Farewell Titania’s Majesty, queen of Constructed, whose long and oppressive reign those who knew you won’t forget! Though your namesake card is banned, your spirit lingers on in the key hate pieces that occupied your Gauntlet home. May your eternal format descendants ever flourish and your human pilots find solace in the loss they have sustained.
Well, we now have our first banned card in HEX. I won’t lie and say that my eyes didn’t bug out when I first saw Titania’s Majesty spoiled, but processing the power level of a card isn’t the same as predicting the resiliency of the decks it will spawn. In the end, that resiliency made it too large of a format boogeyman, through subtle shifts in the decklist combined with the always present threat of a turn 3 kill. I don’t think we were done with the permutations of Majesty hate decks, but I also don’t think that the end result was ever going to be anything but a format where Majesty was always able to adjust itself to remain the top dog.
I mean, even with the decklists we know from Gauntlet, ESL, and the stress test, we can see a constant evolution of the deck:
Majesty – We started with the very consistency-focused Ozawa build of Majesty that pushed the percentages so hard that there was no ignoring the deck; it was going to kill you on turn 3 or 4 if you didn’t do something about that.
Anti-Majesty – The Quash Ridge Tusker Rush deck was one of the first contenders for the Anti-Majesty title, and indeed from many accounts (including yours truly) it was doing very well, especially in the Gauntlet. The combination of damage actions to delay the resource dorks from Majesty and the consistent turn-3 and -4 kills from the Tusker Rush deck pushed the coin-flips slightly in favor of the mono-Ruby deck.
Majesty – Unfortunately for Tusker Rush, Ruby and Wild are both extremely well equipped for dealing with an aggressive onslaught. Moving Heat Wave into the main deck while making sure to include plenty of dinosaurs in the reserves again tipped the scales back to Majesty’s favor.
Anti Majesty – Mono-Blood then appeared on the scene. The primary theory behind mono-Blood working was that Withering Touch and Inquisition could take care of the scary “I Win” cards (chiefly, Majesty and Eye of Creation) and from there with stranded Walking Calamities and Ozawas, the Majesty deck either had to have lucky topdecks or would die to Vampires (Vampire King, Vampire Princess, and Vampire).
Majesty – This prompted a lot of change in the Majesty decks. First off, Ozawa had to go now that decks were actually interacting with Majesty. Games could last longer and you had a higher risk of drawing a dead Ozawa. In its place came Eternal Guardian, who is the same as an “I Win” in many matchups but is also actually playable from your hand as the game goes on. Next, Eye of Creation could be dropped—both because you no longer needed a secondary way to get Ozawa onto the board and because removing Eye made the deck less disruptable by Withering Touch and Verdict of the Ancient Kings. Syyn, Etherdrake Nomad made a natural inclusion for many reasons, both because of its combination with Puck, Dream Bringer, its natural “fifth Majesty” tendency, and its resilience to Crocosaur, Murder, and damage actions. Droo’s Colossal Walker also saw some play for similar reasons (obviously it’s not flipping over cards during its attack, but being a hard-to-kill turn 3 play was worth something).
Anti-Majesty – At the same time Majesty was shifting to overcome mono-Blood, a smattering of Aggro/Control decks started popping up. Primarily they were looking to combine the power of disruption with cards like Quash Ridge Tusker to play a Judo match with Majesty where the right combination of disruption and aggression could prevail.
Majesty – As stated previously however, Majesty was also already shifting to be less vulnerable to certain disruption methods. The inclusion of maindeck Succulent Cluckodon and Carnasaurus’ was a nail in the coffin for the Aggro/Control types of decks, and also facilitated a slight change in the makeup of the Majesty decks resource base. Howling Brave was too vulnerable to too many things in the mirror, so it was commonly removed for some of these extra hate cards and for an extra shard or two.
Anti-Majesty – This slowing down of the deck meant that Aggro Control could move up from 1-drops being necessary and instead could play real 2- and 3-drop cards alongside removal. Commonly this meant a move towards Blood/Diamond due to its extensive removal suite, strong, cheap troops, and its interaction with the bug on Walking Calamity (as Repel, etc. could kill a Calamity without triggering its deathblow). With bugged Calamity and no Ozawa, B/D could actually hold back removal and know that it would be safe from actually dying to any random Majesty.
Majesty – Unfortunately for removal heavy decks, Majesty isn’t required to always keep the damage gem. Switching to the spellshield gem (sometimes even maindeck!) created a huge problem for the Blood Diamond decks, and cards like Balthasar and the return of Eye of Creation meant that Majesty could go over the top of B/D at any moment.
Anti-Majesty – At this point we are where Majesty was sitting at the time of the banning. The popular theorycrafting going around was that the way to fight this current iteration of Majesty was through the use of other combo decks with disruption, as Majesty was a bit slower, and now more vulnerable to something else going over the top of it. As it stands though, we will never truly know.
