Hello Champions, Adam aka TRU Archaon here, and welcome to my very first article. Today I am joined by one of the best players on the US scene Jeff, aka Sherlock Clones. We are going to be doing a review of all things Season 3, covering nerfs, ranked, Savagery and of course, the decks that took us to Masters. Hope you enjoy ☺
How has the game improved since Season 2 ended and what is the state of the current meta:
Adam: The nerf to Skarbrand and the stacking change is something that HAD to happen for the health of the game. Skarbrand was a very overpowered and ’psychological’ card, I estimated around 80% of the community hated what it did but still played despite not enjoying playing against it. Even veteran Chaos players such as Hamsack88 hated Skarbrand, not because of his passive ability, but because it broke deck building for Chaos. Why would you even look at Bloodthirster or Archaon while Skarbrand existed, as both a quick quester and for the passive ability. I hit master in season 1 but that card stopped me playing ranked completely after my 5 placement games as it was not enjoyable and everyone was using it. It seemed like a deck that didn’t need piloting in a way, and I proved this by giving that deck to my mate (who had never played Champions before) and he beat me 3-1 with it against another tier 1 Destruction deck. Now the nerf has lowered his passive to 10, the deck needs to be piloted very well in order to win the game and flipping blessings at the right time, especially now decks like Aelves, Mordants and Firebelly have propelled to tier 1 alongside Gordrakk.
The stacking change to Gordrakk was one that shocked me at first, as this was one of the proposed changes from the first season but we saw nothing implemented fully at the time. I fully expected an errata to rally cry. However, after seeing Gordrakk still winning comfortably at times with the dreaded rally cry into 2x Big Stabbas, it still is a tier 1 deck and the stacking change slowed it down a little bit for the better.
The meta is the healthiest I’ve seen so far in the game, with each faction all having tier 1 decks now. I still think Death and Order are the weakest when compared to Gordrakk and Skarbrand, but Warband and Savagery are going to majorly boost these, especially death, which was also affected by the stacking change thanks to big Green.
I was a little disappointed by the fact that out of the 24 players at Warhammer World, most of the decks were Skarbrand and Gordrakk. Top 8 was dominated by these. Personally I did not think this was a fair representation of the current meta, as Aelves and Mordants have just as much damage output as both of those decks (Mordants placed second in the East Coast US tournament.) This was probably down to sideboards, as there is not much choice for pitched play for those decks.
The next 2 tournaments for the UK Circuit was a much healthier balance and the top 4 had a good variation of Skarbrand, Aelves and Stormcast. An Averon Stormsire deck also beat me in the final of the UK Circuit #2 that featured a mass of damage reduction, removal and taking advantage of units on disengaged lanes.
Jeff: First and foremost, the biggest improvements to season 3 were the nerfs to Skarbrand and stacking. As a Skarbrand player in season 2, I agree that something had to be done. Skarbrand not only eliminated any kind of deckbuilding options in Chaos via champion lineup (why play Archaon when skarbrand exists?), but it essentially eliminated any type of deck construction. Most Skarbrand builds were generally the same, with the exception of whether you ran a wizard or not. Most of the deck ran the same units, with the same abilities and the same blessings. My biggest issue however, was the fact you could simply rely on Skarbrands ability to win you the game and not the deck itself. You could be losing 22 to 12 and simply play two abilities with a blessing flip and do over 20 damage. It was unhealthy for the game. The changes to stacking was another good change in my opinion, as Gordrakk was simply too strong as well. With this change, it forced players to have to think a bit more ahead and it generally makes a bit more sense that only stacking units can be stacked on. The meta is by far much more healthy and diverse than it ever was in season two. A lot of players were annoyed and demoralized to play rank simply because Skarbrand was too strong, now I see people a lot more eager to play ranked. The more diverse a meta is, the healthier the game is overall.
What are your thoughts on Savagery and how much do you think it will affect the meta?
Adam: I am looking forward to Savagery, especially after seeing all the spoilers and the campaign on the app. Although I’m not looking forward to playing Sylvaneth. They just look insane. The combos that they have look insane. As a Heraldor too, I don’t fancy judging a tournament with heavy Sylvaneth haha. I just hope they are an acceptable tier 1, unlike Gordrakk in the beta. I definitely have to play around with the cards first though, due to this being my first card game, I struggle to look at a card via a spoiler and think “this card combos with this card.”
I also like the fact that Skarbrand won’t be the main deck being played every other ranked game. It looks like Death is going to counter it hard with the Thorns unit, making them unable to flip blessings or advance champions.
Chaos Wizards and Destruction Wizards all look like improving as well and could propel them to being consistent ranked decks. New destruction decks such as Grot Mill look like being fun and reliable and the Squig Units look fun (if not just for the Squig emblem.)
