This week’s spotlight deck is The Slightly Beefy Emir of Metrobost owned by Orion0497 of The Strangely Ordained. Emir is an Age of Ascension deck featuring houses Mars, Shadows, and Untamed. It currently sits at 70 SAS on DoK. 

    At a glance, Emir is a deck with high expected aember and creature control, with  decent aember control (better than is indicated by the 7.9 A if you max the triple  Ronnie Wristclocks and Mars Needs Aember combo) and no artifact control. The high  creature control helps mitigate a board with small effective power and low creature  count—not one for fighting it seems, but it will be very hard to create a board against  Emir (and might even be a bad idea in the reversal!!). Emir has negative speed, due to  Bad Penny and double Save the Pack, although it should be noted the Save the Packs  are not entirely to be discarded, as there are many cards that deal small amounts of  damage to many creatures at once (They’re Everywhere!, double Orbital  Bombardment, Throwing Stars) and this of course all pairs nicely with Mars Needs  Aember for a potential big aember swing. In short, against Emir, there are many things  you can’t afford to feed it: big boards and high aember counts.

    The Archon strategy of this deck, then, is actually quite a tricky one as the deck can be  played a few different ways. My first thought was that the deck should play without its  own board, or with only its useful ones like Ronnie, to maximize the Carpet Phloxems Orbital Bombardments-Mars Needs Aember-Phloxem Spike combo. A good player will  likely see this and perhaps forgo populating the board too much on their side as well.  Even so, Emir’s high number of pips ought to be enough to outrace a deck that needs  its creatures more. Similarly, a sneaky opponent might attempt to bait out the Mars  board control cards before boarding. The latter is probably a losing strategy against  Emir, though, as Emir has 19 action cards with 17 aember pips—that plus three Ronnie  Wristclocks and a well-timed Treasure Map mean that Emir can usually play the more  patient, potentially boardless game. Emir will excel against those decks that need their  board more, and Emir’s 13 creatures is a low count that few other competitive decks  can boast. Playing with Emir, then, is to be in the driver’s seat against decks that gain  the advantage by populating the board. Emir forces the opponent to fear the MNA  play, as they should. The only board that really can manage having its own aember on  it is a Bracchus or Ludo Saurian board. Even then, an MNA combo with line destruction  would mean sapping their aember and sending it to the common supply; not a bad  maneuver at all.

    Emir’s owner, Orion, verified that this was how they play the deck in Archon, i.e. by only  playing the creatures necessary to its success—the Ronnies, Glimmer, some Mars—and  then blowing them up in the service of maximizing the Phloxems. The Mars is the main  feature, Shadows controls the game (opponents really shouldn’t go above six-aember  checks with those Ronnies lurking) and the Untamed has excellent recursion. The  Gravid Cycle, Glimmer, and Nepenthe Seed all work together to keep the Mars and  Shadows coming back as necessary. So the Mars is not just deadly but can be doubled  down in successive Mars turns with Untamed helping to shape hands and repeat  deadly aember swings in between.

Playing against Emir, in my opinion, requires an equal amount of patience that can be  tested in the Reversal matchup. The Reversal strategy begins from the premise of not  feeding the Ronnies, if it can be helped, and playing around the MNA play, which  admittedly requires a few pieces to be in hand at the right time. If you can rush against  Emir early and check hard at 6 aember, you simply do it. Trying to bait some of that  control early could also force awkwardly shaped hands later in the game.

    There isn’t enough speed in Emir to worry about it shaping hands to find its aember  control early outside of the Untamed house’s recursion (but if the Untamed turns are  recurring the Mars pieces, I have bad news for your Reversal chances). That said, I  could imagine a match that might give it fits: a speedy Logos house or a Dis house that  stalls and shortens hands. Orion told me as much: that random discards hurt Emir,  especially if holding the MNA pieces overlong. In cases like that, the deck opposite  Emir benefits from being similarly built: a low count of high value creatures, a high  count of action cards, and a decent number of pips. And, artifact control helps to nerf  the recursion with Nepenthe Seed, which is unquestionably the best of the Untamed  recursion cards due to its ability being an Omni. Otherwise, it might be tricky playing  around Emir’s effortless ability to go boardless and wreak havoc on opposing’s decks  creatures. Each creature you play against Emir is essentially weighted one (or more)  aember from your own pool, so the evaluation of creatures changes significantly. A  Reversal matchup might take some faith in the difficulty of piloting Emir with few reps,  while knowing how to value creature’s in the deck opposite Emir. 

