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The Gladiators - Realm Gauntlet (TCG)

04-27-2009 (Mon), 18:00

Choosing your gauntlet wisely is the first step on the path to the Realm Championship. With that said, here are the five decks I consider the most important in your gauntlet over the next month.

By Bryan Lyons



Darkmoon Faire Charlotte is now behind us, and all eyes now turn to Realm Championships in May. The first step in preparation is setting up a gauntlet. Some people make the mistake of trying to cram every deck that they could possibly face into their gauntlet, weighting each deck equally. That's simply not feasible. You're not going to make a deck that can beat every deck that you might face. If you have a deck that is beating everything in testing, you've either broken the format or your results are inaccurate (probably the latter).


You want to find decks that are at least in the ballpark results-wise against the decks you are most likely to face. That means that sometimes, you just have to accept bad matchups when they aren't against decks you are likely to face. Choosing your gauntlet wisely is the first step on the path to the Realm Championship. With that said, here are the five decks I consider the most important in your gauntlet over the next month.


Any discussion of a gauntlet has to start with the winning deck from the last Darkmoon Faire.


Stuart Wright—Darkmoon Faire Koln Champion


Hero: Varanis Bitterstar



2 Vexmaster Nar'jo

2 Blood Knight Kyria



2 Conjured Cinnamon Roll

2 The More, the Scarier

3 Mystic Denial

3 Slow

3 Metalmorph

3 Fizzle

3 Invisibility

4 The Taste of Arcana

4 Nether Fracture

4 Blizzard

4 Invocation



2 Belt of Blasting

3 Blade of Wizardry



4 Silvermoon City



4 Swift Discipline

4 Solanian's Belongings

4 Counterattack!


Side Deck

1 The More, the Scarier

1 Metalmorph

1 Fizzle

1 Invisibility

1 Brok Bloodcaller

2 Vexmaster Nar'jo

3 Munkin Blackfist


Decks that win big tournaments tend to be popular anyway, but this deck is being touted by many high-profile players as the best deck—and by some players as the best deck in the history of World of Warcraft. When people start talking like that, other players are bound to listen


If you can't beat Varanis, it will be very difficult to win your Realm Championship. This deck can be tricky to test against because it's one of the hardest decks to play well. It will be hard to find someone who can play the deck well enough to give you a legitimate idea of how well your deck plays against Varanis. The good news is that a lot of people will simply put this deck together and try to play it, so your testing will at least give you an idea of how well you might fare against players who are inexperienced with the deck.


This deck has a lot of strengths. Any deck looking to go long into the game better have an answer for Slow backed up by a handful of counters, or it's going to lose to the control Mage player. This deck is the premiere endgame deck in World of Warcraft. If you don't plan on winning the game quickly, this is the deck you have to prepare to face late in a game.


The deck also has the universal answer: interrupts. I'm sure you've heard the saying, “there are no wrong threats.” Well, in the case of cards like Nether Fracture and Mystic Denial, there are no wrong answers, either. The power of interrupts cannot be understated, especially the higher cost ones that allow you to interrupts almost any card your opponent can play. Instead of removing them from play, they are never allowed to enter play in the first place. In many cases, this can have a huge impact.


Contrary to some opinions, the deck is not invincible. In fact, it has a few weaknesses that can be exploited to achieve victory.


The first weakness of the deck is simply its complexity. This isn't a deck you can just pick up and take to a top finish at a tournament. That will lead to a lot of losses for players who didn't prepare enough with it.


The deck's biggest and most exploitable weakness is revealed against decks that can play a lot of cheap cards while keeping their hand full. The interrupts in the Mage deck tend to be more expensive than the cards that decks like Kil'zin and Daspien play. When the Mage is spending more resources than the opponent on its interrupts, it opens the door for the other deck to get more cards through the interrupt screen.


There are two cards that this deck leans on heavily. If you can answer either, your chances of winning will greatly improve. The first is Slow. This is the reason to play an Arcane Mage over the traitorous Vor'na the Wretched. This card keeps the opponent from playing more than one card per turn. With the interrupts available, Varanis can simply stop every card they play. However, if you are able to deal with the Slow effectively, you can save up cards in your hand to try to overwhelm Varanis’s interrupts in one big turn to get cards through.


The other card that is more subtle yet still very important to the deck is Invocation. This deck differs from a lot of other control decks in that it doesn't have a lot of card draw outside of Invocation. If you can find a way to mitigate their card draw off of this card, you can keep the field at least close to fair. This is the reason for the presence of Freezing Bands in the side of Anssi Alkio's Warlock deck from Darkmoon Faire Koln.


The next deck is going through a similar phase as it did during the last Realm Championship season. It was the big deck all summer, and it even won a Darkmoon Faire. Then suddenly at Realms, everyone just forgot about it. Since then, it's returned to big deck status and won another Darkmoon Faire, but now it almost seems like everyone has forgotten about it again.


