…and Deck Primer for OrosArboris (Sea of Sludge)
Hey Gamerati, my name is Brad Finlayson (player name Dragyn3ye). I backed the Solforge Kickstarter back in September of 2012 at the $50 level which included entry to this Kickstarter exclusive tournament with big prizes and the chance to battle StoneBlade employees (I will battle [SBE] Eric in round 1).
I was planning to release some Magic: the Gathering content (which is coming shortly) but after going 6-0 in the Solforge Kickstarter tournament not playing one of the ‘top decks’, I thought it would make for an interesting, but somewhat time sensitive, article.
For those of you familiar with Solforge you may wish to skip to the *** OrosArboris Sea of Sludge Deck Primer *** section.
For those of you new to Solforge, it is a free to play, digital-only, collectible card game created by StoneBlade Entertainment (with the help of Magic creator Richard Garfield), who also made the tabletop and digital deck building game Ascension. Solforge is a lane based, combat card game, rich in deck building strategy, in-game tactics and engaging line of play options. Stoneblade are really pushing the limits of a collectible card game by utilizing the fact that it is a digital-only game to implement some ingenious mechanics, create wacky formats, allow tournaments to be played broken up at different times, and nerf or buff cards on the fly based on community feedback.
One great example of an awesome, digital-only mechanic is the card leveling mechanic. In Solforge, decks are 30 cards and you can have a maximum of 3 copies of any 1 card. You draw 5 cards each turn and get to play 2 of them. When you play a card, a leveled-up copy of it is put into your discard pile. At the end of your turn the cards you didn’t play are discarded and you draw a new hand of 5 cards. Every 4 turns, you shuffle your discard back into your deck, including the 8 cards you played and leveled. At player level 2 you have a chance to draw more powerful level 2 cards, play them, level them to level 3, and draw and play them in player level 3.
Most cards have 3 levels, except for the five forgeborn, who also have a level 4, and the overload cards that very powerful for level 1 but are then banished from the game never to see level 2. Cards vary in how they level and have strengths and weaknesses at each level. It is also important know which cards match up against your opponent’s cards as they level and level appropriately based on later turns rather than what is best right now.
Some cards start out very powerful at level 1, but don’t scale up as much during levels 2 and 3. These types of cards are very important in Solforge and are referred as underdrops. Due to their high power at level 1 you can play them during player level 2 and higher if you don’t draw your on-level cards as they will still have a substantial impact on the game.
*** Solforge: truly free to play or not? ***
In case you are wondering if it is truly free to play here is my personal play breakdown. After spending $50 on the Kickstarter I have since spent approximately $50 on in-app purchases, usually when legendary chests or preconstructed decks go on sale for half price. The only time I have ever bought event tickets with gold (the main, in-game currency that you can only get by purchasing or through tournament winnings) was when they had a one time only special offer of 10 tickets at nearly 90% off the regular price.
I usually draft between one and three times a week (each tournament consists of four matches) and play my daily three games to get my event ticket and silver (which can be used to forge individual cards and buy a few items in the shop like basic boosters, event tickets and additional deck slots). Through this amount of playing I have gone pseudo-infinite.
What do I mean by pseudo-infinite? Well, I usually have a 3-1 or 4-0 record in drafting and have not dropped below 50 tickets for a long time (it takes 7 tickets to enter a draft), so in this sense I am infinite in that I can draft at my normal pace (building my collection as I go) as much as I want. However, I do not have playsets of all the legendaries and to me, to be truly infinite, one should have playsets of all the cards. Also, as I mentioned above, I don’t draft every day, so it is entirely possible I could go on a bad draft binge and lose my infinite-ness.
All-in-all, I have spent about $100 and 5-10 hours to week to get where I’m at which is a 50 ticket buffer and a collection able to build almost any competitive deck I want. So I would say that with some patience one can be competitive in Solforge without paying, making it a true, free to play game. Keep in mind that I have been a Magic: the Gathering player for over 20 years, and many of the skills transferred over which I believe led me to have a very high win % from the start.
If you are interested in trying Solforge and haven’t yet you can use my reference link to get a bonus legendary chest (packs that have a guaranteed card of the most rare level) and me some silver and potentially legendary chests as well.
