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The FAB Classic Constructed Meta After the Stubby Hammerers Ban

This article originally started as a deck guide for everything that is Fai, but that quickly changed after the emergency banning of Stubby Hammerers. So instead let’s talk about what the metagame will look like moving forward post-ban and into the Pro Tour. 

Let’s first start with aggro decks and a quick introduction to our newest Ninja, Fai, Rising Rebellion. While his capability of dealing 40+ damage turns has been neutered, Fai still remains a solid top contender in the new metagame. Fundamentally, Fai is a go-wide aggro deck that revolves around Phoenix Flame and Searing Emberblade. At first glance, Phoenix Flame may look feeble, but synergistically it produces wide combat chains that make Fai near impossible to fatigue. – a feat that was not possible by aggro decks that preceded the Draconic Ninja. 

Head Jab (Red) (Regular)Leg Tap (Red) (Regular)

In order to understand both Fai and the metagame, let’s break down the anatomy of the deck. The deck is broken into three key components: Head Jabs/Leg Taps, payoffs and effects that pump up the damage of the combat chain. Head Jab is a term used for a zero-cost, three-powered attack with go again named after the original WTR Ninja attack with Leg Tap following the same trend. These two cards function as important starters to the Fai deck in order to enable the rest of the combat chain.

 

 

Brand with Cinderclaw (Red) (Regular)Ronin Renegade (Red) (Regular)Rising Resentment (Red) (Regular)Soaring Strike (Red) (Regular)Spreading Flames (Regular)Mounting Anger (Red) (Regular)Dust Runner Outlaw (Red) (Regular)

Every hand must have at least one starter card above in order to continue the combat chain with a Searing Emberblade. The zero-cost starters are particularly powerful as they allow you to play Searing Emberblade, return Phoenix Flame and finish the chain off with a rupture card, such as Lava Burst, from only a single blue pitch! 

Art of War (Regular)Spreading Flames (Regular)

For the pump effects, we have Art of War and Spreading Flames. Art of War needs no introduction. A staple since its release, its ability to both turn medium hands into good hands and produce massive turns is well known. In a deck that is looking to go wide while also requiring a starter, it’s a no-brainer in terms of inclusion. These cards enable the power turns of the deck allowing Fai to reach upwards for 30+ damage. You want to be playing around these cards and arsenal them often if you can set up a more optimal turn down the line.

The next important part is the payoffs. You’ve gone through the effort of building this wonderfully powerful and long combat chain so let’s take a look at the options.

Phoenix Form (Regular)Engulfing Flamewave (Red) (Regular)Rise Up (Regular)Red Hot (Regular)Breaking Point (Regular)Lava Burst (Regular)Searing Touch (Regular)Tome of Firebrand (Regular)Take the Tempo (Regular)Salt the Wound (Regular)

The first thing to note is that with the exception of Breaking Point and Take the Tempo, there is not much in the way of threatening on-hit effects. In essence, this means that Fai is almost exclusively a damage-based champion. Past the aforementioned on hits, Lava Burst and Salt the Wound are the best options for pure damage. Salt the Wound has been the card that has impressed me the most. In the aggro mirrors specifically, where players do not want to block, this card is very consistently a zero-resource costed five or six-powered attack, while also being a yellow pitch for turns where you have redundant payoffs. 

Rounding out the aggro decks are the two remaining Runeblade heroes, Viserai and Briar. You can find my Viserai deck and SB guide here: 

Viserai is the epitome of consistency. Playing a higher number of blues than the average aggro deck means that he is hard to disrupt as well as block thanks to the flurry of damage coming in mixed form from arcane and physical. Matthew Dilks had a good analogy when he compared Viserai to a more balanced Starvo in the sense that the deck could consistently put out 11 to 13 points of damage per turn cycle, with the added potential of 20+ damage turns. 

As for Briar, as much as it pains me to say it, she may be past her glory days. I won’t go in depth with Briar, as she has been played and discussed ad nauseum, but I will say that her good and bad games heavily rely on how good (or bad) your Channel Mount Heroic turns are. 

