Skycrag Yetis in-depth Deck Tech
A guest article from Alison of TQG
It’s no secret that Yetis have fallen out of favor recently. The recent dominance of Saber-Tooth Prideleader decks has given x/1 aggro decks a headache. While aggro was still very much a viable strategy, it tended towards overstatted units and combat tricks (eg. Combrei Aggro) rather than going extremely fast and flooding the board, because that strategy was just really bad against Prideleader.
But that was all changed with the latest balance patch. After seeing heavy nerfs, Even Elysian – the most popular Prideleader deck – has fallen out of favor. Teacher of Humility’s nerf to a 3/2 was particularly favorable for Yetis. Not only does it discourage people from playing Elysian, it also makes Teacher vulnerable to Blazing Salvo, allowing Yetis to push through an early Teacher with a lot more consistency and tempo. With these shifts to the meta, it’s not surprising that Yetis would once again rise as a player in the meta, embracing Blazing Salvo over Howling Peak Smuggler as their go-to Market fetcher of choice.
My teammate Lucia (who is an excellent Yetis player and deckbuilder) has released her take on Yetis, inspired by AhornDelfin’s version. It has performed extremely well in testing – Lucia got a 14-win streak, my other teammate Kaelos went 23-4 on stream, and I myself got a 10-win streak and made rank 1 with the deck. Let’s break down why Yetis is so effective and how to pilot it effectively.
If you’ve played as or against Skycrag Yetis at all, you’ll know that Yetis tries to flood the board with tons of cheap, furry critters to quickly amass a board presence and smack away at the opponent’s life total. By nature of running a large mass of small, cheap creatures, Yetis is naturally inclined to go wide rather than tall. That means that effects that buff all the units on your board will naturally work well with the Yeti strategy.
In such strategies, the typical board-buff of choice is Xenan Obelisk, a card that has seen play throughout many Eternal metas and was one of the best cards in a tier 1 deck just recently. With such an impressive track record behind it, it should come as no surprise that any card that can surpass it must be a very powerful card indeed. Yetis has not one but two ways to improve on Xenan Obelisk.
The first improvement is Wump, Party Starter. Wump grants all Yetis +1/+1, so he is almost like a Xenan Obelisk. But even though he costs 1 less, he provides a 2/2 body and can also allow your Yetis to easily burn the opponent’s face while triggering Infiltrate or Infiltrate-style effects such as Fearless Yeti when summoned. That is a major upgrade on a card that was already very good.
The second improvement is Thudrock’s Masterwork. Much like Wump, Masterwork also provides +1/+1 to all your Yetis for only 3, but it also comes with three very relevant spells that are very tempo efficient. They allow you to push damage through enemy blockers very efficiently. The Thudrock created at the end is also a very well-statted body and can combo with a Wump active on the field to trigger his effect immediately.
These two cards combine to form the backbone of the Skycrag Yetis deck. By being able to play undercosted “Xenan Obelisks” that additionally grant high upside and tempo, the deck creates very powerful starts that are often able to run opponents over in an avalanche of screaming yetis before they can even respond.
Keep ‘Em Coming!
Because the Yeti deck relies on running over opponents, it naturally wants to make high tempo plays and pressure its opponents. I’ve already mentioned how Masterwork can generate large amounts of tempo (for example, by stunning a blocker so your now-buffed Yetis can beat in, or killing an x/1 as it enters the board). That’s not the end of it, though. Yetis have a couple of other tools to press their tempo advantage.
Pokpok, Rockpacker is a card that Yeti players love to see. A well-statted unit for 0 mana is always a huge tempo advantage, and Pokpok fills that role. He can be bonded out for free as early as turn 2 (by playing a Yeti with 3 attack). Once he’s on the field, he provides a fat body, creating more Yetis to buff with Wump and Masterwork. He also generates a snowball to let you snipe smaller blockers or pop an Aegis and save your Torches and Permafrosts for larger threats. Although his seemingly innocuous 1/5 statline might seem harmless at first, the fact that he can come out for free while generating another card means that he can often add to a wave of early-game pressure that your opponent will struggle to deal with.
