Well, new patch, one nerf but more than made up for by one HUGE new buff. VARA 1 IS BACK. Which means: there's next to no such thing as flooding, every single lingering influence off of tomb, every shadow sigil off of Rhysta--ALL of it is raw card advantage. With that, can we build a deck to exploit this, and as with the old AP ramp/empower, embrace the concept of throwing punches up the curve, but UNLIKE the old list, which could fizzle out, this one gets a MASSIVE second wind at the top. For those of you that are newer to Eternal and never played when Vara 1 was a force to be reckoned with, this is a fairly straightforward deck that can play like an AP midrange for a large amount of the game, and then generate some brutal 2-for-1s with Vara Fate-Touched down the stretch. Let's go over the card choices.
Defiance: while you are an aggressive deck, there are decks more aggressive than you, and in those situations, defiance is the best card in the game, hands down. Blitz rushing you down with a pumped up Alessi or student? Poof. Rakano aggro topdecked their sharpshooter buff? Poof. Need to defend your tomb? Poof. This card is tempo blowout incarnate, and it can even do some serious damage against higher-curve decks by completely swinging a race. Stun a huge fatty for two attacks? That's gonna be a blowout. How much power would you pay to gain 10-14 life?
Kerendon Cargo: so, this is something Nrausch taught me on his stream--when you're 2F, cargos are strictly better than seeks, since you can put them in your market, and then get them out later, while you can't fetch seek from the market. It also allows you to mindgame your opponent.
Fenris Nightshade: a 2-of emergency draw engine. Like many of the cards in this deck, he can generate ancillary card advantage, and in this deck, every single card matters. While 3 power and 3 life may seem like a lot, ultimately, if you're drawing dead, you're going to be taking a lot more than 3 damage from bricking than if you pay the life cost.
Lost Scroll: you're playing both Varas and 3 runehammers. A turn 3 4-drop can often be a game-ender. Unlike a 3F deck, you have a much higher chance of hitting this on turn 2 thanks to more undepleted power, and a curve of lost scroll -> Vara -> Tavrod on the play can just end games before they begin.
Ripknife assassin: as I'm running auric interrogator in this deck, I happen to like this card, and I love the fact that he can just swing into anything. Furthermore, against decks that are more aggressive than you and want to play out oversized beaters, ripknife can just stay back and trade for something like a lethrai darkstalker against nightmaul. That said, if some people want to play argenport instigator here, all the more power to them.
Auric Interrogator: this one didn't make the last ap/empower list. Why now? Because I'm maindecking tomb. Most people simply see regent's tomb as a sabotage with upside, as that's how the card was usually played. Fetched from the market against slow decks that didn't commit to the board, and you were happy with one more power, a sabotage, and a scout. However, as one player in the ETS so carelessly forgot, regent's tomb empowers your units with a +1 attack this turn. What does this mean? It means that auric interrogator is a mini-ascendant that you can draw with Tavrod.
Hidden Road smuggler: in this particular instance, I actually value the 2-faction market over Kerendon merchant's ability to 3+1, because it means I get access to shadow interaction, and martyr's chains on the top end. Furthermore, I do value lifesteal. That said, if someone wants to go with Kerendon merchant, I wouldn't blame them, but it necessarily means giving up Martyr's Chains in the market, which I think is just so good. Winchest merchant, for obvious reasons, is a non-starter.
Rhysta: a straight 2-for-1 with upside in this deck. Her power is basically never wasted considering you want to hit 8 power, and even more than that when chains are involved. This is a high-curve aggressive shadow midrange deck, and as much of a paradox as that sounds, this is Rhysta's home. Not sure if 3 or 4, but hard to find the cuts for a fourth.
Slay: removal of choice. Point, click, kill, and don't worry about conditions.
Auric Runehammer: 3 of. Tavrod hit, absolutely brutal on the play off a lost scroll, and generally a fantastic card. Ideally, I'd want 4, but it means cuts somewhere else.
Regent's Tomb: a controversial 4-of, but let me explain. Ultimately, this deck is about aggression AND card advantage in stride. In order to do that, something somewhere has to give, and the give is that you have to take some risks. Just as Rhysta can't block, so too does tomb have its inherent frailty. However, the way this deck is set up is that against anything besides hard aggro, you're equipped to get ahead. And when you're ahead, there are very few things that just pick tomb off without you getting at LEAST a 2 for 1 in the exchange. Pick off a spell in that Jennev hand with sabotage and get it shot down by a display? Fair enough. Straightforward 2 for 1 and a double discard. Get your sabotage and lingering remnants off before getting picked off by Rizahn? 2 for 1, and a scout. But here's the cool part: with auric interrogator, every power drop cycles. Again, auric ascendant. If you think this card is too risky as a 4-of, you can certainly cut it to 3. But considering that this is a midrange empower/ramp deck, you want to be able to hit enemy interaction and set up for hitting your deck's power trough on 6-7 power. Essentially, long story short, I think this sort of deck archetype uses regent's tomb better than any other build. You have enough units for the empower to hurt, enough units to have at least *something* to hit with swear vengeance (bonus points if it's either Vara or a smuggler), absolute nuclear bombs on your top end to make use of lingering remnants, and sabotage is obviously sabotage. Oh, and obviously, it's free wins vs. hard control decks.
Vara, Vengeance Seeker: no explanation needed here. Best overall 4-drop in the game, and even filthier with revenge or recursion as it triggers her summon again.
