First let me introduce myself as I might be a new name (or one you recognize from the Limited leaderboard) to the Hex Primal family. I go by KurtisKapahala and I have been on the Hex: Shards of Fate Limited grind for quite some time now. I’m here now to give you all some insight into how deep my mind really goes when it comes to theory crafting for the Frostheart Clashes we all get to enjoy every Sunday. Whether you are playing casually looking to take that first step into higher competitive levels, or you’re a grinder trying to make the top charts I think there is something everybody can gain from another player’s experience and perspective from massive amounts of hours put into the format at the highest level.
So first thing’s first, let’s go into the pre-Clash ritual I recommend everybody should have, or create one for themselves for the most efficient gameplay. Now what I mean by this is a routine you should get into before doing any kind of large competitive event, especially one where you are required to look onto a PC (or PS4 soon) and most likely spend a lot of time sitting down. A good way to start is making sure you’ve had a good meal beforehand so you’re full of energy to burn when your mind is put in that overtime thinking about mathematics and predictions of what your opponent may or may not do. It’s also a great idea to make sure to loosen up and stretch so you’re not getting tight, something as simple as a stiff neck or tight lower back can bring just the right amount of nerve to make you miss something, and that one miss can cost you a game which can snowball into a match, and even tiebreakers to qualify for the playoff rounds later into an event. Taking care of your mental health is just as important as physical health to endure long events and have the conditioning to play at your peak level throughout the entire event, which will help put out more consistent results in the long run. Also don’t forget to have enough sleep (if you can) leading up to the event, the last thing you want is to be too tired to think and go into autopilot later in the most crucial rounds of an event. It’s also a good idea to have a snack or meal prepared to eat sometime later in the event. I use a bowl of trail mix myself with a glass of V8 juice or a coffee but to each their own when it comes to dieting.
Opening Your Sealed Pool
Now it’s time to jump into the game itself. So first you might be asking yourself “But what if I don’t open a good pool?” or “I don’t know what two colors I should play together, I have so many options”. Here is where I come in. I’m going to do my best to let you guys know how to understand everything and give yourself the best possible results in each Clash you continue to play in. So without sounding too vague, I’m going to start off somewhat simple so you don’t get lost in thought with too much information thrown at you in an unorganized manner.
So here you are, you just opened your Clash pool and you’re looking through your cards sorting them out, seeing what rares and legendaries you may or may not have opened to get a preference of a color you might want to be playing. Now I’m going to stop you guys right there before telling you THE BEST way to organize and start building your deck. Let’s first talk about the shards in Hex and what each of them bring to the table as each of them have their own unique Champions which bring their own power to Frostheart Limited themselves. When I say I want to talk about what each shard brings in, I mean that some shards themselves have certain champions choices that might make a certain choice of shard to play stronger/weaker compared to the other champion choices due to the champion powers impacting the game and having synergy with the rest of your deck as well. Try to keep in mind the power level of the champion choices having influence over your deckbuilding as I will go into detail below about all of the viable champion choices.
Yarna of Lost Voices
Puff the Rainbow
For the most part those should be the only two Sapphire Champion choices as you’re not doing yourself any favors selecting another Champion in Sapphire (unless you happen pair Sapphire with a different shard Champion that I will be listing below).
Wild & Blood Deathcry Champions
So for my next review of champions I want to put a group of three of them together because they all become choices in the same archetype of the Blood/Wild Deathcry attrition. This might come off somewhat vague but I’m going to give you guys the basic idea of when you’re going to want to choose one champion across their counterparts.
Ixo The Primeval
Isabella The Cursed
Plagueroot the Hollow
Two champions I want to mention a little bit about that I do see play from time to time before going onto my next subject are Pharamedes and Grish’xal the Profane. Without going into a large amount of detail, do I think there is a perfect world where either of these can see play? Yes I do but I think you’re not doing yourself any favors when nine times out of ten you would have had better success choosing another champion listed above. I know it’s cute being able to activate Pharamedes on your Ebonhorn and use Grish’xal the Profanes activation on Squirming Terror and Eldritch Dreamthief, but you have to take into consideration how often your other choices will be better during the three games you play. Your best is to avoid playing either one of these as their effects are not worth giving yourself a headache for a deck’s pool that’s not very strong to begin with. It’s all about mastering the fundamentals, not the cute tricks to be different from everybody else.
