Trials of Grodov wasn’t the most well received set to be released in recent months. It didn’t include a Player vs AI campaign to fight through. This was a disappointment to some, while it was a welcome surprise to others, myself included. I didn’t really enjoy having to rip through the campaigns just to get my cards. I never took the time to enjoy the duels, it was always a question of how could I unlock them faster. My suggestion for the future, would be to release a campaign with the set but make it entirely optional. Purchase the campaign and be given the cards immediately. That way we could enjoy the content at our leisure without having to feel like we have to because the cards are gated behind it.
The set includes six cards fewer than Homecoming and common cards where we were expecting more rares instead. Like Homecoming, Trials of Grodov features cards that supplement the keywords from Dark Frontier. Shift and Twist received more keyword-matters cards but not cards with the keyword itself, a stark contrast to the appearance of Pledge in Homecoming. I feel that the Shift and Twist are missing that critical mass needed to make a real splash in the constructed metagame. However, there are a fair amount of new Onslaught cards and Killer-centric tools to more easily achieve Onslaught. Overall the set seems under-powered compared to the likes of Homecoming, which might have been intentional. Still, there are two cards from Trials of Grodov that have found a home in one of my favorite decks: Jennev Peaks.
Leading the Pride
Saber-Tooth Prideleader was a card I originally overlooked as a potential Market card. In reality, this card is a powerhouse that warps play patterns and punishes aggressive strategies. A 4TT 3/5 in a world of Sandstorm Titans is a tough sell. The body isn’t amazing, but it is passable. What really sells it is its keyword and Summon ability. Ambush allows you to camouflage it with Display of Instinct, if you don’t need to use the Display you can cast the Prideleader. Playing the Prideleader on turn four is also within the window where you are trying to stabilize against aggressive decks. Presenting the Prideleader as a blocker while also gaining three health is amazing. A close comparison to this is Ayan, the Abductor. The main differences being Prideleader can be played in more decks and survives more early threats. Prideleader also does something that Sandstorm Titan cannot, it evades slow removal on the first block. While it doesn’t evade something like an Annihilate or Ice Bolt, you will often see Prideleader eating one of their attackers and then getting Torched. Nice two-for-one!
Prideleader has two great options when you summon it. The first is to gain three health, as I mentioned previously, is great when faced against an aggressive start. This also is a fine option when you don’t have a target for the second choice: destroying a relic! This is a great ability, especially attached to a unit with Ambush. One scenario I’ve had come up multiple times recently is destroying a Xenan Obelisk before blockers and assign blocks that otherwise would have been atrocious!
Breaking Wings and Taking Names
Sodi, Wingbreaker was originally regarded as the most powerful card to come out of Trials of Grodov. The ability to draw an extra card every turn coupled with the power to remove a Flying unit or Site is extremely useful. The cost comes at a mediocre body and it requires an Onslaught trigger. Sodi’s size means that she generally won’t be the unit making the attacks to trigger the draw or get Onslaught for future Sodis. That being said, I don’t think Sodi is bad. She just fits better in a support role to accent a core lineup of powerhouses.
What I have noticed is that Sodi really benefits from having Saber-Tooth Prideleader in your deck. A four-cost Ambush Unit can come down at the end of the opponent’s turn four dodging slow removal is exactly what you need to set up for Sodi. This almost guarantees you a free attack for Onslaught and might even get the draw trigger because you are attacking with full power. These two in combination are quite the one-two punch!
Post Trials Builds & Market Guide
Jennev (Fire/Time/Primal) Peaks is a midrange deck centered around two sets of Merchants, Howling Peak, Equivocate, Display of Instinct, Heart of the Vault, and some combination of Fate cards. While the core usually stays the same, the deck can vary quite a bit based on Merchant choice. The merchant choice determines what you can fit into your Market and thus what you want out of the rest of your deck.
Most combinations of Merchants include Howling Peak Smuggler due to the +1 Spell Damage and how well it combines with all of the burn in the deck. Regardless of which merchants you choose you will want one Banner. Praxis Banner is the most important, due to Heart of the Vault’s influence requirements, if both Merchants work with it. Almost all Markets will feature Zal Chi, Herald of War as their finisher of choice. I often put Howling Peak in the market depending on how the meta looks. The ability to get Howling Peak, copy the Merchant that got it, and then get Zal Chi is incredibly consistent.
