This opening was theorycrafted by @garcia1000 @sharpobject @Sotek, and after playing a few PbF and IRL games with it, I thought I’d bring it into the limelight. This opening provides a strong economy and enough of a board presence to defend it. Beware, it’s not foolproof or anything, but it will throw off your opponent’s plans, tests their knowledge, and is super fun to execute. So let’s get into it!
What does the opening require?
- You’re going first
- Green starter
- Growth spec
- Rich Earth in your opening hand (if you have Prospector too, even better!)
What is the opening?
Turn 1: play Rich Earth and worker. If you have Merfolk Prosepctor, play him too and patrol in scavenger.
Your opponent will do something on their turn, it doesn’t really matter what.
Turn 2: You are guaranteed to have 6 gold this turn, either because you floated a gold, or you played Merfolk Prospector and he died and got you the scav bonus, or you played Merfolk Prospector and he didn’t die and you exhaust him for a gold this turn. Use that gold to summon and maxband Argagarg, then worker. Note that we’re delaying our Tech I building until next turn.
So now you have:
- 5 cards in hand for your next turn
- 3/3 Water Elemental with anti-air
- 1/5 maxed out Argagarg
- 0/1 Wisp
- 1/1 Merfolk Prospector, maybe
- Rich Earth in play
A good patrol formation to end this turn is Water Elemental in squad lead, the wisp in scavenger, and everything else behind. That’s it, you have done the thing.
Are you really guaranteed to be able to max Argagarg turn 2?
Okay, you got me. There are three cards that can stop this plan:
If you’re against the Purple starter, Forgotten Fighter can return the Prospector back to your hand if you played it, so you won’t have the 6 gold needed to max Argagarg on the next turn. This is a fine outcome, however. They spent more gold than you did, and gave you a card back. Simply go for a more normal plan - play the prospector again, any other 2 cost guy you have, a hero, then worker. Bam, you’re in a great position.
To get around Arrest, you can simply not patrol the Prospector. Even if you forget, though, things are still in your favor if they do play Arrest. Switch to a normal plan and you are ahead.
This one can actually give you some trouble. If you didn’t play Prospector, Pillage will prevent you from maxing Arg. If you did play prospector, they can kill it with Mad Man and then Pillage you, or if they have Zane, midband him, kill the prospector for a gold, THEN pillage you. Putting the Prospector in squad lead prevents some of that, but just be careful.
Okay, let’s get to the good stuff.
Why is this opening good?
The strength of this opening is that you have it all: good economy, board control, and 5 cards in hand for turn 3. But the lynchpin is the Water Elemental.
Water Elemental is a 3/3 on turn 2 with upside. That is pretty insane. Jandra is the only other 3/3 available on turn 2, and she has a pretty serious drawback. Like with Jandra, patrolling the Water Elemental in squad lead is a strong play, because very few things can deal with a 3/4 efficiently that early in the game. He also strongly disincentivizes things like your opponent trying to snipe your Merfolk Prospector or Wisp with Spectral Aven or Nullcraft on their second turn, because of anti-air. You can buff him up the next turn with either of the green starter’s spells, Argagarg’s midband, or something you teched. All of this before the opponent has a chance to respond with teched spells or Tech I units. He’s amazing.
On top of having a best-Tech-0-stats unit, you have Rich Earth and possibly Merfolk Prospector too, which will allow you to go for larger Tech I units and spells than you normally might, and still hit Tech II on time if you want.
What cards do I tech in at the end of turn 2?
Since we’re delaying our Tech I building, Argagarg’s spells are your most reasonable tech choices for your first cycle. I recommend the following:
Some Combination of Dinosize and Spirit of the Panda
2x Dinosize is the more aggressive option, and combined with the other Green spells, you’re likely to be able to break through the enemy patrol zone on turn 3. Spirit of the Panda really only costs 3, since you’ll be attacking with the thing you cast it on that turn, so it’s great for extending your board + econ advantage into the midgame. Some good followup techs for your subsequent turns include stuff with Overpower (Centaur with Dinosize is a 9/10!) or other 3 or 4 hp Tech I units.
