The Rotation format steadily marches forward, and Tempest of the Gods will soon be banished to Unlimited, languishing in a realm of Big Shadow and Fairy Wisps. It leaves behind a legacy of the biggest mistakes that have ever seen print in Shadowverse history.
Zeus. Aegis. Arriet. Scyther. The long-dead spectres of Eachtar, Grimnir, Lightning Blast and Zell. Anyone who played Tempest at launch knows and reviles those names, overcentralizing obelisks that could only have been created by underpaid designers during a violent gas leak.1 As the tempest dies down, all those cards will pass into history—towering giants made eternal relics.
With them, other names pass into the dark: Hippocampus, Elder Mage of Dragonlore, Stolen Life, Ebon Reaper. Their disappearance doesn’t matter, because the cards themselves have no importance, unused outside of unlucky drafts. In Unlimited, the exclusive domain of high-power highroll decks, their chances drop to negative zero. They will never see play again.
Between both of those, looking over the edge of a cliff, is Support Cannon.
The cannon paradox
Dawnbreak, Nightedge introduced the “Choose” mechanic, intended to bring more flexibility and decision-making to an otherwise formulaic game. It was a complete failure. Almost every Choose card reads something like “Choose: Play the good version of this card, or lose."2 The same goes for Swordcraft’s new Enhance cards, sporting underpowered additional effects that only make it harder to manage play order.
Somehow, by what I can only assume is an accident, Sword ended up with flexible tools anyway. Chromatic Duel, Valse and Celia are enormous boons for consistency and tempo, providing late-game utility while remaining useful on an early draw. Holy Bear Knight is a powerful Arthur pull, but set it in front of a Bladed Hedgehog during early turns and it’s possible to end the game right there. And Sky Fortress is infamous for its finishing power after a failed Arthur cleanup, but players on their back foot can pump up a powerful ward while swinging with a well-statted rusher.
Essentially, Sword’s midrange core is stronger than ever, finally capable of playing to an enemy’s weaknesses and controlling tempo in either direction—right as the craft’s most feared boardclears disappear from Rotation. In an environment like this, it’s no surprise that Erika’s doing well. She deserves it. It’s been a rough few years.
It’s easy to forget that Swordcraft lost something too—the bladed boogeyman, an iconic and infamous turn 5 play. Albert, Levin Saber was a Rage of Bahamut printing, a quintessential midgame tempo swing, and when it rotated out nothing was printed in its place.3 Celia, Luminous Mage and Barbarossa are all strong enough, packing diverse and efficient value for their costs, but they’re reactive cards. Pass your turn 5, perhaps by playing a certain amulet, and the damage is limited.
And so, as the meta settles around the S.S. Arthur one-two punch, entire crafts living or dying on whether they can keep clearing the board, Support Cannon rises to power—not a proper deck archetype, but a hasty tech into the strongest collection of flexible tools in the game, for the sole purpose of destroying decks identical to itself. Swordcraft is eating its own tail.
Now that Support Cannon is ostensibly a tier 1 deck, some of the game’s strongest ladder players have taken it through tens of thousands of games. At this point, like most popular decks, it’s sort of a crowd-sourced optimization challenge. In that way, it’s nice to see my gut feeling confirmed by empirical data—the best Support Cannon list is a 39-card normal Swordcraft deck with 1 Cannon at the bottom.
GameWith’s take on a Tier 1 Support Cannon list is a tempo powerhouse, sporting a wide assortment of durable bodies and flexible rushers, capable of holding its own against value powerhouses while still punishing control lists for lagging behind. It also has Support Cannon in it, and if that Support Cannon shows up in your hand and you’re not going second versus Swordcraft, you pretend you didn’t draw a card that turn.
If I was a smart person, I would play this deck for a few weeks and enjoy a relaxing escalator ride to Grand Master. If you’re a smart person, you’ll copy that deck code and close this article. You play followers on curve, hit face when you’re ahead, and finish the game with Arthur into Sky Fortress every single time—simple, smooth, effective. But I am a stupid, vindictive, prideful motherfucker who wants to hear Lecia scream at God every fucking game.
