Deck Tech

Fear the Bear

Greetings, Ashes players!

Ashes Reborn has been out in the wild for a bit now, and it has been so great to see the community growing and enjoying the game! With all the community buzz around, I’ve been really enjoying diving back into the current Ashes meta and community as a player; it has me feeling just as excited as I was during the early Slam Jam tournament meta of Ashes 1.0.

I’ve grown nostalgic already and wanted to go back to my favorite deck archetype known as Fear the Bear. This deck is all about fundamentals in Ashes, so I thought it’d be nice to go through the deck building process with this deck as an example. Deck building can be done in so many different ways, but here’s the story for this one.

Fear the Bear gets its name from two of the most powerful Ashes cards that define its strategy. Fear is Jessa’s exclusive card, and while it isn’t quite as ridiculous as it was in 1.0, it still serves as a powerful tool for defining the deck’s fundamentals. Frostback Bear is the other titular card, and sets an immediate tone for the deck’s win condition. Being Jessa, we also get access to Screams of the Departed to capitalize on unit destruction throughout the game, dealing burn damage when attacks aren’t landing. With these cards in mind, we set the following goal for our deck:

Key Strategy: Remove opponent’s units with strong removal effects, deal attack damage with strong units, and use Screams of the Departed for any additional needed burn damage.

Deck Additions:

Jessa Na Ni: 

1x Summon Frostback Bear

  • Frostback Bear will be in our First Five every game, so 1x copy is all we need. Additional copies are too slow and costly for such an aggressive strategy.

3x Fear

  • Fear is a very powerful removal and a key part of playing Jessa, so 3x goes in.

Dice: 2 Natural

  • The minimum requirement of dice for the Bear spell.

Note that in the deck building process, it is common to start off with 3x of any given card, then trim down your deck to the final 30 cards. In this article, I put notes where I made these early cuts to streamline the process rather than detailing the full process.

 

Mounting Up

Now, we’ve committed to natural magic, so let’s look into other cards in that type to further our planned win condition. A natural unit that attacks for big damage or removes units itself is what we want, and Cerasaurus Mount fits right in. A Cerasaurus works on all fronts, dealing damage to a Phoenixborn almost every time it attacks thanks to Overkill 1. This is great news, as Cerasaurus is strong regardless of what the opponent’s battlefield looks like. If they don’t have units, great! If they do have units, also fine! Screams of the Departed can essentially boost the damage you deal with Overkill since a unit is being destroyed. This lets Jessa deal damage in big bursts, which can make or break the game if you are racing against an aggressive burn strategy.

Now, mount conjurations require allies to ride them, so we immediately need to select our riders. The Cerasaurus’ Dismount effect will return these allies to our hand, so cheap allies with enter play effects are ideal candidates. Let’s add in some 1-cost allies with enter play effects!

Deck Additions:

1x Summon Cerasaurus Mount

  • With Cerasaurus being good against many different battlefield situations, we always want to First Five it. Just like the Bear, 1x copy is all we want.

3x Anchornaut

  • Anchornaut is a basic only ally, and fits right into our game plan of removing units, opening up the option to Scream.

1x Raptor Herder

  • Raptor Herder is in color and sets up a strong early battlefield. Jessa only has 4 battlefield, so I am opting for 1x here, with intent to First Five it often.

3x Fire Archer

  • Introducing Ceremonial magic, this ally fits our damage plan and makes an excellent ally for mounting and recurring. Easy 3x.

Dice: 4 Natural, 1 Ceremonial, 1 Divine

  • Cerasaurus introduces divine magic, Fire Archer introduces ceremonial magic, and Raptor Herder + Cerasaurus as a First Five option requires 4 natural dice alongside Frostback Bear.

First Fiving

At this point in the process, we have established our win condition and strategy, and have some clear choices for our First Five. Ashes is a fast-paced game, especially for aggressive decks like the one we are building here. Now would be a good time to lock in some First Fives by picking cards that compliment our core strategy, while fitting into our five-card hand limit and ten dice limit.

The First Five:

Summon Frostback Bear: 3 dice, two of which are natural magic.

Summon Cerasaurus Mount 3 dice, including 1 natural magic and 1 divine magic.

