My first example random 60 video is now up on Youtube. Check it out and let me know what you think. I plan on doing at least one more of these, and ideally I’ll start shooting some more games in the app for Youtube.
I went 3-0-1 during the Random 60 portion of this qualifier. I lost a game in the final round.
Random 60 is a “limited” Epic Card Game format where you build your deck from a random pool of cards at the beginning of the event. In Random 60, each player is given their own unique list of 60 cards with between 13 and 17 cards of each alignment. Each player uses only the cards on their list to construct a deck of exactly 30 cards. (Constructed Epic deck-building restrictions do not apply, you may include as many 0-cost cards as you have access to in your pool.)
60 Card Pool
If you don’t like your first card pool, you are able to mulligan. If you do, you get a new list of 56 cards with between 12 and 16 cards of each alignment. If you don’t like your second pool, you are stuck with it.
Would you mulligan this pool? Why or why not?
When I first go over my list, I look for
- auto-includes (star: )
- strong alignment-independent cards (solid arrow:)
- strong alignment-dependent cards (dashed arrow: )
- strategy-dependent cards like Revolt (line:)
- effectively unplayable cards (line through: )
- generally unplayable cards (dashed line through: )
All cards without a mark are viable, but not incredible.
Raging T-Rex is a huge incentive to play Wild because it is the best card to play turn 1 going first. I also have other solid Wild cards such as Smash and Burn + Fire Spirit/Fire Shaman + Rain of Fire/Hurricane/Savage Uprising/Draka’s Fire/Fires of Rebellion. Unfortunately, I’m missing many of the rewards for going Wild: Spore Beast, Draka Dragon Tyrant, Draka’s Enforcer, Strafing Dragon, Pyrosaur, Scarros Hound of Draka, Brachiosaurus, and Feeding Frenzy.
Knight of Elara is my only incentive to go Sage, but there are plenty of other strong Sage cards.
Evil is by far my most rewarding alignment with Murderous Necromancer, Rift Summoner, Plentiful Dead, Spawning Demon, and Angel of Death. Unfortunately, Spawning Demon and Plentiful Dead require 1-cost, Evil, draw 2s to make them all-stars. In addition, Trihorror, Soul Hunter, and Heinous Feast (since I have Grave Demon) aren’t amazing. Luckily, Grave Demon, Corpsemonger, and Dark Knight are always powerful.
I kept this list because of Kong, Palace Guard, Grave Demon (a mass discard pile banish effect), and a supported T-Rex. Also having Blind Faith, Dark Knight, Corpsemonger, Ogre Mercenary, and the other auto-includes solidified that choice.
Once I complete my first pass with the deck list provided, I gather all of the cards I can play and divide them into cards I am certainly playing (star), cards I want to play (dotted star), cards I might play (unmarked), and cards I won’t play (strikethrough).
While getting out and dividing the cards, I initially separate them by alignment and cost (as seen below). In addition, I separated the 1-cost cards I am likely to cut into the right column of each alignment.
The only notable card that did not make this first rough cut was Mist Guide Herald. I think MGH can be a powerful card because it can dig you to a card you need, or at least a card that is playable, while also giving you a 3/2 airborne body, which is far from irrelevant. When you put MGH into play, particularly off-turn with Final Task, Surprise Attack, or Resurrection and hit something like Sea Titan, Kong, or Time Walker, it can be insane. However, if it turns up no 1-cost champions you want to play, it can be terrible. Without Final Task, Surprise Attack, Resurrection, or Dark Offering, I have no desire to take that risk. (It can also accidentally banish key cards like Amnesia in Control/Midgrange decks.)
Once I have the general shell of the deck, I make sure I have an acceptable amount of cards for the 8 distributions mentioned below (sometimes there are special distributions like 1-cost cards to recall Inner Peace). Meeting these distributions almost always guarantees a reasonable deck.
I have a bit more than I need (10+), so I may cut a couple.
- 25 Card Draw
Draka’s Fire, Fire Spirit, Fires of Rebellion, Hurricane, Raging T-Rex, Rain of Fire, Savage Uprising, Smash and Burn, Wolf’s Bite, Crystal Golem, Djinn of the Sands, Erase, Knight of Shadows, Lesson Learned, Memory Spirit, Ogre Mercenary, Reusable Knowledge, Spike Trap, Heinous Feast, Inner Demon, The Gudgeon, Blind Faith, Inheritance of the Meek, Noble Unicorn, Urgent Messengers
I have significantly more than I need (15+), so I’ll probably cut multiple.
I’m barely above my minimum (10+), so I’m only willing to cut 1 max.
I’m under my maximum (10-). An extra on-turn gold-punisher would be nice, but since I have a mass discard pile banish effect, not 100% necessary
I’m above my absolute minimum (3), but I could take more.
- 2 Mass Discard Pile Banish
I only need 1.
- 3 Board Clears
- 7 Targeted Removal (2 Slow/5 Fast)
Only 2 defense-independent off-turn removal effects, but that is probably fine.
I only need 3.
Distribution Considerations and Cuts
I unequivocally cut Lesson Learned, Knight of Shadows, The Gudgeon, and Heinous Feast. Lesson Learned: I didn’t have enough strong 1-cost events to use with it, and I didn’t have anything else I was willing to cut for it. Knight of Shadows: I didn’t need the card draw, I had no other discard effects, and I’m not a big fan of the 4 defense. The Gudgeon: I didn’t need the card draw. Heinous Feast: I didn’t need the mass discard pile banish nor the card draw.
- I wasn’t willing to cut any more 0-cost cards (10)
- I wasn’t willing to cut Kong, Raging T-Rex, Palace Guard, Grave Demon, Inner Peace, Inheritance of the Meek, Smash and Burn, Hurricane, Draka’s Fire, Fires of Rebellion, Erase, or Reusable Knowledge due to power level (12)
- I wasn’t willing to cut Djinn of the Sands as my only on-turn gold-punisher (1)
- Of the remaining 11 cards (Fire Spirit, Entangling Vines, Crystal Golem, Noble Unicorn, Memory Spirit, Urgent Messengers, Rain of Fire, Den Mother, Savage Uprising, Inner Demon, and Angelic Protector), Den Mother, Savage Uprising, Inner Demon, and Angelic Protector fit the worst
I’m personally not a huge fan of Inner Demon, so that got cut. Same with Savage Uprising, since I didn’t have too many 0-cost champions. Rain of Fire and Fire Spirit work great with Smash and Burn and Fire Shaman, so I wanted to keep those for the synergy. Urgent Messengers seemed too strong to cut. Therefore, I cut the only remaining questionable slow champion, Den Mother, and the least impactful ambush champion, Angelic Protector.
While making these final cuts, I reconsidered Demon Breach, Helion’s Fury, Knight of Elara, and Chomp!, but I ended up including none of them. Demon Breach could provide additional threats both on-turn and off-turn. Helion’s Fury was additional removal, but only on-turn. Knight of Elara has blitz, but I didn’t have enough Sage to draw a card, and Chomp! is off-turn removal, but not quite as strong as the rest of my options.
Last Minute Adjustment
Once I got down to the 30 cards above, I decided I wanted another off-turn hard-removal card that could answer Thundarus (or Burrowing Wurm). While I think these are bad cards, they can win the game if unanswered, and Erase was my only card that could answer Thundarus by itself (since Thundarus dodges my Palace Guard and Inheritance of the Meek, unless I have Blind Faith). Therefore, I swapped out Urgent Messengers for the generally weaker card Inner Demon, since I didn’t need the card draw.
I do not remember much about the matches played at this point, but I remember being surprised just how effective Courageous Soul was for me. I was able to play it frequently on my opponent’s turn to an empty board and attack for 4 damage with my gold up. Even though it was just a worse Dark Knight in those situations, that was still enough to get damage through. In addition, the +2 offense to my champions allowed me to threaten lethal damage on at least one occasion.
I also got the chance to go over a couple players’ 60 card pools with them after our matches (as well as going over my pool). As frequent readers know, I like talking about Epic, and being able to have discussions which can change my opinions in real time is even better, especially when we have common game examples to reference.
I am planning on recording at least one video of me building a Random 60 deck in real time.
This is my Gen Con 2017 constructed deck. I made it to top 8 and lost to the eventual winner, and yes, this is a Wolf Deck. It is built entirely around Hunting Pack.
Hunting Pack (and other pet cards)
Hunting Pack is strong because it is off-turn removal that puts threats into play. My goal is to make it a no-loyalty alternative to Medusa. Its main weaknesses are that 6 damage isn’t enough to break enough important champions in the current meta, and the wolves can be cleared off incidentally with Flash Fire/Wither or Draka Dragon Tyrant/Pyrosaur. In order to address these weaknesses, I need to boost the amount of damage Hunting Pack does above 6 and make my wolves relevant.
