Garth Ravensoul is ‘King of the Board’. I mean this both in terms of his strengths and his limitations. His strength is that any ally or weapon on the board can easily be made a threat to opposing allies. This translates to Garth being able to establish and keep board control relatively well throughout matches. King of the Board is also a reference to the game, ‘King of the Hill’, in which one person tries to stay on top and shove everyone else down. Indeed, this is the game that Garth plays. He does it well, but he needs to win at this game to be effective. Allowing the opponent to dominate the board for too long (and become ‘King of the Board’) is a sure way to lose as Garth.
Garth’s gameplay is actually very similar to Victor and Logan. All of them excel at killing allies and make their cards much more powerful by comboing with abilities. Unlike Victor and Logan, Garth’s ability can be used more frequently, and although not quite as powerful as Victor’s/Logan’s, it is much more versatile, as it combos with every ally and weapon (and damaging ability).
Garth’s ability makes him excellent at contesting and taking the board in the early game. It then allows him to hold it effectively, even with only one or two allies out at a time. This is particularly important in matchups where a swarm of allies may be destroyed by Tidal Wave or Supernova. By being able to hold the board with just two allies and a weapon, Garth can minimize losses to board clears and quickly rebuild. Over-committing to the board when wipes are possible is problematic for any hero, but is unnecessary for Garth.
Because Garth can make any ally able to hit above their weight, he is very flexible in his choice of allies. Essentially any ally has the potential to be useful in a Garth deck. He is also able to make much better use of utility allies than other heroes and rogues. Cards like Layarian Diplomat, Midnight Sentinel, Sword Thief, Fleet-Footed Messenger and Layarian Seductress all have excellent utility and mediocre stats. However Garth is able to make those otherwise mediocre allies competitive in combat. Therefore Garth does not need to balance between utility allies and combat allies the way that other heroes do. He can do both with the same allies. Those utility allies are what make decks well-rounded and able to take all-comers, giving Garth the potential to be very balanced and to carry counters in abundance. Incidentally, BP Shadow Mann was the 11th ranked player for some time while playing an 80 card Garth deck. The reason he was able to do this is because he understood that as long as he had solid draw and consistently had allies with good utility, it didn’t matter as much which ones he drew. He didn’t need a specific combo to present a consistent threat and board presence, he just needed a steady stream of utility allies.
- Rogue card pool – excellent items and utility in allies
- Versatile ability – can improve almost any ally or weapon.
- Utility allies – since they can be lethal with Garth’s ability are worth their sub-par stats.
- Garth’s Concoction – Makes assassination unnecessary in Garth decks compared to other rogues.
- Direct card advantage through Ill Gotten Gains.
- Indirect card advantage through winning ally combat.
- Hybrid play-style – able to use allies in conjunction with weapons effectively
- Balanced – although certain matchups are difficult; there are very few auto-losses.
- Card draw options require killing allies/destroying items or are inefficient
- Requires control play-style (or possibly mid-range) to play effectively
- Limited access to healing.
- Limited access to direct damage.
- Several powerful tools, each with important limitations that can easily be countered.
- No real board wipes
- Must stay ‘King of the Board’
COMPARISON TO OTHER ROGUES
Lance excels at reclaiming the board when it is lost. He and Garth can both control the board with allies, but whereas Lance requires allies with powerful abilities or stats (in conjunction with some assassination) to control the board, Garth can control the board with weenies. The challenge for Garth is that he needs to be able to reclaim the board after going second, or losing the board to an opponent, and relies on ally abilities to do so (haste, stealth, disabling or armor/stats). Lance can get his allies on the board but requires ally abilities to keep control such as Jasmine Rosecult or Raven. Both can compensate for some limitations of allies, but they are different limitations, so each go better with different allies. Armored Sandworm, for example has excellent synergy with Garth, as it stays on board and can kill allies with 5hp (with help from Garth), he is much less useful in a Lance deck, as he is only an extra 2 damage, which is not optimal. Raven on the other hand is excellent in Lance decks as she can incapacitate at least one ally, and maybe multiple ones, however she has little synergy with Garth – aside from saving him some shadow energy. In a Garth deck, I’d much rather play two Night Owls in a turn than one Raven, as either can kill a weenie on their own and with Garth’s help; kill a fatty, and I get card advantage if they die.
