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  • Ashes 1.5 announced on TC Stream

    Ashes is returning! Plaid Hat Games and Team Covenant are launching new Ashes content as a subscription service, and committing to continuing to develop new content as long as they have 1,000+ subscribers.


  • Top 5 Defining Sympathy Cards 8

    Intro

    Hi, all. I am going through a series that will go through all the different dice types in an attempt to rank the top 5 most defining cards of that dice type. These are cards that, I think, are the most important to be aware of when playing against someone who has that dice type in their deck. This is not necessarily the most commonly played cards, but rather, the cards that really drive the direction a deck could go.

    Note: I am counting only cards with a cost that can be paid with that dice type. Cards with basic costs are excluded; cards that have multiple dice type costs are excluded; phoenixborn and uniques are excluded; cards with parallel costs are included in BOTH dice types sections. All cards are being thought of with respect to their 1.0 state.

    Previous Installments

    Top 5 Defining Sympathy Cards

    #5

    Summon Nightsong Cricket Nightsong Cricket

    Nightsong Cricket opened up some very interesting strategies. It was one of the few cards that let you summon 2 units a turn. This let you fill your board relatively cheaply with 2/1 units. Usually paying a die for a 1 life unit isn’t great, but with some skillful play around the Renewed Harmony ability, you could dissuade opponents from killing them. They were excellent blockers as long as you managed your discard forcing your opponent to give you back your phoenixborn unique or other powerful cards. They were probably best in Coal Roarkwin who would give the flexibility to just slash anything that you handed back to him.

    #4

    River Skald

    The River Skald had arguably the strongest ability in the game. If you included this and Hand Tricks or some other draw in your first five, you could instantly kill any of the power 3 health units (Emperor Lion, Hammer Knight, Sonic Swordsman). It was no slouch as just a big body to attack with either. The potential to double-exhaust and attack with Secret Door was much discussed, but was a pretty rare scenario. It probably was strongest in Victoria Glassfire decks that were already planning on packing a lot of card draw. It definitely did not fit in every deck, but could do a lot of work in aggressive battlefield decks.

    #3

    Seeds of Aggression

    This card didn’t quite make my charm list. The reason it rates so highly here is that sympathy is just a much strong dice type for effects that help you win on board-state. Most of charm’s best cards are working with mill or direct damage, but when playing sympathy, there were a lot more options to play through your battlefield. Seeds of Aggression was finally a counter Blood Chains that was able to do some work. It was one of the few cards that actually let you use your exhausted units productively. You could both kill off your exhausted unit, free up a space on your battlefield and take out an opponent’s heavy hitter. It was versatile and let you take down big blockers without receiving much damage on your end.

    #2

    Changing Winds

    Changing Winds always had a really awkward, expensive up front cost. However, if you were able to get out of the first round unscathed, then the benefits were enormous. Playing within sympathy allowed you to trigger all of the effects based on card draw (Squall Stallion, River Skald). It gave you more fodder for Coal Roarkwin slashing or more Illusionary Cycles for Victoria Glassfire. However, its best synergy was probably with Butterfly Monks and Shadow Spirits as it gave you an accelerator to find one of those books. You got to peek at potentially 3 different cards to find one of those books, meaning that picking up a second book in the first round was really not an uncommon scenario. You also got to get a free die rotation, which works perfectly for those two books that need power symbols. Until Resonance dropped it was additionally the strongest card for focus effects, particularly focus 2 effects like Summon Indiglo Creeper and Summon Ghostly Mount.

    #1

    Crescendo

    Crescendo was basically an auto-include in any deck that was trying to win through attacking. It was a card that really let you get ahead on tempo and clear out an extra blocker without taking a main or side action. When combined with Out of the Mist or a different side action clear, it let you take out 2 blockers in one attack. It was also just an efficient unit killer. Any 3 life unit would cost more than the 1 die that you could spend with Crescendo to clear it. In fact, you could also use this card completely defensively just to trade an attack action for one of your opponent’s power allies. It was the most efficient way to kill an opponent’s unit in any deck.

    Summary

    There are a ton of honorable mentions I will give here. This list feels by far the most subjective relative to the other 5. String Mage was a strong ally that shut down ping damage and was a very hard counter to Indiglow Creepers. Essence Druid was an expensive ally, but gave the strongest recursion in the game (outside of Encore). New Ideas was a powerful card included in Coal Roarkwin or Fiona Mercywind. However, it wasn’t really ever played for its ability, so it’s hard for me to count it as a “sympathy” card. Polarity Mage and Raptor Herder were strong allies. I also left off Salamander Monks which were great in Brennen Blackcloud decks and Squall Stallions that were fun and unique to build around.

    After reviewing all of these card lists, I have to say that Sympathy is the most balanced card type. I don’t think any of its cards were really thought of as particularly oppressive or unpleasant. Some of them are pretty wordy in text (Dark Presence), but overall they mostly found little niches to fill. Sympathy cards in general were very playable, but required a very specific build to use well. Overall, I really like the space the sympathy holds within the game and I would guess it is the dice type that requires the least updating with Reborn.

    If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading through these lists. If you have any comments or suggestions on other topics you would be interested in reading, please let me know!

  • Top 5 Defining Nature Cards 7

    Intro

    Hi, all. I am going through a series that will go through all the different dice types in an attempt to rank the top 5 most defining cards of that dice type. These are cards that, I think, are the most important to be aware of when playing against someone who has that dice type in their deck. This is not necessarily the most commonly played cards, but rather, the cards that really drive the direction a deck could go.

    Note: I am counting only cards with a cost that can be paid with that dice type. Cards with basic costs are excluded; cards that have multiple dice type costs are excluded; phoenixborn and uniques are excluded; cards with parallel costs are included in BOTH dice types sections. All cards are being thought of with respect to their 1.0 state.

    Previous Installments

    Top 5 Defining Nature Cards

    #5

    Raptor Herder Raptor Hatchling

    Perhaps somewhat ironically, I included an ally in the most defining nature cards. As Summon Fallen has proven, getting 2 bodies for 1 die is a really good deal, regardless of what the bodies are. Being able to put up 2 blockers after getting your board wiped is really strong. The Raptor Hatchling is also no slouch if your opponent lets you fill up your board. Raptor Herder was also very strong as a mount. It didn't have the biggest impact to the state of the game, but it was a flexible card that needed to be respected.

    #4

    Summon Butterfly Monk Butterfly Monk

    Butterfly Monks are the nature friends of Shadow Spirits, which I labeled as the best conjuration in the game. The reason Butterfly Monks are a peg lower is that they were not a win condition in themselves. They were, however, one of the best two defensive units in the game (with Turtle Guard). They were the perfect card to clog up the board in Coal Roarkwin decks (before breaking through with One-Hundred Blades. They were blockers and healers in burn decks. Meditating your spellboard to kill you Butterfly Monks and heal was a huge late game play to survive. Altogether, they made it extremely difficult for your opponent to punch through your line (assuming that you drew your second copy of the book).

    #3

    Ice Trap

    This card definitely fell off a bit as decks gravitated to letting units sit exhausted on the field, rather than killing them. However, I think this remains as a defining card not just for the nature magic type, but really for all of the game. Any power unit that had less than 2 life had to live under the fear of being Ice Trapped. This made running Biters, Blue Jaguars, and Winged Lionesses a challenge. It made it so that cards like Flash Archer or Blackcloud Ninja never really get off the ground. It also was a solid option to use as a tempo play to swing in early against an opponent's Phoenixborn.

    #2

    Summon Frostback Bear Frostback Bear

    When this card dropped, it completely redefined the standard for a strong conjuration. Coming out of the core set, there really was no strong mid-tier unit. Iron Rhinos were too expensive and the good 1 die summons were all 1 attack Three-Eyed Owl, Gilder, Butterfly Monk. Every conjuration moving forward was held to the Frostback Bear standard. Overtime, it became less dominant as other strong conjurations were released and punching attack damage became harder. I would say it is still close to the most efficient unit for its impact on the battlefield. Forcing an opponent to suffer either Spite or Freeze was a really solid ability along with great stats for the cost.

    #1

    Molten Gold

    Maybe this isn't the best card in nature, but it certainly has closed out the most games. Molten Gold has long been the most reliable and consistent closer in the game (with the only counter being Vanish). It gets around Chant of Protection, Redirect and Sympathy Pain and can go straight to the Phoenixborn's face. It is a big reason why most burn decks could turn to nature, despite nature having only one other card that did damage directly to the Phoenixborn (Frostbite). It was also one of the best spells to remove big units from the game. Especially as most of the dangerous allies in the game have exactly 3 life. It sometimes made things hard to play as most nature dice would be spent on conjuring units, but it when it did get played, it almost always had a huge impact. This card made it incredibly dangerous to be at anything under 4 life.

    Summary

    Somewhat surprisingly, the nature dice color is not super deep. There are a lot of really strong, power cards listed out in this top five, but it gets pretty mediocre after that. A lot of that is due to positive alterations never finding a good home. Massive Growth was never particularly strong outside of cheeky "Grow Finch" decks. Frostbite has seen some use and popularity, though it typically is outshined by Chang of Revenge. Nature's Wrath is really the only other card that I considered for this top 5. It definitely has its uses and gives access to a really nice board sweep outside of Mist Typhoon.

