Today I’m taking a break from the Getting Started series to go back to one of my favorite things, writing about my slightly zany but somewhat functional brews. This deck is particularly close to my heart because it is in my favorite “minor” faction combination, Xenan (Time & Shadow). I’ve made countless decks in these colors, usually with a third faction thrown in, with results usually ranging from unimpressive to catastrophic. But this time around, I’ve actually stumbled into something that seems to work quite decently, so I’m excited to share it with you!

Visit our card database or 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 List

4 Copper Conduit (Set1 #66)
4 Dark Return (Set1 #250)
3 Initiate of the Sands (Set1 #74)
4 Predator’s Instinct (Set1 #75)
2 Suffocate (Set1 #251)
4 Argenport Instigator (Set1 #268)
2 Devour (Set1 #261)
4 Friendly Wisp (Set1 #82)
3 Vara’s Favor (Set0 #35)
4 Beastcaller’s Amulet (Set1 #282)
4 Dawnwalker (Set1 #86)
3 Deathstrike (Set1 #290)
2 Impending Doom (Set1 #286)
4 Sandstorm Titan (Set1 #99)
2 Umbren Reaper (Set1 #299)
4 Diplomatic Seal (Set1 #425)
6 Shadow Sigil (Set1 #249)
8 Time Sigil (Set1 #63)
4 Seat of Mystery (Set0 #61)
4 Xenan Banner (Set0 #52)

At 4 (very reusable) legendaries and 16 rares, this isn’t quite a budget deck, but it is fairly affordable.

The Synergies

Beastcaller's AmuletFriendly WispArgenport Instigator

The Cheater’s  Amulet

Beastcaller’s Amulet is a card that went largely ignored in constructed for a very long time, and I have to credit player and brewer Lighteningball for shining the spotlight on it recently with his Argenport deck (you can read about it here), which is what brought it to my attention. Assuming you can cash it in, it’s effectively 6/5 worth of stats for 3 mana, which is extreme value. We have great vectors to make this happen, including the dirty-feeling turn 1 Initiate of the Sands into turn 2 Amulet, or the nicely synergistic turn 2 Friendly Wisp into turn 3 Amulet.  Amulet on Argenport Instigator will trigger off any enemy unit dying, making it very difficult to block. A large Overwhelm unit like a Copper Conduit is also fairly hard to prevent from infiltrating. One of the most disgusting interactions is with Dawnwalker, as it eating a chump blocker but doing damage over it will not only still summon the Beast as Dawnwalker dies, but in doing so it will even bring the Dawnwalker back!

DawnwalkerPredator's Instinct

The Fun Five-0

8 cards in this deck care about units having 5 Attack:  Dawnwalker and Friendly Wisp. We also play a lot of things with 5 attack, unsurprisingly. A lot of them are cheap and effective beaters, Sandstorm Titan being the poster child for that. Beasts off Beastcaller’s Amulet count, and Copper Conduit soon gets to the point where it fits that bill too. While Dawnwalker recursion is powerful in itself, it gets truly unfair once you put Killer on it with Predator’s instinct, as the ability becomes usable again every time it comes back into play, so you will end up eating (and walking over) one unit (with 4 or less health) a turn. With proper preparation, you can use killer then drop a 5/x and use killer again on the same turn, letting you eat pretty much anything on the board as long as it has 8 or less health!

Copper ConduitDark Return

The Penny Exchange

One of the most powerful things this deck can do is the recursion of Copper Conduits with Dark Return. If it died at 5/5 and you bring it back, you will be able to summon it again at 6/6 +x/x (x being your current mana), resulting in a huge monster. Just like the Dawnwalkers, this gets particularly nasty in combination with Predator’s Instinct, as you can trade with the copper and bring it back to immediately overwhelm over the weakest enemy unit (or a problematic blocker), often resulting in lethal. Returning Umbren Reaper is also quite powerful.

The Game Plan

What this deck aims to achieve depends mainly on the phase of the game it is in, each revolving around one of the above synergies.

Plan A (early game)

Cheat out a Beast out of a turn 2 or 3 Beastcaller’s Amulet on Initiate, Wisp or Instigator. The advantage can be enough to win you the game then and there. As such, these are the cards you want to the priority on for mulligan: at least one, preferably two of the above units; one Amulet; 2 or preferably 3 power (4 is OK); and the rest is flexible (matchup dependent). Be very wary, however, of having the Amulet play countered with Torch or Desert Marshal, as that can put you quite far behind instead of ahead.

