Meta Monday – Shadow Is Good

Hello everyone, and welcome to another Meta Monday on Team Rankstar! I’m Tim, otherwise known as Tchamber5 on ladder! 

Let me start by saying that I’m very proud to be on Team Rankstar this week, given that three members of the team qualified for the Envoys Tournament, all of them piloting FJS control (I’ll discuss this later in the article). The deck looked dominant during our testing, and it was a blast to pilot it through the qualifier stages. Unfortunately, the finals were delayed, but I know for certain that at least one member of Team Rankstar made top 32 before this happened, and this was the day after he piloted the same deck to a top eight finish in the ETS. Suffice to say, that FJS is very good right now, and that DunkelWerk is an excellent pilot. Speaking of excellent pilots, Aetherllama, another member of the team, took down the entire ETS. Overall, a great weekend for Team Rankstar, and I am very humbled to have the opportunity to be a part of it all. 

I think I can safely say that the format is still shifting daily. We have seen a few decks solidify themselves as the core of the format while we have many other decks orbiting around them. However, one thing I can say for certain is that shadow is very good right now, with every single deck in the ETS top eight containing a significant number of cards from the faction. The ECL Sunday challenge this week was not much different with eight of the twelve decks from the top four containing shadow cards. What can this tell us about the meta? Let’s start by taking a closer look at the top eight decks of the ETS.

In first place, we Team Rankstar’s very own prolific deck builder, Aetherllama, piloting Dark Alessi.

The concept of this deck is, by no means, new; but the construction here is air tight. The core of the build is Alessi, Combrei Archmage, Stand Together, and Sword of Unity. Landing this one drop early and following it up with any of the plethora of impactful spells you have in the deck can snowball the game out of control. Aetherllama also packs a lot of great follow ups by way of Awakened Student, Xenan Initiation, and Stand together. The top of the curve includes Tavrod, Auric Broker, and Sword of Unity to finish the game. Crownwatch Press-Gang is also a really sneakily great card draw engine, drawing you up to four cards (two of which being Alessi), which is insane. There are many awesome synergies here which gives the deck a ton of different lines of play throughout the game, the downside being that not many of these cards are very powerful on their own and require some amount of set up. When you do put the pieces together though, this deck feels unbeatable. Tavrod with Xenan Initiation is one of my favorite new synergies to pull off, and it feels even more busted to find Sword of Unity off a Tavrod killer attack. Overall, another tightly built and expertly played deck by Aetherllama.

In second place, we have Eternal Titan’s Mouche, piloting [ET]Manus’ Scream!

We have a very familiar deck in second place, so I won’t go too far in depth here, though ManuS and the Eternal Titans have been making some tweaks over the last week or two. The biggest change here is to the powerbase, where we see a reduction of banners and waystones, which are replaced by Diplomatic Seals. I like the idea of the diplomatic seal here, as it allows you to increase the un-depleted power count in your deck. Haunted Highway’s biggest weakness is definitely it’s power base, and perhaps these changes will help out a bit.

In third place, we have another Eternal Titan, Camat0, piloting the super spicy 3f Gunslingers!

This deck is looking to take full use of all the best Eternal has to offer in the two-drop department, including cards like Argenport Instigator, Champion of Fury, and Dusk Raider. The deck then curves into a powerful top end with Bandit Queen and Vicious Highwayman. I think the use of Argenport Instigator is smart here since most other unit-based decks are going to be trading heavily with you in the early game. One damage may not seem like a lot, but even if you can get it to trigger twice, that’s insane value for two power that can snowball the game in your favor. I have also always been a big fan of Hideout Pistol, as it can lead to some insane tempo swings. The influence requirements in the deck do seem a little bit greedy, but if your draws work out for you, I’m sure that this deck can display some crazy nut draws. Overall, I’m looking forward to seeing if this deck can continue to be tuned and adjusted to be more consistent and powerful. Right now, I’m wondering how necessary the primal splash is, and whether or not you should just be playing Stonescar gunslingers instead.

In fourth place, we have Almost, piloting Jennev Merchant, which to everyone’s surprise, is not a West-Wind Herald deck.

This deck contains a lot of the staples you could expect in a shadow-primal deck, like Champion of Cunning, Jotun Feast-Caller, and Hailstorm. There are a couple of interesting inclusions to the deck though. On the top end, Almost is running a singleton copy of Thunderstrike Dragon, which is intriguing. What’s nice about the card is the built in card advantage (in the form of echo) on the already beefy flying body. I think that the addition of the dragon as an on-off is quite clever. Though you don’t want to draw too many copies, drawing one and slamming two dragons in the late-game can overwhelm your opponent’s removal suite when both players are running low on cards. Almost is also running three copies of Rindra’s Choice this week, which is a great read on the meta. It’s rarely a dead card in a meta of Haunting Scream, where it can be used proactively as a counter-spell, or later as removal. A couple things leave me wondering in this list. I’m not sure about the presence of Petition here, though I suppose you could use it to get a crest and scout if you have nothing else to do with your power. I also, feel like this version of the deck is a little bit threat light, with only 9 threats not including Dusk Raider, which is another sketchy inclusion to me. As far as changes I would make, I would lean towards swapping out some number of dusk raiders for Dark Returns, though giving a huge flying unit berserk is no joke. Perhaps there is room for both. Overall, a nice build and a great finish.

