Hey, everyone. I’m here to talk about my Brennen deck that I’ve been playing for the last little while. I successfully piloted it to victory at our first OP Kit tournament (6-person) in Mississauga, and it has been testing very positively since then in casual play. Below is my list. I’m sure it is similar to what most people run, but there are some very distinct choices that I think are important for both building and piloting a deck like this. Let’s dig in.
Brennen Blackcloud – Phoenixborn of Blackcloud
4x Ceremonial Dice
4x Nature Dice
2x Illusion Dice
3x Summon Frostback Bear
3x Chant of Revenge
1x Expand Energy
3x Hidden Power
3x Molten Gold
2x Blood Chains
1x Ice Trap
2x Fire Archer
2x Stormwind Sniper
3x Enchanted Violinist
3x Crimson Bomber
3x Hammer Knight
So, let’s start with the dice spread. I genuinely think that the Ashes community has not fully settled on the “correct” dice spread yet. So far, I think running 1-3 different dice types are all viable options. With that said, Ashes Weekend at Tulsa did heavily lean towards a 3-dice type spread of 4/4/2. Furthermore, I tried the same deck as a 5 Nature/3 Ceremonial/2 Illusion deck, and I found that I was not managing my cards in hand as well because of it. For these reasons, I think its fair to run 4/4/2. With the card pool favoring Nature and Ceremonial (thanks to the expansion releases), I am certain that its safest to use them both for the 4-dice slots. Illusion was an easy pick over Charm because Hidden Power is so damn good.
Before talking about the cards, it is so important to talk about Brennen’s ability. The more I play this deck, the more it becomes clear that I RARELY use Spirit Burn on a Phoenixborn. Instead, I use it (and often Chants) on units as removal. Instead of racing your opponent with direct damage, I find that this deck’s win condition is setting up a superior board state. Spirit Burn is fantastic removal because it does a wide variety of things. It deals 2 damage for a basic, while also firing chant. 3 damage kills your opponent’s inevitable turn 1 Bear or HK. Use it on a Fire Archer for an Ice Buffed Bear. This utility always leaves you 1 ahead, considering how easy it is to recur a Spirit Burned EV or Fire Archer.
My only Summon spell is Frostback Bear. It is almost common knowledge now to say that this is the best summon spell in the game. I tried making weenie decks without it, but the decks couldn’t summon things more efficiently. A ⅔ with two noteworthy abilities for only a class and basic makes it an auto-include. I usually roll with 2 Summon spells and CoR, but Eric Rodriguez’s Rin deck made it apparent that a single Summon Spell is a very competitive option. This was kind of refreshing because it opened up another utility slot that I normally never get to explore (I play a lot of Noah). So, CoR and FB Bear are a given. The third Ready Spell slot goes to Expand Energy. In my experience, this card doesn’t see an excess of play, but I really don’t understand why. Rin is so strong because of Rin’s Fury, which recurs dice and allows him to summon units while your opponent is nearing the end of their resource pool. Expand Energy gives you a soft equivalent EVERY round (not including the first). One of the themes of this deck centers on the idea of persistence. Expand Energy can return a Ceremonial die, which can be meditated to the power side, which can then be turned into an EV. The goal is always to have as many EVs on the battlefield as possible. Expand Energy gives you access to one more dead EV each round.
With that said, its easy to see why 3x Hidden Power is necessary. Its among the most played cards, so I can skip this one. I can also skip Molten Gold, although I’m not convinced that 3x is the best option. I have never played all three in a single game, and I only really want them late game. Granted, it can also serve as excellent unit removal.
