Greetings, this is Bryan “Veveil” Hohns with my third article for NumotGaming (and likely my last time using this introduction). I had originally planned to have Part 2 of my last article up a week after the first, but life had different plans. I was in the hospital twice last week and ended up having to have some relatively Invasive Surgery done. Despite this twist of flesh and fate, I ran hot and am going to be fine moving forward, and will simply be homebound for about two weeks while I heal. So my apologies for the delay, and here’s to cranking out some articles while I have little else to do.
The world of Eternal has been shaken up a bit by the release of Patch 1.16 “Vara’s Journey”, which debuted January 24th (a bit over a week ago). Vara’s Journey brings 5 new cards, 4 changes to existing ones, a new pay to win cosmetic (seriously, “Multiple points of interaction: Blast the horn, tap its head, flex its wings, and more!“, this is clear power creep), and a bunch of bug/card fixes. Standard mini patch stuff, but cool nonetheless.
I was originally going to incorporate my review of Vara’s Journey into my Color Pie Pt. 2 article, but there’s a bit too much to talk and I would like to be more concise going forward. I’ll have that article up next week; let’s focus on what’s new first.
• Shimmerpack – Power cost has increased from 7 to 8.
• Excavate – Excavate can no longer leave the void.
• Sand Warrior – Health has increased from 2 to 3.
• Water of Life – Power cost has decreased from 2 to 1.
Vara’s Journey comes with a pair of buffs and a pair of nerfs. My thoughts on each change follow below.
WATER OF LIFE
Reverting this from 2 to 1 Power (it cost 1 at one point during closest beta) doesn’t mean much; Water of Life could honestly cost 0 Power and it would still be conventionally unplayable. Gaining 6 Health is just not worth a card, and Eternal already offers three arguably superior burn hosers (Sanctuary Priest, Lumen Defender, Stronghold’s Visage) which provide either repeatable lifegain or a very relevant, Deadly body.
Where Water of Life could have potential is in some sort of hypothetical “spells matter” shell. Water of Life provides two spells to cast, makes good discard fodder for Herald’s Song (also two spells), and can potentially buy a turn or two of time, especially if sweepers are involved.. However, Fevered Scout is not really the kind of “spells matter” card that I have in mind , so we’ll have to see if Set #2 can help us find this unicorn FTP combo/control deck that runs 4x Water of Life. I wouldn’t bet on it, but stranger things have happened.
Here’s a fun one. Sand Warrior is a very unique card that could not exist if not for Eternal’s divergent (from MTG at least) Influence system. As a Serra Avenger inspired beater, Sand Warrior is a 0 Power unit outfitted with 2~ Power worth of stats that is only playable from the third turn of the game and onward (barring Stranger shenanigans, I guess).
Before the patch, I’ve never had a Sand Warrior played against me. It was just such an awkward, unrewarding card to play with. TTT is an incredibly harsh Influence requirement for an early game card, restricting Sand Warrior almost entirely to solo Time decks. Eternal provides very few monocolor incentives as is and Sand Warrior wasn’t exactly getting you there on its own. This was one of those cases where the deckbuilding cost of staying only Time (or at least realistically confined to primarily Time + one faction splash through say 4x Banner 4x Seat 4x Amber Acolyte 1x Sigil) outweighed the reward of a free 3/2.
So does the extra Health on Sand Warrior get us anywhere? The third toughness is certainly appreciated, as it saves Sand Warrior from Lightning Storm and lets it profitably block Rakano staples such as Oni Ronin, Rakano Outlaw, and Crownwatch Paladin. Being resilient to Lightning Storm is a particularly appealing quality on a 0 Power unit, as Sand Warrior very much encourages you to dump your hand. It still dies to Torch, but it’s the only Torchable unit I can think of that nets you tempo in that exchange, which is at least amusing to think about.
I’m not insisting that Sand Warrior is going to be a Tier 1 staple now or anything like that, as much of its initial awkwardness remains, but I’m at least excited to brew with it for now. Free spells always tend to end up broken somehow (Magic has a history of this) so I imagine Sand Warrior is at least worth trying out. Even if it doesn’t end up being good yet, don’t forget about it; this is exactly the kind of card that new sets can break.
