Hello everyone! As we go into the brand new meta of the Dusk Road, one thing is clear – the meta is going to change a lot. We have tons of new decks being tested, and significant modifications to old decks. I am as excited as everyone for this time, and with exams over, I have plenty of time to test, and to write! Those familiar with me are probably aware of the deck I’ve been trying to sculpt up until now, Temporal Control. I want to take some time to introduce you all to where the deck is now, how I got from the beginning nuggets of an idea to this point, and talk about the various ways to construct it. I got a lot of feedback on the Chalice article a few months back that I focused too much on construction, and not enough on how to pilot the deck, so we’re going to do it differently this time. The first half of the article is going to be about construction, card options, and the brief history of the archetype so far. The second half is going to be about piloting: the good match-ups, the bad match-ups, and how to navigate them. I’d like to preface this whole thing with a disclaimer: This deck is not complete yet, and it’s likely that the Temporal Control of a month from now will look different in some meaningful ways. I’ve had a week of iterations and comparisons with other people who have been working on the concept, and that’s not nearly enough time to refine a reactive control deck to a new meta.
Before getting started, I want to say that I haven’t done this on my own. I’ve been pretty public about what i was working on, and there’s been an amazing response from community members who wanted to know the latest builds, and many who started trying new ideas and reporting the results back to me. In particular, I want to thank my teammate Tatavath – he has been an amazing help throughout the process. To everyone who has followed along, or tried some new idea for the deck, thank you for the help.
Let’s dive into this!
What is Temporal Control?
Temporal Control something daring, some new…and also something old, from the first days of Eternal. The fundamental premise is not a new one: run a unit-less control deck, find a win condition that is hard to stop, then pack your deck with card draw and removal spells, and stall the game until you overwhelm them with your deck’s tools. There were unit-less control decks back in closed beta, but they haven’t been competitive in a long time. I believe that the Dusk Road can change that, with the addition of Temporal Distortion and a few other critical cards, the archetype can be revived.
What makes this style so potent, and simultaneously so hard to make work? It’s potent because it breaks the rule that every other deck follows: being creature-focused. Because every deck is creature focused, every deck is packing cards to fight each other’s creatures, and is prepared for creature combat. By being the exception to the rule, everyone else is not built correctly to fight you. All of their vanquishes, annihilates, slays, combusts, and etc are completely useless, while all of your cards are live. This deck is hard to make work for the exact same reason: the basic building blocks of Eternal don’t intend for this kind of deck to exist. We ignore a huge portion of the game’s cards automatically by not running creatures, and rely on the remaining cards to build a functioning deck. We’ve had to rely on imbalanced tools for this style to exist, like in Closed Beta, or for there to be enough powerful cards to construct the strategy like I believe there is now.
Because this is an unfamiliar archetype, i’m going to put the decklist early on in the article, so everyone has a rough idea what we are talking about. Here it is:
Now, is having a history section for a week old archetype ridiculous? Yes, yes it is. However, I think it is important to walk you through the various ideas that have been thought of along the way, what worked, and what didn’t. So let’s start with the basics: where did the idea come from?
Well, the idea sparked the second I saw the namesake card. Temporal Distortion. The idea was that you stall until 8 mana, play Temporal Distortion, then use their turn to clean up their board. From then on, you effectively have two turns, and you can use those turns to cast draw spells and interaction spells, going into hyperdrive until you defeat your opponent with Channel the Tempests and (at the time) Aid of the Hooru. On launch day, I crafted my Temporal Distortions, and started slapping together the very first draft, which looked like this:
To be blunt…this list was terrible. My first draft was a swing and a miss on multiple fronts. There were four critical problems with the deck. I’m going to lay them all out here, because the improvements to the deck have mostly been trying to patch this four critical, initial problems.
1 – The curve. With 14 cards that cost six or more, you’re going to have dead hands way too often.
2 – The ability to actually win the game. With four Channel the Tempest and two Aid of the Hooru as my only ways to win the game, it was very possible to just run out of ways to win. If I have to use 2 early Channels on their units and then they kill the owls from my first Aid, I can control the board all I want, but I’m almost out of ways to actually kill the enemy. Because of this, I was forced to hold Channels, or aim them at the enemy face when I would really prefer to aim it at their Mystic Ascendants and Great-Kiln Titans.
