Saturday, April 21, 2012

Shadow Era: Zhannax 3.0

As many reading this know, I happen to be the originator of a Ghostmaker control deck, ZhannaX, dubbed after the pill of the same phonetic. The deck had a fairly large following, praise varying from both from a unique play experience to a powerful, versatile list, but the game has changed in such a way since then that the original ZhannaX is rather obsolete. I've changed the list to change with the times not once but twice, and today I give you ZhannaX 3.0

Now, how does ZhannaX work? It's Ghostmaker control. In 1.29, this meant a Tainted Oracle attrition engine with The King's Pride to make ghosts more resilient and turn TO and Kris into lategame threats. The endgoal of 1.29 Zhannax was to survive the first ten turns of the game, while drawing enough cards to be able to sac each of those turns, and then make a huge power play with cards behind a Tidal Wave or protector.

ZhannaX 2.0, published in 1.3 era, didn't change too much from the original, as many of the deck's original cards hadn't been altered. There was a change due to a meta shift which put a big focus on Kristoffer Wild, which was abusable both with kp AND ghostmaker. However, 1.5 changed, or rather fixed, how Kris interacted with the weapon so it would no longer be a hasty beater upon revival. With this, ZhannaX as we once knew it died.

But it has been reborn. Tainted Oracle, one of the deck's iconic staples that finally saw play with the release of the original ZhannaX, is now trimmed from the deck, replaced with something new entirely. However, the core of ZhannaX is the same. Stay alive, have a two draw per turn average, and then make blowout power plays with Tidal Wave, Earthen Protector, and Ghostmaker that win you the game.

The old TO draw engine was powerful, but had flaws, mainly that you sacrificed a LOT of tempo to get it running, and also that by not drawing extra cards until T5 your sac choices were very difficult. It's obsolete. Instead, this deck has a suite of early board control options, which serve both to provide much needed tempo and also to distract from your own life total enough to get value out of Wizent's Staff, whereas in the original you often needed all that SE just to stay in the game.

The basic formula is to get threats down, preferably a T2 Puwen if you draw him. Follow it up with a Jasmine, Smite, Retreat, Book of Curses, whatever it is that gives you full control of what happens on the board. Play your draw on T4, whether that be a Wizent's Staff or Tainted Oracle, and fill up your hand for the lategame. Stick an Earthen Protector and Aeon together as soon as you can, then back them up with a Ghostmaker for the ultimate humiliation. Don't forget that without King's Pride, your Puwens and TOs are NOT endgame threats and not to be treated as such. Don't overextend by smacking with a Ghostmaker when you don't have to.

I ain't afraid of no ghosts.
The list: ZhannaX 3.0

Hero (1):

  • 1x Zhanna Mist

Allies (15):

  • 4x Puwen Bloodhelm
  • 3x Jasmine Rosecult
  • 2x Tainted Oracle
  • 3x Earthen Protector
  • 3x Aeon Stormcaller
Abilities (14):
  • 3x Retreat!
  • 3x Smite
  • 4x Focused Prayer
  • 4x Tidal Wave
Items (10):
  • 3x Book of Curses
  • 4x Wizent's Staff
  • 3x Ghostmaker
And now, as usual, an explanation of choices.

Zhanna Mist: Jericho is cool and does cool things, but a deck like this doesn't care much about Crippling Blow or Captured Prey getting in my way, so there's not much point to the card. Zhanna's ability is just SO useful in so many more ways. You can stop the effectiveness of poison, flames, or Evil Ascendant, heal an ally after attacking to prevent a lethal backswing, restore Ghostmade allies to full health, or just stay alive indefinitely once out of cards.The versatility is huge.

Puwen Bloodhelm: Just a 2 drop. Helps assert early control and occasionally get in there for damage. This card COULD be Dirk, since dirk is strictly better off a Ghostmaker, but 2 health is vulnerable for a number of reasons (carniboar, many weapons, faster EA count) so Puwen's resilience wins out here.

Jasmine Rosecult: A human staple for a number of reasons. Jasmine is an early beat that can hold multiple enemies at bay, setting up for a Tidal Wave. Jas is also a relevant late-game threat, even off a Ghostmaker, making her a solid inclusion. However, a full four slots just won't happen, as there's plenty of other cards in her cost range to be playing, and too many allies in this deck can make it hard for you to get what you want with Ghostmaker.
Somebody must've just paid two resources, because  I just looked at this card and forgot what I was writing.

Tainted Oracle: This little buddy is as insane as he always was with Ghostmakers and Earthen Protectors abusing the hell out of him, especially strong at drawing out enemy Retreats before your Aeons start hitting the table. Nowadays, however, this is your secondary draw engine, used only when you can't for whatever reason stick or use your staff.

Earthen Protector: First part of the 1-2 punch. Good with Tainted Oracle, really good with Aeon, and just insane with Ghostmaker. On top of all the utility, EP also has the highest native attack of any human ally in the game! Put one behind an Aeon, use the Aeon's pump ability just once, and not even a Supernova will ruin your day.

Aeon Stormcaller: Second part of the punch. There's three in the deck, and although the card is absolutely necessary for you to win he's also Unique, and thanks to the other parts of your win condition rarely will you need more than one. This makes it usually okay to sac one early, depends on the matchup, your hand, and sheer dumb luck. You'll need them all against enemy priests or elementals, so watch out for that.

