Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Rage of R'lyeh Spoiler - Impressions

Oh boy oh boy oh boy! We finally got the red Starter Deck! I've been waiting to see this thing since the starters were announced, so of course leave it to FoW Inc to wait to reveal it until the last week of spoilers. But I can't say I'm disappointed.

The Ruler for the deck is Lunya, who flips into our old friend Red Riding Hood Nyarlathotep. Judgment for RR2 is pretty expensive, especially in Lapis Cluster where the standard looks to be 2-3 total cost. She also comes with the standard Energize, and her unique Ruler skill has her deal 100 damage to a resonator whenever one of your resonators attacks. This isn't much damage on its own, but it allows weaker units to trade with slightly stronger cards, as well as turns Demonflame into Stoning to Death, which is some pretty good value. Red doesn't have too many ways to get rid of huge resonators outside of stacking burns, so this could easily come in handy. Just be weary, as it's not an optional effect, and doesn't specify that it has to target the opponent's resonators, so you may get blindsided by having to burn your own stuff.

Once she flips into Nyarlathotep, we see some effects harking back to her days as Little Red, the Wolf Girl. She's packing Swiftness and the new Cthulhu keyword, Limit. Unlike the Cthulhu's we've already seen, however, she only enters with Limit 2, so she's not here to stay very long. She burns a resonator for 800 on-enter, and if she gets caught without Limit counters, she flips back into a Ruler at the end of turn (unlike our friend Yog, who burns you while flipping back). This is almost word-for-word Little Red's old effect, albeit adapted to incorporate Limit, but I feel that a more lenient flip-back effect is all she really needed. Her stats got updated too, packing the same 1200 ATK, but her booty got a bit bigger, sitting at a nice 800 DEF. This keeps her out of the range of Thunder/Lightning Strike or from dying to most 2-drops (and some 3-drops).

Leave it to FoW Inc to turn Little Bo Peep into a Cthulhu. Or to turn Cthulhu's into cute, innocent little girls tending to sheep. I personally think the idea is pretty quaint, where instead of trying to get revenge or brooding, some Cthulhu went the Android 17 route and settled down. Although this isn't some puny little girl you'd want to go stealing sheep from. Niggurath packs a whopping 1200 ATK and DEF, putting her a little above most 5-drops, and will get a Gentle Goat from your deck whenever she attacks or enters your field. Albeit not the most useful card to search for, at least Niggurath nets some advantage on-play, which is more than I can say than most other 5-drops we've seen this cluster. Unfortunately, she only has Limit 1, and bounces back to your hand when her time runs out. Fortunately, she can pop one of her Goats and add 2 counters to herself, giving you some flexibility on how to use her. This let's you block or attack with the Goats, and if they come under fire from any type of removal, just turn them into counters for her.

The Goat itself isn't much to write home about. It's a 3/3 for 1 will, which is pretty decent, and becomes 5/5 if you control a Cthulhu, so it automatically comes in at full power when you grab it with Niggurath.

I'm still not sure how to feel about Nightmares of R'lyeh. Quickcast for RRR is pretty expensive in a red deck, especially since this deck may need it's mana to keep flipping its Ruler/fielding its bouncing Cthulhu's. However, it can provide a HUGE momentum swing. Gaining 1,000 Power is 1/4 of the opponent's life. Slapping this on Pricia means she'll gain 2,000 Power which, if combo'd with a few other cards, can easily turn her into an OTK machine. The downside is that it drops the target's DEF by 1000, so viable targets and few and far between. Niggurath is the only viable target in this deck, although it can be used defensively as a super Space-Time Anomaly to kill an attacker. Losing 1,000 DEF, and being able to target J-Rulers as well as Resonators, makes it an easy 1-card kill to just about anything, assuming you have the available mana.

Lightning Strike is Lightning Strike. It's a slightly better Thunder, which was already too good on its own. We've known about this card for a while, so there's not much to say.

And here we have Hastur. Holy cow did he do a 180. He went from something unspeakable to... this. But at least he got a lot better. 900/900 for a 3-drop is above-standard, so he can already trade with any equal-cost unit, and he's also packing Swiftness as long as Lunya is your Ruler. An added plus is that he does an Artemis Bow to any resonator whenever he attacks or blocks, letting him kill off 1300 DEF or lower units single-handedly, 1400 with Lunya's burn. If you attack one card, then target different cards with his and Lunya's burn effects, that's potentially 3 different cards you can take out with just this one attack. That's mad value. Like Niggurath, he also has the bounce effect once he runs out of counters, but lacks any inherent way to add more. Given his low cost and powerful effect, that's more than fine.

Lunya's Best Friend is filler and little more. 200 ATK isn't going to do much, so he's just going to be a 6/6 vanilla most of the time. So at least he can trade with a Lancelot I guess. For something as majestic as he, I was kind of expecting more.