Update: The set 4 patch is being released and is drastically altering the economy of a Solforge so I cannot guarantee that my above observations will hold true in the updated system.
*** OrosAroboris Sea of Sludge Deck Primer ***
No matter what card game I’m playing I pride myself as a deck builder and enjoy using well-positioned rogue decks to successfully navigate fields of top decks. With big prizes and players who have been playing since Solforge’s inception, I knew it would be no different for this tournament. My two favourite factions in Solforge are Uterra and Nekrium by far, so I knew I wanted to play one of my many builds, but what Utterra/Nekrium build beats the big, bad BroodQueen decks? I decided to play a midrange health gain deck built around the 3 following legendaries: Oros, Arboris and Dysian Sludge.
This archetype is well known as the card synergies are obvious but it is not considered tier 1 and I don’t believe anyone has refined it for the current metagame. I started playing around with the deck back in Alpha set 1 as I opened an Arboris playset early on and as each subsequent set was released I was lucky enough to open the new legendaries almost immediately.
What I like about this deck is that it is a solid, midrange Uterra/Nekrium deck (about half the cards can be regularly found in other decks) that presents your opponent with a quandary: to use their resources to keep you below 101 health, or use their resources to clean up the board. Unfortunately for them, these are not usually found within the same card. So if an opponents goes down the path of keeping you off 101 health, you ignore those 6 cards in your deck and grind them out with other cards. If they focus on cleaning up your board you follow up with gigantic, swingy creatures while steadily building up health.
OrosArboris (Sea of Sludge) by Dragyn3ye
101 Health Powerhouses (6 cards, 20%):
3x Arboris, Grove Guardian
3x Dysian Sludge
Health Gain (12 cards, 40%):
3x Oros, Deepwood’s Chosen
2x Spiritbloom Dryad
2x Glowstride Stag
2x Crypt Conjurer (9 Nekrium Spells to trigger, 30%)
3x Vyric’s Embrace
Control (12 cards, 40%):
3x Cull the Weak
3x Xithian Direhound
Arboris and Dysian Sludge are the reason to play this deck, and stay above 100 health. They are the only two cards currently in Solforge with this conditional mechanic. Most players would look at Dysian Sludge with its vanilla, on-curve body and two conditional triggers and say “Bad card is bad,” but let me tell you, most games end with a sea of sludge overwhelming the opponent.
Arboris is slightly below curve at level 1 & 2 if you are below 101 health, and way over curve if you are. At level 3, 20/21 is above curve and 100/101 is a one hit kill. You will rarely play Dysian Sludge with no triggers and if you get both you get a whopping 12/12 worth of attack and health differential divided into two lanes of your choice at first level, 26/26 at second level, and 40/40 at third level. This is why the battlefield is often waves of sludge smashing through an empty board.
Against decks without burn or a way to push damage, Arboris creates solid pressure throughout the game and usually eats up multiple cards in the process of being dealt with. Against decks that have reliable ways to keep you off 101 health I would avoid playing Arboris, or save him as an underdrop if you stabilize over 100 health later on.
Whereas Arboris’s 101 health bonus can be cut down post play if your health drops below 101, Sludge’s two bonuses trigger on playing so if you drop below 101 afterwards, it’s no matter, you already got your value. Playing a Sludge with one of two triggers is solid, but with both, it’s almost always a blow out. Many decks have ways of incidentally dealing with multi-lane, low health creatures, but as soon as you start filling the board with on-curve health creatures this presents opponents with some issues.
When setting up combats, keep in mind Sludge plays post combat and on the next turn to clean up the board. Sludge entering the field with a Nekrium card in hand gives -1/-1, -3/-3, -5/-5 at each level to the creature across from it and with 14 of 30 cards being Nekrium this is fairly reliable. Keep in mind that as you overload your Direhounds this chance will go down slightly.
Oros, Deepwood’s Chosen is a slightly above curve creature with breakthrough and health gain built in. He serves as both health gain and a finisher all in one which makes him one of the best creatures in the deck. With all the health gain in the deck, getting to player level 4 is quite easy, and even a 50/50 breakthrough is a handful let alone a 100/100.
