck I think quality removal is often more important than individually powerful cards. In games where we are able to follow up our first two plays with removal to clear a path, we will generally be hard pressed to lose.
Lava Shaper is easily the best piece of removal in this archetype. Not because of the range of cards it can kill, but because Shaper doubles as a threat as well. Shaper allows us to simultaneously clear a path for our existing attackers while also adding additional pressure to the table.
After Lava Shaper, Blazing Hammer is the next best piece of removal for this archetype. Not only does Hammer kill most of the things in the format that we care about, but it also doubles as reach since it can deal damage to the opposing champion as well. Having Hammer in our deck can let us steal games that we are otherwise locked out of when the board gums up.
While Strike cannot deal damage to champions, it is not strictly worse than Blazing Hammer. Not only is Pyre Strike a full resource less to play out, but the fact that it is quick and disables Deathcry is also relevant.
Feed the Flames is the best piece of Ruby removal at common in Scars of War. In the early game it kills most of the things that we care about, while in the late game it can be upgraded to remove post problems. If we see a Feed the Flames late in pack one or two, it is likely a sign that we should be moving into Ruby because it is open.
While this piece of removal does not kill everything we care about in the format, it does double as a bit of reach in the late game. Should we trade a troop in combat in the first couple turns of the game, Cremate can also generate strong tempo plays in the midgame with its Scrounge effect giving us an additional resource.
Fireball is often difficult to play consistently outside of the mono Ruby configurations of this archetype. That being said, Fireball is an extremely powerful card if it is playable in our deck. Nothing else in this limited format comes close to matching the efficiency of Fireball for its purpose.
Fire in the Hole is one of the better “big” pieces of removal Ruby has access to in this format. If it is in our opening hand, it will generally scale most games to kill whatever we need to kill. While it is not quite as prohibitive as Fireball to play, it is worth noting that Fire in the Hole’s double Ruby requirement can make it hard to play on turn two on occasion.
While Interlude is fairly expensive, there are also fairly few threats in the format that it cannot remove from the other side of the table. The upside of generating a Valor is also decent on most boards as well.
I rarely start with these cards in my main deck, but there are a number of matches where I will be more than happy to bring these in. Moshpit Gladiator is one of the best opposing targets for these pieces of removal. Just keep in mind that Crackling Magma does not hit troops with Flight, so it is not useful against Ada phantoms. Also keep in mind that since these give a charge, we can use them as a combat trick with our Rocksliders.
While this archetype tends to be fairly aggressive, there are a few cards that are worth playing at the top of the curve because they can often win a game on their own if they go unchecked.
Warband Ruffian is one of my favorite Ruby four drops in this limited format in general, and it slots into the top end of this deck nicely. Having four defense means it dodges a lot of the Ruby / Blood removal in the format, and having one more point of defense than attack means it cannot die to Chastise the turn we play it out. On its own, Ruffian can close a game out fairly quickly, and when we are playing Marzul we can generally attack for a very large chunk of damage without losing our threat by turn five.
Rocket Rider is one of the few Underworld cards that is powerful enough to be worth playing in the Marzul variation of the charges deck. While it does not dodge as much removal as Ruffian, the fact that it has Speed and Flight is a fairly large upside. Generally, by the fifth turn of the game we will have one or more troops in our crypt that died in combat to Scrounge Rider so it can gain Rage.
Blitzer’s power level in our deck is directly proportional to the number of Diligence troops we have for it to enable. I think this is the weakest of the top end bombs we can be playing in this archetype, but it is worthwhile if we have the Diligence troops to support it.
These are utility cards that are generally reasonable in this archetype. Their power level will generally depend on the context of the other cards we end up having in our deck.
If we get enough Rocksliders to be in the Ruby charges archetype, then Blitz is a total monster of a card. Remember that Rockslider gains Crush when we gain a charge, and because our deck can often gain charges at Quick speed, opponents generally block Slider with the minimum amount needed to kill it in combat. This lets Blitz save our best troop and Crush through for some extra points of damage.
Razor’s Edge is almost always strictly worse than Blitz in this archetype, but it is worth picking up in our third pack if we are unable to get some copies of Blitz in our first two packs.
Forge and the other outposts are our best ways of enabling Diligence in draft in general. Rage is especially good with Rock Slider, so if we pick up a couple of Stalagmages then Forge becomes fairly valuable.
These are troops that are not particularly aggressive or game ending, but offer reasonable utility in different situations.
Ashwood Transmuter was one of my favorite commons in 5-5-5 drafts, and it is still very reasonable in 6-6-5. A 3/2 for three is nothing to write home about, but in the mid-late game Transmuter can turn a spare shard into anything else – even an additional threat.
Minstrel does not offer much in terms of offense, but it does block things like Dreadlings fairly well while keeping opposing 2/1s at bay. The ability to give us a small resource boost in the early turns also lets us play things like Furious Blitzer out ahead of curve to apply pressure to our opponent.
Ironsmith actually plays fairly well with the card we just talked about – Ashwood Minstrel. On curve this gives us seven points of attack on the third turn, which is enough to run most people out of the game. In general, Ironsmith’s single point of defense leaves something to be desired, but it is hard to argue with six points of attack for just a three resource investment.
While Surgesmith is not Ardent, it does generate an additional charge every time it can survive a combat step. The fact that Surgesmith can have Speed generally means we will get at least one hit in with it before it dies in combat.
While it is possible to draft reasonable mono Ruby charges decks, most often we will want a splash shard to give us some flexible options. In general I have found Sapphire and Diamond to best complement the Ruby core of this aggressive archetype. While I am not going to cover all of the cards in these shards that are reasonable in this archetype, I would like to cover some of the highlights.
Webscribe is one of the few Underworld cards that is generally worth playing when we are playing Marzul. If we end up with a more Underworld slanted deck overall, Webscribe is one of the best cards we can have in the Therroz charges deck.
Riftspasm is a card that, when I first started drafting the charges matters archetype, I thought was very good. The more I play with the card, though, the less impressed I have become. In general this archetype aims to be fairly aggressive, which Riftspasm is not. Combine this with the fact that we do not get to choose which bonus we are getting every turn and we get a fairly mediocre card. I am not unhappy to pick up Riftspasm if I see one going late, but I do not think it is a good reason to move into Sapphire and I think it is a worse payoff than both Rockslider and Arena Regular most of the time.
This is the archetype where Flashpaw Trickster really shines. With Marzul as our champion, it gives two charges at Quick speed which can often make our Rocksliders very scary. Ardent Officer is just a quality threat that is one of the best cards we can have if we end up in Diamond.
Let’s take a look at what drafting a Ruby charges deck looks like:
This is definitely one of the more powerful Ruby charges decks I have drafted so far. Not only does it have a whoppingsix payoff cards, but it also has a good mix of removal and bombs past that. It ended up going 3-0 in the gauntlet when I played it out.
One of the most important things to keep in mind when drafting this archetype is that it does require very specific pieces to get going. Even though the payoff cards we are looking for are common, if there is someone else in the same draft fighting us for the important pieces things will often end up poorly for both of us. This means as we are drafting we want to stay open and move into this archetype if we start seeing key pieces wheel.
If we can pick up a few of the payoff cards, then the Ruby based charges deck is easily one of the most powerful aggressive decks in this current limited format. If we see Rocksliders late in the first pack, then it is probably a good sign we want to be moving into this deck because no one else is!
Hopefully today’s Limitless piece was helpful to you in stepping up your limited game. If you have any questions about this specific archetype or drafting in general, feel free to leave me a comment in the forum link below.
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.