Plan B (midgame)

If plan A doesn’t quite pan out, it’s time to abuse those Dawnwalkers (preferably with Killer) to out-value your opponent. A lot of the deck is efficient 5/x beaters that will bring them back, while of course doing their job of beating stuff up. At this point you’re a midrange deck, and a pretty good one. You should be the aggressor here in the vast majority of cases.

Plan C (late-ish game)

If A and B have failed, and maybe you find yourself in a stall against a superior board, it’s time to use your last trump card: the recursion of Copper Conduits and/or Umbren Reapers. The first can help go over their board, or ideally bypass it by using killer on a weak unit; the second deals direct face damage, ignoring the board entirely.

The Results

For once I’ve disciplined myself into properly logging my matches with this deck, so I can give you a relatively detailed account of how it has been performing in general, in specific matchups and in relation to its mana base.

I started playing this deck at Diamond 3 (0 points) and reached Master 33 games later after a nice 25-8 record (76% win rate). After some more games in master, my record currently stands at 42-18, for exactly 70% win rate over 60 games.

Below is a recap of that data. W is wins, L is losses, WR is win rate and “Confidence” is an estimate of how reliable I think the WR value next to it is. Note that this data can also serve as a bit of a meta snapshot in what you can expect to face on the Diamond & Master ladder (as of September 25-26; the meta changes every day).

Matchup W L WR Confidence Comments
Rakano 9 4 69% High Losses include 2 unworkable screws
Combrei 8 4 66% High
Stonescar/Felnscar 4 4 50% medium
Queen 2 3 40% low Losses include 2 unworkable screws
TJP Control 3 1 75% low Insufficient data
Elysian 4 0 100% Very low Insufficient data
Feln 3 0 100% Very low Insufficient data
Armory 2 0 100% Very low Insufficient data
others 7 1 irrelevant no meaningful conclusion to be drawn here

As for the power base’s performance, out of these 60 games:

  • I was power screwed 4 times (stuck at 2 until turn 5 or later)
  • I was power flooded 2 times (more than 8 power drawn by turn 5)
  • I was color screwed 1 time (no shadow influence for over 5 turns)

While I do not have proper data from other decks to compare this to, I feel like losing about 10% of games to bad power is very reasonable. Since screw has been more common than flood, it would probably be reasonable to add 1 power source (or possibly the 4th Vara’s Favor which is a great card).

The Match-ups

Rakano: Very favored (9-4 record)

The matchup against what is very likely to be the most common deck on the ladder is excellent. We have enough early game to not get run over very easily, notably with Instigator being a good blocker and early Walkers and Titans being hard to go over or around. Vara’s Favor also does wonders picking off early Oni Ronins and Pyroknights. Don’t be afraid to use your Suffocates liberally before they can “pants up”, or to trade aggressively with Copper Conduits (they’ll have opportunities to come back stronger for it). If we can reach the mid-game, we’ll be very favored indeed. Do, however, fear the Torch and refrain from trying to get cute with Beastcaller’s Amulet unless they have 0 mana available, because you’ll get 2-for-1’d and lose.

We also have good answers to their threats, especially since Killer laughs at Aegis; none of their units are safe from your killer Walkers and Coppers, and the stuff that does can be dealt with using Deathstrike or just double blocking. Remember that the longer the game goes on, the more likely you are to overrun them.

If it were not for the two losses to screw (which are a death sentence against any aggro deck), this record could be even higher.

Possible sideboarding options:

  • More Suffocate and Vara’s Favor would buff our early disruption
  • Initiate and Wisp are too soft and low impact against aggro, they could be sided out
  • Scorpion Wasp is always good against Voltrons (you could even give it Killer if the big one has Quickdraw!)

Combrei: Favored (8-4 record)

Combrei comes in many forms, and can pose very different threats and demand very different answers depending on whether it’s “Big Combrei” or “Beatdown Combrei”. Unfortunately, it’s sometimes difficult to be sure which deck you’re playing against (especially when closing out games early), so for logging purposes I put all Combrei decks together.

Both have one thing in common that’s central to the matchup, and that’s their feared and loathed 8 maindeck silences (Desert Marshal and Valkyrie Enforcer). Those are very detrimental to many of our key cards, most notably Dawnwalker but also Copper Conduit, Umbren Reaper, and anything we gave Killer to with Predator’s Instinct. Due to this it would be reasonable to expect the match-up to be difficult, but that has not been my experience. There is a lot of stuff they need to deal with in the deck, and they’re unlikely to have silence for it all. Devour is key here, as if you use it in response to a silence on one of your units (notably Dawnwalker or Reaper) you’ll not only get the draw, but the unit will dodge the silence.

