Welcome back to Hex Essentials. Funktion & Piecetinker most recently went over the critical Diamond cards and this week we’ll be analyzing the most important cards to obtain before Armies of Myth arrives. Throughout competitive constructed play Sapphire has consistently brought a wide variety of cards to the table and probably seen more play than any other shard. Sit back because this is gonna be a long one…
Sapphire seems to be the mean kid on the playground hoarding all the awesome troops. Whether you’re looking for early game, late game or just good ol’ fashion tempo Sapphire has it all.
Wrenlocke has sat pretty comfortably on the fringes of constructed play, often moving in and out of favor somewhat quickly. Having him in play at the start of your turn is going to put you in a favorable position so long as you weren’t already too far behind. With a majority of the new set’s haymakers seeming to be troop based we might not see a whole lot of this wizard, though it wouldn’t be too surprising to see him have some combo potential given the tools that are out there. While Wrenlocke is still awesome, he’d definitely be a few notches higher if he had a pointy hat.
Piecetinker is banned from using Buccaneer in the upcoming Ruby Cup. If that is not enough proof that Buccaneer is strong, we don’t know what is! Buccaneer is a powerful staple in Sapphire decks. There may be a very rare occasions where you would not want a Buccaneer if you are running mono-Sapphire or a Sapphire variation. Buccaneer is excellent for tempo. Buccaneer is excellent to prevent tempo. Buccaneer can even delay aggro! #BuccItBack2015
Mirror Knight has had a larger impact on constructed than just about any other card out there. Its ability to maintain a dominant board position once it is established has always been incredibly strong. It certainly isn’t the most aggressive card by any means but it can give decks full of value troops, either mid-range or control based, quite a bit of extra gas. So far it definitely feels like Armies of Myth may develop into a very troop-centric meta, in which case it will be interesting to see where this infamous two-drop fits.
This Chaostouched is one of the very first cards that comes to mind while analyzing the future strength of shift abilities. The card-draw gem, Major Sapphire of Mind, has been the go to gem so far and works particularly well in unison with Mastery of Time. It is still worth mentioning that a number of other gems have also seen play at one point or another. Once your opponent’s Dreamer hits the board, you want to remove him as soon as possible. If not, you might be in a world of hurt as you watch your opponent play a chain of Mastery of Time. Having the attribute to be unblockable allows Dreamer to easily sneak in and successful get damage through consistently and effectively.
Menacing Gralk’s ability to prevent attackers from getting through for a turn is quite powerful. That same ability can also buy you a turn! Menacing Gralk perfectly compliments the rest of Sapphire’s power. Preventing and leaving your opponent susceptible to damage easily allows Menacing Gralk to rank highly among the cards in Hex.
Ptuh! I seem to have some dirt in my mouth. With the introduction to tunneling came a very powerful legendary troop. However, he wasn’t seen as a staple card early in the set. After a couple of months, people started to realize how easy is it to keep Reese on the board by holding up enough resources to interrupt any removal that was targeting Reese. This allowed Reese to sky-rocket in popularity as one of the strongest cards of the set. The advantage from getting a free troop every turn is quite strong. Not only that, but robot troops are powerful themselves. Getting a free Tectonic Megahulk or a Jank Bot can easily become a win-condition as they are some of the best robots you can ever hope to get!… For now.
Storm Cloud feels like perhaps the most frequently misplayed card. There are many times where popping it while it has only one counter on it is the most likely way to stay in the game and yet people still get greedy looking to create more Stormlings. Storm Cloud has already been steadily moving out of the spotlight and is likely to maintain that momentum when the new set lands. With that said it is still a real card which can offer some significant value for a pretty low cost.
The Chosen is similar to Reese in that it can act as an early game play that provides some sort of late game inevitability. It was quite popular during the Shards of Fate constructed meta, and saw a resurgence in play once everyone jumped on the legendary tunneling dwarf bandwagon. It never hurts for your deck to have access to a couple powerful turn one plays.
Actions / Constants
If you thought Sapphire’s troops were strong well its actions are no different. Drawing cards will always be powerful but that is just where the fun starts.
Having a Countermagic in hand can often be like having an ace up your sleeve, your opponent might think they still have a particular card they can draw that will get them back in the game but you know better. So long as you aren’t caught off-balance early on in the game, permission is going to help you seal the deal once you’re able to stabilize. As new sets come out, we will inevitably start seeing variations on these cards, but for the time being it looks like they’re here to stay. However, if Armies of Myth shifts the meta more heavily in favor of troops the way we expect, it is likely that Verdict may take a vacation from folks’ maindecks.
