Greetings fellow Entrathians! It’s your friendly neighborhood Chris VanMeter. It’s been a few months since I updated you on My Hexcellent Adventure, but I’m back and excited to dive into Scars of War. The conflict between the Ardent and the Underworld is in full scale, and I really love how much of the flavor of war is built into the new set.
New cards and mechanics aren’t the only thing that is changing. We also have the first set rotation in the history of the game. This is an exciting time, but it is also a big deal that it is taking place. Having a planned set rotation is no simple feat and goes a long way towards the future health of the game. Cards rotating out give the designers the ability to let problem cards go and bring back interesting cards that they want to live on in the new format after the rotation. It also allows for new takes on cards that have already existed.
Some examples of these are the reprinting of Arena Regular. This Ardent troop is quietly very important in the format. It continues to let a Yotul Mogak archetype exist and builds onto one of the new champions, High Cleric Marzul.
We also saw the printing of Deny. This is in the same vein as Countermagic, which is something that I think we’re going to continue to see as the game progresses. Having a three-cost card that can interrupt anything the opponent is trying to do is a staple of the format, and tacking on little extras is something to be experimented with. Here are some other ideas that I think we may see at some point on a three-cost interrupt.
There are a lot of options for this card type, and with a scheduled set rotation we will likely see a nice mixture of things happening.
For now, though, both Shards of Fate and Shattered Destiny are leaving, and while there are some awesome new cards that have been introduced since I started playing back in the middle of Armies of Myth, there is a clear change in design philosophy that we’ve seen and this will be felt with what is leaving from the format.
Let’s look at a card like Howling Brave. This is very clearly a powerful card. In fact, it was format defining for my lifetime playing the game. Accelerating and giving a Wild threshold are both very powerful things—in fact I think that Howling Brave giving a Wild threshold might have been a bit too powerful. The deckbuilding cost for a card like this is that you risk it being a dead or bad drawn in the late game when you likely no longer need the resources, but because of cards like Mightsinger of Ages you can mitigate the drawback. There is also the fact that the way resources and thresholds work in this game, gaining a threshold while not gaining a resource isn’t always a huge drawback. There were plenty of times that you could play something like Carnasaurus on the same turn as a Howling Brave because the Brave gave you the second Wild threshold that you needed to unlock those cards.
Needless to say, that Howling Brave was not reprinted and I expect that we will never see it in Standard again. We will, however, see it all over the place in Immortal!
Another card that is just exceptionally powerful was Vampire King. We do still have the Prince and Princess, but I think those are much more tuned appropriately. The issue is that the King was already great on rate for its stats, but it’s ability to completely take a game over was a bit much. There wasn’t much removal that lined up well, and while we did get a lot more removal for it towards the end of its Standard legality, Vampire King still over preformed.
Some other cards that left that I don’t think we are going to see in Standard again are:
One card that I think is interesting is Reese the Crustcrawler. I think that the way the format ended up with Howling Brave, Angus the Arsonist burn, and the different Crusaders there just really wasn’t a place for old Reese, which in my mind prior to Rune Ear Hierophant being printed was the best card in constructed.
With the face of Standard being changed as much as the face of Entrath in Scars of War, what is the new format going to look like? Leading into the Cosmic Crown Showdown, even though I wasn’t qualified, I still joined up with fellow writers and friends Jeff Hoogland, Ali Aintrazi, and the rest of their squad to prepare for the new Standard metagame. The first place I looked was what potential default decks could translate from the old to the new.
Losing Howling Brave does hurt this deck. It makes it so we’re casting Rune Ear Hierophant and Underworld Crusader on three rather than on two, and it makes it harder to reliably Crocosaur, which is why I am down to only one in the main.
A benefit for this deck though, is that Angus the Arsonist decks are quite a bit slower with all the cards that they lost, which means that leveraging the resiliency of Underworld Crusader is more relevant.
A nice pick up for these styles of deck though is Strangle. It’s a great answer to opposing Crusaders, but beware that Ardent Crusader can gem into Minor Diamond of Protection which puts it out of range, and Major Blood Orb of Sacrifice will generally put Rune Ear Hierophant out of range as well.
