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Wurtil Wednesday: Championing the Opposition Part 2

Welcome back! If you haven’t caught the first part of this series, you can find analysis on the Blood, Diamond, and Ruby champions here.

 

Sapphire

 

Bertram Cragraven

What you expect:

95% of the time, it’s Dwarves. The other 5%, someone drafted the Volcannon and is shoehorning it into their control deck. If you haven’t played against Dwarves, it ranges from a plodding group of poor bodies up to a hyper-synergistic deck capable of attacking with 5/5s and 3/5 flyers on turn 4 while finishing you with a barrage of Volcannon damage.

What you look to do about them:

An entire article could be written about fighting against Dwarves, but the main point is that you will be facing a good deal of card advantage paired with artifact-based finishers. If you apply pressure quickly, you can put them in the position of sacrificing their synergy to stabilize their health and hopefully grind them down from there. If you plan on grinding down the dwarf deck, you better cross your fingers because eventually those Gearsmiths and Adepts will find a Volcannon…

What you look for in reserves:

Obvious stuff—artifact removal being the big one. Countermagic is occasionally an acceptable reserve option if you’ve seen Volcannon in one of the first games. While Dwarves can run you over with the War Hulk draws, any cards that normally would deal with that are likely already sitting in your maindeck anyway.

 

Feather Drifting Downriver

What you expect:

Feather fits in well enough with Wild, Diamond, and Ruby decks that it is hard to pinpoint if your opponent is on any specific one before the game starts, but likely the most infamous version (and typically hardest to beat when it comes together) is the Wild/Sapphire Boulder Brute deck. When Feather comes up, the first thought in your mind is normally “Can my deck beat a flying, Spellshield’ed 4/4 on turn 5”? The answer is typically “no”, so instead you can occasionally ignore that line of thought and focus on how you will deal with a flyer in general with your deck—and one typically backed up by Buccaneers to boot.

What you look to do about them:

Barring Spellshield, you can treat Feather much like Palamedes and Lionel in that you want to either find ways to remove the troop in response to the effect or you want to have the opponent on the back foot by the time they would normally be getting ready to use Feather’s power. Feather decks are actually typically a test of your draft skills as opposed to your playing ones; if you have drafted a focused aggressive deck or a flexible controlling one then you should have the right pathways to turn Feather into a poor use of charges. However, if your deck is clunky and lacks real ways to deal with problem troops then you can expect to get rolled over.

What you look for in reserves:

You have to dig deep to beat a Feathered Boulder Brute. Countermagics and Zombie Vultures turn into slam dunks. You might need to bring in just every troop you have with the words “Flight” on it and hope that they don’t have a pump spell, but normally that is just a sign that your draft had issues in the first place. Aggressive decks should just keep doing what they were doing; Boulder Brute is just as scary flying or not flying so the key is to create the initial attacks and force the opponent into blocks where your own actions can win combat.

 

Nin the Shadow

What you expect:

Normally Mill, but the occasional Blessing the Fallen deck does pop up trying to abuse Nin and a pile of Inspire troops. The Mill deck will likely be sporting some Twisted Fates and a host of defensive troops and actions to live long enough to let Fate decide your… er… destiny.

What you look to do about them:

Barring Nature Reigns or Winds of Change, you likely aren’t directly stopping a Twisted Fate (which is the real threat from most Nin decks). As such, even the most diehard control deck needs to look for ways to push damage onto the Nin player and find a way to kill them before they can take away your library.

What you look for in reserves:

The aforementioned constant removal easily comes in (and in the case of Nature Reigns is likely worth splashing for—just be sure to play at least two Wild Shards as you don’t want one milled away then suddenly your plan is over). The big thing, though, is to look for ways to increase the aggressiveness of your deck. Mesmerize and Repel are normally awesome cards, but not if the opponent doesn’t plan to kill you by attacking. Mill decks race you in a way that normal limited control decks aren’t equipped to deal with, so you need to transform yourself if you find out you are in that situation. If you already are the aggressive deck, then congratulations as you are now likely finding out why Mill is rarely a great limited strategy…

 

Wyatt the Sapper

What you expect:

Where Wyatt fits is more a process of elimination than anything else. WS certainly can work, but normally you are in Wild because you found an early bomb or Boulder Brute, and at that point Feather is normally too attractive to stay away from. RS tends not to lean into the controlling role too well like Wyatt enjoys unless the deck moves towards Dwarves, and at that point Bertram tends to be the choice. That leaves Diamond/Sapphire and Blood/Sapphire midrange and controlling decks as your most typical Wyatt opponents. Combining card draw with premium removal like Repel and Murder is a formula as old as TCGs themselves, and Wyatt decks are more than happy to fill that role in Shards of Fate limited.

