Armies of Myth, the third set for Hex: Shards of Fate, launched last year at a critical juncture in the game’s history. The first block was successful from nearly all angles but there were still doubts whether the Hex Entertainment team could follow up such efforts and create another innovative, balanced, and fun set to play. There was also a lawsuit casting a shadow over the game’s fate and players needed something special after a long period of playing just with the first block of cards.
In the end, with the exception of the banning of Titania’s Majesty, it was a nearly flawless set that had tremendous digital innovations in the Spiderling and Prophecy mechanics, had a myriad of equally strong limited archetypes, and provided pieces to the constructed scene that saw the constructed meta shift month after month with no obvious top dog even in the final months as the 2015/2016 Invitational itself proved.
What I’ll try to do in this article is review some of the set 3 constructed cards that either outperformed or underperformed my expectations, look at some of the fringe/subtle limited archetypes that I only began to appreciate after months of play, and look forward to which of your Set 3 cards has the highest chance to break out with the arrival of Set 4, Primal Dawn. Hopefully this gives everyone something interesting to read as we wind down Armies of Myth.
Top 10 Cards That I Was Wrong About & What I Learned
Armies of Myth was my first crack at a full set review (B,D,R,S,W,Other) and besides perhaps aiding me somewhat in qualifying for the Invitational, it also taught me a lot about card evaluations going into new, uncharted territory. I was overall pretty happy with the individual card reviews, especially considering they were written well before the set’s release. Having said that, I didn’t exactly nail everything and there were a couple of cards that I ended up being wrong about. Pretty much all of them were in the constructed side, which besides being more difficult to evaluate as the meta is much harder to predict, was also an area where I didn’t have much high-level experience in.
So without further sugar coating, here are the top 10 cards that I was wrong about per my Set Review (in no specific order):
“So the dream is obviously fetching a Walking Calamity and pretty much guaranteeing a win if you manage to pull it off thanks to the come into play damage Gem in Ruby. I think that combo is strong enough that players will try building around these two specific cards. I don’t know how good it will end up playing out but this is as good of a combo as there is in the game.”
What I Overlooked: Obviously my Johnny senses were on the right track with this card, but I never emphasized just how truly broken it could be. The reason is that I simply never did the math – writing nearly 30,000 words for this set review didn’t allow me to hone in on any specific card as much as I would have liked.
What I Learned: If you have a sense that some card is ‘as good of a combo as there is in the game’ then it’s probably worth it to spend a bit more time evaluating whether it’s ‘this needs to be banned’ good or just ‘this is fun to mess around with in PvE’ good.
“Blood has really been lacking a proper 2 cost troop and it finally seems to have received something special to work with. Combining Disciple of Yazukan with Bunoshi’s champion power instantly makes this a legit threat that should be on the radar of constructed players. It will take some smart deckbuilders to create a nice deck around this concept, but the power is definitely there.”
What I Overlooked: In theory the idea of a recurring evasion troop is nice, but Disciple of Yazukan isn’t exactly ‘recurring’. Having to see 3 troops hit the Crypt to come back is a big price for what should be an aggro deck so this card was never really that good to begin with, especially when there is something like Minion of Yazukan that recurs all by itself.
What I Learned: Don’t immediately attach a tag on a card because of general principles – the devil’s in the details.
“This card provides so much power, flexibility and options that I can’t imagine Blood/Diamond mid-range decks not running at least one copy in the main deck. You get to stop those 5 attack troops that Vampire King and Angel of Dawn wouldn’t normally be able to deal with but that’s only scratching the surface of what Angel of Judgment brings to the table. Cards like Xentoth’s Inquisitor and Monsuun gain renewed application, as you get even more value out of them than before. What sends it over the top is allowing you to deal with those pesky cards like Soul Cavalry or constants like Solitary Exile and Pact of Pain.”
