Disclaimer: it is possible that the draft portion of the invitational will not be using the set 3 format which we’ve all come to know and love.
Hex’s first 100k Invitational Tournament is quickly approaching. Pretty soon all eyes will be on California as the players compete to walk away with all the glory. This article is a primer for the uninitiated out there so that you might be able to follow along better. We will look at what some of the most common archetypes are as well as what cards and strategies they rely on.
-Hex booster packs contain 17 cards each (1 rare OR legendary, 4 uncommons, and 12 commons)
-Players draft a total of 3 boosters each, taking one card from the pack and passing the remaining cards to the next player. This process repeats until no cards remain
-Then players build decks consisting of the cards they draft along with any number of basic shards. The minimum deck size is 40 cards
-Additionally players choose which champion they use throughout the tournament. Finally they add major and minor gems to troops that have sockets. These gems may be swapped out for others during reserves, but players may only ever have 4 of each specific gem included in their deck at any point
-It is often important for players to select cards which work well together and form a sort of “archetype” so that their deck is more cohesive
Set 3 Archetype Overview
Ozin Based Spiders
Champion: Patriarch Ozin
Shards: Blood / X
Vilefang Eremite – You’re kind of all in on this dude. If you can’t get multiples of him you’re going to need to consider a different strategy. Not only does he bring your spider engine online but he can do a decent job of stopping a ground assault.
Parriphagy / Vampiric Kiss – Surviving long enough to get your engine online is key and removal is going to help you do that. Generally you want to have at least a couple of each of these cards as they’re each necessary in their own ways at various stages of the game.
Painbreeder – Giving your Spiderlings and extra +1/+1 is a pretty big deal, not only does it speed up your clock but it also protects them against cards like Staggering Blast which could otherwise blow you out.
Eggblight Afflictor – A decent source of early damage and generous amount of spider generation. They are usually pretty available in the draft so grabbing these during middle-picks shouldn’t be too hard.
Shadowblade Assassin – Often overlooked, the assassin does incredibly well with the “big dudes” wild-based strategies. The assassin can swing in for a decent amount of damage and the lethal will let you trade with one of their best dudes.
Game Plan: Get spiders into their deck and then chain them by using Ozin’s ability transferred onto either a Spiderling or Vilefang Eremite. The deck is heavy on blood but can splash another shard if there is something worth including or you can add sapphire for some additional spider generation. With this archetype you are leaning more heavily on Vilefang (& Ozin) than other spider builds.
Sapphire / Blood Spiders
Champion: Zorzym of Korru
Shards: Blood / Sapphire
Psychic Torment – The strongest enabler available to spiders which can single-handedly give your entire team an amped up Ozin effect. A snap pick if you think you’re going this route. 17 cards makes hate drafting much less impactful but even if you’re not playing spiders you should consider denying your opponents this card.
Incubation Webs – Solid removal that also generates spider eggs. It is important to note that it generates an egg at the start of each player’s turn. Sidesteps spirits’ game plan.
Runeweb Infiltrator – The most consistent way of generating eggs. You are usually pretty safe to load up on 2-3 copies in order to ensure that you’re off to a decent start. Be careful about spirits and skyguard since they will completely blank your infiltrators, so having some sort of backup plan is pretty important.
Parriphagy – Removal is at a premium in draft and Parriphagy pulls double duty for us. Don’t go too heavy on it as you need to be able to establish a board presence early and the cost with this card is somewhat prohibitive.
Nazhk Webguard – Can either stall out your opponent’s biggest threats or set yourself up for the kill by exhausting their whole team. The body and cost are great for defense and work perfectly with what the card aims to do. Keep in mind that this is a card which relies on variance, but it can really dig you out of a ditch when no other card could. Consider saving bury effects until it is time for your opponent to attack and you might be able to put them in an awkward position.
Game Plan: Peck away at your opponent while you wait for eggs to start hatching at which point the game should be in your favor. Variance can be your largest obstacle, if you don’t bury enough cards you might not ever see a spider.