The process for constructing the decklist looked something like this:
- Start with the meta list
- Remove Gawain, the worst legendary ever printed4
- Fuck with the low end to allow Lux to fetch strong cards
- Shuffle late-game stabilizers into the high end
- Realize that after nearly a year of tuning and tweaking honest, god-fearing Support Cannon lists, a bastardized, twisted application of the card is now considered meta
- Become the most spiteful human being on planet Earth
- Play angry
- Play very, very angry
It should really go without saying, but you shouldn’t play this.
Barbarossa is the star of the show, a versatile card that forces winning opponents to commit to bad positions. If your early tempo is flagging, especially after an enhanced Lux, Barbarossa’s Last Words can scare a snowballing opponent out of going wide, or punish them severely for disrespecting a 2PP 5/4 rusher. Swordcraft’s new commanders complement that gameplan—Hemera and Celia both generate multiple targets with a single card, draining your opponent’s resources and keeping pressure on.
Look for a standard early-curve mulligan, keeping Chromatic Duel going first and holding Floral Fencer5 going second. Fatal Spellbomb can be crucial for getting Support Cannon onto the board safely, provided you’re not forced to waste it in early turns, so keeping Valse can be worthwhile even if it puts you at risk. Keeping Cannon itself will usually bite you in the ass, but against crafts with weak early game it’s typically safe.
In your first 4 turns, your goal is to set up the strongest board you possibly can, to minimize risk when dropping Support Cannon on turn 5. When going second, Floral Fencer or Hemera can buy you a lot of space, but when going first you usually just want to push your advantage. If you see an early Lux, try to hold onto her until turn 4; even though her statline is unimpressive, she’s guaranteed to pull a strong 5-drop and a late-game equalizer.
Of course, you’ve only got 3 copies of Support Cannon in your deck. Sometimes you won’t get the chance to play it, either because you’re under too much pressure or because Cygames reordered your deck as a punishment for not buying crystals. If you’re winning, great, congratulations on playing Swordcraft cards in the correct order—now push for the win and use everything you have to get there, aiming to finish with Sky Fortress, Celia, or late-game Cannon fire. If you’re losing, lose in the most irritating way possible; this list’s top end can get a lot done without evolves, and getting ahead on evolution is a great way to stabilze and make space for a Cannon drop later.
When Support Cannon is in play, it can be tempting to play like a grinder deck, cycling Barbarossa forever to answer every new threat. This is by far the best way to lose a won game. Other decks have bombs and win conditions. You have an overexcitable teenager blind-firing magical artillery.6 Once you find an advantage, press it as hard as possible—take every opportunity to deal face damage, because as long as you have commanders in hand, you can equalize.
Like I said, Sword’s new tools are pretty flexible. Depending on what you’re likely to face, small adjustments to The Overall Plan can help you out in the long run. They won’t help you if you brick your opening hand and spend the next 15 excruciating turns gutshot and trying to stabilize, but hey. If you wanted fun you wouldn’t be here.
The least enjoyable matchup in the entire game. Beauty and the Beast may have mostly disappeared, but Wood of Brambles turns the humble Fairy into the unstoppable BOARDFUCKER9000, and it creates disastrous no-win early game situations where they vomit onto the board and you just have to ignore it. 4PP Lux is too greedy to be safe, but try to save your resources for midgame defenses—a little scratch damage now can save you a whole lot of Fairy Driver hurt later.
The least enjoyable matchup in the entire game. As far as I can tell, every Dragoncraft deck in Rotation Masters is some brick-prone variant of OTK Lindworm, proving once again that Dragon players have a greater capacity for self-hatred than anyone else on Earth. Maybe there was a Reddit post about it. Anyway, nothing’s changed about Dragon, they still kill you on turn 9-and-a-half, so just play fast and pray for Roland. Keeping Cannon during mulligan is usually safe, whether you’re going first or second, and it’s invaluable if you want to contend with cards like Ouroboros. Just don’t go wide into an obvious Aina.
