by Adrian Sullivan
One of the most difficult things about being creative in the confines of a TCG is that you’re always essentially dwelling in an ecology.
This isn’t a normal ecology, like we’d see in the real world. We aren’t literally dealing with animals in their environment. But in many ways, it is very much like we’re in the Outback of Australia trying to figure out how to deal with the European rabbit. A new species is introduced to a stable environment, and it can run rampant.
We’re not working with genes as the building blocks of our new animals; we’re working with cards. All of the constituent DNA it takes to make the animals that might live somewhere is directly parallel to the card choices we make. But, like random collections of DNA, most combinations of cards basically don’t amount to anything noteworthy.
In any given metagame, like any given ecological environment, there are more and less successful portions of that environment. If you go and play in a Constructed Gauntlet, you’ll play against a pretty fair mix of opposition. Some people will be playing very honed, dangerous decks. Others will be playing things that have less of a bite. But, whatever the case may be, over time, the metagame that you end up in will typically drift to a stable place, just like a typical ecology will do the same.
To have the rabbit taking over the Outback usually requires a stroke of luck or inspiration.
Take, for example, Winter Moon decks of the most common variety. They are going to be a part of the environment until things get greatly shaken up by Primal Dawn. The specific varieties of the deck can vary quite a bit, but ultimately, the core will be the same: Arcane Focus and a variety of other card draw and card selection mixed with other cards to help stabilize the game and gain incremental advantage until the ability of Winter Moon itself just takes over.
Primal Dawn will, in essence, greatly increase the range of possibilities available in HEX. In the now, however, I’m working with what we do have available, trying to find innovative new ideas that aren’t currently being explored. Some of the time, such as my first attempt with Cerebral Fulmination, you have a kind of mixed result, where the deck is incredibly good against a subset of opponents, but truly struggles against the entirety of the metagame. At other times, I’m hoping to really find something exciting and new that isn’t merely fun, but also is a good choice to fight with.
I asked the readers here at HEXTCG.com to select the card I’d be working with this time around. You picked this gem:
I have to say, I love cards like this. There is some incredible power to the card, intrinsically, that is just better than drawing cards. It isn’t just dodging the suppressive power of Windsinger, Master of the Hunt. It’s also the open-ended nature of the card. When you have a card like Archmage Wrenlocke, you can cycle through your deck pretty significantly. On the other hand, it can also just sit there.
It goes without saying that simply being bigger is worth paying attention to as well.
However, to make this card good, it actually takes a fair amount of work. At six, it is expensive enough that the game could already be well into the end game. This can mean that spending the resources to bring it out might simply be your last act. As a result, you truly need to have it be a card that is utilized in such a way that you can either get it into play quickly, or you need to be able to have your opponent under enough pressure that when it ends up in play, they might just be knocked out by the last card.
For this article, I actually ended up working on several decks. The first one goes for the more unusual idea: work on killing them and have Augur of Sirion be a part of the finishing stroke.
One of the first thoughts I had when I was conceiving of how Augur could be a part of a finishing stroke came from recalling a match I’d played in Frost Ring Arena. My opponent had dropped a turn two Thunderbird and I just ended up taking so much damage from it, I almost died.
I looked up all of the Sapphire fliers I could. Aside from Thunderbird, Salt Harpy really stuck out as a card that looked worth of being exploited. I tied the deck together with several more fliers that seemed powerful, from Splinter of Azathoth to Indigo Dreamwalker, and others.
Ultimately, Salt Harpy, and the cards to go with it (like Peek) just felt like they were too slow. Kill and Time Ripple could make the effort put into a Harpy feel wasted, and really, I just wanted to keep things simple.
On a slightly related note, sometimes I’d end up being brick-walled by a simple large flier. Arborean Rootfather was one of the common cards for this, with Minor Sapphire of Sky and Minor Wild Orb of Conservation (especially after going to the Reserves) stopping me cold.
I ended up trying out a few Menacing Gralk.
I was pretty shocked, but the deck took a huge turn for the better after trying it out. Even though it cost five, it was still so effective at both keeping me alive and ending the game that I ended up trying more. Augur of Sirion came up as a greatly follow to the card, and sometimes you’d have games where you were just hoping to draw it.
