Champion of the Arena – Uses and Synergies
As we approach the end of the season, it’s time for another monthly reward card: Champion of the Arena. The 7-cost champion is a mighty orc and vampire with stats of 4/8, the breakthrough keyword, and a powerful summon effect: Battle an enemy creature. His summon ability provides you with immediate board impact, and his stats remove most early-game threats and push breakthrough damage.
On top of that, Champion of the Arena effectively deals with some 5- and 6-drops (such as Shadowfen Priest, Thorn Histmage, Cradlecrush Giant, Odirniran Necromancer, Clivia Tharn, or Apex Wolf, to name a few). Thanks to his stellar toughness, the orc vampire survives most fights and enables two-for-one trades. Note, you can kill and survive against Belligerent Giant, one of the most frequently played red creatures in the 7-cost slot.
However, he fails to remove more robust mid-game guards, such as Hive Defender, Phalanx Exemplar, or Emperor’s Blade. By combining Champion of the Arena with Militant Chieftain, Divine Fervor, Fifth Legion Trainer, or Orc Clan Captain, it is easy to buff his power to five or six. Now, he becomes a force to be reckoned with (please see Buffing Power-Based Payoff Creatures – Maximize Your Payoffs for more ways to improve his power stats).
Champion of the Arena during Opening
While both players battle for control over field lane during the early game, Champion of the Arena is too costly. For an aggro deck that aims to win by turn five or six, the orc is over-costed. Consider him only as a top-end card, and include one or two copies into a highly synergistic deck. You might get lucky and get a few points of breakthrough damage, which will occasionally close out a game. But you’re better off by including a strong 6-drop. Champion is excellent counter-play against a prophecy Golden Initiate your opponent attempts to hide in shadow lane, however.
You could use the champion in a midrange deck that provides early-game hand buffs (i.e., with the Rally mechanic or the new hand-buff cards from Jaws of Oblivion). If you draw him before turn 6, you have a good chance of buffing his power with those early game cards. In a control shell, the champion will requires power-buffs to answer stronger midgame threats effectively.
Overall, this leaves us with a low utility during the opening phase, which is not a good start for the champion.
Champion of the Arena at Parity
At parity, when both players are relying on their top deck, Champion of the Arena helps you regain field lane control. Ideally, the orc will remove a creature when summoned, thereby allowing you to keep or regain trade priority in field lane. Note that his summon ability enables you to play him to field lane while removing your opponent’s creatures in shadow lane. Such a maneuver provides the means to deal with drain creatures or other threats your opponent attempts to hide in the shadows.
Champion of the Arena when Winning
When you are winning the game, Champion of the Arena assists in removing guards (even if you have to trade in a smaller creature first), or provides extra reach against your opponent’s tokens. Otherwise, he has the same aggressive impact as a 3-cost Young Mammoth or a 2-cost Mournhold Traitor. You could leverage the champion’s battle-ability to fight across lanes if you wanted to enter the other lane.
Champion of the Arena when Losing
When you are losing the game, the champion’s battle-ability removes a smaller or reasonably damaged threat for you. The immediate board impact and the ability to remove a creature from shadow lane when played to field can make him an exciting option during this phase. Unfortunately, the orc vampire still fails to deliver against more substantial threats. While he will usually survive the battle, you want him to take some damage off your opponent’s side of the board.
Card Evaluation Summary
In summary, this leaves us with a monthly reward card that needs a synergistic deck to shine. Champion of the Arena is clearly not an orc for the early game, but when your opponent has been gaining trade priority in field lane, the orc vampire is a tool that will enable your comeback in that lane.
Rating Scale: 1 – Very Weak. 2- Weak. 3- OK. 4- Strong. 5- Very Strong.
Jaws of Oblivion provides more tools for self-ping decks. Cards like Blood-Crazed Daedroth, Mehrunes Dagon’s Flayer, Marauder Chieftain, Modryn Oreyn, and Unfinished Business are exciting options for a midrange or board-oriented control deck. With self-ping cards like Flaming Breath and Skaven Pyromancer in combination with Fighters Guild Hall, self-ping decks can develop a lethal board very quickly. With Fighters Guild Hall or Mehrunes Dagon’s Flayer in play, Champion of the Arena can easily remove an early to mid-game threat and help you swing for more damage on your following turn.
Champion of the Arena benefits from Orc synergy. In particular, Militant Chieftain, who buffs the champion by +1/+1, is a natural inclusion to your deck. Gortwog gro-Nagorm might occasionally even summon the orc vampire, allowing them to battle a creature at the start of the turn.
Stoneshard Orc enables your removing a small creature, depending on the number of orcs in play. Chieftain’s Banner buffs the toughness of Champion of the Arena up to ten points. Your orc tribal gives Wood Orc Headhunter charge and Bangkorai Butcher a +2/+2 buff. Usually, an orc deck likes to leverage these synergies on curve, during turns 2-5. Champion of the Arena is just too expensive for your orc aggro deck.
Hand-Buff / Summon-Buff / Rally Synergy
Jaws of Oblivion provides us with a number of additional options to buff cards in your hand. Karakondzhul has brewed and successfully piloted a Buffy Redoran deck that includes many of these hand-buff cards. While the orc champion might not be a good inclusion to this particular deck, he does synergize well with these cards. The rally mechanic can definitely help, and the recent buff to Inspiring Kinsman makes the champion an interesting option for a Redoran deck.
For a comprehensive overview of the hand-buff and summon-buff cards, please check out Buffing Power-Based Payoff Creatures – Maximize Your Payoffs.
Champion of the Arena in High Hrothgar / High-Health-Decks
The champion’s toughness makes him a candidate for High Hrothgar-style decks. In addition to the support, these decks include a package of Steel-Eyed Visionary and Ring of the Imaginary Might. Normally, High Hrothgar-style decks are found in sorcerer (blue/purple) or spellsword (yellow/purple). However, there may be a spicy High Hrothgar Redoran build that merges High Hrothgar with the hand-buff or the self-ping archetype. By including Tenarr Zalviit Lurker into your (midrange/ control) deck as well, the champion can consumed for a large amount of health gain.
World Eater’s Eyrie or Wrothgar’s Forge
Another fun way to buff the champion’s power is to use the World Eater’s Eyrie or Wrothgar Forge. While you can be certain that the champion’s power is doubled with World Eater’s Eyrie, Wrothgar Forge also provides a buff by equipping a random item. Both options might only have meme potential, but there are a few players out there who love World Eater’s Eyrie and I am sure they will experiment with it. 😉
The trend of solid monthly reward cards continues. While Champion of the Arena is definitely not as strong as Sower of Revenge, the orc can find a place in midrange decks that provide enough options to buff him. With another card to push self-ping decks, we might be another small step closer to a viable deck. At least we can try it now that the Combo Invade situation is resolved. And finding an optimized version of a Redoran Hand-Buff-/ Rally-deck is also an exciting task. Good luck for the new season on the ladder!