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Unlegendary Format Compendium (Darkforge Uprising)

Today I want to talk about Unlegendary. Unlegendary is my favorite constructed format of them all, frequently moreso than Standard. If you don’t know what Unlegendary is, Unlegendary is a format where Legendary cards aren’t allowed. You can only play cards that are Heroic or lower. This makes it a much, much different format from Standard. Aggressive decks are far more popular in Unlegendary than they are in Standard, and frequently take different forms.

As an added bonus, heroics are a lot easier to acquire than Legendaries, so it’s quite an affordable format!

This article will go over some of the archetypes you are likely to find in your average Unlegendary Tournament. There will be breakdowns on every deck – why you should play it, what it is bad against, and how you can change up the deck.

Zombies

UN Mono Nekrium Zombies played by Oigres27

 3 Hellforged Avatar
 3 Tomb Pillager
 3 Xrath, Dreadknight of Varna
 2 Ebonskull Knight
 2 Necromoeba
 3 Zombie Dreadknight
 3 Epidemic
 3 Xrath's Will
 3 Abyssal Brute
 3 Xithian Direhound
 2 Nether Decay

 

Why Play It

Zombies is the premier aggressive strategy in Unlegendary at the moment. It plays lots of creatures with regenerate, making them hard to take down, and then buffs them all with Zombie Dreadknight, making them deal a lot of damage. Zombie Dreadknight two turns in a row puts you tremendously ahead on board a large majority of the time. Removal spells that maintains tempo like Xrath’s Will are also a huge reason why Zombies are a popular archetype.

Weaknesses

Zombies are very good at swarming the board and pumping their guys. They are not so good when they do not have very many creatures on the board to pump, or when they don’t draw the correct regeneration-grantors (Abyssal Brute & Xrath, Dreadknight of Varna) in concert with Zombie Dreadknight. Decks that can maintain a board while removing the important creatures of a Zombie deck (such as Xrath) can keep the Zombie deck in check while presenting an offensive front that um-buffed zombies just can’t deal with. Additionally, any deck that does not play many or any small utility creatures that are vulnerable to Xrath’s Will takes away the Zombie deck’s ability to generate free tempo, which they do rely on to steamroll games when they cannot draw Dreadknight combos.

Deckbuilding

The Zombie deck has a very good base package – 3 Abyssal Brutes, 3 Zombie Dreadknight, 3 Xrath, 3 Xrath’s Will, at least 2 Tomb Pillager, and 3 Xithian Direhound. That’s 17 cards. That means a little less than half your deck can be completely tailored to suit your needs. Want to play s Shadowsmith + Shadeclaw Zombie shell for more lategame power? Want to play Discordant Strike or Ambriel’s Edict to boost your chances against aggressive decks? Large creatures like Ebonskull Knight or Grimgaunt Predator? All of these things are possible with so many flex slots to work with, it’s just a matter of what you want to tailor your deck to beating.

 

Darkforged (Umbruk)

Darkforged Yetis played by Oigres27

 3 Aetherphage
 3 Ferocious Roar
 3 Uranti Warlord
 2 Botanimate
 3 Shroudthorn Splicer
 3 Weirwood Patriarch
 3 Dendrify
 1 Burnout
 3 Dusk Hammer
 3 Umbraskin Yeti
 3 Darkstone Asir

Why Play It

This list is EXPLOSIVE. It relies heavily on the synergy between the Darkforged, and ends up exploding its forces out quickly with Shroudthorn Splicer, controlling your board with Darkstone Asir, and then making a huge threat – either with cards like Weirwood Patriarch or Ferocious Roar to pump the entire board, or a single huge Umbraskin Yeti or Dusk Hammer. The synergy between the cards here is pretty tough to beat in the Unlegendary format.