Next up is Fayli, an 800/800 vanilla for 3 will. Pretty standard stats, but for no effect, she falls short. Her only saving grace is Charlatan's Tricks which, for only 1 will, can copy ANY resonator or addition on your field. If you control Fayli, though, rather than adding the target to your hand, you can put it right into the field. Got an Azathoth out? Have another. Unfortunately, it probably won't be worth it to have to run Fayli, but some gimmicky decks would drool at the idea of this combo. Being able to just search out a copy of something you control is good on it's own, although in red it's pretty outclassed by the Rukh Egg/Guinevere combo.

Emissary is an interesting card. 500/400 for a 1-drop is pretty good, especially with Swiftness, but being unable to attack the opponent REALLY holds it back. It's clear this is meant to poke off the opponent's resonators, and it can trade with a Lancelot thanks to Lunya's burn effect, but not having Precision really hampers this guy, especially early game.

R'lyeh, World of No Lies is a really strong addition (heh) to the Cthulhu deck. Putting a Limit counter on every Cthulhu you control let's you get more value out of them, especially low-Limit cards like the ones in this deck. It grants some utility while staying on the field by pumping all your Cthulhu's by 200/200, giving them a little more pushing power. Nyarlathotep is 1400/1000, Hastur is 1100/1100, and Niggurath is 1400/1400, and it just stacks from there. One of these on the field let's Hastur survive a Nighmare's pump, making him a 2100 ATK monstrosity, and two of them let Nyarlathotep survive a pump too.

All-in-all, while I doubt this deck is going to be meta on it's own, it definitely gives Cthulhu's some really neat tools to play around with, and definitely helps to encapsulate what Red tries to do, without printing more cancer like Lancelot or Cthugha. There's also some wonderful flavor here, what with goat-herding Cthulhu and Lunya being an homage to herself, and I'm happy with the way it turned out. At least it wasn't as bad as the Water Deck.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Curse of the Frozen Casket Spoilers #9 - Impressions

Ending off this week's spoilers, we see the presumed rest of the Vampire support in the set, and it's relatively redeeming. We only have about 1 week of spoilers left, so this is likely the last of the darkness cards we're going to see (There may not even be any left to reveal, I haven't done a tally of all the cards we've seen yet), and while it's not the best note to end on for the color, at least it leaves us with some hope.


Our first card is Rinka, the Second Mikage Daughter. Jordan has stated we aren't getting all the daughters in this set, so she's likely the last one we'll see for a few months, but she'll do. 600/600 for 2 Black is the upper limit of what we can get for a 2-drop, rivaling the likes of Lancelot and Izanami. She puts a 100/100 counter on herself whenever she deals damage (to anything), and gains Precision as long as there's at least one of those counters on her. You can remove one to give her flying, which can make a neat little loop where you remove one just to get one back and fly over all the opponent's blockers. Putting a Blood Covered War Axe on her means you can stack 2+ counters every turn. The natural synergy between Demonflame and Seijuro also seems to nudge the deck in a Black/Red hybrid direction, which isn't a bad idea.

Servant is pretty straightforward. On-play, he puts a 100/100 counter on something. He'll put 2 if the opponent has a Special Stone, which is neat, but still isn't an incentive to not run them. He serves as another way to put counters on the daughters, and can even come in as a 5/5 on your first turn if the opponent has a Special Stone. Overall, though, none of these cards have sold me on using Seijuro. Since both daughters have their own counter generating abilities, they can work just fine as stand alone cards, and Seijuro himself is still lackluster. Unless the 1st Daughter requires a high counter threshold, and Seijuro has the advantage of being able to turbo to her faster, I doubt these cards will see play in his deck.

Here we have more Oni's. Adding the one in the Vampire Deck, we're up to a total of 3. Two of which are 5-costs that you never actually want to play. Oni Governor has no inherent cost reduction or way to cheat himself onto the field, and grants no advantage on-enter. What's worse is that his only ability is a 1-for-1, and taps him down. Because after using your turn to play an 1100/1100 with no keywords, you'll definitely want to use the next turn NOT attacking with it so you can lose 1 of your resonators to kill one of the opponent's 3 cost or less resonators. Granted, you can tap him and banish him for his cost to kill something if the opponent tries to kill him off the next turn, but then you just paid 5 mana to kill one of their 3 cost or less resonators. This guy is just bleh.

Mad Oni at least has use. He's a 500 ATK unit for 1 mana, which is super efficient, but at the cost of being forced to attack each turn no matter what. According to the spoiler article, Bloodlust doesn't force him to attack as the first action of the turn, but he does have to attack before you end your turn, and has to be the first resonator you attack with. If your opponent fields one good blocker this guy is dead, but for his cost, it's not like you lost much. He's also the only viable way to get the full effect of Oni Strike from the Vampire Deck.