    Nature dice have always been a very popular "dominant" (4+) dice type in the game. Nature decks tend to be very efficient on board state with solid conjurations and unit guard to back them up. This, combined with the [[nature:power]] ability give you a lot of control of the battlefield. Having access to Molten Gold means that even if a deck is struggling to push damage through the front lines, there is a backup option to burn out the last bit of life from your opponent. It is rarely a good splash magic type, but if you are willing to commit, you can get a lot of strong cards.

  • Top 5 Defining Illusion Cards 5

    Intro

    Hi, all. I am going through a series that will go through all the different dice types in an attempt to rank the top 5 most defining cards of that dice type. These are cards that, I think, are the most important to be aware of when playing against someone who has that dice type in their deck. This is not necessarily the most commonly played cards, but rather, the cards that really drive the direction a deck could go.

    Note: I am counting only cards with a cost that can be paid with that dice type. Cards with basic costs are excluded; cards that have multiple dice type costs are excluded; phoenixborn and uniques are excluded; cards with parallel costs are included in BOTH dice types sections. All cards are being thought of with respect to their 1.0 state.

    Previous Installments

    Top 5 Defining Illusion Cards

    #5

    Abundance

    I went back and forth on this card, as it really has only found a home in Victoria Glassfire decks. However, this card played a huge role in enabling these heavy illusion decks to take over the meta. The main role it played was letting you draw into Illusionary Cycle over and over again. Vicky decks tended to rely on stripping opponents dice. To do that, you need dice recursion, card draw, and the illusion dice power. Abundance provided the key ingredient of card draw. It also gave Victoria Glassfire a way to close games if she was unable to break through opponents' boards. It didn't find much use in other decks as most PB's couldn't use extra cards or they couldn't guarantee getting their opponent to run out of cards, but it was key in some of the most dominant decks in the game.

    #4

    Gates Thrown Open

    Gates Thrown Open was yet another illusion dice recursion card. I was initially pretty surprised that it was printed. Getting a net of 2 extra dice per round seemed crazy. However, it did have significant drawbacks. It required you to use a spellboard slot. But, perhaps more importantly, it was just awkward to use. You had to have use enough dice to recur. You would have also needed to have cards that could use the extra dice. It was great for big ally decks or for expensive action spells. Being able to slot it into your First Five also meant that you could calculate ahead of time exactly what you want to spend the dice on. If you were able to use the extra dice effectively, you could set yourself up for some very strong starts.

    #3

    Angelic Rescue Angel's Embrace

    This card could technically be thought of as a dual cost, but I'm going to slot it in here because the primary effect as a reaction is really the important effect. This card was the counter to the many destruction spells that target your big unit. The main effect this had on the game was creating a counter to Fear. This let you run big units that were not Elephant Riders or Holy Knights without worrying about instant destruction. It was crippling to Earthquake, Phoenix Barrage and Sword of Virtue. Usually, decks running big allies and conjurations would tend to be [[nature:power]], [[ceremonial:power]], and [[divine:power]]. This gave a solid reason to switch over to illusion.

    #2

    Summon Shadow Spirit Shadow Spirit

    The top 2 should really not be a surprise for anyone. This card would rate as my #1 conjuration. Every deck that would run more than a couple illusion dice would run this. For much (if not all) of the game, this was the only illusion unit worth playing. This card worked well both offensively and defensively. It worked well other illusion cards that gave you extra [[illusion:power]]. It worked well as a unit to wall up with if you drew at least a second book. It gave you flexibility to meditate away if you needed the extra battlefield slots. It was the cheapest way to fill your board with units with 2 attack value. They traded well with just about any unit and forced Phoenixborns to guard and take a lot more hits than they may want to.

    #1

    Hidden Power

    This has been pretty consistently regarded as the strongest card in the game. Just using it for nothing but dice powers would have made it a top tier card. You could use it as 2 [[nature:power]] pings, or you could use it for the [[illusion:power]] to strip away an opponent's resource. You could use it to grab two [[divine:power]] for Meteor or to summon another powerful ally or conjuration. Having Hidden Power in your deck meant that you could threaten to play just about any card in the game as long as you were showing a single [[illusion:class]]. It is the only card that I can say was truly an auto-include in any illusion deck, regardless of the number of dice and regardless of the goal of the deck. There was never a reason to not include it. It really could be said that this is the most defining card of the entirety of Ashes 1.0.

    Summary

    Usually, I have a lot of thoughts for honorable mentions. However, for illusion, I was actually struggling to come up with 5. Shadow Spirits and Hidden Power are just head and shoulders above all other illusion cards. Every other illusion card seems very situational. Fade Away, Steady Gaze, and Reflections in the Water all have specific purposes, but their importance in the meta has always been shifting. Shifting Mist is a popular card, but I've never thought it really was worth the spellboard slot (unless going up against a mill deck).

    Illusion has universally been thought of as the strongest dice pool just for the combination of Hidden Power and the [[illusion:power]] power action. It's hard to disagree with that stance given that almost every top deck in the history of the game has run illusion. However, the card pool also has the widest variance in the strength of cards. Illusion units tended to be way overcosted. Other illusion cards are very situational, but then it also includes arguably the top two cards in the game. It is the dice pool that is going to have the biggest change with dice recursion being removed and the dice power being changed significantly. We will see if the [[illusion:power]] dominance can overcome all of these changes.

  • New Dice Powers 4

    Update : The Picture on the Website has been updated to show more accurate information.

    Source is this header Image from the plaidhat Website : https://media.plaidhatgames.com/filer_public_thumbnails/filer_public/7c/05/7c05910c-6ec0-4afc-8044-f39b04176b28/ashes-reborn-header-dice.jpg__1281x503_q85_subsampling-2.jpg

    So the new Dicepowers got leaked as whole, not just Illusion.
    Im sure nobody looked at the Cards, so here is the visible text in case the image gets replaced :

    • Ceremonial : Search your Discard Pile for an ally and place it into your Hand. (No more damage ? - this hints at an intensive rework for Xander and likely fire archer)
    • Sympathy : Draw 1 Card. You may ( was it always a may ?) choose 1 card in your Hand and place it on the op or bottom of your draw pile.
    • Charm : While this Die in (typo) on that unit, its attack value is reduced by 1. Place this die in your exhausted pool at the end of the round.
    • Divine : While this ... on that Unit, its attack ... is increased by 1. Place ... die in your exhausted ... at the end of the Round.
    • Natural : Not shown
    • Illusion : You know
  • Some Thoughts On Dice Recursion 1

    It was rumored that Ashes 1.5 will diminish or even completely remove the concept of dice recursion, and thus I wanted to take this opportunity to discuss what makes dice recursion so powerful, in my opinion, and how the different card designs affected the imbalance of mechanic.

    This post is based on my assumptions and predictions, and I apologize in advance if some of these are wrong/inaccurate. My intention is to analyze and incentivize a discussion, and not point fingers at anyone.

    WHY IS DICE RECURSION SO GOOD?
    Dice recursion could be considered very similar to Mana Cheating, a concept that could be found in other cost-per-card-based card games, such as Magic or Hearthstone. Even though Mana Cheating is not a prominent mechanic, the fact that players can mentally "reduce" the cost only for certain cards makes it more manageable. For example, if a card says, "your <BLUE> cards costs 2 less", it is both easy to track without changing anything physically in the game and it is restrictive, in the sense that only <BLUE> cards (whatever that may be) benefit from this effect.

    This is NOT the case, in Ashes, however. Since the "Mana" in this game is represented by actual physical dice, it is almost impossible to track down a die for a specific use. In fact, only one card in Ashes 1.0 takes this approach of tracking down recurred dice (or, cheated mana), Gates Thrown Open.

    Since you are unable to track down the dice, you are gaining "Mana" that is available to all cards and effects, and this could be utilized in unintended ways. Specifically, I think what makes this effect so dangerous is the Summon X Spells in your Spellboard.

    THE PROBLEM WITH SUMMON SPELLS
    Summon Spells are a core identity of Ashes 1.0 (and I hope Ashes 1.5, too). These stay-in-play Spells allow to keep summoning and re-summoning your Conjurations without end as long as you have the dice to do so.

    Aha! So we can immediately see the problem that rises with dice recursion. You can keep paying the cost for your Summon Spells, and do so effectively more times than you would be normally allowed. Other Ready Spells can be also exploited, but the Summon Spells provide the means to actually fight for the Battlefield and win the game, which makes them more dangerous from that perspective.

    Moreover, while later designs increased the cost of Conjuration and incorporated requirements other than dice to call upon the powers of these creatures, early designs only required you to spend dice and a Main Action (or, rarely, a Side Action) to summon some of the fiercest creatures in Ashes 1.0, like Frostback Bear or Emperor Lion. Two extra Nature dice or three extra Divine dice meant another one of these creatures was available for you. It it less of an issue during the first round, but as you begin to Focus your Summoning Spells, those extra dice become really impactful, since you would have more Summoning effects to utilize in those rounds using the extra dice.

