Brief Summary of Build
Well...here we are again. This is my new and improved dorf list for this patch, which I made and played today on stream and climbed 800 MMR with. It's somewhat reminiscent of the old list from last patch but actually plays somewhat differently, as you don't rely on healers, and mahakam defenders only lasting one round really incentivizes you to go for a 2-round shutout. The idea behind this list is to use Alzur's Double Cross (possibly multiple times) to pull out Mahakam Defenders, and then to use and reuse the ridiculously powerful Thunderbolt Potions and Commander's Horns to great effect. The deck uses high-value silver specials to empower mercs, nature's gift, and aglais to achieve even higher value. Positioning is also very key here. You also often make the opponent go first on round one, but more on that later. Be sure to check out this budget version if your scraps are too tight to craft this list.
Crafting Order: Alzur's Double Cross -> Nature's Gift -> Aglais -> Isengrim -> Saskia -> Ida Emean -> Roach -> Zoltan: Animal Tamer
If you have any of the following cards, you can replace any cards not owned in this list with:
Gold replacements: Yennefer: The Conjurer, Triss Merigold, Iorveth, Yennefer, Geralt: Igni,
Silver replacements: King of Beggars, Decoy, Aeromancy, Witchers (Vesemir, Eskel, Lambert)
Don't run Cleaver, Toruviel, or any other 5+ STR unit as it will block Alzur's Double Cross on Mahakam Defenders
Update 1: -Iorveth, +Zoltan: Animal Tamer, -Thunderbolt Potion, +Hawker Healer
I found I wanted the extra body Zoltan: Animal Tamer provided, and Iorveth is mostly just good against monsters where medics don't see value. Hawker Healer was a bit more reliable than thunderbolt potion, but I'm not terribly happy with my bronze ratios and will probably adjust them more. I also fully completed the guide.
Update 2: -Ida Emean, +King of Beggars
Ida was a really good fit for this deck, but starts to be really predictable as this deck becomes more common. Keep using her if she works for you. I'm still not entirely decided how to handle the silvers and bronzes of this deck (very confident on the golds), but until then I'm running King of Beggers as he's more reliable.
Mahakam Defender: Play this early, and be very careful to always play them adjacent to each other, and to have the group of them adjacent to at least one hawker smuggler. This allows for better thunderbolt potions and hawker healers, even if the opponent plays a spy between them, and allows you to keep a smuggler bigger than them if you want to, to help protect against scorches. Pull these out with Alzur's Double Cross. Try to keep them out of scorch range via the use of bigger hawker smugglers, and staggering their strengths so two can't die to the same scorch/igni.
Elven Mercenary: Bronze that almost singlehandedly makes Scoia'tael strong. Be very careful about how you play these; you generally want to play them at least several turns into a round so that you have better targets for any commanders horn, dimeritium bomb, etc that you happen to pull with it.
Hawker Healer: Post-nerf, this card has a completely different function than it did in my old dorf list. This card is basically just an efficient way to stagger your Mahakam Defenders, and provides a pretty easy 10 points. Play this preferrably between a defender and something else to dis-align your defenders from scorch/igni range. If they're already dis-aligned, play this between them.
Hawker Smuggler: Play these in melee row as your first moves in round 1. They generate very high value and protects your defenders from scorch throughout the round. This can be very awkward against high tempo plays like crones or a merc chain, so be careful playing this card if you might give your opponent a pass that would force 2 more cards out of you early on in round 1. Additionally, if your hand has a good amount of units in it, you can avoid playing 1-2 of these outside of the melee row to avoid frost/dbomb better. If it's a matchup that will likely have igni, keep at least 1 of these in the melee row to protect your defenders.
Thunderbolt Potion: Key addition to this deck that the old dorf deck didn't have access to. Very powerful 12 point bronze that can put value into future rounds. Spam these out on your cluster of Mahakam Defenders, making sure that they're protected from scorch/igni by a smuggler or one of the defenders. Don't be afraid to hit units other than Mahakam Defenders, if you're ending up staggering their values in an important way with this card.
First Light: These are to be mulliganed away and pulled out with your elven mercenaries. You'll use them for rally primarily, although against dagon, keep 1 in your hand to clear the weather.
