Hi everyone! Continuing off my previous articles on Fire and Time, I will be going over Justice’s faction identity for this week’s article. As a faction, Justice has had the highest highs and the lowest lows. It was easily the weakest faction in Set 1 draft, and Set 2 didn’t benefit it much either. However, it came out guns blazing in Set 3 draft, easily dominating the top spot and took multiple nerfs from DWD to bring its power level back in line with the rest. Set 4 Justice also feels very powerful, and is probably one of the top two factions in the format.
Set 4 packs are filled with Justice goodies, starting off with one of the best commons in the format (Master-at-Arms) and leading into a wide array of solid cards (Workshop Tinker, Silverwing Purgeleader, Peacekeeper’s Helm and Sharpened Reflex to name a few). Good Justice uncommons have become somewhat sparse with the Sheriff Hat nerf, but at the end of the day, Herald of the Parliament and the best Standard is nothing to scoff at.
Herald of the Parliament still being a good card post-nerf may come as a surprise to many players (afterall, who wants to play a humbug for 3?). However, with the lack of large fliers in this format, a 4/4 owl easily dominates the skies. As such, paying a total of 11 power for a 1/1 flier and a 4/4 flier is easily worth it. However, it’s important to remember that the new Herald is very vulnerable to any ping effects and so it’s better to think of Herald of the Parliament as a 7 power play rather than a 3 power play (making it very similar to Lumen Attendent).
In the curated packs, Justice remains one of the strongest factions with access to powerful tricks (Finest Hour, Strength of Many), efficient removal (Frontier Confessor) and solid units (Minotaur Oathkeeper, Brightmace Paladin) at common. The uncommon slot is similarly loaded with goodies, ranging from crazy removals (Vanquish) to extremely pushed units (Tranquil Scholar, Silverwing Avenger). The strength of Justice cards in both Set 4 and curated packs makes it an easy faction to move into both early and late. Moreover, the depth of the card pool means you will rarely end up short on playables if you are in Justice.
Justice’s Role in Draft
Set 4 Justice has generally felt pretty aggressive with the ability to charge right out of the gates and roll over opponents with powerful aggressive cards (Minotaur Oathkeeper, Master-at-Arms) backed by some of the best combat tricks in this format (Sharpened Reflex, Crownwatch Standard, Finest Hour). The rest of Justice also has nice utility support for this plan: Peacekeeper’s Helm is a cheap weapon that provides good tempo by removing a problematic blocker for 2 turns, Elder’s Feather can grant your best unit evasion to push through a lot of damage and Frontier Confessor helps deal with annoying opposing keywords.
Justice is not a one-trick pony though. Even if they don’t get off to a blazing start, they have the ability to go late with cards like Spiritblade Stalker, Sky Crew and Silverwing Purgeleader. Moreover, with Herald of the Parliament, Silverwing Purgeleader and Elder’s Feather, Justice is not lacking for powerful fliers and can often win through the air board stalls. This well-rounded nature of Justice’s draft pool makes it an extremely powerful faction.
However, this advantage also carries with it a risk of ending up with a disconnected pool of cards if you don’t draft with a coherent strategy in mind. Cards like Minotaur Oathkeeper and Spiritblade Stalker shine in very different decks and it’s often important to pick the card that synergizes better with your deck rather than the better card in a vacuum. For example, while I would easily pick Miner’s Canary over Sharpened Reflex P1P1, I would definitely pick the latter in pack 4 if I end up with a hyper-aggressive deck.
Argenport is one of the more aggressive Justice faction pairings and one of its key defining characteristics is the high power level of its fast spells. Not only so, fast spells tend to be a lot more powerful in Argenport due to a few reasons. Firstly, the wide array of tricks available makes it extremely hard for your opponent to block efficiently since it’s impossible to play around the full selection. For example, a block that plays around Finest Hour could easily result in your opponent losing an additional unit for free if you have a Rapid Shot. Even seemingly easy blocks to bait out Finest Hour (e.g. blocking a 2/2 with a 2/3) can get punished hard by a Sharpened Reflex.
The second reason fast spells are great in Argenport, and also the second defining characteristic of Argenport, is the high density of Lifesteal units. In fact, besides Whirling Duo, all common/uncommon Lifesteal cards in the draft format are Argenport-based. Using tricks on Lifesteal units would double the health swing and can easily push you ahead in close races. Lifesteal units also means that you can generally afford to have lower unit density (a natural consequence of higher spell density) since you are much less susceptible to opponents going wide around your big units.
Being an aggressive faction pairing, it is often important to have both tricks and buffs to enable your units to constantly swing in aggressively. Finest Hour, Rapid Shot and Crownwatch Standard are the premium tricks in this pairing, but Sharpened Reflex, Strength of Many, Reinvigorate, Saddle Up and Infused Strike are nothing to scoff at either. Buffs in this faction comes in both the form of units (Lethrai Bladewhirl, Master-at-Arms) and powerful weapons (Peacekeeper’s Helm, Hair-Trigger Pistol).
