The story of 2nd place in the CCS with HallowedAce!

Testing and Deck Choice


Hey everyone, HallowedAce here bringing you an inside look at the DS control list that I recently took to a CCS top 8. We just had our first CCS of the new frostheart format and so far the format has appeared to be quite open. While the Hex Heroes spent the vast majority of our testing effort on the Blood/Sapphire reanimator list that Androod recently wrote about (See his article here), at various points leading up to the event members of the team considered playing a wide variety of other decks including DS control, mono ruby, redlings, and even the storm escalate deck. Ultimately the two favorites were DS control and our reanimator list.


The night before the event we were doing some last minute testing and found an unexpectedly awful matchup for the reanimator deck – ardent. Their void removal combined with the fact that diamond’s favor does not target made the matchup miserable and it pushed most of us into a last minute audible to DS control. Ultimately only Androod stuck to their guns on the reanimator deck, and the rest of us swapped to this suboptimal list:


Champion: Dreaming Fox
11x Sapphire Shard 2x Heart's Whisper
4x Transmogrifade
4x Arcane Focus (Alternate Art)
3x Clash of Steel
3x Silver Talon Adjudicator
4x Well of Purpose
4x Dark Heart of Nulzann - Gems: 4x Major Sapphire of Clarity, 4x Minor Diamond of Protection
3x Eldurathan's Glory
2x Psychic Ascension
3x Sapphire Ice
4x Diamond Ice
4x Runebind
4x Guidance
2x Weave into Nothing
3x Into the Unknown
Reserves:
4x Verdict of the Ancient Kings
3x Tribunal Magistrate
2x Totem Trap
1x Dread End
2x Diamond's Favor
1x Loregoyle Curator
1x Weave into Nothing
1x Silver Talon Adjudicator

 

This shell was powerful before the new set, and it got a number of upgrades.



4 Arcane focus and 4 Guidance gives you a lot of deck velocity along with enabling you to ascend far quicker than in previous iterations.



Into the Unknown fills a very important gap the deck previously had: answer target card I wish was literally anything else. Previously it could answer a large number of annoying cards with dark heart, but sometimes your opponent has removal, the card has sockets, or they can just play around it. Finally, Runebind is a very powerful card here. It lets us play 4 dark heart in a world with herofall and unlocks all sorts of cute tricks. With dark heart out and an empty board on the other side, it’s actually just a hard counter. It can protect our powerful troops from removal like herofall (it’s usually correct to target your own card, since if you just runebind the herofall it will come back). You can use it to revert your own cards, or rebuy powerful triggers like glory or owl. Runebind a counterspell to deal with it in the control matchup or runebind the early plays from aggro decks to buy time. Even if they immediately draw a shard, it has troop trauma because it was re-cast. Do note that this is worse against threats with speed, since they don’t lose nearly as much time once they draw a shard.


In general, this deck will be strongly favored against aggressive decks. It has tons of early interaction, big powerful catchup effects like glory and owl, can play a 4/6 dark heart on 4, and starts at 25 life.  You should also be favored against midrange/ramp decks, where psychic ascension goes over the top of whatever it is they’re trying to do. The reanimator matchups tend to be favorable to roughly even, but they are very skill testing. The ovo reanimator deck tends to be favorable, because they don’t have access to seeker and as a result have a harder time dealing with dark heart. The BS reanimator matchup is slightly favored, but extremely skilltesting. The best advice is to avoid playing out dark heart unless it’s going to kill one of their payoffs, it’s the most important card in the matchup and getting it seeker’d without getting value is very bad. Difficult matchups are wintermoon and the BS storm deck. Wintermoon just goes over the top with their card draw late game. The biggest priorities are punching through a psychic ascension and preventing a windsinger from sticking. Unfortunately they tend to have more hard countermagic, so this can be a challenge. The BS storm deck just presents too many cards that you have to deal with. You’re never going to counter all of their card draw and you have to counter all of their caress and their ascension. Swapped your dark heart to the mill gem is a good idea in this matchup, you can flip over valuable win conditions and escalate cards that they cannot get back.


