Brief Summary of Build
Hello, Insangpha from TOPDECK here. I really love handbuff deck, bec I feel that the deck type is really interactive and rewards skill. Executing the game plan in tempo-drive meta with a deck that invests for later round isn't easy. And I genuinely feel this is the most definitive version I came up with. I tested the deck mostly in regular ladder and tournament games. On regular ladder, I hit GM with nearly 100 wins and less than 50 loss, so it's about 70% win rate. Not spectacular, but considering it deviates strongly from popular top tier Brouver build, I think it's pretty good. And of course I had to face bunch of mulligan and alchemy decks on way to GM, popular deck types that are considered to be favored against handbuff engine deck. On tournament, on red coin, I haven't lost single time with my handbuff deck. On blue, I think I won around 40-50%, that's across 14 matches of best of 3 games I have been part of, from Gwentlemen Open Legacy to Challenger Qualifier. Consistently winning on red coin while giving you puncher's chance on blue coin is what good deck does, and I believe my version checks that box.
Enough with babbling, now let's get on with basics of the deck idea. Going away from Nova and Flavenderal in favor of 3 of swordmasters, farseers, and hawker supporters boost the consistency of the deck's strategy- handbuffing your swordmaster for the wincon. It has the consistency of strong opener with the infamous T126, 100% access to muzzle with Yaevin, strong topdeck potential with Aglais and Isengrim. These cards help to mask the weakness of slow tempo of dragoons and hawk supporters. Now let's dive in to mulligans.
-Blacklist Cleaver, multiple hawker supporter. Also if you have 2 swordmasters or 1 swordmaster and braen, you don't need additional swordmaster, you can mulligan them away. If you have Yaevin in hand or draw into Yaevin, you can mulligan away Barclay. Because throwing Yaevin and casting the combo with Brouver leader ability is the best way to get max value out of T126. Against weather heavy types (veteran with Birna Bran or Axemen, moonlight, wildhunt) you can aggressively mulligan for Ida Emean. This deck does not have much of a completely brick draw other than cleaver in hand, which allows aggressive mulligan.
-Also blacklist Vrihedd sapper, and if you have Isengrim in hand, you can blacklist both sapper and Toruviel.
-Naturally, keep all the golds. Having access to 6 silvers are relatively easy with Brouver ability and the Barclay-Cleaver Chain, but the deck does not thin aggressively, so you wanna have access to all golds when you can. Not finding muzzle when it's key card in matchups- Greatsword, consume, Henselt- is alright because Yaevin will always find you Muzzle, since it's the single special card we r running.
-Finding multiple dragoons along with good number of swordmaster+Braen is top priority in mulligan phase. If you have multiple Farseers, it's okay, just put them in separate intervals so it doesn't get multiple scorched vs decks that may use scorch.
Brouver-Barclay-Cleaver turn 1- 26 points.
No need to explain much here. If you are on red coin, and opponent played low tempo unit (anything below 13 strength basically), you can casually play Yaevin. Opponent will likely be aware of T126 combo, so either he plays spy of his own, or he has to play a unit and go down 2 cards. If he passes, we take the round on even cards with the combo.
This is win-win situation either way. If opponent passed, you just bleed him in 2nd round and set up strong swordmaster. If opponent played a spy, you take the tempo with the combo, control it, and even if you have to let go on some point with opponent down a card, wardancer can get you CA back. If opponent went down 2 cards to take round 1, we have all the points to match opponent's play and head into R3 with card up.
Iorveth-Hawker supporter onto Swordmaster or Braen, along with Dragoon buff
Almost whole point of the deck. Having double buffed swordmaster on last round with last say will win you game most of time. Even if we are down a card, as long as we have targets to hit with swordmaster, it will give us a chance to win. Depending on the matchup, you want to invest mostly on one swordmaster, or spread the buff. For example, against Henselt and Reveal control, you want to make one of them at 13 strength so it can one shot villentermeth. Against decks with units that typically have low ST, you want Braen+swordmaster to be around 9-10 strengths.
Farseer buff chain
Farseer gets buffed when other unit on field or hand gets buffed. That means she has great synergy with dragoon, hawker supporter, and Iorveth. Farsser buff helps us to stick around in bad matchups (swarm buff and consume), because if you have 2 farseers on field with dragoon, it's +4 a turn. Also it's likely we get a buff unit we off of elven scout, so Farseer ability can get triggered there as well.
Based on my experience, I divide matchups into these categories.
Strong matchups- Henselt, Greatsword, veteran, Axemen, control heavy-scorch decks
Whether on blue or red, you want to play round 1 out and win with all of our removal tools available. Brouver combo means we can establish tempo faster than they do. Priority here is to deny Greatsword buffs rather than lightlongship. We can get muzzle all the time, so muzzling 10 raw strength Greatsword gets off of An Craite will be game winning. Exercise caution to not dmg greatsword without killing him, since they might use mandrake/decoy etc to heal it. In round 1 even if we do not have swordmaster/braen up to speed right away, we have removal that flat out denies 4 greatswords (muzzle, ida, cleaver, iorveth). Dragoon/farseer engine is superior to lightlongships without greatsword to buff. In later rounds, bleed the opponent, buff swordmaster with hawker supporter accordingly to snipe light longship and greatsword.