Black Ice


Jan Palys—Top 8 Darkmoon Faire Koln


Hero: “Black Ice” Fizzlefreeze



4 Weldon Barov

4 Myriam Starcaller

4 Water Elemental

4 Marksman Glous

4 Anchorite Kilandra

4 Antikron the Unyielding

3 Instructor Giralo

2 “Scrapper” Ironbane

4 Xanata the Lightsworn



4 Fizzle

3 The Taste of Arcana

2 Nether Fracture

3 The More, the Scarier



3 The Defias Brotherhood

2 Orders From Lady Vashj

4 Tabards of the Illidari

4 Marks of Kil'jaeden

2 Corki's Ransom


Side Deck

1 Blizzard

1 The More, the Scarier

1 The Taste of Arcana

4 Counterspell

3 Spell Suppression


In my mind, this deck remains at the top of the heap in terms of decks to test against for Realms. While Varanis may the most powerful, I think Black Ice will remain more popular.


This deck's biggest strength lies in the power of the cards that it plays. It plays some of the most powerful cards in the game—Weldon Barov, Myriam Starcaller, and its own suite of the interrupts that make the Varanis deck so powerful.


This deck is very good against most rush decks. Sticking Water Elemental behind a wall of protectors is really good against decks that want to attack with allies. Once Water Elemental locks the board down, Myriam and Weldon mop things up. There are interrupts there to deal with anything that might take out a Water Elemental that can't be stopped by the deck’s protectors.


The deck does have some inherent weaknesses, though. First, it’s not designed to play from behind. It's a tempo deck designed to define tempo from the first turn and never relinquish it. Despite possessing over 30 allies, the deck has a tough time “going aggro.” Weldon is the only ally that is a real threat when attacking, though there are a handful of allies with 3 ATK. However, if you're forcing your opponent to attack with allies like Water Elemental and Myriam, things are probably going pretty well.


There are two keywords that can also give the deck fits, stealth and ferocity. So much of the deck is dedicated to establishing a superior board position through defensive allies, and stealth effectively nullifies almost half of them. It also allows you to pinpoint which allies to destroy with your attacks. Without the big guns, the rest of the deck is underpowered.


Ferocity also creates its own set of problems for this deck, namely the ability to get an attack in with an active Water Elemental on the board. As long as you have an ally in play or a hero who can make a meaningful attack, you can force your opponent to activate Water Elemental, then drop a ferocity ally in afterwards and still get an attack through. This is one of the reasons the Orgrimmar deck is so good against Black Ice.


The next deck in my gauntlet also used to be considered the top dog of the format. After a healthy showing at U.S. Nationals, it followed that with a World Championship and was the most successful deck at Realm Champs 2.


Bernd Reinartz—Darkmoon Faire Koln Top 8


Hero: Kil'zin of the Bloodscalp



2 Tatulla the Reclaimer

4 Bloodsoul

3 Offender Gora

4 Skumm Bag'go

4 Sha'kar

4 Joja'bee



4 Storm Shock

4 Lightning Arc

3 Tremor Shock



4 Retainer's Blade

4 Black Amnesty

4 Perdition's Blade



4 The Circle of Blood



4 One Draenei's Junk . . .

4 Torek's Assault

4 Orders From Lady Vashj


Side Deck

3 Death Shock

3 Grounding Totem

1 Tremor Shock

1 Tatulla the Reclaimer

2 Crackling Purge


The power of this deck lies in its consistency and also its versatility. It is able to apply constant pressure on an opponent through a variety of different types of threats. It subscribes to the “if you stumble, you lose” philosophy. Opponents are not afforded the luxury of bad draws against a deck like this. If you don't answer them right out of the gates, you will fall too far behind too quickly to have a chance.


This deck's weakness, like most aggressive decks, lies in its relative lack of power from about turn 8 onward. If the game isn't over or very close to it at that point, Kil'zin just doesn't have the firepower to go toe-to-toe with the more powerful endgames of the control decks that currently make up much of the metagame. If you can fight off the initial onslaught with 10 or more health intact, you should be able to cruise to victory.


One thing to note about Bernd's list is the inclusion of Skumm Bag'go. This deck really doesn't like an opposing Silvermoon City set to nature damage, so Bernd made the choice, given the number of Blood Elves he expected at the tournament, to go ahead and play the Skumms main deck to avoid the sticky situation involving Silvermoon.


The fourth deck in my gauntlet is one that has had its praises sung by many, but doesn't seem to catch on in popularity . . . even when everyone admits it's the best deck. (Ccould that be foreshadowing for the future of Varanis as well?)


