Brief Summary of Build
Hey guys Swim here, with my deathswarm deck that I created and climbed with on stream yesterday. The deck plays similarly to the dagon fog lists we see, although it uses mass unit swarm via harpy and earth elemental, in conjunction with mass buff cards such as Iris, Yennefer, and Commander's Horn to achieve great value. The idea is to hopefully take round 1, then carryover many units into round 2. If Iris dies from the round ending, she'll buff ALL of your spawned units going into the next round.
Otherwise, you can instant-play Yennefer with 4+ units on the board already to achieve great value going into a fresh round, in addition to spamming out more buff units first, hopefully resulting in:
Crafting Order: Water Hag -> Iris -> Fire Elemental -> Bekker's Twisted Mirror -> Fiend -> Yennefer -> Woodland Spirit -> Ge'els -> Caranthir
If you have any of the following cards, you can replace any cards you don't own with:
Gold replacements: Ciri, Avallac'h, Triss: Butterfly Spell, Villentretenmerth, Geralt: Igni, Kayran, Succubus, Caretaker
Silver replacements: Roach, Scorch, Decoy, Giant Toad, Prize-Winning Cow, Frightener, Marching Orders, Shadow, Crone: Brewess/Crone: Weavess/Crone: Whispess
This deck's BUDGET VERSION is not the cheapest out of my deck's budget versions, but it's very effective. You'll need Woodland Spirit and Yennefer, as well as several epics. Plays basically the same as the normal list though, just be as always cognizant of not having Royal Decree being too redundant. Try to use Decoy on Water Hag, Archgriffin, or Unicorn.
-1x Lacerate, -1x First Light, +1x Archgriffin, +1x Arachas Venom
Small tweaks to the composition of the list: Arachas Venom ends up much better than Lacerate, mostly because of Savage Bears (thanks to asdf for the idea). And otherwise, a second archgriffin just ended up better than First Light.
July 8: -1x Impenetrable Fog, -1x Bloodcurdling Roar, -2x Archgrifin, -1x Arachas Venom, -Iris, -Caranthir, +2x Thunderbolt Potion, +3x Arachas, +Frightener, +Triss: Butterfly Spell
Update for patch 0.9.8. Big patch merits a lot of changes. Most of the changes are self-explanatory based on meta shifts and individual nerfs. Arachas are added to provide more bronze bodies as we don't have as tight bronze slots anymore. Triss Butterfly Spell is very very useful in long rounds and will win you the game on its own sometimes.
Celaeno Harpy: Basically auto-include monsters card. Offers huge value, even without any synergies. Play for 7 value, with 6 more after the eggs die. Best thing for this deck is that it plays 5 bodies total, which is huge. Enables Horn/Yennefer/Iris both on the round you play it, and the round afterwards. Use eggs to block cow carcasses or to enable Bekker's Twisted Mirror. Try to play these in spread out rows if possible, although in certain situations you can stack these if you aren't afraid of being punished and need to setup a big horn. Play these as your proactive options early on in rounds.
Earth Elemental: Similar to harpy, although offers less payout. Still very solid with the swarm idea. Plays for great value in future rounds, and the quen shield is more important than ever with so much weather; it will pretty reliably generate you value here. Make sure to keep these on the right side of the melee row, as if your eggs die and spawn harpies on the melee row, they'll be able to spawn lesser earth elementals for extra value. It might be your natural inclination to put golds to the right of these to block skellige storm, but avoid that unless against a spell-based deck. Be wary however of saving these cards for round 3 however, as unlike the celaeno harpies they're very reliant on their deathrattle to provide value.
Foglet: Blacklist these early and pull them out with fogs. Be wary that these go onto the opposite row that you fog, and avoid playing them into a weather that will kill them. Currently, these actually don't die when fog is removed from the opposite row if there's fog in the row that they're on, which is actually very abuseable in the fog mirror, as you can summon these in a row where they're protected by larger units, and the opponent can't clear to kill them.
Fog: Put pressure on the opponent early and summon your foglets. I'll play this generally as soon as the opponent plays a unit. As with any weather, be very careful about committing too many weathers. In most cases I'll try to put no more than 2 weathers on the board at once, although you also need to know when to push with more, generally after several turns of the first weather, or in round 3. Most players will clear all weather when you commit a second weather, so as long as you don't, they're kind of locked out of clearing the first one, and must just endure it. Use this to your advantage.
