Hey, I am s_l_w from twitch and I want to present you a write-up on a rather unknown archetype: red-blue hybrid combo.
The deck is an iteration of the list fatal_fail piloted to #1 legend at the start of the open beta that can be found here. The core idea of the deck is to make a bunch of 0 magicka 1/1 Firebrand tokens out of Raiding Party and Markarth Bannerman and utilize them either to deal a massive amount of damage with Supreme Atromancer or have a reliable Merric-et-Aswala set-up on 3-4 creatures.
If you take a quick look on the available options in Battlemage you quickly realize that deck building a pure Combo deck is not easy.
This is namely because the color combination lacks unconditional hard removal like Piercing Javelin, healing, and Guards. As a result, the best way to make a working Combo deck in these colors is to not completely focus on a combo. If, instead of trying to make a dedicated Combo deck, the deck has a plan B in trying to be either a Midrange or Aggro deck, you will need way less card draw and stalling mechanics. In the games you don’t draw the combo, you draw the Midrange part of the deck and can still compete.
Combos in this game are really underwhelming so far; the only combo which can one-shot your opponent is a Wispmother + 3 Relentless Raider combo. Although this is capable of bursting opponents from full life, it can’t really fit into a hybrid Combo/Midrange deck since the combo pieces are bad cards by themselves. The second best combo in the red/blue colors is the Nord Firebrand + Atromancer/Merric combo which has an advantage that most combo pieces (Atromancer, Bannerman, Raiding Party) are an adequate cards even outside of the combo.
During each game the deck tries to be one of the following: Control, Combo or Aggro (rarely).
Against faster decks you should try to take the Control role, keep your opponent on high health (26 or 29) and remove everything they play. If you are sure you are going to win the late game or can switch the role quickly you should try this route. Decks against which you should try this plan include aggressive Assassins, Spellsword Tokens, any other hyper aggressive deck.
Against slower decks that can defeat you in the late game like Scout Ramp and Control Mage, you should try to save your tokens for the final burst with Atromancer or Merric. Atromancer is usually more reliable meaning Merric can be occasionally used for board control. If you have a Crystal Tower Crafter or unanswered Markarth Bannerman on board you may want to try the aggressive approach. The deck runs three copies each of Lightning Bolt and Crushing Blow so your burst damage from hand sometimes is enough to finish your opponent even though your aggro capabilities aren’t spectacular.
Mulligan strategy is similar for many decks; you always keep Cunning Ally, Daggerfall Mage, Crystal Tower Crafter, Firebolt, and High Rock Summoner.
Keep Rapid Shot if you have Crystal Tower Crafter, keep Earthbone against Sorcerer (and save it for Daggerfall/Breton Conjurer), and keep all the AoE vs Spellsword. Keep Crushing Blow if you have another card you’re keeping. Keep Wardcrafter if playing against non-Agility Aggro or if you have a three drop. Keep Breton Conjurer vs Mage and if you have a 2 and 3 drop you keep.
Deck Building Options/Card Replacements
The build I am currently using tried to exploit the relative absence of decks which can deal with Breton Conjurer. Conjurer is a unique example of a card which is strong both against tokens and against Control Mage. In a more Archer-heavy metagame Breton Conjurer is a bad choice. Other worthy inclusions are Vigilant Giant, Sentinel Battlemace, an additional copy of High Rock Summoner, and Skaven Pyromancer. Blood Dragon may also be worth playing in the deck.
In case you don’t have at least 2 Daggerfalls you should play Elusive Schemers. Daggerfall serves both as a board control tool and a card draw, so without them the deck will need to find another source of card draw.
Indoril isn’t essential, and sometimes is not even optimal. The closest substitution is either the Vigilant Giant, or an anti-Aggro card (if the metagame you observe is Aggro-heavy).
It’s important to have at least 2 combo finishers (Merric/Atromancer) in order to play the deck efficiently. If you are running only two of them you may cut the third Bannerman. In case you don’t have the third enabler try running more card draw (Schemers) or a late game drop (Vigilant Giant) instead.
Tips and Tricks
In this final section I will list what the purpose of the most important cards in the list and how to use them.
Brutal Ashlander: If you don’t have a 2-drop it may be correct to not play him on turn one to contest your opponent’s drop. This decision heavily depends on the matchup and your opponent’s hand, so try to predict what drops your opponent’s deck might play to figure it out.
Shrieking Harpy: Against Scout and Control Mage the harpy can buy you a turn so you might consider saving them vs Odahviing or Iron Atronach.
Wardcrafter: It’s good to play Wardcrafter turn two against non-green (and sometimes even green) depending on a followup. Against Control Mage it should be saved in order to try to get Breton Conjurer/Daggerfall value.
Raiding Party: When playing Raiding Party it’s better to save tokens for later. You can use them either for clearing X/1 or for the combo itself.
Try to estimate how much damage do you need and have to determine how much tokens can you use for board control. In matchups you need to take the control role it’s fine to use all of them even if you have Atromancer in hand. Together with Ice Storm, Raiding Party allows you to clear boards of creatures with four health, something that happens against Archer often..
Breton Conjurer: Against Archer it’s reasonable to play Breton Conjurer and Rapid Shot as a virtual five magicka Frost Atronach. If your opponent spent few witches/spinners or haven’t played them when it’s extremely advantageous you can make a read and hope they don’t have it. Don’t forget that if the line is full, the Atronach is spawned in the other lane, it’s is incredibly useful if the opponent tries to change his offensive lane.
Indoril Archmage: The card is used mainly as a pseudo dawn’s wrath. There are no good hard removal options in blue/red, so even a worse Dawn’s wrath does the job. Occasionally you might be using it as a guard instead. Try to be careful before playing it, if they left Breton/Daggerfall unchecked they shouldn’t have silence in hand.
Merric: The best combo enabler in the deck. It’s a good idea to use it for board control too. The average outcome is possibly something along the lines of a 3/2 weapon.
Supreme Atromancer: The combo piece you use the most vs ramp and Control Mage. If you have overkill damage it’s correct to play all your creatures first and attack later, so if they pull a bolt/javelin from a rune you still can have lethal even if you didn’t get all the Atromancer triggers. With two extra tokens atromancer is 10 damage, with 4 tokens it’s 16. 16 is a sweet spot since you can set-up a lethal while not allowing the third rune to give your opponent a Prophecy.