DWC Top-4 Midrange Vaath Deck Tech

Hi everyone! My name is Mats (my duelyst ID is MarsupialLion) and I played my first tournament, the duelyst world championship qualifier, last weekend. I ended up coming first in the swiss portion of the tournament, and finished tied third in the top 8, with an overall win rate of 65%. While I made some mistakes, poor judgement calls and outright blunders due to fatigue, stress and inexperience, I’m very happy with the decks I played. I’m not sure if ramp Faie and Golem Zirix will be top tier decks moving forward, but I’m confident that midrange Vaath will be one of the most, if not the most, powerful decks for the foreseeable future. In this article, I want to explain my Vaath build and card choices in detail.

 

 

I think Magmar currently revolves around four powerful cards (and Vaath’s excellent hero power), and that the rest of your deck should be built around them. So I first want to discuss these key cards, then explain why I thought my other cards best supported them. I hope this structure will be more helpful than explaining card choices in order of mana cost, especially if you plan to build your own Vaath deck. I’ll mostly be taking about the card’s power and deck-building considerations, but I’ll include a quick “how to play” section with some general gameplay advice. I’ll include some advice on openers and replacing, though these decisions can be very dependent on particular circumstances, and are by no means set in stone.

 

Core Cards:

 

Flash Reincarnation:

 

Mana cost reduction effects are typically extremely powerful in TCGs, because they allow you to make more powerful plays with less mana, even if the minions summoned take two damage in the process. Flash reincarnation is at its best when it a) powers out an big minion that doesn’t mind the damage, or b) it enables a kill turn with rush minions and buffs (or with Decimus and symmetrical draw spells). It’s at its worst when c) it would kill the minion it summons, d) the minion it summons isn’t that good if it takes two damage, e) the minion isn’t that good on the current board or f) we could pay for all of our cards anyway. Scenarios c-f are particularly bad because flash reincarnation quickly empties your hand, meaning that you are at risk of either end up down on cards (which is normally bad if you are a more controlling deck), or run out of cards (which is just bad for any deck).

 

So, in general, if we want to run reincarnation, we need to think about how it will interact with the minions in our deck. We also need to make sure that we can avoid running out of cards – perhaps by having powerful expensive minions in our deck, or by running enough draw cards to make up for the card disadvantage. However, the theory isn’t always easy to implement in practice, so I want to present a practical example of how reincarnation affected my deck-building. I wasn’t sure whether I should run sunsteel defender or elucidator as my second four drop. Sunsteel has the advantage of being the best reincarnation target on turn one, but it is a bit slow if you don’t draw reincarnation, and it isn’t nearly as good later in the game. On the other hand, elucidator is pretty bad with reincarnation in the early turns, but is often part of a game winning combo with reincarnation and thumping wave. In the end I went with a 3-1 split in favor of sunsteel, but I kept a single elucidator to help finish games. So my desire to have strong early game plays with reincarnation helped me decide between two cards of comparable strength.

Since this is a mid-range deck you want to focus on have a solid curve through the middle turns of the game so you don’t want to fill the curve with top end cards. Magmar can finish the game off with its rush minions and burst damage from Spikes and Thumping Wave so you don’t need to have a big minions to win the late game.

 

How to play: Make sure you use reincarnation on your best targets. Sunsteel defender doesn’t take any damage from the effect, spelljammer helps you to refill your hand and generate card advantage, and mankator warbeast can help swing the board two turns early or finish the game with a thumping wave on turn 7. It can also help you to play Ragebinder and Lavalasher on the same turn if the health gain is important. Be sure to replace this card if the cost reduction is not that relevant, since drawing multiple spells late game can halt your momentum. Play this card more freely if you have good card draw (such tectonic spikes) or if you need to be very aggressive aggressive.

 

Lavalasher:

 

Lavalasher is probably the best card from the new ancient bonds expansion, and I think it makes Vaath the new top dog (or dinosaur) of the metagame. Its power lies in its ability to immediately affect the board and presents a sizable body. Compare it to rush minions, which have the ability to immediately affect the board, but have weak baseline stats (like saberspine tiger) or a significant drawback (like elucidator), to see just how powerful this card is. To reliably trigger trigger lavalasher’s ability, you have to be able reach the opponent’s minions. To guarantee this, you want to make sure that your general is close to the opponent’s general, that you have minions on the board that can close in on their minions, and that they didn’t have time to place minions out of your reach or behind a blockade. Furthermore, lavalasher rewards you for already being ahead on board, since it can combine with minion or general attacks to take out a bigger minion, and it can pull you even further ahead (for example by allowing your minions to go face instead of trading). So it seemed to me that Lavalasher would work best for me if I focused on controlling the board early, and so I decided to run 8 two drops (not counting flash reincarnate plays).

