For this week's faction identity, we are going to do a complete 180 degrees from the aggression of Fire to the insane greediness of Time. In fact, Time is probably the antithesis of Fire; it is the durdliest faction in contrast to Fire's aggression and it has the most defensively slanted units in contrast to the general aggressive slant of Fire units.
Time has always been one of the top factions in draft, and Set 4 draft is no exception. As seen from it’s dominance in the top commons and uncommons list, Time is definitely one of the deepest factions in Set 4 packs. It’s powerful units span the curve, ranging from impactful 2 drops (Living Example, Learned Herbalist, etc) to powerful finishers that are generally the biggest unit on board (Pensive Lumen, Subterranean Sentry, etc).
In the curated packs, Time is again no slouch, boasting the best common in the curated packs, Archive Curator. Backing it up with powerful fatties such as Sandbinder Sentinel and Xenan Guardian, Time is definitely not lacking for impactful units. The early units may not be as impressive, but cards such as Bold Adventurer and Nocturnal Creeper do a great job of stalling out the ground. Dispel and Predator’s Instinct are also key interactions that you should look out for given the general lack of interaction in Time.
Moving into Time as a faction is generally very easy given the high quality of its commons and uncommons. Thus, even if someone was drafting Time before you, you would still be likely to get multiple powerful Time cards. Given its deep card pool, I also think that it is one of the most common factions to end up in draft, so don’t be surprised if a fair chunk of your drafts contain Time! However, that also means that occasionally, the presence of a good Time card in a pack doesn’t mean that Time is open since it might just have been a pack overflowing with Time goodies. For example, getting a 4th pick Learned Herbalist might just be because the pack contained Lumen Attendant, Pensive Lumen AND Living Example rather than Time being actually open. As such, it’s important to be wary and not move into Time aggressively based off a single pack. Ideally, you would want to see multiple packs with good Time cards in it to be reassured that the faction is indeed open.
Given the durdly nature of Time decks, damage through fliers is a common axis along which Time decks can lose the game (even despite establishing board control). While Time does have the biggest units in the format, that doesn’t matter if you aren’t able to stop the opposing fliers. As such, it’s important to keep an eye out for good flying blockers (Stinging Wind, Dune Phantom, Archive Curator) and silence or silence-like effects (Dispel, Talir’s Intervention, Sandbinder Sentinel) when drafting Time decks. That said, Time does have access a lot of good flying blockers at common in both curated and Set 4 packs, so it shouldn’t be hard to defend yourself along this axis as well.
Time’s Role in Draft
Time is the faction of durdling, and it has the biggest units in the format to back it up. No other factions have units that can contest Time’s topend head on. Pensive Lumen, Subterranean Sentry and ultimated Xenan Guardian will often dominate the board, so in most MUs, the role of Time is simply to survive the early game until their huge units take over. To this end, it also has access to some very powerful tools, such as Archive Curator to shut down any flying aggression as well as to remove any problematic keywords. Initiate of the Sands and Sandglass Parma also provide you with ramp effects so that you can get to your top-end faster, while also potentially disrupting your opponents with Sandglass Parma’s Spellcraft.
Moreover, Time has access to the most fixing in the format (Learned Herbalist, Amber Acolyte), which means that you are often allowed to make extremely greedy splashes and play the best cards in any faction. There is even a running joke in TDC that the two best Time cards are Changeestik and Pteriax Hatchling, because you almost always end up playing them if you are in Time anyway. Occasionally, you can even get enough fixing to afford a greedy double splash, allowing you to play busted cards from 4 factions! For example:
In addition to it’s big units and great fixing, Time’s power is further enhanced by the multiple pies that Time has it’s fingers in. It has decent Nightfall (Nocturnal Creeper, Baying Serasaur) cards for the Elysian Nightfall decks, Wisps (Illumination Wisp, Lumen Shepherd, Lumen Attendant) for the potential Xenan Wisps synergy, multiple sources of incidental lifegain (Learned Herbalist, Oasis Seeker) to enable Lifeforce, good Endurance units (Monk from Training Grounds, Illumination Wisp) for the Combrei Endurance synergy and the best spells matter payoff in the form of Wurmstone with good enablers (Training Grounds, Learned Herbalist, Dispel).
Moreover, this “finger in multiple pies” profile is also characteristic of many Time cards. For example. Illumination Wisp is an Endurance unit that curves into Longhorn Treasurer, but also a Wisp for Wisp synergies such as Preserver of Dualities and Mistress of Light. Illumination Wisp is also a great weapons carrier, making it also amazing in Praxis decks. Training Grounds is another good example: On the surface, 3 power for a 2/2 Endurance unit seems pretty mediocre, but what makes Training Grounds such a great card is that it has multiple synergies in Time decks. The Monk has Endurance for Endurance matters cards, while Training Ground itself is a spell that can activate Wurmstone. Moreover, because you draw the Monk, Training Grounds reaps benefits from any Inspire effects that you have (Living Example) and also buffs your Baying Serasaur by +1/+1.
