Hey Cyriius here, back after the first major Hex event. I will present you my “unexpected” constructed deck with which I did amazingly during day 1 with a 4-0 record. I will go in-depth in order to make you understand how to play it and why it performed great in this Invitational Metagame – and hopefully it might be of help to you in your next event.
3 Exarch of the Egg
4 Phenteo the Brood Priest
4 Azurefate Sorceress (MajS Subterfuge / MinS Mischief)
2 Xentoth’s Inquisitor (MajB Brutality)
3 Reese the Crustcrawler
1 Xartaxis, Bishop of the Azure Fang
1 Brood Baron
So Why Vennen?
This deck can be defined as a grindy combo deck or a control deck with some combo elements. Depending on the match-up, you can plan on protecting the combo or just slowly win through spiders and/or Reese the Crustcrawler just like a standard control deck would. Games might vary from really straight-forward/easy to play to really tough and coming down to a critical decision.
In general this is a deck that doesn’t deal very well with aggro and does fairly well against the rest which is tricky since you have to be sure aggro will not be predominant in the field.
The way the combo works is that Azurefate Sorceress can Inspire its socketed gems to the Terrorantula (which cost 5 and hence are eligible to receive Azurefate’s Inspire ability) which bury 10 more cards that can chain into burying other Terrorantula until there are no cards left in their deck.
Tip: This doesn’t work once Azurefate Sorceress gets hit by Countermagic (since it will end up costing 6 and no longer Inspire the Terrorantula), so better not go all in on that strategy in some match-ups.
“In general this is a deck that doesn’t deal very well with aggro and does fairly well against the rest which is tricky since you have to be sure aggro will not be predominant in the field.”
Decklist Review – Card Choices
First, I have to explain why there are some one-ofs that might be weird for some of you. Time Ripple, Brood Baron, Xartaxis Bishop of the Azure Fang, Monsuun Shogun of Winda’jin in the reserves are mainly there due to the format of the tournament. We were all aware before the competition that the decklists would be revealed on Friday which led me to add some one-ofs in the decklist in order to mess with my opponent. I will give you an example to explain this point, this was in my opinion a key factor to come up with these exact 75 cards.
Let’s say you’re playing against W/D Rutherford Banks_ and you have a commanding board position. You leave 2 resources open and while normally you would get blown out by Crocosaur, your opponent might actually play something other than Crocosaur with that one Time Ripple of yours in their mind. Just having that one copy can psychologically affect your opponent and affect their play even if the card happens to be in your deck or even in your reserves in games 2/3.
Same goes with tunneling turn 2 with Blood and Sapphire thresholds active after reserves and them wondering if it’s a straight old Reese that’s been tunneled or the potentially very problematic Monsuun, Shogun of Winda’jin. Splitting Xartaxis Bishop of the Azure Fang and Brood Baron is the same idea. They are both different to interact with.
Zorzym of Korru_ is a Champion that has good synergies with the deck (eg: Xartaxis Bishop of the Azure Fang) and helps you grind out games where you will not combo off.
Tip: Sometimes not using the Champion Power is important especially in the Wild match-ups to play around Crocosaur.
24 Shards is the minimum when playing Vennen – you really don’t want to get screwed on shards and the Zorzym champion power helps with negating shard flood. 8 dual-shards are a big part of why this deck is so consistent and also allows you to be a tiny bit greedier when it comes to thresholds. 11 Vennen is mathematically the minimum when it comes down to playing Zin’xith Silk. This is important when considering the maindeck since you need the most consistent version possible.
Phenteo the Brood Priest is the backbone of the deck and really powerful in a control metagame so no reason not to run four copies.
Exarch of the Egg is overall a decent card – never terrible but never fantastic. I ended up playing 3 due to metagame reasons and I probably would cut more if I didn’t have to have the minimal 11 Vennen I mentioned before in order to run Zin’xith Silk. Furthermore Exarch is filling the 2 cost curve pretty well with Inquisition and tunneled Reese mainly.
Xentoth’s Inquisitor is probably the second best card of the deck since (socketed with MajB Brutality) it shuts down Angels, Vampires, Phoenix and more. Running 2 seems perfect in this deck since you already have a heavy number of 4 cost cards.
Tip: It also synergies well with Azurefate thanks to the Inspire mechanic. An Inquisitor with Quick and Bury is way scarier, especially in this deck.
Xartaxis Bishop of the Azure Fang and Brood Baron are here to add a late game punch to the deck and provide an alternative win condition. I would recommend you to test and play what you prefer. I would personally run 2 Xartaxis Bishop of the Azure Fang to get an edge in grind focused match-ups.
Tip: End of Turn Azurefate Sorceress getting some Spiderling Eggs into Xartaxis Bishop of the Azure Fang usually gets you instant value.
Besides obviously enabling the combo, Azurefate Sorceress also helps make the deck really consistent. Four copies might be debatable but this cards synergies with lots of cards in this deck – Phenteo obviously, but Reese (and its random robots), Rise Again, Xartaxis Bishop of the Azure Fang, Xentoth’s Inquisitor all interact with it wonderfully when it’s on the board.
