A Haunting Guide to Scream
Haunting Scream: one of the more salt inducing cards in Eternal. It is also one of the most versatile. Although Haunting Scream has seen play in a variety of decks over the course of Eternal’s lifetime, I’m going to focus on the recent iterations of Felnscar Scream for this article. I will try to discuss how the deck works, different options in playstyle and construction, and how to beat it.
Instead of starting with a deck list, I want to go through the various cards that have seen play in lists and explain their uses in the deck.
Combust is a mainstay in decks that run Madness, but it also has some additional synergy in Scream decks that makes it even more useful. The standard combo is to Madness an enemy unit, attack with it, and then combust it to destroy another one of their units, killing two units and getting in damage for just 4 power. Scream decks often have grenadin drones on the board, which are perfect sacrifice targets to use with Combust. Gorgon Fanatic gets sacrificed when it hits the enemy player, but all other Scream targets stay on the board until the end of the turn, which makes them free sacrifice targets for combust.
Dark Return has seen play in nearly every archetype of shadow decks. In Scream decks, the primary use of dark return is to reuse Scream targets while growing them. It can function as Haunting Scream 5-8 if you have already Screamed a unit, because the units retain flying and charge in the void. If you’re playing a more aggressive or midrange gameplan, using dark return as an extra Grenadin Drone, Rindra, or Torgov is a very common play. Dark Return can occasionally be a dead card in hand, and it’s often pretty bad to draw multiples early game, so I will normally run only 3. My favorite use of Dark Return is on opponent’s units after you have Madnessed them. Using a Dark Return on an opponent's Icaria truly is a wonderful feeling!
Grenadin Drone seems like a very odd inclusion to the deck at first glance. It’s typically played in very aggressive decks, and in grenadin based decks. In Haunting Scream lists, it serves a few different purposes. It’s a very good blocker vs aggressive decks, especially those with many X/1’s (such as Oni Ronin). Drone is also a very good sacrifice target, for Combust to kill an enemy threat, or for Devour to draw extra cards. Drones can buy you crucial turns as chump blockers against bigger midrange decks. In rare occasions, you can also play a couple Drones early and/or Dark Return them to provide a surprisingly quick aggressive beatdown. It's final use is as a critical part of the deck’s powerbase. The deck runs zero basic sigils and uses crests and banners as the multifaction power. An early Grenadin Drone can help turn on your banners to enable you to utilize all of your power every turn.
Levitate hasn’t seen very much play in competitive decks, the effect is normally not worth a card slot in decks that can’t use it a multitude of ways. Scream decks utilize all portions of Levitate very effectively. The most obvious use is to give an Infiltrate unit flying to get it past blockers. It can also be used to pop an Aegis, give a blocker flying to blow out an attack, or just to cycle through your deck to find combo pieces. Levitate is at its most useful in decks that include Direwood Beastcaller because it’s so weak without evasion.
Permafrost is a highly played removal spell that can often kill a unit permanently for just one power. It’s at its best in aggressive matchups as another way to deal with fast threats, and can also be used to take out a blocker to get a Scream target through. Permafrosting an enemy unit can also enable madness-combust combos even if they only play one additional unit.
Torch is one of the most played cards in the game, and it’s an obvious inclusion in any Scream deck. It functions as removal for aggro threats, combines with Gorgon or another torch to kill 6 health units, is invaluable in the mirror match, and can target the face to end the game.
Devour is highly played in any deck using Madness due to the incredibly potent combo of killing an enemy unit and drawing two cards. In Scream decks, it is used to help our Scream targets dodge silences, to draw extra cards, or to blow out removal on our bigger threats. Devour is one of the most important cards in the Scream mirror, and it is key to never play out an important threat without the ability to blow out an opposing Madness.
The namesake card in the deck, Haunting Scream is an incredibly powerful and versatile card. The secret to playing it is the realization that it’s actually a modal spell.
Scream can function as:
- “Draw 3 cards, deal 3 damage to your opponent, and gain 3 life”
- “Deal 1 damage to your opponent, play 2 5/5 units”
- “Deal 7 damage to your opponent, draw a card and discard a card”
- “Nightfall. Deal 5 damage to your opponent and gain 5 life”
- And more.
Just about everyone has seen haunting Scream hit Gorgon Fanatic or Direwood Beastcaller, but it has many more uses than just those two. One of my most common uses of Scream is as a burn spell. Screaming Rindra or Torgov can provide a surprising amount of burst damage, while also providing you with an incredibly strong Dark Return target for later. Screaming an opponent’s card that has been stolen with madness is also a viable option, I have used it many times on opposing Unseen Commandos and Whirling Duos. I’ve even Screamed an opponent’s Sandstorm Titan with killer!
