Howdy y’all! Just Add Bacon here working desprately to get this out before SOFT LAUNCH TOMORROW! Today’s analysis is the final Fox build I’ll be looking at for a while, Smelt. With Fire and Metal units, this is probably the “truest” Fox build in terms of how tricky it is, both to play with and against. So, what are we waiting for, let’s get into it!
- Resilience. Smelt can be thought of as combining the disruptive effects of Heatwave with the strong units of Flash and Burn. Frequent instances of Armor and Lead invalidate common removal options and have lasting effects on your opponent’s ability to remove your units in general. Many spells attach chains to enemies, units like Geode and Righteous have disruptive auras, and other units like Tox or Hannah give the deck ways to proactively and reactively interrupt the opponent’s plans.
- Traps. In addition to its ability to be hard to play against, Smelt has numerous ways to set up “traps” (deceptively unfavorable lines of play for player 2) in the early game. This helps supplement its lack of generally good openings, since it can lean into a few that are difficult to answer.
- Cost. Due to its limited low-cost options, Smelt occupies a higher spot on the curve than the other Fire Fox builds. While in some games this may be fine, it means the deck may have fewer options for efficient play as the game goes on. This means that the deck relies more on cheap effects, like Canopy Archer and Grim Reprisal, to develop and maintain tempo.
- Consistency. While Smelt has pretty amazing draw power, its unique options aren’t too targeted. This can be fine and evens out as the game progresses, but it means that the probability distribution of what cards are likely to appear is more volatile in the early game. For example, in Heatwave we have a very high chance of finding things like Strike Down, On the Hunt, Fox Familiar, Unikron, and Fire Rune because we have a lot of cards that find these things and they also tend to cycle into each other. The same is not as true for Smelt since its targeted draw is more expensive and, therefore, not played until later. Because of this, more deck space needs to be allocated towards surviving the early game, limiting the space we have for tech cards.
I’ve been avoiding elemental spells, like Aegis of Light or Glorious Mane, in this section because they are general enough to be run in most builds. Cache is a notable exception to this rule and is a big justification for running Smelt. It is very hard for 0 cost draw to not be good and on top of that Cache is targeted, finding both a spell and a unit. This is incredibly useful, as it becomes more consistent as the game goes on. In the early game, it can also be used as a mana bank, but be prudent with this strategy. A turn 4 Geode can be great, but not quite so if you have no board to support it.
This card used to be too weak. Thankfully, as a 4/4 armor lead that draws, Cavalry is a veritable tank of a unit. While we don’t have a spell searcher, we get this unit as compensation, and it more than makes up for it. A +1/+1 draw is great, and the fact that the buff likely stacks onto an Armor unit makes it even better. Even when it doesn’t, something like a 5/5 Righteous can be quite handy.
It’s impossible to talk about any Strength-based metal deck without mentioning Geode. For its admittedly heavy investment, Geode provides not just a lot of board presence but also insurance against disruption. Normally good answers like Mortal Blow or Sunder don’t cleanly address this card, and an unanswered Geode tends to create massive tempo skews. After it’s been played, Smelt’s other tempo-heavy units like Shredder and Mighty Steed can help push ahead while spells are penalized.
- No. If you need me to elaborate, go read the description for Ember Wolf: these cards are basically exactly the same.
- 1c Banner can be pretty handy, and makes it easier to curve out units like Heavy Cavalry and Geode. It also scales rather nicely with buff options like Call to Action, Stone Fist, Fury, and Glorious Mane. Beware though, as Mechurai is rather prone to dying to Banner most of the time, on top of the fact that it limits the value one can get out of Cache in terms of mana. Still, it can be rather helpful in the right hands.
- 1 cost deal 3 is pretty much always gonna be good, and Backstab is not an exception. It does, however, have a few strings attached. First, Backstab can never be used to clear a guard unit. If you are looking at removal to ensure glory effects like Fox Familiar go off, this is not it. Second, this card can become a liability if you are running Kook Book: when a targeted removal like Grim Reprisal or Strike Down is needed, Backstab may end up backstabbing you instead. Third, this card is a suboptimal target for Crystal Cache, as Snap Trap is better than Backstab when both are 0 cost. For the 1 mana difference, Snap Trap’s ability to clear guards tends to make it worth the expense. Nevertheless, if you want cheap efficient removal this generally has you covered. It’s especially good at answering units like Fox Familiar, Mushka, and Squiddy without consuming more valuable removal like our other 1 cost options, so run this if you need to answer aggro more.