In turn, Corrupted Umbren is also at its best in Argenport because of the high density of tricks and buffs to push it through; a Corrupted Umbren backed by a Rapid Shot is almost impossible to block profitably and will generate a massive 14 points of life swing. On a similar vein, aggressive units (Argenport Soldier, Xenan Destroyer) also fit well with the Argenport gameplan. Lethrai Target-caller is also best in Argenport because the aggressive nature of the decks allows it to extract the most value out of Lethrai Target-caller’s Inspire ability.
Sample Argenport deck
This is an example of a typical Argenport deck. It has an aggressive line-up of well stated units and curving out well can easily run over opponents. 4 combat tricks makes it risky for opponents to block, while double Hair-Trigger Pistol means you can often force through a large amount of damage. Sadly, this deck is missing Corrupted Umbrens, which is probably one of the best holders for Hair-Trigger Pistol. T4 Corrupted Umbren curves naturally into T5 Hair-Trigger Pistol+Spellcraft which can often just end games on the spot. Having 2 Dark Returns also lets you bring back your best threats while Rampart Arbalest and Cut Ties can remove any problematic blockers.
Back-Alley Delinquent was a card that I was pretty down on at the start of the format but my evaluation on it has been rising to that of an alright playable. In some decks (such as this one), it can even be a good playable due to synergies. Having Quickdraw allows it to consistently benefit from Hair-Trigger Pistol’s Deadly and Lethrai Bladewhirl buffs extremely well.
Even back in Set 1 draft, Hooru has existed as a somewhat viable draft archetype, with a strategy centered around dominating the air with fliers. Set 4 Hooru is no different, with access to the largest pool of fliers. On top of the multiple cheap common fliers (Skysnapper, Advance Scout), Hooru also has the 4 biggest non-rare fliers (Silverwing Purgeleader, Herald of the Parliament, Speardiver and Moonlit Huntress). Furthermore, Hooru has access to the only two cards that grant flying (Changeestik and Elder’s Feather), so contesting a Hooru deck in the air is definitely a Herculean feat.
To compliment the fliers’ plan, it is important to have walls to deter opponents from racing. Campfire Watchman and Miner’s Canary might not look like much, but these two cards are extremely powerful and synergistic with Hooru’s fliers gameplan. These 0/x units effectively remove your opponent’s biggest attacker every turn, making it nigh impossible for your opponent to race you. While not necessarily good in every deck since your opponent can simply choose to not swing and stall the board, these units shine in Hooru since you WANT to stall the ground and win through the air. Moreover, between Bring Down, Violent Gust and Frontier Confessor, it becomes extremely hard for your opponent to keep up flying blockers.
While Hooru suffered the devastating loss of Flash Freeze, it did pick up quite a few new tempo tools. With access to both Linebreakers’ Shield and Peacekeeper’s Helm, Hooru decks are often able to keep a problematic enemy unit out of the game for multiple turns. Entangling vines (though not as great as Flash freeze) is still a decent tempo tool. These cards add another facet to Hooru, where you can simply out-tempo your opponent with efficient stuns and running them over before they can even establish a semblance of board control.
Sample hooru deck
This deck is great at stalling out the game, with 3 big, cheap blockers to halt any opponent aggression and its own array of 3 drop fliers to clock the opponent in the air. The 3 Master-at-Arms will often end up simply being Crownwatch Longswords for the fliers, while Minotaur Oathkeeper has excellent synergy with the fliers. This deck is also apt at keeping the skies clear, with Bring Down, Frontier Confessor, Welding Torch and Gun Down. Even unstable form could remove a flier if you are in a pinch. Going late, Sky Crew activations are also useful for breaking open a stalled board.
Gruanform is also pretty good in this deck due to the low health on the fliers. Oftentimes, Advance Scout and Skysnapper do not need extra attack to kill enemy blockers, but they do need the extra health to help them survive the combat. This makes Gruanform the perfect trick. Similarly, Gleaming Shield’s defensive statline synergizes very well with the low health fliers.
Remember the little kid that always get bullied in middle school? Who then grows up into a bad-ass and comes round knocking for revenge? Well, that’s pretty much Justice in a nutshell. Once the red-headed stepchild of Set 1 draft, Justice hit its stride in the start of Set 3 and never looked back. It took multiple hits of the nerf bat, in both Set 3 and 4, to bring Justice back in line with the other factions. Despite that, Justice still feels very strong and deep and it is definitely not a faction that I would be upset to end up in. I’ve also found the aggressive slant of Justice in this format to be a nice change of pace.
What are your thoughts on Justice in this format? Do you agree with my assessment? As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on the Reddit thread!
May you always be justly rewarded for picking optimally,