 

Lavalasher is also a golem, which made me want to play Golem Metallurgist and Ragebinder to exploit their synergy with Lavalasher. It probably seems a bit odd to only play 9 tribal cards, but I thought that all of these cards were at least decent on their own, and that the synergy effects were still powerful even if they didn’t always trigger. Basically there are two kinds of synergy cards: Those that require you to build your deck around them for a big payoff (like Sirocco), and those that are fine cards with a synergistic bonus (like Ragebinder). While building your entire deck around the first kind of synergy card can be very powerful, you shouldn’t be afraid to just throw synergy cards of the second kind into your deck. That being said, when ragebinder and metallurgist do trigger, they can be very powerful. Gaining 3 health is very good, and getting a 1 mana discount off Lavalasher is as good as it sounds.

 

How to play: Be sure to position your minions and general so that Lavalasher is always live. Identify and remove your opponent’s most threatening minions with this card (they will normally try to position these away from you, so plan ahead). You can try to preserve your lasher’s health when fighting by targeting lower attack minions, but don’t do this if you are playing against abyssan because they will punish you with punish. Sometimes you have to play lasher as a vanilla 4/9 if you have nothing better to do. Also draw this card. Drawing this card is good. Only replace if you need lower curve minions instead or if you are trying to assemble a lethal combination.

 

Mankator Warbeast:

 

Magmar’s other overpowered minion. I think Mankator is the best endgame minion, since it helps you to close out games and swings the board in your favor. Since Mankator is so good at closing out the game if you’re ahead, I think you’re incentivized to play a lower curve and to rely on rush damage and thumping wave to finish the game. It isn’t as good if you’re behind due to your slower curve or if your opponent is at a high life total.

 

How to play: Position your mankator so that it hits multiple targets, and always attack the minion or general with the lowest attack – you really want them to have to hit mankator a second time with their general or have it eat a removal spell. As with all rush minions, you can think about playing other minions first if you think mankator will be better later on, or if you’re saving it for a thumping wave finish. Again, draw this card once you can cast it – in multiples if possible. It’s almost never correct to replace this card once you can cast it.

 

Thumping Wave:

 

Thumping wave is a very versatile card: It functions not only as a removal card for big minions, but also as a powerful burst finisher when combined with a rush minion or a developed board. Like mankator, thumping wave fits best in a deck that tries to finish the game with burst damage, and is better if you have more rush minions. I had qualms about running too many rush minions, since I felt elucidator and saberspine tiger were too bad if you fell behind, but I still played an extra elucidator to keep my thumping waves live. Thumping wave’s versatility also makes it less likely that it’s a dead spell in your hand – which can be a real problem for a proactive faction like magmar. However, relying on wave as your hard removal does lead to some problems, since it isn’t very effective against big taunt minions placed next to your general. For example, if you thumping wave an aymara healer next to your general, Vaath (or starhorn) will be unable to run away or attack on that turn. So if you decide to run a more controlling Magmar deck, you can consider playing egg morph or ephemeral shroud to avoid this problem.

 

How to play: Always check for lethal, if you don’t do that already. If you transform an enemy minion, be sure to position so that it hits the ideal target, which is normally either Vaath or a minion that can eat the kin in one hit (like lasher). Don’t waste thump as a removal spell if you need it to kill your opponent, but also don’t hold on to it for damage if you really need to remove a problematic minion or your opponent’s general isn’t going to be dying anytime soon. I think you’ll probably use this as a finisher more often, especially since you have other good removal options like lasher, mankator and natural selection. Replace it early in the game, if you have too many spells, or if you need proactive minions instead.

 

Recap:

 

Flash Reincarnation and Lavalasher made me want to play a board centric midrange deck.  For me, having a bad turn one is devastating for a board control deck, so I wanted to keep my curve relatively low. Furthermore, lavalasher made me want to keep my general close to theirs, and mankator warbeast and thumping made me want to rely on damage and tempo to close out games. So my evaluation of (what I took to be) Magmar’s best cards lead me to the conclusion that I should play a relatively aggressive, board-centric midrange list.

 

However, I also wanted to play a golem sub-theme because of Lavalasher. Furthermore, my time testing Dragall’s rush magmar (see his deck tech on 9moons from the last qualifier) convinced me that rush minions like saberspine tiger weren’t that good when I was behind or at parity, and that relying on rush minions, greater fortitude and diretide frenzy made the deck a less consistent, even if it was more aggressive and at times more powerful. That’s not to say that this style of rush magmar isn’t good, but that I had reasons for taking my Vaath build in a different direction.

