Deck Guide: Insangpha's Bear & the Maiden Fair
Hello everyone. This is a refined version of the Crach an Craite deck I used in TGO September. It’s an homage to early open beta Skellige midrange bear decks as well as wicked ending song from one of the most memorable episodes of Game of Thrones. But it is not just a themed-deck for fun, my winrate has held at 65% over large game samples from from all levels of play: tournament, regular and pro ladder. This is a fairly balanced deck that will give you a chance even when losing the coinflip and going first, and good decks should be able to do that.
It’s not as explosive in late rounds as King Bran’s Restore deck, it is not as control heavy as Spella’tael, and it does not have the knockout carryover power of Monster swarm. What this deck has is balance and versatility. It has decent tempo and just enough deck-thinning to get to at least 3 golds by end of game, stable gold and silver combinations that will see at least decent value most of time, has direct removal (Coral, Eskel, Lugos) as well as huge AOE potential in whale Harpooner+Aard+Lacerate, and carryover with Morkvarg and Dorregaray that will make the opponent reconsider pushing hard in 2nd round. It also has a useful lock silver and healing to combat on-going effects like weather.
Gameplan: Round 1
Going First: Establish Savage Bear early (either by playing bronze Savage Bear or spawning off of Dorregaray). When the opponent plays a key bronze unit like Imperia enforcer or Siege Support, unleash a Shieldmaiden chain on that unit. Then, preferably get 11 strength Morkvarg out with leader ability. Whatever you do from this point on, don’t overinvest -if opponent shies away from using their golds and silvers, hold onto our golds and silvers. Only use them if you know it’s going to put the round out of their reach. If all worked out accordingly, the opponent will have to go down a card and spend significant resource to beat us. The bear ticks might force the opponent to go two cards down.
Going Second: Same rule applies here pretty much, but if opponent dry passes without playing anything, I will probably play a bronze unit to get a resurrectable unit in graveyard rather than getting Morkvarg out with leader ability. If opponent plays an 11 strength spy right off the start, refrain from using leader ability right away, as both spy and morkvarg will line up at 11 for big scorch. If the round is played normally, dictate the tempo, force your opponent go two cards down to beat us, or beat the opponent on equal cards. All our bronze cards except for freya in R1 represent huge value swing, so it is highly likely to go in our favor.
Gameplan: Round 2
Won Round 1: Because of the Morkvarg carryover, we are in a prime position to bleed the opponent unless the opponent has carryover. Establish carryover with Dorregaray, and dictate tempo with Whale Harpooner+Lacerate etc. Keep Restore, Sigrdrifa, and some gold units as finishers unless you know you can 2-0 your opponent.
Lost Round 1: Check the opponent’s first move, and judge if he is going for 2-0 knock out, tempo, or just getting rid of his garbage cards like harpies and trying to bleed our hand. If opponent is building tempo right out of gate, answer with gremist/ gold units. If it is clear that opponent is just trying to build carryover or bleed our hand, go for multiple Dorregaray with Restore Sigdrifa if the option is available. If the opponent’s units get threatening, knock out key targets with Coral/Lugos. Try not to overspend your resource, think of how many golds/silvers your opponent used, and conserve finishers if you can.
Gameplan: Round 3
If all went according to plan, we are up a card or on equal number of cards, ideally around 2-3. Because of our carryover, we will have a good chance to prevail. Use Restore+Gold units to finish the game - pretty straightforward Skellige finale.
Blacklist Morkvarg and additional Shieldmaidens, and second Priestess of Freya. Blacklist Lacerate if you have Herbalist in hand. As for me, I blacklist Lacerate anyway in hopes of finding Herbalist. Fish for Dorregaray if you can afford to, as it is the most important silver card in the deck with Morkvarg. Depending on matchup, fish for particular silvers - Donar an Hindar for mirror match and Monsters, and Gremist vs matchups that likely use global weather. Third card mulligan is not so bad as long as we don’t draw additional Shieldmaidens or Lacerate with Herbalist in hand/vice-versa, so we can mulligan aggressively.
