An Attempt to Find Alfiq Conjurer Counter-Play in TESL
Alfiq Conjurer undoubtedly is the most powerful card in the Moons of Elsweyr expansion. Midrange decks are back on the ladder. Midrange battlemage is at tier 1 and variations of that deck in tri-color dominate the meta. What can yellow-based decks in crusader, monk, spellsword or Empire do to compete? Before we attempt to find counter-play options, let’s briefly look at why Alfiq Conjurer is so successful.
What makes Alfiq Conjurer strong?
Alfiq Conjurer is a 3/4 Khajiit that can summon a 5/3 Flame Atronach when it consumes a creature. If that creature is an atronach, the alfiq even summons a warded 7/5 Storm Atronach. In other words, you get either 8/7 or 10/9 in stats across two bodies for 6 magicka.
When consuming an imbued creature (see The Consume Mechanic and the Imbued), Alfiq can even become a 4/5 with ward or lethal. That’s a lot of value. When things go really wrong, your opponent has Luzrah gro-Shrah in play when Alfiq Conjurer summons a Storm Atronach. This pushes Luzrah to a 6/7, Alfiq Conjurer to a 5/6 and the warded Storm Atronach becomes a 9/7. Congratulations, you can practice concede efficiency!
Simple Conditions to Proc Alfiq Conjurer
To find counter-play, let’s look at the conditions needed to proc Alfiq Conjurer. Your opponent only needs to meet a fairly simple condition to get to the 3/4 + 5/3 variant: one creature in their discard pile. This is very easy to do by turn 5 or 6.
The Storm Atronach variation is slightly more difficult to achieve. There are mainly four options to achieve this:
- The 2-cost Reflective Automaton has all creature types and functions as an atronach.
- At 2 magicka, High Rock Summoner puts an atronach into your opponent’s hand. They need to play and trade with it. Of the four options, this one is less frequently used.
- Exalt Temple Conjurer at 5 magicka to summon a 5/3 Flame Atronach that your opponent will be happy to trade with.
- Summon a 5/5 Frost Atronach with guard from breaking Breton Conjurer‘s ward and get this removed.
1. Going Full Aggro against Alfiq Conjurer
The best counter-play to a powerful 6-cost card that is all over the meta is to build a fast aggro deck. You really want to consistently win by turn 5 or 6. This puts blue aggro decks (i.e. assassin, battlemage or sorcerer) to the forefront of consideration. You can even use your own copies of Alfiq Conjurer as your deck’s top end.
Aggro assassin allows for enough tempo plays with shackle in combination with the powerful lethal and ward keywords to remove costly creatures with cheaper ones. Alternatively, build your aggro assassin around the “burn package” consisting of House Kinsman, Blood Sacrament and Blighted Werebat (among others) to beat down your opponent. This package allows you to care less about big guards and warded creatures, as trading into your threats will still cause face damage.
Also consider using Sentinel Reclaimer, the monthly reward card, for the additional reach through the items it provides. Sentinel Reclaimer also works well in aggro battlemage, an archetype that can be tailored around items or burn damage as well (see Wita’s Thunder battlemage from the Master Series Finals).
The third option is aggro sorcerer, which has been a top tier aggro deck for a long time. Your beatdown strategy in aggro sorcerer is usually based around powerful threats like Barrow Stalker, Dragontail Savior, Wind Keep Spellsword, Manic Jack & Manic Mutation, Young Mammoth and Bleakcoast Troll.
If you don’t like aggro decks, you must deal with Alfiq Conjurer as it’s being played. The following sections look at your options for midrange and/or control decks.
2. Counter-Play Alfiq Conjurer with Single Target Removal?!??
While the 3/4 and the 5/3 are still relatively easy to remove with two creatures, the warded 7/5 is particularly hard to tackle when you have to rely on creatures alone. For the Storm Atronach you need single target removal to deal with it effectively. This leaves Piercing Javelin, Fell the Mighty or Cast Into Time. Cast Into Time is by far the best single target removal as it banishes the Storm Atronach, leaving the next Alfiq Conjurer without a matching consume target.
Drive Mad and damage-based removal doesn’t really work on its own because of the ward. Curse-based removal with Murkwater Scourge, Leaflurker and Finish Off works well against the Storm Atronach and can also deal with Breton Conjurer if your opponent summons it without directly breaking the ward. Side note: it is often a good idea to remove it even after the ward is broken, because Wardcrafter and other cards can be used to give it another ward.
However, you are still left with a 3/4 guard that you still need to deal with. With Luzrah in play, it’s even worse – there is still another 4/5 that you also need to deal with quickly. That’s why a strategy build solely around single target removal often fails to deal with Alfiq Conjurer. Your opponent will often be able to gain trade priority in field lane or retain the atronach to go face in the shadows.
3. Alfiq Conjurer Counter-play Through Mummification
The prophecy card Mummify is a pretty good option to counter Alfiq Conjurer. You can often transform the Reflective Automaton or other Atronach into a mummy before your opponent gets them to their discard pile. This strategy usually works at least for one atronach, but since your opponent will likely run six or more options to generate atronachs, you can’t cover all of them. Since the action also has the prophecy keyword, you can sometimes play it for free after a rune break, and mid battlemage definitely does not lack targets, even if there is no atronach target.
Another option is to use Hallowed Deathpriest to mummify Alfiq Conjurer in your opponent’s hand. The skeleton can be tutored with Wake the Dead, giving you a reasonable chance to pull either from your deck before turn 5 or 6. Since your opponent might hold a higher cost creature in their hand (e.g. Ancano, Belligerent Giant, Vigilant Giant, etc.) it is often a good idea to make this game A Night to Remember for your opponent and mummify two of their cards.
