Once an incredibly powerful deck in Gauntlet, a couple nasty nerfs rendered mono shadow unplayable for quite some time. You will notice I do not run previous staples Argenport Instigator
or Tasbu, the Forbidden
. For those who do not know, Instigator was a 3/3, then a 3/2, then a 3/3 with SS influence and now alas, back to a 3/2 and useless in gauntlet (outside potential in gunslinger decks I suppose). Tasbu was a 6/6 prior to the nerf. That loss of 2 health is a REALLY big deal. Tasbu does not hold up nearly as well in combat, and there are quite a few damage based removal that hit at 4 now among AI decks. It's still a decent card (unlike Instigator) but the nerf is enough for me to re-design the deck from the ground up with a lower curve.
So, my goal with any gauntlet deck is to maximize your gold earned per hour, striving for consistency in win-rate but also keeping a close eye on the average number of turns it takes to win a game. This deck has gotten me to the boss every run I've done, albeit with some VERY close games, and won the boss fight about 2/3 of the time. Average game is closed out in 9 turns. As such I'd rank this a solid "Tier 2" kind of deck. So why play it? It's a lot of fun and eventually you will need a break from running Justice based decks. Let's go over the card choices:
For the units, we have 6 1-drops. 4 copies of Centipede Keeper
and 2 of Stonescar Sneak
. Along with Shadow Etchings
, this number of 1-drops ensures we will have a turn 1 play nearly every game. Centipede Keeper
provides a little bit of pressure early, but the Hunt is the key. A 1-drop that is capable of growing quite large through the course of a game, provides ramp, and on 5 power has a deal 3 with lifesteal is a ton of value, and just what this deck needed. It can help you drop a market 5-drop with only 4 power for example. I also cannot understate the joy of hunting a The Winter Fox
or similar and denying the AI its dreams. Stonescar Sneak is REPEATABLE attack boost and quickdraw which can help this deck overcome one of its weaknesses which is having less evasion than the Justice based decks do. It can allow our heavy hitters to attack where otherwise they would be stalled out. The attack boost also adds to the power of one of our 2-drops: Spiritweaver
by making nearly every unit a possible 5+ attack and now having lifesteal. As for Spiritweaver, she turned out to be indispensable for the deck. Simply put, we need the lifesteal. Badly. We don't have Unseen Commando
we don't have Steyer's Eyes
we don't have a two drop that plays offense and defense as well as Mistral Messenger
. Also, the plunder helps with power screw and flood. Without Spiritweaver, the deck was much less consistent for me.
Next 2-drop we have Blackhall Warleader
a card that provides incredible value if able to hit the AI. Every unit drawn gets stronger, and that includes from the market (HINT: if you have a chance to hit the enemy player, do that before grabbing your market unit. I can't tell you how many times I have done this wrong over the years haha). It's not a budget card but you do need a playset. Murgo the Bone Guy
fills Argenport Instigator
's shoes. Hunt again is a rather pushed mechanic, if Murgo connects, you either have a 3/4+ or an extra power boost. We can almost always find a use for extra power at every stage of the game.
The last 2-drop is one of the best overall in Gauntlet Vine Grafter
giving us a nice boost against aggro with that regen, and the ability to pull a powerful market unit and give it a shield for at least one attack. Grafter really is a major reason to run Shadow cards in Gauntlet.
Onto the 3-drops. This slot was... lacking, to say the least. You know, the slot where if we were in Justice we would have access to Unseen Commando Helena, Skyguide Valkyrie Enforcer
and Tarra, Ever Loyal
? What do we get in Shadow? Well we have Kerendon Merchant
so more market access and a deadly ground guy to stall out the AI. That's nice. We have Marionette Cross
which is just barely good enough these days as a 5/5 for 3, and only in this deck because it has the added synergy with Spiritweaver
. But, it also has one key feature that another 3-drop did not and that is the ability to BLOCK. Turns out, we need to block sometimes with our 3-drops and as such, Rhysta, Acantha's Herald
did not make the deck. I tested it in many builds, it was nice to get that shadow sigil, but too often we would just lose from an inability to block. I'd definitely value her higher if we were main-decking Tasbu still, but we aren't so the card is just not good enough. We do get one 3-drop that is so much better than I ever imagined before testing: Reappropriator
. Turns out, a 3/1 flying with regen is a terrific stat line for gauntlet. It gives us a nice presence in the air, is a great blocker, and the ability to steal a relic now and then is just icing on the cake. This card allowed me to survive TWO fully powered Champion of Cunning
s long enough to grab Vara from the market pop the Aegis, kill one, and get enough attacks in on the ground to force the other to trade in combat. It's nice to be able to freely chump block (once) a 15 attack flying unit and live.
