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Limited Deck Tech: Boris Vine Lash

Today I am going to share with you an archetype in set 3 limited that has been performing very well for me. I have played this archetype 13 times so far and have a 27-7 record with the deck (79% win rate). There are a lot of playable cards for the archetype and a couple of the important cards for this deck are cards that are not important to other decks. As you might guess from the title of the article I am of course talking about a Wild/Sapphire deck with the Boris Blastforge champion.

For those of you that have played Hex since the beginning of the game some parts of this deck might seem a bit familiar to you. Back in the 1-1-one one format it was quite possible to use Feather Drifting along with big Wild troops to create large fliers. That deck would play a few tempo cards like Time Ripple and Buccaneer on the early turns and finish up with Boulder Brute and Ambershire Instigator. The Boris Vine Lash deck takes this another step further and gives you hyper efficient removal to go along with the large flying-body game-plan. In case you did not notice it already: Boris gives “flight to target troop” and not just your own troops. So for two charges you can target an opposing troop to give it flight and then play Vine Lash to deal four damage to it. Combined with the cheap champion activation cost it is very easy to Vine Lash any troop with four defense or less, not just the troops that naturally have flight. Four damage is a lot and kills most of the common and uncommon troops. Usually you can Vine Lash multiple troops in a game, or kill a single troop, and then on later turns, fly over with big troops of your own in the late game.

For those of you that “want list plz” I will go ahead and get that out of the way now with a sample deck list from a recent 3-0 draft:

Main Deck

9x Wild Shard
8x Sapphire Shard

4x Vine Lash
2x Arcane Focus
2x Predatory Prey

1x Storm Drummer
1x Sylvan Performer
1x Nazhk Webguard
1x Windbourne Disciple
1x Dreamsmoke Mystic
1x Cyclone Shaman
2x Nelebrin Treeguard
2x Lightning Brave
1x Marrowmage
2x Sacred Seekers
1x Rotroot Enchanter
1x Grove Whisperer

Relevant Reserve Cards

2x Nazhk Webguard
2x Nightsky Stargazer
1x Throwback
2x Suffocate
1x Mecha Filk Ape

I would say this list is above average for the Vine Lash deck. I had a single rare—Marrowmage—which is good in the deck with lots of big fliers, but not needed for the deck to function. I had five uncommons with Storm Drummer, Sylvan Performer, Dreamsmoke Mystic, Cyclone Shaman, and Grove Whisperer (with flight gem). With four Vine Lash and two Predatory Prey I had a lot of removal. The two Lightning Brave are good and I would play more of them if they were available. There were also two Arcane Focus to help find the pieces that I needed when I needed them. The rest of the commons could be replaced with similar cards and the deck would still function well.

Right now I think it is entirely possible to force this draft archetype and end up with a good deck most of the time. Wild and Sapphire have a lot of playable cards for this archetype and even if you miss out on the namesake card (Vine Lash) you can still sometimes play Boris and win anyway with big flying troops. That being said I am not the type of drafter that forces archetypes and prefer to read the signals from my fellow drafters. So let’s talk about drafting strategy for the deck and also which cards should be signals to you that the archetype is open.

When I am drafting this deck my overall strategy is to prioritize the high quality uncommons and commons in Sapphire and Wild while making a mental note of any Vine Lashes I see. One of the great parts of drafting this deck is if the Vine Lashes don’t come around to me then I have good playable Wild and Sapphire cards that I can pair with Winter Moon instead. I usually don’t take the Vine Lashes until around pick 6 or later in pack one one (although in pack 2/3 I might first pick Vine Lash if I already know I am playing that deck). Wild and Sapphire tend to have a lot of playable four- and five-cost cards you can get late so if you are debating between a few cards you should probably take the two- and three-cost cards first. Most of the time you want to prioritize cheap actions that help set up your late-game troops before taking your finishers (again, this also works well for Winter Moon). In a typical Boris deck I aim for 17 shards, 14-16 troops with most of them costing three or more, and the rest of the deck is (mostly) cheap actions.

