In the first part of this 2-part article on the constructed decks at Origins 2016, I focus on providing an overview of the Burn based decks. There were a lot of them.
Closing out games with burn cards (damage that can target a player directly like Flame Strike) was very common both days of constructed. Some decks brought more burn cards than others, but Flame Strike and Lesson Learned were in 6 of the 9 top 8/top 4 decks. Of the decks that tried to finish out the game with burn, there were 2 general types: Control Burn and Aggressive Burn.
Top 8, 2nd Place, 1st Place
Control Burn was the most common type of deck at Origins. On Friday, at least 5 people ran similar decks with a top 8 finish (Hayden Brass) and a 2nd place finish (Chris Weidinger). On Sunday, this deck won the tournament (Hampus Eriksson).
I played against this deck twice in rounds on Friday and once in the finals on Sunday. I also watched it in the finals on Friday.
Stall and Kill with Burn
The goal of this deck is to stall its opponent until it can kill with burn. To achieve this, the deck packs a lot of disruption, discard, and reestablishing champions (champions that also remove one or more champions when played). As long as this deck can prevent its opponent from developing a board (getting champions in play) and getting damage through, this deck can slowly draw into its burn to win the game directly.
The deck can also win if its reestablishing champions develop enough of a tempo lead. In this situation, it can either continually bounce (return to hand) threats put into play (Juggernaut, Raging T-Rex, etc.), or it can force discard if answers like Wave of Transformation or Reaper are used instead.
This deck either wins by extending the game to win with burn (against decks without health gain) and/or by getting ahead and staying ahead.
If your opponent has neither health gain nor enough burn to outright win the game, you will eventually win just by preventing your opponent from winning. Due to this, you are able to largely sit back and force your opponent to make the first move.
As soon as your opponent makes that first move, Elara the Lycomancer, Forcemage Apprentice, Kong, Pyromancer, Sea Titan, and Mist Guide Herald/Surprise Attack (into any of those cards) can remove their progress and force a reaction from your opponent. These are the best cards to open with for this play style.
Knight of Shadows, Thought Plucker, Psionic Assault, and Juggernaut are strong plays when your opponent spends their gold without putting a threat into play. All of these plays net you card advantage and potentially weaken your opponent.
Time Bender, Draka’s Fire, Fireball, Temporal Shift, and Wave of Transformation (Flame Strike and Lightning Storm if absolutely needed) are excellent for halting your opponent’s progress on their turn, but they don’t put you ahead in any way. Time Bender in particular is amazing for this role because you can bounce something your opponent plays on their turn, and then use Time Bender to bounce itself at the start of your turn before it is vulnerable to 1-cost removal. This effectively gives you a bounce effect every turn that is hard to answer.
Helion, the Dominator is strong in multiple ways. One of the best uses is stealing an opponent’s prepared champion and using it to block their attacking champion. In this scenario you optimally remove 2+ champions and leave an 8/8 with a strong expend power, all on your opponent’s turn. Helion can also be used to remove multiple small champions like Muse and/or deal direct damage to your opponent.
Muse, Amnesia, and Arcane Research are just strong cards in general. Amnesia specifically can be devastating against an opponent that relies on their discard pile for Lesson Learned, Recall, Necromancer Lord, and/or Recycle.
Shut your opponent down until you can kill them with burn. When ahead, focus on drawing and/or forcing discards; don’t neglect these aspects by over-extending and chasing damage.
Tempo (Back Up)
If your opponent has health gain or enough burn to kill you outright, you need to get aggressive. Beat them before they can stabilize or beat you.
Against decks that can gain a significant amount of health, you either need to grind them down slowly with the defensive/reactive style (your burn cards are nearly worthless in this scenario) or you can apply heavy pressure.
Against decks that can burn you out, since you have no health gain, you can either survive while forcing a lot of discarding, or you can try to outrace them.
Applying Heavy Pressure/Outracing
This play style is a lot weaker for this deck because it doesn’t have a lot of strong, aggressive establishing champions. Juggernaut is the only aggressive establishing champion in the deck. Knight of Shadows is also establishing, but it isn’t hard to remove before it can deal damage. Mist Guide Herald is an establishing champion, but it doesn’t have many other establishing champions it can hit with its tribute ability.
