[hectoring] Rush with bust… blast! Guide to Open Deleb
When Heart of Nightmares arrived, I was convinced that the “random” Inferno rushes that had previously only been fringe strategies could claim a share of the competitive spotlight – mainly due to Lava Spawn and Thrall of Hatred.
Lava Spawn: Having 8 one-drops (or 12 if you want to run Goldpiles) ensures that going first, you can have a turn 1 play (mulligan aggressively for it). It very importantly dodges Earthquake and survives a Firebolt as well! [Of course, going 2nd and having 2 one-drops is an opening some decks just can’t recover from.]
Thrall of Hatred: Many aggressive decks find it hard to deal the last few points of damage against an opponent that manages to stabilize – this helps push the last few points of damage through, especially in combination with Deleb’s ability or Delve into Madness. A lot of “Mexican standoffs” can end in a puzzle-like finish with you playing a Thrall and suiciding your Demons onto your opponent’s retaliation.
Deleb: Starting with 2 Might is vital in order to be able to play your turn 1 Lava Spawns. Xorm may have a more aggressive ability, but Deleb gets access to Lightning Strike, and her ability synergizes with Thrall of Hatred as well as allowing you to play through Pillages quite well.
In any of this class of rush decks I think the following core is indispensable: Maniac, Lava Spawn, Succubus, Dark Assassin, Juggernaut, Thrall of Hatred, Firebolt, Altar of Destruction. I started out with a blazing-fast 3(4)/2/1 build, like this:
At the same time maly_drab was building a similar Xorm deck (even faster with Goldpiles):
I was doing pretty well with the deck in ladder and Jackpot matches. At that time, Ignatius, Cassandra, and Hakeem were emerging as the dominant triumvirate in Open. While my deck was steamrolling Ignatius, it still had significant problems with Cassandra and Hakeem. Cassandra’s Imperial Devotion gave her enough time to stabilise and gain board control (which was impossible to regain with all these small low HP creatures). Against most stalls I could just dig for Thralls, Altars and Paos, but Hakeem had Earth’s Grasp as well as the capability to mill the damage away quite quickly.
Therefore in my next iteration of the deck I put in Maws of Chaos and Week of Taxes. Maws turned out to be really useful, (and at worst could be discarded to Delve); while Week of Taxes was also good but could potentially be very annoying, for example when trying to Delve into gas.
My next breakthrough came in Uraxor’s Swiss Overlord tournament. In this tournament, there were 8 of us in the final swiss rounds. We had to first pick our heroes, then were allowed ten minutes to build our decks after all the hero picks were revealed. The field was: Deleb (me), Ignatius, Cassandra x3, Hakeem x3.
I also remembered that jkkk had mentioned that he’d been having decent results with a 5/1/2 Deleb (quite similar to his version in Standard). With that in mind I managed to hybridise the builds and tailor them to that meta to go 3-0 and salvage my tournament:
I cut Lightning Strike as most of Cass’s creatures had 5 HP, it did nothing against the most popular Ignatius build, and the only creatures it could take out in Hakeem are Rakshasa Skirmishers and Void Shades. As such this allowed me to run Mana Storm which can slow down stacking Earthquakes/Insect Swarms.
The 4 Lurkers/4 Hellfire Maniacs package is really devastating against Cassandra and allowed me to gain board control. In this matchup I could only very rarely outrush Cassandra before Devotion, so other than a timely Maws of Chaos, I needed to maintain a solid board presence.
The Cosmic Singularity was there for Hakeem – it’s quite easy to burn him to a low life total, and shuffling a few Altars and Thralls back into your deck can be really important.
Finally, here’s the build I’m using now for a more general meta:
Blind Arbiters hurts Cassandra and OTKs the most but also helps against Hakeem and most builds of Ignatius, while not hurting yourself too much. (Deploying three creatures after a Throne is usually sufficient to apply pressure.)
Week of the Mercenaries is an important source of damage against a lot of decks (only Cassandra has a chance of having enough resources to use it well against you).
If you’re going for a build without Lightning Strikes I would recommend Mana Storms. Other events to consider are Cosmic Balance, Rise of the Nethermancer, but a lot of decks that these events are good against are too slow to pose a threat.