- This card can occasionally have its uses, but it’s usually not gonna do much. The best use cases for this is chaining a 2 health unit with Armor or Stealth, but these aren’t especially common. Sure, threats like Trailblazer exist, but it’s quite rare that Chains + Banner is better than a simple 3 damage removal. Likely, the best possible use for this is answering an armored Imposter, but you could also just kill it with any other number of things, like Snap Trap.
- The most complicated card to ever be printed in any TCG after Pot of Greed. Once I’ve fully comprehended its implications I’ll come back with an update.
- This is one spiky statline. Its attachment Chain Toss can move an enemy guard out of the way for 1 mana, making it an attractive target for Run Wild. Its death effect also gives it added utility, which is likely to trigger due to its low health. The peak of this card is probably playing it with Stone Fist on turn 3, but unfortunately for it Stone Fist has better uses. If you want a really aggressive Smelt build you probably want this.
- Don’t be fooled by the fun design, this card is only barely good. 2/3 Stealth is a pretty darn good stat line, but the lack of consistent value elsewhere hurts it. If you play the vial, it’s a 3 cost 2/3 Stealth that deals 3 recoil damage to draw a card. Or, we can play Champ and go face. The best applications for this are with Run Wild and versus Wisdom decks, where the glory effect is more likely to go off and where your health is less relevant. We could also use it as a trap card, but we have better options. It can be good, but it’s likely to be removed efficiently.
- Do you have a vendetta against Horik? Admittedly, this card isn’t the most reliable for dusting since it targets the top two cards as opposed to units. Frankly, I think this should be changed to hit units only, but that may be too strong. In other news, 2/2 Armor Lead is good, and arguably better than Hannah’s 2/3 Stealth. But, it’s still kinda just ehh.
- This card took me a very long time to appreciate, and for that I have no one to thank but Urban Nomad, who made it a personal crusade against me to not shut up about it any time it even remotely came up. So thanks… I guess? Snap Trap is the metal version of Lightning Vial, and while not as brutally high in its peaks, its versatility greatly raises its floor. Chains answers a very great number of threats, and is an almost guaranteed way to clear the way towards face. This means it has value at every stage of the game, and is especially helpful for enabling our trap-heavy playstyle. Certainly run this.
- While normally a strong card, this just doesn’t work with too many things we already want. Most crucially, this upsets cards like Hot Dog and Sworn Oni greatly, as they lose a lot of value from losing their attachment. One could do a similar trick to Shredder and Run Wild and use On the Hunt to fish the options out early, but Hot Dog being 3 cost makes Suit Up a bit slower and less reliable. As for Sworn Oni, Oni is rather crucial to setting up our traps, and gets kinda bad when pulled with On the Hunt, so it’s not really worth cutting for Suit Up. If you aren’t going into Sworn Oni territory though, this can be run.
Fan of Knives
- It’s a tempo-focused but somewhat frail unit that shines most versus aggro. It can potentially set up some traps versus weaker aggro decks, as it shreds through weaker units with its free knives damage, but don’t count on that too much. Consider this if you are really losing to aggro, but not before other options like Claw Swipe, Maelstrom and Deep Xlice.
- A dangerous unit if it gets set up. By default stats alone, it’s one of the most durable 3 cost units in the entire game, while being mostly weak to the usual suspects of broken Wisdom removal options. This is another one of our trapping tools since 3 armored health is hard to remove, but the threat of it standing includes Fox’s many potent buff options stacking onto a Guard, Armor, and Banner unit. In short, it just works.
- Another potent trapping unit, Griff Scout is a serious bird of prey. It can be either a 3 mana glory threat (more dangerous than Gladiator, but less than Mushka) or a safer 4 mana play with its Bolster spell. At 4 cost, it’s a 3/3 armored guard, giving it backstab immunity and pushing it up past the break point of easy removal. This unit gets particularly nasty with Sworn Oni, so be sure to use it wisely when pressing advantage. The best scenario is playing this after you’ve secured board from your opponent, as it pulls on their other removal options and good answers tend to be aoe spells that don’t exist until turn 6. There’s also Whisk Away, but that’s just always strong.