Surprise Attack is the strongest card in this deck for this play style because it can ambush in an establishing champions or a reestablishing champions (Kong, Sea Titan, etc.). Ambushing in an establishing champion is nice to accelerate you pressure. Ambushing in a reestablishing champion is great because it can help slow down an aggressive deck. In either case, Surprise Attack allows you to get a threat into play on your opponent’s turn that can immediately attack on your turn. Not only can that champion attack on your next turn, but you will also have your gold available to play cards like Helion or Time Bender. These cards can help force damage through. Unfortunately for this play style, this deck has minimal blitz champions that can punish an opponent for spending their gold before you on your turn.
While this play style is weaker for this deck than the defensive/reactive style, it can occasionally be necessary to prevent an opponent from executing their desired style for their deck. When executing this play style, discard effects can be significantly weaker because they don’t affect the board. If you don’t have a board presence with this style, you aren’t applying enough pressure. But, if you are already ahead, discarding can still be effective.
Focus on aggressive and high-tempo champions while relying less on discard. Burn only as a finisher otherwise you can be punished by health gain.
The next 4 decks are all variations on an aggressive Burn deck. Each deck has interesting differences, but they all have similar play styles.
2 Decks (Corey, Kyle)
(Corey and Chris)
2 Top 8 and 4 Top 4
I either played against or saw all of these decks. More detail below.
Play Threats, Attack/Distract, Finish with Burn
While there is overlap, each deck approaches the threats differently. Whether the threats are super aggro burn champions, disruptive/difficult to stop champions, dinosaurs, or aggressive health gain champions, each deck plays champions that must be removed immediately.
If these champions hit, a lot less burn is required to finish off your opponent. If not, forcing your opponent to deal with these threats should hopefully buy you enough time to draw sufficient burn.
Each of these decks win by playing threats early as offense and distraction. Most of the threats are aggressive with either blitz and/or tribute/loyalty 2 burn. Since the opponent is forced to deal with these threats, the opponent might not be able to field their own threats and/or draw cards.
Once these decks have enough burn to finish off an opponent (due to weakening them with their threats or drawing enough burn), the board is ignored, and the direct damage starts.
The biggest difference between these decks is the threats that they run. Each deck packs Strafing Dragon and Draka, Dragon Tyrant because they are aggressive blitz champions. Strafing Dragon is an almost guaranteed 5 damage with a body. It can be played off turn or used as a 6/6 airborne blitzer on your turn. Draka is a 9/9 airborne blitz champion that can clear tokens, Muses, Thought Pluckers, etc.
Auggie and Corey pack Fire Shaman, Hunting Raptors, and Pyromancer for additional burn. Kyle and Nathaniel pack Frost Giant for an 8/12 blitzer that can expend all opposing champions as another threat/finisher. Cory and Kyle included Muses as 0-cost repeating draw threats as well.
Flash Fire is included in all 4 decks because it is slight burn that can also clear Human Token Swarm attacks, Muses, etc. It can also combine with other AoE effects (Area of Effect: effects that affect all opposing champions and possibly your own) like Draka, Draka’s Fire, Fireball, and Hurricane. Draka’s Fire and Fireball being in 3 of the decks while Hurricane was run by both Auggie and Nathaniel.
Flame Strike was obviously included in all 4 decks. Aside from the burn already mentioned (Strafing Dragon, Flash Fire, Draka’s Fire, Fireball, Fire Shaman, Hunting Raptors, and Pyromancer), Lightning Storm, Rain of Fire, and Lesson Learned were fairly common inclusions. Forked Lightning was included by Auggie and Corey.
The burn is fairly self-explanatory. Use as little to break champions as possible while the rest goes face (direct damage to your opponent).
3 Top 4
Auggie placed top 4 with this on Friday and Saturday. Ben Wienburg also played this on Saturday for a top 4 finish.
On Sunday, I played against Ben in rounds and Auggie in the semi-finals.
Same as above, but with the most aggressive and burn based threats.
Get damage through any way possible. Win by killing before you die.
