This is a follow-up to Neon’s excellent article on Combrei mirrors, an extremely skill-intensive matchup that I punt often.
One of the nuances of the mirror is the 12-unit limit. If an opponent’s board already has 12 units, that opponent cannot use Siraf’s ultimate. So what you do is this… the opponent will likely figure out that they need to make bad attacks to free up room for Siraf’s ultimate. You can deny them a spin of the wheel by making non-lethal blocks, or no blocks at all.
If you happen to get Ephemeral Wisp off Siraf, it is an incredible blocker since it cannot kill attackers. Combrei Healer is another blocker that is often non-lethal.
Denial via not blocking
Sometimes less experienced players attack with their worst creature. If you have a very healthy life total, you can simply choose not to block. However, this is not a great idea if you also have a Siraf and are close to your 12-unit limit. Not blocking can be a form of denying your own Siraf, which isn’t really helpful since you are losing life for no reason.
When to play denial
Play Siraf denial when you have board advantage. For example, suppose that both players have Sirafs out. However, you have a Marshal Ironthorn or Mystic Ascendant that the opponent does not.
The recurring advantage that you get from Ironthorn or Mystic Ascendant means that one player benefits from the boardstall a lot more than the other.
Greedy Combrei versus non-greedy Combrei
Generally speaking, there are three flavours of Combrei:
- Aegis beatdown / Combregis (deck tech). Crownwatch Paladin, Silverwing Familiar, Copperhall Elite, Gilded Glaive, and Vodakan’s Stuff are cards unique to this deck.
- Midrange Combrei that is described in Sunyveil’s excellent Youtube videos. Xenan Obelisk is a card unique to this deck.
- What I call “greedy” Combrei, which is described in Neon’s article. There is an even greedier version that goes deep on the Vodakhan combo.
The greedier flavors of Combrei tend to benefit from longer games (due to higher card quality), so you could engage in denial simply to prolong the game. I don’t know if it’s a great idea, but you could do it.
In other instances, you may want to engage in a calculated beatdown plan with Siraf.
Suppose that one player has a low life total. Attacking with all of your units can force the defending player into making bad blocks. Complicated board states with overwhelm units can make the math complicated, so skilled players get an edge here. (Unfortunately I am not quick at doing these calculations.) The defending player could be forced to block with Siraf and let her die.
Sometimes you want to attack with one or a few of your biggest units that can’t get eaten by a single defender.
Overwhelm is one of the better traits since it can make your alpha strikes lethal (or close to it). Suppose that your opponent does lazy math and attacks with 3 units to get around the 12-unit limit. On the counterattack, you can throw 12 units against 9/10. For example, if you don’t kill any of the attackers, you could theoretically attack with 12 units versus 9 defenders (ambush units could change the equation). In any case, it is likely that 1-3 units will go unblocked. So that is guaranteed damage from your weakest units.
And then you have to factor in overwhelm. So the quick math shortcut is:
- Make some assumption about the number of blockers. e.g. Siraf makes a creature if you kill an attacker. And some assumption about Wasps and Desert Marshals in the opponent’s hand. Because many players will activate Siraf before attacking (because Icaria could pop out), they may attack into you with limited power. So you know how much desert marshals they can throw down give their power. You can also figure out if they have any desert marshals (or Stand Togethers) by closely watching the stops / priority windows as described in Neon’s article.
Knowing your number of attackers, you can safely assume that X of your weakest attackers will get through. That is “guaranteed” damage.
- And then your overwhelm units have “guaranteed” damage. One shortcut calculation is to assume that your overwhelm units get blocked by 1 unit and that those units are the highest toughness units on the opponent’s board. That should be close to the guaranteed damage number. Because an opponent can gang-block your overwhelm units, the shortcut calculation may not be the correct number. But it is a reasonable starting place.
So yeah… math.
Another route to victory is to silence all of the Sandstorm Titans (even your own) and to alpha strike with your flying units. That is another possibility to consider.
So yeah… more counting and more math. I’m telling you, these mirrors are skill intensive.
Siraf versus no Siraf
You may want to trade off units to capitalize on your advantage, giving your opponent less time to draw an answer and stabilize.
Recurring units – Ephemeral Wisp and Dawnwalker
In Combrei mirrors where at least one player has Harsh Rules, the recurring nature of these units is very relevant. There are some ways to buff these units, either with Combrei Healer or certain units that come from Siraf (Ijin, Imperial Armorer). Sometimes it is worth buffing these recurring creatures.