Abdul is pretty neat. He's a 3-drop that doesn't really do much, but the following turn he can exchange himself for a Cthulhu in your hand. Looks like we got our way to cheat Azathoth onto the field. He sort of reminds me of Interdimensional Monarch, Gill Lapis, in the fact that he's a 3-drop that you then pay 4 to for to put a big monster into the field. Except Abdul doesn't search for a Cthulhu on-enter, and is easier to kill off due to the lack of any other effects. I'd be more excited about him if we had more Cthulhu's that we'd want to cheese in. It's possible we may get 1 more in the red Starter Deck/as red support in the set, but I wouldn't hold my breath. And maxing both him and Azathoth to get this off consistently is going to lead to a lot of dead hands.

Eternal Recurrence is... pretty simple. Pay 5, nuke all resonators. It isn't instant and hits both players with no prejudice. The spoiler recommends you play Abdul at 3 mana, transform him into Azathoth at 4, then play this at 5 to nuke everything (except Azathoth, since his counters protect him), but then you'd just have to use Azathoth's ability to kill himself, making you lose 3 of his counters in one turn. That isn't taking into consideration the opponent having Apollo or destruction protection. All-in-all, this card would probably be neat in a draft format, but that's about the extent of it.

And to end the article... we get a vanilla. Has minor use in draft, but that's it. The spoiler article literally says "This card is terrible in constructed, but he has a lot of ATK! Use him in draft!" This guy could have been another Vampire or Cthulhu, so the themes could actually feel a little complete with this set, but no, we needed this guy.

Overall, this spoiler gave some much needed support to some of the themes they introduced this set. I still feel like Oni shouldn't have been a thing, and those cards should have gone to Vampires and Cthulhu, but at least there's one usable Oni so Oni Strike can see some play. Rinka is really strong, although I still question Seijuro's usefulness, and Abdul just falls short of being a really incredible card. If we see a way to search Cthulhu's, then he'll be a staple card, but until then he's little more than inconsistent and gimmicky.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Vampiric Hunger - Spoiler Impressions

"Vampiric Hunger" is a pretty accurate name for this starter deck, as I was left waiting for more after reading these spoilers. For a deck titled after vampires, it was pretty ballsy for FoW Inc. to only include 2 actual vampires, one of which is the Ruler. They went super Japanese with the theme this time, too.

The Ruler for this deck is Ally of the Black Moon, who flips into Eternal Vampire, Mikage Seijuro. He's not Dracula, like some might have been hoping for, but he'll have to do. His Judgment cost is pretty middle-of-the-road with BB1, and he packs the standard Energize all the Lapis Cluster Rulers have. His unique Ruler-side ability is, by paying 1 black will, he will burn 1 resonator for 100 damage and then add a blood counter to himself. The burn damage is negligible at best, and the only noteworthy things it will kill are Messenger Familiar and Kid Puss-in-boots, and Familiar definitely isn't something you want to proc without good reason. So he, more often than not, will amount to Pay 1 black: Put a counter on him.

But what do you do with these counters? Once you flip him, you get the option to remove them for... admittedly mediocre effects. A -100/-100 debuff to a resonator, a temporary +200/0 buff to himself, 200 life gain, or a +100/+100 counter on a Vampire resonator. He's got a respectable 900/900 body, on top of Imperishable and Flying, which are VERY strong keywords, but they really don't make up for his lack of payoff on counters.

All I can see when I look at this guy is an overly-nerfed Reflect/Refrain. You put counters on him with his Ruler side, then flip him and spend them on the J-Ruler side. Imperishable means he can kamikaze (or survive getting destroyed) and flip back, keeping his Judgment ability, and refill his counters. But 1 will is just way too much for adding a counter, especially since you need tons of them to do anything noteworthy.

Shara, Third Daughter of the Mikage, is really the only saving grave to her father's otherwise lackluster abilities, but that's only because her existence tells us there are at least 2 other cards meant to interact with him. She's 500/500 for 1 will, which is way above average, but at the cost of being unable to attack unless she has +100/+100 counters on her. This is were dear ole' daddy comes in, using his J-Ruler ability to put a 1/1 counter on her. However, if need be, she can add a counter herself (albeit for a lot more mana) and burn a resonator for 200 damage. She even adds an additional counter if Seijuro is your J/Ruler. I guess FoW is still trying to push Evolution Counters on us, and think reskinning it to look like an edgy loli will make it more attractive.

Power Absorption is a neat support card for the race. It's an instant for BB and deals 600 damage to a J/resonator, which is increased by 100 for each Vampire you control... which there are only 4 of in this Starter Deck. Good job FoW. So, realistically, you're looking at 600, maybe 700 damage from this, and afterwards you put a 1/1 counter on each Vampire you control. At least this card can kill off something problematic AND let Shara attack, and even pumps Seijuro to a 10/10. Still, its usefulness is going to depend on how many more Vampires we get, and how good they are.

