BYZERAK OVERVIEW – STEADY AND DESTRUCTIVE
Byzerak isn’t a faction pair on many players’ radars. It doesn’t have any flashy cards or reliable synergies. The days of standout heroics like Zarox or Byzerak Frostmaiden are long gone. The mobility train is nowhere to be seen near the Abyssal Brute station. The good times of stomping face with Thranik Ambusher and Scourge Hydra have been put on hold. Byzerak doesn’t really stand out noticeably from the crowd.
But instead of being useless, Byzerak is simply solid. It does the same thing it has always done – kill everything that is on the board and try to win from there. Its tools of removal have been changed since the last format, but the core identity of the faction pair remains – death to all.
These core commons are cards that every deck in a faction pair seek. These are high quality commons that are rarely bad picks. Each archetype within a pair will be able to use these cards, regardless of the overarching strategy.
ARCHETYPE – REMOVAL MIDRANGE
KEY CARDS – ALL MEN MUST DIE
KEY CARDS – LANE PRESENCE
When I say ‘midrange’ in Solforge, I am talking about where a strategy falls on an “aggressive-control” spectrum. A large majority of Byzerak decks I draft tend to fall more on the control side of the spectrum. But since a pure control deck is vastly worse in Byzerak than Onyxium, some aggressive elements need to be incorporated.
It’s hard to talk about lead-in heroics that would make you want to draft Byzerak, because there are no cards like Zarox, the Raging that would force you into it. Since the vast majority of Tempys heroics are complete garbage, you are more likely to first pick a Nekrium heroic than a Tempys one. From there, most players would pick up an Uterra or Alloyin card (as those factions are simply more powerful) and be on their way to drafting non-Byzerak.
Uranti Stormshaper is the one Tempys card I would consider exceptional, and good in both aggressive and defensive strategies. If I first pick an Uranti Stormshaper, I plan to draft either Umbruk or Byzerak. If you are a madman like I am and actually enjoy playing Byzerak, many heroics work in the faction pair – but they aren’t essential to the deck’s strategy. The commons mainly dominate this faction pair, and you simply accept whatever Nekrium heroics or Uranti Stormshapers that the Solforge gods decide to give you.
The main cards that make this faction pair what it is are two incredible commons – Xithian Rotfiend and Iceshard Berserker. I don’t think it would be unfair to call these two of the three best commons in the draft format (Ordnance Captain is the last, and sadly not in this faction pair). These two cards allow Byzerak as a competitive faction pair to exist. They put the deck on their backs and tell the Forgeborn playing them “Hey, let us worry about those pesky opposing creatures.” The best thing about these two cards is that they are strong and big. Rotfiend has 8 health and Berserker has 6. It is not uncommon to block with one of these creatures and have it survive. In Rotfiend’s case, it might die to its own effect (forcing your opponent to put a creature in a lane you choose). With Berserker, opponents generally leave him unblocked for several turns while they assemble something either worthless to throw in front of it, or big enough to survive. With both cards, this forces your opponents to either take damage or throw additional creatures in front of your guys, giving you the time to do other things with your plays.
I can’t emphasize this enough, so I’ll say it explicitly. Take Iceshard Berserker and Xithian Rotfiend over every other card. I think there are six good exceptions to this rule – Contagion Lord, Sorrow Maiden, Necromoeba, Uranti Stormshaper, Fleshfiend, and Legendaries. You’ll always draft a deck with creatures that attack for damage, but the low end commons and rares of Nekrium and Tempys are really low end (Xithian Host and Uranti Cryomancer, anyone?). You’ll see some packs with a bunch of bad cards sometimes, and be forced to take a few. To make up for this, you need to be drafting cards that allow you to make profitable trades with your opponents cards (preferably 2-for-1) or are difficult to play around. Xithian Rotfiend and Iceshard Berserker do both of these things. If the choice is between a good card and one of Holy Duality, always pick the latter. For choosing between the two, Rotfiend is the pick.
But the deck isn’t just two cards, however important they may be. The deck has a plan. This midrange archetype plays an extremely fair game of Solforge. In this draft format, that isn’t something you want to be doing. The most successful decks are those suiting up their Necromoebas or Spring Dryads or Spiritsteel Infiltrators. What does Byzerak have that competes with this?
