banner image is Ashara because she's a gay icon too
Why Crooked Alleyguide Is Gay - Scientific Analysis
1) she radiates gay energy
2) the first word in the card name literally means "not straight"
3) emerging from shift is a euphemism for coming out of the closet and therefore all shift units are at least slightly gay
Deck Tech - Summary
Get on the board ASAP. Play efficiently if you have the board, but it's fine to make a play that's more tempo over value oriented to contest/seize back the board from an opponent since you really want to be able to make threatening attacks every turn. Get rid of lifesteal units, remove the stuff that can actually block you and repeatedly hit their face. Count your burn and finish them off.
1) Oversized units tribal - curves a 1 mana 3/3 into a 2 mana 3/3 into a 3 mana 5/5 into a 4 mana 5/6
2) A lot of reach and burn - typical game plan is to beat them down and then finish them off with direct damage to face.
3) It's really difficult for your opponent's board to deal with yours because your units outsize theirs (see 1) and also because everything has deadly.
1) If you get behind on board the game is over, and not in your favor.
2) Gratuitous amounts of dual power in order to ensure Champion of Chaos is activated means that you'll struggle with depleted power sometimes.
3) Rhysta, Acantha's Herald
(a fix for this is WIP)
Card Choices Torch, Argenport Instigator, Desecrate, Champion of Chaos and Vara, Vengeance-Seeker
are all standard 4-ofs. They are either efficient removal or just have the best body and text for their slot. These are the slots I think are completely sacred and should never be altered if you want to make your own variant on this deck.
is a great and flexible card. You'll use it as both removal and burn on a frequent basis, but its flexibility is really what makes it shine, because you can often play two cards in a single turn very efficiently while getting rid of an opposing unit with Flame Blast. Whenever I am losing and need an out, 95% of the time it involves Flame Blast (either topdecking it, or topdecking power to pump it for that last point of damage). Unfortunately I realized that you can't play this card with Tasbu because the influence requirements to run both are insane. But that's okay because this deck prefers to burn face over grinding the opponent out anyway.
is a very very efficient piece of fast speed removal and offers great tempo. I think it is a great choice in the meta right now because it hits a lot of justice fliers (for Sediti decks), Vara and other assorted fatties (especially Time fatties) for other midrange decks, the XXXXX influence cycle which is seeing a lot of experimentation right now (with Ghodan, Sediti and Tasbu being the most popular) and sometimes random shit that your opponent is running out against you (such as a lot of the support cards in Evenhanded Golem decks like Dredger or whatever). Blackhall Warleader
is a card that I've made a lot of fun of in the past along with all the usual jokes about it being a purple Bold Adventurer etc. but in this deck it works well because you basically just want to attack as much as possible and Warleader allows that to happen. It helps that you have 4x Torch 4x Annihilate 4x Desecrate which makes it very easy to start the snowball. However you should realize that although the dream is to go off and make Warleader huge in size, this is unlikely to happen unless your opponent got a really slow draw. Instead, what you should prioritize doing with Warleader is to compel the opponent to waste hard removal on it, make awkward blocks or trades (or even chump with a small unit) to prevent it from going off and generally make them bend over backwards to stop themselves from getting run over. Warleader on 2, attack to make it a 3/4 and then play an Instigator or Smuggler on 3 is a pretty solid line against control because they have to deal with the board you just created but Hailstorm doesn't work and if they drop spot removal like Defiance on Warleader then you can run out ChaCha. If you have to choose between Warleader and Instigator on 2, I suggest you play Warleader first because you want to get the snowball rolling ASAP.
This card is definitely up for debate. It feels like shit if you topdeck it or don't seize the board with it, which makes me suspect it's a feast or famine card. Replacing it with Ripknife Assassins makes a lot of sense in many contexts and I think it's well worth trying those out. I honestly don't know which is better but I'm using Warleaders for now.
Cen Wastes Smuggler
is a card I run in order to run both Suffocate and Obliterate in the market. More on why this is something I desire in the Market section.
Rhysta, Acantha's Herald
is pure garbage and I wish I had a good cut for her. I am testing out some replacements but I'm not confident enough to push them to EWC yet. Will keep you all updated because nobody likes playing this trash. The use for Rhysta is basically as a 4/3 warcry body that also generates a sigil, either to help you curve into Vara or to give your Smuggler something to eat. By the way, if you decide to mess around with my deck, you should note that Rhysta is included in this deck's powerbase because she generates power. You should adjust the powerbase accordingly if you cut her.
is a very odd card to include in an aggressive deck and when I talked to Erik about this deck he told me he felt that an aggressive deck should probably play Nullblade instead. I've decided to refrain from doing so (although Nullblade is definitely not a bad replacement if that's your cup of tea) because Maiden has carried me time after time. You run a lot of removal so it's a huge value engine and they need to stop the arms from flowing. Sometimes people even tech in Suffocate against Maiden and if you see that too much you should cut Maiden for something else. Maiden is amazing against other midrange, tortures Even decks because they want to recurse the void, and often pins the opponent between a rock and a hard place - they're facing down a scary looking attack from a 5/6 deadly Vara, or a 5/5 deadly overwhelm ChaCha, and they have to block if they want to preserve their life total (which is looking very fragile in the face of your 4x Flame Blast 4x Torch and Obliterate in Market), which means that you get a free arm. In that sense Maiden can sort of synergize with an aggressive deck despite the 2/4 statline because she punishes the opponent for blocking.
