With rotation being reverted one of the more powerful budget decks in the game returned to us, and it’s one I think is a bit silly, but also quite fun to play and pretty effective. I don’t think it’s a big secret that Ragnora has one of the strongest Bloodbound spells in the game, there’s a couple of ways to abuse it in the game currently, and we’re definitely looking to make use of it in this month’s deck that looks to use Greater Fortitude & Thumping wave to create a 10/3 celerity to combo for 20 damage, but is also capable of just playing Magmar’s mid game bullying.
This deck was on track to get a better record than April’s Zirix, before a rocky patch had me yoyo-ing in rank 1 to the tune of 7 extra losses before finally breaking through and winning 5 in a row to finish up just a teeny bit worse. Still I guess it was pretty respectable climb overall, would have been happier if I had skipped those losses, but I won’t complain too hard as that’s life. I think this deck is pretty powerful and has a really good ‘best case scenario’, though as a combo deck it does probably have a few intricacies and difficulties you’d do well to learn to start earning those wins. At any rate this is probably a better record than what I’ll get next month, of the 6 factions I still have Lyonar and Abyss left to do, and I don’t think there’s much point in me playing Swarm Lilithe when there’s already excellent lists out there, I was thinking of playing Maehv, but let me know if there’s an Abyss or Lyonar preference you’d like to see and I’ll consider it. Before that though, here’s the win rate for this month:
The concept here is to have Egg Morph, Greater Fortitude & Thumping Wave in hand and cast Abjudicator on the 6 mana turn. Then on 7 mana cast BBS, and all 3 of the above spells on it to hatch it and buff it to be an active 10/3 celerity, then hit the enemy general for 20 damage. Well, that’s the ideal combo, but sometimes you don’t have quite the luxury to set all that up, sometimes just doing the normal 10 damage version without thumping wave will do the trick or adding a second Fortitude pumps that up to 14 damage. Also if you can get a ripper to hatch and be in range of your opponent you may be able to skip the hatching step, which cuts down greatly on the amount of mana required to enact the damage, and can mean that you don’t need to Abjudicator at all.
But it’s important that the deck is able to function when that plan A doesn’t seem likely, as while the core strategy of the deck is to pull off that juicy 20 damage combo and make our enemies feel bad, you’ll have to be smart in recognizing not only when it’s not necessary and that a smaller combo will get the job done, or that trying to save cards in hand and play abjudicators will lose the game. For example another ‘combo’ that isn’t quite so intensive or building specific cards in hand is to use Erratic Raptyr and your hatching tools to have it hit your opponent an extra time or two. Also be aware that sometimes you can just slap a couple of buffs onto your Young Silithar or whatever and use your buffs for their normal (non-Celerity) values. It’s tempting to try and save them for that sweet celerity hit, but you don’t have to tunnel vision on that, the deck definitely has the ability to just play ‘normal’ and win board with Silithar, Ragebinder, Lava Lance and backup from Wild Inceptor and Rippers then close out with a little extra burst.
So the first thing I did from after deciding the core concept above was throw in all of our combo pieces, which is actually 3 playsets of rare cards, which immediately puts us at 900 spirit cost, almost half our budget, so we lose a lot of wiggle room for the rest of what we can put in for other higher rarity cards. On the plus side Egg Morph and Thumping Wave also double up as some pretty solid single target transform removal. Without Abjudicator the full combo is simply too expensive to pull off fully out of hand (10 mana total), so technically you only need to hit one spell to be able to do it fully out of hand, but having a ripper on the field already, as previously mentioned, can mean that you may not have to use Egg Morph, or if it is not in range you can have it deliberately die to something so that you can hatch it again but this time in range of your opponent to get both hits off on them, and this saves you the 1 mana of casting BBS. At any rate each spell you hit with Abjudicator means a turn earlier that you can pull off the combo, so that’s quite valuable in what is quite a quick meta.
Next I looked the some of the redundancy options, Wild Inceptor and Primal Gazer, you could run Primal Gazer, but I opted not to, the increased cost compared to Greater Fortitude makes it almost impossible to use in larger combos, and it’s only really good with Ripper that is about to hit face (though it is okay to put buffs on your mid tier minions), whereas Wild Inceptor is pretty good not only as a backup for our combo, but also as a tempo tool to hatch not only ripper to clear board in the mid game, but also any other rebirth minions that we will be including. Also Since both of these are minions they don’t get reduced by Abjudicator, it’s possible to run Flash Incarnation, but then not only is it making the combo have way too many moving parts, hand size problems and clunky draws, but it was also infringing on limited remaining budget. If the deck ended up with a lot of good Flash Targets I may reconsider it, but it didn’t make the cut at all.
