As Uprising hits the shelves across North America, players are naturally delving into the question of how it will settle into the Classic Constructed format. Players across the world will be switching from delving into an unknown Limited format to testing an unexplored metagame headed into ProTour Lille. At the time of writing this article, SCG CON will offer the first glimpses of what the new metagame will look like and provide a large guiding hand to testing groups everywhere.
Before we talk about where we’re headed, let’s talk about where we’ve been. Starvo and Chane have both been shown the proverbial door and the metagame, excluding Uprising, is looking very similar to the Nationals format six months prior. That is to say the three old pillars of the format are Guardian, Runeblade and Prism with a sprinkle of Kano and Lexi in the mix. This is further demonstrated by the recent event in Ohio where the top three most representative archetypes were the aforementioned. If we were to rank every deck based on previous knowledge, my metagame tier list would look something like this.
- Tier 1 – Prism, Oldhim, Briar, Viserai
- Tier 2 – Lexi, Kano, Bravo, Dash, Boltyn
- Unknowns – Fai, Dromai, Isylander
The newest heroes will obviously make the biggest splash in the metagame, but before we delve into where they fit into the metagame, we should first come to a better understanding of where the metagame starts. In my subsequent articles, I will do an individual deep dive into each of the new heroes to fully flesh out their strengths, weaknesses and places in the metagame, but for now, let’s focus on what I like to call the “old guard” of the metagame.
With Chane gone, the throne for best Runeblade hero sits empty. Although Briar seemed poised to reclaim her spot on the iron throne, a surprise comeback story from the recently neutered Viserai camp is taking place. Without having to contend with the speed of Chane and Starvo, Viserai once again emerges as a real contender.
Even though he lost access to the potent Skeleta plus Sonata combination, it doesn’t mean that he lost the ability to output some serious damage. The buffs that Viserai had gotten during Everfest in the form of Swarming Gloomveil and Revel in Runeblood still exist and are extremely potent threats. Furthermore, despite popular belief, Viserai still maintains his ability to OTK full turtle Guardian builds such as Oldhim. Even though you do not get the large Sonata turns, the lack of offensive capability from Oldhim means that you can build up to 30-plus Runechants, ending the game with a one turn combo of Ninth Blade and Spellbound Creepers into a go-wide turn. Aether Ironweave is no Bloodsheath Skeleta, but two free resources still will get you a free Rattle Bones!
Briar was a solid contender last format, even finding a spot in the Pro Tour NJ Top 8. Now while Briar did not lose anything heading into this format, it also did not gain anything from the latest set. The deck can still output a high amount of constant pressure, while Channel Mount Heroic still remains one of the most offensively potent threats in the game. Don’t be surprised when Briar continues to play a crucial role in the metagame. This hero has been talked about ad nauseam so I will leave it at that.
Oldhim and Prism make up the remainder of the old guard in the new metagame. With two-thirds of the newest Uprising heroes being extremely redline focused, you can bet Oldhim will continue to see play in the new format. Classically known for its extremely strong game against Runeblade, it will likely continue to be the fun police in the new format against the Runeblade menaces while also being a potent player against the new Ninja threat Fai. Although people are touting Dromai’s prowess against Oldhim, much in the same capacity as Prism, don’t forget that Dromai follows the comic theme of being heavily reliant on redline cards, a strategy that is very susceptible to a well-timed Winter’s Wail!
Prism, classically a deck that preyed on the slower, action point-deficient Guardian decks, got some significant upgrades in Everfest that made it a real deck able to stand on its own two feet. Prism also being an Illusionist got several upgrades in Uprising including a new arm piece and Frightmare, which can serve as a devastating follow-up attack to any Herald in the Guardian matchups. Despite this, there have been mumblings from diehard Prism players across the world that this is one of the most hostile environments for Prism as the top decks seem to be Runeblade aggro focused with yet another prominent aggro deck being released in the form of Fai.
But if history has taught us one thing, its not to discount the queen of light. Just as people dismiss her she always finds a way back in the metagame to prove the haters wrong. There could very realistically be a world where Guardian decks rise up to squash the aggressive menaces, leaving the door wide open for a Prism invasion. Time will tell, but as the current frontrunner of the living legend race, I will borrow the words of Mark Twain and say that the reports of the death of Prism are greatly exaggerated.