Citadel Raven and Knight of Elara are two of my other pet cards from Uprising, and I have made multiple attempts to find decks that “break” them. (By “break” them, I mean to utilize them in situations where the effect is overwhelmingly powerful.)
Citadel Raven is strong because it immediately returns an event in your discard pile to hand (similar to draw a card), and it threatens to do this every turn until removed. My goal is to use this to replay devastatingly powerful events multiple times in a game. Its main weaknesses are that it is incredibly easy to remove (Wither/Rescue Griffin), it requires events in your discard pile, and it can only be played on your turn. In order to address these weaknesses, I need to protect it, run multiple events I want to replay, and be able to create situations where I can effectively play it on my turn.
Knight of Elara is strong because it draws a card, immediately attacks for 10, can’t be efficiently blocked by any non-token champion, and at 7+ health requires a gold (or multiple 0-cost effects) to break. My goal is to find a deck in which this fits. Its main weaknesses are that it requires Sage loyalty to draw a card, and it can be blocked by tokens at little cost. In order to address these weaknesses, I need to run sufficient Sage for loyalty and mitigate the effectiveness of chump blocking.
Building Around Hunting Pack
The most obvious way to make Hunting Pack better is to fill the deck with wolf producing cards. So I did. Den Mother and Wolf’s Bite are both solid. Pack Alpha is not great, but it does make wolves. Wolf Companion is worthless as it is never worth a 0-cost slot, especially after Tyrants and Uprising. Wolf’s Call is too bad, unless we lived in a meta where everyone runs three Wave of Transformation; however, Wave of Transformation fits nicely for me, as I ideally will have more champions in play, and it maintains wolves for me. The most interesting inclusion is Elara, the Lycomancer though.
That one wolf is a huge boost. At 4 wolves in play, Hunting Pack deals 8 damage which can break Draka’s Enforcer, a card that was popular in Wild aggro-midrange decks. (Wolf’s Bite is really nice because you get up to 8 damage + 2 in order to break Draka and T-Rex.) The final wolf cards I considered were Lesson Learned and Citadel Raven, both of which allow me to replay Hunting Pack.
Filling with Powerful Cards/Synergies
Since I want to run Elara, my deck building process dictates that I need 33+ Sage cards to reliably hit loyalty. In addition, assuming I run 3 of Hunting Pack, Den Mother, and Pack Alpha, I need at least 1 more Wild 1-cost card to maximize my 0-cost card count. Card Draw and Drain Essence are also important.
Feeding Frenzy Synergy
Feeding Frenzy is one of the most powerful 0-cost cards in the game because it can break a 1-cost champion without spending a gold. In order to make it devastatingly effective though, you need activators. I already have Wolf’s Bite, and I can use Feeding Frenzy to finish off a champion that blocks one of my wolves, but I want/need more. Forcemage is an easy include, and since I’m already in Sage, Helion is a possibility. Feeding Frenzy is also an excellent card to return to hand with Citadel Raven (which I already want for my Hunting Packs). To make space for three Feeding Frenzy, I can run 3 Surprise Attack (another nice card with Lesson Learned/Citadel Raven and Elara/Den Mother).
One thing I noticed when testing different iterations of this deck was that the Hunting Pack + wolf synergy was solid, but without it, the deck fell apart. To address this, I experimented with Arcane Research and Mist Guide Herald (in addition to the Surprise Attacks) to get to the best parts of my deck. Arcane Research could help find a Hunting Pack to turn my Lesson Learneds on or a Den Mother to apply pressure. Mist Guide Herald could help me get a 1-cost wolf to make my Hunting Packs deal 12+ damage. In the end, I took out the MGHs, with the help of my team leader Tom Dixon of Pluck U because they were just too inconsistent for the deck.
Strong Sage Cards
The deck already wants Lesson Learned, so including Ancient Chant is even easier than it usually is for me. (Ancient Chant is one of my most included cards in constructed decks.) Knight of Elara provides me with a card draw (which I’m low on) as well as a blitz champion that can get through Sea Titan. Djinn of the Sands works similarly; it can either attack as an 8/8 airborne blitzer, draw 3 cards over 3 turns (not common but it happens), or do anything in between. Ice Drake took the spot of Mist Guide Herald because I need ambush champions and the expend all effect can be absolutely game-winning. (Thanks again Tom Dixon for convincing me.) Sea Titan ends up taking Citadel Raven’s two slots because I expected to be running into more aggro than control. Muse is a powerful card by itself, but it can also potentially draw out Wither/Flash Fires that otherwise could deal with my wolves. Hasty Retreat is anti-aggro, and Amnesia ended up replacing my under-performing Keeper of Secrets to deal with discard shenanigans a bit (probably should have been more Hasty Retreats).
Since my deck is neither hyper-aggressive with burn nor has other health gain, 3 Drain Essence is basically mandatory. Raxxa’s Curse is an incredibly strong 0-cost card to fill my Evil 0’s slots created by Drain Essence, but it largely made it into the deck because I wanted to be able to get it back with Citadel Raven (even though I cut the Raven). The final Evil 1-cost slot is a flex slot that I currently have Zombie Apocalypse in as an off-turn board clear that can draw 2.
Gen Con 2017 List
3x Drain Essence
1x Zombie Apocalypse
2x Raxxa’s Curse
Citadel Raven/Sea Titan
2x Djinn of the Sands
3x Elara, the Lycomancer
3x Knight of Elara
3x Ancient Chant
2x Helion, the Dominator
Mist Guide Herald/Ice Drake
3x Lesson Learned
3x Wave of Transformation
3x Arcane Research
3x Forcemage Apprentice
1x Hasty Retreat
Keeper of Secrets/Amnesia
3x Den Mother
3x Pack Alpha
3x Hunting Pack
3x Surprise Attack
3x Feeding Frenzy
3x Wolf’s Bite
Gen Con 2017 Memorable Match Moments
While I did not remember to write down names/take pictures on Friday, there were a few particularly memorable moments demonstrating the strengths and weaknesses of the deck. (I’m also not certain of the order of the matches.)
My first match was against a Wild aggro-midrange deck (these were almost the entire field at Gen Con 2017). In this match my Den Mothers were able to do a lot of work for me. I was able to play them to an empty board and get multiple wolf attacks in before my opponent was able to answer everything.
The most important cards in the match up for my opponent were Draka, Dragon Tyrant (break my wolves) and Smash and Burn (incidentally break my Elara, the Lycomancers). For me, Hunting Pack is always one of my strongest cards, but the recently added Ice Drakes were the cards that clinched the win for me in very close games.
I do not remember what my opponent was playing in Match 2, but Djinn of the Sands was the match MVP. In one of the games my opponent got me down to 2 cards in hand on their turn with my gold down (while they were at 5+). I Arcane Researched for 4 looking for some card draw, and ended up taking Djinn. Then, I played it on my turn and drew a card. 3 turns later, I’m hitting him in the air with my 5/5 Djinn after drawing 3 and getting back up to 7 cards in hand. I believe an 8/8 blitzing Djinn also got in for lethal in one of those games. Ice Drake also performed above expectations in this match.
I intentionally drew with Brad Minnigh so we could get some lunch, and because we’ve knocked each other out of enough tournaments in the past.
Match 4 was against a similar Wild deck from match 1. Unfortunately for me, my opponent did manage to play multiple of both Smash and Burn and Draka enabling them to deal with my pressure (wolves) and control (Elara).
Match 5 was against the one Evil token deck in the field (also running Thought Plucker and Knight of Shadows). In the first match, Den Mother and Pack Alpha were able to continuously push small amounts of damage as I controlled the token game. I chipped my way to victory, partially due to the fact that my opponent didn’t run Wither. Knight of Elara and 2/2 or 3/3 wolf tokens also match up very well against Soul Hunter.
Game 2 my opponent won, but I don’t remember many specifics. In general though, I was fortunate that my opponent drew very few of their Rift Summoners. With Rift Summoner, my opponent could have easily outpaced my token generation. I play Den Mother/Pack Alpha on turn, my opponent ambushes in Rift Summoner, I immediately fall behind. This match ended in a 1-1 draw. My final record in swiss was 2-1-2 granting me 8th seed in the top 8.
As 8th seed I was paired against 1st seed Nick Blandin: decklist. While I do not remember the bulk of most of the games (Smash and Burn breaking my Elaras was important and Knight of Elara got in for 10 damage multiple times), I do remember the end of each.
Game 1 (Loss of Concentration)
I lost the first game because my opponent successfully baited me into making a play I knew would lose me the game. After attacking with their Kong and spending their gold, my opponent was at 6 health, with a prepared, non-deploying Sea Titan, an expended Kong 6 damage away from breaking, and a Flash Fire in hand (revealed for loyalty earlier). I was at around 6 with an expended Ice Drake, a prepared wolf token, my gold available, and only Hunting Pack that I could spend it on. Potential lines:
- If my opponent attacked, I could block with my wolf token, then Hunting Pack his Kong finishing it and probably drawing out the Flash Fire
- If my opponent Flash Fired before attacking to break my blocking wolf, I could have Hunting Packed the Kong, breaking it, and had 3 potential chump blockers for Sea Titan
- My opponent passed instead. Knowing that I wanted to spend my gold (since my opponent had spent theirs) and that I wanted to break the Kong, I auto-piloted into playing my Hunting Pack. Then, as I knew (but forgot) would happen, my opponent Flash Fired to break all my wolves and then attacked with Sea Titan to finish me off.
