In this article I discuss my thoughts on constructed going into the first Epic Constructed Qualifier. I discuss my deck, my matches, and my deck revisions afterwards. I went 3-2-0 for a 10th place finish.
Opening Constructed Thoughts
Constructed and Limited/draft/etc. are very different beasts.
In limited, you have to put together a deck of 30(+) cards (usually all different). So, you try to include the best overall cards, add as much synergy as possible, and then play against opponents who could have a wide range of potential cards.
In constructed, each player is able to spend an unlimited amount of time beforehand selecting and testing the best possible combination of cards. Some cards that can be frequently weak in draft, like Insurgency, can be powerhouses because the deck is designed to utilize that card well (otherwise it wouldn’t be in the deck). Other cards, like Lightning Storm, aren’t as devastatingly powerful in constructed because the variability and reusability aren’t necessarily as important. In addition, being able to run 3 of a card (for example 3 Flame Strikes and 3 Lesson Learneds) is a huge deal, but since it is a 60-card deck with no resources (like Magic Lands), the variability in each game can be quite large.
In constructed cards like Hands from Below or Lightning Strike have varying effectiveness. If no one is running 4 or 5 health champions, they are pretty bad. But, if everyone is running cards like Temporal Enforcer, both of these cards could be superstars. This idea is known as the Meta, or Meta-game. The ‘Meta’ generally refers to which cards/decks people currently think are the strongest and hence are the most played. So, if the meta says Thought Plucker and Muse are incredible, people could counter by playing cards like Wolf’s Bite, Helion the Dominator, Raxxa Demon Tyrant, etc.
Understanding the Meta can be incredibly beneficial. For example, Human Token Swarm decks have the potential to consistently win on turn 1, but, they are fairly weak if the opponent has cards like Flash Fire, Wither, Blind Faith etc. So, if most of the decks run these anti-Human Token Swarm cards, the Meta would dictate that the Human Token Swarm deck is a lot worse, currently.
This in turn could discourage people from playing that deck. Then, if few or no people are playing that deck, other people might stop playing anti-Human Token Swarm cards and there would be a Meta-shift. In this situation, if someone then plays a Human Token Swarm deck, it would be stronger, relatively speaking, because opponents don’t have the answers they need to deal with it.
The Meta usually refers to tournament play, but a Local-meta would describe what you play against on a regular basis. If you and all of your friends think Sea Titan is the best card and include it in all of your decks, you might be more likely to see cards like Lying in Wait specifically to deal with that card. One of your friends constantly plays a burn deck, you can counter that by including cards like Inner Peace, Second Wind, and/or Drain Essence, etc.
This was one of five decks that I was thinking about running: Untargetable Tempo. I did not post this beforehand. The other potential decks were: Human Token Swarm, Burn (my defensive variant), Avenging Angel Control, and Combative Humans (I ran this on Sunday).
3x Blind Faith
2x Djinn of the Sands
2x Mist Guide Herald
3x Sea Titan
3x Steel Golem
1x Deadly Raid
3x Helion, the Dominator
3x Ice Drake
2x Lesson Learned
3x Memory Spirit
3x Temporal Shift
3x Arcane Research
3x Forcemage Apprentice
3x Draka’s Fire
3x Flash Fire
My main goal with this deck was to put big untargetable champions into play and disrupt any possible defense against them. Steel Golem was the critical card because it was a 13/13 untargetable blitz body that can be quite difficult to deal with for an opponent.
Sea Titan was the other big untargetable body included. Juggernaut was a major offensive superstar because, while not untargetable, blitz, breakthrough, unbreakable, loyalty 2-> draw a card was incredible. Djinn of the Sands was included because it was an 8/8 airborne blitz champion. However, since it was neither untargetable nor unbreakable, I only wanted to play it after my opponent spent their gold on my turn.
Helion, the Dominator and Ice Drake were included for fast offensive disruption. Helion is incredible for a plethora of reason: Steal an ambushed in blocker and then attack with it, steal an opponent’s champion and use it to block an opponent’s attacker, fast reusable small burn (direct damage) on an 8/8 body, and it can even be an 8/8 blitzing attacker, preferably after your opponent’s gold is spent.
Ice Drake was nice in theory because it can be a fast expend-all-ambushed-in-blockers champion on your turn, or it can be a 6/8 airborne ambush champion (not bad already) that can expend all attackers on your opponent’s turn while also leaving that opening for your turn. (If a champion is already attacking when you play this, it would be unaffected since it is already expended.)