Other considerations are moving the Equivocate or Display to the market depending on what you need them for and when you need them. If you are looking to play them multiple times in a game you will want them in the maindeck. If you need them at a key moment it might be better to market them. The last card worth note before jumping into the different types of markets is Molot & Nakova. The card is a secondary finisher and offers the ability to re-stabilize the board if your opponent gets too far ahead. Howling Peak using Kaleb’s Favor triggers the Spark on Molot & Nakova without needing to attack!
Primal Markets are most often used with Howling Peak Smuggler and Jennev Merchant and feature the Elysian Banner. After the nerf to Great Valley Smuggler the only argument in it’s favor is that it allows access to Praxis Banner. Jennev Merchant can more reliably be Mirror Image‘d by Howling Peak to grab Zal Chi which is why you will see it more often. Primal Markets will often include Kaleb’s Choice as a piece of Relic removal that doubles as spell negation. They also have the extra ease of swapping Jotun Hurler in and out of the Market for utility. Common Primal exclusives are:
- Torrential Downpour / Hailstorm – An answer to aggressive or Go-Wide strategies. Great in combination with Howling Peak Smuggler.
- Permafrost / Ice Bolt – Removal depending on what you need answers for in the meta. It’s common to see one go in the main deck and the other in the Market.
- Royal Decree – Using the knowledge of what the opponent is playing you can use Decree to remove a threat that you normally wouldn’t be able to interact with or handle easily.
- Swift Refusal – Thanks to Saber-Tooth Prideleader, Relic removal isn’t as necessary. You may find yourself wanting a cheaper way to negate spells in the Market for when you are tight on Power.
2 Permafrost (Set1 #193) 4 Seek Power (Set1 #408) 4 Torch (Set1 #8) 4 Equivocate (Set1003 #21) 2 Ice Bolt (Set6 #151) 2 Strategize (Set3 #165) 4 Display of Instinct (Set5 #244) 4 Howling Peak Smuggler (Set5 #215) 4 Jennev Merchant (Set4 #169) 4 Saber-Tooth Prideleader (Set1006 #7) 2 Sandstorm Titan (Set1 #99) 4 Jotun Hurler (Set1 #227) 2 Sodi, Wingbreaker (Set1006 #16) 4 Heart of the Vault (Set2 #183) 4 Xo of the Endless Hoard (Set5 #36) 4 Fire Sigil (Set1 #1) 3 Time Sigil (Set1 #63) 2 Primal Sigil (Set1 #187) 4 Crest of Impulse (Set3 #251) 2 Seat of Impulse (Set0 #54) 4 Crest of Fury (Set3 #266) 1 Seat of Fury (Set0 #53) 4 Crest of Wisdom (Set3 #261) 1 Seat of Wisdom (Set0 #63) --------------MARKET--------------- 1 Kaleb's Choice (Set2 #188) 1 Torrential Downpour (Set4 #163) 1 Howling Peak (Set5 #219) 1 Zal Chi, Herald of War (Set5 #245) 1 Elysian Banner (Set1 #421)
Fire Markets recently got access to East Annex Smuggler which creates an interesting choice between the Smuggler and Ixtun Merchant. Praxis Banner fits nicely in this Market. Fire has the advantage of juggling Xo, of the Endless Hoard in an out of the market more easily. Lacking Torrential Downpour, the Fire Markets often utilize Rockslide to handle aggressive starts. Some other Fire exclusives are:
- Urn of Choking Embers – This saw play in the rise of Haunted Highway as a way to counter Haunting Scream and lower the clock the deck puts out.
- Bore / Slag – After the nerf to Bore and addition of Prideleader, Bore may no longer be needed as Relic removal. However there are still situations where Bore can do serious work against Attachments. If you would like another modal variation Slag can provide a similar purpose while also giving you a nice removal spell in the mirror.
This next Market strategy was popularized by Popotito. I refer to them as Double Banner Markets, because…wait for it… they often feature two Banners. The Merchants used are Aurelian Merchant and Howling Peak Smuggler. The Aurelian Merchant allows the deck to stay on curve without stumbling on depleted power. However, due to the split factions, the options for other cards in the market are not plentiful. Cirso, the Great Glutton and Equivocate are both popular options alongside Praxis Banner, Elysian Banner, and Zal Chi.
