Hello! My name is Jesse Harris, also known as Neon. I have been kicking around the Eternal community since June, and have been working on Eternal content from very early on. You may know me for my Podcast on Eternal, which has had a parade of fabulous guests, most notably Patrick Chapin. If you haven’t listened yet, you are missing out. Through this work I have developed an amazing network of cutting edge brewers. I am also scouring Discord chat and Reddit at all times for sweet up-and-coming deck builders and deck lists.
Today I am going to share some of the fringe decks that have been showing up on the high level ladder. A fringe deck is something that is a minor player in the metagame. Something that not everyone has played with or against. I am not looking for a slight twist on an established deck, but a deck that is doing something truly different than established lists. I am also not the author of any of these lists – I am not some superhero able to whip up tuned decklists on a whim. I have played them though, and can verify that they are viable given the correct environment.
Although I am going to give the deckbuilders credit, that doesn’t mean they get off without some cross-examination. I plan to slice-and-dice each list, trying to find both what is interesting about the deck, as well as possible areas of improvement for the future.
LighteningBall – Argenport Aggro
4 Gilded Glaive
4 Seek Power
4 Argenport Instigator
4 Crownwatch Paladin
2 Eager Owlet
1 Paladin Oathbook
4 Tinker Overseer
4 Beastcaller’s Amulet
4 Silverwing Familiar
4 Valkyrie Enforcer
3 Mantle of Justice
16 Justice Sigil
1 Shadow Sigil
4 Argenport Banner
4 Seat of Vengeance
LighteningBall is a relatively new player who has made a big impact in Ranked play. After starting only at the beginning of August, he is now at the top of the ladder, fuelled largely by his innovative aggro lists. This particular deck has roots in the Mono-Justice aggro decks, that have saw a brief period of popularity during the peak of the “Party Hour” party. At its core, these decks have been similar to Rakano in that their game plan focuses on taking efficient creatures and suiting them up with big boy pants. By abandoning Fire, the deck loses some high power creatures (e.g. Oni Ronin and Rakano Outlaw), weapons (e.g. Sword of Icaria and Shogun’s Scepter), and interaction (Torch). In exchange, they simplify their influence requirements, focus on a more flyers-heavy theme, and can gain access to Mantle of Justice. The criticism of the original Mono-Justice deck I have often heard is that although it was more consistent than Rakano, the power level of the deck was low, and you often needed to fill out the last slots of your deck with some very unexciting cards (4x District Infantry, 4x Valkyrie Aspirant, and 2x Crownwatch Longsword for example). The deck was also very vulnerable to Sandstorm Titan, as flyer heavy aggro decks have always been. (Shout out to repesch35 who developed the original Mono-Justice list)
LighteningBall’s take on Argenport Aggro is a twist on the deck, splashing for a few key shadow cards. 3 Annihilate is an obvious include, as it serves as an answer to the all-powerful Darude. Another card that needs little introduction is Argenport Instigator, a 3/3 for 2, which is a major upgrade over the chaff used to fill out the curve of Mono-Justice. The only card that sticks out as a real oddball is the Beastcaller’s Amulet. This 3S 1/0 weapon gives a 5/5 is you are able to infiltrate. This card has seen virtually no constructed play to the point, but if you feel the people are soft to flyers, you can cheese your way to a 3 power 5/5! Seems pretty reasonable.
The heart of all Mono-Justice decks is of course Silverwing Familiar. With only a minor bonus, it can win any race single-handedly. It also gives control decks fits as it requires multiple pieces of interaction to clear. The wins associated with “turn 3 bird, turn 4 Glaive/Mantle and jam” have not gone anywhere. The nemesis of this tiny-but-terrifying bird has always been the great Sandstorm Titan. Although the original Mono-Justice list was packing 3 Vanquish, and 4 Enforcers, it should be repeated that decks of this ilk are basically unable to function as long as a Titan hangs around. By increasing the numbers of ways to clear/silence Darude up to a full 11, there is basically no chance our opponent is powering up with their 5/6 intact.
This deck has also done a wonderful job of raising the overall card quality of the deck without compromising the powerbase. If you play a lot of Rakano, you realize that the power is surprisingly bad. This is a deck where you need FF and JJ as early as turn 2 or 3 in order to play your cards at 100% efficiency. LighteningBall’s build can comfortably function on only Justice for the first few turns of the game, and with 13 sources of Shadow, you are favoured to find it relatively early in the game.
One fun interaction to those picking up the deck is Amulet + Instigator. The Instigator trigger counts for infiltrate, meaning if an Opponent’s creature dies while the Instigator is wearing the Amulet, you are able to trigger it. This leads to some great turn 5 plays of “Equip Amulet on Instigator + Vanquish Darude”.
