Brief Summary of Build
Hey guys, I'm Redrame. I noticed that I lot of people wanted my list today, so I decided to make a quick guide.
Quick disclaimer: this deck plays quite a bit differently from axemen pre-patch. If you're picking up the deck for the first time, expect a lot of trial runs. Axemen are also very matchup dependant and are definitely vulnerable to surprise tech cards that are not in the current popular netdecks. With that said, this list still got me to rank 1, so it's probably worth something.
EDIT: I hit rank 1 with this deck pre-patch. I have not played the deck frequently for the past week or so, but I imagine that the new meta both makes axemen trickier to win with and requires some new tech choices (in particular, it is much less reliable to use gold weather into Skellige Storm / Birna as a combo now since pretty much every deck has a full clear). Some of the comments have good ideas for adapting the deck, but I don't plan on working on it since I'd much rather come up with some new decks, which I'll post if I have reasonable success.
For those who want the rank snapshot: https://gyazo.com/5c50e9f2ef2479abc04a1194677cbc35
Clan Tuirseach Axeman: This card is surprisingly nonessential for this deck to win compared to the pre-patch axeman variant, and if you're forced to play a short round 3 you should probably mulligan it. However, the card can still get huge with the proper setup and the rest of the deck is built around it. Thanks to the Herald rework, Axeman is usually at least an easy 10 if you save your leader for round 3.
Whale Harpooner: This is the bronze that keeps this deck alive. Though I would probably rather play Drowner if it were a Skellige card, the ability to move units is huge. It is also your highest tempo play, assuming you don't have a Lacerate lined up, allowing you to catch up faster if your opponent passes on you early round 1. Other uses include lining up Hailstorm/Lacerate/Skellige Storm and disabling cards like Knight Elect and Longship. They can also be used for removal purposes by either dealing a lot of damage or moving things into weather.
Lacerate: This is the other hard carry. Lacerate can now hit card units, and has great synergy with Whale Harpooner and Drowner from Dorregaray. Interacts with Axeman prefectly as well since the row requirement of new Axeman doesn't matter here. Can also be used to cleanup a Hailstorm. You don't want many of these in your hand at once though.
Priestess of Freya: Does what Priestess of Freya does. The most noteworthy uses of this card are combining it with a Drowner from Dorregaray or combining it with a key enemy bronze from Summoning Circle like Officer or DBHC. Other than that, this card lets you run more axemen. The 3rd freya is definitely cuttable, but is ran as a filler since there aren't many good bronzes for this deck.
Herbalist: Used for some thinning, though this deck doesn't honestly care too much about thinning. I'd mostly just rather draw Lacerate than any other Bronze card. In a pinch, Herbalist is a secondary Operator target. Keep in mind that Udalryk can discard your lacerates or else this card will be very sad. The 2nd copy of Herbalist is probably the weakest card in the entire list, and I would cut it first. The fact that it's doomed really sucks, and the random pull prevents you from running Torrential Rain, though I definitely prefer the premium weathers in this deck anyways.
First Light: Used as a filler and to clear weather in a pinch. Be very careful playing this vs ST since Aglais can clear your weather if you play it.
Dorregaray: This is either another movement card or a Savage Bear 99% of the time. Drowner is usually preferred as it is a gread card to bring back with Freya later. Either way, it's a flexible high tempo play that has synergy with the deck, and the Axeman deck needs as many of those as it can get.
Udalryk: Insanely good spy for the deck. It can be used to guarantee weather value, force people out of round 1, bide time in round 3 before commiting to a play, or to enable Freya through the discard. Also a great Summoning Circle target.
Operator: Generates another Axeman, provides a Summoning Circle target, and extends the round, allowing for more weather ticks. This card was always great and it still is.
Skellige Storm: The weather of choice for the deck. It also has the benefit of not being dead when a gold weather is in play.