    IS THERE A HEALTHY DICE RECURSION EFFECT?
    Now THAT is a good question, because everybody loves "extra" stuff! I think that dice recursion effects may still have a negative impact if combined with cheap-costed, highly-impactful Conjurations (and we already know Ashes 1.5 will try to mitigate dice recursion effects, if not remove them completely), but I think some dice recursion effects are still valid.

    Specifically, dice recursion is very interesting to me as an identity for a Phoenixborn. Having a Phoenixborn ability or unique card being able to recur dice is fine, as long as the effect itself is balanced. Let's take Victoria Glassfire as an example. Victoria's ability, combined with Illusionary Cycle, only nets you 2 dice in a round. The issues start when you consider that: (1) Illusionary Cycle shuffles itself into the deck, so the extra 2 dice are actually granted more than 3 times per game (2) the original Illusion dice ability (which you are using if you use Victoria) is so suppressive that you sometimes do not need the follow-up cards to capitalize on those extra dice.

    Other than identity-related cards, I think the other "dice recursion" cards really suffered from the existence of Hidden Power in the Core Set. Not only does this card gives you access to the Illusion dice ability, but it recurs dice for basically free. Most other cards either had to limit the dice to certain types or sides (like, Lucky Rabbit), or had to shut-down your Spellboard (Law of Assurance or Expand Energy), just to make sure these effects do not go out-of-hand.

    I think the design for Law of Assurance is actually the best when it comes to dice recursion, because the Bound mechanic limits the potential to "over-Book" (exploiting extra dice for multiple Book Summons). It is worth noting that Bound does not completely solve the problem, because Books can still be focused for catastrophecial results.

    WHAT DO I HOPE TO SEE FOR ASHES 1.5?
    A closer look at certain cards in Ashes 1.0 shows some of them had "dice recursion" for no reason. Body Inversion or Resonance come to mind. I can only guess why these cards were designed that way, but I hope that this sort of "dice recursion" is either replaced by a lower cost for the cost or a more powerful effect for the original cost.

    In addition, I do hope some dice recursion is kept to serve as an identity of a Phoenixborn. I would prefer seeing more Law of Assurance-like dice recursion, and less Hidden Power-like. I truly believe the mechanic, while potentially quite powerful due to Ashes's design, has some valid space in the metagame, without being too oppressive.

    Thanks for reading this analysis, I would to hear your opinion and thoughts about this topic.

  • Top 5 Defining Divine Cards 5

    Intro

    Hi, all. I am going through a series that will go through all the different dice types in an attempt to rank the top 5 most defining cards of that dice type. These are cards that, I think, are the most important to be aware of when playing against someone who has that dice type in their deck. This is not necessarily the most commonly played cards, but rather, the cards that really drive the direction a deck could go.

    Note: I am counting only cards with a cost that can be paid with that dice type. Cards with basic costs are excluded; cards that have multiple dice type costs are excluded; phoenixborn and uniques are excluded; cards with parallel costs are included in BOTH dice types sections. All cards are being thought of with respect to their 1.0 state.

    Previous Installments

    Top 5 Defining Divine Cards

    #5

    Holy Knight

    No big surprises here as we start with one of the strongest units in the game (at least when unexhausted). Holy Knight was the lynchpin in many, many “One Punch” decks that tried to kill your opponent with Amplify and Hypnotize. While never being a top deck due to having many hard counters, it was a threat that needed to be guarded against. Holy Knight and Hypnotize by themselves worked as a decent closer in games with stalled out battlefields. But, more often than not, it was just a really powerful ally to drop in the first round and hit your opponent’s Phoenixborn with 5 attack. Combined in Jessa Na Ni, it could make for very quick games.

    #4

    Sun Sister

    In this slot, I went with another divine unit that grew to being one of the strongest allies towards the end of 1.0’s cycle. It was really the unit that best synergized with mounts. Usually mount decks can have big problems if you do not draw enough allies to ride the mounts. Sun Sister let you get a recurring chain of allies and made those decks far more consistent. There’s not really much else in terms of the card’s interaction. It was a very sparingly used card when first dropped, but became almost essential in order to run these really powerful mount-conjurations.

    #3

    Power Through

    The introduction of overkill gave an interesting way of doing damage through an opponent’s battlefield without having to go over the top or through milling. Power Through was really the first offensive alteration to become pretty widespread. It worked very well with the [[divine:power]] dice power; it had a reasonable respark cost and really was the best divine card at closing out games. Stacking overkill on an Elephant Rider was also an effective way to just run over chump blockers. Power Through didn’t necessarily dominate any meta, but it did enable a new way to push through the damage in inevitably stalled out board states.

    #2

    Summon Winged Lioness Winged Lioness

    At the #2 spot, I list one of the two popular divine summons. I think that both Winged Lioness and Emperor Lion are pretty similar in their strength. However, Winged Lioness is something that had to be played around more. The Emperor Lion was really just a unit with strong stats; a better Ice Golem and a tougher Frostback Bear. Winged Lioness were an immediate threat to any unit you would throw down. They worked really well with Power Through and were able to trade evenly with just about any unit. Usually, the defender would have final say for what stays and what goes within the battlefield by block or guarding with units and/or their phoenixborn. The Winged Lioness flipped that and gave that control back to the aggressor.

    #1

    Meteor

    Finally, we have the easiest choice and probably the most impactful card in the game. Originally, I had no idea how strong this type of a board wipe would be. Spending two power dice seemed like a steep cost. However, I was very clearly wrong. This card, combined with dice pressure, would allow you to exhaust out your opponents big units and kill their small units. Meteor also was a huge part in Elephant Rider decks, as it didn’t actually affect the elephant. Additionally, it was very strong in mill and burn decks as just a way to make your opponent pay for being ahead on board state. Meteor completely flipped how everyone needed to think about summoning and using units on the battlefield.

    Summary

    The main two honorable mentions for this week are Summon Emperor Lion and Devotion. The Emperor Lion was a unit almost if not more popular than the Winged Lioness. It was a part of most decks that tried to accelerate the game and punch some attacking damage in round 1. However, at the end of the day, it was mostly just a body with big stats; like an Ice Golem without the hoops of needing to add an alteration. It didn’t really open up new styles of play. Devotion was a powerful counter to Meteor, Kneel and other exhaustion effects. It was the first alteration that was successful at actually keeping units alive. With these divine cards, I could really re-order any of #2-#7 without too much dissent on my end.

    Divine, at the time of release, was immediately one of the strongest dice pools. As I have been making these lists, its more and more clear why. In Odette Diamondcrest’s deck alone, there are 4 of my top 5 defining divine cards. In fact, all of the cards I listed above are from her and Astrea’s decks. It really didn’t need much help from any other future expansions. A little bit sad to me is that none of the Laws really made it into contention for this list. While I’ve seen interesting use cases for a few of them, they never really took off as giving up that spellboard slot has always been just a little too much. Divine has one of the strongest themes and feels more unique and distinctive than most dice types.

  • Top 5 Defining Charm Cards 4

    Intro

    Hi, all. I am going through a series that will go through all the different dice types in an attempt to rank the top 5 most defining cards of that dice type. These are cards that, I think, are the most important to be aware of when playing against someone who has that dice type in their deck. This is not necessarily the most commonly played cards, but rather, the cards that really drive the direction a deck could go.

    Note: I am counting only cards with a cost that can be payed with that dice type. Cards with basic costs are excluded; cards that have multiple dice type costs are excluded; phoenixborn and uniques are excluded; cards with parallel costs are included in BOTH dice types sections. All cards are being thought of with respect to their 1.0 state.

    I am also moving these articles over to the "General" section, rather than "Strategy."

    Previous Installments

    Top 5 Defining Charm Cards

    #5

    Imperial Ninja

    The Imperial Ninja was a card that became one of the biggest threats to your opponent's first five. Given that experienced players could make pretty confident guesses as to what would be in an opponent's first five, it was terrifying to play against. Even later on, it was a unit that you would be scared to block with a Phoenixborn because they could call out any cards that could counter or mess with what they were doing. The Imperial Ninja played a big role in bringing charm back briefly into the meta.

    #4

    Sympathy Pain

    As always, ironically, Sympathy Pain has consistently been a strong charm reaction. Charm had a few reactions that triggered with similar timing windows, but this was a brutal closer. It was also something that could be triggered by yourself through recurring allies, taking damage from abundance, etc. It was instrumental in charm burn decks as well as being a secondary finisher in many mill decks.

    #3

    Redirect

    As mentioned before, charm has several strong reactions with similar timing windows. Here is the other one in this list. Redirect was always easier to use since it only needed a single charm die. However, you did need a unit to stick around. I think Redirect was usually a more important card to play around. Redirect always needed to be on your mind when choosing the order of resolving Phoenixborn attacks. Redirect always needed to be considered when trying to close out the game (whether with burn or attacks). While it wasn't necessarily a card to build a strategy around, it was a card that you had to be aware of when playing against.

