Welcome everyone to the Deck Spotlight series, where we are going to explore top-tier, meta defining decks and give some left field brews a deserved glance. And after last week’s extra-dose of meta, we’re going way, way left field. In this article, we’ll be exploring Battlemage Dwemer. Battlemage… Dwemer? That’s right. Usually Dwemer falls into Spellsword Attributes, but with some testing this new list has been my most profitable deck. Dwemer as a whole has been… outside of the meta, for lack of a better term, for a long time. Every once in a while, rumblings will come about that someone is making a run with Dwemer, and then it falls of the face of the Earth again. In this article I am going to present both the good of Dwemer, but also the bad. So to give these Dwarven automatons a proper Spotlight, lets give the deck a thorough rundown.
Dwemer is a deck built upon the lost Mer race’s (The Dwarves) robots, acting as the mechanical remains of their society. These automatons, originally called Animunculi, have now taken the name of their creators: the Dwemer. The Dwemer in TES:L come in three varieties; small, helpful Spiders Workers, martial Spheres and giant Centurions. The problems with this is two-fold; This deck doesn’t place nicely into either an aggressive or midrange strategy, and most of the actual cards aren’t very good. There are 13 Dwemer cards in total, including Halls of the Dwemer, which would make a deck of 39 Dwemer cards. In this deck, we’re not going to be playing with Ageless Automaton and Dwarven Ballista, with one less copy of Stronghold Eradicator. I did a little testing with Ballista, but it was too slow and clunky and the payoff wasn’t great enough. Stronghold Eradicator, however, is a very powerful card with a unique effect. I shaved one copy simply because it doesn’t fit into the overall gameplan of this particular list, and we’re not short on big creatures, so I cut one. Now, we have 32 Dwemer cards. So what else goes into the deck?
One of the cooler things about Dwemer is that the deck is, in essence, mono-Neutral. Now, you can make the list full blown Neutral if you wish, but I think its a bit overkill. The deck has two Neutral-matters cards in Mechanical Ally and Dwarven Dynamo, so having both Neutral cards on the battlefield and in the library are very important. The auto-includes of this deck are Lurking Crocodile and Crushing Blow, as these are actual good cards, and the burn can help a lot to finish off the last couple points of life to clutch a win. For another Neutral card I’m running Barbas. While he’s not insane, Barbas is a very versatile card, playing the role of whatever we need him to be, like a good dog. This slot was initially a Vicious Dreugh to help hedging against supports, but I either never drew it on time or drew it too early when I would just want something else, so we have Barbas now.
The “traditional” Dwemer list is in Spellsword shell, but there can be many other variants. With Edict of Azura and Divine Fervor, they provide two very powerful Willpower based cards to compliment the rest of the Dwemer. Edict is an incredibly clean removal spell, and with the ability to tag rogue Supports it provides a consistent way to keep the game running smoothly. I previously had Piercing Javelin in my Dwemer decks, but between Crushing Blow and Edict of Azura I didn’t want too many removal spells in my lower-to-the-ground Midrange deck. One card that catches my eye is Dagi-raht Mystic, as the ability to tutor up some of the super-important supports that Dwemer runs. My issue is that Dwemer doesn’t run enough removal to make sure Mystic connects, or any Move spells, or such a high amount of threats so your opponent can be bled of removal spells so Dagi-raht Mystic sticks. Other possibilities in Willpower include Fifth Legion Trainer, East March Crusader and other Token/Aggro cards for a full aggressive list, which would look like this. I’m sure there’s some sort of weird Scout list this deck could produce, but I can’t imagine it being very good. Ramp and small robots don’t seem like they go together well. Some of the more midrange-y Endurance cards seem far more appealing. Any who, my Scout list would look like this. Instead of Scout, I’m almost positive Warrior would be far better. On paper, my immediate issue with Warrior is that too many of the cards are appealing, and too many of the core stuff would be cut. My Warrior list is here, and I would want to shove Mudcrab Anklesnappers and Shadowmere in there somewhere and maybe take out some of the 0/1 drop creatures, but I don’t like cutting Dwemer in a Dwemer deck. That would need more testing. But, this article is not about these alternatives, its about a Battlemage shell, so lets hop into that.
The question of the article is, why Battlemage Dwemer? Why not just stick with the norm? Well, Dwemer is a raw enough deck where mixing up the cards adjacent to the regular Neutral cards shouldn’t change much of the deck. As long as Dwemer has Dwemer in it, in theory, it should be alright. So, what does Strength and Intelligence offer that Willpower and Endurance don’t? The answer is very simple: Merric-at-Aswala. Merric has fallen out of favor with the recent Supreme Atromancer nerfs, so this poor guy has been floating around without a home. While this isn’t going to be THE Merric deck, it can take advantage of him in many ways. With cards like Mechanical Ally and Dwarven Centurion, and to an extent Stronghold Incubator, this deck has a lot of ways to produce multiple creatures from one card. The cheaper creatures of Dwarven Spider and Blackreach Rebuilder can be held until late game, as they don’t provide a lot of board presence early game. These two aspects play right into Merric’s hands of producing a wide board so he can suit up as many creatures as possible when he lands. So the idea is, you play your regular Dwemer plan, and if you find Merric you extend the board and generate the huge burst Merric is known for.