These three cards are necessary for health gain but due to their overall weakness you do not want to draw multiples. Spiritbloom Dryad offers a nice underdrop body with the downside of giving your opponent a health boost. The only matchup I find this relevant in is in the mirror match. Never play Spiritbloom Dryad in the mirror match. Glowstride Stag offers a very mediocre body but with the best, instant, one-sided health boost. Crypt Conjurer offers a decent defensive body with repetitive health drains. I have finished many games with Crypt Conjurer but its playability depends on how much you plan on playing your 9 Nekrium spells during the match.
Embrace is decent removal with health gain tagged on. Auto-include. Epidemic lowers damage against you across the board and is necessary to keep above 100 health versus decks that like to go wide. Bramblewood Tracker is one of the tougher cards for this deck to deal with and Epidemic is one of your best cards to level against it as level 2 Epidemic shrinks most of the creatures they play off of their level 2 Tracker into non-relevance.
Cull the weak is the best removal right now as it kills Dysian Broodqueen and Flamebreak Invoker before they can pile on value during their turn. Although a level 1 Cull the Weak is not necessary to level during player level 1 versus BroodQueen as it already kills level 2 BroodQueens, I would recommend doing so for the following reasons:
1) If you don’t draw your level 1 Culls during player level 2 on a turn where you can play them, a level 3 BroodQueen will be out of reach during player level 3.
2) This deck really snowballs, so filling the lanes early on makes it very difficult for your opponent to push damage and get you below 101 which leads to overwhelming them in later levels. Going into the tournament I had not lost a match to a BroodQueen deck, which is one of the reasons I played it, and I always level Culls aggressively. Since the tournament, the BroodQueen decks I have faced included Bramblewood Trackers and I have started to lose more to the archetype, which is why I didn’t play it at the WCQ last weekend. One game that I lost my opponent leveled 3 Bramblewood Trackers and 3 BroodQueens and I kept drawing my answers on my X.1 turns only to have them follow up on their X.1 with the creatures I wanted to remove. This is the danger of playing reactive cards in Solforge, if you don’t draw them on the turns you need them they are useless. In the end it was the Trackers that won for my opponent and not so much the BroodQueens.
3) With the aid of one other -X/-X effect, Cull the Weak will kill Tarsus Deathweavers on level.
These last 2 creatures are Uttera/Nekrium staples that make sure the deck keeps going by disrupting their disruption and preventing them from stabilizing. Quite often in Solforge there will be a pivotal turn where one player wrestles control from the other and a well-timed Direhound usually takes care of business in this situation. Xithian Direhound saved my health and board state many times during the tournament.
Aetherphage serves as both an underdrop, a finisher, and is needed versus the Flamebreak Invoker decks as repeated hands with Static Shock and Flame Lance are really hard for this deck to beat (although I have many times). This deck walks on a tightrope at 101 health and usually it is one spell that changes the math, allowing your opponent to break through and shift the tide of the battle. Aetherphage rips this answer out of their hand and allows the waves of sludge to continue unimpeded.
Overall, I feel like this version of the deck is highly tuned for the current metagame and I would not change a single card at this time. I would love to hear what you guys think about the archetype, its matchups and potential card choices. For your convenience here are some of the cards that were in the deck at some point but are not anymore and why.
Runebark Guardian: I was cutting Aetherphages as I forged my last 2 Oros but after testing I realized I wanted them back, especially versus the rampant Flamebreak Invoker decks, but I couldn’t think what to cut as all the remaining cards seemed to be necessary inclusions. Then all of a sudden it dawned on me how much I dreaded playing this card. Runebark Guardian was a necessary back up health gain synergy threat, but now with Sludge, he just isn’t good enough. Sure, I had a few games where I ran away with one, but because it requires repeated health gain triggers it is very high variance and pinholes you into wanting to play weaker cards just to trigger it in order for it to be decent on board.
Lightbringer Cleric: Although this is a solid guy, I removed him because he would almost always get removed before I got a trigger off of him at the beginning of my turn. Quite often you want the instant health boost on your turn, even if it’s temporary, to turn on your Dysian Sludge and this guy can’t help with that. Also, if they are playing Flamebreak burn or have an active BroodQueen this guy does absolutely nothing and those are the two most prevalent decks at the moment.