Finally, there’s the new Market spell, Blazing Salvo. One of the problems with Howling Peak Smuggler was that it was a very bad tempo play, generating only 2/2 worth of stats for 3 mana and having no ability to affect the board the turn it comes into play. Salvo is a different story. Because it can directly kill enemy units, it allows you to keep the pressure rolling while grabbing the Market spell you need. We’ll talk more about the specific cards that it can grab later, but the important thing to understand is that it does the same job as Howling Peak Smuggler but with a Char instead of a slow 2/2. That is much more in line with the Yeti game plan.
Meet The Team
These are all good reasons to want to play Yetis, and they’re what separate it from other aggro decks, or even other decks in the meta. But what about piloting the deck itself? I frequently hear people say that Yetis is very easy to play and it is just a matter of luck whether or not you win. I respectfully disagree with that – in fact, I see people misplay with Yetis all the time. While I won’t pretend that Yetis is the hardest deck in the entire world to play, I do think that it is not always obvious what the correct line is. This is especially true when you are dealing with a few different sequences of cheap cards and trying to figure out the best balance between dealing with the opponent’s threats and developing your own board while squeezing the most use out of the power you have for the turn.
This deck tech is aimed at people completely new to Yetis, so let’s start with something very basic – the order in which you should play your units. On turn 1, you want to play Yeti Spy if you have it in hand, followed by Mischief Yeti and finally Powderglider only if you don’t have any other one-drops. The reason that you want to play Yeti Spy first is because a lot of its power is invested in its Infiltrate ability. As the game goes longer and the board starts filling up, it’ll become harder and harder to Infiltrate it, so you should run it out first in order to maximize the chances that you can Infiltrate with it.
Mischief Yeti is generally played over Powderglider for the simple reason that you want to save Powderglider for later on when you can stun a flier with its summon. In addition, Powderglider is better at attacking into late game boards because it can pump to a 2/3 or 3/4, while the 2/1 statline of Mischief Yeti is better suited for pushing face damage early while the board is still quite bare. However, there is an exception to this rule. If your opponent has shown information that makes you believe that they don’t run any fliers, and if you suspect that you’ll be playing a bunch of spells the following turn, it may be better to play Powderglider first so it can receive the benefit of being buffed by the spells when you play them.
Here’s an example of how that can happen. Suppose you’re on the draw, and your opponent plays Xenan Insignia and a Journey Guide. You have two Torches in hand, and your choice of 1 drop is between Mischief Yeti and Powderglider. In this case, you would suspect heavily that you’re going to be playing spells on turn 2. Either they play a 2-drop, in which case you Torch the Guide and the 2-drop, or they don’t play a unit, in which case you’ll Torch the Guide and play Mischief Yeti. In such a circumstance, you’re going to empty your hand of spells fairly quickly, so you should play Powderglider first in order to get buff value off them – and because Xenan doesn’t run any fliers, you won’t worry that you’re wasting the summon.
Another factor that might affect which 1-drop you prioritize playing is the information that you have about your opponent. If you’ve run into this opponent before on ladder and know that they’re packing 4 copies of Vara’s Favor, then maybe you run out Powderglider over Yeti Spy on the draw against them. Or if you see the animation signalling the existence of an Echo or Fate card in their hand followed by a Crest of Order, you may suspect that they are holding a Jotun Hurler and play Powderglider first.
What about turn 2? Well, the most common turn 2 play you’ll be making is a 2-drop. You’ll want to prioritize casting Yeti Pioneer first, followed by Fearless Yeti and finally Champion of Fury. You want to play Yeti Pioneer first because it’s better early in the game. It can let you play 4 mana worth of cards on turn 3, such as two Fearless Yetis or a Wump and a Torch. If your opponent spends spot removal on it, that’s okay. That just means they’ll have less ways to deal with the Champion of Fury that’s coming down later.