In fifth place we have Feln Scream, piloted by Puzzle!

This archetype will look pretty familiar to most eternal players, though we haven’t seen a whole lot of it over the past few weeks, probably due to the popularity of Haunted Highway, which many will think of as a better scream deck. There are some huge benefits to playing the feln version of scream though, the more consistent powerbase not being the least of which. I am also a big fan of Twilight Raptor in these style of decks, because of the efficient flying body, and the ability to fill out your curve nicely. It makes me happy to see that Puzzle has kept in four copies of Territorial Elf, a card that a fair amount of players have been cutting, which doesn’t make sense to me. The ability to deal fourteen damage (Elf + Rapid Shot) on turn three is hard to pass up. It dies to most removal, but in a deck that’s looking to burst your opponent down by playing haunting scream, it seems like it’s not such a detriment to have it in your void. Something else that caught my eye in this build is the absence of dark return, and the addition of Last Chance. It can be dangerous to give your units voidbound in a recursion deck, but the zero-cost on the spell also allows you to have more explosive turns when you are tight on power.

The next fifth place deck we have is TTT piloted by Giantmonstr!

For those of you that were paying attention to last week’s ETS, you will notice that this is the exact same 80 cards that TonyGeeeee piloted to a second place finish. I won’t go super far into the deck, since Isochron covered it very well in last week’s Meta Monday Article (which you can read here). I will say that this goes to show that the deck has staying power. Last week, I was unsure if it was just a good meta call piloted by a great player or if it was going to stick around for a while, and clearly the latter is true. I’m excited to see more of this deck in the weeks to come.

The next fifth place deck we have is Thecow FJS piloted by Bakedkale!

As opposed to the recent FJS decks we have seen that are more controlling with less units, more Harsh Rules, and Sword of The Sky Kings, Bakedkale leans on creatures to get the job done. Starting at three power with Ixtun Merchant, which is arguably the best merchant right now, and continuing up the curve with the powerful units like Vara, Tavrod, Caiphus, and Rizahn. To support these creatures, we have four copies of Dark Return, which is mostly just insane with Caiphus. To fill in the gaps, the deck is packed with removal and four copies of cookbook between the market and the main. Double banner in the market seems pretty weak to me here and will probably leave you wishing that you had more impactful options. I will concede that being able to hit your faction requirements on time can be a little tricky in FJS, especially since you are running double shadow, double justice, and double fire in the deck. Lastly, I wanted to point out the addition of Vanquisher’s Blade, a card that increases exponentially in value in a deck with 24 units, especially when one of them is Tavrod. I have been pretty impressed with this card due to its ability to shut down void synergies while also being able to snipe large units on your opponent’s board.

Last, but not least, we have Team Rankstar’s DunkelWerk, piloting a more controlling FJS deck, Team Rankstar’s Cookbook Control.

Not only is Dunkel an excellent FJS pilot, but he is constantly making tweaks to the deck to adapt week to week. This week is no exception. As well as all the usual suspects, He is sporting 3 copies of Devastating Setback, which is quite powerful in the current meta. Not only can it wipe a board full of small units, but it can act as a discard spell to give you the edge in the mid-range mirror or control matchups. I have never been a big fan of End of The Story, but with no access to sweepers in the market, it is a bit of a necessary inclusion. What I like most about this deck is that it doesn’t rely too heavily on specific synergies and instead has a density of cards that can win the game on their own. The synergy is there though, and the deck offers a ton of lines of play. Vara into Harsh Rule anyone? It’s also worth noting that there are eight copies of large life-stealing units, which offset the potential life lost from Cookbook. Overall, this deck is a solid choice, not only for laddering, but for tournament play, and will reward practice and experience with the deck.

Overall, a pretty diverse top eight, even though every deck contained some amount of shadow cards. The meta is settling into several strong mid-range decks, including FJS Mid/Control, Feln Mid-Range, and Haunted Highway, and is peppered with aggro.

I doubt that this mid-range equilibrium will last, and I suspect that we will see the pendulum swing in another direction, whether it be big control to go over the top of these decks or aggro to go under them, I suspect the meta will continue to shift.

Anyway, that’s all for today! If you have any questions,comments, or feedback for me, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter, or to leave a comment below.See you next time!

-Tim

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