The Tale of Horus Traver (TToHT) is here! In addition to bringing a ton of exciting lore to the game, the adventure campaign has provided us with several new powerful cards. Let’s break down some of the strongest cards and look at how the metagame might start to change. In case it wasn’t apparent, there will be card spoilers (but no story spoilers.)
Tavrod, Auric Broker
Without a doubt, Tavrod is the best card from TToHT and is now one of the best cards in the game. His impact will be widely felt: not only does he fit into some currently existing decks, such as Armory, he has made his own new archetype, Minotaur/Argenport Midrange. I do think a full Minotaur approach will be the best way to use him as far as straight Argenport goes, and that to use him effectively will require you to at least dedicate a handful of Minotaurs to your deck unless you’re taking the Armory route.
Regardless of your approach, Tavrod offers a lot. As a 5/7 Endurance at the bargain cost of 5JJSS, Tavrod is among the biggest units in the game, bouncing off of Sandstorm Titans and Heart of the Vaults. He dodges a plethora of removal: Obliterate, Annihilate, Permafrost, Torch (in fact, he lives through two), and all relics weapons before being buffed. Vanquish, Deathstrike, Slay, and Harsh Rule are the only commonly played pieces of removal that will kill him. Should you attack with him, your opponent will be in for a world of hurt: drawing up to two cards and having them both get tremendous buffs is often enough value to usually win the game on the spot. Looks like this broker is investing in grave plots for all the decks that can’t deal with him.
Crimson Firemaw is another powerhouse card from the adventure. This dragon fills up a much-needed void in the 4-cost slot for Fire. Crimson Firemaw would be playable as just a 5/4 Flying for 4FF, but it gets even more: hitting the opponent reduces the cost of the next card in your deck by four (note: it applies to the first card in the deck that is a valid target, like Warcry or Elysian Trailblazer.) This will undoubtedly make some huge blowouts, such as 1-cost Obliterates.
While Crimson Firemaw will more than likely slot into many fire decks, it most benefits decks that didn’t already have access to solid four drops units. Decks like Rakano and Skycrag will be quite happy to use this card. It also fits into Praxis, where it may create a more aggressive spin on the deck while working with the 5-attack-matters theme. Perhaps we may even see a return of Mono Fire.
This unassuming Yeti packs a whole lot of utility. As a 3/2 Overwhelm for 3F, it’s just large enough to present a threat. It’s real power comes from the Summon ability. Early game, it can stop defenders like Combrei Healer and push your opponents closer to burn range. Late game, it can exhaust an enemy unit and give you the final push you need to turn secure lethal. If that weren’t enough, it has Warp, giving you effectively free card draws and allowing epic late-game topdecks (or topwarps, I should say.) Like Crimson Firemaw, it fills a hole in a rather weak spot in the Fire faction’s curve. Expect this card to see plenty of play.
Another likely piece of the Minotaur deck, Auric Interrogator is a solid 3-cost Shadow unit. Letting him live for a turn and increasing his power by one can be a little difficult to accomplish, but if you do, you’ll be greatly rewarded with an easy stream of extra cards. Even when you can’t make him beefier, a 4/3 for 3SS is a reasonable body. This card does require a bit of build around to be truly useful, but given his aggressive slant, you’ll likely be putting him with cards you’d already be putting in a deck that wants to beat down the opponent. Some easy activators include Bandit Queen, Xenan Obelisk, Dark Return, Jack’s Knife, Rapid Shot, and Relentless Gorehorn.
Power Stone doesn’t seem to have an immediate home, but it’s certainly a rock-solid card. In addition to ramping you nicely into 4-cost cards, it also is much harder to remove, unlike the fragile Initiate of the Sands it best compares to. I imagine it’s most likely home is in some sort of Combrei shell, where it allows for turn four Harsh Rules without requiring you to lose Initiates of the Sand. It also likely slots into Praxis or even Xenan.