Emhyr Spies: Spy synergy is really deadly if they have multiple engine units on the board. Disrupt spy synergy as much as you can with Bear+Shieldmaiden, maybe throw in Lugos and Eskel to kill an engine right off, but don’t commit more than 1 gold in R1, as Emhyr players typically use most of their golds as finisher in R3. Abandon the round if they have multiple spy synergy units on board, playing more will only lose us card advantage. Losing R1 on equal cards must be avoided at all cost, since they will 99 out of 100 times play cantarella in R2. Establish carryover in R2 to discourage opponent from prolonging the round if we lost R1. Ideally, save Coral to cast on their big unit typically summoned off of Joachim, and keep Donar for Iris. Some lists do not run Iris, so saving Donar for later can backfire, but Iris is so devastating if it goes off that I usually save Donar for Iris anyways.
Scoia’tael - Spells or Movement: Mulligan hard for global weather clear. Eskel is great against both types, getting rid of first Marksman and Farseer with ease. Donar is also a nice keep, locking Farseer’s ability and counter-checking Ciaran which Movement Scoiatael typically runs. Both decks typically do not have great tempo out of the gate, so dictate tempo with Morkvarg+Bear+Shieldmaiden chain. Also it’s in our best interest to keep the second round longer to weaken their synergy, so try to win the first round.
Restore Skellige: This can be a tough match-up as Coral on Morkvarg in 1st round is really devastating. Also, typically they don’t give us a big carryover unit to use Donar on right away. Cerys and Olgierd will be resurrected from the grave, and Morkvarg is only a 5 strength silver in 1st round. That being said, we have more damage potential and control over their unit placement with Harpooner and Geralt: Aard. Eskel on Gremist’s Bear or Warmonger represents huge value as well. I would say King Bran has the upper hand, but victory is definitely achievable.
Dagon Swarm: The deck excels at this match-up. Keep Brokvar Archer and Armorsmith in mulligan. Shieldmaiden chain and leader ability help us to keep up with Woodland Spirit in Round 1, and we can deny their Harpy egg synergy with Brokvar Archer to keep Ekimmara and Vran Warrior. Any damage they do over time with Fog can be mitigated by Armorsmith. And this is huge, as Armorsmith will often heal for lot more than versus Eredin’s Frost. If we are in a bad spot/ lost round 1, think carefully about killing Gremist/Dorregaray with Bear spawn or Ekimmara, as it may give the opponent a juicy Caretaker target. In Round 3, control their number of tokens with cards like Herbalist and Geralt: Aard as they will likely use Yennefer for the finisher.
Eredin Control: Keep Armorsmith in mulligan. Fish for Coral/Eskel/Donar as they are really good at disrupting Eredin’s Iris strategy. Wild Hunt Riders are the prime target for Eskel. Don’t go for clear weather unless we have units across at least 2 frosted rows. Even clearing 2 frosted rows should be refrained from if it doesn’t get us the tempo. Keep your Armorsmith handy, and if a unit is at 6 or 5 strength, it can be killed off by the opponent’s bronze combo removal right away, so if those are key units like Bear/Morkvarg and Ekimmara, consider restoring their health right away.
Northern Realms: I will keep this short as we don’t see much NR on ladder. Against Foltest - a tough matchup because we can’t stop Thaler+Light Cavalry play, but their draws may be horrible. Play to our strength with Carryover and Shieldmaiden tempo. Against Radovid - try not to have Bear and Morkvarg on the same board. Keep Donar handy. Lure Radovid’s ability with Dorregaray’s Ekimmara. Against Henselt - we have many way to disrupt Henselt ability - Eskel, Shieldmaiden chain, Lugos and Coral. Mulligan aggressively for these cards, limit Henselt’s leader ability, and this is an advantageous match-up.