The least enjoyable matchup in the entire game. Sword’s early-game boards don’t have a lot of threat on their own, so you can disrespect them as long as you stay out of Sky Fortress + Celia range. Consider using Barbarossa defensively just before their turn 7, and try to maintain a wide board early to scare them out of choosing Valse’s Purebomb—if you try to manfight Midsword without a Cannon, you are fucked. Consider swapping Momo for Lancer of the Tempest if you’re seeing a lot of Mars (yes, even if you’re ahead you still need to kill her). Above all, remember that this matchup is unbelievably stupid and still mostly dictated by who goes first. I love Shadowverse!
The least enjoyable matchup in the entire game. Dirt is still just barely common enough to prevent a hard mulligan for Roland, but if you see Daria leader you might want to do it anyway—if you’re wrong, just make sure to kill their Illusionists and don’t hang yourself versus Mutagenic Bolt. Versus Chimera, you can disrespect followers for the most part, but if you can’t commit a strong threat to the board you might want to leave it empty instead, buying yourself a little extra time by denying spellboost targets.7
The least enjoyable matchup in the entire game. I don’t know what the fuck this class is supposed to do anymore. Expect the usual clusterfuck of overtuned Tempest cards and try not to get too scared of skeletons. Shadow still has effectively infinite range with Demon Eater and Andrealphus, so you need to finish before Aisha and Eachtar obliterate your face, but the threat of Barbarossa’s Last Words8 keeps their boards in check without forcing you to commit too many resources. Sometimes you’ll get highrolled and explode, but that’s okay, because Luna has no parents.9
The least enjoyable matchup in the entire game. Neutral Blood has no bombs and limited reach, so don’t be afraid to stall. If you don’t see a Neutral tell, then you could be playing against any one of 6 different equally-unpopular Blood variants—and they all die when you shoot them in the face. Do whatever you want, I guess. Sometimes you get hit by Emerelda and there’s not really a lot to be said about it. I’m sorry.
The least enjoyable matchup in the entire game. Don’t leave your dome open versus Heavenly Knight on their turn 7; you can easily block it with Roland or Melissa and follow up with Momo to kill the body. Play fast, because if Aegis hits the board for any reason he disables your Support Cannon and you lose instantly. Depending on your tempo, it might actually be better to keep Cannon in your hand, since you’ll typically only have a few turns to make use of it. Remember to keep Barbarossa out of Blackened Scripture range!
Why do I do this to myself
I’ve been a fan of Support Cannon since Tempest; it’s the card that inspired me to finally lock in my devotion to Swordcraft, dusting everything that I couldn’t put into a deck for Erika and her stupid goddamn frills.10 Sure, it’s inarguably one of the worst decisions I’ve ever made in a video game, but after opening 32 consecutive packs and receiving 3 legendaries, all Swordcraft cards,11 I’ve made peace with it. This is just what happens now.
Dawnbreak, Nightedge is the most playable Support Cannon has ever been—and this might be the high point forever. Swordcraft has Spartacus waiting in the wings, a new impossible dream for Swordcraft deckbuilders to reach for12, and Support Cannon will very soon go the way of Tempest’s legends, banished to a realm where Shadowcraft plays Zeus every turn from 5 to 10. Maybe we’ll see format changes, though Cygames' hands-off approach makes that seem unlikely.13 Maybe we’ll see more card draw and strong Commanders, support for Support Cannon, though the nature of the card means those tools are probably better off on their own.
I’d like to think that someday, Support Cannon will get another chance. The Venus treatment, maybe—Exalted General Lecia, a body that summons the amulet, finally insulating the tempo loss that cripples every Cannon deck in its most critical turns. Or maybe the spirit of Support Cannon will live on in something new, a reimagining like Chronogenesis’s new Jeanne.
