Greetings all! Welcome back to Market Research.
In this installment, I would like to examine the multifaction Combrei, Argenport, and Hooru cards that one might fetch with one’s Winchest Merchant.
For a little bit of context, the decks in which I expect Winchest Merchant to be a realistic choice (for these three faction combinations) are various flavors of TJP including Alessi, Temporal Distortion, and Owls, as well as Combrei Midrange, Argenport Midrange, Hooru Fliers, JPS Scream, FTJ and FJP Icaria, Vodakhombo, and TJS/4F Visage.
That said, let’s get back to our categorical approach to Markets.
There are Category 1 cards in almost every faction combination because Category 1 typically decides which Merchant you want to play. Multifaction cards that provide the cornerstone of strategies or archetypes allow two options, obviously, and then you decide between them based on the single faction cards you want. Still, Category 1 is your bread and butter.
For Combrei, these include a number of premier ramp cards including Knight-Chancellor Siraf, The Great Parliament, and Vodakhan, Temple Speaker. Vodakhan is obvious in his eponymous combo deck; the other two are both reasonable choices in any ramp deck.
If you are unsure which you want, a good rule of thumb is that you want Siraf if your deck is full of units that will draw out removal, and Parliament if your deck is full of spells and you need to present a lot of threats at once.
Another huge Category 1 card for the current meta is Sword of Unity, which kind of makes TJP Alessi run. It’s the big play they need when they can’t combo you to death for whatever reason and makes the board-wide Aegis pretty much constant. You can also run it in any deck that contains units and can realistically meet the influence requirements, because it’s just so high-impact.
On the other end of the spectrum, Stronghold’s Visage is extremely low-impact and yet is still the cornerstone of a couple of decks. Its synergy with Hatecleaver alone makes it a real card, but it is also reasonable in your TJP control decks that want Duelist’s Blade and/or Sword of the Sky King. Lastly, two honorable mentions for Category 1 Combrei are Enlightened Stranger and A New Tomorrow. A New Tomorrow is more likely to be in a Time market than a Justice one, but I could see a Combrei ramp deck that wants New Tomorrow, Shush, and Harsh Rule and/or plays 6-8 merchants.
There are significantly fewer Argenport cards that are great Market options than for Combrei, but boy, are they powerful.
Tavrod, Auric Broker was a menace of ladder for nearly 6 months, and is still an extremely powerful card for Argenport Midrange. AP Mid runs Winchest Merchant almost exclusively for Tavrod and Harsh Rule; the rest of their Market is gravy. Inquisitor Makto also often appears in Argenport Mid markets as a late-game threat, but there it is closer to Category 3 than Category 1 for that deck.
However, Makto is still a Category 1 card for 4F Greed, which is not really functional without it and this deck also wants to get it with Winchest Merchant because Harsh Rule is so important for them. In addition, Rooftop Vigilante is a card I wanted to mention here as Gunslinger Tribal often wants the card to be a flier and make their wealth of Quickdraw units extremely threatening.
As for Hooru cards in Category 1, they seem to me to be somewhat controversial. Not that they aren’t great cards one wants access to, but more that they tend not to be cards you put in the Market. Hooru Pacifier and Svetya, Orene of Kosul both fit into this category. While both of these cards are extremely powerful and are the driving force behind their respective decks, those decks will tend to want Nostrix, Lord of Visions (for Hooru Fliers) or Reality Warden or Cirso, the Great Glutton (for TJP Mid)*. Kothon, the Far Watcher is similarly a really important card for Chalice decks to have access to, but typically they will play 4 in the main because they want Time or Primal markets.
Eilyn, Clan Mother, however, is a strong Category 1 card for Hooru fliers that belongs in the Market alongside Nostrix, as both cards are good in different situations (and/or together). Eilyn's silence effect really helps Fliers finish the game by stopping opposing fliers or Sandstorm Titan, and the board clear is an instant win so often that it’s reasonable to have Eilyn in your Justice market just for that.
Rilgon also deserves his place in TJP Alessi markets as he is one of the best ways for that deck to pull off their One Big Turn™.
My two honorable mentions for Category 1 Hooru are Master’s Lesson, a sweet combo piece that doesn’t have a strong shell yet, and Aid of the Hooru, perennial “spell that’s so big Pojo can’t NOT play it” and sweet target for both ramp and Iceheart/West-Wind Herald combos.
*Yes, I know Cirso is Elysian. TJP Mid REALLY wants a Time market and that kind of emphasizes my point.
Combrei is full of great Category 2 cards, and if you have Combrei cards in your market, you really need to know what matchups your deck needs answers for. Do you need Desert Marshal, so your silence effect is fast, cheap, and affects the board? Or do you specifically need to ruin Makto or Clockroaches or something, so Shush is your go-to? Can you afford for your Harsh Rule protection to be Sword of Unity, or does it need to be Stand Together so you can hold it until they cast Harsh Rule?