- A 3/5, but just almost a 4/5. Tox is strong at setting up traps on turn 1. At this stage in the game, your opponent usually loses their turn to Tox unless they spend their mana potion/flask as you have likewise already done. If they do, you still tend to go ahead, as the mana exchange tends to be neutral and you leave a vial in their deck. Should they not answer Tox, buffs exist, as well as his attached vial for free value. I find early vials to be more valuable, since cards sooner = damage prevention + board control sooner. For this reason, I find Tox’s vial more useful than Hannah’s, as Hannah often needs to be held for longer, meaning its vial loses value.
- The definitional “tech” card for Skyweaver (Tech refers to a card ran to address very specific problems or circumstances.) It’s a weak aoe option, but another example of versatility > power. The wither works well with our Armor units, and the chains can be used to answer a great deal of things. Additionally, one very overlooked aspect of Xlice is that its chains can be applied to any target. This can remove blind or roots from an ally unit, frostbite from the hero, or clean silence off of things like Brimstone. It’s also pretty good off of Cache, as it generates tempo well.
- I don’t like it, but I must admit there’s a very small list of circumstances where this card is good. If you really hate TTS (Touch the Sky) you can run this, but when you get swept by Doomsday you’ll have only one person to blame (the game designers). For Smelt, this is just too weak: lead doesn’t add much for us and a +1/+1 crowd-buff isn’t doing much.
- This card is justifiable in pretty much any other Agility build. It’s not doing anything crazy, but going +1 or +2 on card advantage, cycling 2 cards, and having targeted draws are all good effects. In Smelt, this can lead to some rather insane turns with Crystal Cache, as it thins through a great chunk of the deck at once and is sure to refill the hand in a balanced manner. It is currently impossible to run Cache in Fox without running this.
- Nope! This card just doesn’t do anything special enough to justify a slot. Its stats are meh, its effect is very specific, and it often doesn’t even matter as we have other, better options for handling armor.
- If you just want a big late game threat, this has the advantage of flexibility that other options lack. Particularly, this card seems to peak first at 7 cost 7/7, and then after about 10 cost 10/10 it is increasingly dangerous. Still, it dies to all the hard removal but Encapsulate, and we kinda have better mid-late threats with units like Geode and Cavalry. If you find a way to give this Guard though, it’s terrifying.
- Do you feel as though I have personally wronged you and your family, and you need to restore honor to yourself, them, and also your cow? This card is slow, but when it lands it is unequivocally brutal. Besides Brimstone, Fox doesn’t rely much on death effects, making this card rather safe and a hard answer to grave-based control decks. It also has the unique property of denying Zam his damage, since Righteous dusts the spell before Zam is able to. Basically the only options to answer this are powerful aoe like Volcanic Blast, Burninate, Seal of Doom, Doomsday, and TTS. Shroud also makes it sticky, which makes it another buff-threat. It is still 6 mana though, so be wise with how you play this.
- This card is simultaneously very durable and not durable at all. The main body dies to basic 3 damage removal, and the smaller Armored Guard dies to banner. Coughing up both of these removal in a turn may be difficult, however, so sometimes this card can be difficult to fully clear. When it does stick, it usually does its best work just trading into another unit while your hero clears with Banner. It’s not bad, and it gets much better with buffs. If you want to hold on to Stone Fist for this, a 6 cost 5/5 armor Guard Lead Banner that makes more stats when it dies is really good.
- For a Strength card, this is just weak. +1 health is negligible unless we are talking about armored units, but due to our curve we often don’t have more than 1 or 2 armored units. Even then, the guards produced by this spell don’t trade well at the stage of the game they exist in and is easily cleared by many common aoe options. They can stick decently frequently, but when they do, they often don’t amount to much.
- Just a fun and strong card. Double Banner is a notoriously good breakpoint, and Steed providing it makes the card rather good on tempo despite its cost. Additionally, its armored and Banner presence makes the card a type of catch-22 in itself, as no matter how it’s answered, you usually negate a good deal of damage and card value. If it sticks, a second Treasure Chest is huge and can often lead to secured games.
- Strong, but wishes it was Aegis of Light. What’s interesting is that the more units you use this with, the safer it becomes, while the power of the card also seems to drop. I think 2-3 units is generally the sweet spot, with 1 being too risky and 4 being too small of an individual buff.
