Thursday, August 17, 2017

Reiya Cluster Starter Decks - My Thoughts



Howdy ya'll, long time no speak. I've been off the grid for a while, but now that we've seen all the starters for the new cluster, I figured I'd crawl out from the wood works to give my prestigious 2-cents on the matter. In this article, I'll aim to look at each deck in the context of the overall game as well as how they'll perform pitted against each other in a vacuum.

Light - Panda Power

Taegrus Pearlshine, Lord of the Mountain, -insert Game of Thrones joke/reference here-, Ruler for the light starter deck. FoW Inc has made it clear that each deck gets its own unique theme/mechanic, and the focus of the light deck is gems. Shiny, magical, valuable gems. I'm not 100% sure how they interact with other cards in the game, and how/if they can be destroyed, but to my understanding they're some sort of in-game entity that just... exist. Kind of like an energize token. Taegrus obviously doesn't have enough of them, as you can tell by his art, so the goal of his deck is to mine more. Pretty much all of his slaves resonators work to that goal by creating gems of different attributes. Taegrus doesn't have the best stats, being the weakest of all the starter deck Rulers, and can consume your gems for a stat buff or to gain flying. Honestly this is a Ruler that will probably need to wait for his sealed ability, since he isn't too magnificent on his own. Apparently he spent too much time working on his outfit and not enough on his effects.

Most of the cards in his deck are pretty basic. The humans create gems and the Panda Pals use those to get minor effects. The cards featured in the deck are your basic vanilla monsters that gain keywords (Precision, Flying, and Swiftness) depending on what attributes of gems you have. They're really nothing too special, but the big beater of the deck, Diamond, can give Barrier to cards and gives your field a blanket buff each time you get a gem. You might have some trouble getting him to stick, but once he's on the field, you can keep him alive with his Barrier effect, and a couple gem-generating effects can let him get out of hand fast. The deck has a spell that can RFG a resonator for the cost of two gems, but it only works at chant speed so it doesn't have too much utility. The true power of the deck lies in the Jewel Sword and Jewel Shield cards, which will give your monster a slight buff, create a gem, then give them a larger buff based on the attributes of your gems. These are a great way to reach for a little more damage to close out the game, as well as generate more gems.

Among the starter decks, this one feels a little lacking. Its only form of removal is chant-speed and consumes two gems, so you can't react to your opponents big beaters very well. Diamond, the big resonator of the deck, doesn't have flying so it'll be easier to block. The deck seems to want to play a wide game, with a handful of resonators that Diamond can buff, and it can make a surprisingly long reach for game with the Jewel Sword spell. Taegrus himself is the weakest stat-wise of all the Rulers, and consumes gems to gain effects/stats that some of the others have passively.

Looking at the bigger picture, I really like the gem mechanic. It leaves room for FoW to print cards that require different attributes to work. We could see something that gains increasing effects based on the number of attributes among your gems, encouraging a deck that can generate all colors of gems. We could see some cards that want X number of a certain attribute, leading to decks that tunnel vision one color of gem. Or maybe a card that needs a certain number of gems in general, so a gem turbo build could emerge. There's a ton of potential here that I'm excited to see.

Fire - Dinosaurs Dragons Dragonoids

I'm gonna be honest, I have a huge bias for this deck. Dinosaurs are hands-down my most favorite theme in any card game I've played, and I was overjoyed when I heard FoW was introducing them this cluster. I'm a little sad they're nothing more than a side-race so far, but I have hope. The red deck focuses on "Strength counters", which it uses like Mana counters to help cast its spells and use resonator abilities. The Ruler, Kirik Rerik, starts with ten of them and can replenish the stash by tapping or flipping. 
The deck has a lot of synergy with itself. One card straight-up gives you a few counters, while there are two resonators that recover your resonator so you don't have to give up calling a stone in order to refuel your counters. There are a couple of basic starter deck cards (the pig and the dinosaur) that do generic beatdown/minor burn effects which likely won't see any real play, but there are worse things to fill space with. Good stand-alone, beatdown cards are nice in a starter deck-only format. The Ruler has a support card in the form of Kirk's Partner, a 3-drop resonator with flying that also gives your J-Ruler flying and lets you recycle one of the spells. It has mediocre stats for a 3-drop, but the +1 and giving flying to your J-Ruler almost make it worth it. The big beater resonator is a 1500/1500 monster that can't do anything unless you feed two strength counters to it, but those are easy enough to replenish, and it hits hard. The chants are the real stars of this deck, all being very low in cost but requiring a huge investment of your strength counters. There's a quickcast stat booster (1000/1000 ain't no joke), a quickcast burn removal, and a blanket burn that only works at chant speed.

In a SD-only format, this deck looks like it can steam roll. The chants are cheap enough that you can use them early, and provide a form of removal on the opponent's turn that allows you to answer anything problematic. It has spot removal and mass-removal, as well as a massive steroid to reach for game. The amount of flying the deck has access to means other starters will be hard-pressed to deal with your threats.

Looking at the cluster going forward, a good chunk of this deck looks good. The Battle Arts chants are strong, Kirik himself is impactful, and the Strength Counter mechanic looks to allow red to be aggressive early by giving you an alternative cost mechanic to play strong cards and effects.

Water - Make it Rain

Obvious joke out of the way, the water deck focuses on the new weather mechanic, creating a "rain" state that your cards benefit off of. Honestly, the deck looks like its the weakest of the five from a mechanics point of view. Most of the cards in it get a minor stat boost while its raining, and overall the deck feels full of cards with very decent effects that are locked behind an artificial pacing mechanic. The Ruler only makes it rain during your turn, and can search out a card called "Weather Change: Rain" that can turn the weather into rain during the opponent's turn, allowing your weak cards to become normal cards and "surprise" the opponent. Unfortunately, this card becomes obsolete if/when you flip, since Shaela's J-Ruler side makes it rain all the time. At the cost of invalidating a card she's supposed to have synergy with, you'd think Shaela's J-Ruler form would bring a lot to the party. Unfortunately, she let's you draw a card on enter and that's it. From there, she's a moderately beefy non-flier that gives you a permanent rain state.
The big beaters in the deck are The White Whale, a 3-drop with inflated stats that can't attack or block unless it's raining, and Wave Rider Mermaid, who becomes a 12/12 flier that can rest resonators on your opponent's turn while its raining. Cleansing Rain is a quickcast chant that bounces a resonator, or puts it on top of the deck if it's raining. Stormbolt is a modal chant with three different options, allowing you to pick all three if its raining. The fact that it prevents the damage a J/resonator would deal but ISN'T quickcast honestly confuses me.

All-in-all, the deck has a cute gimmick while you're sitting on your Ruler, letting you cards get slightly stronger during your turn and including a card that lets you surprise the opponent by making rain during their turn to momentarily buff your cards when they try to make plays. When you flip into your J-Ruler, the deck looks like it'll become a stagnant vanilla beatdown without any true plays to make or mechanics to master. The rain buffs are very minuscule and are hardly worth discussing, although the mechanic itself isn't awful. If there was a little more variance in the rain-vs-non-rain power, the deck would be cool. Instead of having a 5/5 vanilla 2-drop that becomes 7/7 during your turn, it would have been neat to see a 4/4 vanilla 2-drop that becomes 8/8 while it rains, or something like that. Make them legitimately weaker while there isn't rain, and reasonably stronger while it is raining. Your deck would have a very weak early game that you would need to play around with using Weather Change (or bluffing it), and when you're able to flip, your deck's power is permanently unlocked.

This gives me hope for the support in the real set. Starter decks generally only give you a small taste of the mechanics, so maybe we'll get cards with worthwhile rain effects in the set itself. The weather mechanic certainly has potential, and there are a number of directions FoW could take it. In an SD-only format, the deck isn't in too bad of a place either. As boring and vanilla as it is, Cleansing Rain and Wave Rider Mermaid offer strong stall options to keep the opponent's resonators from getting out of hand. Wave Rider and White Whale are huge beaters, with the Mermaid gaining flying and the ability to remove flying blockers.