Beatdown Combrei is the easier of the two to deal with,as they’ll have trouble going over your beaters and all their fancy Aegis will not help against killer. Do get rid of stuff like Silverwing Familiar as soon as you can, because you can be sure a Gilded Glaive is about to follow and that it will hurt

Big Combrei is more problematic. They tend to durdle a lot in the first few turns, casting Secret Pages and not much else, so you have opportunities there to go under them and get Amulet to connect. Do watch out however for Desert Marshal, who will absolutely ruin your day. The rule of thumb is simply do not use amulet as long as they have 2 mana available. In the mid game, you can expect to get Harsh Ruled, so don’t over commit to the board (unless you have like 2 Dark Returns in hand, which is fun) and ideally hold onto Devour. After that there’s a very real risk of them developing a board you can’t deal with; at this point, your best bet is to make a big Copper Conduit and use killer on some weak unit to bypass said board for lethal, but don’t pass up an opportunity to get rid of a Siraf or a Mystic before they run away with the game.

Possible sideboarding options:

  • Annihilate and more Deathstrike would help dealing with the big threats
  • More Devour can help against silence and to mitigate Harsh Rule

Stonescar/Felnscar: difficult (4-4 record)

While in many respects straight Stonescar (Fire/Shadow) and Felnscar (Fire/Primal/Shadow) can be quite different decks, I chose to merge them together here because they have a common core that is very problematic for us: Statuary Maiden and Champion of Chaos. Maiden is absolutely disastrous for our recursion agenda, making cudgels out of our precious Dawnwalkers and Coppers. Champion of Chaos is an overall terrifying card that is very difficult to stop without access to silence, especially with Cudgels on him. Add to this Torch and Vara’s Favor throwing wrenches into our early game, and what you get is a pretty tricky match-up. Save your Suffocates for Maiden exclusively and your Deathstrikes for Maiden or Champion (of Cunning too, against Felnscar).

Possible sideboarding options:

  • More Suffocate (for Maiden) and more Deathstrike would help dealing with the 2 major threats
  • It’s also worth considering running Dispel or even Silence for the same

Queen: somewhat difficult (2-3 record, but that includes 2 screws)

We don’t have access to AoE, so the wide aggro can be a pain to deal with, and their explosive draws are difficult to contain for any deck. Mulligan aggressively for Instigator, Vara’s Favor, Suffocate and Titan. You need to play very defensive, usually only attacking with Titan (when safe) and Dawnwalker when you can bring him back instantly, until you have stabilized. If you live to see turn 6 with 6+ health, you probably won.

Possible sideboarding options:

  • Plague !
  • More Suffocate and Vara’s Favor would buff our early disruption
  • Initiate and Wisp are too soft and low impact against aggro, they could be sided out

TJP Control: favored (3-1 record)

The whole killer thing loses at lot of value against a mostly creatureless deck, as does our removal, but on the other hand we often have open lanes to put the hurt on them early (do watch out however for Lightning Storm and Strike). Our creature hate should can make short work of their Sirafs and let Conduits go nom nom over their Desert Marshals. Dawnwalker and Dark Return are clear MVPs here to keep the pressure on through Harsh Rule.

Elysian: Very favored (4-0 record)

They have almost no answers to our threats besides Lightning Storm against our early game and Permafrost (which can be solved with Devour, as it’s often used on Walkers). No recursion hate whatsoever means you can go crazy with the walkers and the coppers. Do save Deathstrike for the inevitable Cirso.

Feln: favored (3-0 record)

Another deck without access to silence, which is nice. Do watch out for Steward of the Past though. Deathstrike is for Champion of Cunning almost exclusively.

The Future

This list is still young, and as such there’s probably still much room for improvement. I already made a few (see below), but I’m sure there are things I’m missing. Please tell me your thoughts!

The one change I have made is, I initially started with 4 Initiates and 2 Deathstrikes, but found the Initiates to be a bit too cute/greedy and terrible late game draws. Conversely, I found myself relatively often grasping for removal in the more difficult match-ups (Big Combrei, Stonescar), so I added a bit of that. It may still be a bit lacking in that department. Especially with less Initiates, adding a bit of power (or the fourth Favor) might also be desirable.

One thing that is very exciting about the long term for this deck is that it is working fairly well without any proper Xenan cards in the game. We know that Time-Shadow hybrid cards will be coming in future sets, and the power level of this deck can only go up as a result, so that’s definitely something to look forward to!