One ally to mount with: 1 die of flexible type.

Every First Five we pick will have this three-card and seven-dice core. Let’s find some two-card and three-dice fillers that compliment our established core:

Knights are famously strong units in the three-dice slot. Grave Knight and Hammer Knight are the two we have access to with our selected dice types, and absolutely fit the deck’s strategy. However, we are looking to spend three dice across two cards, and there are very few cards in Ashes that don’t cost any dice. Luckily, our deck uses divine magic, so we can utilize one of the few free cards out there: Royal Charm. This spell can be a bit clunky to use, but having a flexible +1 attack to buff a Bear from 2 to 3, a Cerasaurus from 3 to 4, or a Grave Knight from 4 to 5 will let you make just the right trades you need to win the battlefield in round one. Just be sure to meditate for a divine power die early!

 

Deck Additions:

1x Grave Knight

1x Hammer Knight

1x Royal Charm

  • Each of these cards are being included to fit a specific First Five plan; start aggressive and win the battlefield so you can do as much attack damage as you can in round two. Our spellboard already is putting out two big threats each round, so I opted to not include extra Knights to draw into. Jessa can make a hand of cheap cards work well, since Screams can be used repeatedly. Let’s keep our draws cheap and flexible.

Dice: 4 Natural, 2 Ceremonial, 2 Divine

  • Opening with Grave Knight and Raptor Herder is now possible, as well as Hammer Knight and a non-natural cost mounting ally. The remaining two dice will be determined by what else goes into the deck.

Rounding out Round 2+

With our dice pool almost fully accounted for, we’ll need to think about our average spendings each round. Ready spells persist from round to round, and we’ve centered our strategy around the ready spells in our First Five; Bear and Cerasaurus. This will use a minimum of two natural magic and 1 divine magic each round, which doesn’t leave us with many of those dice types left for playing cards from our hand. Ceremonial magic costs aren't on our spellboard, so we’ll be spending those dice as basics and to play ceremonial cards from hand. With this in mind, I’d like to make our last two dice ceremonial magic, then stack the deck with a high amount of ceremonial cards.

Deck Additions:

3x Chant of Revenge

  • Our typical spellboard has an extra slot, and Chant of Revenge fits our win condition nicely. We have plenty of cheap allies, which make for good sacrifice targets for Fear. This also charges up Chant of Revenge, so we can use this combination in slower matchups to heal Jessa and burn the opponent’s Phoenixborn effectively.

2x Final Cry

  • Units are gonna die either through battle, removal, or our own sacrifice through Fear. Final Cry is here to use up our ceremonial dice and go straight for the kill. It is easy to meditate for a ceremonial power die and immediately play Fear or other self-removal, so this reaction spell won’t be stuck in our hand very often at all, even against dice spindown effects.

Final Dice Spread: 4 Natural, 4 Ceremonial, 2 Divine

  • This covers our aggressive First Five and supports the cost curve discussed above.

 

Counter First Fives

With only nine card slots left, we have to make sure we use them to patch up our weaknesses. This is an aggressive deck that desperately wants to win the battlefield in round one. Round one is defined by your First Five, so let’s go over some alternative First Fives that we can use our remaining card slots to define.

We’ve already discussed the core three cards to every Fist Five (Bear, Cerasaurus, mount ally), but only explored the Knight + Royal Charm aggressive opener. What other First Five choices might we need to make if the one we already have might fail? One weakness of the Knight opener is that your ally might get destroyed before you mount it. Ice Trap can destroy it right away, and Three-Eyed Owl can threaten to steal a card completely. Both are bad news, so let’s find a countermeasure.

One innate countermeasure to Three-Eyed Owl’s nasty discard effect is simply the ceremonial dice power. If we can budget in one ceremonial die to recur an ally, we are safe to mount up against an expected Owl. However, some Phoenixborn are capable of summoning TWO Owls in round one, so an alternative support may be needed. Light Bringer is an excellent conjuration in color, which can be used to pressure Owls into attacking rather than Memory Draining, or at the very least buy you some breathing room to allow you to play out more of your opening hand. Speaking of good conjurations, it would be nice to add in Butterfly Monk to patch up our matchup against less battlefield-centric opponents. Butterflies offer us life value stabilization and the option to play a “four-book” strategy.