If I would have just let the turn end, I could have attacked in the air for lethal, and I was fairly certain he didn’t have a way to block my Ice Drake in hand. After the match I asked him, and he said that he had a burn card to finish me off on my turn, so I probably would have lost anyways. However, if I would have drawn a Drain Essence, Lesson Learned, or Arcane Research to try to find either, I would have immediately used that before attacking, just in case of burn. In other words, by losing focus for a moment, a sacrificed my chance at winning that game.
Game 2 (Arcane Research)
Game 2’s final turn had another complicated board state. Both of us had our gold available. I was attacking with Ice Drake with a prepared, non-deploying Elara and one or two other irrelevant champions. I believe I was low on health. My opponent had an irrelevant, non-airborne champion or two in play and around 15 health.
Before blockers, he played Surprise attack into Mist Guide Herald hitting Kong. After considering for awhile, he chose to break my Elara with Kong. After groaning inside, I used Arcane Research banishing 3 cards in an attempt to find something to combat this board swing, otherwise I would have lost next turn. I flipped over a Wolf’s Bite, with no cards left in my discard pile to recycle. Due to the inability to recycle, I almost passed up on Wolf’s Bite, but I decided to take the risk. Using Wolf’s Bite, I broke the MGH. Ice Drake got through. I played Djinn of the Sands and attacked. It got through. I won. (Thankfully he didn’t have a Hasty Retreat for the Djinn.)
I went first, slammed Knight of Elara, drew a card, attacked for 10, and felt great. In the previous games Knight of Elara was pretty much a guaranteed 10 damage (unless Hasty Retreat), in addition to drawing me a card. I also had Feeding Frenzy for a big tempo swing down the road.
My opponent Surprise Attacked Kong, and I lost.
While I had 2 Feeding Frenzys in hand at this point, I had no activator for them. I also had no way to interact with Kong on my opponent’s turn, so I ended up taking 13 when he attacked. Then I just lost, probably to Hunting Raptors. While I included Surprise Attack Sea Titan in my deck in order to beat opposing Aggro decks in the exact same fashion, it still just felt awful auto-losing to that combo after making what I believe to be a powerful turn 1, on-turn play and being able to do nothing to answer it (even though I had ways to deal with it in deck).
It was this moment, on top of earlier practicing with this deck, that I finally accepted the fact that it is always correct to choose to go second. On the bright side though, losing meant I got to play in the limited event, and while I would have loved to win in constructed, my main goal was to get wolves in top 8. As a sneak peak, here was my first random 60 pool of that event:
I brought this deck, “Elara’s Hunting Pack” to Gen Con 2017 because I wanted to play a different, unexpected deck, and because it performed better than I was expecting during testing. In the end, the most underwhelming part of the deck was the wolf package. While Hunting Pack worked pretty well, specifically with Elara who dramatically over-performed when not broken by Smash and Burn, Pack Alpha was underwhelming and Den Mother was only okay.
In addition to Elara, a few other Sage cards over-performed for me: Ice Drake, Arcane Research, and Djinn of the Sands. (Knight of Elara was solid.) Surprise Attack Elara is an insanely powerful way to get back into of a game: ambush her in, transform a champion, go to your turn, transform another champion. Not only do you remove two threats, but you also prevent your opponent from retrieving them from their discard pile or even just recycling them later.
On multiple occasions, Ice Drake either kept me alive by expending all of my opponent’s champions, cleared a path for my attacking champions, provided me a reasonable attacking/defending body, or all 3. I was consistently happy to have Ice Drake in hand. Arcane Research in a deck with minimal recycling and a few key cards was repeatedly able to dig me into perfect answers for specific situations. While I don’t generally like the idea of trading a 0-cost slot for a 1-cost card (Corpse Taker), the utility of Arcane Research was truly impressive.
I used to hate this card, but now I love it. Almost every time I play this card, it impresses me. An 8/8 airborne blitz without loyalty is strong, and the threat of multiple card draw is strong. I have used both in different matchups and they have both been pivotal to success. That being said, this is one of the most difficult cards in the game to play well with the most niche applications. Djinn is essentially unplayable when behind on the board, and it is almost worthless a blitz attacker if your opponent’s gold is up. Further, if you are at 7 or so cards in hand, drawing with it doesn’t accomplish much. However, it helps you get to a 7 card handsize when you are low on cards, and once at 7, an 8/8 airborne blitzer (or a 5/5 airborne champion) is a powerful threat.
While I think this is a fun deck that can do powerful things, I highly doubt I’ll be playing it at Worlds. (But I’ll probably have it built for casual play.)
White Wizard Games has given more information on their 2017 game fair here.
For those of you considering going, and if feasible I would recommend it because I personally had a great time last year, there are two entry passes you can buy: General Pass and Weekend Gamer Pass.
The General Pass gets you access to the site including demos and the ability to play Star Realms against Top Ranked Star Realms players and Epic against Pro Magic players. It is $5 at the door or free if you pre-register.
Weekend Gamer Pass
The Weekend Gamer Pass gets you access to Epic Worlds 2017 Last Chance Qualifiers (LCQs), Epic on-demand tournaments (such as cube draft), daily Star Realms $1,000 tournaments, Hero Realms campaign events etc. (Players who have already qualified for Worlds 2017 will receive a complimentary Weekend Gamer Pass.)
I reached out to WWG to ask about how many LCQs there would be and this is the response I received, “We are still finalizing our plans, but it looks like we’ll have 6 to 8 Last Chance Qualifiers. (Subject to change, of course.)”
Based on my past experience, these will probably be a mix of random 60 cut to dark draft top 8/top 4 and constructed qualifiers. They also might overlap making it impossible to compete in all approximately 6 to 8. If you win a qualifier, you qualify for the Worlds 2017 tournament and, as long as you show up, are guaranteed a minimum prize of $500 and a maximum prize of $25,000. (Top 8 is on Monday however.)
The price is $50 for this pass, but if you use promo code: WWGFEarlyBird! you can get $10 off. (I do not know how long this promo code will be active.)
For more information about the event, check out their Registration Page and their Worlds page. Feel free to ask me any questions about my experiences last year too.
After getting tired of playing against all-in Plucker/Muse decks on the app, I decided to throw together an all-in anti-Plucker/Muse deck. It served its purpose quite effectively, but it could probably use some refining.
1x The Gudgeon
3x Drain Essence
2x Djinn of the Sands
2x Sea Titan
3x Ancient Chant
3x Lesson Learned
3x Forcemage Apprentice
3x Spike Trap
3x Draka, Dragon Tyrant
3x Fire Spirit
3x Raging T-Rex
3x Draka’s Enforcer
3x Smash and Burn
3x Surprise Attack
3x Feeding Frenzy
3x Flash Fire
3x Lightning Strike
3x Wolf’s Bite
In preparation for Tyrants getting added to the app today, I created this generic Tyrants Evil control deck. I was planning on not explaining it too much, so I could work on my next article, but I should have known better.
Tyrants Evil Control
This is a control deck (leaning midrange) that tries to win with incidental damage from tokens. I have included extra health gain cards to “tech” against burn/aggro decks. This is because I dislike losing to those decks the most and heavy Evil decks have consistently had problems against those decks, in my experience. I also automatically “tech” against Muse/Thought Plucker to some extent.
The fundamental cards I wanted to build around were Murderous Necromancer, Reaper, and Spawning Demon. Murderous Necromancer is a card you can play on your turn while your opponent’s gold is up, and they usually can’t do something significantly better in response. (Surprise Attack -> Sea Titan/Kong isn’t too back breaking, nor is Thought Plucker, and Rift Summoner is in Uprising.)
Reaper is repeatable removal on a 7+ defense body that your opponent can’t incidentally remove with Smash and Burn, Lightning Strike, etc. (although it can be removed by Draka Dragon Tyrant + Feeding Frenzy). Your opponent must spend a gold, such as Kong or Drain Essence. Reaper also benefits from a heavy Evil deck that can consistently play off-turn 1-cost cards either for their effect (Final Task, Drain Essence, Medusa, Demon Breach) or just as a draw 2 (Apocalypse, Plague, Raxxa’s Displeasure, Zombie Apocalypse).
Spawning Demon is the compliment to Reaper rewarding me for playing a large amount of off-turn 1-cost Evil cards. For a net loss of 0 cards and 1 health (Spawning Demon into a 1-cost Evil draw 2), I get 2 off-turn demons, I like it. (If Reaper is in play, break a champion and give its controller a demon too.)