Updated List


I mentioned earlier that the deck was suboptimal. Over the course of the event we collectively reached the conclusion that the deck is ~3-5 cards away from where it should be. Knowing what I do now, an updated list would look something like this:


 
Champion: Dreaming Fox
11x Sapphire Shard
2x Lanupaw's Sight
4x Transmogrifade
4x Arcane Focus (Alternate Art)
2x Clash of Steel
4x Silver Talon Adjudicator
4x Well of Purpose
4x Dark Heart of Nulzann - Gems: 4x Major Sapphire of Clarity, 4x Minor Diamond of Protection
3x Eldurathan's Glory
2x Psychic Ascension
3x Sapphire Ice
4x Diamond Ice
4x Runebind
2x Weave into Nothing
4x Guidance
3x Into the Unknown
Reserves:
2x Heart's Whisper
3x Tribunal Magistrate
2x Totem Trap
1x Clash of Steel
1x Loregoyle Curator
1x Dread End
2x Diamond's Favor
1x Weave into Nothing
2x Verdict of the Ancient Kings

 


The previous draft needed a little bit more card draw, as I found myself running out of gas in the Kagu matchup. Three Clash was also too much mainboard. It’s a powerful card, but it’s often dead in certain matchups or in multiples. I still want access to another out of the board, because it breaks certain matchups like ardent or mono sapphire.


Day One - Constructed


Moving on to the actual matchups of the CCS, where I had an ultimate record of 5-2 with good enough breakers to end up in 7th. Full disclosure, I did get an early bye when my opponent did not show up for the match, but it was a favorable matchup.


Round 1: Mono Ruby 2-0 (1-0 Overall Record)


As I previously mentioned, this is a very good matchup. We have a bunch of early interaction that easily curves into our big plays and it usually locks them down pretty quickly. Don’t get cocky though, the Lazgar deck always has a chance to run you out of a match. The sideboard plan is to simply take out the clunky and expensive cards, bring in interaction and blockers.


OUT: 2 Psychic Ascension, 3 Clash of Steel

IN: 2 Totem Trap, 1 Silver Talon, 1 Loregoyle Curator


Round 2: Ovo Reanimator 2-0 (2-0 Overall Record)


This deck had some interesting card choices like Parallel Realities and Sorcerous Sculpting, which would allow them to establish a quick lock against various strategies. Lucky for us, we don’t care about any of their possible locks. Clash and dark heart are excellent for cleaning up their board state; all we have to do is prevent them from hitting it with into the unknown. It’s worth noting that transmog and runebind are not great at preventing this particular reanimation. While runebind can fizzle their champion power, it does the same thing once they draw a shard. You can get lucky with transmog; if you make a non-troop it will fizzle the champion power. It’s worth noting that I don’t think I would keep clash in vs this deck if I didn’t see the clone effects. Luckily the cards we are bringing in are very high impact in this matchup. Dread end and Loregoyle trump their whole strategy, while favor deals with garg very nicely.


OUT: 4 Transmog, 2 Glory, 1 Clash of Steel

IN: 1 Dread End, 1 Loregoyle Curator, 2 Diamond’s Favor, 3 Verdict of the Ancient Kings


Round 3: Crusader Kagu (no deathcry theme) 0-2 (2-1 Overall Record)


This was the big round for me where it became apparent to me that we didn’t have enough card draw. Several times I found myself with an empty tank and my opponent with multiple cards in hand. Runebind is also a tricky card in this matchup. Sometimes it’s awful when you draw it on an empty tank, sometimes you’re countering removal and rebuying triggers. I did not draw them in a favorable order in this match. Opponent also had a powerful hedge of 2 maindeck gargalith that can be tricky for us to deal with. They put a lot more troops on the field than reanimator, and they have a lot more removal, so it’s much harder to get dark heart to take one out. My opponent played well and I faced a sound defeat this round.