    #2

    Open Memories

    Coming in at the #2 spot is a card that opened up such a huge realm of possibilities. For the majority of the game's 1.0 cycle, it was the only way to really guarantee getting a focus or focus-like effect from your spellboard (not counting the meditate for a book + Encore option). This card was obviously great with Summon Indiglow Creeper which needs to be focused. It was good with Summon Silver Snake. It provided options with double-downing on a single die summon like Three Eyed Owls, Butterfly Monks, or Shadow Spirits. Beyond that, it had occasional uses just for its flexibility. If you drew into it, you could use it to find a Hypnotize or Meteor or some other card that would help you close or stall out the game.

    #1

    Summon Three Eyed Owl Three Eyed Owl

    In the top spot, I had to go with the one charm card/unit that is a win condition all by itself. This was a staple in just about any deck that included a lot of charm dice. It was a threat that needed an answer from your First Five. It was an excellent unit at the end of the game to actually force discards from hand to get your opponent to take damage from being decked. And it was always just a value body and blocker that could be thrown into any deck. Three Eyed Owls were not just cards included in charm-mill decks, but were featured in Orrick Gilstream's Gilder, Bear, Owl decks. They were included in some Brennen Blackcloud burn decks. As the game progressed, there become more and more answers for the Three Eyed Owls, so they fell off, but for much of the game, they were a linchpin in every charm deck.

    Summary

    Honorable mentions this time are pretty varied. Cognitive Dissonance was a solid mill card that entered the game late. I think it was likely going to be a necessary mill card, but I'm not sure that that archetype was fully explored. Orchid Doves were a solid summon and actually locked opponents units down when paired with [[illusion:power]]. But, it usually wasn't a card that was built around. I think that Mind Probe could have had a greater and greater impact as a way to seek out hard counters or just know what cards were coming next. Finally, we have the [[charm:power]] theme of refreshing and buffing units. Most of these cards were underpowered, but every once in a while, some of them would become relevant. The top ones would be Call to Action, Hypnotize and Refresh. Specifically Hypnotize was always a fun card to build around, but it was too rarely used by the top decks, so I left it out of the top 5.

    After mentioning last week that Ceremonial has probably the strongest card pool, I would say that Charm probably has the weakest cards. A lot of the strong cards are reactions, which usually give your opponents ways to play around. The lack of dice recursion made playing mill an uphill battle as you were giving up resources to play charm and giving up board presence to mill from deck. I also think that charm dice were needed to heavily early in the game, but became much less useful late since there were no strong charm action spells. However, Summon Gilder, Summon Orchid Dove and Open Memories tried to push you to having lots of early charm. It has always been a tricky magic type to splash, but it has had solid uses as a main dice type (4+ dice).

  • Extract from the AMA on Reddit 2

    There was a AMA on Reddit yesterday where some details about Ashes Reborn have been unveiled. Not too much ,but some card details, some mechanics changes.
    Source is this :
    https://www.reddit.com/r/AshesGame/comments/i9x5lc/ama_with_ashes_reborn_lead_developer_nick_conley/

    This is my, as short as possible, summary:

    Specific Texts on Cards :

    • Jessas interactions with Fear and Blood Puppet are something they want to have in the game. New Text : Once per turn, after a unit is destroyed, you may spend 1B to deal 1 damage to a target Phoenixborn.
    • Fears new Text : 1 [[Basic]] :Destroy a unit you control. If you do, remove wound tokens from your Phoenixborn equal to the destroyed unit's recover value and discard a target unit an opponent controls.
    • Triggers on damage have been changed a lot, Example is Living Doll : Now can transfer 1 Wound to a Phoenixborn with a Sideaction
    • Time Dice Current Concept Dice Power is to place or remove 1 status Token on/from a Card. This is apparently not final Design.
    • Iron Rhino is getting a buff. Probably become limited to 1 Conjuration, 7/4/0 stats with abilities along the lines of Gigantic 1 and Overkill 2, but nothing is final. Costs will not be changed however.
    • Body Inversion : It is now a ready spell with the following activation : Side, Exhaust, 1 Illusion Class: Swap a target unit's printed attack value with their printed life value for the remainder of the turn.
    • Noahs ability will not be tied to ceremonial anymore and wolfs will be cheaper
    • Sympathy Pain will have a parallel costs between Charm and you guessed it ... sympathy. (Was about time)

    New General Rules :

    • Rules Change : Phoenixborn can only Guard once per Round. You will need to turn your PB 90° once it has Guarded for the Round. This is referred to as 'having your Guard down'™.
    • While Guarding or Blocking, countering will be mandatory. Attacked Units do not have to counter still. (Wow ...)
    • Alteration Spells will be defined to be targeting and it was specifically said that golden veil will be able to counter them.

    Design Decisions :

    • As with Living Doll above, they converted many triggered abilities into side actions.
    • Triggers on damage have been changed a lot. It was said to be one of the big red flags they looked out for.
    • Sembali is planned to be reworked. They think the Conjuration Removal did not take off. It will be completly removed. Ironic. She will be more about Angels and giving Wings now.
    • They Consider Harold to be broken and will rework him as well, but his ability Mark Prey and his general feel are going to Stay.
    • The Main Focus of the Remake is to bring the Dice Economy in Check again so that it matches the Action Economy more closely.
    • A subgoal of the Rework is to lower the overall Powerlevel of Cards
    • It was stated repeatedly that they want the game to be interactive. (Remeber it was already said on the Team Covenant Stream, that the Illusions Dice power is going to change to no longer discard your dice, but turn 2 of them downwards one level.)
    • There will be more tools for mill strategies but they are cautious to not let it become a dominant strategy. Nick is very aware of the danger.
    • Laws are getting reworked. Also Emperor Lions will have some kind of core Interaction with Laws.
    • Removal Spells to come will be mostly conditional to make for more interesting gameplay.
    • Some of the mechanics that were introduced later like parallel costs are going into the updated base set : Sympathy Pain will have a parallel costs between Charm and you guessed it ... sympathy. (Was about time)
    • Noahs ability will not be tied to ceremonial anymore and wolfs will be cheaper
    • Dice Recursion has been changed overall. No specifics but it is suggested that it has been dialed down.
    • All Cards in Path of the Assassins are somewhat considered 'of the past'. They did not say they were 'banned' or what that would even mean, but i would be surprised if those were allowed in tournaments. However some of those Cards will reappear in one way or another as part of Time magic.

    Future Plans :

    • Currently there are no plans for an 8th Dice Type
    • Lulu is planned to be reused as the Time/Natural Phoenixborn.
    • All Promos are going to be reworked into Time Phoenixborn.
    • The long ago spoiled Phoenixborn Tristan Darkwater is probably gonna become the Sympathy/Time Phoenixborn later in Development.
    • Starting this (or next) week preview articles will be coming on the plaidhat website.
    • There are plans to continue Ashes after Time Dice are done if demand is high enough. No Plans for how exactly. 3-Color Decks have been mentioned. They could just go for a theme - like the chimera. They are open for feedback.
    • Given the current Situation, without any guarantees, quarterly tournaments in major events (PAX) are planned, but look it up yourself.

    Other Information :

    • Caterina Kalymniou is the artist who drew Jericho for the Breaker of Fate.
    • There are sadly some (very few) cards they did want to rework but could not find a solution for. No Names were mentioned. But some boarderline unplayable cards have apparently been moved to other decks and are now somehow doing very well because the overall powerlevel is lower.
    • The (few) cards they had problems redesigning were a) underpowered (cough Cut the Strings) and b) had no issues because of complexity (cough cough).
    • Almost Every Deck has some Cards changed. Many Cards have new functionality or been reworked but as many have just new wording.
    • Nick hopes that a theme of time dice will be more combo-based gameplay. (But he does know that the players ultimately decide if this is true or not)
    • Since LCG's are a difficult market to get into their main hope is the current distrubition model being awesome, so get those subscriptions.
    • Glow Finch will have more Art than Text in the new iteration.
    • No Words on wether Enchanted Violinist will be in the Upgrade Pack or not.

    Thats all.

    Glow Finch

  • Top 5 Defining Ceremonial Cards 4

    Intro

    Hi, all. I am going through a series that will go through all the different dice types in an attempt to rank the top 5 most defining cards of that dice type. These are cards that, I think, are the most important to be aware of when playing against someone who has that dice type in their deck. This is not necessarily the most commonly played cards, but rather, the cards that really drive the direction a deck could go.

    Note: I am counting only cards with a cost that can be payed with that dice type. Cards with basic costs are excluded; cards that have multiple dice type costs are excluded; phoenixborn and uniques are excluded; cards with parallel costs are included in BOTH dice types sections. All cards are being thought of with respect to their 1.0 state.

    Top 5 Defining Ceremonial Cards

    #5

    Choke

    Choke is a very flexible cancel. In most cases, it is saved for preventing a Phoenixborn's ability (Glow Finch, Aradel Summergaard's waterblast, Orrick Gilstream's bounty). However, the card pool continues to grow with units that have stronger abilities, which makes this a more and more important card. It can stop Unit Guard, Terrifying, Overkill, etc. It's strength is really dependent on what the opponent is playing, but it is something that requires the opponent to respect and play around.

