Patch 1.18 definitely nerfs Champion of Chaos as she now dies easily to relic weapons. She will also trade with many units in combat, making her easier to block. She is no longer the hyper-efficient unit that could repeatedly get in damage. This also makes Dark Return less powerful because you would previously run Dark Return to bring back Champion of Chaos, essentially playing more copies of Champion. Now, 0-1 copies of Dark Return is likely correct.
The current list that I am playing is a fire heavy build that aims for a more consistent influence base. It doesn’t need double/triple shadow other than 1 copy of Cabal Countess and 4 copies of Champ. With many decks playing unit spam and Temple Scribe, Cabal Countess is weaker.
The power level of the deck feels Tier 1 or Tier 2. The deck is meta-dependent, with great matchups against most durdle decks (e.g. greedy Combrei, Vodakombo) and Armory. It is probably slightly unfavored against decks teching against it. Because this deck is slower with the nerf, aggressive midrange decks can race it better. I would note that every game involving burn is a race… the correct strategy against burn is to profitably race it. A common mistake against burn is not racing it.
3 Flame Blast (Set1 #2)
4 Grenadin Drone (Set1 #5)
4 Oni Ronin (Set1 #13)
1 Pyroknight (Set1 #16)
4 Rapid Shot (Set1 #259)
4 Torch (Set1 #8)
2 Annihilate (Set1 #269)
4 Argenport Instigator (Set1 #268)
1 Kaleb’s Favor (Set0 #3)
2 Quarry (Set1001 #15)
4 Vara’s Favor (Set0 #35)
1 Cabal Countess (Set1 #506)
4 Champion of Chaos (Set1 #402)
2 Shogun’s Scepter (Set1 #26)
4 Bandit Queen (Set1 #389)
4 Obliterate (Set1 #48)
2 Soulfire Drake (Set1 #47)
10 Fire Sigil (Set1 #1)
4 Shadow Sigil (Set1 #249)
3 Diplomatic Seal (Set1 #425)
4 Seat of Chaos (Set0 #60)
4 Stonescar Banner (Set1 #419)
Teching for the meta
Vara’s Favor: In the past, Vara’s Favor was a response to Stonescar Burn mirrors. Now, Vara’s Favor is there to deal with Time decks playing Initiate of Sands, Elysian decks playing Dawnwalker + False Prince, and of course Rakano.
Bandit Queen: Great against armory. An efficient unit in other matchups, she helps your Champion of Chaos (and friends) push through for damage.
Grenadin Drone: The card is great in almost all matchups. Previously, you would want to draw the first Grenadin Drone in a Stonescar Burn mirror but not the second. Now you don’t care about that and want to run 3-4 copies.
Shogun’s Scepter: This card has good damage output. It is vaguely like 4/2 worth of stats for a cost of 3. It pushes through 2+ damage the turn it comes down (more than 2 if it helps you make an otherwise unprofitable attack profitable). And you will often get the warcry trigger when it comes down. It is sometimes a liability if you draw it without any units to put it on. Bad against Boardstall Titan.
Quarry: Maybe extra copies are a good idea- I’m not sure.
Annihilate: There is a lot of Sandstorm Titan running around so we favor this over 1-2 suffocate.
Not blocking is a skill
Generally speaking… blocking suspicious attacks puts your units at risk of dying to combat tricks or postcombat damage. Often, your units can contribute to a push for lethal damage. So… the best defence is a good offense. Usually it’s better to kill the opponent than to block.
Why this deck doesn’t lead to a fun metagame
In my opinion, the problematic areas of the deck is:
- Burn- it is not interesting to play against. In some matchups, the burn spells lead to a removal heavy game where there isn’t interesting board states and the lines of play are clear. Dying from burn is rather un-interactive (though there is sort of some agency because you can race the burn player). In terms of metagame balance, burn pushes out slow durdle decks.
- Bandit Queen, NOT Champion of Chaos. Bandit Queen creates more games that come down to sheer luck. There are some god draws that are difficult to beat, though this deck isn’t as bad as the old Bandit Queen and Jito Queen decks with turn 4 kills. Secondly, Bandit Queen doesn’t lead to interesting blocking decisions.
- Cabal Countess. While she is not amazing in the current meta, she does contribute towards slower controlling decks being pushed out of the metagame. I remember a time when Big Combrei was considered a midrange deck and Clockroaches being the ultimate control deck.
The deck does have parts that are interesting to play against. Torch and Rapid Shot lead to interesting gameplay, especially when you are not sure as to which fast spell the opponent has. Rapid Shot opens up interesting possibilities for bluff attacks.
Burn: a long-term problem
To construct a burn deck, simply take the most efficient aggressive units and the best burn spells. This started with monofire, spread to Rakano, and then to Stonescar. When the other faction pairs get cards, it is possible that some of those factions will have very efficient aggressive units. If that happens, burn may take over the metagame again.
Burn is not a good mechanic for Tier 1 constructed play. I would like to see more of healthier, interesting mechanics like:
- Combat tricks.
- Simple cards that are secretly modal cards- Torch, tutors like Celestial Omen, etc.
- Tutors and toolboxes. 4-faction control was interesting to play against when the toolbox changed in response to the meta. Finkel tutoring for Decay was a revelation for me.
- Unit combat
- Sweepers. Playing with and against sweepers is a skill.
- The randomness of Siraf. Her randomness injects variety into games without having luck overpower skill. Whereas the randomness of power flood/screw leads to uninteresting games, Siraf’s randomness makes games interesting.
- Overwhelm, which is evasion without being uninteractive.
- Janky decks like Clockroaches that the game’s best players enjoy playing despite the low power level. This includes jank combos like A New Tomorrow + Flame Blast. People playing silly decks makes the metagame balance more interesting because your deck is rewarded for having dominating matchups against jank.
- Fringe decks based on synergies that are easily hated out, e.g. Haunting Scream.
I would like to see Direwolf Digital buff interesting gameplay and nerf unfun stuff like burn, Boardstall Titan, cards that add armor + Relic Weapons, Eye of Winter, etc. etc. A balanced metagame does not necessarily mean a fun metagame. I really miss the metagame before the wipe. It was dominated by Big Combrei but in flux and about to be taken over by burn. That metagame was balanced, diverse, and interesting to play.
Until burn gets nerfed… this is a reasonably good deck for grinding out a lot of games and winning. It’s nowhere as dominating as before but it gets the job done.