The conditionally indestructible and swift Jeanne is a card that has taunted casual and competitive players alike since her release, always seeming to edge on the border of tournament playable. With the rotation of Final Battle (finally) and Severing Winds (finally again), the format is finally in a spot where you can slam down enough resonators quickly enough to get Jeanne online fast enough for her to be good. On top of that, Divinity as a mechanic really lends itself to the resonator heavy style that Jeanne wants to play since you now have access to supportive spells at all times instead of having to draw them or put them on the bottom of your deck with Faith in Darkness. Today I want to explore the two rulers we saw implement this strategy recently; Lucifer and Brunhild.
Now while we saw mono darkness Lucifer on the Minneapolis stream round 2 a few weeks back, I've seen a few iterations of the list as Wind/Darkness. I'm going to focus more on the Wind/Darkness build because it makes some better points in terms of card choice and since we're dealing in theory here, the consistency of the stones doesn't matter much for us.
When Worlds 2018 was rapping up and I got a chance to talk to some players about what we thought would be good in the upcoming NF format, I consistently brought up Jeanne D'Arc Lucifer as a deck I wanted to look into. The theory was sound: you get a very resonator heavy deck (something I've been wanting to play since Rei, the Black Owl was printed) that has enough removal in the rune deck that you have access to the best of both worlds and never have a chance of wiffing on Faith in Darkness. Runes like Black Rosario and Jet Black Wings should let you punch through any resonator deck, while Jeanne herself should win most control matchups due to her indestructible nature in a field devoid of board wipes. But alas, theory and reality rarely coincide in deck building. A few weeks after worlds I was marveling at how smart Naoyuki Yada's Light/Darkness Brunhild list was and decided that might be a better shell for the Brunhild deck, and it turned out the rest of the world seemed to agree as we started to see Light/Darkness Brunhild popping up more and more.
While Lucifer seeks to use the rune deck to make up for the removal the main deck lacks, Brunhilds runes lend themselves to support the Jeanne package. Einherjar's Summons is an obvious match for Jeanne herself, Blessing of the Sun supports a resonator heavy early game and Whispers of an Angel is what really sold me on the light/darkness idea as it makes it nearly impossible to miss your turn 1, playing a decent number of darkness 1 drops in the deck and having a light rune you can always turn 1 for card and life advantage. And of course, there's always Brunhild herself. Even if she gets Laurite'd she's a massive threat in her own right, a great late game finisher for an aggressive early strategy. But which strategy is better?
Before I open this can of worms, it's important to note that there are different builds for each of these rulers, and I'll be focusing on light/darkness Brunhild and wind/darkness Lucifer, as I do not believe mono darkness to be viable, and I'm not adding fire to either deck as I don't think Majin Dark Elf is a good direction for either deck and is the only fire card worth considering even though you can play the fire/darkness stone at no cost to you. I will also go over why you shouldn't do that (it's because Stone from the Dark Castle and Glint of Insight is much better. There, I went over it). Looking at the decks side by side, I do want to touch on the fact that 2 cards that have been found in both lists, Azazel the Fallen Angel of Doom and Belial the Evil from the Scriptures, are each inherently better in one deck that the other. Azazel is better in Lucifer because your J-Ruler as well as one of your runes reduce the number of cards in your opponents hand, making it easier for you to cast a reduced cost Azazel as well as fuel your graveyard for something like Disgraced Knight, or give you access to even more removal. Brunhild on the other hand can reanimate Belial. One of these is much more impactful than the other.
