Event Primer: Carnival of Madness - Neon - October 24, 2018

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Hello friends! 

To celebrate Hallowe’en this year we are getting a very spooky event! DWD announced this week that on Friday we would be getting the “Carnival of Madness”, which has some particularly whacky rules. At the start of every game a random rule from the Gauntlet bosses is assigned to your game, creating all sorts of crazy scenarios. Imagine Scream mirrors where both players start at 50 life, or playing Argenport with charging Tavrods!

A note I like to give for events like this – don’t take things too seriously. Now that we have competitive events, it is worth remembering that events like this are just for fun. I often see people grouchy about events like this because there is so much RNG. You know what? Yeah! There is! Some people are going to be hit by nonsense like turn 0 destiny Icarias, or turn 1 Oni Ronins with Valkyrie Wings. There is nothing wrong with a little salt when you lose like this, but if you can’t handle the wackiness, maybe this just isn’t for you? Just go play ranked. No reason to spoil other people’s fun.

That being said, just because this is a silly event, doesn’t mean we aren’t going to try to win! With so many different rules you may be thinking “Neon, how can you write a primer? There are so many possibilities!” Well, you clearly underestimate me! This will be a slightly different approach than average though, so I am going to take a moment to explain my methodology.

First off, according to this source there are 31 different possible rules for Gauntlet. The range is wide too, some of them are incredibly impactful (units start with one health, players start at 50 life but have an Oathbook in play) while others are basically irrelevant (each player discards the top two cards of their deck every turn, units can infiltrate any number of times). Given the range of different rules that are possible there is no way that I can figure out the “best” deck for the event. Still we can make some generalized predictions.

Take a look at this giant spreadsheet I made. I would share a picture here, but it is really big. Essentially, I have lined up all the Gauntlet Boss Rules (GBRs) versus 27 deck archetypes, giving each a score between +2 and -2. You should interpret the scores as follows: 

+2 – This deck has a substantial increased chance of winning against an unknown deck when this GBR is in place.

+1 – This deck has a slightly increased chance of winning when this GBR is in place, or at least some versions of the deck could gain from this GBR.

0 – This deck gains/loses about as much as an average deck with this GBR. 

-1 – This deck’s win rate will go slightly down when this GBR is in place.

-2 – This GBR will substantially reduce the chance of this deck to win against an unknown deck.

There are a few things to note. First off, there are 837 boxes in this table. Did I get some of them wrong? Yes, absolutely. I have tested exactly 0 of these match ups, and I am just imagining what each might look like. If you think I am off by 2 or more points on one of these I would be interested to hear it. That being said, I am probably going to ignore any quibbling about something being +1 versus 0 or whatever. Don’t take these scores too seriously, as I think decks that are +/- 3 points from each other are basically tied. Feel free to discuss my grades, but these minor inaccuracies are not particularly important. After all, if I am underrating/overrating a deck, that just means you have an opportunity for you to game the system, right?

Second, I want to emphasize some subtleties of the marking system: it is about the relative win rate against an unknown deck. I’ll use a couple of examples to explain this. The Spymaster condition means that infiltrate will work any number of times. I imagine that in about 50% of games neither deck will have any infiltrate cards. Of the decks that do play infiltrate cards, I would expect over 97% are Teacher of Humility or Crunch. While a deck like Haunted Highway probably gains the most from this condition compared to all other decks, there is still only a minor increase in overall win rate since the overall boost in power level isn’t much. Therefore it only gets a +1. In addition, this is not a measure of how much power is gained, but how much win rate is gained. Take the GBR “Inheritance”, which plays the top card of your deck every turn. Stonescar Aggro will be powered-up by this rule, but big Time decks and control decks gain a lot more, meaning that Stonescar loses win rate. Finally, I didn’t do any correction based on what the “expected” metagame might be. While I think aggro decks gain a lot from these rules, it is hard to predict how people will react.

After grading each deck under each condition, I then simply tallied the scores. These scores are therefore a metric of the relative advantage each deck gets from all the available event rules. Who are the winners, who are the losers, and who are kinda in-between?

The Winners

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Aggro decks, especially those rocking a lot of battle skills, were the big winners. Let’s take Champion of Glory as an example. If you get the “Highly Skilled” rule, he gets an extra +2/+2 from his 2 battle skills. If you get the “Helpful Horns” condition, he can bond out a Whirling Duo on turn 2. There are conditions that can give him charge, double damage, or berserk, which all seem very hard to beat. There are just a lot of rules that benefit a unit like this. Obviously, a Rakano Aggro deck isn’t going to be happy to face a control deck that starts at 50 life, but you can’t win ’em all. Skycrag Aggro got a score of 29, Stonescar got 25, and Rakano Aggro got 23. 

Scream decks aren’t technically traditional aggro, but they similarly gain a lot. There is no deck that can take better advantage of berserk and double damage than a deck like Haunted Highway. Scream also gains some secondary benefits from the “spells matter” synergy, where other aggressive decks do not. This isn’t mentioning the “it’s always night” condition, which is just totally unreasonable for Scream decks. Haunted Highway got 29 and Feln Scream got 24.