What I Overlooked: This card seems so good on paper. Able to block anything and force your opponent to sacrifice even their Spellshield troops and constants/artifacts? So where did it go wrong and why did it only see 2 inclusions in 5-win gauntlet decks in 9 months? The reality is that without a good sacrifice engine, this card is pretty much a 3/6 with Flight for 6, which isn’t good at all. It didn’t help that Blood Diamond decks fell out of favor until towards the end where Rutherford Banks made it a solid deck in a control heavy meta (but still no sacrifice outlets in sight).
What I Learned: Don’t judge cards in a vacuum, whether there are pieces to bring out the potential of a certain card in top tier decks is very much something that needs to be factored.
“Ruby decks have had a hard time dealing with any troops with defense 4 or higher so this card is a welcomed sight. The question will be how reliably and quickly will a 5 cost troop or above be on the board. Given that Wild/Ruby represents the shards for ramp, I’m sure this will see play in those decks for the great flexibility it provides taking out both an early Cerulean Mirror Knight and a late game Angel of Dawn, Reese, Vampire King.”
What I Overlooked: Basic, conditional removal is really not where you want to be in constructed. As cards like Martyr have shown, the reliability of dealing with anything at Quick speed often trumps cards with less downside.
What I Learned: Judge a card by how well it serves its key purpose.
“In constructed where you can build your deck perfectly to take advantage of this card and other ramp cards like it, there’s room for abuse. Turn 1 Howling Brave, Turn 2 Ashwood Maestro, Turn 3 Cressida Champion power gives you 7 resources enough to play things like Eye of Creation, Synn, Etherdrake Nomad, or my favorite: Arborean Rootfather that deals 8 damage when it comes into play and has Speed or Spellshield. We can’t discount this level of ramp, can we?”
What I Overlooked: If you’re going to have a ramp deck, your resource ramp component needs to be rock solid and not tied to a 1 defense troop that helps your opponent accelerate into their denial or removal cards.
What I Learned: There are a lot of symmetric effects that can quickly turn into your favor with proper deck construction, but resource ramp is sadly not one of them. Especially when your opponent gets to benefit from it first and gets to use that bonus to deny your ability to take advantage of it.
“In constructed where all sorts of removal are aplenty, your 5 drops need to pretty much win you the game in a turn or two if left unattended, or alternatively give you some kind of long term advantage. Starsight Oracle does the latter and does it well since Shards within your deck is one of the few safe havens your opponent is unlikely to be able to disrupt. Both this and Golden Avenger give Diamond some really interesting choices for 5 resources and because of Starsight Oracle’s resistance to even exile/tap/bounce effects I give it the edge, especially in control matchups. Even Sapphire control decks might look at this card with some intrigue because there are few better long term cards than it.”
What I Overlooked: If you’re going for a slow win-by-attrition type of control deck, something like Winter Moon, which has recurring card advantage and counters, is much better than a measly 3/3 every 2.5 turns.
What I Learned: Look at the other options/choices in certain archetypes before deciding whether certain a card brings any added-value to that archetype.
“Pact of Pain saw heavy play for its ability to draw a ton of cards over the course of the game. Wild/Sapphire decks will be happy to have a similar effect at their disposal even if it’s in the form of a more volatile troop and you don’t actually draw cards but rather cycle through them (there is no life loss involved so that’s a plus). Overall it is a great resource sink for Quick based Sapphire/Wild decks and allows them to set up their Prophecy troops for optimal usage. We’ll also likely see this played as part of the Titania’s Majesty/Walking Calamity combo deck.”
What I Overlooked: You don’t really want to sink your resources into something that establishes no board or card advantage. Sure getting better quality cards seems like a form of card advantage at first but the Wild Sapphire based decks value resources just as high as any other card in the early part of the game in order to play stuff while keeping a counter open or hitting that 8 resource in order to play Windsinger and have resources open for a Verdict of the Ancient Kings. There’s also the fact that there’s a bunch of Quick card draw spells that you could be playing instead of this in those opponent end of turns were you have resources left unused.
What I Learned: Card cycling is NOT nearly as good as card draw. This has significant implications especially in decks that try to outlast you through their card advantage.