3 – A lack of persistent card draw. You might be seeing a deck where a solid half of the cards are draw spells and be laughing at that, but the problem was that I burnt through my own resources so quickly that I had to be drawing three+ cards a turn to keep up. If I went a couple turns without finding a new draw spell, I would just be out of gas, top-decking 1 card a turn until I found the next piece of fuel, or died. I usually died in that moment. Unit-less decks of old used Staff of Stories to fix this problem, by adding a persistent card draw element, but Staff of Stories is nowhere near as appealing as it used to be.
4 – Death via utility creatures. Without any creatures of my own, I have nothing to block the random Temple Scribes and Combrei Healers and Feln Bloodcasters everyone has lying around. If I couldn’t land a removal spell on every single one, immediately, I would lose health, and I had no way to regain that health. I found myself frequently dying to chip damage from random two attack minions because I ran out of ways to remove them, or because they piled up some damage and then I ate a pile of torches.
However, I had not lost hope! While the list itself was a disaster, I did learn a lot. My focus initially was solving problem two: the win conditions. I decided I needed to find a single card that could win the game, on it’s own, without any realistic ways for the opponent to interact with it. My theory was that if I could find such a card, I wouldn’t need to be stingy with my Channel the Tempests anymore, and I wouldn’t have any more fears of running out of ways to win. Surely, somewhere in Eternal, such a card existed. I opened up my collection, scanned every card in the game, and came up with this:
Surely, I thought, this plan was flawless. I don’t need to worry about running out of channels if I can just reshuffle my void into my library and redraw them, right? Turns out, the plan was flawed. While Reclaimer does cause an infinite loop of drawing your void back, you still have to sit around and wait to actually draw them. This is when problem three really became noticeable: I’ve shuffled all my Channels and Aids back into the deck, but i’m out of card draw, so now i’m sitting around hoping to draw them whilst my opponent has a million years to find a way through my depleted removal. I started tracking the % of games I would lose after casting Reclaimer, and the numbers told me all I needed to know. This card, while insanely fun, was far from an all-purpose win condition. I knew it could be great complimenting a real win condition versus certain match-ups, but that relegates it to sideboard tournament use. With that, I said goodbye to the premium Reclaimer I had crafted, and did another look through all the cards. Here’s the second card I came up with to fix this problem:
I decided to go old school and try what some of the original unit-less control decks did. Protect yourself, then bash over the head with a giant sword. My initial results were mixed – it was much better at actually winning the game then Lumen Reclaimer, but far easier to remove. I started experimenting with the new card Disjunction as a singleton, along with an Excavate, so I would have ways to reuse my sword, and it started flowing much better. I would later modify this to being more Disjunctions, and omitting the Excavate.
I decided it was time to tackle problem four, because death to Amber Acolyte was getting annoying. I already ran Lightning Storms and Harsh Rules to catch them in, my problem was that I would be forced to use those early instead of waiting for the enemy to be forced to over-extend, because I couldn’t afford to take the ticking damage. The solution was pretty simple: either I needed a free way to kill off utility minions all of the time, or I needed a source of persistent healing that would let me absorb their beats while I waited for the enemy to overextend. Option one, free constant creature kills, of course does not exist, but thankfully option two does:
It was at this point that my deck started absorbing a lot of the aspects of the Visage Control decks of old. I had the Sword of the Sky Kings, the Visages, and the recursion to bring the Sword back. Turns out that sometimes you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, just re-use it. This worked pretty well – it solved problem four, and helped lessen problem two. I was very pleased with the results, and though I cut back the number of Visages from four to two, I’m very happy with the influence they have had on the deck.
Two down, two to go. Problem one was next on the docket, where I realized that I had to be able to trim down on the big spells. Turns out, I could just do that. By adding the new win conditions, I was safe to trim both the Aid of the Hooru, a couple Temporal Distortion (starting at four was lunacy I never should have done), the third Celestial Omen, and the New Tomorrow. I didn’t cut all of these cards at once, more trimmed them over time until I had the much more reasonable number I do in the current list, where I don’t currently anticipate any more trims.
Now, just problem three left. I briefly tried staff of stories, but that card is not impressive nowadays. All seemed lost…until I noticed this random little uncommon in The Dusk Road…
At first when I saw this card, my eyes just glanced past it, writing it off as draft chaff. It took a few reviews of the set for me to properly pay attention to this card, and realize what it had the potential to be. This card is everything that Staff of Stories once was, but possibly better. Because it’s a relic, it’s hard to remove, and because it’s not a relic weapon, it can’t be attacked. The fact that you have to pay the power is of course significant, but offset in the late-game because of Temporal Distortion. This card can cost a lot of tempo, but used correctly it keeps you drawing through the whole game.
