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  1. #1
    DP Visionary FDL's Avatar
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    [LL] Serena - 4 year anniversary!

    Hey all.

    It was in March 2012, almost 4 years ago to the day. Version 1.503 had just been released. A milestone in Shadow Era history. The first set, Call of the Crystals, was finally complete.

    It was a wild time. Excitement was high. The Season 4 ladder race was intense. At that time, only the Top 20 got Hall of Fame status. Seasons were months long. Rating decay wasn't introduced until the next Season so camping was prevalent.

    The Season 4 Top 20 reads like a who's who of the original competitive SE players: Ace (with his Banebow decks if I recall correctly), Sisyphos (eventual WC champion), GreyMouser (he just won everything), Raph (the most infamous player of the time, favored Portal Maj I think), Cwhit (broke Victor to the scene with busti), youanthe (he's there 4 times...), busti (I still have nightmare of facing his rush Eldawen in that ladder race), soothslyr (of DT fame), vAct, Dollmaster, Rayzie... all the players you'd find at the top of every CROWN or TWAIN event and in the Finals of GDC's Leagues.

    I managed to squeak in 12th with Serena. An underrated Hero at the time. I would then take the same deck to another Top 20 in the following Season.

    Fast forward to 2016. I just took a very similar deck to 300 and the Top 100 in the last two Seasons. The deck is eerily similar. 19 of the original 40 cards are still present. The rest mostly serve the same function as those they replaced.

    Serena 2012:

    x1 Serena

    x4 Nightshade
    x2 Puwen
    x4 Priest of the Light
    x3 Aldon
    x3 Lily
    x3 Aeon

    x3 Assassination
    x4 Stop Thief
    x4 Ill Gotten Gains

    x3 Black Garb
    x4 Anklebreaker
    x2 Dagger of Unmaking

    Serena 2016:

    x1 Serena

    x4 Night Owl
    x3 Sabreen, Hand of Unaxio
    x1 Lily
    x2 Braxnorian Soldier
    x1 Viska, The Scarlet Blade
    x1 Aeon Stormcaller
    x1 Oliver Fagin

    x2 Backstab
    x2 Assassination
    x4 Stop Thief
    x4 Ill Gotten Gains

    x3 Hit List
    x4 Black Garb
    x3 Anklebreaker
    x4 Thoughtripper Cutlass

    The deck still operates on the same axis as ever: out value your opponent, deny their resources, bury them in card advantage. With many answers and a lot of draw, it's a rare deck that leaves you helpless.

    The list is flexible. You can move the fatties around, lower the curve a bit and/or juggle with the removal. To be perfectly honest, I haven't played a game with the above list yet. I just tweaked it after my last games.

    ---

    So what changed in 4 years?

    The game got slower. Now that sounds weird given that we can spend 10 resources on turn 3 or attack for a gazillion on turn 4, but not playing a 2 drop was almost a death sentence in 2012. The ally lineup was slanted towards aggro and the early game revolved around Aldon. Night Owl eventually gave the deck a 3 cost ally with a lot of survivability, and, the new comer Sabreen, doesn't like 2 drops much.

    Everybody draws so much more! Nowadays, you can't count on your good old Blood Frenzy or Ill Gotten Gains to generate enough cards to keep you level with your opponent. The Golden Rule in early SE was to play 6 or 7 draw sources (usually 4 copies of the main engine, plus a couple of support cards). The 2016 list sports 18 cards that can potentially put some virtual cardboard in your hands! And that's barely enough to keep up.

    Decks are much more streamlined. We had around 200 cards back then, now we're on the 4th set so more synergies are to be found and cards were developed to fill holes. Cutlass in particular allows Serena to really leverage her ability and even disrupt her opponent without using Shadow Energy. Dagger of Unmaking was the only other remotely playable weapon back in the day. It was serviceable, but it wasn't optimal.

    ---

    So there it is, my little celebratory post of 4 years of playing Serena. I hope you found the trip down memory lane interesting!

    ---

    Now, I'll leave you with some tips so that this post wasn't just self-congratulatory!