You usually want to play Fearless Yeti over Champion of Fury on turn 2 for a myriad of reasons. The most obvious reason is that you want to get Fearless Yeti out as soon as possible, for the same reason you want to get Yeti Spy out as soon as possible. Their “infiltrate” effects are easier to trigger the earlier they come out, because it limits the number of ways the opponent can answer them. But also, you really want to be Charging in for damage with Champion of Fury, and that’s often awkward to do on turn 2. The influence may not be perfect, making you play a subpar Champion, and sometimes you want to be bonding Pokpok (which stops you from charging). If you bond Pokpok off a Champion of Fury, you’re essentially wasting the Charge on it. So it’s better to play Fearless Yeti or Yeti Pioneer and bond off those, then play Champion of Fury later on.
Sometimes you won’t be playing a 2 drop on turn 2. Playing a couple of 1 drops is a possibility, as well. If you have Yeti Spies left in your hand on turn 2, you probably want to play those. I will usually prefer to play two Yeti Spies, or a Yeti Spy and another 1 drop, over a Fearless Yeti on turn 2. This is because it is very hard to Infiltrate Yeti Spy past turn 3, so it is now or never if you want to get Infiltrate value off them. The main exception to this rule is if you have a play that is so powerful or explosive that you are okay with letting the Yeti Spies be useless dorks later on. One example of such a play would be Yeti Pioneer with a plan to play 4 mana worth of cards on turn 3. Unless I knew for sure the opponent had spot removal, I would prefer that over a Spy play. This kind of play often lets you get the best of both worlds, because you are putting your opponent on the back foot and forcing them to deal with the large tempo advantage your play will generate. That can sometimes let you Infiltrate those Yeti Spies even if they are played on turn 4!
Playing a 1 cost removal spell and a 1 drop on turn 2 is also a common line. If it is something like a Torch, that is simple enough, and you can default back to your 1-drop priority list to figure out what to play along with it. A more interesting situation is if you have played a Mischief Yeti on turn 1 and have a Pokpok in hand when your opponent has an x/1 on the board. Usually, I would prefer to bond out the Pokpok and then snowball the x/1 over playing a 2 drop. That may seem strange to people who have heard that Yetis want to rush down the opponent as fast as possible. But I think that it is important to keep your opponent on the back foot. The tempo advantage gained from being able to develop a unit while retaining full control of the board is strong enough that it is like gaining an extra turn to rush them down with, because now they are behind on board (and if you have snowballed a ramp unit like an Initiate, you will have severely disrupted their power acceleration).
Once we reach turn 3 and beyond, the situation gets complex enough that it would probably be beyond the scope of this deck tech to offer you hard and fast rules as to what play to make. Keep in mind the basic principles of Yetis that I have outlined above and you should be fine. The best piece of advice I can offer you is that if you have a Masterwork or Wump on turn 3, it is very often (although not always) correct to just them run them out on curve, and that is the line you should examine first.
Vomiting your hand out onto the board always carries the frightening risk that you’ll eat a sweeper. While Hailstorm and Harsh Rule are thankfully not played in many decks right now, it’s still important to understand how to play around them in case you run into a deck that has a sweeper (or if the meta changes and makes such decks more popular).
One of the biggest mistakes that people make with Yetis is not playing around sweepers, because they assume that they can’t play around them – and that all they can do is commit everything to the board and pray the opponent doesn’t have it. One player I talked to even told me that they thought Yetis was an all-in deck that gambled that the opponent didn’t have a sweeper and automatically lost if they did. Needless to say, I don’t think this is true at all! In fact, I think Yetis is one of the better aggro decks against sweepers, boasting a good matchup against many popular variants of Hooru, FJP and FTJ control. Let’s break down the tools that Yetis has to avoid dying to sweepers.