Blood of the Mikage is another interesting inclusion here. It isn't an instant, but only costs 1 will and gives a J/resonator 800/800 and Precision, at the cost of having it die at the end of the turn. What's interesting is that it can target J-Rulers, so you can force Seijuro's Imperishable and get ready to throw more counters on him. That's really the only use, though. It's functionally similar to Blood Boil, but doesn't have Quickcast, so you can't use it to surprise trade with an attacker.

Oni Strike is what appears to be the Lapis Cluster version of Endless Night. They cost the same (BB1), and both destroy a resonator, but their secondary effects differ. Endless Night gives the field a blanket -200/-200, whereas Oni Strike deals 500 damage to the opponent, but only if you control an Oni. Wow, a brand new race, and specific support for it? That's so cool! Especially in a deck that's supposed to be based around Vampires...

At least they included an Oni in the Starter Deck for us, right? But he costs a whopping 5 to play, and has no inherent protection or keyword skills. What he does do is search out an Addition and put it into your hand. Yeah, hand, NOT into play. For at expensive as he is, and for what little he does, that's kind of terrible value. Especially since the addition, Castle of Oni, costs a whopping 3 mana to play. It gives all your Darkness J/resonators +200/+200, and can banish itself to add a card from your grave to your hand. This is an incredibly slow and expensive combo. If you're playing 5-cost resonators, those things had better win you the game (Behemoth) or give you some insane value (Celestial Wing Seraph). This guy does neither. What's worse is that he's the ONLY Oni in the deck, so if you want the full value out of Oni's Strike, you have to play it after you play this guy. In a deck without ramp.

Honestly, Oni could be a really cool race with some neat tribal support, but I hope to god they get nothing. That sounds bad, but this set already has to support Cthulhu's and Vampires, and with only about 10 total darkness cards left in the set and having only seen 1 Vampire Resonator and 2 Cthulhu's, the rest of that support needs to be devoted to those races. Splitting it even further into Oni will leave players with a bunch of half-made decks.

And here we have hot garbage the rest of the deck. Sorry, HALF of the deck... and they're Fairy Tales. Seriously? Fairy Tales already have a dedicated Starter Deck, they do NOT need half of another, especially since they're siphoning off support from every other color in the set, too. These cards don't even have synergy with the majority of the other Fairy Tales, or even this deck for that matter. Heaven Bound Pheasant's 400/300 stats are abysmal for being a 2-cost, even with flying and forcing a discard upon death. Black has much better and more efficient discard outlets. Monkey Trapped in Life is only useful in Wanderer Cthulhu decks as another recyclable Incarnation target. Hellhound at least has the advantage of triggering both of them and turning him 1-for-1 effect into a +1, but that's terribly inefficient and cloggy. It's a cute Starter Deck-tier combo and nothing more, but when other "cute Starter Deck combo's" have Millium ramping to impossible numbers and Feithsing spamming the field with free 5/5 creatures, the Faithful Hellhound isn't looking so faithful anymore. He also directly contradicts what Momotaro is trying to do, with his effect needing 3 or more other resonators for a mediocre pump, which also isn't in line with what Darkness as a color tries to do. This deck is just all over the place.

It's neat that these cards represent the Momotaro tale from Japanese Mythology, though. It's a story that follows a young boy, born from the core of a Peach, as he adventures to slay the evil Oni King. Along the way, he befriends a Pheasant, Dog, and Monkey, and together they beat the demon. Honestly, calling this deck "Vampiric Hunger" is borderline false advertising, since 28 of the 40 main deck cards are all themed after this one tale. 

So, overall, I'm terribly disappointed. Vampire's at least have some potential, if Seijuro's other 2 daughters are actually in the set and do some interesting stuff. But all the Vampire support so far has just been crap-tier burn, making it a worse Red deck. Hopefully we get some neat toys that make these cards pretty useful, but until then, I'll have to remain disappointed. We're 2-2 on Starter Decks right now, where the Light and Winds decks are pretty god-tier and the Water and Darkness decks are little more than colorful cardboard. Hopefully the Fire deck next week with at least give FoW Inc. a position record for this cluster.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

CFC Spoiler Impression #7 & The Banning of R/R!

It's been a little longer than I had hoped since my last article, but I've suddenly become busy out of nowhere, and that's taking up a lot of my time. On top of that, the past few spoilers have been as icky as can be. I was pumped to finally see red stuff getting revealed, then lo and behold, it's some boring gimmicky deck, and a blue version following right after. However, the Fairy Tale stuff from the most recent spoiler article tickled my fancy ever so slightly, so I'm back at it again.