There are a few holes in the deck that are worth considering. When talking about the advantages of the deck, I discussed how the card quality is so much better than Mono-Justice. In reality, that isn’t saying too much, as Mono-Justice has by far the lowest card quality of any commonly played deck. This deck is certainly several steps above that, but it is still playing 2J 2/2 Flyers, with no additional text (Tinker Overseers are powered up by only single copy of Oathbook). Owlet is also not an exciting card to play. It is horribly vulnerable to silence, and is easy to strand it without a flying friend.
I also wonder about the split of the ground/air game. Instigator and Crownwatch Paladin are clearly strong cards, but need to juice to power through opposition. Given that the list is not playing any copies of Elder’s Feather, these two are doomed to hold down the ground-game while the flyers finish the job. That, or you must find a way to climb over your opponent’s blockers. Obviously a Glaive or a Mantle do a great job of powering your Pally past your opponent’s ground-pounders, but wouldn’t you rather just suit up one of your flyers such that you are not chump-blocked all game long?
A couple of cards that I have been considering for the deck are Impending Doom, Lethrai Falchion, and Finest Hour. One of the consistent themes I was bringing up in the write up has been card quality, and how this archetype is short on it. Impending Doom is an actively good card. 5/5 flyer for 4 is serious business, and the downside is negligible. The only issue would be the power base. The current build of this deck can function relatively effectively on 0 shadow, while Doom is asking for SS on turn 4. This likely means that the power base would need to be re-built to include Diplomatic Seals, and a slightly higher total power count.
Any build running Doom would likely need to cut Mantle of Justice. Mantle is a card I am torn on, as it is high-risk-high-reward. Are you curving out perfectly with turn 3 Familiar into turn 4 Mantle? In that case Mantle acts as a Glaive with upside, as it scales as the game progresses. Fantastic! Now, instead, lets imagine we don’t get an Aegis unit to suit up. Unlike Gilded Glaive, when a Mantle of Justice is silenced, it becomes a “0/0” weapon! Not only are we vulnerable to every Annihilate, Deathstrike, or Vanquish from our opponent (as always), we are also vulnerable to silence. By moving into a build with heavier shadow we could consider dropping the Mantles in exchange for Hammers of Might or even Lethrai Falchion. Although neither equipment offers the raw stats of Mantle, they offer other advantages, are much less restricting for our power base, and are not iced by a Desert Marshal. Falchion also has the secondary benefit of allowing you to triggering Beastcaller’s Amulet even in an awkward board-state.
Aside from the potential Shadow-heavy build I am discussing, another card to consider very seriously as a 1-or-2 of is Finest Hour (or even Rapid Shot, though that will probably be better in the Shadow-heavy build). This deck relies on being leaner than its opponent, and Finest Hour plays right into that plan. Finest Hour will get your creature out of Torch range. It will allow an Instigator to EAT a Sandstorm Titan. It will allow you to score those last points of damage to get you past the finish line. I am going to restrain myself from talking about the application of combat tricks in constructed, but I will simply say a little bit can go a LONG way, especially in formats where power-efficiency is key. If the metagame ends up being more defined by Harsh Rule and Deathstrike, it is worth considering Protect (or Sabotage), though that is not where we are at present in my opinion.
Overall, I was impressed with this deck. I noticed a significant increase in the power-level over the traditional Mono-Justice deck. That being said, I think there is more here to explore. Don’t play this deck if you are seeing a lot of 8-silence Combrei, but consider it if there is an uptick in Shadow-based control. If this deck begins becoming more popular you will want to increase the number of silence effects, and the number of relic weapons you play. Owlet, Mantle, and Beastcaller’s Amulet are all hosed by silence effects, while Relic Weapons are a great way to kill an aegis unit, as you can attack it directly without having to pop an Aegis. If Set 2 offers tools for Argenport, this will certainly be a deck worth remembering.
Tess – Chalice/Camel Control
1 Infinite Hourglass
4 Seek Power
4 Ephemeral Wisp
4 Amaran Camel (formerly Traveling Camel)
4 Amber Acolyte
3 Eye of Winter
4 Knight-Chancellor Siraf (formerly Siraf, Crownwatch Hero)
4 Push Onward
2 Scorpion Wasp
4 Wisdom of the Elders
4 Crystalline Chalice
4 Harsh Rule
3 Justice Sigil
4 Primal Sigil
4 Time Sigil
4 Diplomatic Seal
2 Elysian Banner
4 Seat of Order
2 Seat of Progress
4 Seat of Wisdom
Intro to Deck
Our second deck is jumping to the other side of the spectrum, looking at a control deck, coming from an established member of the community rather than an aggro deck from an up-and-comer. Tess tends to be known more for her tournament organization rather than her competitive player, but she has some serious love for Camels which had paid off recently. Chalice/Camel Control is deck that was a major player in the metagame 2-3 months ago, but was abandoned in favor of decks such as Camelless/Visage Control. Many considered the deck dead, but not Tess! With the nerf to The Witching Hour leading to a Combrei-saturated metagame there was an opening for Chalice Control to return. Although I will concede that this deck could be classified as a minor variant of a previously established deck, the archetype had been “dead” long enough that many newer players have probably never encountered lists like it.