Merrigold's Hailstorm: This card swings for a lot of points due to the shape of the current meta, and with Axeman it swings for a lot of points while also boosting yours. Sometimes you kill too many things for this card to be impactful, but those are usually the games that you are already winning by a landslide. In every other case, this card is a must-have and you're sometimes pretty sad when you don't draw it.
Summoning Circle: Ideally landed on Udalryk, Operator, or the enemy spy. The next best targets are the silver locks, with Auckes being a particularly good one to hit. This card rarely does worse than being an Axeman. Despite all the complaints about this card being too good, I think this might be the weakest silver in the deck due to its unpredictability.
Golds and Leader
Herald: I've heard some players say that Herald wouldn't be the go-to leader for the axeman deck even if the deck was popular. That's total bullshit. Herald gives you a minimum of 5 pings and demands removal that would otherwise be aimed at axemen as well. Additionally, the traditional axeman silvers such as Blueboy and Ocvist aren't even worth running now, let alone pulling with Crach. You also can't pull them with Crach anyway unless you cut Whale Harpooner, which is a bad idea. Some of my friends tried running a similar deck with Bran to see if they could get it to work for a tournament and failed miserably. As far as how to play with Herald, you almost always want to save him for Round 3, since you will generally let less value out of him in round 1. Except in rare cases, you play Herald after playing all of your axemen out. The 1 ping per turn is a lot less reliable than the 5 initial pings. I have also found that Herald generally makes row-stacking axemen worth it despite the existence of Hailstorm. He's pretty straightforward to use, which is his biggest strength imo. You usually get to use him with at least 2 axemen in play on the same row.
RNR/Drought: The core of the deck. Play these before skellige storms unless you want to be sad unless you're up against a First Light or mage. If given the choice, Drought is better for round 1 and RNR is better for round 3 in most cases. You want to use these pretty liberally (often just after a uniti is played), and you should probably play one of these as a 1st play if you give up round 1. These cards have a ton of hidden power since they force row stacking, enabling your Axeman and Lacerate barrage.
Avallach: Combined with weathers and axemen to gain a ton of value by extending the round. Can also be used to ruin your opponent's thinning if you draw him round 1. Works just the same as before.
Birna Bran: Yet another weather to add some consistency to the deck. She has the advantage of being a bit higher temp than some of the other weather effects, which is useful sometimes. She's probably the weakest gold but she's still better than the other options.
Blacklist Lacerate first unless you don't have herbalist in hand, in which case you can keep one vs a deck with a lot of units like mulligan or witch NR. Blacklist Freya next. If you have more Freyas and are not against something like Eithne or Eredin, toss the rest. Otherwise, toss something like First Light unless you think you'll need it. If you have multiple harpooners you can toss one. If you have 3-4 weathers you can toss Skellige Storm or Birna. Otherwise you should probably keep hand if you made it that far.
Coming Soon TM (possibly)
To cut: 3rd Freya, 2nd Herbalist
2nd first light: Not a bad choice if people start copying me. I tried it and wasn't a fan since there are enough other cards to mulligan.
Stammelford's: This originally made my list, as the inclusion seemed obvious given what the deck was going for. It was just always weaker than Lacerate. The earth elemental is sometimes relevant in round 1 (e.g. to deny the round 2 wardancer from mulligan) but was almost completely meaningless in round 3.
Clan Tuirseach Veteran: I haven't tried this one, but they buff your axemen as well as Birna. One buff on axemen stops Alzur's Thunder round 3. The fact that they are fixed value doesn't work very well with the axeman gameplan though.
I don't recommend cutting any of the silvers. It's a shame that Donar and Gremist don't fit into the deck since both would provide very meaningful utility to this deck, but that's how opportunity cost works. In any other deck, I'd run Gremist over First Light in a heartbeat.
I wouldn't cut golds either. My original list ran Yennefer over Birna. Things die a bit too quickly with the way this deck is set up for Yennefer to be worth much. If the meta shifts towards taller strategies, it's possible that Vabjorn has a home in this deck, though I can't say I would dare try running him right now.
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