Deck Guide: Dwarven Might (Updated Francesca Dwarves)
September 7, 2019 by Zade
If you thought Dwarves were strong before – you just wait! With the recent changes in Patch 3.2, the Francesca Findabair and Dwarf combo is stronger than ever before. With the extra provisions added to our leader and the change to Call of the Forest – we pack both more consistency, and more point potential than in the past, making this deck a real force to be reckoned with on ladder.
Novigradian Justice has three viable targets in this deck:
- Dwarven Mercenary as a damage-dealing engine,
- Mahakam Defender as a sticky proactive engine, and
- Cleaver's Muscle as a safe value play.
Justice is a very flexible card: Generally, it has a point floor of 10 proactive points and it can be much more if our opponent doesn’t have the right answers. We’ll generally be using our leader to replay Justice, but we also have the option of replaying Call of the Forest if it fits better, or if that’s just all we’ve got.
Pretty much every single Dwarf has been thrown into this deck, except for the few super-niche ones like Yarpen Zigrin and Xavier Moran. The majority of Dwarves are better in longer rounds and not as good in shorter rounds.
Since we are playing Dwarves, we naturally include ST’s signature carryover package of Dwarven Agitator, Sheldon Skaggs, Gabor Zigrin, and Ithlinne Aegli. Ideally, we want to set up our carryover in Round 1 (minus Gabor, which we prefer to play in Round 2), but we also don’t want these low-tempo plays to result in us losing the first round on even cards when we have to go first. We'll need to pass early in order to avoid this – or get lucky with a high-tempo Carlo Varese to keep us in the race.
The Great Oak is one of ST’s best high-provision cards. It has good synergy with this deck, since we naturally want to rowstack for Dennis Cranmer and Mahakam Guard. We can also fill a row up quite quickly, even in a short round, with Justice, our leader, and Mahakam Volunteers.
This deck is usually favored in a long Round 3, so we don’t mind losing Round 1. Most of the time, we actually prefer to lose Round 1, as getting first say in Round 3, or having the option to push for a 2-0, can be critical. Just try not to lose on even!
In Round 1, we set up carryover and thin out Mahakam Volunteers if possible. When going first, we may have to commit a high-tempo play, like Carlo Varese, to compensate for our low-tempo Dwarven Agitators. We also have a solid play in Mahakam Marauder if we’re lacking options.
If we don’t have to worry about losing on even, we can play our bad bronzes until we get to 7 cards in hand. We generally want to pass in Round 1 when we have 7 cards, so that we have the maximum hand size at the start of Round 2. This benefits our deck, as it gives us more turns to play carryover, such as Gabor Zigrin and any handbuffers we might end up drawing into in Round 2.
If our opponent tries to bleed us in Round 2, we will have an easier time defending a long round since a lot of our Dwarves are better in longer rounds. This makes it less likely for us to get 2-0'ed and more likely for us to get ahead in points and keep card advantage for Round 3.
At the start of Round 2, we try to get a feel for if the opponent is planning on bleeding or not. Most of the time, we should be able to tell based on the first card they play in Round 2. If they seem uninterested in bleeding, we just play more carryover and thin with Mahakam Volunteers if we haven’t yet. Another big benefit of losing Round 1 is playing Gabor Zigrin in Round 2 uncontested after our opponent passes. If we had won Round 1, our opponent would always have a chance to answer our Gabor in Round 2. Gabor represents at least 5 points of carryover and usually a lot more than that because it is also an engine and a Dwarf body, so it is a huge deal if it sticks.
If the opponent seems like they want to bleed deep in Round 2, we will have to commit long-round engines like Mahakam Defender, Dwarven Mercenary, and potentially even Novigradian Justice on one of those engines. We usually do not want to use our leader in Round 2, unless we are being threatened with a 2-0. There is one exception to this: If we have not drawn Justice yet (which means we might never get a chance to use our leader for it), then we can consider using our leader for Call of the Forest in Round 2, if that will make a difference in card advantage for Round 3. As Round 2 dwindles down and Round 3 starts looking shorter and shorter, we play out cards like Mahakam Guard, Zoltan Chivay, and Barclay Els, as they would be weak in a short Round 3.
If we do get to a long Round 3, we should be favored. Now, our most important decision is what to use Novigradian Justice on. This depends heavily on the matchup and it helps to be knowledgeable about our opponent’s deck and the meta. If our opponent is playing an engine deck and/or a deck with few or no immediate removal options, then Dwarven Mercenary is the best target. If our opponent can easily remove our 3-power Mercenaries, then Mahakam Defender is a better option. We can potentially activate four Defenders at the same time by placing them on the Ranged row and then boosting the row with Dennis Cranmer. If our opponent damages a Defender to turn it off, we can re-boost it with Barclay Els. If we believe our opponent has tall punish and we want to play around it, or if we don’t have any way to activate Defenders, then we can go with the safe play and Justice out Cleaver's Muscle for a respectable 10-point play with two Shields.
It often helps to have an idea of which unit we want to Justice as early as possible (sometimes even before the Round 1 mulligan), because we will try to not play that unit from hand and mulligan it back into the deck. For example, if we realize that Defenders and Mercenaries are not good against a certain removal-heavy matchup, then we should make sure to keep Cleaver's Muscle in the deck for Justice.
Additionally, with the recent change to Call of the Forest, we now have a high probability to slam a massive finishing play with The Great Oak. As we often find ourselves with a wide board at the end of Round 3, Oak can provide up to 18 points in a single play – with up to 8 of those points being removal.
Potential Tech Cards
Keep in mind that the Dwarf tag is worth a lot in this list due to synergies with Doppler, Dwarven Mercenary, Barclay Els, Zoltan Chivay, Gabor Zigrin, and Mahakam Guard. The Dwarf tag is worth around 3 points on average, so we should definitely take that into consideration when thinking about replacing a Dwarf with a non-Dwarf or vice-versa.
Korathi Heatwave's recent provision buff has made it much more appealing than it used to be, and if we're running into a lot of tall units, we may want to consider swapping out Carlo Varese for it. Keep in mind that we’re losing a Dwarf tag if we do that.
Roach can help us with tempo in Round 1 when we go first and sometimes in Round 2 when we go second. Roach is additional thinning, which is both good and bad: It increases our chances to draw key cards like Novigradian Justice, but it also makes it more likely that we will have to play an extra bad card because we will have one fewer good card in the deck. Roach is also another mulligan liability, which the deck has already in Mahakam Volunteers and our Justice targets.