So if it wasn’t obvious a month ago, it likely is obvious to all now that Titania’s Majesty looms large over the Constructed metagame. Between killing just often enough on turn 3 to scare people and killing very frequently on turn 4 to those that aren’t prepared for it warps the format around its will. Some may cry for its banning or to nerf Cressida’s power, but this early in the format I think it should be obvious that R&D intended for there to be the threat of turn 3 kills out of Majesty to help shape the rest of the format. That doesn’t mean the format is lacking in interaction or diversity, just that the types of interactions and diversity you might be accustomed to thus far in HEX have shifted dramatically.
So what does that mean for the types of cards we might be used to playing then? While Mono-Sapphire was statistically the boogeyman for most of the Shattered Destiny constructed format, the target most people made sure to have covered in some fashion was GoreKnight with its very viable turn 4 (over)kills. With the threat of turn 4 kills on your checklist to be prepared for, that meant that many three- and four-cost cards were vital parts of the metagame—see Buccaneer, Countermagic, Extinction, and Wrathwood Master Moss for examples of format-defining cards. Decks that did rely upon four-or-higher–cost cards often used removal as their form of disruption against a GoreKnight deck to stall the game long enough to reach their other cards. Against Majesty, we have made a hard turn on the principals of many of these decks; now you are required to prepare for a potential turn-3 kill, which means you may never reach a third shard drop before you will be forced to start interacting. Buccaneers and Murders no longer serve as effective general delay mechanisms but rather now must operate as specific reactions to plays after the critical turn of the format has passed. Until the format fills with anti-Majesty technology and you can metagame to go a step beyond that, you will be forced to play 1- and 2-cost cards that can interact or disrupt the Majesty deck. This isn’t a recommendation; this is a requirement of playing the current format.
So what’s a shard to do?
Blood has basically two options, both of which are proactive attempts to disrupt the Majesty deck before it can get going. Because Majesty can topdeck so well though if you give them the chance, that means that you need to combine these cards either with additional disruption (e.g. attempting to chain your discard actions into hand-eating Vampires) or with extremely early aggression (so dropping a turn-1 Fang of the Mountain God or the like and hoping to kill them before they can draw out of the situation).
Martyr is really the best option for dealing with Majesty out of Diamond; turning their troop into a Monument in response to the damage trigger will keep them from doing anything to you. As a reactive measure, it also means that you can threaten to have Martyr with your Diamond deck by keeping open the two resources and occasionally get your opponent to delay playing their Majesty in hopes of first sculpting their hand. Immortality, Shard Ward, and Blinding Light all do essentially the same thing in stopping the damage trigger from killing you, but none of them will deal with the large troop that likely will be left behind. Eye of Lixil requires a special commitment to gaining a Wild threshold before turn 2, and even then it won’t stop an Ozawa, Cosmic Elder from taking you down in one hit—but it can significantly reduce the percentages on your opponent being able to outright kill you with a single Majesty.
Pure Ruby decks won’t win by disrupting Titania’s Majesty itself, but rather will try to race the deck while also killing resource dorks with damage actions when presented with the opportunity.
It might seem strange to think of Countermagic and Shoggoth as expensive cards, but both require you to typically be on the third turn which you might not even get in this format. Still, both can stop a Majesty cold if given the chance while Verdict is simply one of the most important cards in the current format. The other, even more expensive interrupts in the game also can be hard answers but your deck must be able to delay the game long enough to get them to matter in the first place. Meanwhile, Ripple and Throwback are typically acceptable answers to hold up with ironically Throwback being a slightly better option due to how it interacts with helping to prevent an Ozawa insta-gib where Time Ripple might not. With the most “good” options for dealing with a Majesty, Sapphire is fairly well positioned as one of the go-to disruption shards since even just holding up 2 resources with a Sapphire threshold will at least force the opponent to think about whether to go for a Majesty or not.
Notice that the two primary shards involving the Majesty deck also are the only ones completely devoid of answers. Wild doesn’t even have many secondary options for deck building to deal with a Majesty deck—if you see a Wild Shard you have a pretty solid idea of what’s coming then because Wild right now is all about them Majestys.