As you can see I’m using the core set of creatures I mentioned earlier, as well as the Lurker/Hellfire Maniac package for Cassandra as well as opposing creature decks. Callers of the Void are there to poke through some damage against decks with lots of blockers and/or Altar of Shadows, while also alleviating the crowded front line.
I would really love to be running Chaos Lacerator and Fate Bender, but couldn’t find the space. Fate Bender isn’t a demon, sadly.
If you’re not running Lightning Strikes you can usually go to 2 Destiny which allows you to run Chaos Seer and Maniac Taskmaster which can be real nightmares for control decks.
Pao Deathseeker is also another good candidate for this deck, but at the moment I haven’t found a place for it. I also like not being weak to Earth’s Grasp.
Firebolt should need no introduction. Lightning Strike is the next cheapest targeted removal in the game; it’s also worth noting that it can help a lowly Lava Spawn take out a Tainted Orc.
Altars of Destruction is essential for finishing when you lose board control. Delve into Madness is a lot more useful than you might think – you can dig 2 cards deep, while discarding a usually relatively useless card (for example, Lava Spawn can be really bad late game as it stops your draws). Maws of Chaos as I mentioned is a meta call – similarly, if you feel the need to counter spell-based control decks, Halls of Amnesia would be your go to In the 2 Destiny version you may which to consider Twist of Fate as well. Gold Piles can make for some incredible starts, but sacrifice midgame resilience as they make for more dead draws.
Matchups/tips and tricks:
Cassandra: Slightly favourable. You want to have a fast start taking control of the central lanes, and maintain control with the help of Firebolt and Lightning Strikes until your Lurkers and Hellfire Maniacs arrive. Don’t be afraid to use Deleb’s ability to spam the board aggressively, card advantage rarely matters aganst Cass. If your opponent plays too fast and loose with their life total you may be able to have a surprise finish with Altars or yank Devotion out of the library with Maws. Otherwise save Maws for the midgame to take a Pillage or Realignment from hand. If you suspect Realignment you should use Altars early to hide cards on top and get card advantage.
Hakeem: Slightly favourable. Even without Cosmic Singularity you have a ton of direct damage in the maindeck. Make sure to play as aggressively as possible with Thrall of Hatred and Deleb’s ability. Always save your removal to get damage through rather than using it to pick off creatures. With Thrall on board, milling a demon deals damage, so use your Lightning Strikes on those Void Shades!
Ignatius: Very favourable. They can’t deal with your early rush and have very little hard removal. Altar of Shadows/Throne of Renewal just give you an extra opportunity to deal a point of damage with Thrall, while Celebrations digs you into your Altars. Don’t be afraid to use your Altars early to stop them being discarded (Once he gets to around 4 Destiny is when I start using them automatically).
Control and OTK decks are usually too slow to deal with the combination of early rushes with direct damage later.
Ishuma/Sanctuary: Slightly favourable. This matchup depends entirely on who dictates the tempo of the match (which is usually who goes 2nd). If you get to go 2nd, they are immediately on the back foot. Pick off their creatures with removal and they will find it extremely hard to build up a board presence. On the other hand if they get tempo your creatures are mostly terrible at blocking and will get fed into the outmanoeuvre meat grinder. I say it’s slightly favourable because we still have a slim chance to be able to “steal” a game once you’ve lost tempo with Altars and Thralls.
Midrange decks (Kelthor/Matewa/etc): Unfavourable. Despite midrange strategies not being particularly successful of late, midrange decks will always be the bane of rush decks. Oliphants, Tainted Orcs, and the new Enrage creatures have a huge amount of toughness to clog up the board until they can land Geysers and Fireballs. This often leaves us with extremely hard decisions – for example, if a pair of lava spawns in separate lanes are being blocked by an Orc and a Harpy. Do you Strike the Harpy and get in for 3 damage, or Strike the Orc to get more board control?
Garant Gate: Very swingy. If they can curve out nicely with Fate Benders/Lurkers/Hellfire Maniacs and/or a gated Abyssal Lord, it’s almost impossible. On the other hand, some builds of the Gate deck can occasionally have incredibly clunky draws and get run over before even getting into the game.
Anyway, I’m sure there’s still room for this deck to evolve, please leave comments and suggestions! I’ll try to post some video content when I have more time.