 

That being said, I think Dragall played an excellent set of draw cards. Spelljammer helps keep you hand full if it survives, and works well with flash reincarnation. Tectonic spikes helps you refuel, though I’m not sure if just having two of them is best. This core of draw cards is well suited for a lower curve magmar deck, but you can consider different cards if your deck is slower.

 

I think Vaath is the better choice because his hero power is stronger than starhorn’s. Also Vaath mostly ends up near the opponent’s general, since he’s normally either taking out their smaller minions or punching them in the face, so he fit nicely with my planned strategy. That being said, I think Starhorn is quite good right now, since he can also play lavalasher.

 

If you plan to play different minions, or pursue a different strategy with Magmar, I hope thinking about your best cards helps you work out the details. Alternative, I hope this kind of analysis is useful for understanding other decklists and factions. I’ll explain the rest of the cards in a more typical fashion, in order of mana cost.

 

Other Cards:

 

Golem Metallurgist:

 

Previously golem metallurgist was mediocre because there were no other good golems. However, it’s pretty fantastic now that there are, and I think you should seriously consider it if your deck has at least some other golems. With the addition of Lavalasher and Ragebinder I think metallurgist is now magmar’s best two drop. It’s stats are comparable to other two drops like young silithar and healing mystic, but the cost reduction effect can be very powerful, and can find use over several turns.

 

How to play: This card’s text should read “the first golem you play after this one this turn costs one mana less”. So you can play golem metallurgist into Ragebinder on turn one going second if you play metallurgist on the mana tile, for example. Try to maximize the mana you gain from this card. Play this card before other two drops if you think the mana acceleration will be relevant next time. For example, I would play metallurgist on turn one going first over a young silithar if I had lavalasher in hand (I mean I would play it first anyways, but that might just be my preference). Replace this card if it’s later in the game and you can’t get good use out of the acceleration or the 2/3 body.

 

Young Silithar:

 

A solid early game minion. Silithar’s main problem is that rebirth isn’t that impactful on a weak 2/3 body. However, silithar is fairly difficult to remove, which helps make sure that you can play your lavalashers and mankators reach good positions, and that you always have at least some board presence.

 

How to play: Try to proc the rebirth effect in a spot where the egg will be harder to remove. I tend not to go face or trade with silithar if doing so makes it easier to remove. Start replacing as the game goes long or if you can’t fit it into your curve in the mid-game.

 

Healing Mystic:

 

A decent early game minion that guarantees that you don’t miss the crucial first turn. I would’ve preferred to play azure herald or celebrant, but unfortunately they blunted my natural selections too often. You can sub mystic out if you like another two drop more, though I’m personally uncomfortable with running less than 8 two drops.

 

How to play: Play metallurgist or silithar instead if the heal doesn’t proc, but play this on early turns if you don’t have the other cards. Heal minions if you think they’ll be more likely to survive, but you should mostly target Vaath with the effect. Be aware that Mystic triggers healyonar’s effects. Mystic is a bit more useful later in the game, so feel free to keep it if you have enough impactful cards and you value the healing.

 

Natural Selection:

 

It’s pretty annoying that this card works so badly with good utility early game minions like azure herald and celebrant. That being said, it’s efficient in the early game and can kill big minions if you keep the board clear in the late game, so it’s a must for almost any magmar deck. That’s not going to stop me from complaining about it though.

 

How to play: Try to set up the board so that you can hit something good with this. Playing a two drop and casting natural selection is a typical play when going second, but don’t make the mistake of playing a lower attack minion than your target first. Consider replacing this if your hand is too reactive.

 

Ragebinder:

 

Young silithar’s big brother (or sister??) has a much more relevant body to go with its rebirth ability, and the golem synergies are quite powerful. Getting to cast this for 2 mana is very good, and incidental lifegain is good because vaath likes to hit things. So I think you can get relevant upsides on an already well stated minion.

 

How to play: Like with young silithar, try to exploit the rebirth ability. Note that bond actually triggers on rebirth, which actually happened to me a couple of times on ladder. Try to sequence your minions so that you get the heal proc later in the game. I would rather replace a silithar in the mid-game, but throw ragebinder back if you need bigger minions or draw cards.

 

Tectonic Spikes:

 

Spikes is mainly in the deck to refill your hand, though the incidental damage is nice if you’re trying to close out a game. This card doesn’t work nearly as well if you build your deck with a higher mana curve or aren’t tying to burn them out. I could see running only two copies, but I wanted to avoid running short of cards, especially since I tend to replace these fairly aggressively.

 

How to play: If you pay attention to your opponent’s hand size, you can often make them overdraw, and so break the symmetry. Typically you’ll replace this early, since it only really shines in the later game. Keep if you expect to run out of cards soon or want the burn damage. Very bad if you’re precariously low on health and can’t win or draw on the turn where you cast this (but if you have a chance to win or draw with your new cards you should probably cast this).

