Deck Building Guide Pt.3: Ancestral Guard

Hello, Dark Country fans!

Our loyal community member & deck-master Barry Smith decided to give you more tips on Deck Building. Earlier he wrote two parts of deck-building guides. Read them by links below:

Read Part 1 (basics & theory)

Read Part 2 (ready-made examples)

Now prepare yourself for a new portion of theory basics and examples of ready-made decks about Ancestral Guard (Cultists, Beasts, Natives & Ghosts)! In addition, at the of the article, you will find info about One-turn-kill methods.

Enjoy!

Cultists

If you are not a bookworm, you can watch the video version of the guide by the author.

“2x Agonizing Follower, 2x Hateful Mob, 2x Combat Cultist, 3x Liquidator, 2x Mentor, 3x Bless, 2x Dire Witch, 2x Executioner, 3x Fanatik, 2x Fury Rider, 3x Night Priestess, 2x Renegate, 3x Vile Recruiter, 3x Dark Priest, 3x Fire Spirit, 1x The Offering, 2x Treasurer.

Cultists are mostly comprised of neutral cards and can be played out of any faction; however, we’ll take advantage of the additional (and cheaper) card draw out of Ancestral Guard in the form of Bless, as well as it’s relatively cheap removal.

A strong tribal theme deck, Cultists want to play multiple cards in a single turn to boost their board and take them out of board wipe range as quickly as possible.

Some people incorrectly judge Cultists to be a ‘brain dead’ deck where you just play as many cards as possible in a turn, but actually deciding when to play what card and when to hold cards for later turns is crucial to winning as Cultists.

Early Game

Cultist decks don’t have a standard playing curve that you might look for in other decks. While most of your cards are cheap, they are also easily dealt with and force your opponent to attack them in the case of Agonizing Follower or Liquidator. Don’t get lured into playing cheap bodies just because you can.

Early plays should consist of getting Executioner down as quickly as possible, combating large threats with Liquidator, and removing threats with Fanatiks and Combat Cultists until you can play Night Priestess with multiple other cultists in the same turn or Dark Priests.

You can look to build up cheap cultists cards in hand with Vile Recruiter to play a large number of Hateful Mobs in a single turn.

Executioner is a card you want to see early game, so can consider going up to 3x, but because it’s so weak mid-late game, I have restricted it to 2x in this deck as it’s not necessary.

On the turn you play a Night Priestess, try to play 2–3 other Cultists as well to boost her strength, but whether those cards are boosters or basic cards depends very much on your opponent’s board state.

Mid Game

Mid Game is where all the action happens for Cultists. Make sure and build up a hand of cards with Bless/The Offering and Vile Recruiters.

Once you have around 3 cultists on board, then playing Fury Rider, Mentor, and Treasurer to swing for huge damage is how Cultists win. Mostly you will ignore their creatures or look for favourable trades, while directly attacking their hero.

If the game is trending towards a later game, then playing Combat Cultist and Fanatiks before the buff cards can help get extra damage over the line for a finisher. Combat Cultists into Fury Rider into Treasurer for 7–10 mana is an immediate 6 damage in addition to +4 to any other cultists that might be on the board.

End Game

If Cultists go to a late game, it is likely because your opponent has successfully controlled your board and has swung tempo in their favour, and you have stalled with card. It can be very hard to finish an opponent in this circumstance, so playing cautiously is best.

Try and build up a hand of cards that can do immediate damage, while defending with Agonizing Followers and Liquidators and using Fire Spirit to do direct damage or chip away/finish off their board.

Vulnerabilities and Changes

Cultists are heavily vulnerable to board wipes as most only buff attack and not health. Similarly, they require multiple Creatures on board to do any significant damage. If your opponent can manage the number of bodies on your side of the board then, individually, they are not much of a threat.

With a poor end game, Cultists want to win quickly, but you can make some changes to improve the deck for later game, if the meta dictates.

An alternative build might be to expand the cost of the cards in the deck and look to make your big plays later in the game.

Switching Executioners for Owlbears (as Executioner will no longer work once Owlbears are in), a Night Priestess or Dark Priest for Ritual Master, might go some way to ensure your deck is more balanced than just a ‘glass cannon’”

Beasts

Video version of the guide.

“2x Bobcat, 2x Ignition, 2x Coyote, 2x Gator, 1x Poison Dart,, 3x Spiderling, 3x Bless, 2x Wolf, 3x Fire Spirit, 3x Mountain Lion, 3x The Offering, 2x Buffalo, 2x Brainwash, 2x Broodmother, 3x Van Meter Monster, 1x Vulture, 3x Owlbear, 1x Titan Boa

Like Cultists, Beasts are mostly comprised of neutral cards and can be played out of any faction; however, we’ll take advantage of the additional (and cheaper) card draw out of Ancestral Guard in the form of Bless, as well as it’s relatively cheap removal.