For the 4-drops, we have just one in the main Impending Doom
. It's a 5/5 flying, gets lifesteal with Spiritweaver and allows us to have a much faster clock that we did with maindeck Vara.
We do have two other 4-drops in the market though, and plenty of ways to grab them. Vara, Vengeance-Seeker
was not what I was looking for in the maindeck, simply because far too often in gauntlet she reads, "4SS get a 3/3 lifesteal, kill a 1/1." Out of the market though, she can be pulled for the ability to pop aegis, and also plopped down on boards where the AI is forced to give her the +2/+2 deadly. She also plays well with a +1/+1 regen from Vine Grafter, but then again so do all units worth pulling from the market. Incarnus, Makkar's Listener
is a nice unblockable unit and the Invoke often provides solid value. Nothing like seeing a Plague
and sweeping praxis tokens. But worst case, you have a card to chuck in the market (we have 12 ways to access the market in this deck so that's great).
Between Vara and Incarnus, you will have a good 4-drop for the job.
We have two 5-drops in the market, both of which really like to be pulled with Vine Grafter
. Shadowlands Tyrant
is solid when you need to gain health quickly, and can mop up small units nicely. It's a solid card against the aggressive decks, but probably the closest to a flex slot in the deck. If you don't have one and a hurting on shiftstone, you can try other cards as substitutes (maybe Umbren Reaper
?) The regen is really important as it guarantees you get a second attack. So first attack pings off a x/1 second an x/2. For a 3rd attack to survive a card like Stonescar Sneak
can help. Makkar's Stranger
is an essential craft, and just great in every Vine Grafter market. Don't bring it in against the two Stranger decks obviously but against any of the midrange decks, slamming one down on turn 5 (or possibly 4 with hunt advantage) is just game winning if they don't have removal, and most of the time they won't after you've played prior units. Even if it eats removal, you got a free card from the AI on summon. If it's a good card then great, use it. If not, market it away.
The last card in the market is the most efficient catch-all Removal in the game Dangerous Gambit
. I went with it in the market because it's easier to have the power to play it the turn you pull it if necessary costing 2 rather than 3. Desecrate
was selected for the main for one more reason. We simply do not have the life buffer to be able to jam 4 copies of Dangerous Gambit in the main in this deck. Annihilate
just isn't good enough these days, there are way too many strong multi-faction units when running the Gauntlet, so Desecrate is the best of the 3-cost fast removal.
The alternative to Desecrate would have been something like Rapid Shot
and going for combat tricks to get through tough units. The downside though is we are softer to cards like Predatory Carnosaur
as Rapid Shot does not grant a health boost like Finest Hour
does. Ultimately I felt the deck perform best with some traditional removal.
The remaining spells you have 2 Sinister Rumors
maybe a flex slot, and you could try Rapid Shot
here I suppose, but it's a good all around spell that I can always find a use for 1 in a game.
We have 2 Exploit
which adds consistency with Plunder, something the deck needed and just a little discard to disrupt the AI. I felt like 2 is the right number here, I don't want to draw multiples usually, but you could certainly make a case for a 3rd copy.
The last to discuss is the Power base:
2x Rune of Illusion and 2x Shadow Sketch
are mostly un-depleted but I have found we absolutely get burned running more copies than that, and an opening or mulligan with no Shadow sigils is a disaster. To be honest, I have yet to actually use either of these, the deck has just never run out of more important things to do with our power, so it may well be correct to run none.
Now, part of the reason we can't run more Runes and Sketches is that I am running 3 copies of Cabal Standard
which is as greedy as I felt I could get away with without compromising the deck's ability to curve out. It is slightly too many, but 2 is not quite enough. But the tactic at 5 power getting a 2-cost spell granting two units +2 attack and quickdraw is so powerful against the AI that it's worth it to be slightly more depleted than otherwise optimal. The rest of the power is good old fashioned Shadow Sigils!
We run 0 Vara's Favor
as great as the card is, we can't be spending 2-power these days to get a power even with a useful ping, when we have a 1-power card that pulls power AND gives us market access. Shadow Etchings
gets the nod.
Overall, it's a really solid deck but again, not quite as good as Justice decks.