Golem Rin – Ashes Weekend Top 4 Report

Hey everyone, I had a great time this past weekend in Tulsa, and ended up placing in the top 4 of the tournament with a Control Rin deck making use of Ice Golem.  I’m going to talk a bit about my thoughts going into the tournament and about the deck, the tournament itself, and some after-thoughts of what I’d change.

Initial Thoughts

Going into the tournaments, I had a couple of ideas at the top of my mind:

  • Frostback Bear is the “best” summon card.  I should expect nearly all of my opponents to be playing it, and I should be playing it too.  If I’m not playing it, I better have well thought out reasons why.
  • Hammer Knight is still a very good card. It puts out tremendous pressure at any stage of the game.
  • 3 is a magic number.  The two most versatile and powerful units in the game both have 3 toughness; being able to consistently deal 3 damage is an extremely useful thing (e.g. with Fire Archer + Brennen).  Conversely, there are a lot of cards and combos that deal 3 damage (Molten Gold, Sympathy Pain, {Fire Archer, Anchornaut} + {Brennen, Aradel}, etc.).  Units that *aren’t* killed by the number 3 will often be annoyingly out of reach.
  • Choke is deceptively good.  It has a use against every single deck; ranging from backbreaking (disrupting a 2 mana Dimona’s game plan, stopping a balls-deep Brennen from sacrificing their unit and triggering a bunch of damage) to simply useful (keeping a unit alive for 1 more turn vs a Hammer Knight or Enchanted Violinist).  If you have the dice, it will never be completely useless in a matchup.
  • Ice Trap will likely be underrepresented.  Early talk of the card was that it was a game-changer.  Later talk of the card was that it was so game-changing, people were designing decks to not care about it.  Conversely, my anticipation was that people were likely to not be running many copies (0-1); and more importantly few would want to start it in more questionable situations (e.g. non-Aradel).
  • It’s really easy for a deck with as few as 2 illusion dice to get off 2 Wolf abilities; and every deck should aim to perform fine acknowledging that.  If your first five can easily be picked apart because 2 of your nature dice, or 1 charm and 1 nature dice are eaten – you can be easily hamstrung by a free “combo” that any deck can implement.
  • Brennen is a competitive Phoenixborn that can play around and play differently than any other existing Phoenixborn.  Every strategy needs to make sure that it doesn’t rely too heavily on anything that Brennen ignores.  Some, but not all, of these things:
    • Blood Puppet is just fuel for Spirit Burn.
    • Regress is worse vs Brennen
    • Blood Chains is worse vs Brennen
    • Any variant of Brennen has built in inevitability in Spirit Burn.

Note that this doesn’t mean that these cards shouldn’t be played.  Regress and Blood Chains are still fantastic cards; and just because they are worse against Brennen doesn’t mean they are useless; nor does it negate their usage against other decks.  Similarly, despite Blood Puppet being *much* worse against Brennen, it doesn’t necessarily mean I shouldn’t play them.  I should, however, make sure that my deck has a solid game plan that works against Brennen decks if Blood Puppets are going to be a key component in other matchups.

Deck List

Golem Rin

With all of that in mind; this is the deck that I eventually came up with:

Phoenixborn

Rin

Ally

1 Enchanted Violinist

3 Stormwind Sniper

1 Hammer Knight

Ready

3 Frost Bite

1 Sumon Frostback Bear

1 Summon Ice Golem

1 Summon Dread Wraith

Action, Reaction, Alteration

2 Blood Chains

3 Hidden Power

3 Molten Gold

3 Rin’s Fury

3 Choke

2 Ice Trap

1 Fade Away

2 Regress

Dice

4 Ceremonial, 4 Nature, 2 Illusion

Card Choice

Enchanted Violinist

An unquestionably excellent card.  A lot has been said about this card offline; but I’m not sure how much has been written down yet – so I’m going to go ahead and be explicit about why this card is so good:

  • It costs 0 dice.  It’s the only way to get a body on the board without costing you dice.  This makes it a great choice in any first five.
  • It turns every dice into a power nature dice.  Meditating is a non-cost if at the end of the game you haven’t failed to draw.
  • It turns every dice into a better power nature dice.  Wounds get around things like Frost Fang, Protect, etc.  I’m actually pretty disappointed this puts wounds on things; many of the cards this affects are already questionable in their power – having one of the best allys exploit that just makes them less competetive.
  • It’s a 1/2.  Many conjured allies are good largely because of this – Owls have been praised because even if you aren’t making the best use of their ability, at least they are a 1/2 for 1.
  • It only costs 1 life to get them back with a ceremonial dice.  A single EV can last you the whole game.  Even if they Fade Away it, you can often spend the two dice to kill your own EV and continue to play with it.
  • It’s a great chump blocker.  At any point, if your opponent puts down a surprise attacker (e.g. Hammer Knight), you can often Ceremonial Dice + EV to have something in the way (that isn’t trivially removed with a single Nature Dice ping).

