After a week into triple Dead Of Winter, we finally have the combined sets of Frostheart and Dead Of Winter for the full limited block experience. This might be the most interesting limited formats of any TCG I have ever played, as the archetypes themselves all seem to have archetypes within them. What I’m going to give you guys is a tier list below of what I believe are the strongest decks to be looking for while drafting 887, while giving insight on how to use synergy and deck building skills to give yourself the edge needed to have consistent results.
Before getting into the archetype breakdowns, I do want to mention a few things you should be thinking about while drafting your deck. The archetypes below all rely on having a large number of synergistic cards which might stop flowing, at which point you need to be aware this is happening and be able to adapt into another archetype of a similar color or both, so sometimes making the “safe” play of a card of lesser value that might into multiple archetypes can be the correct choice, it all depends on how much of a gambler you might be while reading the table. It’s somewhat difficult to give an idea of when to take the stronger card outside of being 100% dedicated to the deck without sounding too vague, so it’s best to stay somewhat safe early while diving into the dedicated picks such as Wrath of the Elements, or Whimsy’s Familiar later during the draft.
Tier 1 – Ruby-Sapphire Elemental Actions
This may come as a huge surprise to many people so if you’re unfamiliar with the deck as building it does not revolve around a mechanics such as Fateweave, Illuminate, Transform, or Verdict so it’s not as obvious. This archetype is a little spice of many different synergies coming together to create a quick explosive deck with a ton of card advantage.
While drafting the core of the deck you’re going to want to stock up on low costed troops such as Aquamander and Acolyte of Flame while having time to pick up a couple Searing Spitfire which will be the top of your curve outside of rare/legendary bombs or a Zephyn if you happen to pick one up. The third pack (set 7) you’ll be looking for Luminarie Kindler and Eldritch Thunderbird which both synergize from casting multiple actions. Picking up any of the runic spells such as Runic Riddles and Runic Hatching are also very strong as they trigger anything that gains value from playing an action (See Searing Spitfire etc) multiple times upon resolving the second casting. A positive note drafting this color combination also gives you the opportunity to cast Squirming Galaxtar who happens to be a huge powerhouse of attrition as well as a great blocker, while costing prismatic giving you a high probability to have them passed if open as ruby sapphire is a very uncommon color combination in 887.
While drafting this archetype make sure you have a number of low costed tricks such as Return To Cinder, Evaporate, and Winter Widow (which I do consider a trick in this deck) due to the need to stop down early aggro decks. The game plan of the deck is generating value through the quick actions during the mid game, giving your opponents multiple opportunities to give up an advantage during combat. To top the deck off don’t be afraid to play a main deck Arcing Frost as you will catch yourself being somewhat behind on tempo early without an a fast draw, so being able to have a semi blow out mid-game can give you the time to generate enough card advantage and defeat your opponent. During the draft if you happen to pick up some late Lixil’s Heartseeker you can also pair them with Runic Rampage for a more aggressive approach which gives you a better game against the Furiko decks which can battle you for the kings of the late game.
The last side note I want to add is how to use your portals, whether they are from an action like Temporal Exile or the champion power itself, holding them for the surprise factor from my personal experience can generate huge value and give you chances to bluff damage or prevent an attack. Having a perfect drop for tempo curving out is the obvious choice, but don’t always cast your card just because you don’t have another play, even when you’re behind I think it’s better to wait for the spell that can potentially win you game unless you absolutely have to play something being very far behind.
Tier 1.5 – Wild + X Furiko
On to a more popular archetype which won’t come as a surprise to those grinding 887, and that’s Furiko. The concept of drafting a Furiko archetype is to get a large number of troops, while valuing those who can generate additional charges/resources such as Mesa Wildspeaker and Bloom Burster, as well as ones whom create multiple bodies such as Acolyte of Flame and Kindlekit etc. Picking up a couple Palm of Granite and Verdant Rift are also important to hit that early Furiko Activation accelerating the pressure you have on the board.
Remember any troop you draft or generate from a portal has more value in this archetype more than others due to your win condition being the champion power itself giving your team +2/+2 so keep that in mind while creating your deck as you don’t want to flood hands with removal as you won’t have enough bodies to generate enough value from your charge power to end a game, also taking note to value portals of troops more than actions for the same reasoning. If you do happen to catch yourself picking up early ramp spells, any troops with momentum become much stronger as they give your deck aggressive draws that can give you enough pressure to stop your opponent from trading damage early, giving you time to overrun them with your champion power. The biggest strength of drafting a Furiko deck is the ability to pair well with any other shard, though you will catch yourself having some built-in synergies to look out for depending on the pairing shard which I will go in-depth about below.
