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Tips for playing Axemen

Tips for playing Axemen

Random Axemen tips (this really should be in another thread):

1. Know your flex slots.
2. Ideally, you play two short rounds and one long round. Your gameplan is to win the long round and one of the short rounds. This means that if you win round 1, there is literally no reason to play round 2 and you should drypass. Drypass round 2 even if the opponent has carryover.
3. Viewed another way, your aim is to get to round 3 where one of the following is true: if round 3 is long, it's OK to be down a card or maybe even two. If it's of medium length, you want to be on equal cards. If it's short, you want to be up a card (more on this later).
4. Drypass round 1 on the blue coin. I'm actually tempted to say that you should drypass round 1 on the blue coin even against a Wardancer mulligan, because otherwise there's a nontrivial chance you get Wardancered again in round 2, but I haven't played enough to say for sure. You do this so that you can go into round 2 up a card. Since everyone knows that Axemen has weak short rounds, they'll play round 2 as long as possible hoping to bleed you. In reply, you start out by setting up your engines, and then choosing a good time to take the tempo lead ("turn the corner"). Since your engines are so strong, once you take the tempo you are probably never going to relinquish the lead, which is how you get to round 3 up a card. This point is important! Other decks might start round 2 with high tempo hoping to stay ahead and therefore get into round 3 that way. You as an engine deck cannot play like this. Start round 2 by setting up your engines before choosing a good time to take the tempo lead.
5. On the red coin, yes, gold weather is in general the first play. Only exception is against Greatswords (which is a bad matchup), against which I usually start with Axemen on the GS row. You must gold weather before using Gremist / Skellige Storm, since otherwise gold weather will overide these effects.
6. Mulligans: blacklist Corsair since it's dead in round 1, and Warship since these are better pulled with Pirate Captain. If you're running Skjall and have Skjall + Derren + Uldaryk in hand, blacklist Uldaryk.
7. If you have neither gold weather in hand, play Uldaryk (or Skjall / Hym into Uldaryk). If you're already holding Gremist / Skellige Storm / Birna, then place Uldaryk in an already-occupied row, otherwise put it on a not-occupied row in case you draw gold weather. If opponent passes, win the round and drypass into round 3. If opponent plays, it's fine to exit round 1 up two cards.
8. Try to get your Axemen / Derren on the board outside kill range. You mention Iorveth, which should not kill an Axeman because you can simply weather first to get it out of range (you should be using weather first in any case). Other kill cards are harder to play around, but still possible, if you have Birna / Skellige Storm.
9. Although the name of the deck is "Axemen", you are also a gold weather deck. You can win the game without ever playing an Axeman as long as you make the opponent suffer through gold weather in the long round (see #2). Hence alchemy is a favourable matchup, especially since they must play in all three rows to enable their Mahakam Ale. Always apply weather first, then Whalers / Uldaryk to maximize the weather damage, and then only play Axemen - forcing a unit into an empty but weathered row is worth 2 points / round; Axemen is only worth 1. Exception: if there's a Skellige Storm row with 3 units in it.
10. For the same reason, weather clear is one of your worst enemies. If gold weather is still on the board, be patient with Birna / Gremist. Same goes for the Decoy / Gremist combo. Preserve Decoy in case you need to reuse rain until it's clear the opponent does not have a weather clear.
11. Rag nar Rogh is not the same as Korathi Heatwave. RNR is more powerful if it sticks, but it's more vulnerable to weather clear, and it's an active liability against Greatswords. If you're holding both gold weather, lead with Korathi Heatwave against any deck that might have weather clear (in particular Scoiatael / NR). Otherwise play RNR.
12. In this deck, Gremist's main mode will be to apply rain. The other modes can come up, but are pretty rare (especialy the First Light mode).
13. Sigrdrifa's main resurrect target is Derren. Of course you want to consider the alternatives, but if you can resurrect Derren that's usually the target.
14. Against Greatsword & Consume, it's a good idea to save Whalers to move their Longships / Vrans. Against other decks, save the Whalers until they have a sufficiently big unit to target (depending on how much longer the round will go). It's inefficient to use a Whaler to "kill" a 3-strength Wardancer.
15. Shortcuts to calculate your points / round: gold weather is 2 / turn on every row. Skellige Storm for full damage is 4 +3 per Axeman / Derren; rain is 2 +2 per Axeman / Derren. Harald is 16 points +10 per Axeman / Derren. Warship is 11 + 4 per Axemen / Derren. Pirate Captain is 12 + 4 per Axemen / Derren, 15 + 4 if you can pull a Corsair.
16. Mandrake / Scorch effects are potentially deadly vs. you. The fix is to have more than one Axeman out. With more than one Axeman, your leader ability will still probably catch you up in a turn; without Axemen you might be forced to play two cards to catch up.
17. A secondary aim of the first two rounds is to get a Pirate Captain into the graveyard since he's usually the best Restore target. You want to do this even if you don't have Restore in hand since you might draw it. Restore is your best win condition - it's an unscorchable Ciri: Nova - so try very hard not to play it in the earlier rounds.
18. Don't forget Restore works on any Skellige unit. It's conceivable you want to Restore Derren. In a short round Derren is usually not as good as Pirate Captain as a target, but in a medium-long round 3 it can be a game winner.