    #4

    Summon Fallen Fallen

    The Fallen drive the most unique style of play/deck in the game. A never-exhausting summon spell means that you can spam out a full board of Fallen without really breaking a sweat in round 1. This means that there is a potential Round 2, turn 1 victory. It does have some very hard counters (Seal, Noah Redmoon), so it's definitely not unstoppable, but it also does not have a lot of counters. However, it is something that you want to be able to give yourself a chance against.

    #3

    Dark Reaping

    I would probably say that Dark Reaping is the strongest ceremonial card. I was kind of disappointed when it came out because it gave even more ways to clear out your own board if you were running ceremonial. Given the popularity of ceremonial, there really was never going to be a way to clog up your opponent's board with Blood Puppets and the like. Dice recursion is always something that you need to keep in mind. If you have a unit available to destroy and 2 [[ceremonial:class]], then you can summon or play just about anything. So, dice recursion is always something that you need to keep an eye on. There really is no good counter for this outside of doing your best to wipe your opponents board or stealing the ceremonial dice with a [[illusion:power]].

    #2

    Blood Chains

    Blood Chains has been a staple in most ceremonial decks ever since it came out. It is incredibly flexible and can be used in mill, burn or attacking decks. It is the best card in the game when it comes to locking down your opponent's board. It is also the best counter to itself. When going against ceremonial, you have to know that you can't get away with filling up their board with exhausted or Regressed units. You also need a way to clear out your own units, because otherwise you will be playing the whole game down a battlefield slot. It's weaker against swarm and can't be used if there are no available units to destroy, but for most of the meta that has relied on 2-3 health units, it has always been a defining card.

    #1

    Chant of Revenge

    Finally, at the top spot, I am leaving here the card that drives pretty much every burn deck that has ever been around. This card has always been a perfect match for Brennen Blackcloud's ability. It also just has so much built-in synergy with the rest of the [[ceremonial:power]] cards that destroy units. It is the most efficient way to do damage to an opponent's Phoenixborn and a great way to clear the opponent's board. It has always been the defining card in the dice types most striking strength.

    Summary

    There are a few honorable mentions that I had that do not make the cut. Fire Archer is a really strong card, but it usually doesn't drive a deck's strategy. It is another very flexible card that works as a blocker, burn, or anti-mill (by recurring with the die power). Regress is a very strong card against decks running big units and absolutely needs to be respected. Blood Puppets, Dread Wraiths and Sleeping Widows are all unique units that require different play styles to counter. However, none of them are really used too frequently to really crack into this list.

    Ceremonial has basically always been a good splash in just about any deck. You can go through the list of top decks in any archetype, and ceremonial is usually included and can work in any of them. It has some of the best dice recursion, the best burn and has many ways to slow your opponent's board down. I would go so far as to say that ceremonial has the strongest card pool of all. The biggest downside is that the conjuration options are very limited. So, it is not always the strongest "dominant" (4+) dice type, but it is almost always a solid choice for at least 2-3.

  • Ashes 1.5 announced on TC Stream 9

    Team Covenant is partnering with Plaid Hat to sell Ashes 1.5 direct to subscribers. They need 1000 people to sign up and as long as 1000 people stay signed up more content will come out. First product is an upgrade kit to bring 30% of the card pool up to snuff. check it out: www.teamcovenant.com and get everyone you know to subscribe!!!

  • Figures in the Fog Review: Transmutation - A Reposting 0

    On the 17/02/2020, the website strangecopy.com 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.

    alchemister June 19, 2018
    Hail and well met! We are the Figures in the Fog and today we’ll be reviewing the new cards for Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn, added in The Demons of Darmas. This is the second entry in the series. If you haven’t read the other article in this series you can find it here. We have 3 new cards to review today, including 2 new Units and 1 new Action spell. We are very excited to finally see what tricks Harold has up his sleeve.

    And his first trick is an Ally called Beast Warrior. On the surface this Ally looks quite disappointing, it costs your full turn to play, a Main [[main]] Action AND a Side [[side]] Action and a Sympathy class [[sympathy:class]] die for a Unit with 1 Attack, 1 Life, and 0 Recover. But much like Harold, this Unit isn’t all that it appears on the surface. This werewolf introduces a new inexhaustible Transform ability. Transform 1 increases this Unit’s Attack, Life, and Recover values by 1, when his controller doesn’t have the First Player Token. This means that every other round, this Unit is a 2 Attack, 2 Life, and 1 Recover, for only a class die! And if that wasn’t enough, this Ally also has another ability called Group Tactics 1. With Group Tactics, when his controller declares an Attack action with 3 or more Units, his Attack increases by 1 more.

    This Ally has a very interesting design. The obvious weakness of the card is that every other turn it’s reduced to a 1/1, making it very easy to remove. As a result, the best time to play it is when the opponent has the First Player Token. Unfortunately, this really undermines the classic strategy of cheap aggressive Units like this. Typically when a player wants to go wide with cheap aggressive Units, they tend to use most of their dice clearing their opponent’s board, and then drop their cheap Units. Allowing them to swing in at the end of a round, let the round flip, and then swing in again. So this Unit’s inherit weakness after the round flip, is a bit of an anti-synergy with where similar cards fit. That being said, this card could offer a Sympathy spread a kind of budget Shadow Spirit, especially if they have Ceremonial [[ceremonial]] dice and recur this Ally for only 1 Life.

    X:I’m not really impressed with this Ally. It’s a fairly sizeable tempo hit, due to taking your whole turn to play, even for a 2/2/1. In theory, you might still be able to get extra value out of it with Group Tactics, but that has its own host of problems. Firstly, attacking with multiple Units only has value when you are attacking an enemy Phoenixborn, not an enemy Unit. Attacking an enemy Phoenixborn allows them to choose how they block, making it very hard for the Beast Warrior to trade up. The other limitation of this ability is that it requires keeping 2 more Units unexhausted Units on the Battlefield. In a Meteor and Kneel meta, I just don’t see very many reasons to use this card.

    N: I like this little guy. As with all Sympathy cards, it requires carefully timing to get a good payoff, but a 3-2 for a single Sympathy class [[sympathy:class]] is great value. I don’t think he’s an auto-include by any means. But definitely an interesting option in something like an Aradel swarm style deck.

    The second Ally Harold is bringing with him is another werewolf called Beast Mage. This Ally costs a Main [[main]] Action, 2 Sympathy class [[sympathy:class]] dice, and 1 basic [[basic]] die for a Unit with only 2 Attack, 2 Life, and 0 Recover. But like the Beast Warrior, it’s packing 2 abilities including Transform 2 and a new Ability called Terrifying 1. With Transform 2, on turns where his opponent has the First Player Token, he becomes a 4 Attack, 4 Life, and 2 Recover Unit. And while that’s certainly impressive, the Terrifying 1 is the real game changer for this Unit. Terrifying 1 says that when this Unit attacks, it cannot be blocked or guarded against by any Units with 1 Attack or less.

    Since the beginning of the game, Hammer Knight has been a staple of any deck that wanted to put pressure on board. Beast Mage is slightly cheaper and less restrictive than Hammer Knight, that sometimes has better stats. Despite the stats, where this Unit really shines is the use of Terrifying. Nearly all of the best defensive Units in the game have 1 Attack or less including Butterfly Monks, Gilders, Glow Finch, Three-eyed Owls, and Turtle Guards. This makes Beast Mage an amazing anti-control card, able to bypass his opponent’s best defenses and deal them 4 damage. Another big boon for this card is that it has 4 Life, meaning outside of Fear and Shadow Counter, his opponent can’t destroy it with a single card.

    (Angus note: fear doesn't destroy. Also, Alchemister forgot cards such as sword of virtue, out of the mist {arguably costing multiple cards, but having lots of units on the battlefield is inherently good in ashes}, phoenix barrage and a very lucky rins fury. Costing two cards, shatter pulse also destroys a unit.

    Since the time of the article being written, other cards that can destroy this unit are shared sorrow earthquake)

    X: I don’t quite know how to feel about this card. On the one hand a 4/4/2 for 3 dice is great value. On the other hand, a 4/4/2 that turn will eventually turn into a 2/2/0, feels bad. If a deck can protect the Beast Mage in its weakened state, maybe using Koji and Protect, it could be good. My personal favorite use of this card is to use it as an answer to a turn one Holy Knight.

    N: I really like Terrifying as an ability. It’s great against decks running lots of Doves/Owls/Turtles. It’s the 2/2/0 part about this that is pretty bad. On the other hand, it will definitely draw the attention of your opponent, who will need to spend resources in removing it. Even something like Particle Shield, just to force them into investing a bit more in its destruction is advantageous. Please avoid playing this when you have the first player token and the opponent is showing a nature class [[nature:class]].

    The first Action Spell Harold is bringing is a card call Transmute Magic. This Action Spell uses a Side [[side]] Action a Sympathy class [[sympathy:class]] die and X (any number) of basic dice. In exchange, the player gets to select X dice is in his or her Exhausted Pool and place them in his or her Active Pool on any side! And then the player may change an additional 2 dice in a target player’s Active Pool to a side to any side.

