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  • ashes basics: deck building - a repost 2

    On the 17/02/2020, the website will be/was taken down. Many thanks to Brandon Miller for hosting it up until now. However, there are a few articles that i believe are worth keeping a hold of, so I will be creating a series of posts that is literally a copy/paste of the original articles. I didn't write any of them, full credit to all those who put in their time and effort into writing these. In addition to that, i have edited it as little as possible, mostly just formatting.

    thesnipertroll October 17, 2016

    Hello everyone! In the last few episodes of my Ashes Basics series, we dealt with the Phoenixborn in the Core Set and with their preconstructed deck. Before we begin addressing the expansions, though, I’d like to talk about deckbuilding, because attempting to build and play with a customized deck is a step that, in my opinion, anyone, even who didn’t have any previous experience with this kind of games, might want to take sooner or later. If you are here to discover the secrets behind building a tournament-winning super-deck, I’m sorry, I don’t have the magical recipe for you; but at least I hope to provide you some principles that – still in my opinion – you should always keep in mind when building a deck.

    How to Build a Deck in 30 Seconds

    You bought the game, you studied the rules and played some games with the preconstructed decks. Many of you most likely cursed a bit when playing Noah against Aradel, but this didn’t stop you. You like the game, but then you begin to know the decks by heart; you want something more. Then you happen to take a look at the sidebar on page 14 of the rules: “Deck Building”. Mmh… sounds interesting… here’s how to create a custom deck:
    - Choose a Phoenixborn
    - Choose exactly 30 cards, not one more, not one less, with the following limitations
    - You can include up to 3 copies of the same card in you deck;
    - You can’t include in your deck cards that are exclusive of other Phoenixborn (those that have a picture of a Phoexnixborn different from the one you chose in their bottom-right corner);
    - Choose exactly 10 dice to form your pool. There are no limitations in the types and distribution of the chosen dice.

    Conjurations are not included in the deck, but in a conjuration pile that is created by taking all the conjuration that the cards in your deck could potentially bring into play. Each card will be included in the conjuration pile in a number of copies equal to its conjuration limit.

    Great. Done. That’s all. Next time we’ll begin to talk about the expansion decks. Thanks for reading! See ya!

    Ok… fine, that’s not everything. Well… yes, from a certain point of view it is all, these are the rules. With these simple rules, and the cards in the Core Set, you can create a myriad of decks, so have fun! Truth is, among all the possible combinations, a lot would be completely unplayable, and among the playable one, some will be more efficient than others. The purpose of this article is to give you some general criteria to narrow the field and allow you to dedicate only to those combination that could seriously work.

    Disclaimer: I listed the following steps in a somewhat logical order, that is the one I usually follow, but that doesn’t mean you should follow this to the letter. Actually, you’ll most likely find yourself jumping back and forth between those steps in an iterative way, adjusting your choices again and again and reviewing what you already decided, polishing your deck until you reach a satisfactory point.

    Strategy First

    Let’s start with the basics. Game objective? To win. How do you win? By putting as many wound tokens on the opponent Phoenixborn as they have Life.
    That’s your deck’s task. There are no other ways to win other than dealing 15-22 wounds on the enemy Phoenixborn and make them stay there, so the first question you have to ask yourself is: how do I fulfil this objective?

    The answer to this fundamental question defines your deck’s general strategy. There are many out there, but the most common are the following:
    - Repeatedly attack the opponent’s Phoenixborn with many small units, in succession or as a group.
    - Attack the opponent’s Phoenixborn with medium-high attack units, so that you could close the game with 2-3 well-struck blows;
    - Directly deal damage to the opponent’s Phoenixborn through spells and abilities, thus ignoring any unit that could defend them;
    - Let the opponent’s Phoenixborn suffer damage because their controller can’t draw in the Prepare Phase.

    Those strategies aren’t “absolute” of course. On the contrary, since each offers advantages and disadvantages, they could be combined in various ratios to gain more flexibility and to mitigate your weak points. For example, you would want to use a mix of large and small units, or you would combine the capability to inflict direct damage with discard, to reduce the number of rounds you need to win thanks to the damage for not being able to draw.

    Once you set your broad strategy, you should choose a “package” of core cards that would allow you to lead that strategy to completion. You want to use swarms of small units? Maybe units like Gilder, Mist Spirit, Shadow Spirit, Fire Archer or Sleeping Widows could do the job. Direct damage? You would most likely consider cards as Molten Gold, Sympathy Pain or Stormwind Sniper.

    The Phoenixbonrn could be one of these core cards, but it’s not mandatory: you could choose a Phoenixborn only to support your chosen strategy, there’s nothing bad in that. In picking your Phoenixborn, take into account the exclusive card you’ll gain access to: if that allows you to further advance your strategy, considering to use it makes sense, otherwise you could well do without.

    There are obviously cases where you would only want to use a given Phoenixborn precisely to have access to its unique card. In such situations, in my opinion, you should attempt to choose a strategy to which your Phoenixborn could at least give a minimum of support, or you would find yourself with a card of limited utility in play.

    (Angus note: I've had to remove an image showing fear, [[Rin’s Fury]] and summon silver snake as examples of loyalty/exclusive cards)

    The Colour of Magic
    Once your strategy is set, and you chose the core cards around which your deck would be played, you should start to take a look at what kind of dice those cards will require, to understand which could be your (approximate) dice distribution. Don’t worry to choose exactly which and how many dice of each type to use, that’s something we’ll get back later at, but theoretically you should have, from just the core cards and your Phoenixborn, a rough idea of which types of dice you’ll mostly need, and which would act as a support or would most likely be cut, which would help you narrow the field of cards you could add to support the deck’s strategy.

    If, for instance, you would want to create your strategy around launching unblockable attacks with a Hammer Knight and Hypnotize*, you would need at least a Nature [[natural]], a Ceremonial [[ceremonial]], two Charm [[charm]], and a fifth [[basic]] die to set this up in a single round. As a precaution, both to limit meditation and as a countermeasure against Illusion dice, having at least another die of each kind is never a good idea, so your strategy could force you to commit at least 7 of your ten dice: 2x [[natural]] 2x[[ceremonial]] 3x[[charm]], which most likely mean Summon Shadow Hound (costing 3x[[illusion]]) won’t be a fitting addition – unless you go heavy with dice recovery – while Summon Gilder (play cost 1x[[charm:class]], activation cost 1[[natural:class]]) could find some room more easily, and could be a good support card to protect your Hammer Knight.

    *Angus note: this is a good example of why I want to save these articles

    A question you could often find yourself asking, especially at the beginning, would be: how many dice types to use? The short answer is: it depends on which cards you are using. Contrary to what happens in other games that require specific resources to play given cards, having all the resources available from the beginning allows you to include a broader array of options; you’ll rarely run the risk of having a given resource available and not drawing cards that require it, or – much worse – having specific cards in hand that you can’t play because you lack the corresponding resources.

    This said, the ideal approach is to go for 2-3 magic types. Even with the “mono-magic” expansions, the card pool is at the moment too narrow to build truly efficient single-die decks especially because of the predictability of the cards you’ll have to use, and the excessive specialization that would lead you to have many weak points in other areas, which more versatile opponents would easily exploit (though you definitely won’t have any problems in finding the right resources at the right time). On the opposite side, diluting the dice distribution over all the 4 types, though feasible, would make managing your deck more complex, and would make you an easier prey for the Hungry Wolves (i.e. Illusion [[illusion]] dice).

    In the end, like in most other cases, there’s no universal recipe that could be OK in any situation, you should find the right distribution that most fits your play style by yourselves. Seen the most frequent deck types, however, the “standard” dice distribution you could in my opinion start with could be:

    - For 2 kinds of dice: 5/5, 6/4 or 7/3, according to how much you want to dig into one of the two magic types, relegating the other to a support role;

    - For 3 kinds of dice: 4/3/3 (balanced), 4/4/2 (balanced, with a “splash” of one type – one of the most common distributions), 5/3/2, or 6/2/2 (growing emphasis on one of the three magic types).

    Bringing It All Together

    After choosing the cards you’ll need to put your strategy on the move, and beginning to think about a possible dice distribution, it’s time to think about the side dish, i.e. all those cards who don’t directly advance your strategy but:
    - make the realization of your strategy easier/faster to achieve and/or
    - allow you to exploit their synergy with the “core” cards in your deck to support the strategy you have in mind and/or
    - take care of possible lacks or limits of your strategy

    I wrote “and/or” because frequently those aspects overlap, and the same card can cover more functions at the same time.

    For instance, if you wanted to enact a “swarm” strategy, cards like Final Cry or Chant of Revenge could show some utility though they don’t directly advance your strategy of putting a lot of cheap units into play and attack the opponent. An overall weakness of this strategy is the fact that such units tend to be extremely frail and will be destroyed with ease: having cards that, with a moderate expense, allow you to transform the loss of units into damage to the opponent is a good help for sure.

    Or, if you want to go for strong but expensive units, [[Rin’s Fury]] and Hypnotize can both make this strategy easier, giving you extra dice to play those units and the upgrades you need, and a way to directly attack the opponent, but also mitigate some of the deck’s limitations, like the generally high cost of larger units, and the fact the opponent can easily block those units with smaller, cheaper ones, making you waste precious resources.