The most obvious way is by using Blazing Salvo, and then grabbing Backlash to counter the sweeper. This is a simple but effective method of stopping sweepers. Because your opponent will a lot of the time be using all their power to cast the sweeper, they’ll have no choice but to pass with your board left untouched, ready to a-space in for (hopefully) lethal. However, this method is rarely perfect. You usually want to use as much power as you can every turn in order to maximize tempo, so holding up 3 power (or 2 power if you Salvo’d something on your turn) is quite difficult. Since sweeper decks generally don’t run too many units, you will sometimes run into awkward situations where you have to Salvo your own unit in order to get the counterspell. That’s okay if you have a 3+ health unit like a Pokpok, but there will be times where you have to kill a friendly unit. That is usually better than getting swept, but it makes this option slightly more awkward and unattractive compared to other ways of playing around sweepers.
A much more attractive option would be to play Masterwork. Because most sweepers hit units and not sites, your Masterwork will survive the sweeper, and continue gaining value. Not only will it tick one spell closer to summoning Thudrock, it’ll also remain on the field and buff any Yetis that are played after. It’s important to note that the pressure created by the Masterwork will compel your opponent to run out the sweeper early rather than wait for more value. For instance, if you go 1-2-Masterwork, your opponent will feel compelled to Hailstorm immediately because of how much damage they will take if they don’t. Taking out only two units is obviously very far from ideal, but the opponent is forced to do so because they will take significant amounts of damage otherwise. In other words, Masterwork is a very good answer to an early sweeper because it both forces your opponent to play it at a suboptimal time and makes the best of things after they do. If your opponent doesn’t have the sweeper, you’re still very happy and have developed your board as best as you could, unlike the Salvo situation where you may have wasted the opportunity to develop a unit because you had to hold up power.
Aegis and Charge units are two other ways to play around sweepers. Since Snowcrust Yeti got nerfed, the only Aegis unit that this deck runs is the Ice Elemental from Emblem of Linrei. Since you usually won’t be playing those on turn 3, they’re more suitable to playing around Harsh Rule. Going into turn 5 against a Rule deck, you will want to prioritize playing Ice Elementals as much as possible and pushing face damage so that you will have lethal (or close to lethal) on board post-Rule. On the other hand, Charge units prefer to be played after the sweeper has been played, so they can immediately refill the board and start attacking the opponent’s face just when they think they’ve stabilized. As such, you will prefer to hold your Champions of Fury and Pyre Elementals until after your opponent has wiped the board for maximum value.
Lastly, Inspired Prank can be a good way to sort-of play around sweepers by allowing you to develop your board without actually committing more of your hand, which means that if you do get swept, you will have an easier time refilling the board after the wipe. Like Ice Elementals, you will usually prioritize playing Inspired Prank the turn before Harsh Rule, although you shouldn’t do so blindly – if you are just using it as a 1/1, it is like not adding to your board at all, and then your opponent will be relaxed enough to save their sweeper and use spot removal instead, putting you in a tricky situation where if you replace the dead units you will get swept for real. It is sometimes difficult to figure out how to balance the value of adding a body to the board without spending a card from hand versus the actual pressure that you need to put on with the snowman. As a general rule, I like to Prank when my snowman is at least a 3/3, but the best way to figure things out is to visualize how things end up after you play the Prank. If you were the opponent, would you feel compelled to play a sweeper against a Prank?
Sometimes you won’t be able to play around a sweeper. You are sufficiently behind in the game that if you do not play out a few units to try to beat them down, you are probably not winning in the long run. That leaves you open to a sweeper, but if you will lose by not committing, then the best chance of winning involves committing and hoping that they do not have it. Once again, visualize what happens before and after you commit your hand to the board. Do you think you will be able to win without committing these resources and units? If the answer is “no”, then play them out without hesitation. You won’t win by holding them back, so you’ll just have to hope that your opponent hasn’t drawn their sweeper. Sometimes they’ll have it and you’ll lose; but when they don’t, you will have snatched victory out of the jaws of defeat.
Wump Wump Wump!