Access to both spy and wardancer helps us to secure CA against axeman. I prefer to save muzzle for axeman in last round. Establish barclay combo early in the game, and opponent will have to spend considerable resources. If we am on blue coin, we should save Ida for last round, if we are red, we can use Ida after opponent weathers us- preferably global weather-, so opponent has to spend most of weather resources to beat us in 1st round. However we cannot stop all the weather they throw at us, account for the amount Derran+axemen get buffed when placed, and prepare buffs on swordmaster accordingly to take them out. I find it it's better to muzzle axeman, since Derran is often much easier to kill upon deployment because he is without armor.
Muzzle Tuirsech veteran since it doesn't have a great target anyway. Get buff chain early, and sometimes they run Igni so be careful of row stacking. Many of them don't play carryover units, so wardancer is really huge. In later round, use buffed up swordmaster to take out bears to deny opponent easy res targets.
VS Control heavy scorch type
Buffing swordmaster to one-shop Villentermerth is really key here. They usually run one global weather, so keep Ida handy. Avoid multiple scorch at all cost, deploy farseers at long interval so it is much difficult for opponent to multiple scorch farseers. Saving Yaevin might be proper if it comes to really short 3-5 cards round.
Adversary who present fair challenge, but winnable -mulligan, alchemy, swarm decks
VS Alchemy- I really like this matchup, on paper, this is really tough matchup for us, but I found ways to consistently beat them even on blue coin. On red, strength of cleaver combo and wardancer help us to get CA. Use Iorveth and muzzle on slave driver spawns (priority removal target is dragoon and farseer). Aglais is just insane in this match up, there are so many good spells to choose from. They generally do not run weather removal, so Ida's fog on opportune moment is pretty good. Vs alchemy, the magic number is 11, because viper witcher usually does 10 dmg. What I do is, I buff one dragoon with hakwer supporter. When deployed, it's at 11 strengths, so opponent usually has to go considerable lengths to remove it. If we don't have hawker supporter in hand, I suggest to bait viper witcher with Farseer. If we can deploy farseer at 9 strength thx to Iorveth buff with dragoon placed, farseer becomes 11 at turn end so viper witcher cannot oneshot it.
On blue coin, I just dry pass. Opponent will have to play 2nd round out to make use of ointments and and thin their deck. Make sure to row stack until opponent plays Cantarella to avoid big foul ale swing. Meet tempo with tempo making big plays like barclay, and Isengrim. Same plan applies here as red coin. If possible, save Aglais along with one or two buffed up swordmaster as finisher for last round. Barring godhand from opponent and terrible hand from ours, we should head to last round with card advantage.
Very tough (winning chance plummets esp on blue)- death wish Dagon, consume
I want to discuss the particular match-ups and the art of drypassing on blue with this deck, but it takes long time to write the whole thing. So I will update them in order shortly.
So there are couple of card choices that may seem puzzling to you. I will explain the reasoning for their inclusion in the deck, and will suggest replacement.
Muzzle (potential replaement: royal decree)- You may wonder, why run muzzle over royal decree? Or potential high payoff gold like Aguara human form that fits handbuff strategy? Royal decree is tough one, because Yaevin into royal decree into Iorveth will make handbuff strategy more consistent. But I feel like muzzle is tough to pass up in a meta that sees lot of decks with prime muzzle targets, such as Ronvid, greatsword, and nekker. Also, we need countermuzzle bec of our dragoon. Great even in alchemy matchup when they generate dragoon off of slave driver.
Aguara human form is also way too inconsistent. She may even buff Yaevin in hand by 5. A gold that has to stay in hand till you only have swordmaster left? That's not good gold to run. If you are not sold on muzzle, you can just run royal decree.
Braen (potential replacement: Malena, Morenn, Roach, Aelierenn)- this may be the most questionable pick. Don't you already have swordmasters? You want to maximize the chance of holding multiple handbuff target units. Sometimes you don't even draw into swordmaster after hard mulligan. Braen is good insurance. It does have some minor synergy of buffing units (Aglais, Tourviel and Sapper), but more importantly, it also presents a good target for Brouver ability. Sometimes you manage to use all the silvers from hand. In that case, just buff Braen, mulligan her in last round, so that Brouver's ability does not go to a waste.
If you don't like her inclusion, you can run either Malena and Morenn for more consistency with Isengrim, or Roach and Aelierenn for more deck thinning. But if you go later route, it will make mulligan phase much more difficult, as number of potential bomb draws increase.
Elven scout (Potential replacement: Vrihedd Neophyte)- If I really want consistency with handbuff, why not run neophytes? I did experiment with multiple neophytes, but their impact seemed mediocre. The max number you can run is 2, also at the expense of valuable wardancer slot, and it's just not worth it. The buffs are random (so it can buff Yaevin for example), and when it's placed on board, it's just 10 ST dumb bronze card that doesn't have much synergy other than buffing Farseer. And in many situations, Farseer will get buffed anyway with dragoon on board. One elven scout is the wild card, that can potentially play bronze card at the nick of timing to turn the battlefield in our favor. There are so many good choices- Vrihedd brigade for single row weather removal, Vrihedd officer to get rid of brick, Vrihedd Vanguard since most of our units are elves. If you are not convinced and you dread the possibility of being confronted with choices of elven mercenary, mahakam volunteer, and wardancer, you should run neophyte.
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