4. Banishing Alfiq Conjurer or his Atronach Gang
To counter Alfiq Conjurer you have three possible options. For one you can use Memory Wraith to banish their discard pile as the first atronach enters it. This will also remove any other imbued creatures or other consume targets and basically renders Alfiq Conjurer an overcosted guard in your opponent’s hand. Since Memory Wraith can be tutored with Wake the Dead, there is definitely a reasonable way to trigger this.
The second option relies on banishing the individual atronachs (+ Reflective Automaton). Cast Into Time is certainly an option for Willpower-based decks, but there is also Devouring Flame in the red Strength attribute you might want to consider.
The third option is Piercing Twilight, the 4/4 guard in Intelligence that banishes a card from your opponent’s discard pile and deck. Although this does not cover cards in your opponents hand, it definitely removes additional copies from their draw deck. Voila!
5. Lane Removal
The best way to remove the Alfiq Conjurer army is to remove all creatures in their lane. Dawn’s Wrath is a wonderful card to address a single lane. Unfortunately, your opponent oftentimes plays Luzrah in one lane and Alfiq plus Atronach in the other lane. In this case you can deal with a majority of but not all threats.
Don’t laugh, but Immolating Blast is a pretty decent card when it comes to removing the majority of threats from two lanes. For the blast to work, you need 2-3 cards per lane and a little bit of luck to hit the right threats. With creatures summoning 0/1s for your opponent (e.g. Strategists Map, Morag Tong Assassin, Morag Tong Nightblade or Naryu Virian), you can even hit experienced opponents who play only one threat per lane.
Debilitate and Ice Storm
Debilitate and Ice Storm are other board removal options. Where Ice Storm fails to remove the Storm Atronach on its own, you can at least trade a small creature into Alfiq Conjurer before playing Ice Storm to get it removed.
While Debilitate doesn’t remove the alfiq clan, it at least reduces the attack values of all your opponent’s creatures. Leaving the atronach in play for as long as possible can actually be a good idea to avoid the next Alfiq Conjurer.
Seething Flesh Golem
If you have just completed Isle of Madness, you might think about Seething Flesh Golem. However, against mid battlemage, the golem is not really a great alternative. First of all, it does not even clear the “small alfiq package” for 8 magicka and only breaks the ward off the Storm Atronach from the big package. Secondly, Seething Flesh Golem is just an invitation for your opponent to play a Breton Conjurer or a Daggerfall Mage. Maybe you can trick them into playing the conjurer without breaking its ward directly, but you would need curse-based or hard removal in hand to deal with the conjurer to play around this. So, it’s probably best to stay away from Seething Flesh Golem in this meta.
6. Lane Shackle
If you cannot kill them, at least slow them down. With cards like Winter’s Grasp and Giant Snake you can follow this motto and continue your assault for another turn. This strategy is particularly nice for aggressive decks that can go under your opponent’s midrange deck. Giant Snake is usually preferable, as it also puts an additional body on board that can help to trade into the alfiq itself.
7. Xivkyn Banelord
When summoned, the guard Xivkyn Banelord sets the health of all creatures in its lane to 1. As your opponent attacks, the daedra will eat a lot of smaller threats. While it provides good counter-play against Alfiq and Flame Atronach, it fails to deliver against Storm Atronach. You will need a strategy to keep your opponent’s discard pile clear of any atronach (Mummify, Deathpriest, Mausoleum Delver, Mannimarco, …). But you can use Odirniran Necromancer and other “discard pile tutors” to get more value off the Banelord.
8. Delving for Atronachs in a Mausoleum
If your opponent has finally managed to get an atronach into their discard pile, you can use Mausoleum Delver to steal it. This is so much fun when you have your own Alfiq Conjurer in hand. Mannimarco also allows you to pull a Storm Atronach from your opponent’s discard pile to deny your opponent another alfiq value-play.
9. Stealing Alfiq Conjurer and Using Mecinar’s Will
A fun option to steal Alfiq Conjurer is Mecinar’s Will. When your opponent plays the alfiq to field lane, you can use the 5-cost action to steal it and trade into the atronach. Mecinar’s Will also works well on a warded Breton Conjurer to trade into your opponent’s creature, leaving you with the 5/5 Frost Atronach with guard.
Other options to steal an atronach, an alfiq or Luzrah are Arrest, Chodala’s Treachery, Euraxia Tharn and Miraak, Dragonborn. When stealing your opponent’s atronach you will likely deny them the next alfiq value-play. When using Arrest you probably want a card like A Night to Remember or Winterhold Illusionist to get it into play on your side of the board. Stealing a Storm Atronach with Euraxia Tharn or Miraak is definitely a simpler option, as you can use the atronach on your next turn.
Each expansion gets one or two strong cards. We have seen these in every set or story expansion: Ancano in Skyrim, Archanon Saryoni and Sun-In-Shadows in Houses of Morrowind, Abnur Tharn and Jorunn, the Skald-King in Alliance War, Luzrah gro-Shar in Isle of Madness, Garnag in the Dark Brotherhood. Even Sower of Revenge, a monthly reward card has pushed the power-level of cards. This is just inevitable in card games.
With Moons of Elsweyr in combination with the latest balance patch, Sparkypants has manged to turn the Legends meta into an interesting, mid-range and very board-oriented game.
Many players have actually asked for exactly that. However, this has come at the expense of a meta dominated by another strong card: Alfiq Conjurer. As usual, the meta will evolve with new cards being released and during mid-month, people at lower ranks start playing off-meta decks on ladder anyway.
But, if you still run into Alfiq a lot, hopefully this article was useful in finding some alternative strategies to counter it. As always, please leave a comment if we overlooked a strategy that you have been using successfully.