First up is Peter Pan himself, this time in a tournament-legal form (RIP Learn to Play decks). His stats are pretty abysmal for a 3-drop, but he makes up for it in utility. Flying helps, making him harder to block, so some cheese damage with new Grimm's effect is easy, plus it's in-theme with his lore. The juicy part to his skill is the free +1 he gives, letting you search your deck for any 1-cost Fairy Tale and put it into play. There's already a nice number of those in the game (Like Tinker Bell from the Starter Deck), and he only gets better as more cards are released.

Partnering up with him is Wendy who, wouldn't you know it, is a 1-drop Fairy Tale. She's also one of the anti-Dual Stone cards we were promised going into Lapis Cluster. She isn't Special Stone hate in the form of punishing your opponent for using for using them, but rather a reward for you for not using them. She'll become a 4/5 1-drop if you control only basic stones, which honestly isn't all that great of an effect. She gets flying if you control Peter Pan, and she recovers herself whenever you play a Fairy Tale (i.e. a better Rapunzel). I feel like FoW Inc fell a little short here in trying to make incentives to run basic stones, since a 200 power boost is mediocre compared to access to things like new Thunder, or splashing green for ramp/negation. Her recovery effect is pretty strong though, especially if you have a lot of low-cost resonators you can play, and pump her up with something like new Grimm.

Or you could pump her up with Dreams of Flight. This card is just stupid good; Quickcast + remnant is a powerful combination, especially on a 1-cost spell. We all know how irritating Rapid Growth can get. This thing grants Flying AND a power boost, with a Force 1 check. Or Force 2 with Pandora out. This thing has a LOT of cheese potential, albeit with some luck involved.

Retelling Stories is cool too. It's only chant speed, and costs 2, but let's you refresh all the Fairy Tales in your grave and essentially adds 1 to your hand. But, unless you have a way to shuffle your deck, it means you'll be drawing resonators for days. I'd almost always want to use Horn of the Sacred Beasts, but this card does replace itself, and let's you have a more streamlined refresh.

Neverland is interesting, removing the top card of your deck and giving you the option to play it that turn if it was a Fairy Tale. Unfortunately, for being a 3-cost addition and still requiring you to pay for the removed resonator (If it was even a Fairy Tale to begin with), it's pretty meh. Has some neat application in a Lumia deck, but other than that, there isn't much to say.

Likewise for Fairy of Neverland. A 2-drop 5/5 is just under the now-standard for 2-drops, but she makes up for it by giving your 1-cost Fairy Tales flying. But with Tinker Bell having that innately, Wendy having easy access to it, and Dreams of Flight being a thing, I doubt this girl will see much play. She'd be cool in a 1-drop-heavy deck, but outside of that I think Dreams of Flight would be all-around better.

Lastly, we get some water stuff. Mermaid is pretty bland, being a 6/6 3-drop (Weeeeeak) that draws a card upon entering. Likely won't see play unless we see an easy way to abuse her, especially since Squire of the Ocean lady has the same effect, but for 1 less will.

The real MVP of this article is Captain Hook. He's a 10/10 5-drop, which is pretty standard, but can kill 2 stones upon entering. This is the kind of Special Stone hate I was hoping for. Your opponent is a greedy meta player and plays 10 dual stones? Get rid of 2 of them. Plop them right back on top of their stone deck, so they have to dig through them to get more stones. As icing on the cake, you can also just bounce 2 resonators instead. So if your opponent isn't playing special stones, or you think you can win this turn and don't need to spin their stones, he also has removal. Being a 5-drop, he's primed for Shion cheese with her Judgment. Imagine being on the play, flipping her Turn 4, and leaving your opponent with 1 magic stone going into their turn, staring down Shion and Hook. Might as well extend the handshake then and there.

Reflect, Child of PotentialRefrain, Child of Convergence

Not part of the spoiler, but very relevant information. FoW Inc has FINALLY banned this cancer machine from tournament play in New Frontiers. Goodbye and good riddance. I've hated this thing since the day I started playing Force of Will. Playing R/R is like playing the game on easy mode; it just does too much. Sure, R/R mirror matches can be pretty skill intensive since both players have answers to each others' answers, but R/R vs. non-R/R might as well be a free win, since no other Ruler grants nearly as much utility as this card does. This mistake was an auto-inclusion in any deck, be it the main deck or side board, and you built your deck from there. That's terribly unhealthy for the game, and I'm honestly surprised it took them this long to do something about it. If 7/8 of every Top 8 listed this card as their Ruler, even after the errata-nerf, you know something's wrong. I'm looking forward to seeing what the top deck(s) will be now that this oppressive tyrant has been overthrown.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Curse of the Frozen Casket - Spoiler #4 Impressions

Another day, another spoiler article. Thankfully, we finally got to see some Darkness cards (Seriously, they doubled down on Light and Wind before we got a single Darkness), and they're quite interesting. As promised, Cthulhu's are making their big return to the game, like a lot of other Grimm races. Thankfully, FoW Inc decided to drop that cancerous Incarnate mechanic for something aesthetically in theme with these new Cthulhu's.