    In general, even if you aim for direct damage or to discard the opponent’s deck, it’s good to have a way to constantly bring units into play, both to attack and to defend. Ready spells that put conjuration into your battlefield are the most obvious choice, but they are slow and predictable, while allies deal more damage on average, and allow you to put some pressure to your opponent and to somewhat exploit a “surprise effect”, but require to be drawn, and the cost for you to recover them from the discard pile might turn out to be quite steep.

    Once you have chosen your strategy, you should think about how to implement it, and about when, during the game, you could be in need of a given card: this might help you to understand how many copies to use. A card that can help you set the course in the first round, but won’t be of much use if drawn later will probably be enough in a single copy, to include in your First Five. On the other hand, if you want to maximize the chances to see a card you don’t immediately need, but becomes fundamental from round 2 onward, you should include three copies of it.

    You should evaluate, based on the average cost on the cards in your deck and the number of drawing effects you have, how many cards you might draw each round, because this will influence the chances you have to see exactly that card you need a lot: if your costs are high, you’ll most likely play less cards per round from your hand, thus drawing less. The same goes if you rely much on ready spells in your spellboard and on those cards that require you to spend dice to activate their abilities. On the other hand, cheap spells and allies in hand will lead you to save very few cards from round to round (with the opposite risk, that’s finding yourselves with a lot of unspent dice, beware!) and so drawing a lot, increasing the chances to see the cards you need.

    Last, always take into account the fact that, even if you don’t draw cards that require a given type of magic, you always have access to the dice powers, whose efficiency may vary a lot based on the situation ([[natural]] and [[illusion]] have a broader utility, [[ceremonial]] and [[charm]] are a bit more situational), but it’s never to be underestimated.

    The First Five

    Another fundamental aspect is the choice of the First Five you’re going to usually play with, which is something that usually happens when defining the key cards for your strategy. This won’t automatically mean your First Five must all be key cards: it’s possible, especially if you aim for a long match, that the majority of those will stay in the deck, and the First Five will serve to set up a first round that allows you to mitigate the damage and initiate a strategy that will develop in the following rounds.

    The choice of the First Five also brings with it a good chunk of the evaluation about which and how many dice of each kind to choose for your deck, and how many dice will you presumably spend in the first round in a “standard” environment” (remember you are not bound to use always and forever the same group of First Five, you’ll most likely want a flexible hand to adapt to your opponent), which in the Ashes lingo is called the “Thunder Number”. Right, just so. Don’t look at me, I have nothing to do with it, blame Callin Flores of The Main Action Podcast. Some time ago I suggested something more scientific, possibly something that could be summarized with a nice acronym, something like Theoretical/Heuristical Unified and Normalized Distribution of Expected Rolls, but no one listened…

    Anyway, however you want to call it, the Thunder Number is a fundamental concept for the Ashes gameplay and strategy, thus I invite you, if you didn’t already do it, to read Christopher “Papa” Pratt’s Hidden Power article, which addresses the topic much better than I could ever do.

    Let’s Assume the Deck is a Sphere…

    Your deck won’t obviously be flying alone in the intergalactic void, but will be put to the test against an opponent, who has a strategy of his or her own, which you can’t know in advance when you sit down and plan your deck construction. A further step forward is, thus, considering the possible threat to your deck, how common they could be in your “meta” (the group of players with you will habitually play) and to think during deck building about which tools you have to react to those threats. These situation can be extremely various, and the answers to them even more, so I can’t give you a solution that works for sure against anything, but you should always ask yourselves questions like:

    - What do I do if the opponent opens with Hammer Knight + Frostback Bear and goes directly at my throat? How can I stop such an attack?
    - How do I react to an opponent who tries to slow down my game by exhausting my dice and cards, or forcing me to fill up battlefield slots with unusable stuff?
    - How do I protect cards that are fundamental for my strategy and prevent them from being blocked, discarded or more in general made useless by my opponent?
    - How do I create a breach in the defenses of an opponent who hides between a wall of units?

    The answer to these questions will vary a lot depending on which cards you chose, and on how significant is the threat posed by this or that strategy. Consider this a sort of costs-to-benefits analysis: how big is the risk to ignore this or that card/ability/effect? How much do I spend, in terms of resources and advancement of my win condition, to prevent that?

    (Angus note: i removed a picture of choke as an example of a card to counter your opponents plans)

    Unfortunately, you can’t prevent every risk, on the contrary, this may be counter-productive, as you might find yourself with a deck full of answers to issues that will not materialize. Each of those cards will remove oxygen from your strategy, which has the sole purpose of doing damage to the opposing Phoenixborn, not exhausting their units, nor cancelling their abilities, nor removing from play their alteration spells: those should only be means that allow the other cards in your deck to fulfil your main objective of destroying the opponent’s Phoenixborn, they should never replace it.

    To be true, in some cases the answer to a potential threat could be, to quote the proud hierarch Gaetano Maria Barbagli, a sound “I don’t care!” followed by a meaner counter attack on the opponent’s forces.

    The evaluations made above should always integrate with the choice of the First Five: the more your starting hand is “locked”, the less room you’ll have to deal with threats from your opponents’ decks, so is usually a advisable to keep at least one “flexible” pick, to make at the beginning of the game, after seeing the opponent’s Phoenixborn and (following competitive rules) dice.

    Some choices can be quite obvious: if you see a bunch of Illusion dice, keeping your Thunder Number low and not relying much on cards which require power symbols is probably a good idea, while if your opponent shows 4 [[natural]] and 4 [[ceremonial]] expect an aggressive start, which could most likely feature a Hammer Knight and/or Frostback Bear. Other considerations will be harder to make, and depend a lot on how much you know your about your opponents’ play style, but just on the Phoenixborn they chose you can already expect a kind of gameplay: relying of frail units against Coal or Aradel is quite risky, the same goes with putting a lot of resources in a single big unit against Jessa, while if you see Leo across the board, you should take into account the incredible annoyance posed by his Glow Finch.

    …and, Cut!

    Good, it’s almost done. We set a base strategy and choose a “core package” of cards to implement it, we integrated this strategy with support, synergy and disadvantage mitigation cars, we thought about suitable answers to the opponents’ threats, and finally we decided which cards could form our hand of First Five and evaluated the costs and dice distribution. Cool. Our 38-cards deck is ready to be tested. Or is it? Mmhh… there’s something wrong here…

    Right, because you’ll most likely find yourselves with more than the 30 mandatory cards. A few, let’s say 3-4 extra cards, is fine. It usually means smoothing the deck to cut a copy here and one there, evaluating the implication of each modification one by one: Do I risk not having enough units by cutting a Summon Frostback Bear? Do I really need three copies of Molten Gold or are two enough?

    If you find yourselves with 35+ cards in the deck, however, you’ll probably have to be much more heavy-handed, retrace your steps and thoroughly evaluate if one or more cards are really that necessary, until you have just a few cards in excess of the required 30, so that you can then polish and refine your deck.
    Ok, now here we are. The deck is over, at last!. 1 Phoenixborn, 30 cards, 3 copies of each max, the respective conjurations, and 10 dice. Now deckbuilding is over, and we can finally play.

    The Crash Test

    Well, actually this is true up to a certain point. Technically, yes, deck building is complete and you have a ready-to-play deck, but is it efficient? Does it manage to realize the strategy you wanted to use? Is it satisfactory to play? Since no plan survives first contact with the enemy, there’s only a way to find out: play, play, play.

    When you test a new deck, pay attention to each and every detail: which cards you tend to use and which you don’t, whether the dice at your disposal are the right ones to play everything you need in every situation, or if you often find yourselves thinking “ah, if I had that card now…” or “one more Nature [[natural]] die would have been useful here”.

    Do you often find yourselves with unspent dice? Maybe your costs are too low, or you have too many resource-generating cards you don’t really need that much. You jump-start, but then after 2 rounds you can’t deal any more damage and lose in the long run? Maybe you are not applying the right pressure onto your opponent, and you need something to put them in a tight spot more frequently. Don’t underestimate any aspect, and train to analyze any game situation with critical eye.

    Do not stop at a single game, try the deck repeatedly, against different opponents, to evaluate which kinds of deck give you a hard time, and which ones you can beat with ease, but play also against the same deck, adjusting the strategy from time to time to understand in which measure the final outcome depends on the deck construction and in which on the way you play.

    After the match, think about what you did good and what you could have done better. What would have changed if you chose this card instead of that in the First Five? Were there any cards you realize you didn’t have the chance or the desire to play or, worse, when you drew them, you wished you didn’t? Reverse your point of view: don’t be afraid to talk with your opponent in an attempt to understand what they found an issue to deal with in your deck, or which situation they would have a hard time with, if you just did this move instead of that. The Ashes community is full of great people that are more than eager to discuss in a constructive way and provide advice and opinions. The more info you get, the better you could adjust your deck, especially when approaching an important event like a tournament.

    An useful advice – not an idea of my own, it was hinted some time ago in an episode of The Main Action Podcast as something used by Erik Rodriguez and Christopher “Papa” Pratt to prepare for the Tulsa tournament, but since it’s a wonderful idea I think is right to post it here – is that of trying your First Five, repeatedly playing the first round, and then resetting the game, choosing your starting hand each time. This will allow you to understand if you have a solid opening, and if there’s something you could improve in the first, crucial, phases of the game. Remember that a good opening won’t make you automatically win, but if you start bad, you’ll have a high chance to lose.