Let’s talk about one of the most iconic yetis – Wump, Party Starter. He is easily the single highest priority target for removal in your entire deck, and as mentioned, his ability single-handedly carries games. What are the best ways to squeeze the most out of him?
As a general rule, I think you should try to play Wump as early as possible. I see some people slowroll their Wump, trying to bait out removal. This is sometimes correct, especially if you have a strong read that they do have removal, but the majority of the time, you will just want to run Wump out as quickly as you can. If Wump manages to survive a turn, he will get a ton of value because you can trigger his ability as many times as possible next turn to make your opponent regret having to leave him up. In addition to that, because he provides his buff instantly, he is very strong against slow removal. He has already dealt 1 damage to the opponent’s face and given your units +1/+1 for an entire attack step, so you have already gotten value out of him before they could remove him. That is a good deal, especially since they have to focus their removal on Wump and not the other units, leaving them free to attack again.
If your Wump does get left up, you will try to play as many units as possible next turn (while keeping in mind what was said above about playing around sweepers). This is in order to maximize the number of times you can make your yetis snowball your opponent’s face, thus squeezing as much burn as you can out of Wump. Remember that these also trigger “infiltrate” abilities, so if you have a Yeti Spy and a Fearless Yeti, sequence them appropriately. (Usually you will want to draw first and then scout in order to maximize the information you have when making your scouting decision. But if you have a specific card or cards that you know you absolutely need to draw, you will want to scout first to maximize the chances that you get them.)
Wumps should be played at a very high priority the turn before your Masterwork is about to summon Thudrock if you think that your Masterwork will survive. This is because Thudrock will instantly trigger Wump at the start of the turn, ping the opponent’s face, and then summon a snowman with his effect. That is a lot of value, and it is very rare for me to lose if I can get this combo off. Even if you do not manage to pull this off, you will probably force your opponent to expend a lot of resources trying to kill your Masterwork (throwing their units recklessly into bigger blockers in an attempt to push damage through, for instance). Remember that the effect of Wump is doubled if you have two Wumps, so if you play a Fearless Yeti with two Wumps on the field, you will ping their face twice and then scout twice. That’s really powerful, and following up a Wump with another Wump will usually be an extremely strong play.
Using Thudrock’s Masterwork effectively is all about timing. The best Masterworks come down at the most devastating possible moment, allowing them to kill a unit with a snowball as they come down or stun a massive lifesteal unit. Poorly-played Masterworks will be vulnerable to attacks, die quickly and achieve nothing more than playing Jump Kick for 3 power.
Because Masterwork is so sensitive to timing, when conditions are calm, you’ll usually prefer to play Wump over it. For example, one common line of play is to play a 1 and a 2, with the opponent not developing anything on board. Then, when you have to choose between Wump and the Masterwork, you should choose Wump (unless the opponent is threatening a Hailstorm). This is because the Masterwork won’t accomplish anything when it comes down, and will probably just Jump Kick, which isn’t a very impressive play. The opponent will now know that it is on the board and will play around denying you Fend Off and Snowball value. Instead, playing the more independently good card, Wump, allows you to bide your time and wait until you have a clearer picture of what the opponent is going to do to know when the best time to play Masterwork is.
When deciding which spells to play on Masterwork’s agenda, you will always prioritize killing a unit with Snowball or stunning a big blocker (especially a Lifesteal blocker) with Fend Off. Sometimes you will have to play Masterwork in relatively calm conditions and can’t do either of those things the turn it comes down. That is when you play Jump Kick to push damage as a “waiting” spell. Then your opponent is discouraged from playing their Vara next turn, because it will simply be stunned by Fend Off. Once Jump Kick is gone, if the board state is still relatively calm, Snowball their face and wait again. This late in the game (at least turn 5), Fend Off will probably be the most relevant and powerful spell on Masterwork’s agenda, so saving it for last will continue to keep the opponent from playing out their blockers and punish them if they do.