Pairing with Diamond you’ll want to prioritize troops with Momentum and anything with Fateweave as you have many small synergies you can pick up such as a late Poppycake Peddler from pack three, or Green Grimplekin, Righteous Exorcist, and Snow Puffin from the first two packs.
Pairing with Ruby gives you a small number of gladiator synergies and a decent number of solid crush troops which you will find to be quite useful when pushing through the last number of damage with a combat trick or pump spell.
Pairing up with Sapphire might be the weakest pairing as I believe you generally should be in the Transform archetype (see in the article below) but if you do catch yourself drafting a large number of the Furiko cards in your early portion of the draft, picking up some Runic Hatching from pack three help out a ton, as well as a Zeota’s Familiar or two from the first couple packs as you will find yourself abusing resource syncs in the archetype where you’re ramping out resources at a high speed.
Pairing with Blood gives you access to a ton of solid troops on all portions of your curve compared to any other color. With access to the Plant/Undead synergies as well as having multiple potential bodies from early trading with a Corpse Lily, or abusing life drain from a Herald of Roses you get a ton of value from blood from your troops compared to any other shard pairing.
Tier 1.5 – Ruby/Diamond Illumination
By far the most explosive deck on this list that reminds me of the old Wild/Sapphire transform deck from 777 (except better), is the Illuminate archetype. First things first, you need to take every single Candle Crush you see as that card is a powerhouse and your primary win condition outside from the obvious candlekin overrun. The concept in this archetype is to clog up the board with a number of troops via Kindklekit and Acolyte of Flame and such, while coming over the type with finishers mid-game like Lyvaantth’s Skylancers and Choir Of Lumos.
If you come across an early Lumiknight or Brightflame Paladin, you can start to overvalue Rand-Amp 3000 as it gives these troops more room to start taking over the early game, abusing multiple turn illumination triggers. When it comes to removal, outside of Candle Crush you want to be taking cards that illuminate over removal unless you pick up multiple Brightflame Paladin or Lumiknights early as they can clear a both for multiple combat triggers abusing illuminate.
Avoid taking Hyperborrean Elementalist and Light of Lyvaanth as they are both traps, neither of them are powerful enough compared to the other choices you will have drafting. Wrath of Elements is a great removal action being able to target anything in play, so taking out that Corpsemulch or Twilight Eclipse can turn the game around. Try to keep your curve low, and running sixteen shards is generally where you want to be at while drafting Illuminate.
Tier 2 – Blood Diamond Verdict/Constant Midrange
Adoni-Zeddek though having the highest winrate, I don’t find to be on the same level on the archetypes spoken about above for many reasons. Though I do find this archetype to be the most flexible when it comes to drafting the actual deck, I notice struggling to find an actual win condition outside of opening a strong rare/legendary or having some of the uncommons like Umbral Guard and Sunrise Specter being taken so early, you have to resort to the verdict RNG to give you enough card advantage to out-attrition your opponents in the long game.
Onto drafting the actual deck you’re going to want to focus on filling your four drop slot full of Lux Guard and grabbing as many Verdict cards you can to abuse the Umbral Guard and Sunrise Specter you pick up during the first two packs. Put focus on having a low curve while drafting early, as your later drops can be easily filled and you should be trying to run sixteen shards more often than not. If you happen to see a Gloaming Edict early, it can be wise to pick it up to not only cut off the signal of Verdict being open, as well as potentially having a great impact on the board state. The correct number of spirits I think needed for Gloaming Edict is nine, thought you can lower it to seven if you happen to have multiple Umbral Guards or Sunrise Specter to abuse the triggers.
Going into the pack three portion of the archetype should be somewhat straightforward based on the first two packs. For example, if you picked up multiple Sunset Shades you can value cards like Daybreak Diviner and Ghastly Exchange higher, where as if you’re lacking win conditions and troops to press the attack, maybe taking that Squirming Terror is needed to apply some pressure. The last thing I want to mention is how strong Arctic Grizzly is in this deck. Arctic Grizzly is the perfect pickup if you know you’re going on the dedicated Verdict gameplay, as you need a number of mid-game troops to be blocking during combat, while fitting the curve at three and five giving you a small boost to your life total to slow down those overly aggressive draws from the aggro decks.
Tier 2 – Blood/Wild Deathcry
My personal favorite archetype which many might call plants/zombies, I have grown very fond of the epitome of a limited attrition deck, deathcry. Even though I do think this archetype has grown stronger with the release of Dead of Winter, the reason why I have the deck this low is the issue that you rely so much on having a strong opening hand compared to other archetypes.