    Wrapping Up

    To recap, in order for you to create an efficient deck, you need to:

    - Choose a strategy, and a core set of cards that will allow you to put it into completion;
    - Begin to define a possible dice distribution based on the core set of cards you chose;
    - Choose cards that allow you to support or accelerate your strategy, to exploit the synergies with it or to mitigate the disadvantage it entails;
    - Evaluate the potential First Five and the costs associated to them, and in general, the more useful dice distribution to use every card in your deck;
    - Evaluate which can be the most likely threats you’ll need to address when playing, and which are the ways your deck is going to deal with to them;
    - Evaluate which cards to cut if you chose more than 30;
    - Play. Play. Play. Test the deck repeatedly, improving it from the feedback you received in the test games;
    - Repeat the above steps iteratively, further refining your deck until you reach absolute perfection!

    That’s all. I hope my advice would turn out to be useful, and allow you to build decks that, if not efficient, are at least satisfying to play. Because if it’s true that the object of an Ashes match is to defeat the opponent’s Phoenixborn, the purpose of playing Ashes is (as with any other game) to have fun, so whatever deck you may want to use, whatever strategy you wish to follow, the first and most important question you always have to ask is: will I have fun in playing this deck?

    Thanks for reading! Until next time,

  • Skaak#1st! commented on the post will the phoenix rise from the ashes once more?:

    Mar 09, 2020 PDT

    Still playing only preconstructed, but the other day my opponent triggered Abundance, drew her cards, and then I played Vanish, cancelling all the effects, which meant my opponent had to put those cards back. Sort of weird. This would not have been a problem if we had declared targets first, paused for the reaction opportunity, and then resumed, but it just doesn’t feel intuitive sometimes, and to do it flawlessly you’d have to have the card pool memorized and pause at every possible reaction opportunity, which maybe is what top players do.

    This sort of thing happens to everybody (it was super prevalent under PHG's rules for a few cards, too, because the targeting instructions would be embedded deep in the card text, and people's natural inclination is to resolve things as they say them).

    Typically speaking, you don't need to memorize every possible reaction trigger. Instead, just try to make a habit of stating your intent for an action as a whole, pausing to take a look at your opponent to see if they want to screw with you, and then actually changing the state of the game components on the table.

    Generally you only need to get more granular if you're dealing damage to multiple units. Receiving damage is far and away the most common trigger for shenanigans.

    Also, you can't play Vanish in response to Abundance because Abundance doesn't target. ;-)

  • Skaak#1st! commented on the post will the phoenix rise from the ashes once more?:

    Mar 09, 2020 PDT

    It is easy to pick and learn to play but as you reach higher tiers of competitions some of the interactions are surprising and may not work the way you think they do.

    Yes, exactly. The base rulebook is glorious; 10 pages long and it's easy to teach the basics in 5-10 minutes, which is absolutely unheard of for this genre.

    However, the moment you perform your first attack, you start to run into things that simply aren't defined in the core rules (cough DDRP cough). This isn't a big deal if you're playing casually at home (assuming your crowd is easy-going about defining house rules on the fly), but it's a huge problem for organized play because it's very possible to have two equally legitimate interpretations of how to resolve something, with no way to resolve using the rules as written (sadly, if you're playing the PHG rules, this is still the case). Fantasy Flight rules reference books are scary and offputting, but they're comprehensive in a way that Plaid Hat was never able to achieve, thanks in large part to PHG's early approach of "let's define what happens when individual cards interact without generalizing that out into basic mechanics".

    If OP is a big part of your strategy for maintaining a minimum viable player base, then that's a huge problem because it simultaneously discourages the types of people who might buy all-in later in the game as converts from other games and makes it very difficult to convert people from "casual at home" to "more competitive at the FLGS".

    Granted, OP is not the only way that PHG could try to maintain their minimum viable base; it's just the most common, because it kills a lot of birds with one stone if you're able to pull it off (plus lots of prior art). However, the conversion from casual newbie to the game to veteran player who has the ruleset down pat is a very important thing they have to address no matter what, and the ruleset as it stood at the game's cancellation was a pain point that actively worked against people putting in the effort to jump that gap.

    I think they did not aim for that though. A lot about the games was more in the board game style of things.

    This is a big part of the reason it was such a flop for organized play (the other reason being lack of availability and store support--particularly since regular players couldn't obtain OP kits outside of store distribution channels). Why bother playing for prizes for a game where you can't get a consistent ruling? May as well try out whatever the new FFG hotness is...

    The First Party Deck Builder was quite good in my eyes. Why would they make something even more involved ?

    It didn't need fancy features; it needed a basic user experience that didn't suck. You could view a single card at a time. If you wanted to view conjurations for a particular card, it would reset all your filters. You had to name your deck before you had added the first card. You could not save decks unless they were a perfect 30 card legal deck.

    It was pretty simple to use if you knew exactly what you wanted in your deck and just wanted to share it with the world. For virtually any other usecase, it was a train wreck, though.

    When I say they need better community building tools, I mainly mean that they should make it easier to connect players. Tools to find players in your area, or event listings that could be populated by players (instead of requiring a store to write directly to them and notify of an upcoming tournament), integrated discussions of decks, strategy, etc. so that the community doesn't immediately fracture into first party forums, BGG, Slack, Reddit, Discord, Facebook, etc.

    The Dice are expansive and the main portion of profit came from the small expansions that only required cards to be printed with color.

    Yeah, this sums up Ashe's core problem, I suspect. PHG's challenge is how to get people buying consistently without making it prohibitively expensive for new players to get into the game, which is a tricky issue that no one has really solved yet (MtG notwithstanding, but straight imitation of that rarely leads anywhere).

    I'm super curious what direction Plaid Hat will go. One of the reasons I like them a lot is that they've always had a handle on the casual market (which despite all my yammering on about OP and strict rulesets is where I usually fall), are generally good at making games that are fun (even if they have trouble continuing development on them past a normal board game's life cycle), and have a player-first mentality that's incredibly refreshing after FFG's "buy three cores and like it" approach to card games.

    I'm not sure if all of that is conducive to supporting a game like Ashes long-term, but they clearly love the two player tactical card gaming space so I hope they find an equation that works for them!

  • Chris CD#25gy commented on the post will the phoenix rise from the ashes once more?:

    Mar 09, 2020 PDT

    I keep going back and forth on the rules. On the one hand, they did a lot of things really well, like making the difference between damage and wounds explicit in the core rules. Many many lesser rules writers of games I have played would have had to put that into their 2nd or 3rd FAQ. They also did a really good job outlining the steps for the basic attack resolutions, and for the round phases outside player turns, which, again, in lesser games can be much much murkier.

    On the other hand, I am slowly starting to appreciate some of the nuances in Raven Rules. Still playing only preconstructed, but the other day my opponent triggered Abundance, drew her cards, and then I played Vanish, cancelling all the effects, which meant my opponent had to put those cards back. Sort of weird. This would not have been a problem if we had declared targets first, paused for the reaction opportunity, and then resumed, but it just doesn’t feel intuitive sometimes, and to do it flawlessly you’d have to have the card pool memorized and pause at every possible reaction opportunity, which maybe is what top players do. This has not been a big deal for me until very recently though. I’m sure players who jump into constructed right away would feel the bumps sooner.

  • Kalriva#1sqf commented on the post will the phoenix rise from the ashes once more?:

    Mar 09, 2020 PDT

    Complexity in this genre mostly comes from reactions outside your turn and those are fairly limited in Ashes. I think a Beginner will not notice most of the problems with the games rules until they engage with the game online. You can play with very little understanding of the rules without terribly degenerate gameplay. This is very different to other games in the genre. If you missread how reaction timing works in this game, you are mostly fine. Try that in MtG and get dunked on.

    I feel Illusion dice might be the exception to this, if you're new and come up against a meteor Vicky or some other dice hoarding deck, you're going to have a bad time as a newbie.

    I also tend to agree with Skaak about the rules being needlessly complex and with a few gaps. It is easy to pick and learn to play but as you reach higher tiers of competitions some of the interactions are surprising and may not work the way you think they do.

  • Last Post is from me. Friend used my laptop to look up his Deck and did not log out.

  • Reckoning#585q commented on the post will the phoenix rise from the ashes once more?:

    Mar 09, 2020 PDT

    I think there are some key economical reasons that speak (sadly) against ashes :
    Clearly the Core set was not sold with great profit in mind. The Dice are expansive and the main portion of profit came from the small expansions that only required cards to be printed with color.

    While this is not a problem for people who already own the game, but it is a limiter on who gets interested in the game later in its life cycle.
    You might chose not to get into Ashes once additional dice come out because you as an outside do not know what stuff to by to play the game meaningfully.
    There are posts on this site that demonstrate this and those are only a vocal minority. Most people only read and never post or make an account.

    Say you sell 20.000 Core Games. While those 20.000 buyers might be very interested in the probably very lucrative small box expansions, you wont sell 20.000 of your first expansion wave. In Fact there is a downwards trend.
    Of the first 20.000 players only maybe 18.000 stay for the first expansion and not all of those stay for the second, third or fourth expansion.
    This is why Magic the Gathering, Keyforge and similar Games print Starter Boxes under production value.
    Those Games also avoided as much material as possible other than the cards, so that players feel like they have everything they need from one purchase.
    Plaidhat has to consider this and they have little money to spare.

    To adress what Skaak said :

    Rules are complex for the wrong reasons

    Complexity in this genre mostly comes from reactions outside your turn and those are fairly limited in Ashes. I think a Beginner will not notice most of the problems with the games rules until they engage with the game online.
    You can play with very little understanding of the rules without terribly degenerate gameplay. This is very different to other games in the genre.
    If you missread how reaction timing works in this game, you are mostly fine.
    Try that in MtG and get dunked on.

