Welcome to this second edition of the Getting Started in Eternal guide (the first edition, Rakano, can be found here). Rakano was an easy first pick, as it is well established as a budget-friendly choice ; this time we’ll be looking at the Time & Justice faction pair, which is called Combrei.

One of the reasons I chose this particular pair is precisely that compared to Rakano, it’s believed to sit at the opposite end of the budget-friendliness spectrum. With a lot of historically popular Combrei decks relying heavily on bombs like Sandstorm Titan, Knight-Chancellor Siraf and many others, Combrei has the reputation of being the “Wallet Warrior” faction if Eternal. I’d like to use this guide as an opportunity to show that Combrei’s identity is about more than throwing a bunch of overstatted legendaries together. It’s also interesting in the sense that it usually involves subtler lines of play than Rakano, and rewards player skill better.

A few reminders on the concept of this series : we aim to provide guidelines to get you started, from the very beginning (end of the campaign) through completing the first few quests (first forge, first draft) up to making a ladder worthy deck. One of the basic ideas is that crafting commons and uncommons should be avoided or at least postponed, so we’ll try to provide a framework to “make do” with whatever we come across.

If you want a sneak peek of what cards to look forward to, check out our set review series :
Time | Primal | Shadow | Fire
| Justice | Elysian – Combrei | Feln – Stonescar | Rakano – Factionless
Mouse over any underlined card to see what it does.

The many flavors of Combrei

Before we get started with building our own deck, let’s take a look at what’s out there we can use as a goal to aim for (and to emulate with our limited beginner resources).

There are two broad archetypes of Combrei decks :

  • “big Combrei”, with a high curve and greedy but powerful plays. It revolves around cards like Marshal Ironthorn, Mystic Ascendant, and sometimes Vodakhan, Temple Speaker. It’s a bit slow, but once it gets going there are very few decks that can compete with it.
  • “beatdown Combrei” is how I choose to refer to the faster tempo-oriented Combrei decks, which can come in a variety of flavors including : Aegis focus, Flying focus, Tempo (bounce) focus…

The first archetype is the one that gave Combrei it’s expensive reputation, as it plays a bazillion legendaries, making it probably the most expensive deck in the game. So we’ll set that aside for now, and focus on the more aggressive archetype. Let’s look a bit more closely at some of those flavors.

“Aegis Combrei”

This is a  deck that’s been quite popular on the ladder this month.  It’s often referred to as Aegis Combrei or “Combraegis” due to the 12 Aegis units + Protect + Stand Together.  McMahon publishing a deck tech last month is responsible for a large part of its popularity. This particular list I took from Jester, which at the time of this writing was top3 on the ladder with it. This list runs 5 legendaries,  which are there purely because of their high statline ; Siraf has no synergy (the deck wants to have won by the time it gets to 8 mana)  and Sandstorm Titan even has anti-synergy, as it prevents your many flyers (notably Familiar, one of the stars of the deck) from evading blocks. So dropping those two will not make the deck suddenly awful!

“Bouncy Castle Combrei“

This is a list that has been around for longer, often referred to as “Tempo Combrei”. I took this one from player JaceBeleren, who has been high ranked consistently for about 3 seasons playing it almost exclusively, so it’s certainly well tested. Compared to the previous, the focus here is more on slowing down your opponent while you rush them, bouncing back their blockers to clear the way. Full playsets of Siraf and Titan makes this one pretty expensive, although you could very well keep the concept of the deck working fine without them.

“Flight School”

This is a “legacy” deck that’s been around for a very long time, and has been a popular budget deck choice for about as long, notably due to it’s appearance in the landmark “Stone Poor, Deck Rich” series. The name plays on the original name of Divining Rod, which was first called Instructor’s Baton. It crams a  lot of flying creatures in there to maximize the chances of getting a lot of value out of each Rod. This deck is notably “wider” in its strategy than the others, as you can see from the Obelisks and the lack of Glaives. There’s no place for Darude in this list as he’d ruin the main strategy of the deck, and Siraf (while present in some variations) is not needed either, making this a legendary-less list. Yet it has been rated tier 1 or 2 consistently in almost every tier list since the start of beta.

Note that in this article I will actually not advise you to go in this direction, for reasons which would be worth an entire article of their own, but to sum it up : Divining Rod strategies are only worth pursuing if you run the maximum amount of relevant units, which makes it too restrictive a mold for the purposes of this series (more specifically : the list is not worth running if you don’t have 4x Valkyrie Enforcer, 4x Eager Owlet and preferably 4x Tinker Apprentice too).

“Mono Justice Beatdown”

“Wait, that’s not Combrei!” I hear you saying. While that’s technically true, this deck is right in line, both on game plan and on structure, with the others above. Here we trade access to time and Combrei cards for the consistency of single faction and the power of Mantle of Justice. The plan is otherwise almost identical to that of “Combeagis” : pants up, fly over, protect.

This deck has been performing surprisingly well, making a few noted appearances in the top30, and gained popularity as a straightforward and affordable climbing deck. It’s likely to be the strongest mono-faction deck in the game right now, and well worth taking inspiration from.

