Hey forgers, I wanted to share my favourite deck with you for my first complete deck tech: Ebonflame Thunderskull!
I recently went undefeated in multiple 20-card-constructed Weekend Warrior tournaments with a version of this deck, so I’m going to include that as well since the formats do rotate. All I ask is that you concede to me if you see me in the queue while using my deck 😉 Haha!
This has been one of my favourite decks for a very long time. Since Ator came out I wanted to abuse Everflame Mystic for instant free spells and leveling. I believe this to be one of the best decks on a good draw as it pressures the opponent while keeping their board clear.
It’s a strange aggro-control-combo fusion that I get the most early concessions from playing. It can snowball so hard that a few turns in, if the opponent doesn’t have Edict or Firestorm, they are already dead. And the disheartening thing for them? Even if they clear my entire board… this deck is the King of 0-100 in no time. You play an Ator, Mystic, Staff, Echoes and bam: they’ve taken a bunch more damage, I’ve leveled 4 cards, and have 3 more must-answer creatures on the board for them to deal with on their turn.
I believe this is a tier 1 deck with the only tough matchup being growide. Sound a bit overconfident? It’s not that I don’t lose with this deck, but my win rate is over 90%. I play all the other competitive decks as well, so I’m quite familiar with all the archetypes and have tested them extensively versus each other (I hope they bring offline friend mode back please!). So on to the deck:
Standard Nekrium/Tempys Aggro/Control/Combo (yes, it’s all 3!)
18 Nekrium cards, 12 Tempys cards;
15(+6 spell) Creatures, 15 Spells;
18 Legendary, 8 Heroic, 4 Rare.
3 Ator, Thunder Titan
3 Everflame Mystic
3 Vyric Ebonskull
3 Ebonskull Knight
3 Borean Windweaver
3 Staff of Vaerus
3 Immortal Echoes
2 Death Current
When Immortal Echoes replaced Varna’s Pact in the deck (bringing back ONLY your combo creatures), and Vyric Ebonskull got buffed, it put this deck over the top. The removal also got a buff at this time which is great for the deck. Unfortunately, Lifeblood Dryad was also buffed, and led to a prevalence of grow-wide decks like Grobots, which is this deck’s arch nemesis: it needs open lanes to hit and trigger the key abilities in the deck.
However, if you don’t expect a lot of grow-wide, play this deck, and see how it wrecks. I have never once lost a game to another Byzerzak deck, including other Ator rush decks, who obviously haven’t been tweaking their deck for as long (who are playing what I know now to be sub optimal cards), or your standard Byzerak Midrange deck, that is so reliant on spot removal, it loses to grow-wide decks anyway, so just play this deck (sorry Zwaxor).
Card by Card:
Ator, Vyric, and Mystic are the core combo of the deck. You want to abuse their triggers to keep the opponent’s board clear while still dealing damage to them. If their board is clear, play Echoes or Nethershriek to cheat in more creatures they have to deal with. Ator is great, true, but playing Vyric or Mystic without him is fine, as your opponent MUST answer them on their turn or else face their wrath on your turn.
You have 6 removal spells, 3 Staff, and 3 Windweavers to make sure you can push through the damage triggers. Staff is absolutely ludicrous in this deck. Just hitting once with Mystic and chaining your Staves into removing their best dude, or Immortal Echoing 2 more Ators, Vyrics, or Mystics back into play is almost game over.
Nethershriek is another way, in addition to Echoes, to get creatures off free Mystic spells, but also get more free removal using lane placement and mobility. Shriek combos great with Echoes and your mobility enabling effects as well.
Ebonskull Knight serves two purposes: as an underdrop to trade with their big guys, and to push big amounts of damage when going aggro. If played early in a player level, it forces them to deal with it. You then follow up with a combo rush into Echoes and bring back 2 more. Ouch!
Card Omissions (budget replacements):
Mass removal vs that tough growide matchup: Firestorm, Epidemic, etc. The problem with these is that don’t actually KILL the creatures and clear the way. They’re just not good enough, so they got removed. You’re better to dreadbolt to push through damage and triggers.
