This past weekend marked the halfway point for the inaugural Skirmish season. While the season comprises of both Blitz and Welcome to Rathe Sealed, we have certainly been seeing most events be Blitz, with the spotlight falling on the 40-card constructed format. While Sealed is a great format, particularly in my opinion Welcome to Rathe, Blitz events are giving us the opportunity to see a metagame developing over the Skirmish season and give players and fans some great lists and results to dissect and discuss.
Today, I’ll be giving an overview of the metagame after the first four weeks of Blitz Skirmishes, spotlighting some of the top contending deck lists. I’ll also provide a bit of a preview and some thoughts on where I think the metagame will head in the final four weeks of Skirmish as we approach the much-anticipated Monarch spoiler season and pre-release/release in late April!
Weeks one through four have seen a large number of Dorinthea and Ira, Crimson Haze putting up results with numerous Top 8s between them. Dorinthea seemed to hit pace as the early “one to beat,” taking the most first places over the period, particular in the first two weeks. Ira has been evening up the score over weeks three and four, with a few wins in online and physical Skirmish events around the world.
The popular builds of Dorinthea have certainly been go-tall variants looking to combat Ira by dropping all attack actions which play into Flic Flak by going wide in favor of bigger and increased numbers of attack reactions.
One of the key cards for these go-tall Dorinthea decks has been Overpower (Red). In a format where heroes start with 20 life or fewer, a six damage attack reaction is a significant chunk of that life total. What makes Overpower so good is that it can help the Warrior decks push over the top of an opponent over-defending for three defense, where cards like Ironsong Response (Red) or Out for Blood (Red) wouldn’t do it. That’s all still for one card, provided you have the resources. Energy Potion a real partner-in-crime for Overpower in this format for pushing damage from nowhere into Ira and the mirror match.
The other key cards for tall Dorinthea certainly seem to be Steelblade Supremacy and Sharpen Steel (Red). The latter is key in a deck that now can find itself resource hungry, more so than before, with cards like Overpower and Rout. In addition, Sharpen Steel (Red) can be a key way to present damage without the cost of a resources, which are so precious when battling Wizard, allowing you to leave resources up for your Arcane Barrier equipment.
Class: Warrior Hero: Dorinthea Weapons: Dawnblade Equipment: Arcanite Skullcap, Braveforge Bracers, Courage of Bladehold, Fyendal's Spring Tunic, Gambler's Gloves, Nullrune Gloves, Nullrune Hood, Nullrune Robe, Refraction Bolters (1) Biting Blade (red) (2) Ironsong Response (red) (2) Out for Blood (red) (2) Overpower (red) (2) Rout (red) (2) Sharpen Steel (red) (2) Spoils of War (red) (2) Steelblade Supremacy (red) (2) Stroke of Foresight (red) (2) Warrior's Valor (red) (2) Ironsong Determination (yellow) (2) Singing Steelblade (yellow) (1) Twinning Blade (yellow) (1) Dauntless (blue) (1) Energy Potion (blue) (2) Glint the Quicksilver (blue) (1) Heart of Fyendal (blue) (2) Hit and Run (blue) (2) Ironsong Response (blue) (2) Out for Blood (blue) (2) Overpower (blue) (1) Steelblade Shunt (blue) (2) Warrior's Valor (blue) See the full deck at: https://fabtcg.com/decklists/matt-rogers-warrior-deck---nexus-nelson-skirmish---26221/
Ira, Crimson Haze
The consistency and flexibility of Ira, Crimson Haze as well as the fairly straightforward game plan are all reasons why this hero has been one of the most played and successful heroes through this Skirmish season to date. The ability to chop and change a handful of reds and yellow cards in the deck to target the meta each week shouldn’t be understated. Ira players can easily move from one week being focused on the mirror with Heron’s Flight and Life for a Life (Red) to the next setting up for Warrior players with increased red defense reactions like Sink Below (Red) and Fate Foreseen (Red).
Ira can’t have a good matchup with every hero, with certain cards shining and others feel like liabilities in different matchups. The game quickly revolves around identifying which decks to target for each event and on any given week, as to make sure not to get caught out with the wrong support package around the Harmonized Kodachi attack plan. Ira is a great hero to jump straight into Skirmishes with because of the base level, simple game plan revolving around your daggers followed by red attack actions such as Pounding Gale and Command and Conquer.