    Organized play

    I played the game in europe where we had no organized play at all and while it would have very likely helped the game, people bought it anyway - enough to make a profit and enough for sellers to still order the last expansions.

    Limited community building

    The First Party Deck Builder was quite good in my eyes. Why would they make something even more involved ? I did what it needed to do until it stopped being developed. Beginners actually need simplicity. As a marketing measure it only aims at beginners. Advanced players usually can make their fine tune calculations themselfs.

    Distribution woes: Agree.You cant make this kind of Game and then fail to keep up the stream of excitement. The name will forever be remembered as 'might just die at any moment' material.

    Find a rules lawyer, and get them on payroll or into the playtesting group [...]

    In terms of Boardgame rule book qualities they already did an amazing job.
    But they did leave out some branches of the possibility tree. If you want to avoid that hire a mathematician or someone who was a rules lawyer for mtg professionally.
    I think they did not aim for that though. A lot about the games was more in the board game style of things.

    provide players with a sense of ownership over the game as a whole

    This was actually what made me stay with the game after it first pause. The idea that the creators actually listened to the community.

    For me Ashes has 3 core strengths in contrast to similar mage duel games :

    • I get a very solid starting point through the preconstructed decks, which also makes the game easy to teach.
    • The flow of Gameplay : I get 1 Mainaction that actually feels like my main thing on that turn. The opponent gets to do stuff on my turn, but not more that me. It is a very 'fair' i play a card, you play a card kind of style, but allows for some exceptions.
    • The Previews with all the great text and explanation on what you could do and who it was intended to be used.

    My 3 core negatives are :

    • Sparse Release Schedule.Most things were said. It especially sucked not getting something new on Christmas. Maybe that was an EU thing, but is like the golden Rule on toy design. Bring out something new close to Christmas.
    • No Deckboxes, no playmats, no card sleeves, no bling at all. The Boxes the Sympathy and Divine Dice were in do not count. Those are Cardboard filled with cheap plastic. I want something in the style of Ultimate Guard or similar.
    • No way to get Alternate Art or Errata Cards in the EU and the Translation was a bit lacking. Just give me the English Cards.

    I would have bought the Violinist when i bought all the promo phoenixborn from their shop but they did not sell it. (Yeah, i own Orrick and he never gets played :P)

  • AeroHudson#0&d0 commented on the post Want to get into it...:

    Mar 09, 2020 PDT

    I’ve always wanted to give ashes a go since I love card games in general. On a whim this weekend I literally bought everything. Miniature market was having a great sale and I Filled in the gaps with amazon. I’m based out of FLORENCE KY. So, drew, if you have no one to play with and want to meet up at a game store halfway I can make that happen. Excited to dig in and start playing with friends and introducing others to it.

  • Skaak#1st! commented on the post will the phoenix rise from the ashes once more?:

    Mar 04, 2020 PST

    I'm really curious what they're planning as "ideas that, if successful, could lead to the revival of Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn". Arguably the most pertinent part of the article about Ashes, and a direct quote from Colby Dauch:

    "Ashes has fans that are just rabid for it, but it runs into smallest viable audience issues. I have some ideas about how to solve some of those issues so that we can continue to reach a passionate, but not necessarily large, player base and I've got ideas about how to grow and support the player base for these kinds of games."

    Ashes had four weaknesses that I believe ultimately lead to it getting sidelined by the broader gaming community:

    • Rules are complex for the wrong reasons: Ashes is incredibly easy to get into (very simple, easy-to-teach ruleset particularly compared to LCG competitors at Fantasy Flight Games)...but the ruleset fails to address very low-level mechanics to the point that most of the playerbase still can't make accurate rulings per RAW (and for some edge cases, there is no official ruling using PHG's ruleset). This is a big disincentive for casual players to try and get into higher level play.
    • Organized play: awesome OP kits...but far too few of them printed, and no consistency to their release (and they were never available directly to consumers, so you couldn't run an OP event for your local meta unless you had a store willing to foot the bill; particularly a problem for international fans). It is a crime that so few people got a chance to win the translucent dice in the final OP kit, and War Within was hands down my favorite OP event of any from and LCG that I've ever played.
    • Distribution woes: PHG failed to follow through on promises of expansion release timing until very late in the product's life cycle, and distribution problems plagued the game at key points in its history (for instance: right when the FFG LCG Warhammer 40k: Conquest was canceled and those players were looking for their next game, it was nearly impossible to get anything but the Ashes core set, despite the expansions having been out for months, and PHG was months behind on its promises of deluxe expansions). This led to missing critical opportunities, and losing a lot of potential player's trust before they'd even tried the game.
    • Limited community building: the first-party deck builder was frankly awful, and there was never an easy way to find players outside of Slack (which is an invite-only system with no persistent history). This exacerbated an already small playerbase because it was so hard to find players in your area. Additionally, the silent majority of preconstructed players never had any incentives to try and get into the community, making the playerbase seem even smaller than it actually was.

    I don't know if PHG pays any attention to this site, but if they're going to address those issues here's some things that I think would help:

    • Find a rules lawyer, and get them on payroll or into the playtesting group. If PHG wants to publish card games that are actually board games for playing at home, that's fine. But a complete and exhaustive ruleset is an absolute must if they want to get people playing in their FLGS or support organized play.
    • Keep doing what they were already doing for OP, but make it possible for consumers to purchase the kits and host tournaments. Especially key? Find a way to distribute kits internationally without breaking the bank on shipping!
    • Build tools for the community before releasing the game. Frankly, pretty much no one in the board gaming community does this right. Everyone seems to think they can just rely on third party efforts and BGG, and that only works if you've got a crazy hit on your hands.
    • And unrelated to my downsides above: provide players with a sense of ownership over the game as a whole. They started experimenting with this with the War Within OP events, but ultimately flubbed it. The there's games like the original Legend of the Five Rings that persisted for 20 years because their small player base was so invested in the game (to hear the local players tell it, characters literally lived and died based on player actions).

    In any case, I'll definitely be watching Summoner Wars v2 with interest now that I know it's their proving ground for further Ashes!

  • spe00105#148a commented on the post will the phoenix rise from the ashes once more?:

    Mar 04, 2020 PST

    I really hope ashes will rise again cause i love this game so much

  • will the phoenix rise from the ashes once more? 12

  • the hidden power - episode one - "Thunder Number" 0

    On the 17/02/2020, the website will be/was taken down. Many thanks to brandon miller for hosting it up until now. However, there are a few articles that i believe are worth keeping a hold of, so i will be creating a series of posts that is literally a copy/paste of the original articles. I didn't write any of them, full credit to all those who put in their time and effort into writing these. In addition to that, I have edited it as little as possible, mostly just formatting.

    Christopher Pratt April 28, 2016

    Welcome to the first article in my series – Hidden Power – about Ashes Rise of the Phoenixborn, the brilliant ECG from Plaid Hat Games. If it goes well, maybe it will be a long series. If not, I’m hopeful that along the way we will have had some good discussions, I may have taught you something, you’ve taught me some things with your feedback, and we’ve played some great games.

    These articles presume you know the game, and is geared towards those players that want to start/have begun constructed play. If you aren’t there quite yet, no worries. I will be updating this space with links that have a more introductory bent:

    An Introduction to Ashes

    I know there are more coming, and if you have suggestions, please send them along. As this space fills with foundational information, and you start your trip through the wonderful game that is Ashes, I’m hopeful that the things I write about make more sense to you in the long run.

    Now, without further ado – What the heck is a Thunder Number (TN) and why is it important – First Five and beyond!?

    [[ceremonial]] [[charm]] [[natural]] [[illusion]]

    The Basics

    Thunder Number:
    noun, Ashes vernacular
    The number of dice required to cast all cards in your hand, use all of your ready spells, and use Phoenixborn (PB) abilities – especially important for your First Five (FF).

    Rai Kotaru’s favorite motorcycle:

    origin: Callin Flores from The Main Action podcast.

    This article isn’t about Rai Kotaru. Sorry to those Godzilla lovers. It is, however, particularly concerned with the math of the choices of your FF, and what goes into the deck. The cards you might choose, based on PB, meta, and dice shown, will be in a future installment.

    When someone asks – “hey take a look at my deck?” – almost immediately, my question is: “what are your typical FF?” I say typical, because those choices may change depending, but in general there is a core that players want to adhere to in driving the strategy of their deck.

    (Note: if you are going to post your deck and are looking for serious feedback on it, please let folks know what you think your FF should be. Erik’s Plaid Hat post about his Tulsa winning deck is a perfect example of this. It allows discussion about what should/could/may be better in different match-ups and gives you an idea of the thought process.)

    From the FF information provided, I do some counting. How many dice are required to cast all of these spells, and leverage the PB ability if there is one? Further, how many dice types are required to make all of this happen. For instance, if someone is packing Dread Wraith (requiring [[ceremonial:class]][[ceremonial:class]][[ceremonial:class]]) , and Crimson Bomber ([[ceremonial:class]][[ceremonial:class]]), is playing Noah and wants to Shadow Target ([[ceremonial:class]]), they had better have access to at least six Ceremonial (Ce) dice to be able to do all that they would like to do round 1.

    Rolling with the Thunder – The Good
    Since it did win Tulsa, let’s take a look at what Erik’s deck is packing as a Thunder Number for a “Standard” opening:

    (Note: For this exercise, anytime a Basic dice symbol is used ([[basic]]), it can be of any dice type.)

