TJS Legends - Sceadugenga - October 16, 2018

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Greetings friends, Romans, countrymen! In Eternal, I go by Sceadugenga, and I’m thrilled to share some insights into a TJS pile of legends deck I designed. A favored pastime is designing decklists, in Magic the Gathering and now Eternal, and refining my deckbuilding process along the way. A great thank you to the community members who took an interest and gave me some solid advice as I continue to refine the core synergies I’m exploiting. Deckbuilding is a process, and I believe I can say the piece ends with a stronger, sleeker, and quite different deck than before. In this piece I’ll cover my brewing process, the deck’s playstyle, some card evaluations, and conclude with a match analysis of the 80 cards I’m currently playing. Below is the list that I posted to Eternal Warcry on October 10th:

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3 Seek Power (Set1 #408)

4 Annihilate (Set1 #269)

4 Teacher of Humility (Set4 #67)

4 Auralian Merchant (Set4 #70)

4 Ayan, the Abductor (Set2 #204)

3 Banish (Set2 #207)

3 Devastating Setback (Set3 #226)

4 Slay (Set2 #236)

4 Sandstorm Titan (Set1 #99)

4 Vara, Vengeance-Seeker (Set1004 #19)

4 Harsh Rule (Set1 #172)

3 Marshal Ironthorn (Set1 #174)

3 Worldbearer Behemoth (Set3 #87)

3 Telut, Queen's Hand (Set1004 #12)

4 Time Sigil (Set1 #63)

2 Justice Sigil (Set1 #126)

2 Shadow Sigil (Set1 #249)

3 Crest of Progress (Set4 #247)

4 Seat of Progress (Set0 #58)

3 Crest of Vengeance (Set3 #264)

4 Crest of Mystery (Set4 #266)

3 Seat of Mystery (Set0 #61)

--------------MARKET---------------

1 Find the Way (Set1 #513)

1 Banish (Set2 #207)

1 Sword of Unity (Set4 #249)

1 Passage of Eons (Set1001 #3)

1 Azindel, Revealed (Set1004 #21)

I thought, in the beginning, that I wanted to build the best Azindel, Revealed deck that I could. Azindel excited me from the moment I saw his card text--a simultaneous source of raw card advantage, offensive power, and defensive stability. But soon after I started working on developing and refining a TJS list, I relegated him to the Market for main deck Telut, Queen’s Hand. The first real issue I encountered was that Xenan’s staple units lend themselves to an aggressively slanted midrange deck, and Azindel at 8 power doesn’t quite fit the bill. Ideally this power curve would stop at Thundering Kerasaur or Predatory Carnosaur. Sequencing Teacher of Humility into Ayan, the Abductor and Sandstorm Titan presents a powerful, disruptive clock. I wanted to capitalize on that power, and Worldbearer Behemoth cued me into tapping Justice for a ramp element in the 4-6 power slots of the deck to roll out Azindel and Carnosaur ahead of schedule.  

Adding Justice to the list generated a compelling set of value synergies, my favorite kind of deck.  I started by identifying the midrange units with additional upside for my list. Marshall Ironthorn fit the bill. Knowing I was going to be using Vara, Vengeance-Seeker gave the powerful removal spells in TJS a way to avoid Aegis problems. Noting that Auralian Merchant ramped the deck from 3 to 5 for Ironthorn made Telut a solid follow up in the sequence. After testing this basic configuration, it became clear that Azindel wasn’t needed in the maindeck. Telut’s single unit buff pumping an overwhelm, lifesteal, or endurance unit proved powerful enough. I wasn’t pressured to play out units against removal pile decks. I was either ignoring opposing blockers in unit based matches, gaining the life I’d lose when the opponent attacked, or keeping a blocker available after attacking. Telut’s debuff effect removed opposing Aegis, rendered useless many of the multiple-unit-in-one-card strategies, and solved lower power deadly units, such as Azindel’s Helici.

Despite these powerful leverages I was discovering, the deck still had a tough time against aggressive decks and control decks. Devastating Setback saved me space by helping against both, and trying this card proved significant. It was a powerful bridge between the aggressive Xenan lower end I’d paired with a grindier Combrei top end. By this time, my testing had taken me from Gold III to Masters, and I published the deck. The list had good to great matches against most of what I encountered on ladder at the time, except for Temporal Control. If I could solve this matchup to something approaching a 50/50 win chance, I’d be above 50% against Masters. Goal set, I tinkered with a wide range of different strategies in the deck’s flex slot, occupied by Harsh Rule in the published list. I settled on maintaining a wide range of ramp options at 5 power and chose to incorporate Dawnwalker and Inquisitor Makto as a way to pressure Temporal’s endless removal, while gaining evasive units to make use of Telut’s free weapon.  

Playing Makto seemed to smooth out the influence requirements, despite so many double cost cards. The heavy influence costs of the deck, 4T/2J/2S, do force a market slot to be Find the Way, and to prioritize finding power with crests. Still, the influence progresses at a steady, workable rate. Finding TT first, SS second, and JJ/TTTT third made Ironthorn and Worldbearer’s ramp valuable not just for the raw power boost they generated, but also let the deck run smoothly without losing list space to Cull the Deck. This influence fixing benefit worked surprisingly well, and I was able to run as few power/influence fixing cards as 2 maindeck Find the Way.   