You can watch Trynet pilot the deck himself: I watched some of the first game, and key points to note:

- Note how he mulligans. Mulligan the Corsair first since it's deader than Warship, and then the Warship, and then another Corsair. If you're not familiar with blacklisting, check out the concept.
- He's spectacularly unlucky not to draw any weather at all, but he did get the red coin. He's going up against Bran however who has carryover. This makes playing round 1 somewhat dangerous since if you win round 1 down a card, you'll also go into round 3 down a card (since you are drypassing round 2). Trynet plays anyway because Axemen's long round is so strong you will win down a card.
- He plays two Axemen before using Axemen payoffs. He has no choice here, since he has no weather, he must play his other engine pieces. He uses two Axemen to avoid Coral (see #16).
- As is typical of Axemen on the red coin, you start out behind in tempo and then take the lead. In this game, he catches up in with 5 cards left (I would've chosen to play Pirate Captain with 6 cards left to take the lead then).
- Opponent Mandrakes one Axeman. Big decision point: Trynet can play another Axeman and go down a card if the opponent passes, or use Pirate Captain to stay ahead. Trynet chooses the latter, because with only ~6 cards left, Axemen cannot easily win down a card.
- Opponent plays Uldaryk. Trynet passes now because otherwise you're down a card against carryover, a nightmare scenario. It's also hard for the cursed deck to play 22 points in a single card. If the opponent didn't have Coral he'd have been down two cards in round 1. As it is, losing up a card against carryover with opponent's spy used isn't too bad.
- The main problem now is that he lost round 1 (with Axemen you generally want to win the long round). With short rounds coming up, gold weather isn't nearly as effective. He mulligans nothing in round 2, but I would've mulliganed the Axeman looking for cards with higher immediate tempo. Keeping the Axeman isn't terrible though since he's holding six cards, which is enough time for an Axeman to get value especially since he drew Heatwave.
- Opponent vaults to a 30-point lead in round 2. Two options: play Heatwave, which will be more valuable if round 2 progresses but will force him down a card in round 3 if the opponent passes, or play an Axeman / Derren, which enables Harald to catch up in a card. Since round 3 is going to be short + he's not holding Restore (the best win condition available to the deck), the latter option is preferable.
- The next turn is the same: play Derren or Heatwave. Some counting is necessary. Trynet is down 42 points and he needs to make that up with two cards if the opponent passes. If Trynet plays Heatwave, he gains 7 points (-35), then Morkvarg revives (-36). Assume opponent passes. Trynet can play Harald (-10), then Heatwave triggers (-4, since Morkvarg will be at 1 strength and Heatwave isn't getting the same 7 value). This isn't enough. I would play Derren, but Trynet decides to gamble with Heatwave betting the opponent will not pass. He undoubtedly figured that the opponent's deck also likes long rounds (Marauders buffs off the number of cursed units on the board) so opponent will not pass. Note this is what happens if you lose the long round.
- Opponent falls for it and plays another card. Note the card was Restore for 22 points, and yet suddenly Trynet is able to catch up in a card. Such is the power of Axemen.
- He mulligans Corsair in round 3, which is another gamble since he can draw Uldaryk / RNR etc. He probably figured he needs to gamble because opponent is likely to have resurrects to enable Cerys again. He gets lucky and draws the best card still in his deck, Restore.
- Opponent plays a bear. Two possibilities: either play Decoy on Sigrdrifa, or Restore a Pirate Captain first. He counts the number of Pirate Captains in his graveyard; since there are two, it means there's no difference assuming Sigdrifa resurrects a Pirate Captain. If there were only one Pirate Captain it becomes better to Restore the Pirate Captain and then Decoy it, since it'll get another Corsair which will get a Warship. That's 3 more points than using Sigdrifa to resurrect a Warship. Sigdrifa can resurrect an Axeman too, but he only has one Axeman enabler left. Axeman + Warship trigger (from Restore) is still only 10 points, less than 11 from outright resurrecting a Warship.
- For the final play using Decoy on Sigdrifa is obvious. He does the calculations to see if Warship is worth more or Whaler. Whaler is 8 (body) +5 (effect) +1 (Derren); Warship is 7 (body) +4 (effect) +4 (Derren). The latter is larger so he gets Warship.

gg wp. This was a skill-based victory - yes, he did get very lucky by mulliganing into Restore, but opponent also punted round 2 and he didn't draw any weather in round 1.
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