One of the trickier dilemmas that you can have with Masterwork is when you are uncertain how many units to push forward with the buff it gives them, and how many units to hang back as blockers to defend Masterwork. This is not easy to give hard and fast rules for, but as a general rule, you should prioritize defending Masterwork over attacking with everything unless you are sure you can burn them out with the damage. Masterwork will cause them a lot more headaches in the long run if you keep it protected, and paying 3 mana to give your units +1/+1 for a single turn is generally not good value, so don’t let it die to free attacks and make your opponent struggle to remove it. One good use for this is to force them to exhaust all their attacks trying to kill the Masterwork. For example, suppose you leave two blockers back and they have three units. In order to kill the Masterwork, they will be forced to swing with all three units (or else you will just trade with your blockers and nothing will get through). Once you realize that the Masterwork is going to die anyway, you can simply choose not to block at all, and let your Masterwork soak up the attacks from all three units. This forces them to exhaust all their blockers without dealing any damage to you, and then you can crackback for significant face damage. Such a tactic is very effective for winning damage races. Remember to take account removal spells that they are likely to have when deciding how many blockers to leave back to defend Masterwork, though.
Jump Jump Jump!
It’s worth taking the time to talk about Jump Kick, because it’s the spell that’s the most difficult to use optimally out of the three Masterwork spells. While the best usage of Snowball (pop Aegis, ping the opponent’s face, kill a 1 health unit) and Fend Off (stun a blocker, scout for something you need) are fairly obvious, Jump Kick has a bit of nuance to it. A lot of the time, you will just be using Jump Kick as a +1/+1, but it has other uses as well, and it’s important to know them.
Jump Kick gives one of your units evasion, so it’s good for ensuring that attacks can get through and units don’t die during combat. If you are power screwed, you may wish to Jump Kick a Fearless Yeti so that it doesn’t get blocked by a 1/3 Devotee and can help you scout for power. Alternatively, you can Jump Kick your Yeti Pioneer so that it doesn’t die in combat and can help you cast your Wump despite being stuck on 2.
Tocas is the enemy of Jump Kick. Because it is a spell played on your unit, Tocas will block you from casting it, and will in fact force you to play it on an enemy unit. Don’t let this happen if possible, since you really don’t want to be buffing the enemy team for them! If you are up against a deck that runs Tocas, prioritize running out Jump Kick as fast as possible to get it out of the way before Tocas comes down. If the Tocas is already down, you might wish to use other spells first (Fend Off on the Tocas is always an attractive play) and hopefully the Tocas will be gone one way or another by the time your last agenda spell rolls around.
That said, being able to play Jump Kick on your enemy units isn’t always a bad thing. Even “beneficial” spells like Jump Kick pop Aegis (which isn’t always intuitive if you’re used to automatically clicking on your own units with it), so you can sometimes use it to clear the way for a Torch or Permafrost on an enemy blocker. An even cooler interaction is giving an enemy unit Flying so that you can stun it with Powderglider’s summon effect. Even when Fend Off has already been used, you can use this interaction to create a stun effect on units that wouldn’t ordinarily be weak to Powderglider.
When the board is empty and you are just playing Jump Kick to push a bit of damage and wait, it is tempting to just think of Jump Kick as being +1 damage and nothing else. But you should still take a moment to think about what unit you are playing it on. Jump Kick will trigger Mischief Yeti’s renown and give you a snowball, so you should try to play it on Mischief Yeti if one is on the field. In addition, keep in mind that Jump Kick can strengthen you against Ambush units. If you have a 2/2 Yeti Spy and a 2/6 Pokpok on the field, attacking into an empty board with 4 open power and TT influence, you should Jump Kick the Yeti Spy because it is the unit that could be killed by a Saber-Tooth Prideleader. You could also consider leaving the Spy back to block the Prideleader and save the site, in which case you should of course Jump Kick the Pokpok.
Market S T O N K S
No deck tech would be complete without a rundown of the Market options, so let’s go through them and see what they have to bring to the table.
