Today, we will be taking a look at Watchful Servant (WS).  This card was printed in 2010 with the Disciples expansion.  His ability:

“Protected from capture and conversion.  Ignores Evil Characters with toughness greater than X.”

His identifier “X” is equal to the number of cards in opponent’s deck.  Therefore, when your opponent has no cards in deck, WS ignores all of opponent’s Evil Characters (ignoring any tricks you can do with Crown of Thorns and protect Fortresses…).  A few players, myself included, used WS decks from time to time following the Disciples release.  A WS deck would include a large defense, and in my case, Sites as well.  The goal was to survive your opponent’s offensive attack until he/she decked out, and then you could walk in for free rescues.  There are a few primary ways of stopping WS one must keep in mind while constructing a WS deck:

  1. Your opponent could rescue 5 Lost Souls first.
  2. WS’ ability can be prevented by cards such as Confusion of Mind.
  3. Opponent’s Evil Characters could be granted “cannot be ignored” with cards such as Golgotha.
  4. Opponent can use Sites to sitelock WS.
  5. Opponent can harm WS without having an Evil Character in battle with cards such as Christian Martyr.

As long as you can keep your opponent from getting to 5 redeemed souls, keep WS from being prevented, keep opponent’s Evil Characters from gaining “cannot be ignored” status, making sure WS has access to Sites, and keep WS alive, you should be able to get to 5.  Another constraint, time, is discussed later in this article.

However, just one year after its printing, WS fell out of favor quickly.  The creation of Covenant with Death (CWD) in 2011 provided a hard counter to many different offensive (and even defensive) strategies.  When CWD hit the scene, I abandoned my WS deck, as it was such a hard counter to WS.  Both the negation of Heroes and the restriction against playing territory-class good Enhancements shuts down a herolite offense based around a negatable Hero.  The restrict ability also makes CWD very hard to get rid of.  Fast forward 4 years, and WS has all but been forgotten.  The time is ripe for WS to reemerge and surprise the T1 meta.  A card printed in 2013, plus some new The Early Church (TEC) cards, make for potent support of a herolite deck focused on WS.  The two key cards that I believe can make a WS deck work effectively now:

Kidron Valley – Released in 2013 as part of the lone tin accompanying the I/J starter decks, Kidron Valley was once hailed as “near broken”, but never really lived up to that billing.  Its ability:

“When you put a teal priest in play, you may discard a Curse, an Artifact with a capture ability or an Artifact depicting an idol.”

Kidron Valley is a unique way to take out CWD (and other nasty cards that could hurt WS) by simply putting a teal priest in play.  Joiada, son of Eliashib is a teal priest that can repeatedly recur/play Feast of Trumpets, which in turn will repeatedly activate Abomination of Desolation (Abom).  This combo has been used in the past in herolite decks as an endgame strategy; Kidron Valley makes it so CWD can’t stop it.  One thing to keep in mind is that your opponent’s Shipwreck can discard Kidron Valley.

Shipwreck – One of four ultra-rares in the new TEC expansion.  Its ability:

“Negate and discard a Fortress or Site in play or set aside.”

There are a lot of Sites and Fortresses that can cause problems for WS.  Golgotha, Pharaoh’s Throne Room, and Haman’s Gallows are the big ones that hard counter WS.  Persians are not a strong theme right now, so Haman’s Gallows will probably never be used in a competitive T1 deck until more Persian cards are printed. Pharaoh’s Throne Room is not commonly used; but it is one of the best protect forts available, so some players will justify adding it to their decks. Golgotha is the counter that will be common this year, as many N.T. defensive themes received boosts in the TEC expansion, and it can hide behind Caesarea Philippi.

With these two cards, plus the new Greek cards that make Abom much more viable, let’s move on to a “big picture” overview of a possible WS deck:

Heroes:  WS/The Generous Widow/Joiada son of Eliashib/one more teal hero (probably a Zerubbabel’s Temple priest – maybe Joshua)

Good enhancements:  Kindness (TEC)/Feast of Trumpets

Defense:  Greeks/Philistines/other Black splash

Key support cards:  Zerubbabel’s Temple/Lampstand of the Sanctuary/Kidron Valley/Areopagus/Shrine to Artemis/Shipwreck/Destruction of Nehushtan/Land Dispute/Abom

Here is the strategy behind the overview above:

Stall your opponent with your black defense.

Set up Abom in opponent’s territory.  It will be protected from discard if you have Stoic Philosophers in play.

Use Areopagus and Kindness to activate Abom and snipe important cards as the game progresses.

Use Lampstand of the Sanctuary to protect your key support cards from opponent’s evil Dominants, primarily Shipwreck and Destruction of Nehushtan.

Use Kidron Valley to snipe CWD, Confusion of Mind, Magic Charms, or other counters to your deck.

Use Shrine to Artemis to shuffle your teal Heroes back into deck to reactivate Kidron Valley, if needed.

Use Shipwreck to take out certain counters to your deck, like Caesarea Philippi, Golgotha, Haman’s Gallows, Pharaoh’s Throne Room, etc.

Use Destruction of Nehushtan to take out counters to your deck, like CWD, Darius’ Decree, Hezekiah’s Signet Ring, etc.

Use Joiada, son of Eliashib to repeatedly recur/play Feast of Trumpets to activate Abom and discard any other counters to your deck.

Use The Generous Widow to activate Abom, or to thin your opponent’s hand if they have decked out.

Use Danites Attack/Land Dispute to take opponent’s Golgotha or other Site.

Use WS to walk in for free rescues after removing all ways of stopping him.

Finally, I’ll add some tips for playing a WS deck, or a herolite deck in general.

  1. Play fast.  You will already be skipping your battle phase each turn, but you need to practice fast prep and discard phases as well.  Test your deck out before dropping it at a big tournament; crucial time can be lost if you have to think through every important decision.  Timing out is a real threat to decks like this.
  2. You will need a way around Christian Martyr.  Using Lay Down Your Life is one way, but can cause hand clog and can be dealt with by harming the Hero it is placed on.  Chariot of Fire may be a better option; it will cost you a rescue, but you can use Joiada for that rescue.
  3. Magic Charms can hurt.  You may want to consider a card that can bring Heroes back from capture, such as Covenant at Palestine or I am Redemption. Magic Charms can be used by an opponent while his/her Hero is in battle, and taking out 2 of your 4 Heroes would be crippling if you don’t have a way to get them back.
  4. Have fun!  When you play with a defense-heavy deck, bad draws happen.  Sometimes your defense hides while your Lost Souls come out to play.  Sometimes a key card of your deck is discarded by an opponent.  Sometimes you play against an opponent that puts both Large Tree (TxP) and Hating the Light (Disciples) into their deck.  (This actually happened to me…)  The challenge with decks like this is seeing if you can stop your opponent’s offense, no matter what they throw at you.

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One thought on “Old Cards, New Ideas: Watchful Servant

  1. Professoralstad

    Nice article. I would add Ahimaaz (Priests) and Kerith Ravine to the suggested cards. Kerith Ravine allows you to repeatedly put a teal priest in and out of play, so you can make multiple hits with KV. And Ahimaaz has several benefits: he can trigger KV, he can allow you to look at their hand and withdraw so that your opponent doesn’t get to play anything too nasty, and he can also be used to quickly trigger Chariot, if you use that.

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