Grind ladder on a budget with Jito Queen

Jito Queen has a few characteristics that make it excellent for grinding ladder:

  1. It is the most aggressive deck in the game, which means that your games go really fast.  Faster games means that you gain gold and rank faster.
  2. It is a highly competitive deck.  While a deck’s strength depends on what other people are playing, Jito Queen is usually a tier 1 or 2 deck.  Jito Queen was one of the decks that I played to #5 last season.
  3. No legendaries, which means that new players can easily put it together.


Putting together the deck if you don’t have all the cards

Ways to get shiftstone:

  1. Turn your legendary Scions into shiftstone.  Only Vara sees competitive play… in tier 3-4 decks like Reanimator and Haunting Scream.  You can dust her too if you want.
  2. Draft.
  3. Play Forge and force the Stonescar (fire and shadow) factions.  Stonescar is bad in Forge mode, so I don’t recommend forcing Stonescar in Forge until you’ve hit the really high levels of Forge (where Forge is barely worth doing and you should probably be playing draft instead).  But you can force Stonescar in Forge just to get cards and not try too hard at actually winning Forge.
  4. Grind constructed.

If you don’t have enough shiftstone, don’t worry.  This post will look at budget substitutions.

Flavours of Stonescar aggro

RNG has an excellent video on Stonescar Jito lists.

Basically it breaks down into:

  1. Traditional Stonescar aggro without Frontier Jito at all.
  2. The most aggressive version of Frontier Jito, which runs (almost) all the 1-drops, 4X Lurking Sanguar, and lots of Shadowlands Guides and Rally.  You barf out your entire hand and hope that you don’t get wrecked by Lightning Storm.
  3. A more patient form of Jito Queen, which I will describe in this post.

Deck list

3 Blood Beetle (Set1 #260)
3 Frontier Jito (Set1 #9)
4 Grenadin Drone (Set1 #5)
3 Knifejack (Set1 #257)
4 Oni Ronin (Set1 #13)
4 Pyroknight (Set1 #16)
4 Rapid Shot (Set1 #259)
3 Suffocate (Set1 #251)
4 Torch (Set1 #8)
4 Argenport Instigator (Set1 #268)
2 Assembly Line (Set1 #29)
4 Champion of Chaos (Set1 #402)
2 Rally (Set1 #33)
1 Shadowlands Guide (Set1 #280)
3 Bandit Queen (Set1 #389)
2 Lurking Sanguar (Set1 #293)
8 Fire Sigil (Set1 #1)
5 Shadow Sigil (Set1 #249)
4 Diplomatic Seal (Set1 #425)
4 Seat of Chaos (Set0 #60)
4 Stonescar Banner (Set1 #419)

Card substitutions

1-drops:  If you don’t have enough, sub in more Frontier Jito, Knifejack, and Ticking Grenadin (the 1-drop that deals 3 damage when it dies).  Ticking Grenadin has synergy with Shadowlands Guide, so you can go in the direction of impatient all-in Jito Queen if you want.

Cutting or adding a few one-drops is fine too.

Removal (Torch, Rapid Shot, Suffocate):  Torch and Rapid Shot are the best removal spells in this deck, so run as many as you can.  Annihilate is a great card that can substitute for Suffocate.  Running 1 Annihilate and 2 Suffocates might actually be better than 3 Suffocates.

Deathstrike is not as great as annihilate but is a fine removal spell.  You can sub that in if you don’t have the other cards.  Combust and Madness are also fine cards that you can sub in.

Obliterate:  Not in the deck list, but it’s ok to sub in if you happen to have it and you are missing the other cards.  Piercing shot and Kaleb’s Favor are alright.

Argenport Instigator:  His damage output is very high (his ability tends to do a lot of damage to the opponent), so run as many as you can.

Champion of Chaos, Assembly Line, Shadowlands Guide:  The champion is better, but run additional assembly lines and Shadowlands Guides if you don’t have them. Shadowlands Guide is bad whenever you don’t have a 1-drop in your void;  a 3/1 for 3 is very underwhelming.  That’s why I prefer running only 1, though 2 should be fine.

Rally, Bandit Queen:  If you don’t have 3 Bandit Queens, substitute in rally instead.

Lurking Sanguar:  I prefer 2, but you can also run more and go in the direction of impatient all-in Jito Queen.

The basics of playing this deck

The impatient version of Jito Queen is more straightforward.  You puke out your hand, then press A and spacebar (the shortcuts for attacking with your whole army).

In the patient version of Jito Queen, we “play around” sweepers like Lightning Storm (in Primal decks) and Harsh Rule (in Justice decks).  Commit enough units to the board so that you can do around 4-6+ damage to the opponent per turn.  You want to commit enough units to the board to force the opponent to use a sweeper, but no more than that (if you can help it).  It’s like Goldilocks- not too little and not too much.

