Hello everyone! I’m Edward Cheson Sy – or simply ECS – one of the writers for the Philippine-based Team R.A.M.P.A.G.E. Blog. Our site was happily getting a few hits here and there until that one, fateful day when the Mike R. dropped by our humble place in the web and offered us a chance to write for The DailyMetagame as guests, focusing on the unique card brews, flavor, and culture that is native to our realm - Zangarmarsh. Needless to say, we eagerly took up the offer, and here we are!
For our first guest article in this very esteemed website, we’d like to hold the formalities for later and instead immediately share a fun and innovative deck that we’ve created. Winning our second Core Constructed Realm Champion Qualifier, the deck turned out to be a success and met more than just our expectations. Before I discuss the final decklist, Let’s sidetrack to the brief history on how it was designed, revealing the logic and strategies behind the deck along the way.
It all started when JDJ wanted to abuse the card Renewal of Life for Core. I didn’t have a deck yet for the season, so I asked him for the decklist. Being a clown that he is, he made the deck using a Paladin hero, because he wanted to typecast me as a Paladin player. Anyway, he hands me a decklist:
Hero: [Bronson Greatwhisker]
4 [Gromble the Apt]
4 [Mikael the Blunt]
3 [Jaina, Lady of Theramore]
3 [Azjol'anak Deathwatcher]
2 [Weldon Barov]
2 [Scrapper Ironbane]
2 [Pappy Ironbane]
4 [King Varian Wrynn]
4 [Hammer of Justice]
4 [Hammer of the Divine]
3 [Blessing of Liberty]
3 [Vigil of the Light]
4 [Renewal of Life]
4 [Eye of the Storm]
4 [A Question of Gluttony]
4 [Darkness Calling]
4 [Ring of Blood: The Warmaul Champion] / [That's Abominable]
The essence of a Ring Pop deck is resurrecting King Varian Wrynn into play as early as turn 4 or 5. This way, your opponent’s allies do not benefit from your Renewal of Life because they all get destroyed anyway thanks to the King’s ability. So when I looked at the decklist, I was very delighted to see the dual-class epic: [Vigil of the Light], because I now had another way of resurrecting the King in case he was destroyed again, or I didn’t get Renewal of Life in my opening hand (though it’s a tad bit slower). I also liked the inclusion of [Blessing of Liberty] to make Varian untargetable from spot removal cards like [Owned!], [Hibernate], [Hesriana], and Wub’s. However, I felt the ability was too slow and costly for its desired effect. I imagined there could be scenarios where I could play the Ring as early as turn 3 (thanks to Gromble), pop it by turn 4 or 5, and use my quests to dump my allies (specifically King Varian) into the graveyard. Then once the Renewal of Life pops, I bring back all of my allies back from the grave into play but I would only have 1 or 2 resources left unexhausted - not enough for a Blessing of Liberty.
So I began brainstorming and tweaking the deck to make the set-up faster. I was initially working on a Edric the Pure deck for the flip, making King Varian Wrynn untargetable the moment he enters play. I also decided to remove all copies of Blessing of Liberty for Ruby Skyrazor. Ruby Skyrazor was an excellent choice for the set-up, making all of our allies untargetable the moment Renewal of Life resolves. There are very few cards that could answer both King Variann Wrynn and Ruby Skyrazor in play.
After finishing an initial list, I still felt unsatisfied with it. I realized I didn’t have any good answers to ongoing abilities and there were a lot of ongoing abilities used in the meta: [Devouring Plague], [Tuskarr Kite], and [Death Wish] to name a few. At that time, Priest decks (particularly [Emek the Equalizer]) were getting more popular, thanks to being featured in DMF Orlando, and I didn’t want to lose to a turn 4 Devouring Plague. Looking at my list again, I noticed I was only running three abilities: Vigil of the Light, Hammer of Justice, and Tuskarr Kite (replacing Hammer of the Divine). That moment, an idea popped into my head: “Why not switch to the best class that deals with abilities?” The priests! They also use Vigil of the Light anyway. So I started migrating the deck from Paladin to Priest, therefore trading Hammer of Justice for Oppress. After playtesting in the local battlegrounds and some more tweaking, the final decklist was registered by my teammate JDJ for our second Core Constructed RCQ:
Hero: [Katianna the Shrouded]
Master Hero (3)
3 [Alexstrasza the Life-Binder]
4 [Gromble the Apt]
4 [Mikael the Blunt]
3 [Adam Eternum]
3 [Crusade Engineer Spitzspatrick]
3 [Weldon Barov]
3 [Ruby Skyrazor]
1 [Crusade Commander Entari]
1 [Rehgar Earthfury]
4 [King Varian Wrynn]
3 [A Taste of Divinity]
3 [Vigil of the Light]
4 [Renewal of Life]
2 [Blue Suede Shoes]
3 [Eye of the Storm]
4 [That's Abominable!]
3 [The Ring of Blood: Brokentoe]
2 [Darkness Calling]
2 [The Last Line of Defense]
2 [The Ichor of Undeath]
So just a quick recap, here’s what we want to happen:
Turn 2: Play Gromble the Apt, dump a big ally from Find Treasure
Turn 3: Play Renewal of Life
Turn 4: In response to Renewal of Life’s trigger, complete That’s Abominable, dumping both Ruby Skyrazor and King Varian Wrynn. Resolve Renewal of Life, putting the King and Skyrazor back into play.
Turn 5-6: Drop more allies, play Alexstraza
During our playtesting, Renewal of Life was usually left unanswered because of two things:
1) There were only a few classes that have access to early equipment destruction. Most of the other classes relied on Scrapper Ironbane, or Zalan Ragewind.
