Earl(y) Grey – bones’ brewing with neutrals.
Hello again! bones here. You’ll have to excuse me not following up on beginner guides. I have several reasons as to why I’m starting this particular topic.
- July marks the first month this year where we’re not receiving a monthly reward. Ergo, I found it fitting to talk about one of the earlier neutral cards that didn’t see much play.
- The stuff I’ll present is a decent follow-up to my previous article; however, it’s aimed at players who have a fair share of experience with the archetype.
- I climbed to, and glued myself to, a top 100 legend spot with the lists I’m about to present and I really want to share them with you all!
So you know the drink people sip shortly after waking up? I’m talking, of course, about tea. I, myself, am more of a Yerba Mate guy, however I can’t blame anyone appreciating the absolute classic known as Earl Grey. It’s said to give you energy, help your health long-term and, unless you’re a traditionalist, you’re bound to end up finding a variant you’re going to enjoy the most.
I bring all that up because some of the early “grey” cards we call Neutral are secretly exactly that. The decks I use are all high energy, fast-paced aggression in a can, or deck, if you will. In some cases they help patch weaknesses of certain classes. And yes, I said “classes”.
The only places where I don’t see this specific package working properly are Scout (due to the class just not benefitting from it in any way and having hard time incorporating it) and Warrior (again a class that can work perfectly fine with what it has). Assassin is… doable, but rather tricky, considering its amazing arsenal of 2 Magicka cards. I’m also not going to mention any of the houses, simply because I’m not a fan of trying to artificially increase the size of the deck and to keep proportions as intact as possible.
So what is this package I mentioned? Let’s start with the main stars–cards that every deck containing a neutral package should include:
- Steam Constructor – “a 2 Magicka 3/3!” bones exclaimed when this card was originally presented. Initially it didn’t blow me away and the meta landscape hasn’t exactly shifted towards neutral, but recently its advantages started shining through. In an era of Tribunal and overall more stable, early-game focused control, Steam Constructor became a card that, at least partially (via its token) stuck to the board, allowing you to continue building up tempo. On top of that, in some decks this is, legitimately, the best on-curve play. Crusader, for example, has this stigma of having very flimsy 2 Magicka cards, but wonderful array of buffs for things you play, so Constructor fits in there like a glove. Battlemage’s 2 Magicka slot is also rather underwhelming.
- Mudcrab Merchant – Despite a rather large nerf, our beloved mudcrab remains one of the best 1 Magicka cards available to aggressive decks. Granted, cards like Scouting Patrol, Marked Man, and Crown Quartermaster are probably better in general, but because of our inclusion of neutral cards, Mudcrab Merchant’s attribute, or lack of it, is a huge reason behind it still being a part of all of my most recently played decks.
- Dwarven Dynamo – Usually a 2-of, stat-wise he’s a 4 Magicka 5/4, out of which 3/3 is instantly available on a creature. You can think of it as a slightly worse version of Wood Orc Headhunter in that he, too, gets to be incredibly powerful if the amount of Neutral cards in your deck is right. Just like you ideally play Wood Orc if there’s 13+ orcs in your deck (Joe’s Warrior being the biggest example, with its only orcs being 3 Captains, 3 Morkuls, 3 Wood Orcs, 3 Dragontails and Garnag), you can get your money’s worth if you have 13 or more colorless creatures in your deck.
- Shadowmere – Very versatile companion and overall a good Neutral card. Gets better as the game progresses, due to it being a Charge creature and taking buffs incredibly well.
Of course, like tea, you can mix up different ingredients in it. There are several cards you can, but don’t need to, include to help yourself get the most out of both Steam Constructor and Dwarven Dynamo:
- Marked Man and Crown Quartermaster – “But these aren’t neutral!” Technically… they are. Playing either one guarantees you a successful (a 3/3 total in terms of stats) Steam Constructor in following turns. Having both with Mudcrab makes you, the player, much less worried about ring being on your opponent’s side, but even one of them is enough.
- Barbas – Good boy! You use him mostly in classes whose only options for damage from hand are Shadowmere and Barbas himself, those being Spellsword and Mage.
