This article is an introductory to drafting the factions Uterra and Nekrium – the faction pair called Dysian. You can find the other faction primers here:
- Oratek – To be Released 9/28
- Esperian – To be Released 10/5
- Onyxium – To be Released 10/12
What is Dysian? What can I expect from Nekrium/Uterra?
Dysian in previous formats has had a lot of different aspects you could build decks with. You could strangle the board with the many token producers of Uterra and utilize those tokens with Nekrium’s sacrifice outlets. Now, however, most of those things are gone, or replaced with lesser versions. Dysian now is fairly one dimensional – it likes taking a creature and making it huge and impossible to kill. And this is a thing it does far better than the other faction pairs.
Dysian does not play typical aggro or control roles. Since Dysian lacks the wallop of Tempys pairs, it is difficult to be aggressive early. And it’s difficult to grind out advantageous board positions with your Uterra cards, because you have the lackluster Nekrium cards to support them instead of the strong Tempys or durable Alloyin creatures. So I’ve found it’s best to play Dysian much differently than the other factions. Namely, Dysian excels at employing the “build your own monster” strategy.
Nekrium has several creatures that are average size or worse with Regeneration – Nyrali Symbiote and Cavern Slime at common, Shadeclaw Zombie at rare, and Xrath, Dreaknight of Varna and Necromoeba at heroic. These creatures can take over a game coupled with one of the powerful Uterra pump spells- Ursine Strength or Blood Boon, especially. This gives the Dysian deck more time to assemble more threats as their opponent scrambles to deal with one monster.
Dysian is not without its share of weaknesses. For one, it is Nekrium, which bears mentioning again as having one of the worst drafting experiences in the current set. The general underpoweredness of most Nekrium commons makes any Nekrium pairing hard to draft. At least, however, the mediocre Uterra cards you also see – like Toorgmai Mender and Verdant Sphere – can be used to combo with cards like Cavern Slime.
Dysian also does not have much in the way of power level without any strong heroics. While the days of Snowdrift Alpha and Ebonskull Knight persist, the days of Dysian Siphon are long gone. So, if you can’t assemble a monster using your pump spells, you’ll be struggling to stay even on board without one of your heroics, making the faction pair very combo-reliant or heroic-reliant.
Also one thing to keep in mind is that you will have fewer leveled creatures than normal if you are using pump spells to amass a board advantage. This will give you leveled pump spells, but not leveled creatures.
All drafts start with a selection of six heroics. Heroics are listed in a rough order of priority – the ones I talk about first are valued more than the ones talked about last. I am not discussing every heroic in the faction pair, just the ones I feel are particularly valuable in Dysian, ones that push me into the faction pair or strengthen it in some way. Snowdrift Alpha, for example, is a great card. I will pick it first nearly every time. However, it doesn’t particularly excel at any overarching strategy – it’s just a good card. I’m using this space to talk about cards that shine in Dysian specifically.
Tuskin Sporelord – I think Tuskin Sporelord is actually the premier heroic for Dysian. Dysian has cross-lane play already, but Sporelord gives you even more, and fits in perfectly with the main Dysian strategy. Sporelord will frequently be copying Darkroot Shambler and Toorgmai Mender, letting your Nyrali Symbiotes or Cavern Slimes get big while your Sporelord gives you a board presence. Plus, the Funguy that the Sporelord gives you will probably be your largest creature.
Necromoeba – Necromoeba has regen 3 at rank 1 with a large butt of 7 health. This makes it an ideal target for any pump spell you can stick on it. It also generates Oozelings to help out your Corpse Crawlers and block creatures to keep your life total high. He’s just an all around good card to have.
Darkheart Conjurer – Unlike in Byzerak, where you are drafting the Conjurer almost solely for its Dysian Infusion, in Dysian, you get to double dip off of both the creature and the solbind. The Infusion is a solid pump spell that turns anything into a monster – already what a Dysian player is trying to do. The creature itself, while on the small side, does help by giving regen to either other creatures or itself when pumped. Dysian decks tend to play a lot of spells by nature, so the Conjurer triggers fairly often.
Soothsayer Hermit – Dysian decks can lack consistency with a lot of trash commons that don’t work well alone, like Toorgmai Mender. Soothsayer gives your deck another layer of consistency while being a decent creature in its own right.
Xrath, Dreadknight of Varna – Xrath, like Necromoeba, is just a very good, durable threat to pump. Xrath has Regen 2 at rank 1, Regen 4 at rank 2, and a whopping Regen 8 at rank 3. I would say that it is also a bonus that your other Zombies also get the regen buff from Xrath, but all the zombies in this format suck, or are too small to matter (Fell Strider) so it really doesn’t matter much. It really only matters if you happen to draft more than one Xrath.
Fleshfiend – Fleshfiend is a nothing special at Rank 1, but it takes a long time to take down at Rank 2 and 3, giving you room to assemble another pump spell plus creature in one of your other lanes. Additionally, pumping Fleshfiend limits the opponent’s options as killing a Fleshfiend at rank 2 or higher never feels good to invest multiple creatures into.
The first thing to look at when drafting Dysian is how you are pumping your creatures. Not all effects are created equally.