As mentioned in the section about playing around sweepers, Backlash is primarily useful for countering Hailstorms and Harsh Rules, but can also be used to negate important opponent spells, such as Reanimator’s Grasping at Shadows. It’s also worth hitting card draw sometimes; if your control opponent has exhausted most of the cards in their hand trying to take out your early game units and play Honor of Claws as their last card to refill, then Backlashing it is pretty brutal because it forces them into topdeck mode for the rest of the game.
Edict of Linrei
Edict is as simple as it gets. If your opponent has a Fire or Time unit you really want to kill, then fetch Edict. It’s one of the best Market spells to fetch in advance, since you can often hold it secure in the knowledge that it’ll come in handy eventually. What are they going to do, not play any units? Sandstorm Titan and Saber-Tooth Prideleader are common targets for this, but sometimes you want to Snowball-Edict an Icaria, get rid of a Carver so they can’t activate Shrine to Karvet, and so forth. Remember that Edict still has use against non Fire/Time units as a simple stun. While paying 2 power for a Harmless Question isn’t really great value, sometimes it’s just what you need to close out the game.
Torrential Downpour gets worse if you aren’t running it with Howling Peak Smuggler. Still, it’s important enough against some decks that Lucia chose to leave it in, and I agree with her decision. It should be pretty obvious that you want to play Downpour against a bunch of units with 1 health. Generally, you will want to play as aggressively as possible to compel your opponent to spew out their whole hand, and then go Salvo-Downpour to wipe their board. Remember that Downpour also has Scout. If nothing else in your Market is particularly relevant and your opponent is one Torch away from death, then sometimes it will be fine to Downpour just to maximize your chances of finding that Torch. That won’t happen too often though! You will usually want to use this for the damage.
Inspired Prank can grow surprisingly quickly when you factor in all the snowballs and agenda spells from Masterwork. You’ll use it as a source of extra value, allowing you to get an extra body on the field (that can even be buffed by Masterwork) without paying for it with a card in your hand. It’s simple but strong. Remember that you can trigger the Bargain conditions with Wump pings, not just direct attacks! As mentioned before, you will usually want to trigger Inspired Prank when the unit it produces is at least a 3/3, although if you are totally out of gas and are making a final push for lethal, you’ll take whatever you can get.
Pyre Elemental is one of the reasons why Blazing Salvo is so good! Because you are already casting a spell to gain access to the Market, Pyre Elemental will always cost 2 the turn that you play it, making it essentially a 2 power 4/3 charger. I can’t overstate enough how good it is to have competitively-statted gas in the Market. So many times, in old Yeti lists, I have run out of units and wanted to grab something to play when I topdecked a Smuggler, but didn’t have any because there just weren’t good units to put in the Market. The cool thing about Pyre Elemental is that you can even Market for it in advance if you think it’s right, and then trigger the spell manually later on. You have a lot of cheap spells, including snowballs, that you can use to easily trigger Pyre Elemental. Masterwork spells will also trigger it.
No deck tech would be complete without a list of matchups! While the Throne meta is open enough that I can’t list every single deck you’ll find yourself up against, I’ll give you general tips for the most common matchups you’re likely to face right now.
Against Reanimator, you want to kill them as fast as possible, and focus on pushing maximum face damage at any cost. Don’t be afraid to Torch a Sporefolk if you have to, because the longer you delay, the longer they have to assemble their combo and stabilize with Black-Sky Harbinger. If they don’t look like they’re at risk of comboing off soon, you can hold a Permafrost in case of a turn 6 hardcast Harbinger. Otherwise, just keep an eye on their void and hold up Backlash on turn 5 if you smell a Grasping at Shadows.