Wind - Ancient Magic, but not really

Gill is the Ruler for the green deck and, surprisingly, plays a lot like Alhama'at did. Spirit Magic is obviously an allusion to Ancient Magic, but unlike the Luminaries where you build up your mana counters to blow on one big spell, this deck plays more like Gill Alhama'at where you'd want to use your counters slowly to play a lot of smaller spells over the course of the game. This Gill only gives you one extra mana per turn, but that allows you to play your Spirit Magics for free, or just above your curve. You also need Elementals in your grave to generate this extra will, so you need a constant flow of dead resonators to keep the engine going.

The deck itself flows fairly well. There are a handful of cards that dump Elementals into your grave to get your engine started, although the large Elf component of the deck seems a tad out of place. Cecil Letoliel is your big resonator bomb, who goes from a 5 drop to a 2 drop depending on how many Elementals you've dumped into the grave, and he buffs all the Elementals you have on your field. This is a bit counter intuitive, since you want your Elementals in the grave and not in play, but later on in the game you should have more than enough fuel in your graveyard to last you the rest of the game.

In a closed format of only starter decks, this one really falls flat. It has the only cancel spell in the five decks, but it has no actual removal or flying cards, while the heavy hitters in the other decks are all fliers. This means you're kind of left high and dry if the opponent manages to play something with flying. Gill has Barrier, so he's immune to any destruction or debuffs the other decks could throw at him, but aside from generating his one extra will a turn, he's a vanilla 11/11, as is most of the rest of the deck. A huge chunk of the resources in the deck are devoted to either being an Elemental, or getting one to the grave, while the only Spirit Magic cards in the deck are a cancel, a 6/6 buff, and a cantrip. The deck works well, it just doesn't really work towards anything, nor can it interact very much with the other decks.

Looking at the big picture, Spirit Magic obviously has the potential to be a strong mechanic. Free will is always good. It just needs some Elementals that are good as stand-alone cards, and a chant or two that is worth ramping into. 

Darkness - The Tits-ular Character

Here we have Reiya, the girl the cluster is named after, and the fourth daughter of Mikage that we were all waiting for last cluster to salvage the Vampire theme. Looks like she just abandoned her family, and I honestly don't blame her. Her sisters never really amounted to much. Like her father, Reiya focuses on stacking counters, although she operates more like Kirik in how she spends them. Unlike Strength Counters, Mystery Counters aren't nearly as easy to generate, although the cards that use them don't demand quite as many counters in order to go off.
The darkness deck is overall slower than the red one at making counters. Reiya only starts with one, only gets one for flipping or tapping, her stone only gives one, and the only main deck source of mystery counters has to die in order to get one. You definitely have to use your counters sparingly in this deck, but the cards that use them are very impactful. Reiya is a Stoning to Death for just one counter, there is a 1-cost chant that, for two mystery counters, can force your opponent to discard two cards. If your first stone is Reiya's special stone, you can force your opponent to start the game with only 3 cards in hand. Sword of the Half Moon costs two will and two mystery counters to give something -6/-6 and return to your hand, and Sword of the New Moon costs one will and one counter to become another Stoning to Death.

The resonators in the deck largely focus on a vanilla beatdown strategy, as with pretty much every other starter deck, and Grimm is your heavy hitter. For a 4-drop, he gives you 9/9 in stats, flying, and lets you recycle a resonator on-enter. He also has a built-in gravity effect that hits all of your opponent's cards, scaling with the number of Fairy Tales you control. It strays from the Vampire motif of the deck, but since Reiya doesn't really need Vampires like Mikage, you have a ton of leeway here. Grimm is a very impactful card, and can use his effect to clear out weenie blockers, or get over a flying blocker that would otherwise kill him.

This is certainly a deck that forces you to think the game all the way through. If you blow all of your mystery counters early you're screwed, but if you use them to strategically eliminate your opponent's pivotal plays, you'll have the game in the bag. It's certainly one of the stronger starter decks, especially in an SD-only format, right up there with the red deck. Hopefully we'll get more consistent ways to generate mystery counters later on, but that's really all Reiya wants. Including something like Flute's Pet Dragon to allow her to call a stone AND generate a mystery counter every turn is going to be a must-include, unless the new set brings a better option.

And that's all she wrote, folks! Long story short, I'm super excited for this cluster. The starter decks, while they may not be the best, are definitely on a more even playing field than some in the past, and their core mechanics are all very solid and leave plenty of room to improve on in the coming sets. And since FoW has confirmed fewer Rulers/themes, and larger set sizes, on top of continued support for these decks throughout the cluster, I have very high hopes for them. If anything, their sealed abilities alone will be able to fill in most of the holes they seem to have.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Destiny - My Hopes for Destiny 2

This is bit of a break from the norm for me on here, but the Age of Triumph update and the Destiny 2 Announcement really has me hyped. Today I want to do a fairly in-depth rundown of everything I'm hoping to see change going into Year 4 and the next base game. Tl;dr, this is a lot of stuff.

Separate but Equal: PvE and PvP

This really needs to happen. PvP consistently drags down the PvE experience due to the need to balance guns and perks. The whole point of the PvE experience, and one of the highlights of the game, is how powerful it makes you feel and how unique the battle mechanics work instead of being a mundane FPS. Supers, melees/grenades, and exotic armors/weapons all allow for a ton of neat mechanics to be introduced to the game, but are held back by the fact that they could (and would) break PvP in half. Take the Cauterize nerf for example: The perk just feels hobbled in PvE, and I can't save my bacon with it now nearly as well as I could before. I get that it was strong in PvP, but this just goes to illustrate my point. Crucible and Patrol are almost different games, and I feel that Bungie needs to start treating them as such.

The downside to this? Cross-play. In the game right now, you can hop into the Crucible with whatever guns you've been grinding for in PvE and go to town. If you needed an entirely new loadout, even if you're max light and have every raid weapon available, you'd need to start from the very beginning again, and that would just discourage people from playing. I'm a huge fan of a CoD-style rank-up-to-unlock-guns model for the Crucible, where Bungie has a roster of pre-created guns that the Crucible allows. Ranking up in Crucible would allow you access to higher tiered guns and armor sets. Of course, hopping over from PvE means you'd be starting from the bottom and playing against people who have everything available. There would need to be some conversion from PvE to PvP, maybe having beaten a Raid will give you access to a certain tier of Crucible weapons. Or maybe Crucible weapons can still drop in the overworld, like any regular weapon, and finding them gives you access to them in the Crucible. Bungie, as a multi-million dollar company, could certain flesh this out a lot better than I ever could.

Exotics

I made a reddit post about this already here. The rundown is that exotics really don't feel exotic at all, since a good majority of them never actually see use and even more give bland "upgrades" like "Have another grenade" or "Have another punch." Or even "Run slightly faster." As mentioned above, they can't get but so gimmicky/cool since that would break PvP, but since this article is assuming Bungie separates the two as per above, exotics have a lot more freedom. I also assume that since Destiny 1's engine is so awful, they can't reasonably put some of their ideas into practice. Again, we'll be making the assumption the new engine isn't garbage.

Exotics are what we grind for. They're the pinnacle of rarity, the cream of the crop, and their use needs to reflect that. We need some crazy perks like "your character can stick to walls" or "all your melee attacks are on fire and deal way more damage." Things you can base entire builds around. I go into a lot more detail in the reddit post, but it boils down to the fact that exotics need to be way crazier and be in much lower supply. Three of Coins, while a necessary evil in the current game due to the huge number of exotics, needs to die. It devalues what exotics actually are, and we need more things like Outbreak Prime, Sleeper Simulant, Exotic Swords, Khvostov, and Black Spindle. Exotics we find by doing what we're supposed to do: Explore!

Engram Rarities

This isn't a HUGE issue, but it kind of bugs me. What's the point of anything other than an exotic engram? We don't even see whites anymore, greens are auto-decrypted, blues are just for farming cryptarch rank (which only gives you more blues), and even legendaries don't really serve a purpose anymore. I hope Destiny 2 will rejuvenate the rarities and give them all a place in the end-game. As mentioned above, I feel Three of Coins should cause legendaries to drop, which would follow the same rules that current exotic engrams follow where they decrypt at or above your current light level.

Weapon Perks and Perk Trees

Honestly, the way weapons work now is just awful. You run around doing activities, namely Crucible (which is the only place legendary weapons can reliably drop), and HOPE you get good randomly-generated perks on that weapon. Just one node off from your perfect roll? Sucks. Gotta try again, and you aren't any closer to it than when you started. I want to be able to forge weapons. What's the Gunsmith there for if not that?