    Woah! That’s a really powerful effect for just a single side [[side]] action. This is effectively a super Call Upon the Realms and will likely replace that card in any deck using a couple of Sympathy [[sympathy]] dice. Some people have compared this to another dice fixing Sympathy [[sympathy]] card, Magic Syphon, but that’s not really a good comparison. Magic Syphon is still the go to card in any Sympathy [[sympathy]] deck that wants to avoid meditating cards. While this card performs a similar function, this card only provides the benefit for a single round. This is great for any deck that wants to play multiple cards requiring power symbols in a single round like Final Cry, Hammer Knight, and Molten Gold or Meteor and Holy Knight. It’s also worth noting that because of the way this card is costed, if the player spends at least 3 additional dice it can trigger Magic Purity, or at least 2 additional dice it can trigger Lucky Rabbit’s Luck Stream. That means the player could spend all of his or her dice, trigger Magic Purity or Luck Stream, target his or her own Active Pool, and have 10 power dice for the round. However, because this card does target a player’s Active Pool it is vulnerable to Vanish and Veil of Reversal, which could be disastrous. As a result, like Rins Fury, it may be prudent to target one’s own Active Pool rather than the opponents.

    X: This card is awesome! It’s low cost, flexible, and can be nicely fit into a variety of different decks. It has several synergies with several pre-existing cards. And while it certainly hurts Call Upon the Realms competitive viability, because it’s tied to Sympathy [[sympathy]] it doesn’t completely destroy it. I also really like how this card adds a new wrinkle to the dice economy, especially against Illusion [[illusion]]. I mean when are you playing a heavy Illusion [[illusion]] deck, typically Vicky, and you don’t have the necessary power dice, you’re put in an awkward spot. Do you only meditate once, and clearly signal what dice you are planning on using? Or do you meditate more than once, spending valuable cards from your deck, in an attempt to disguise your actual intentions? With this card you can only spend 1 card and make all of your dice power dice. Now you can play the cards you want to play without telegraphing your plans to your opponent.

    N: This card is really, really flashy, and I like it. It’s not as game breaking as it first appears, simply because most decks don’t have a use for all the power symbols and any they do need can be gained by careful meditation. I think it’s great against Illusion [[illusion]], and I love the ability to disguise the Call to Action or Final Cry you have in hand. Not an auto-include, but definitely a fantastic card.

    Thanks for joining us today as we reviewed the new cards from The Demons of Darmas. Plaid Hat previewed some new cards today (Tuesday) so check them out now, and we will have a new article shortly afterwards. So while we wait, why don’t you tell us what you think? What do you think of the new Allies, Beast Warrior and Beast Mage? Do you like the Transform mechanic? What about the new Action Spell, Transmute Magic? Are any of these going to break the meta and revolutionize the game? Tell us about in the comments below. The spirits are calling us and we must Fade Away again, but the Figures in the Fog will return!

  • Figures in the Fog Review: Sembali Grimtongue - A Reposting 0

    On the 17/02/2020, the website strangecopy.com 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.

    alchemisterJune 15, 2018
    Hail and well met! We are the Figures in the Fog and today we’ll be reviewing the new cards for Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn, added in The Spirits of Memoria. This is the first entry in the series. Let’s get to the good stuff and check out the Phoenixborn of Memoria, Sembali Grimtongue.

    Sembali has a pretty unassuming stat line with 5 Battlefield, 19 Life, and 3 Spellboard. There is really nothing special about her stats that lends itself to any particular archetype. Her stat line is nearly identical to Brennen, just with 1 fewer Life. Given the prevalence of Brennen in the competitive scene, Sembali better have some strong effects to justify having a weaker stat line than Brennen. Speaking of which…

    Sembali’s Phoenixborn ability is called Ban Manifestation. When a Unit she controls leaves play, she can discard 1 card and place an exhaustion token on herself, to either remove a target opponent’s Conjuration from the game or remove all copies of that Conjuration from that opponent’s Conjuration pile from the game.

    Ban Manifestation is definitely an interesting Phoenixborn ability with a lot of potential applications. It is a very nice soft counter to Fear and other destruction effects, since it triggers when a Unit leaves play. It can also put her opponent’s in a bit of bind, forcing them to choose to get use out of their Emperor Lion, Frostback Bear or Turtle Guard, or to be reduced to what is currently on the Battlefield. However, it definitely comes at a cost. The cost of discarding a card [[discard]] from her hand to activate it will force Sembali to run cards that she can easily recur like Anchornaut, Polarity Mage, or Hand Tricks in order to reliably activate it. Additionally, because the discard [[discard]] effect is part of the cost of activating the ability, if her opponent uses Choke, Sembali is going to be down 1 card and be exhausted for the round. The fact that it can only affect Conjurations and can’t remove the last Conjuration of a specific type (since her opponent can choose to remove all other copies of that Conjuration from their Conjuration pile) are also significant weaknesses to this ability.

    X: I really like Sembali. I was very excited during the War Within event, that despite my local events netting even, Light ended up winning. I loved the idea of shaking up the meta and really giving players a reason to explore using Allies other than just Fire Archer and Hammer Knight. One year later I’m still happy Light won, because Dark’s mechanics weren’t nearly as interesting, but I wish we didn’t have Conjuration removal. Since the addition of Astrea, Echo, Jericho, Koji, Odette, and Namine, the quality and use of Allies has increased a lot. There was a Slam Jam (online tournament) in which nearly all decks were either running Elephant Riders or ways of dealing with Elephant Riders. The game has changed so much since the Sembali reveal, that I don’t think that Conjuration removal is really a needed addition to the game right now.

    N: I think the biggest thing to think about here, is that conjuration removal is not a wincon. Sure, once you get to that point, your opponent is in trouble, but it’s going to take you a little while to get there and while you do, your opponent is happily running along with their win condition.

    Sembali’s signature card is a Reaction spell called Veil of Reversal. Veil of Reversal can be played whenever an opponent targets Sembali, her player, her draw pile, or her discard pile with an ability, dice power, or spell. She can pay two basic [[basic]] dice to prevent all of the effects of that ability, dice power, or spell, and then return a target Ally she controls to her hand. If she returns an Ally, she can then remove a target Conjuration from the game.

    At its lowest, Veil of Reversal is a more efficient Vanish, with the additional ability to return an Ally to her hand and to remove a Conjuration from the game. While the ability to completely counter an impactful ability or spell is certainly powerful, this card really shines when Sembali can utilize all three parts of the effect. This means that she will want to use Allies that can take advantage of being replayed, like Fire Archer or Stormwind Sniper or Sun Sister. This card also allows her to fully remove a Conjuration from the game, making her a nightmare for an enemy Leo and any other opponent using Dread Wraiths, Emperor Lions, Indiglow Creepers, and Shadow Hounds. However, while this ability is certainly powerful it has a couple of devastating drawbacks. Because she can only remove a Conjuration from the game if she returns an Ally and she can only play the Reaction when her opponent targets her (her player, her draw pile, or her discard pile), her opponent will have a lot of control as to when this effect can be triggered, and potentially what parts can be triggered at all. Additionally, much like Ban Manifestation, this card doesn’t interact with Allies. Meaning that she has no innate defense against an opponent utilizing powerful Allies, like Elephant Rider, Hammer Knight, Holy Knight, or Sonic Swordsman.

    X: You guys know that scene from that old movie: Raiders of the Lost Ark (Thank you Tom Holland! XD)? Indiana Jones is challenged to a duel by an Arab Swordsman. Before the duel starts, the Swordsman shows off his formidable swordplay skills that he has spent countless hours to perfect, brandishing his sword, spinning it in one hand, before seamlessly passing it off the other. He smiles, confident that his dedication to his craft, years of training and practice will allow him to easily defeat this foolish archeologist. And it’s about that time that Indy pulls out his pistol and shoots him, ending the duel before his opponent can get close to him. That is what Veil of Reversal is. It’s a card that has a very powerful effect, but requires so much setup to get much more value out of it, than you would get by just playing Vanish. It’s more flexible than Vanish is, but it still costs 2 dice, and requires a lot of things to go right to get much more than that.

    N: This just seems so easy to play around since it entirely relies on your opponent’s play. If they’ve got something they want to protect they can easily just not play the spell or kill your cheap allies. I do wonder how it will work with bigger allies. The possibility to recover a wounded HK and bring it back in fresh is interesting, though pretty expensive. I also feel bad for Lulu and Phoenix Barrage already

    Overall, Sembali is definitely a powerful Phoenixborn that packs a serious punch for any opponent that dares to use Conjurations against her. Like Astrea, her Phoenixborn ability doesn’t require any dice to use, which is a boon, but the cost of a card [[discard]] from her hand can be pretty steep. Additionally, her signature card requires only basic [[basic]] symbols, giving her the freedom to freely choose what types of magic she wants to deploy. But her reliance on Allies to get the full usage of her signature card, probably pushes towards running at least Ceremonial [[ceremonial]] or Divine [[divine]] magics. Despite this limitation, she remains a very flexible Phoenixborn that can easily fit into a tempo deck, utilizing her powerful disruptive effects to win on the Battlefield, or a late game control deck with a very unique win condition.

    N: I don’t know what to think about Sembali. On the one hand conjuration removal is something new and different, great! On the other hand… I don’t really like it. Overall it just seems like an unfun and annoying mechanic.