Class: Ninja Hero: Ira, Crimson Haze Weapons: Harmonized Kodachi, Zephyr Needle Equipment: Breaking Scales, Fyendal's Spring Tunic, Mask of Momentum, Nullrune Boots, Nullrune Gloves, Nullrune Hood, Nullrune Robe, Snapdragon Scalers (2) Command and Conquer (red) (2) Drone of Brutality (red) (2) Enlightened Strike (red) (2) Flic Flak (red) (2) Flying Kick (red) (1) Heron's Flight (red) (2) Pounding Gale (red) (2) Sigil of Solace (red) (2) Sink Below (red) (2) Torrent of Tempo (red) (2) Flic Flak (yellow) (1) Sink Below (yellow) (2) Springboard Somersault (yellow) (2) Crane Dance (blue) (2) Find Center (blue) (2) Flic Flak (blue) (2) Fluster Fist (blue) (2) Rising Knee Thrust (blue) (2) Rushing River (blue) (2) Whelming Gustwave (blue) (2) Whisper of the Oracle (blue) See the full deck at: https://fabtcg.com/decklists/dante-delfico-ninja-deck---bento-gaming-skirmish---8321/
The other Blitz heroes who have looked to push their way into the spotlight through the first four weeks are the destructive Rhinar and the master of lightning, Kano. Perhaps both heroes just lacking a bit of the consistency of Ira, Crimson Haze and Dorinthea right now in Blitz. However, you can’t deny either’s explosive potential in any given game!
Rhinar has taken down one Skirmish already and has been featured in the Top 8 of more than a few others during the first half of this Skirmish season. Mandible Claws are the weapons of choice for most Brute players in Blitz so far due to the synergy with Bloodrush Bellow, which can knock over an opposing hero in one turn from over 10 life with just a few other cards in tow. The introduction of both Massacre and Beast Within from Crucible of War have helped to enable these big swinging turns with multiple intimidate more consistently.
I wrote a deck guide on Mandible Claws Brute in Blitz a few weeks ago, which you can find here. This past weekend, I took the below list to a third place finish in the ChannelFireball Skirmish event, which at the time of writing is the largest Skirmish to date with 128 entrants!
Class: Brute Hero: Rhinar Weapons: Mandible Claw, Mandible Claw Equipment: Arcanite Skullcap, Barkbone Strapping, Gambler's Gloves, Goliath Gauntlet, Heartened Cross Strap, Nullrune Boots, Nullrune Gloves, Scabskin Leathers, Skullhorn (2) Alpha Rampage (red) (2) Barraging Beatdown (red) (2) Command and Conquer (red) (2) Massacre (red) (2) Savage Feast (red) (2) Savage Swing (red) (2) Barraging Beatdown (yellow) (2) Barraging Big Horn (yellow) (2) Beast Within (yellow) (2) Bloodrush Bellow (yellow) (1) Riled Up (yellow) (2) Savage Swing (yellow) (2) Smash Instinct (yellow) (2) Wrecker Romp (yellow) (2) Barraging Beatdown (blue) (2) Energy Potion (blue) (2) Primeval Bellow (blue) (2) Reckless Swing (blue) (2) Sand Sketched Plan (blue) (1) Savage Feast (blue) (2) Wrecker Romp (blue)
The psychological hurdle of starting on 15 life can be daunting in a format where decks can output huge damage in just one turn. Kano was the deck to beat going into the Auckland Blitz Calling 2021, but was overshadowed by six copies of Ira, Crimson Haze in the Top 8. However, the reliance on Stir the Aetherwinds (Red) and Forked Lightning to overcome Arcane Barrier 4 seems to be proving to put Kano in a bit of a tough spot in these bigger Skirmish events, as players have to battle for some consistency over eight to ten rounds if they want to win it all.
Cards such as Aether Flare (Red) in the Warrior match up and Tome of Fyendal to gain important life against Ira all seem to be commonplace in Wizard decks this season. Cindering Foresight (Red) is a card I think is being underplayed right now and it could be just what Kano players need to find a consistent way to force damage at the exact time it can be most impactful.
There’s no doubt that Kano takes some reps and understanding of your outs to play to, but the rewards can be huge for doing so. So far, a handful of Kano players have made Top 8s. However, last weekend a Wizard did take down a Skirmish in Canada. Will we see another Wizard this season taste Skirmish glory?