Here’s a Sand Warrior/Shimmerpack concoction that I’ve played a grand total of 2 games with to properly frame my optimism and finish us up here:
4 Sand Warrior (Set1 #64)
4 Initiate of the Sands (Set1 #74)
4 Permafrost (Set1 #193)
4 Talir’s Favored (Set0 #11)
4 Temple Scribe (Set1 #502)
4 Amber Acolyte (Set1 #93)
2 Polymorph (Set1 #211)
4 Scorpion Wasp (Set1 #96)
4 Marisen’s Disciple (Set1 #104)
4 Sandstorm Titan (Set1 #99)
4 Xenan Obelisk (Set1 #103)
1 Predatory Carnosaur (Set1 #118)
4 Scouting Party (Set1 #488)
1 Marisen, the Eldest (Set1 #123)
2 Shimmerpack (Set1 #365)
2 Primal Sigil (Set1 #187)
11 Time Sigil (Set1 #63)
4 Amber Monument (Set1 #420)
4 Elysian Banner (Set1 #421)
4 Seat of Wisdom (Set0 #63)
Arguably the most controversial change from what I’ve read on reddit, this nerf to Excavate comes as a pleasant surprise to me. Copperhall Blessing Prison was a terrible deck featuring a 4 card combo (Excavate Copperhall Blessing + Elysian Trailblazer + Second Sight/Nesting Aviasaur) that would lock an opponent out of the game and force them to either concede or lose to decking in 30+ turns. While not nearly good enough for high level play, this deck had a rather toxic play pattern that could easily be frustrating for a newer player (who may not immediately realize what’s going on) to battle against.
Goodnight, sweet prince
I’m all for something like Lantern Control existing in Modern Magic (where ⅔ matches are played and there’s 10,000+ cards in the format) but Eternal currently only has 447 cards in the game, so this kind of nonsense can wait. The nerf to Excavate kills Copperhall Prison dead, while leaving Excavate as a
noob trap fringe Control card for recurring win conditions/sweepers. Do yourself a favor and play Celestial Omen instead. Good riddance.
Of all the changes, this is the only one that touches on a previously popular card. Shimmerpack was a Tier 1 staple in its namesake Elysian deck, which seeks to flood the board with small, cantripping creatures and win the game with of Xenan Obelisk or Shimmerpack. Pre 1.16, I had seen Shimmerpack lists that played anywhere from 1-4 Shimmerpacks. In general, “Shimmerprince” variants (which played more individually powerful beaters, such as False Prince or Cirso, the Great Glutton) ran less Shimmerpacks, while more all-in variants (often Wump oriented) tended to run 3-4.
Direwolf Digital deemed Shimmerpack a bit too good, and as such it now costs 8 Power, up from 7. So how will this play out in the real world? Is Shimmerpack dead?
I highly doubt that. The majority of the deck is still completely intact, and Xenan Obelisk + Scouting Party + fodder units is still an effective strategy. Moreover, costing 8 Power hurts Shimmerpack itself less than you might imagine. Shimmerpack is traditionally the last card that the Shimmerpack deck looks to cast, and moreover, 8 Power lines up perfectly with getting +2/2 from Xenan Obelisk. Hitting 8 Power was already a priority for Elysian Shimmerpack, and Talir’s Favored and Amber Acolyte aren’t exactly going anywhere.
I wouldn’t expect to see any more 4x Shimmerpack decklists, but 2-3 copies still sounds strong to me. Shimmerprince variants could end up more popular going forward, as they rely less on Shimmerpack than more token focused versions. There’s also a small chance that Marisen the Eldest sees play now, although that’s probably just be the Timmy in me talking.
• Fevered Scout – 3F Unit 2/2 When you play a spell, Fevered Scout gets +2/+2 this turn.
• Find the Way – 2T Spell Echo. Draw a Sigil of your choice from your deck. It is Depleted when played.
• Throne Warden – 5JJ Unit 4/4 Aegis. Summon: You gain 4 armor.
• Borderlands Waykeeper – 2P Unit 1/3 Aegis. Ultimate: Pay 4 to give Borderlands Waykeeper +1 strength and Flying.
• Xenan Cultist – 3SS Unit 2/4 When one of your other units is killed, that unit gets +2/+2.
Alongside the aforementioned card changes, Vara’s Journey adds five new cards to the game (one for each faction). These cards are not available in Draft, and can only be earned by playing now (1 win = 1 copy of each, once per day) or crafting them after the promotion ends on February 7th. All of these cards seem Ranked playable to me, at least at first glance.
Eternal gets its own Kiln Fiend variant in Fevered Scout. Fevered Scout is a frightening card with the potential to 25 to 0 someone in a single turn if unchecked. It pays for this power with poor initial stats and the fact that Fevered Scout’s bonus stats on cast are only until the turn ends. Fevered Scout does not neatly slot into any current decks, as both Stonescar Burn and Rakano Aggro have stronger options at 3 Power (Champion of Chaos, Valkyrie Enforcer, or even Censari Brigand). If Fevered Scout is to be any good, a new shell must be rise.