For our Ruler, we have Umr At-Twil. It's a weird name, but all of these Eldritch Horrors brandish similarly unpronounceable names, so its nothing new. Speaking of the source material, Umr at-Twil (spelled quite a few different ways) is one of the avatars of Yog-Sothoth in the story "Through the Gates of the Silver Key." And look at that, his art and flavor text are all about his keys, and he Judgments into Yog-Sothoth. Neato. His Ruler side is pretty bland, only sporting Judgment and Energize, making him significantly less useful than most of the other Rulers we've seen who have re-usable Ruler-side abilities. What sets him apart, however, is his flexible Judgment cost of BX. When he Judgments, he flips into a 1500/1500 monstrosity that gets a "Limit Counter" for each of the X will you spent to flip him +1. "Limit" is the new mechanic they're introducing for Cthulhu's, where the cards enter with a certain amount of Limit Counters, which are removed through attacking, blocking, or their own effects, and then have some sort of negative effect once their counters reach zero. From a lore perspective, this is supposed to represent how the Cthulhu's were sealed into human bodies, and their Limit Counters represent them unleashing their Eldritch powers, which they can only do for so long before reverting to their human state.

Yog-Sothoth's Limit is flexible, letting him enter with a minimum of 1 counter (if you paid 0 for the X cost and Judgmented for Black) and upwards of 11 or more counters. In addition to the standard effect of removing counters when he attacks or blocks, Yog will also remove one counter at the end of each of your turns, then destroy every resonator on the field with total cost equal to the number of Limit Counters on him. At the start of either turn, if he has no Limit Counters, you lose 500 life and he returns to his Ruler side. This means he'll be losing 2 counters each turn (one from attacking/blocking, one from his effect), so he'll burn through them fairly quickly. A Judgment for 7 means he'll be on the field for 3 turns, give or take. That's a lot of cost for not staying on the field that long, but that's also basically 3 turns of nuking your opponent's field for free. The downside, of course, is that he also hits your own field, but with such a high Judgment cost, its not like you'll be playing much else during your turn anyway.

Despite this, he actually has some pretty good flexibility, and a decent amount of pressure just from existing. While he only nukes the cards with cost exactly equaling his counters, that still gives you some wiggle room. Most of the power cards in the current format are 2-3 cost resonators (Lancelot, Pricia, Tsukuyomi Noble, Urthur, etc.) so flipping him with 3 counters kills off some of the stronger units, and then the opponent will have to go into their turn knowing that if they play anything size 2, it'll just die. Likewise for the R/R Stealth deck, Melder is 5 and Riza is 4, giving you a staggered nuked to deal with them, too. Granted this is a 2-turn "combo," but in a meta where tons of low-cost units are dominant, you can flip him cheaply and often for some serious damage.

These two cards help with some of the issues Yog faces. The Gate of the Silver Key is a 1-cost Addition, making it really cost-effective to use with him. In fact, it fully refunds itself, as it reduces your Judgment costs by 1. So that mana you would have used to Judgment, but used to play this? It's still kind of there. Having multiples of these out is just rude. Two of them means you can flip for 1 Black and enter the field with 3 Limit Counters. That's mad value. Granted, there's a lot more Addition destruction running around now, so it's a prime target to get sniped (But hey, you only spent 1 will on it), but it has an answer to that... kind of? You can pay an absurd amount of will and banish it to force the opponent to discard a card, which is a good response if the opponent targets it with destruction, but when will you realistically have the available will, in this deck especially?

But if we're talking about absurd costs, let's move on to Azathoth. This bad boy costs BB6, but hits the field with a whopping 2000/2000 (Suck it, Remote Control Golem!) and 6 Limit Counters. If he would be destroyed, you can just remove a counter from him instead. Whenever he attacks, you destroy a J/resonator, which is HUGE. Cheap and easy J-Ruler destruction? It won't even matter if they give it Imperishable or otherwise dodge this effect, it's absolutely free for you to use and will make your opponent blow resources. Unfortunately, it's a mandatory effect and isn't opponent-only, so he'll have to kill your stuff if the opponent's board is empty. And while his extremely high cost will often dodge Yog's field nuke, he'll deal 2000 damage to you and destroy himself if he ever hits 0 Limit Counters at the end of either turn. If you manage to get him and Yog out together, though, it's basically GG. Azathoth can kill any high-cost cards and leave Yog to play cleanup on the lower-cost units, and together they're 3500 damage the opponent has to deal with.

