Monarch Limited is shaping up as a very interesting and fun format, with cards now having been in players hands for a little over two weeks. The gameplay experience with the four new heroes has certainly propelled Monarch to be my personal favorite of the three Limited formats thus far. Each of the heroes across the Light and Shadow talents have differing playstyles, strategies and complexities which I like. So, if you’re still on the fence about jumping in to some Monarch Sealed or Draft play, I can certainly recommend doing so!
Prism introduces us to the one new class in Monarch, Illusionist. With the Light talent at her disposal, Prism fuels her Soul to generate Spectral Shield tokens which can be done once per turn at instant speed by banishing a card from her Soul.
There are two distinct angles of attack for the Light Illusionist hero in Limited. The first is to use these Spectral Shields as weapons thanks to Iris of Reality, protecting at least one of them on the opponent’s turn or creating them at the end of the opponent’s turn to come in for 4 attack. Thanks to the go again effect, if a Prism player is able to keep up a three to five-card hand, they can also usually come in with another attack after the Spectral Shield(s) to really present some credible damage on their turn.
While Prism doesn’t have a true weapon that attacks like the other three heroes in Monarch, by turning her auras into weapons, Prism is able to follow similar game plans of attacking with a “weapon.” A common strategy in Sealed with Prism is to navigate through into the mid to late game, get a card in Soul and then create a Spectral Shield to protect. You can then wait for a low damage output turn from the opponent to get in for 10 or more damage on the swing back, which takes us to the heavy hitters of Prism…
Heralds and other Illusionist attack action cards with Phantasm are certainly powerful, above rate attacks that can be a sizeable threat on the table and all at a reasonable cost! But these large attacks do have a soft spot or weakness in the form of the keyword that they all share, Phantasm. If cards such as Herald of Ravages, Enigma Chimera or Spears of Surreality are defended by an attack action with six or more power, they’ll be destroyed and the combat chain closed. This will completely end Prism’s turn unless they have additional action points (Time Skippers very handy here!) or a Blinding Beam to reduce that defending attack action’s power down in order to not trigger Phantasm when it becomes a defending card.
With these powerful Phantasm attacks, Prism can put together some serious threats, even with just two cards. Prism’s efficiency leaves a lot of room to defend out opponent’s attacks and not only present significant damage on the way back, but the on-hit effects of the Heralds to get a card in Soul plus any other bonus is one of the best ways to win turn cycles in this format. There is some very scary turns Prism can get together – Spears of Surreality (Red) into a Herald of Protection (Red) is a three-card hand for 12 damage and an on-hit effect, for example.
Dream Weavers is one of the most important cards for Prism because of its ability to turn off the Phantasm effect and prevent the opponents best way to defend against the big attacks. One of the most effective game closers for Illusionist in Monarch is activating Dream Weavers into playing Phantasmify (Red) or Phantasmify (Yellow) paired with Herald of Tenacity (Red) for a huge 11 or 12 dominate attack, again off just three cards. If you’re able to pair it with another attack buff like Seek Enlightenment or Warmonger’s Recital, you can finish off a game even with the opponent on eight or more life.
Other cards to look out for when building Prism in Monarch Limited include the Heralds. My favorites in this format, and the ones I think have the most impact, are Herald of Protection, Herald of Triumph and Wartune Herald.
Herald of Protection is great in all three cycles, but particularly in red for demanding three cards on defense, or two cards plus equipment to stop you gaining a card in Soul and that all important Spectral Shield token. Herald of Triumph is a card I like because of its ability to stop a six-power attack breaking your Phantasm attack with its -1 ability. I’m happy to play all three cycles and like the security of pairing this with a non-attack action buff like Warmonger’s Recital (Red). Out of the Light classes, only one card can break a Herald of Triumph and it’s a Majestic! (hint: it rhymes with Celestial Cataclysm).
Wartune Herald (Red) is such a strong card in particular, crucially costing just one and able to threaten getting it into Soul unless the opponent can defend out, which will cost them! The one-cost attack is great to pair with a blue pitch to make a Spectral Shield, or even with another favorite of mine, Zealous Belting (Yellow), giving you a three-card hand that presents 11 damage and an on-hit effect from the Herald!
Prismatic Shield (Red) can be an absolute powerhouse as something to play end of turn into a double attack for eight total damage on your turn, leaving you with three shields to protect at least one and see home a game. Lastly, I can’t go past Halo of Illumination. This card is one of the most important equipment alongside Dream Weavers for Prism and allows you a guaranteed way to get a card into Soul at any point in the game, an effect that’s very hard to come by in Illusionist in this Limited format.
