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Discussing the Dominance of Lightning Briar

 

With all the recent comparisons to Chane, Lightning Briar entered the meta with a bang, winning multiple national level events back-to-back. However, the comparisons to Monarch’s old boogeyman are far from justified. Rather, it has been a perfect storm of the Seeds of Agony bannings, a new card pool and an early constructed meta which has allowed this deck to shine so brightly. Let’s break down Lightning Briar’s game plan, along with how we can adjust to handle the deck. 

 

Lightning Briar centers around Briar’s ability to leverage breakpoints to create Embodiments of Lightning and push through as many Embodiments of Earth as possible. This makes Briar unique in the sense that she can continuously gain go-again and output wide aggressive turns, whilst being extremely difficult to pivot into due to her having usually multiple Embodiments of Earth stacked up after a large attack. Even then, if your pivot turn doesn’t present hand disruption to the Briar player, they can usually just soak the damage and move onto attacking again with four or five cards. Towards the endgame, their victory becomes evident as they’ll be able to gain value out of Embodiments of Earth and keep hold of more cards than you will be able to on their offensive turns. 

Since the deck runs extremely aggressive, there’s very little plan B. If the deck can’t finish the game quickly enough, or the hand size is often disrupted, then the Briar deck falls apart quickly. Not blocking is hence a key part of this deck’s game plan, as the turns won’t be the same without the aid of every card available to it.

This also leads to the important point that for this deck: the five-card hands add incredible value to its offense. With five cards, the deck can easily play two non-attacks in a turn, and effectively spread-out damage between wide and tall attacks. This makes blocking incredibly difficult, especially when you start throwing arcane in the mix with Rosetta Thorn, Arcanic Shockwave, Runechants, etc. The leaked damage through the game from the opponent will add up eventually to the point where your life lead should let you run away with the latter half of the game, even if you used up many threats. 

Lastly, the Briar deck can rely on Rosetta Thorn as an extremely effective damage source off a Tunic resource, or to pitch and get those stronger reds back to the bottom of the deck without sacrificing much. The Rosetta 2+2 damage output will be available to you almost every turn, and is many times key to finishing off games with certainty as your opponent can no longer block the two arcane value. 

 

Header - The Card Pool

Snatch (Red)Scar for a Scar (Red)Plunder Run (Red)

 

Chucking away many class cards, Lightning Briar instead focuses on the raw power of zero cost, four damage attacks. When stacked up with multiple on-hit effects, cards like Entwine Lightning, Snatch, Scar for a Scar, Lightning Surge, etc, can be extremely dangerous. Layer these on-hit effects over the course of a wide turn, and you quickly have a very strong offensive presence.

However, the issue for these cards was always finding ways to give them go-again and proper support alongside their aggressive costing. For Briar however, who wants to be playing non-attack actions often, this is a forgone issue. With the playing of two non-attacks, she can gain her Embodiment of Lightning token, solving the go-again issue, and she can also support the cards in their damage output and on-hit’s by choosing her non-attacks to be cards like Nimblism, Plunder Run, Captain’s Call, etc. As a general rule, almost every single card in the deck will cost zero, outside of perhaps a few six-attacks to help with the Prism matchups. 

 

Header - Beating the Deck

As bad as Chane was, Lightining Briar is no way as strong. The deck relies heavily on it’s aggressive costings, which means any hand disruption breaks down the Briar deck immensely. Ideally, getting the Briar player to pitch their red cards due to Frostbites, or lose them simply to blocking or discard effects, is a great way to neuter the deck. Although some have tried control, I don’t always recommend it unless you don’t have a directly better option available to you. For most classes however, they have some manner to force blocks out of their opponent. Leveraging these cards while blocking out as much as you can from Briar will be an important part of the matchup for those of you in these classes. 

In addition to this, some heroes such as Chane, and some instances of Lightning Lexi, can combat the deck in a face-to-face aggro matchup. The important part to both these decks is getting the right set-up available consistently. For Chane, really relying on the turns from Shackle three to seven will be key in out-valuing the Lightning Briar player as the game goes on. For Lexi player, consistently trying to output five or six cards hands with your damage stack effects is equally key. 

 

Header - Why Did the Deck Do So Well?

I’ve heard a lot about Runeblades simply being too strong or the design space being “broken” recently. I think this is far from true. Although split damage is a strong mechanic, it is far from the reason that these decks have performed well.

Runeblades are almost always at their strongest points when they have a lot of access to go-again, meaning having a multitude of cards and resources to play is extremely beneficial to them, more so then other classes. You can see this trend in Viserai, Chane and Briar. The five-card hands they have are usually far more ahead of curve then any other classes. This is due to those hands having the ability to leverage the benefits of non-attacks so much more then other classes can. The extra benefit they get from playing these cards means that the more cards they can play, the more they can leverage their innate power. This almost universally makes Runeblades strong as aggro decks, as they can continuously win bouts of five-card hands being throw into one another. 

In early metas, it has been universally seen in FAB and other TCG’s that aggro decks generally do well. The meta hasn’t had the chance to finalize its control builds yet, and the slower midrange players don’t really know what they are going to be dealing with. This means highly aggressive decks putting all their eggs into one basket can blowout these early builds that are built to fight against anything and everything.

There isn’t a response crafted to the aggressive builds just yet. This is exactly what allows Lightning Briar to live and breathe. Since there was so little Ice heroes and disruption in the meta, the zero cost cards had a haven to blowout the rest of the decks. As people react to the success of this deck however, and the Oldhim and Ice Lexi players come out to play, you should see a drastic drop off in Lightning Briar’s ability to go-wide.

 

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