Continuing this revision process after the balance changes yielded the following list, where I focused on the staying power of the list’s 2-3 power cards. I traded much of the top end for an aggressive discard suite of 9 cards, Setback included. This tactic greatly mitigated a continued issue--being run out of cards in the face of plentiful opposing removal. More significantly, the discard spells provide me with crucial information to sequence threats and removal. Here is the current skeleton I’m using while I continue to try out different cards. My Market is always in flux, with Banish seeming to be the only permanent fixture. When I’m testing an additional card, I find myself choosing 1 of either Sabotage or Shakedown to play 4 of, and cutting the other for flex slots.  

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3 Sabotage (Set1 #252)

3 Seek Power (Set1 #408)

3 Shakedown (Set1004 #18)

3 Annihilate (Set1 #269)

4 Awakened Student (Set1 #331)

4 Desert Marshal (Set1 #332)

4 Auralian Merchant (Set4 #70)

3 Ayan, the Abductor (Set2 #204)

3 Banish (Set2 #207)

3 Devastating Setback (Set3 #226)

3 Knight-Chancellor Siraf (Set1 #335)

3 Slay (Set2 #236)

4 Sandstorm Titan (Set1 #99)

4 Vara, Vengeance-Seeker (Set1004 #19)

3 Telut, Queen's Hand (Set1004 #12)

3 Time Sigil (Set1 #63)

4 Justice Sigil (Set1 #126)

3 Shadow Sigil (Set1 #249)

1 Crest of Progress (Set4 #247)

4 Seat of Progress (Set0 #58)

1 Crest of Vengeance (Set3 #264)

4 Seat of Vengeance (Set0 #55)

1 Crest of Mystery (Set4 #266)

4 Seat of Mystery (Set0 #61)

--------------MARKET---------------

1 Find the Way (Set1 #513)

1 Banish (Set2 #207)

1 Reality Warden (Set1 #343)

1 Passage of Eons (Set1001 #3)

1 Azindel, Revealed (Set1004 #21)

(Warcry link)

While the metagame after the Into Shadow balance changes is still shaping, this list can proactively attack any opposing strategy I see, which puts a lot of pressure on the pilot to use the discard effectively. Of the recent meta’s popular choice decks, matches against aggressive and go wide lists, such as the now-evolving Skygraggro and Praxis Tokens, seem to favor this list. Sequencing a turn 1 discard spell into a turn 2 threat into a turn 3 Ayan, Siraf, or Setback often puts you 2 or more cards ahead of the opponent, and in a strong position for the catch-all single target removal suite to keep the field clear until the opposing hand is empty. Vara and Ayan play a significant role in swinging these games in this deck’s favor. 

Against aggressive Feln decks, this list’s multifaction units resist the sparse removal played, and discard hits all of the combo-element tricks the deck will try to assemble to beat you. I tend to prioritize Haunting Scream first, followed by Gift of Battle. I save my instant speed removal for Scream targets if I’m able to, netting at least a 2 for 1 exchange. It’s important to be willing to trade your early units for theirs if you’re able to do so safely, as once this list runs out of threats many of its cards are useless.

In midrange style mirrors, this list seems evenly matched against Argenport, as your threats are equally aggressive but your removal and stats for power cost ratios are slightly better. The two cards that can swing games in AP Mid’s favor in a big way are Tavrod, Auric Broker and Vanquisher’s Blade, so prioritize weapons with discard and conserve Slays for Tavrod if possible. Awakened Student if left unanswered will quickly outsize all but the most aggressive 2 power unit into Bloodletter hands, and turn 1 discard solves that line of play neatly.

Combrei Valkyries has been gaining some traction from what I’ve seen, and this list, alongside the popular TJP Fliers list, are more problematic if you cannot force the opponent to trade their units with yours. Devastating Setback, Telut’s ability, and Vara are all strong counters to the synergies between Shelterwing Rider and Stand Together in TJP Fliers. Should aggressive and midrange flying lists become increasingly popular, I would change the market Passage or Azindel into a Sandstorm Scarf to compliment the Sandstorm Titans. 

Bigger and go-wide non-flying midrange lists, such as the varying flavors of Big Combrei, Xenan, and T(J)S Mask are around 50/50. I feel the game against Mask is strong thanks to Banish against the namesake relic, and Setback to sweep the swarm of health generating units the list plays. Against Big and Midrange Combrei variants, the list’s Shadow based interaction hits more targets than the opposite, so opening a medium to fast hand feels very strong. Xenan of all varieties, but particularly lists running Auric Interrogator and Mystic Ascendant to generate significant raw card advantage, can out grind. Azindel out of this deck will win if unanswered by Setback, Slay, or Telut. The newest midrange list, mono-Shadow Caiphus Returns, turns almost solely on which player sees more discard sooner. If possible save a Vara and Slay for Caiphus, and follow up with a Reality Warden to prevent recursion.

As control lists continue to develop, keep an eye out for heavy raw card advantage style control. Should Temporal or a similar list sporting so many 2 for 1 draw spells resurface, this list may need additional retuning. As it stands, lowering the curve to a more aggressive midrange list has greatly improved a match previously heavily, heavily tilted in control’s favor. Kennadin tends to turn on whether this list can Banish the Combustion Cells or discard enough combo pieces to render Kenna, Shaman of the Scale irrelevant. Of note, the Market Reality Warden helps this match greatly, and resists most if not all of these lists’ commonly played removal.

Thanks very much for following along with my deck so far, and I look forward to seeing you on ladder or at a tournament as I brew on.