Ferocious Roar: One of the last cards cut but there just wasn’t the room, and again, my creatures are mostly already big and shrinking my opponent’s creatures has more synergy with the decks goal of staying at a high health total. There have been a few turns where I wish I had a roar to seal the deal, but I always went on to win anyway.
Dreadbolt: Cull is just better right now. I haven’t met a Grimgaunt I haven’t been able to kill yet.
Suruzal & Shallow Grave: These would be the next cards that I would experiment in adding to the deck. Although they are great at reseting our giant creatures and have synergy with the 13 come into play triggers in the deck, some of those 13 cards are situational or weaker cards that I don’t necessarily want to be playing if things are going well. For that reason, combined with all the other numbers being so tight, they have not found a spot in the deck.
Now on to the tournament report…
Round 1 vs [SBE] Eric playing Tempys Flamebreak/Savant Control
I was excited to start the tournament versus a StoneBlade employee as that meant a bonus 2750 gold ($10 value in the store). Eric was on the Mono Tempys Flamebreak Invoker deck with Iztek. This is a hard matchup but one that I have a winning record against especially since the re-addition of Aetherphage. Unfortunately Solforge froze before I was able to copy the game log to the clipboard so the exact details of the match were lost.
Fortunately I took some notes on the cards he played so I can give you an idea of how the game went. He played 2 Flamebreak Invokers, 2 Iztek, a Flameshaper Savant, Master of Elements and Ashurian Flamesculptor during player level 1, so he leveled his good creatures. I proceeded to keep ripping the best spells from his hand with Aetherphages, preventing him from activating Iztek or removing my guys effectively and the board slowly built up in my favour.
Typically the Flamebreak player feels like they are ahead in player level 1 as their burn is able to kill most our guys and maybe even keep us below 101 health with flame lances and static shocks. However, this is a trap for them because as soon as we level, all the burn they leveled during player level 1 no longer trades with our creatures and the board ends up looking like the image below. They are also tempted to use static shocks level 1 just to keep us off 101 health but come around level 2, they no longer have the level 1 copies in the deck to trigger Flameshaper Savant.
It got a little scary as he was able to have a few Iztek turns and late game, with pumps and burn Iztek can do so much damage so I really had to make sure to play around Iztek as it was his only way to win. Unfortunately because three Izteks Solbinds six extra cards into the deck, the chances of drawing this is slim especially when faced with constant Aetherphages. It seems like to me that Iztek needs to be with Alloyin so you can draw into him and his spells with more consistency.
The end of the game looked like this with a sea of sludge on the board and me at 101 health.
Round 2 vs Urza playing Uterra/Nekrium BroodQueen
I played first and got a jump on the great planeswalker Urza even though he started out with double BroodQueen. I played an Oros first turn, Culled his BroodQueen and started filling the board with Arboris and Sludge which his Scatterspore Eidolons and Stygian Lotus have a tough time with. He never really had a way to push me below 101 health so my legendaries were turned on the whole game.
He got a level 2 BroodQueen but I Culled it right away. Due to the pressure he was forced to use his Deathweavers to block which made them easy to clean up before he could abuse them. I did this with two double sludge turns, one with level 1’s and one with level 2’s. Even though he drew his BroodQueens in all levels, he was unable to stablize versus the swarm of sludge. And because the Sludges can always take out the BroodQueen’s snakes the deck has a hard time getting the card advantage that allows them to normally grind out wins.
He filled up the board a couple times with Stygian Lotus and Tarsus Deathweaver but my Sludges were always bigger. A couple leveled epidemics ensured large amount of Sludge was pushed through to bite off chunks of damage.
Round 3 vs qotal playing Tempys/Alloyin Dragon Burn
Qotal’s deck wanted to go the long game and play giant mobility creatures that you cannot deal with. He played the two good Oratek (Alloyin/Tempys allied) damage spells Oratek Explosives and Oratek Battlebrand. Qotal leveled mutliple Frost & Scorch-mane Dragons and Brightsteel Gargoyles along with this Oratek burn.
I was using my creature shrinking cards, including my Xithian Direhounds to keep my health and the board stable against his dragons and gargoyles. He was using Burnouts in a similar fashion so we were both overloading more than you would generally want. I was able to stay above 100 health during my turns so that I could fill the board with Dysian Sludges. HIs one for one removal started to look worse and worse as the lanes slowly filled up.