Blood Boon & Ursine Strength are the best pump spells you can have outside of Dysian Infusion. I generally prefer having more Ursine Strengths and fewer Blood Boons. While Blood Boon is stronger in rank 1, getting a creature killed and still having one around you want to pump can be challenging sometimes. Ursine Strength scales comparably to Blood Boon and performs its job underleveled, so I give the nod to it whenever the pick is between them.
Hungering Strike is not strictly a pump spell, but most of your creatures will have high toughness – and this can be bolstered by Toorgmai Mender and Darkroot Shambler. Hungering Strike allows you to buff your own forces while debuffing your opponents, making life a little easier for the aspiring Dysian player.
Toorgmai Mender, and its cousins Verdant Sphere and Darkroot Shambler to a lesser extent, are cards you will pick up that are just better than the crappy Nekrium options you’ll see alongside them. They aren’t great unless you have a Tuskin Sporelord. They do work exceptionally well with Cavern Slime though! I’ve lost entire games to my opponent simply playing Mender + Slime a couple turns in a row and being unable to deal with the resulting monster.
One card you don’t see here is Twinstrength. Twinstrength is okay in Dysian, but nowhere near as good as it is in either Esperian or Umbruk. It’s harder with Dysian to get two good creatures to pump. That’s not to say Twinstrength is a bad card – it isn’t – I just prioritize it less than the ones I’ve already mentioned.
These are the cards you will staple your pump effects onto. Generally, your strategy will be to play defensively and make trades where you can – Dysian is not very good at going on the offensive with large single threats like Byzerak is. Dysian does excel at cross-lane play with Darkroot Shambler and Mender to keep your regeneration creatures alive and to force your opponents to play more creatures. However, this strategy is not sustainable in the long term as these cards tend to scale poorly. So you need to make a monster as quick as you can.
I try to make room for a monster as early as turn 2 or 3 of the game, if I have the correct creature and pump spell. The heroics are going to be the best for this – especially Necromoeba and Tuskin Sporelord. The ones I’ve outlined above are the usual common or rare options you’ll have, all of which are good creatures to base a monster off of. Monsters typically have high toughness or a survivability mechanic – most often regen. That way, when you pump them, they start off strong and get very hard to take down.
Once you have your monster assembled and in play, you can either pour more into that specific monster, or you can use the time to gather cards to make another monster. I generally prefer the latter strategy, though both have merit. For instance, against Oratek, building up one huge monster is very effective, since they have no good measures to deal with one huge creature. Whereas against Uterra decks, Dendrify can stop you in your tracks.
An interesting card in this set is Cavern Slime. I try not to take more than one or two of these in my decks. That’s because Cavern Slime needs a lot of toughness to be effective. Cavern Slime can be an unstoppable force, but it usually requires a Toorgmai Mender at a high level, or a Mender plus a Sporelord. It’s a very feast or famine type of card.
The Support Cards
Filling your deck full of pump spells and pumpable creatures is a nice dream, but you typically won’t be presented with that option for each 30 picks in a draft.
I try to include a Corpse Crawler package in most of my Dysian decks. Cards like Brighttusk Sower or Fell Walker allow you to buy a little extra time with multiple blocks, and giving them the use to also fuel some big 7/8s or 12/13s – which can then be pumped – is a great extra use of resources. I also like Wildwood Sower if I can find it, as it overlaps the pump strategy with the Corpse Crawler one.
Most Dysian decks will contain traces of Darkforged in them, just due to how they are generally better individually than the Nekrium commons anyway, and both Darkroot Shambler, Dusk Hammer and Shadeclaw Zombie fit well into the strategy of Dysian as a whole.
Darkforged in Dysian
Typically, Darkforged are sprinkled in a deck without being a fully dedicated Darkforged deck. Dysian usually contains a higher proportion of Darkforged, since it is able to use their bodies more efficiently than usual.
Dusk Hammer is an excellent card. It also happens to be a Darkforged. This is a great target to pump because, like Deepbranch Prowler, it has Breakthrough! Dusk Hammer can dish out a lot of damage even when blocked, and it gets amped up even further naturally by simply playing other Darkforged.
Shadeclaw Zombie has regen, which we look for in our monster candidates, and it also grows on its own by playing Darkforged. Though not as strong as Dusk Hammer, I still like prioritizing Shadeclaw Zombie very highly.
Darkroot Shambler is the only Darkforged in Dysian I pick up frequently. It’s worse than most pump spells and good creatures, but it’s better than all the mediocre cards despite only being a 4/2. It allows you to win combat in other lanes, maybe get a trade sometimes, and it pumps any of the rare Darkforged you managed to get a handle on. Excellent card to have, especially if you’ve already picked up a Tuskin Sporelord.
Darkshard Witch, on the other hand, I’m not as fond of. It’s a decent card with decent stats and a fine effect. It does not really contribute meaningfully to a non-Darkforged plan, so I would take things like Nyrali Symbiote over it unless I already had a Dusk Hammer or Shadeclaw Zombie to work with.
That’s all I have for Dysian. Now get out there and make some monsters.
Other Faction Pair Primers: