Hey, Agigas here! Today’s reveal, which is also the final reveal of this season, features Azir and the Shurima cards that came with him as a package. In this article, I’m going to rate these cards and theorycraft a deck around the new champion.
Here’s our rating scale for new cards:
- 5.0: Meta-defining card, proven itself as a staple in multiple top-tier archetypes.
- 4.0: Archetype staple, or auto-include in multiple archetypes.
- 3.0: A solid playable, could serve as a staple for some archetypes.
- 2.0: Can be used for specific synergies, or to counter some decks.
- 1.0: Doesn’t find its place in the meta.
Azir – 3.5
Azir himself looks like a very strong champion, with a lot of possible synergies and an easy level-up condition. He is a great backline unit that will easily generate threats, especially in a build synergizing with Sand Soldiers. Once he levels up, he also acquires a powerful anthem effect for your units while becoming a lot bigger himself (which is not as relevant).
However, after attempting to build numerous archetypes with it myself, I can say it looks like Azir might struggle to find a good shell. I’ll talk about that more in the deckbuilding section, but Azir is neither fast enough – for an aggressive shell, nor value-oriented enough – for a value-based deck.
The other part of evaluating Azir is in judging his level 3 form. It is very powerful, but of course, comes with the huge condition of the Buried Sun Disc. My big problem with it is that I think the Sun Disc archetype is missing a lot of tools because Shurima is still too small to support a cohesive mono-region deck.
So overall, Azir is looking like an awesome champion that might struggle to find a deck with a cohesive gameplan.
Arise! – 1.5
Arise is a bit better than it looks at first, because it creates burst-speed followers to allow you interesting open-attacks, or, most importantly, to block open-attacks.
However, it is way over-costed, so I still don’t think it will be main decked even in the archetypes that would potentially want it, and will most likely only be played occasionally as Azir‘s champion spell.
Emperor’s Divide – 1.5
This card can enable some board-flood synergies by itself. However, it is also very expensive, and if your board is empty by the point where this card really becomes relevant you’re most likely losing and it won’t save you.
It’s also pretty weak for such a high cost, 1/1 units will struggle to trade with the Vulnerable units, and they won’t push an impressive amount of damage either. You really need huge synergies with Sand Soldiers to start looking at this card, and even then I think this is just too weak.
Rite of Negation – 4.0
Rite of Negation is a very important spell for Shurima.
Having access to a counterspell can really define a region’s identity, and we know Ionia is often seen as the Deny region.
When compared to Deny, Rite of Negation has the downside of sacrificing a unit or destroying a mana gem.
Sacrificing a unit can easily be the less expensive option, especially in a deck with good targets like Sand Soldiers, but the opponent can make the spell fizzle by killing the unit.
Destroying a mana gem is very expensive in the early turns, but gets less and less impactful as the game goes on to a point where it’s nothing once you reached the cap of 10 mana gems.
Fortunately, the late game is where counterspells shine the most.
Also, destroying a mana gem early is not really expensive if you’re closing the game fast. And proactive synergies use counterspells often as a way to prevent the opponent from countering a final blow. That lost mana gem won’t matter if this plan succeeds – because the game ended right there.
The upside of Rite of Negation is also extremely relevant, especially in proactive archetypes that can force the opponent to put multiple spells on the stack in response to an attack. Overall, Rite of Negation is a very impressive card that will mean a lot for Shurima’s identity.
Dunekeeper – 4.0
Summoning 2 bodies instantly is something we’ve never seen before on a 1-cost unit. It doesn’t hurt that his stats are also good.
Dunekeeper is a really impressive card, and will be very strong on the offense – he pushes up to 4 damage – but also on defense to create 2 bodies in 1 action at a cheap cost.
Dunekeeper is looking to be the premium Shurima 1-drop, and I expect him to see a lot of play.
Sandstone Chimera – 1.5
The big problem with this kind of card is that a 6/6 vanilla isn’t going to be very impactful by the time you discount it enough.
If you want to make it worth running, you need to discount it extremely fast, and even then I just think that there will be better options.
Emperor’s Dais – 2.5
Sand Soldiers’ damage to the Nexus can add up quickly. If the opponent blocks them, you’ll be able to go through with some of your other units in a swarm archetype.
Repetitively summoning units with a cheap landmark does look quite powerful in the right shell, and Emperor’s Dais could even find some other synergies like Ephemeral synergies (Shark Chariot) and multiple attacks (Rally, Scout).
This landmark, however, does not offer any defense and has quite a low impact if you don’t have the synergies to make it worth it.
Inspiring Marshal – 2.5
Inspiring Marshal’s anthem effect is quite impressive, and can quickly ramp up your damage with Sand Soldiers.
However she doesn’t help you to swarm the board and is only there as a payoff, but payoff spots are very limited in that kind of archetype so she might struggle to make the cut even in the deck where she would shine the most.
Sandcrafter – 2.0
The stats are good and Sandcrafter isn’t looking too bad overall, but her problem comes with her mana cost.
At 4 mana, swarm archetypes should be looking for payoffs (or real over-the-top enablers) so Sandcrafter might struggle to make the cut even in a synergistic Sand Soldier deck.
Desert’s Wrath – 2.5
For a deck that applies a lot of pressure with Sand Soldiers, Desert’s Wrath is looking like an interesting payoff. Giving your Sand Soldiers +1/+0 for the rest of the game looks really good to ramp up the damage.
This spell can be a bit slow because getting only two 2/1 Ephemeral units for 4 mana (even if they ping on-attack) is really bad, but I still think it has some potential in a Sand Soldiers dedicated deck.
I like that you can play it during the opponent’s attacking turn to block, and then on the following turn develop your own attack with Sand Soldiers that are now stronger.
I had a lot of trouble finding a good way to build a deck around Azir.
The Sand Soldier archetype doesn’t feature the explosiveness and tempo of a Discard Aggro, so it is quite questionable to go in that direction; but it doesn’t have a particularly good long-term plan either.
This makes it very hard to build and forces us into very peculiar decklists that are pretty hard to evaluate. And when an archetype doesn’t look like it will work, it’s rarely a good sign.
Still, I spent some time playing with the deck builder and so far the most convincing pairing for Azir has been Field Musician. They both are enablers and payoffs for a swarm-type archetype, and Azir makes it very easy to consistently activate Field Musician’s ability. The deck is looking to be pretty aggressive, but also very resilient.
However, this archetype also has some problems. One of the biggest ones is the lack of strong proactive spells in Ionia and Shurima to make use of Field Musician’s spell mana refills. Most spells in the deck are very reactive and you can’t simply cast them whenever you’d like.
Azir does look to have a lot of potential shells to slot him in, but so far I have not been impressed. I look forward to testing him in-game to get a real feel of how his builds would perform.
Thanks a lot for reading this article, I hope you enjoyed this reveal season! I personally am very excited for Shurima’s release, and can’t wait to see how the meta will evolve! Azir seems to be a powerful build-around – if we can find a solid shell to make him work, so I’m really curious to see how things will evolve for him.
If you have any questions, feedback, or you want to talk about today’s reveal, I’ll be happy to answer you in the comments below and in this dedicated Reddit post. 😉
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