    Early sacrifices: Sac the fatties you draw early (unless you really need Brax Soldier in the matchup) and ideally keep one Owl or Garb, one Sabreen, one AB, one Cutlass and one draw source. Despite the high average casting cost, the deck curves out consistently.

    Turn 2: I have yet to be disappointed by running out Hit List early. It makes a lot of plays better (namely T4 Sabreen or Assassination/Backstab).
    Turn 3: Sabreen into an empty field, Owl or Black Garb otherwise.
    Turn 5: Sometimes you need to lead with Anklebreaker to slow the game down (usually because you can't clear their field on that turn). If you can start hitting their face with Cutlass AND maintain board control, go crazy (it happens with regularity thanks to Black Garb).

    If an opponent played a lot of cards early but has yet to play a draw engine, T5 Anklebreaker to force a discard (and disable his dudes when they attack) can be back breaking.

    T3 Garb T4 IGG T5 Sabreen is pretty strong.

    The removal is conditional, you always need a readied ally on the field to use it. You won't play some every game, but when it's good, it's great. Favor things that kill over tempo plays (i.e. Retreat) to trigger IGG and Hit List.

    Not having IGG online isn't the end of the world if you can prevent them from drawing.

    Black Garb isn't great in weapon matchups (Stop Thief is awesome though), but it shines in the worst matchups (armored allies).

    Don't trigger Hit List needlessly if your opponent will most likely kill an Owl, trigger IGG or play some bilateral draw on his turn.

    A number of decks will struggle to draw if you don't play allies early. Serena on the other hand can generate draw from opposing allies and items.
    Last edited by FDL; 03-17-2016 at 02:35 AM.
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  2. #2
    Senior Member seedog's Avatar
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    Interesting comparison, but I do like your 2012 deck more

  3. #3
    Senior Member Caitlyn0's Avatar
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    damn, i so used to hate lily and dagger of unmaking... lily the most. very little ID back then and she kept bring the crap back
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  4. #4
    CotC Sealed Deck Champion busti's Avatar
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    Happy birthday old man!

    My oldest cool memory was when I saw you as banebow battle with someone else (forgot who!) as zaladar, that was before it was cool to play banebow as he couldn't get through gargoyle's armor. Epic match!
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  5. #5
    1.27 Tournament Champion Raphael Majere's Avatar
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    [LL] Serena - 4 year anniversary!

    It had been 4 years, wow. Nice walk down memory

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  6. #6
    Senior Member bobrossw's Avatar
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    I think the biggest difference comes from other heroes...back then Serena was Tier 2 at best. There were ways to build her to be stronger vs certain decks, but some things still felt like auto-wins. Now she's more consistent and more balanced. The steal from cutlass is part of that, but so are those little ways to draw a card here and there. One piece of tech doesn't make Serena fall apart like it used to. Similarly, getting an opponent down to an empty hand no longer guarantees a win. If you're into nostalgia, you can check out some of my older youtube videos from two years ago playing Serena in the WCs. Maybe I'll track down the decklist and repost it here...that one actually had very little draw, and was just a game of tight margins and good top-decking.
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  7. #7
    Member Steedious's Avatar
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    Dagger of Unmaking, I actually forgot it was an Epic card. Does anyone use this weapon anymore?

  8. #8
    Senior Member Arcadius's Avatar
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    Happy birthday to your Serena!
    Btw 4 igg 2 backstab and 3 hit list are bit to much for Serena considering u always can count on some cards stolen by Cutlass..
    I would also cut one black garb..
    All this in purpose adding one more viska, shuriken and sorcerer...
    Especially i like the idea of having Aeon here..
    Cheers
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  9. #9
    Senior Member Rajawali's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steedious View Post
    Dagger of Unmaking, I actually forgot it was an Epic card. Does anyone use this weapon anymore?
    It's too costly and ally that has damage resistance is immune to it, retreat is much more preferred now

  10. #10
    Senior Member Lahiri's Avatar
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    DoU is still great in meltdown.
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