    - Summon Frostback Bear: [[natural]]to cast, [[natural:class]] [[basic]] to summon the bear. Thunder Number (TN) +3
    - Hammer Knight: [[ceremonial]][[natural:class]][[basic]] to cast. TN +3
    - Crimson Bomber: [[ceremonial:class]][[ceremonial:class]]to cast. TN +2
    - Enchanted Violinist: FREE to cast. TN +0 (Angus note: the deck and article were created pre errata. EV now costs 1 [[basic]])
    - [[Rin’s Fury]]: [[basic]][[basic]][[basic]] to cast. TN -2!

    Frostback Bear, Hammer Knight, Crimson Bomber, and EV all give you a TN of eight, but whoa, look at the effect [[Rin’s Fury]] has on the TN – it actually decreases the value, bringing his total TN to six! That leaves four dice left over to do whatever else he would like, potentially leveraging the power faces of those dice to tremendous effect! That’s maybe four more [[natural]] pings, a [[natural]] resurrection of an ally (with dice to use to cast it), or (far more likely) to [[illusion]] exhaust your dice!

    This is the first clue to begin understand why this deck was so efficient and effective. Not only is the deck putting 10 Attack/11 life on the board (the 11th life is Rin’s Ice Buff), it’s doing it with six dice! Wow.


    Now, imagine your deck has some really great cards. You’ve got a 4[[ceremonial]], 4 [[natural]], 2[[illusion]] dice spread. You are playing Noah.
    In your FF you’ve got:

    - Summon Frostback Bear: [[natural]] to cast, [[natural:class]][[basic]] to summon the bear. TN +3
    - Hammer Knight: [[ceremonial]][[natural:class]][[basic]] to cast. TN +3
    - Enchanted Violinist: FREE to cast. TN +0 (Angus note: the deck and article were created pre errata. EV now costs 1 [[basic]])
    - Steady Gaze: [[illusion:class]][[illusion:class]] to cast. TN +2
    - Blood Chains: [[ceremonial:class]] to cast. TN +1
    - Shadow Target (Noah Redmoon’s PB ability): [[ceremonial:class]]to use. TN +1

    You count the TN and come up with ten, and figure this isn’t a bad strategy. You think “I can shut down a summon they play with Shadow Target, Steady Gaze a unit, Blood Chains using the EV (getting it back later in the game with [[ceremonial]]), play my Bear and Knight and have a dominant board position.” It’s a strong plan, really.

    Until Erik’s deck uses single [[illusion]] and wrecks it all.

    Your Thunder Number at ten leaves you in a precarious situation and particularly vulnerable to [[illusion]] power usage (or Leech Warrior shenanigans). Further, the fact you need three nature dice ([[natural]][[natural:class]] for the bear, and [[natural:class]] for the Hammer Knight) and only have four available, means that if your opponent were to aggressively exhaust your nature dice, you may be left with a Hammer Knight in hand or a Bear unsummoned. That’s a brutal board/tempo hit.

    Your TN for both count AND type need to be able to handle a die or two being exhausted!

    Now, if your opponent isn’t playing [[illusion]] dice, you can relax a little bit, maybe chock your hand full and do, pretty much, everything you wanted. But if you see your opponent has [[illusion]] dice (or think a the Leech Warrior is in play), you need to back up, slow down, and rethink your FF immediately.

    Here, we’ve changed the initial FF due to our opponent presenting [[illusion]] – a single card that suddenly makes all the difference:

    - Summon Frostback Bear: [[natural]] to cast, [[natural:class]][[basic]]to summon - the bear. TN +3
    - Hammer Knight: [[ceremonial]][[natural:class]][[basic]] to cast. TN +3
    - Enchanted Violinist: FREE to cast. TN +0 (Angus note: the deck and article were created pre errata. EV now costs 1 [[basic]])
    - Hidden Power: [[illusion:class]] to cast. TN -1!
    - Blood Chains: [[ceremonial:class]] to cast. TN +1
    Shadow Target (Noah’s PB ability): [[ceremonial:class]] to use. TN +1

    The addition of the Hidden Power allows your first turn to likely be very smooth. Your TN is now seven – leaving you three dice left over to maybe pull your own [[natural]][[ceremonial]][[illusion]] dice usage, or to recover if some of your nature dice were exhausted for you. Once again a dice fixer, a negative TN card, can be quite effective to allowing your deck to shine.

    (Angus note: i removed an image showing a gilder, three eyed owl and butterfly monk)

    Thunderbirds are GO!

    You don’t always need to include cards with a negative Thunder Number (Hidden Power, [[Rin’s Fury]], Expand Energy (though this is really for subsequent rounds)) to play the game effectively.

    Austin Mills’ Brennen deck for Tulsa, in the face of illusion [[illusion]] dice, used ridiculously cheap/efficient units to ensure board presence, and allow him to react/deal with these kinds of challenges. With a 4 [[natural]], 3 [[ceremonial]], 3 [[charm]] dice spread, a typical FF for him might be:

    - Summon Three Eyed Owl: [[charm:class]] to summon. TN +1
    - Summon Gilder: [[charm:class]] to cast. [[natural:class]] to summon. TN +2
    - Summon Butterfly Monk: [[natural]] to summon. TN +1
    - Fire Archer: [[ceremonial:class]] to cast. TN +1
    - Enchanted Violinist: FREE. TN +0 (Angus note: the deck and article were created pre errata. EV now costs 1 [[basic]])
    - Spirit Burn (Brennen Blackclouds PB ability): [[basic]]to use. TN +1

    That’s a stellar TN of six, putting five units on the board for a total of five attack, eight life, doing one damage direct, one unit damage direct, memory drain available, last blessing available, and plenty of Spirit Burn targets. Really, that’s efficiency in a nutshell.

    You know Austin was able to leverage those dice he had leftover to cycle Fire Archers, pump up units, or ping things down. This is key! Those dice need to be doing work for you, or you are missing out on one of the greatest aspects of the game!

    (Update! Note from Austin (via Slack) – if his opponent didn’t have illusion, he would usually swap out the Enchanted Violinist for a Hammer Knight bringing his TN to 9. This he says is “perfectly fine if he’s not losing dice.” He’s 100% correct.)

    Echoes of Thunder

    Now that we have our FF TN set, let’s talk about the round 2 TN and things you need to consider when filling your deck out.

    We are now in round 2. Let’s say we have a Summon Frostback Bear, Summon Dread Wraith, Summon Ice Golem, and a Frost Bite in play (much like Elliot Kramer’s Rin deck here).
    Elliot’s dice spread is a fairly meta-typical 4[[natural]], 4[[ceremonial]], 2[[illusion]].
    To use every ready spell he has in play this round, he needs a total of nine dice. Obviously, he’s probably not summoning a Dread Wraith every round, nor maybe not even a Golem every round. What he drew, current board state, is he first player or not, etc. etc. go into the decisions he has at this time.

    I wanted to point out that the second round has its own, new, Thunder Number: the cost to use all of the ready spells, plus all of the cards in hand is that new number.

    Also note, Elliot’s deck has a pretty heavy nature reliant Spellboard: Bear needs [[natural:class]], Golem needs [[natural:class]][[natural:class]], and an un-focused Frost Bite needs [[natural:class]]. That’s all of the [[natural]] dice available. Sure, he could draw a fixer (Hidden Power or [[Rin’s Fury]]) but woe be unto him if he drew a Summon Frostback Bear, Hammer Knight, and a Molten Gold – darn good cards – without a fixer available. There’s a significant chance at tempo loss.

    The average cost of the cards in Elliot’s deck (using negative numbers for Hidden Power and [[Rin’s Fury]]) is slightly less than 1 (if I did my math right, and that’s unlikely). This means, on average, when he draws up his hand, the TN, presuming he doesn’t want to cast a Dread Wraith, and wants to use Frostbite, is eleven.

    In comparison, Erik’s deck had only a Summon Frostback Bear in his Spellboard, which meant the rest of his deck ran on the eight dice (presumes one Summon Frostback Bear is in play). The average cast for a card for his deck is 1.3 dice, which means he should have that 8 dice to do what he wants (I decided he would get 3×2 cost spells and 2×1 cost spells – or something that smooths dice etc.).

    Austin’s Spellboard took 3 dice to run, Brennen takes another dice, and his average casting cost was 1.5. It’s likely he will be able to run his deck and get the spells off he needs to get off. It’s also likely that with Chant of Protection, he doesn’t need to cast a card in his hand, but use it as a resource, so even if there is a dice tight turn, he might be okay.

    Note that if several fixers are drawn, Elliot’s deck, with the summons he has in play, is ripe to exploit them fully with the ready spells eagerly awaiting the excess dice. It’s likely if Erik were to have drawn a hand that was light on threats, but heavy in dice fixers, he would switch gears and start a heavy dice exhaust strategy ([[illusion]]) to shorten the round, and limit the opponent’s options.

    Expanding Horizons

    Expand Energy is an interesting card that basically plays for “free” round 1, but increases your available dice subsequent rounds, meaning you can support a higher TN. You are basically sacrificing early game tempo for later game efficiency. A really cool Aradel deck run by Grant McKinney from the Vader’s Finest podcast, actually banked on this, and ran Open Memories for a second copy of Expand Energy. He piloted this deck to a top four finish. I was able to see this strategy in effect, as he basically, game after game, filled Aradel’s Battlefield to max because of the significant die disparity he enjoyed. Grant had a fundamental understanding of the awesome resource advantage that comes from tipping the table of available dice in your favor.