Serena excels at card advantage. With recent changes to Thoughtripper’s Cutlass, she has once again regained her crown in that respect. Garth’s advantage over Serena lies in his ability to enhance either allies or weapons to keep the board clear. He is much more versatile with ally removal, and can make much better use of Garth’s Concoction than other rogues. Similarly allies like Layarian Diplomat wind up being effective substitutes for targeted ally removal, as any ally with 3 attack can be boosted to take down any monster with 7 or less hp and diplomat can take away armor and stealth to make this possible. Garth’s versatility makes him much more well-rounded than Serena, and generally more consistent and easier to play (although there are certain matchups, like Praxix where Serena can really excel).
PRO-TIPS (not that I’m a pro or anything)
Garth’s ability is strong, don’t waste it. You wouldn’t normally use an assassination to kill Puwen, would you? The same applies with Garth’s ability. You want to be able to use it to deal with large late-game threats. It may be necessary to use it once in the early game to take the board, but afterwards, you should try to use your allies to their best effect to preserve some shadow energy. You do not want to have to deal with a Nathanias without any shadow energy.
Utility allies are your friends. I already mentioned this, but it is an important thing to know with Garth. Utility allies are strong in general, but they normally need to be supplemented with fatties because the fatties are the only way to deal with opponent fatties. Garth does not have this limitation, and so you can abuse utility allies with him.
Like Sir Mix A Lot, Garth likes big butts. Big butts in this case refers to the health on an ally (rather than the attack). Since Garth can make allies with weak attack threaten all allies, the most important stats on allies are anything that makes them survivable. This can include health, armor, stealth or any other defensive abilities. Although most opponents have a few cards that will kill anything, those will quickly get exhausted if you can present a stream of hard to kill allies.
Garth is King of the Hill. A control style works the best for Garth. While aggressive strategies can work in the right circumstances, you generally want to keep the board as locked down as you can when playing Garth. Don’t give up the board if you don’t have to. That being said, if you have lethal damage, or are close to it, you can always ignore opposing allies and go for the hero.
CARDS OF NOTE
There are several cards that I have already described in some detail in my Serena profile, as they’re generally useful for rogues. I’ll mention them briefly, but will focus more on cards that have specific and interesting uses for Garth here.
Buqs was so diligent in making a comprehensive list of all draw engines available to rogues, so I will link it here. Check it out if you want some inspiration in your deck building.
Call of the Crystals:
- Aldon the Brave: Once again, not my personal favorite, but worth a mention for any human hero. With Garth he has added synergy, as his ability alone lets you win trades by buffing a Night Owl to kill allies with 4 health, for example. Winning trades without Garth’s ability is important as it allows him to save up shadow energy for the fatties. Wasting shadow energy on every ally will leave Garth Vulnerable in the late game. Aldon also can help take out the fatty as an ally with 4 attack can potentially combo with Garth’s ability to kill an ally with 9 hp.
- Armored Sandworm: These guys are strong in general, but especially so in a Garth deck as they represent a threat to many allies. They don’t just stick around, they also hurt.
- Nightshade: He has a similar place in Garth decks as in all other rogue decks. It is nice to have an ally that can stick around. However I am also partial to other 2cc allies in Garth decks, as having 2 attack puts so many allies within reach for killing. Nightshade is particularly useful when going second and facing a rush, and combos well with Midnight Sentinel.
- Tainted Oracle: Always a solid card and a good draw engine. Garth has the added advantage of being relatively capable of taking and holding the board until turn 4, which makes Oracle viable as an offensive threat and not just a draw card. Having Oracles, Night Owls and Treasured Heirlooms on board is a strong position for Garth as it makes him benefit even from board wipes.
- Agent Rex: I haven’t actually used this ally in a game, but he does represent solid utility, and it would be nice to steal an amulet of conjuration, wouldn’t it? Also his stats aren’t great, but with Garth’s help, he can kill a Puwen…and we all need to be able to kill Puwen.