Tavrod: obviously, this isn't a minotaur-and-weapons tribal deck, so Tavrod isn't a complete god here. HOWEVER: now that Vara fate-touched gives entomb to her targets, the fact that he actively fills your void up when he whiffs is not a negligible feature. Either he mills power to keep you from drawing dead, he fills your void with Vara targets, or he draws you bombs. Basically, it's a win all around aside from him milling the occasional kill spell or tomb.
Vara, Fate-Touched: 4-of maindeck because we can't 3+1 her with a smuggler. Oh sweet mother of mercy, how I've missed her. While you can feel the voidbound on the rare occasion (I.E. no infinite recursion on baby Vara), this sort of fair midrange deck that seeks to stand and trade off in combat (or with removal) with a Vara top-end is the kind of deck where you feel the new nerf the least. Suffice to say, she has some absolutely brutal hits. Resurrecting a smuggler means another hit into the market (for martyr's chains!), resurrecting baby Vara means a potential 7/8 deadly lifestealer, resurrecting Tavrod means resurrecting a hard-to-deal-with card advantage engine (so now you have *two* of them, one from your deck, one from your void). Overall, I can't understate just how strong she is. While you're not doing filthy things like reanimating azindel, the reanimate-azindel type deck has a vastly weaker fair game plan, and has a huge risk of just spinning its wheels and dying. In contrast, while none of your units are absolute bombs to reanimate, you don't need them to be. You just need to be doing your job on the fair end of things to gas your opponent out. Also, she's *vastly* superior to Telut. Ultimately, Telut demanded you at least be present on board. Unlike Telut, Vara can just flip the table from an empty one. And if she gets picked off? The next Vara just punishes the opponent even harder. She's noticeably superior on the first copy, and better by miles on the second one.
Vanquish: avigraft is worthless now. While a 3+3 play was debatable vs. vanquish in FJS, the possibility of a 3+2 play on turn 5 makes vanquish vastly better than Avigraft. Your one-stop-shop to kill a fatso dead.
Burglarize: two reasons here. First off, we're running big Vara. We don't want her shut down by some stupid justice cursed relic (citywide banned or adjudicated), but also because every single high-curve justice deck has martyr's chains *somewhere* (or they should, if they know what's good for them). Burgling martyr's chains is a HUGE blowout.
Amilli: a bit of a filler here, but in games in which you need all hands on deck, and just need another threat, I think he's the premier card to get. Just a massive blocker when he comes down, and can threaten to decide a midrange game.
Telut: essentially, now that we're curving up to Vara, Fate-Touched, the turn after we slam Tavrod is the start of our power trough. That is, we have threats up the curve from 2-5. 6 power we still may have something to play, but at 7, we're most likely waiting for power for big Vara and looking a bit powered down if we haven't put the game out of reach by then. One swing with Telut solves these problems, and that's all that's needed, since he puts you to 9, and then Vara 1 can take over. Oh, and he also neuters Azindel, which is more relevant these days since Vara 1 + Azindel = shenanigans have been called.
Martyr's Chains: needs fairly little explanation. An absolute powerhouse of a card that can generate an obscene amount of value if not answered on the spot. It's beatable with a combination of spot removal and relic removal, but is vastly more powerful than something like a SotSK overall.
Unwavering Exorcist: avigraft is gone for the most part, and she existed to target it and permafrost. While permafrost is definitely that much more irritating, I don't think it's worth running her just for that.
Valk Enforcer: ultimately, the 3-drops aside from the smuggler are about hard card advantage. While a silence is nice, I'd rather draw cards. That said, it may be correct to play him over interrogator in the long run, and if you do, then you may want to replace Tavrod with Makto or Amilli. Ultimately, you need the guaranteed power from Rhysta more than the silence for certain.
Makto: we're running Tavrod. So, no go here. Again, if you don't like interrogator and go with enforcer, you may want to cut Tavrod for Makto and try the valkyrie package over the minotaur package. However, I like to have more targets for big Vara, and enforcer can't be resurrected, while Makto never stays in the void (or he can't leave it).
Annihilate/suffocate: unlike defiance, when these cards don't have targets, they're just straight dead in your hand. In emergency situations, defiance can stop a fatty from crashing in, can stop a stray shot on your tomb, etc. And unlike many of the cards in this deck, they're not card advantage.
Sabotage/mug: sabotage is built into tomb. Anything else, you can either kill with slay, or beat up on the board. Howling peak itself is might certainly be problematic, however.
Shadowlands Tyrant: even with big Vara in the deck, I don't think he's better than Amilli as another threat. But I may actually be wrong on this one. Sure, he dies to removal, but so do the rest of your threats that demand an answer.
Azindel's Gift: not the deck for it. Between your threats and regent's tomb, you have plenty of ways to tax the opponent's interaction beforehand. We can do better with our market space.
Sleepless night: just not better than martyr's chains for the market space IMO.
Harsh Rule: aggro decks are too fast to depend on this, and you're committing to the board by then, meaning the card advantage is minimal, but your opponent gets to reload first.
Devastating setback: the premier aggro decks right now--Rakano and blitz--like to go tall more than go wide. Skycrag can do a bit of both, but your lifestealers should keep you above water against chip damage while defiance should solve any issues with singular big units. Furthermore, once you bring warcries into the equation, setback doesn't line up well.
Dark Return: may be worth trying over the Amilli in the market.
So yep, enjoy the new AP empower, guys.