Once the Moondials were put in the deck, everything started to click together. A lot of small incremental changes happened throughout the list – the largest of which being the addition of Auric Runehammers and the removal of Wanted Posters, but the deck really started to function once it had all the critical pieces mentioned above. With these last changes, we come to the current list. I should mention a second line of development that I’ve seen several people doing, which I’ve coined “Temporal Owls”. This list, instead of cutting the Aids and New Tomorrows, capitalized on them by adding ramp, more of those cards, and The Great Parliament. I love seeing people try different things, though I do have my doubts about this approach. I’m not going to put a list for it here, because I think the deck in it’s current iteration is strictly worse then my interpretation of it. I do hope someone can champion this style and show it’s potential though, and I thought it was worth mentioning here. Since my version needs a nickname if I’m giving this version one, I’ve decided to call my version “Temporal Blade”, since it wins with relic weapons.
In truth, considering Temporal Control a new archetype is a bit of a stretch. It’s become an evolution on Visage Control, using new Dusk Road tools to patch a very struggling deck. But with this, we end the history and construction portion of the article. Now, let’s talk about how to actually play it!
To be honest – I’m not really sure how to write this part. It’s hard to put into text what you really have to learn by doing. But I used that excuse to get out of doing it last time, so I’m just going to type things and see what happens. This section will all be done from a ladder perspective against unknown opponents: Best of one, and no idea what deck you are facing. I’m going to frame this is as a four point discussion:
- Overall Gameplan
- Early Phase
- Late Phase
Overall Gameplan – How does the deck win?
Like any control deck, the way you win is by spending the early phase of the game disrupting your opponent’s strategy, and then enacting your strategy in the late-game, which will presumably be too large for your opponent to disrupt. Each control deck has it’s own tools for those steps. For us, our early game defense is almost entirely removal-based. We don’t run creatures (Desert Marshal, contrary to popular opinion and basic reading comprehension, is not a creature but a two power removal spell), so we need to address each and every threat our opponent plays directly. This is a very delicate balance, because we need to not run out of answers, or we lose. It is critical to weave in draw spells, and learn when you can leave a threat alive for a few turns to be hit by a sweeper later. It is also critical to find times to weave in our relics: we run several expensive relics in the deck that we want to develop as soon as possible.
Should you successfully navigate those first several turns, we leave the early phase of the game and reach the later phase. In this phase, we need to continue doing everything from phase 1, but also start assembling a way to actually win the match. This phase can be very complicated from a piloting perspective: most control decks get to start ignoring a lot of the enemy threats because they’ve built up sufficient blockers at this phase. Since we don’t block, we need to continue lining up removal to the enemy’s attacks as we proceed. The short answer to this section is this: the longer the game goes, the more power we have to work with. With more power, comes more Moondial draws, more Channel the Tempests, more draw spells as a whole, letting our deck start to draw out it’s resources faster and faster. We need to translate this velocity into developing a relic weapon, and clearing the creatures in the way so it can smash face. Usually the win comes down to a mix of relic weapon beats and Channel the Tempests at the face, but this deck properly piloted can win with only weapons, so you don’t need to be concerned about using your Channels on other targets.
The mulligan phase is a critical part of any match. Many games are won or lost here without ever realizing it. I’m still learning the nuances of mulligans with this deck, but here’s a checklist of what to look for:
- Some kind of early interaction. Vanquish, Lightning Strike, Lightning Storm.
- Some kind of early card advantage. Strategize, Wisdom of the Elders, Moondial, Find the Way.
- A sufficient power count. My general preference is at least three power, with a sufficient influence spread for your hand.
- Not too much of any of the above. Too much of any of these can be deadly in the wrong match-up. A hand of three power and 4 early removal spells is going to fail horribly against decks like Feln, Chalice, or Grenadins, a hand of card draw will lose to aggro. Our goal is for a balanced hand.
- A limited number of late-game spells. Having one, or sometimes even two, in an otherwise balanced hand is functional, but you don’t want to be flooded with them.
Now, if you recognize your opponent, and know what they are playing, obviously adjust this. But for a blind opponent, these are good guidelines to know as you start playing – the more you play with the deck, the better you will get at it.