    Wrapping it up!

    “Far away, through the gash that led the way into the mountains, he heard the thick mouth of the perpetual thunder.” -Stephen King, The Gunslinger”

    In general, for my FF, I would like my TN to be around seven, and have two more dice of a type than I need to have to get everything cast. The second half of that sentence might not be as clear as I would like, so let me explain. Barring dice fixers, if I count up the number of [[Ceremonial]] dice I must have to cast all of my [[Ceremonial]] dice cards, I would like to run +2 [[Ceremonial]] dice than that number. So, if I have Dread Wraith, Crimson Bomber, and no other Ce type cards, I would want to run at least seven [[Ceremonial]] dice to ensure, for the most part, that I can cast both of those cards. Though, note, if your opponent rolls a lucky [[illusion]] even this could be challenged!

    The Thunder Number – calculated each round – is kind of Ashes’s “mana curve” in a comparison to Magic. You want to be able to use the cards you have in play, cards you draw, your PB ability, and have really efficient turns. Signs you might be off of a properly tuned deck are dice left over after turns that weren’t being utilized efficiently/effectively, or cards left in hand that can’t be cast because of dice type or number.

    There are zero hard and fast rules here. My best advice is to play, play, and then play again. Look for hidden gems in the card pool that may have a very large impact, or cheaper cards that can perform a function you need. This, a tip of the hat to Jarret Berman for running Fade Away in his FF. He realized that he was going to lose the dice war to some opponents, and he used this [[illusion:class]] cost card to remove more expensive threats. People were quite often stunned at the play.

    I hope that this first entry in “Hidden Power” has given you some things to think about the next time you build your deck, sit down from an opponent, evaluate their dice pool, and choose your first five. Remember, if you see [[illusion]] , plan accordingly.

    Please feel free to leave comments, point out something I’ve gotten wrong, or, if I did okay, let me know. If there’s a specific strategy aspect/card/PB you would like to see covered in an edition of Hidden Power, feel free to suggest away.
    Thank you very much for taking the time to read. It is appreciated.

    Best of luck to you.
    -Papa Pratt

    Angus’ note: the following questions and answers are not from the article, but they contain interesting discussions that i believe are also worth including.

    Elliot Kramer says:
    Great write-up!

    Some perspective on my deck and your comments:
    1. I treat Frost Bite as an upgraded dice ability. I don’t intend to use it each round (its not mandatory), and really its use is in later rounds as a way to use excess dice to greater effect ( by either being able to go face, or with multiple FB using Ceremonial [[ceremonial]] dice as nature [[natural]] dice). With this consideration, I treated my FF thunder number as 8 (3 + 3 + 3 -1). It’s a flexibility play, and I don’t personally I costed it at 0 for TN purposes.
    Looking forward to future articles.

    Giovanni Cornara (thesnipertroll) says:

    Definitely expecting a very long series given this excellent first article.
    Since I’m pretty new to the game, I’d like to pose a (maybe stupid) question: how do you factor “cancel” reaction spells like Choke, Ice Trap or Golden Veil into your TN? Do you count their cost for your “effective” TN or do you consider it to be part of the dice you keep in “reserve”?

    To which papa pratt responds:

    Thank you for the kind comment!
    In your FF, I think you have to count all cards as part of your Thunder Number regardless of type. You put those cards in there for a reason, and if you run out of mana, through maybe leveraging dice effects, then those cards cannot perform the function for which you put them in.

    But, being able to roll with the ebb and flow of the game to obtain advantage is the rule of the game – not some arbitrary article written by an old guy (I am nothing if not fallible. :)).

    If you have reaction spells that require a trigger – Golden Veil for instance – and the round plays out that you are confident your opponent isn’t going to play something you can say “No” to, or saying “No” isn’t as important – then feel free to spend the dice allocated to Golden Veil without feeling too terribly bad. If your unit was crucial and was able to withstand a round without you casting the veil, hopefully you are ahead of the curve.

    After that first round, reaction spells are an evaluation on return on investment in pressing action through spending your dice, versus holding those dice waiting on the proper trigger.

    To answer the question directly – “Do I count the cost of reaction spells into my “effective” TN?” Yes. Early in the round. Through the turns, as I suspect I cannot force the trigger, my trigger may not come, is less important than other effects, or my opponent’s dice exhaustion strategy may remove my ability to react in a specific window, I may disregard playing specifically for that trigger, and spend the dice I had allocated in my “effective” TN moving those dice mentally to “reserve.”
    This evaluation holds true for any card you’ve put in your deck after Round 1, by the way. Sometimes, it’s just better for you to not cast something now, discard it for meditation, or hold onto it for subsequent rounds. While I may have alluded to the idea/concept you must. cast. everything. every. round. It’s not what I meant, and not a hard and fast rule.

    I was more identifying rounds where you wished you could have cast some cards, but had the wrong dice and or number of them, and it consistently created rounds with bad tempo.

    Hope this helps and answered your question. Thank you for reaching out. It really is appreciated.

    Lastly, I look forward to more of your work here:

    And, everyone should check that out as well!
    -Papa P.

  • angus#5nar published a deck!

    Mar 03, 2020 PST

    golem rin - tulsa top four deck 2016 - Elliot Kramer deck

    Rin Northfell

  • Cronos Genesis#9i6t commented on the post PHG Reacquired by Original Founder:

    Mar 01, 2020 PST

    I'm extremly surprised by this. But Isaas name on twitter even was AshesIsaac or something along those lines so it obvious that he has some emotional involvement with the game.
    I don't believe they will do Ashes II, but legally he should be able to make a game with almost the same rules that happens to use the same card size and has similar components. You cant really copyright game mechanics, only artwork and to an extent the names of specific objects like the Phoenixborn.

    I would be surprised if not a single 2 Person Duel Card game would be produced as a result of this.

  • Skaak#1st! commented on the post PHG Reacquired by Original Founder:

    Feb 28, 2020 PST

    Well, given that Isaac has left Plaid Hat, and Plaid Hat owns the Ashes IP, I doubt we'll see a direct sequel from him in the near future. He wasn't directly involved with Ashes after about Koji, though, if memory serves, so it's entirely possible that Plaid Hat might want to do a new core set and reboot the game or similar. Or maybe just remix the ruleset into a new IP. Who knows!

  • Kalriva#1sqf commented on the post PHG Reacquired by Original Founder:

    Feb 28, 2020 PST

    I think I remember Isaac talking about wanting to do an ashes sequel, is that something that he'd be alright to do seeing as how ashes is still under PHG? Or is it more likely we'll see more xpacs/a sequel coming from PHG without Isaac's input?

  • Skaak#1st! commented on the post PHG Reacquired by Original Founder:

    Feb 28, 2020 PST

    On the PHG acquisition

    At first blush, it appears that Colby Dauch had to sacrifice every single profitable game and/or game line in order to pry the rights to the Plaid Hat name back from Asmodee. Particularly in the short term, this is probably terrible news for people who love Mice and Mystics and similar games.

    However, this might actually be good news for Ashes players. While I'm doubtful that they'll resurrect Ashes (particularly with Isaac Vega leaving the company), the games that Plaid Hat retains the rights to include, in part:

    • Ashes
    • Crystal Clans
    • Guardians
    • Summoner Wars

    What's notable about these games? All of them are two player tactical card games that underperformed under Asmodee, and were summarily canceled or ceased further development.

    Additionally, Colby is the original developer of Summoner Wars, and he's back at the wheel. Now, it's entirely possible that they still might flounder around trying to figure out what will stick as their niche (as seemed to be the case under Asmodee), but I'm optimistic that they'll give another go at the two player tactical card game niche that Asmodee didn't want to touch thanks to it being the territory of their golden child Fantasy Flight.

    Here's hoping we get a spiritual successor to Ashes, or if we're really lucky more Ashes itself!

    Full list of games and who will own them


    • Aftermath
    • Battlelands
    • Dead of Winter
    • Mice and Mystics
    • Raxxon
    • Stuffed Fables

    Plaid Hat Games

    • Abomination: Heir of Frankenstein
    • Ashes
    • Bioshock Infinite
    • Comanauts
    • Crossfire
    • Crystal Clans
    • City of Remnants
    • Dungeon Run
    • Forgotten Waters
    • Gen7
    • Guardians
    • Neon Gods
    • Quirky Circuits
    • Seafall
    • Specter Ops
    • Starship Samurai
    • Summoner Wars
    • Super Punch Fighter
    • Video Game High School
  • angus#5nar commented on the post PHG Reacquired by Original Founder:

    Feb 28, 2020 PST

  • PHG Reacquired by Original Founder 5

  • the cloudsea siren - how to 0

    On the 17/02/2020, the website will be/was taken down. Many thanks to brandon miller for hosting it up until now. However, there are a few articles that i believe are worth keeping a hold of, so i will be creating a series of posts that is literally a copy/paste of the original articles. I didnt write any of them, full credit to all those who put in their time and effort into writing these. In addition to that, i have edited it as little as possible, mostly just formatting.

    thesnipertroll October 7, 2016

    Hello everyone, and welcome to another instalment of my preconstructed deck reviews, aimed mostly at new players who want to know more about the various cards and strategies in the game. As we already covered five of the six decks that come in the base set, today it’s time to address the final one: Saria Guideman‘s Cloudsea Siren deck.