In my opinion, the defining characteristics of Elysian are Nightfall synergy and great power base. With the release of Lethrai Darkstalker and Moonlight Huntress in Set 4 packs, Primal has become the anchor payoff for Nightfall with payoffs in all 4 packs (mainly Winter’s Grasp in the curated packs). Time and Shadow are the two complementary factions which can provide additional Nightfall sources, and so it’s not unusual to end up Elysian if you are a Nightfall deck. Nightfall also synergizes really well with Inspire units because more draws equate to more chances of getting Inspire hits, and thus makes cards such as Living Example and Dusk Raider even better.
Primal cards are often the best splash for Time-based decks, so being able to play Changeestik and Pteriax Hatchlings without splashing is a huge plus and a reason to be in Elysian. While Time decks do have access to the most fixing, being 2F with lots of fixing is still going to be better than being a 2.5f deck with lots of fixing. There are also some neat synergies between Primal and Time in this format. Firstly, Primal has multiple sources of snowball generation (Yeti Snowslinger, Jotun Cyclops) and these cards act as cheap spells to activate Wurmstone. Secondly, the looting that Yetis provide (Crafty Yeti, Slope Sergeant) makes your power base even better since you see more cards while again buffing Inspire units. Lastly, Changeestik and Pteriax Hatchling provide ways for Time decks to close out the game, since it isn’t unusual to get into a board stall with big ground units on both sides.
Sample Elysian Deck
This is an example of an Elysian Nightfall deck. With 3 Lethrai Darkstalkers and 2 Winter’s Grasps, any card with the text Nightfall becomes an insanely high pick, as seen from cards like Lastlight Infusion and Nocturnal Kyrex making the deck. Lastlight Infusion and Baying Serasaur are Time’s contribution to the Nightfall theme, and Pensive Lumens are great follow-ups to Darkstalkers since opponents can rarely afford to take 4 damage multiple times. The 2 Predator’s Instinct and Nocturnal Kyrex also synergizes well with Pensive Lumen since you can often force a trade with one of your units to trigger Tribute for Pensive Lumen. Moreover, these Killer effects, combined with Dispel and Illumination Wisp, helps to shore up the deck’s lack of fliers. This deck also highlights two of Training Grounds’ synergy: Living Example and drawing a card to make Baying Serasaur a 5/5.
Since time immemorial, Combrei has always played the role of durdling with vanilla good stuff in Draft, and Set 4 is no exception. Combrei in Set 4 is still extremely durdly and is easily the least aggressive Justice faction pairing. As such, when you draft Combrei, the value of the Justice cards tends to change significantly from typical Justice decks. Tricks tend to be less good in Combrei since you are often on the defensive and would much rather have more good units instead. While you would still play Finest Hour and Crownwatch Standard given their busted power level, weaker tricks (Sharpened Reflex, Strength of Many, Saddle Up) will often end up being cut in Combrei decks. Durdly cards, such as Spiritblade Stalker and Herald of the Parliament, becomes much better since you are more likely to survive to activate their Ultimates. That said, because of the aggressive nature of Justice in this format, Combrei decks can still be somewhat aggressive. If you end up picking up multiple Master-at-Arms and Minotaur Oathkeepers, you can still aim to be proactive and aggressive deck, rather than the typical durdle deck.
Historically, Combrei also had the biggest weakness to fliers, but luckily Justice in Set 4 shores up this weakness greatly. With access to the biggest non-rare flier in the format (Silverwing Purgeleader) and one of the best defensive 2-drops (Miner’s Canary), Combrei’s weakness to fliers is no longer as glaring as it once was. That being said, it is still worth ensuring that your deck is not overly weak to fliers as you progress with your draft.
Set 4 Combrei also picked up an Endurance sub-theme with 2 main payoffs: Longhorn Treasurer and Reality Shift. While the latter requires a heavy commitment towards Endurance (ideally 5+ Endurance units), you can often play Longhorn Treasurer with at least 2 Endurance units. Being able to curve an Endurance Combrei 2-drop (Workshop Tinker, Illumination Wisp, Monk) into Longhorn Treasurer is definitely one of the scariest openings in the format.
Sample Combrei Deck
This is a typical Combrei deck, where you are really just aiming to play good stuff on curve every turn. The Oathkeepers have pretty good synergy with the 4 Illumination Wisps here, but are also generally great in Combrei decks since you are rarely going to A+space with them. Lumen Attendant is another durdly card, but a game-winner if you are able to play him and activate his ability. Redrawing your Changeestik or Pteriax Hatchling can seal the game, or you could simply use it to redraw a Vanquish to remove your opponent’s biggest threat. Regardless of the situation, the flexibility of replaying your best card is extremely powerful.
Time is undeniably the durdle faction, but that doesn’t make it boring to draft. Lying at the intersection of multiple different synergies, it is often interesting to consider which is more likely to get there, and whether it is worth taking a speculative synergistic pick over a normal playable. It is also one of the deepest factions in the current draft format, with solid playables in both Set 4 packs and curated packs, making it both powerful and interesting to draft. However, similar to what I said about Fire, you shouldn’t simply force Time because of it’s power level since drafting an open faction pairing will easily result in a better deck than forcing whatever you think the best faction pairing is.
What are your thoughts on Time in this format? Do you agree with my assessment? As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on the Reddit thread!
Durdling until the end of time,