Unlike Cultists, there is not much synergy between the different Beast cards, with only our single Vulture interacting with trait in any meaningful way. As such, this deck only forms the basis of what a Beast deck could be and there is a lot of possibility for exchanging these for future Beast cards.

Early Game

As the current meta is based around early Owlbears and counters to them, then our early plays should be to get down our own Owlbear or a Spiderling with Lethal Strike to counter them.

If the opponent has an additional creature to kill your Spiderling with, denying you the opportunity to kill their Owlbear, then try and protect it with Ignitions, Gator (which is 2/3 body), or Coyote to give it stealth and prevent your opponent targeting it.

After Owlbear, or if you don’t see one, then draw vigorously to build a hand of cards for a large Mountain Lion, which has its attack buffed by the number of cards in your hand.

Mid Game

Mountain Lion is usually a bigger threat than Owlbears but is very vulnerable to being muted and having its stats reduced to a 1/1 or, if the health is 6 or less, your opponent may trade Creatures to kill it.

Try and prevent this by using Buffalo to force you opponent to kill it before attacking your Mountain Lion or additional Spiderlings, either from deck or spawned by Broodmother, so your opponent has to target other things on the board.

The main combo from this deck is to play Wolf on Mountain Lion in order to boost it to over 10 attack before directly attacking your opponent.

This combo can still work, even if Mountain Lion is muted, so if your opponent doesn’t kill it after being muted, then you can still boost your Lion before attacking the next turn. Again, a Buffalo with Fortify makes this more likely.

End Game

Beasts lose a little bit of their teeth towards the end of the game, though Owlbears remain relevant throughout.

With limited synergies, there is no clear way to end out the game, though Titan Boa with Onslaught is strong, particularly in combination with the effects of Van Meter Monster or Fire Spirit as Onslaught assigns excess damage, so can fight low health monsters to clear the board and damage the enemy hero.

When you have Vulture in hand you should look for opportunities to play it when you have multiple Creatures that will be attacking and killed on your turn in order to boost it immediately or consider when your opponent might be needing to perform a board wipe spell (that the Vulture would survive); this would sometimes be when you can also play multiple Spiderlings.

Make sure you can keep playing cards by keeping your hand full with The Offering or Bless as the deck has a tendency to lose steam. Don’t forget that Wolf can also reactivate Broodmother to generate 2 new Spiderlings if the board is getting small.

Vulnerabilities and Changes

This deck is strong mostly because of the Owlbears and Mountain Lions, when combined with Ancestral Guard’s access to spells. If you don’t draw either or they die early in the game, then doing enough damage can be difficult for this deck.

Also, almost all the other cards have better versions that are not Beasts. Liquidator over Spiderlings, for example. Making room for Sinful Shepherd or a Ritual Master can improve your end game significantly.”

Natives

Video version of the guide.

2x The Ritual, 2x Young Blood, 2x Brave, 2x Initiate, 3x Bless, 1x Blessed Roots, 1x Mothman, 2x Navajo Skinwalker, 3x Fire Spirit, 2x Navajo Witch, 2x Shadow Warrior, 2x The Offering, 2x Free Rider, 3x Spectral Warrior, 3x Archer, 2x Brainwash, 3x Puk-Wudjie, 3x Van Meter Monster

Like the other neutral based decks, we will play out of Ancestral Guard to take advantage of their board-wiping spells to help support the tribal elements of the deck.

The strength of a Native deck revolves around having a high-level Totem to provide boosts to your creatures when they are deployed.

Totems are a special type of card which gives benefits to Native traited Creatures when they are deployed. They are put in to play when a card has the ‘Inspire’ keyword or, if one is already on the board, will increase in level each time Inspire triggers.

Totems have the following abilities:

Immutable. This card cannot attack.

Lvl 1–0/3

Lvl 2 — Gain +0/+2.

When you deploy a Native, it gains +1/+1

Lvl 3 — Gain +0/+2

When you deploy a Native, it gains +1/+1 and one of the following randomly: Fortify/Guardian/Spell Immune/Stealth

Lvl 4 — Gain +0/+2

When you deploy a Native, it gains +2/+2 and one of the following randomly: Fortify/Guardian/Spell Immune/Stealth

Lvl 5 — Gain +0/+2

Create 3 random Natives and set their cost to 0.