Quarry is often listed as the sole reason to purchase the Jekk’s Bounty campaign, and it is very worth the purchase for Scream decks! Quarry was widely considered the best 2 power card draw prior to the release of Strategize, and it still is for our deck. It enables some of the most “nut draw” hands where we discard a Scream target on turn 2 with Quarry and Scream it turn 3. The cost reduction is incredibly potent for us, due to the fact that we typically utilize all of our power on most turns. Reducing the cost of a Madness, Devour, or Combust allows us to use those combos a turn earlier, which can be crucial in certain games.
Strategize is one of the welcome additions to the deck from The Dusk Road. It provides the same amount of card “draw” as quarry, while also giving us the ability to throw away excess/dead cards in hand. I will run 4 Quarry before I run Strategize in Scream decks to to the additional upsides to Quarry, but Strategize is a very powerful draw spell and is in the majority of lists.
Another card from The Dusk Road, Ashara has some very unique synergy in Scream decks. We often have extra units to attack alongside her, like Grenadin Drones, to make her a very powerful attacker that is extremely difficult to block profitably. She does a good job baiting torch away from our main Scream targets. Attacking with Ashara and a Screamed card is basically free, and can hit for a huge amount of damage. Ashara usually eats removal spells quickly due the the threat of her with a Madness. Most lists have cut Ashara due to stronger options, but she is still a consideration in certain metagames.
Direwood Beastcaller is one of the scariest targets for an opponent to see in our void, knowing that they could be staring down 10 attack worth of units very easily. Beastcaller is very fragile, dying to almost any removal, so finding ways to get it through is critical in decks that include it. The most commonly used way is levitate, allowing him to get through ground blockers while leaving his beasts behind. Decks with Beastcaller should almost always include levitate due to his weak stats. Beastcaller is at it’s best in early turns vs aggro, and falls off drastically as the game progresses. This is why he is not included in my lists in metagames where aggro is less popular.
Widely considered the best Scream target, Gorgon Fanatic is incredibly powerful, and just playing it on the board often scares your opponents into worse plays. What is often overlooked with Fanatic, is that the 3/2 body is decently relevant on the board. Players will often have to trade or open a large unit up to a Torch, because they will almost never opt to let it through. When Screamed, it helps to stabilize our life total, dig for more Screams/Dark Returns, and provides a surprisingly relevant amount of damage. Repeatedly Screaming/Dark Returning a Gorgon can be enough to completely close out a game if your opponent can’t interact with it.
Madness at first glance looks fairly simple, but we find a lot of unique ways to use it. The primary mode is to steal an enemy unit to Combust or Devour it, which is an incredibly efficient way to remove units. The other options to use Madness are as a burn spell and to remove a blocker for a Scream target. Using Madness as a burn spell is often a way to close a game long before the opponent expects it. It is fairly matchup dependent, but it is sometimes a good option to use Madness to get an Infiltrate unit through. It can be the correct line, but be careful about “wasting” your Madness in this way.
Another Dusk Road addition to the deck, Nocturnal Observer revitalized scream decks, and was a centerpiece in the reanimator decks that led to Vara getting nerfed. She is incredibly powerful in Scream decks, allowing us to cycle through our deck very quickly while putting Scream targets in the void without ever being exposed to on board silences or Permafrost. Triggering Nightfall turn after turn causes incidental damage to your opponent, which can be crucial in closing out the game. In many games we can keep Nightfall going for 5+ turns straight, with Observer continuously digging for combo pieces and removal. A tip to people playing against Scream: DO NOT torch Observer if it’s your only piece of fast interaction, as you need to hold the torch to prevent a Gorgon/Beastcaller from getting through.
One of the new scions, Kaleb, Reborn, can be one of the highest damage units we can play. His prowess ability (+1/+1 whenever you cast a spell) can be incredibly potent for dealing large amounts of damage out of nowhere. Scream decks typically use all of their power each turn, so we very rarely use his second ability. The main reason Kaleb has merited inclusion in versions of Scream was to try and completely blank annihilate post-sideboard. In more recent metagames, this has become less important, and the buffs to Torgov have made him a more attractive inclusion.
Rindra does so much for Scream decks, and it is almost a crime to not include it in the deck. A 5/5 Lifesteal threat is must answer for aggro, and the overwhelm provides a very quick clock without an answer. We can easily keep nightfall enabled most turns, and the lifegain can be critical vs many decks. A dark returned Rindra is a potent midrange card, being able to profitably attack into a sandstorm titan. Screaming a Rindra is very often just a 6 point burn spell that gains your 4 life. Later I will refer to the “burn” gameplan in Scream decks, and Rindra is a key component of that plan.