Is this the card Lifeforce needed to finally become a strong contender? With this, Sadistic Valkyrie, Cruciation, and maybe even Auric Interrogator, Lifeforce gained a lot of tools in TToHT. I’m not sure it will be a top deck in tournament, but I think it finally gained enough to be a respectable deck on ladder. Outside of Lifeforce, Theurge will likely be a nice sideboard card for Time decks to fight fire-based aggro decks like Burn Queen and Skycrag.
Analyzing the New Metagame
It’s quite likely an Argenport deck of some sort is going to be strong. With Tavrod entering the metagame, several cards get affected. First, Obliterate gets a bit worse, as it now will have a popular and incredibly powerful unit that it can’t kill, something it has never had to deal with before. This might seem insignificant, given that Obliterate goes to the face, but the change may very well be significant enough for burn decks to have to adapt in a large way. No longer can they expect to have removal to virtually all units that hit the board as long as they make it to 5 power. Argenport is also the faction with the most lifegain opportunities, which further puts stress on Obliterate and Fire-based aggro decks as well. While Obliterate gets worse, unconditional removal gets a bit stronger: Slay, Deathstrike, Vanquish, and Polymorph get a lot more powerful when Tavrod is around. Regardless, I think the existence of Tavrod decks will shape the metagame more than anything else has for quite some time.
Next, Auric Runehammer is likely to see a lot more play. In addition to being a likely inclusion in most Tavrod decks given its insane power when hit by Tavrod’s ability, it also has a fair number of new targets to hit, namely Crimson Firemaw. This creates a weird situation: the best response to Auric Runehammers is often to play bigger units, but those will also be at a disadvantage because of more Slay’s being jammed into decks. What goes around both Runehammer and single target removal is going wide strategies, which we haven’t seen be very effective in quite some time. With this environment and the new Power Stone, can Shimmerpack make a comeback? Perhaps even a go-wide Praxis deck may emerge.
While there are a lot of new tools to fight Fire-based aggro decks, they did gain two new strong cards in Cinder Yeti and Crimson Firemaw. The former offers a new way of pushing damage early in the game while the latter gives a lot more reach and midgame power. Now, regardless of the supporting faction, Fire decks have (still) the strongest early game units and powerful flying cards at turns four and five; whatever damage fire decks couldn’t get in early it can finish late. Any deck that wishes to be competitive will have to make sure it can deal with Crimson Firemaw followed by Soulfire Drake. This combination may even be one of the best ways of dealing with Tavrod decks, as they don’t have Sandstorm Titan to fall back on like most midrange decks we’ve seen until now.
Dinosaurs, which has proven itself to be viable, gains a new tool with Dilphex Stalker. Though weak by itself, it gets tremendously powerful with dinosaur synergies backing it up. Elysian midrange now has two flavors and can adapt for whatever the metagame is giving it. Whether it will do well is yet to be seen: it will have to deal with more Slays and more aggressive Fire decks, two things it typically hates to see.
Praxis gains a lot of options and may get to see the biggest makeover. Crimson Firemaw, Power Stone, and Waker of Ancients offer a lot of options for the deck to change in different ways; it could play Waker of Ancients in order to keep a stream of Warp units, play Power Stone for more ramp options, or opt for Crimson Firemaw for a more aggressive approach. I think it’s likely it will adopt Crimson Hellmaw in the long run, as a midrange deck that has very few ways of dealing with Tavrod is likely to go extinct unless it can adapt.
Lastly, we have our two main control decks, Feln and Chalice. If Tavrod Armory catches on (“Armoory”, coined by our own TonyGeeeee), Feln will definitely take a hit. The fate of Chalice is a little more uncertain. With Vision of Austerity, it gets a lot weaker in the sideboard from any factions able to play it. Eylin’s Choice is also a bit weaker vs. Tavrod as just attacking allows you to draw the 1-2 cards off his ability. Being in Argenport, they also have time to put up a protect before it comes down. They could incorporate more Vanquishes, but that leaves them vulnurable to other threats. Lastly, if Chalice can come back in a big way, it may struggle vs. the Shatterglass Mages and mass of warp units from their deck.
That’s all for now. TToHT has already had a big impact on the metagame in the few hours it’s been playable. What decks do you think will compose the new Tier 1?