    With a Battlefield limit of 5 and a Spellboard of 4, Saria falls in the middle of the Phoenixborn cast: nothing noteworthy, neither good nor bad here. Her life value of 20 is slightly above average, and is quite good considering that she’ll probably aim for a long-term strategy. Her special ability, Heart’s Pull makes you draw a card for a Side [[side]] Action and a Charm [[charm:class]] die once per round, granting you a nice card advantage: you’ll be basically be running 6 cards and 9 dice instead of 5 cards and 10 dice per round, if you wish, which means you’ll have slightly more flexibility than your opponents.

    The relatively low cost of many of Saria’s cards (with some of the most expensive allowing you to choose how many die you want to invest when activating them) makes spending a die to get an extra card not much of a burden to your energy reserves. In addition, when drawing with Heart’s Pull you’ll be able to make the opponent discard a card off the top of their draw pile, laying the foundations for a “discard” strategy – further supported by many other cards in this deck, as we’ll see later – and also providing a way for the Enchanted Violinist to trigger her Song of Sorrow.

    The suggested dice pool for this deck is:


    With Illusion [[illusion]] providing dice and board control, and Charm [[charm]] here showing two of its characteristic traits: deck and hand disruption, this deck is unique amongst the six of the core set, as is it goes for a totally different strategy: locking down the board as much as possible and attempting to deplete the opponent’s deck – also commonly known as “milling”. Its goal is to stall the game long enough, removing enemy options and preventing the opponent from attacking, and to get to a point when the opponent starts taking damage from being unable to draw in the Prepare Phase.

    If you manage to get there, the game will be usually over in a few rounds, but you need to exploit every trick in your sleeves in the meantime, because your opponent won’t sit down and stare at you tearing through their deck, and will probably press the attack and attempt to close the game before it’s too late. In this situation, both the Illusion [[illusion]] and Charm [[charm]] dice power come in handy, although for totally different reasons: Illusion [[illusion]] will help you undermine the enemy supply lines, removing any key dice they’ll need to play their most useful cards. The lower the number of dice at their disposal, the shorter their rounds will be, allowing you to get to the late game quicker (yes, I know, more cards sitting unused in their hand means they’ll draw less, but more on that later), and if you take out specific magic symbols, you’ll force the opponent to meditate more, thus advancing your win condition.

    On the other hand, the purpose of the Charm [[charm]] die in this deck is mainly defensive in my opinion, allowing your overall fragile units to survive from round to round, instead of providing extra damage, as you probably won’t be attacking much. That is, of course unless you actively work towards creating avenues for surgical attacks, which is something you definitely can do, but – still in my opinion – requires a bit of build-up; in this situation you can exploit the attack bonus granted by the Charm [[charm]] die to put more pressure to the opponent and make the threat of depleting their deck even more significant.

    Saria’s unique card is Summon Seaside Raven, a Ready Spell with the somewhat hefty activation cost of a Main Action [[main]] and 3 basic [[basic]] dice. Although not requiring specific symbols lessens the impact on your dice pool as you are free to choose whichever combination you need, the amount of dice spent in a single time is somewhat taxing to your reserves, more so if you consider the relative fragility of the Seaside Raven itself. Sure, it possesses the Magic Guard ability that renders immune to all spells controlled by the opponents: it can’t be targeted by spell effects, can’t be hit by effects that affect multiple units without targeting, or spell effects don’t directly target it but affect him somehow (like for example Transfer), nor may Alteration Spells be placed on it by an opponent, but there are still a lot of effects and abilities that can interact with the Raven and render it useless – most of them cheaper than the 3 dice you had to spent to play it in the first place.

    Phoenxborn and Unit abilities that deal damage or exhaust units, like Aradel summergaard‘s Water Blast, the Blue Jaguar‘s Gaze, the Anchornaut‘s Throw or the Fire Archer/Stormwind Sniper Ambush, all are able, if not to remove the Raven from play, at least to weaken it for a Nature [[natural]] Die ping or to render it useless for a round. Its main drawback here being its relatively low Life value of 2, which makes it pretty vulnerable for a 3-dice unit, and most likely requires you to spend more dice in the form of the Charm [[charm]] Power to increase its endurance. Be also aware of Spiked Armor, whose ability is granted to the unit it is attached to, so technically the 2 damage from Spiked Skin originate from the unit and can spell doom for the Raven.

    with an attack of 3 and the ability to hit first due to Battle Advantage, the Seaside Raven is an excellent unit killer, easily making short work of strong brawlers like the Hammer Knight or the Frostback Bear without worrying to trigger their special “on damage” abilities. Its ability to surgically swoop on strong enemy attackers can act as a support for Saria’s discard strategy, allowing you to suffer less damage overall, and to get easier to the late game where all your discard effect convert into damage on the enemy Phoenixborn. On the other hand, if you manage to create gaps in the enemy defenses with the help of Enchanted Violinists, Rose Fire Dancers and Sympathy Pain, you can also plan to use the Raven offensively, maybe packed with some Charm [[charm]] dice for extra damage.

    Weird aspect about this spell: it has a conjuration limit of 2, but no focus ability, so you won’t probably need a third copy in play, unless you plan to reuse it over and over again to replace a lost Raven (but that will cost you 9 total dice, not sure how much it is worth), but still having three copies in the deck could help you to get a second one in place faster if you want, especially given Saria’s incredible card draw potential.

    Ready Spells

    Saria’s three other Ready Spells work in conjunction one another to quicken the grinding of the opponent’s deck.

    Summon Three-Eyed Owl is one of the most annoying spells in the game to play against. At the cost of one charm [[charm:class]] die, its activation is super cheap, and allows you to refill your battlefield turn after turn with minimal effort. The three-eyed Owls themselves are an excellent 1-cost unit, with an attack of 1 and a good life vale of 2, which makes most attempts at destroying them more expensive for your opponent’s reserves than yours. Their utility as cheap chump blockers for enemy attacks is surpassed by far by their special ability, Memory Drain, which, by spending a Main [[main]] Action and exhausting the Owl, forces the opponent to choose and discard a card from their hand. Not only this limits the options at their disposal during the current round, but also indirectly advances your “deck discard” strategy as the opponent will be forced to draw more in the following Prepare Phase, thus emptying their deck faster.

    Having a Three-Eyed Owl down in the first round can hurt the opponent’s First Five strategy a lot, so when play against this deck keep in mind that you would risk not using one of your key cards. In order to prevent this you could either aggressively attempt to destroy the Owl as soon as it comes into play (direct damage is much better than attacking here, as Saria could step in to protect the Owl, potentially triggering a Sympathy Pain in the process) or – if you play Ceremonial [[ceremonial]] – you could include a low attack ally, like the Anchornaut or the Living Doll in your First Five as a sacrificial card for Memory Drain, since you could still recover it with the Ceremonial [[ceremonial]] Power later.

    Abundance is a card with a pretty weird design, compared to most of the other in the game. It costs a Main [[main]] Action and an Illusion [[illusion:class]] die, and then it allows you to spend a Main Action [[main]] to let each player draw up to 2 cards. If a player can’t or doesn’t want to draw, however, that player’s Phoenixborn takes 1 damage for each card that wasn’t drawn (with the option of mitigating the damage your Phoenixborn would take for each focused copy of Abundance). Free card draw is good. Making the opponent draw as well while it is you that spend actions… well… that is less good; so, what’s the point of this card? First of all, Saria has – with the exception of Seaside Ravens – access to relatively cheap cards, plus an incredible resource accelerator like Hidden Power, so drawing more can give you an edge over opponents with higher costs. Moreover, you will be also making the opponent discard with Three-Eyed Owls, thus basically turning all the card draw into milling, and you have access to Illusion [[illusion]] dice, through which, as I already wrote above, you could exhaust any key dice the opponent could need, so they’ll get stuck with a hand of cards they couldn’t use.

    When you reach the late game and your opponent has no cards in their deck anymore, Abundance can deal the killing blow to the enemy Phoenixborn (a double-focused Abundance scores you 6 damage per round, dice-free) and can help you overcome the obstacle posed by opponents who refuse to play cards from their hand so they wouldn’t be forced to draw, or can’t play those cards because you keep exhausting their dice.

    While Abundance and the Three-Eyed Owl work indirectly towards your discard victory condition, the last Ready Spell at Saria’s disposal, Purge is more straightforward. Once in play, by spending a Main Action [[main]] and a Charm [[charm:class]] die, it forces the opponent to discard a card from the top of their draw pile, thus getting your opponent closer to the “point of no return” where they begin to take damage from being unable to draw. Furthermore, if the spell is focused, you have a chance to pay an additional cost of 1 basic [[basic]] die each time you activate its ability, to force a second card to be discarded. With time and dice at your disposal, you will eventually deplete the opponent’s deck for good.
    There are two strategical issues with this card that must be taken into account:

    the first and more obvious one, is that once your opponent’s deck is empty, Purge becomes completely useless, as it won’t further increase your winning chances, so, unless the opponent has ways to get cards back into his or her deck, you’ll find a better use by meditating it away (which will save a card from you deck or hand by the way, reducing the risk of emptying the deck yourselves).

    The second, subtler and most important issue is that while Purge allows you to get to your strategy’s critical point faster, it doesn’t do much along the way. You spend actions and dice to grind through the opponent’s deck, but you don’t affect either player’s current game state: you don’t put units on the board, don’t put pressure on the opponent, nor you control their board or their current options. What this card basically does is converting your spare dice into “future” damage, which may or may not come into effect depending on your overall gameplay, so my suggestion is to avoid investing too much on it, unless you can gain and maintain a solid board control. The best moment to use it, in my opinion, is at the end of the round, especially if your opponent has no more dice to spend and is forced to pass, as you will be able to freely spend up all your unused dice without fearing too much about giving the opponent two turns in a row to do their things.