There is one final thing to remember when building decks to try and beat Majesty: very few strategies have inevitability against the deck. You are constantly a draw phase away from Crocosaur eating your side of the board or Majesty hitting Ozawa or Walking Calamity for lethal. If you want to trade answers one-for-one with Majesty you need some card advantage engine you can set up to reliably continue drawing answers, and if you want to go over the top you have to find a combo that can end the game quickly once you have delayed Majesty from their initial plan. The other approach is to accept that Majesty will just topdeck better and either try and turn the matchup into a pure race (which Tusker Rush alone seems to be able to accomplish, and only in Gauntlet) or present a very early threat that you then back up with disruption. By “very early”, I mean you must be prepared to have a troop going on turn 1, because by turn 2 you either are hoping to drop an Inquisition or your Diamond and/or Sapphire deck might be going “Shields Up” with Martyr/Verdict since Majesty can be threatening to kill you before you get a third turn.
Let’s look at what some decks might be that can try to deal with Majesty:
Champion: Bertram Cragraven
Actually, first lets talk about what you shouldn’t do (also known as translating my failures to your own personal testing time savings).
Robots sounds like a deck that should be positioned well to fight Majesty in a vacuum—lots of one-drops, access to viable maindeck disruption like Verdict, and a quick clock to pressure Majesty into action. The problem is that Robots can’t just structure its first three turns as One-Drop > Hold open two resources > One-Drop plus hold open two resources. Robots is a swarm deck through and through; it relies upon creating a mass of cheap troops to turn Electroid and Pterobot on. If you aren’t dumping your hand with Robots, then you aren’t actually creating any pressure, so while Verdict was a fine option in the deck when you were worried about what could be played on turn 4 after you dumped most of your hand, it is not acceptable all the time when you have to structure you critical second turn around it.
Still, Reprocessor is a beast of card for this deck. It lets you play more Hex Geodes now that you have 8 cards that can turn it into a quick 3/3 and is very strong with the plethora of 1/1s this deck puts out. Don’t expect Robots to never show up again in the format as the deck still can hang well with Majesty when on the play and its tournament results certainly showed that it could be a strong metagame call when everyone else is suiting up their own Verdicts and Countermagics.
Champion: Wyatt the Sapper
You would think that an aggro-control list in the vein of the Set 1 Diamond/Sapphire deck would be a strong contender to stop a deck like Majesty. Unfortunately, the problem is that all those two-drops are just too slow when you might never get another turn after playing them. Still, there is a deck that can work here given proper play—sequencing your Defenders on turn 4 instead of turn 2 can present a very viable threat against Majesty. Unfortunately, not a lot of other cards can help pressure Majesty when played like that. Reese is extremely slow if you aren’t tunneling him until later in the game—giving Majesty more than enough time to figure out a way to either force you to let them resolve a haymaker or letting Crocosaur eat Reese and his new buddy when they do surface. Storm Cloud misses two charges by coming down later, which again equates to a much slower clock than otherwise might be present. And while an early Angel of Dawn can rip apart Majesty when backed up by interrupts, by the midgame if you flip one over all it might be doing is making Crocosaur become a live draw by presenting an additional body you weren’t actually preparing to have.
Diamond/Sapphire certainly has the tools to delay and stifle the Majesty decks from their key actions, but that shard combination lacks the aggressive punch to end games before Majesty can draw out of the situation and lacks the inevitable engines in appropriate numbers (as tempting as Wrenlocke and Defender together might be, they likely still need another cohort).
Okay, now we can talk about some ways to actually fight Majesty…
The Reactive Strategies
As stated above, there are a few different approaches you can take to try subduing Majesty. First, you can keep them totally denied in the early game and hope to eventually create some sort of advantage out of that without opening yourself to a topdecked Majesty/Eye. This requires both a critical mass of disruption tools (i.e. “hate” cards) and enough viable win conditions to close out the game (while normally anything can act as a win condition, using all your resources for a High Tomb Lord only to get Ozawa’d in the face off a freshly drawn Majesty means you need to be very careful in selecting what cards you want to finish the game for you).
Champion: Zared Venomscorn
One of the keys to why Blood/Sapphire can get away with continuing to run 3- and 4-drop troops as their main threat comes back to Withering Touch and Inquisition allowing you to know when the path is clear. Hitting Majesty and then dumping a Vampire King to eat Arborean Rootfathers and Calamities before they can become real threats later in the game is big, but the deck can also sit behind its interrupt wall with Wits and Focuses helping to build up the BS position until it can drop a Wrenlocke with Verdict/CM backup and ride Wrenlocke all the way.
Zared is here because Tusker Rush is a very real threat in the metagame, and a deck full of interrupts needs to have ways to stifle them as quickly as possible. Crackling Wit can combo here with turning on Zared a turn early, which can also be important against Majesty as hitting a Brave with Zared when on the play often will put you in the position to be able to drop a Vampire Princess on turn 3 before they can start threatening to hit 5 resources and a Majesty kill. Wit and Arcane Focus also combine to allow you to actually cut back a bit on the number of shards you are running—an important consideration when you are looking to make a lot of one-for-one trades against the best deck in the format.
