I avoided writing about this deck for as long as I could, hoping it wouldn’t stick around or we’d find a way to attack it with some sort of reasonable degree of success.
Unfortunately Party Hour has proved to be increasingly resilient in the face of the hyper aggressive metagame that players have turned to to try to attack it. While a nerf is expected in the near future, I believe it would be a disservice to not take the time to analyze just exactly why Party Hour has in a matter of mere weeks completely polarized our metagame. What once featured at least six “Tier 1” decks of varying archetype and playstyle has been reduced to two hyper linear aggro decks (Jito Queen and Rakano Pants), one linear combo deck (Party Hour) and one mid-range deck (Combrei Stuff).
The main reason for this drastic shift in the metagame is due to the fact that for the first few turns of the game all the Party Hour deck is doing is cycling cards to hit their Power drops and reduce the cost of Witching Hour. Rakano became the weapon of choice for players looking to try to race the Party Hour menace that had grown to dominate any section of the ladder where someone had enough dust for four The Witching Hour and four Champion of Cunning. Unfortunately, the original versions of Party Hour featured as many as four Levitate, alongside the hard to attack into Feln Bloodcaster. As long as the Party Hour pilot keeps a hand with Feln Bloodcaster and a Vara’s Favor or two they can almost guarantee that in those games they will always be able to reach turn four to cast Deathstrike. After they’ve resolved their first removal spell of the game (Unless that Vara’s Favor picked off a Oni Ronin or Pyroknight) they can immediately turn the corner by deploying any number of their premiere threats on turn five. (Feln Bloodcaster + Feln Stranger being my personal favorite, as it sets up a strong Champion of Cunning turn without exposing the champion and also providing as many blockers as possible). This effectively almost guarantees that the Party Hour player will be able to reach stage two of the game with relative ease even in the face of resilient linear aggression.
In face of this new information, players abandoned the safer strategy of going tall with Aegis units to be as low to the ground and hyper aggressive as possible. Thus, Jito Queen returned to the metagame after being missing since the original nerfs to Madness in July. They didn’t last long, as Party Hour players quickly adapted to the aggressive metagame now aiming to take them down. Lightning Storm found it’s way into the 75s of Party Hour players as they realized if they could reach turn seven with any amount of consistency they were simply 75% favored to win that game. It didn’t help those poor aggro decks that in the mirror it was just as important, as an out to them simply having Scouting Party before you.
To understand why Party Hour is so powerful we’ll need to identify the axes of advantage the deck relies on. Almost every card in the deck other than Scouting Party and Wisdom of the Elders cycles or trades one for one as soon as it is played. Every other card is either a unit that provides immediate value that progresses your game plan (Feln Stranger) or a way to effectively exchange your power for cards in the lategame (Feln Bloodcaster) while being over effective cost for their body. Now, if you aren’t familiar with Stock Mana Theory (a wonderful bit of theory by AJ Sacher, originally written in the context of Magic the Gathering) you might be wondering what we mean by effective cost. Effective Cost is what we should have paid for any given unit or spell if every card in Eternal was fair. Luckily, Eternal isn’t always fair and that’s what makes card games so much fun.
As a quick example, Desert Marshal has an effective cost of around 4 power. A 2/2 for 2 power is roughly along baseline in Eternal, and by looking at Silence we can determine that silencing something is worth around 1 power. Tack on Ambush, which is worth another power and we have derived the effective cost of Desert Marshal. This means that every time you play Desert Marshal and silence something on your opponent’s turn you are essentially trading two power for four power worth of effects. What a bargain!
Whenever you make an exchange like this, you are doing what’s called “stocking mana”. Think of stocking mana as a running total of how much power worth of effects you’ve generated. Eg, if you’ve cast two Desert Marshal you’ve stocked 8 power. If you take this number and divide it by the actual total amount of power you’ve spent you can roughly determine your overall power efficiency. (A more accurate model would factor in any power you dropped by not spending it as well.) The player with the higher number at the end of the game is the one who is most likely going to be the victor. Stock Mana (SM) and Effective Cost (EC) explain some things we already knew at least on a gut level. The player who has the most efficient cards is going to be ahead because their cards are better than yours on pure statline alone. While the player who’s deck allows them to maximize their power spending will take more game actions (therefore stocking mana faster than your opponent while also not dropping mana) and impact the board more frequently. What this translates into is the importance of building a curve and playing the most efficient cards you can.
Luckily for Party Hour their best card allows you to stock 20 power for as little as five, even zero power as early as turn seven. Just like the classic Dredge example from “Stock Mana Explained” we didn’t win the game because we attacked for 30 damage with Charge and Flying, that was a consequence of what we really did. We won the game because we stocked upwards of 28* power in a single turn for as a little as 7 or 8 power and nothing any other deck in Eternal does comes close to this. (The only other deck I can think of that does this other than EchoSight combo decks is possibly Clockroaches, but the ratio of power spent compared to power stocked is slightly more fair)
So far we have examined Party Hour through two lenses, card advantage and stock mana. There is one more reason why Party Hour is simply one of the best and most consistent decks on the block.
Velocity. (Gotta go faaaaast!)
Simply put, Party Hour starts moving on turn one and just never stops. Every card it plays ensures there is a constant flow of cards to spend your power on every turn in order to reduce the cost of The Witching Hour to “castable” as quickly as possible. Party Hour sees more cards per game on average than any other deck and is able to reliably peel through their cards to find the answers or threats they need. It is very rare to find a Party Hour player without something to spend its power on. (This again ties back into Stock Mana, ain’t that neat.)
Party Hour is in the distinctly unfair position of being able ignore opponents who simply aren’t faster than them (This includes Rakano’s medium draws! MEDIUM!) and having more inevitability than the decks trying to control them. All while being able to end the game in a single turn with a hard to interact with combo. All of these factors have converged to create the menace that is Party Hour. Plenty of people have written about what proposed fixes they have for the deck, so instead I will leave you with two decklists. One for the ladder, and one I recently went 4-0 (8-1 in games, only lost on the draw to Rakano G1 before boarding.) with at the last swiss event.
BO3 Tournament – Party Hour
1 x Azindel’s Gift