This is the most aggressive burn based deck. It has the most burn (35 cards) and most of its champions have blitz or direct damage. If you don’t have enough burn to completely kill an opponent, you can either hold your gold on your turn (until your opponent spends theirs), play a burn champion for a bit of damage and a threat, or attempt to play and hit face with a blitz champion. T-Rex is usually a strong play too.
Waiting to play your gold can be strong in theory against a control deck because it lets you build up for a consistent stream of threats and damage. It can be weak if your opponent draws enough resources and health gain to deal with it.
Playing a burn champion can be strong because it is guaranteed damage, and your opponent is forced to deal with it. In addition, if they bounce it, you can replay it for more damage on a later turn. If your opponent has Lightning Strikes, Hunting Raptors is weaker.
Playing a blitz champion can be strong if your opponent has limited fast removal. If they have fast removal, especially Erase, this is pretty bad. Great Horned Lizard was the most unique card included. As a 10/11 blitz, breakthough champion, it can be harder to deal with, and it can also act as a 10/11 ambush blocker leaving a 7/8 breakthrough body.
Adjust how you play out your threats based on your opponent’s deck. Besides that, just get damage through.
Kyle placed top 8 on Friday with this deck.
I played against him and possibly this deck on Sunday in rounds. I watched part of a game on Friday.
Soften with breakthrough damage, disrupt, and finish with burn.
Get one big hit through (probably with breakthrough) and then finish with burn. While attempting this, disrupt with Sage.
This deck has the heaviest Sage commitment of these burn decks. The Sage gives access to Juggernaut and Steel Golem as strong, hard-to-deal-with, aggressive threats. In addition, it gives access to Vanishing as an offensive weapon.
Of the four decks, this is the only one to make heavy use of the buffs Rage and Lash. Not only do these give breakthrough, which is incredible by itself, but they also give an extra 4 damage. If an attack is likely going to get through, these can essentially function as 0-cost 4 damage burn spells.
“Dinosaurs!” – Nathaniel Mansfield
Nathaniel Mansfield took top 4 with this deck on Friday.
I watched this deck in the semi-finals.
Play dinosaurs. Win.
Put multiple overwhelming-large champions into play. Clear out opponent’s weaker champions without killing your own. Force damage through. Finish with burn.
Establish big, damage-removal-resistant champions. Once one hits, finish with burn. Against control, focus on gathering champions before beginning the onslaught.
Ideally this deck wants to get out of the gates quickly with Brachiosaurus, Raging T-Rex, or Triceratops on the play (going first on the first turn). On the draw (going second) Draka’s Enforcer or Surprise Attack into any of the above in addition to Kong or Sea Titan is a great way to begin. From there, your opponent has to deal with you while you keep putting massive bodies into play. Eventually the big bodies will create favorable trades for you allowing you to get one attack through to your opponent’s health. Once this happens, this deck closes out with burn.
While the deck fights for that one successful attack, Hurricane is frequently a one-sided board clear since a lot of these champions have 10+ defense.
Against a controlling deck with health gain and a lot of non damage-based removal, the burn cards are very weak. In order to launch a sustained attack to potentially get damage through, this deck needs to build a hand of champions before establishing them. Unfortunately, this also gives the control player time to hoard a hand of answers. For this reason, Raging T-Rex and Triceratops become stronger because they can help you maintain your assault when you begin.
Health Gain Burn
Corey Henderson took top 4 with this deck on Friday.
I watched this deck in the quarter finals.
Gain enough health so you kill with burn before dying.
Aggressively burn your opponent down while gaining health simultaneously.
Angel of Light, Avenging Angel, Gold Dragon, and Second Wind are included to extend the life of this deck (by gaining health) while also dishing out airborne damage. In the case of Second Wind, it is essentially 5 free health as long as you have two cards to recycle.
Aside from the health gain, it is very similar to Aggro burn. 38 of the 60 cards are the same.
Burn was incredibly popular at Origins 2016. It also did quite well. However, it seems to have a very poor match up against control, Derek Arnold’s Lesson Learned Deck for instance.
In part 2 of this article, I will provide an overview of Derek Arnold’s 4-Color Control deck, Gabe Costa-Gioni’s Time Walker deck, and my Combative Humans deck. I will also discuss individual play examples specifically from matches between 2 top 8 decks.
If you feel I misrepresented your deck above, feel free to correct me in the comments below.