When you deploy a Native, it gains +2/+2 and one of the following randomly: Fortify/Guardian/Spell Immune/Stealth

Lvl 6+ — Gain +0/+2

When you deploy a Native, it gains +2/+2 and one of the following randomly: Fortify/Guardian/Spell Immune/Stealth

As you can see, a Totem at level 3 or higher becomes very powerful, giving +1/+1 to all Natives when they are deployed plus giving them an additional ability, so a Native deck should revolve around getting to level 3 as soon as possible.

Early Game

Typically, Natives have quite a weak early game. There are very few ways to be the aggressor early and you don’t want to play The Ritual to generate a Totem until it has some support. Most commonly you will only want to play Braves on turn 2 or draw up early with Bless turn 3.

Protecting a Brave with Navajo Witch to attack a larger creature is an option or often you can finish off a Creature with a Free Rider’s deploy effect.

Mostly you are just trying to survive until a time when you can get multiple Inspires to trigger in a turn, then begin playing your Creatures with buffs.

Mid Game

Once the game opens up there are far more options for a Native deck. If you’re trying to get 3 Natives to trigger Blessed Roots, then a Shadow Warrior followed by a Young Blood can keep it safe for a turn. If it survives, then don’t forget to attack before playing another Native to return it to shadows with the stealth ability.

Spectral Warrior is a large body with mute, which can easily turn begin to swing the battle back in your favour.

Archer does 3 damage on deploy and, if that kills, triggers Inspire. If you have The Ritual in hand, play that before killing with Archer, as the Inspire effect will happen before Archer is on board and the buff will be in place.

Playing Navajo Skinwalkers now to remove weak Young Bloods, in conjunction with Totem buffs, can remove most of your cards out of Tornado or Fire Spirit range, or challenge the biggest bodies on your opponent’s side of the board.

End Game

Ensuring that your totem survives at as high a level as possible is key to having a strong late game.

Puk-Wudjie and The Offering should ensure that your hand is full and even when drawing Young Bloods, the Totem can make them strong 3/3.

You will begin to run out of cards, so getting the Totem to level 5, which puts 3 random Natives in hand, is the best way to be able to quickly finish an opponent before they can defeat you, but be careful of board wipes out of AG.

Vulnerabilities and Changes

Like other tribal decks, Natives are vulnerable to large board wipes. Natives have two additional vulnerabilities in the form of a weak early game and weak creatures if their totem isn’t a high enough level.

The early game can be improved by removing Skinwalkers and Young Bloods, replacing them with Owlbears and a third Brave. This compromises the mid game ability for getting three Natives on board, but may be worth it to prevent falling behind on board presence.

Protecting the Totem can be improved with more Mothmen or Creatures with Fortify, like Liquidator.

Reducing the number of Fire Spirits and Van Meter Monsters can also allow for one or two items depending on your play style. A cheap Medicine Shield gives +0/+1 and an Inspire trigger or a Sacred Spear gives a repeating Inspire trigger if you can keep that Creature alive, perhaps with Navajo Witch giving Guardian or on a Shadow Warrior with Stealth.

Natives definitely need more support to become a top-tier deck, but there’s still a lot of fun to be had playing them if you can make smart decisions to build up to a devastating finish.

Ghosts

Video Version of the guide.

3x Ignition, 3x Shadow, 3x Ghost of Gettysburg, 3x Lightning Strike, 1x Poison Dart, 3x Bless, 3x Fire Spirit, 2x The Offering, 2x Bate, 3x Grave Ghost, 3x Hanged Lady, 1x Banjo Man, 1x Ghosts of Mariachi, 2x Mustang, 2x Spectre, 3x Van Meter Monster, 1x Forest Ghost, 1x Overseer

This Ghost deck relies on spell damage to help control the board and Ancestral Guard has the most damage spells of any faction.

Early Game

Ghosts have a lot of good early board removal via their spells. Opening with a Shadow gives you multiple options to trade up in the early game as they can attack a Creature for one damage, which if it doesn’t kill it, is usually enough to let it be finished with an Ignition or a Lightning Strike. This is in addition to creating a random spell when it dies that you can then play.

Turn 3 should be spent drawing up with Bless or defending using more spells or a Poison Dart. Turn 4 can let you play a Ghost of Gettysburg and a spell to continue keeping your opponent’s board small.

Mid Game

Into turn 5 and beyond there are some more options for Ghosts, which may depend on what card you have in hand.

If you have multiple Creatures in hand, then getting Grave Ghost down as quickly as possible will help to overwhelm your opponents in future turns, as it gives a cost reduction to other Ghosts that you want to play.