Jonas Skali Lami—Darkmoon Faire Koln Top 8


Hero: Jonas the Red


Master Hero

2 Illidan Stormrage



4 Blood Knight Kyria

2 Cromarius Blackfist



4 Surge of Adrenaline

4 Deathblow

2 Gut Shot

2 Hateful Strike

4 Overkill

3 Eviscerate

3 Thud!

3 Purloin

4 Pick Pocket

3 Stab in the Dark



3 Vengeful Gladiator's Vestments

2 Felsteel Whisper Knives



3 The Darkmoon Faire



1 The Challenge

1 The Ring of Blood: Brokentoe

4 Forces of Jaedenar

2 Outland Sucks!

4 The Fel and the Furious


Side Deck

1 Cannibalize

2 Cromarius Blackfist

1 Purloin

1 Stab in the Dark

1 Shuriken of Negation

2 Detect Traps

1 Lady Vashj

1 Prince Kael'thas Sunstrider


This was supposed to be the big deck at Darkmoon Faire San Fransisco, yet almost no one played it. Matt Spreadbury took it to a Top 4 finish there, which was just enough to keep it on everyone's mind. Then it was widely written off before Koln, almost forgotten. It might have been forgotten if not for Jonas Skali landing in the Top 8 with it (and as a side note, I still believe that Jonas only played Jonas because he wanted to be his own hero).


This deck remains right on the fringe of the public's mind, but it’s also one of the most powerful decks in the metagame. Overkill is one of the most defining cards in the game. Many players will ask what they do against Overkill and find their answer to be, “hope no one plays Jonas.”


The added focus on the discard element of the deck helps against other control decks, specifically ones that can interrupt Overkill, while the deck remains solid overall vs. aggressive strategies as well.


The weakness of Jonas lies in its dependence on the draw and the graveyard. I lost a game at an RCQ with Jonas because I drew 28 cards but couldn't find a fourth finishing move to Overkill and take Myriam with it.


The dependence on the graveyard may be more damaging though. With graveyard hate starting to creep into more decks to combat the power of cards like Solanian's Belongings, Jonas is ripe to be hated on accidentally.


Jonas's popularity has always been lower than its power level. It will be interesting to see if that pattern holds true during Realm Championships, or if people finally embrace the Traitor Rogue.


The final main deck in my gauntlet is one that I believe is less powerful than some other decks that have been left off the list, but will nevertheless be one of the most played decks of the weekend.


Fabian Gauthier—Top 8 Darkmoon Faire Koln


Hero: Lionar the Blood Cursed



4 Offender Gora

4 Scout Omerrta

2 Kagella Shadowmark

3 Vexmaster Nar'jo

3 Johnny Rotten

4 Furious Kalla

4 Munkin Blackfist

4 Kazamon Steelskin

3 Doshura Risestrider

2 Rula Blackfist

3 Rehgar Earthfury



4 Sudden Death

3 Bloody Ritual

2 Finishing Shout



4 Orgrimmar



4 Uncatalogued Species

4 Kibler's Exotic Pets

3 Chasing A-Me 01


Side Deck

1 Finishing Shout

1 Rula Blackfist

1 Bloody Ritual

3 Cromarius Blackfist

4 Twinblade of the Phoenix


This deck is a classic example of one of the misconceptions about the terms Tier 1, Tier 2, etc. The Tier 1 label doesn't apply only to decks that are the most powerful ones in the metagame, simply to the ones that are or are likely to be the most popular. Yes, power level is a consideration, but the major factor is how popular the deck is likely to be.


I'm not saying this deck isn't powerful—it is. Just ask anyone who has played Black Ice against it. However, I have left off a couple of decks that I feel are more powerful because I think this will be one of the most popular decks at Realm Championships.


The strength of the deck lies in its ability to make huge ferocious dudes. Most of the top decks have a hard time handling Rehgars and Kazamons with ferocity. And who doesn't like playing giant guys and turning them sideways?


The deck has two main weaknesses. First, it is heavily reliant on Orgrimmar. If it doesn't draw it, or if it gets turned face down, the deck loses a lot of its power. When you give your opponent a turn to attack or use his abilities, suddenly most of the allies go back to being just average or sometimes even slightly below.


Second, the deck has almost no chance against Varanis without some heavy duty changes. The deck plays right into the teeth of the control Mage. It virtually puts a Slow on itself at the beginning of the game because it generally wants to use all of its resources making one card per turn. The other problem is that the cost of the cards plays right into the cost of the interrupts the Mage runs. Finally, a deck entirely built around medium to large sized allies really doesn't like Blade of Wizardry. Despite those weaknesses, I think a lot of people are going to pick this deck up because it is a powerful deck, and it is a lot of fun to play.


Realm Championships can take on a bit of a regional flavor. If you think some of these decks are unlikely to be popular in your area, change them out for decks that might be more prevalent in your event. Some other decks that I have left off for the sake of not trying to put too many things into the gauntlet are the new Paladin control deck, Warlock control, and Boomkin. Find the gauntlet that you think best represents the tournament you will be playing in, and then get in there and try to break it. Good luck!

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