I was already ahead on board when Qotal had a couple turns in a row where they played only level 1 cards while I played level 2’s and that pretty much sealed the deal. Once again, the burn looks like it’s doing its job in level 1 only to fall way short in level 2. I just focused on shrinking his Gargoyles and clearing his Frostmanes before they hatched too many eggs and it went pretty smoothly as he had no answer to Dysian Sludge’s multi-lane mayhem.
Round 4 vs WolverineX playing Nekrium Abaumination
Wolverine was on the Abomination tribal deck with Dr. Frankenbaum, Fleshreaver, Hellforged Avatar, Fleshfiends, Xithian Host and Keeper of the Damned to keep the damage train going. Although not considered a top tier deck I assume he was also 3-0 at this time. Interestingly enough this was maybe one of my harder matches of the tournament as the main abomination mechanic is doing damage directly to player health which is the perfect counter to my plan.
I used Crypt Conjurer and Vyric’s Embrace to stay above 100 health for player level 1 which was long enough to get ahead on board with Dysian Sludge and Arboris. After that I would not be able to keep above 100 health. I used a couple Aetherphages throughout the game to make sure he never got to play his big spells.
We both had a string of turns where we only played level 1 cards, the difference was mine plays were still solid while WolverineX’s plays after his Doomrider were pretty bad with a Seal of Tarsus and two random Varna’s Pacts.
WolverineX was in the lead during player level 3 as he played constant level 3’s along with mine and although they traded the residual damage from his abominations dying put me at 70 and the 101 health dream out of reach. I continued to play single level 3 Dysian Sludges to great effect. As our fatties traded, a couple sludge from early turns slowly bled away WolvernineX’s health total.
We continued bouncing level 3’s off of each other until WolverineX ran out of luck and strated dropping a mix of level 1 and 2 cards while I filled the board with level 3’s and ran away with the game.
Round 5 vs Technonaut playing Tempys Flamebreak/Frostmane Control
In round 5 I was paired up against Technonaut, a name I had seen around on many leaderboards and tournament standings so I knew I was in for a battle. He was on the Flamebreak Invoker deck that plays Frostmane Dragons for card advantage, board stall, and finishing. This is one of the top decks at the moment, piloted by one of the top players, so I figured this would be one of the hardest games of the tournament and the match did not disappoint.
I open with an Oros which he answers with the perfect play of Flamebreak Invoker, Static Shock your face, trigger 1 damage to Oros and finish him off with a Flame Lance doing 5 more to my health. So not good. I was already at 94 on turn 1.1 and avoided playing Arboris or Dysian Sludge whenever I could for the rest of the game. I leveled more Oros and Aetherphages making him discard his most impactful spell each time. He leveled Static Shocks, Invokers and Frostmanes but was forced to use Burnouts and Xithian Direhounds to not fall behind on the board.
I started player level 2 strong with a level 2 Aetherphage and level 2 Oros. He started with Invoker and Frostmane level 2. With his burn not scaling up well, he would have a tough time dealing with Oros especially if I shrunk his blockers. I followed up with a level 2 Dryad and another Oros and on his turn he only had a level 1 Invoker and a level 2 Flame Lance, which is already lackluster. The Oros got me ahead in life now but he had a level 2 Dragon in play to my level 2 Dryad and Oros. Both of our follow up plays were fairly weak mix of mostly level 1’s and it prevented either of us from really pushing our advantage too much but I had caught up from falling behind early. Frostmanes and their babies were still running rampant around the board.
Player level 3.1 was a big turning point as I played a level 3 Oros beside a boring, but solid level 2 Dysian Sludge. The next turn he used a Direhound and level 1 Flame Lance to pile damage onto my level 3 Oros while his dragons cleaned up the other lanes. However, this was still not enough to stop Oros from getting a few huge hits in and by player level 3.2 the board looked like below.