The two key cards you’re going to want to focus on grabbing early are Corpsemulch and Bristlebarb Haq as they are the two engines to start abusing the deathcry troops. After the two engines keep a lookout for Herald of Thorns, Herald of Roses, and Putrid Porker as they will be the backbone troops during the first two packs of the draft, and taking them early lets you value synergistic troops higher to go along with them. The general idea of the deck is to clog the board with troops that generate you some sort of value when they die via deathcry, so picking up any number or Corpse Lily, Bloom Burster etc allow you to force awkward combat states where your opponents are forced to trade giving you the value in the long run post-combat. I know you have other options of champion choices such as Ixo The Primeval and Isabella The Cursed, but generally I have found myself always regretting not playing Plagueroot unless my deck is on the weaker side playing a number of blight bestowed then I can catch myself playing Isabell, outside of that Plagueroot is where you want to be.
One underrated gem that has been over performing that I did not find to be very strong in 777 has been Netherbloom, so don’t be afraid to throw him in as he can block early aggressive Lumiknights as well as create tricks during combat with an active Corpsemulch or Bristlebarb Haw making combat difficult for your opponents. Developing a backbone of two-drops is VERY important, as you’re going to lose quickly without the ability to create scenarios where you can double and triple block opposing attacking enemy troops. Try to stray away from Triumphant Muttmaster and Nameless Peddler, as they might seem very powerful and both have that special keyword deathcry, but they don’t help out much with what your deck is trying to do in the long run, and since they both tend to be earlier picks it’s better to take that Blightbark Burster and Corpse Lily to fill out that curve. Having answers to a swarm of early opposing flying troops is also very important as blood/wild does not have access to many, so picking up a couple Twilight Scout is not a bad idea to deal with early aggressive troops swinging at you from the air. Another thing to keep in mind are having Minor Socketable troops with four or more toughness to be able to block troops like Lux Guard, Bluebell Pixie and Swooping Gravitross etc using the Minor Socket Giving Skyguard/Steadfast.
Tier 3 – Sapphire/Wild Transform
Coming in somewhat low on the tier list at three, is what I find to be the most interesting archetype to draft, and that’s the wild/sapphire transform deck. The biggest issue with this archetype is understanding and knowing when you should be going into it, outside of Furiko or another archetype that doesn’t rely so much on uncommons and aside from the Verdict decks which only benefit from them, not rely as much as the Transform deck does.
The ideal core you’re going to look out for during your first two packs, includes Whimsy’s Familiar which I value over everything else, Zephyn, Changling Cuties, and finish it off at the common slot with Wild Knight and Bluebell Pixie. Your game plan should be flooding the board early with troops who benefit when you transform another troop, while being able to hit a target troop that does not benefit to gain the full value.
Two troops I have noticed to be the best targets to hit are Lixil’s Heartseeker from set seven and Winter Widow from set eight as they both bring in strong deploy effects and aren’t picked for their bodies themselves, so transforming them never seems to do much harm setting you back. As obvious as it might be, going into pack three of the draft portion generally is quite autopilot so you won’t find too much difficulty as you have sculpting the core of the deck during the first two packs.
You want to be overvaluing Runic Chrysalis and Whimsey Witch when you have a larger number of troops benefiting from transforming, while valuing the Spellsong Sweeties and Party Fungi higher when you already have a core of transformation. Avoid playing Poppy Pup and Scurrying Strength as they might seem strong at first glance, but have no business being in the deck as you have many other cards that bring much more power and value, you should save your last few filler slots for cards like Metamorphize.
Taking a couple Dingledance for your removal package is key as they can also be used as an end of turn action to cast on your own troops to trigger multiple transform triggers giving you some card advantage of benefiting from multiple Whimsy’s Familiar and Bluebell Pixie triggers, sometimes even blowing out your opponents during the combat step. Don’t put too much value into taking removal early such as Ready To Rumble, as you will need to grab as many cards abusing the transform mechanic as possible, as they all become stronger with strength of numbers.
Tier 4 – Sapphire Blood Bury
First thing I want to say, as seeing the Runecarver Darcon might be a surprise to some, but I feel as if he is the optimal choice when drafting a Bury deck, where as Yarna Of Lost Voices is more of the backup plan. Your game plan while drafting bury, needs to be putting out enough defensive troops such as Nameless Host, Gaze of Hastur, and Borean Boa, while having the resources to consistently bury your opponents deck.
Back to Runecarver Darcon for a moment, you want to be building a deck with as many Howling Madness as you can to target with your Runecarver Darcon champion power with backup removal such as Bonetide if you catch yourself behind and need to remove some troops. The core key card of this archetype you need to be taking over everything, and yes I mean everything, is Nameless Husher.