The thing I dislike about Savagery is the fact that Lord Executioner, a THREE COST champion, stops abilities going over 3 damage in THREE LANES. To me, this kills not only Skarbrand, but the whole Chaos faction, as 3x Furious Strike and 3x Daemonic Fury or Reckless Abandons are now staples in a Chaos Deck. Even if Lord Executioner doesn’t get great Spirit or Risen unit support in Savagery, it will still be included in Death players sideboards in physical play to draft in against ability heavy decks such as Skarbrand or Mordants.
Jeff: I think like most people, I am extremely hyped for Savagery. I think Sylvaneth look amazing and I can’t wait to see all the different decks that arise. I already have the wheels turning in my head on different Sylvaneth decks I want to make. I will say that this set will definitely shake up the meta. With the inclusion of Lord Executioner for death, Skarbrand as we know it might be dead. I don’t want to make a final judgement yet, but that one card will be extremely effective countering what Skarbrand is designed to do. My only qualm with the set is they seem to be giving death a lot of cards to mess with other decks and not spreading it around to other factions. For example, they gave death a unit in the Warband pack that does 5 damage on 2 corners and stops 3 of your opponent’s champions from questing. That is extremely powerful on its own, but they also gave death a low-cost champion that now single handily counters Skarbrand. Just seems like they’re stacking a lot of the denial stuff that might make more sense for Stormcast and giving it to death. Not every card has been revealed, so I will hold my full judgment until the release, but just on the surface, it seems they want death to reign supreme next format
Playfusions Improvements since January:
Adam: I have to say, Playfusion have been fantastic since the turn of the year. It was so quiet on their end from the beginning of December, when people were voicing concerns about Skarbrand or lack of physical product information or physical tournaments. Discord was very quiet and the Facebook group seemed to be getting heated with different opinions about the health of the game. However, since January, and the announcement of their Blood and Glory Series, US/UK/EU Circuit and Invitationals, the excitement has just ramped up tenfold. After finally getting to meet Owain at Warhammer World (brilliant guy by the way!) this was something he agreed on that they realised they needed to ramp up their communications, which indeed they have! The fact they are interacting with the community now on a daily basis via discord, giving product reveals regularly, visiting card stores to demo the game, the introduction of the companion app to sign up to events (and the app runs brilliantly in physical tournaments, used at Warhammer World) and the tournaments being run a whole lot better since last year, it really is becoming an exciting time to be a competitive Champions player. The Steam release has bought in a massive influx of players, especially since Draft was introduced. I am looking forward to it being released on the Switch also as I may be able to get my partner interested then (it’s her Switch.)
Jeff: So I was not around during season 1 and I started playing this game maybe halfway through season 2. From my experiences, Playfusion have been great. They are active in the community, they listen to feedback, they try to improve the game and player experiences based on what they hear and see. I have never played a game where a company who makes and designs a game is so helpful and proactive in the community. They have made great improvements to the game, such as the addition of a physical tournament circuit, the blood and glory series, strike events. They upgraded the app to a landscape platform, which some people were not happy with, but overall I think is better for the game. They also have come out with a steam version of the game and are planning to release a switch version as well. Overall I have to say they get an A++ from me.
What do you think of the current setup for ranked seasons:
Adam: I find the ranked system a little flawed at times. You realise how grindy it is going to be whenever you play someone lower than you and you lose a massive chunk of XP, but if you win you hardly earn any back unless you are on a good win streak. Also, promos are just so detrimental to your XP and if you lose it can dishearten you if you were on say, a 5+ win streak and then you lose 2 games in promotions purely because you hit a bad matchup in a best of one. With the ranked seasons moving to one month seasons, this may have to be looked at, as only 10 people hit masters this season compared to 20+ in Season 1. It is a shorter time to be able to play, especially working 5 days a week. I would also like to see a best of 3 introduced with sideboarding like Magic has, but I understand Playfusion is a small company at the moment and still need to build the game, but hopefully it can reach this stage.
Jeff: So with all ranked systems, there can always be improvements. I don’t mind that there are now monthly seasons, however a lot of people who play this game may not have the time to play every day and rank up. A month does seem like too short a time, which is why I preferred a 6 week season for additional time. My biggest concern is the rank system itself. The exp you gain and lose seems to be all over the place. I will lose to someone higher than me and lose over half a bar. Then I will beat that same person in the next game and only gain ¼ of what I lost. It doesn’t make much sense to me. The only real exp gains you get are if you are on a streak, but in a best of 1 format, sometimes you draw bad, or you run into a bad matchup. It makes it hard and very frustrating for a lot of people to win 3 or 4 games in a row, only to be brought right back to where you started after 1 loss. I know many people do not like the promotion matches, I actually don’t have an issue with this aspect of the system. I’ve played many games who do similar things to advance to the next tier, so I’m pretty used to it.
What is currently your favorite deck to play and why?