Ice Trap is a tricky one. We can’t prevent it from destroying our mount ally, so we need a plan to get a second ally mounted if Ice Trap comes down. Similar to Owl, the ceremonial dice power can be used to recur an ally, but our dice spread is tight. Mismanaging your dice on your basic costs can really mess up this option! Safest play is to select Anchornaut against a suspected Ice Trap so you have the peace of mind of only needing basic magic to play it twice. Also just bringing two allies can work! There are so many possible variations on the First Five among these card additions alone, so let’s dive into some of them now:

Deck Additions:

1x Summon Light Bringer

1x Summon Butterfly Monk

1x Crimson Bomber

 

Frostback Bear, Cerasaurus Mount, Light Bringer, Anchornaut, Crimson Bomber

  • Feeling confident with just Light Bringer for disruption? Bring the flexible Crimson Bomber to round out this First Five. Use it to clear away an early swarm, or drop a surprise 3-attack ally for two dice late in the round when their Phoenixborn guard is down to clean up a larger exhausted threat. Anchornaut is the mount ally of choice due to battlefield limits and potentially supporting the Bomber pings. Ice Trap kills this First Five, so beware.

Frostback Bear, Cerasaurus Mount, Light Bringer, Butterfly Monk, Fire Archer

  • Protection against two Owls, using 1 ceremonial die for the dice power or Screams if not needed. Set up all your books for the long game, meditating away something for Chants if needed.

Frostback Bear, Cerasaurus Mount, Light Bringer, Fire Archer, Anchornaut

  • Full coverage insurance plan. Light Bringer and ceremonial dice power for Owl/Ice Trap mitigation, as well as a second ally in case. Jessa only has battlefield 4, so no Raptor Herder.

The Finishing Touch

With so many 1-dice cards in the deck, the possible First Fives are many. At this point, eleven cards have already been discussed as possible First Five inclusions, and there are still more to choose from. These are more edge case choices and are often fine cards outside of round one, but could be very strong First Five counters if the pick is right!

Deck Additions:

1x Choke

  • A tech card in the First Five against Phoenixborn with dangerous abilities like Coal or Aradel. Easy to throw down if it is drawn into, and is even a small burn spell to top it off.

1x Root Armor

  • Snap this on one of your bigger units if repeated ping damage is suspected or extra life may be needed. Careful not to bring Raptor Herder with Root Armor - there aren’t enough natural dice.

1x Chained Creations and 1x Ice Trap

  • Possible First Five inclusions to target specific threats. I don’t tend to use this to counter Owl as they feel a bit expensive, but Winged Lioness comes to mind as a good hit. Chained Creations can also pair with Anchornaut to seal away enemy Frostback Bears, albeit slowly.

 

And with that, over half the deck can be considered for the First Five! It can be overwhelming to remember all the nuances of these choices, but picking a standard one is a totally fine way to start learning a deck (I favor the Grave Knight opener). All that is left now is to fill out the last 10% of the deck with useful tools that fit the key strategy.

Final Additions:

2x Nature’s Wrath

  • A general all-star card, this could possibly be First Fived against suspected Fallen swarm. This card typically is very effective in the middle rounds when you need to swing the game back in your favor, so it is not often First Fived for me. Two copies helps us see it a good amount of the time in the mid game.

1x Shepherd of Lost Souls

  • Shepherd helps smooth out several aspects of the deck for such an innocuous 1x inclusion. With the deck often First Fiving a Knight and using the spellboard to put out repeated threats, I opted to use my deck space for cards besides large threats. However, a Shepherd in later rounds can recur our opening Knight if it is destroyed in round one and the battlefield calls for a Knight to return. Otherwise, another ally that recurs our best mount riders surely will find a place. Our spellboard of Cerasaurus and Light Bringer often hog all the divine dice, so it can be hard to play.

