This article is a love letter to the Harmony archetype, whether you play it with Precision Strike, Guerilla Tactics, and, well, probably Call of Harmony. Harmony often feels like a catch-all archetype for Scoia’Tael, a misfit collection of dwarves, elves, dryads, treants, and other misfits within the faction. Somehow, they all come together to form a whole that is greater than its parts, and it is a deck that has a surprising amount of flexibility and can take many players off guard. Suffice to say; it warms the cockles of my bleeding SJW heart.
How Does Harmony Play?
Harmony is simple in concept. “Boost self by 1 or the specified amount whenever you play a Scoia’Tael unit whose primary category is unique among all your units.”
There are nine primary categories in the faction: Dryad, Elf, Dwarf, Treant, Beast, Human, Witcher, Dragon, and War Machine. So, if you play an Elf and there are no other Elves on the board currently, any units with Harmony will boost themselves. A Harmony deck will compound each turn, as long as you can keep playing unique categories.
Generally speaking, most Harmony decks are going to be somewhat Dryad heavy. If for no other reason than carrying the Harmony keyword, most decks will include Dryad Fledglings, Dryad Rangers, and Waters of Brokilon. In addition to boosting, Harmony typically relies on poison for tall removal. Dryad Rangers and the Weeping Willow come with Poison and Harmony, so it is a natural fit to include a few other poison-oriented cards to make sure you can get the necessary stacks.
Harmony can be a tricky and rewarding deck to play, as there is a heavy emphasis on unit sequencing. The deck needs to balance playing unique categories to score points and interrupting your opponent’s combos to win.
Why Play Harmony In This Day and Age?
Many players remember a time not that long ago when Harmony was king, and Francesca was the queen of all with her ability to play Waters of Brokilon two times! Harmony has been power crept significantly since those days, and it remains today a seldom seen Scoia’Tael archetype. That said, Harmony is still capable of holding its own, and it provides a rewarding experience to pilot; I find the deck to be more enjoyable than Symbiosis, Movement, Traps, or even Dwarfs.
The first draw of Harmony is that the deck is capable in most situations. It plays engine heavy and can typically hold its own in a long round, but at the same time, it has a deceptively powerful short round thanks to its leader ability. Waters of Brokilon combined with the Leader Ability will slam 17 points and put three engines on the board, often taking a short round 3 by storm.
Overall, the deck plays very much like a jack of all trades, master of none. You have some removal but need to be careful when to play it. You have solid engines but nothing that can compete with real engine decks. Decent enough point slam, but again, not the best. You get the idea. Each game with harmony is thus unique to the matchup.
That said, the deck relies on being competent in a short round quite a bit. Recent expansions have seen the release of a glut of potent cards and combos that you cannot beat unless you bleed them out. Lined Pockets with Tunnel Drill, Blaze of Glory with Eist, allowing these combos to play in round 3 will likely result in defeat. Similarly, decks like Eldain traps thrive on a long final round. These matchups create s disproportionate pressure to winning round one, with the usual caveats of knowing when to bow out if your opponent has overcommitted. It can be complicated!
Unlike other Scoia’Tael decks, which build themselves to a degree based around a keyword, Harmony needs to play a bit faster and looser with what cards it includes. Cards with the Harmony ability, of course, are necessary, but once you have included those, you want a couple, but not too many, of each different primary category. That said, there are a few noteworthy cards that have stood out to me as tech pieces.
Gezras: Witcher is a unique category, and Gezras represents a lot of points. Not only does he do his usual thing where he buffs the entire back row, but he will also generally trigger every unit with Harmony as well.
Barnabas: Gnome is a rare category, and he can play for 12 + Harmony Triggers. He is a solid point slam and benefits exactly the diverse type of deck Harmony is.
Dennis Cranmer: Dennis is most useful as a discount Gezras. He plays for a surprising amount of points when considering harmony procs and can be helpful in either the melee or ranged rows, depending on the board state.
Toruviel: She is crucial for staying competitive with Arachas Swarm. Her ability to damage all units on a row by 1, if timed right, can clear out an entire row of tokens before the Swarm has an opportunity to start buffing them.
Ida Emean aep Sivney: She recently enjoyed a slight buff, and at 6 provisions, she provides a critical purify, and if you don’t need to purify, she can give a unit 4 vitality instead. Purify helps combat defenders and can purify Joachim to prevent an opponent from using Coup on him.
Forest Whisperer: This card has grown on me in the deck, she can be helpful to make sure you have enough poison to complete a stack, or she can play into the ranged row to give a shield to help a more vulnerable harmony engine stick.
Strategy and Tactics
The basic game flow of Harmony is to overpower the opponent in round 1 with multiple harmony engines, then bleeding round two to disrupt any combos that you won’t be able to deal with, and finally point slamming in a short round 3 with your leader ability.
Generally speaking, Harmony has a tough matchup with most meta decks in a long round 3. Especially in Devotion Harmony decks where saving Heatwave for a scenario isn’t an option. There are exceptions to this rule, like against Viy decks where you need to force as long a round 3 as possible, and of course, there will be times when an opponent overcommits themselves in round 1 with their leader ability or additional gold cards.
Generally speaking, you want to play Percival in round 1, where your opponent will be less likely or willing to use premium removal to kill him. It is usually a good idea to play a few other cards first to get a feel for your opponent’s deck and play Percival as soon as it is safe(ish) to do so. If you are running Aen Seidhe Sabre, you will likely want to spring it the same turn you play Percival to take him out of 6 point removal range. Waters of Brokilon is preferable to play in round 3 because it sets up more engines which gives some protection against the potent control cards usually seen there. Waters of Brokilon into Call of Harmony plays for 17 points and puts three engines on the field, which can often jumpstart you into a powerful position. Of course, sometimes it won’t shake out like that, but the general rule of thumb is to play Percival and Waters in different rounds.
Let’s look at some of the specific matchups!
Arachas Swarm is a tough matchup because they can very quickly spiral out of control. Scoia’Tael, in general, is capable of teching against them effectively. While the Swarm is one of the most popular decks on the ladder, including several counters is necessary. Gezras is an auto-include in a harmony deck and will help the matchup, but you will need more than just Gezras. Toruviel, as discussed above, can clear out a line of bugs before they can get buffed, and Crushing Traps are flexible 6 point tools against the swarm. Arachas Swarm is far from an unwinnable matchup, but it is going to come down to how well both players draw and how effective you are in timing your Toruviel and Gezras plays.
On paper, this matchup looks bad… It is simple, right? Just outscore Safecrackers and Novigradian Justice in round one. Bleed out Drill AND Cleaver in round 2… and still have enough gas in the tank to beat Phillipa / Jacques / Gord in a short round 3. In practice, I found Lined Pockets was not a bad matchup for this deck. Harmony Engines will outpace Lined Pockets in round one, especially with a poison package taking out one of the Halfling Safecrackers. Generally speaking, Lined Pockets will need to commit the Tunnel Drill to kill your harmony engines to take the round from you. And if you bleed out the Tunnel Drill and most of their leader charges in round 1, you’ve done what you came to do and can generally bow out safely. In the short round 3, Waters into Leader is usually enough to outpace Jacques and Gord.
Overall, Harmony is a refreshing way to play the game, a mismatched band of units all working together into a sum greater than its parts. Each of your cards is a special snowflake, just like me, and they all have to work together to win. This type of deck isn’t as powerful or as flexible as other meta decks, but it still has the tools to find a line to victory. I would recommend giving it a try. Who knows, you might fall in love with the power of diverse friendships too!