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Future Tech: Blood and Flames

The metagame of solo Set 1 is coming to a close, but we still have two weeks of tournaments to play before we’ll finally get Shattered Destiny. If you want to dig into the metagame a bit more and try something new before it’s not too late, now is the time.

Well, Blood/Ruby midrange is not quite new. Jeremy ‘JCrawl’ Crawley built the first successful version of the deck almost a year ago and Shawn ‘Disordia’ Carroll piloted it to victory in the first HTPCS in January 2014. However, due to its Alpha state, not all the cards from Shards of Fate were even in game back then and the balance was really different—so now we’ve got some space to re-explore.

The two combinations that always most  attracted me to this shard pair were Xentoth’s Inquisitor with the Prime Ruby of Destruction and Lord Alexander, the Courageous with Vampire King. Inquisitor helps us push the last points of damage in late game through blocking troops, and the only 4-drop that that looks better than Vampire King is a Vampire King with Speed.

So we’ll start with this:

25Shards (we will go into the shard split later)
3Lord Alexander, the Courageous
4Vampire King
4Xentoth’s Inquisitor (w/ Prime Ruby of Destruction)

Early game:

As a Ruby deck, we automatically include 4 Burns, and as we don’t have an access to Cerulean Mirror Knight, we might want a few more ways to deal with them; that’s where Heat Waves will help us. This also improves our early game against aggro decks. We’ll start with a couple main-deck and keep the rest in reserves.

As for early troops, our deck certainly won’t let us have two playsets of 2-drops, so we will have to decide if we want to run Ruby Pyromancer or Darkspire Priestess. Both are amazing aggressive troops, but their purpose is quite different.

Priestess is an aggressive low drop that attacks early and often. You’re never afraid to trade it and you’ll never hesitate to play mass removal; this orc will serve you even in death. Pyromancer, on the contrary, rarely attacks by itself. However, it will significantly increase your midgame damage output if left unanswered. If Priestess is your way to have instant value, then Pyromancer is an investment in the future. The problem with it is you want to be able to play your own mass removal, so you will barely be able to get value out of her before the board clear. Then, after an Extinction has hit the board, you probably want to play something bigger. One thing that seemed meaningful to me was that Pyromancer’s inspire takes a Vampire King out of Inquisitor+Brutality range as even with attack reduced from 4 to 1 it is still able to pillage your opponent’s hand. However, half of the decks that run XI also play Zared to negate that inspire—and the other half don’t really have many troops to steal. Finally, all of these decks have Extinction, so you might end up letting your opponent do a 1-for-2 trade.

Our 3-drop slot, along with Alexander, will be occupied by Giant Corpse Fly. It has been a constructed staple for a long time already and I don’t see it giving up its place any time soon. Then, adding Fly leads us to another disruption tool: Inquisition.

Of course we want to add some blood control staples—namely Murder and Extinction—but the numbers will depend on the final build. We don’t want to run a playset of Extinctions because, unlike the Blood-Sapphire build, we don’t have access to Cerulean Mirror Knight and you will need to play very carefully not get into a position where both playing and not playing an extinction will lead to a disadvantage.

For the finishing tools we have a few different options. The first of them is direct damage: both Life Siphon and Burn To The Ground will serve your purposes. I would go for BTTG unless all the other ruby cards are single-threshold. In the latter case, I’d pick up Siphon and move the balance towards blood.

The second option is represented by a couple of awesome heavy-hitting monsters that have already appeared in the metagame but were since mostly forgotten. Ash Harpy is a 3-turn clock by itself, and most removal should be already soaked up by Vampire Kings and Alexanders by the time it hits the table. Droo’s Colossal Walker is better when you need to finish off an already wounded opponent, especially when being launched from your Alexander cannon. Also, if you have ever tried counting the percentage of blood decks among your opponents, you know how important immunity to murder is. Sadistic Castigator is an another interesting choice; every deck with a Mirror Knight just hates him, and with 4 health and ability to sit back and wait, he’s not that easy to deal with.

The third option is a card that we all know and love: Gore Feast of Kog’Tepetl. Yeah, don’t tell me you don’t like stealing the game from your opponent with a Droo’s Walker hitting for 19 or having the ability to steal 2 troops from your opponent’s hand in one turn, getting a massive life swing in process.