Traditionally, cards in the same class as Fevered Scout excel when played alongside spells such as Protect, Finest Hour, Rampage, and other “combat tricks”. These spells both protect Fevered Scout and assist it in going for the kill when the opportunity presents itself. I imagine FeveredScout.dek starts with 4 Fevered Scout/Hooru Envoy (another unit that wants to be played alongside pump spells), 4 Protect/Finest Hour/Rampage/Righteous Fury, and goes from there. Appealing options in other factions include Predator’s Instinct, Levitate, and Accelerated Evolution. I’ve been racking my brain trying to come up with a good 4c list, but the Powerbase is troublingly difficult for an Aggro/Combo deck. Seek Power can only do so much.
FIND THE WAY
Mildly interesting trivia; Find the Way is a remake of old Secret Pages from closed beta. The Sigils you get from this now enter depleted, but it is otherwise identical to what was Secret Pages, which used to be a staple in 3-4c Control decks for the easy fixing/card advantage it provided.
Although Find the Way is weaker than its predecessor, it is still a worthwhile card for 3-4 Faction Control decks to consider. I imagine Find the Way will replace or at least complement Amber Acolyte in decks that do not play Xenan Obelisk (TJP Control mostly). Will Find the Way be enough for TJP to add another faction though? That remains to be seen.
Outside of ponderous control decks packing 4x Harsh Rule, plenty of other removal, and copious amounts of card draw, Find the Way is likely far too slow to be of much use. Seek Power isn’t a 2-for-1 like Find the Way, but it also doesn’t ask to you to spend a virtual 6 Power finding and playing two Sigils.
Throne Warden is my pick for the best card of the cycle. Part Armorsmith, part Lumen Defender, this guy is a workhorse in a defensive Justice deck. Throne Warden bundles a relevant 4/4 Aegis body and a decent Summon trigger into one card. Gaining 4 Armor is superior to simply gaining 4 Health (which already be a decent rate at 4/4 Aegis for 5), as the additional Armor can lead to free Weapon kills, accruing card advantage.
In addition, Aegis is a powerful keyword that plays well in a traditional Armory/Control deck. Said decks are often unit light, which can leave removal stranded in your opponent’s hand, ready to kill the first thing you play. Aegis makes this less of an issue for Throne Warden, who otherwise would be a very convenient target for cards such as Permafrost, Annihilate, or Vanquish. Encouraging your opponent to spend 2 cards to deal with a card that netted you immediate value sounds like my idea of a good time. If unanswered, a 4/4 Aegis for 5 can beat on Control decks or help double block Sandstorm Titans.
So how many copies of Throne Warden should you be adding to your Justice Control decks? I can see anywhere from 2-4 copies being an acceptable number to play (after 4x Harsh Rule of course). Big Combrei might prefer a 2/2 split of Throne Warden/Marshall Ironthorn to 4 of either, whereas Armory will likely get more leverage out of a playset of Throne Wardens. Any Stronghold’s Visages that you were playing should likely just be Throne Wardens now as well. 8 5 drops is where I would draw the line though, so don’t go too crazy on 5s. Having early interaction is important if a reactive deck is to be successful.
Borderlands Waykeeper is efficient for a Primal unit, although it isn’t particularly impressive when compared to similar cards from other factions (namely Crownwatch Paladin, Rakano Outlaw, Argenport Instigator). Still, cheap, flexible cards like this tend to play better than they look. Borderlands Waykeeper is an early blocker that can evolve into an Aerial Ace when needed, and as such is a reasonable draw at any point in the game.
I will say though that the current metagame appears to be fairly hostile towards Borderlands Waykeeper, as it matches up poorly against many cards in Rakano Aggro. Crownwatch Paladin and Rakano Outlaw can free farm Warcry triggers off of a lone Borderlands Waykeeper, and Finest Hour punishes a double block. Sword of Icaria crushes a Turn 2 Borderlands Waykeeper, killing it and sticking around for a second swing. Lastly, Valkyrie Enforcer is another staple that outsizes an Ultimated Borderlands Waykeeper for half the Power cost , all while freely Silencing a different unit.
In a metagame with less Rakano (and more Queen Jito, as this card is practically nightmare fuel for Jito) I would be happy to play Borderlands Waykeeper. For now though, I can’t really recommend playing it, and imagine most players will come to a similar conclusion after they’ve tried it out some.
