The Monarch Limited prerelease is in the books now and we can look forward to the release of the first waves of product this weekend, with Unlimited just four weeks away for most of us. The release of Monarch marks the start of the Limited season, with two Callings announced for New Zealand and Australia in early June and surely more to follow around the world. The pre release was certainly a blast. It showed us the immense depth of what the Monarch Limited format has to offer.
While we have our four heroes to battle it out, each hero has different ways to be built, with more than one strategy or path to victory. Certain cards work better with others and particular end games or general play patterns. With the Monarch Limited season near on the horizon, today I’ll dive in and examine the four new heroes of Monarch Limited, including archetypes within each hero, and take a look at some of the most important cards for their strategies. I’ll take it alphabetically, lest I play favorites…
Our new Light Warrior, Boltyn, is very different to what we’ve seen from other Warriors like Dorinthea and even Kassai before him. With our first Warrior attack action cards and the ability to utilize Boltyn’s Soul to enable some devastating go wide turns, the Light Warrior has some real power.
With dual one handed weapons, Boltyn really wants you to go wide to maximize the return on his hero abilities and the strength of these weapons, which get better when attacking with both Hatchet of Mind and Hatchet of Body. Getting cards into the Soul and, more importantly, charging as many of them as possible is how Boltyn can set up the big “go-wide” turns.
For that reason a common play pattern with Boltyn is using two or three turn cycles to charge your Soul each turn with a sequence that often looks something like this: Defend with two cards, play a zero cost attack that charges with the last card. These are cards like Bolt of Courage, Engulfing Light and Cross the Line. You’ll often defend with one card and set up an attack action like Take Flight (Red) or V of the Vanguard in Arsenal. Attacking, charging and getting that fifth card set up is a great turn cycle for prepping your future onslaught.
After those “setup” or charge turns, Boltyn decks can easily find themselves outputting a turn for 16 or more damage, and that’s before you even consider your opponent likely having attack actions cards they want to defend with that will trigger Boltyn’s +1 effect. So far, my experience with Boltyn is that he’s probably the most straightforward in terms of archetype range and play patterns in Limited of the new heroes in Monarch. The main strategy really does revolve around setting up the Soul for unleashing the bigger four or five card hands through the game. This is mostly because of just how important the threat of Boltyn’s effects are when attacking an opponent and the need for a minimum of one card in Soul when starting these turns off. Otherwise, a two or three card Soul enables and threatens a combat chain of three or four attacks.
One of the most important considerations to the main Boltyn archetype are sufficient ways of charging the Soul (not just putting cards into Soul, although these still have value). Take Flight (Red) and Take Flight (Yellow) are premiums because not only do they charge your Soul, but they’re the perfect cards for leading off a threatening turn with natural go again. Engulfing Light is a card that’s very efficient for building Soul with charge that also threatens a powerful on-hit effect that gives the opponent a headache. If they don’t defend, you get two cards in Soul and damage through for just two cards. If they do defen,d they’re going to be hard pressed to do so without turning on Boltyn’s effect or using less than two cards if the Engulfing Light is red.
Ways to give your attacks a power buff over the base attack are important for activating Boltyn’s attack reaction effect and giving go again. Warrior and Light specific cards such as Seek Enlightenment in all three cycles, Dusk Path Pilgrimage, Plow Through, Courageous Steelhand and even the odd Glisten thrown in are all great role players in Boltyn. Equally, Captain’s Call, Minnowism and Warmonger’s Recital are solid generics for this role. Attack actions that buff themselves in some way are also valuable, such as Adrenaline Rush (Red), Tremor of iArathael and even Stony Woottenhog. Gallantry Gold or Stubby Hammerers in the arm equipment slot are an important piece to have as well. You really want one of these here for the ability to unconditionally allow you to use Boltyn’s attack reaction without costing you a card.
Lastly, you’ll need an end game, or some powerful cards to set up for a strong go wide turn. You’re aiming to snowball damage when or if the opponent defends to preserve life or simply stay alive. Cards that really shine in these end game scenarios are V of the Vanguard, Battlefield Blitz and Take Flight at Common and Rare. Lumina Ascension, Spill Blood and Beacon of Victory provide some devastating end game possibilities for those times you’re lucky enough to come across them.