- Braxnorian Soldier: This guy is potentially good in any human deck given the amount of allies with haste in the game now, with 3 attack, and immune to attacks from weenies, he is particularly strong. With Garth’s ability he can take out fatties as well, making him all-around excellent utility for Garth.
- Champion of Irum: Garth goes well with allies who have strong utility and allies who are tough to kill. CoI can fall solidly into the second camp, and can help prevent a rush. Although I don’t prefer him in Serena decks, I consider him a very strong choice for Garth, depending on common opening combos in the meta.
- Gunther, General of Balor: Just kidding, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a serious player use this card. Will that one extra health over Aeon really help that much? But he is tough to kill, and steadfast is nice…so maybe you can be the first to use him well.
- Layarian Diplomat: I mentioned in my Serena profile that this guy is a weak substitute for Assassination, and a weak substitute for Puwen. In a Garth deck, he becomes a strong substitute for Assassination. Assassination becomes completely unnecessary in Garth decks as Diplomat can actually do things that Assassination can’t. For example, he can help another ally kill Phoenix Urigon without it coming back. He can similarly nullify any ally abilities that would be inconvenient, such as Viska, Tainted Oracle or Devoted Knight. More importantly, he represents a very strong counter to Moonstalker’s stealth, which is often very difficult for Rogues to deal with. Unlike Assassination, he can be returned to hand with Road Less Traveled and reused the next turn. Garth makes any ally into a potential killer, and Layarian Diplomat serves up those hard to reach allies for them to kill. It is also no small matter to be able to play an ally turn 2 as Garth. This often leaves you able to take out turn 3 allies or stop rushes, even if Diplomat is your only choice, it is still often a strong play.
- Layarian Seductress: She is an excellent utility ally, she helps reclaim the board and slow down rushes, and Garth can make her a heavy hitter.
- Night Owl: This is an excellent card for all rogues, and Garth is no exception. He helps reclaim the board and he replaces himself when killed. He also can do 3 damage which is what Garth needs to be able to kill fatties. Having one of these on board as Garth will provoke a response from your opponent quickly, they will be hesitant to play fatties in general until it is removed.
- Midnight Sentinel: I featured these guys in my Garth’s big butts deck and even wrote an article about how much I like them. They are particularly useful for Garth as they provide solid utility on a difficult to kill ally. Making two allies difficult to kill is a recipe for success in a Garth deck. His ability will take care of the ally removal, he just needs allies that will stick around to use it.
- Oliver Fagin: I really like using him in rogue decks now. A few Fagins can make a nice difference in a late game death race and removing an ally from the board is always nice.
- Skilled Ironmonger: This guy eats Puwens for breakfast, and he needs that nurtition because ironsmithing is hard work. He’s decent utility, and Anklebreakers are always useful in Garth decks. Depending on your style you may use more items, I’m usually happy with 4 Anklebreakers, making Skilled Ironmonger sort of optional and interchangeable with Champion of Irum.
- Sword Thief: Similar to Layarian Seductress. What’s not to like? Great utility, great for reclaiming the board. Slightly better than Layarian Seductress for rogues, because we can pull ahead of opponents in resources (depending on the game).
- Viska, the Scarlet Blade: Haste is great for reclaiming the board and 3 damage means she can combo with Garth to kill an ally with 7hp.
- Wily Smuggler: Another ally that’s tough to kill, on top of that he makes for some excellent turn 4 plays, and maintains strong utility throughout a game. I built my Garth’s Big Butts deck around this guy and his synergy with cards like The Last Harvest, Backstab, Midnight Sentinel, Ill-Gotten Gains and Anklebreaker. Definitely worth considering if you’ve got a few items in deck and you can squeeze him in.
ITEMS AND ABILITIES
Call of The Crystals:
- Assassination: This card is a necessity for many Lance and Serena decks. Garth can actually play effectively without it. Remember, his ability + Garth’s Concoction will kill anything under 9HP, unless it also has an ability granting protection (like Dakrath and Sandworm). Assassination’s limitation is a more restricted version of Garth’s ability (needs board presence), so it’s a bit redundant to use it with him (like using Vision of Endia).
- Stop, Thief!: This has always been an excellent card, and a defining feature of the rogue card pool. The resource gain makes this especially strong.
