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Nocturnal Observations, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Void.

Article by Missingtoez - January 18, 2018

Hey guys, Missingtoez here. You may know me from my past hits such as “How did this lucksack take second in an invitational playing [email protected]$&ing Elysian?” or “He really had nothing better to do on New Year’s Day?”. I’m back to preach the gospel of the Void and all the gifts it can bring you.


--- Part One: How did we get here? ---


Our journey starts soon after the release of The Dusk Road, when deep in the heart of The Engine Room (the super-secret ultra-exclusive discord voice chat where “high level” players gather to decide what the meta will look like, give cycles of cards goofy names and make Solarflare paranoid) there was a debate raging about which new cards to include in Feln Control. Noted Feln enthusiast and all round positive guy Elunex was preaching to the gathered masses about the amazing card drawing power of Nocturnal Observer. This made me give the card a second look. Elunex doesn’t like anything, so if he does like something it’s probably broken.

Nocturnal Observer is an understated body with an underrated ability that lets you draw a card and discard a card. Observer also has Nightfall which means at her worst she lets you draw two additional cards and put one in your void. Over the course of the next couple days I played around with Observer in my attempts to build an aggressive Feln deck utilizing the new Nightfall cards from the Dusk Road. Those experiments eventually lead me to playing lists like this.

Observer showed it had potential, but the deck was horrible. Don’t play it. While it did have the Scream Package to try and take advantage of Observer’s looting mechanic (A term from Eternal’s ancient precursor Magic:The Gathering that means “draw a card and discard a card”, named after the card Merfolk Looter) it lacked focus and doesn’t do much to make up for the tempo loss that results in taking turn three off to draw cards. Not where you want to be in an aggro deck.

A day after I posted that monstrosity one of my teammates Hulk, aka Hulkbuster reported in with a new Haunting Scream list that he’d been testing extensively.

This was a huge step in the right direction. The deck is focused on a goal: Looting a valuable Scream target into the void with Observer, then casting Haunting Scream on it with removal and counters to clear the way. Several members of our team played with this list and while it did have a consistent game plan it often lacked the fire power to go against the meta we were facing. The sad truth was drawing three cards or making a pair of 5/5’s on turn four just isn’t what it used to be. The deck needed a bigger payoff, it needed to do something broken.

It was fellow founding EWC member theovermaster, aka ovenmitts that found that broken thing, namely playing Grasping at Shadows and Vara, Fate-Touched along with several large high value units in the form of Scourge of Frosthome and Snowcrush Animist. The deck now had two distinct but overlapping sets of cards (the Scream Package, and the Reanimator Package) that both synergized with each other and were all enabled by Nocturnal Observer. Here’s the first draft of what would later be named The Screaming Rindra Brigade.

Most of Team EWC knew from the first time we played it that this deck was something special. It breaks several rules of Eternal in ways that very few decks do. It often doesn’t care about what the opponent is doing, it just wants to draw cards while keeping an eye on its life total. It’s not fighting for board control in the early game, or grinding out card advantage in the late, though it can do both of those things if called upon to do so. What it is doing is setting up a series of back breaking swing turns that the opponent has very little chance to recover from.

The Scream Package sets up the Reanimator Package and both require the opponent to have a different set of responses. You need early game flying units, or fast removal spells like Torch to fight the Scream Package. You need multiple mass removal spells or the smiting vengeance of the deity of your belief to fight the Reanimator Package. Very few decks do both well, and none of them can do it forever. Eventually you run out of Harsh Rules and are left staring down at the triangle face of multiple copies of Best Waifu 2016 or whatever you kids are calling Vara these days.

None of that is new though. theovermaster’s early list borrowed heavily from decks SirRhino and Lights Out Ace popularized back when we only had one set to play with and Titans still roamed Myria wearing snazzy scarfs. The biggest difference is the card drawing and filtering that The Dusk Road cards added. In those old lists you were forced to play things like the fragile Blind Storyteller to loot Scream and Reanimator targets, which opened yourself up to incidental removal like Vara's Favor. All that extra card selection adds something the old reanimator lists never had: consistency. It no longer became a question of “if” you’d go off, but “when” you’d go off.


--- Part Two: What it’s done. What you can do about it. Where it’s going ---


Heading into the first ETS weekly of 2018 it became apparent that the deck was on very solid foundations, and occupied a good place in the meta we were seeing on ladder. The deck underwent further refinement and despite our best efforts to tell people otherwise a lot of the community (and one stubborn cat strangler on our own team) still saw it as a meme. During the course of 8 grueling rounds of swiss The Screaming RIndra Brigade posted a 73% win rate over four players (NotoriousGHP, Tatsumaki, theovermaster and myself), placing one of us in the top 8 with another missing it on tiebreakers. The next day Hulkbuster used it to pull a reverse sweep in Team League, taking EWC Justice from the brink of defeat to glorious victory. Fun fact: The only matches TSRB has lost in Team League are to decks built by BruisedByGod. Here’s the list we ran that weekend.