Cards in black are the “Foundation” cards I knew I wanted to include (after theorycrafting in my head beforehand). Cards/quantities in amber are the “Filler” cards I added to get to 60. Crossed through cards were cut to make room for magenta “Distribution” cards in order to reach my distributions quotas.
1x Angel of Death
3x Murderous Necromancer
2x Necromancer Lord
2x Raxxa, Demon Tyrant
1x The Gudgeon
2x Demon Breach
3x Drain Essence
3x Final Task
3x Raxxa’s Displeasure
2x Zombie Apocalypse
3x Guilt Demon
2x Heinous Feast
2x Plentiful Dead
3x Raxxa’s Curse
3x Spawning Demon
3x Unquenchable Thirst
2x Avenging Angel
1x Second Wind
2x Ancient Chant
1x Spike Trap
2x Surprise Attack
1x Wolf’s Bite
These are the cards I knew (or at least was fairly certain) I wanted to include when building the deck/looking through cards.
Medusa and Drain Essence are the two insanely-powerful, essentially-unquestionable Auto-Includes.
Necromancer Lord, Final Task, and Surprise Attack aren’t quite at that level, but they are pretty close (particularly when combined with cards like Necromancer Lord, Murderous Necromancer, Angel of Death, Raxxa Demon Tyrant, Medusa, and Reaper.
I consider Ancient Chant an Auto-Include in heavy Evil decks to counter one of its primary weaknesses, a lack of powerful card draw. By including Reaper and Spawning Demon we can turn all Evil draw 2’s into powerful “draw 2 and” cards, but those aren’t enough by themselves.
(Not Quite Build Around) Synergy Cards
These are cards that give your deck much of its strength, but aren’t necessarily Build-Around cards by themselves.
I’ve played a lot of iterations of Demon decks in the past, and the card that just feels like it wins the most games is Raxxa’s Displeasure. Using this to full-clear your opponent while leaving you with demon tokens is incredibly strong, especially since this can be used in combat, after your opponent ambushes in blocker(s). However, its true power is when used in conjunction with demon cards like Raxxa, Reaper, Medusa, Guilt Demon, and Spawning Demon. (Reaper does have a bit of an anti-synergy though because your opponent’s champions turned into demons survive.) Due to the fact that this is also an Evil draw 2 makes this a 3-of in the deck.
Another benefit from going 51 Evil cards to support my Reapers and Spawning Demons is the ability to run 3 Unquenchable Thirsts. The more Evil cards you can get in your discard pile, the stronger this card becomes. That being said, running 3 might seem like (and might actually be) too many since you aren’t likely to get many big uses out of it. I’m trying 3 because of how it interacts with control and aggro in different ways.
Against control, the health gain isn’t too relevant and you can use it to break champions like Thought Plucker, Muse, Necromancer Lord, etc. without needing to banish many cards from your discard pile. This is important because control is the deck most likely to attempt to repeatedly attack your discard pile.
Against aggro, drawing and playing one of these can slow them down just enough to safely run them out of resources. In addition, if you can use this to remove a 1-cost champion, the tempo swing can be enormous.
Against midrange, this can remove mid-sized threats like White Dragon while letting your board clears and targeted removal deal with swarms and/or big individual threats.
These are cards I included to make my deck stronger against specific matchups. If I end up not running into these matchups often, these cards can be replaced.
Health Gain is important for control because it allows you to stabilize after surviving your opponent’s early aggression. Without it, you can always lose to direct damage, like Flame Strike, even if your opponent runs out of champions in play and cards in hand. That being said, I’ve included extra, less-common health gain to supplement my existing 3 Drain Essence and 3 Unquechable Thirsts.
Avenging Angel is a non-standard inclusion in this deck. I want it specifically because it can repeatedly gain me health, it can’t be removed by a single 0-cost card, and Inner Peace requires multiple 1-cost Good cards to reliably recall (making it weaker in this deck). I can also bring Avenging Angel back out with Necromancer Lord. In this deck, Avenging Angel should basically never be played while your opponent’s gold is up (if they have cards in hand). Gold Dragon was a very real consideration because the extra 2 defense allows it to dodge a Smash and Burn trigger, but I’ll see if my Guilt Demons and Heinous Feasts will be enough to mitigate that problem.
I also included Second Wind and Heinous Feast for a bit of extra health gain. Both can also draw cards/replace themselves. Against control, Heinous Feast will probably be used as a draw 2 more often. Against aggro, Heinous Feast will probably be used to gain a bit of health, hit a recall card, and starve my opponent’s ability to recycle at a critical time.
An alternative to the Avenging Angel package would be to include Lesson Learned to use with my Drain Essences. This would also be nice to use with Ancient Chant and/or Surprise Attack, but I want to try Avenging Angel instead, since I like leaning towards my midrange blitzing gold punishers.
Wolf’s Bite, Wither, and Spike Trap are all included over other cards as answers to Muse/Thought Plucker. They help support my Raxxa’s Curses, Unquenchable Thirsts, Plagues, and Raxxas. It’s possible I shift the deck more towards anti-Muse/Plucker if the meta dictates.
Filler Cards/Distribution Cards
These are less-critical cards added to address gaps. Specifically I wanted more Threats and more Card Draw
Raxxa is included as another way to get tokens that can attack my opponent. It is also nice for the 2 damage to all opposing champions to break Muse/Thought Pluckers. Playing this after a Zombie Apocalypse or Wave of Transformation is quite strong as well.
Demon Breach is another way to get threats into play. In addition, recalling it, especially against control, is stronger than you might expect.
Necrovirus was the final card considered in order to give me additional threats. It was cut for additional card draw tough.
Zombie Apocalypse, Apocalypse, Bitten, Heinous Feast, and Demon Breach were all included as card draw. Board clears are always nice, if needed, especially off-turn ones. Off-turn targeted removal is nice if I’m ahead on board and my opponent tries to slam an airborne blitz champion against me.
I really want to fit a single Soul Hunter in the deck because it can carry the game against some decks. It is particularly potent with my 3 Reapers because, if I have Reaper in play, I can play Soul Hunter and use Reaper’s ally trigger to immediately break that Soul Hunter, deal 5 damage to my opponent, get my Soul Hunter in my discard pile, and put a demon in play for me. That being said, I do not want to remove any of my splash cards (non-Evil), and I do not want to remove any of my card draw cards (including recall cards like Plentiful Dead and Demon Breach and treating Surprise Attack as half a draw, I am at exactly 30).
This only leaves Angel of Death, Murderous Necromancer, Necromancer Lord, Raxxa, Reaper, Drain Essence, and Medusa. Of those, the only cards I would consider cutting (at this point) are Angel of Death, Necromancer Lord, and Raxxa. I like the singleton Angel for Final Task/Necro Lord shenanigans (off-turn full board clear is nice) and Raxxa is one of my few threats. Necro Lord is the only one of those I seriously considered cutting because I don’t have a ton of targets for it in my deck. However, 2 Necro Lords is much stronger than 1 because you can Necro Lord back your Necro Lord. It is also amazing with Surprise Attack because if it triggers twice it is hard to beat.
x Drinker of Blood
x Raxxa, Demon Tyrant
x Soul Hunter
x Demon Breach
x Inner Demon
x Zealous Necromancer
x Zombie Apocalypse
x Corpse Taker
x Word of Summoning
x Gold Dragon
x Inheritance of the Meek
x Inner Peace
x Urgent Messengers
x Brave Squire
x Watchful Gargoyle
x Blue Dragon
x Djinn of the Sands
x Sea Titan
x Crystal Golem
x Lesson Learned
x Thought Plucker
x Wave of Transformation
x Forcemage Apprentice
x Hasty Retreat
x Lightning Storm
x Mighty Blow
x Smash and Burn
x Lightning Strike
x Feeding Frenzy
x Flash Fire
Due to the update coming out early and me heading out to play some paper Epic, I wasn’t able to add the card links in yet. However, I can say that the Reapers and Spawning Demons have helped to get me two in app wins so far.
This is part 2 of my 2-part article on the Dark Draft top 4 portion of my qualifying limited run at Gen Con 2017. (Part 1)
My finals match was against Nathan Overbay. These were our decks:
My Interesting Picks
While I do not remember all of my picks, a few stand out.
Strong Start, Human Tokens Though?
My first pack was one of those lamented 1 great, 4 terrible packs. I got Rescue Griffin, and I passed Winds of Change with 3 other mediocre 1-cost cards. The rest of the early packs felt a bit underpowered too; however, they did contain the makings of a decent (human) token deck. I’ve learned not to chase human tokens because it is awful, unless specific cards materialize in 2nd/3rd picks of packs. (I credit this mistake as a contributing factor to my loss at Origins 2017.) But, I know it has the potential to take surprise wins. While I didn’t expect my opponent to go for it, I made a mental note to draft some counter cards, just in case. Especially since I passed some actually strong token cards, namely Hunting Pack and Den Mother, as well.