    Saria has two allies, that help controlling the opponents’ battlefield and prevent enemy unit from becoming too much of a threat.

    The first of Saria’s allies, the Enchanted Violinist, is a really vicious unit. Another 1 attack/2 life unit costing a single basic [[basic]] dice, it is definitely a really cheap blocker and comes with an extremely powerful unit-killing ability. Let’s compare with the Nature [[natural]] Power: side action, spend a Nature [[natural]] Power die to deal 1 damage to a unit. Damage that can be prevented by effects like Protect or Particle Shield, and that can trigger abilities like the Living Doll‘s Pain Link or the Leech Warrior‘s Shadow Drain. The Violinist’s ability, Song of Sorrow, on the other hand, doesn’t cost an action to trigger, it costs a basic [[basic]] die, and it allows you to directly place wound tokens on the targeted unit, thus bypassing all the effects that trigger on damage like those I listed before.

    And the cool part is that the Enchanted Violinist is not exhausted for using it, so you can trigger it multiple times in a round, as long as you have dice available, and are able to trigger it. Right, because the issue here is you need an opponent to discard any number of cards off the top of their deck. No worries: on top of your opponent’s meditation (which you can “facilitate” with an aimed use of your Illusion dice) we also have already seen some tools this deck has to force discard: Saria’s [[Heart’s Pull]] is the most effective, but Purge can work too, if you have dice to spare.

    “Hey” I may hear some of you say “This is not the card that’s in my deck!”. Right, because last July, the Enchanted Violinist received an official errata from the designer itself, as the original version was perceived (deservedly, in my opinion) as too powerful in constructed play, mainly because you could trigger Song of Sorrow “at will” by discarding your own cards thus wreaking havoc among the enemy lines with ease, but also because – costing nothing – you could recover her almost infinitely with Ceremonial [[ceremonial]] dice. Personally, if restricted to preconstructed decks, I don’t mind the original Violinist too much, as it is restrained by the overall mechanics of Saria’s deck, but in constructed play it definitely was a beast, so the change has been for good.

    The other ally, the Rose Fire Dancer is not that much problematic… 3 attack and 1 life for an Illusion [[illusion:class]] and a Basic [[basic]] die is fine, though you need to be extra careful of cheap damaging effects or you are going to waste those two dice with no significant return. The dancer’s Distract ability allows you to spend a side action and exhaust her and another unit, which is quite a good trade for 2 dice, considered that you could play the Rose Fire Dancer and use her ability in the same turn to get temporarily rid of a strong threat like a Hammer Knight or a Frostback Bear. Sure, she will keep a Battlefield slot occupied for a while, but she’s so fragile she probably won’t last long; and if she does survive until the end of the round (remember you have Charm [[charm]] dice if you need), you would have access to a continuous source of exhaustion, or to a deceptively strong attacker.

    Action Spells

    Where Saria’s spellboard works toward achieving the deck discard condition, her action spell provide ways to delay the enemy and get extra power to fuel the deck.
    Hidden Power is one of the most ubiquitous cards in the game, and it’s probably one of the most valid reasons to splash a couple of Illusion [[illusion]] Dice in a deck (in addition to the annoying Illusion [[illusion]] power itself). Does it deserve all its popularity? Let’s see: at the cost of a Main Action [[main]] and an Illusion [[illusion:class]] die, it allows you to get two exhausted dice (one of which can be the one you spent to play this card, as dice spent to pay cost go into their owner’s exhausted pool before the effect is resolved) and move them back to your active pool, giving you a net bonus of +1 die for the round. As in any resource management game, being able to play with 10% more resources than the opponent, even if just temporarily, can be quite helpful.

    Moreover, you can choose the facing of those dice, which will most likely show a Power symbol, providing yet another way to reduce the randomness of the dice roll and allowing you to use the right combination of dice when you need them (you can get a Power dice and spend a side action to use its power in the same turn, which is extremely action efficient). A nasty trick you can pull, for example, is this: you spend an Illusion Power [[illusion]] die to exhaust an opponent’s die. In a following turn, you can spend another Illusion [[illusion:class]] die to play Hidden Power, recovering both dice and immediately use one to exhaust another enemy die, having a third Illusion Power available for a future turn to further undermine your opponent’s energy reserve. Illusion [[illusion]] is really annoying, don’t you think?

    Speaking of annoying things Illusion can do, we have Seal. This action spell is the only card in the game that costs both Illusion [[illusion:class]] and Charm [[charm:class]] so far, and its effect is pretty straightforward: you name a ready spell in play, and each copy of that spell in a target player’s spellboard gets exhausted, being unusable for the round. Similar to Noah Redmoon‘s Shadow Target, this spell is quite annoying in the first round, as it renders one of the opponent’s First Five useless (combine with Three-Eyed Owl for maximum effectiveness, as the opponent will be left with a First Three), but contrary to Noah’s ability, it doesn’t lose its utility through the course of the game, as you will always be able to exhaust multiple spells at once. Furthermore, it indirectly helps your discard strategy, as when your opponents find themselves unable to use what they already put on the board, they’ll most likely play cards from their hand, lest their dice remain unused. Playing cards from the hand means they’ll most likely draw more cards next round, which in turn helps you wear their deck thin.

    Another card with unique design, Strange Copy is really intriguing, but unfortunately depends a lot on what units your opponent plays, and has the inherent drawback almost all Illusion-based units have of being unable to stay in play for long, this time due to its Fleeting ability, which means you need to use it the round you play it, or it will be wasted. So, what does it do? For two Illusion [[illusion:class] Dice (a non-trivial cost, unfortunately) it becomes a temporary ally in your battlefield, with Attack and Life equal to the number of Status Token on it, which in turn, is initially equal to the Attack value of a unit currently in an opponent‘s battlefield.

    So, for example, if you choose a 4-attack Hammer Knight your opponent has in play, the Strange Copy will have 4 Status token on it, and would count as a 4 Attack / 4 Life / 0 Recovery ally. The stronger and more expensive the unit you copied, the more cost-efficient this card becomes.

    Note that the current attack value of the chosen unit is used when determining the number of Status Tokens to place on the Strange Copy, not the value printed on the card, so for example if the opponent has a Blue Jaguar (Attack 2) with a Massive Growth (Attack +4) on it, the Strange Copy would come into play with 6 Status token on it and would be a 6/6 ally. Moreover, once the number of Status tokens is set, any modification in the chosen unit’s Attack won’t modify the number of Status tokens on the Strange Copy. Also remember that, while you can’t place alteration spells on this card, you can place Charm dice on it to get it stronger: a single Charm die will enable it to trade 1-on-1 with any unit that it copied and survive the exchange of blows.

    As a final note, remember that being an Action Spell, and only becoming a unit after entering the Battlefield, Strange Copy does not trigger effects that happen when a unit comes into play, like the Blue Jaguar‘s Gaze

    Reaction Spells

    Saria has a single Reaction Spell, but what a reaction…

    Sympathy Pain is probably one of the most powerful reaction spells in the game, allowing you to deal 3 damage to a target unit or Phoenixborn after your Phoenixborn has received damage, at the cost of 2 Charm [[charm:class]] dice. A 2 dice / 3 damage exchange is definitely good (though a bit magic-intensive as you need two class symbols to trigger it), more so for a direct damage spell, although it comes with a triggering condition that in fact lessens the damage differential you’ll be able to achieve, as you would gain at most a 2-damage advantage over your opponent.

    Nevertheless, its triggering condition is quite easy to achieve, and the game offers various opportunities to trigger it by yourself so that you could minimize its drawbacks, especially in constructed play (taking damage by recovering allies through the Ceremonial power comes into mind as one). In the context of this preconstructed deck, the only way to self-trigger Sympathy Pain is by taking damage with Abundance for choosing not to draw, so it is mainly used as a “punishing” tool against opponents that attack you, both as a way to deal direct damage to their Phoenixborn, or as a unit-removal card, in a way similar to Shadow Counter.

    As always, before we wrap up, let me describe a list of strengths and weakness of this deck


    Lots of tools to limit the opponent’s options: battlefield control, hand discard, and dice exhaustion among them. The opponent will struggle to advance their strategy.

    This deck is very good in long games, where it stalls the opponent and slowly discards cards from their deck until they take damage for not being able to draw.

    Incredible card draw capabilities, combined with relatively cheap costs and dice recursion, that will allow to gain and keep card advantage throughout the game.


    The deck has few ways to attack and/or directly damage the enemy Phoenxiborn, and to be aggressive in general. It must rely on controlling the opponent’s resources and battlefield to be a serious threat.

    The discard strategy takes a while to kick in, forcing you to forfeit immediate rewards and spend dice and actions planning for the future. In the meantime the opponent would have the possibility to apply a lot of pressure to you and unless you delay their game, they’ll probably win before all your efforts come into fruition.

    Even if you manage to delay defeat long enough, you won’t have the resources to stop everything the enemy throws at you. You need to be careful about selecting which key units, cards and dice to control.

    And with that, we have seen all the cards in the Core Set. Thanks for staying with me along the way. Before we begin to take a look at the various expansion decks, I’d like to talk about the first step that needs to be taken when passing from preconstructed to constructed decks: deckbuilding.
    Until then. Thanks for reading!