A small note: The Feeding Times should really be Deathstrikes. We made a late-night decision to change them right before submitting the list and lost the ability to kill our own Snowcrush Animist to reanimate it again, which comes up way more than you’d believe.

Now that we’ve covered what the deck does, and how it does it, let’s talk about, and my team is going to hate me for this, what you can do to combat it. First and foremost, you can put on your best SMOrc face and try to kill it before it finds the combo pieces it needs. This can backfire spectacularly if it hits the Scream Package early while you’re trying to curve out. Direwood Beastcaller can end most aggro decks hope of winning the game if it triggers, and Gorgon Fanatic’s card draw, and life gain often give it enough time and cards to find a decent answer to what you’re doing. A turn four Rindra, the Duskblade also provides a must answer threat that can stall out the aggro plan, and hitting Grasping at Shadows on turn five targeting Snowcrush Animist can leave aggro players saltier than Ilya after the ChaCha nerf.

The second option in combating TSRB is the most effective if used properly and it’s the main reason some people will dismiss this deck off hand. That’s right, it’s time to talk about the boogeyman. That purple skinned radiant from the shadowlands: Steward of the Past, or as his friends call him, Stewie.

The first thing I’d like to point out is that this deck can absolutely beat Stewie. Getting hit with one is not the end of the game; it’s usually just the beginning, especially if he’s played on turn four. It does, however change the speed at which the deck can function, and the methods in which it does so. The focus becomes removing Stewie so it can go about its business and that may buy you the time you need to enact your own game plan successfully. The more crippling way to use Stewie is to hold him, lure the Reanimator player into a false sense of security and spring the trap when it’ll be the most devastating. This can turn games into a kind of cold war where the Reanimator player is trying to bait Stewie out, so he can be dealt with, and the Stewie player holding him until he can be most effective. The presence of Cobalt Waystone can sometimes swing this in the Reanimator player's favor, but if you’re playing with Stewie in your deck popping a face aegis before playing him shouldn’t be that much of an issue.

Since releasing this monster into the world our team has had a lot of feedback, to say the least. Most of it has been praise, some of it has been derision and a fair bit has been a mix of both. We’ve also had some very talented players and builders take a crack at our baby and the last list I’m going to share with you is one our team is testing now. It’s a revision built by VSarius and ManuS that sacrifices the raw card drawing power of Strategize for the versatility of a deeper removal suite. It also goes harder on the Animist plan, which to anyone who has played the deck should seem like a solid option.

All the versions of this deck have one thing in common. They are extremely fun to play. You are faced with relevant decisions at nearly every phase of the game and you are rewarded with a series of very satisfying swing turns that can put any deck in the format under more pressure than it can handle. This deck is challenging. Even the EWC guys don't always play any given turn correctly. The payoff for that challenge is substantial, and it rarely feels like you're on autopilot. The Dusk Road has provided a breath of fresh air after the stagnant midrange meta we had for so long, and I doubt TSRB will be the only deck to take advantage of the added layers of complexity set three has brought us. It sure would be nice to have those four missing Crests though.


---Part Three: Sincerity? WutFace---


In closing I’d like to thank everyone for their kind words in the last couple months. As some of you may know I’m a resident of Puerto Rico and we were devastated by a pair of hurricanes at the end of 2017, including category 5 Maria whose eye literally passed over my house. My family was extremely lucky in that we suffered no loss of loved ones and spent only 55 days without power. When I returned to the Eternal scene I was greeted back with open arms and genuine concern for my well-being. The amazing guys on Team EWC even donated their winnings from the first season of Team League to a local food bank here on the island. I truly think we have one of the best communities in gaming and it’s our charge to see that it stays that way. Older players please continue to take time to answer new players' questions no matter how inane they seem, and newer players don’t be afraid to ask. This thing of ours is fleeting and fragile, it’s up to us to nurture it if we want to keep it.

Comments

CONDOR Eternal Version: 1.27
Hi! Love the deck. I made the one with the feeding times (last revision) but I just saw the list for the one you're testing now. One thing that does get me is the lack of removal you have sometimes, but I like the versitily of the cards that you have without it. Which version should I play? Thanks!
Alvirian Eternal Version: 1.27
Deck is great fun to play. Really enjoyed the article. Very informative.
dnmph Eternal Version: 1.27
Great article! I’ve been playing some offchutes of this deck lately and have been *loving* it! Thanks so much for the hard work you all have put into these decks and writing about them.
TooCleverByHalf Eternal Version: 1.27
Very fun to play deck & a fun to read article. Enjoyed the humor😁 Thanks!