Token Counter Picks
One of my first token counter picks was Pyrosaur. I do not remember if it was a 1st or 2nd/3rd pick, but I did take it well before I had committed to Wild. At that point, I was not expecting to go deeper in Wild, and I was planning on relying primarily on the tribute effect. (I also picked Spore Beast before I was committed to Wild because it was the only decent card in a 2nd/3rd pick of a pack.)
Savage Uprising was a mid-draft first pick for me because I was lacking any form of board clear at this point, I passed my opponent some strong 1-cost mid-sized champions like White Knight and Avenging Angel, I wanted to deny my potentially token opponent from getting it, and, least-importantly, I figured it might work with my 0-cost champions.
First picking Hurricane was the toughest choice in the draft. I knew that I needed board clears and anti-token cards, I knew that I had at least 1 of Sea Titan or Kong at that point, I knew I needed some more card draw, but I really, really wanted to take Angel of the Gate. AotG is one of my pet cards that I think is amazing in draft, and I almost ignored all of the reasons I knew I needed to draft Hurricane to take it. However, after losing my Dark Draft match at worlds where I picked AotG over Palace Guard, I was finally able to force myself to take the Hurricane.
I have been fairly vocal about my dislike of Deadly Raid, and I stand by that dislike. That being said, I’m fairly sure I first picked it from a pack this draft. I remember the pack wasn’t too amazing, I figured I might need it to get past my opponent’s tokens, and I do like it more with big untargetable champions (Sea Titan). In hindsight, I also prevented my potentially token opponent from getting it when my draft had few ways to stop an unblockable token attack (off-turn board clears and/or Blind Faith).
I had a pack with both Little Devil and Dark Knight. I first picked the Little Devil and left my opponent the Dark Knight. The only card that can punish this choice hard is if my opponent got Raxxa’s Curse. Aside from that, the 4 defense on Little Devil actually makes it harder to efficiently remove than Dark Knight‘s unbreakable on turn and its 2 defense. In addition, Little Devil‘s airborne makes it significantly harder to block.
In the final 2nd/3rd pick of the final pack I picked Rally the People over Demonic Rising (and 1 other bad card). While I like Demonic Rising much better than Rally the People, especially because it has a draw 2 option, I expected it would be incredibly unlikely that I would be able to use the non-draw option against my token opponent. Due to that, I decided I would rather have a 0-cost ambush chump blocker than a card that would probably only ever draw 2 in an alignment where I drafted no loyalty or ally effects.
My Thoughts/Concerns Post-Draft
I felt great about my deck. 13 0-cost cards, Sea Titan and Kong, a mass-discard pile banish, and some close-out burn. The only thing I was a bit worried about was my lack of health gain, but I didn’t remember passing too much burn. There were a few cards I wasn’t happy about passing though, Drain Essence and Hunting Pack + Smash and Burn for instance. Finally, I felt like I passed a lot more mediocre packs than I received.
Match Interesting Moments
These were also very intense games where my choices above were critical.
Holding Hasty Retreat
Game 1, turn 1, my opponent plays White Knight with Loyalty (drawing a card) and attacks for 9. I have Hasty Retreat in hand, but no ambush champions to declare as a blocker to prevent my opponent from drawing a card. Looking for an ambush 0-cost blocker, I Ceasefire to draw 2. Not finding one, I seriously consider Hasty Retreating anyway to save myself 9 damage. However, I am unwilling to trade 1 card in my hand, 9 health, and the tempo gained by removing my opponent’s champion for +2 cards in hand for my opponent (White Knight and the draw from Hasty Retreat). This would have put them at 7 cards in hand after taking the first turn with me at 5 (6 at the start of my turn).
As someone who is perpetually scared of being burned out (losing to direct damage from cards like Flame Strike), this was a difficult decision to make, but I felt I couldn’t afford to sacrifice that much card advantage that early. Further, I wanted to save Hasty Retreat just in case I needed it to stop a Lash/Raged blitz champion while my gold was down. I ended up holding onto that card for most of the game, and I either never played it or used it to draw 2. In addition, I was able to prevent myself from taking much if anymore damage that game, thanks to the Bash Brothers: Sea Titan and Kong.
Pyrosaur, Loyalty, Pass (No Attack)
In both games, there was a situation where I had a big champion in play, and my opponent played Den Mother with Necrovirus in their discard pile. Both times, I played my Pyrosaur, breaking all of the wolf tokens, revealed for loyalty (to give Pyrosaur blitz), and passed without attacking. I did this for a couple reasons:
- If I attacked with Pyrosaur, I would get a guaranteed 2 damage to my opponent through, but my Pyrosaur could be blocked and broken by Den Mother in combat with my opponent not needing to spend their gold.
- This would negate my opponent’s only in play blocker for my big champion, but then they could play any 1-cost Evil card to get 3 more zombie chump blockers, or they could just spend their gold to remove my big champion.
- By not attacking after spending my gold, my opponent either had to pass without spending their gold or risk getting attacked by my big champion and Pyrosaur.
In both situations, however, my opponent Hunting Packed my Pyrosaur. On the bright side, I was able to hold back my big champion to block the Den Mother next turn instead of just having it get chump blocked when I attacked.
Due to my opponent’s Hunting Pack, Den Mother, Necrovirus, Zombie Apocalypse, Hands from Below, and 0-cost champions, I found myself in a situation both games where my opponent had significantly more champions in play than me. Due to this, they were in a position where they could both attack with small champions to get damage past my big champion(s) and leave a chump blocker to stop my aggression. In both of these games I found myself desperately digging (drawing multiple cards and/or using cards like Arcane Research) to find my only strong answer, Hurricane. Playing Hurricane with Sea Titan/Kong/Velden in play essentially won me both games. It allowed me to halt my opponent’s aggression without disrupting my own.
In the second game, I played Hurricane on my turn with Sea Titan in play. This cleared out all of my opponent’s blockers, but instead of attacking with Sea Titan, I passed. At this point, I was unwilling to risk my opponent playing an ambush champion, blocking, and trading with my Sea Titan. In other words, I valued preserving my 11/14 untargetable champion over possibly dealing 11 damage to my opponent. Further, I was afraid of 0-cost Spike Trap finishing off my damaged Sea Titan allowing my opponent to spend their gold purely on a 1-cost ambush champion to start applying pressure to me. Even though I had not seen Spike Trap in the first game or the draft, I was not willing to take that risk, even if my opponent spent their gold on a non-ambush champion.
In that situation, my opponent decided to pass without spending their gold. Then they played Divine Judgement on their turn, allowing me to freely ambush in Angelic Protector. When I attacked with Angelic Protector on my next turn, he Spike Trapped -> Reusable Knowledged -> Spike Trapped.
Talking with my opponent after the game, they had no answer for Sea Titan on my turn in hand. However, if I would have attacked, they would have spent their gold to draw 2, and this would have drawn them into their Spike Trap. By not attacking, I denied them a draw 2, and both their gold and Divine Judgement on their turn.
One thing that almost got me to declare my attack anyways was the fact that my opponent said something along the lines of, “that is really bad for me,” after I played my Hurricane. Due to this statement, I figured they probably did not have any answer if I were to attack with Sea Titan. However, not being 100% certain this wasn’t a bluff, and not willing to risk compromising my chance of winning the game later by attacking now, I still held back.
Forcing myself to look past my individual card preferences while drafting, namely taking Hurricane which I’m lukewarm towards over Angel of the Gate which I love, allowed me to counter my opponent’s draft and win me the match (even though my opponent didn’t go quite as heavy tokens as I was fearing). While drafting I felt like I was getting the significantly better pool of cards, and even though I would say my deck’s overall card quality was higher, my opponent built a better deck than I was expecting, given my impression of what I was passing.
With Dark Draft complete, next up, before coming back to Random 60 and my Epic Progression series, is my top 8 constructed Wolf deck: Elara’s Hunting Pack.
I managed to successfully defend my Gen Con limited title on Saturday, August 19th, 2017 for a spot at Epic Worlds 2017. (I was one of two people who qualified in limited events at Gen Con 2016.) This is also the first time I remembered to take pictures of both my opponents’ and my dark draft pools in top 4. So, this 2-part article contains an analysis of key things I remember during my top 4 Dark Drafts. This article will be specific to these matches, but I have a detailed, slightly outdated article that goes over my general Dark Draft philosophy as well. (I do also have my Random 60 pictures for a later article, and I will of course write an article about my Wolf deck that got me into top 8 in constructed.)
My semi-finals match was against Brad Minnigh who knocked me out in the limited semi-finals at Origins 2017. These were our decks:
My Interesting Picks
While I do not remember all of my picks, a few stand out as major decision points.