Before I get into talking about this deck, I want to drop a brief comment about control in Eternal. I got half way through writing an elaborate explanation of my thoughts on control, and decided against including them here. What I will say for now is the following: all control decks in Eternal are never really “great”, they are merely “well-positioned”. The stuff going on in the aggro-to-midrange decks is too powerful and diverse for any one control deck to position itself as pillar of the format. Instead we have a rotating cast of reactive decks tailor-made for the mix at a given moment. With this in mind, Chalice Control fits this mould to a T. The things going on in this deck may seem disjointed and strange, but it has the capacity to totally smash a range of strategies.
About half the cards in this deck require little explanation. Vanquish, Harsh Rule, Wisdom of the Elders, and Push Onward are all classic control tools. The question has always been what ELSE to play. Do you want Shadow for better hard removal? Fire to have access to Torch and Relic weapons? Or Time for life gain, power fixing and utility creatures? Here we are obviously selecting “Time”, but how does our motely crew of dorks actually win games?
This deck plays unlike any other that I have played in any card game. The closest I can come up with is a cross between Sphinx’s Revelation">Sphinx’s Revelation control and an Aristocrats style deck. Since this deck is a bit of an oddball, it is worth describing the game plan in some detail for those not familiar. The deck plays 4 copies of Ephemeral Wisp, a 0/1 for 2, that has “Empower: play Ephemeral Wisp from the Void”. This translates as an infinite chump-blocker, which is great at locking down opposing fatties like Sandstorm Titan or Marshal Ironthorn. You also play Amber Acolyte, which is great at slowing the aggression of both Rakano and Stonescar decks. You spend the first few turns of the game playing your little durdles, fixing your power, drawing cards, and developing Relics like Chalice and Eye of Winter. You almost always need to cast Harsh Rule on Turn 5 or 6, hopefully stabilizing the board at a healthy life total. We have now entered the mid-game, which is where Chalice comes in. It is at this point you get to work.
Although the deck is commonly referred to as Camel control, as it is the cute mascot of the deck, the most important card in the deck is actually Crystalline Chalice. This card allows you to spend 2 power once a turn to exhaust a creature with attack 2-or-less to draw a card. This doesn’t read as bombshell, but in a dedicated Chalice deck, it can do some absurd things. Let’s say we played Harsh Rule on turn 5 against a Combrei Midrange deck, and play out a typical midgame. We start this scenario at 5 health.
Opponent Turn 6: Power, Sandstorm Titan, pass.
Our Turn 6: Power (trigger Wisp), play Amaran Camel, activate chalice using Camel, cast seek power (we have 7 health).
Opponent Turn 7: Attack with Titan (Wisp blocks), Play Mystic Ascendant, play power, pass.
Our Turn 7: Power (trigger Wisp), Play second camel, activate Chalice targeting second Camel, play Vanquish targeting Mystic (we are now at 10 health).
Opponent Turn 8: Attack with Titan (Wisp blocks), play Marshall Ironthorne, power, play Combrei Healer.
Our Turn 8: Play power (trigger Wisp), use Chalice targeting a Camel, play a second Chalice, target other Camel, pass (we are at 16 health).
At this point we have two massive Amaran Camels that are gaining us life, a Wisp that is getting ready to grow to a 4/5 with the help of our Chalices, and have drawn a TON of cards. Our opponent is unable to make any headway on our life total because of Wisps, and the life gain from Camel. This sort of sequence against midrange-y time decks is very common, and they are unable to effectively overpower what we are doing. Obviously silence effects can break up some of these interactions, but given the number of cards we are seeing, we will find replacements soon enough.
