With The Calling: Dallas Fort Worth upon us, there’s never been a better time to visit some options and ways for Lexi and Oldhim to beat Briar in Tales of Aria’s Sealed format. Since the earliest days of pre-release, Briar has emerged as the de facto boss of the format. Though Briar can certainly be beaten by the other two heroes in the set, they are partially hindered by the lack of reliable protection from arcane damage within the set. In this article, I’ll explore some ways to beat Briar as either Oldhim or Lexi in this exciting format.
While I usually try to see if I can build a good Briar deck from my sealed pool, I don’t panic if it isn’t in the cards. Many of my most powerful sealed pools from Tales of Aria have been either Lexi or Oldhim – there are many reasons to prioritize these heroes in this format if your card pool supports it.
In Tales of Aria sealed, Briar is trying to build and preserve tempo and pressure the opponent with various sources of physical and arcane damage. Power cards like Ball Lightning, Mark of Lightning, Singeing Steelblade (Red), Sigil of Suffering (Red) and more support this strategy of presenting lots of pressure, defending with Embodiment of Earth tokens and trying to close out the game with “unblockable” arcane damage.
To disrupt the Briar player, we need to present more damage or negative effects than they can comfortably block while also denying their ability to fuse their attacks, and play the attack (with go again) and non-attack action required to enable Rosetta Thorn and it’s bonus effect of presenting two arcane damage on top of the two physical. Briar is dependent on her ability to deal damage with her attack action cards (and their sources of arcane damage) to be able to efficiently defend and hold tempo on the following turn.
Naturally, ice can be one of the best tools to disrupt what Briar is trying to do. Taxing resources with Frostbite tokens and forcing cards out of hand with cards like Winter’s Bite are great tools to limit Briar’s next turn, limiting her ability to play out four or five card hands as effectively. Both Oldhim and Lexi have powerful sources of ice-based attacks that excel at this effect. As a generic card, Icy Encounter (Red) is much better against Briar than it may look thanks to the number of block two cards that are present in the set. As a rare, Ice Quake (Yellow or Red) is an exceptional card to push both additional damage and disruption from frostbite tokens.
Embracing lightning, Lexi can leverage powerful lightning attacks and an aggressive strategy with her hero ability to attack with something like Heaven’s Claw (Red) for five with go again, then following it up with an arrow loaded with Shiver to push more damage through or rip cards from hand. Look to use disruptive on-hit effects from Lexi’s arrows to hold and preserve the tempo, and keep Briar from catching her breath. Non-arrow lightning attack cards like Heaven’s Claw (Red) and Shock Striker (Red) played from Arsenal can be a great source of go-again for Lexi and enable more pressure alongside arrow attacks.
On the earth side, Oldhim can combo off cards like Earthlore Surge (any color) and Thump (Red) to push a lot of damage, and take an extra card from Briar’s hand thanks to its dominate ability. Cracker Jax can be a reliable and on-demand source of turning on Thump’s effect when you need it in a pinch. If you suspect Briar is setting up for a Rosetta Thorn (2+2) swing, you can use Oldhim’s defense reaction with an earth card to prevent the next two damage you would be dealt this turn, just make sure you don’t try to use this in front of auxiliary sources of damage coming off a Ball Lightning. Your opponent will get to choose the order of the replacement effects and theirs will stop your damage prevention from functioning.
Certain majestics in the set may serve to provide incremental power improvements to your sealed deck of choice. Of course, with one card only representing 3.33 percent of a 30-card deck, this is less impactful than having an overall consistent and powerful deck. Cards like Endless Winter, Oaken Old, Tear Asunder, Light it Up, Pulse of Isenloft/Volthaven, Voltaire and Winter’s Wail can be incentivizing reasons to pick either Lexi or Oldhim when opening up your sealed pool.
Don’t depend on certain majestics (or even any at all) showing up, but look to capitalize on them when they do. The majestic drop rate is roughly one in four packs, so you can expect about one majestic in every sealed pool. Of course, there will be sealed pools where you have multiple, and pools where you have none.
Whichever deck you decide to sleeve up, make sure you have enough cards to fuse, a pitch curve to support paying your costs and enough power cards to reliably close out the game. If you have practiced enough sealed, then 30 minutes is plenty of time for deck construction and to get everything sleeved up. Don’t forget that you can tweak your deck between your matches for the day as well – your entire pool of cards opened is available to use throughout the event.
If it isn’t working out, don’t be afraid to make some swaps and try to tweak it on the fly. For Oldhim players, make sure you have plenty of blues (12 to 15) to support the cost of your cards and make sure you can reliably swing Titan’s Fist if you need to. If you’re playing as Lexi, make sure you have enough yellow and red arrows (and supporting non-arrow attacks) to not run out of gas as the game approaches its end.
Good luck to everyone who will be playing alongside me at The Calling: DFW! I am beyond excited to enjoy the Tales of Aria sealed format and to get to meet so many people in our awesome community. What tips and tricks do you have for beating Briar in this format? Join the conversation and let me know in the comments below!