As we’re trying to build a non-sapphire midrange deck, our ability to draw cards is limited to only a couple of options (if you don’t consider Cerebral Fulmination—and I hope you don’t): Pact of Pain and Necessary Sacrifice. Pact is reliable and nets you a good advantage in a long term, but you don’t want to play it in a racing game or against Gore Feast. Necessary Sacrifice gives you a solid burst for only 4 resources (where Pact would require 9 resources and 6 health), but you do give up some board position and it does, in fact, force you to play Darkspire Priestess as a best available target.

As our champion, we want Zared Venomscorn most of the time. However, if you chose the Gore Feast way, Poca, the Conflagrater competes with him for a place under the sun. Even without the interactions of Cerulean troops and a Blaze Elemental, Poca’s charge is often what you are missing for a killing blow from a Gore Feast.

Now that we have looked through our options, let’s try to toss them together.

Champ:Zared Venomscorn
14Blood Shard
8Ruby Shard
3Shards of Fate
4Darkspire Priestess
3Lord Alexander, the Courageous
4Giant Corpse Fly
4Vampire King
4Xentoth’s Inquisitor (w/ Prime Ruby of Destruction)
2Heat Wave
2Extinction
3Murder
3Life Siphon
2Pact of Pain
4Burn

This version is not very fast. Against most midrange/aggro decks your first few turns will be dedicated to defending—but our kit is well suited to that. We have 6 cards that can cause aggro a 1-2 trade (Corpse Fly and Heat Wave, which you will rarely risk waiting for more than 2 troops to be on board before casting), a good amount of early removal, and the Darkspires that can net us even more card advantage if they proc ‘find’ more often than not. Fair warning: never hesitate to use Heat Wave for a single Cerulean Mirror Knight. You will regret not doing it shortly after.

Against control, we’re clearly the aggressor. The downside of this build is that it can barely handle opposing Inquisitors, so you want to launch your 4-drops with Lord Alexander – but that will open you up for an Extinction. Even then, try to deal as much damage early on as you can and then dig for your Life Siphons. Pact of Pain becomes very handy in this matchup; what you are missing will be damage, not health.

For the sideboard options, you need to have the removal that wouldn’t fit into the main deck: the extra 2 Heat Waves, 2 Extinctions and 1 Murder. You will be using them often to tinker your removal kit against opposing threats. Also, 4 Inquisitions are necessary as you will want to side them in against mono-Sapphire every time. The rest of sideboard might go for other win conditions or the means to deal with your hardest match ups. Feel free to post your suggestions in comments.

Is this deck too slow for you? Do you like rushing at your opponent’s champion with everything you have? Okay, then here you go:

Champ:Poca, the Conflagrater
11Blood Shard
11Ruby Shard
3Shards of Fate
4Ruby Pyromancer
4Gem-Crazed Berserker w/ Ruby of Flames
3Lord Alexander, the Courageous
4Vampire King
4Xentoth’s Inquisitor w/ Prime Ruby of Destruction
2Ash Harpy
4Burn
3Gore Feast of Kog’Tepetl
3Murder
2Necessary Sacrifice
2Extinction

The Corpse Flies were switched out for Berserkers as an experiment, so feel free to change it back if you don’t like it. This list is much more aggressive than the first one and you will rarely be defending with it. I didn’t want to add Necessary Sacrifice initially, but then I realized that it makes a great play with Poca’s Charge when you don’t have your Gore Feast. For the games where things don’t go according to plan, you have a couple of each Extinction and Ash Harpy to steal the games your opponent was poised to take. Sideboard decisions here are very interesting: you might side in answers for opposing threats or removal, or you can alternatively tweak the way your deck wins. For example, your reserves might contain Life Siphon and Burn to the Ground for the opponent that’s expected to be building a blocker wall in game 2, or you can add some Droo’s Walkers and Harpies against those who rely too much on early damage-dealing removal. If you try the deck out, feel free to share your sideboard decisions and how they worked out for you.

So here are two different versions of Blood-Ruby midrange. Do you want to go slow and steady? Do you you want to kill as fast as possible? Or maybe you’ll make your own version that will take the best from both approaches. There are only two weeks left to play in the Mono-Shards-of-Fate metagame, so take the time to try it out in constructed queues or even the Hextechs Open this weekend. And be sure to come back and share your experience in the comments!

Future is a veteran Russian player coming from offline TCGs such as Berserk TCG and WoW TCG. A stalwart in the competitive scene both in community organized events and in official tournaments, Future provides expert analysis on strategy in both constructed and limited.

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