- Ill-Gotten Gains: This card used to cost 5cc and was rarely used. After it was lowered to 4cc it became the rogue primary draw engine. It is one of the things that defines the rogue control play-style, since rogues benefit so much from killing opposing allies and destroying opposing items. With SF, some rogue players have begun considering alternative draw engines (such as cantrips and attachments) because IGG costs so much tempo to play. However, it remains a standard part of most Rogue decks. It has extra synergy with Garth, as his ability helps to kill allies, and IGG gives him cards for that.
- Retreat!: This has always been a generally useful control card. It isn’t ideal for rogues, since it has less synergy with cards like Ill-Gotten Gains, and doesn’t provide card advantage. Still, it can be very useful in certain situations and has always seen some play in rogue decks. The tempo gain can be especially useful for Garth, as he may need one turn to have SE to take out a fatty, or may just need a turn to set up an ally. This buys him that time.
- Night Prowler: This is one of my favorite cards that I rarely use. It actually is somewhat playable by Garth, as Garth often has a weapon in play (usually Anklebreaker), and can use allies to control the board – leaving his Night Prowler safe. Remember the synergy with skilled ironmonger as well. Giving it 2 durability will keep it out much longer. If you are including this in a Garth deck, just keep in mind that you will also need allies to support it, as well as weapons to use with it (I’d probably take 6 weapons and 2 Night Prowlers if I were using this).
- Spelleater Bands: This is the classic counter to burn decks. It continues to be very useful depending on the meta-game, and style of deck. If you find yourself losing to ability damage frequently, you should probably have two Spelleater Bands in deck. Alternatively, you might try improving your early game so that you don’t have to worry as much about a few fireballs in the late-game.
- Anklebreaker: Another defining rogue card. This card is worth including in almost any rogue deck. Garth can use it to control the board, either by killing allies outright with his ability and an attack, or by disabling allies, allowing his allies to kill them and helping to conserve his shadow energy.
- Black Garb: This is an excellent rogue card, but it is also somewhat limited. I like to use it in my Serena decks, but I find it unnecessary for Garth. It used to be a defining feature of Garth decks when Thoughtripper’s Cutlass caused a discard on ally death as they combo well together. Now it makes more sense to me to have more allies in a Garth deck and try to prevent allies from hitting your hero, rather than inviting it.
- A Legend Rises: This card is generally useful, it is particularly useful when board presence is needed and attachments have disabled all allies. Depending on the meta-game, having two of these in a deck can spell victory by itself. For Garth, an ally with 4 attack can pretty much kill anything, so don’t worry about making a beast with ALR, worry about making an ally that can stick around.
- Silent Strike: This card never saw much play in DP, but has shown itself to be effective in recent Lance decks. I imagine it could see similar uses in a Garth deck as it can help to get allies on the board. Rogues have many cantrip cards (cheap cards that let you draw a card while doing something else), and many of these combo well with other SF cards like Zailen Crusader or Confluence of Fate. Any rogue deck may benefit from a sprinkling of cantrips, but it is now possible to make rogue decks that rely mainly on cantrips for additional card draw. An excellent example is Maxi1230’s ‘Attachment Lance’ deck. Similar principles would probably work well with Garth as well.
- Treasured Heirloom: This card is a solid secondary draw engine. On Garth it has additional uses as it can instantly turn a card from no threat at all, to a very strong threat. For example, if you play a Night Owl on Turn 3, and your opponent comes back with a Turn 4 Dakrath (Gravebone bringing it from the graveyard), you can play Treasured Heirloom on your Night Owl, and then use Garth’s ability with Night Owl to kill the Dakrath. On top of that, when Night Owl dies, you will get 3 cards.
- Vozitian Orders: I love this card, but haven’t used it in a Garth deck yet. Remember that Garth can make excellent use of utility allies, and many utility allies have comes into play abilities, Orders lets him reuse those abilities.
- Backstab: This card serves as solid utility. As many rogue allies tend to be somewhat whimpy, it is helpful to surprise the opponent with a well-placed backstab. These are rarely resourced, as they replace themselves when played. The draw-back is that if there are no allies on board, and none to play, this card is dead-weight. It is especially useful for Garth as it can help to conserve Shadow Energy while removing allies, or it can make an ally capable of killing any ally with the help of Garth’s ability.