Here we have out obligatory removal spells. Black lost a good chunk of their hard field removal when Grimm rotated out, so with Lapis essentially being Grimm 2.0, we're getting a taste of that again. It's no Stoning to Death (yet), but these cards are pretty neat. An Encounter with Cthulhu has that scrumptious Quickcast, and forces each player to banish a non-Cthulhu resonator. Oh, you don't have any resonators/only have Cthulhu's? Looks like you're in the clear. Dropping this on an opponent during their turn can get rid of a pesky resonator that may be over Yog's nuking capabilities, or is untargetable/immune to destruction.

Resonance of Madness is a little less flexible. It costs 1 less, but doesn't have Quickcast, and forces you to banish one of your resonators. This means this card is almost always going to be a 2-for-1 to destroy a resonator. While Encounter skirts around Barrier and the like, it loses a lot of steam if the opponent has more than 1 resonator and you NEED to kill a specific one. Targeted destruction is always useful to have around, and while 2-for-1's are bad, there are ways to mitigate it. Cards like Rukh Egg, Messenger Familiar, Alice's Little Scout, etc. all replace themselves when they die, and it provides an easy way to kill off Cthulhu's who have used up all their Limit Counters, before they can backfire on you.

And here we have the reprints... wait, that's not right. Creature from Chaos is essentially a better Shadow Assassin. He has less defense (200 vs 500), but costs 1 less and has the ability to destroy J-Rulers with his effect. That's HUGE, and what's more, it doesn't even target! GG to Barrier and Wind-Secluded Refuge. If you have that much of a hard-on for field nukes, you can even slap Blood-Covered War Axe on this guy and kill everything when it attacks. Then there's The Nameless Mist, which is a counterpart to Scorn of Dark Alice (It even has a sexy floating face for the art! Does this company know no shame!?) but instead of Resonators, it hits... non-resonators. I wasn't a fan of this card, looking at how boring it was to just alter the effect of one card slightly then slap it on another card, but Mist actually has a strong niche. Against heavy control decks, that run minimal resonators and tons of control/negate/discard spells, this card works wonders. Sniping a Dark Storm means you keep your hand and get to keep Cthulu-ing; sniping a negation card means you can make your plays uninterrupted; sniping Black Moonbeam means Yog can go on nuking like WW2 America. 

Sadly, this was the smallest spoiler so far, only revealing 7 total cards. With only 2 Cthulhu's shown it's hard to tell what's coming for Black, but hopefully that means FoW Inc. is saving a good chunk of cards for the next spoiler that all work together. Fingers crossed the next article spoils something Red!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Swarming Elves Starter Deck Preview Impressions

On this merry morning of Monday we were graced with yet another preview of upcoming cards, this time catching a glimpse of the new green Starter Deck, Swarming Elves. One doesn't usually think of elves as "swarming," but this starter deck definitely lives up to its name.

First off, we have the J/Ruler from the deck; Fiethsing, defying stereotypes not only by breaking gender norms and being a powerful female character, but also tearing down RPG cliches by putting on more clothes as she powers up. Truly a ground breaking card, but I don't just mean that sarcastically. On both her Ruler and J-Ruler side, Fiethsing is sporting a brand new mechanic: token creation. Her Ruler side has a hefty Judgment cost of GG3 (5 total) and the now-standard Energize, but also has the ability of putting a 100/100 Wind Elf Resonator token into play whenever you play your second card of the turn. When she flips, she gains a respectable 800/800 body as well as a field-wide buff of 400/400 to all other Elves (which counts her tokens). She keeps her token generating ability, but spawns two instead of one, which are now essentially 500/500 with her first ability. While these only trigger on the second card played, limiting you to 1 or 2 (depending on what side she's on) tokens each turn, they quickly stack up. Her incredibly expensive judgment will probably hamper her a bit, but at least we got some ramp cards (discussed below) to help out, and being green means she has inherent access to Wind-Secluded Refuge, so she can effectively dodge Black Moonbeam (and it kind of synergizes with her playstyle to boot). Probably one of the lolziest things you can do with her is, going second, playing a Turn 1 Gwiber. If you hit your Magic Stone of Gusting Skies (Wind/Light), you can play a free regalia, use your Energize mana to play a 1-drop green Resonator, which hits the 2 card threshold and triggers her giving birth to a token. That's 2 resonators on the field and 1 light mana still up, which is Gwiber's bat signal. Plus, if your Resonator was a mana dork, you still have access to 1 mana on your opponent's turn to Wall of Wind whatever pitiful counterattack they might try to make.