As for the reserves, I thought that using Vampire Princess to attack the hand of more controlling decks is still a good thing—remember, you don’t have to play around Extinction anymore. We also get access to a new crypt hoser in Gravebane Vial which is something that I really like. It replaces itself when you play it, which is nice, and the ability isn’t Basic, which means we can use it in response to something like Rotten Rancor or a Winter Moon champion ability.
The other deck I looked at was a Diamond/Ruby Ardent deck.
All three of these are quite an engine. They not only work amongst themselves, but also in combination with Heart of Embers. Intrepid Conjurer is one that I love and there are a lot of games where you can curve Intrepid Conjurer into Righteous Outlaw and just run away with the game. Likewise, Conjurer into Wartorn General into any two drop on turn three is likewise going to put on an insane amount of pressure.
Another new card that we gain is Daughter of the Poet, which helps fill out the cycle started in Herofall. Much like her counterpart Matriarch of Flames, there are going to be some games that Daughter just runs away with. In fact, there are some decks that she will be so effective against that I have included two more and an additional two copies of Ozawa’s Wish in the reserves to bring it with her. Getting to Wish a Daughter of the Poet back with at least five Diamond threshold means we get another troop from our crypt on our end step, which is a lot of pressure to try and slog through.
Decree of Banishing is just a hyper-efficient removal card, and if it ends up being as good and played as I think it will be, we may start to see things like Diamond’s Favor, Chomposaur, or Scorn of Oberon in main decks. Constant removal that has utility elsewhere may end up being very good if the format gets to a point where the premier removal card is Decree of Banishing. At only two-cost, I don’t think that’s too farfetched.
These decks were pretty basic, and If I was being honest I wanted to help find something that wasn’t just a cookie cutter Crusader deck. Early on in drafting Scars of War, I was absolutely slaughtered by someone who played Zorath’s Rectory socketed with Major Wild Orb of Cultivation. Every single turn he just pumped out Dreadlings and ramped his resources. It was a self-serving engine and eventually was too much to handle. I mentioned that it might be playable in constructed and brought it up to the team but everyone was busy working on their own decks and ideas at the time. Shortly thereafter it turned out that Androod was working on a Zorath’s Rectory + Horrors of War deck that he thought was sweet.
I put the deck together and started battling and it was a slaughter. I was cutting through everyone and felt like I was playing a different game than everyone else. Very early on in playing the deck, I was sure that it was the ticket for the CCS and instantly started tweaking the list and talking it up. I knew that once we could get the rest of the team to start testing the deck they would see just how busted it was.
There are a lot of reasons why Zorath’s Rectory with the ramp gem is insane and pairs well with Horrors of War, but the main thing is that with Howling Brave and the cheap damage based removal being gone, there isn’t a need to be as low to the ground as possible. As such, there aren’t many decks that can operate effectively on low resources. This deck punishes a meta that is set up as such.
Here is the list that Ali ended up going undefeated in the CCS with.
Zorath’s Rectory socketed with Major Wild Orb of Cultivation
This deck is very good, and it is not easy to pilot. There will be a lot of mistakes made by people who will claim the deck is bad because of it. Practice is the name of the game for sure. I believe that Ali and Jeff will both touch more on the deck in their pieces here on HexTCG.com, so I will leave that to them, but just know that this deck is good and being prepared for it is a good idea.
Now that the CCS is over, there is one thing that’s quite apparent of the new Standard format. Bride of the Damned is the hotness, Blood has all the best removal and therefore makes it the most played and likely the best shard in Standard.
Given enough time, I’m sure we also would have figured out an optimal Uzzu the Bonewalker deck, but with the bulk of our efforts going into tuning the Rectory deck and only three of our group being qualified, led to us sleeping a bit on Bride – well not completely. Our backup deck for the CCS was this Mono Blood Vampires deck.
On top of a brave new Constructed world, the 6-6-5 Draft format is much different than 5-5-5. Adding new cards and removing the frequency with which you see Herofall cards, combined with some of the champion nerfs and buffs makes this format much more enjoyable than the last. Make sure you practice Sealed a bunch though, because the Hex Clash will be starting up soon, and with cash prizes and unique items available, you don’t want to miss out.
Good luck to everyone, and I will see you in the queues!
With 20 years of TCG experience, Chris VanMeter brings a unique perspective to HEX. Favoring constructed decks that can either go under the competition or as far over it as possible, you can find Chris playing draft, sealed, and constructed on his Twitch channel and talking about his experiences endlessly via social media.