- Reflective Automaton – “Whaaaaaat? Isn’t he just a 2/3 for 2 Magicka?” Um… I’ll get back to it soon, okay? Just keep him in mind for now.
- Voice of Balance – Specifically in Intelligence + something. This is the card speaking in favor of Assassin variant with Neutral package, because Assassin’s weakness are its… underwhelming 4 magicka cards.
- Ravenous Crocodile, Mudcrab Anklesnapper, and Lurking Crocodile – I don’t personally use either one of these, however in certain decks, like Midrange Spellsword or slower Midrange Assassin, some of these cards could prove really useful, so I’m throwing them there.
- Wabbajack – Just in case you thought Barbas is the craziest thing you’ll see on this list, enter Sheogorath’s favorite staff. On top of being Neutral, Wabbajack lets you transform your tokens into… well, mostly better things and only occasionally a Sweet Roll… who is also neutral! On top of that, it’s going to be my option of choice for a replacement for Imprison, letting us transform most problematic cards our opponent plays. After all, if your opponent plays a Clockwork Scorpion that is bound to do something next turn, like Rage for example, it can’t get much worse than that, right? I, myself, try to get it into every deck I can for several reasons, but I understand someone’s personal stigma against RNG, therefore I put it here, rather than in the section earlier.
So you’ve met them all. The best of the grey heroes and most of their supporting casts. So now we should get into some builds including these cards. And because it wouldn’t be my article without mentioning Spellsword in at least some detail, I’ll start with it. Here’s the list in question. I’m sure most of you have already seen several streamers and/or good players, like eyenie, Warriors7, TheColorBlue aka’ BettyxBlue, or TheadventuresofDust play Token Spellsword recently. Turns out having access to two separate 5/5 creatures very early is actually good! Therefore it would be a missed opportunity to not include these here. However, you’ll quickly notice that as a token deck you want a lot of cards from Endurance, which ruin your percentage of Willpower cards and success rate of Resolute Ally. Therefore, I decided it’s not too crazy to cut Ally and add the Neutral package for several reasons. With it, your Siege Catapult can attack much faster, your deck has actual reach from hand, which is something Spellsword doesn’t really have, and you get extra “draw” with Mudcrab Merchant. Instead of making my creatures stronger, which… well, most of them already are, I prefer making them more effective and fixing a bunch of dents in the class. Dropping Ally also means we can splash in Endurance cards in any proportions we desire – Aundae Clan Sorcerers and Wind Keep Spellswords benefit the most from a token-y playstyle, so we add them in. Haunting Spirits, next to our 5/5 gang, become third cards to be very helpful when facing Ice Storm.
But the best thing about drinks is how everyone can find a blend that suits them perfectly, right? Token isn’t the only playstyle Neutral supports. You can build an effective aggressive midrange with neutrals or even introduce some math decks elements into yours! In the former, the Automaton I mentioned comes into play as a replacement for Dragontail Savior in every midgro that isn’t Warrior. His All-Types active ability becomes a huge part of how we incorporate the “13+ orcs” rule from Joe’s Warrior. In the latter, we use a combination of Corsair Ship, Voice of Balance, Steam Constructor, and orcs to get some serious burst while also playing creatures our opponent may find issues with removing.
With Ravenous Crocodiles and Voice of Balance there’s a potential for more defensive midrange, but I have to admit that I haven’t explored this side yet. I encourage you to explore possible mixtures of Neutral in different classes on your own, too. What I have presented was what I climbed the ladder with (at the end of July – #87 or something), decks that I’ve had an absolute pleasure playing over the past few weeks. I hope that with this article you’ve tapped into the joy of playing something incredibly versatile, different, and intriguing.
I want to thank TurquoiseLink, SirChoate, and TheadventuresofDust for direct and indirect help in shaping all of these decks, making my TESL experience on ladder into one of the best I’ve ever had. I wish I knew how to repay you all, but I hope spreading the word on your contributions is good enough of a start.
Try out Earl(y) Grey. Heard it’s really good.