Kong over Amnesia
I am one of the most vocal people about the need to pick the first mass-discard pile banish card you come across. Doing so allows you to draft with the knowledge that your opponent can’t win by decking out (essentially). In addition, this allows you to draft as many powerful defense-only cards (like Ceasefire) as you want, since you don’t need to worry about an opponent drawing out to win if you can’t apply enough pressure to kill them first. There are very few situations where I break this rule.
The main reason I broke my rule in this match was my knowledge of my opponent. He has never had a game decided by decking out, ever. (I have had many, in Limited formats). Therefore, I know my opponent’s playstyle favors aggressive play.
Kong is incredibly powerful in an aggressive limited deck because it allows that player to remove an opposing threat while presenting their own big threat. Further, it is resistant to some of the best off-turn removal cards in the game: Erase (letting them play it a second time is painful) and Drain Essence/Hurricane/Chomp!. Due to this, the opponent frequently has to either use weak off-turn removal (Inner Demon/Banishment), a highly valuable off-turn board clear (Zombie Apocalypse/Martial Law), or wait until their turn to remove it (Palace Guard/Divine Judgement). In all of these situations, the aggressive player was able to remove a champion and either maintain a small advantage, force out a valuable card, or force the opponent to use their gold first on the next turn. Even further, if Kong isn’t removed it can be Raged/Lashed which can allow for that one big hit to get through enabling a burn-out kill.
Finally, unlike in Core-Only, full dark-draft through Uprising means there are 3 other mass-discard pile banish cards I could draft, and at this point (pack 2 or 3), I still had some chance to get one of those 3.
Aggressive Focus (Not Picking Ceasefire)
Due to not picking Amnesia early in the draft, I was forced to shift my picks more aggressive than I usually prefer. I know for certain that I passed on Ceasefire (possibly as a pick 2/3) because I couldn’t afford a card that can never be used aggressively (although it can let you overextend with an all-out attack and leave you a safety net). Similarly, I believe I passed on a few board clears for “lower tier” cards.
Winged Death over a Strong 0-Cost Card
This was a very tough pick for me. I do not remember exactly what I passed to take this, but I remember it was a powerful 0-cost card (Siren’s Song?). The reason I drafted this over a 0 was I wanted to protect my Kong and Mythic Monster. I was worried that I could lose 2 of my hard to remove champions and just get blown out of a game. In addition, I’m a big fan of this card generally.
Grave Demon over Word of Summoning
This was my last pack. By this point, I knew I had an aggressive enough deck that I probably didn’t need to worry about my opponent decking out for the win. Therefore, I wanted to take Word of Summoning because it is a strong 0 that lets you apply pressure off-turn without spending your gold. However, I chose Grave Demon out of personal preference.
Knowing my personal playstyle, I knew that I would be much more comfortable playing a deck with a mass-discard pile banish card than a deck without one. Having Grave Demon means I can always take the slow/defensive play. Without Grave Demon, I constantly need to worry about whether I am playing aggressive enough to win. This can drive me into riskier plays such as: spending my gold first on a turn possibly on a blitz champion with no relevant Tribute/Loyalty ability (instead of passing with gold up), playing another champion when I’m already ahead on the board and my opponent’s gold is down (instead of drawing cards), or using “or draw 2” cards for their effect (instead of drawing) when I’m low on cards in hand.
For all of these reasons, and the fact that it is a decent sized ambush champion, I picked Grave Demon. At this point in the draft, Word of Summoning might have been the “correct” choice for many, but not for me.
Other First Picks
Hunting Pack was my Pack 1 Pick 1. I am also fairly confident that I first picked Raxxa’s Curse and Angel of the Gate. I do not remember my 4 other first picks, but they were very possibly: Little Devil, Consume, Flash Fire, and Hasty Retreat. In other words, 0-cost cards.
My Thoughts/Concerns Post-Draft
My greatest concern post-draft was the fact that I only had 13 reliable draw/recycle cards instead of my desired 15+ (not counting Quell or Cave Troll). Due to this, I made a mental note to prioritize using “or draw 2s” (like Bitten) to draw cards. Other than that, I felt like the deck was strong.
Match Interesting Moments
These were very intense games where we both spent a lot of time analyzing our moves, since the top 8 matches (in this case top 4) are untimed.
Running out of Draw (Bitten)
As expected, in one of the games I hit an early string of non-card-draw cards and my handsize dwindled to 3 cards. My opponent was also low on cards, but I was up 1 champion in play. On my turn I drew into Bitten.
My first instinct was that I could use Bitten as cover for my champion. In other words, I could attack, and if my opponent played an ambush champion to block, I could Bitten it, get a zombie, and probably get my attack through. However, knowing that I didn’t have a ton of card draw in my deck, I decided to pass holding my gold. There were a few reasons for this:
- Using Bitten as removal instead of card draw was not an option
- Assuming my opponent spends their gold on their turn, I would want to spend my gold as well, so I don’t fall behind. This would reduce me to 2 cards in hand.
- If I don’t draw card-draw on my turn, I have to survive my turn’s gold usage and my opponent’s turn gold usage with just those 3 cards. Most likely this brings me to 1 card in hand at the end of my opponent’s turn. Then, if I don’t draw card-draw that turn, I basically lose the game by being forced down to 0 cards in hand.
- Since I can’t use Bitten as removal, attacking with my champion is dangerous
- If my opponent plays an ambush champion that can block and break my champion in combat, they get to establish a champion and remove my champion for free.
- I personally do not like taking these risks when I don’t have to, so attacking with my gold up was not an option.
- If I use Bitten to draw 2 now, I give my opponent a free-gold to recover
- They could ambush in a champion that I can’t remove that turn, allowing them to attack me on their turn.
- They could also freely draw 2 to refill their handsize.
- Therefore, since I don’t want to play my other cards, passing is my best play
- If they spend their gold, I draw 2.
- If they don’t spend their gold on my turn, I have Bitten which I can use, if they spend their gold on their turn.
- If they don’t spend their gold on either turn, I get to return to last turn’s advantageous board state with both players at +1 cards in hand.
- Since my deck is lacking in card draw, this is ideal for me because I maintain my board advantage while negating my disadvantage (lack of card draw) without exposing myself to an opponent’s gold usage.
- Further, I have Grave Demon so I can afford to let as many turns pass with no plays made as I need.
In the end, I believe my opponent passed on my turn and spent their gold on their turn, allowing me to spend mine to draw 2. My next 2 cards were non-card draw cards, so I would have almost certainly lost the game if I had used Bitten for removal.
Running my Opponent out of Draw
In a different situation, I was ahead on board, my opponent was low on cards in hand, and I had at least 5 cards in hand. Instead of holding back to build my card advantage further, I pushed my opponent to prevent him from being able to draw, keeping him vulnerable.
In game 2, this was the board state: I had a Winged Death and Grave Demon in play. My opponent had Brachiosaurus and Ogre Mercenary in play. I had 5+ cards in hand. My opponent had about 3 with no discard pile. I attacked with Winged Death, no blocks were declared. Before damage, I Consumed the Ogre Mercenary.
This forced my opponent into a situation where he would lose his Brachiosaurus, if he did nothing, which would open a path for Grave Demon to attack too. In order to keep his gold available to answer a potential gold-punisher (he knew he passed me Rampaging Wurm in the draft), he opted to play Wolf’s Bite without recycling so he could break his wolf to Winged Death‘s trigger, leaving his Brachiosaurus able to block my Grave Demon.
Once he passed initiative back to me, I used Hunting Pack to break his wolf token. Why?
- Because my opponent was low on cards, it was possible he had no strong play in response to this. Also, since this was after blockers were declared, I didn’t need to worry about an ambush, airborne champion blocking my Winged Death. Best case scenario, he couldn’t even spend his gold.
- If he had no way to further disrupt my Winged Death, which I got the impression he did not based on previous turns and body language, Winged Death breaking Brachiosaurus would be backbreaking and essentially win me the game right there.
- Even if he played an off-turn board clear, this would reduce him to 1 card in hand, which would be hard to come back from. I also had an ambush champion to reestablish on his turn, if needed.
He ended up playing Wave of Transformation giving him 1 wolf to my 5. (On a side note, Hurricane would have blown me out there. I do not remember if he had already played it at that point in the game.)
Stand Out Cards
Winged Death, Little Devil, and Fire Shaman were particularly effective in this match. Grave Demon was useful, but there was no point where I needed a mass discard pile banish to prevent my opponent from decking out.
Of the cards my opponent played, Turn seemed to be the least impactful.
My knowledge of my opponent’s playstyle and my own allowed me to draft a specifically powerful deck. Then, my understanding of the primary weakness of that deck allowed me to play in such a way to mitigate that weakness. Finally, small edge plays were able to gain me just enough additional advantage to push my wins through. In my next article I’ll go over my finals match against Nathan Overbay.