The card is fantastic, and no ceremonial deck should be without it.

Stormwind Sniper

Allows me to deal 3 damage in a turn (3 is a magic number) in combination with a nature dice.  Can go face.  Leaves a body behind that usually drains a nature dice or EV ping from your opponent.

Hammer Knight

Great for blocking Hammer Knights.  Great for being Hammer Knights.  Great.

Frost Bite

Rin has a lot of resource advantage; and having a way to channel that advantage in any situation is nice.  In a game where me and my opponent are both clogging the board with things like Dread Wraith, Frost Bite is an essential piece in giving me an edge (or at least keeping me in the running).  The fact that it uses a main action is also nice; I can kill off 1/2s (Owls, Gilders, Violinist) in 1 turn, and I can force my opponent to “play first” when beneficial by using it as a non-passing pass.

Summon Frostback Bear

Card’s good.

Summon Ice Golem

Ice Golems are just rawly powerful if they stick on the board as a 3/5.  They deal the magic number of damage to units, and they survive the magic number of damage.  They trade with Hammer Knights (which is actually a good thing – you can cast Golems turn after turn for the same cost that a Hammer Knight costs… except an HK needs the card to be both drawn and played).  It takes a lot of resources to kill an Ice Golem; and if you don’t kill it, it’s going to be dealing a lot of damage or cleaning up a lot of units over time.

Their biggest issue, without a doubt, is that they die to Ice Traps.  Playing this card 100% relies on you not playing against people reliably using Ice Trap in their first five all day; and if that was going to happen – this deck would definitely get rubbed the wrong way enough that it would fail.  However, it was easier than expected to stop this from happening.  Almost all of the decks people were running were running less than 5 nature dice – often some sort of 4/4/2 split. Since (nearly) every nature deck is going to run Bears,  you can often eat 2 nature dice – and the opponent would be forced to either not make a bear, or leave up Ice Trap (this is foiled by Rin’s Fury or Hidden Power).  This is further compounded by people’s builds trying to use up more of their nature dice (e.g. for Gilders, Butterfly Monks, and Hammer Knights).  Finally; starting Ice Trap against Rin can be very risky – and I was counting on people not taking that risk.  An Ice Trap against a golem-less Rin is usually a dead card; and you don’t want to start with a dead card against a PB with as much resource advantage as Rin. In the end, a single Ice Trap doesn’t necessarily spell your doom.  Golems on the following turn are often powerful enough on the following turns that they can take over a game.

Choke is also good versus them (in response to Ice Buff).  It’s essentially a 1 mana Sympathy Pain.  I was less worried about this though; paying 3 mana for something that still trades with a bear (and ate their Choke) isn’t the *worst* thing in the game.

Summon Dread Wraith

Clog up the board exceptionally well.  They happily stand in the way of any amount of 1/2s, Crimson Bombers, and more.  Even Bears do not really bother them – if a bear hits a wraith you can simply not counter.  If they freeze, the wraith is ready to attack/block next turn and is now a 3/4 (that will eat the bear next go-around).  In the end, they are going to spend more dice on the bear that isn’t getting through anyway.  Hammer Knights find them delicious; but the Dread Wraith’s power vs the rest of the field makes them still a good card.  

In the end, making a Bear + Ice Buffed Golem each turn with a Wraith that is hard to remove creates a board that can quickly overwhelm most things your opponents are doing.  You can often eat all of their units and still have too much toughness left over for them to deal with, snowballing into an advantage in the following rounds.  This deck is all about developing a, at a decent pace, a board that is powerful enough that no deck can go toe to toe with it. Making a bear, golem, Wraith turn 1 and bear, golem turn 2 gives you the potential to be swinging for 20 total before doing anything else.

Blood Chains

Locks down a unit from 2 easy turns (with an EV) to the entire game (honestly, 3 is often enough to do this but 4+ is effectively so).  Provides a way to make use of your own Blood Chained units.

Hidden Power

Resource advantage.  Allows you to Wolf an unsuspecting opponent who thinks they are free to meditate.  

Molten Gold

Some people told me this card was good.

Rin’s Fury

It’s like a double Hidden Power!  Sure, you have to meditate to get them on the side you want – but basics are pretty useful, and meditating is pretty free.  You can eek out so much advantage with this card.

Choke

Stops: Every PB ability.  EV.  Hammer Knight.  Anchornaut.  Crimson Bomber.  Hypnotize.  Unit Guard.  Stormwind Sniper. Blackcloud Ninja.  Probably more.  Its pretty useful.