Erase was included for fast draw 2 + bounce. Temporal Shift was included strictly as a worse Erase, since the banish a card from hand did not synergize with the rest of my deck at all.
Deadly Raid was included as a 1 of to let Steel Golem or Sea Titan get an attack through. Memory Spirits were included because it was an ambush champion that could return Erases, Deadly Raid and some of my other less important events. Lesson Learneds were included for similar reasons.
All of the Wild cards (Hurricane, Draka’s Fire, and Flash Fire) were included to help fight Human Token Swarm type decks and to sweep possible defenders while my Steel Golems and Sea Titans survived.
I love Blind Faith and try and shoehorn it into all of my decks. This was probably the worst case of this because Resurrection and Banishment didn’t fit too well into the deck, but the rest of the Good cards appealed to me even less at the time. Resurrection could bring back Steel Golem and Sea Titan. Banishment removes a champion. Giving a card to my opponent didn’t scare me much because I packed a lot of bounce (return to hand) already anyway (so they probably wouldn’t need the card), and drawing a card on my turn could have been nice.
Arcane Research essentially makes the deck 57 cards because it can replace itself for free if needed. Forcemage Apprentice was more offensive burn on a 0-cost card in a heavy Sage deck. Vanishing is an incredible tempo card because it can bounce a champion as a 0-cost card.
Fumble was another one of the defining cards of this deck. It’s a zero that can essentially nullify an enemy attack (Draka Dragon Tyrant, Juggernaut, Triceratops, Brachiosaurus, Djinn of the Sands, Strafing Dragon etc.), and it recycles. So, if your opponent spends their gold on one of the above champions and attacks, you can Fumble and then follow up with an aggressive ambush champion (Helion, Ice Drake, Memory Spirit). Or, you can spend your gold before your opponent on their turn, if you have a Fumble in hand, and still be relatively safe. Overall, this card is incredible for how I like to play the game, one of my favorites for sure.
Deck Choice Justification
I chose this deck because I was expecting Wild with Airborne blitz champions and Burn to be the most common deck at Origins. In my games leading up to Origins, the decks that I ran had the most trouble dealing with Brachiosaurus/Draka/Strafing Dragon decks that finished out with burn. If these decks hit you once with a champion, you would be in range for a couple burn cards to finish you (while still needing to deal with that champion on your turn too). From my experience, this was fairly strong, it seemed that Wild was a very popular faction in general, and I was guessing people would gravitate towards burn for the first event at least.
So, I built this deck to counter that deck. The big untargetable champions can outpace burn and are difficult for these Wild burn decks to remove. Fumble is incredible for completely negating a hard to fully stop attack. Bounce is great offensively, but it can also severely punish people that play blitzing champions without strong Tribute/Loyalty/When Attacks effects. A Fumble followed by Sea Titan on my turn is also quite nice, even though they could replay the champion later. (It is less strong against Strafing Dragon in that deck though.) Helion is also a great play in this matchup because it can negate an attack and leave me with an 8/8 body.
Another large factor in my card choices was a fear of the Human Token Swarm type decks. As mentioned in the previous section, the Wild cards were included to deal with this strategy, but the Ice Drakes and Blind Faiths were also partially included as counters to that deck.
Going into this tournament, this was one of my least tested decks because it consistently performed incredibly well, and I didn’t want to reveal it too much. I was also partially afraid of people including Lying in Waits to counter it.
I played an opponent with a Wild Blitzing deck, in other words, the deck I specifically built this to counter. My counter was very effective. I won the match because my deck was able to stop basically everything my opponent’s deck attempted to do, while still getting big champions into play to attack.
In Match 2, I played against a Sage/Wild Disruption/Burn deck posted on Epic Foundry here. I lost the first game because I played terribly, and my opponent successfully exploited my mistakes. I believe I started off fairly strong with an early Steel Golem, but the game went downhill from there. Essentially, I tried to maintain my offensive at the cost of drawing cards. This in turn allowed my opponent to completely deplete my hand with Psionic Assaults and Thought Pluckers.
My most egregious mistakes were playing directly into a Psionic Assault and a Thought Plucker that I knew my opponent had in hand. When I had 3 cards in hand, I played a non-draw effect with insufficient impact. This allowed my opponent to safely play his Psionic Assault to deplete me to 0 cards. Later, I made a play that left me with exactly 1 card that I was hoping to use to counter my opponent’s next turn. After I made the play, I remembered he had the Thought Plucker in hand, and on his next turn, he played the Thought Plucker, forced me to discard my last card, and then went on to win the game.