2) Your opponents wouldn’t mulligan for equipment destruction against a Priest deck. They would mulligan for ability hate in fear of Devouring Plague.
Katianna the Shrouded was used because her flip, for the measly cost of 1, was so handy and powerful. It could even save a turn 2 Gromble the Apt if needed. In more conservative plays, we would wait until turn 6 for Ruby Skyrazor + flip, and then cast a turn 7 Vigil of the Light targeting King Varian Wrynn.
Okay, now for the changes… First, we changed some of the ally choices of the deck. The crucial combo allies, [King Varian Wrynn] and [Ruby Skyrazor], were naturally mainstays, but Lady Jaina and [Azjol'anak Deathwatcher] were replaced with [Adam Eternum] and [Crusade Engineer Spitzspatrick]. Jaina and the Nerubian Deathwatcher provided a lot of utility, but I felt that a 3rd turn drop, and the Adam+Spitzspatrick draw engine were more important for this deck. Spitzspatrick was so good with Renewal of Life. We could usually draw 3-4 cards once he, and a bunch of other Unique allies return to play. Adam Eternum has always been a powerhouse card but, unknown for your opponents, he’s merely there to distract them until you set up the Ring Pop. We added a 3rd copy of Weldon Barov so he could stall any type of aggro play.
Acting as a form of mass removal, [Crusade Commander Entari] replaced Iravar so that we wouldn’t be relying too much on Eye of the Storm. Entari could also deal a huge amount of damage the turn he comes into play, or simply push it little by little when we’re locked by an opponent’s [Hurricane] or Eye of the Storm. The black sheep of the family was really Rehgar Earthfury, because we just added him for fun (I had recently found a missing set of Rehgar Earthfury EAs that was lost in my room, and we just wanted to use him). Nevertheless, his 6/6 body is still useful and, if left unchecked, he could steal games from an ally-heavy environment. In the future, Rehgar could be replaced with [Vanndar Stormpike] to delay opposing Kel’thuzads.
Second, we added [Blue Suede Shoes] to the list, and it’s a really good card for the deck. At first, we just wanted to add another equipment to maximize King Variann Wrynn’s -1/-1 powers, but negating abilities against your cards was just wonderful. During our playtesting, once King Varian Wrynn and Ruby Skyrazor were on the board, the only option opponents had left was burning our hero with damage abilities. Blue Suede Shoes nicely foiled that plan. Most important of all, Blue Suede Shoes could easily save the Ring from destruction effects if you plan to set up the combo around turns 6-8.
Third, we added 3 copies of A Taste of Divinity. We wanted to have more cards that answer Aberration and rush decks in our starting hand. We would normally kill any opponent’s 1-drop and 2-drop as long as it meant stalling to our Ring combo. Against mid-range decks, Taste of Divinity softened up their allies (Burly Berta, Scrapper Ironbane, Spitzspatrick, Dethvir, Saurfang, etc) well enough to be finished off by a well-timed Mikael the Blunt or resurrected King Varian Wrynn.
Fourth, we used Alexstrasza as our Master Hero, and as an additional combo piece to our Ring Pop. Normally on late turns we could play Alexstrasza for free after returning three big allies (including King Varian Wrynn) back into play which, more often that not, seals the game in our favor. There are only a few cards in the game that could answer a board filled with Alexstrasza, King Varian Wrynn, and Ruby Skyrazor in play. Don’t forget: with Alexstrasza, your allies with zero health won’t get destroyed!
Lastly, JDJ made last minute changes to deck’s quest log. We were originally running 3 copies of [Cleansing Witch Hill] to combat any graveyard removal quests and Undercity, but found it to be too slow for us. Instead, we relied on activating [The Last Line of Defense] to counter the effects of Undercity or [The Torch of Retribution] - at least we could afford to place our big allies face-down as resources, only to be blown up by the quest then resurrecting our ally at the right time of play. The [Ichor of Undeath] was included just in case any allies were mistakenly dumped by your quests. It’s also a nice way to counter any graveyard tricks or Undercity activations. We also didn’t bother including Tuskarr Kite anymore, because our quest log of The Ring of Blood: Brokentoe, Darkness Calling and That’s Abominable! gave us enough draw power to get the needed combo cards. Once Alexstrasza enters play, our games ended after a turn or two.
Since the Core format is a best of 1 series, we feel that the deck was a good and powerful choice for our local metagame. Most of the time, our opponents didn’t know we were using a Ring Pop combo deck and by the time they did, it was difficult for them to handle 4th or 5th turn King Varian Wrynn and friends (and the Dragon Queen a couple of turns later). You can read more about the success of this deck and its match-ups in our blog.
As JDJ mentioned in our blog, the hardest match-up for this deck was against Warlock because of Hesriana and Lesson of the Nether. However with the right plays, it’s still a winnable match-up. Against Kel’thuzad, you have to at least make sure Alexstrasza is already in play, and then hopefully play another copy of Variann Wrynn, and then re-establish your board position from there. Quite hard to do, but not impossible.
In the end, we were very pleased to create an original, innovative, and competitive deck. Take your opponents by surprise after resolving Renewal of Life and playing Alexstrasza on the same turn; it’ll surely open eyes and give some buzz! Give the deck a try and let us know your thoughts in the comment section.
In our next article, we’ll be formally introducing ourselves, our realm, and how we go about with our tropical WoW TCG gaming life. Until then!
-Edward Cheson Sy
Team Rampage is a large group of players in the Southeast Asian WoW TCG community. Combined, they have multiple top finishes at Southeast Asian events, including wins at multiple Realm Championships and the 2009 Southeast Asia Continental Championships. The Team Rampage column at Daily Metagame will feature thoughts and opinions from the various members of the team.