    In talking to Orion, it’s clear that piloting the deck is easier said than done. Even if you  buy in to the strategy of going without a board, one has to know the matchup—hence  Emir’s usefulness as an adaptive and Newton deck. Something Orion finds trips people  up in the Reversal is realizing the ineffectiveness of MNA against a fellow Mars deck.  Playing against Emir, one should look to also exploit the low speed, lack of artifact  control, and not feed the Phloxem/OB/MNA plays directly. It seems that playing with or  against Emir, the best strategy is to go without a board, only playing a small number of  high value creatures, which I think is one of the crazy/fun/wild things that Keyforge does better than any other card game! 

    Emir had a really nice showing in the first round of Swindle Team Events, posting a 3-0  match win. Orion played against KMarch of Felching Welshmen, who brings  Dominguez of Armorpig to the crucible. Dominguez is a 70 SAS DT deck with very  solid AERC numbers and some good Unfathomable pieces that, on paper, could be a  big problem for Emir. Funny enough, Dominguez wants to do a similar strategy to Emir  but with its Shadows house: lots of splashy damage in double Booby Trap, Cement  shoes, Safe or Sorry, Scooped, and Seeker Needle with an Easy Marks to exalt all those  damaged creatures. Of course, Emir ultimately doesn’t want any creatures out anyways  and the MNA/Phloxems play is ultimately more punishing to opponent aember totals.  Also, my editor KarenB pointed that Safe or Sorry also introduces another possible,  very useful strategy against Emir: archiving any number of friendly creatures from play.  Doing so after a check would work to avoid the MNA play and leave only Emir’s  Ronnies to potentially bring Dominguez off of check. Neither player used this strategy,  though.

    In the Archon game, Orion maximized Emir’s Shadows house early, getting two Ronnies and an Umbra on the board, followed by Treasure Map the next turn. Subsequent turns, however, found Orion wisely discarding needless creatures. Early Untamed turns also allowed for the recursion engine to get rolling, and a recurring Nature’s Call helped send the other side of the board back to hand multiple times. Once Emir’s Mars house finally got going, double Orbital Bombardment and MNA began to do its thing, sapping the opponent’s aember, followed by what was surely a frustrating Phloxem Spike. Even though this play was not necessarily maxed out, the pips on the Mars action cards also worked to give Orion a heavy 10-aember check. Ultimately, the final key in the Archon game was gathered by the Untamed recurring the Shadows control, i.e. the Ronnies, for some late-game stealing to help mitigate a pesky Lieutenant Valmart that was upping key cost. The following turn, Nepenthe Seed came up big to return Orbital Bombardment, helping a late Mars rush put a close game just out of reach.

    In the Reversal game, Orion’s opponent, KMarch, showed off their ability to learn the  deck by discarding some unnecessary Untamed pieces early on. Yet, Orion’s prediction  for the Reversal contest appeared apt: early Mars turns saw Orbital Bombardment and  Phloxem Spike coming out early without the MNA to back it up. This is an incredibly  difficult decision point, though, but it’s one that makes Emir an interesting Newton  choice. It forces its opponent to gamble on the recursion engine they just saw in  motion during the Archon game. Subsequent turns in the Reversal match showed that  Emir was up against a largely unfavorable matchup when the draws are there:  Dominguez found ways to up key cost multiple turns in a row, buying it some much needed time. Emir used Dominguez’s Star Alliance creatures—including Captain Val  Jericho, Lieutenant Valmart, double Operative Espion, Rocketeer Tryska, and Diplomat Agung—because their value was essentially worth potentially feeding the combo. Emir,  then, was as tricky to make work in the Reversal as Orion had hoped for, even as  KMarch succeeding in mirroring many of the combos that showed up for the Archon  matchup

    This matchup was a tight one and could have easily resulted in a 1-1, but it’s these  kinds of decks—both Emir and Dominguez—that make Newton such an exciting  format. 3-0s lurk around every corner, with tricky decks and that dang random number  generator determining the smallest margins of success.