The idea I have in mind is that you can bring him a gun you get from a drop. It could totally suck, but it might have one perk you want. The Gunsmith would dismantle the weapon (not giving you any weapon parts or glimmer), and hold on to that one node. Do this with a ton of weapons, and then ask him to forge a gun using selected perk nodes you've scavenged. It's still a little RNG, but it's much less all-or-nothing, and a little grind is always healthy for a game. The Gunsmith could have a variety of weapon frames to pick from, and you could mix-and-match your perks as you please.

On the note of perks, they all need an overhaul. Forget crap like "Slight boost to range, add 2 bullets to your magazine size" vs "Reduced stability, slight boost to range". That's vague and most of the time doesn't matter anyway. If you're forging your own guns, we need perks like "Increased clip size by X" or "Increased stability by X", where each gun frame has base stats that can be altered by the perks you choose. The Scout Rifle frame you like has 5 perk slots? Maybe you want to throw in 5 "Increased stability" perks since you really like stable guns. Maybe you don't give a bother about stability and throw in 5 "Increased clip size" perks. Who cares if you can't hit anything if you have 100 bullets pre-loaded, right? That's what we need.

Elemental Damage

In the same vain as the perks, I think Bungie needs to take a good look at how elemental damage fits into the game. If I asked you right now why I needed elemental guns, what would you say? They serve two purposes, currently: 1) Break like-element shields, and 2) Do more damage during like-element burn modifiers. But you don't actually need a gun with the same element as a shield to break it (except in a few cases), so you can easily get away without a "proper" elemental lineup (which isn't even a thing). Right now it's really just "What burn is on this week?" This severely hinders future game design.

What if Bungie introduced a new element? Only the guns in whatever expansion that is would have those elements. Do the enemies here have that elemental shield? Looks like every other element just got the boot. Even if only 1 or 2 enemy types had that shield type, it probably wouldn't even be worth it to get those elemental weapons for the element alone.

What I feel the game needs is elemental properties. Instead of "Solar Damage kills red shields quicker, and does more damage when we say it does", we should have "Solar Damage applies dot effects to enemies" or "briefly sets affected areas on fire". Things inherent to the damage type itself. I know void already kind of does this, since killing an Exploder Shank with a void Titan punch causes them not to explode. Have enemies shot/affected by void damage momentarily have their abilities disabled. This would make having void weapons imperative against things like Hobgoblins, since they couldn't go invincible if you keep them under fire. This would also allow Bungie to introduce new elements as they please, since they would all have intrinsic use.

Make leveling up mean something

In vanilla Destiny, it was "Reach level 20, then reach level 30 with gear." Taken King dropped and revamped this system, where "Level" became tied to your XP and "Light Level" became tied to the average of your gear stats. A much better system, sure, but why even have level? The only real purpose it served was "You must be X level to wear this armor", which could just as easily be accomplished with something like "You must have X amount of light to wear this armor." Level isn't a real indicator of anything, since enemies are scaled using Light Level and we're given a "recommended light level" to go against them. In Destiny 2, I hope Bungie either abolishes Level altogether, or gives a meaning to it.

It could go into stats, like giving your character more armor, health, or even letting your weapons/super scale. You know, basic RPG leveling up. The issue with this is that you'd be locking yourself out of certain builds by permanently putting points into certain stats, and I don't know if Bungie would want to do that. It would certainly add more dynamics to your character.

NPCs

This is something I've heard everyone talking about. Give our NPCs more personality, more meaning. The change from vanilla Destiny to Taken King was drastic, and not just because of Cayde. Eris and even Ikora got more fleshed out and we have a much better idea of their personalities and character. But Destiny has a nasty case of "1 NPC follows you for the whole DLC"-syndrome. Dark Below? Eris was the one talking to you through every story mission. House of Wolves gave us Petra and Variks (who were the first real personalities we'd gotten), and while Taken King was dominated by Cayde, we got a ton of banter between him and the rest of the cast. The Taken War: [Planet] missions were all lead by different Vanguard heads, too, which was nice. Rise of Iron traded off between Saladin and Shiro, but both were fairly void of real personality and weren't up to the standards Taken King had set. For Destiny 2, I sincerely hope we get more of a focus on a variety of NPCs, and that they all get very well fleshed out.

Grimoire

You knew this was going to be here. I didn't want to write about it since its so obvious, but Bungie should definitely put the grimoire in-game. Or at least do a better job of introducing more of the larger story into the actual story. The Oryx portrayed in the main Taken King story absolutely pales in comparison to the Oryx dictated onto the pages of the Book of Sorrow. I read the Rise of Iron grimoires and had to re-read them again, because they almost felt like they contradicted the dialogue and story presented in the actual DLC (seriously, I hate the Rise of Iron storyline SO MUCH). And tons of players don't even know this information is out there.

Classes and Subclasses

This is the last bit I want to touch on, but also what I feel the most strongly about. Classes (Titan, Hunter, Warlock) are defined almost entirely by their supers, and really only by a few. In any true end-game activity, you won't see a Titan with anything but a Bubble. Warlocks are pretty much always rocking self-res, and Hunters are locked into Nightstalker aside from the few times Golden Gun is worth it. Outside of that, though, the classes don't play differently. There's a bit of leeway here, since you can't actually make "Pull the trigger, shoot the thing" feel different from class to class, but there are a lot more to characters than the guns they use. You also have to take into account that since most things are matchmaking, you can't force roles too much or else you could end up with 3 hyper-support players that can't actually deal damage and thus can't clear a strike. But there's still a ton of wiggle room here.

In-game, Titans are always told to "be the wall" and things like that. Warlocks are mystic bookworms that delve into the understanding of the unknown. Hunters are sly and sneaky. I've never felt any of that while playing the game. If I'm a Titan, make me an actual wall; make me tanky as all get-out, and let me wade through waves of enemies while my teammates do their thing. The sheer variety of supers doesn't help narrow down roles either: Titans have an AoE slam and chuck Hammers. They must be add clear, right? Wait, what's this bubble doing there then? Warlocks have a huge AoE bomb and Palpatine mode? Are... are they add clear too? Hunters take out a knife and kill things... so add clear? And get a shiny gun to kill 4 things? This arrow is cool though. The point is that there's no overarching theme or purpose to any of the sub-classes. Sunbreaker, Stormcaller, and Bladedancer are basically just clones of each other, and Strikes/Voidwalker are similar enough. Each class only has one "unique" subclass which, incidentally, tends to be their most-used ones. The problem is that when you're making a character, you aren't choosing what class you want, you're choosing what super you want.

My friends and I have talked about this, and we've come up with some good identities for each class. Titans are the "support", Warlocks are flashy, mystic, AoE wave clear, and Hunters are sneaky single-target damage. Titans could have taunts, pulling aggro away from the rest of the team, and expand on the idea of the bubble. Give them a ton of abilities that take pressure off the rest of the team while simultaneously beefing them up and giving them more survivability to deal with that aggro. Warlocks keep their magician theme, casting large spells and dealing with waves and waves of enemies. Hunters, never wanting to be seen, stay far away from the action and zero in on specific targets. I've got entire subclasses and abilities fleshed out for these, but that's for another time.

Another aspect of this would be class-specific guns. Guns are what you most use in the game, and having weapons only your class can use definitely helps flesh out and identity for you. Give Warlocks things like Flamethrowers, Chain Lightning Guns, things mimicking actual magic. Let Titans have Hammers, Shields, even Mini-Guns, things reminiscent of of their hands-on, punch-everything nature as well as their supposed unrivaled physical strength. Hunters can have Rail Guns, super-snipers that have ungodly range and power, or guns that lay traps, synergizing with their play style of staying out of the action. All these factors, and more, can all go into class creation in Destiny 2 and really make you think about what role you want to play.