Brunhild: 1 - Lucifer: 0
Lets talk about the difference in attributes for a second and what each one delivers. Light seems to offer more to facilitate the central Jeanne playstyle, giving you Eir, Valkyrie of Mercy and Bethor, the Angel of Treasure. While you're mostly running light for the runes, Eir and Bethor both seemed like natural fits into the deck and less like "things I had to run because I was running these colors anyway". Bethor being a 500/500 flyer that draws a card on death doesn't seem like an outstanding resonator you're rushing to put into a deck, but combined with a turn 1 Skeleton Horde she turns into a threat of a turn 3 Jeanne with a field full of resonators you would hate to use a removal spell on. Eir is just broke, albeit sometimes difficult to cast and the only resonator in your deck with a Laurite shaped target on its back. Wind on the other hand feels like an attribute you put in the deck because you had to. Laurite and Faerur's Spell are there to make sure you don't lose certain matchups, and Mikay wishes it could grow up to be Bethor (despite it's synergy with Jet Black Wings). While both decks have access to Vice-Leader of the Chivalrous Thieves, Blazer as their primary way of drawing cards and maintaining hand advantage, a secondary source is needed. In that regard Bethor beats Mikay as she presents somewhat of an actual threat, and while Laurite and Faerur's Spell are better than Eir, they're significantly worse when your deck doesn't draw a lot of cards since they're purely reactive in a deck that wants to play on curve and isn't drawing a lot.
Brunhild: 2 - Lucifer: 0
There are 5 rulers we saw in the top 8 at Grand Prix Minneapolis; Time Spinning Witch, Gill, Kirik Rerik, Chamimi and Ayu. I just want to give a quick rundown of each of these matchups and which build should be favored against it below.
Time Spinning Witch - Lucifer. Make no mistake, I don't think Lucifer is favored against Time Spinning Witch, but it definitely has a better shot than Brunhild. I think its nearly impossible for Brunhild to beat TSW given it's lack of interaction or ways to stop Distortion of Time or Mosasaurus. Sure there's Rei for the latter, but its a pretty unreliable way to stop it and doesn't end up working out that way that often. Lucifer at least can try with Laurite and Faerur Spell, but for the most part I don't see any Jeanne deck taking out Time Spinning Wtich.
Gill - Brunhild. There's a few reasons for this one, but the main two are Magic Stone of Faith giving you uncounterable Blazers and Einherjar's Summons. Almost any deck can beat Gill if you go wide enough fast enough, and its very difficult for Gill to get through an early established Jeanne D'Arc. If they manage to do that, ask any control player how they feel about spending will and a counter spell on a card that costs 0 will. Spoiler: they don't like it. Also, most of Lucifer's runes aren't very useful in this matchup whereas all of Brunhilds are except her Master Rune, but Brunhild tends to run more than 10 Divinity anyway.
Kirik - Lucifer. While Brunhild has more life gain than Lucifer, the massive amount of removal cannot be understated here. Black Rosario is a house against this kind of deck, and Jet Black Wings will clear out most resonators in the deck as well as turn off a Hoelle Pig Squadrons death trigger. Access to Scythe of the Reaper also helps stop Kirik from punching through your entire board as you can instant speed kill it in response to gaining 15 counters.
Chamimi - Lucifer. Just a little more resilient to Laurite than Brunhild is, and Faerur's Spell goes a long way in this matchup. Speaking of Faerur's Spell, you'll mostly be using it on Viola - a card that has a lot more impact vs Brunhild than it does Lucifer. On top of Jet Black Wings clearing out pretty much everything in the deck except Laurites Seven Disciples AND preventing an end of turn Viola, this is a matchup where Lucifer really shines.
Ayu - Brunhild. Realistically the standard build for both of these decks don't stand much of a chance vs Ayu. However, if you go into the tournament wanting to beat Ayu, Brunhild can play Bewilder. Resting Ayu and attacking into it with Jeanne is likely the only way either of these decks are going to win, and it's relatively easy for the Ayu player to not let that naturally happen. This is the one and only time Bewilder will shine over Scythe of the Reaper, but it does just this once, if only because no one would expect it. Not even me, and I just told you about it.
All of this being said, there's no way I would take Jeanne to a GP in this meta. But with a new cluster comes a new card with "Barrier of Shadows" in its name, and its consistently been the silver bullet we need when we need it, and darkness is in my opinion in a good spot to take over the meta if the stars align in the release of V2 (just give me a way to control the graveyard a little more I'm begging you). Also if you're wondering at all about Dusk Girl Jeanne: don't. Glad we got that out of the way at the end here too, you're welcome.
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