So now that I have given everybody some insight on the possible champion choices, I want to give you guys a rundown of what I think about and prepare for when creating my finalized pool. Now I know some of these things will seem petty and obnoxious but trust me, the more you play the more you will understand the preparation is key. Looking at some of the underrated yet meta-defining Commons during deckbuilding will make us as prepared as can be against what the field has to offer.
So here you are on a Sunday building your aggressive Clash deck feeling quite comfortable with your curve and amount of combat tricks as well as the power of the troops in your deck. You’re playing round one popping off early bringing your opponent very low getting a great tempo lead from cards like Piledrive and Runic Fury then all of a sudden your opponent casts a card called Ebonhorn.
Ebonhorn is a common card that will almost always appear in one or more copies in the opponents you will be playing against with Diamond shards in their deck. You need to be prepared and somewhat greedy with your tricks and removal in aggressive decks because this guy can come down and give eight point life swings in combat. This card is very much meta defining as the impact he has interacting with other troops is so high, he can turn a game swing around right away just from his board presence.
I think it’s very important to be prepared and aware of the most popular commons that will be seeing play, knowing and understanding that you will be able to win a game where your opponent is casting a Ebonhorn (or cards I am going to mention below) on turn six.
Unstable Upgrade, Blast Off, Poppycakes
Now here is a set of cards I want to talk about that I personally believe can go very much under-looked: Unstable Upgrade, Blast Off, and Poppycakes. At first glace, you’re most likely thinking to yourself “But hey Kurtis, casting these cards you’re just asking to get 2-for-1ed” and yes I get that, but this format does not revolve around who can get the most value from a 2 for 1. The way I see them, they are making one of your filler creatures (or ones with evasion for the best case scenario) a threat that needs to be dealt with as soon as possible. Now excluding the amount of synergy Unstable Upgrade (which in my opinion is the best of the three) can have to go along with cards such as Piledrive and Arena Mutt, Poppycakes is close in power level and has a place in the format as well. Now I’m not saying you should be throwing these cards in your maindeck with every pool, but I am saying don’t rule them out and they are also very powerful reserve cards coming in against certain matchups. Now if you see your opponents are casting a handful of basic speed removal in ruby such as Firepower and Flamelick, which are almost always going to see play in Ruby pools, casting an Unstable Upgrade or Poppycakes (outside of x-2s) makes those troops evade flat out death. I understand there are many other removal spells which can grant your opponents the 2 for 1 as well, but let’s give another example of how you can gain value. So here we are where our opponent has a 5/5 troop and we are looking to attack but we only have a Crafty Scrapshot and a Killblade of the Milky Eye while our opponent is holding Cull the Weak. We can cast a Poppycakes on our Scrapshot and attack to do 5 total damage to our opponents life total. During their next turn they decide to cast their Cull the Weak on our Scrapshot. Sure we do lose our Scrapshot and Poppycakes to 1 of our opponent’s cards, but our opponents removal spell was forced to be used instead of staying in their hand to deal with a potential later threat we would cast during our match. And we did not lose value on our Poppycakes as let’s pretend the card reads “deal 5 damage to an opposing player” which is exactly what it did giving us the ability to swing in during combat and not lose a trade. Blast Off itself also comes off very straightforward with targeting a troop you control without evasion making it a flying threat that must be dealt with, as well as the ability to block opposing flying troops.