- As much as I love this card for Horik, it doesn’t work in Fox. If you are running this, you are either running it as a Wincon, aggro answer, or combo answer. If it’s a wincon, we have stronger and safer options, like Geode. If it’s an aggro answer, we have Maelstrom. If it’s a combo answer, we’re answering Zam and we need Metal Rune or Goblet if you don’t want this to get dusted. Moreover, running those cards is a huge liability vs other decks, and slows Cache down considerably. Secondly, if we want to beat Zam, it makes much more sense to speed up the deck, cutting options like Honor Guard for cheaper aggression. Again, Dracomantium just doesn’t make sense with this deck.
The Smelt Stratagem
Unlike the other decks we’ve covered, I would place Smelt into a playstyle closer to bait-and-punish, utilizing its slightly more expensive but dangerous cards to lock out opponents from games. A lot of this revolves around knowing what removal your opponent has as well as how to manipulate it. Fire’s safe value generation makes this work, as it gives the deck options to safely idle as it trades away the opponent’s valuable removal and begins to set up on board. The deck can struggle a bit more than the others against removal piles, as it isn’t quite as fast as the other builds. However, its mid-late game options help mitigate this downside.
A trap is a special type of setup whereby player A attempts to trick player B by making threatening plays, forcing player B to deal with the threat suboptimally. In my opinion, a trap must meet 3 criteria. It must
- Present a credible threat
- Trade well with removal
- And act as both a bait and a punish
The whole point of a trap is putting your opponent into a situation with limited answers, all of which are bad. For all of the following examples, consider that I am going first, and playing a Fox Familiar on turn one. My opponent potentially has 2 to 3 mana and 5 answers. Fox Familiar is a credible threat here; if it is not answered, its fury will activate, drawing me a valuable 1 mana card and becoming a 2/4. So, not answering is not ideal for the opponent. Therefore trade with removal right? My opponent may do that, using a number of options such as Scorch, Grim Reprisal, Whisk Away, and Eye Spider. The exact card doesn’t matter. In every possible instance of removal that is used, the answer here presents an opportunity cost to my opponent. Since they used Grim Reprisal now, how will they answer any of my later threats like Mushka? With Eye Spider out of the way, how many answers do they have for my Sworn Oni? In this instance, Fox Familiar has limited the value my opponent got out of the removal option used, since the card was not used at peak efficiency. The card has traded well with removal, and opened up gaps for future plays. Finally, the most important part of a trap is that it does both of these at the same time. If it only did one, it would be more readily thought of as a finisher. Tiamat presents a very credible threat, but doesn’t trade well versus removal. Icaru trades well versus removal, but doesn’t pose much of a threat. If it sticks, there’s little payoff compared to Fox Familiar. A trap must present both a threat and a punishment if it is not answered.
Now that we’ve established the concept of a trap, it’s important to think about how it’s going to be executed. Traps work in stages. First, the unit is played onto board. This is an investment of tempo, and consequently requires that we already have tempo when we do this. Units that are traps tend to not trade well against other units; if units were used to remove your trap, then you probably shouldn’t have played it. This makes them great vs removal pile decks, but more difficult vs things like aggro and midrange. After the trap is played, the opponent has their turn where they choose a response: they can either remove it or not. If they remove it, we should now have some tempo, value, or other advantage at the end of the exchange if you did things correctly. For example, a Griff Scout may lose to Whisk Away in tempo and value, but now we are safe to drop Rubble Devil since the more optimal removal option was used prematurely. Finally, the opponent may respond with either countering units (Guard vs Glory) or by developing their own threats. Now we punish. In the majority of situations where the opponents answer by playing units, go for the punish. The trap is a big investment of tempo, and we’re likely suboptimally if we don’t get our value from it. For Smelt in particular, we have lots of cheap ways to answer threats, and (unless you are worried about a huge buff like Aegis) a full clear may not be necessary. With the resources you have left after the punish, I recommend defaulting towards board control and eliminating the largest threat. If the trap is a one-off, like Fox Familiar, begin setting up your next trap to carry the momentum. If it’s a repeated trap, such as Griff Scout, keeping it alive presents a great threat to your opponents, and can force them to use their answers in very unhelpful ways.
Because I just spent ~ 700 words talking about vague theories of card value, here’s some more concrete examples of traps you can set up with Smelt.