Torgov is a card from Omens of the Past, and people tried to find a deck for him many times, but it never really worked out. After a couple sets of buffs, with his ability moving down to 10 cards in the void, he became a solid inclusion in Scream decks. Tatavath and theovermaster were the first to utilize him competitively in Scream decks. We have many early cards to play, so can fairly quickly fill our void to 10 cards, and a 4 power 7/8 is almost always the biggest unit on the board. Torgov’s "loot" ability is nice to have when he connects, but we rarely rely on it. His main use is being a cheap big body, and a huge Scream target. When we are going for maximum damage, Torgov is the go to Scream target. He enables some of the turns where we can easily hit for 15 damage from an empty board.
Scream decks typically run zero basic sigils, instead opting for Waystones. With so many dual power sources, we can turn on the effects fairly easily.
Granite Waystone provides many of the same benefits as Grenadin Drone. It’s a good Combust/Devour target, chump blocker, and another go wide attacker if necessary. The fact that the Grenadin goes to hand also allows it to be discarded by Observer or Strategize if we like the rest of our cards.
Cobalt Waystone provides some much needed face Aegis. This can protect us from Sabotage, Rain of Frogs, Azindel’s Gift, and some face damage. It’s important to know what matchups to save Cobalt Waystone for, and in what matchups the face Aegis doesn't matter.
Amethyst Waystone provides another source of nightfall. Our deck has a large amount of Night synergy, and we certainly enjoy having the extra card draw. The little bit of extra Nightfall damage can often mean the difference between winning and losing the game, so always take it into account when trying to find lethal.
Most Scream lists now are running 11 crests. Crests allow us to dig for combo pieces, improve our draws late game, and provide multiple influence early to get all of our power. Most decks cannot afford to run this many crests, but we can because of the substantial amount of cheap interaction we run, and because we don’t need to curve out aggressively most of the time.
Most Scream lists fill the last few power spots with Banners and Diplomatic Seal. Seats are useless to us because we don’t have any basic sigils. After experimenting with Diplomatic seal, it seems like running 2 is correct. We need FPPSS most games, so we don’t want to draw too many, but having 2 helps smooth out the early power.
This first list is all of the cards I consider to be “core” to Scream lists. You will see all of these cards in at least this number in just about every Scream deck. If you’re trying to build a version, this is a great place to start.
This list is the one that I see most on ladder, and is the one I have to talk people out of playing almost every day on discord. It plays maximum combo pieces and card draw to only run Gorgon Fanatic and Beastcaller as Scream targets. This deck is very linear and has very little flexibility in its gameplan if you don’t draw combo pieces. It is the most “highroll” Scream deck, allowing you to quickly get a Beastcaller or Fanatic through and cycle through the deck very quickly to find additional recursion. Unfortunately, it is very easy to hate out through silences and fast removal, and you easily get run over if you can’t execute the Scream gameplan quickly enough. One of the major upsides to this list is the cost: it runs zero legendaries and 14 rares. It is reasonably competitive on ladder, and is best when aggro decks are popular.
This list is what is considered the “standard” list at the moment. It was pioneered and used prominently by theovermaster in the final week of Team League season 2. It’s very flexible to be altered to attack different metas so it is rarely going to be very bad. Key additions to the “core” in this list are Rindra, Direwood Beastcaller, and Nocturnal Observer. The deck also plays Levitate and Permafrost as additional ways to clear the board for Beastcaller and Fanatic.
EDIT: This decklist became popular after the initial release of the article. It was popularized by NotoriousGHP in an ETS Weekly. It plays similarly to the other Scream decks listed, but with an additional emphasis on the "burn" plan.
To close the decklist section, this is the list I’m currently running. Beastcaller has been cut to make space for Torgov. Beastcaller shines against aggro decks, but those are basically nowhere to be seen right now, so he has been removed for better options. Torgov is a house in midrange matchups, allowing us to often have the largest unit on the board. He is also a huge burst of damage with Scream.
All of these decklists should not just be taken as the “end-all” Scream decks. You should experiment with the alternate cards I listed above to find the best way to attack your current metagame.
Finally, it’s time to talk about gameplay. Unfortunately, I can’t just tell you how to play Scream well. It’s an incredibly difficult deck to play and each game provides unique challenges.