If an opponent has 4 copies of a sweeper in a 75-card deck, there is a roughly 50/50 chance that they will draw it in the first several turns.  So a lot of the time, they won’t even have a sweeper.  If they do have a sweeper and wreck your board, don’t worry.  You aren’t favored to win, but still have great chances of winning.  With the patient version of Jito Queen, you will be putting together 2 or 3 waves of attackers in a game.  There are many times where the subsequent wave will win you the game because opponents often don’t have answers for the subsequent waves.  They don’t always draw answers for 2-3 waves of attackers.  Pyroknight and Champion of Chaos are your attackers for the later waves.

The decks that run 4X Lightning Storm and 4X Harsh Rule tend to be 3/4-faction decks (because nobody at the moment plays Primal-Justice midrange with 8X sweepers).  These decks often get influence screwed and lose to themselves.  Jito Queen is very good at punishing influence screw.

There are some decks like Rakano pants that don’t run any sweepers at all, so just barf out your hand against those decks.


You need a hand that pressures the opponent right out of the gate.  If you don’t have an aggressive hand, mulligan.  You typically want at least 2 units that aren’t 4-cost, preferably 3+.

When to save removal

In some of the following matchups, you often want to save 1 piece of removal for problem units that might show up in the future.

  • Combrei decks typically run 10-12 copies of Combrei Healer, Siraf (best unit in the game), and Sandstorm Titan (5/6 that doesn’t die to suffocate).  They might also run 2-4 copies of The Great Parliament, which makes a 4/4 flying blocker.
  • Rakano might play 1-2 copies of Brightmace Paladin and Auric Sentry (1/5).  They might also run 0-4 copies of Silverwing Glaive, because the aegis-abusing plan of equipping the Lifesteal bird with equipment is backbreaking against aggro decks like Jito Queen.  (Note: it’s not always worth it to save removal against Rakano.)
  • Feln decks run 3-4 copies of Feln Bloodcaster (2/5) and Steward of the Past (3/5).  At 6-power, they may play Harbinger Bat which just wrecks you.  The way you beat Harbinger Bat is to apply pressure and hope that they don’t draw the 6th power.  Usually you shouldn’t save removal for it.

Some units are incredibly good against Jito Queen if you don’t have an answer for them.  That’s why we save removal for those problem units.

Calculate lethal

Always calculate if you can deal lethal damage to your opponent if you:

  1. Attack them with everything
  2. Have Argenport Instigator ability triggers deal damage
  3. Torch to the face
  4. Play Rapid Shot on unblocked units

Usually if you can go for a lethal line of play, you should take it.  Even if the opponent has fast spells that keep them alive, putting the opponent at low life means that they have to make bad blocks for the rest of the game.  Usually there is enough left in your deck that you can close out the game.

The way you do the math is that you assume that the opponent blocks your most powerful units and lets the weakest ones through.  Then calculate Instigator triggers based on the opponent blocking in a way that the fewest units die.  Then add up Torch and Rapid Shot damage.

More nuances

See my post “Nuances of patient Jito Queen“.

This is also a good deck to learn for high-level competitive play

Jito Queen can be relevant at the highest levels of play.  Here’s why:

  1. Due to the current matchmaking and shallow player pool, you will often get matched up against the same opponent repeatedly.  So, there is an incentive to requeue immediately with a deck that is great against the last opponent that you have played.
  2. Achieving the highest rank on ladder requires you to put together a streak of good performance.  Jito Queen games go faster and give you more chances of putting together a good streak.
  3. Some players know what deck you play all the time and will mulligan accordingly.  Lately I have seen Finkel only play 4-faction control, so I will mulligan accordingly.  Conversely, by playing Jito Queen, I force my astute opponents into mulliganing for hands that are good against Jito.  They have to specifically mulligan for Lightning Storm, some hand with 2 cheap units, or a cheap unit and certain removal spells (Harsh Rule doesn’t really count).  Hands that are good against Rakano aggro aren’t always good against Jito Queen, which plays very few units that Vanquish is good against.

Closing thoughts

Jito Queen is a little polarizing because:

  1. It doesn’t take that much skill to play against.  It is a fairly straight-forward matchup for Jito opponents.  (It takes more skill for the person piloting the Jito deck than the opponent.)
  2. It ends the game before sweet decks can do sweet things.  It is unlikely that a Clockroach deck will go off against a Jito deck.
  3. The Jito deck’s god draws are impossible to beat.  There are many draws that opponents can do absolutely nothing about.

Whatever.  Play Jito and dish out the salt!  😛  I don’t feel too bad about it because Jito games end quickly.  Play it until you and your opponents get bored of it.  Then you should have the shiftstone for something else.

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