Burn Queen is a dominating tier 1 deck

Burn Queen is basically a Bandit Queen deck with a burn package of Kaleb’s Favor, Flame Blast, and Obliterate.  I originally didn’t realize that this deck gets more powerful at the highest levels of ladder, where there is more Combrei and control.  Having played a reasonable amount of this deck, here’s some data:

  1. Highly favorable matchup against non-aggro Combrei (79% winrate).  This deck absolutely preys on Combrei durdle decks tuned for the Boardstall Titan mirrors.
  2. 70% overall winrate (126W-55L).
  3. Early on in the season, I piloted this deck to #1 on ladder.  Currently my rank happens to be #2.

kalebs20favorbandit20queen

While I’ve discussed this deck before (here and here), this post will dive into the matchups and my most recent statistics on the deck.

Deck list

4 Flame Blast (Set1 #2)
2 Dark Return (Set1 #250)
4 Grenadin Drone (Set1 #5)
4 Oni Ronin (Set1 #13)
4 Pyroknight (Set1 #16)
4 Rapid Shot (Set1 #259)
2 Suffocate (Set1 #251)
4 Torch (Set1 #8)
4 Argenport Instigator (Set1 #268)
4 Kaleb’s Favor (Set0 #3)
2 Ornate Katana (Set1 #23)
1 Assembly Line (Set1 #29)
4 Champion of Chaos (Set1 #402)
3 Bandit Queen (Set1 #389)
4 Obliterate (Set1 #48)
9 Fire Sigil (Set1 #1)
5 Shadow Sigil (Set1 #249)
3 Diplomatic Seal (Set1 #425)
4 Seat of Chaos (Set0 #60)
4 Stonescar Banner (Set1 #419)

What the deck is about

 

Basically, this deck plays efficient units and good burn spells.

Against decks with sweepers, you want to commit enough units to the board to force the opponent to play a sweeper- but no more than that.  Any units held back can continue the attack if a sweeper is played.

Efficient removal spells like Torch, Suffocate and Rapid Shot remove blockers.  One play pattern is to throw out some 1-drops, followed by matching the opponent’s blockers 1-for-1 with removal.  This can allow the early units to get in a lot of damage and possibly put the opponent within burn range.  In the current meta, very few decks have interactivity for burn (e.g. sabotage, protect) so burn is fairly reliable at finishing off opponents.

Data

My winrate is 69.6%, consisting of 126 wins and 55 losses.  That’s 2.3 wins for every loss.

Matchups

Midrange and big Combrei (30-8, 79% winrate)

Combrei pilots are generally unfamiliar with this matchup and do not try to put on a clock against the Burn Queen deck.  Normally, sitting behind a wall of big butts is the correct line of play against traditional Bandit Queen decks which have very little ‘reach’ (some way of dealing face damage once the opponent has a better board position).  However, this turtling strategy is no good against burn spells.

Lack of aggression means that the Burn Queen pilot can wait around for their burn spells to get more powerful and to draw cards that would make attacks profitable (e.g. Bandit Queen, Rapid Shot on big evasive units like Champion of Chaos, etc.).

All Rakano variants (38-11, 68% winrate)

Burn Queen generally has a better tempo game than Rakano Warcry/Pants, the most popular flavor of Rakano.  Burn Queen wants to race and use burst damage to kill the Rakano player.

Feln (18-8, 69% winrate)

Lack of a proactive game plan by Feln means that Burn Queen can wait for Flame Blasts to power up.

4-faction control, as popularized by Finkel (10-7, 59% winrate)

One strength of 4-faction control is that it runs many cards that are very strong against Burn Queen:

  1. Efficient Combrei units.
  2. Boardstall Titan, which is an excellent answer to aggro and an excellent threat.
  3. 4 lightning storm, which is very strong against this deck.  Early cheap removal is excellent against Burn Queen.
  4. Harsh Rule, which is ok against Burn Queen.
  5. Harbinger Bat, a fairly resilient lifesteal unit with an amazing Summon ability.

If pilot skill were equal, I suspect that 4-faction would be slightly favored.