Reese the Crustcrawler is your real win condition outside of comboing off. You will at times win just by milling the opponent deck (without even any Terrorantula in their deck) just because you went godlike on RNG. But no matter what pops from Reese you will still get a ton of value and by this point everyone is probably aware that this card wins games on its own. Three copies is enough to to tunnel it on turn 2 pretty consistently.
Arcane Focus is the best card selection in the game thanks to the cost. You will find with it cards like Phenteo, Reese in the early game and Azurefate, five drops, and removals in the end game.
Inquisition is really strong since this deck is running 4 copies of both Azurefate Sorceress and Phenteo. This is often not a turn 2 play because what you really want to be doing with it is protecting the combo or a key element or combine it with Rise Again. The double Blood threshold is what held me from playing 4.
Kill is the prime single target removal of the game. Only running 3 copies due to the format of the tournament.
Time Ripple as a one-of for the reason listed above. To be fair, this can be considered the 4th Kill with some drawback and some advantages – does not deal perfectly with troops, but can bounce a marble, a Phoenix or a troop that could be reanimated by Rutherford Banks_.
Extinction is the main mass removal of the game and people always have to respect it and not overextend when you play it. Especially in this deck it’s great because while the board might be reset for both sides, you will have hopefully infested their deck with Spiders, making their top decks much worse than yours. Only 3 were added because it was a metagame call for the tournament where I was expecting heavy control decks, where the card doesn’t particularly shine.
Rise Again was an early addition as soon as Rutherford Banks_ became popular and was probably one of the MVP of my deck outside of the combo. This card gets you out of sticky situations pretty often which is another reason why there is a second one in the reserves. I think the example of why it is here was the game against JJ were I Rise Again his Crocosaur.
Tip: It’s not all about using Rise Again on your opponent’s troop – sometimes targeting your own Reese (that had surfaced) will be your best option.
Vampiric Kiss is mainly to have a better shot at killing Sunsoul Phoenix, Puck Dream Bringer, Periwinkle. Three was a debatable choice but the Phoenix match-up is so bad that you have to protect yourself post reserves.
Rise Again becomes a real plan after reserves against all those Rutherford Banks_ match-ups (denying the Charge Colossus loop, stealing a buffed up Living Totem, or other powerful troops like Uruunaz, Balthasar, Crocosaur, Arborean Rootfather), the second one makes this plan more reliable.
The Ancestors’ Chosen is probably one of the best cards in the sideboard, I usually call them the 5th and 6th Phenteo. Blood and Winter Moon_ match-ups usually end up in top-deck wars, and the Chosen helps you power ahead of even the Winter Moon_ engine and Blood’s efficient cards. I was considering adding a third copy over Monsuun but as I said the tournament format pushed me towards playing the Monsuun instead.
Monsuun Shogun of Winda’jin is godlike against Blood match-ups and the psychological impact of Monsuun being in the list is too good not to have it as a one-of.
As I briefly mentioned before, you’re usually ahead in this match-up. Do not try to race, you need to go long and get the game into a top-deck war where the deck truly shines. Do not be scared to remove some Vennen since games go long, Zin’Xith Silk will not be a problem for fixing.
Traditional Winter Moon_
Usually you’re far ahead thanks to eggs. You have to be careful anyway since the game can get out of control pretty quickly.
All you want to do is stick a 3 drop and get the game with it. All they can do is bounce it with Ripple/Buccaneer but at some point it will stick to the board and do tons of work. Be careful while overextending to be able to deal with a Crocosaur.
Azurefate Winter Moon_
This is still a decent match-up, but tougher than the traditional Winter Moon_. They still have trouble to deal with a threat but they run more copies of Crocosaur meaning overextending is not something you will want to do.
Extinction is important here since it’s your only way to deal with a Spellshielded Azurefate.
Another decent match up. Maindeck they are usually lacking removal, all you have to do is cast a Phenteo and not use your charge power. The match-up varies depending on the number of removal and which ones specifically they run. Martyr makes it a better match-up than Pride’s fall for example.
Mono R/Ruby Sapphire (Sunsoul Phoenix)
Probably the worst match-up you can get maindeck. Post-reserves it becomes better but you’re still not favored.
-3 Reese the Crustcrawler
-1 Xartaxis Bishop of the Azure Fang
-1 Brood Baron
-4 Azurefate Sorceress
-1 Rise Again
-1 to 3 Extinction
+4 Vampire Princess
+3 Vampiric Kiss
+2 Rot Cast
+2 Withering Touch
(+2) (The Ancestors’ Chosen)
Tetzot, Son of Omoc_ Azurecannon
Another pretty bad matchup – it is basically the same deck but faster.
Depending on their version you can put in Rot cast as well.
B/S Spiders (Mirror)
The mirror match-up was not part of my playtest for the Invitational since I didn’t expect anyone else would be playing it. I guess now it is important to consider, at least until set 4 comes out which will definitely shift the metagame.
This match-up will go long since you will trade removal for threats over and over again. Reese will be a key factor in that match-up and he is the one to protect if Phenteo doesn’t stick on the board.
Once again it is important to note that this deck is all about reading the metagame well. The environment during the Invitational was really friendly for that deck with only one bad match-up (Vazrael’s Tetzot Azurecannon). I’m definitely not saying it is the best deck in the format because it isn’t BUT it is consistent enough to consider.
I hope you enjoyed this article and I hope to see you soon in the Hex client or on my stream when I set that up.