That's all for now. I'm sure a lot of these won't be met, at least not in the way I want them to, but Bungie will probably fix just as many things that I haven't even thought of. Destiny 1 has been hampered by a sketchy, drama-laced release and a terribly, restrictive game engine. Even if half of these things aren't addressed, Destiny 2 is poised to be a much better and grander game than what we're used to, and I have absolutely no doubt that it will deliver. Bungie is a team of well-versed game designers who know what they're doing. For as bad as Destiny 1 started out, it's already come this far. I can't wait to see what Destiny 2 brings and where it goes.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

3 Most Forgotten Straight-Edges

Welcome back nerds and nerdettes, it's time for another opinion piece. Today I'll be discussing the forgotten Straight Edges of this format. I call them Straight Edges because they aren't quite Rulers, at least in the competitive sense. These are the Rulers that had promise or potential, but just didn't make a splash in the meta, or fell short in one or more areas. I'll only be addressing Lapis Cluster cards, since Alice was pretty hit and miss, and we're almost rid of those sets anyway.

Lunya, the Wolf Girl

Lunya, the Wolf GirlOne of the flagship cards of the cluster, Lunya is the starter deck Ruler for the red deck. The deck itself isn't bad, although it's one of the least competitive of the available decks, and I believe it's the only one that hasn't seen competitive play in some form or fashion. Mikage and Fiethsing were both top-tier Rulers (Fieth still is), Mercurius saw some rogue tops early in the CFC days, and the Fairy Tale core from Millium has seen one or two rogue tops in mono-light decks. Lunya, to my knowledge, is the only of these decks whose Ruler or core hasn't seen play at a major event. But why is that?

Lunya's design is based around aggro. On top of the standard Energize + Judgment that all Lapis Rulers have, her unique effect allows you to ping a resonator for 100 damage whenever one attack with one of your resonators. This is one of the only Ruler effects that encourages aggression, especially early aggression, and I personally like the way it plays off of red's theme in a unique way. It combo's with Demonflame very well, but there really aren't too many effects in the game that need things to be damaged. Unfortunately, the Ruler herself can't generate advantage without having attacking resonators, and resonator-reliant strategies always tend to die to meta/control decks.

Nyarlathotep, the True False LegendWhen you flip her is when she really loses her luster. 1200/800 aren't the worst stats, and exemplifies red's aggressive nature with an ATK-heavy stat distribution, and she has the flagship keyword of red, i.e. Swiftness. The downside to this is that she can die to double Artemis Bow, or Bow + Space-Time, which most 1000 DEF Rulers are just outside the range of. She also has the Limit keyword, so she won't remain on the field consistently. Her main effect is that she deals 800 damage to a resonator on-flip, and herein lies the problem. While she doesn't have to burn herself (and thus kill herself) if there isn't anything on the field, the ability is basically a worse Sylvia. The 'ole red dragon deals a whopping 1000 damage on enter, can hit J-Rulers with her burn, and recovers three stones whenever her damage kills something. Compare that to Lunya's meager 800 burn, with no extra benefits, and you see the mediocrity.

So how could we have remedied this? What would it take to push her into the light of the meta? Well, as far as her Ruler ability goes, I'm not sure we need too much improvement. She's a bit of a lackluster Mikage, and while you don't have to pay for her burn, it's much less flexible. Maybe if her burn was 200, or even 300 (although that's pushing it a bit), to be able to kill off most chump blockers and mana dorks. If red had more effects that synergized with having damaged cards, like Demonflame, then she'd be stronger. Her J-Ruler side needs a bit of an overhaul, though. The idea is to flip her, burn something, then swing in (letting her Limit counters drop), flip back to a Ruler, then flip again to burn something else. It's a cute strategy, but not a terribly viable one, especially for a whopping 4 judgment cost (well above curve for the rest of the Rulers in this cluster). If she had a more impactful flip, like Melgis 2.0, then she'd be a lot stronger. Or a much cheaper judgment and only Limit 1, to immediately flip back. As she stands now, though, she just doesn't pack enough of a punch to really make a dent in the meta. The absolute lack of Cthulhu support doesn't help either.

Umr at-Tawil, Master of 1000 Keys

Speaking of Cthulhus, here's another testament to their lack of coherent support (and love). Umr at-Tawil (or Yog-Sothoth, if you're into pronouncing words) was the darkness Ruler from Curse of the Frozen Casket. Poor Cthulhu's got very little support this cluster, and even less of that was coherent, but that's an article for another day. Yog suffers from an acute condition of what I call "being bad."

As a Ruler, he has literally nothing to offer. He judgments for BX, has energize for black, and... that's it. He doesn't have a unique Ruler ability, meaning you get no utility out of him during the early turns or after he dies post-flip. I suppose the X cost in his judgment is supposed to be what's "unique" about him, but... well, maybe his J-Ruler side makes up for it?

Umr at-Tawil, Master of 1000 KeysHe enters the field with X+1 Limit counters, so your total judgment cost equates to how many counters he gets. At the end of your turn you nuke all resonators on the field whose total cost is equal to the number of Limit counters on him, then you remove 1 counter. At the beginning of any turn, if you have no Limit counters on Yog, you lose 500 life and then flip back. He's a fairly decent field nuke, but the fact that he only hits one cost per turn makes him slow, and he has to wait until the end of the turn to get his nuke off. Attacking or blocking reduces his Limit count, so manipulating them gets a tad awkward. And since most decks don't run staggered costs, you won't really be getting much utility out of most of his counters.

So how would we make him playable? Easy: Give the man a Ruler skill. There's tons of potential here, since he's a generic kind of Ruler. An effect that puts Limit counters on him, and lets him invest in his judgment, would be cool. Or maybe a Cthulhu-related effect, to give that race some much needed love. Maybe put an "Encounter with Cthulhu"-type effect on his Ruler side. His J-Ruler side honestly doesn't need too much of a change. Maybe if he killed every resonator with cost equal to or less than the number of counters on him. I don't think a field nuke every turn, for both players, would be too terrible. Maybe if he had an effect that scaled off of the number of things he killed, like how the Vingolf 3 Lapis worked. Like Lunya, he just doesn't pack enough of a punch.

The Monkey King Born from Stone

The big man himself, Wukong. He had a lot going for him, and he's definitely one of the strongest J-Rulers in the game in terms of potential ATK and DEF. Being able to search for Flying Clouds is a strong Ruler ability, making for a good will sink in the early/mid game. A total judgment cost of 4 is steep, but in a deck that tends to run ramp, it's not too bad. He can make it substantially cheaper by having his two minions in play, but we'll talk about them later.

Great Sky Sage, Sun WukongAs a J-Ruler, Wukong hits like a truck. A minimum of 1800/1800 with Flying, and the ability to immediately field all of the clouds you searched, makes him a total Behemoth. Unfortunately, his only other ability just searches for his two minions and adds them to your hand. It's not terribly useful. There isn't too much to say about him either, since he's more or less a meathead. Wukong's power comes from hitting hard and hitting fast, rather than generating plusses or controlling your opponent.

So how do we improve him? The most obvious answer: Kill the minions. Wukong has a huge reliance on Sha Wujing and Zhu Bajie, which honestly isn't great card design. His usefulness, and power level, are directly reliant on how strong those two cards are. It's hard enough to get one solid card designed, but making one that relies on two other cards being well-designed is just asking for trouble. And wouldn't you know it, they're pretty bad. Sha Wujing (aka Orochimaru) gives Wukong +200/+200, Precision, and makes your opponent's chants cost 1 more will. He's seen some play in Lumia decks recently, as a countermeasure to counter spells, but that's really more a testament to player innovation than his card design. Zhu Bajie (aka Gannondorf) makes additions and regalia cost one more, and gives Wukong +200/+200 and Swiftness. This may see some play against the new Kaguya deck if she picks up steam, but other than that... meh. Both of these guys' jobs can be done way better with regalia, since they're very costly 3-will investments. It's not feasible to play both of them before Judgment, and have them survive. Searching them doesn't do much other than put 2 cards in your hand. If they were Inheritance cards, or 2-drops, or had actual advantage-generating abilities then they might have been good. Currently, though, the majority of Wukong's utility is focused around having them (with no actual way to play them for cheap), and unless he gets some other support cards, I don't expect him to see any play.

That's it so far. I wanted to include the newest Millium on here, but it's a little too early to complain about him, and I'm also just lazy and wanted to cut this at 3 Rulers. Jordan has hinted at another Ascension Campaign, so maybe some of these guys will get the Alisaris treatment. Fingers crossed, right?