Epic is a non-collectible, expandable card game where players mobilize Champions to attack their opponent(s) while providing support with devastating Events. To play these cards, you and your opponent(s) get 1 gold per turn. Every card either costs that 1 gold or is free. Due to this, every card is immediately playable and no card becomes worthless later. Timing your cards to the game state, as opposed to the game turn, is paramount.
In this article series, I will guide you through as much of the unfathomable depth this game has to offer as I have discovered. For now, lets start with learning to play.
First Game Setup/Objective
- Deal each player 30 random cards (their deck)
- Each player draws 5 cards from their deck
- Each player starts at 30 health
- Randomly determine who goes first
Players primarily lose health due to champion attacks. If you are reduced to 0 health, you lose. If all of your opponents are reduced to 0 health, you win.
If you would draw a card and your deck is empty, you win.
(Health can be tracked with Dice, Pen and Paper, the Epic ScoreKeeper app, or any other way you prefer.)
Turn Structure Overview
A turn consists of resolving start of turn triggers once, and then any number of Battle, Slow, and End phases in any order. Below is the basic 2-player turn flow.
Slow vs Fast
While cards are divided into Champions and Events, the more important distinction here is Slow and Fast. Any card with dots at the top is Fast. If it doesn’t have dots at the top it is Slow. (All Events are Fast. Champions with the Ambush keyword are Fast. Champions without the Ambush keyword are Slow.)
(Other Fast plays include: activating an ability by paying a cost [such as expend powers] discussed later.)
Slow champions may only be played in a Slow Phase.
From here, I am going to start by explaining the basics: how/when you may play cards, how/when you may attack with champions. Once you have that information, I am going to double back to explain the start of turn effects, then the End Phase. Finally, I’ll explain all of the keywords that break these rules, as well as other terminology/notation.
In 2-player games, at the start of your turn and at the start of your opponent’s turn, you reset to 1 gold. Unspent Gold does not accumulate.
In 3+ player games, you reset to 1 gold at the start of your turn and reset to 1 gold at the end of your turn. Unspent Gold does not accumulate.
To play a card, you must be:
- Able to pay for it
- Cards with a 1 in the upper right corner cost your 1 gold for the turn
- Cards with a 0 in the upper right corner are free
- Allowed to play it
- Slow champions may only be played on your turn in a Slow Phase
- Fast cards may only be played
- On your turn in a Battle or Slow Phase
- On your opponent’s turn in a Battle or End Phase
- When you have initiative (initiative is passed back and forth when one player is finished “making fast plays.” More on this in Combat Section below.)
Events, when played, resolve all of their text and are then put into their owner’s discard pile. Then, any other card effects resolve.
Champions, when played, enter play. Then, any of their effects and/or any other card effects resolve.
All Epic keywords are explained below. The ones that matter when playing cards are Ally, Loyalty, and Tribute (Banish, Break, Recycle, Untargetable, Unbreakable, and Unbanishable as well).
Attacking with Champions
On your turn, you can use your champions in play to attack your opponent in an attempt to reduce their health to 0. Below I discuss how a champion’s State and Position determines whether or not it may attack and/or block. Then I break down everything that happens in a Battle Phase.
State (Deploying vs Non-Deploying)
When a champion enters play it gains deploying. A deploying champion may not attack, but it may block. At the start of your turn, all of your champions in play lose deploying.
Position (Prepared vs Expended vs Flipped)
A champion can only ever be in one of three positions: Prepared, Expended, or Flipped. At the start of your turn, all of your champions are Prepared (returned to the Prepared position).
When a champion enters play it is prepared. Prepared, non-deploying, champions may attack or block. (Prepared, non-deploying, champions may use expend powers, discussed later.)
When a champion attacks (or uses an expend power), it becomes expended (rotated 90/270 degrees). Expended champions may not attack nor block. (Expended champions may not use expend powers.)
When a champion blocks, it becomes flipped (rotated 180 degrees). Flipped champions may not attack nor block. (Flipped, non-deploying, champions may use expend powers.)
Attack-Relevant Champion Anatomy
A Battle Phase
On your turn, you may initiate as many Battle Phases as you have prepared, non-deploying champions. A Battle Phase consists of
You may either attack with one (prepared, non-deploying) champion alone or with any number of (prepared, non-deploying) champions together. Expend all declared attacking champions. (“When a champion attacks” triggers resolve now. Triggers discussed later.)
Fast Plays (Post Declare Attacks)
Once attackers have been declared, each player gets a chance to make Fast plays. The attacking player may make any number of Fast plays first. When they choose to make no more Fast plays, they pass initiative to the next player.
If that player does not want to make any Fast plays, they may progress to the next step, Declare Blockers. If that player makes at least one Fast play, once they finish making as many plays as they want, that player must pass initiative to the next player who repeats this step.
Once one player passes without making a Fast play, after everyone has had a chance to make a Fast play, progress to Declare Blockers. (In a multiplayer game, everyone must consecutively pass without making a play to move onto the next step.)
Your opponent may block an attack directed against them with one or more of their prepared champions (may be deploying). Flip all declared blocking champions. (“When a champion blocks” triggers resolve now. Triggers discussed later.)
Fast Plays (Post Declare Blockers)
Once blockers have been declared, each player gets a chance to make Fast plays. Unlike in the Post Declare Attackers phase, the defending player may make any number of Fast plays first. When they choose to make no more Fast plays, they pass initiative to the next player.
If that player does not want to make any Fast plays, they may progress to the next step, Assign Damage. If they make at least one Fast play, they must pass initiative to the next player who repeats this step.
Once one player passes without making a Fast play, after everyone has had a chance to make a Fast play, progress to Assign Damage. (In a multiplayer game, everyone must consecutively pass without making a play to move onto the next step.)
If an attack is unblocked, the attacking champions deal damage equal to their offense to the opposing player’s health.
If the attack is blocked by at least one champion,
- The attacking champions assign all of their offense to the defending champions’ defense (divided however the attacking player chooses)
- The defending champions assigns all of their offense to the attacking champions’ defense (divided however the defending player chooses)
- All damage resolves simultaneously
- If a champion takes damage equal or greater to its defense, it is Broken and put into its owner’s discard pile
- No damage is dealt to the defending player
- Even if all of the assigned blockers are removed before offense is assigned
- The number of attacking and defending champions is irrelevant
All Epic keywords are explained below. The ones that matter during a battle are Airborne, Blitz, Breakthrough, Righteous, Unblockable, and Unbreakable (Break as well).
Start of Turn
At the start of each turn, do all of the following steps once.
Attempt to End Turn (End Phase)
Once you no longer want to declare any Battle or Slow phases, you can attempt to end your turn (End Phase). Each opponent gets a chance to play something, and if at least one play is made, you can declare more Battle/Slow phases.
Trigger -> Effect – When the condition before the ‘->’ is met, the effect after the ‘->’ resolves. For example, “When this card attacks -> Your champions get +2 offense this turn.”
Cost: Effect – When you pay the cost before the ‘:’, you get the effect after the ‘:’. For example, “Break this card: Draw two cards.” Normally you can’t just break a champion you control, but this is an exception. Also, you only get to draw two cards if you use this ability to break the champion. (You do not draw two if it breaks by other means.)
Gray Text Box – Any text in a gray box on a card is only active while that card is in your discard pile.
Airborne – Only other airborne champions may block a champion with airborne. (If an airborne champion attacks in a group with a non-airborne champion and the opponent is able to block the non-airborne champion, the opponent may block the whole group.)
Ally – Trigger (you play a 1-cost card from your hand of the same alignment of an active card’s ally ability), resolve the effect. An active card is either a champion you have in play with an ally ability (Fire Shaman) or a card in your discard pile with a “gray box” ally effect (Plentiful Dead). (Using a “1: Effect” ability, such as on Rage or Pyromancer does not count.)
Banish – Put that card on the bottom of its “owner’s” deck.
Blitz – Ignore deploying restrictions preventing attacking or using expend powers.
Break – Move a champion in play to its “owner’s” discard pile.
Breakthrough – Any offense on attacking breakthrough champions greater than the combined defense of defending champions is dealt to the defending player. (Other attacking champions’ offense and/or damage dealt to defending champions is ignored.)
Controller – The player who currently may use a champion to attack/block/expend/activate abilities.
Expend Abilities – Cost (Expend the prepared/flipped, non-deploying champion), resolve the effect.
Loyalty 2 – Trigger (When a champion with Loyalty 2 enters play, you may reveal 2 cards of that champion’s alignment), if you revealed 2 cards of that alignment resolve the effect.
Owner – The player whose deck the card began the game in.
Tribute – Trigger (When a champion with Tribute enters play), resolve the effect.
Recall – Return this card to hand.
Recycle – Banish exactly 2 cards from your discard pile to draw a card. (You may choose the order those cards are put on the bottom of your deck.)
Righteous – Any damage dealt by this champion gains its controller the same amount of health.