What you look to do about them:

Honestly, not a whole lot. Wyatt decks are likely reactionary, so you can try a bit harder to force them into mistakes in reading what you are doing but otherwise you should stick to the plan you had in mind when you put your deck together. Wyatt is one of the harder decks to find counters to, mainly because really all the Wyatt player is doing is increasing their consistency while also gaining a bit of value—so it isn’t like you have a lot of ways to trump that which you aren’t already implementing.

What you look for in reserves:

Misfortune is about the only big one, as you should be guaranteed that they will survive long enough for you to play it and at the same time their charge power reduces the chances that you won’t get a 2-for-1 by the time you can play it. Otherwise, stick to your guns and bring in your reserves based more around reacting to whatever their primary bombs are if applicable.

 

Wild

 

Kishimoto

What you expect:

Kishimoto is the hallmark of the aggressive Wild decks, with Diamond/Wild being somewhat accepted but Mono-Wild being the most popular to exploit Honeycaps and Feral Ogres. Because charge powers work at basic action speed, a temporary buff like Kishimoto’s is only going to be beneficial for you if you are attacking with it—so decks that are trying to get the most out of their charges will only call on the pump bunny when they are naturally wanting to attack early and often anyway. The card to really be concerned about here is normally Cottontail Ronin. If they are on the play and you don’t do anything on the first two turns then Ronin will hit you for 1 + 2 + 3 = 6 damage and threaten to then swing as a 6/4 on the fourth turn thanks to Kishimoto; representing 12 damage from a single card is a big threat.

What you look to do about them:

Defensive speed is big against Kishimoto. It is okay to chump block a pumped troop with one of your irrelevant ones later in the game (think of it as doing better than you would against Zared—he would outright kill your 1/1 and allow their troop to swing through while Kishimoto kills your troop but doesn’t allow theirs to hit you). The thing you do not want is to be chump blocking on turn 4 or 5 against a Kishimoto activation, as normally that is a downhill slope towards losing. Naturally quick speed removal can be devastating against a Kishimoto activation, but the key to remember is that Kishimoto encourages the Wild player to try and enter a race scenario. If you can slow down the game and turn it into an attrition battle, Kishimoto can have trouble helping effectively in those situations as it doesn’t give the player many options other than what attacks they want to initiate (and even then, you get the chance to respond in kind with blocks).

What you look for in reserves:

Cheap, two-attack troops are the order of the day here, so bring out your Shadowblade Lurkers and Wild Childs to try and slow down their Ronins and Ogres. Do be careful of one thing though, which is that sometimes Kishimoto ends up as just the default champion of a Mono-Wild player who is a bit slower and focused on playing multiple Honeycaps and T-Hexes to smash face with. You probably have an idea if that is the case after game 1, but do be mindful of the fact that Mono-Wild can drop some of the beefiest troops in the game so don’t skimp on your answers to that.

 

Monika’Shin

What you expect:

The clear-cut sign of the Blood/Wild Shin’hare deck. The deck has two normal forms: The “tons of bunnies” version can range from unstoppable (Onslaught + multiple Command Towers/Bucktooth Commanders) to utter poop (none of those things) with very little room in between. On the other hand, the more aggressive versions look to beat down with Cottontail Ronins and Blood Cauldron Ritualists backed by pump and removal, and those are normally a bit more consistent while not offering the unbounded potential of Concubunny + global pump.

What you look to do about them:

Both versions of Shin’hare rely upon invidually fragile troops, so being prudent with your removal will be very important. Also, both versions get to utilize Concubunny, so your giant ground-pounders are likely to be chump-blocked infinitely if the game goes long. It is normally hard for the Shin’hare deck to get a full card worth of value out of their Battle Hoppers in combat, so it can be a delicate balance in that you are likely favored to grind them out if the game goes on, but you also risk running into multiple global pumps being dropped and the opponent killing you from nowhere if you don’t respect that ability. Shin’hare rarely grind people into dust, instead relying upon larger chunks of damage (either from a swarm or Blood Cauldron Ritualists) to take out the opponent, so try to keep a running calculation in your head of how much damage a Shin’hare opponent can do on a backswing if you leave them an opening. As long as you play a tight damage race against them they will be reliant upon drawing their bombs to keep up.