An interesting addition to this version of the deck is Knight-Chancellor Siraf. As many have seen me say in other venues, Siraf is Bae. She brick walls aggro on turn 3. She pressures control opponents through the mid-game. She is a 1-lady-army in the late game. If you have been playing Eternal for any amount of time, you have probably watched her take over a game. She is truly a superb card. Her role is the same as anywhere else. Previous version of this deck ran Channel the Tempest in this slot. The change makes a big difference. Channel is obviously incredible in this deck, as you are able to deal massive chunks of damage, while gaining health with Camels, but the deckbuilding costs are significant. PPPP is hard to reach in any deck, and we would rather not stretch out influence requirements more than we already are. You will also need to play Excavate so that you can loop Channel to finish out the game, and Excavate is not exactly an outstanding card on its own. Channel also does nothing until 8 power, while Siraf can hold down the fort starting on turn 3. Overall I think this change to Siraf over Channel is an improvement on many levels.
This deck is a “meta-deck”. By that is meant that it is a deck that preys on very specific players in the metagame, but is crushed by others. Don’t just queue up with this list on a random day and expect to have a good time, but rather pick your timing and try setting up some absurd winning streak. The deck came to my attention roughly a week ago, and was tuned to dismantle Combrei. 4 Vanquish, 4 Harsh Rule, 0 Lightning Storm, 0 Permafrost is a very loud statement to that affect. At that time, the metagame had entered a phase that it occasionally hits, where Combrei begins cannibalizing itself by trying to be the biggest Combrei deck, by playing more Vodhakhans, Mystic Ascendants, and Ironthorns than the competition. It was at the peak of this cycle when I was handed Tess’s Chalice control deck, and I ran through these clunky Combrei decks like a buzz saw.
Although target #1 is Combrei, #2 is actually Rakano. Eye of Winter makes popping Aegis trivial, and we are playing a full 4 Vanquish to cut down any troublesome attacker. Big ground-pounders are really not an issue, as our Wisps can infinite chump-block. This means that both equipping units with Weapons and stacking Warcry buffs are essentially irrelevant. As long as we keep the flyers in check, and our life total high, we are in a comfortable position to eventually overpower them with our engine.
As I said above, this deck is a “meta-deck”. As powerful as it is against Time-based midrange, I am sceptical about its matchup against almost any other deck in the format. You have the tools to beat Rakano and Jito decks, but you are missing some of the best cards in Lightning Storm and Permafrost. You are also ice-cold to Statuary Maiden. You are looking to chump-block through the early game, but that plan becomes much worse when each of your creatures is transformed into a Cudgel, stopping recursion of your Wisps. There are a handful of slots I can pick out that could be shifted around to meet the needs of a given meta-game, so don’t be afraid to mix-and-match your answers. That being said, decks with a lot of flyers or relic weapons can really prey on this type of deck. One of the original factors that pushed Chalice Control out of the meta-game was Armory, a deck that has begun to make a timid come-back.
I should also mention that I think the power situation in this deck could be improved. Although the current version has a better balance than the last version I played, it seems the powerbase was built primarily for simplicity. Running 0 Secret Pages seem sketchy, as it is deceptively powerful (especially with a Camel in play), although Amber Acolyte might be enough. Some lists include 1-2 copies of Eilyn’s Favor as they are a passive defence to burn spells, Sabotage and Azindel’s Gift, though I think the application is too narrow to warrant an inclusion.
This deck has the opposite problem of the Argenport Aggro deck, as there is so little room in the deck, and there are too may good options. I could see this deck easily dropping some number of Backlash, Vanquishes and the 1-of Infinite Hourglass and playing Lightning Storm, Polymorphs or Permafrost instead. I could also see playing some number of Combrei Healers, Talir’s Favoreds, Desert Marshals, Temple Scribes or more Scorpion Wasps, but where do we make room? Diluting the “contraption” of Chalice + Camels + Wisps could compromise the core game plan of the deck, or it could better enable it to survive so that it is able to assembly your combo.
Some previous versions employed some narrow answer cards such as Decay to deal with relic weapons, but I feel this is the wrong approach to the deck. If I am playing this I am saying that I think the meta-game had become an inbred Combrei mess, and I want to take advantage of that. I would rather accept that many of my matchups are bad, and hope that I don’t face them then dilute my deck. Narrow answers like Decay also fall off in value without Celestial Omen to search them up, or Excavate to recur them, which we are not playing in our current build.
This will be a tricky deck to build moving forward, but the reward is worth it, as it is crazy powerful when it “goes off”, and is a blast to play. Progress in this archetype will likely come from dedicated deck builders that work to tune the deck to exploit vulnerabilities in the meta-game.
That will do it for today! More in-depth deck analysis than you can shake a stick at. Hopefully you enjoyed it! Shout out to both LighteningBall and Tess for providing these sweet decks, and giving advice on the article. If you have a sweet brew that you would like to share with the world send it my way! I am always willing to take a deck for a spin. There is lots of room left to explore in Eternal, and I’m excited to see what happens as more people are working on cutting edge deck ideas.