Levia has that very classic Brute feel of big hitters with an additional cost. While with Rhinar it was all about Intimidate and discard, Levia uses the power of the Shadow talent to fuel her graveyard with Blood Debts, allowing her to unleash some powerful above rate attack actions and evasion in the form of Dominate, additional attack power and even go again.
Personally, I think Levia is the hardest of the new heroes to play in Limited. This is in large part because her playstyle can be at times counterintuitive. On the face, you would think to just start playing out big attacks early, keep feeding the banish with Blood Debt cards to avoid losing any life. Rinse and repeat. The challenge with this approach is that you’ll quickly run out of either six-plus power attack actions or even cards altogether in graveyard to pay the additional costs of the majority of your Shadow Brute attack actions.
Instead, what Levia does best is setup. At a base level, this means setting up your graveyard by getting some 6-plus power attack actions in there, so you’re all fueled up ready to play cards like Unworldy Bellow, Boneyard Marauder, Dread Screamer and other brutish friends to unleash big turns of damage and push through opposing defenses. In the off turns, Levia can utilize multiple cards to defend and Ravenous Meataxe on offense to help fill the graveyard with 6-plus power attack actions thanks to the Axe’s ability.
Graveyard setup allowing you to pay for these strong Shadow Brute attacks isn’t the only form of setup that Levia wants to be working towards. Levia has a number of very synergistic cards that work well together to push damage and win games. Rather than naturally draw into these combinations of cards early game, a good strategy is to pitch these early and setup for drawing them mid to late game.
One of these sets of synergistic cards to look out for include Convulsions from the Bellows of Hell plus one-cost attacks like Boneyard Marauder (Red) and Graveling Growl. Writhing Beast Hulk and a one-cost non-attack action buff like Unworldly Bellow, Warmonger’s Recital or even the two-cost Howl from Beyond is another group of cards that can force big damage through.
Beyond three-card hands, you also have some devastating end games to pitch that include multiple cards like Dread Screamer, Endless Maw, Pulping and Convulsions from the Bellows of Hell for a mix of go wide and dominate on a three-card-plus turn. These end games can be supplemented with Hooves of the Shadowbeast, which is one of the more important cards for Levia in Limited.
While setting up your deck and graveyard allows you to guarantee your ability to close out games with inevitability, a setup plan also ensures you won’t be caught out unable to satisfy Levia’s hero ability. If you’re unable to suppress that Blood Debt once you begin banishing cards, even for one turn, then you could easily be taking four-plus damage and find yourself out of the game.
Think of it like starting a clock. As soon as you begin playing attacks or non-attack actions that banish cards from your graveyard, you’re committing yourself to keep doing so each turn to not take the life loss from Blood Debt. So, rather than starting that “clock” and hoping for the best off the top of the deck, a strategy that you can have a lot of success with Levia is to setup both the graveyard and bottom of the deck early game to ensure that the tank is full in the mid to late game. This strategy is particularly effective in Sealed, where your deck might not be as stacked full of 6-plus power attacks as it might be in draft.
Outside of the really important Brute and Shadow Brute 6-plus power attack actions, synergistic attack actions and non-attack actions, there are a number of Shadow and generic cards to look out for in Levia. Ebon Fold, for example, is an equipment that can buy you a turn and activate Levia’s ability whenever you might need, while Lunartide Plunderer (Yellow) is a great 6 power attack at pitch 2 with a relevant on-hit effect into Light heroes. From the generic side, Zealous Belting can very reliably gain go again in Levia and Rally the Rearguard allows you to turn all those cards that don’t defend (Deadwood Rumbler, Smash with a Big Tree, Pulping) into a defend for 3.
The heroes of Monarch all have their very own distinct styles, and one of my favorite things about this format is the level of strategy that goes into both Sealed and Draft.
First, the deckbuilding side allows you to identify synergies and end games you want to setup and really craft your deck around these. Second, every deck seems to be unique and it really comes down to how each individual player puts them together and plays their game plan out.
One of the best ways to start learning these heroes and identifying the strategies, the synergies and end games you want to build is to play. There are certainly elements of variance in Limited, predominately in Sealed pools, but there is also a lot of room to flex your skills. So have fun with the new heroes of Monarch Limited and try out your own synergies that you might find to get the edge. If nothing else, it’s a heap of fun!