What you look for in reserves:

All your removal is likely going to be good here, as killing Ritualists and Commanders is often the key to victory. You are likely already maindecking anything with it, but Crush troops are also very effective as often the Shin’hare player tries to use a few strategic Battle Hopper chump blocks to live long enough to set up their counterattacks. Atrophy and Reversion are cards I will point out specifically as good against Ritualists, the former being something you likely want to cast on your own turn so that even if they pump the Ritualist with a sacrifice he won’t like to attack again.

 

Polonius

What you expect:

8 is a whole lot of charges, and with Wild’s control role often being limited to “Cast T-Hexes and block” that makes Polonius a champion that doesn’t see play all that often. Still, seeing Polonius is often a sign that the opponent is further cementing their plan of smashing you with big dumb things. Normally, these decks are heavy Wild with a splash for premium removal or bombs in a second shard (to take advantage of Honeycaps with the heavy Wild commitment while also using good control cards from a second shard to live long enough to dump a Squirrel).

What you look to do about them:

If your deck is aggressive, don’t keep slower hands against Polonius as the Polonius deck is likely going to be looking to get big troops online as soon as possible. If your plan isn’t around killing the opponent as fast as possible in every game, then you are probably safe to keep a shard-heavy hand and try to grind out the Polonius player in the mid-game. Always be aware that if the opponent gets to activate Polonius, you will have a very real threat on your hands to deal with—so when you get the 5 or 6 shards try to imagine in your mind how things should look like in a couple turns if the opponent gets a free 6/6. If you can’t handle it, then try to turn up the pressure and kill them before that happens. It is worth noting that you certainly can grind out a Polonius deck in terms of card advantage due to how expensive the charge cost is. While the opponent might get a free 6/6, a Kranok player by the same time has drawn 2 cards so as long as they can deal with the beastie they get the edge.

What you look for in reserves:

If you believe your deck is going to have to be the aggressor, then streamline down your expensive 5- and 6-cost cards that aren’t helping against Honeycaps and Boulder Brutes for 2-drops that hopefully can help kill the opponent before that happens. On the other hand, if you are looking for ways to win the midgame then go the opposite route and try to fit in those “giant-killers” like Mesmerize. Also, see if you have a glut of 3/4 or better troops you have access to; one big weakness of the Squirrel Titan is that it must attack, so if you can tandem block with an Avalanche Giant and a Paladin of Nagaan things will be looking up for you.

 

Running Deer

What you expect:

Running Deer is almost always a sign of mono-Wild, primarily those leaning very high on their curve which leads them to trying to leverage the health gain from Running Deer to survive against aggressive decks until their 4/4s and bigger start coming online. Other control decks that are afraid of aggro can certainly end up with Running Deer, but normally there are better champion options in all the other shards that lead them to playing something else (although if you see Blood/Wild with Running Deer, be cognizant that Pact of Pain might be showing up soon).

What you look to do about them:

If you are a very aggressive deck, this is likely a nightmare for you as that health gain will probably be very important to their stabilization. Automatically assume they start at 25 for the sake of doing your combat math when determining early attacks, and look to lean heavily on your evasion/finishers if you have them. Thankfully, if you are on the opposite end of the spectrum and already playing towards a long game then the health increase likely isn’t going to be a big difference maker for them, so feel free to keep slower or shard-heavy hands. You still need to be aware that they are likely building towards some giant monsters, so if your deck isn’t equipped to handle Honeycaps, Brutes, and T-Hexes then you may find yourself struggling to come away with a win—but at least note that these decks traditionally have a vulnerability to flyers + chump-blockers in the late game even with the health gain, so prioritize keeping your flight troops alive a bit more in this matchup.

What you look for in reserves:

Again, more beef and ways to counter their beef is going to be the order of the day if you have them, so pack in those Bloodcrazed Zealots and Heavy Welding Bots. Running Deer mono-Wild decks are very much a matchup test most of the time. Either your deck is equipped to handle big beasties through removal or your own fat or you are going to be crossing your fingers that they miss a shard drop or two.

 

Shattered Destiny looks to be bringing more Champions, and more importantly new cards to synergize with what we already have. The loss of 2 packs of Shards of Fate also means a big swing in some archetypes (Flying Boulder Brutes shouldn’t be near the problem they are now), so it should be exciting to learn what our new builds should look like in the months to come.

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