    This brings us up to date at least as far as Phoenixborn are concerned. We had 6 more cards revealed this week, so those will be crossing your feed soon. But while we have your attention, why don’t you go ahead and tell us what you think? Is Sembali your new main, your new enemy, or your new pocket pick? What do you think about Sembali’s emphasis on Conjuration removal? What do you think of her silhouette and appearance? Is she going to make a big splash or small ripple? Tell us in the comments below. We will hopefully catch up this weekend and try to stay on top of our reviews as cards continue to be revealed. It appears as though our time is up and we must Fade Away, but fear not, the Figures in the Fog will return!

  • Figures in the Fog Review: Harold Westraven - A Reposting 0

    On the 17/02/2020, the website strangecopy.com 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.

    Alchemister June 14, 2018

    Hail and well met! We are the Figures in the Fog and today we’ll be reviewing the new cards for Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn, added in The Demons of Darmas. This is the first entry in the series. So without further adieu, let’s take a look at our first card, the Phoenixborn of Darmas, Harold Westraven.

    Harold is a unique Phoenixborn with an interesting stat line. 5 Battlefield is average, 21 Life ties with Lulu for the second highest life total in the game, and a measly 2 Spellboard is the lowest in of all Phoenixborn. While on the surface, this stat line looks quite restrictive, looks can be deceiving, especially when Harold is involved.

    His Phoenixborn ability, Mark Prey, is an incredibly powerful board control effect that makes Aradel jealous. For the low cost of a side [[side]] action and a single basic [[basic]] die, he can attach a Hunters Mark Conjured Alteration to a target Unit. Unlike other powerful Alterations, this Alteration is tied to an ability that targets a Unit, meaning it can be Decoyed by Leo’s Glowfinch or prevented altogether using Golden Veil. Hunters Mark has a Conjuration limit of 1, but it’s good enough to only need 1. Once attached, whenever that Unit receives damage, it gets two wounds per 1 damage. And to make matters worse, whenever that Unit is declared the subject of an attack, no guard can be declared.

    Hunters Mark is an incredible asset for Harold. The ability to place double the amount of wounds for each damage dealt to it, will make quick work of enemy Turtle Guards and Elephant Riders. This effect pairs well with anything that deals damage like Anchornaut, Crescendo, Fire Archer, Natural [[natural]] dice power, and Stormwind Sniper, but not effects that deal wounds like Hammer Knight, Molten Gold, River Skald, and Sonic Swordsman. However, that also means that his opponent’s will be able to get added value from Particle Shield and Protect. The second half of the [[Hunter’s Mark]] is also quite good, and will allow Harold to turn any Unit into unChokeable Winged Lioness.

    X: Harold seems good, a little too good I think. Typically Phoenixborn with high Life totals, pay for it somewhere. Maeoni only has 3 Battlefield. Lulu only has 4 Battlefield. Saria’s ability doesn’t impact the board. Harold only has 2 Spellboard. But I don’t think that’s nearly as impactful as 3 or 4 Battlefield especially when it is paired with an ability as powerful as Mark Prey. Harold could reasonably have 17 Life and would still be competitive.

    Harold’s signature card is a Reaction spell called Harvest Soul. Harvest Soul can be played for free, whenever a Unit is destroyed as a result of an effect that Harold controls. The destroyed Unit is removed from the game, Harold gets to draw one card, and a Dark Transformation Conjured Alteration is attached to Harold!

    N: We all know the best cards are the free ones; Fear, Illusionary Cycle, Double Edge. Harvest Soul is less than free. It is just a gain on all fronts. That’s powerful. This is slightly counterbalanced by his slow start with 2 Spellboard, but with that amount of life and good FF choices, he’s not going to be worried. Harold will definitely be a meta changer and capable of throwing down against the top tier Phoenixborn.

    When Dark Transformation is attached to Harold, Harold selects 1 die in his exhausted pool, rerolls it, and places it in his active pool. Harold also gets +1 Battlefield, +1 Life, and +1 Spellboard, for each Dark Transformation that is attached to him. Dark Transformation also has Spell Guard, so once attached, not even Dispel can remove it.

    Wow! Harvest Soul and Dark Transformation are crazy good, and all for the net cost of drawing 1 card and gaining 1 die. However, there are several other interactions to consider with these cards. Recall that Harvest Soul is a Reaction, meaning that an opponent can deny it by using Law of Sight and Harold can recur it by using Secret Door. Also, despite being triggered by a Unit’s destruction, Harvest Soul doesn’t target. This means not only can Harold remove troublesome Conjurations and Allies from the game like Anchornaut, Elephant Rider, Glow Finch, Fire Archer, and Luminous Seedling, but it also works on Holy Knight and Seaside Raven.

    X: This takes Harold from being a little too good to being outright busted. Even though he’s likely to cap at 7 Battlefield, 23 Life, and 4 Spellboard, most games, the possibility of being even higher is insane. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the fact that he receives these bonuses for destroying Units, a thing he wants to do anyway. A thing that is trivialized by his Phoenixborn ability. And just to add insult to injury, he removes the Unit from the game, with virtually no counterplay. Harold has too many strengths for the minor inconvenience of only starting with 2 Spellboard and a First four.

    Harold is a very unique and versatile Phoenixborn. His base stat line is already impressive, but his potential to grow up to 8 Battlefield (tied with Aradel for 3rd highest), 24 Life (highest in the game), and 5 Spellboard (tied for highest) is incredible. Those stats, paired with a Phoenixborn ability and a signature card that aren’t tied to any specific magic types, and you have a Phoenixborn that can fit into almost any deck archetype. His high Life total will help give him time for a control or burn style deck, though his starting 2 Spellboard may make that difficult. His Mark Prey ability allows him to easily manipulate the Battlefield, increasing his control options and allowing him to fit nicely into a swing deck. Harvest Soul’s ability to remove key Units from the game provides him with a unique edge in some matchups, especially in long games, lending itself to either a tempo or a control deck. And that’s without seeing any of the other cards his base deck is bringing with him.

    The biggest drawback on Harold is the lack of flexibility in his First Five and potentially problematic deck constraints. Due to Harold’s dependency on Harvest Soul to increase his Spellboard and to a lesser extent his Battlefield, Law of Sight will likely be used as tech to slow down his opening. This means that Harold players are going to have to choose to accept only having 2 Spellboard during the beginning turn(s) of the game and choose their first five cards. Or they will have to accept that they are only starting the game with four cards in their first hand, since Harvest Soul won’t be able to be played. This will make him even more vulnerable to cards that can disrupt his First Five, like Imperial Ninja or Three-Eyed Owl. The thing to keep in mind is that he can’t reliably play Harvest Soul early, he is stuck at 2 Spellboard. This means he’ll have to choose between powerful utility effects like Abundance, Magic Purity, and Shifting Mist, and a consistent source of Units, with Conjuration Ready Spells. Harold may need to rely upon Allies rather than Conjurations to keep presence on the Battlefield.

    N: I like that there is at least a bit of counter play against Harold. Choke at least breaks even on dice (unlike certain other Phoenixborn I could mention) and can even be Golden Veiled if need be. I think Law of Sight is a decent tech against him, and like it in Orrick who likely can afford to play the extra cards. It very much has the same issue as Law of Assurance against Vicky, however, wherein you are only stalling the inevitable. In the end, I’m honestly a bit conflicted on Harold. On the one hand, I’m pretty certain he will influence a change back to an aggressive meta, which is my style. On the other, I wish this had been done through cards available to all Phoenixborn. As is, I only see another contender for broken top tier Phoenixborn.

    Whew! That was a lot to cover, and there’s still more! But that will have to wait for another day, and another article. In the meantime, tell us what you think. Are there any powerful interactions we overlooked? Are you excited about Harold? What types of decks do you want to run him in? Tell us about it in the comments below. We have a lot of exciting things planned for you, so keep watching. We’ve got to Fade Away now but the Figures in the Fog will return!

    Angus note: the following paragraphs are comments on the original article, but I also thought they were worth saving.

    Cronos 804: I Agree that Harold will be very relevant to the meta game, but I don't think he is borderline overpowered.

    I really like that he can effectively kill an Elephant rider with some 2/1 and an anchornaut.

    But here are some/a lot of things you might want to consider:
    - First of all Harvest Soul is very low tempo as it does not impact the board state. One might go as far as to say that the impact for the current round is so low, that it might as well be nothing.

    Will it be impactfull that you gain a battlefield slot >in that round< ? A Spell Board slot ? A PB life point ? Probably won't change anything in the current round let alone the turn.

    - The card you draw only replaces Harvest soul, so Harvest soul sometimes will have the same effect as a card that reads "When a unit dies, Draw a Card, reroll a dice".

    In that case only the "reroll a dice" will be meaningful and there is obviously some delay compared to the card draw at turn start.

    In this perspective Harvest soul is a terrible First Five Card. Best Case : First Four + 1 Random draw+1 die, while your opponent enjoys Five cards of his choice.

    Then the most important fact about Harvest Soul however is : It is not another Card. duh.

    It is not Fear, it is not Gravity Chaos, it is not Rins Fury – Harolds loyal card is Harvest Souls, a reactive card with little immediate impact and not a proactive one.

