Monday, May 30, 2016

Sage Dinosaurs

The Constructed Format: Part 3

Welcome back to the fourth installment of this article series. If you have not read the first three articles I'd encourage you to do so now as I will continue to reference and build upon the principles and concepts discussed previously. This article is back to constructed with a different take on a tempo deck. Previously I discussed the Apocalyptic Time Walker deck and introduced the concept of tempo. Today is a look at a wild and sage deck that hits hard and maintains pressure by simultaneously keeping up the tempo and card advantage.

This style of deck has been touched on in other posts and blogs. My first encounter with this deck involved a fair amount of skepticism. I was not initially impressed with the idea of playing a bunch of large wild champions that didn't do much to impact the board state aside from draw cards. However, after more than a couple defeats I started to examine the deck more closely and it has changed my perspective on the flow of the game.

The idea is really fairly simple. Present your opponent with a threat they have to answer which also replaces itself with a card so you don't fall behind in card advantage. Answers from your opponent will typically cost a card. This means that when all is said and done, even if your opponent is able to answer your threats, they will be down a card where as you won't. Again, it's pretty simple, yet quite powerful.


Most of the cards in this deck fit into the category described above. Threatening champions that draw a card when they come into play. Lash and Rage complement this strategy to give those champions additional damage and Breakthrough when needed, and direct damage is a powerful way to deal the last few points of health to close out a game. Brachiosaurus,  Draka, Dragon, and Strafing Dragon Tyrant are additional champions with added utility. Brachiosaurus give additional Breakthrough pressure and can trigger multiple Fire Shaman and Fire Spirit abilities in the same turn. Draka can wipe out the smaller champions on an opponent's board and Strafing Dragon can apply direct damage and a lot of flexibility with Ambush and Blitz. Draka's Fire, Fireball and Flash Fire are more ways to answer tokens and other small champions. Drain Essence gives more targeted removal and health gain when needed in a pinch. Remember, unlike MTG, you can play cards like Drain Essence without a target if you're in need of some quick health. Stand Alone works nicely as another mass removal card in this deck because you'll generally only have one champion on the board at a time. Erase is arguably the most powerful draw two card in the game and Amnesia gives the deck some interaction with your opponent's discard pile. Thought Plucker could really be anything, but I Iike having the additional card advantage and discard pressure. Plus it works well with Rage and Smash and Burn (Lash, not so much).

Card Advantage

Many of you will be familiar with the idea of card advantage. In simple terms you have card advantage when you have more cards than your opponent. More cards means more options and more options are better than fewer. A card like Raging T-Rex produces card advantage. For instance, if you have a hand with five cards and you play Raging T-Rex, triggering its Loyalty 2 ability, you will draw two cards and end up with a hand with six cards. You are now up a card and have a larger hand size than before you played the card. Cards like Triceratops have no card advantage nor card disadvantage. The card just replaces itself when you play it and your hand size remains the same. Cards like Fireball  can create card disadvantage because you're hand size will be one less for having played the card.

Card advantage applies in several ways. In addition to applying to hand size, it also applies when talking about the effect of a card on the board state. For example, a card like Apocalypse can generate card advantage when using it to break all champions. Let's say your opponent has been aggressive on the first turn and has a Dark Knight and Juggernaut in play while you have nothing on your side of the board. When you play Apocalypse to break all champions you've effectively used one card to "get rid of" two of your opponent's. In this way, you've generated card advantage. These two applications can combine so that if you play a Fireball, that would normally be card disadvantage, to break your opponent's High King and Priestess of Angeline, you've actually generated card advantage. You used one card from your hand to eliminate two of your opponent's cards on the board.

It can be helpful when thinking about card advantage to treat each card as a resource that can be used to generate more resources for yourself or eliminate resources of your opponent. You can think of the net effect that would result from playing a card and determine whether the play would generate card advantage or card disadvantage. Plays that generate card advantage are generally preferable to ones that do not, but as I like to point out, there are always exceptions and sometimes card disadvantage is the only good play you can make. 

Determining the net card advantage of a play can become tricky when reconciling the effective card value of tokens and abilities. In other words, a human token is probably worth less than one card because you can produce many with a single card. Yet, situations will occur where it's best to spend a card to remove a token from play and the token could arguably be as valuable as a whole card. Also, expend abilities like Corpse Taker or the triggers from Drinker of Blood may be worth more or less than a card depending on the situation. Regardless of these complications, card advantage gives us a method to gauge the state of the game and evaluate the legitimacy of certain plays over others. 


Thanks for reading. If there is any topic in particular you'd like to see covered in a future article, please let me know. If you have any questions you can submit them in the comments section and I will respond. Next article will examine a take on the boogey man of the current constructed format. Or should I say, boogey men? As always, you can find me on BBG and Reddit as EpicAgenda or on Facebook and Twitter.


  1. Love this deck! I played it with two minor changes. I dropped Essence Drain for Psionic Assault and stand alone for deadly raid.

    What do you think? Great article!

  2. Thanks! Yeah. Those changes seem fine. This deck has some flexibility that allows you to play the cards you want without adjusting the main game plan.