Commander's Horn: Huge value that has major synergy with Nature's Gift and Aglais, as you're enabling those cards to hit for 20+ points. Even if you're only hitting 4 units, you're still getting pretty good value. Amazing tempo play. Often people end up passing with 40+ cards up and I beat them in two plays using this and aglais or something, securing 30-40+ points of defenders into round 2.
Nature's Gift: Basically clones Commander's Horn, or Alzur's Double-Cross. In niche situations can clone other things, such as opponent's spells, although I'd probably generally advise against using it to unlock isengrim, as he may just end up getting killed by alzur's thunder or something at that point. If you want to copy Commander's Horn (which you generally do), try to use them late in a turn where your opponent probably won't play a spell to block your nature's gift. If they do, you can aglais the horn first and try again to copy it the next turn. Honestly this card is one of the trickiest to use in the entire deck: you generally want to save it for a 2nd commander's horn, but you need to know when to use it to copy an Alzur's Double-Cross if your hand is starved for units.
Alzur's Double–Cross: Very great card here in that it enables aglais and nature's gift to achieve a bit more value, and your highest STR units are Mahakam Defenders to pull out at 8STR. In a really awkward round 3 you can use this with Aglais, although you should generally use Aglais earlier if possible or opt for a 2-round shutout. If you have a really low unit count in your hand, consider using Nature's Gift to clone this to pull two defenders, allowing you to push for round 1.
Ida Emean: Great card that can help protect this list from its weaknesses. Unlike the old dorf list, this one is much more vulnerable to d-bomb and frost since it can't just rebuff through those effects, so it can be quite important to block those strategies, and it can achieve solid value in the ST or henselt matchups as they play spells regardless. Can be pulled by Alzur's Double Cross randomly, and unaware opponents may very well assume it's toruviel.
Roach: Solid card as always, achieves good value in this list due to always needing more units. In an awkward round 3, can incentivize you to play smugglers or mercs on the row it spawns to get use out of a thunderbolt potion etc. This card offsets the low tempo plays of isengrim etc, and th ose 3 points for that 1-2 turns can really help stay in range of the opponent's score. Pray it goes melee every time.
Dimeritium Bomb: Has a really awkward time performing against control scoia'tael, but is otherwise great, and particularly so in the dorf mirror. Keep it in opening hand in every matchup except for scoia'tael. You can replay it with Aglais in super niche situations.
Aglais: Super high power scoia'tael gold. Achieves its full potential in this deck due to being able to select between commanders horn and ADC (or maybe dbomb). Very hard time seeing less than 15 value. Try to use this card as a 2nd horn but if you can't find a good opportunity to buff more than 2 targets (particularly if you top-deck this late) you can use it for ADC
Saskia: Arguably stronger than Aglais, at least in a deck that isn't built around achieving full value from Aglais. Another silly card. Hard time achieving less than 15 value. You know the drill. Be careful about carrying this over past a long round 1. If round 1 is down to the last several cards and you have a choice between playing this or commanders horn for effectively the same value, play this because them passing and carrying this over when it achieves less value isn't as good. Also, play this earlier than normal vs henselt, as they will promote their stuff and remove your targets. Try to use it before they promote. Against arachas vran consume, consider saving it to snipe grave hag in round 3 if you have no other way.
Isengrim: Huge value in this deck due to the spell count and reliance on units. Play it early in round 1 (right after smugglers) and start generating that value. Don't be too concerned if they d-shackles it; it's not necessary to your gameplan and you're still up 10 points.
Zoltan: Animal Tamer: Very solid unit that has a hard time achieving less than 15 value here. The logic behind this unit is that whenever it's achieving low value by itself due to lack of units (9-11 value), you're enabling thunderbolt potions, supports, etc which you can often end up with later. You can also use it to snipe grave hag.
Eithne: Many might ask why she's not run in this list as she was in the last one; ultimately, the last one generated enough power and needed enough card advantage to make re-sending spies a good idea. Also hawker healers gave you like 30 points for some reason xd. Anyway, you can use her on Aglais now, and that's very big, but she lowers the consistency of the deck. Lots of considerations, but she ended up being backseated to Brouver.
