Lights Out - Hooru Fliers - April 18, 2019
Hooru burst onto the scene with the Homecoming campaign, fueled by the absurdity that is Korovyat Palace. When properly set up, Korovyat Palace essentially wins the game immediately, and almost always delivers a win within a turn or two. The setup is also absurdly easy – control a unit with Flying. In addition to its offensive power, it ALSO contributes very well to a grindy back-up plan with Wisdom of the Elders and delivering a Svetya, Orene of Kosul just in time to activate it with the power you drew off of the Wisdom. It is simply the best card in the game. Long -forgotten Shelterwing Rider is the best companion for Palace, and the combination is so strong that even the presence of Vara, Vengeance Seeker doesn’t invalidate the Unseen Owl.
There are many shells people have played alongside Palace, but an aggressive flier-based shell is the most powerful and best maximizes our new, broken Site. Here is my current list:
4 Seek Power (Set1 #408)
1 Unstable Form (Set1 #189)
4 Dusk Raider (Set4 #153)
4 Eager Owlet (Set1 #144)
4 Hojan, Crownbreaker (Set5 #86)
3 Vanquish (Set1 #143)
2 Copperhall Bracers (Set4 #115)
3 Jennev Merchant (Set4 #169)
2 Mirror Image (Set1 #217)
4 Unseen Commando (Set3 #122)
4 Valkyrie Enforcer (Set1 #151)
4 Winchest Merchant (Set4 #126)
3 Shelterwing Rider (Set2 #223)
4 Amilli, Cloudmarshal (Set3 #136)
3 Korovyat Palace (Set1005 #21)
12 Justice Sigil (Set1 #126)
3 Primal Sigil (Set1 #187)
4 Crest of Order (Set4 #253)
3 Hooru Banner (Set2 #216)
4 Seat of Order (Set0 #51)
1 Vanquish (Set1 #143)
1 Shelterwing Rider (Set2 #223)
1 Korovyat Palace (Set1005 #21)
1 Eilyn, Clan Mother (Set3 #263)
1 Hooru Banner (Set2 #216)
I believe this is the best deck in Eternal right now (though balance changes are on the horizon, so who knows next week), and before the ECQ I thought it was solidly tier 0 with its only weakness being Xenan midrange that no one played. Since then I have come down on it a little due to an unfavorable (but not unwinnable) matchup against Hailstorm + Scorpion Wasp FTP. I still think it is the best deck, but it is now merely the top tier 1 deck in my opinion.
This build is almost a combo deck, and it is trying to assemble Shelterwing Rider + Korovyat Palace as quickly and as often as possible with essentially 10 copies of each between the three main and seven Merchants. This also has a nice side benefit of letting you frequently play turn 2 Dusk Raider into turn 3 Merchant for Berserk Shelterwing Rider, which is all kinds of messed up. Dusk Raider really kicks everything into overdrive, since it adds a second battle skill to all of the fliers so they get pumped (twice!) by Unseen Commando.
The core is obvious and nothing ground-breaking, but I talked a lot with Isomorphic and Brlmski on the specifics over the past couple weeks and we were all rewarded with berths in the top 64 of the most recent ECQ, Winter Crown. Our lists had some slight differences from the one posted above:
-2 Mirror Image
-1 Eilyn, Clan Mother
+2 Copperhall Bracers
+1 Svetya, Merciful Orene
-1 Unstable Form
-1 Copperhall Bracers
-1 Jennev Merchant
-1 Primal Sigil
+4 Icaria, Valkyrie Captain
-1 Unstable Form
-1 Jennev Merchant
+1 Mirror Image
+1 Copperhall Bracers
Iso wanted to max out on 2 drops, and trimmed a few things to make room. Breloom didn’t want to flood on Bracers, so he played a split with Mirror Image. I maxed out on Bracers to get the maximum amount of Hojan-into-Bracers free wins (you ramp, get a 10 strength Lifesteal attack, and your opponent either chumps or lets you ramp again while getting smacked for 10). Eager Owlet into Bracers is also a great opening that puts on a lot of pressure and sets up a fast Korovyat Palace.
I am not a fan of little Icaria in this deck. You almost never have a spot where you want to Ultimate her before on turns 3 or 4, and if you don’t activate her on one of those turns she doesn’t accelerate to Palace. She also is vulnerable to Snowball, which is a big weakness now. Hojan’s upside is high enough to justify the vulnerability, but Icaria’s isn’t. Snowball is still okay against you if you don’t play a 1 health unit since it can pop Aegis on Shelterwing Rider or Withstand, but in those situations you don’t feel blown out and it also might throw off your opponent’s curve to spend that power during later turns.
Unstable Form is a fun little one-of that provides some market food for a deck with seven Merchants and deals with your main problems, Sandstorm titan and Vara. Hooru cares very little about non-flying units, so almost anything you transform those units into is irrelevant. It also can pop Aegis or upgrade an Aegis-less Shelterwing Rider into a unit that can attack in a pinch.
Amilli is a somewhat non-standard choice for a 5 drop, but he is definitely the best one. He doesn’t require garbage Pledge cards like Silverwing Courier (and is basically invulnerable to damage anyways with 8 health), he isn’t rendered embarrassing by palace like Aniyah, and the deck is Justice-based and wants Fliers, so Jotun Feast-Caller is out. Amilli is also your best plan against FTP, as if they run out of Equivocates before you run out of Amillis, you generally win – just be sure not to block into Torch or Howling Peaks’ Gun Down.
Where do we go from here?
In the ladder games leading up to the ECQ, I was grabbing Svetya, Merciful Orene from the market a fair amount to beat FJS or hard control decks like Feln or Hooru, but in the actual ECQ I only fetched her once. Going forward I believe Eilyn, Clan Mother is correct that market slot, as she dominates the skies and can be fetched with both Merchants. I’ve split Copperhall Bracers with Mirror Image for a more removal-heavy metagame, as Bracers isn’t the best into decks with 15+ removal spells.
I’m assuming the balance changes will weaken Palace and/or Hojan, but I don’t think they will make Palace much weaker and invalidate it as a strategy. If Hojan is hit too hard he can be replaced by Icaria, or even Crownwatch Paladin if control benefits from the patch. If the mirror becomes more prevalent, Bring Down can slot into the deck somewhere. Hooru pacifier is another option that isn’t quite good enough, but if Bracers or Mirror Image become worse for some reason it could get in there (just don’t play Bracers AND Pacifier). If aggro rises to prominence, a lightning Storm in the market could do some work. With this many Merchants, you always have flexible options.
I can’t imagine a realistic series of changes that could make Hooru Fliers not a tier 1 deck. It will remain a force to be reckoned with on ladder and in tournaments, so be prepared.
Until next time, may you always Palace first.