- Garth’s Concoction: This card is aptly named. It is solid utility for all rogues, but can be a primary removal card for Garth. Using Garth’s ability can do 1 damage, and then using this on an ally will do 6 damage and 2 damage (from poison) during the opponent’s turn, for a total of 9 damage. Armored Sandworm, Dakrath and Disciple of Aldmor can survive this combo, everything else is toast. Take 4 of these before you even consider taking 1 Assassination in a Garth’s deck. I typically use 2-3.
- Platinum Chainmail: The 2.87 update brought a nice buff to Platinum Chainmail. I’ve used it to good effect in some of my Garth decks. The attack buff to your allies is great, and often ignored by opponents. It also provides a great deal of protection from strong rushes and weenies with haste, which can be difficulty for Garth to deal with. It is one of the rare cards that makes Garth stronger against burn mages and Moonstalker at the same time (two of his typically weaker matchups). I’d recommend trying 2-3 in a deck, and seeing if it works for you.
- Coercion: This card can be an excellent way to control an ally or allies or end a game. When the game is close and an opponent plays a big ally, Coercion can damage the opponent and leave the ally exhausted for a turn. Coercion can also be used to attack an ally and get counterattacked, softening up two allies at once and leaving one unable to attack for a turn. Keep in mind that the ally has to attack to become exhausted (so it has limited uses in certain matchups, like Moonstalker). There are other interesting combos with Coercion and Vozitian Orders, Growing Bog-Dweller, Mystic of the Vale and Final Flourish. Garth can make good use of this. Coercion combines a way to work around Garth’s limitation of needing board presence to deal with allies, and a delay tactic for when he is short on shadow energy, making it very solid utility in a Garth deck.
- Spirit Shuriken: This card is a solid response to a rush, and can be very strong if you can disable two allies, allowing you to kill all other allies cheaply. Unfortunately Rogues have limited means to permanently disable allies, therefore this has limited uses. Rogues do have several cards that temporarily disable allies, which can encourage opponents to play that third ally. This card is an excellent response to a rush, and in Garth’s hands can easily kill two allies in a turn, even with an empty board. It is solid tech against Moonstalker, who likes to play several allies behind stealth. It is generally less useful than Anklebreaker, so I would consider it as a possible secondary weapon in a Garth deck, unless that deck focused around disabling allies with Layarian Seductress and Sword Thief. As BP Chamthabo pointed out in his Serena deck, once you play this, your opponent will learn a lesson, and will avoid playing more than 2 allies – this threat is very useful.
- Overwhelm: This is not necessarily useful in all Garth decks, but if you use a tough weenie strategy, then you will likely have several allies on the board at a time. Doing damage to all opponent’s allies is very strong, and remember that you can use Garth’s ability before this to make sure that one ally feels twice the pain. I’ve used this to great effect against Elementalis, who played several fatties at once, buffed one, and quickly regretted it, as I took them all out easily with my board full of weenies and an Overwhelm. Similarly, this will control the board vs a stealthed Moonstalker, and keep them from using Overwhelm on you.
- The Last Harvest: This card has excellent synergy in Garth decks, as it makes his allies harder to kill and increases their threat. Remember, for Garth, any +1 attack buff can be doubled when combo’d with his ability. I use this card to very good effect in my ‘Garth’s Big Butts’ deck.
- Road Less Traveled: I have recently converted to using this card. As I mentioned before, Garth can make excellent use of utility allies such as Layarian Diplomat, Midnight Sentinel and Sword Thief. Road Less Traveled has excellent synergy with all of those allies and doubles as supplemental draw, and an emergency way to deal with opponent allies. I usually include at least 2 of these in my Garth decks now. An important consideration is that Garth often needs board presence to be effective, and Road Less Traveled can remove his board presence. On the other hand, it also gives Garth cards, which he also needs to be effective. Just weigh those considerations when using this card.
So there you have it! Enjoy playing Garth, and good luck staying King of the Hill!