Weaknesses

The weaknesses are the same as its strengths. The deck relies very heavily on synergy, even moreso than Zombies. While it can have very explosive draws and steamroll with large Dusk Hammers, it does not have much in the way of interactivity. Darkstone Asir is the gem here, as it pumps your creatures, but Uranti Warlord works as well as a board control tool while maintaining tempo. However, failing to draw these cards at the right time can lead to you taking a pretty serious beating, since frequently you will have only small creatures and one big Darkforged. Your backup options are spell-based removal, which sets back your turn moreso than other decks, since all the cards in your deck are basically two card combos.

Deckbuilding

The list is pretty narrow in tinkering with, which is a slight against it. You basically have around 9 cards to work with – the spell-based removal and the Aetherphages. Aetherphage is probably too good to remove, so that leaves the spell removal. What do you play instead of them? Perhaps a couple more creatures, maybe Darkroot Shamblers to improve the odds of your creatures living? Maybe Shatterbolts if you think Robots are going to be especially popular? You can also mess around with adding Leyline Golems, though Shroudthorn Splicer does make it difficult to be able to put them into play. It’s a challenge to play around the confines of the Darkforged shell.

 

Defenders

Defender played by Grimir

 3 Ambriel's Edict
 3 Oratek Explosives
 1 War Tinker
 3 Vault Welder
 3 Burnout
 2 Sparkstone Elemental
 3 Oratek Battlebrand
 3 Citadel Guard
 3 Flamerift Instigator
 3 Steam Sentinel
 3 Cinder Colossus

 

Why Play It

The Wall deck is full of absolutely gigantic creatures – Citadel Guard is an 8/9 at rank 1, Steam Sentinel is an 8/6. They all scale incredibly well, too – upwards of 11/11 on your main walls. The only downside, of course, is that you can’t attack. However, this isn’t a real downside, as with such durable and hard-hitting threats, your opponents will have a hard time getting past your Defenders and attacking you. Ambriel’s Edict and Oratek Battlebrand amplifies that, giving you an unassailable defense. Eventually, you will give your defenders the ability to attack via Flamerift Instigator or Sparkstone Elemental and kill your opponents in just a couple of hits.

Weaknesses

The deck is SLOW. Most of your big threats can’t attack without a supplementary card, so most of the early game will be leveling up your creatures, blocking their guys, and trying to stick some walls and maybe get in a couple points of damage with a Flamerift Instigator. Rinse and repeat. So if a deck needs set up time and seeks to overwhelm you at once (such as Darkforged), your defenders will not be doing a whole lot. Additionally, if the deck takes too much damage early, dying to Howl of Xith is a real worry: since your deck does not win quickly at all, 16 or 20 point Howl of Xiths are a serious threat.

Deckbuilding

There aren’t very many Defenders in Solforge worth playing, and you are basically playing them all. You can instead mix up your hate cards with what you think will be prevalent in the meta. Alloyin has a great selection of metagame cards to choose from, and you can replace some of the weaker walls (Cinder Colossus) or things like War Tinker or Explosives depending on what kind of build you want to go with.

 

Darkforged (Esperian)

Roar of the Darkforge played by Procrastinator

 3 Weirwood Patriarch
 3 Ferocious Roar
 3 Shadowsmith
 3 Shroudthorn Splicer
 3 Scrapforge Titan
 3 Dusk Hammer
 3 Shadowmist Angel
 3 Dendrify
 3 Darkroot Shambler
 3 Darksteel Enforcer

 

Why Play It

This is a similar strategy to the Darkforged list above, but it trades in the explosiveness of the Tempys cards for the inevitability and late game potential of the Alloyin ones. You still have the basic Shroudthorn Splicer + Dusk Hammer/Shadowmist Angel shell with Patriarchs and Ferocious Roars, so that explosiveness is still there. However, the board control here is lacking with no access to tempo-positive removal. Instead, the ability to level up cards via Shadowsmith to ensure late game success is what you get instead. Plus, Darksteel Enforcer can output an insane amount of damage, especially if granted to a Dusk Hammer!

Weaknesses

The deck is fairly linear. It does not interact well with an opponent doing things, even moreso than the Darkstone Asir version above. Darkroot Shambler tries its best, but its lack of a real body in Rank 1 often sees it fall flat. The deck can be disrupted by any removal plus large threat, and is especially weak to Xrath’s Will.