Archgriffin: Clear a single row of weather. You can use this one pretty early, unless it's a weather you don't care to clear. Pretty straightforward application. You can mulligan them away in matchups if you don't expect weather, such as Nilfgaard or Skellige.
Lacerate: Huge value off the combo with Caranthir, and another enabler to kill iris. Often you'll Caranthir and they'll clear the weather, but you always have this as followup.
Bloodcurdling Roar: Two major uses, for triggering eggs, and for destroying cow carcasses. Rot tosser is one of the strongest cards in terms of its general trade value, and this card is able to beat it by 6 points in the trade which is gigantic. Fantastic anti-nilfgaard tech.
Water Hag: Auto-include monsters card. Gigantic utility, and huge value. Lacerate here combos with caranthir and can trigger Iris, and you can rain to apply pressure in a situation where you want more weather if the round is looking a bit longer. Basically just save it for late (in case you need to use it as a clear), and otherwise use it for lacerate later. Rain would be an early round 2-3 play most of the time, in a situation where you want pressure at the start of a medium-sized round.
Iris: As mentioned previously, with this deck you don't even have to kill this card to gain value from her. You can play her midway or late into a round where you have both a developed board for this round and for the next round, and then if you need to end up using her to push for the round you're in, you can kill her to take the round, or if not, you can win the round without her and then start next round with 25-50 points. Against Skellige, place her to the right of longships so they start killing her, and against monsters place her on the right side of a row; if you kill an egg and it hatches a harpy next to her, she'll trigger her deathrattle without dying. In a pinch you can trigger her with weather or unlock her with Fiend. Note that sometimes you will intentionally play her outside of weather, because you might want to ensure being able to get her deathrattle at the start of the next round rather than in the current one.
Fire Elemental: More bodies for your buffs. Note that the brave trigger on this will check scores after it's played for 12 points, so you need to be 13 or more behind to get the +2 strength. Try to play around that if possible. Great card to keep going into round 3 alongside a yennefer.
Commander's Horn: Pretty easy value in this deck. Even in round 3, you'll often have a woodland spirit which will already provide you with enough bodies to be able to buff with this, particularly with a small amount of carryover from round 2. Very reliable. Avoid if possible buffing foglets, as they're susceptible to dying if fog is cleared.
Fiend: Your lock/unlock utility. Mostly useful to unlock iris, or to lock threats such as morkvarg, or a resilient Impera Brigade. Pretty standard functions here.
Bekker's Twisted Mirror: Pretty powerful card despite its meme reputation. In any deck that has a lot of 1-strength units, and no units over 6-7, this card can find pretty great value. Always be on the lookout for an avenue to get value out of this card; will require some delicate playing around. At the same time, don't try to get too greedy here and try to get value in early rounds if given the option for a 16+ swing.
Yennefer: Core to the idea of this deck, one of the two cards that buffs every unit on your board. Try to secure a good carryover on a won round, then play this card in the early turns of next round to force huge value (often playing a few more swarmy cards first). Be wary of savage bear denying your unicorn. Additionally, you can use this for round 1, especially if you have an Iris on their board, and you use yennefer to win round 1 with Iris on board, and Iris carries you over huge value into round 2. The objective of this card is essentially to simply play units faster than the opponent, so start a late round with a good carryover, then play several units in a few turns (fire ele, woodland spirit, celaeno harpy), then slam this for huge value.
Woodland Spirit: Pretty great synergy card, as it not only enables foglets but even if the fog is cleared, enables good buff targets via wolves. Save this one for round 3 whenever possible, hopefully with Yennefer.
Ge'els: Great value monster card that gives you better access to your high-value golds and silvers, which in many ways are essential to this deck. Use it when you're fishing for something and your gamble will often be rewarded; as a worst case scenario, you generally have one good option from the choices, as well as probably increasing your draws for next round.
Caranthir: Can actually be a bit unreliable, but when it generates value it can win the game on its own. It's best near the end of a decently long round, to put all of their units on the same row. If the opponent clears that row, you can follow up with a lacerate, or maybe a second frost from Dagon. When deciding a row, generally you pick whichever row you expect the opponent to further develop into; often siege against monsters and skellige, and melee/siege against nilfgaard.