4 Permafrost (Set1 #193) 4 Torch (Set1 #8) 1 Ice Bolt (Set6 #151) 4 Strategize (Set3 #165) 4 Auralian Merchant (Set4 #70) 4 Display of Instinct (Set5 #244) 3 Hailstorm (Set1003 #11) 4 Howling Peak Smuggler (Set5 #215) 3 Saber-Tooth Prideleader (Set1006 #7) 4 Sandstorm Titan (Set1 #99) 4 Jotun Hurler (Set1 #227) 4 Heart of the Vault (Set2 #183) 3 Howling Peak (Set5 #219) 4 Xo of the Endless Hoard (Set5 #36) 4 Fire Sigil (Set1 #1) 2 Time Sigil (Set1 #63) 2 Primal Sigil (Set1 #187) 4 Crest of Impulse (Set3 #251) 2 Seat of Impulse (Set0 #54) 4 Crest of Fury (Set3 #266) 1 Seat of Fury (Set0 #53) 4 Crest of Wisdom (Set3 #261) 2 Seat of Wisdom (Set0 #63) --------------MARKET--------------- 1 Swift Refusal (Set6 #143) 1 Equivocate (Set1003 #21) 1 Zal Chi, Herald of War (Set5 #245) 1 Praxis Banner (Set2 #171) 1 Elysian Banner (Set1 #421)
There is also another version that has sprouted up that features no Smugglers. This allows you access to cards like Display and Equivocate without removing them from your main deck. The deck doesn’t feature any new cards from Trials of Grodov but I felt it should be featured due to it’s birth in this meta.
3 Permafrost (Set1 #193) 2 Seek Power (Set1 #408) 4 Torch (Set1 #8) 3 Equivocate (Set1003 #21) 2 Find the Way (Set1 #513) 4 Strategize (Set3 #165) 4 Auralian Merchant (Set4 #70) 3 Display of Instinct (Set5 #244) 3 Hailstorm (Set1003 #11) 4 Jennev Merchant (Set4 #169) 4 Sandstorm Titan (Set1 #99) 2 Jotun Hurler (Set1 #227) 4 Heart of the Vault (Set2 #183) 4 Howling Peak (Set5 #219) 4 Xo of the Endless Hoard (Set5 #36) 3 Fire Sigil (Set1 #1) 3 Time Sigil (Set1 #63) 2 Primal Sigil (Set1 #187) 4 Crest of Impulse (Set3 #251) 3 Seat of Impulse (Set0 #54) 3 Crest of Fury (Set3 #266) 2 Seat of Fury (Set0 #53) 3 Crest of Wisdom (Set3 #261) 2 Seat of Wisdom (Set0 #63) --------------MARKET--------------- 1 Equivocate (Set1003 #21) 1 Display of Instinct (Set5 #244) 1 Cirso, the Great Glutton (Set1 #362) 1 Zal Chi, Herald of War (Set5 #245) 1 Elysian Banner (Set1 #421)
Jennev’s Place in the Meta
Jennev continues to be a deck with many knobs to turn. When I say that I’m referring to the different ways you can change what cards are in the deck to make the deck better in a given scenario. There are so many different valuable options to choose from that could help you tech against any meta of your choosing. I wholeheartedly believe there will never be one best version of Jennev. That being said, lets look at the different decks in the meta right now and note the key players in the deck that you will be leaning on in each matchup.
Aggro – Yetis, Skycrag, Rakano, Stonescar, Mono Fire, Maul
Priority Market Cards: Torrential Downpour and Negate (Flame Blast/Maul)
The name of the game is staying alive. Saber-Tooth Prideleader does a lot of work in these matchups. Being able to stabilize the board and gain life at the same time is a great boon. Hailstorm in the main deck and Howling Peak Smuggler grabbing Torrential Downpour are both great ways to clear up the small threats. In regards to single target removal there are two questions to ask yourself. First, how does the cost of the card I’m playing line up with my curve? Second, if I have two pieces of removal, how does each line up with their units? You want to use the removal spell most efficient to each turns resources and that matches up the best against the possible threats of the opponent’s deck. When keeping a hand make sure to have an outline of how you may be using each removal spell.
Often the early turns will come down to using removal on their threats and placing down a defensive line. Evaluate how likely it is that your would-be blocker gets removed, if it’s high go for the removal. Accept that they are going to remove whatever blockers you put in front of them. If they have to use a Torch or Flame Blast to do it that is GREAT for you. It means less damage hitting you in the dome. Try to get value and two-for-ones where you can but do not get greedy. Your turns and life are very precious resources. Don’t go on the offensive until you can attack leaving at least one more blocker than they have attackers. Forcing them to over-commit is good for you, it means your Hailstorm/Downpour is going to recoup all the value you lost by being on the back-foot.