Nameless Husher is the sole reason that Borean Boa is a playable card in the archetype, causing every single action you cast to bury minimum three cards from your opponents deck. With how explosive the bury deck might be, the one issue I’m sure everybody here reading is aware about is the fact that your opponent can add in any number of cards from reserves during games two and three, causing the number of cards you need to bury becoming much much more. The upside for you while playing against this strategy for games two and three, is more common than not your opponents deck has become much more variable and weaker, lacking the chance to draw the cards taken earlier from packs. I think bringing in the cards consistently generating value such as Bleeding Heart, or Runeflection in the Borean Boa based decks can seem weaker, but end up being a strong strategy as your opponents deck will most likely become much slower and inconsistent giving you more time to play the value generating cards for a more attrition type game plan.
The last thing I want to take note on is the notorious Robogoyle, which might strew many away from playing this archetype. I know that Robogoyle can be a huge threat coming out on one of the early turns but this should not be a reason to avoid drafting the archetype. I think the bury archetype has a huge upside to drafting it, but you need to be aware of the tables, as I catch myself only wanting to jump into the bury archetype if I notice pack one has tabling Howling Madness and Fall Into Despair, as the Nameless Husher is the only card you should be taking early forcing you to jump into the bury archetype.
After the common decks on the tier list, I also think it’s important to take note of the more uncommon interactions you will come across so you know when to jump ship, and try something a little off-meta. Now I don’t think this is a list of things you necessarily want to build a deck around, but I do think they are very important to understand if you want to give yourself a strong edge among the competition giving yourself every little percentage increase to get the best outcome.
– When drafting a Wild/Sapphire Transform deck, if you happen to pick up an early number of Wild Knight, you can cast a frost-formed Briny Walrus, following it up with a Wild Knight and every single time the Briny Walrus will transform into a Stratolith. The reason of this interactions is due to the fact that Wild Knight reverts the troop before transforming it, so when you cast a Briny Walrus frost-formed on four, the Wild Knight on five cost first reverts it into a six costed Briny Walrus into a random seven costed sapphire troop, and the only troop at seven in standard is Stratolith, so both coming around somewhat late during the draft, it’s a good interaction to be aware of.
– A secondary game plan while drafting the Wild/Blood Deathcry archetype is the ability to bury your opponents out. Having a Scuttlecrux paired up with some Nameless Peddler, Corpsemulch and company, and you put your opponents in a position to take a more aggressive approach before the inevitability of their demise via bury. Sometimes bringing in an Unwritten End from reserves in the mirror match can be a total game changer as well. Always make sure to be thinking outside the box, as catching your opponents off guard is sometimes all you need to seal the deal in a best of three.
– With how common the Verdict deck has become, I think the limited meta game is in a reasonable enough spot to be main decking those Soothing Seedstag and Aura Eater. I think being able to blow out your opponents Corpsemulch or Bleeding Heart is obviously the strongest, but also just hitting a runic spell or that random daybreak/nightfall generated from a Verdict is fine as well so don’t be afraid to throw these guys in your maindeck.
– If you catch yourself building a weak deck without a real archetype that’s okay, playing Venoma Of The Nox in an aggressive Blood/Ruby deck is totally fine. Also if you find yourself in a weak Ruby or Wild deck, choose Entity Unknown to try to give yourself some variance to catch an opponent off guard with a sweet combat trick, or just end up using Furriko in your weak Wild deck as a pseudo win condition.
– Finding yourself having a large number of one and two costed troops increases the value of how powerful Rand-Amp 3000 really is. Sometimes you can steal a game away just by casting an early troop down and giving him small buffs, so start to value those Rand-Amp 3000s higher the more low curve troops you happen to draft.
– Palm of Granite does not go in every Wild deck you draft. If you catch yourself with a low curve without any Momentum and you’re not using Furiko as your champion choice, this card has no business being in your Wild deck.
– The last interaction I want to talk about is how many Wild/Diamond Fateweave interactions there are in this block. Though I do think generally you want to be playing Furiko over any other champion, going into your last pack of the draft if you are drafting Wild/Diamond Fateweave you need to be taking Wild Ice and Sapphire Ice over almost everything. As most of your Fateweave troops are going to table anyways, Ice actually give you more open slots for spells to give more interaction and I don’t think Ice are taken as high as they should be to begin with.
Now I want to give a short list of some overrated and underrated cards I think you should all take note of, and start to value a little higher or lower based on how they have been performing from my own personal experience.
Hopefully everybody can learn something from my personal experiences grinding the format to improve their game and step it up to the next level. I wish everybody the best of luck drafting 887 and I look forward to helping people improve their game to the next level in the future. Be creative my friends.