This, in turn, made me rethink the list entirely. I ended up running Mastery of Time, no, not because I’m in love with it, but because often I’d be in a race with evasive creatures, and taking another turn would be enough to swing it. In addition, it not only was absurd with Augur of Sirion, but it helped me get to Augur of Sirion. Finally, once Mastery had proved itself, I added in Eldritch Dreamer starting it with Major Sapphire of Mind, a card that was remarkably absurd with Mastery of Time.
Here is where I ended up– Skies!
Champion: Wyatt the Sapper
I’ve ended up really happy with the deck. Every creature in the deck is hard to block (or impossible), and it is really capable of putting an opponent on the back foot very well, especially if you manage to land a turn two Thunderbird.
There are some really interesting interactions, as well.
Indigo Dreamwalker is an awesome card in this deck, seeing as there is no other way for the deck to cheat on the resource constraint of Augur of Sirion. There are rare times when Augur gets hit by Indigo Dreamwalker and then you go to town. More often, though, it helps you have an extra aggressive moment when you find the prophesized card. When Augur of Sirion is on the table, Indigo Dreamwalker can be truly awesome, pushing you further into your deck with ease.
Shoggoth has been great in the deck. Sometimes you’re hitting your opponent so hard, but all it will take is a single card to stop your progress. It doesn’t even have to be something as powerful as Extinction (though that will often do the trick). Shoggoth lets you toss the extra cards in your hand (a huge cost, to be sure), and in return keep up your tempo in the game, and often parlay it into a victory. When you have out an Augur of Sirion, your hand tends to fill up, making Shoggoth even better. If you’re running an Eldritch Dreamer into your opponent, sometimes you don’t even care about the loss of cards.
Starsphere is a nice little bonus for the deck, since you can afford to run a little bit of non-Sapphire resources. It is great at helping smooth out the deck, but in conjunction with Augur of Sirion, Indigo Dreamwalker, and Eldritch Dreamer is particularly powerful.
The reserves are pretty straightforward. Augur of Sirion and Zodiac Divination are there to help fight attrition wars – the fourth Augur hanging out in the reserves simply because for many games, you don’t want to see it in your opener, but in some matchups, you can expect to need to refill. Drowned Shrine of Ulthar, despite being a “nombo” with Eldritch Dreamer, is still better at holding back opposing card-draw decks than it hinders us. Menacing Gralk is great in a race. Arcane Zephyr and Verdict of the Ancient Kings is to fight opposing removal spells. Chaos Key is just there as a catch-all. Flock of Seagulls is an attempt to slow down the fastest aggressive decks. Droo’s Unrelenting Fists is an experiment, albeit one that I’ve enjoyed, against very controlling low-troop decks as well as to bring in against decks with a lot of small troops.
I loved how the deck played out, and I can’t recall seeing any other deck quite like it when I’ve been playing, but I did want to try a deck with four Augur of Sirion main.
Inspired by Winter Moon decks, I decided to try something out.
I’ll admit it. There’s a part of me that is just a little in love with this card:
I loved the idea of being able to potentially play a Crash of Beasts deck which could use Augur of Sirion to help make the Crashes happen all that more often.
Furthermore, I was more than a little bit in love with opening sequences involving Sapphire and Wild Shards, Chlorophyllia and Arcane Focus. The games with this opener felt so smooth, it was impressive.
The first time I had a sequence like this, I laughed out loud:
Chlorophyllia, Hex Engine, Augur of Sirion (with an Arcane Focus or two in there for good measure).
I won that game.
In fact, I won every game in which this happened and the Augur of Sirion stuck around for a turn.
Now, granted the odds of this happening – the turn four Augur – are pretty low. But, it is an absurd turn of events nonetheless.
Here is the build:
Wild Sapphire Sirion
Champ: Warmaster Fuzzuko
One of the Sapphire cards that is here that you don’t see in the other deck is Azurefate Sorceress. I really love this card’s ability to be able to use Conservation to be able to protect itself, and perhaps the follow-up Augur of Sirion, and I also love the potential to run away with the game on the back of drawing cards.