Our last card for today is brought to you by Eternal’s atypical approach to cards changing zones. In most other card games, cards leaving the play area do not track any changes made to them; if they are replayed, they function as though this were the first time playing them. In Eternal, however, stat and text changes follow cards into any zone they enter (generally the void or your hand). This mechanism allows for cards such as Dark Return, Steward of the Void, and now Xenan Cultist to exist.
As for Xenan Cultist itself, this is a fun one to evaluate. It earns a C grade on the vanilla test as a 2/4 for 3. So while its body isn’t embarrassing, we clearly need to be getting at least some mileage out of his ability for this guy to be playable. How should we go about this?
Pairing Xenan Cultist with cards that recur naturally from the void seems like the best way to take advantage of it. Dawnwalker and Ephemeral Wisp have excellent synergy with Xenan Cultist, getting +2/2 each time they trade/chump and coming back for more on their own. Dark Return and Shadowlands Guide also work well with Xenan Cultist.
There are two existing decks that could adopt Xenan Cultist in Xenan Killers and Stonescar Kalis. I’m having trouble fitting it into my Xenan Killers build though, and one would need to play a fair bit of recursion (Smuggler’s Stash/Shadowlands Guide mainly) for Xenan Cultist to pull its weight in a Kalis deck. Here’s an attempt at a consolidated Xenan Killers deck that includes Xenan Cultist:
4 Copper Conduit (Set1 #66)
4 Dark Return (Set1 #250)
4 Initiate of the Sands (Set1 #74)
4 Predator’s Instinct (Set1 #75)
2 Annihilate (Set1 #269)
2 Devour (Set1 #261)
4 Ephemeral Wisp (Set1 #84)
4 Friendly Wisp (Set1 #82)
4 Vara’s Favor (Set0 #35)
4 Dawnwalker (Set1 #86)
4 Xenan Cultist (Set0 #516)
2 Deathstrike (Set1 #290)
4 Sandstorm Titan (Set1 #99)
2 Twinbrood Sauropod (Set1 #113)
2 Umbren Reaper (Set1 #299)
8 Shadow Sigil (Set1 #249)
6 Time Sigil (Set1 #63)
3 Amber Monument (Set1 #420)
4 Seat of Mystery (Set0 #61)
4 Xenan Banner (Set0 #52)
As you can see the Argenport Instigator/Beastcaller’s Amulet package had to be dropped to make room for Wisps and Cultists. I’m not sure yet if this an improvement on the original recipe, but it’s at least interesting to experiment with. Perhaps the best approach to breaking Xenan Cultist is an Ephemeral Wisp + Kalis “Aristocrats” style deck? You’ll certainly hear from me if I figure this one out, although moments like this make me wish that Sam Black played Eternal. If anyone could make Xenan Cultist good, it would be him.
This week’s bonus decklist is last week’s with some improvements. I managed to reach Diamond with my reanimator brew from last article. Adding Feln Bloodcaster, tweaking the Powerbase, and diversifying the removal a bit have made the deck run a bit smoother. It can still be clunky sometimes, but you haven’t lived until you’ve played 2 Varas and a Snowcrush Animist on Turn 5 (while wiping out your opponent’s Scouting Party to boot). If I whine loudly on reddit, I might be able to get Steward of the Past nerfed too, and then the real fun can begin.
3 Annihilate (Set1 #269)
4 Herald’s Song (Set1 #196)
4 Sporefolk (Set1 #262)
2 Vanquish (Set1 #143)
4 Vara’s Favor (Set0 #35)
4 Feln Bloodcaster (Set1 #386)
4 Feln Cauldron (Set1 #380)
4 Privilege of Rank (Set1 #157)
3 Deathstrike (Set1 #290)
4 Grasping at Shadows (Set1 #292)
4 Harsh Rule (Set1 #172)
3 Black-Sky Harbinger (Set1 #385)
3 Snowcrush Animist (Set1 #384)
4 Vara, Fate-Touched (Set1 #307)
6 Justice Sigil (Set1 #126)
1 Primal Sigil (Set1 #187)
4 Shadow Sigil (Set1 #249)
4 Feln Banner (Set1 #417)
4 Seat of Cunning (Set0 #62)
4 Seat of Order (Set0 #51)
2 Seat of Vengeance (Set0 #55)
Thanks for reading. This was a much longer writeup than I expected it to be for just 9 cards. Overwriting is my speciality I guess. Regardless, have a great time in Eternal, and I’ll see you back here next week for some more color talk.