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Breaking Steel: Analyzing and Countering Steel Deck Weaknesses


Well into the Ink the Inklands meta, there's been a strong representation of Steel-based decks. Today, we're going to discuss tips and tricks on how to better position your deck to deal with a Steel/X heavy meta. Let's jump in and understand the compositions of some of the top played decks using Steel.

Amber/Steel AKA Steelsongs

Amber/Steel has had a pretty large leap in meta share right now thanks to a recent 8K in Georgia, where the deck went undefeated to secure a 1st place win. The deck primarily focuses on gaining value by playing or "singing" songs with their character to get board advantage thanks to direct damage actions such as Let the Storm Rage On, and Strength of a Raging Fire. Instead of gaining lore by questing, they are playing Sleepy's Flutes which allow them to gain 1 lore by activating it after they've played a song. I've played this deck a bunch and with the amount of card draw and songs, having a few of these flutes on board is not difficult.


Amethyst/Steel has two levels of play, both bounce tempo and aggro. Sometimes it can be difficult to figure out which one you're facing, and sometimes even then it might be too late. With cards like Arthur - Wizard's Apprentice and Pinocchio - Star Attraction, they're going to be gunning for quick and easy wins.


Emerald/Steel has been performing quite well in the meta, and it's for a good reason. Not only do they have the support of direct character damage thanks to Steel, but also very frustrating ways of causing you to discard as well. Character and hand destruction together makes for a very sad opponent. We're going to want ways to out play this play style by playing more cards that allow us to draw and play even bigger threats.


Sapphire/Steel is definitely a deck to beat. It requires a highly skilled player to navigate the balance of ramping and destruction, but is highly rewarding to those who can pull it off. You can expect little to no interaction in the early game as they set up their board for Flavorsham and Pawpsicle combos, or the inevitable A Whole New World.

How to navigate a Steel match

So, your opponent inks a Steel card and you're already dreading the rest of the matchup. Fear not, as we go over some of the early ways to navigate this match.

Using Ward Effectively

Chances are if your opponent is playing Steel removal cards, they're not playing characters. Steel has a hard time dealing with Ward, so if you're working with either Emerald or Sapphire, this should be fairly easy to navigate early on. Cards like Prince John and Bucky pose a large threat because you can threaten card advantage by playing Floodborn characters as soon as turn four for maximum effectiveness. Or, if you can get two Buckys to stick on board and then play a Floodborn, you're countering pretty hard by causing two discards. Be careful though, as Ward does not prevent non-targeted effects, such as Tinker Bell - Giant Fairy and Grab Your Sword. Hopefully, by the time this happens you would've gotten all the value you needed from Bucky and John before they're banished. For those effects, you're going to need to look into Resist.

Resist to Reduce Damage

Resist came out in Rise of the Floodborn, and has been a welcome addition thanks to the likes of Steel. Since Resist allows you reduce damage by the Resist value, you're effectively reducing the value of direct damage cards and creating less efficient trades for your opponent. Resist effects are available in both Sapphire and Steel. Some of the best representations of this are both Cogsworth - Grandfather Clock and Cinderella - Stouthearted. Given that Cogsworth has both Ward and grants Resist +1 to other characters, having two on board is extremely advantageous.

High Willpower Characters

Having high Willpower character certainly makes a Steel player's life difficult by having to use multiple damage effects for removal. This paired with Resist can be absolutely back breaking for most matchups. I won't be able to list every card that has enough Willpower to outlive some of Steel's direct damage, but essentially anything with 8 or more Willpower can outlive most of the removal. Use this to your advantage with healing effects to cause additional pressure.

Understanding Critical Lines of Play

Steel opts to play removal throughout the match to maintain a healthy board state. To counter this, we need to have them either play that removal early on through baiting tactics or remove those spells outright from their hand. Both Amber and Emerald have access to the only two cards in play that can directly remove those threats from their hand, thanks to The Bare Necessities and Ursula - Deceiver. Playing those cards right before a telegraphed Grab Your Sword play can be brutal. Look out for a turn five play if you have board advantage and use this knowledge to your benefit. You could also go with the nuclear option and play or sing A Whole New World right before the anticipated play as well, hoping they don't draw into another one.

If your opponent has a lot of characters in play, you can almost expect that a Strength of a Raging Fire is right around the corner. To counter this, try trading characters on board by means of challenges and some of your own removal as well. If you see it end up in the inkwell, you know you've made the right play.

Lastly, Steel also has direct removal of Locations and Items. If you have these in your deck, consider using them as ink if possible so that the Steel player is holding dead cards. If your deck heavily relies on these card types, make sure to up your count to outnumber their removal.


Playing against Steel is definitely a challenging matchup, however, it's not impossible. Understanding what Steel is trying to accomplish not only gives you the information you need to navigate the matchup, but to also ultimately maintain a better board state and a clear way to win the match.

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