If no answer, punish
If guard answer, Snap Trap
If answer, Flask + trailblazer
Or Sworn Oni
Or Griff Scout + Bolster. Slightly safer than Oni ‘cus of backstab immunity, Bolt does trade into it but also dies in the process.
Or Crystal Cache -> 1c Gladiator, Griff Scout, or Tox + removal (this is a great way to set up a trap with these units, since you can bank your mana and play reactively.)
This is hard to answer on turn 1 because he creates a mana-skew. Usually they end up letting him live cus killing him tends to take their mana potion/mana flask
If not answered, Vial is a punish. Can follow up with Fire Rune or Stone Fist.
If unit answer, Vial + Trade Tox + Fox Familiar. This is a great example of chaining threats because they likely had to use their mana potion to play a unit that would contest Tox. After Tox trades, we’ve gone +1 in card advantage at the cost of 3 health, reduced the available mana for the opponent, shuffled a vial into their deck, and developed Fox Familiar onto an empty board. Since the opponent’s potion was used to answer Tox, the options they have for answering familiar are reduced. Meanwhile, we have very efficient options like Strike Down or Snap Trap to work with. If they do answer with a Guard and we don’t have those, cards like Glorious Mane and Aegis of Light also turn most units into an implied trap, since the threat of their buff can be dangerous in their own right.
Other cards that might help establish the board control to set up traps include Halcyon, Shredder, Kook Book, Canopy Archer, Brimstone, and Tox. These cards are either sticky and/or reactive threats, which make it difficult for your opponent to play efficiently. Traps require board control and momentum to be successful, so make sure you are focusing on controlling the board first and setting up traps second.
Alternative to traps: Midrange
While the trap-based strategy can be rather potent, it’s not the only thing that Smelt can pull off well. Smelt has a strong number of effective midrange units, including great cards like Heavy Cavalry, Geode, and Righteous. Cavalry is a rather remarkable unit, because this card is incredibly safe despite its 5 mana cost. It immediately replaces itself on summon, presenting several options. First, this unit is rather good for our trap-setups, since it can frequently find and buff the traps you want, while also generally consuming valuable removal. Secondly, lots of metal units can be used to generate tempo on play, like Mechurai, Fan of Knives, or Tox. Finally, because of how durable this card is, it also helps make our other midrange units more likely to stick. Cards like Righteous or Geode are already hard to deal with, but having to use those answers on Cavalry makes it much harder for your opponent to handle your plays.
Smelt Final Summary
While I think it may be a bit harder to use, Smelt can have a brutal style of rolling through people by chaining its traps. Its cards are capable of snowballing, and its midgame and late-game options give it more staying power than its competitors.
Standout Card: Tox
While it may not be the absolutely strongest card, Tox makes really interesting plays and contributes to a cool design space in the game.
Coolest Art: Dracomantium
Don’t pretend you didn’t see this coming. Just look at this smug dragon, you know I’m right.
Another day, another ridiculously long Bacon article. This wraps up my series on Fire Fox for the forseeable future, and oh boy am I glad its done. Writing this and working with people was a time consuming process, but now that its all here I couldn’t be happier with it. Thanks so much to Zygote for helping me out with all of the images, formatting, and uploads, along with my glorious foxes AlphaSapphire, CardboardMonka, Eufrat, Geenareeno, Moon3611, Skrill20, UrbanNomad (Snap trap guy), and XiaYu for editing my horrendous works. As I publish this, Soft Launch is tomorrow and I think I speak for the community when I say we couldn’t be more excited. Skyweaver has taken a long and arduous road to get to where it is today, but the incredible dev team we have has tackled every challenge head on. Without them and their hard work we wouldn’t have this game that we love so much. Thanks again to all of you devs, y’all make the game what it is. And to the rest of y’all, Soft Launch will be here soon, and I can’t wait to see everyone there. Until then, see y’all in Sky.
Just Add Bacon is a disturbingly dominant Fox player of the Skyweaver community, working on projects between SkyStreamers, Skyweaver Leagues, State of the Sky, and his own personal team, Fox Fang. He is also very active in the competitive scene, holding the Grandweaver constructed rank and Masters between his accounts and three tournament wins of his own, along with 2nd in two of the most recent leagues. His favorite decks are Horik Control and Fox Aggro. “Basically, anything I can put a dragon or fox into. Or both.”
Just Add Bacon#7811
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