Hide and Seek
Now the next card I want to go into a rant about is the one and only Hide and Seek. I will admit I have got a lot of flack from my opinions being so high on this card so I won’t be surprised to find some disagreements but hear me out for a moment as I convince you why having this in your Sapphire Clash deck is a good choice (most of the time, unless you opened a very deep powerful pool). So first off, this card is an answer to every non-spellshield troop and permanent on the field. If you’re playing against a Papa Goot deck, I do think it’s ok to even potentially bring in an extra Hide and Seek if your deck folds over to a must-answer card such as Twilight Eclipse. So not only does this card come off at quick action speed, it also FATEWEAVES. Fateweave itself as you all know is such a powerful effect, even more when you’re trying to get that 7th shard for a Furiko charge ability or guarantee yourself a spell to cast on your following turn. Any quick speed spell that can blow out combat tricks mid combat step AND have fateweave has to be good in Sealed. It has been over-performing for me over and over and I can’t tell you guys this enough. Now the downside with this card is knowing your opponent can draw and cast whatever target you’re putting back into their deck, but if it’s later in the match and you’re hitting a troop mid combat to deal with the advantage from a combat trick, they are getting one more card in their deck as a weak draw step to draw later anyways so it’s not always as big of a downside as it seems. The counter argument to that is they can trigger a deploy effect a second time upon casting a troop with a deploy effect, which can be bad news for the home team but sometimes you find yourself behind and have to hope for the best. So to end my rant, I will state I do think a six cost removal spell with quick speed and Fateweave is fine for Sealed Sapphire decks as the format is generally much slower than draft.
Now here is a spicy meatball, and when I say spicy I mean it’s a card that I almost never see somebody play in their maindeck, where I personally think it belongs in. So not only is Puff the most popular Champion choice (even though I think it should be Furiko for Sealed) but the format almost revolves around cluttered board states and evasive creatures. I think Wild has the strongest Common and Uncommon troops, having the ability to clutter up the ground (outside of all-in Candlekin which is rare in Sealed) better than any other deck, the cards you’re generally losing to are tempo based evasive troops where Vine Lash at one cost can literally decide the fate of the game, sometimes in the first few turns. This card can obviously become a dead card with no targets available, but the amount of time that happens I think is worth the upside of being able to steal game 1 by catching opponents off guard and crushing a creature transformed by Puff with a maindeck Vine Lash.
Outside of all of the high board impacting cards, we come around here to this little gem called Ruinforge Rummager. At first glance this card doesn’t come off as anything exciting. However from experience I think in the right deck this guy does exactly what you want out of a two-drop. I do believe the stronger the higher end cards in your deck (the Rares/Legendaries, busted Uncommons such as Iremaw, Mad Packmaster, Dark of Night and such) the more likely you should be playing this little gem. Aside from filling in the two drop slot being able to block troops such as Rabid Razorshield, he can also be used to discard extra shards later basically drawing you a card lategame, and getting rid of spells without use and even attacking for some points of damage at times. This won’t be a card that will win you the game by itself but I don’t think he should be underestimated as the ability to dig through the weaker portions of your deck to the more powerful ones can be very potent when most games are coming down to one or two turns of interaction having the right cards used at the right time. Worst case scenario he ends up becoming a chump blocker or an extra two damage to double block a troop later in the game after digging 1 card deeper through the deck.
Speaking of cards under-looked, if you’re wanting to look Brilliant blowing out your opponents during combat with a trick flying under the radar, look no further. At first glace this card tends to be weak because of the implications of not being an aggressive card outside of candlekin decks, and can potentially grant your opponent extra turns to draw outs but it’s much more than meets the eye. One key thing to note is that I do believe once you have casted this spell, you should generally be sending it to your reserves for the next games. The Limited meta is currently in a spot where people generally don’t play around this very often but after casting it the first time, the surprise factor falls off. Also like other quick speed combat tricks, this card becomes much better when you have other tricks in your deck forcing your opponent to make educated guesses on what to play around.
For my next gem I will introduce you to the little magical machine of treats, Treat Machine. Now of course the obvious move is to put this little guy into the Furiko decks, but he has many more implications. For example, if you’re playing Papa Goot and your deck just happens to have a handfull of Balance the Scales, maybe a Twilight Eclipse or two if you’re lucky, and maybe a few Vespers, having a Treat Machine to cycle through your deck as well as giving you 2/3rds of a Daybreak can be very powerful. Even if needed to be thrown into a Puff deck, the machine can find his place. In cases where you’re low on two drops, this can be a fine 22nd or 23rd inclusion.