Deckbuilding

Like the other Darkforged list, this list is very tight due to the number of Darkforged you have to play to make each effective, and then the pump spells to make their small bodies accomplish anything. However, you have a little more wiggle rooom in the Alloyin version thanks to how many different hate cards Alloyin has. Oreian Justicar, Anvillon Arbiter, Nanoswarm, Leyline Sentry, Shardthief Druid. All of these cards can be played and you can skip over playing them until necessary and still have them be relevant thanks to Shadowsmith’s insane ability to power level everything in your hand.

 

Oratek Mobility

Flying Bullets played by Gard

 3 Aeromind Squadron
 3 Borean Windweaver
 3 Leyline Sentry
 2 Shardthief Druid
 3 Anvillon Arbiter
 3 Emberwind Evoker
 3 Frostfang Maiden
 3 Oratek Explosives
 3 Oratek Battlebrand
 2 Shatterbolt
 2 Blizzard Shaman

 

Why Play It

Mobility is a natural form of board control where you can determine the comings and goings of your creature. This deck takes it up a notch with Emberwind Evoker and Frostfang Maiden, allowing you to get extra damage or control out of your creatures each time you move them. This by itself wouldn’t be the end-all of deck design, but the incredibly powerful allied spells Oratek has access to makes it all worth it. Oratek Explosives gives an incredible amount of board control *and* damage, allowing games to end quickly, while Oratek Battlebrand allows you to remove threats while leveling up your creatures to not skip a beat in future ranks.

Weaknesses

While Mobility is a deck that is strong against most aggressive decks due to the nature of mobility and Oratek Explosives, most control decks are strong against it, especially Broodqueen decks. Most any deck that can fill up many lanes very quickly is also problematic, as that limits your ability to connect with Explosives. Also, Leyline Golem is the devil when playing this deck, as it can pop out of nowhere to ruin combat, has a good body, and usually kills whatever it pops up in front of.

Deckbuilding

The core of the deck is Borean Windweaver, Frostfang Maiden, Emberwind Evoker, and Oratek Explosives. After that, any number of cards can be played, as the deck is very flexible. The only thing to keep in mind is your faction count for Allied spells. You don’t want to skew too heavily if you are playing both, and I tend to skew towards the ally color if I’m only playing one. Any number of hate cards can be put into the deck, such as Oreian Justicar, Shardthief Druid, Shatterbolt, etc. Creatures with mobility themselves also get a slight nod, such as Aeromind Squadron (fetching Shardthief Druid) or Oratek Warhammer (for a more slow paced game).

 

Dinosaurs

UNL UT Dino played by piquadore

 3 Aetherphage
 3 Umbruk Lasher
 3 Borean Windweaver
 3 Thunderstomp
 3 Uterradon Rex
 2 Gemhide Ravager
 3 Tremorsaur
 2 Lysian Shard
 3 Mosstodon
 2 Swampmoss Ancient
 3 Razortooth Stalker

 

Why Play It

Dinosaur is the best creature type in the game. Not from a power standpoint, but just because dinosaurs are awesome.

Seriously, though, Dinosaurs are a very strong tribe full of beefy bodies and interesting effects. Most of them tend to center around Umbruk Lasher, as unlike the Standard version of Dinos, Dino Knight doesn’t exist to give you that huge board pressure in Unlegendary. Also, Thunderstomp – a card rarely played in Standard – is very potent in Unlegendary due to the large variety of creature based strategies. Thunderstop can kill basically any creature in the format, and often can kill two.

Dinosaurs as a tribe tend to be very aggressive and very brutal, using Uterradon Rex and Mosstodon to pump your dinosaurs survivability so they can continue to dish out hits while your opposition tries to take them down.