A common discussion among Scream players is how to define the archetype that Scream decks fit in. There are a lot of differing answers to the question, though I would call it a combo-control deck. The reason the archetype is so difficult to define is that the deck can play radically different gameplans depending on the matchup, your draws, and how the deck is built. Below I have outlined the different gameplans I try to execute at various points in the game.
Plan A: Develop/Draw cards
Plan B: Aggro
Plan C: Control
Plan A: Combo
Plan B: Control
Plan C: Midrange
Plan D: Aggro
Plan A: Combo
Plan B: Burn
Plan C: Control
Plan D: Midrange
Plan A: Burn
Plan B: Scream
Plan C: Go Wide
Plan D: Go Big
In the early game, your first priority is to set up your power and look for Scream combo pieces (Gorgon, Rindra, Scream, etc.). If you aren’t being pressured, try to draw cards. Some hands can play like an aggro deck. If you draw multiple Grenadin Drones or if your opponent is stuck on power, try to gain an early damage advantage. Even if your opponent can eventually answer the early aggression, it makes it easier to end the game later on. Against aggressive decks, your main goal is to survive using blockers and removal. Often playing a Gorgon or Beastcaller out is enough to force your opponent to hold back blockers, and Gorgon will often trade with an early threat from aggressive decks.
In the early game, you need to determine very quickly if you are the beatdown or not. The concept of "who's the beatdown" is that in every game you need to identify if you need to be the attacker or defender and play accordingly. If you choose the wrong role, it will very quickly lead to losing the game. Scream decks can vary in what role they take by matchup, but also by your starting hand. Even against the same deck, your role can drastically vary depending on how you draw. It is vital to determine your role early and identify when you need to change roles in order to succeed with the deck. Try to determine what deck the opponent is playing, and figure out if your hand has inevitability against their deck. If so, you should play a slower defender oriented game. If you don't have inevitability, you need to try and apply pressure as soon as possible.
In the mid game, Scream is at its most flexible. This also means that there are a multitude of opportunities for misplays. The mid game occurs once you have your power established and are working on your gameplan, around turns 3-6. Your role can change turn by turn, and it’s important to keep checking the board state, your cards in hand, and what you can infer about your opponent’s cards in hand to change your role whenever necessary. I will often find that my role in the mid game is somewhat determined by my draws. If you don’t draw a Haunting Scream, you are forced to play a control/midrange game and either aim to win that way or try to keep cycling to find Screams.
One of the benefits to the Rindra/Torgov lists is the ability to play a decent midrange game and recur big threats with Dark Return. This way, you do not need to rely on drawing Scream. At this point in the game, if you are in a matchup without board clears (Harsh rule/Hailstorm) it is normally beneficial to try and build a wide board to prepare for a burst of damage later in the game. I will quite often play out Gorgons and Beastcallers to a stalled board because they force worse blocks from my opponent’s later in the game, and opponents will play around Levitate/Madness combos due to the fear of Infiltrate units.
Your late game plan does not change very substantially from the mid game. I’m defining late game as when both decks are able to fully execute their gameplan and have around 6+ power. The biggest change in the outline above is the inclusion of the “burn” plan. As the game progresses, Scream decks turn into a burn combo deck, utilizing Nightfall, small units, Madness, and large Scream targets to hit your opponents for huge amounts of burst damage. The longer the game goes, the more you have to rely on the burn plan to finish the game. At this point in the game, you should constantly be looking for lethal through various burn and combos, making sure to count Nightfall damage. Many games come down to just a few points of damage, so it is critical to look for every point of damage you can.
Ending the Game
As the game goes extremely long, most of our other gameplans fall off, so we have to focus almost completely on finding ways to burn our opponent out. Failing that plan, we have to try and build a large board, either by going wide with many small units or by playing our larger units to try and go over our opponent’s threats. At this point, saving Madness and removal spells in hand is crucial as our win-con is to find a way to sneak damage through in ways that our opponent doesn’t expect.
Every game with Scream decks provides unique challenges and board states. Take the time to think through each turn to make sure you consider all available options. The correct line can be very difficult (if not impossible) to determine, so make sure you consider the outcomes of each play.
Scream decks have been the most fun I’ve had playing Eternal, and I keep coming back to them due to the huge variety in games and decisions. Each game is different, and there is always a new puzzle to solve. I still make misplays in just about every game, and still manage to enjoy them (and even occasionally win!).
I've seen a lot of people adopting (or raging about) Scream recently, and I'm hoping that my thoughts helped you understand the deck a little bit better!
Many thanks to NotoriousGHP and theovermaster for talking through and theorycrafting Scream with me, to Paradox for his help with editing, and to my team for help with editing and testing a bunch of very bad Scream decks. This article would not exist without all of their help!