Hanged Lady and Spectre can help deal with any spot removal of Creatures that you need to deal with, but don’t forget to cast any damage spells first to keep them on the board after they attack if possible.

To maximise your board wipes, like Fire Spirit and Van Meter Monster, Mustang can pin a creature in place for a turn until your opponent plays more Creatures to be hit by the spells. This can also be a good tactic if you want to be able to play both a Ghost of Gettysburg to do +1 spell damage and a board wipe spell in the same turn but need more mana to do so.

End Game

Ghosts need to maintain control in order to have success.

A lot of creatures have only 6 or fewer health. If you can keep the Ghosts of Gettysburg in hand until turn 11, then playing them both before a Van Meter Monster can eliminate even the largest Creatures on your opponent’s side.

When the opportunity arises to build your board with a Forest Ghost or play the 10/10 Overseer, you must make sure that your opponent can’t destroy them next turn. Banjo Man or Ghosts of Mariachi can give a couple of points of surprise damage to get you over the line.

Vulnerabilities and Changes

There are not a lot of synergies for Ghosts, but the cost reduction when Grave Ghost is out makes them relatively efficient for their price.

An early game that relies on control is not the most pro-active, so consider adding in Qalupalik’s to help maintain card advantage and ensure you have spells. Alternatively, removing some spells for Owlbears may be worthwhile.

It is unlikely you will have a very large board, so against other control decks, may want to increase the number of Forest Ghosts or Overseers.

If you can keep the Ghosts of Gettysburg alive, then your direct damage becomes overwhelming. A Fogman to stealth them late game can set up some powerful turns, particularly if you can find room for Piasa to replay spells late game.

One Turn Kill

Video version of the guide.

3x Liquidator, 3x Bless, 3x Fanatik, 3x Fire Spirit, 3x Mountain Lion, 1x Spectre Moose, 2x The Offering, 2x Banshee, 3x Brainwash, 1x Piasa, 1x Sinful Shepherd, 1x Tornado, 3x Van Meter Monster, 3x Owlbear, 1x Treant, 1x Sylvia

+

3x Fortification, 3x Fouke Monster

OR

3x Lightning Strike, 3x Beast of Busco

This is a deck that can eliminate your opponent in a single turn with a 3-card combo that includes either of the two options above, plus Piasa.

Piasa is the key as it adds a copy of a spell you just played back into your hand (and deck) when you play it, so spells are infinitely repeatable, with enough mana.

Fouke Monster deals one damage to your opponent when you play a spell and Fortification is 0-cost spell. Both Piasa and Fouke Monster can be played on the same turn by turn 12.

Lightning Strike is a 2-cost spell that does 3 damage to any target, which Beast of Busco can reduce the cost of by 2, making it free to play. Piasa and Beast of Busco can be played on the same turn by turn 13.

This deck is all about surviving until the turn you are able to perform the one-turn kill and packs a lot of control and hard-hitting Creatures to survive until then.

Early Game

The early game is mostly reacting to what the opponent plays, the same as in any meta deck. Playing early Owlbears, using Fanatik to mute dangerous Creatures and drawing as quickly as possible with Bless and The Offering.

You should be using your Creatures and Spells to eliminate your opponents Creatures as you don’t care about damaging their hero but just want to survive.

Mid Game

Drawing is very important to this deck as there is only a single Piasa that you can include; indeed you may want to take an unfavourable mulligan just to try and find it.

Play Bless, The Offering, and Spectre Moose to draw is key.

In the meantime, continuing to play threatening Creatures but using them to eliminate your opponents board is critical, until you have all the pieces.

End Game

Once you have Piasa and your two other cards in hand and enough mana to put both Creatures down, there is nothing your opponent can do to stop you. Congrats on your win.

If you have 2 Fouke Monsters or Beasts of Busco and control of the board, you can try for a turn 7 win by playing them out turn 6 and hoping your opponent can’t deal with it.

Fouke Monster is the better of the two for this as it has more health and since you’re playing Fortification, if you have two again, you can Fortify another Creature to give it additional protection.

If it survives and you can play Piasa turn 7, congrats on your win, if not then you have to survive until turn 12/13 again to play both in the same turn.

Vulnerabilities and Changes

This deck is strong as it mostly plays the same cards as the top tier meta decks do. It is perfectly capable of winning even if you never draw the combo and you can play the deck that way.

However, because you are giving up 6–12 card slots to help get the combo off, dedicated versions which are more aggro will kill you before you can execute the combo.

Fouke Monster and Fortification is the better of the two versions, as it goes off sooner and has more chance of the turn 7 win, depending on how the game has gone.

Follow our Medium page to see more Deck-building guides by Barry Smith.

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