 

Spelljammer:

 

Probably the best neutral draw card in the game, since you’re guaranteed to get at least a card and it keep the cards flowing if it survives a turn. Also, since your opponent is mostly going to be the one killing this minion, it’s likely going to give you card advantage, and in any case you always get to use your card first. You can consider playing sworn sister L’kian instead if you’re more interested in card advantage, though I think spelljammer is generally a better card.

 

How to play: Try to play spelljammer a bit sooner than other minions if you need to get the cards flowing. Generally speaking, you should not trade off spelljammer during your turn, since you really want the card flow and the card advantage. Sometimes it’s correct to keep spelljammer away from the action in order to keep getting extra cards. Keep her in your opening hand if you want to play her on your second turn (so if you have a two drop or are throwing other cards back to look for one), or if you have flash reincarnation. I generally don’t replace her in the later game, but sometimes you have enough card draw or you need to look for something specific.

 

Sunsteel Defender:

 

Sunsteel defender kinda feels like it should be a golem. But even without the golem tag, defender is a solid mid-game minion that can do serious damage to your opponent’s general and board state if it sticks around. However, it can be a bit slow at times, and some cards can remove out without too much trouble. If you like a more aggressive approach, you can run more elucidators instead. Drogon is also a decent four mana minion, though it isn’t really meant to be played on curve (also I don’t really think it’s that great).

 

How to play: Positioning this hunk of metal is quite difficult. You want to prevent your opponent from easily killing it, for example by placing it on the diagonal to block your opponent’s general from  {image, or explain better}. But you also want it to be in striking distance of your opponent’s general and minions. So it feels like placing this thing is often a difficult judgement call, and you can get punished either way. Like spelljammer, sunsteel defender is a great keep with flash reincarnation, and you can keep it in your opener if you need a four drop. I would only replace this later in the game if I was looking for something specific, like card draw or burn damage, or if I didn’t have enough time to develop it.

 

Elucidator:

 

Elucidator is very good at turning your tempo advantage into a strong attack on the opponent’s life total. However, It’s pretty bad early in the game and can’t really be ramped out with reincarnation on turn one. Furthermore, Elucidator punishes you for being behind on the board, or for losing too much life earlier in the game. Like I said before, there are advantages to a more rush centric build of magmar, though it can come beck to bite you (or whatever Elucidator does). Feel free to experiment with this card though, as it is quite powerful.

 

How to play: I like to hit face with this minion. You can use it to pick off a minion, though I think it’s best when it ends the game with thumping wave, or when it forces the opponent’s general to take 5 damage a second time. Watch out that the life loss doesn’t cost you. This card is bad early game, but it tends to be a good keep later in the game, provided you are busy trying to burn the opponent out.

 

Earth Sphere:

 

8 health is a lot, and is especially valuable for vaath because he is so good at hitting things, and often loses life because he hits things. That being said, this card is quite expensive and doesn’t affect the board much on the turn that you play it, so I chose to only run two.

 

How to play: Often you will be faced with the difficult choice between developing your board or playing earth sphere when you are behind. Try your best to guess if they have burn or minions in your hand, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you make the play that loses you the game. Keep when you think you need the extra health, throw it back otherwise.

 

Plasma Storm:

 

Plasma storm sometimes wipes out the opponent’s board and wins you the game. At other times, it rots in your hand when any proactive card would’ve helped you close out the game. I had more of the latter experience in practice, and since I had lowered my curve and now played more minions with less than three attack, I decided to only run one plasma storm. Depending on your deck, I can see going up to two copies of this card or cutting it. I was tempted to remove it entirely, but there are some situations were it shines, so I ended up keeping the single copy. I’ll probably add more or less once the meta-game becomes more established, and I can get a better idea of which popular decks, if any, I can lock out with a timely plasma storm.

 

How to play: Keep it and play it if you can sweep away multiple enemy minions without hurting your own board state too much. You can be more greedy in keeping this against decks which it is good against, such as vetruvian golems and swarm abyssan. If you plan on using it on your next turn, you can move your general and your minions away from the opponent’s, though doing so makes your plan pretty obvious.

 

Honorable mentions:

 

Boulder Breacher:

 

This card is fantastic if you can reliably trigger its bond effect, but I often found it stranded in my hand during testing. That being said, it might be a better one of than plasma storm, or a good choice if you’re playing celebrants despite their annoying anti-synergy with natural selection.

 

Juggernaut:

 

Often wins the game if not immediately answered, though it’s too slow if you don’t have a reincarnation for it. I would adjust my build to be more controlling if I decided to play this.

 

I hope you enjoyed and learned something from my midrange Vaath deck tech. Feel free to ask questions in the comment section. Good luck and have fun in your future duelyst games.

Sleepy