Xenan Stranger Combo
Against Xenan Strangers, take out their ramp units ASAP. I would usually rather Torch a Devotee and play a 2 drop than play Wump on turn 3, because that slows down the Xenan player’s game plan. Try to make life hard for them by pressuring their life total strongly enough that they can’t afford to spend their turn playing Grodov’s Stranger + Predator’s Instinct, because the crackback will kill them. This matchup doesn’t have a ton of nuance to it, although you should try to play around Prideleader if you can. Not every Xenan player runs it, but some do, and it’s worth avoiding the risk.
Combrei Aggro got significantly improved as a matchup because their Lookouts and Teachers now die to Salvo. You’ll usually be looking for Edict of Linrei and Pyre Elemental as Market grabs in this matchup. Although their units outsize yours, you have far more efficient removal, and if you can keep them off the board with a flurry of Salvos and Torches, you’ll find the matchup a lot easier. Watch out for Desert Marshal – especially if you’re counting on a Wump’s buff to help you win combat. A good Combrei Aggro player will usually fetch Lay Siege from the Market to help them win races and unstun their units. This is usually very difficult to play around unless you have a Backlash, but you can occasionally put them in an awkward position where they have to play it in response to removal to avoid a key unit dying. If you manage to force it out like that, then the game will go a lot easier for you.
Even Elysian is sort of a rough matchup for you, because they usually run 4 Prideleaders. Luckily, it has declined in popularity sharply due to nerfs targeted at it. You’ll want to take advantage of their lack of ability to curve out (because they’ll float a power on odd numbered turns). You are usually happy to see them tapping out to play a large unit like Gnash, since you can cheaply stun it for good tempo. But early on they can often cause you problems by playing cheap blockers like Sand Warrior and Evenhanded Golem. Many Even Elysian decks also play Tamarys, so watch out that your x/1s don’t get sniped and buff them to x/2s if you can! Needless to say, if they hold up 4 power, you should assume they are preparing to ambush a Prideleader and play accordingly.
FTJ has a very slow early game, and you’ll usually be able to do whatever you want in the first few turns. At most they’ll play a Torch or an Amber Acolyte, but these are usually pretty small roadblocks. FTJ always runs 4 Prideleaders, so you’ll have to play around those, but it is usually fine to do so since you probably have a decent advantage on board early on in the game. Watch out for a Shen-Ra Speaks or Harsh Rule on turn 5 – as mentioned in the section about playing around sweepers, you have various tools to deal with it, so it isn’t so bad. If FTJ plays a Smuggler, they’ll often grab Sword of Unity, so make sure that they don’t have a good opportunity to play it (by prioritizing the removal of their units) so that they don’t lifesteal themselves to a stable life total.
The most important card in the mirror, other than Wump/Masterwork, is Pokpok. This is because it’s very good at blocking and very hard to block. Additionally, it produces a snowball that almost always kills an opposing unit. Make the most out of your snowballs by killing opposing x/1s or Masterworks with them, and try to save a Salvo for a Wump if you don’t absolutely need to use it right now. Keep track of how many snowballs your opponent has in their hand (from their Pokpoks) so you won’t play a Masterwork that gets snowballed down rapidly. Torrential Downpour is often very good in this matchup if it can hit more than one unit, and they sometimes struggle to deal with a Pyre Elemental if you’ve run them out of Torches.
Kindling Carver (FJS/FTS/Stonescar)
Your Overwhelm units (Fearless Yeti and Champion of Fury) are great in this matchup, because they can push damage past the small tokens that try to block them! The most dangerous thing in this matchup is when they can trade 1/1s for your 1 drops and 2 drops. Therefore, play to minimize the chances of this happening. Wump and Masterwork are even more important in this matchup because they allow you to attack a lot better into 1/1s. You will usually be happy to save a snowball to remove a Carver or Shadowlands Guide. However, if they drop a Shrine to Karvet, it is often better to remove as much of their board as you can feasibly get away with to minimize the amount of lifesteal units they’ll have the next turn. Finally, Torrential Downpour is amazing because it often clears their board and allows you to attack for lethal. It is your trump card in this matchup, so don’t waste it needlessly, and use it when it is truly devastating.
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