The correct lines throughout any one game are highly subjective, and explaining them in an article is near-impossible. So I think my best bet is to leave some tidbits of things to think about as you navigate these early turns:
- Identify your opponent’s deck, or at least rough archetype, as soon as possible. This information is particularly critical to a control deck: it helps advise when to use an early Lightning Storm and when to hold it back, what card to put to the bottom with a Strategize, and whether or not to keep a card off of a scout. A large portion of my losses can be traced back to an incorrect early game choice because I had failed to identify the enemy archetype yet.
- Try to line up your current removal tools not just to the currently existing threats, but ones they will cast over the next few turns. Once you know the archetype, you can map it out mentally – think about how they will play around your Harsh rule, when they will be developing a large threat like an Impending Doom, and what your tools at hand are to handle them.
- Keep an eye on your count of Primal Sigils. This decklist goes pretty greedy on the Primal Sigil to Cobalt Waystone ratio, running only two Sigils to fit in three Waystones. As a result, you only have two Primal Sigils to search for. This is particularly relevant when considering your Eilyn’s Favor, but also you need to be aware when you should tutor out a Primal Sigil and when you shouldn’t. This is something that comes with deck familiarity, but just be aware of it.
- Scouting and Strategizing: Remember what you put on the bottom! If you end up in a scenario where the preferable play is to scout the Sword of the Sky King to the bottom, remember that, because you now need to either build a winning plan that doesn’t involve the sword or use Celestial Omen to retrieve it. It is totally acceptable to put yourself in this scenario, but you need to remember that you are in it.
Beyond this, there’s not much to say: remove things, and draw cards when you don’t need to remove things. With practice you’ll get the hang of it.
The late-game is really strange in this deck. If you enter it pretty far ahead, you enter the part of the game LightsOutAce refers to as “The playing cards at random phase”, where you have so much power and so many cards that nothing really matters. When you don’t though, there’s some things you need to keep in mind:
- If a Moondial is not already established, establish one as soon as possible. I’ll often Omen for a Moondial over a Temporal Distortion or Channel the Tempest come the late-game, because it guarantees my continuing draws. It can often feel like it’s unnecessary to find and then use the Moondial, that you have all the resources you will ever need, until you suddenly run out.
- Keep track of how many of each of your resources you have already used. When i’m not paying enough attention, I’ve found myself playing around digging for the last Harsh Rule or planning to Omen for a Channel the Tempest, only to discover that I’ve used them all already. Try not to be too inefficient with resources, you have a lot but you can run out if you aren’t at least a little bit careful.
- When possible, hold extra Cobalt Waystones in hand. Don’t mess up your play lines to accomplish this, but having them as free aegis refreshes can really come in handy.
- When you are in a pretty stable position, it’s generally best to hold a Celestial Omen in hand. It’s a judgment call every time on this, but holding one as a panic button against something unexpected happening can be a life-saver.
- General Channel the Tempest lesson: keep a careful count of your hand size, and what you may need to Channel in upcoming turns. Sometimes the right play is to not play that 9th land in case you need to Channel a Worldbearer the next turn, or to Channel on your turn instead of casting Temporal Distortion into Channel so you can actually kill the enemy unit.
- Don’t try to rush the whole “winning” thing. Often the safest course is the slow victory, where you use your weapon + visage armour to kill units instead of removing them directly to hit face. You learn this more through play, but you don’t often need to rush winning. One of the most common questions I’ve been asked is “How do you win if they have a bunch of face aegis to block Channel”, and the answer is smash face with sword and don’t worry about Channeling face.
I’d like to leave a few parting thoughts here as I wrap up the piece. I’d like to thank everyone who read this far in the article. I’d also like to thank the many people who have helped along the way in constructing this deck. It’s far from done, but it’s come a hell of a long way. To those wondering – yes, I will play this in the first week of ETS. No, I won’t tell you my sideboard plans, I’ve got to keep something to myself. I hope you all enjoyed the read until this point, and as a light-hearted way to round this out, I have an announcement:
SPG is currently running the first official Blooddial Games! This is a competition to see who can get the most confirmed kills with a Moondial in Temporal Control. To be clear, your deck needs to be a Temporal Control deck (alternate faction variants of the deck are acceptable), you must be playing ranked, and you must kill the opponent with the damage from the Nightfall from Moondial. If the opponent surrenders prior to the Moondial damage connecting, it does not count. All Moondial kills must be screenshot and sent to me for verification. Is there a prize for this? No, of course there isn’t. But the competition is still fierce, and much bragging rights are involved. Currently Tatavath leads with 4 Blooddials.
And that’s all I got, folks. I hope you had a good holiday season, and may the draws always be in your favour!