This leads to any damage dealing creature that would be awesome with Ator: Flameblade Champion, Zarox, etc. If you haven’t noticed, there is not a single damage based removal effect in the deck, everything is straight up. Before the removal and Vyric buff it wasn’t always this way, but now it is not necessary. In this case your opponent’s creature size does not matter.
Varna’s Pact used to be the go to, but it started filling your lanes with your opponent’s creatures that the deck didn’t synergize with. Also the deck utilizes mobility to get player damage triggers, so Varna’s Pact level 2 and 3 are also a bit of a non-bo in that way as well. Shallow Grave, Undying Legacy, etc. are OK, but it’s better to just remove the creature opposing your creature and deal damage directly, keep the creature attacking.
Leveling Priorities & Strategies:
Normally I have a separate list for leveling priorities for each matchup, but that doesn’t really work for this combo-like deck. I usually divide the cards in my deck into must levels (best cards in matchup), never levels (worst, weakest cards in matchup, liabilities), and the middle of the road cards that are fine to play but not necessary.
With this deck however, the general strategy is to aggressively level Ator, Vyric, & Dreadbolt. That’s it. Everything else is opportunistic combo action. Including Mystic which doesn’t need to be leveled to be effective. He is the core engine of the deck though, so if you can hit with him and have a spell in hand, you should. For the most part you just try to get the maximum value from aggressive player damage triggers to clear their board with Vyric or Mystic + removal.
Depending on the deck I am facing (read: how aggro I perceive I need to be [Who’s the Beatdown?]), I often ignore these leveling priorities of Ator and Vyric to force a board state that I know my opponent’s deck cannot recover from.
The board state you are trying to create is one where you are pushing damage every turn, while clearing the board as the first priority, keeping them off their game plan and engine. When the opportunity presents itself to play Echoes, do so, and this will usually seal the deal. Quite often you can fill your lanes while theirs are entirely empty by the end of PL1.
Some quick deck by decks strategies:
Vs Burn: You can go much faster than them, so go hard with Ebonskull Knights. All your removal is straight up, so they never get to keep a Dragon or Angel around. I don’t think I’ve lost to Burn before, which is a serious upside for this deck since it is one of the top deck, if not THE top deck.
Vs Mono Nekrium: This deck uses Patrons, Xerxes and splashes another faction usually for Ignir. This is another deck that is quite an easy matchup. I have lost a couple times, but usually that was to very swingy draws. The reason is that their straight up removal is too slow, and their shrink effects dont stop triggers from happening. You need to level some removal to make sure you can handle their level 3 & 4 Ignir, but you normally close it out before then. Otherwise level as normal and land an Echoes which again, their 1 for 1 removal can’t handle. If they match your Echoes, don’t worry, your creatures are better and capable of removing theirs, plus their deck has no way of getting extra plays, and most often your Echoes is a free play off Mystic, where as theirs was paid for.
Vs Esperian Leveling Control: I’ve had a few close calls with 2.4 Othra / 3.1 Chrogias shenanigans but I don’t believe I’ve lost to this deck very much at all, if ever. Our deck is just too fast, and we have the removal to take out their baddies but usually it’s too late anyway. Make sure to level removal that can take out level 3 creatures, and push damage as fast as possible with Ebonskull Knight which they don’t have a good answer to. Overwrite trees after hitting with them to prevent your dead pool being populated by plants.
Vs Growide Bots/Raid/Dryads: This is the toughest matchup and it usually decided in the first few turns by whether or not you can bust through their lines and establish tempo by board clearing each turn. There will be a lot of difficult decisions where you use removal on a chump in order to get a 2 for 1 lane clear off a trigger. This is ok. This is what you should do. Keep them off Lifeblood if at all possible. If they play an Arclight or other creature that brings an extra creature in, forgo playing a non-aggressive combo creature and just use your removal straight up on it. It’s about who gets to snowball first and they can’t directly interact with you other than filling up lanes, so it’s up to you to make sure your snowball is bigger than theirs by prioritizing removal of their key engine pieces.