Adam: Even though I have primarily used Skarbrand during season 3, my favourite deck to play in ranked is Mordants. I have loved seeing the progression that Kain has brought to the mordant deck, as he is primarily one of the only people to make death competitive. Whenever people start using his Varghulf build, he then progressed it to a minus 7 build to counter being royal hunted. I love his reasoning behind everything he cuts and advances in the deck, and is willing to help any player out. The current line-up of Champions I used is 2x Crypt Courtiers, 1x Reaping Cairn Wraith and 1x Hungering Vampire Lord. I have an extremely good record with this, only losing to Aelves and all Wizards. In casual however, I really enjoy playing a Gift of Sigmar Stormcast deck that uses Flesh to Stone to give it card draw and the Gift of Sigmar to rotate my units back.
Jeff: Currently my favorite deck to play is RascalYotes Order deck. It consists of Volturnos as your boss guy, with 2 Protector Primes and a Liberator prime. Unlike Vorrus control, this deck is much easier to quest with since Volturnos probably has the best questing corners in the game and your goal is not to restart your guys, but just to play guys who do damage and flip blessings. It’s surprisingly consistent given that order has no card draw engine and has pretty decent match ups across the board. Order is my favorite faction so I tend to gravitate towards playing them when I can.
What do you think about Order and Stormcast specifically?
Adam: Order took advances after Onslaught and buffed Aelves to be a lot more competitive than they ever were. As far as I am aware no-one has took them to Masters solely playing them yet but the person who made the Aelf/Aventis deck, George (Izalithe) has probably made them a lot better due to card draw and Aventis’ Heroic Act. Two Aelf decks also finished top 8 at UK Circuit 1.
My issue with Order is Stormcast. They are supposed to be the poster boys of Age of Sigmar Champions. However, they feel so under supported. I always laugh a little when I hear “Vorrus is tier 1.” They can’t replenish their cards, they don’t have action cheating, and they don’t have a great damage output. In my opinion, Beat Back should have been an Order only card. It does exactly what Order is supposed to, mess with questing. However, as much as it helps Order and Protector Prime’s questing, it is also detrimental by allowing other factions to use it to move Hurricane Raptors, Thundering Concussors and Disruptive Liberators off a lane. As a Skarbrand player this ranked season, I regard Stormcast as the easiest match up by running x3 Beat Backs.
Due to needing multiple abilities to quest Protector Primes and Vorrus, Stormcast decks are always nearly 50/50 on units and abilities which increases the risk of a janky draw. The addition of the Cursbreaker unit which removes a non-order unit and is x/3 damage, however Death got the better side of the Warband pack and Thorns is just an unreal unit with the ability of recurring it constantly.
Jeff: I think Order overall is lacking a lot of things to make them consistent and competitive. I could rant for hours about this but I will try and express my disappointment to a minimum. First, their biggest weakness is the lack of card draw or additional action cheating that every other faction has. This goes for both Aelfs and Stormcast. Aelfs can slightly make up for this weakness with the amount of damage output they can produce, however they are still inconsistent. The same cannot be said for Stormcast. Now while some people may disagree, I think Vorrus is a tier 2 deck and I think it has always been this way. Some people put it as tier 1 during season 2 since people claimed it had a good Skarbrand match up. I tend to disagree with this narrative as Beat Back exists and as a Skarbrand player myself, it was extremely easy to just win through playing cards in other lanes if they locked Skarbrand out of the game. My biggest beef with Stormcast is while they have solid units, they just don’t have the damage output or the card draw to compete with any other deck in the meta. The best quester they have is Protector Prime and while he is a solid champion, his 2 ability corners are rough for Stormcast. I won’t say he is a hard champ to quest, but having to invest 3 cards in a deck with no way to replenish your hand is awkward and if your opponent removes the unit that you placed on him, it is now a 4 card investment. That’s just to quest one Protector. My feeling is, since they gave order no card draw or action cheating, the questing on their champions should have been easier, but this is not the case. I’m hoping order finally is about to bounce back with the release of Savagery, but we will have to wait and see.
Skarbrand Deck Tech – Adam and Jeff reached Masters as top ranking Skarbranders:
Adam: So we both ran different variations of Skarbrand to Masters. I ran all warrior as I felt it was more consistent to quest and finished top 8 in 3 tournaments with it, whereas Jeff stuck with his Season 2 Changeling version and adapted to the current season post-nerf and did really well in the East Coast Rumbles. Here are both of our decks:
My game plan was to always play the deck like Bloodthirster Quick Quest was and to fast quest Skarbrand and a Chieftan, or if it’s against Death or Wizards, quest a 3rd champion also. I played 4 instant damage blessings to finish off my opponent at the end of a game instead of relying on UBL. I found that flipping UBL would lose me games and give the opponent another turn. Spelleater Curse was also good as a lot of decks use a Wizard for Flesh to Stone.
Jeff: This is the deck I ran in the East Coast Rumble tournaments.