“If there was a way to sneak this into play early there’s a ton we could do such as pairing up with Storm Cloud, Goremaster, or Circle of Ruination. You could also bring it back into play every turn if you use Rutherford Banks as your champion but the problem is there’s no way to reliably cheat this in and even if there was there’s probably easier ways to win than using this troop.”
What I Overlooked: Around Spike circles, there’s a certain stigma attached to expensive troops: namely that they’re pretty much unplayable unless you find a way to cheat them into play. It turns out that the high number of quality ramping effects coupled with a slow meta allows you to play some of these cards the straightforward ‘honest’ way. It also turns out that the Charge Colossus + Rutherford Banks_ loop is more potent than it appeared to me at first sight (primarily because it’s resilient to discard/countermagic disruption).
What I Learned: Metas get slower as the months go by, and in Hex’s case they’ve been known to get really slow at times, and those expensive Timmy troops can certainly be in the wheelhouse of competitive players in those specific periods.
“Hex Entertainment are really pushing the limits of 1 resource troops with requirements or drawbacks. Guru of the Wounded Petal is probably even easier to bring online than Electroid in constructed and should be at the core of any fresh attempts to bring the Shin’hare archetype to elite levels. I imagine something like T1 Ritualist of the Spring Litter T2 Emperor’s Lackey T3 Monika’shin creating two Battle Hopper and allowing you to cast the Guru of the Wounded Petal is an aggressive start that will pique some players’ interest.”
What I Overlooked: So I was semi-hyped about playing a 4/3 on turn 3? Seriously? Sometimes as an ambitious theorycrafter you case lose sight of the forest for the trees.
What I Learned: Trying to break a card is fun, but don’t lose perspective of the big picture. This is probably a case of ‘shiny new card’ syndrome where every new spoiled card looks like some new meta-wrecking world beater with infinite possibility. The reality is most of these cards don’t ever pan out to anything.
1) Pride’s Fall
“This card’s ability to kill troops like Reese, Angel of Dawn, Vampire King are noteworthy but I can’t find many relevant uses why you wouldn’t just use Repel instead that also deals with smaller troops. I guess if your opponent held back a Reese or a Zakiir and never attacked this would prove useful but such fringe scenarios will usually not be enough to convince players to replace Repel with it.”
What I Overlooked: Repel is barely ever played in constructed. Why? Because there are so many key troops in the meta that simply don’t need to attack to make their presence felt. Windsinger, Reese, Azurefate Sorceress, Puck, Phenteo, Balthasar, Crocosaur are just a few. Sure Pride’s Fall doesn’t deal with all of them but it deals with enough of them well enough that it’s at least a solid reserves card. But players figured out quickly enough that something like Martyr is actually the most flexible and hence useful 2 cost Diamond removal.
What I Learned: Being a sideline armchair analyst only gets you so far. To really be a top level analyst you need to be in there brewing/testing/playing decks at a high level to see what cards give certain decks the most outs, what works best in certain matchups, and then take all that knowledge and apply it to the current metagame. Luckily, I’ve since been much more involved in the constructed side and it’s something I should be able to apply to my analysis from hereon out.
Hidden Limited Archetypes
I think my initial limited archetype review for Armies of Myth pretty much cracked the limited meta early on (of course until the life total/pack size changes), so what I wanted to do here is share some subtle but viable archetypes that got much less attention.
Blood Ruby Shenaningans
This is an archetype I stumbled upon one bored afternoon where I wanted my draft to be a bit…’different’. There’s no clear synergy in combining Ruby with Blood so what makes this an interesting archetype? Well for one it’s probably the most fun you’re going to have playing Hex Set 3 limited, especially if you’re like me and have done over a hundred of them by now. As the name suggests you’re going to be trying some silly strategies here and hope that it works out.
The first one of these is a pretty straightforward combo that you can force pretty much any draft should you wish:
You can steal any of your opponent’s troops and sacrifice it – this serves as straight up removal and sometimes more if happens to have death trigger abilities on it.