Getting to the Core

So looking at the lists above, what is at the heart of a good Combrei beatdown? It’s fairly easy to see a common thread going through all of them :

Sticky, buffable units :

  • Crownwatch Paladin : this monster of a card shows up again as a pillar of this archetype too. Two great keywords on a 2 drop very conducive to buffing is simply too good for any Beatdown deck to pass up.
  • Silverwing Familiar : another great buff target and ball of keywords, this is one of the stars of the deck. A Glaive on Familiar will often be enough to win a game on its own.
  • Awakened Student : while not quite as much of an auto include as the above two, it’s still a great 2 drop that can get out of hand quickly, demanding an answer which are already stretched thin by the above two.

Versatile weapons:

  • Gilded Glaive : another repeat from the Rakano article, and one of the best weapons in the game.
  • Vodakhan’s Staff : while not so flashy at first glance, it’s very solid, and the Empower is very relevant, as it lets you be a bit more liberal in its usage (since you can get it back later).

Efficient interaction :

  • Desert Marshal : one of the all star cards of Combrei, legendaries be damned. It’s Ambush-speed Silence that cannot be countered. It will ruin many a deck’s day, eating attacking fliers, neutering Champions of Cunning, and many more powerful things. Getting a 2/2 body out of it is more of a cherry on top (and it’s a good one).
  • Valkyrie Enforcer : yet another repeat from Rakano. While it lacks the speed of Marshal, silence is still a very powerful effect, and Enforcer’s body would be good value even without it.
  • Vanquish : in a different category from the 8 silences-on-a-stick, but still a great asset. It will take care of most threats or roadblocks the deck cares about for the discount price of 2 mana.

These cards are the true core of the archetype. Luckily, only one of them is a rare, while all other are lower rarity and relatively easy to acquire. These are the cards you want to get ASAP, either through Forge and Draft (they’re all great cards in the limited game modes) or by crafting what you lack later.

Making do : Basics-only Combrei

In the most recent patch, DWD introduced new multi faction starter decks that can be obtained through quests, including one for Combrei. It will be very useful to get our deck started. Using only cards available for free from the basic decks (including the Combrei one) it is possible to make the following starter deck :

Basic Combrei

I believe that is a fairly strong list for its cost of zero, and it will do a fine job of completing your starter quest to play 5 ladder matches. It has a few glaring flaws though. Some cards are clearly there by lack of anything better and don’t mesh well with the beatdown game plan (although some of them, like Temple Scribe and Predatory Carnosaur, are actually very strong cards ; they simply don’t belong in this particular strategy). Those have been marked in red in the list, while the ones marked in grey are weaker alternatives to cards we’re missing.

Advancing your game with Forge and Draft

Assuming you’ve tackled your first few gauntlet runs and your ladder placement games with the above list, next stop is Forge (for which you get a free entry as a quest). Remember that in Forge, you will only be given choices from two factions, based on the first picks you make. This means that you can “force” the factions you need cards in, in this case Time and Justice. Don’t be afraid to take mediocre cards over the first 2 or 3 picks if that’s what it takes, it will be worth it. Then keep an eye out for the cards you want for your constructed deck – I’ll go over them in some detail below.

After Forge, your next stop will be Draft. You should be able to afford a run shortly after getting out of Forge and doing a couple or so extra Gauntlet runs. Once in draft, remember to refer to Ben’s Drafting Guide, and while Combrei cards you want in your deck are of course a priority, do not pass up legendaries or gimp your deck too much to get them ; not every run will have Combrei cards worth making a deck out of, and performing well is more important than getting a few uncommons.

The things missing from the basic deck to look for in Forge and Draft should be easy to spot if you’ve been paying attention : only a fraction of the aforementioned “deck core” is present. The cards you will want to get ASAP are the following, listed roughly in order of priority :

That’s it for the core, but remember than with previous few exceptions (most notably Divining Rod), any of the cards in the decklists above that you come across would also be great picks, so go for those if you get a chance.

Experimental results : To emulate a new account, I ran 1 Forge, 1 draft, and opened 6 packs.

Time for a Serious Beatdown !

After taking all the steps in the previous chapter, you should have all you need to build the following list (and enough stones to craft whatever you’re missing in it) :

Budget Beatdown Combrei

Experimental results : I was able to complete this exact list (plus a Stand Together) with the spoils described in the chapter above and 4800 shiftstones worth of crafting. That amount is precisely what you should have once you’ve finished the new player quests, after only a few hours of playing Eternal – assuming you get  a little help from recycling two of the less useful Scions (I advise to get rid of Rolant and Kaleb, specifically).

I don’t claim this to be the end-all of Combrei budget lists, but it’s certainly a solid one. It’s relatively neutral in the sense that it hasn’t a clear focus like the lists we referred to earlier – it’s neither quite Aegis nor Flight, although those are both definitely strong themes here. One of the less obvious choices is to include a couple each of Karmic Guardian and Crownwatch Commando. I find both great in a meta where aggro is heavily represented, and that is precisely what you can expect in the lower leagues of the ladder. Another is District Infantry, a card that is well recognized in draft, but almost entirely unplayed in constructed ; I think it’s well worth including here, as it furthers our focus on fast aggression. He can easily get 6-9 damage in by turn 4 without any further investment, which is more than almost any 1 drop in the game can do, and he’s even more of a  pain to deal with if you give him a Staff turn 3.  It does make sense, however, to phase him out later (especially once you get access to the likes of Sandstorm Titan or Knight-Chancellor Siraf and you need to make space for them).

Once you’ve amassed more riches and are willing to spend some on improving your Combrei game, I invite you to take a second look at the lists near the top of this post, as they have all proved good enough to take a skilled pilot to the top of the ladder !