Monday, March 6, 2017

My 9 Biggest Card Game Triggers

Now that we're out of spoiler season, it's time I sailed into the seas of "opinion pieces." This is where the real meat and discussion can start, folks! I still plan on doing a list of my top/favorite cards in RDE, deck builds, etc, but I haven't actually had a real article up yet that's just be dumping my thoughts about non-spoilers, so let's give this a go. These are the nine things that straight up trigger me in any card game, the nine things that I absolutely hate to see and deal with. My nine biggest card game pet peeves (in no particular order).

Overly competitive people

This one is kind of a given. As a disclaimer, I have no problem with people playing the meta, keeping up with it, etc. However, if you come to a locals every week and only ever play the Tier 1 decks, you're probably cancer. Bonus hate points if you show up every week with the 1st place deck from the most recent tournament, no matter what it was. Double bonus hate points if you don't actually know what any non-meta cards do.

I've gone too long with locals too meta-oriented. It sucks for casual players, new players, and generally anyone there to have fun. These people are the ones who you never actually see with a "fun" deck or talking about anything other than meta decks/combo's. The stint between when Grimm Cluster got preemptively rotated out and when Lapis Cluster dropped, my friends and I basically stopped playing in tournaments. Outside of us, locals was essentially nothing but R//R Stealth, with the stray R//R Necrolane here or there. I got asked why we didn't play anymore and I told the guy "We're gonna start back up in Lapis Cluster. The game right now is literally nothing but control, so I could either not play, or pay $7 a week to not be able to play." Random Douche-McGee #7 who was standing around butts in, out of nowhere, with "People are still going to play control after rotation" and then promptly went back to popping children's balloons and stealing candy from babies.

I take no issue with playing to win, or wanting to make your deck as good as possible, but people could at least pretend they're playing the game to actually have fun, rather than stroke their fragile, complex-ridden egos by winning in a cardboard game.

Having to play for both players

If I actually ranked these, there is no doubt this would be #1 on the list. I've played Yu-Gi-Oh, Cardfight Vanguard, and now Force of Will, and this is a problem that has always, and will always, trigger me out of my mind. I don't expect people to know every facet of the game, but common sense just seems to elude most TCG-ers. The only reason I got certified as a YGO judge was so people would have to shut up after I told them they were wrong. Here's just a handful of the hemorrhage-inducing "rulings" I've had to hear, in each game:

Yu-Gi-Oh
Them: "I activate Inzektor Dragonfly's effect to attach Inzekor Hornet."
Them: "Uhh, I get priority. Hornet gets equipped."

Yu-Gi-Oh
Them: "I can special summon monsters while I control Acid Golem as long as it has materials, because there's a comma after that clause, not a period."
Me: "That's definitely a period."
Them: "No, this is how they ruled it at YCS <who cares>"

Yu-Gi-Oh
Me: "I flip summon <random monster that summons something from my deck on-flip"
Them: "I chain Torrential Tribute."
Me: "Ok, so my monster dies. Now special summon <whatever I got out from deck>"
Them: "No that dies too."
Me: "How? Torrential already resolved before it entered the field."
Them: "That's how it works. That's why people summon something they don't care about when you chain torrential to a summon effect."

Cardfight Vanguard
Them: "When you check the top 5 cards of your deck with a Grade 3 searcher and you don't get anything, you have to show me. That way I'll know like if you get all triggers or see three Perfect Guards."
Me: "Literally nothing about that is right."

Force of Will
Guy 1: "I attack you with Viviane."
Guy 2: "Ok, I'll be left at 200 after that."
Guy 1: "Ok, I'll quickcast in Escort of the Fairy King so she gets pumped for that last 200."
Guy 2: "You can't do that. You can't quickcast after attack declaration."
Guy 1: "What?"
Guy 2: "It's just how quickcast works."

Force of Will
Them: "I use <some random automatic ability>"
Me: "I'll chase that with <random spell/ability>"
Person 3: "You can't do that. Automatic abilities don't use the chase."
Me: "Your mother should have used a condom."

And that isn't even close to all of it. I can't even begin to explain how much of a headache it is to not only do my part to play the game, think of all my plays, my opponent's possible responses, etc but also have to babysit them and check over every little thing they try to do or say. If I wanted to play for two people I would have just played solitaire against myself. Generally, the people you have to do this to aren't going to give you a satisfying game, so you won't even be having fun. Is it really too much to ask to just know how to read and play the game properly? This kind of borders "I hate people who cheat," which is also true, but I feel "people who conjure up random BS rulings/excuses/explanations" deserve their very own category.

The used car salesmen

These are the bane of anyone looking for a trade. To call on an example, back in my CFV days I was trying to put together a Chaos Breaker Dragon deck, and the card was around $30-40 for a copy, and a guy had just bought a box and pulled one. I went over to trade him, and he saw a few things in my book he needed for a deck he was building. "Ok" I said, "Chaos Breaker is going for about $35 average on ebay right now..."
"Actually he's $40. I could sell him for $40 if I put him up for sale."
"Ok, sure, whatever. This one card you want is $10, this one's $15, and this one's about $10 too."
"Actually that one is only $9 and that other one is only $13."

People who over-value their own stuff, and try to under-value your's as much as possible, aren't worth trading with. The penny-pinchers, who want to get card values down to the exact cent and will refuse to trade unless the values are equal, fall into this category too. And, the king of all these degenerates, is that one guy who won't trade anything unless he can profit off of the trade. One of my friends needed a relatively high-rarity card from a guy who had just pulled one. "I need X card for this deck I'm working on. Do you have any of those?"
"I do, actually." My friend said. "But it's like a $20 promo, and the card I want is only $10. But I've got tons of these so I don't really care. Sure, I'll do that trade."
"But I need 4 of those promos for my deck."

My friend slapped his book shut and walked out.

The poltergeists that haunt your game

The back-seat duelist. The lurker. This person goes by many names, but they all refer to one piece of scum. This is either someone who finished their round early or someone who just came to spectate and didn't even enter the tournament. They float around your game, commenting on every little thing that happened, picking up the top card of your deck to see what you're going to draw, touching everything on your field. Not only do these people dance dangerously close to the "no coaching" rule during tournaments with their snobbish remarks, they're just plain obnoxious. In general, they tend to get a little pompous and think they're just the bee's knees at the game, and usually they're completely wrong. These are the people who will walk over, berate you for not doing a play they consider "obvious," and not even think about the rest of the gamestate or potential counters.

"Lol idiot, why didn't you just use space-time on that Lancelot and kill it when it swung at you?"
"Because he searched out Magic Sweets last turn."
"Well how am I supposed to know he did that!? I just walked over."

The mishandler

There are plenty of reasons you wouldn't want people to touch your cards, and there are people that like to exemplify every possible instance of that, and then some. Some players are unnecessarily aggressive when handling your/their own cards, be they shuffling your deck with enough force to split atoms, or targeting your cards by gracefully shoving their finger through your sleeve, card, playmat, and the table underneath. Some players get that MLG hankering for Doritos and decide to open up a fresh pack just as you sit down and present your brand new, freshly sleeved, pearly white sleeves to them for cutting. Some (weak) people give in to basic bodily functions like sneezing, or scratching their butts, and move to handle your deck immediately after (obviously so they don't waste any of that precious time in the match).

I have a blacklist of people who aren't allowed to touch anything I own, ever. I, very verbally, express my disapproval if someone tries to do any of the above, and I highly encourage everyone else to do the same. If someone isn't going to respect your belongings, you shouldn't respect them.

The stank

You knew this was going to be up here, it's the apex of TCG player stereotypes, and unfortunately, it's universally true. A large chunk of people who turn up at card shops neglect basic hygiene, and I often wonder if some of them have ever seen a shower. Seriously, have some self-respect, or more importantly, respect the people around you and don't subject them to that miasma. Some people get the genius idea that wearing tank tops and letting those hairy pits air out will help mitigate the smell. Sadly, they are very mistaken. When the smell of cigarette smoke inevitably gets mixed into that brew, you're left with a concoction of biological warfare-proportions. These people are the reasons we get the bad reputation we do.

