Skirmish season is upon us again, and it’s little surprise that aggressive lightning-based Briar decks will be showing up in droves to the format. There’s never been a better time to sleeve up a deck that has a great and efficient game plan against everything Briar is trying to accomplish with either pure aggression, or a split-damage approach that prioritizes going wide and attacking with Rosetta Thorn each and every turn for two and two, overloading their opponent’s defenses and ability to protect themselves against the split-axis approach efficiently while still being able to retort with a reasonable counterattack. Who else would be better for this than a Bravo Blitz deck?
1 Bravo/Romping Club (Regular) 1 Anothos (Rainbow Foil) 1 Titan's Fist 1 Arcanite Skullcap (Rainbow Foil) 1 Crater Fist (Regular) 1 Mage Master Boots (Regular) 1 Nullrune Boots (Regular) 1 Nullrune Gloves (Regular) 1 Nullrune Hood (Regular) 1 Rampart of the Ram's Head (Rainbow Foil) 1 Tectonic Plating (Rainbow Foil) 2 Blessing of Deliverance (Red) (Regular) 2 Crippling Crush (Regular) 2 Pummel (Red) (Regular) 2 Sigil of Solace (Red) (Regular) 2 Sink Below (Red) (Regular) 2 Spinal Crush (Regular) 1 Remembrance (Regular) 1 Righteous Cleansing (Regular) 1 Tome of Fyendal (Regular) 2 Buckling Blow (Blue) (Regular) 2 Chokeslam (Blue) (Regular) 2 Cranial Crush (Regular) 2 Crush the Weak (Blue) (Regular) 2 Debilitate (Blue) (Regular) 1 Heart of Fyendal (Rainbow Foil) 2 Rouse the Ancients (Regular) 2 Show Time! (Regular) 2 Stamp Authority (Regular) 2 Staunch Response (Blue) (Regular) 2 Tear Asunder (Regular) 2 Unmovable (Blue) (Regular)
Both Bravo and Oldhim have the ability to defend themselves against huge bursts of damage both from tall and wide attacks. Rampart of the Ram’s Head provides an excellent answer to Rosetta Thorn, especially with two pieces of Nullrune equipment and the ability to prevent three damage from an activated Thorn with just a single blue pitch.
While Oldhim certainly has the more defensive package and capabilities overall, Bravo does have better access to life gain thanks to Blessing of Deliverance (Red). The entire life gain package is present in this list through the form of Blessing of Deliverance, Sigil of Solace, Tome of Fyendal, Heart of Fyendal and Remembrance targeting Blessing of Deliverance or Tome if that recursion is needed.
With ice decks pressuring Ira players (arguably Bravo’s worst matchup) into changing their strategies or even ditching the deck all together, it’s a great time to sleeve up Bravo for this Skirmish season thanks to his strong, proactive game plans, and a favorable or neutral matchup against the rest of the Blitz meta.
My build is certainly more controlling, and is designed to lean in on heavy life gain and defensive strategies to create the life/armor reserves necessary to flip the tempo and pressure aggressive decks like Briar at crucial moments. Spinal Crush, especially when paired with dominate or a Pummel (Red), also all but guarantees you can shut down your opponent’s plan if they decide to take the Duskblade approach against you.
Let’s review the deck and some of it’s strategic choices.
Note, you do have the option of keeping Mage Master Boots in against Briar and trading Crater Fist for Nullrune Gloves. The life gain from Tome of Fyendal is significant enough and is especially powerful with go again, but Tome blocks well enough for two, and pitches for two which represents either a Pummel or activation of Bravo’s ability. Having the extra armor density is akin to gaining life and getting go again from Tome. It’s fine to play your Tome from Arsenal without go again if that means setting up an Arsenal slot on your next turn and having some extra armor and life to back up your other defenses.
If you are new to Guardian or control or just want to brush up on your skills, I’d recommend reading my Control 101 article to get a feel for some of the fundamentals and concepts required to pilot Bravo well, especially a defensive control build like this one. If you’re not new to Guardian, then some of the core package of this deck will look familiar.
The core strategy in many matches is to keep life and armor healthy through the early game, block heavily and grind away your opponent’s life and armor with Anothos. Do this and setup to a point in the game where you are able to take a big hit to keep a four or five card hand and play two massive dominated attacks back-to-back – such as both copies of Crippling Crush.
In my updated Bravo Skirmish list, old favorites like Pummel, Spinal Crush, Stamp Authority and Show Time! are joined by newer tech like Tear Asunder and Rouse the Ancients. Tear Asunder provides a fantastic late-game win condition in the form of being able to add dominate and a nasty discard on-hit effect on Anothos, usually threatening seven. With many attacks to pair it with, Rouse the Ancients provides consistent value, or just a three-cost pitch card for the numerous effects in the deck that care about the number three. To more reliably play out your Rouse the Ancients, try to set it up from your Arsenal.
Use Tectonic Plating to create a Seismic Surge token each and every turn. This will enable Anothos for six if you have a second three or greater cost blue to pitch toward your hammer. Don’t be afraid to pitch your Crippling Crush early in the game to Tectonic Plating; it will be stronger as the game goes on when you hit the second cycle of your deck. Blessing of Deliverance is another fantastic option to gain value from all the three-cost cards, enable your Anothos for six, and gain insight into your next turn after you reveal cards from its effect.
Usually, Pummel is rather telegraphed for your opponent when you set it up as a reaction for one of your attack action cards. This is usually in the form of you creating a Seismic Surge token, floating two resources, then paying the costs for your attack action card. Or just holding up one card in hand and having a card in Arsenal, or simply two cards in hand after playing your attack action.
Fortunately, you can sneak massive damage through with Pummel on your Anothos. This card combination, and its very existence as a line of play is fantastic and forces opponents to make some tough decisions. When paired with Anothos, it can very quickly go from four to 10 damage in the blink of an eye. Swing your Anothos for four, pitching a three or greater-cost card. When it comes time for attack reactions, pitch another three or greater cost card to play your Pummel. Anothos always checks your pitch zone to see if its criteria is true. In this case, Anothos goes from four to six from its own effect, then gets another +4 from Pummel, bringing the total up to a staggering 10. If your opponent gets too greedy, this combination can easily close out the game and win it all.
Overall, if you’re looking for a powerhouse deck that can contest Briar head-on, look no further than Guardian. There are certainly very enticing reasons to choose either Bravo or Oldhim in this season’s meta. I would argue that Bravo is the easier of the two to play, but both are rewarding in their own ways. Good luck to you in this Skirmish season, and I hope you enjoy my list should you choose to play Bravo this season!