The reserves are primarily a shift towards handling the aggressive decks with Sorrow, Rot Cast, and Buccaneer all being very good at that task and buying you time to start dropping Lifedraining Vampires. Sorceress is the Dreamer stand-in here, as slotting her with Quick and Draw a card will help you turn the initiative against your control opponent and start forcing them to be the one who has the right answer for every question you ask.
Champion: Winter Moon
The mere threat of Windsinger is enough to push a Majesty deck into action as quickly as possible. Windsinger is one of the few troops that a Majesty deck just can’t expect to beat if they give it time to sit around as the Peek/Focus/WinterMoon engine starts moving at full speed by that point and puts the game quickly into lock-down. With Bluegrass and a solid number of Coyotle the deck gains Martyr access as well, meaning it also is extremely well-positioned to have the early answers when Majesty does try to go for the fast kill.
Crocosaur is the sore thumb in the list as the only thing that really puts you down by more than a single resource to play on your own turn (as Windsinger gives you your resources back in time for interrupts and Chlorophyllia can be delayed until turn 3 or later to still keep your shields up). Still, the deck is fairly soft to aggressive strategies as all the interrupts and Martyrs that are great against Majesty are pretty embarrassing against a Quash Ridge Tusker. Being in Wild, the reserves help immensely as the deck can turn the Dino package on (and especially Cluckodon is an absolutely killer in the aggressive matchups—few Tusker decks come back from killing their premier card, getting a 4/4 and gaining 4 health all in one single card).
Overall though, the problem with these reactive strategies is that you still are giving a lot of time for a skilled Majesty player to both figure out when to sequence their plays and to topdeck their incredibly strong cards. This goes doubly if the Majesty deck has removed Ozawa (either maindeck in anticipation of control matches or switched it to reserves for these longer games) as it makes even more of their draws live against you with many of them being huge threats to win the game all by themselves.
The second approach to beating Majesty is to hit the ground running quickly and follow that up with enough disruption that you can kill the opponent before they find their way back into the game.
REDACTED [Tusker Servant]
Previously known as the REDACTED deck from my earlier article, Servant has always been a pet card of mine just waiting for the right support to fall around it. We are finally starting to reach both a critical mass of good one-drops to accompany Servant along with a number of “similar” cards that allow you to build your deck with the idea that you are filling “damage action” slots as opposed to choosing a single damage action and running the max number of it. I also happen to subscribe to the school of thought that it can be a good thing to have a slight diversity in your answers—for instance Boulder Toss and Skewer are slightly less powerful than Crackling Bolt in most cases but they also happen to be the best cards you can have in other cases when you need to Skewer an opposing Tusker or can stack your own Tusker buffs to Boulder Toss somebody for the win. These types of things are incredibly difficult for your opponent to play around and with Arcane Focus being a key cog to help filter through to specific cards you might need I expect to see a lot more 1- and 2-ofs even in non-Servant decks.
One of the real keys to why the deck works though is Urgnock. I’m sure most people are familiar with the power of Urgnock on a Tusker, but it can be equally devastating even as a turn 3 activation on a Servant (which naturally leads into a turn 4 activation and suddenly you have a 4-attack troop in the air and you’ve eaten almost half your opponent’s health with just a Servant alone). While Tusker Rush focuses on trying to pair Tusker with tons of small and speedy troops to focus on killing the opponent as fast as possible, Tusker Servant recognizes that you can probably just as easily win the game with Tusker plus one or even zero other troops backed up by permission actions. Tusker and Urgnock by themselves can threaten to hit for 2-3-5-6-8 to present a very lethal 5 turn clock with nothing else required, and adding in even a single other troop normally means your opponent has very few turns in which to find their answers and beat through your Verdicts and Countermagics. Like Tusker and Servant, Skarn serves as a card that can both be a one-drop and serve as a solitary win condition. The deck is packed to the gills with actions, and while it can be difficult to sequence things just right when you are working with cards like Verdict and Countermagic that require the opponent to make plays, often it isn’t hard at all to at least get Skarn transformed at least once into a troop that at that point already can kill someone sitting at modest health totals.
This might be my favorite deck of the bunch, as while Tusker Servant is an absolute dagger against Majesty it can’t switch gears into an anti-Tusker deck the way Blood/Ruby can with the Vampire Package out of the reserves.