Vs Fiend: Haha. Sorry fiend, you’re level 1 at all levels which means that leveling is not even required to keep Vyric and removal ready to slay. Prioritize Spiritcleave if you get in a race, otherwise Death Current to remove 2 Fiends at level 3.
- As I play other decks and crystallize a strategy I will add them here so check back!
Combos & Tactics:
As I said earlier, play this as a control deck first that wants to clear the opponents board. The way the deck is built is that it can’t do this effectively without also damaging the opponent. Each turn you make the best choice for the current board (unlike many other decks where you are playing the long leveling game), to keep it clear, and push damage, all the while putting your opponent in very awkward situations where they are forced to deal with your engine or lose, and because of that, they don’t get to get theirs going.
The main combo is Ator -> Vyric / Mystic -> Staff x ? -> Removal -> Echoes/Shriek. You level extra cards with Mystic and clear guys on both turns with Vyric. The card advantage piles up quickly as you use free plays and triggers to control their creatures while you still have threats on the board. Staff of Vaerus with Vyric or Mystic is where things start to get really bad for your opponent.
Your end goal is to get to an Echoes online as each creature that comes into play represents multiple plays and triggers for you. TIMES TWO from Echoes! This is where the deck snowballs out of your opponents control. How can they remove 2 Ators, a Mystic, and a Vyric? And if they leave any on board, then their value rises exponentially each turn, on top of what your new plays. You see what I mean? This situation can happen very quickly and is why I get the most early concessions with this deck.
A line of play option to consider:
What would be better to play? A Vyric to level and kill, or a Mystic plus Dreadbolt? Death Current? Spirticleave? With the Mystic you level 2 cards instead of 1, but Vyric is important to level, so if the removal is soft-gated like Current or Spiritcleave, I would probably play the Vyric, but if the removal is Dreadbolt, I might stick with Mystic. It’s a tough call as Vyric can get your more value over time, and over levels since it 1) could possibly trigger multiple times, including during your opponent’s battle phase, and 2) steals the creature at level 3. Yes, that’s right, so if you hit multiple times you steal multiple creatures. However, without an Ator, Vyric takes a turn to get going and could possibly get killed without any value where as with the removal at least you handled their board. Ask yourself it they have creatures that you are scared of them having active for even just one turn. If the answer is yes then you want to level removal. If the answer is no, and you’re ok if they have lame guys they keep around for a turn.
20 Card Version:
When the 20 card constructed Weekend Warrior came up I saw a lot of potential to trim this list down and make it even more consistent, and therefore, even more broken.
3 Vyric Ebonskull
3 Everflame Mystic
3 Ator, Thunder Titan
I had to keep the core combo cards at 3 as that is the interaction I wanted to abuse in the 20 card format. I cut Ebonskull Knight as he was more of an underdrop filler, and I figured if I was hitting my combos more frequently, I wouldn’t need him to help out. This turned out to be true.
2 Borean Windweaver
2 Staff of Vaerus
2 Immortal Echoes
I cut 1 of each of the support cards Staff, Windweaver, and Echoes, as I didn’t want to get flooded on them. Due to this, I cut Nethershriek since a lot of its value comes from interactions with those 3 cards.
1 Death Current
I then had to cut 1 removal spell and went with Death Current as I figured their board would be mostly clear already, and that it would be more important to clear a particular blocker to trigger Mystic or Vyric, than to clear a random creature. Not to mention that most games with this deck are over before Player Level 3, which is where Death Current gets its value anyway.
I played a handful of tournaments and went undefeated. Most of my games were pretty easy to be honest, but my closest game was the very last one of the last tournament I played versus a spirit wanderer deck. As you can see from the screen shot it was a close one, but Ator and Staff of Vaerus have a way of finishing opponents out of nowhere.