Hello Hexers! This is the first of hopefully many articles I will be writing for FiveShards. I’ve wanted to get my thoughts to a wider audience on Hex for a long time and hopefully with the level of playtime, battles fought, and sheer amount of terrible, terrible jokes I’ve made (apologizing in advance for any Ice-related Arena puns) I should be able to give valuable insight on what I have seen from our first real taste of PvE.
When I first saw the Arena Test Server link being posted, I was cautiously optimistic. For something I imagine we had all been anticipating for a long time, this needed to hit big and leave a lasting impression. On the whole I feel it matched that albeit with a few disappointments such as chest opening disabled, with only a few bugs and misplays from the AI. It most definitely seemed the AI was pulling some of its punches, but I did see some impressive moves from the AI on occasion and the later tiers were certainly more difficult—although from Tier 2 to Tier 4, bosses and difficulty are a bit more randomized and so it’s hard to gauge if a tier was truly more difficult than its predecessor at times.
After the AI Update things were much improved and—although not perfect—the AI definitely made more of a challenge. I felt it was still a lot easier than it should be with non-starter decks but there are a lot of opponents such as Xarlox that can be a pain to deal with.
Anyhow, I decided to put together a proper deck to take on the Arena and perhaps most of early PvE with little adjustment. I spent a lot of time at the drawing board messing around and trying to find ways to use the more underutilized champions and made a pretty successful constructed deck with Queen Grace and One Eye Open as the starting point. I had already looked over the PvE equipment and decided what kind of decks I would like to make but had not decided what kind of shell to build it around (for the cards without equipment) and so I eventually made the deck below. Luckily one of the 6 random pieces of equipment I got was for Grace, so I can confirm that the Queensguard effect is stacking (if you replace a Grace by playing a second Grace, you will get +2 instead of +1)
Third Eye Open (a.k.a. Royal Rumble)
Champion: One Eye Open
Frost Wizard (dependent on encounters this can be one of diamond’s strongest counters)
Highlands Magus (decent, but I’m not a huge fan of randomized effects)
Royal Valkyr (can be great to get potentially two card advantage just off its base effect out early using Grace)
Legionnaire of Adamanth (not to be confused with hero, this is the 4 cost 3/3 that on death puts a card with inspire back into play when it dies, obviously your main target for this is most likely Azurefate)
Please bear in mind that any addition of non-humans needs to be carefully considered as it draws away from the three core cards in the deck (Adamanth, Benjamin, Grace); I would suggest 6 at maximum. At full humans (60% of your deck) Adamanth should have 12/12 on average not counting inspires or the chance to replay (this deck can be very mean on opponents who bounce cards back into your hand). 6 non-humans will drop Adamanth down to 10/10 which is bearable but will also weaken Grace and Benjamin’s effectiveness.
Helm of the Monarchy (Queensguard – all kings, queens, princes, princesses get spellshield)
- This will combo nicely with the royals already present in the deck and allow you to fire off equipment effects such as those below.
Boldheart Armor (King Gabriel – When Boldheart dies deal 5 damage to each opposing troop and champion)
- This effect can be so devastating that you may consider putting Boldheart in the line of fire more often than not.
Ballroom Slippers (Queen Grace – When Grace enters play create a Queensguard)
- This allows Queen Grace to trigger the Helm of the Monarchy without finding space for Queensguard in your deck.
Inspirational Vortex (Azurefate Sorceress – inspires any other abilites it has got through inspire abilities)
- Quickly can stack to an unstoppable level, and with the draw gem can give you a massive advantage in this regard.
Faith’s Grasp (Spearcliff Cloud Knight – at the start of your turn look at the top two cards of your deck and place one on the bottom of the deck.)
- More consistency, lowers the chance of being shard-stuck or flooded as well as helping you draw the card you need more effectively.
Azurefate Staff (Azurefate cost -1)
- Not much to say about this, Azurefate comes into play faster and inspires more cards.
Wisdom’s Greatsword (Lord Benjamin, the Wise – When this enters play, you may discard any number of cards from your hand and draw that many cards)
- If this isn’t changed, remember that you can likely chain this to keep making your hand better and better. Would also have amazing combo potential with Blessing the Fallen.
If you’d like me to go over the other equipment combos I left out at some point (mostly to shorten the article) please say so in the comments.
The basic usage for the charge power is to let Grace exhaust twice and potentially get a turn 3 Hero of Adamanth from only a two-card combo (which due to this being a nearly all human deck will have very high stats) or a turn 3 King Gabriel. The other main usage is to counter exhaust effects or swing without risking your life total. Remember, you can do both of these on the same turn. (Hit first, use Grace, then charge power and use Grace again.)
However, it is worth noting the benefits of lowering inspire cards, and there are some sneaky tricks to be had such as lowering Mirror Knight to 1 cost then playing another Grace to give 2 cards the inspire and potentially get back a card from an already inspired Grace. Lowering Alwyn can also be a decent strategy, as all your cards getting +2/+2 or higher is a powerful boon.
Benjamin becomes a powerful draw engine and although he draws a tiny bit away from Adamanth’s stats, using him and Town Crier can easily replenish your hand fully especially late game.
Azurefate acts as a two-in-one Cerulean Mentalist and Phoenix Guard Trainer, PLUS it gets all the things inspired into it added to further troops through her equipment.
Playing Grace will create a free card (or two if you replace) that will give all your royalty cards spellshield, making it very hard for them to remove. If Boldheart dies, you have most likely just one-sidedly wiped your opponent’s board and done 5 direct damage to add insult to injury.
I would recommend self-bouncing with Buccaneer on occasion, especially in the case of Town Crier. Mirror Knight effectively counters the issue with the unique cards in the deck, actually making it often useful to replace them.
Another win condition that might be worth slotting in is Replicator’s Gambit, as you have a lot of powerful draw with this deck and the chance at an infinite Buccaneer chain among other options. (bounce the original Buccaneer with one of the replicas and replay him to make even more.)
I appreciated the aesthetic of the Frost Ring greatly, with the chilly visual effects and the thematic playmat specifically for the Arena. Additional playmats were a kickstarter stretch goal, and I am looking forward to the time when we can use more as it can be a bit boring to just use the same one every time. This was certainly an impressive proof of concept for what’s to come, and I enjoyed every minute of it.
So, the question remains, what was my overall opinion on the first play of arena we had access to? Immersive, Challenging at times, a little rough around the edges, but most definitely highly enjoyable. I look forward to running through arena again when it hits live and gaining permanent progress with the rewards, as I’m sure most Hexers are. The PVE-exclusive Dream Stag in particular looks fun and a solid reason to try a mono-wild deck.
Huh. That had surprisingly few ice-puns. So little that it’s snow joke… Um… I hope this article gave you some cool PvE ideas. Please don’t be overly icy on my first article in the comments.
Sleet you later, Hexers.