Champion: Knightsbane Ovo
Shards: Diamond / Ruby or Diamond / Blood, occasionally splashing a third shard
Flaring Passions – You can durdle around and probably steal one of their dudes.
Deepgaze stuff – Troops that are generally overcosted, you can get some value from them if you durdle around and they don’t 2 for 1 you one of the many opportunities they have to do so.
Game Plan: Durdle around and hope you win…
Grade: C… at best, I very heavily avoid playing this deck
*Okay okay… Ethereal Caller is pretty good here and you can do some disgusting things with it by bringing something good back from your bin and then reverting it.
Champion: Madame Anana
Shards: Blood / Diamond
Spiritbound Spy – Whether you’re trying to kill your opponent with death by a thousand cuts or beatdown with a big fat flier this card is your golden ticket. There are all sorts of shenanigans to pull with this card spread throughout the Armies of Myth set.
Warlock of Aettir – You don’t even necessarily need to activate this guy’s ability in order for him to be good, just having him onboard means that you’re potentially throwing some heavy hitting junk towards them at any given moment.
Abominate – Sometimes you just make a 4/4 flier on turn 2 and proceed to smash your opponent in the face for a few turns. Life is good. Unless you’re planning on spamming this card you want to wait until at least some of your opponent’s removal has been burned.
Grim Harvester – Another strong abominate target.
Pride’s Fall – Some of the most problematic troops for this deck are the various x/4’s particularly those with flight or skyguard. Not only does this deal with them, it does so very efficiently. That said, you do not want to play more than 2 in your main deck as it will often be a dead card (particularly so vs Deathmask Assailant decks)
Game Plan: For those unaware, the trick here is to abominate your Spiritbound Spy and target itself. Doing so will make it come back as a 4/4 spirit. This deck usually has all sorts of tricks up its sleeves with quite a few dual-purpose cards. However, this is one of the tougher decks to build and pilot. When you’re up against an opponent who knows what you’re up to it is very easy for them to slow roll against you while they dismantle your plan.
All-in Ruby Agro
Shards: Ruby / X
Relic of Nulzann (ruby evasion gem) – One of the most effective clocks in the format.
Deathmask Assailant – This is your primary source of damage; as bad as Scraptooth Cackler might seem it still manages to win games and the same could be said for Swordplay.
Staggering Blast – You can leverage this to usually win the game, in fact one of the best plays that this deck has to offer are back to back turns where this is played starting on either turn 4 or 5.
Skewer – The damage to the champion is extremely relevant and being able to kill a troop right as it enters play can be a huge boon.
Game Plan: You gotta be able to do the math starting as early as turn 2 to figure out how you can kill your opponent by turn 6 and limit their options of stabilizing along the way. Lets get things straight, you’re not trying to “play good cards” you’re just trying to reduce your opponent’s life to zero as rapidly as possible. Be wary of Vampiric Kiss, Lullaby and Shardward; these cards can quickly bring about your undoing. The bright side is that this deck punishes your opponent for making incorrect mulligan decisions more than any other deck out there.
Champion: Bryson Maplewood
Shards: Diamond / Agro
Pyresoul Summoner – This card can be backbreaking but you need to optimize your turns and figure when it is better to activate one of his abilities or play a card from your hand.
Relic of Nulzann (ruby evasion gem) – See notes above, in this case you can even boost it to a 3/3 which will dodge indignation or kiss though it is usually better to buff something else.
Woolvir Baa’sher – One of the better targets for the charge power and will lead to situations where they have to chump block your Baa’sher or else they risk taking quite a bit of damage. Don’t be afraid to alpha strike even if you lose other troops, so long as this dude can maintain pressure.
Spirit Eagle – In tandem with Bryson’s charge power the Eagle will usually put your opponent in an awkward position where they cannot block any of your troops.
Boomsmith – An explosive dwarf that puts in double duty of advancing your board state while also removing potential blockers.
Fiery Indignation / Skewer – Boomsmith is often times more preferable but having a nice spread is important and these cards are still totally worth picking highly.