Technonaut would follow up with a level 2 Frostmane, a level 2 Static Shock for my Oros and a Burnout for my Conjurer. His dragon ate my hound as my 10/10 Sludge trudged on. Unfortunately my follow up cards were very weak level 1 cards and he cleared my board with a level Invoker and level 3 Flame Lance leaving a single 5/5 sludge. In 3.4 I was forced to Cull a dragon egg before it hatched and played a level 3 Aetherphage to eat his dragon. Unfortunately he had a double Rage of Kadras hand and would use that, along with Flamebreak triggers and a Direhound to clean up my board once again.
I started out player level 4 with a level 3 Aetherphage but he was loaded with a 4 spell hand and answered with a level 3 Invoker, Static Shock and Rage to mop things up once again. However, my next play would be a level 4 Oros which would prove too much for his damage-based deck to handle.
Round 6 vs Quikster playing Nekrium/Tempys Tarsus Deathweaver deck
I started out with a turn 1 Dryad to put a decent body on the board and set up a turn 2, 101 health play. He killed my Dryad with a Byzerak Spitemage and played a Deathweaver. I followed up with an Oros and some Dysian Sludges, one of them eating his Deathweaver on the following turn. He swung and missed with Nethershriek on his turn (which was now a 6/6 due to Deathweaver) and was forced to burn a Burnout on my Oros. In 1.3 I repeated my play exactly with another Oros and another double-triggered Dysian Sludge. He returned with another Deathweaver and a lucky Varna’s Pact that hit a Spitemage to kill my Oros. I finished player level 1 with an Aetherphage and big Arboris as I was at 104 health still from the turn 1 Dryad play.
I began player level 2 with a level 2 Oros and a Conjurer. He had a weak turn with a level 1 Nethershriek and level 1 Pact which hit level 1 Oros to take out my Conjurer but he had nothing for my level 2 Oros. I followed up in 3.2 with an Aetherphage stealing his answer to Oros and a level 2, double-triggered Dysian Sludge to really solidify the board. At his point he was at 84 health and I was at 107. His next turn fell short again with just a Cinderbound Barbarian and Epidemic. In 3.3 I played a 16/17 level 2 Arboris and hit him for a bunch and at this point the board looked like below.
On his last turn before conceding, Quikster played a level 2 Deathweaver and a level 2 pact hitting two Spitemages that weren’t going to live up to the task of beating Arboris and that was that.
I get what Quikster was trying to do by bringing back removal creatures from death to be buffed by Deathweaver, but ultimately his deck was a little too random with both Nethershrieks and Pacts, which can lead to huge blowouts, but in the long run will not be very consistent as we saw here.
So I finished 6-0 and received a legendary chest and 30,000 gold which has a value of 100 gold in the store. Something quite funny happened with my winnings. After beating Technonaut in round 5, I got a lengendary chest for a milestone in online wins since they implemented that bonus. When I opened the chest I got a Grimgaunt Doomrider which I really wanted as I did not have any at that point and I play Nekrium a lot.
When the tournament was done I opened up the legendary chest and got a Nefrax, which was another Nekrium legendary I didn’t have any copies of and wanted. At this point I was super hyped! Excitedly I went to spend some gold. I noticed that Grimgaunt Doomrider was the card of the day at 2000 gold. I thought “Sweet! I’m going to go from none to playset in 5 seconds!” I waivered between buying one or two Doomriders as I like to leave room to open my third and get full value. However, feeling abundant from my winnings I bought two and immediately realized I had not bought my ½ price legendary chest for October. Dreading that I might open my fourth Doomrider, my friend and I were laughing and sure enough… I opened my fourth Doomrider! Instant greed karma for me!
After the dust settled and I collected my thoughts on what I wanted to do with my resources, I decided to buy some copies of the preconstructed decks where I wanted both legendaries. This included three copies of the Spare Parts deck to get my playset of Suruzal and my last Shallow Grave. I then dismantled all my extra legendaries (sadly including the fourth Doomrider) and unplayable heroics, and used gold to buy the bit of silver I needed to make up the difference to forge three copies of Killion and the last Ironmind Acolyte I needed in order to create the Solfroge infinite combo deck Kitfinity!
Thanks for reading, and if you have any questions or comments on Solforge or this deck, please feel free to comment. Look out for more articles coming very soon including an awesome Magic: the Gathering variant and more Solforge articles including general drafting strategies, the upgrades to this deck for the upcoming patch, and some other rogue decks.
Written by Brad Finlayson