Midrange – Stonescar, Argenport, Praxis, Feln, Jennev, Rakano, Winchest
Priority Market Cards: Banner, Howling Peak, Cirso, and Zal Chi
This is where value really matters. Your game plan is going to be matching them body for body and using Howling Peak to turn the tide in your favor. If the meta is heavily slanted towards midrange you will want to start favoring Sandstorm Titans over Prideleaders. You will also be rewarded for having four Peaks in the main instead of one in the Market. It’s very important to distinguish what each of your removal spells can handle. Equivocate will often be your trump card against certain threats, so don’t fire it off on just anything. Do your best to up-sell burn spells like Torch and Display of Instinct by pairing them with Howling Peak Smuggler(s) and Snowballs. Your Permafrosts, Ice Bolts, and Equivocates are going to be working overtime, help them out!
Banners are especially important because you will need to be playing all of your power on curve so you can match your opponent’s tempo. One of Jennev’s biggest weaknesses is getting too far behind on board in the midrange mirror. We have the tools to break parity and crush stalls, but not clear the board once behind. Zal Chi is often the way we win this matchup. The opponent might have an answer for the first body, but rarely do they have an answer for the two Ruin Stalkers.
Control – Hooru, Temporal, Argenport
Priority Market Cards: Negate, Zal Chi, and Peak
Buckle up. This matchup might take a while and will definitely take some maneuvering to get through. Display and Relic removal are your best friends. In most instances you are okay with them removing your threats one at a time. Generally the plan is to establish one or two threats and then hold up negate back-up in the form of Display, Kaleb’s Choice, or Swift Refusal. The card you are looking to counter is the Harsh Rule. Saber-Tooth Prideleader does a really good job pressuring the opponent in these instances after you don’t need to negate anything.
The Relic removal is there for pesky Relics like Martyr’s Chains, Svetya’s Sanctum, and Temporal Distortion, so Prideleader serves a dual purpose in this matchup. Overall you aren’t favored in this matchup. It’s going to be a long and exhausting game and they will likely have removal for all of your units. Do your best to get the most value out of Howling Peaks, Heart of the Vaults, and Zal Chi that you can.
Combo – Diogo, Talir, Reanimator
Priority Market Cards: Negate
For the Diogo Combo you first need to identify that it is Diogo and not a mirror match. The easiest tell is when they use Smugglers that normal Jennev decks usually don’t, those being Great Valley and East Annex Smugglers. The second is the use of ramp like Power Stone and Devotee of Sands. So you’ve pinpointed it’s Diogo, what now? Well first, your Market card should be your Kaleb’s Choice or Swift Refusal. The idea is that you want two negates. One to negate the Invoke the Waystones and the other to negate the Excavate that tries to get it back. Do NOT counter the Celestial Omen. There is still the chance that they draw Invoke naturally when your guard is down and win.
Understand that during this time you are under no pressure. You should be slowly assembling an offense but your main priority is to keep up power for the negate. Be wary that Celestial Omen is a Fast Spell and they can start the combo when you tap out, no matter who’s turn it is.
The Talir OTK (One Turn Kill) works a bit differently. The combo, once started, will almost always win the game and you will not get a chance to stop it. There are a few key things you can do to trip up the combo. The first is don’t kill any Merchant. Using Permafrost or Equivocate won’t send a Merchant to their void with which to start the combo. The second is remove the Talir in response to Last Chance. Equivocate is ideal but Ice Bolt will also delay them.
If you hold up power for Display for the Talir turn(s) they may not go for the combo. This can buy you valuable time while they wait for eleven power to play both Talir and a Merchant in the same turn. It is up to you to win the game before they can get the combo off naturally. It is also a midrange deck that can still win the game on the back of it’s Sandstorm Titans and other miscellaneous Units. So unlike Diogo, Talir can still win the game if you thwart their ability to combo off.
The last combo I want to mention is Reanimator. Of all decks, this may be your worst matchup. Luckily the deck is very inconsistent, only truly going off about half the time. So while the deck may be hard for you to handle due to their access to Sabotage, it also has a good chance of losing to itself!
These have been my insights that I have collected over the past few months from playing Jennev in many forms. If anything should be taken from this it’s that you shouldn’t settle with any one list. Try out new ideas. Mix and match Merchants and Market cards and see how they feel. Jennev is one of the best decks in the game and I think that’s because it isn’t just one deck. I truly appreciate the time you took to read this.
-Nathan “noverb” Overbay