The next two cards we were shown both sport the new Torrent keyword, which is the overall theme of this Starter Deck, and seems to be a big theme for green so far in Lapis Cluster. The first card, Great Holy Sealing Wave, shoves a 2-cost or less Resonator to the bottom of the opponent's deck. If you Torrent it, you can snipe Resonators up to 4 cost. However, this Chant lacks the Quickcast keyword, so it isn't a reactive spell. I doubt it'll see much (if any) play because of this, and it would have been a really cool card otherwise. Zero got a 1-cost Light spell that removes a card from the game at instant speed, and I don't think this card is much different on a functional level. Sure, there are differences, like Zero's card having to wait to hit something that attacks or blocks, giving this card a little more flexibility, but no Quickcast is a HUGE hit. The key to this deck is going to be balancing what you play on your turn with what you cast on the opponent's, to make the most out of Fiethsing's token generating ability, and you'll need a lot of Quickcast to do that.

Speaking of which, we have the second card, Two-Fold Chant. It's essentially Wall of Wind that costs 1 more will, which really isn't that good, but makes up for it with its Torrent ability changing the text to flat-out cancelling a card. While I'm really not happy about more negation in the game (especially now with ramp cards making a comeback), this card certainly opens up some interesting plays.

The other Quickcast we get in the Starter Deck is Whispers from the Wind. For only one green, you reveal the top card of your deck, draw it, and if you play it (or a copy of it) as your next card, it gets cheaper by 1 green. This opens up a lot of interesting combos: Flipping a copy of itself means you can immediately play it again for free and trigger Fiethsing's token factory; flipping a copy of Two-Fold Chant means you can now negate any spell for 1 void will; flipping any of your Resonators means they get cheaper to play that turn, and if you flipped a 1-cost (which the deck contains quite a few of that I'll get to later), you get to play it for free. Combine with this Ratatoskr, who gives all your wind Resonators Quickcast, and you have some shenanigans on the opponent's turn.

Now, with the deck based around playing 2+ cards each turn (and you only getting 1 draw each turn), the next logical conclusion is that you need cards that refill your hand to keep the pain train going, as well as some form of mana ramp to be able to play all of these cards. Well, lucky for us, Force of Will Inc thought the same thing and gave us Hall of the Sages. According to its flavor text, this is the place where Zero and Fiethsing raised Kaguya (something that would never be allowed in Post-Trump America!), and this thing is a tank of a card. It's a 2-cost addition, which seems pretty standard for non-bestowing Additions, and can tap itself to produce any color mana, given you've already played at least 1 card this turn, which counts itself. Free immediate ramp is free. If you go second, you can Energize this onto the field, then use it to play a mana dork and go into your second turn with 4 mana. Yeah, balance! At the cost of 2 mana and tapping it, it can also banish itself and let you draw 1 card, so if your opponent tries to get rid of it, you can just have it replace itself and laugh at your opponent for wasting a removal card.

These two resonators also help solve the issue of needing a constant supply of mana and cards in hand to keep the token factory running. Spirit of Wind, as long as she's the 2nd or more card played this turn, will refund 1 of the mana used to play her. This lets you put a stone up to Quickcast stuff going into your opponent's turn, and she also sports Flying, because screw your opponent! Torrent Elf will let you draw 1 card under the same conditions, and if you look closely enough at his art, you can even see him illegally downloading movies.

Moving past the boring resonators, we get to these two beauties. Christie is a large 1000/1000 body, for only 4 total cost, and will do a Duel of Truth with one of your opponent's J/resonators on-enter, provided she is at least the 2nd card you played during the turn. Being 4 cost might make it difficult to play her and another card in the same turn, but she's a later-game card anyway. Her second ability is pretty meh, paying a green to pump her 200/200 for the turn, but only if Fiethsing is your Ruler. I'd rank it as one of the worst ruler-restricted effects, but I guess FoW didn't want you running her in anything and pumping her to 4000 Power. She can snipe most problematic cards in the game, and is a strong backup card if your token engine stalls or the opponent manages to nuke your field.

Following her is Aria. She has Barrier Black, so she's immune to targeting effects of black cards (i.e. most hard removal), so she's here to stay once she hits the field, unless you're facing blue. She has a blanket 200/200 buff to your field, making your tokens 300/300, or 700/700 once Fiethsing flips. Two 700/700 units each turn for free is... ouch. Sadly, she won't get Fiethsing's 400/400 boost, but that's fine.

Lastly, we have the Lapis versions of Familiar of Holy Wind and Elvish Priest, respectively, which are carbon-copies save for minuscule changes. I really hate that FoW brought these back, as they were severely overplayed when Grimm was legal and only facilitated things like Adombrali spam and free first turn Wall of Winds. As mentioned before, this Starter Deck needs ramp and draw power to keep the engine going, but I really think they could have done a better job. These cards are just going to get thrown into whatever meta abomination arises from this cluster and seeing them will get just as old as it was in Grimm.

That's it for this Starter Deck. Overall, I really like the theme and playstyle they went for here, making the deck pretty technical and less explosive. It'll definitely be playable right out of the box, and can only get better with whatever support Curse of the Frozen Casket has for it. And remember kids, don't let the NSA catch you Torrenting!