“T’was the night before Gencon and all through the city,
players were excited, antsy, even giddy;
the archons were ready, all sleeved up with care,
in hopes a new power level soon would be theirs.”
As the first archon vault tour in the US since the release of Age of Ascension, many players (myself included) have been looking forward to Gencon for months. Now that the tournament is finally upon us, I figured I would do this week’s Meta Watch on a deck that has been at the forefront of my mind all throughout my preparation: my own! So, without further ado, I present what I’ll be playing at the Gencon solo archon vault tour.
Sportily Awesome Cadrich
I’m not gonna lie, Sportily Awesome Cadrich is a pretty straightforward rush deck that does little more than go fast. But even if it doesn’t involve the most complicated decision-making processes, I’ve still found interesting nuances involved in playing it to best capitalize on its strengths and cover for its weaknesses.
What I Like
First up, what I like about this deck; that is, what it is that made me want to play it in the first place. In general, I think rush is a good archetype for competitive play in the current metagame since their speed allows rush decks to win games even in matchups where they are at a disadvantage. If you can consistently end the game by turn 8, your opponent will likely only draw about half of their deck, meaning that even if they have that Too Much to Protect, Lash of Broken Dreams, Drumble, Grump Buggy, etc. that would be a big issue, there’s a chance that it will end up towards the bottom of their deck and they will never even get the chance to play it. While something like a slower, board-focused control deck may still be competitively viable, having games going longer and longer just increases the likelihood that your opponent will draw their board wipe or EMP blast or whatever answers they may have. If you want to read more of my thoughts on how to play (and how to play against) rush decks, check out that Meta Watch article from a few weeks ago!
Now for some specifics about this particular rush deck that make me gravitate towards it.
Steal: This deck can steal aember like nobody’s business. While some of them are conditional, a whopping 11 cards have the ability to steal aember, meaning that rather than relying on drawing big swing cards like Too Much to Protect or Interdimensional Graft at the right time, I can consistently keep opponent’s off of check every time they go up to 6 or 7 while continuing to rush forward and present check myself.
Archive: The Untamed in this deck relies pretty heavily on having the right combo at the right time (more on that later), and so I really appreciate having a few options to archive those cards for when they will be optimally useful. With Labwork, Ganymede Archivist, and Hidden Stash, I can save a Hunting Witch or Full Moon for the ideal combo or a Lost in the Woods or Scrambler Storm for more utility at the perfect moment. Either way, the little bit of archiving goes a long way in this deck.
Lost in the Woods: It’s pretty clear that board control is something this deck is lacking. Thankfully, the board control that it does have is perfectly suited for this deck. For small threats like Ember Imp and Professor Sutterkin, this deck can use damage from nerve blast or fighting to take them off the board but when something like an Ether Spider or Vaultkeeper comes down, that’s a different story. Trying to kill larger with damage will be an arduous task that will likely take multiple turns, making Lost in the Woods a perfect answer because it can remove any creature while getting around elusive, destroy effects, and discard interaction. The added benefit of shuffling Urchin, Dust Pixie, or Dr. Escotera from my own side back into my deck is just icing on the cake.
Scrambler Storm: With most of the cards serving to generate aember, Cadrich doesn’t pack a whole lot of utility, which is why I appreciate having a Scrambler Storm to help me get out of tough situations. Especially in the late-game, preventing an opponent from playing Miasma, Too Much to Protect, Effervescent Principle, etc. can be huge for forcing the last key. Against other quick rush decks, preventing a Key Charge or Key Abduction can buy the one turn needed to win the game myself. Even if it is just played for an aember in the early- or mid-game Scrambler Storm still has the potential to slow down opponents pretty significantly.
What I Don’t Like
We all know that no deck is completely perfect, and Cadrich is certainly no exception. In my testing, I’ve found a number of weaknesses that I have to be cognizant of to play at my best.
Situational Untamed: Most of the best rush decks have a ton of cards that can generate aember, meaning that they can easily make 6 or 7 every turn without relying on drawing certain combos of cards in the right order. For this deck, most of the aember generation relies on the 2x Full Moon and 1x Hunting Witch, relying on having other creatures available for me to play. Since so much of the aember generation lies in these 3 cards, I really can’t afford to play any of them sub-optimally. This means I often have to hold onto untamed cards for a couple turns in hopes of drawing one or two more cards to have a really explosive aember generation turn, rather than just playing them out as fast as I can. This also means that if all 3 of these cards end up at the bottom of my deck, it will likely be a pretty rough match, especially against an opponent who is also trying to rush to victory as fast as possible.
No Board Wipe: Board control in this deck is a very finite resource, so it generally has to ignore creatures played by opponents unless they are directly inhibiting aember generation. While this is fine if an opponent is only playing one or two threatening creatures every so often, when opponents bring out massive boards of creatures there’s little that can be done since all of the board control only hits one or two targets. If an opponent manages to get a full board of creatures out by turn 3 or 4, it better just hope it can stumble across the finish line before they start reaping.
No Key Cheat: Cadrich is hurting for a Key Charge, Chota Hazri, or hell, even a Key of Darkness. This deficiency hurts the most against other rush decks when games are neck-and-neck, often coming down to a single turn making the difference between victory and defeat. But even outside of game-winning moments, having a key cheat means less sitting around with giant piles of aember as well as a way to circumvent effects like Miasma or aember steal/loss engines like Pit Demon and Groke. Without a key cheat, generating aember can feel dangerous in this deck and the risk of stumbling just before the finish is much more real.
How to Beat It
It may not be a very good idea to explicitly tell the world the best strategies for defeating me the day before the vault tour but I’ve always provided strategies for playing against these archetypes, so I’m not gonna stop now.
Board Threats: As I’ve said a couple times now, board control is very limited with Cadrich, so consistently presenting threats like Ember Imp and Faygin is incredibly valuable. Ether Spider and Shadow Self are especially difficult to deal with since hitting them with a nerve blast is laughable. If you can put an Ember Imp next to a Shadow Self? Forget about it.
Wide Capture: Cards that capture a lot of aember onto themselves like Drumble, Gatekeeper, or Aubade the Grim aren’t a huge problem for Cadrich since there is a little bit of spot removal and if need be, all fighting can be focused on that single target. When that captured aember is spread across an entire board of creatures, however, the lack of a board wipe makes it nearly impossible to get back. This makes Pandemonium and Unguarded Camp incredibly valuable against Cadrich, as well as effects like Pile of Skulls and Equalize that can otherwise distribute captured aember.
While I could go on giving ways to defeat me at the vault tour, I think I’ll end it there and keep some of those to myself. If you’ll be at Gencon as well, hopefully I get to meet you and forge some keys (I’ll be in the yellow team ReapOut shirt). For everyone unable to make it this time, I’ll see you again next week with more metagame discussion. Until then, happy forging!