Ancient Grudge Draft – First Impressions

by vandergus

With the new Raiders Unchained expansion, Solforge drafters got a new format to explore. It looks to be significantly different from the last pool and I’d like to take some time to go through exactly how things have changed and try to identify some of the new strategies and archetypes to be on the lookout for.

What’s Missing

The most notable change in the pool will probably be the removal of Spring Dryad. Dryad, along with Harbinger of Spring, fueled one of the most dominant decks of the previous format, which utilized token producers to simultaneously build huge creatures and control the board. Harbinger has survived, along with all of the other Raiders Unchained cards, but the frequency and ease with which you can build the Spring Tokens deck will be greatly reduced. It will also play a little bit differently than it used to. In the previous pool, Harbinger was frequently an all or nothing card supported by things like Spiritstone Druid, Scatter the Seeds, Kitaru Sprite and Stinging Invocation. If you hit your combo, it was a blowout. If not, you were playing a creature that was below the curve. In the new pool, there are fewer wombo-combos but more steady support. All of the previously mentioned cards are gone and are replaced by Roaming Warclaw and Brighttusk Sower, cards that still help the Harbinger strategy but stand better on their own. If you’re in Nekrium, there’s also Crypt Slime, Nyrali Ooze and Fell Walker. You’re less likely to get the turn two 11/11 but your deck will be more consistent when not comboing off.

Also gone are the sidelane cards; Abyssal Brute, Infernal Visage and Zombie Titan. Decks are free to play in the sidelane without fear of punishment. That should be a huge boon to the mobility deck, which is back with a veneance in this pool and loves to be able to move freely around the board.

Lastly, a few of the top Nekrium and Uterra heroics are gone, specifically Necromoeba, Sorrow Maiden and Stinging Invocation. Now, once more with feeling!

NO MORE STINGING INVOCATION!

Thank, the forgeborn. And with Alloyin and Tempys getting Borean Windweaver, Alloyin Strategist and Scrapforge Titan, the first pick choices should be more balanced in this format, hopefully leading to a more even representation of the faction pairings in the queues.

Armor Up

The first thing that struck me about this pool was a trio of powerful Alloyin pump spells; Cypien Experimentation, Pummel Pack and Aegis Wings. All of these spells have been in draft before but the fact that they are all here at the same time means that you’ll be facing down big armored creatures with increasing frequency. Prime targets include Grimgaunt Predator, Razortooth Stalker, Windborn Hellion, Batterbot, Shardplate Delver and Esperian Wartusk. All of which will be very hard to deal with if you don’t have specialized answers in your deck.

Thankfully, Stoneblade recognizes the power of these cards and has provided some form of counterplay to each of the factions. Nekrium still has its hard removal and debuff (Grave Pact, Nether Decay, and Bitterfrost Totem), Uterra gets Oxidon Spitter and Tempys has good ‘ol Shatterbolt. Even Alloyin has Nanoswarm, which might be worth playing just for its ability to remove armor. In addition to hard answers, there are also quite a few soft answers. Alloyin has more effects that pump attack (Matrix Warden, Ironbound Reinforcements) and Tempys got Frostshatter Strike, both of which can help you stack a bunch of damage onto a single creature. All in all, though, I’d much rather be building these giant armored monsters than the trying to answer them.

Common Levelers

Not only does Alloyin get some powerful offensive threats, they also get fantastic cards for late game consistency. Technosmith and Nexus Overwatch both received tweaks during the rebalance, getting much better level 1 bodies, but neither has been part of the main draft format since then. Players have been able to try them out in Weekend Warrior drafts and now they’re moving to primetime. Having both of these at common along with Metatransfer will give Alloyin players many ways to solidify their late game and, more importantly, they can do so without sacrificing early game tempo.  With Nexus Overwatch, you can even play an aggressively sized creature while still leveling up your late game finisher. Scrapforged Titan was picked by the community as one of the Alloyin heroics and you shouldn’t have any qualms about first picking this fatty. The weak level 1 will be very manageable with the current selection of levelers. Even if you’re not a “leveling deck” per se, these cards will be very good for you. Putting a bunch of level 2 cards in your deck for rank 2 can greatly improve consistency and reduce underleveled draws. Overwatch and Technosmith should be staples in just about every Alloyin deck.

Hellion Mobility

If you missed the Death Current meta, the format just before Raiders Unchained, then you also missed the splendor of Windborn Hellion. These two cards were easily the most powerful in the format and now one of them is back. Hellion is a card that starts with average stats and grows into a seriously big threat. In addition, its support cards (i.e. cards with mobility) are very good and very plentiful, so you don’t have to sacrifice deck quality for the incredible synergies it provides. You just draft good Tempys cards, then pick Hellion whenever it shows up.

You can typically find all the support you need for Hellion within the Tempys faction, meaning that any of the Tempys pairings can take advantage of the mobility synergies. At this point it’s hard to say which pairing will be the best home for it but I’m currently leaning towards Alloyin. It provides you with a couple more solid mobility creatures (Ionic Warcharger, Tower Scout, Alloyin Strategist) and has the previously mentioned buff spells, which make Hellion a real bear to deal with. It’s worth saying again, Aegis Wings plus Windborn Hellion is gross. Mobility hate is provided in the pool (Chistlehearth Archer, Tangle, Leyline Golem and Grapplevine) but it may not be enough to slow these decks down.

Odds and Ends

Nekrium lost its sidelane cards and got Abomination tribal in return. Contagion Lord and Abyssal Maw are the cards that would put you into this archetype since they both benefit from having multiple Aboms in your deck. If you pick up a lot of Graveborn Gluttons and Xithian Direhounds, you could have yourself a nice draft. Beware the deep end of this strategy, though. A deck full of Xithian Hulks and Dr. Franekbaums probably won’t get the job done.

In addition to tokens, Uterra also has a poison theme. While these two mechanics may not seem directly related, they do have some nice synergy with each other. Poison can often kill creatures for free but it does it slowly and you end up taking a lot of damage in the process. Tokens, however, provide easy chump blocks to stall attacks until the creature dies. More poison cards should also change your rating of Leyline Vermin. In the previous pool it was very hard to get this card to trigger but now it should be pretty easy to draft enough support.

This is far from a definitive evaluation of the new pool but it should help you get oriented and give you some guidance on what the key players in the format will be. I’m still excited to figure out how all the faction pairings stack up against each other, something that can really only be done through playing lot’s of games. The Ironmind Company is hard at work on a new tier list and should make it available in the next couple of days. Until then, happy forging.