Blood Chains is a card that a lot of people run because it is deceptively powerful. Once you come to terms with the advantages of killing your own units (CoR, freeing a battlefield slot, Ceremonial power abilities), Blood Chains becomes a single-die solution to the biggest units in the game. 2x is very justified, and my target is often EV. Choke and Ice Trap are excellent one-ofs. Either of these can be increased to a 2x pretty easily by removing a Crimson Bomber. Choke is a card that, if not expected, can win you games. It completely turns off some PBs, while never being a truly dead draw in any match-up. Ice Trap is very cheap removal that puts the opponent behind on the EV race. The only concern with Ice Trap is that the meta is less friendly towards it. In an Aradel or Noah-heavy meta, I would no doubt run 2.
Finally, The deck runs what I would consider the best Allies in the game. EV is an MVP, obviously. Hammer Knight is an excellent heavy-hitter and it is probably the best card for the slot. Crimson Bomber should probably be a 2x, since it dies to Ice Trap and uses two valuable ceremonial dice. However, if you know your opponent has something annoying like Fear or Regress, Crimson Bomber is a perfect FF substitute to replace your Hammer Knight. Of course, beware of Ice Trap. Stormwind Sniper is unexpected damage that can close out games or act as a surprise unit removal. Fire Archer is your way to burst damage onto Ice Buffed Bears and HKs turn one. Fire Archer can be replaced with Anchornaut if you run less ceremonial dice. Despite some options, it is important to understand that each unit serves a purpose.
Okay, so that’s the deck. Let’s talk about your typical FF. With no read on your opponent, you’ll want to pack Summon Bear, Chant of Revenge, Expand Energy, Hammer Knight and EV. EV can be replaced with Fire Archer if you are suspecting few-to-no weenies. Chant of Revenge can be swapped with a tech card like Choke or Blood Chains.
Against Rin, your FF might look something like this: Summon Bear, Chant of Revenge, Fire Archer, Crimson Bomber, Expand Energy. Crimson Bomber counters Hammer Knight, while Fire Archer/spirit burn deals with a buffed bear. Expand Energy and the 1-die difference between Bomber and HK will free up your resources quite a bit. Beware of Choke.
Jessa comes in a variety of flavors, so the only thing you must count on is that she’ll want to eat your small units. You will definitely exclude Fire Archer, and you can even consider dropping EV. With that said, expect the Fear. Crimson Bomber is, yet again, a great FF replacement card.
Alright, that about covers the deck. While the list may look like most burn lists, it is really more about tactically or surgically removing your opponent’s key allies and conjurations. Since the tournament, I have been stress-testing the deck against a whole bunch of different PBs and play-styles. It is still undefeated for me, and it is handling the post-expansion meta much more gracefully then my old Aggro Noah builds do.
Before I leave you, I’ll just go over the tournament matches. Being a smaller tournament, it was only 3 rounds. Round 1 was against Mark’s Jessa deck. Mark won our last tournament and was almost solely responsible for the retirement of Aggro Noah. Luckily for me, he had a pretty crucial player-error in the first round that costed him the game. An early fear put me behind for quite a while. Being one of the first times piloting this deck, I didn’t feel all that comfortable with it. I got 3 EVs out in the last round which sealed the victory. I would love a rematch.
Round 2 was against Cam, who brought Maeoni. His Maeoni deck was interesting because it wasn’t very snake focused. However, her 3-Battlefield Limit was easy for the deck to control with removal and my heavy-hitters. I avoided playing smaller units and made sure to always be responsible (Spirit Burn and Blood Chains) for my EVs’ deaths.
The final round was against Bill’s Jess deck. Bill is a very dedicated Jessa player who ran a deck similar to the popular PHG Tourney Jessa. It ran mostly the same books, iirc, which is still a very efficient army to have on your side. I don’t remember the specifics of the game, other than the fact that it lasted the longest of my 3 games. This match reminded me that, at some point, you are just going to have to focus your burn to close out the game.
The tournament was a lot of fun, and I couldn’t be happier with the deck. The OP Kit came with one of the nicest play mats I have ever seen. Since then, I have tested a countless amount of times against Lulu, Dimona, Aradel, Saria and Rin. I can’t wait for our next tournament (July 9th!), where I will very likely be bringing the current version of this build once more.