Unbanishable – May not be “banished.”
Unblockable – May not be “blocked.” (If an unblockable champion attacks in a group with a non-unblockable champion and the opponent is able to block the non-unblockable champion, they may block the whole group.)
Unbreakable – May not be “broken.”
Untargetable – May not be “targeted” by any effect that says “target.”
Now you know everything required to play a game of Epic. Once you have played at least a game or two, if you would like some basic strategy advice of FAQ answers check out part 2 of my Epic Progression series (coming after Gen Con). (I will also clean up this article a bit more after Gen Con too, so let me know if you notice any substance you would like me to clarify/add.)
This is part 3 of my 3 part series on Epic Deck Archetypes. Due to issues with my internet connection at my new place, I have placeholder card links instead of some images. *Fixed*
If you combine cards a, b, c, and d with specific game state x, you essentially win.
The “purest” form of combo works by surviving until it assembles multiple key cards and crafts an acceptable Game State to use them. (Game State refers to exactly what is happening at a specific time: such as champions in play, cards in discard piles, players’ current health, etc). Then, the combo deck uses those key cards with the crafted Game State to immediately win, usually by reducing an opponent directly from their full starting health (30) to 0.
For example, you survive until you draw Zombie Apocalypse, Drinker of Blood, and Wither. In addition, you wait until both discard piles have a combined champion count of at least 15. Then, on your opponent’s turn you play Zombie Apocalypse, putting 15 zombie tokens into play. On your turn, you play Drinker of Blood followed immediately by Wither. This breaks all 15 zombies, creates 15 Drinker of Blood triggers, deals 30 damage to your opponent, and wins you the game.
While flashy One-Turn-Kills (OTKs) are the hallmark of combo decks, any deck that combines 3+ cards for one incredibly powerful effect can be considered to have a combo aspect. Combo decks are generally built around supporting/enabling one (or more) of those combination(s). Due to this, combo decks vary widely in how they are constructed and when/how they try to win.
Below are a few examples of card types that work particularly well in Combo. In this section, I am going to stay relatively high level for anyone that wants to figure these combo decks out on their own. For more detailed examples, check out the section after this one.
These are a few of the cards that, when built around, can win the game in a single turn. One way to identify these cards is by their “unbounded” effects.
- Drinker of Blood triggers every time a champion breaks
- How many champions could you possibly break with this in play?
- What ways can you break multiple champions, while not breaking Drinker?
- Army of the Apocalypse brings back all champions in discard piles
- How many champions could you get back by playing this card?
- Can you get more value than your opponent when you play this?
- Are there any champions that work well if brought back together?
- Time Walker returns any number of champions in play to hand
- Can you use the champions you returned to hand for anything?
- Can you benefit from filling your hand past 7?
- Secret Legion puts 6 blitz attackers in play and gives all humans (not just human tokens) blitz
- Is there a way to make 6 small attackers better than 1 big attacker?
- Are there other human champions that benefit from gaining blitz?
These cards are powerful in combo because they help you draw into your combo pieces quickly.
These cards are powerful in combo because they buy time until you can assemble your combo. Some of these cards are combo pieces themselves.
Discard Pile Recursion
These cards are powerful in combo because they let you
- get back combo pieces used earlier to stay alive
- refill to launch a second/third combo if the first doesn’t win outright
However, discard pile recursion is much weaker if you don’t draw your combo pieces in the first place.
Combo’s main weakness in Epic is its inconsistency. If you are an aggressive combo deck that doesn’t draw its combo pieces early, you can get run over by more consistent aggro decks. If you are a control combo deck that doesn’t draw its combo pieces early, you can get pressured out by midrange. Control decks can also heal over a combo decks lethal range if given enough time.
The second major weakness of combo is targeted counterplay. If an opponent knows what you are trying to do, they are more likely to be able to disrupt it. In our Drinker of Blood example, a knowledgeable opponent could make sure they always hold onto a Flash Fire/Wither to use after you Zombie Apocalypse, before you can go to your turn and spend another gold to play Drinker.
The surprise factor can make combo particularly strong in the first game of a match, especially if the combo is brand new, but that strength fades in later games. However, if your opponent doesn’t have cards that can counter your combo, it can be difficult to stop. (Many of these combo “counters” [ex. Amnesia and Wither] are strong enough that decks want to include them anyway.)
Each combo deck has its own specific counter cards based on what it is trying to accomplish.
Discard Pile Removal
Discard Pile Removal is strong against combo because
- multiple combo decks rely on their discard directly for the combo
- it slows down recycling
- it prevents combo pieces from being returned from the discard pile
Example Combo Decks
Below are some combo decks. The first four have seen high-level competitive play (at least a top 8 at a qualifier and/or played at Worlds).
Drinker of Blood Combo
The most popular combo deck features the Drinker of Blood combo.
Example: James Moreland’s – Control Drinker Combo
These decks utilize off-turn Zombie Apocalypse into on-turn Drinker followed immediately by Flash Fire/Wither to win the game. Drinker decks are frequently control decks that try to stave off the opponent until it can go off. If the first combo doesn’t win the game, the health gain can be enough to let it stabilize for long enough to go off again.
This version is heavily dependent on Drinker combo to win. Therefore, mass discard pile removal shutting down Zombie Apocalypse (and Necrovirus) can be nasty. Flash Fire and Wither are particularly strong counters if saved until immediately after Zombie Apoc, before the combo deck gets the gold on its turn to play Drinker.
Time Walker Combo
Time Walker decks attempt to make destructive use of the board clear bounce effect. A common way to achieve this is to play and attack with a bunch of 0-cost blitzers (Guilt Demon, Dark Knight, etc.), followed by Time Walker, and ending by replaying the 0-cost blitzers to attack again on the same turn.
Example: Gabriel Costa-Giomi’s – Value Time Walker Combo
Gabe’s specific deck has the 0-cost blitz combo package in it, but it also includes a lot of powerful tribute/loyalty champions and powerful recursion.
This specific version seems weak to 0-cost removal such as Spike Trap and Lightning Strike. One sided damage based removal effects seem like a problem as well: Hurricane and Draka’s Fire. The deck is low on draw effects, so if you can prevent value gained by Time Walker bouncing powerful loyalty champions like Medusa, you can run them out of cards, in theory. Discard effects, Thought Plucker specifically, seem quite potent too.
Fire Shaman + Brachiosaurus Combo
Example: Hampus Eriksson’s – Combo Burn
This is an aggro combo deck. Hampus combines significant card draw with a lot of burn to setup for this combo. Even just 1 Fire Shaman + 1 Brachiosaurus + 1 burn card can do significant finishing damage.
Health gain is essential for surviving and ultimately beating this deck. Big champions are also hard for this deck to deal with if it doesn’t draw Erase (big untargetable champions basically can’t be removed at all).
Example: Nashville’s – Off-turn Overdraw Kark
In addition to 0-cost health gain cards, Overdraw Kark can utilize Ancient Chant + Lesson Learned/Frantic Digging to overdraw to 10+ cards at the end of its opponent’s turn (since you only discard at the end of your turn). Then, when Kark is played next turn, ally-recall cards like Inner Peace and Bodyguard can swell the handsize even further for a massive Loyalty X reveal.
Many iterations of Kark are vulnerable to discard pile removal because they rely on recycling a lot. In addition, removing Ancient Chants prevents the Lesson Learned combo and decreases the number of cards that can be drawn for a big Kark reveal described above. Consistent pressure is essential for defeating Kark. Champions like Strafing Dragon and Pyrosaur can slow down the turbo, combo Kark openings as you ramp up your consistent pressure.
Army of the Apocalypse Combo
Army of the Apocalypse decks are frequently built around the idea of champions with inherent blitz. Fill your discard pile with these champions (Juggernaut, Citadel Raven, Winged Death, Avenging Angel, etc), play this, attack. Amnesia beforehand means your opponent gets nothing. Crystal Golem provides card draw to minimize the risk of a blowout, if played when your opponent’s gold is up (since you can break Crystal Golem to draw 2 immediately after playing Army, before your opponent can play something).
Example: Derek Arnold’s – Core-Only Army Drinker Hybrid
Derek’s deck focuses more on bringing back cards that synergize particularly well over pure blitz power. Check out his explanation of the deck on his blog in the link above for more information.
Human Token Combo
Insurgency/Secret Legion + Revolt/Paros, Rebel Leader/Courageous Soul = 20+ blitz damage. I was terrified of human token decks when the game came out, but they have yet to have a successful competitive showing.
Blind Faith and Ceasefire were particularly strong against combo tokens, but Wither, Flash Fire, etc. remain strong post full-constructed ban. Targeted discard pile removal can prevent multiple small combo assaults by preventing Lesson Learned/Reusable Knowledge -> Insurgency assaults. Aggro is particularly nasty (at least against my iterations) because if you don’t start going-off turn 1, you’re in trouble.