Hello everyone! Tchamber5 here with a guide to a deck that we all love, or perhaps love to hate: Skycrag Aggro.
When I first dove into the Eternal competitive scene, I had a severe disdain for Skycrag Aggro. I thought that it was a bad deck and that I only ever lost to it’s nut-draws. While the deck may have a low “skill floor,” it has a very high ceiling, and when played expertly can perform as well as any deck on ladder. Even if you are just picking up the deck to race to masters at the beginning of a new season, this guide can help you get a few extra percentage points.
Let’s talk about the overall gameplan of Skycraggro:
Get ‘em dead.
But really, In almost every scenario except the mirror match and perhaps against Praxis Tokens, you are the beat down. You are trying to kill your opponent in the most efficient way possible. You do this with aggressive units and resilient threats like Vadius, Snowcrust Yeti, and Champion of Fury. Let’s take a look at some cards that are core to Skycrag. The following cards are cards that I would never cut from any Skycrag list, and will usually never go below four copies.
Bread and butter. This unit comes down on turn one and makes almost every other card in your deck better with warcry. It will often get in for two to four damage, and if your oppononent burns a removal spell on it, you don’t really mind. This card has gotten worse with the presence of vara’s favor in the meta, but it is still a slam dunk four of, because it synergizes well with your deck and usually pays back dividends for the one power spent.
Other one-drops (Snowcrust Yeti, Pyroknight):
While supplementing your Oni Ronins, these cards also help to fill your curve so that you are maximizing power use every turn. Snowcrust Yeti is a great early play if there is a lot of cheap removal in the format (It never feels good to use two removal spells on a one drop) . There are also a non-zero number of games in which you can equip a Snowcrust Yeti with long barrels and Shogun Cepters and run away with the game. Pyroknight is fine as a turn one play and will probably get in for two to four damage. What makes it a worthy inclusion is the late game mana sink that it provides for you if you get flooded out.
This unassuming two drop is a great deal for the two power spent, as it will pump up the next unit you draw, thanks to warcry, and make combat math a little bit harder for your opponent due to quickdraw. This unit will get a lot better if you play pump spells and equipment, which skycrag always does.
Champion of fury:
This card is a workhorse. Attacking for 4 on turn two is very powerful, and playing multiple unanswered champions is insane. Most of your explosive starts will involve Champion of Fury, and for only two power, this little yeti can help fill out your curve on many turns in addition to being a great standalone threat.
Another great reason to play Skycrag, Vadius is very difficult to trade with on turn three and will usually end up as a two-for-one when your opponent spends two cards to remove him. Much like Pyroknight, he also provides a great late game mana sink with his ultimate, which can even buff one of your units when he dies. A viable strategy for winning is suiting up Vadius with long-barrel, Shogun’s Cepter, or Ornate Katana, and attacking into your opponent’s units. I would never play less than four of this card and I think it’s a mistake to cut him.
This card is very good, since it buffs the units you have on board, and also adds another body to the fray. I would probably go no lower than two of this card since it is always a two for one and generates some virtual card advantage while fitting with the theme of the deck.
Hot take: If anyone plays less than four of this card, they are wrong. This card has won so many games for me out of nowhere. I have always been a big fan of standard in aggressive decks since you don’t necessarily want to hit your power drops every turn, with your curve topping out at 3. Enter transmute cards that help to mitigate flood and bolster the game plan of your deck by quite a bit. Not something you would necessarily think of as a core card, but I think it’s a subtly important piece of the puzzle to the decks success.
These cards are present to remove blockers to get through with your units, and as is the case with torch, occasionally deal the final few points of damage to the face. SooNo cut permafrosts in his ETS Invitational list and instead replaced them with entangling vines which is an interesting decision. However, I believe that this is just a meta call for a specific even, and unless you have a good reason, I suggest not following suit.
Ixtun or Jenev Merchant:
Ixtun is the merchant with the best aggressive options, like warhelm, mindfire, and friends. I love running shugo banner in the market with this card because you can get in for an extra burst of damage on turn five or six. Another great option is Obliterate, a card you should play when there are a lot of big units (like Vara) or you get into a lot of board stalls. Jennev Merchant brings a lot of utility to the table as well in certain meta games, giving you access to cards like Permafrost, Backlash, Mirror Image, and Gift of Battle.
Other cards you could play (Flex Slots):
I would almost consider this a core card, but I have seen a lot of lists playing Jennev Merchant that don’t have this. This can, however, be one of the best cards in the deck. You usually don’t want to play this until turn four, which is fine since you will usually want to play this on your vadius anyway. The tempo you can gain by sniping a unit and getting in for some extra damage can be tremendous. If you aren’t playing this card, I highly recommend at least trying it out.
Pretty popular, but definitely not core to the deck. In some metas (like the reign of Temporal), this card is absolutely insane when paired with pump spells and warcry. It can be bad when there’s a lot of cheap removal and small units in the meta though, so be choosy about when you use it.
This card is really good for Skycrag as it provides card draw without slowing down our gameplan. The less obvious function of this deck is that it lets you keep more two power hands that might have been a bit to risky otherwise.
This card is very powerful, but I am not sure that it belongs in the deck(though I know there are many who will challenge me on this), and I would put this card in a deck with Censari Brigand and pump spells because it gives you more nut draws. The effect is very powerful, and if your opponent can’t remove it, it can snowball the game, so perhaps that is reason enough to include it. I just think that this isn’t the right meta for it since there are so many decks that lean on good, cheap removal.