 

Header - Guardians

Oldhim, Grandfather of Eternity // OldhimBravo, Showstopper // Romping Club (Regular)

Moving onto Guardians we have Oldhim, Grandfather of Eternity and Bravo, Showstopper. Given the choice, the nod currently goes towards Bravo, Showstopper. This is largely due to the greatest strength of Oldhim being able to bring any aggro deck to heel through fatigue is unable to be effectively utilized against Fai, one of the most prevalent decks in the format. Bravo, on the other hand, retains its title as aggro king of the Guardians, able to punish decks who take off turns much better than his icy counterpart. When discussing Bravo, Showstopper, it’s impossible to not talk about Cayle McCreath. Cayle just won Battle Hardened Auckland with his Bravo list found here.

What’s even more impressive is that he did it with Stubby Hammerers still being legal! Cayle has proved himself time and time again to be an exceptional Guardian player and he is currently my #1 pick to win it all at Pro Tour Lille. Not only does he know the deck inside and out, with a proven winning record, but I also think that Bravo is reasonably positioned headed into the post-ban metagame. The only thing that strikes me as a little strange about Cayle’s list is the lack of Crush the Weak inclusions. This is in stark contrast to North American player Tee Thebeau who recently had success with a version of the Guardian hero featuring nine copies of Crush the Weak! Perhaps Cayle believes the Fai matchup is already good enough that he does not need the powerful effect vs Fai? Whatever the case maybe, this author would play the above list but swap the red Chokeslams for Crush the Weak. 

 

Header - Prism

Prism, Sculptor of Arc Light (HER038)

The most recent hero to hit living legend has a very devout following that aren’t afraid to lay into me should I shine a negative light on their beloved hero. So let me state clearly that I think Prism has an uphill battle against an open field but has a good shot against the winners’ metagame. To illustrate my point, if you believe that aggro decks such as Fai, Viserai, Briar and so on will be the most prevalent decks in the room, you will have a rough time fighting/avoiding bad matchups at the start of the tournament. But should you succeed to survive later into the tournament, the higher chance you have of playing against decks that beat the most prevalent aggro decks, like Guardian, Lexi and others. It is here that Prism will shine, feasting on the decks that are favorable versus the most prevalent decks.

In simple terms, it’s a big matchup lottery that has off put not just me, but other notable Prism players such as Daylon Mack, a devout Prism player who has been quite vocal about his dislike for the spot of Prism in this metagame. With that being said, I still expect a large portion of the metagame to be encompassed by the light hero. If PT NJ has taught us anything, it’s that no matter how poorly positioned Prism is in the metagame, people will play her. 

 

Header - Lexi and Iyslander

Lexi, Livewire // LexiIyslander, Stormbind // Iyslander (Regular)

I group these two Ice-born heroes together due to their similar matchup profiles. I have tested both of these hero’s extensively and while they both have good Fai matchups, that’s about where their strengths end.

I love me some Lexi, but her matchups into Guardian and Prism are abysmal. There was a glimmer of hope for a moment when I tried the combination of Insidious Chill and Amulet of Ice, but the combination of the diminishing returns on the discard effects coupled with the phenomenal defensive capabilities of Guardian meant I was just not getting there.

Iyslander has similar issues against Guardian, where her cousin Kano tried circumventing this by chaining together big massive instant speed kill turns, Iyslander must forgo this for a more disruptive play style. Just like Lexi, there was promise in the potential to kill with multiple Frost Hex on board, swiftly ending the game in a flurry of Frostbites. While good in theory, reality did not hold up as Guardian decks will not just let your perfect wombo-combo second cycle stack go unpunished. Both decks also have fairly poor Prism decks, and even though Prism should not be as prevalent due to its position in the metagame, history has shown that it always shows up in large numbers.

 

Header - Kano

Kano, Dracai of Aether // Viserai, Rune Blood (Regular)

Kano still does Kano things. The most recent ban gave Kano a little breathing room to race Fai and as such, has made it a viable contender once again. If you are a practiced Kano player, it’s not a bad idea to have it on the back burner. The things you need to consider is whether or not people will respect it more after PT1 and whether there will be a lot of random Oasis Respite to rain on your parade. While I don’t think Kano is the best positioned deck, there is a world where you could make a reasonable justification to play it. If you are a player looking to be safe versus Kano, Oasis Respite and arcane barrier 2 is your friend.

That sums up my thoughts on where the metagame is at heading into PT Lille. As of writing this article, my most tested decks have been Viserai and Fai. I have not yet locked a deck but will continue testing against and with the aforementioned decks expecting a metagame composed of Fai, Viserai and Bravo with a smattering of Lexi and Wizards. Let me know your thoughts and whether you agree or disagree with my assessment. Cheers and see everyone in Lille!

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