This section is simply for explaining why some cards that may seem good fits for this list aren't in it. Most of these cards are still good budget replacements, and be sure to consult that section at the top of this guide if you're unsure about replacement slots.
Triss: Butterfly: Seems super appealing in this list, and she offers great value sometimes, despite being slow and situational. Her biggest problem is Nilfgaard, which can block a lot of her value with strategically timed cow carcasses and emissaries. Still a great budget replacement.
Crone: Brewess/Crone: Weavess/Crone: Whispess: These cards are...honestly pretty overrated. They are clunky, take up a lot of silver slots, and weaken Ge'els. Definitely not a bad choice for this list, and great budget replacements, but I find it runs a bit better without them.
Roach: I think this card's amazing and would love to run him in this list but he's a bit awkward with Ge'els.
Marching Orders: It's a consideration, as it pulls out Iris and Water Hag. Pulling them out randomly is a bit awkward, and pulling Iris out at 5 strength can be awkward, even if you don't have to kill her. Still a great budget replacement.
Open by blacklisting foglets. You can elect to get rid of archgriffin and first light against skellige and nilfgaard if you don't expect weather. You can drop lacerate if you don't have Iris, although it can still achieve great value against nilfgaard early on. Drop Bloodcurdling Roar if not against nilfgaard as it's mostly a tech for that matchup. Drop Bekker's Twisted Mirror against monsters, as they will have too many 1-str units for it to be reliable. Lastly you can drop an Earth Elemental if the rest of your hand is good, you're fishing for something, and you have at least 5 total combination of harpies and earth elementals. If you haven't seen foglets all mulligan, make sure you decline your third mulligan in practically all cases.
Generally open by playing Earth Elemental, as it's your most non-committal play. Keep this Earth Elemental on the right side of your melee row, as spawned harpies landing on that row will then trigger its deathrattle. Play a fog from hand when the opponent commits a unit, unless your foglets would land in weather. If you have no bronze fog, use Dagon. In general, try to keep one weather on the board, but avoid playing multiple weathers at the same time, as the opponent will generally wait for you to play a second weather before using their clear skies, and you're much better off keeping that pressure with that one weather, as they are basically locked out of the option of using clear skies until you commit more (although in some scenarios, often round 3, you'll need to know when to push for additional weathers). Continue into the round playing celaeno harpies and earth elementals, possibly using a Fire Elemental if you're ever 13 or more points behind. Bloodcurdling Roar any cow carcasses, and Archgriffin any weathers. Use Bekker's Twisted Mirror if you ever have a situation that presents a good value (16+ swing), although saving it for round 3 can be situationally strong as well. When the round goes sufficiently deep, use Iris or Caranthir (using Ge'els to try to find one of these can be good too). Against Skellige, place Iris to the right of a longship to threaten it dying, and against Monsters play Iris on the right end of a stacked row; if you kill an egg and it hatches a harpy next to her, she'll trigger her deathrattle without dying. Iris will often threaten them out of the round, at which point if you can beat their score without popping Iris, she'll die going into the next round, and buff all of your hatched harpies and lesser elementals for the start of next round. If they don't pass, you can force out the current round by triggering the Iris with lacerate, Water Hag, or weathers. Be aware that in many situations you may intentionally play Iris outside of weathers to ensure that she won't be triggered until next round. With Caranthir, play him in the row you expect the opponent to occupy with late units: against monsters and skellige, generally the siege row, and against nilfgaard, melee or siege. If they clear Caranthir's frost, you can dagon to re-frost or lacerate that row for massive value. If you're able to win round 1 with 6+ units being carried over into next round AND Iris going off, you have probably won the game already.
Hopefully you were able to win round 1. If you win round 1 with either Iris buff being carried over, or a Yennefer in hand, you're generally in a very good position. More often than not you'll have at very least 4 units to start the board with. If you have Yennefer, start swarming units very quickly onto the board (fire elemental, woodland spirit, celaeno harpy), then slam Yennefer with generally ~10+ more units than the opponent for huge value. If you lose round 1 but have a solid carryover going into round 3, the same rules apply: try to save Yennefer for the start of round 3 and surge ahead in units before playing her. Ultimately the later rounds of this deck are very straightforward. If you're able to assert enough pressure in early rounds, the game should be effectively secured. Good luck. :)
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