Patch 25.6 came with the new expansion announcement and the traditional free login reward Legendary card that gives us a taste of things to come. This time, the free card is E.T.C., Band Manager, which brings a unique sideboard-like mechanic to Hearthstone!
In other card games, like Magic, a sideboard is a separate stack of cards that is not part of your deck. When you play a best-of-three match, you can swap cards between your main deck and your sideboard after the first game, but you must start each match with your main deck. E.T.C. is not really a sideboard in the sense that you do not swap cards in and out between games, but it does give you access to some cards that are not considered to be a part of your main deck. This gives the mechanic a unique Hearthstone twist.
In this article, I will take a look at how good the new card is, share all the best tricks for using it, and showcase some decks that have used it to a good effect.
Everything You Need to Know About E.T.C., Band Manager
When you build a deck with E.T.C., Band Manager, you get to choose three additional cards. These cards are not part of your main deck. They are E.T.C.’s band, from which E.T.C. will Discover a card when played.
The cards that you put in E.T.C.’s band must follow the regular deck-building rules as if they were part of your deck. This means that you cannot add a second copy of a Legendary card that is already in your deck to the band. You also cannot bypass rules like the Death Knight’s Rune system: the cards in the band must fit the Runes you have chosen for your deck. Nonetheless, the cards are not considered to be a part of your deck for effects that rely on such information.
There are also some specific restrictions in place. Notably, you cannot add any cards with a Start of Game effect to the band. All variants of Galakrond are also disallowed for the time being, as Blizzard ran into some issues with them being in the band. Galakronds are expected to be enabled later on, while the Start of Game effect cards are out for good because of game mechanics.
However, there are various soft rules that you can break with the band. For example, there are no rules against using duplicate cards in a deck with Reno Jackson. You can hide your duplicates in the band and thereby sneak them into your deck without affecting Reno’s effect! Another similar use is putting Holy spells in E.T.C. in a Darkbishop Benedictus deck. The Holy spells are safely hidden from Benedictus, who will happily grant you the power of Shadow. Likewise, nothing prevents you from adding odd-cost cards into a Genn Greymane deck. You just don’t want to do that because then Genn’s effect will be lost. E.T.C. offers a way to bypass this restriction, as you can hide odd-cost cards within E.T.C. and still play an Even deck. Because E.T.C. itself costs four mana, this does not work quite as well with Baku the Mooneater. Sad times for Odd deck enjoyers.
The main use for E.T.C. is to enable flexibility for your deck. You can add various tech cards and win conditions to the band and then pick the right one for the matchup. Just remember to add something useful for every matchup! Adding three niche tech cards means that your E.T.C. is still just a niche tech card. Adding two niche tech cards and a generally useful card means that there is always something for you to Discover from the band.
Note that you can Discover each member of the band only once. If you Shadowstep and replay E.T.C., you will only have two options left, and if you are able to play E.T.C. four times, there will be nothing left to Discover on the last attempt.
Now that we have had a couple of days to play with E.T.C., it has become clear that it is mostly a card for slower decks in the Standard format. Aggressive, even midrange decks can struggle to benefit enough from E.T.C., but control decks and possibly combo decks rejoice at the variety of options E.T.C. enables them to have. In Wild, E.T.C. also has another use to bypass soft deck-building restrictions to get some sweet power cards into your deck.
Standard: Blood Death Knight with E.T.C.
In Standard format, the most natural home for E.T.C. seems to be Blood Death Knight.
There are two ways that the card has been used in the archetype. Otsuna built a Reno Blood Death Knight and added most of the duplicates into E.T.C.’s band:
In this deck, the band consists of Hematurge, Asphyxiate, and Blood Boil. Just some of the good stuff you want anyway, conveniently tucked away so that they do not interfere with Reno Jackson‘s healing power.
On the other hand, E.T.C. just looks like a good fit to Blood Death Knight overall. Thijs played this list on stream, and it is perhaps the strongest E.T.C. deck in Standard right now according to the early statistics:
Standard: Quest Druid with E.T.C.
Ramp Druid is another natural home for E.T.C. in the Standard format. The decks that Thijs played on stream have been the first ones to gain traction and this looks like another potential one:
Standard: #1 Legend Thief Rogue with E.T.C.
Thief Rogue is a flexible deck, although statistics have never been kind to the archetype. At best, it hovers at around a 50% win rate, but players seem to love it anyway. There are just so many things that you can do with the deck and the vast quantity of options and different games seems to outweigh the mediocre performance. With the addition of E.T.C., Thief Rogue has even reached #1 Legend!
The band here consists of Potionmaster Putricide, Crabatoa, and Theotar, the Mad Duke. There’s a tech option and a couple of alternative win conditions here that can help you pivot into just the right direction in a game.
At this time, statistics are still not kind to Thief Rogue. This deck is a tiny bit below a 50% win rate on the ladder overall. Still, it is close enough to be playable, if the playstyle is something you enjoy.
Wild: A Sideboard OTK from MarkMcKz
Wild offers a lot more options for E.T.C., Band Manager. For example, there are many cards that interact with cards that did not start in your deck. As E.T.C.’s band is not part of your deck in this sense, you can activate multiple effects by putting cards into it. One such option is this – admittedly meme-like – OTK deck with Princess Talanji from MarkMcKz.
The band here consists of Archmage Vargoth, Malygos, and Prophet Velen. For the OTK, you want to get all members of the band into your hand and summon them with Princess Talanji. Then, you are just a Mind Blast away from victory.
This might not be a ladder deck for climbing, but it does demonstrate the range of potential E.T.C. has.
Wild: Even Shaman from MartianBuu
MartianBuu has also demonstrated the capabilities of E.T.C. in Wild with multiple deck ideas. In this Even Shaman deck, E.T.C. is used to add odd-cost cards to the list while still keeping Genn’s effect active:
The band comprises Grand Totem Eys'or, Bloodlust, and Windshear Stormcaller. Granted, these choices might be a bit on the cute side and you could consider just running Loatheb in the band in pretty much every Wild Even deck.
How Good is E.T.C., Band Manager?
So far, E.T.C. has been OK. It is not a superstar, especially in the Standard format, but there are some viable ways to use it. I expect it to see play in the new expansion, especially in control decks.
The card actually looks stronger in Wild than in Standard! There are more soft deck-building restrictions in Wild, and E.T.C. can help you bypass them (especially by putting odd-cost cards into an even deck). This makes it more attractive also for midrange decks. We are only at the beginning of the band management journey in Hearthstone, and there are lots of things to test in Wild. Perhaps you put a Skulking Geist in your band? Maybe the Jade Druid will respond by hiding one of the Jade Idols in their band? It will take some time to figure out what this all means for Wild.
The new expansion may also bring restrictions that E.T.C. can bypass or combos that it can enable to the Standard format. It did not significantly change the Standard meta, but it has a role to play in that format as well and it looks like a fine addition to the game overall.