Retreat!: Another essential human card, Retreat does all sorts of things in this deck even without Kristoffer Wyld. Reset an Ogloth, detach nasty status effects, fully heal a ghostmade ally, or save someone from a Tidal Wave. It's still card disadvantage and is often nothing more than a stall tactic, however, so considering that I already have removal such as TW and Smite, Retreat won't get a full four slots.

Smite: Slightly smaller than a Fireball, Smite still does what it needs to. Especially considering that you often won't be attacking with Wizent's unless you can kill something or are about to play Ghostmaker, you have a ready supply of ping to finish off a 3/4. Smite alongside a Puwen or Tainted Oracle is enough to kill a Plasma Behemoth by surprise, and is also a great tool to kill allies that are hiding or otherwise unattackable.
The power of christ compels you to take three to the face.

Focused Prayer: Arguably the best support row destruction in the game, the card-formerly-known-as-Destroy-Arms is as much an essential piece now as it always was.Cards like Soul Seeker and Dagger of Unmaking can really hurt this deck, so FP comes in to blow them up in strides.

Tidal Wave: One of the best cards to play in a deck with Tainted Oracle and Ghostmaker. Tidal Wave is the only TRUE boardwipe in the game, and as such has plenty of applications. If you can control the board early without it by all means ditch them, but in the situations where you want one, you NEED one, so they need a full set of slots devoted to them.

Book of Curses: Props to OgAusp (I think it was him) for getting me to test this card. It serves both to help your allies stick and to reduce the damage to your dome, another facet that allows you to pour your energy into Wizent's Staff triggers. Making Kris and Brutalis dead cards is also a nice bonus.

Wizent's Staff: Your main draw engine, and also a convenient source of +1 damage when necessary. The trick to this weapon is knowing when and how often it's safe to attack with it without losing it. Be weary of Acid Jet and hasty beats stripping away durability when you least expect it and plan your moves appropriately. You don't want to find yourself without a weapon too early.

Ghostmaker: This is the weapon that started it all. Ghostmaker beats, makes beats, and those beats make more beats. And then you win the game. It just makes everything sweeter. Sure, it might be hard to deal with the Aeon/EP combo, but there are plenty of ways to do it... except when there's also a Ghostmaker involved. Three of each. There's just no getting out of that mess.

To see ZhannaX 3.0 in action, be sure to check out this once-live video showcasing the Eladwen matchup.

Boweh out.


  1. A Smashing Blow packed warrior or a ter adun can be a serious pain for this deck..I faced a ghostmaker pumping jericho once and my SBs kept him at bay long enough to take his hero out...Considered Lily for this deck? An evil ascendant running deck can also create problems for this deck..

    1. You have 10 items, an opposing 4x destruction is less than half your slots and Assuming the average game lasts 16-20 turns, that's still only half. Besides which, Aeon and EP are your main win conditions, not your items, and none of the game's warriors is equipped to handle three of each, except makbe Logan but nobody ever plays Logan anymore. Lastly, between EP, Zhanna's ability, Aeon's ability, and Focused Prayer, you will NEVER be losing games to EA with this deck. Not if you're playing correctly. Remember that you may not be able to heal ghosts the turn you revive them, but Aeon can.

  2. no King's Pride ? wtf ?

    1. King's Pride was a staple of the original ZhannaX, which needed it to turn small beats like Kristoffer Wyld and Tainted Oracle in to threats later down the road, and also to put Earthen Protector out of range of being oneshotted. However, Kris is no longer a true option and EP is now fatter than a fireball already, PLUS Aeon's ability can turn small beats into threats without the assistance of KP. It's just to expensive, and the early board control is much more deserving of the slots.

    2. This deck is crap. Lost several matches in a row to various heroes. Way too many expensive cards and requires perfect setup to have a chance to win. This deck gets absolutely demolished by any decent Mage deck.

    3. Except not really. This deck has a perfectly acceptable curve, and also one MUCH lower than the original ZhannaX. If you're faring porrly, and I mean no offense by this because the deck DOES have a learning curve, you are doing it wrong.

  3. John does apparently not know what he is talking about.
    This deck is even more impressive than the 2.0 version.

    Regards MrNice

  4. I'd think 1 or 2 holy shield would also work great in this deck if you could manage to fit it, with the dual purpose turn 8 tidal wave + save a friendly

    or a 'going to die next turn invincibility', which can often lead to enough SE build up for a heal to put you out of the dead zone in a close match.

    hard to imagine fitting it in without going above 40 though.

    1. The problem with that is, if you already have an ally on the table you very rarely want to be tidal waving. Playing A HS and then TW is really no different from just playing TW followed by a 3-drop, so if I were to make room for HS I'd make room for the 4th Jasmine instead. The HS interaction is one of those things that's just a little too cute.

  5. Im trying this Zhannax....and keeping losing badly...before to cast what i need i have half this still working atm?

  6. my deck is similar to yours but with 3 Aldon instead of 3 curses.
    and 3 Healing touch instead of 3 Smite.

    Still, I agree Smite is very useful.

  7. This deck is abusive haha, I love it. Well thought out.