Shard of the Week: AoA Sealed: Initial Vault Tour Analysis

Shard of the Week: AoA Sealed: Initial Vault Tour Analysis

Shard of the Week: AoA Sealed: Initial Vault Tour Analysis

Today we will be looking at some various statistics from previous sealed AoA Vault Tour results.
After reviewing all the data, there should be some good considerations when deciding which deck is the best fit for your sealed selection.

Most Popular Houses
Below are the houses as they appeared within winning lists from the top 8 competitors in the UK Games Expo and Origins Columbus. These are the first major AoA sealed events we can extract data from. The quantity of houses appearing in the top 8 from these events breaks down as follows…

Shadows 12
Dis 7
Untamed 6
Sanctum 4
Mars 4
Logos 4
Brobnar 4

Out of the 14 known/reported decks, 12 had Shadows. That says alot for the meta. As many players predicted, Shadows is really ‘stealing’ the show here. This could also be caused by players choosing Shadows more often, as they assume Shadows to be more powerful- based upon the results shown in Call of the Archons.

Regardless of whether or not Shadows actually is the strongest contender, there’s no guarantee you will open a great Shadows deck. So maybe there’s something to learn from the competing non-Shadows decks.
Let’s take a look at two…
the only two…

Rogue Xuxa Catazard
Finished within the top 8 of the UK Games Expo.
Brobnar, Dis Untamed.
This deck is focused around Grump Buggy and big creatures to tax the opponent’s keys. When the majority of players in the room decide “Shadows is best”, it seems like a very solid choice to utilize a deck that plays well against small Shadows creatures. Additionally, the increased key cost really helps mitigate the effects from the stealing. I respect this deck choice quite a bit.

Fearion, the Dreadful Swamp Queen.
Another deck to finish within the top 8 of the UK Games Expo.
Sanctum, Brobnar, Untamed.
Once again, we see a deck taking advantage of the weaknesses of Shadows. Three copies of Brammo, which has a play ability that deals 2 damage to each opponent’s flank creature. Key Charge for a quick forge with little Aember left to steal. Fast Aember from Full Moon and Lost in the Woods is a huge help. Plus a Gatekeeper to capture when things get outta hand.

So while it’s nice to have a great Shadows deck, a solid strategy can be picking the deck that hits the low power creatures, while either forging keys out of sequence, or raising the key cost.
I would keep an eye open for Grump Buggy in your lists. It was in half of the known Top 8 lists containing Brobnar. It’s a solid option that could be alot better than the Shadows deck you might get.

Looking Deeper Into Shadows…
Of the represented decks, an average of 3 or 4 Shadows cards in each were able to actually steal Aember. Which isn’t too bad, I guess. But the problem is that most of these cards are stealing just one lonely Aember. Swindle was only in two of the 14 lists, but is very restrictive being both alpha and omega.
The most commonly found ones were Ronnie Wristclocks and Nerve Blast.

So isn’t the biggest threat from Shadows the stealing? Playing your entire Shadows pool to steal 3 or 4 Aember doesn’t feel like a very strong representation. Especially for the top decks at a sealed Vault Tour.

But I have a theory…

What if Shadows is good for all the wrong reasons?
Decks near the top end were loaded with copies of Nerve Blast and Sucker Punch. Both cards that are excellent at dealing with small elusive creatures.
What if the true advantage comes from Shadows just being good with selective removal? You could definitely make a strong argument for this. Especially when you take cards like Duskwitch, Archimedes, Professor Sutterkin, Mindwarper, and the like into consideration. AoA definitely has it’s share of high impact weaklings, but there’s yet another outlook to consider… so buckle up.

Here’s my controvertial take: Shadows is not the best house in Age of Ascension… but it doesn’t matter.
Although I don’t consider them the best, I would still likely choose them.
Why?
Because everyone else plays them. It’s not about doing what everyone else does, but rather it’s about picking the best way to deal with all those small elusive creatures. They die easily to Nerve Blasts, Whistling Darts, and Throwing Stars.
It’s the best assist house in AoA because so many players gravitate towards it.
If players weren’t running Shadows all the time, then I would be less likely to choose them.
Nothing fights Shadows as well as Shadows.

Cards I would hope to get would be Nerve Blast, Ronnie Wristclocks, Life for a Life, and Miasma. These four seem to be the top contenders from the represented decks.

Don’t get me wrong, Shadows is a great house… but I’ll be more inclined to choose the version based on what I’m looking for in the sealed meta.


Now onto Dis….
They were the second most popular, let’s see if we can’t figure out why.

Out of the seven Dis decks, only one did not contain Lash of Broken Dreams.
Lash is good. Really good.
Other cards appearing often were Shooler, Charette, Gongoozle, and Three Fates.

After seeing how prevalent Lash is, it leads me to believe that raising the key costs may actually be more critical than ever. This statistic had me doublechecking all the lists and noticing that key cost increase has been nearly as prolific as stealing.

Shooler can be just about as potent as Ronnie Wristclocks, while Gongoozle takes out those small elusives yet again. Charette helps delay until your Lash is online.

Exhume was in many of the decks, as it works great with Shooler or Ronnie for just a little more stealing. This is a great synergy to keep a lookout for.

Am I wrong in thinking Dis is secretly just Shadows in DISguise? They play so similarly that it’s no surprise to see them synergize well together.


So after all going through all the decklists, I came to the conclusion of this article:
When you are sitting down to analyze your deck, it might be worthwhile to value key cost increase just a little bit more than we did in CotA. Small creature removal is also very important and the decks with Shadows will likely be perfect for it.

Your best deck might not be the one you expect. Your Mars list could actually be better than your Shadows, it all just depends on the goal.

I don’t need a crystal ball to know that we’ll see alot more Shadows and Dis from the next Vault Tours, but I’ve got my fingers crossed for a few impressive Grump Buggy decks too… time will tell.
As you enter your next Vault Tour, do so with an open mind, but prepare to see alot of removal in the form of small damage.

Until next time, keep forging ahead and glory be to Mars!

— Jason

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