A field as cluttered as your MLP-merchandise-filled room

Contrary to popular belief, the playmats of card games actually do have zones on them. Some games, like YGO and CFV, are very strict in their fields and have very stringent zones. Some games, like MTG and FoW, are lenient and just have "field". There are also designated deck zones, graveyard zones, and whatever other zones your game of choice has, and they all have specific locations on the board. I understand people who swap the grave and deck zones (I do it too), keep their Ruler in the center of their mat, or things like that. It helps you unclutter your board, or is just a more natural feel. Some people are left-handed and reverse their field. All of these are understandable and excusable.

Something like "I keep my stones below my deck, above my graveyard!" or "I keep my Ruler above my deck" is not. Not only is that stupid, it causes needless clutter and confusion. The board is set up the way it is for efficiency and consistency: I can, at any give time, look up to see my opponent's field and know exactly where to look to find any given zone I want to look at. Putting your graveyard below your stones instead of your deck just makes me think you're trying some dumb cheating method.

In the same vain, some people just refuse to properly organize their field. I mean I get it, there's no limit to the number of things you can put on the board, and some decks like Fiethsing will have 5-6 regalia, their stones, and 10+ resonators on board. I can get really cluttered, but that's all the more reason to try to keep it in order. I've played against people who have stones separated into three different clumps, some of them are upside down, and their "tapped" cards are askew in some indescribable angle attempting to breach the 4th dimension. Their regalia are all over their field instead of consolidated into one area, and some of their are completely covering others. There's a tower of resonators trying to become Babel 2.0.

Horribly managed fields, on top of making me suspect you're trying to cheat, give me a huge headache. I'm trying to keep track of what's supposed to be where, what entered this turn, what's actually rested or what you forgot to untap because you skipped like 7 phases. This almost ties back into the "having to play for yourself and for your opponent" section, since you're having to pay too much attention and keep track of too much of what they're supposed to be taking care of.

Your sleeves are as broken as your marriage

Sleeves are very, very, very cheap. A pack of Ultra Pros costs like $3-4. There are far too many people who are using what appear to be their very first pack of sleeves they ever bought, and refuse to get new ones. These things have more splotches than clear space on the front, stick together at the atomic level, and transmit dirt and disease into anything they come into contact with. That's assuming they aren't torn to bits (artwork sleeves are the worst in this regard) and have split to the point that it's a scientific marvel how they're still intact.

These things just feel awful to touch. Shuffling them is akin to giving your thousand year old grandma a foot rub, and with how much the cards stick together, you question if your shuffling actually did anything, or if the opponent isn't accidentally drawing 2-3 cards a turn just from cards being stuck together. What's more, even touching them makes you feel disgusting and it feels like you're dirtying your own sleeves just by handling them after touching your opponent's janky garbage pile of a deck. Not to mention the toll it takes on them sliding their deck on your mat to let you cut it.

Tournaments are, generally, a $5 entry. The cards you're putting in your deck can easily hit $20 and $30 values. "I don't have the money for sleeves" is not a valid excuse, despite being the one I've heard most often. If Oscar the grouch here didn't crawl out of his trashcan one week to enter a tournament, he'd have enough to buy a pack of sleeves that will last 2 months (or 2 years, given how long these people use these sleeves).

The complainer

I don't have a witty title for this one because I was too eager to tear into it. This category encapsulates all kinds of degenerate players, from the "Man I only lost because he drew X" to the "Wow that <random rogue card> is so broken." I'm going to break this category down so I can have ample complaint time for all of its subsets.

The people who go "Oh man, I was going to draw X next turn. I would have totally won next turn!" Ok, but guess what? You lost this turn. My deck was just better and went off faster, or I was better and made more efficient plays. All I hear is "I could have won if I didn't lose!" which just makes you sound stupid. These are the people who are just looking for a scapegoat for their loss, instead of actually thinking about what they could have done better or differently, and that's what triggers me about this.

There are also the people who say "I only lost because they drew X card" or "They only won because I overextended." A common example, from my YGO days, was someone complaining because their opponent drew Dark Hole and nuked their 5-monster board. Does it suck? Absolutely. It's completely legitimate to hate the fact that your opponent luck-sacked into the one get-out-of-jail-free card they needed. But these players never stop to think "Why did I flood the board with monsters and overextend if I couldn't kill them or didn't have protection?" Using all of your advantage without insurance or a backup plan is honestly something you deserve to be punished for, but most people would more easily blame something like luck instead of owning up to their own misplays or bad decisions.

Finally, there are the people who complain about your rogue-tier cards being too powerful. Or mis-attributing a deck's strength to a particular card that beat them. Back in my CFV days, my friend played a Jewel Knight deck (For those of you unfamiliar with the game, it's basically Waifu Paladins that flood the field) and had Divine Knight of Flashing Flame, Samuel as a 1-of in his G-zone. In CFV, you lose when you hit 6 damage, and in a particular game, my friend's opponent had thrown most of his hand down and rushed my friend to 4 damage very early. Thanks to that, my friend was able to flood the field AND have enough resources to use Samuel's ability to deal a damage to the opponent, putting him from 3 to 4 damage without combat, and killed him that turn since his opponent had virtually no hand from rushing. The rest of the day, that opponent was complaining about "The only reason Jewel Knights are OP is because of that card", and other things in the same vain. In truth, that was probably the first time my friend had used that card in about a month.

Now, a certain amount of butthurt is to be expected in a situation like that, and I don't fault anyone for being a little upset to losing to a random card they weren't prepared for. But the players that truly get on my nerves will actually argue with you when you tell them that X card isn't broken. "How is that not stupid OP? It's just a free damage!" Even though no meta decks run it, the deck isn't competitively relevant, or there are easy counters to it. I'm not opposed to someone disagreeing with me about a card's relevancy, but I can't stand it when I explain that a card isn't all that good because every relevant deck runs an out to it or that it only works in certain situations, and someone retorts with some half-baked response along the lines of "but when it does go off it's broken" or "that's only if they see the counters to it." As a side note to this, there are some people who simply have no business actually discussing meta or competitive relevancy (either due to a huge bias for/against a certain card/deck, a lack of mechanical/meta knowledge, or any number of reasons) and those tend to be the most vocal in situations like this. Unsurprisingly, they're the ones that get on my nerves the most.

Welp, that's it folks. This was a pretty cathartic article for me, and I'm sure everyone out there has things they absolutely hate to see or deal with. Did I touch on any of those here? What are your biggest card game triggers?

Friday, March 3, 2017

RDE Complete Spoilers - Impressions

Hold on to your seats nerds and nerdettes, we've got a long one today. The entirety of the RDE set list was uploaded to the official FoW Database, and we're going to go through every single new card and judge it's worth like the gossipy, vain cretins that we are. I haven't done an article on the two most recent preview articles, but honestly, the Almerius one wasn't worth reviewing and we can cover the notable Alhama'at cards here (since I already posted about the actual Alhama'at leak a while ago). Let's dive right in, we've got a ton of ground to cover.

Light

Guardian of Altean Law

Up first is Altean Judge Dredd. He limits your opponent to one attack per turn, and with a big 'ole 1000 booty, he'll usually be capable of blocking that attack without too much effort. This is a great side choice against aggro decks, or decks like Elves and Fairy Tales that like to go wide. Unfortunately, most of the meta-relevant bodies will either be flying (Gwiber, Chimeras) or will have enough power to kill him (Hook), so he won't last too long there. Against anything else, though, this dude makes the perfect bouncer to the club that is your life points.

Rachel, Nephilim Commander

Rachel is back, rocking a nice angel getup. She got revealed last night in the Alhama'at article, but she definitely deserves to be talked about here. She's got a nice body ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) as a 700/700 3-drop, especially with Flying. As an angel she's also searchable with Celestial Wing Seraph (and Arla, if you're into that). She shines best in a Light/Black hybrid deck since she has a darkness stone resonance that kills any 2-drop-or-less, with the added bonus of putting a mana counter on your J/Ruler if it has the mana keyword. She'll also grab a 1-drop demon from your graveyard when she enters, meaning she can make Celestial Wind Seraph a 3-for-1. Good stats, an on-enter ability, and a recurring kill ability? Marry me.