Remember that arming your own Maiden exposes her to Vanquish. If you have to choose between her and Vara to be played on 4, it's often difficult because the situation is very context dependent (do you need the lifesteal ASAP, are they holding up Annihilate, etc, can you threaten lethal with the 5/6 over the 2/4 on board) but I do sometimes run out the Maiden first to punish them for choosing to sacrifice a small unit over giving my Vara +2/+2 and Deadly. If they don't have removal for Vara it can be a very painful choice for them if they thought they could get away with just giving up a Grenadin or a Temple Scribe to neuter her.
is a very hyped card but it is probably one of the weaker ones in my deck. Sometimes you can hold up Annihilate with this but it's basically just a 5 mana 4/4 flying charge quickdraw. It's used to blast your opponent's face in and present a threat they need to answer and not much else, oftentimes a finisher. If anyone has a better idea what to put in this slot tell me because 4/4 is not a very inspiring statline and I want something more aggressively statted for my curve topper. It's been performing some work so far so it's not useless, and it's better than Rhysta but worse than all the other units. I tried replacing it with Obliterate but there were too many situations where I wanted to play it on an empty board.
is the most fetched card because it's useful for any matchup. If you can get them low, fetch Obliterate and demand an answer (face aegis, counterspell or lifesteal). Speaking of lifesteal, this card kills Vara. That's really good.
is a great tempo play and is kind of like your anti aggro card for stuff that goes under you now that VHM is not as good against aggro since it costs a lot. This sees a surprising amount of use in the mirror to get rid of Maidens, 3/4 Varas, Warleaders and so forth, but its at its most useful against flier decks since they run a ton of 3 attack units that you all need to get rid of ASAP and also hate being pushed back on board with a strong tempo play since they're a bit slow to get rolling. What you want to do with this card is oftentimes play Smuggler into immediate Suffocate on 4, and the amount of work that this card has done for me in so many matchups is why I am playing the Smuggler to accomodate it. Jawbone Greatsword
is your anti Hooru/Feln Control tool, and can be useful as a generically good weapon. Note that its 5 attack kills ChaChas which is nice in the mirror, but it does look kinda silly next to a Vara. Your opponent will be making trades often to protect their life total so you can easily activate the Tribute which is really neat. You can consider replacing this for a Nullblade if you don't mind the high influence cost and want to punish the Even decks which recurse Golem from the void a lot, or Reanimator decks or something. Also Nullblade pops face aegis which is really sweet against some decks. Vicious Highwayman
is a rather niche card especially now at 5 cost but because of the brutal beating he can deliver to someone that plays into him, he exists to be there as a threat anyway. You want to pull this out against Rats mostly, Grenadins sometimes, and very very occasionally as a stabilizer on 5 against aggro that runs a bunch of 2/1s, although the game will be decided mostly before turn 5. It's very risky to get him too early or speculatively unless you know he will be useful though. As a Charge unit he can be okay against control sometimes if you already got your Jawbone with your first Smuggler. Don't get this guy if they are holding up Torch.
is there to guarantee both power and influence requirements to curve into Vara. In the very late game if they are low and you are struggling to find the last card to finish them off, the nightfall can be sort of nice both because nightfall is burn by itself and because you likely run more ways to kill them in your deck than they run ways to survive against someone who is trying to kill them.
What about Crooked Alleyguide?
Crooked Alleyguides replace the Shakedowns that you see in other Stonescar decks. Basically, Shakedown was a way to check your opponent's hand for information, maybe get rid of a card you don't want to see (like a Merchant or a Golem), and then it fixes your hand by drawing you extra cards with Nightfall. This is important - this deck wants a really strong and consistent curve, and the Nightfall was a big part of that. Crooked Alleyguide performs a similar function, allowing you to do something with your power on 1, as well as scouting for you to fix your hand and give you a better curve.
Here are some reasons why I like playing Alleyguide better.
1) It is not a symmetric effect. In the mirror I was often happy to get Shakedowned because my opponent would improve my curve for me. I have had countless experiences of being saved from power screw or flood, or a sketchy keep by a Nightfall that drew me the extra cards I needed to smooth my hand out. Alleyguide only fixes for one person.
2) Unblockable 3 damage is not a lot but it adds up in a deck that is semi-burn. This increases sharply if you have arms from Statuary Maiden to put on her.
3) Sometimes you can attract premium removal with Alleyguide. I have had a few experiences of the opponent being forced to Annihilate an Alleyguide because they needed to relieve pressure on their face and I was only giving them ChaChas and Smugglers, and then it clears the way for my Vara later on.
4) Late game it is a much better topdeck than Shakedown. You play it for 3 to get a body on the board and then scout for more late game units (like Eclipse Dragons or Varas).
5) It turns on your banners!!! You have no fucking idea how good this is. I am serious. This is amazing. This deck wants undepleted power because of curve reasons but it also wants to run every dual possible because of ChaCha. Alleyguide bridges the gap between them by making your Banners undepleted. If an awkward depeleted power would delay your curve by 1 turn, then Alleyguide is basically speeding up your aggression 1 turn earlier which is really, really great.
6) As mentioned above, she is a gay icon and therefore you can play her order to celebrate Pride month which I would strongly recommend.