Battlemage also offers Lightning Bolt to act as a semi-clean removal spell or additional burn to close out games. In testing, most of my Lightning Bolts have hit creatures, but having the burn fail-safe is a nice trick to hold onto. For additional Strength cards, my first thoughts went to Orc Clan Captain. This Orc helps turn on the little Spiders creeping around, making the Dwarven Spiders 1/3 and most of the other little guys 1/1. It acts as a pseudo-Divine Fervor, which as noted earlier fits in really nicely with Dwemer. The next step was Raiding Party. At first I only had two copies, but the synergy with both Orc Clan Captain and Merric made me want the third copy. Additionally, half of the three drops this deck runs are reactive, not proactive, and Raiding Party helps in that regard a lot. Just sending out some Nord Firebrands on turn three isn’t horrible, and they are only trending upwards from there. And last, but certainly not least, Garnag, Dark Adherent. What’s he doing here? Well, I realized one day; this deck stops at 7 magicka. Anything above that helps you play more cards in a turn, but Dwemer is suited to stop at 7 magicka so well. Garnag also gives you so much play against Control decks, and especially Ramp Scout. At worst, Garnag is a 4 magicka 4/5 Breakthrough… which is still really good. The one card above 7 magicka I would want to play would be Ancano, and having both him and Garnag in a deck isn’t the end of the world. I would love to fit Ancano into this deck, and I tried Firebolts previously as well, but this brings up a huge concern: color percentages. With Merric, Garnag, Orc Clan Captain, Raiding Party and Lightning bolt, these total to 11 non-Neutral cards. Which means, at the start of the game without drawing your hand, your deck is 78% Neutral cards. With the two Neutral-matters cards of Mechanical Ally and Dwarven Dynamo, this percentage is good. Not spectacular, but good. With the addition of Merric, you really want your Allies to hit, and going Ally into Dynamo is a very strong play, so if one of the Mechanical Allies miss it can be pretty bad. With that said, it leads right into my next topic.
In a deck list with a Tribal theme, there is a common problem you may find. If you don’t draw your Tribal stuff, your cards on average aren’t as strong as the average card in your opponent’s deck. With Dwemer, this is still true. If you don’t draw your Support, your creatures are only OK and it becomes very hard to win. Plus, if your opponent casts Ice Storm you basically can’t win under any circumstance. Dwarven Centurion is a great help in this aspect, as it always gives you a creature to draw and attempt to snowball/close the game quickly. Centurion’s problem, however, is that it provides no immediate effect and can be removed before it ever attacks. So its not a perfect system. So in game, the idea is survive until you draw a Support, play it, mop up the board and/or end the game in one or two fell swoops. If Mudcrab Anklesnapper or stuff like Shadowmere are in the deck, you can get far more aggressive early in hopes that the Supports will provide the knockout-punch to end the game. Instead of that, my knockout-punch is big daddy Merric and his Firebrand friends.
This deck has performed waaaaay better than I ever expected. My initial testing with Spellsword Dwemer had been going poorly and when I mocked up the original Merric Dwemer list, it looked pretty fun. After some tweaking, it became a lot of fun and pretty good. Almost all of my wins have come off of a Hall of the Dwemer and an ensuing beat down or slamming a Merric for one huge swing. Dwarven Centurion is a must-include, though it has been underwhelming, mainly because it has the “destroy me or I’ll kill you in two turns” vibe. Another card that has been underwhelming is the Orc Clan Captains, and thats because turning your 0 attack creatures into 1 attacks creatures doesn’t make that big of a difference in the long haul. Again, the Orc Clan Captain is another creature that does warrant removal or it can snowball a game out of control or provide enough pressure to allow your game plan to go ahead uninterrupted. I’ve been very impressed with Mechanical Ally, Dwarven Dynamo and Stronghold Incubator. These cards ensure that your game plan goes smoothly with making/buffing other Dwemer, and with one Support or helpful creature (Merric or another Dynamo) they can turn into huge threats.
So what does Dwemer need in the future to become a real thing? And the answer is: more of the same. More critters on the low end, more good quality midrange Spheres and perhaps even another Centurion. This Merric package just adds another win condition where this deck lacks dynamic ways to end the game. If one or two more reasonable Dwemer are printed, I’m sure Merric could be cut in favor of the old Spellsword stuff. In conclusion, this deck is still a ways away from being “meta”, but its on the right path. And I’ll be following this deck down that path for the foreseeable future, as its an absolute blast to play. For another edition of the Deck Spotlight Series, this has been Shinestorm and thanks for reading.