Any of these choices are valid, but I do not have a great way to shortcut these decisions. On a different note, Reality Warden can be a really strong Category 2 card in the right meta, but the current one is not it. Reality Warden shines when you need to beat Dark Return, or Excavate, or the Revenge mechanic, but none of those is particularly important at the moment.
One thing that is important at the moment, though, is surviving a quick onslaught of units. Aggro is and always has been really strong in Eternal, and one of the best cards against them since roughly forever is Combrei Healer; it is still a reasonable inclusion in the Market if you really need a strong early blocker + health gain against Rakano/Stonescar/Skycrag/Flash Fire.
Argenport’s Category 2 options are much more limited. Really, it comes down to just Slay and Stonepowder Alchemist. Slay is hardly even Category 2 because it’s so generically powerful, but it’s just about the best answer to any threat in Argenport and as such should probably be in every Argenport market. Stonepowder Alchemist is for Argenport largely what Combrei Healer is for Combrei: a great way to block and stabilize against aggro, though it can conveniently provide an extra resilient threat against Removal Piles.
Hooru, on the other hand, has numerous viable options in Category 2.
The one I see most often is Vision of Austerity, and for good reason. Many decks require specific relics to function: Chalice, Mask of Torment, Paladin Oathbook, Combustion Cell, Xenan Obelisk, Crown of Possibilities, etc. Vision gets whichever one your opponent is playing, nice and easy.
Hooru decks (and all the multifaction decks that include Hooru) also have access to Bring Down, a particularly excellent answer to Inquisitor Makto but also Crimson Firemaw and Inquisitor’s Blade.
Eilyn, Clan Mother is also a nice option as both Silence, board clear, and evasive threat if the opponent’s board is full of units on the ground. One last option I would like to point out ,as I have never seen it played but could certainly see it in the right meta, is Linebreaker’s Shield. The card is particularly good against Permafrost because it provides a cheap answer and gives you a large unit with which to block Skycrag units. It’s also pretty good in a race since you can Spellcraft it to stop an opponent from blocking, stop the same unit from attacking once, give you an extra blocker for a turn, AND draw a card on top of it all; a huge blowout when it comes up.
Category 3 cards are always the least plentiful. For Combrei, the easiest one to identify is Knight-Chancellor Siraf, who is primarily a way for Combrei Alessi decks to gain a lot of value if for some reason the primary game plan doesn’t work (End of the Story, for example). The Great Parliament might also qualify for, say, FTJ Icaria if they need to go wide instead of tall. Vodakhan’s Staff, as well, is a card that I have always felt could conceivably see more play than it does, perhaps as a way to pump the stats of units in 4f Greed rather than just grind with infinite 2/2s and 5/5s.
In Argenport, there are some great options for Oathbook decks, Combreiport Hatecleaver, and all forms of Argenport midrange. Bartholo has not seen much play since his nerf, but an unblockable Aegis unit is an absurd way to break a board stall. Oathbook decks often have problems pushing past multiple blockers since the nature of the card Paladin Oathbook is to make multi-blocking advantageous. Combreiport Hatecleaver is a reasonably slow, inevitable midrangey deck, but sometimes you just need to kill fast, and Champion of Vengeance can do that well, attacking through virtually anything and getting faster and faster as time goes on. As for all the decks that play large units and hope it works (it usually does), there’s Grinva, Judge of Battles. She is extremely brutal punishment if the opponent is slow on their Harsh Rules and makes blocking an extremely poor prospect, and allows you to overextend not just recklessly but happily.
Kothon is mostly a way for unitless (well, unitless sans merchants) control to get on board and stay there. Duelist’s Blade provides Hooru Fliers with repeated removal, which is not something the opponent will expect out of Fliers until ~6 power. Champion of Order is a one-unit army that can be used in literally any deck that expects to need multiple threats late in the game.
My final honorable mention for this installment is Kosul Brigade. I have played decks that would have put this card in Category 1; it is very powerful if you can get any value at all out of the discard because it presents an ENORMOUS amount of stats on turn 6. In a market, though, the best use for Kosul Brigade is likely to give JPS Scream a big attacker to break through Sandstorm Titans and whatnot.
Justice markets are on the rise, but mostly because TJP is becoming better and better over time. I find that the most compelling reason to play Winchest Merchant is almost invariably Harsh Rule. However, Sword of Unity, Inquisitor Makto, Icaria, etc. are all great cards to have access to, and depending on the particular mix of engines, answers, and alternate plans you want, Winchest Merchant can, like any other merchant, be a critical part of an effective game plan.
In the next installment, I will begin examining Time Markets.
Auralian Merchant is not the most played card on ladder, but I could see an argument that it should be. It has great stats, rarely dying to early removal and blocking reasonably well while ramping you to your powerful 5-drops in Time. It also has myriad options and roughly infinite decks it could feed, if other decks weren’t dead set on Harsh Rule or Icaria. In fact, there are so many options for Auralian Merchant I might have to write three articles.
Well, until then, may you always draw your Merchants!