In that game I was put on tilt (I made a mistake that disrupted my analytical composure and caused me to make more mistakes) early, and then I played poorly for the rest of that game. After that game, I took a minute to think about that game and reassess my strategy. I realized that I didn’t spend enough time drawing and played too aggressively. So, in game 2 I adjusted my play and won.
Game 3 was a decently long game. I did work with Steel Golem, got him low, but couldn’t close out the game. At the end, he had me locked out with a Time Bender that he would play on my turn, bounce my Juggernaut, and then bounce his Time Bender on his turn. Because I did not draw another one of my only 6 total untargetable champions, he was able to hold me off for multiple turns. While doing this, he drew into his Flame Strikes and/or Lesson Learneds. With these, he was able to drop me from around 24 health to 0. Flame Strike on my turn. Flame Strike on his turn. Flame Strike or Lesson Learned on my turn.
I lost the third game because I wasn’t able to put enough consistent and effective pressure onto my opponent throughout the game. Alternatively, I also could have won if I closed out the game with my own burn (if I had any in the deck).
Match 3 was a rematch against the deck from match 2, played by someone else. I do not remember many specifics from these games or the record. I do remember that I was able to keep up my hand size because I didn’t undervalue draw against his discard, I didn’t draw my Steel Golems or enough other threats to put significant pressure on my opponent, and I believe that I eventually died to burn. In addition, I tried to use Sea Titan as an Establishing champion on an empty board multiple times. Unfortunately, Sea Titan was just too slow to be effective in this way.
This match loss cemented the realizations that I did not have enough reliable threats in my deck, which was due to too much ineffective card picks on disruption and other distractions. In addition, burn can function incredibly well in certain deck shells.
(A deck shell is a common set of cards that define the core or a part of a deck. A big Wild Shell could contain something like 3 Raging T-Rex, 3 Brachiosaurus, 3 Triceratops, 3 Kong, 3 Hurricane, and 3 Surprise Attack. These 18 cards work fairly well together and can be used with a burn strategy like Flame Strike, Strafing Dragon, Lightning Storm, etc. or in a consistent threats strategy with cards like Draka’s Enforcer, Fire Spirit, etc.)
In match 4 I came across a Human Token Swarm deck that I was constantly worrying and warning about. Because I was so worried about decks like this, I had packed a ton of disruption into my deck to address it. Therefore, I was able to disrupt every potentially game winning combo that was thrown at me. In addition, my big untargetable threats were hard to stop, so I won the match.
The Human Token Swarm type decks are incredibly aggressive and dangerous if your opponent isn’t ready for them, but if the deck goes all in on the combo attacks, it becomes extremely vulnerable when the attack is rebuffed.
Match 5 was against another big Wild champions deck. My bounce paved the way for my aggressive Juggernauts, Steel Golems, etc. In this match, my opponent consistently had more cards in hand than me, but I was able to win the games before that disparity became an issue. Erase is an incredibly strong effect against Wild, even if it lets them replay cards like Raging T-Rex, Triceratops, etc. Erase + Memory Spirit is especially nasty.
At the end of rounds, my record was 3-2-0. With tie breaks I took 10th place and did not qualify for top 8. I did, however, stick around to watch some of top 8, specifically Derek Arnold in top 4 and the finals. I am really looking forward to writing an article about that soon. In the meantime, he wrote an article about his deck that you can find on his blog here.
This deck countered the decks it was designed to counter fairly well. However, it wasn’t able to output enough pressure to seriously threaten the disruption/burn deck I lost to twice. In addition, I do not think it could have beaten Derek Arnold’s 4-color control deck for the same reason.
Steel Golem, Juggernaut, and Mist Guide Herald (Forcemage Apprentice to a lesser extent) were my only aggressive Establishing champions, and in the games where I didn’t draw them early, my opponents were able to get far enough ahead that drawing them later didn’t change much. For a deck that was designed to be aggressive my lack of strong aggressive Establishing champions was unacceptable. (Djinn of the Sands can also be an Establishing champion, but it is extremely weak to removal when used in this way.) In order for my deck to more consistently maintain pressure, I need to increase my aggressive Establishing champion count specifically, and my champion count generally. I can’t rely on Steel Golem to win all of my games.