“Take an additional turn after this one.” is easily one of the most powerful lines of card text out there so it should be no surprise that this is on our list. So far Mastery has seen quite a bit of play alongside card draw engines like Eldritch Dreamer (there’s nothing like drawing another Mastery off of your Dreamer!) and board stall options like Menacing Gralk. Mastery of Time also allows Reese the Crustcrawler to get another robot out thanks to the extra turn! It is possible that the meta takes a turn where the high cost becomes too large of a liability, but for now, Mastery of Time can end the game more abruptly than most other cards out there.
Peek stands out as an incredibly powerful lategame card that still performs well throughout the other stages. The ability to find the exact card you need to stay in the game or steal it completely is where this card shines. Not only that, it is even a quick action allowing you to leverage it even further during your opponent’s turn. Find that all important Countermagic when your opponent plays a game changer? Check! Despite its seemingly heavy commitment to Sapphire it is still perfectly fine in dual shard decks that have a bit of a toolbox vibe.
Ah… Time Ripple. If you Ripple your opponent’s Vampire King and they never have the chance to play it again then it pretty much counts as murdering it right? Ripple is just so flexible and fairly cheap; sure they might have the chance to play the card again but if all you needed was a short window to make your move then that is all that matters.
These are cards which might have at best seen marginal play in constructed but have some sort of powerful potential that could be unlocked in the future. Keep an eye out for these!
The Sorceress offers some particularly interesting interactions (with Master Moss and the ruby damage gem being one of Funktion’s favorites). Seeing Azurefate in tandem with Balthazar from Armies of Myth seems like it might be fun. That is part of the problem with Azurefate however; it is an extremely fun card, but due to its vulnerability and cost it hasn’t really seen a whole lot of play. Even if it doesn’t wind up being a breakout card at some point you should still pick up a few copies just to have a good time.
Escalation as a mechanic just feels it has so much potential that every card that has it will always be a sleeper in some regard. Sure it is nowhere near as strong as during Hex Alpha where it increased exponentially but it can still get out of hand pretty quickly. The new vennen are offering a few new ways to win by making your opponents bury their own deck, but they don’t really feel like they will work that well with Chronic Madness. If this card does turn out to be highly sought after, we expect that it won’t be any time soon necessarily.
As mentioned above, drawing cards will always have a place. That said, it doesn’t really feel like Oracle Song is a sleeper but rather that is a card people will like to include in their constructed decks from time to time. It feels like the game has sped up a bit though and there are probably a number of other things you’d rather be doing than drawing two cards as a basic action for three resources. From here on out Oracle Song will only continue to have more and more competition from the likes of Peek and Arcane Focus.
When this card was announced a number of players were scheming on how they might get this card to work out. Doesn’t seem like that ever happened but it still might at some point.
Servant is an interesting card in that it very tangibly becomes a better as more sets are released. So long as a 2/2 flier on turn one is something scary this beast from beyond is worth considering. Servant made a brief splash during the Shards of Fate constructed meta and we look forward to this one making an appearance again in some sort of Tempo / Burn style deck at some point.
The new set has two things going for it which seem like they might work well with Zodiac Divination, some pretty abundant resource ramping and Syzygy. Often times while playing decks using a ramp strategy you can be left without anything to do with your extra resources and Zodiac Divination helps solve that problem. This card works particularly well with both Sight of the Sun and Mastery of Time so keep both of those cards in mind as well moving forward.
Piecetinker’s Final Say: Sapphire is a powerful shard in the meta. Whether it is mono-Sapphire, Diamond / Sapphire, or Ruby / Sapphire you see Sapphire everywhere! Sapphire has the best one-drop (Ancestor’s Chosen), has one of the best two-drops (Cerulean Mirror Knight), and has some of the strongest three- and four-drops in the game. Everything in Sapphire synergizes perfectly which allows it to be powerful. Now that all of Set 3 has been spoiled, I honestly doubt the power of Sapphire will dwindle.
Funktion’s Final Say: Like many other players I feel like the recent constructed meta has started to grow a bit stale and it will be refreshing to add a whole bunch of new cards into the mix. I’m particularly excited to play with Syzygy and Arcane Focus. I feels like so many of the troops in Sapphire are efficient, with a low enough cost, that even the frequency of play waxes and wanes, they should have a bit of staying power overall.