One last puzzle piece that I have yet to mention is that the Ripper combo relies on the Ripper having more HP than the enemy general has attack., in other words if they increase their attack it’s a bit of a problem for us. Actually with Khanuum-Kha being so prevalent in the meta there is a reason for other decks to be avoiding increasing their attack, but it is still a concern for us. One cop-out answer is to draw more Greater Fortitudes, but that’s not particularly reliable. Actually, it’s certainly fine to abandon the combo plan and fall back to playing good magmar cards if we believe our opponent is going to make playing the combo on them untenable, but there are definitely cards that solve that problem for us, and they are cards that can be good for us in other spots too, so it makes sense to include them.
Ephemeral Shroud is a cheap single target dispel that can hit their general to debuff them and enable comboing, but is also a perfectly acceptable answer to some problem cards, there will almost always be an ‘okay’ target for this, it can also be quite important to dispel provoke which can stop you getting your combo off. Finally you can also perhaps hit your own Erratic Raptyr with it, but I don’t think I ended up doing that.
The other way to boost attack is with artifacts, and I’ve actually noticed that there are a couple of good decks here and there in the current meta that are running artifacts, enough that it’s a big enough of a concern for me to include a couple of rust crawlers. Not much to say beyond that, they’re also acceptable to open with turn 1, else you can replace them away.
So with our plans to combo squared mostly away there’s still about half a deck’s worth of cards to add, we want a way to prevent our opponent from killing us while we build our combo or a backup win condition should we for whatever reason deem that it’s unlikely that we can win through our main combo, Ideally it will have synergy with the rest of the deck. And perhaps contest mana tiles. If this sounds a lot like I’m about to tell you that we’re including a bunch of Magmar’s excellent Egg minions, then congratulations, you’re actually reading the article so far, but hopefully this explains why I’ve included these cards over other options.
Having added all these eggs cards Lava Lance is an excellent include, almost too good not to, but I ended up not adding other removal even though some of it’s pretty good. With Egg Morph, Thumping Wave and Ephemeral Shroud all already in the deck there’s now plenty of removal. I’m not running it but natural selection is fine as long as you avoid having your eggs dispelled we just don’t really need more single target. Plasma Storm doesn’t suffer from the dispel problem that Natural Selection does, and both of these are perfectly useable in Ragnora in my opinion as long as you sequence correctly, and if you need AoE it’s possible that Plasma is worthwhile if you’re running into lots of decks it’s good against. If you have enough spirit then maybe also consider rebuke, which can be a pretty big swing against a lot of popular decks and buy you time to assemble the combo against others. But these AoEs are a little clunky sometimes, and do suffer from a little bit of anti-synergy with some of what we want to do establishing the board, though in the past I’ve found the upsides to outweigh the downsides and if some of your rebirth minions do get egged in the process you can usually mitigate the damage by good positioning.
The final ingredient is some draw cards to help us find our combo or refuel to continue having board presence. Embryotic Insight benefits from all the egg synergy we’re running, and helps us to cheaply dig into our deck. Tectonic Spikes has a larger draw amount, but also damages us and draws for our opponent, which can be quite a downside on occasion, especially bad against aggro decks. But since we do like to put our opponent to 20hp at least, the 3 damage can be helpful in scenarios where they are winning board and playing defensively, or if you just need that little bit of extra damage to close out a game, and of course the draw being unconditional is quite nice too, so you can use it even when your BBS isn’t up. Incidentally though Bloodbound Mentor could be an excellent replacement if you’re looking to upgrade in future.
That completes the deck at 20 spirit over budget, I’m sure you’ll forgive me 😉
Since you can’t perform your combo until the mid/late game anyway (barring insane double Abjudicator draws) you’re usually looking to develop your standard rebirth minions, prevent your opponent from taking mana tiles or too big of a board advantage, and your mulligan should reflect this. That said how many combo pieces I have in your opening hand can quite heavily affect my replace decisions, but you always would like to have a plan for what you will play turn 1 and turn two, and these will mostly be our rebirth minions.
