A Comprehensive Briny Ray Primer, in several Parts

    • A Comprehensive Briny Ray Primer, in several Parts

      Prologue:

      I haven't written about Hex in a while, but I thought it would be a nice thing to do after coming back to my favorite card game. I should probably start with what I know best, which to the surprise of few, is the card Briny Ray. I also encourage other players to write about their signature decks and/or experience in the constructed format.

      During set 9 spoilers, Briny Ray stood out to me as the most powerful card in the set, and since then, it has never disappointed. Before I get into specifics, it is important to understand why Briny Ray is so powerful. For many of you, this is already clear, but those who have yet to fully understand the power of the little fish (well, technically elemental familiar), the simple truth is the ray does EVERYTHING. Briny Ray provides pressure, card selection, card advantage, reach, and is an enabler for your other cards/synergies. The discard mode can be combined with the drop resources, primarily Nameless Draught and Feralfuel, but potentially the others as well, its in-set partner in crimes Conjured Candleghast and Scribe of the Flayed Man, or cards that you might want in your crypt such as Light Em Up, Scour the Archives, or a Doombringer Kha to be put into play with a Mordrom's Gift. It draws a card straight up when empty-handed, attacks for two evasively, and it helps enable the powerful interrupt, Unhenge. The ray is so powerful because as a two cost troop, it generates value immediately as it attacks with flight, but also threatens to draw more cards and run away with the game if unanswered.

      I have played with Briny Ray in a variety of decks, ranging from aggressive, to midrange, to combo, and it always headlines whatever deck it is put in. I will begin this series with RS aggro, and this will likely be the longest and most intensive of the write ups because I will be covering the usages of many commonly occurring main deck and reserves cards here.

      Part 1:
      [RUBY][SAPPHIRE]Elemental Aggro

      Sample List:
      Thk'tatcha

      4 Boltspasm
      4 Briny Ray
      4 Righteous Outlaw
      4 Replipopper
      3 Alchemite
      4 Conjured Candleghast
      4 Primordial Sabretooth

      4 Runebind
      2 Whip Crack
      4 Unhenge

      4 Nameless Draught
      4 Feralfuel
      4 Remnant of Innovation
      4 Well of Innovation
      2 Ruby Shard
      5 Sapphire Shard

      Reserves
      2 Whip Crack
      1 Alchemite
      1 Boltwing Phoenix
      3 Verdict of the Ancient Kings
      4 Return to Cinder
      2 Halt
      1 Burning Ire
      1 Confounding Ire


      I have seen MiracleSun play something somewhat similar, but he plays quite a few more interrupts. One of the weaknesses of this deck, especially compared to some of the other RS decks, is that blood and sapphire control matchups can be difficult as the Thk'tatcha hero power is not very effective there, and so I imagine that MiracleSun's build is attempting to cover that potential weakness, though I would greatly appreciate it if he would weigh in on his version. Also, I normally play with 2 more ruby shards instead of two of the Feralfuel to have more consistent access to the charge power, but it is likely better to simply play the full number of drop shards, as shown above.

      This is the archetype of Briny Ray that I probably have the most games and experience with. However, while I have worked quite a bit on this archetype, it was definitely not one of my creations. A couple years ago, back when we all thought there was going to be a set 10, I was preparing for a CCS. I had a build of RS Discard that I really enjoyed, and did fairly well against the majority of the metagame with, but I could not beat the SW Sugar Rush combo deck with. I will talk about this deck later, but the problem was while I could interrupt some key cards and deal with Rowdy Piper consistently enough, I couldn't answer Dreamsmoke Diva or apply enough pressure, especially on the draw, and their deck would eventually overcome and out-grind my disruption. Frustrated, I committed the classic TCG player error, and turned to the deck my previous one couldn't beat. The Sugar Rush deck seemed powerful enough to me, and so I played it in the CCS to an ok finish, but two of my losses were to RS decks with Briny Ray! Importantly, they supplemented the fish with, you guessed it, more aggressive troops and Unhenge, which completely turned the matchup around. When I checked the tournament results later, I found exactly the elusive Holy Grail I was looking for, a RS deck that beat SW combo!

      This is on the "more aggressive" end of the spectrum for RS discard decks, but it isn't the most aggressive. If you want to make the deck even leaner and faster, you probably should start by trimming or cutting Alchemite, and maybe Whip crack, replacing them with Flare Imp and adjusting the shard base to slant towards ruby instead of sapphire.

      Here is a short list of tips and tricks to remember with this deck. In this deck, the Thk'tatcha hero power has many potential uses, from helping Righteous Outlaw, Replipopper, or Alchemite attack unblocked, combining with Unhenge to permanently deal with an opposing troop, or by bouncing something that was hit by Runebind, to ensure a card or action remains in stasis for another turn cycle. Unhenge can be enabled by Boltspasm, Briny Ray, Conjured Candleghast or a Brittle Alchemite but not one cast for the full 5 resources. One important play to keep in mind for this deck is that with Conjured Candleghast if you play a drop resource on turn 2 so that you have 8 cards in hand even after playing your resource, you can go to discard to play the candleghast as a turn 2 4/4. Whip Crack (and Alchemite if you are really desperate) can be used to play Conjured Candleghast as a quick troop to ambush opponent's troops in combat. If your opponent goes to kill your Alchemite or Brittle Alchemite and you respond to save it and return it to your hand, it will still return to hand even if they kill, void, or even transform it in response. This means you don't need to activate it a second time to save it. However, I am fairly sure, though I haven't had the nerves to test the interaction, that Assimilate putting it into their deck will prevent it from returning to your hand, so respond to that one. Beware of your opponent's "power turns" that they are likely to play impactful troops, and try to leave up one resource for Unhenge, even if you don't have it. For example if they are playing DS control, they most important turns that they play troops are turns 4 for Silver Talon Adjudicator and 5 for Dark Heart of Nulzann and Eldurathan's Glory. A mono Blood player is most likely to want to play their Bride of the Damned on turn 5. Later in the game it is often "free" to hold up or represent Unhenge. Finally, Righteous Outlaw making valor is actually quite valuable in this deck as they help feed discards to Briny Ray and Alchemite, so you should be looking for opportunities to make valor instead of transforming immediately and saving some of the valor you do produce in more attrition focused matchups.

      Next, Notes on specific reserves cards and their purposes. Also, why Whip Crack is almost as insane as Briny Ray