If you’re feeling crazy…
Yes, really. You should only go for this if you were able to play Prospector turn 1, and it survived for you to exhaust it. Your goal here is to play back to back Stampedes, getting 6 - 8 base damage each time. If your opponent finds a way to deal with 14 atk on turns 3, 4, and 5, then okay they deserve the win.
This is actually not unreasonable for your turn 3 or 4 tech choices either, because of how long Argagarg tends to stick around.
What might I need to worry about with this opening?
First, let’s talk about the things that you might think would be good answers, but really aren’t. Any spec’s spell-based answers have decreased value just because of how likely you are to break through the patrol zone on turn 3.
A 3/3 at Tech 0 costs 3 gold, as seen with Jandra (actually a little more, since she has a downside). So you can figure that you paid 3 gold for the Water Elemental, and 3 gold for the max Argagarg + wisp, all for 0 cards. Pretty good deal. So your opponent’s plan is to spend 4 gold (5 with the skeleton sac) and a card to remove one of those things? Sure, let them. Then kill them with the other thing.
The argument against Snapback is similar to the one for Doom Grasp. Your opponent is spending 3 gold and a card for something you spent 3 gold and 0 cards on. Let them. You can use the new hero - who will most likely be better in direct combat than Argagarg - combined with the water elemental and the green starter spells to further solidify control of the board after they spent their turn 2 doing mostly nothing (worker, Tech I, Snapback is 5 out of their 6 gold if they’re monocolor).
If your opponent plays Assimilate on their turn 3 to take your Rich Earth, you will have broken even on it by then. So it didn’t really cost you anything, the card is still out of your deck, and they just spent 3 gold and a card not dealing with Argagarg or the Water Elemental. Sure, no problem.
Lol. Just Arg + Dinosize a wisp + Worker the next turn, kill Prynn and you’re back at level 3. Comes with another Wisp, too.
Okay, so what are the actual answers to this opening?
Any of the flagbearers will take all of Argagarg’s spells. If your opponent is on to your plan, they’ll not worker this and will prevent the Water Elemental from reaching it. Your best bet is to play more defensively and rely on your economic lead. If you’re against Past or Truth, you can attach Spirit of the Panda to your things before the flagbearers come online, so it’s not so bad there.
As you might expect, Sacrifice the Weak deals with Water Elemental pretty well. In fact, the Black starter has several lines of play that can deal with the Elemental efficiently - t1 Poisonblade Rogue into t2 Deterorate, for example. This puts them down on cards but with a lot of board control. Grab some Giant Pandas, put things in Technician, and leverage your economic advantage.
Arrest is back again, putting the Water Elemental out of commission if you patrol it. If you don’t patrol it, Manufactured Truth will change the opponent’s 1-drop into a Water Elemental, who along with Onimaru will break through your lines. This is pretty tricky to navigate.
This card + Grave on the opponent’s turn 1 will be able to deal with Water Elemental very efficiently, no matter where you place it. Putting it in squad lead or elite is your best bet, as they either have to Grappling Hook it somewhere else, or midband Grave + exhaust the Sensei. Leave the Wisp behind the patrol zone so you can buff it and try to break through to Grave the turn after.
Your opponent is basically guaranteed to be able to replay this every turn, since you are going with a very combat-heavy strat for board control. Go with Spirit of the Panda over Dinosize to try and pull ahead in the gold exchange.
Yea, you have literally no answer to lil ol’ Tiny Basilisk. He can’t block the Elemental, but you can’t stop him from killing Argagarg, your Dinosize’d Tech Is are useless, and you won’t be able to get Spirit of the Panda to stick to anything. Probably better to avoid this opening entirely against Balance.
At least you get a turn with the elemental before it’s bounced - go for that Tech I and make it count!