Ice Trap

Most importantly, kills jaguars and Golems.  Rather usefully, it kills Owls.  It also just creates a lot of nice situations where you can turn tempo in your direction.  On a turn where you start off with, say, 2 dudes threatening to attack a Phoenixborn for 3 each (Bear + Golem), you can continue to make dudes (bear or golem), and likely get *another* unit ahead of your opponent by Ice Trapping one of the speedbumps they intend to make to put in your way.

Fade Away

Great vs Dread Wraiths.  Can permanently remove an EV owned by a PB who isn’t too careful; similar with copies of Sniper, Fire Archer, and Anchornaut.  Try choking Brennen’s Spirit Burn and then Fading Away the unit they were intending on abusing the whole game.

Regress

Fantastic vs Hammer Knights, bears, and golems.  This deck ends up clogging up the board with so much power that it doesn’t care if the opponent has an 0/X stuck on the board to block.  Given the time to develop the board, Golem Rin will win.  Regress helps give it that time.

Overall, a split between the spells to handle allies keeps us flexible, and makes us less likely to draw, say, 2 of a card that is worse in a matchup.  I don’t want Regresses against Dread Wraiths.  I don’t want Blood Chains against a Brennen not running their own Blood Chains.  Fade away is obviously worse vs a lot of decks. Still, all of these cards serve very similar purposes in the deck.  Over the course of a 3 round game, I’m on average going to see 2 of the answers overall (assuming I start none of them; (10/25) * 5).  I’d rather away in the direction that gives me a bad answer to a problem on the board and a good answer than go all in betting on two bad or two good.  (E.g., imagine my problem is Dread Wraith; I want Blood Chains or Fade Away.  If my problem is a high attack unit (and I don’t have anything already in play to sacrifice) I want Regress.  I’m not sure the split I chose is right; but these cards are all good and I do believe in the split.

Rin

Really, this deck is about finding the best shell for Iced Buff golems.  Iced buff golems can’t exist without Rin, so that is a given.  Rin’s 6 battlefield allows him to really fill the board with more 3 power dudes (usually + a wraith) that is wide enough other decks can’t go around it.  His 4 spellboard gives him room for all of our spells.  Ice Buff, besides turning Golems into powerhouses, can push your bear or Hammer Knight past the magic number (in the case your golem gets Ice Trapped).  Rin’s Fury gives you tons of resources that the rest of the deck has no trouble making use of.  Even dice powers are pretty good.

First Fives

The standard First Five was the 3 summons, Frost Bite, and Hidden Power. This gave me room to cast all of my summons and have any two of my dice Wolved if that was to happen.  If my dice weren’t to be wolved, it also gave me room to wolf 2 of the opposing dice OR get some damage in with Frost Bite + Nature Dice.

The Frost Bite and to a lesser extent the Hidden Power were flexible, and could be switched out depending on the matchup for EV, Regress, Ice Trap, or HK (HK for Noah).  Some of these switches would require you to not make a DW the first turn.

The tournament

I’ll try to give an overview of the matches over the day before giving a summary of my thoughts of my deck, some other decks, and the format.  I did not take notes, so I apologize in advance for the lack of information and forgotten and misremembered details ahead.

Swiss

Match 1 – Jessa

Sorry Round 1, I forgot your name.  The player informed me they were new, however, and played their first game a few days before.  I was a little worried – as Fear is basically a guaranteed 3 Ice Traps vs me (in terms of dealing with Golems).  Lucky for me, no fears were drawn and the overall match was just big units steamrolling Jessa.

Match 2 – Rob w/ Brennen

Rob started with a Sympathy Pain in his first five that was heavily broadcasted.  I recall being able to disrupt his other game plan with illusion dice, and ended the first turn with a full board that I didn’t attack with. I wasn’t low enough on wounds that forcing a long game and forgoing 6 damage to waste his dice and cards would give me long term advantage.  Really my board just did its thing and snowballed and overpowered him.  

Match 3 – Eric w/ BDR

Eric had a first five of HK, Bears, EV, Rin’s Fury, and Blood Chains.  The blood chains was a brilliant pick; it gave him a way to lock down one of my units (and wasn’t pigeonholed into relying on me playing golems like Ice Trap would be).  I really liked it for his deck in the blind Rin v Rin matchup.  I went with my standard first five, which was definitely a mistake.  In the future, I’d drop the Frost Bite for a Regress at minimum (and likely not make a Wraith the first turn).  He ended round 1 with an advantage, and round 2 drew into HK, Rin’s Fury, Blood Chains, Hidden Power, and Crimson Bomber.  This was his advantageous first five with the permanent (EV, Bear) cards replaced by Hidden Power and Bomber.  

Eric’s chains were able to keep me from ever taking advantage on the board, and I got rolled.