OUT: 3 Clash of Steel, 1 Dark Heart of Nulzann

IN: 1 Weave into Nothing, 1 Silver Talon, 1 Dread End, 1 Diamond’s Favor


Round 4: Wintermoon 2-1 (3-1 Overall Record)


This match was an absolute grind fest. The wintermoon deck gets to place mostly and instant speed and has significantly more hard counters. They also tend to have late game inevitability with their champion power, though we get to trump that with psychic ascension (the omission of which in the wintermoon deck is a mistake I feel). We lost game one after a windsinger was resolved and not quickly answered, but then we get to bring in some sweet sideboard tech. Tribunal Magistrate is the only reason I won game 2. My opponent resolved windsinger and starting pulling farther and farther ahead, but by then I had put enough eggs in their deck that the unblockable spiders closed the game. Finally a close game 3 where I got a bit lucky. Windsinger resolved and my only answer was countered. After a bit of back and forth I was able to punch through a psychic ascension with verdict to back it up. Ascension created an instant that could shuffle windsinger back into their deck and that bought me enough time that I was able to stabilize and pull ahead before they stuck another one.


OUT: 4 Transmog, 3 Clash, 2 Glory, 1 Into the Unknown

IN: 3 Tribunal Magistrate, 1 Loregoyle, 4 Verdict, 1 Silver Talon, 1 Weave into Nothing


I think the best dark heart gems are likely fateweave/flight but I have not had a chance to test very many combinations. Mill seems cute to flip over a lanupaw’s sight and deny them the draws, but we do a good job of not putting cards in their crypt anyway and it can stall out their hero power. Flipping over a bunch of stuff would let them use it.


Round 5: Mono Ruby 2-1 (4-1 Overall Record)


See the write up from round 1. My opponent was able to steal a game, as aggro decks are always capable of, but this is a favorable matchup and we got there without issue. Lorenzo was an unexpected inclusion, but it never became an issue.


OUT: 2 Psychic Ascension, 3 Clash of Steel

IN: 2 Totem Trap, 1 Silver Talon, 1 Loregoyle Curator


Round 6: DS Ardent 2-0 (5-1 Overall Record)


We’re very well equipped to beat on this deck, and that’s exactly what happened. Dark Heart and clash are both particularly brutal, and we’re running 3 and 4 mainboard respectively. This version was very heavy in the 2 drop slot, which meant glory was also live for eating their board. I don’t like to cut all of the psychic ascensions in this matchup because sometimes they can run you out of threats. Particularly post board when they often bring in better removal.


OUT: 1 Psychic Ascension, 2 Weave into Nothing

IN: 1 Dread End, 2 Totem Trap


Round 7: Mono Sapphire 0-2 [5-2 Overall Record)


While I believe this matchup to be generally favorable, in this particular case it was a bloodbath in my opponent’s favor.  Warpsteel with mill is adorable until you keep a hand short on shards relying on ice. Although mono sapphire has lost some of its draws with the rotation of the dreadling gem; it’s still a formidable deck. Clash is one of the best cards in this particular matchup and I never managed to find a copy in either game. Dark heart is another important card that can allow you to keep your opponent’s board in check. My opponent played well and evaporate caught me off guard, blanking my into the unknown.


OUT: 2 Glory, 1 Psychic Ascension

IN: 2 Diamond’s Favor, 1 Weave into Nothing


After ending up 5-2, I was lucky enough to have good breakers that allowed me to sneak into the top 8 of the event at 7th place.