Game Plan: Your goal is to have more bodies on board than your opponent at all times and keep the pressure up before they can start generating spiders or spirits. Be careful buffing one of your troops into Pride’s Fall range as your charge power is pretty precious. By having multiple swiftstrike troops in your deck you may be able to stop Wild decks from attacking into you but think twice before double blocking as you may be leading yourself to be blown out.
Champion: Mightsinger Alyndra or rarely Cressida
Rotroot Enchanter – This card helps stop many of the most dangerous threats to this deck, it isn’t the card that is going to swing in for the kill but it will be a great sidekick to the one that does.
Sylvan Performer – Your goal is to ramp and play big dudes, this guy helps seal the deal once you get there.
Predatory Prey – Compared to Wintermoon this card can be somewhat more clunky when wielded by this deck but it still is one of your most reliable pieces of removal. Unfortunately the moment you have 5 resources you want to be playing a troop rather than an action.
Ramp Elves – In general the order of preference is Skydancer > Merry Minstrels = Lithe Lyricist > Ashwood Soloist = Resource Optimizing Infusion Device
Game Plan: Get to 5 resources, play big dudes then close out the game. Easier said than done though as often times this deck has issues closing out games. Crush is not all that prevalent a keyword and your guys might wind up just being blocked by spiders or spirits while you hemorrhage health. Alyndra and Cressida can each be awkward in their own right but with the health changes it is correct to play Alyndra a vast majority of the time.
Champion: Boris Blastforge
Shards: Sapphire / Wild
Vine Lash – There are many ways for fliers to be dangerous in this format but really what you are doing is changing vine lashes text to “Lose 2 charges, destroy target troop”
Game Plan: I’m not a big fan of this deck and might be underrating it because of that. In fact this deck does well primarily because it is underrated. This is the metadeck of a draft format. You’re trying to overload on removal in a way that lets you out-tempo your opponent and throw them off of their footing. Very rarely are you actually activating Boris on your own troops. What you’re doing is actually pretty simple, you’re trying to take strong cards and then pick up vine lashes as they are passed to you later on. It sounds funny saying it but you’re not trying to draft the most amazing deck ever, just one that is “good enough.”
Wintermoon Good Stuff
Predatory Prey – The nature of the deck lends itself very well to playing this card, take a moment to make sure you’re targeting the right troops on both sides of the table. If you ever get one of these back from Wintermoon your chances of losing should have diminished greatly.
Sylvan Performer – Very strong role-player, you often times want to protect it but even if it draws one card before trading you’re very likely in a pretty strong position.
Rotroot Enchanter / Carribaur Healer – This deck takes awhile to get going but each of these will help you stabilize in their own way once they are on board.
Cyclone Shaman – Cyclone Shaman represents much of what this deck embodies, you’re just trying to get there.
Suffocate – You can usually only afford to include one copy of this in your deck but once you reach the position where you can safely hold back resources for it you will be in very strong shape. Plan out your following turn before you decide whether it is necessary to pull the trigger on this or whether you can just let the opposing card resolve.
Arcane Focus – Grabbing 2-3 of these will help you more rapidly go through your deck and get to the good stuff, being able to use these early and often is important.
Game Plan: This deck likely suffers from being “too cute” but regardless if the stars align it can easily be the strongest deck in a draft pod. More so than usual, your goal here is to use as many of your resources as you can on each of your turns and eventually bury your opponent. Overall it can be very hard to assemble all of the pieces for this deck as it requires a very specific curve and wants particular cards in multiples.*
*This deck became considerably better once packs contained 17 cards and is definitely something to reconsider if you’ve written if off.
Those are what I consider to be the most prevalent archetypes are. While set 1 encouraged some pretty off the wall drafting, I feel like Armies of Myth is somewhat more structured. Finally I want to strongly note that while each deck has cards that it seeks highly there are many cards which fit well within multiple archetypes and will be fought over. Just because a card is an all-star in one deck doesn’t mean it can’t still perform a role in another.
We’ll see how wrong I am about those pretty soon! In the meantime what do you think will be the most impactful cards during the draft portion of the invitational?