While it is important to remember that no build of Majesty was ever “perfect” or “unbeatable”, the chinks in its armor were small, and often easily covered at the expense of another. As Majesty “slowed down” (and by this I mean things like its average kill would go from turn 3.9 to turn 4.1), and opened itself up to being countered by something new, the threat was always there to return to an earlier version to cover itself. Our likely end-metagame involved trying to pick the right Majesty build or the right Anti-Majesty build—as the best deck to fight an Anti-Majesty deck was often just a different Majesty build itself! Whether you find that interesting or not, the issue remains that frequent turn-3 kills were going to remain a constant in the metagame and that is a major turn-off to a large portion of both the current and potential player population. I love HEX, and I love having lots of other people to play HEX with, so in the interest of those things it is justifiable why Titania’s Majesty had to go.
So… Where do we go from here?
If you’ve watched Back to the Future, you’ll be keenly aware that even one small change can create huge ripples that end up affecting everything as we know it. The banning of Titania’s Majesty is like that; for too long we’ve been operating under the assumption that we could die on any given turn 3 so we need to pack early disruption and/or aggressive troops and nothing else would do. That all changes now and we can build decks assuming that we want to chain a two-drop into a three-drop without fear that we’ll just be dead by doing so. Like in the movie, the first thing we should do is time-travel! Not in the physical sense mind you, but rather in our initial decklist targeting. The things that were good before Majesty arrived might have disappeared when the five-cost bully arrived, but they provide the best starting point we can leverage going forward. A day into things I obviously don’t have any tuned lists, but we have learned enough about individual card power levels to make some guesses on how decks can be tuned and if there are any new contenders:
Mono-S likely doesn’t change too much from July, with the only auto-include being making sure you are packing 4x Arcane Focus. Suffocate has shown to be acceptable as Countermagics 5-7, and Epiphany isn’t terrible in the reserves, but the basis of the deck likely doesn’t need much changing to start.
Vampire Princess has more than proven her strengths, and vies with Quash Ridge Tusker as arguably the most important card in the set now that Majesty is gone. Martyr was an obvious inclusion when we thought Calamities were the villain, but now likely Repel and Pride’s Fall duke it out for 2-cost removal duties. Blood/Diamond is a deck that varies greatly depending upon personal preferences and slight metagame shifts due to the host of interchangeable options available to the deck, so predicting which version is best after the ban likely will be more a result of waiting for the remainder of the decks to fall into place first. I was starting to become a BD disbeliever as the Shattered Destiny metagame kept going, but Vampire Princess shores up many of the problems the deck had (chiefly, Sapphire action heavy decks).
Reprocessor continued to be impressive against non-Majesty decks in testing, so I expect it to find a home in the deck. Slaughtergear’s Innovation also deserves a couple slots in the reserves to come in against control decks, but otherwise this was always mostly a SoF/SD tribal deck that should continue to be comprised predominantly of those cards. Robots was always the deck you wanted to turn to when others started jamming Countermagics, so with the re-rise of Reese and the new Winter Moon builds it likely has a place in the fresh metagame.
It is scary how much play still exists here, and with the deck’s namesake now being back in the list of cards you can reasonably expect to play in a game of HEX, look for Gore Feast of Kog’Tepetl to have a spot somewhere. Quash Ridge Tusker is the most important addition to this deck, as it is cheap enough that you can reasonably back it up with the typical disruption cards Gorefeast plays but it also creates a Tusker + Blaze Elemental + Gorefeast autokill potential at virtually any point in the game. Highlands Blackbelt is another likely important card, as Blackbelt is another outstanding aggressively-costed troop with utility functions that synergizes well with what the deck is looking to do already. Finally, look for Arcane Focus to make the rounds here too—the card is basically going to be synonymous with Sapphire decks for the most part going forward outside of fringe strategies like Robots that can’t find space for that one extra cost.
Champion: Poca the Conflagrater
The mono-Ruby Tusker list likely stays as it has been, focusing on consistent turn-4 kills. The deck still has some issues with Dinosaurs and Vampires and a big Heat Wave problem, but with the format so shaken up this is a great chance to be the person asking the question: how do YOU stop a Tusker? If Tusker Rush was able to stay viable in the previous meta (reportedly there were 2 copies in the top 16 of the test event) where the best deck had access to Heat Wave and Succulent Cluckodon while being just as fast, it probably is going to be an overperformer on this first weekend of the new format.
Aside from the obvious format crossovers of the past, we have enough information from the strength of current cards to have a few clues on what other archetypes might be out there…
Majesty is gone, so this deck needs a big overhaul, but Cressida and Crocosaur are both so powerful that I don’t expect them to totally disappear from the metagame entirely. Walking Calamity is certainly gone, and likely even Eternal Guardian gets cut back upon, but Puck, Dream Bringer into Syyn, Crocosaur, or Arborean Rootfather is still a thing people will want to do. Jam together the best resources and best threats, mix with either Periwinkle/Balthasar against control or Heat Wave/Cluckodon against aggro and off you go. With leftover Verdicts and Withering Touches likely still floating around for a bit I don’t think Eye is the way to go, but rather just a straight mid-rangey ramp style deck like the ones that Top 8’d a few cups earlier in the year. Eye of Creation and Scraptech Brawler might still have a place as a turn 5 over-the-top combination for some matchups, but likely Tusker Rush, Gorefeast, and Robots provide enough pressure that the deck is forced into leaning upon some more efficient individual cards.