Benediction of Lumos
The last card I would like to speak about is actually not a Common, but an Uncommon called Benediction of Lumos. At first glace this card looks very much over costed (which I think it in fact is) for the effect it’s giving a troop, but Hex has a unique trait that other TCGs and CCGs don’t have where your troops retain their effects even in the crypt (outside of becoming reverted). In such a long drawn out slower format like Sealed where players are playing Furiko and looking to push through the last few damaging points with Puff, I do think Benediciton has its place. When your deck has a lack of evasion or lategame, you can randomly steal away a game here and there targeting something like an Ebonhorn or Borean Leopard when hands have been emptied and players are looking to press the last few attacks to finish an opponent off.
Selecting Your Deck
So here we are with our pool. We have prepared going over our potential champion choices, are looking for our influential gem Commons along with our powerful Rares and Legendaries, then what do we do next and how do we decide what to play? Don’t worry mates, I’m going to break down the exact process I go through with each opened pool.
First thing I want to do is to remove all visible shards and sort by only viewing my Shardless cards. What this does is it gives me an idea about the playable Shardless spells such as the Treat Machine that give me playables for Furiko/Goot decks, and the Loyal Toolbox that occupy the filler slots at five while also synergizing with Balance the Scales type cards. Others to look out for are the Vigil Of Nulzann and Rares/Legendaries like Pocket Army, Scales of Twilight and Eternal Seeker (which I immediately add to my deck when I see them as they will be in my final deck 100% of the time). After that I will skim through the different shards getting an idea where the strength in my pool is. If I notice a lot of cards in Sapphire that are strong in a Sapphire/Wild transform deck I will go through my Wild cards and put them in my maindeck, then sort cards by converted mana cost to see how my curve looks. I repeat this process across every archetype (which generally takes around 6 mins or so of the 20 mins you get to deckbuild) until I feel comfortable I am playing the strongest deck my pool has given me. After I have locked down my champion choice, I will start revising my deck, making sure I am aware of what my win conditions are, the things I will be playing against and what ways I have of dealing with them (with answers) and winning the game (with threats). If you notice your deck is lacking evasion and you might have a hard time pressing your attacks, add in that Runic Strike to your maindeck over a 7th two drop. If you find yourself lacking troops as you start off slow with a large chunk your powerful cards having high costs, throw in that Sepulchra Warden or Mindcaller to clog up the early board and trade while slowing down the game a little. As I said earlier, if you’re very high on troops sometimes having that Blast Off can randomly cheese out a win here or there. The gist of what I’m saying is make sure you understand how your deck wants to win, and focus on making sure you can do that as consistently as possible.
The last short segment of this great read I’ve had the enjoyment of sharing with you all is a little not so much on the preparation side, but learning to adapt mid match and understand what reserves can do, and how to use them in an efficient manner. Not only are reserves used for bringing in answers such as the Ires or cards like Verdict of the Ancient Kings, they can also be used to take out cards that have a low impact (which trust me, goes very very under-looked). Let’s say you’re playing against an all-in Yarna bury deck. You have the ability to add any number of extra playable cards and resources to your deck without having to take any out, making it much more difficult for the opponent to efficiently bury your entire deck and winning the game. I’m sure that’s no new news to many of you, but how about bringing in that Fire with Fire to get some extra value from some Deploy and Deathcry effects rather than having a Luminarie Kindler against an opponent with Blightseed Fiddler and Blightseed Cultivator along with a Blightbush or two. How about bringing in that Emulate and Shrink against the Ruby/Blood player with multiple Sting of The Scorpinox knowing they cannot revert their own guys, rather than your Runesnatcher filling up that three-drop slot and Carlothian Warpriest that won’t likely be able to block after a Sting of The Scorpinox has resolved. Even outside of the obvious answers, how about taking out a mediocre troop for that Poppycakes against your opponent who had little to no removal. Simple things like this might go overlooked, but the more you play and become aware of them the more you can get that 2% edge that becomes the difference between winning a Clash, and getting that 9th place on tiebreakers.
To conclude, I wish you all best of luck in future Clashes hoping you all found something positive to take away and improve your game in one or more ways.