Shield of the Nephilim

Shield of the Nephilim kind of suffers from not having Quickcast. Being limited to your turn only, and being unable to react to destruction, means it usually will just get responded to with a kill spell. You can awaken it for black to have something become Creature of Chaos for the turn, essentially letting one of your resonators ram into something without dying and instantly killing whatever it fought. It can't kill J-rulers, so this card is little more than an awkward, roundabout form of removal. It has some neat combo's between any resanator + this + blood covered war axe, especially in a Vampire deck if you use them on the Rezzard resonator from Vingolf 3. It's gimmicky, but that's all it really needs to be, right?

Unleashed Dragonoid

Here we have the 2-drop version of Tiny Alabaster Drake. He lacks flying, but has significantly better defense so he can survive more things. You can revive him with Ryula, and restand him with Dragon Power. I don't think the Dragonoid deck will do too much competitively, but having experienced Force beatdown fairly often, this thing has me shaking already.

Zero's Wrath

The best thing about this card is the flavor text. Zero is literally erasing people that even come close to her, which makes me think (and hope) that we'll be seeing some Dark Zero again. The card itself isn't very good, being a whopping 4-cost and only destroying resonators after they've done their damage. It suffers from the same issues Glorius had, albeit being slightly more expensive but giving access to more removal.

Fire


Memory to Memoria

Here we have a semi-free modal card. Memory to Memoria is either a chant-speed Thunder, or a chant-speed 400 burn to a resonator that refunds it's cost. Free cards are nice, and I bet this'll be wonderful in limited, but that's really all I can say about it.

Milest, the First Flame

Oooooooooh boy, Milest (the best Six Sage) is back and he's actually useful this time. He needed to redeem himself from the flimsy, relatively useless form he took as an Inheritance card in LEL. Packing 0 ATK and a sizable 800 DEF, his base stats aren't all that great for his 3 will cost (a hard 3 will, mind you). Then you read his effect and immediately don't care. Swiftness on a red resonator isn't surprising, and let's him steal games at later points by being surprise damage. 100 ATK for each fire stone isn't all that impressive, coming in at a base 300 ATK and slowly getting stronger. However, hitting his resonance effectively doubles his ATK and gives him Pierce for the turn (easily one of the strongest, if not the strongest, keyword in the game). The turn after you play him he'll be an 800/800, then go to 1000 ATK the following turn, and only scales up. With Pricia, who can cycle stones, you can trigger this effect twice in one turn, then restand him with her God's Art. This is easily my favorite card in the set.

Reincarnation

Reincarnation is a gimmicky, yet lethal, finisher card. For a cost of 3 you banish any number of resonators, check the top X cards of your deck (where X is the number of resonators you banished), then put any resonators from those top cards into your field and mill the rest. In a tribal deck, with Library of Alexandria out, this can be a massive game-ending push. It reminds me of BFA Melgis, but in chant form.

Rising Fire Strike

Yet another gimmicky finisher. Rising Fire Strike is essentially a -2 to play (you lose this card and 1 card in your hand) but can absolutely demolish the opponent. This most benefits a deck like Elves, which goes super wide and regularly has fields of 8+ resonators. Discard something like Oberon and your whole field is getting a 400 ATK boost. Be a pro player and run Remote Control Golem just for this, to give them all a 1000 ATK boost. This card is going to be the ultimate BM and I can't wait to make a deck for it.

Sprinting Flame Horse

Rapidash used extreme speed. It's super effective. I wanted this card last set, and I'm honestly surprised they gave it to us. This gives Faria Inheritance decks a very fun toy to play with, as well as being one of the only ways to give your J-Ruler Swiftness post-Alice Cluster rotating out. It's simple, it's effective, I like.

Vengeful Attoractian Wizard

600/600 for a 2-drop, pretty standard stats. The only ability is resonance with a fire magic stone, and it will deal 200 damage to your opponent. Honestly, there are plenty of better burn options if you're looking for a burn deck.

Water

Apprentice Wererabbit

Apprentice Wererabbit is probably going to be boss-tier in limited. 100/300 for a 1-drop aren't the best stats, but whenever she resonates with a water stone, she becomes 400/600 with Flying. Play her turn 1, then start swinging in every turn after that. Water aggro really isn't a thing (yet?), but she does a good job of making me want it to be.

Charlotte's Water Dragon Technique

Apparently Charlotte got tired of turning things into bears and decided to go with the flow (Heh, water pun) of this set and start turning things into dragons. This is essentially the opposite of Bear Magic: Where bear weakened the opponent's resonator, this one strengthens yours. It can still be used to wipe abilities, and will still weaken anything that's already bigger than 800/800, but I can't imagine you'd run into too many of those that you wouldn't prefer to use Bear Magic on. This let's you turn your own weenies into Flying beater. Tokens are the first thing that come to mind, especially Fantasy tokens. With a Moojdart on the field, you can use this to turn any token into your very own Gwiber-on-demand, which sounds pretty dope.

Dragonoid Jailor

In general, ATK reduction effects tend to be pretty weak unless they're tacked onto something else. This guy, sadly, isn't. He'll probably shine in a limited format, though.

Kaguya's Decision

Here's yet another depiction of emo Kaguya still refusing to get over the sudden death of her beloved mother-figure. Her big "decision" is apparently just what she wants to wear, since this card opens her closet and lets you pick which Treasury Item to put into your field. It's a neat way to turbo into some of the more expensive ones, and can be relatively consistent given the number of "look at the top X cards of your deck" effects the Kaguya deck has gotten this set.

Wind

Divine Bird of Attoractia

More Inheritance! Aww yiss. Divine Bird of Attoractia isn't nearly as divine as the Divine Beast was, but he's ok. In hand he let's you pay a green for a drop-and-draw effect, so he can dodge stuff like Scorn. He's a reverse Tama, so he replaces himself when he dies rather than when he enters. You can throw him down as a chump blocker and get the same result as just using his Inheritance, so I bet he'll find a place in a few decks. He functions similarly to Upstart Goblin, for those of you well versed in Yugioh. Using a spare green will to cycle through your deck isn't bad at all.

Heavenly Ox

I don't see what's so heavenly about this guy. For the cost of attacking, he can transfer his stats to another J/resonator you control. Helpful for stacking power onto something with Pierce or Flying, or to keep it safe from death-by-power-reduction. You can use Pricia's Call to Action to give him Swiftness and immediately pump something if you really feel like it. In limited he'll definitely be able to steal games.

Research!

A slightly worse Moonbeam Butterfly that is slightly more flexible. You can pay 3 will to check the top two cards of your deck and play a 2-drop. It just scales up from there, whereas Moonbeam Butterfly will let you pay 3 to get any two-drop from your deck. Research has the advantage in that it can play anything, not just resonators and additions, but also forces you to play it. This means the card can be cancelled or negated, where Moonbeam Butterfly slips it right into your field.

Wind Clad Elf

Here we have something very simple. Wind Clad Elf is a two drop that makes a token on-enter. She's the elf version of Illusion Wizard, except she's cheaper. With all the indirect support tokens have gotten in this set, she definitely has a place in a Fiethsing deck.

Darkness


Buer, Great President of Hell

"Great" is a strong word for this guy. A 200/200 one-turn buff for a hard -1 isn't a good tradeoff. He combo's with the 1-for-1 Red/Black Addition we got spoiled with the Gill Lapis support, and stuff like Monkey Trapped in Life will help keep you from losing too much advantage. I suspect he'll be pretty good in limited, being a spammable form of removal.

Demon Captain, Eligos

Looks like Rachel set a pattern. Eligos is a 4-cost, a little more expensive than Rachel, but can grab a Demon with 3 cost or less, so she has a bit more leeway with her targets. Unfortunately, there aren't many good Demons, but simple tribal support like this always gets better with Wanderer and future cards.

Fury of the Obsidian Dragon

An Ancient Magic that mass-destroys cards, scaling with the number of Dragons and Dragonoids you control. It can hit J-Rulers, which is a very nice perk.

The Insane Dark Hatter

Suicide Bombing is cool, I guess? This dude gives himself and another resonator -400 DEF, so he's going to die, and hopefully so will the other target. You can circumvent this by buffing him for the turn, and he seems to work well with the March Hare revealed in the Light/Dark preview article. This whole theme just reminds me of those weird Tea Party counter things back in Alice Cluster that were supposed to work with Valkyrie Alice.