3x Lithe Lyricist
The elves get a potential nod as you are fairly high on the elf count anyway and Feralroot Acorn is a fantasic reward for tossing a few Performers and Blademasters into your deck (Lyricist is likely a card you are fine playing anyway, as it dodges Cluckodon and Scorch while not affecting your speed against most decks). Jadiim is another awesome play here, as it is certainly in the realm of possibility on turn 3 and following it with another fatty is good while following it up with Balthasar will make you smile, guaranteed.
RD Shift Aggro
Looking back to the Armies-of-Myth–only tournament, the standout non-Majesty deck was Shift Aggro. Deepgaze Champion is a card to respect and fear, as suddenly a simple-looking Deadeye Ripper can turn into a large, speedy amount of damage coming your way. The deck has numerous avenues of reach, and with its need for Necrotic to turn on Sepulchra Crypt Dust and shift cards to enable Deepgaze Champion it likely doesn’t take much from Shards of Fate or Shattered Destiny.
Actions (Total Count)
Like most aggro decks in HEX, the synergies here are likely going to be underappreciated by most. For one, all the shift abilities with Tusker have important uses depending upon the matchup. Blackbelt continues to be one of my favorite cards in the set, and it really shows in decks like this one where double Urgnock activations, Invoker Shifts, or Deepgaze Champion pumps let the Blackbelt shoot down even Vampire Kings that normally would be bad news for a deck like this. Crackling Bolt and Iljun’s Parade mean that control has to respect that even a couple cards in your hand might represent huge amounts of damage to finish them off. Shift Aggro certainly has a glaring Heat Wave issue, but overcoming that it might be very well-positioned for taking on many of the other decks listed above.
Look, Vampires are really good in this format now. Lifedrain gives the aggressive decks fits, and decks that don’t care about getting hit by a VK typically care a lot about getting hit by a Vampire Princess (and vice versa). Like any good pair of cards, slap them in a Reese shell and watch as your opponent is forced to either come out hyper aggressive (into your Lifedraining Vampires mind you) or try and slow roll a long game (hope they have a plan for Reese and all deez Interrupts while also being able to do something about a potential turn 3 Princess threatening to eat their hand of interrupts).
Champion: Bertram Cragraven
One big secret now to Sapphire control decks is the flexibility that Arcane Focus and Peek allow you in deckbuilding. Being able to filter through your deck increases the power of 1- and 2-ofs tremendously, as you both can skip past them easier in situations they don’t matter and dig to them when they are potential blowouts. For instance: Dishonorable Death against RW now can be your best answer to a big Balthasar play, and it is okay against most decks but you really don’t want a 5-cost removal against Tusker Rush, so you can’t be filling your deck with it. Likewise, Drowned Shrine of Ulthar is a fantastic answer for opposing mono-Sapphire and Winter Moon decks (not to mention Balthasar), and Focus and Peek let you dig to the right answers in time while not being affected by the Shrine. Slaughtergear’s Innovation is another card I’ve touched upon above that can really shine when you already want Bertram, as an unexpected 5/5 hitting your opponent and then bringing back a Vampire (or heaven forbid a Reese that had previously surfaced) is earthshattering against most opponents.
If there is a card left that most speaks to me out of Armies of Myth, it’s gotta be Windsinger, Master of the Hunt. Fatties, resources, and cards are the foundation of how I like to push my edges if given the choice, and Windsinger gives an edge in all three. A butt that even Dinosaurs respect, double your resources given the chance, and cards for days all in one tight package.
Champion: Winter Moon
Again we see the Focus/Peek filtering engine at work, but this time it is supercharged thanks to Winter Moon. The goal is to use interrupts to survive the mid-game while setting up your filtering engine, as once all the pieces start falling in place (especially if you can get Windsinger online) you will be able to cruise to victory with a full grip of interrupts. Winter Moon decks have some glaring issues (notably, aggressive troops and Vampire Princess), so be prepared to kill some early troops out of your reserves.
This all is just the start. The format now feels very open to exploration—Tusker Rush will require you to think about how you deal with one-cost troops and mono-Sapphire will force you to have a plan for it but both of those decks allow for a high degree of interaction so you, the deckbuilder, have the flexibility to lean how you want. Gambit-combo decks, Hideous Conversion/Harvest of Souls decks, Winter Moon grindy decks, Sight of the Sun/Augur value decks, Five Shard Aggro—the choices are limitless right now so get busy brewing or get busy losing.