It’s also worth noting that trying to set up your Soul and kick off a big turn all at once is really difficult. Your damage output is going to be much worse than if you build up your Soul, protect your life total somewhat and prevent the opponent from gaining too much tempo. This allows you to get that Soul full, ready to unleash without the need to put two cards from hand into Soul on a five-card hand, for example.
To me, one of the most exciting heroes of the new Monarch Limited format is Chane. Now, I know I said I wouldn’t play favorites, but the playstyle of Chane in Limited is just too fun. A hero that has access to self enable go wide turns with his hero ability while actively fueling the banish zone full of gas to play out is a style I thoroughly enjoy playing.
Chane is a real balancing act. The hero’s gameplay patterns at first glance seem to want you to play out as much from your banish zone as possible each turn to avoid paying that costly blood debt that stacks up very quickly. However, this is a bit of a trap that will lead to your output of damage being somewhere below or on average of a four-card hand. This is due to how Shadow card costs are balanced compared to their power level, for those capable of being played out of Banish that is. You’ll quickly find yourself with four or five Soul Shackle tokens and facing down the barrel of fatigue, yet seemingly not able to string together big enough turns that threaten.
Instead, the turn structure or game plan you really want to subscribe to can be a bit counterintuitive. More often than not, in the earlier turns, it’s correct to leave cards in your banish zone, paying the blood debt cost on them for the benefit of a future turn where these cards can really shine. Think of it like paying some life for temporary extra Arsenal slots.
Take Rift Bind (Yellow) for example. If this card is in your banish thanks to a Soul Shackle token, you could easily run this out as a one-cost attack for 2 just to clear it from banish as an alternative to a card in hand that you might want to do something else with (defend, pitch or Arsenal). Alternatively though, you could leave this in banish and play mostly from hand, awaiting a turn where you can pair multiple non-attack actions together first to maximize the power of Rift Bind.
Cards like Seeds of Agony and Dimenxxional Gateway pair very well with Rift Bind. If you play out a card like Rift Bind by itself, you aren’t going to get good returns from these cards. So many of the Shadow Runeblade and Shadow cards that can be played from banish synergize fantastically together too. They’ll often enable you to present these large damage turns in which your opponent simply can’t default to a plan of defend out and await your impending fatigue.
Setting up your deck is an important piece of the early game with Chane. Pitching absolute gas cards like Rift Bind, Seeds of Agony or Seeping Shadows ensures you know what cards you’ll come into late and allow you to craft a line to victory with relevant cards in hand and/or banish from the information at hand.
Incidental Arcane damage is equally as important as a great way to whittle the opponent down over the game. Not only is it very difficult to prevent outside of Spellvoid equipment/items or Spectral Shield tokens, but cards like Dimenxxional Gateway, Rifted Torment, Seeds of Agony, Vexing Malice and Arcanic Crackle are also at a premium in Chane because of how they synergize and turn on cards like Piercing Shadow Vise and Rip Through Reality.
The majority of games with Chane are still going to go swiftly and only last between four to seven turn cycles because you do still want to be creating Soul Shackles, partly to enable your attacks and partly to get that banish engine going. Consequently, you’ll be ripping through the deck towards your pitch stack.
The most important thing is to keep it tight through the early turns, utilize Galaxxi Black to force blocks from the opponent, get the bottom of that deck setup and keep the important cards for those pivotal end turns in banish. Some other noteworthy cards in Chane for Limited include Warmongers Recital and Unhallowed Rites for their ability to put important cards back on the bottom that you’ll cycle back through on your pivotal turns. You’ll ideally have a few of these floating around.
Once you get into turns three to five for Chane, it becomes about those pay off turns. You’ll still likely need to defend with one or two cards and find that what you keep in hand will primarily be resources to pay for what you’re banishing. Finally, it’ll often come down to that last turn with few to no cards left in deck where you punch through the last chunk of damage that’s too much for the opponent to handle.
The heroes of Monarch have their own very unique intricacies, and this set overall really takes a step up in strategy from its predecessors in Limited.
While I have provided the typical gameplay patterns and the cards you should watch for with Boltyn and Chane, this aren’t the exclusive ways to play these heroes. You’ll find as the format develops, so does the need to adapt and respond to how people begin to attack these core strategies. You’ll need to formulate your own unique ways of doing things such as outputting bigger turns than even Chane possibly (easier said than done!). Focus on the core cards these decks need to operate and make sure you always have a way to win, whether in Sealed or in draft.