Ultimately, I might be a little too in love with Crash of Beasts, and I know it. Probably, a more reasonable few cards should be removing Crashes in favor of 1 Shoggoth, 2 Countermagic, and either a Crocosaur, Sight of the Sun, or Azurefate Sorceress. Another card that maybe should be here is Arborean Rootfather, which can interact quite favorably with Augur of Sirion by changing the top card of your deck, and potentially being a way to add a little more oomph to the late-game of the deck. Perhaps with more testing, I’ll have a stronger opinion. For now, though, I’m happy with the card.
The reserves include ways to preserve the life total and control the board in Carnasaurus, Sight of the Sun, Crocosaur, and Chaos Key, as well as a little bit of control in Countermagic and Verdict of the Ancient Kings. Azurefate Sorceress makes an appearance as a way to potentially draw cards and protect your Augur.
Buoyed by the resource acceleration aspects of the Wild Sapphire build of Augur of Sirion, I turned towards another card that had intrigued me:
I really liked the look of this card. Going fast with your resources always feels especially powerful, and doing it from the get-go can make the lost card so worth it.
Of course, this meant that I’d have to be running Dwarves and Artifacts to be able to make it really work properly. This is a restriction, to be sure, but not an insurmountable one. I tried a few cards here and there, and then I ended up re-discovering a card that really surprised me:
The explosive results of this card were incredible, especially when you pushed into something scary. It was a Dwarf, it could help me get my cards into play, and it just seemed like it was accomplishing a lot for the deck.
Adding the Brawler to Forge of Cadoc and HEX Engine made me feel pretty good about the base of acceleration in the deck. But, I felt like I needed more to make Forge of Cadoc a stable part of the deck. Scouring the various Dwarves and Artifacts, I added the following:
I wanted cards that would be useful after I got out the resources I had in the deck. All of these felt like they were doing something powerful.
Of all of the three decks, this is the one that is definitely the roughest, but I’m still deeply impressed with several aspects here, especially this decks ability to make an absurd play, fairly consistently.
Getting payoffs for all of the resources isn’t difficult. One of the crazy things about having so many cards dedicated to resources is that running two Mass Polymorph Dingler feels like a reasonable choice. Sometimes, this play can happen so quickly that you immediately take the game.
Zodiac Divination is the most recent addition to the deck, providing a nice stream of cards. It could be that Oracle Song might be the better choice; it may be less powerful, but it adds to the early plays.
At different points, I’ve run three or even four Argus, Herald of Doom. One of the things I like most about the card is how absurd it feels to be able to simply cast this card off of the top. Of course, it rotting in your hand isn’t exactly the most fun, though it comes down far more quickly than you’d imagine.
Augur of Sirion is really impressive in a deck that can produce a ton of resources. In a lot of games, you’ll drop an Augur, and you’ll just end up running away with the game because you only really get stopped by finding a second shard on top of your library. Here, Benvolio is a godsend, keeping things moving. Scraptech Brawler is also a real joy when you’re whirring along, as you basically just get to put it into play for free.
I’ve contemplated adding in Resource Optimizing Infusion Device or Hex Geode to help make Eternal Sage more powerful, but so far I haven’t pulled the trigger on it. Both cards are also good at helping to make Augur of Sirion flow, but, there is only so much room.
The wildest card here is probably the single Comet Strike in the reserves. It’s still an experiment, but one that I have a good feeling about. For a lot of decks, running a Comet Strike after they’ve drawn their card will just about end it for them. This deck has so many ways to take over after that point, it can be hard for an opponent to recover. Even the removal of shard colors can be a problem for many players.
I’ve definitely come to absolutely love Augur of Sirion in my work in trying to explore the card.
I’ve been having a blast so far, learning the metagame and working on Augur of Sirion. Let’s do it again, but with even newer cards. You decide which card from the following I’ll work on next. I’ve decided to go back to Kansas, click my Ruby heels together and give you this group of cards to choose from:
I’m looking forward to seeing what you want me to work on next!
Until next time!