Class: Wizard Hero: Kano Weapons: Crucible of Aetherweave Equipment: Arcanite Skullcap, Fyendal's Spring Tunic, Ironrot Gauntlet, Ironrot Legs, Metacarpus Node, Robe of Rapture, Storm Striders, Talismanic Lens (2) Aether Flare (red) (2) Aether Spindle (red) (2) Blazing Aether (red) (2) Forked Lightning (red) (2) Snapback (red) (2) Stir the Aetherwinds (red) (2) Tome of Aetherwind (red) (2) Voltic Bolt (red) (1) Chain Lightning (yellow) (2) Lesson in Lava (yellow) (2) Sonic Boom (yellow) (2) Tome of Fyendal (yellow) (2) Aether Flare (blue) (2) Energy Potion (blue) (1) Eye of Ophidia (blue) (2) Gaze the Ages (blue) (2) Reverberate (blue) (1) Rousing Aether (blue) (1) Scalding Rain (blue) (2) Snapback (blue) (2) Voltic Bolt (blue) (2) Whisper of the Oracle (blue) See the full deck at: https://fabtcg.com/decklists/dominick-rodrigue-wizard-deck---bento-gaming-skirmish---8321/
A handful of other heroes are on the fringes, possibly poised to make a name for themselves in the final weeks of this inaugural Skirmish season. Dash, Bravo, Azalea, Viserai and Kassai, Cintari Sellsword have all seen some reasonable levels of play and could be capable. Kassai even has a Skirmish win under her belt already! Katsu though seems to be no match for Ira in the Ninja pecking order for Blitz.
Class: Warrior Hero: Kassai, Cintari Sellsword Weapons: Cintari Saber Equipment: Arcanite Skullcap, Braveforge Bracers, Courage of Bladehold, Fyendal's Spring Tunic, Nullrune Gloves, Nullrune Hood, Nullrune Robe, Refraction Bolters (1) Command and Conquer (red) (2) Dauntless (red) (1) Driving Blade (red) (2) Enlightened Strike (red) (2) Hit and Run (red) (2) Out for Blood (red) (1) Overpower (red) (1) Push Forward (red) (2) Sharpen Steel (red) (2) Sigil of Solace (red) (2) Spoils of War (red) (2) Stroke of Foresight (red) (1) Warrior's Valor (red) (2) Cash In (yellow) (2) Hit and Run (yellow) (2) Springboard Somersault (yellow) (1) Dauntless (blue) (2) Driving Blade (blue) (2) Glint the Quicksilver (blue) (2) Hit and Run (blue) (1) Overpower (blue) (2) Pursuit of Knowledge (blue) (2) Steelblade Shunt (blue) (1) Warrior's Valor (blue) See the full deck at: https://fabtcg.com/decklists/nicholas-murphy-warrior-deck---gamers-haven-skirmish---220221/
For the other young Crucible of War heroes, Benji, Kavdaen, Data Doll, Shiyana and Kayo players have had much less time to play, learn and develop decks. Perhaps we might still see someone find a strategy to takedown a Blitz Skirmish with one of these five before it all wraps up!
I’m excited to see what happens as this Skirmish season draws to a close. I expect we’ll continue to see large amounts of Dorinthea and Ira, Crimson Haze, with the later perhaps moving to the top of the Skirmish wins column in just two weeks’ time. Ira players are adapting and learning, plus I believe the deck has much more room to maneuver for a specific metagame than Warrior right now.
Kano and Rhinar are two heroes I feel that are probably being underplayed, but at the same time they don’t have as linear and easy to execute game plans as Ira and Dorinthea. These two heroes have all the tools though, so I fully expect to see a few more Skirmish wins each for these two before April 12.
The other remaining heroes I think will continue to struggle in this format for two reasons. First, they have a really tough matchup with either one of the two top heroes right now. Second, the Skirmish season is fairly short and players are learning this format for the very first time, so I don’t expect to see people jumping from hero to hero or deck to deck this season. Instead, they’ll be focusing on honing their skills for their chosen class. However, I leave this article off with one outside call, a longshot if you will. Kavdaen, Trader of Skins will make the finals of a Skirmish – there you have it, I’ve made my call and now let’s see who rises to it!