Zoltan Chivay: Again, this card has anti-synergy with dorfs. Might seem counterintuitive because he does the same thing as the defenders; you don't want to stack multiple kinds of the same effects though. It's another low tempo card that hurts your ability to win round 1, and winning round 1 is very important to the idea of dorfs. In this case I'd rather run Regis as he provides a buffable body later, but even that feels just a bit awkward in this case.
Witchers (Vesemir, Eskel, Lambert): Honestly I'm still undecided on this one. They hurt your silver slots but they do give you a lot. Check back in a day or two and maybe these cards will be in this deck.
Schirru: Honestly this card's just kind of bad. I'd use him to counter dbomb/frost like Ida does, but he blocks your own spells unlike Ida.
Yaevinn: You don't utilize card advantage or bleed tactics in this deck, and you don't have a scorch/igni to make him more reliable.
King of Beggars: Fishes between your three different 4str options, and can be kind of awkward given that. Honestly not bad still, just hard to fit.
Mahakam Guard: Kind of a worse hawker healer. Considering it as a 1x or something...it's not bad, but it does feel a bit purposeless compared to healers, which achieve essentially the same thing (staggering, solid value), but better.
Mulligan away first lights, thunderbolt potions, hawker healers, and roach, blacklisting aggressively for your golds and silvers, and trying to maintain a good amount of units (keep healers if you're low on bronze units). Mulligan one smuggler if you have 2 in a matchup that you expect few units in such as henselt. Consider mulliganing away a mahakam defender if you have 3, as too many can hurt your capacity to win round 1, which is vital. Mulligan dimeritium bomb vs scoia'tael (unless this deck becomes popular enough that you start to expect the mirror). Mulligan Isengrim vs harald if your hand is low on silvers and you don't have d-bomb. Always be sure that you don't start with more than 4 silvers, as you would then be making your brouver useless.
Use your faction passive to force your opponent to go first (some matchups may be exceptions). This will telegraph that you're playing this deck, although after mulligan it doesn't matter too much. This deck often functions by 2-rounding the opponent, with a large round 1 carryover, so it often doesn't matter to you at all to go first in round 2. This deck's games are won or lost by how round 1 goes, so playing more re-actively here is better. Play Hawker Smugglers (1 on melee, and the other one on siege IF you're not short on units to put on melee). Be very careful not to fall behind in tempo here; don't play a low-tempo card (smugglers, isengrim, defender) if you give the opponent and opportunity to pass to force you 2 cards down. If they play merc chain or crones, try to play a little more aggressively, forgoing a bit of long-term value to deny them a good pass opportunity. Try to Brouver as early as possible (if you only have 1 silver spell left) so that you don't end up mercing out your last silver spell. If you're in a matchup where you don't expect a d-bomb, play Ida before Isengrim to block d-shackles on it. Play Isengrim otherwise, following by Defenders (with ADC if necessary).
Group your defenders together, and keep that cluster adjacent to a hawker smuggler. This allows you to buff all of them with thunderbolt/horn, and being able to buff your smuggler can enable it to keep protecting your defenders from scorch/igni. Start buffing your units, playing Ida maybe a bit later if you're looking to counter d-bomb, although around this point otherwise. You can try to position her to look like Toruviel if think she'll be triggered in the next couple of turns, but you're weakening commander's horn etc if it gets pulled. Merc whenever you need tempo or in any situation where you're comfortable pulling nature's gift. With your Isengrim, Saskia, and 2-3 Commander's Horns, you should VERY reliably be able to take round 1, even if in some niche situations you need to go 2 cards down to do it.
At this point you should generally have at least 10-15 points on the board, sometimes up to 50+. Depending on your hand size, consider going for a 2-round shut-out, especially against monsters and nilfgaard, and if you don't have any more defenders left (which is common at this point). Be very wary proceeding into round 3 with poor tools (thunderbolts/horn/aglais without many unit options, etc). The game is effectively decided by how round 1 went, so just try to even out your hand or win the game here. You can get very awkward topdecks if you take this to a round 3 with a bad hand, such as drawing thunderbolts with no units left. Zoltan: Animal Tamer helps here, as you can summon roach and put the parrot on the same row, enabling healers and thunderbolts.
Ultimately, there's only so many situations I can cover in these guides, so feel free to check out my stream to see me play the deck (which in this case I'll be doing a decent amount of for the next few days) or to ask me any questions.
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