Weaknesses

Umbruk Lasher is a very strong card, but it’s also very vulnerable to just about everything. It needs a lot of support in the form of Borean Windweaver, Thunderstomp, or Mosstodon in order to work. But one important thing is Allied Tempys. Most good dinosaurs are Uterra, but Umbruk Lasher requires a deal of Tempys to even be worth playing. This makes building the deck difficult. During play, it frequently comes down to how often your opponent can deal with Umbruk Lasher, or how often you can pump your dinosaurs with Mosstodon. This makes Dinosaurs very strong when your opponent is weak on interaction, but weak if they have any efficient ways to deal with the low-toughness dinosaurs.

Deckbuilding

Dinosaurs is a somewhat flexible deck, as there are a lot of dinosaurs out there. However, Lasher is the one that makes dinosaurs a real deck, which makes you stick to a Tempys base. It can be hard to find Tempys cards to play in the deck, especially if you play Gemhide Ravager in addition to Umbruk Lasher.

 

Broodqueen

UNL BG played by Grimir

 2 Aetherphage
 2 Grimgaunt Predator
 3 Weirwood Patriarch
 3 Dysian Broodqueen
 3 Leyline Demon
 3 Snowdrift Alpha
 3 Lifeblood Dryad
 3 Sorrow Maiden
 2 Nether Decay
 3 Xithian Direhound
 3 Dysian Siphon

 

Why Play It

Dysian Broodqueen has been a force to be reckoned with since it’s printing in Secrets of Solis. It’s a strong card that provides board advantage and board control. Building a deck around it, making use of the bodies to kill opposing creatures, makes for a potent control deck while you continuously look to build up your board. Dysian Siphon exacerbates this by growing the small creatures Broodqueen decks often play while shrinking or even killing opposing creatures. Versions that play Bramblewood Tracker can further expound this creature discrepancy by allowing many plays more than your opponent, allowing a Broodqueen player to completely control the tempo of the game.

Weaknesses

Broodqueen decks tend to have very weak early games, as most of its creatures start out small and ineffective. Decks that can really capitalize on weak rank 1s, like Zombies, can really punish a Broodqueen deck and force it to play from behind, a position which is is generally poor at being in.

Deckbuilding

Broodqueen has a lot of options during deckbuilding, as the deck is at its core a board control deck that seeks to play expendable or utility creatures. There are a ton of those in Solforge. However, the one constraint the deck has is that it requires a great deal of Uterra cards – both to ensure Broodqueen always makes a Broodfang and to ensure that Bramblewood Tracker always has a creature to play.

 

Zarox

NT Unlegendary by JMich

 3 Byzerak Spitemage
 2 Grimgaunt Predator
 3 Sorrow Maiden
 3 Xrath, Dreadknight of Varna
 3 Cacklebones
 3 Spite Hydra
 3 Zarox the Raging
 3 Epidemic
 2 Leyline Demon
 3 Xithian Direhound
 2 Howl of Xith

 

Why Play It

Zarox deck are another version of a Nekrium board control deck. Unlike Broodqueen, however, Zarox decks tend to focus on single solitary threats such as Zarox the Raging or Grimgaunt Predator and work on controlling the board around that focal creature, rather than seek to expand and expand its board as Broodqueen decks do. Zarox decks are less controlling and less strangling than Broodqueen decks, but far more aggressive. Zarox the Raging can do a LOT of damage if left unchecked, especially at greater ranks, and the answers to such a high-health creature are slight in this format. Whereas Broodqueen decks eventually squeeze you out of the game, Zarox decks take a more straightforward and direct approach in the early game, then try to finish you off with a Howl of Xith or a sneaky Zarox hit around rank 3.

Weaknesses

While Zarox is essentially a control deck, it generally has less answers than its control counterparts, and relies on setting up hits with Zarox or having Spite Hydras live in order to generate persistent value. And while Zarox decks can be aggressive, they are by no means true aggressive decks, and are weak to any decks that can out-tempo them.

Deckbuilding

 

Zarox decks are very flexible, since there are a ton of removal spells and efficient creatures in the history of Solforge in this faction pair. However, the main constraint of Zarox decks is their reliance on Allied triggers. The Byzerak cards are all very, very strong – Byzerak Spitemage, Spite Hydra, and Zarox the Raging. How many you play of each one determines what sort of faction ratio you need to play in order to get the most mileage out of the powerful allied cards. Remember, friends don’t let friends play Riftlasher.