 

Final Deck List:

Jessa Na Ni

Dice: 4x Ceremonial, 4x Natural, 2x Divine

 

3x Chant of Revenge

1x Royal Charm

1x Summon Butterfly Monk

1x Summon Cerasaurus Mount

1x Summon Frostback Bear

1x Summon Light Bringer

3x Anchornaut

3x Fire Archer

1x Raptor Herder

1x Shepherd Of Lost Souls

1x Crimson Bomber

1x Grave Knight

1x Hammer Knight

3x Fear

2x Nature's Wrath

2x Final Cry

1x Chained Creations

1x Choke

1x Ice Trap

1x Root Armor

 

Deck Weaknesses

Every Ashes deck has to make some tough cuts and exclusions. Many of the choices for this deck were made with the key strategy in mind. That being the case, there are several effects that this deck lacks that are important to acknowledge:

Card Draw

  • There is zero card draw in this deck. What you draw is what you get, barring the occasional ally recursion effect. For a deck that invests many of its dice into its spellboard summons (and Screams in the late game) this can make certain hands feel like bricks. Overall, the deck is lean and mean, so it’ll be hard to feel totally helpless. Cards like Final Cry and Nature’s Wrath are at 2x, because having more than one of them can be tough to play effectively.
  • Having an overclocked spellboard can also lead to dead draws. What they add in round one flexibility is paid for in weaker draws in subsequent rounds. That being said, the summon spells and Royal Charm have no setup costs, so it is less painful to meditate them away if you need to pivot your spellboard. Chant of Revenge is more stubborn, and at 3x it is demanding space on the spellboard in most games.
  • Are there any options? With this dice spread, not many. You may consider First Fiving an Iron Worker instead of Crimson Bomber in that First Five to make round two that much more in your favor, but it is hard to not go full aggression in round one with this deck. It remains to be tested!

Dice Fixing

  • Again, this dice spread is starved for quality dice fixing, meaning it has to meditate a lot. In long control games, if you aren’t able to win quickly, that heavy meditation requirement will add up and could convert into fatigue damage and an inability to continue putting down threats.
  • Are there any options? Call Upon the Realms has potential to give us surprise dice powers, and it’s free cost makes it easy to jam down. However, Call Upon the Realms is pretty low value for one of the five cards we draw each round, which brings us back to the card draw issue of the deck. Drawing 1x Call Upon the Realms might be nice in control matchups, but could be dead in a head-to-head aggressive battle. Running more than 1x Call Upon the Realms exacerbates this issue, potentially equating to multiple dead draws! Ultimately, I accepted this weakness to maximize my draws in what I view as the more dangerous matchup. A strong beatdown opener should put us in a good position against control, but any faltering in our tempo against another aggro deck could spell disaster. With no card draw and the ability to innately meditate, I’d rather take my chances rolling the dice than drawing cards.

Counter Aggression

  • For as strong as this deck’s openers are, there are other Phoenixborn with even more brutal starts. As a Phoenixborn, Jessa actually can struggle to use her assets in the first round.
  • Fear can be hard to execute in the first round, due to the sacrifice needed to use it. Perhaps you can sacrifice a spare Raptor Hatchling in round one? It is a risky play if your opponent clears your sacrifice target before you get around to using Fear.
  • Jessa also struggles to use her ability in round one. Dice must be invested into the battlefield in order to keep up tempo and not fall behind, so Screams is simply a poor investment in the first round.
  • With Jessa struggling to use both of her strongest assets right away, other Phoenixborn with more proactive unique spells and abilities may have the advantage. Xander, Echo, Aradel, Harold, and Coal all will be bringing the heat in round one, where Jessa is disadvantaged. Drawing and using Fear is high variance, but will be crucial for competing against these powerful opponents.

 

Conclusion

Overall, Fear the Bear is an aggressive deck with a very clear gameplan. It has dynamic First Five options to make up for Jessa’s innate round one weaknesses, backed up by an incredible ability to close out games in which it wins the battlefield war immediately. It has a dice spread that is vulnerable to dice manipulation and card draw variance, but does so as a calculated risk. What do you think? Try out this deck list and find out!

 

I hope you have enjoyed this deck tech and that it has helped your deck building process to see an example walkthrough. If you are interested in writing up your own deck tech article for this website, just contact [email protected].

 

Take care everyone!

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