In order to accommodate the increased (aggressive) champion count, I need to remove the less synergistic and less aggressive cards from the deck. Resurrection and Banishment were consistently worthless, but Blind Faith made big plays.
Ice Drake was fairly weak and so were the Wild cards. These cards were included to help clear blockers in the path of my untargetable champions, but at 1-cost they weren’t reliably effective. Improving my 0-cost disruption would probably be wise.
Post-Origins Deck List
2x Blind Faith
3x Djinn of the Sands
3x Mist Guide Herald
3x Sea Titan
3x Steel Golem
3x Crystal Golem
3x Helion, the Dominator
3x Memory Spirit
2x Temporal Enforcer
2x Arcane Research
2x Hasty Retreat
3x Shadow Imp
3x Flame Strike
1x Lurking Giant
3x Surprise Attack
3x Lightning Strike
2x Wolf’s Bite
Post-Origins Deck Explanation
I am currently experimenting with this deck as a hyper aggressive tempo deck. There are no board clears and the only 1-cost removal is bounce, Helion, and technically Flame Strike.
In order to up the aggression, I stripped out a lot of the events, upped Mist Guide Herald and Djinn of the Sands to 3x, added 3 Triceratops, 3 Crystal Golem, 2 Temporal Enforcer, 3 Shadow Imp, included burn, and 0-cost small removal.
The Mist Guide Heralds, Triceratops, and Shadow Imp are additional Establishing champions to help me start the aggression. Temporal Enforcer, Crystal Golem, and the singleton Lurking Giant help keep the pressure up off-turn if my opponent is forced to spend their gold on their turn for removal.
Djinn of the Sands remains as a way to punish people for using their gold on my turn before I do, but it has also been quite nice for the card draw. After playing with Djinn a lot more, I have realized that I dramatically underestimated it. For example, in one game I played it after my opponent spent their gold, and I was able to attack for 8. On my opponent’s turn, he played Drain Essence on it. I used my singleton Resurrection to bring it back and immediately draw. Then, at the start of my next turn I immediately drew with it again. After that, it stayed around as a 6/6 airborne champion (just out of reach of my opponent’s Angelic Protectors) and added a lot of pressure. I am now a fan of Djinn even though I used to severely dislike it.
For defense, I added 2 Hasty Retreats, but I did decrease my Fumble count to 2 to allow me to bring 2 Arcane Researches. In addition, the Lightning Strikes and Wolf’s Bites can occasionally help on defense as well. Memory Spirits are excellent for this deck because I have such strong 0-cost cards I can return and then immediately play. It also works pretty well with Flame Strike.
To allow me to keep my Blind Faiths, I switched up my Good to 3 Ceasefire and only 1 Resurrection. Ceasefire is a great aggressive/defensive card because it allows you to draw 2 on your opponent’s turn before they spend their gold and not risk getting attacked by a big blitzer. Resurrection is fine as a 1-of especially since I ramped up the champion count in the deck. I did have 2 Inner Peaces for a little while to get me to a 3rd Blind Faith, but I’m testing this more aggressive version. Urgent Messengers are another possibility.
Vanishing, Lightning Strike, and Wolf’s Bite have been working fairly well for me for opening up paths for my champions. Against the decks I have tested against, there have consistently been worthwhile targets. Wolf’s Bite on a Muse is incredibly satisfying.
Crystal Golem was included as another untargetable champion. The fact that I can ambush it in makes it significantly stronger. I was initially hesitant to include Crystal Golem because I feared cards like Hands from Below, Draka’s Fire, and unlikely Spike Traps. Now, I’ve decided to throw them in because they work great against control decks that are forced to board clear to kill them, and they can always just be used to draw 2 if my opponent has counters for them ready. (It is also quite satisfying to Blind Faith an opponent’s Crystal Golem and then block and break it.)
Overall the deck has been working fairly well, but I do want to test it a lot more before I potentially take another run with it at a tournament.
I have become a significantly better constructed player after Origins, but it is still my weaker format. My next article is going to go into more detail about constructed in general, my perception of the Meta, and I’ll touch on the top 8 decks. Eventually I’ll go into significantly more detail on some of the top decks.
Since constructed is still my weaker format, I openly welcome any comments, challenges, or questions on the format in the comments below. (I always welcome these comments, but I am even more interested in what others have to say about constructed.)