In the above example we really need an opening play as player one, so we will be replacing 2 cards, but the question is which two? With 2 Abjudicators and a Tectonic Spikes there’s a chance for us to get to the combo very quickly, but that’s unreliable and we may lose in the meantime, so we probably don’t need 2 Abjudicators at least. But we still need to replace a second card to have the greatest chance to have an opening play. Lava Lance is way too good in the early game and can save your bacon, so I’m happy to hold onto that. With keeping such a cheap spell it seems likely that we may be wanting the draw spell too, but without the Abjudicator it’s a little less useful. Raptyr is the closest thing we have to a real minion though, and if we replace it and then also miss on our turn one we could be in a world of bother. If we do miss then having the draw spell wouldn’t be very good, but there’s still replace it on our first turn if we don’t hit a 2 drop from our opening replaces. If we replace Raptyr and then miss turn 1 though we can Abjudicator and have a free lava lance and a cheap draw spell which is okay, but Abjudictor is really bad as a minion and we want to be casting it with multiple combo pieces in hand. Overall I didn’t think Raptyr is strong enough in the matchup and chose to hang onto Abjudicator so that we have a higher chance of getting off a combo, but this was by no means an easy choice and we may need to draw quite well to do well in this game
In this example we have a couple of playable opening minions so we don’t need to replace too heavily. Since Brome often runs lackluster ranged removal Cryptographer might be quite likely to put us up an early Ripper and Ragebinder is also very reliable. Brome often runs swarm archetypes and Raptyr is much less good in that scenario, plus with 2 combo pieces in hand it’s definitely worth digging a little to find a Greater Fortitude or a draw spell, I replace the Raptyr only.
Once we’re out of the first turn or two we’re into territory where we start casting more than one card a turn, either we will be looking to push and advantage or be trying to gather our combo pieces. We can and should use Rippers to deal with our opponents board, but if you can get one hatched safely you can potentially always be in a situation where if your opponent walks close you can kill them at 5 mana. Wild Inceptors & Lava Lances can help the deck keep tempo and clear early threats without setting back any early board development. If we’re in the advantage we can rely less on the full combo since out opponent will probably be at a lower life total, but if we fall behind it can become tricky to do enough to stay competitive on board whilst sculpting the hand that will allow you to win, especially when you get forced to use your combo pieces as removal. So and the mid game ends we typically want to have a card draw spell in hand just as we run out of cards. You usually want to hold off as long as possible and play things that affect the board for as long as you can reasonably do so, and then cast draw spells once you have enough mana to be able to play some of what you draw in the same turn you draw it.
And at this point we reach our end game, which for this deck isn’t particularly ‘late game’, since we want to be dealing big damage on 7-8 mana, and if you haven’t won by 9 mana you’re usually trying to stall out for the last bit of damage you need. If you didn’t win board and can’t hit them with your burst damage then you probably lost.
If it sounds tricky, well it kinda is, I don’t feel like this deck is as easy to pick up as some other budget lists, but if you like combo style decks then it’s probably one of the better budget combo decks in the game.
If you are looking to craft higher higher rarity upgrades to the deck then I do have a couple of suggestions for what you might like to consider, this is NOT me telling you to go craft all of these at once to boost your winrate:
Makantor, this card is a ubiquitous Magmar staple for a reason, it’s an instant impact card that helps clear board, goes face, deals AoE damage and usually sticks around after it does so. Almost no matter in which direction you look to improve the deck Makantor will help.
If you want to keep the deck fairly similar with the full Thumping Wave Combo I’d recommend adding Bloodbound Mentor over Spikes, it puts a copy of Propagate Rage into your hand, so you can use Abjudicator to lower the cost of it if you need to, or you can just play/replace the egg as the situation calls for.
Saurian Finality is a good target for Abjudicator, bringing back memories of Finality pre-nerf. Add some of Magmar’s fantastic AoE and then you can play the deck like a control deck that has access to a huge burst damage combo finish if it needs it. In the current landscape of the game though this may not be the best strategy against things like Cataclysmic Fault and Trials.
Zoetic Charm is an insanely good card in Eggmar in my opinion, you could cut out some of the more hardcore combo elements such as Abjudicator, Tectonic Spikes and Thumping Wave to make the deck more focused on the strategy of winning board and less reliant on drawing specific combo pieces. Check this month’s Power Rankings for a good example of a meta combo Ragnora deck.
Good luck out there!