As far as reading the signals from your fellow drafters here are the uncommon and common cards that I would take from my neighbors as a signal that I should be playing the deck. These are listed roughly in order of importance for pack one pick one:

  • Cyclone Shaman—This is the most important uncommon for the deck and you should take it every time you see it. The ability to replay Vine Lash or whatever cheap action you happen to have on top of a 2/4 flier should be high impact in almost every game.
  • Grove Whisperer—In this shard pairing you give flight to the Whisperer and have a 4/5 monster. It is bigger than anything else in the skies naturally outside of rares and legends. This is one of the few five-drops you should prioritize.
  • Smash to the Ground—With Boris this card is often game over whenever you play it. The only reason I have it slightly lower is because Whisperer is harder to beat if you happen to play against it.
  • Dreamsmoke Mystic—Efficient body and an amazing ability in the late game. While it is better in the Winter Moon archetype than it is in Boris I still value it highly as the three-drop of choice for this deck.
  • Storm Drummer—Against aggro you are happy to trade any of your troops for theirs and then clean up with your large flying troops in the late game. Also we are usually playing other Coyotle with prophecy buffs that can really take advantage of the battle effect late game.
  • Arcane Focus—As I have said on the 2 Turns Ahead podcast, Arcane Focus is the best Sapphire common in the set. It pairs well with Coyotle Shaman and the sometimes demanding threshold requirements for this deck.
  • Predatory Prey—With all of our fliers we can often take advantage of the +2 attack bonus for the turn. There is a limit on how many of these you can take since you often play a lot of five-drop common troops and I usually want to play 1-2 copies.
  • Incubation Webs—Prey is better since the cost is roughly the same and we would usually rather have the attack bonus.
  • Lightning Brave—I like having several of these to either play as combat tricks, surprise attackers on the back swing, and/or something that I can do with my resources if I don’t need to react to anything on my opponent’s turn.
  • Kin of Olkoth—With the flight gem it is a 2/5 flier which can sometimes be hard to play against.

While there are other cards you can take early I would say the cards above are the only ones I would be happy to take early in pack 1 and move into this deck. Now I will talk a bit more about the remaining cards I would hope to get in the later picks of the pack:

  • Vine Lash—The name sake of the deck and very efficient. I have played as many as 5 of these in the deck before and was happy I did. Once you know you are playing this deck it is first pickable over anything except Coyotle Shaman, Grove Whisperer, and Smash to the Ground.
  • Sylvan Performer—We play a fair number of five-drops and we don’t have a lot of cheap troops we want to play.
  • Relic of Nulzann—I usually default to +1 / +1 gem; flight is also good in some matchups.
  • Scrap Rummager—He helps smooth out our draws and late game turns our shard flood into real cards. We don’t have a lot of three-drops we usually want anyway.
  • Throwback—I usually prefer this over Cripple due to the lower resource cost, ability to mess with people’s charge power and shift powers, and ability to remove a flying blocker for a turn.
  • Rotroot Enchanter—Again the 5 defense that can stop fliers can be difficult to play against. One of the easy answers is to just grab him for your own deck instead.
  • Wrathwood Larch—We usually need both double Wild and double Sapphire in the end deck. If you have 1-2 Larch it lets you play an extra Sapphire or two to help smooth things out.
  • Nibblin Skirmisher—Possibly the most underrated common in the set. There are a lot of board states where he is the only troop that can attack.
  • Cripple—Depending on the matchup this is sometimes better than Throwback. There are several matchups where this is bad and needs to be boarded out.
  • Suffocate—One, maybe two is all you need and with Lightning Braves we can afford to hold up 4 resources on the opponent’s turn.
  • Windbourne Disciple—We do not need him for the flight but his threshold is easy and we don’t play a lot of three cost cards.
  • Thunderfield Seer—While it is better for Winter Moon than Boris we still have enough actions we are happy to play 1-2 of these.
  • Smirking Trickster—He can usually trade with an attacker and give you some information.
  • Nelebrin Treeguard—A serviceable four-drop if needed.
  • Nightsky Stargazer—Our four-drop slot is crowded, but he is good if we need more. I put him slightly lower than Treeguard because we usually prefer our power immediately to race better.
  • Caribaur Healer—The health bonus can be useful for swinging a race.
  • Sacred Seekers—We almost always have enough Coyotle to draw a card with him and he usually goes very late (10th pick and later).