Viola, Obsidian Dragon Princess

Another card from the Alhama'at preview. Viola is a little weak for her stats, but she has a will sink ability that let's her get pretty big on top of gaining flying. She's also an Inheritance card that gives Imperishable, and is free if you're playing Gill Alhama'at. A little buff to Faria decks once Alice Cluster rotates, a good will sink for finishing long games, and a good way to keep Alhama'at safe while you're trying to double-flip him. Plus I just adore her art.

Viola's Machinations

Remember how Memory to Memoria paid for itself? So does this card. It's a 1-cost discard that will put a mana counter on your J/ruler, provided it has the Mana keyword. It's Ancient Magic, so using a Mana counter to play it means it was free. Or using a regular stone to play it means you just did a little bit of ramping.

Dual-Colors

Dragon of Fire and Wind

Here we have a cute little Dragon! Aww, it's a 500/500 for three will. But wait, in a Red/Green deck, this thing will become a 1000/1000 with Flying and Swiftness every turn. That's actually pretty good! It doubles down on Pricia's Ruler resonances, so they might go to waste sometimes, but that's ok. 1000 ATK is just too good to pass up. Unfortunately there isn't a reliable way to trigger this on the opponent's turn, so it's significantly weaker and more vulnerable after you attack with it.

Earthfallen Giant

It's good for limited I guess?

End of Days

I'm not too sure what this card is trying to accomplish. Gill Lapis is all about needing your opponent's cards RFG'd, not your own. They enter the field rested, and get RFG'd at the end of the turn. It doesn't have quickcast, so you can't use it at the end of your opponent's turn to try to get a cheesy OTK off. It's good in Wanderer for Cthulhus I suppose, giving you a massive reserve of incarnate fodder. 

Erasure

Pay 4 to kill one thing at chant speed? No thanks? It's an Ancient Magic, which helps I guess. This seems to really only be useful in limited, which it's probably pretty powerful in, but in constructed there's infinite better options.

Fallen Angel

Remember Scion of Ancient Lore? That really bad 3-drop Vampire from Alice Cluster that drained 400 life from the opponent? Here he is again, apparently. This card costs one more, has 100 more ATK and DEF, and has Flying. Limited Hero, Constructed Zero.

Fallen Saint

This guy has a neat little battle trick. He'll slightly weaken any blocker or attacker, giving him just enough reach to kill slightly stronger attackers or survive equal-power blockers. He can even clear the blocker if your opponent is dumb enough to block with a 200/200 card for whatever reason.

Fiery Fox of Reincarnation

This guy's useful for resonance shenanigans, and for helping Pricia hit the requirements for her God's Art.

Forest Spirit

A good will sink in a limited format. Just like the real Poison Ivy, though, there's not much else to her.

Mermaid of Lifegiving

This card's race kills it. It isn't a Spirit, so Almerius can't abuse it, and it isn't a Dragonoid, so Ryula can't abuse it.

Moon View Rabbit

Here's a neat bit of ramp for Kaguya. It counts as a Treasury Item, and you can play it for free by resting The First Moon, another Treasury Item. I doubt she needs the extra Treasury Item that badly, especially one prone to removal like this, but it's still a cool idea. If you have two or three in hand, it's a neat way to ramp the amount of Treasury Items you have out of nowhere.

Moonlit Treasury Tree

A more expensive Tama with a large booty. It's a Treasury Item for Kaguya, but and there are quite a few cards in her deck that can cheese in 3-cost Treasury Items, so this may actually have a place in the deck.

Nightmoon Blossom

Another resonator that's also a Treasury Item. This one has Barrier and a respectable DEF stat. Hard to remove, helps ramp Kaguya, it kind of does all it needs to while not actually doing anything at all.

Pricia's Leap

If Milest is my favorite card in this set, this one is a close second. Pricia's Leap let's you turn one J/resonator into Yamata Dragon for the turn, letting it stay recovered to block the next turn. This thing can end games out of nowhere, especially if you have a flier or a beefy J/resonator. Using it on Pricia will let her trigger her on-attack effect X many times, and if you use her stone effect, that will just refund the X cost entirely. How obnoxious is that!?

Rain of Light

I honestly think I'd rather just use Rachel's Smile. Rain of Light let's you get off multiple attacks/blocks with your own cards, which may clinch the game in a limited format, but it just doesn't seem too economic in constructed. I mean, in order to recover your own stuff they'll have to already have attacked or blocked, which means the opponent's cards should have already attacked or blocked too, so you're losing utility. It's a little more flexible than Rachel's Smile, but still an overall inefficient game ender.

Rapid Shot

This is a very interesting card. Say, for example, you have 5 Fire/Wind dual stones. You have 1000 damage you can distribute in packets of 200, to up to 5 different targets. It's a very flexible and economic field wipe. I like.

Secret Messenger of the Mikage

Another Lapis support card, packing the same effect as Valentina. That's good. It'll also deal damage that scales with the number of Vampires you control on-enter, making it a strong choice for both the Lapis deck and a Mikage deck. A+ design right here.

Sissei, Pricia's Barrier

Oh boy, this is just waiting to be broken. Treat all magic stones you control as all 5 basic stones, and turn every stone into Ruler's Memoria. I'm not too worried about this getting out of hand in the competitive scene, since a 2-drop Addition that doesn't give any immediate value likely won't see the light of day there. Letting your stones trigger every resonance ability, and letting you play stuff like Riza, Melder, and Lunar Lake in any deck sounds just gimmicky enough to work.

Spirit of Sacred Rains

More Spirit support. The Inheritance is nice I guess, although a bit counter intuitive since you want Spirits in the grave to abuse Almerius. She also doesn't yield any on-field value, which is one of the biggest weaknesses of the Inheritance cards from LEL. I wonder if a Faria Spirit deck would work?

The Alabaster Dragon Princess' Rescue

The Blue/Light pact spell. It's honestly only good if you have Pandora out, to roll 2 dice instead of the measly one. This has the potential to rip almost any resonator out of your deck, given a high enough roll, but the high cost and lack of quickcast really hurts it.

The Two Dragon Princesses

The Light/Dark pact spell. It keeps in theme with the other cards, giving you power and draining power from the opponent, but honestly it doesn't do it in a very useful way. Mikage decks are most likely to make use of it, for the free 5 +100/+100 counters. I wish we had seen the Fourth Daughter this set though.

Unending Hatred

The Red/Black pact spell. It lacks quickcast, but can nuke their field provided they have low-cost resonators, as well as giving you a selective hand destruction effect. It RFGs the card from hand, too, so you can potentially get 2 RFGs off this card in tandem with Lapis' Ruler effect.

Water-Wind Knight

This card might have been good if it didn't cost so much. As a 4-drop, though, it gives no actual advantage. It's stats will make it very strong in limited, though, on top of the ability to manipulate the deck.

Will o'the Wisp

I think they were going for a Cheshire Cat theme here. The stats are abyssmal for a 2-drop, but Barrier means it isn't going anywhere and it has a Tama on-enter effect. Blocking with her means you'll gain life from the attacker, and the opponent can't stop it without blanket effects. Almerius can re-use her, but I doubt she'll be very useful outside of limited.

Ancient Magic Stone

Alhama'at's Magic Stone. The name is simple and thematic, and it has the standard shock rock abilities. It's unique trait, though, turns it into Ruler's Memoria if you remove a mana counter from your J-Ruler. While it's a bit restricted, I still don't like seeing Ruler's Memoria back in the game, especially as support for what FoW wants to make the strongest Ruler in the set. I do respect that all the mana-counter-adding cards in this set limit themselves to Rulers with the Mana ability to avoid abuse.

And that's all! We're officially done with Return of the Dragon Emperor spoilers, and with Pre-releases happening this weekend and the set coming out the next, I'm pumped. This set, as a whole, seems a lot better designed than LEL was. Most of the cards (and Rulers) are a lot more flexible and less xenophobic in their strategies. There's also plenty more mono-colored cards, so limited play isn't going to suck as bad (seriously, the LEL sneak was awful) and there are more cards that can be thrown into older/future decks. I'm excited to see how the meta will change, since at least 3/5 of the Rulers here are insanely powerful and have cool strategies.