Besides the three pillars of the old format we also have two decks with the potential to become the next big thing in the format, Lexi and Kano. The Wildfire-wielding Wizard needs no introduction as he made quite a splash at Pro Tour 1 in the hands of Team Arsenal Pass. Although Uprising did have a Wizard theme to it, I would argue Kano got the short end of the stick due to the majority of good Wizard cards requiring the Ice element requirement.
At first glance, Sift and Dampen seem to be the pickups for kano from Uprising. Sift allows Kano to fix dysfunctional hands by allowing the Wizard to mulligan two to four cards from their hand. It also further accelerated Kano’s already phenomenal ability to cycle through the deck to get to second cycle faster. Dampen is a card that I am also excited about should the prevalence of Kano mirrors or Iyslander matchups increase. It is a non-attack action that offers both offensive and defensive capabilities that will allow damage to be dealt while simultaneously offering protection against incoming arcane damage. It will be especially pesky coming from an Iyslander player able to play blue Dampen on demand during opponents turns.
However, Uprising is not without its downsides for our Wizard friend. If Blitz has taught us anything, it’s the power of Steadfast against the OTK potential of Kano. With Uprising, every deck will have access to their own mini steadfast in the form of Oasis Respite. With AB 2 and an Oasis Respite, it is functionally a “build your own” Steadfast, which is a super potent tool for defeating the Wildfire OTK turns. Its this author’s opinion that almost every deck should be running three Oasis Respite in your sideboard along with at least arcane barrier 2 if you want to be properly covered against your Kano matchups. However, even though Uprising has provided the tools to adequately counter the powerful Wizard, that doesn’t mean people will play them. People have historically had a propensity to hedge away from anti-Kano cards, and should that trend continue, it’s a matter of when, and not if we will see the powerful Wizard break through the tournament scene once again!
Lexi, the queen of Ice and Lightning, is the last hero that makes up our list. Championed by Canadian National Champion Yuki Lee Bender, the hero shows the most promise of any upcoming hero. Traditionally, Lexi has been quite powerful against other aggressive strategies due to her ability to offer high damage output with the combination of disruption afforded by Frostbite tokens. Where Lexi traditionally struggled has been versus defensive Guardian decks and the Prism matchup. Without an inherent weapon, the ability to pop any aura comes at the cost of an entire card. This puts Lexi at a resource disadvantage over a turn cycle should the aura have cost zero resources along with the traditional tempo woes that come with losing your action point after destroying an Aura. Lexi players have traditionally overcome this by leaning towards a more lean costed, aggressive game plan (Lightning focused), but it’s a double-edged sword as the further you move towards the Lightning theme, the more percentage points you give up against other aggressive decks due to the loss of disruption.
The other traditional weakness of Lexi has been against defensive Guardian decks. With the requirement of using a bow to shoot arrows, the number of attacks has always been limited in the Ranger class. This causes the capability of “go tall” turns to far outnumber the “go wide turns”, something that Guardians and their endless supply of defense reactions are very capable of defending.
Enter the newest toy that Lexi has picked up from Uprising, Insidious Chill. The combination of cards you will need is one or two Insidious Chills on the board along with one or two Amulet of Ice. The next step will be to wait for a big go-wide turn, leading with an Ice-fused arrow such as Chilling Icevein or Blizzard Bolt. This will trigger both Insidious Chill and Amulet of Ice, allowing Lexi to strip the Guardian player’s hand before they even get a chance to block! It will require some setup and finesse, but I can see a world where Lexi players are able to push through massive amounts of damage on these combo turns with Three of a Kind in order to circumvent the classic problems previously afforded to them by the Guardian menace.
Although we’re seeing a lot of familiar faces gracing the top tier deck, the ways they fit together and the best choices just below that top tier are changing fast. Now that we understand a little bit more about the established metagame headed into Uprising, we will continue next time with a deep dive into the newest heroes of Uprising, starting with Fai, Rising Rebellion!