- 4x Oni Ronin
- 4x Pyroknight
- 4x Snowcrust yeti
- 4x champion of fury
- 4x Rakano Outlaw
- 4x Merchant
- 4x Vadius
- 2x Shogun’s Cepter
- 4x Torch
- 4x Permafrost
- 4x Shugo Standard
- 21x Assorted Power
This leaves us with twelve flex slots. Right now, I am filling this with:
- 4x Grenadin Drone
- 4x Longbarrel
- 2x Ornate Katana
- 2x Shogun’s Scepter
For the purposes of this guide, and because it is the version I play the most on ladder, I will be referring to the following deck from here on out:
As you can see almost every card in the deck is a four of, which makes the deck very consistent. Every card in this deck is there to either deal damage, buff your units, or create card advantage via two-for-ones. Before just jumping on ladder, consider how each card operates in your deck, and what the reason behind it is. Here are some more specific tips and nuances:
- Try to use all your power every single turn, as long as it makes sense. This is a basic concept in Eternal, and it is especially important in Skycrag.
- Learn combat math. It can be a total headache to master, but at the very least, know what your opponent’s best blocks are and assume that they will make them. Again, this can be hard to learn, but is key to making the best plays possible. Another key concept to grasp is when to attack with all your units, even if you are going to lose some of them. I could honestly write an entire article on combat math, and perhaps I will, but overall, just be patient, and think through all your lines thoroughly before commiting to an attack. Patience is key to winning with an aggro deck (ironically, perhaps).
- in the same vein, you are usually the beat down, but attacking isn’t always the right move. Use your life total as a resource. A friend of mine once said: the only life point that really matters is the last one. If taking some damage leads to the win, take that damage. It’s often times not that cut and dry, so remember to always consider whether or not you can race, or if you need to sit back and block. I see a lot of new players attacking every turn without considering how the board will likely look in two or three turns. Sometimes it is better to build up your board than to just push for a couple points of damage in the long run.
- on the draw you want to lead with Snowcrust yeti over Oni Ronin or Pyroknight, as this will make it more likely that your unit will live.
- I would recommend getting Factory Quota out of the market preemptively against FJS in most cases. You can usually out race them and go too wide for them to handle, and the way that they stabilize is through life gain. Plus, the two damage clause is no joke.
- Play around sweepers, and know when to play into them. This is a tricky one, but you get a feel for it after a few games against control decks. This is can be an exception to the first tip because you don’t always want to just dump a bunch of units on the board only to have them Hailstormed or Harsh Ruled. It’s all about striking a balance between committing enough units to the board to pressure your opponent while also holding back some in your hand to rebuild after a sweeper. This is also why aegis units are so important to the deck, as it allows you to play around these cards more easily.
Feln Mid: slightly unfavored
This is a matchup where playing around hailstorm is one of the most important skills you can bring to the table, especially since most people have shifted away from Ripknife Assassin. You are definitely put into an awkward spot in this matchup, since you have to apply enough early pressure to swoop under them and also play around sweepers and removal. This can be a tall order which is why I think this is a slightly unfavored matchup. Try to save your torches and pump spells to pop aegis and deal with their units while developing your board. Permafrost can be one of your best cards here, since it deals with one of their units and it also shuts off dark return.
Combrei Telut: favored
This matchup is good for us, but they can win a surprising number of games by chump blocking or stonewalling us with their units and then just playing Sword of Unity into Telut, which will almost assuredly end the game on the spot. Always remember to torch their turn one Initiate or turn two Trailmaker since them ramping into a sword of unity is usually how they will win the game. Other than that, if you can find a way punish their comparatively slow starts, you should see a great win percentage here.
Control (temporal and others): heavily favored.
I thought that control was in a bad spot, but I ran into a bunch of hard control decks on ladder before writing this. This should be an easy matchup. Just remember to play around hailstorm and harsh rule. Also worth noting is to pay attention to when they have pauses, as this will indicate that they may have Scorpion Wasp, which is a good way to deal with your aegis units. If they deal with your first onslaught of units, don’t give up! It’s very possible for this deck to run out of gas after it stabilizes, so at least go through a few more draw steps to see if you can finish them off. If you are running into this one a lot, try playing this version of the deck, with Censari Brigand that SooNo recently top eighted with.
Praxis Tokens: even
This Matchup feels like a coin flip to me, and whoever has the better start will probably win. Overwhelm units are particularly good here, as you will usually trade for one or two of their units and still push through damage. Try to save permafrost for Heart of the Vault, and remember to Torch the Initiate on turn one to shut off their explosive starts. Also, I value Vadius and Longbarrel quite a lot here. Vadius is plain hard to kill and Longbarrel equipped on a Vadius is usually lights out.
FJS Mid/Control: Even
People will probably yell at me for saying this, but I like my matchup versus FJS. It’s a skill intensive matchup. If you can land an early Factory Quota from the market, it becomes a little bit easier. Vara is a huge issue for the deck, which why I have been running obliterate in the market. Permafrost is also an important card, which you should try to save for Rizahn and Vara. other than that, the cards you need to be aware of to play around are Devastating Setback Harsh Rule. something to remember too is that if Vara is blocking a quick draw unit and you can either pump it or Torch Vara to low enough health so that she dies and your opponent won’t gain life.
Rakano Plate: Bad
This is probably our worst matchup at the moment. A ton of their units have lifesteal, and they are also usually running four Crownwatch Standards. To make matters worse, A Deepforge Plate on any of their units usually spells lights out since there is no way to kill them on our end.
If this deck gets more popular, I would suggest putting a Bore in the market over Mindfire to combat their Deepforged plates.
Thanks for reading everyone! I hope that I could give you some useful tips to piloting one of the best decks to climb the ladder with. If you have any questions about the deck, certain card choices, or anything else, just drop me a line in the comments below or feel free to drop me a line on twitter!
Have fun salting the ladder,