In practice however, there are reasons as to why 4-faction loses games against Burn Queen.  As with most control decks, the lack of a proactive game plan means that Burn Queen has a lot of time to wait for Flame Blasts to get powered up.  The 3-faction influence base means that this deck loses to itself sometimes and can stumble in the early game, allowing cheap units to land a lot of damage.  Lastly, the control deck often fails to draw the right answers.  The control deck needs to draw answers for 2-3 waves of aggression from the Burn Queen deck.

Jito Queen (10-8, 56% winrate)

I suspect that Burn Queen would be slightly unfavored against traditional Bandit Queen if pilot skill were equal.  (See my article on the nuances of Bandit Queen mirrors.)  Jito Queen runs more units than Burn Queen, giving it an advantage since units are more efficient than burn spells.  Lurking Sanguar is particularly useful in the “mirror”.

On the other hand, one advantage of Burn Queen is that it packs a lot of removal to deal with the best units in the matchup.  The optionality of removing problem units or going straight to the face is another benefit of burn spells.

Icaria Blue (4-1, low sample size)

Compared to 4-faction control, Icaria Blue has weaker answers and weaker threats (e.g. no Boardstall Titan).  It also has a weaker influence base.

Armory, traditional and newer brews (6-1, low sample size)

Armory is not good against go-wide strategies like Bandit Queen.  As well, relic weapons can be destroyed with burn spells.

Clockroaches- Elysian and dark variants (9-0)

Uh… free wins.

Tokens decks like Shimmerpack (1-2, low sample size)

These decks are excellent against Burn Queen.  However, they see very little play in the current meta because they are not tier 1.

Matchups recap

This deck is very, very good at punishing janky brews and slow decks (e.g. Clockroaches).  It also has a highly favorable matchup against Combrei (79%!!!), which is the most popular deck at the higher ranks of the ladder.  I suspect that Combrei is more popular in higher ranks since players don’t have shiftstone limitations.

The worst mainstream matchups are Bandit Queen and 4-faction control.  I had a positive win rate against these “bad” matchups, though pilot skill is a meaningful factor.  Because Burn Queen is currently a fringe deck, 4-faction control opponents have little/no experience playing against it.

Overall, this deck has an excellent winrate.  In practice, it doesn’t face any bad matchups.

Beating burn queen

  1. Burn Queen is weak against early removal.  Without unit damage it cannot win, since the deck is unlikely to generate 25 points of burn damage.
  2. Burn Queen does not run the most efficient cards.  Burn is good because it has very few answers in the current meta, not because it is efficient.
  3. Proactive strategies are good against Burn Queen.  Combrei pilots need to get more aggressive about ending the game before Burn Queen draws lethal burn.  Kaleb’s favor, Flame Blast, and Obliterate are the key differentiating cards.

Closing thoughts

I think that many players have missed how strong Bandit Queen is with a burn package.

  1. The Lightning Storm myth.  While Lightning Storm is strong against the Bandit Queen decks, the decks that play Lightning Storm often aren’t good against Bandit Queen.  Those decks are often reactive rather than proactive, giving the Bandit Queen deck many opportunities to win the game.  They give the Burn Queen variant lots of time to assemble good attacks and/or lethal burn.
  2. The skill myth.  Historically, many Bandit Queen pilots went for all-out aggression rather than being patient and holding units in their hand.  I think that a lot of people haven’t realized that there is room for innovation in piloting Bandit Queen and playing against it.
  3. Many top players haven’t tried it or played against it.  (To be fair, there are a lot of highly competitive decks out there.  It would take a lot of time to try them all.  Some decks like 4-faction control take a while to learn.)
  4. It doesn’t feel powerful.  Some games against Combrei end with the Combrei player with a (massively) dominant board position, but the Burn Queen side wins by being ‘lucky’ and topdecking a burn spell.  In reality, a win is a win.  Whether or not the winner had a dominant board position does not change a win into a loss.
  5. RNG’s tier rankings (link).  In the November list, Stonescar Jito (Jito Queen) fell to tier 2 while Rakano Warcry remained in Tier 1.

Perception is not the same as reality.  If you collect data in a spreadsheet, then you will get a better idea about how strong decks actually are.

 

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3 thoughts on “Burn Queen is a dominating tier 1 deck

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