One last winner to mention: Dawnwalker. I know this isn’t a deck, but I wanted to point this card as he might be the single biggest winner of all the cards in the game. Under the “Shard Bargain” he becomes a 4/4, “Entropy” may throw him in your Void for free, “Defender of the Spire” automatically gives you the influence you need to bring him back from the void, and “Praxis Studies” lets you draw a card when you bring him back from the Void. I could honestly go on, too. While he may not be at his best in ranked now-a-days, his is a baller here.

The Losers

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Removal heavy control. It is pretty obvious that hard control decks are not what you want to be playing. In my opinion, there are only two GBR’s that give control an overwhelming advantage – Everlasting Life, where you start at 50 life and with an Oathbook in play, and Feln Ritualist, which adjusts the health of all units to 1. Some of the other conditions that look like they benefit you, are probably not as impactful as you think. Company of Exiles gives you free units every time you cast a spell and Spellhounds gives you 2/2s when you cast 2 spells in a turn, but these are just not impactful enough to matter, and will often be killed by your own sweepers. On the other side, you are facing units that are cheaper, bigger, and more skilled. Even conditions like Knowledge Storm, which gives you an extra card every turn, probably advantage you less than your opponent is many cases. Decks like Removal Pile, JPS Control, and Feln Control honestly seem rancid. 

While they aren’t quite as badly hit, combo decks didn’t have a great performance either. Talir Mask and Kennadins don’t gain much from any of the unit-centric rules, and therefore will probably get manhandled by more aggressive decks under certain GBR. There might be some way to rescue these decks with creative deckbuilding, but I would rather focus my efforts elsewhere.

The Middle

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True to form, Midrange decks showed up between aggro and control. While one might jump to the conclusion that this means aggro > midrange > control in the event, it is difficult to know how much to read into the score of midrange decks. For one, I tried my best to focus on current builds of the deck, not an idealized version that could be tuned to attack the metagame. A bit of creative deckbuilding could turn a 15 into a 20! Not only that, but with the knowledge that aggro and Scream might be popular, it is possible to metagame against them. Take something like Elysian Midrange. While I don’t think you gain as much from the rules as some other decks, if you assume a lot of people will be jamming Skycrag Aggro, Elysian Midrange with Hailstorm and Sandstorm Titan seems really sick. Not only that, you get to play Dawnwalker, which seems busted.

If you are deeply committed to the control lifestyle (I’m looking at you Bradykin), I think Chalice is probably the best there is. While you will not be happy to run into aggro decks getting free weapons on all their dudes, you also get a solid number of free wins. It is hard to imagine losing if I was playing Chalice and I started with a Chalice in play, or if I got double summon effects. I’m not totally solid this is the way to go, but there is a lot of potential. 

General Deckbuilding 

These are not “rules”, but are rather guidelines given what I have seen in the GBR. Use them as you see fit in your own deckbuilding.

Play 4-ofs your units – one of the conditions gives all your units bond, which means your first copy of Oni Ronin can bond out the second. This is true of a lot of units. Similarly, there is a rule that will let you put the top card of your deck into play if it shares a battle skill with the unit you just played, so if you play 4-ofs you maximize the chance of a hit.

Maximize battle skills where possible – in addition to the chance of flipping a unit with the same battle skill into play (mentioned above), you also get +1/+1 for each battle skill, which is sweet on something like a Crownwatch Paladin or Vadius. I think quickdraw is an especially good battleskill as it pairs really well withother bonuses, if that matters to your deckbuilding.

Avoid 3F Sigil-Seat powerbases – one of the GBRs turns your Sigils into Waystones when drawn, which can totally ruin your curve if you rely on Sigils to activate Seats. Obviously, this is a niche scenario, but it is also easy to avoid this problems for many decks. Note: Seek Power, and other “Sigil Searchers” still work, as the Sigils are still Sigils while they are in your deck (shout-out to FMBrazuca for the catch).

Play more power than usual, and make it undepleted – there are several rules that interact with power. One GBR gives you 5 of each influence. Another lets you play two power a turn. A third gives you 3 power to start off with. There are also 3 conditions that get you to draw two cards a turn (this is including the GBR that makes it always night, and the condition that gives you random cards every turn). On net, I think it will be an advantage to play a bit more power than usual. Undepleted power is specifically helpful, as it will improve your ability to play out your hand quickly, and take better advantage of the free influence you can sometimes get.

To close things out, I will give you 4 decks built on these ideas that seem solid. No explanation is given, as most of it would be repeating stuff I mentioned above. 