Onyxium Control

Onyxium Control played by Gard

 2 Ambriel's Edict
 3 Discordant Strike
 3 Leyline Demon
 3 Sorrow Maiden
 3 Anvillon Arbiter
 2 Epidemic
 3 Leyline Sentry
 3 Cacklebones
 3 Grimgaunt Predator
 2 Portal Shade
 3 Xithian Direhound

 

Why Play It

Onyxium is the purest form of control deck out there in Unlegendary. You play few creatures that don’t also have some sort of controlling utility, have crazy amounts of removal, and get access to the disturbingly powerful Discordant Strike. Onyxium can grind just about any aggressive deck to a halt and force it to jump through several hoops before getting in for more damage. Not to mention Sorrow Maiden, a great source of continuous board control that really shines in this deck due to the various forms of shrinking the deck gains access to.

Weaknesses

It is hard to lose with Onyxium control, but it’s also hard to win. There aren’t a good many decent win conditions in the faction pair – you either try to win with Grimgaunt Predator + removal spells to pump it, or you hope your opponent runs out of steam and you can play your level 3 cards relatively uncontested. The deck struggles when it tries to close out a game, as it often has to choose between playing a removal spell and playing a creature.

Deckbuilding

The deck is very flexible. The core of the deck is Discordant Strike. That’s pretty much it! Sorrow Maiden is generally an excellent inclusion, but basically everything else is up for debate. Don’t like the Cacklebones + Anvillon Arbiter package? Don’t play it! Want to play more Leylines? Go for it!  You can build the deck in a crazy number of ways.

 

Abominations

Abos v0.1.1 played by Sema

 3 Fleshfiend
 3 Contagion Lord
 3 Rite of the Grimgaunt
 1 Soulscourge Grimgaunt
 2 Nether Decay
 3 Xithian Direhound
 3 Dr. Frankenbaum
 3 Abyssal Maw
 3 Gloomfiend
 3 Xithian Rotfiend
 3 Graveborn Glutton

 

Why Play It

Abominations have a unique niche in Solforge – they are an aggressive deck that operates from their creatures dying. This means that not only are cards like Graveborn Glutton and Xithian Rotfiend very large, they end up doing a lot of damage on their way out of the battlefield with the help of Dr. Frankenbaum. Contagion Lord also plays a huge role in the deck, allowing you to recycle your spent, useless, or graveyard-bound creatures into additional plays to further add to your abominable swarm.

Weaknesses

Abominations dying may do things, but it surely isn’t as good as them living. Additionally, their creatures are generally fairly weak. The deck relies a lot on Contagion Lord to circumvent this weakness by just allowing the deck to play more spells than their opponent. However, if Contagion Lord isn’t drawn in a timely manner, or not allowed to live, most abominations are very small and easily overpowered.

Deckbuilding

Abominations are one of the harder tribal decks to build. You for sure play 3 Contagion Lord, 3 Graveborn Glutton, 3 Xithian Direhound, and 3 Fleshfiend. But the rest of the deck is pretty much up in the air. You can assemble any amount of abominations to varying taste, but a lot of the ones in print aren’t very good. This is one of those decks you have to work hard to get around the weaknesses of the cards to get to their strengths. It’s possible, but requires quite a bit of deck wrangling.

 

 

Be Your Own Legend

Unlegendary is a pretty diverse format. It may feel like you have to slog through the trenches of Zombie decks and that the format is fairly one-dimensional, but that’s not the case at all. Certainly, Zombies are a large part of Unlegendary due to how popular the tribe is, how good Zombie Dreadknight is, and how much press the deck has gotten. But it’s certainly very beatable, and certainly not the only deck floating around Unlegendary. Try some of these lists, tinker with them a bit, and try them out for a spin in a ladder tournament, or in the next Unlegendary Weekend Warrior. The format is pretty fun, and a novel experience instead of only playing Standard.