But even if it’s never touched again, Support Cannon will live on in its own crippled, limping way; like Castle in the Sky, it’s just too interesting to ignore, boasting incredibly potent offensive value with a brain-teaser of a restriction. And because I am a huge dumbass, despite my best interests, I expect to find my way back to it again and again.
God. The Spirit Of Support Cannon. Someone please shoot me in the face.
I recently tried to explain Tempest of the Gods to my boyfriend, and while explaining what the original Eachtar was, I got it wrong twice—and neither of them were as strong as the actual card that got printed. ↩︎
Mighty Arm Skeleton is a noteworthy exception, which reads “Choose: Lose the game, or lose the game” ↩︎
Well, not for Swordcraft, at least. ↩︎
Listen to me very carefully. GAWAIN IS HOT GARBAGE.
Going first, he’s a 4PP brick that hits the board and does nothing, with a pathetic statline that’s easily traded into by an evolved 2-drop. Going second is even worse, because if you dropped Gawain on turn 4 it means that you’re in such a dire position that you couldn’t even wait until turn 6 to save an evolve, and your hope for equalizing tempo is a 3/4 and -1 evolution. You are already fucking dead and playing Mars into Hemera will not help you.
If you play Gawain on turn 6, you have just played a vanilla 4/5 rusher, because the cost reduction effect does absolutely fucking nothing anymore. If it reduces Arthur, then you play Arthur for 6 mana on turn 7. Congratulations. If it reduces Sky Fortress, then you can play Sky Fortress on turn 7…as a vanilla 5/6 rusher with no effect, because you played Gawain on 6 instead of anything that creates board presence, and your opponent is going to send Gawain to fucking space while creating a tempo threat that a singular rusher wouldn’t help against, even if it didn’t throw away your wincon, which it does.
I don’t give a fuck about that time you played Mars into Arthur on turn 8. Regardless of how important and powerful that combo made you feel, you are only gaining back the tempo that you lost by playing Swordcraft’s categorically worst 4-drop. If you had done anything else that involved putting cards on the board and attacking with them, you would have won in exactly the same way. You are using a card that reduces the cost of your hand in a craft that does not benefit from cost reduction and does not have any way of refilling your hand.
Chromatic Duel does not count. If you want to add both commanders to your hand, you have to play it on turn 6. WHICH. IS. THE. SAME. TURN. YOU. WOULD. OTHERWISE. WANT. TO. PLAY. THE. REDUCED. COST. COMMANDERS.
In conclusion, Gawain is absolute asstrash and you are a horrible fucking monkey. ↩︎
Floral Fencer is used instead of Frontline Cavalier for the 2-attack token and Officer status, avoiding embarassing late-game Lux pulls. ↩︎
I do not want to hear from Granblue players about the lore, she looks 17 at most. ↩︎
You know they have the Fiery Embrace. Just pass turn 6. Fuck it. ↩︎
Bonus points if you cheat Barbarossa out via Zodiac Demon, requiring them to check the combat log to even see the card text. ↩︎
I imagine Shadow players find it comforting to play a character similar to themselves—completely devoid of any personal relationships and unable to read past a 3rd-grade level. ↩︎
This is a recurring theme in my Swordcraft articles because I still have no idea how that fucking outfit is constructed or what it’s supposed to be. ↩︎
Of these legendaries, two of them were back-to-back Melissas, both appearing on card 4 of adjacent packs. The odds of both these events occurring in 32 packs are 1 in 106,000. On average, you would need to open 3.3 million packs before it happened again, containing 27 million cards. These packs would contain over 8000 of every Chronogenesis leader. This would cost you 5.3 million dollars. The Random Number Goddess is trying to make a point. ↩︎
They gave a deckout win condition to the craft with the worst card draw in the game. This is not an accident. ↩︎
Is Blood Wolf too strong to see play, or not? I don’t like this fucking around with card limits, but I do like the idea that we’ll see Unlimited singleton decks 50 years from now, running their single allowed copy of the 40 strongest cards in the game. ↩︎