Skycrag Aggro

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2 Longbarrel (Set4 #5)

4 Oni Ronin (Set1 #13)

3 Permafrost (Set1 #193)

2 Pummel (Set2 #6)

4 Pyroknight (Set1 #16)

4 Snowcrust Yeti (Set2 #105)

4 Torch (Set1 #8)

4 Champion of Fury (Set2 #187)

2 Ornate Katana (Set1 #23)

4 Rakano Outlaw (Set1 #20)

4 Cinder Yeti (Set1002 #1)

4 Ixtun Merchant (Set4 #21)

4 Shogun's Scepter (Set1 #26)

4 Vadius, Clan Father (Set2 #191)

1 Obliterate (Set1 #48)

7 Fire Sigil (Set1 #1)

2 Granite Waystone (Set3 #1)

5 Primal Sigil (Set1 #187)

4 Seat of Fury (Set0 #53)

3 Skycrag Banner (Set2 #186)

4 Diplomatic Seal (Set1 #425)


1 Rally (Set1 #33)

1 Cloud of Ash (Set1 #39)

1 Obliterate (Set1 #48)

1 Flamestoker (Set2 #32)

1 Skycrag Banner (Set2 #186)

 Haunted Highway

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 3 Combust (Set1 #392)

2 Dark Return (Set1 #250)

3 Grenadin Drone (Set1 #5)

4 Permafrost (Set1 #193)

2 Shakedown (Set1004 #18)

4 Torch (Set1 #8)

4 Champion of Fury (Set2 #187)

3 Devour (Set1 #261)

4 Dusk Raider (Set4 #153)

3 Haunting Scream (Set1 #374)

4 Crunch, the Hoarder (Set4 #258)

4 Kerendon Merchant (Set4 #217)

3 Madness (Set1 #267)

4 Bandit Queen (Set1 #389)

3 Vicious Highwayman (Set3 #275)

4 Granite Waystone (Set3 #1)

2 Amethyst Waystone (Set3 #201)

2 Crest of Fury (Set3 #266)

4 Skycrag Banner (Set2 #186)

1 Crest of Cunning (Set3 #267)

4 Feln Banner (Set1 #417)

4 Crest of Chaos (Set3 #268)

4 Stonescar Banner (Set1 #419)


1 Combust (Set1 #392)

1 Dark Return (Set1 #250)

1 Haunting Scream (Set1 #374)

1 Madness (Set1 #267)

1 Vicious Highwayman (Set3 #275)

Xenan Midrange

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2 Last Chance (Set1004 #17)

2 Dark Return (Set1 #250)

1 Shakedown (Set1004 #18)

2 Suffocate (Set1 #251)

3 Annihilate (Set1 #269)

4 Teacher of Humility (Set4 #67)

4 Temple Scribe (Set1 #502)

2 Vara's Favor (Set0 #35)

3 Xenan Initiation (Set2 #44)

4 Auralian Merchant (Set4 #70)

4 Ayan, the Abductor (Set2 #204)

1 Banish (Set2 #207)

4 Dawnwalker (Set1 #86)

4 Sandstorm Titan (Set1 #99)

4 Vara, Vengeance-Seeker (Set1004 #19)

4 Worldbearer Behemoth (Set3 #87)

5 Time Sigil (Set1 #63)

4 Amber Waystone (Set3 #51)

6 Shadow Sigil (Set1 #249)

4 Crest of Mystery (Set4 #266)

4 Seat of Mystery (Set0 #61)

4 Xenan Banner (Set2 #201)


1 Vara's Choice (Set2 #206)

1 Xenan Initiation (Set2 #44)

1 Banish (Set2 #207)

1 Thundering Kerasaur (Set4 #93)

1 Predatory Carnosaur (Set1 #118)


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 3 Seek Power (Set1 #408)

4 Desert Marshal (Set1 #332)

4 Kothon, the Far-Watcher (Set2 #218)

4 Strategize (Set3 #165)

4 Temple Scribe (Set1 #502)

2 Vanquish (Set1 #143)

4 Amber Acolyte (Set1 #93)

4 Auralian Merchant (Set4 #70)

4 Combrei Healer (Set1 #333)

3 Hailstorm (Set1003 #11)

4 Wisdom of the Elders (Set1 #218)

3 Crystalline Chalice (Set1 #359)

4 Harsh Rule (Set1 #172)

3 Channel the Tempest (Set1 #244)

2 Time Sigil (Set1 #63)

2 Justice Sigil (Set1 #126)

3 Primal Sigil (Set1 #187)

3 Cobalt Waystone (Set3 #151)

1 Combrei Banner (Set1 #424)

2 Crest of Progress (Set4 #247)

2 Seat of Progress (Set0 #58)

3 Crest of Wisdom (Set3 #261)

1 Elysian Banner (Set1 #421)

1 Seat of Wisdom (Set0 #63)

3 Crest of Order (Set4 #253)

2 Seat of Order (Set0 #51)


1 Sandstorm Scarf (Set4 #50)

1 Archive Curator (Set2 #50)

1 Crystalline Chalice (Set1 #359)

1 The Great Parliament (Set1 #338)

1 Combrei Banner (Set1 #424)

Happy Hallowe’en Hunting!

Hopefully that helps navigate this spooky event! It was an interesting challenge putting this together. DWD keeps trying to make my job harder, but I am always one step ahead (or behind, depending on how you count). Questions about my ranking? Any decks that I missed? Suggestions that I didn’t mention? Be sure to share your thoughts on Twitter and Reddit! You can also now join the A+Space Discord to talk about the event, Eternal, or anything else on your mind! I hope you all have a spooky-good luck in the event!


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