Looking Back On the Lizards

A History of Magmar and What Might Come Next

Late last year, when I started playing Duelyst I decided that I would play Magmar. I played it through the eras of FoxHai, LaserCat Vet, Tempo Vanar, Sunsteel/Songweaver Songhai, Face Zirix, Cassyva, SpellHai and many more. 22 Magmar ribbons (across both of my accounts) and 4 Championship ribbons later, here I am.

Now, over the past year I feel that Magmar is the only faction to have never been the strongest faction in the meta – though until last patch I would have said that Lyonar also fitted into that category. The main reason for this I think is how heavily Magmar decks tend to rely on 1-2 cards (and Makantor Warbeast) from patch to patch.

January: After some brutal nerfs to Mana Burn and Plasma Storm in December, and with the overwhelming power of 3rd wish Vet and Fox Songhai, Magmar had to rely on the newly introduced Keeper of the Vale and Archon Spellbinder to out-value them, and hope to not get bursted down.

February: With Lantern Fox reworked, ladder was almost entirely Vetruvian. Same strategy applied: attempt to win on board with Keeper/Archon and pray you don’t die. This is arguably the weakest state Magmar has been in over the last 12 months.

March: The second half of March was undoubtedly the best spot Magmar has been in this year. In light of the Scions Third Wish and Mask of Shadows nerf, our favorite immortal behemoth was truly allowed to shine despite the freshly weakened Keeper. Mech and control sprung into tier 1 thanks to the meta shift and the immense power of Vindicator, with aggro and combo Mag not far behind. Tempo and Mech Vanar were the only decks that could claim an edge over the green competition in this reptilian golden-age.

April: April saw the most dramatic change in recent Duelyst history with the move from 2 draw to 1 draw and the rebalancing of numerous cards. Unfortunately for Magmar, nearly all of these changes – including many of the neutral changes – were harsh nerfs. The single Diretide Frenzy buff granted to the lizards (along with Saberspine Tiger becoming a 4-1) came close to completely breaking the faction – allowing aggressive lists to end the game in 3-5 turns with a good enough hand.

Pre-Nerf Diretide Frenzy
More problematic than you might think

May: Enter Starhorn! Despite his rather sad status as a ‘meme’ general nowadays, back in May he stole the spotlight from Vaath as the optimal Magmar general thanks to his Bloodborn Spell ignoring the April patch and letting him play Mechmar in draw 2 once again. Vindicator reclaimed his place as the faction MVP thanks to the ability to rush out Mechaz0r and enable countless other clutch plays.

Bearded Dragon Starhorn Mech Nonsense

June: June was a bittersweet month for Magmar. One one hand, losing Vindicator was a crushing blow, killing the previous top tier Magmar deck – Mechmar. On the other hand, Earth Sister Taygete was more than enough to bring back the more classic Midrange Vaath style of deck, and begin poor Stahorns journey into unviability. This had the unfortunate consequence of many Magmar games devolving into ‘how many Taygetes can you draw and how quickly’. A rather seamless transition from Vindicator to Taygete as the factions saving grace.

July: With zero balance changes, not much changed for Magmar in July. Cassyva and Songhai continued to be a thorn in Vaaths side, Vaath continued to beat up on Vanar and Lilithe, complaints about Taygete reached fever pitch. Such is life.

Turned her back on the haters

August: Although the balance change drought continued, August did bring about a 3 mana, 3/4 Blistering Skorn; a welcome addition to Magmars barren 3 drop slot. This did have the side effect of driving Lilithe out of the meta somewhat, which removed a favourable match up for the Aspects. Skorn still helped increase consistency and further dismantled any swarm decks that dared show their face.

September: Denziens of Shim’Zar marked the start of the kind of Magmar deck we recognise today. To compensate for Taygete being gutted, Shim’Zar bestowed Magmar with Thumping Wave, Mandrake and the all powerful Inquisitor Kron; 3 incredible cards that promoted more aggressive, swarm heavy style lists. Mandrake allowed Mechmar to dust off the cobwebs once more and become a god of creating board presence (turn 4 Sword, Cannon, Mechaz0r, Mandrake, Mandrake anyone?) while Thumping Wave gave aggro decks a new lease on life. Kron was simply a 3-of in every Magmar deck thanks to the power and consistency it provided through all stages of the game.

Bunnies of some variety
The new face of Magmar

October: I think everyone knew at this point that the Kron train could last forever, and alas it did not. This combined with several other Songhai counters being nerfed led to a huge amount of dominance from aggro Reva decks, and thus a very bad time for Magmar. All was not lost though, as an aggressive Keeper of the Vale list I created around the start of the month caught on in popularity and was rather successful in tournament play and on ladder (PandaJJ notably went 30-2 in diamond and S rank with it). October also brought with it a Kara change, making a typical Kara deck far weaker to AoE than before.

November: And so we’re up to last month. The first half of November introduced Azure Herald which was somewhat of a double edged sword, helping Vaath and Cassyva both. The mid-month patch on the other hand was almost entirely good for Vaath and the still lagging behind Starhorn. Meaningful Songhai nerfs in exchange for a slightly negative Skorn tweak is a trade any self respecting lizard would make.

Looking to the future: As I highlighted, Magmar has historically relied on an OP card/card combo to be viable in the meta, making it an inherently inconsistent faction that needs to draw said card(s) to win games. I hope this changes soon, but if not, I wonder what how long Thumping Wave and Mandrake will stick around as the cards keeping Magmar afloat.

Magmar Past
What could come next…

What could come next…

I love Magmar, and I encourage any long time fans of other factions to document their history over this year so we can look back and remember how things used to be.