Viserai, the Purple Menace – Sideboard Guide

At the time of writing this article, we are currently a couple days before the Calling in Utrecht. I have just come off a 6-0 followed by a Top 8 loss at my first large Canadian event hosted at the Anime North convention. My deck of choice was Viserai which has been one of the two decks I have been working on and enjoying in the new Uprising metagame. The metagame seems wide open with 8 unique decks taking the eight spots in the event. 

From the list Runeflash was the only card that significantly underperformed. To understand why, let’s talk about the ideal play pattern with the deck. Viserai functions very well off of three cards: Mauvrion Skies and a two-resource cost attack into Rosetta Thorn is the deck’s bread and butter, often representing 12+ damage split allowing you to block with one-card in hand. However, to be perfectly optimal every turn means ending with a Rosetta Thorn, thus using all remaining Runechants you have in play. This means that Rune Flash was only really live off of a Revel in Runeblood or a Mauvrion Skies status post a hit. Other scenarios were off of a Spellblade Assault after a go again effect, but despite these scenarios seeming numerous there were often times where it sat awkwardly in my Arsenal for several turns.

Rune Flash (Red) (Regular)Spellblade Strike (Red) (Regular)Consuming Volition (Red) (Regular)Sonata Arcanix (Regular)

This was due to several reasons that are not immediately obvious. First and foremost, games in reality are a lot different than how we draw them up in our head. It’s easy to sit down and look at a deck list and recognize all of the theoretical possibilities a deck can provide but it’s another to actually play them out. Your opponents will also be playing powerful cards that demand interaction, such as Erase Face or Command and Conquer. These cards subsequently demand two-plus cards to deal with causing weaker off turns, making cards like Rune Flash (a card dependent on critical mass) a lot more awkward to play. Moving forward, I believe a combination of Spellblade Strike and Rune Flash will be optimal but it’s untested at this point and remains theory for the time being. 

Consuming Volition is a card that overperformed for me during the tournament in every aggro matchup. Typically Viserai represents little in the ways of on-hit triggers with the exception of Mauvrion Skies, but even that’s only pure damage. The ability to force a block 2 or an armor block is a way to steal back tempo in the mid/late stages of the game. There was one particular mirror match where I was forced to block with two cards, leaving me with a blue and Consuming Volition. Any other two-card combination of cards would allow my opponent to simply take the damage and return volley with a four-card hand. However, because my opponent’s equipment was used, I was able to make a Runechant and attack with Consuming Volition, demanding two cards from my opponent, thus stealing the tempo and ultimately winning me the game. 

Sonata Arcanix was another point of contention for me in the deck. In a perfect world, a red line Captain’s Call would reduce the overall variance of the deck and continue to contribute to the consistent play pattern of the deck. However, despite how bad it feels when you whiff on a Sonata, it has grown on me as it does things that are innocuous that aren’t readily apparent. It fixes hands where you draw multiple blues, allowing you to have a good resource sink in order to turn a medium hand into a good one. It also does the opposite and has the potential to fix your resources when you draw a four-of red line hand by allowing you to find a blue attack action in the top three cards, where any other red spell would be an automatic off turn, forcing suboptimal blocks. I am still not 100 percent convinced whether or not I will keep it in the deck, but for now it requires more analysis before I can make a decision on its place in the list. 



Header - Sideboard Guide

In the above list, there are 55 cards in the main deck and the rest I consider in the sideboard, which can be found on the right hand column of the picture. The standard equipment suite is Crown of Providence, Aether Ironweave, Grasp of the Arknight and Spellbound Creepers, and unless noted, assume this is the equipment to play in the matchup. I will denote changes as +/- certain cards from the main deck 55 cards plus standard equipment suite. 


Sideboard Plan:

Logic: With red Amplify the Arknight, you have eight phantasm poppers. Command and Conquer is the worst with a very medium on-hit effect against Prism. Keep the rest of the deck intact as if you start messing with the engine to add more poppers, it can lead to some clunky draws that put you behind if your opponent has a double aura turn.


Sideboard Plan:

Logic: Unlike versus Prism, you want the maximum number of six-plus attacks that can efficiently deal with dragons as it’s a tempo positive play rather than a tempo negative one. Forgo putting a six-plus power card in your Arsenal. Although this might seem wrong, the extra tempo advantage you gain from killing a dragon will be worth it.


Sideboard Plan:

Logic: Briar games get scrappy towards the end of the game usually requiring to play off of two or three-card hands. They often won’t have AB, making Consuming Volition a great tempo play. Command and Conquer is a great way to neuter your opponent’s turns when they’re setting up with an Arsenal and probably the best card you can see on your first turn going second. However, it does have diminishing returns as there is rarely an Arsenal in the later parts of an aggro mirror, so block liberally with it if you find yourself in that spot.


Sideboard Plan:

Logic: Similar logic to Briar, but Erase Face is at a premium in this matchup as it turns off the ability to make Runechants while also neutering Mauvrion Skies.

Lexi Ice

Sideboard Plan:

Logic: Cost reduction cards are good. If you have four Runechants and a Frostbite token, Amplify the Arknight and Rune Flash are still zero resources! Off turns will happen with Lexi due to the high amount of disruption in the deck. Shrill of Skullform and Mauvrion Skies require a combination of cards to make work, which is hard when taxed by Lexi. The best way to approach this matchup is to play defensively while making Runechants when possible, waiting for the opportunity to capitalize on an off turn. 


Sideboard Plan:

Logic: Fai tends to arsenal far less than the other aggro decks due to its critical mass of go again and go wide effects. As such, I never bring in the full clip of Command and Conquer, as it’s essentially a red block three past the mid game. However, it does have some utility in the matchup against setup turns or when you go second.

Guardian (Oldhim and Bravo)

Sideboard Plan:

Logic: Board up to 63 cards in this matchup as the risk of fatigue is present. In this matchup, you want to maximize the value of your Runechants, trying to set up a turn of nine or more Runechants and Ninth Blade of the Blood Oath for an explosive go wide turn if you believe you’re getting fatigued. Consistent 12+ damage turns will tax your Guardian opponent’s Arsenal, allowing you to chip through valuable damage versus Crown of Seeds. 


Sideboard Plan:

Logic: I could be missing something, but I do not like Erase Face in this matchup. It turns off Lesson in Lava and Sonic Boom but does not do much else. Your primary game plan is to race while blocking damage with extra resources as you go. Don’t sacrifice your damage output for AB; instead make your Wizard opponent beat your damage output. If you want extra safety in this matchup, you can add three Oasis Respite to the sideboard.


Sideboard Plan:

Logic: Same as Kano. There’s less concern for explosive one-turn kill potential but you have to slog through Frostbites. Consuming Volition can create off turns if your opponent misses blocks and you force them to block with the last card in hand as they have no Arsenal to play at instant speed. 


Header - Wrapping Up

It will be interesting to see what the results of Calling Utrecht will be as it’s our first real glimpse into the established metagame. This deck is not the end-all be-all of the Classic Constructed metagame but it’s a solid contender for best deck at the moment. I will continue to branch out and test other decks but it’s nice to have this deck on the back burner heading into Pro Tour Lille. Try the deck out and let me know your thoughts!

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