Removal. Byzerak is the KING of removal. Aside from the over-mentioned Berserker and Rotfiend, Byzerak has three very quality removal spells – Grave Pact, Chaos Twister, and Shatterbolt. They each do different things, which is useful to giving a deck depth. Grave Pact kills anything, and lets Byzerak use the spent creatures that may be lying around. Chaos Twister gives a large amount of card advantage and directly hates against the faction Byzerak has the most problem with – Uterra. Shatterbolt removes armor, but more importantly allows you to take down a large selection of creatures before turning into a 14 point burn spell.
Midrange Byzerak decks tend to win later on in the game, which is not a bad thing. Byzerak cards scale well into the late game on size alone. This is good for matching up with other faction’s level 3s, but keep in mind that Byzerak does not have the late game volatility that the other factions might have, since it lacks cards like Spring Dryad or Spiritsteel Infiltrator. This means that there will be many more games decided on your decision throughout the game, as there are fewer opportunities to draw a bomb to get yourself out of a situation. Solid play will drive you towards your victories, not overwhelming power.
ARCHETYPE – FULL AGGRO
KEY CARDS – BRING THE DAMAGE
KEY CARDS – BREAKING THE BOARD
I do NOT recommend playing full aggro Byzerak. It can pile up damage and has a strong level 1, but lack of good cross-lane play (eg, no Frostshatter Strike or Twinstrength) and poor leveling scheme of most aggressive cards means it’s highly likely you’ll lose unless your opponent has some miserable draws, or is playing some super late game control deck with Metatransfers and the like.
I mainly wanted to point out that this archetype does exist! It is quite good against Onyxium in particular, since Onyxium tends to have weaker creatures and is typically slower than other faction pairs. The main issue is when you play against Uterra decks, which have heaps of natural blockers thanks to all the token creation – Grove Matriarch, Scatterspore Tiller, Ether Wolves, etc. It’s very difficult to make any board position climb against Uterra decks, and so you’ll tend to rely on Rotfiend and Icehsard Berserker a lot. And since you’ll be relying on those cards, why not just play the more midrange version instead? It’ll be easier!
This archetype is mainly a teaching tool. Playing this deck gives you a good head for numbers – when to trade, when to push damage, and when is correct to play cards that offer chip damage (like Volcano Giant, Mongosaur, or Dr. Frankenbaum). This is a skill that will help you win games in every faction pair, but is especially useful in more underpowered ones like Byzerak that will need to eke out all the damage it can against more powerful faction pairs.
One thing to keep in mind when drafting aggressive Byzerak cards is that Raid is quite bad in Byzerak. Byzerak is a very fair faction; it plays two cards per turn and rarely has ways to put extra creatures into play. Raid is shaky at best because of this, causing any Raid cards to rely upon Warhound Coursers. Luckily, this isn’t a huge problem, because none of the Tempys Raid cards are extremely reliant upon raid, unlike Uttera cards like Hive Empress or Herd Mother.
In the draft tier list, TIC rated Byzerak the second worst faction. In this primer, I just said that the deck relies primarily upon two cards and suffers without them. The heroics in Tempys are not worth pairing with Nekrium compared to Uterra or Alloyin. Is this faction pair really worth drafting?
Yes! Personally, I play this faction pair more than any other except for Onyxium, and it boasts my highest win rate out of all faction pairs. Of the last 10 drafts I’ve done with Byzerak, nine were 7-wins. Some of this comes down to luck, of course, but I do not think Byzerak is a garbage faction pair.
This faction pair – more than any other – relies on the ability to play fundamental Solforge. Small trades, eking out points of damage here and there, choosing which cards to level based on the matchup, and trying to always come out a card ahead on your opponent. Byzerak doesn’t have any flashy cards or big Voltron strategies that the other factions may have. It relies completely on the skill of the player playing it, and its cards are versatile enough to allow the drafting decisions and the play decisions of the Forgeborn piloting it to shine. This faction pair is a challenging one to play, but it is also very rewarding.
Try it out – especially if you’re bored of how the Uterra faction pairs tend to play.