Low end playable cards or cards that are not as good in this archetype as they are in other decks:

  • Earthcaller—We are not trying to ramp and we have lots of playable options that cost 5. Usually you have to take him early to get him and Earthcallers are not as important to Boris as they are for other decks.
  • Lithe Lyricist—While it is true that acceleration would help us the problem is we often have demanding thresholds with several double sapphire cards at 4 cost. I would play this if I needed an early troop or if I had lots of Nightsky Stargazers instead of Lightning Braves.
  • Nazhk Webguard—I sometimes start this if I didn’t get other cheap troops.
  • Snarling Ambusher—The problem here is threshold; we usually want WSS by our third turn rather than WWS.
  • Stirring Oration—While we have enough five-drops to make this a good trick we are usually behind on troops early game. Vine Lash and Throwback do a better job of getting us to the late game where we usually win.
  • Entangling Webs—We have fewer early troops and we don’t usually want to play Tireless Researcher in Boris.
  • Rites of the Tranquil Dream—Boris usually wants to affect the board on turn three with Vine Lash, Cripple, etc. We are a tempo deck not a control deck like Winter Moon which loves this card.
  • Epiphany—I never play more than one and you can almost always get them if you need a 23rd card.
  • Rootforged Regalia—On the late turns our resources are already tied up.
  • Lullaby—This deck is pretty good at stalling the ground and racing in the air so you usually do not need a defensive card like this. Most of the time Throwback is just more versatile.

Finally to wrap this up I will point out a few tips and tricks about some of the notable matchups.

Zorzym/Ozin: This is a good matchup for us. Vine Lash kills all of their important early troops and they usually have a tough time dealing with a big flying troop at quick speed. This match-up is the reason I usually prefer Nelebrin Treeguard over Nightsky Stargazer. Coyotle Shaman should stay in, but board out your other prophecy Coyotles if you can. Cripple is terrible and should be banished to your reserve if you have it main.

Madamme Anana: Vine Lash doesn’t even need a Boris activation to kill most of the troops we care about from them. Watch out for Pride’s Fall and try to activate Boris’ power on 3 defense troops instead if you can.

Urgnock: This can be a tough matchup if you don’t have enough two-drop troops or Cripples in your reserves. This match-up is why I usually prefer heavier Sapphire to make it easier to get WSS threshold early for Vine Lash.

Cressida/Alyndra: Mostly easy matchups as long as they don’t have Rotroot Enchanter. If you do see him you might need Entangling Webs or Incubation Webs to win. I would usually bring in Cripple if I had them.

Bryson Maplewood: Another matchup where Cripple is significantly better and we want to lower our curve with cheaper troops.

Ovo: A good matchup as long as you can kill Deepgaze Disciple before it gets out of hand. Vine Lash is of course great for this task just be sure you hold one for him.

Winter Moon: even though we are both WS remember that Boris is the Beatdown. Defensive cards like Cripple are terrible and you want to play more tempo actions.

Prairie Meadow: a rarely played champion that is so hard for Boris to beat. If they manage to create a single large troop (example: Chimera Guard Fallen with swiftstrike from a DeadeyeSlicer) and buff it with Meadow you will probably lose. It is very important that you have Throwback to counter the champion activation because Vine Lash and Predatory Prey are a lot worse here than they are in other matchups.

I think that wraps up everything I wanted to say about this deck. One of my friends calls this a gimmick deck which is true; Vine Lash + Boris is a gimmick. The most important thing is this is a gimmick deck that wins a lot. Boris WS is very good in the current draft metagame and I would encourage you to give it a try the next time you see the good uncommons passed to you in pack one. If you do have other questions I will check up on the comments later and reply. Thanks for reading.


P.S. bonus: I drafted the deck again tonight and it was probably the best draft deck in set 3 I’ve ever drafted.



Hex Kickstarter backer. Contributor to 2 Turns Ahead Podcast. Invitational Qualifier. Shoutcaster for the Cup of Fate tournament series. Player formerly known as JuzamJedi.

3 Comments on Limited Deck Tech: Boris Vine Lash

  1. I played this before- definitely a powerful, somewhat unexpected archetype. Of course it only barely scraped through the first two rounds, due to coming up against an absolutely ridiculous deck (a guy with THREE Prodigies of Volosolov- in DRAFT- and one out with all five thresholds by turn 3-4 EACH GAME) and a spider deck that got some utterly ridiculous luck, but it DID make it through. It then proceeded to lose to a Cressida deck that got absolutely PERFECT curve and removal, both games. I got THWOMPED.

  2. Heh Hopefully more people will play it which means it’ll result in being easier to beat cause they’ll have to share those cards from the draft pool.

  3. Cool article, I’ve had some success with Boris paired with what is normally a mono-ruby style deck. I don’t think I’ve done it in draft though, just sealed. Where you get some nice cards like Flamehand invokers but maybe don’t have enough of the swiftstrike troops or deathmask assailants to force the damage through. Going Sapphire with Boris adds an extra element of evasion ontop of all the work Ruby/Sapphire actions do to clear the path for your ruby damage along with other flyer threats. Probably not as necessary in draft since it’s easier to get the mono the ruby you need or match it with diamond.

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