The Top 8:


This draft ended up feeling a bit strange to me. I first picked Party Fungi and was pretty convincingly in the SW transformation archetype, which I consider to be the strongest, until pick 5 or 6 when a copy of runic avalanche was passed to me.  For anyone who has not played with it, this card is a stone cold bomb in limited, which was a major signal that ruby was open and I promptly moved in. While sapphire wasn’t particularly open, I definitely felt like wild was being cut (confirmed by the fact that three people at the table were in wild/blood). These observations were rewarded with a number of very strong SR cards, including a pair of runeseekers and a runic upheaval. I was also passed a copy of Boglam, The Mad Marsh. I also managed to amass a surprisingly large amount of removal and pseudo removal for the format, including the aforementioned runic upheaval, deep freeze, flamelick, firepower, runic downfall, and a copy of burning ire that I started in the sideboard. While I have been unable to find the other draft decklists, what I have seen leads me to believe I ended up with one of the better decks in the pod. My finalized list was:


All of these matches can be watched on the hextcg twitch page archives which can be found here.

 

Champion: Puff the Rainbow
15x
1x Shard of Innovation
1x Ruby Ice
1x Sapphire Ice
1x Eldritch Thunderbird
1x Runic Chrysalis
1x Runic Candescence
1x Runic Avalanche
1x Runic Upheaval
1x Arena Mutt
1x Theorize
1x Feralfuel Guzzler
1x Heart's Whisper
1x Bluebell Dryad
2x Winter Widow
1x Flamelick
3x Runic Hatching
1x Firepower
1x Mad Packmaster
1x Runic Downfall
2x Runeseeker
1x Deep Freeze
Notable Reserves cards:
1x Runic Missile
1x Burning Ire

Round 1: vs BW


I think we were helped a good bit in this match by the fact that there were three players drafting the BW archetype. My overall card quality was a good bit higher and I was able to run Traxym out of the match 2-0. I was actually in a bit of trouble at the end of game 2, before I was able to runic upheaval into heart’s whisper and runic hatching allowing me to deal lethal right when he was stabilizing.


Round 2: vs DS splash B (for twilight eclipse)


Twilight eclipse is a powerful card, but without enough constants I was able to overpower it in game one. In game 2 I ended up at a relatively low life total, with a few Hyperborean Hermits helping to push flying damage that I had a hard time blocking. Runic avalanche was the MVP here, letting me refill and put enough fliers in the sky to hold off the assault. This allowed my giant golems to go the distance and we take another one down 2-0.


Round 3: vs BW


I managed to fall behind game one, with my opponent having a number of very powerful cards like walking boneyard, gallows oak, and archive dweller backed up by a cull the weak. My one opportunity to catch up was runic avalanche, which unfortunately wiffed completely by finding three shards. I was able to grind out game 2 with flamelick, runeseeker, burning ire, and a variety of butterfly transform effects.


Game 3 was an absolute heartbreak for me. I managed to grind the game to the point where I was a massive favorite and I made the classic mistake that everyone should always keep in mind. I forgot to ask myself “what beats me here” and I took a bad line. Yes, I was very unlucky not to see a shard in 4 draws. Yes, it was very lucky for my opponent to have an extra shard for their champ power and then draw exactly a removal spell for lethal. The odds were outrageously in my favor at that point, but that is totally irrelevant.  If, instead of playing the runic upheaval, I simply play out the runeseeker that I drew for the turn I have 2 blockers and now there is no draw that allows my opponent to push through their champ power for lethal. Just because I knew they did not have removal at the time does not mean I shouldn’t play around them drawing it. My line was higher upside, but obviously it opened a narrow window for me to be savagely punished.


Wrap up:


It was very exciting for me to make my first CCS top 8, and subsequently finish 2nd. I’ve had numerous top 16 and top 32 finishes but until now had been unable to break through. I had a lot of fun with the DS control list, which I expect will be a very strong contender in the upcoming meta. I’d like to thank the rest of the hex heroes group for all the preparation work, it certainly contributed to my success. Thanks for taking the time to read this article, make sure you check out Battle Shopper if you need any of the cards to complete this decklist.


Thanks for reading!

-HallowedAce


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