The maindeck is fairly formulaic, playing to the math of curving out while selecting some troops that benefit most from doing so. Tusker is obvious, and so is Subtle Striker after our discussion of the previous deck, so let’s talk real quickly about the other selections. Tormentor is a card maligned by some due to its lack of size on the first few turns of the game, but part of its appeal is just being in a deck that wants to dump its hand while also being a one-drop; you don’t have many amazing choices at the one-slot that can carry a game the way a Tormentor can. Skarn is almost the anti-Tormentor—extremely strong while you are curving out but then a somewhat miserable topdeck after you have done so. While it isn’t as strong here as it might be in a deck that can utilize Arcane Focus and other cantrips, the goal is to present an aggressive stance starting on turn 1 and use just enough disruption to kill the opponent before they can get back in the game. Skarn is just fine at that role as you almost always will be able to transform a turn-1 Skarn at least once and you will win the game if you can get it to its final form. Rounding out the troop choices (and being an insane combo for a deck with Tusker and Skarn—I mean it’s a troop that makes an action!) is the versatile Highlands Blackbelt. Every choice on Blackbelt is a viable one, between combining double damage with Tusker/Urgnock for quick kills, going Phoenix style and board-wiping an opposing Ruby deck, or just being a Boomsmith rent-to-own.
On the action side, we see what Blood is really here to provide—the cheap and effective disruption from Withering Touch and Inquisition. As opposed to overloading the Majesty with discard like Mono-Blood can do, BR uses the discard as a temporary disruption in hopes that by pressuring the opponent you can reduce the number of draw phases they will get to find a solution. In addition to the always fine Burn/Crackling Bolt package, Scorch is a criminally underrated card. Almost every major deck right now has a target worth spending a card on and doing so for free in a format that frequently ends on turn 3 or 4 is a really big deal. Murder sits at the top end as more of an anti-Crocosaur play than anything else.
The reserves is where things get really spicy. The problem for the deck in Gauntlet is that it is a slight dog to Tusker Rush—they have more troops and efficient damage actions where you have the terrible topdecks of Touch and Inquisition. When going to reserves, you can pull a switcheroo and bring in some extra shards and the lifedraining Vampires to threaten taking over the game while also maintaining your efficient troops and damage actions yourself to survive the early game. Murder and Arachnaphobia are in anticipation of Majesty’s move to Cluckodons and Heat Waves—all the dinos can be a beating against you so being able to sit on Murder for Cluckodon or Crocosaur is a big deal that not many other shards have the opportunity to do.
The Focused Hate Deck
The third and final way to deal with Majesty is by taking a disruption strategy and pushing it as hard as possible. We don’t actually have enough interrupts or resource denial cards to do that in HEX, so really discard is the only thing we can push upon Majesty to try and keep them from even playing a game with us.
Can’t take full credit for this one—it first popped up a couple weeks ago in Gauntlet being run by a number of different opponents. Extended testing has shown it to be slightly favored game-1 versus Majesty but runs into trouble once the Ozawas can be boarded out and more topdecks made live—but it is definitely worth including here for posterity since Gauntlet is still important and there might be reserves strategies that can be developed to help the matchup further.
The major tech here is Subtle Striker, who is every bit as billed. That line of text might not seem to amount to much, but turning off Cressida and delaying the opponent by a full turn is absolutely huge in the Majesty matchup. That cascades in allowing you to pick apart their initial hand with your targeted discard and then close out the match with one of the Vampires. While Majesty topdecks very well all things considered, the overload of discard that mono-Blood can provide can start to hit at the resource base of Majesty as well thanks to cards like Giant Corpse Fly and Arachnophobia. It sometimes results in the perfect storm of killing their resource dorks and forcing them to discard resources before they can hit the magic number of 5, significantly reducing Majesty’s ability to start topdecking out of the situation.
Still, it is a discard deck that isn’t overly aggressive with most draws against a deck full of resources and bombs, so in a number of games the Majesty deck can just flip over a few big cards halfway through the game and that will be that. Mono-Blood still has game versus the other aggressive decks thanks to all the Lifedrain and can make a solid run against the control decks with the discard package, so in some form this deck will likely be hanging around the fringes of the format for some time to come.
Look, ya’ll. Majesty is beatable. It is far more format-warping that Gore Feast was—both in terms of requiring a smaller subset of cards/strategies that interact with it as well as requiring you to be prepared to do so at an even earlier turn. That doesn’t mean the format is bad or that the deck shouldn’t exist, just that until a critical mass of anti-Majesty strategies are utilized you will not be able to work outside the confines of what Majesty requires you to do in deck design. Even if you don’t take any of these decks away from the article, at least understand some of the approaches you will need to think about when trying to create your own take on how to solve the format.