Another interesting fun combo you can set up is with the two following cards (+ the MajR Destruction gem):
Obviously these two shards have plenty of removal between them as well so it’s not too difficult to disrupt your opponent’s major threats either. As far as your win-cons, I took an aggro approach relying on troops like Deathmask Assailant, Bloodsoaked Brawler, Emberleaf Duelist plus the always reliable Urgnock to ride my way to a draft victory. It’s not a top tier archetype by any means, but don’t be scared to try it out if an early Sandstone Rumbler passes your way.
Diamond Sapphire Flight
These shards have historically been a popular combination in limited environments due to their abundance of evasive troops coupled with plenty of tempo cards that leave little room for your opponent to play their big bad expensive cards. So it’s been surprising to see so little D/S decks out in the limited wild. There’s a total of 8 Flight troops in these shards at the common and uncommon rarity and 3 more if you include Kin of Olkoth, Ghost Feather and Spiritbound Spy. They’re all playable and excellent cards and your opponent will be overwhelmed trying to find answers to them all. In order to clog up the board and buy you time Thunderfield Seer, Spiritbound Spy, Mesa Lookout, and Sacred Seekers (yep, there’s a lot of Coyotle in these shards) do good a pretty good job. For those pesky troops you’re unable to deal with you’ll be able to easily pick-up a Throwback and Entangling Webs that fits right at home in this archetype. Of course if you happen to get some Incubation Webs or other quality removal, then all the more power to you.
The real MVP of this deck though is this little, still underappreciated fellow:
This deck does rather well against the ever popular Spiderling archetype so it’s one you should keep in your back pocket as we shift to a 4-4-3 limited environment.
Speculator’s Corner: Top 5 Armies of Myth Cards Likely To Breakout
Although there are obvious cards that will likely keep being good, if not better, like Phenteo and Windsinger, I want to use this section to hype up some other cards that haven’t really had their time in the sun yet.
(Warning: I’m not liable for any losses you might incur in following this advice. This analysis relies purely on cards that have been spoiled thus far as I don’t even really remember any other cards that were spoiled at the Invitational).
Yes this little rodent again. I had to include one card in here which made my most disappointing list because, well, even a broken clock has to be right twice per day right? More accurately, this card synergies well with the highly regarded Rune Ear Hierophant of Set 4. I don’t want to hype this card too much however as it has already wounded me.
Sitting currently in the depressed platinum floor of 30p, Valiant Escort is not a card from which you would at this point expect valiant things. Luckily for me as a speculator, it only has one way to go and that is up. Good news for the Escort is he will have a new friend to hang around with in Set 4 by the name of William Rowan, which early impressions suggest is one of the most in-demand cards of Set 4. If Mono Diamond weenie decks finally become a thing, then Valiant Escort is a card that should benefit handsomely.
The Dreamwalker is a fine card that many people have tried fitting in various decks because it provides good value. But it finally has the potential to serve as a main build-around-me piece as it interacts perhaps best out of any card printed thus far with the Empower mechanic. Simply put, any Empower card that Indigo Dreamwalker prophesies will still be castable for free meaning you can double the stats of the card but instead of paying double the resources you play it for free. The sky is the limit for Indigo Dreamwalker. Even if he doesn’t get to live the dream by getting to Vampire King or Reese the Crustcrawler levels, it is a solid troop with the Prophecy mechanic and Coyotle trait that I feel will be in demand for the foreseeable future.
Goodbye Armies of Myth, Hello Primal Dawn
Well to be honest, Armies of Myth is not really going anywhere as it’ll still represent 33% of the limited format and ~25% of the constructed format. But having spent as much time with it as it takes for a human child to be created, I for one am eagerly anticipating the release of Primal Dawn. Hopefully Set 4 will build upon the nice foundation the previous sets have established and will keep us occupied for a few months…perhaps more 😉
What are some cards that you misjudged, limited archetypes you came to appreciate, or hidden-gems you think will be more relevant in the future? Feel free to leave your thoughts below.