What I would change

Start with a Regress in replace of the Frost Bite to handle the HK (accepting a potential blood chains; though I could see him replacing chains with Ice Trap if he felt confident I was running Golems).  No Wraith first turn would be made, a golem would be eaten by either Trap or Chains, and I’d try to maintain a not completely lopsided board with my bear.  He only has so many ways to deal with the golems, and my hope would be that Wraiths could hold off future bombers, golems would occasionally land and be too expensive to handle, and I would try to form board control and eventually take the game (while occasionally pinging face with drawn Frost Bites).

Round 4 – Phil w/ Rin

Sorry Phil –  unfortunately, can’t remember a lot of this matchup either.  Deck did its thing and built up a snowballing board by round 2.

Round 5 – Branden w/ Balls Deep Brennen

I believe my first Five was the 3 summons, Hidden Power, and Frost Bite- but it may have been EV over Frost Bite.  He was able to get 8 or 9 damage in – but illusion dice kept him off the Sympathy Pain. My own golems, bear, and  dread wraith were able to get their standard 7 damage in.  The following round, he was able to get me to 13 (and had 2 Charm Dice and a Knife remaining) before my own lethal was presented.  I had some small boat load of dice left, an extra Rin’s Fury in hand, plus an unmade Golem; but I swung in for lethal without cleaning up his charm dice – knowing that he’d be 1 short anyway.  

Top 8

Round 1 – Zac w/ Lulu

Unfortunately, don’t remember a lot how this match panned out.  He was able to Ice Trap a Golem; but overall it just wasn’t enough.  His spellboard filled with occasional HKs didn’t have enough power to break through my board and the golems that did survive presented to much of a threat.

Round 2 – Tim w/ Jessa

Some reason I thought Tim was on Brennen going into this, and felt good. A competent Jessa, however, terrified me.  His dice split also made wolves useless. I started with a first five of EV, the summons, and Frost Bite.  Without much potential for needing wolves, I didn’t want to start with HP – and preferred to start with all of my “permanent” answers.  EV gave me a good way of burning dice in later rounds, stood in front of HK the first round, and potentially ate an Ice Trap.

He went first, opened with HK.  I played EV, which he immediately Ice Trapped.  I was a little relieved to have the golem not eat the trap.  However, at the end of the round – he feared my golem, and we ended the board with some sort of state involving an HK and damaged bear on his side (with summon DW on the ready rack), and a DW + damaged & extra exhausted bear on my side.  Really though, this deck does not do well against a Fear + Ice Trap first five.  Ending the round without board control and with 4 damage on my head gave the Jessa enough room to soon start going to my face with screams and other spells; and the match was easily his.

What I would change

This matchup is really hard for me to begin with.  6 cards that can answer a golem for 0-1 dice and nothing else is really punishing. I think I would start Regress over the Summon Dread Wraith would be the first five (Bear, Golem, EV, Regress, Frost Bite).  This would allow me to stem the bleeding from the HK.  Note that this would also probably result in the Golem being ice trapped and the Frostback Bear being Feared.  The EV should, however, be able to prevent the bear from doing any damage on my face and potentially get it damaged enough to die early in the next turn or even in this one.  With only 4 cards left to permanently remove by bears/golems, and ⅓ of the HKs dealt with – this match may be doable.

Summary

Over all, I was pretty happy with the deck and think that the shell itself is strong.  Some of the 1-2 ofs can be adjusted depending on the expected meta.  Ice Golem worked great, and even in it’s worst matchup (Tim’s Jessa) I’m not convinced that the deck is stuck.  I think Golem Rin is a real deck going forward and something that needs to be considered when playing against a Rin.  I personally wish I had gotten to play more games before going into the tournament; as a lot of the flex options that I did have I was not able to utilize without knowing how the deck really played out.

Frost Bite

In matchups I started it, it worked out pretty well.  It gave me some action on follow-up turns and often helped me get the final points of burn in.  It acted as a Chant of Revenge. However, many matches I didn’t want to start it – and if I didn’t start it, I severely reduced my chances of getting 2+ on the board and having it pull its weight.  I would like to play more matchups against Jessa’s before taking this out; but if I wasn’t worried about Jessa I would probably replace this with 2 Hammer Knights and a Regress.

Choke

While a strong card, I would likely like to drop 1 for another Hammer Knight.  If the Frost Bites were replaced, I’d consider trading it for the third blood chains.

Summon Dread Wraith

Removing the DW can give you a lot more flexibility in your first five at the sacrifice of a card that’s only good in a handful of matches.  Its utility can probably be replaced by cards like Regress and Blood Chains.  If I was to remove it, I would not replace it with another unique Summon, and instead go for another Ally like Crimson Bomber or a 2nd Frostback Bear.  I think a 2-book golem/rin is a very flexible and very powerful first five.

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