    Harolds power has a trade off : Deck building constraints.

    If you draw a fourth ready spell by turn two you will most likely not be able to put it down and that is not that unlikely.
    ~61 % Chance to not draw Harvest soul in your second hand after you already used one.
    Assume 2 Readyspells in First Five then you have :
    ~42% chance to draw at least 2 new ready spells on turn 2, if you play 3 Copies of 4 Spells or
    ~86% chance to draw at least 2 new ready spells on turn 2, for 3 Copies of 5 Spells

    Ignoring minor rounding errors that gives a 25% or 53% Chance to draw one or more dead ready spells on turn 2 depending on Deck Construction, with the lion share in percentages coming from the "or more" part of "one or more".

    So if you want to use 5 Ready Spells you will have to build a deck that can live with drawing a few dead cards on turn 2.

    For Comparison: If you played Jessa instead you get 3 strong cards (fear) in the early turns.

    If you play Harold you don't get that but will often have to dance around playing ready spells, maybe allies too. And you get 3 bonus dice at random points in the game.

    For Huntersmark : Harold will have a really bad time if he does not kill the unit with Huntersmark on the same turn, because some of the new cards can remove conjurations from the game. Huntersmark obviously is a conjuration.
    With there only being one copy that would mean that Harold could lose his ability for the rest of the game. If he becomes too good, people will consider this.
    With Particle Shield and Protect that might be a serious problem as that would lead to Huntersmark staying on the field and potentially being removed from the game.

    Too which niall burton replies:
    You have some interesting points, but I think the results of GenCon show that Harold is indeed extremely good. It remains to be seen if counters to him will develop. On thing to note, however is that Hunter’s Mark actually isn’t considered a conjuration. A conjuration is specifically a unit, instead it’s a Conjured Alteration. It can still be removed from the game by the ability of the Glow Finch, however.

  • Ashes Weekend 2016 at Team Covenant – Top 8 Semifinals 0

    On the 17/02/2020, the website strangecopy.com 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.

    Erik Rodriguez May 27, 2016

    Top 8 Round 2 – Semifinals
    The semifinals of the Top 8 put me up against Joshua Trevino’s Jessa deck. The recorded match can be found here

    I believe the first round of this game highlights the strength of Illusion [[illusion]] dice, Hidden Power, and [[Rin’s Fury]] so I’m going to be listing the dice counts after each play.

    Joshua opens up with Enchanted Violinist (Joshua 10 Dice: 5 Nat [[natural]], 3 Cere [[ceremonial]], 2 Charm [[charm]] // Me 10 Dice: 4 Nat [[natural]], 4 Cere [[ceremonial]], 2 ill [[illusion]])

    I meditate my Illusion [[illusion]] dice to wolves and play a Summon Frostback Bear (Joshua 10 Dice: 5 Nat [[natural]], 3 Cere [[ceremonial]], 2 Charm [[charm]] // Me 9 Dice: 3 Nat [[natural]], 4 Cere [[ceremonial]], 2 ill [[illusion]])

    Joshua responds by playing Summon Frostback Bear (Joshua 9 Dice: 4 Nat [[natural]], 3 Cere [[ceremonial]], 2 Charm [[charm]] // Me 9 Dice: 3 Nat [[natural]], 4 Cere [[ceremonial]], 2 ill [[illusion]])

    I exhaust a Charm [[charm]] die and play Hidden Power to grab back my spent Illusion [[illusion]] dice to have it ready for more exhaustion (Joshua 8 Dice: 4 Nat [[natural]], 3 Cere [[ceremonial]], 1 Charm [[charm]] // Me 9 Dice: 3 Nat [[natural]], 4 Cere [[ceremonial]], 2 ill [[illusion]])

    Joshua, afraid of losing that last Charm [[charm]] die, is forced to play Summon Gilder (Joshua 7 Dice: 4 Nat [[natural]], 3 Cere [[ceremonial]] // Me 9 Dice: 3 Nat [[natural]], 4 Cere [[ceremonial]], 2 ill [[illusion]])

    I exhaust a Nature [[natural]] die and summon my own EV (Joshua 6 Dice: 3 Nat [[natural]], 3 Cere [[ceremonial]] // Me 8 Dice: 3 Nat [[natural]], 4 Cere [[ceremonial]], 1 ill [[illusion]])

    Joshua plays down a Chant of Revenge (Joshua 5 Dice: 3 Nat [[natural]], 2 Cere [[ceremonial]] // Me 8 Dice: 3 Nat [[natural]], 4 Cere [[ceremonial]], 1 ill [[illusion]])

    I use my last Illusion [[illusion]] die to exhaust another Nature [[natural]] die then play [[Rin’s Fury]] to grab back both of my Illusion [[illusion]] dice and I luck into a power symbol roll on one of them. This is important because Joshua only has 2 Nature [[natural]] dice available at this point which means that it will not be possible to summon both a Bear and a Gilder if I exhaust a Nature [[natural]] die on my next turn (Joshua 4 Dice: 2 Nat [[natural]], 2 Cere [[ceremonial]] // Me 9 Dice: 4 Nat [[natural]], 3 Cere [[ceremonial]], 2 ill)

    If you listen closely in the video you can hear Joshua say “I’m starting to feel so bad”, then we both laugh. This is because he only has 4 dice left against my 9 and is staring down another potential 2 dice worth of exhaustion. If you’ve ever sat on that resource starved side of the table before (I know I have) then you know exactly what he’s feeling at this moment. He decides to summon a Frostback Bear (Joshua 2 Dice: 1 Nat [[natural]], 1 Cere [[ceremonial]] // Me 9 Dice: 4 Nat [[natural]], 3 Cere [[ceremonial]], 2 ill [[illusion]])

    At this point I have 9 dice versus my opponent’s 2. That’s a huge resource advantage that was gained through dice exhaustion and dice recursion. I summon a Hammer Knight and exhaust his last Nature [[natural]] die to lock his Gilder (Joshua 1 Dice: 1 Cere [[ceremonial]] // Me 5 Dice: 2 Nat [[natural]], 2 Cere [[ceremonial]], 1 ill [[illusion]])

    Joshua responds by playing Fear on my Hammer Knight and paying 1 to use Screams of the Departed (Joshua 0 Dice // Me 5 Dice: 2 Nat [[natural]], 2 Cere [[ceremonial]], 1 Ill [[illusion]])

    I use my 3 extra dice gained by Hidden Power and [[Rin’s Fury]] to play Hammer Knight back out (Joshua 0 Dice // Me 2 Dice: 1 Nat [[natural]], 1 Cere)
    Joshua passes

    I use my last two dice to summon a Frostback Bear (Joshua 0 Dice // Me 0 Dice). Now the ground war begins.

    Joshua passes

    I Ice Buff my HK to prevent it from dying to a Bear block plus Chant of Revenge ping and swing in with both my Bear and my HK. Joshua elects to have his Bear block my HK since it would die to a Bear maul + Aftershock anyway and takes the Bear hit to the face. He decides to use Chant of Revenge to ping me in the face.

    Joshua swings with EV at my HK to try and bring it closer to kill range and I decide to take it to the face.

    I respond by swinging back with my EV at his and he takes it with Jessa.
    Round 2 (Me – 1 Bear Book, 1 EV, 1 HK, 1 Bear, 14 Life // Joshua – 1 Bear Book, 1 Gilder Book, 1 Chant of Revenge, 1 EV, 14 Life)

    The first round 1 ends in a perfect spot for me. He only has one blocker left that only requires 1 more wound to remove while I have two big hitters and an EV that can clear the way. This situation is exactly why BDR deck prefers to go second round 1 – so that it can swing big turn 1 round 2. I side [[side]] action meditate to trigger an EV ping on my opponent’s EV, killing it, then main action swing with everything for 8 damage. Joshua tries to stabilize the battlefield by playing his second EV. I respond by playing my second HK. Joshua side action meditates to ping my fresh HK for 1 with his EV then main [[main]] action summons a Gilder to ping it again.

    I use the awesome power of Ice Buff to move the HK out of easy kill range and play Hidden Power to grab back some dice. Joshua meditates and uses EV to ping my HK again then summons a Bear. Seeing my HK’s imminent demise I decide to swing with HK at his Bear. Joshua unit guards with Gilder and I Aftershock his EV.

    As my HK leaves play he uses Screams of the Departed to ping me for one. Joshua side action meditates to use EV to ping my exhausted HK for one and then plays Expand Energy with his newly meditated die. I use Blood Chains, sacrificing my EV, to put 2 exhaustion tokens on his Bear. Joshua activates his Expand Energy and meditates to have EV kill my HK and uses Screams of the Departed to ping me for one.

    At this point Joshua has 0 dice, a double exhausted Bear, and an EV with one wound on it. I have 5 dice available, two cards in hand, and a Bear available to summon. I summon my Bear and Joshua passes. I play Stormwind Sniper to clear his blocking EV. Joshua passes and I swing at face for 5, bringing my total damage hitting face in the second round to 13!

    Round 3 (Me – 1 Bear Book, 2 Bears, 1 Sniper, 12 Life // Joshua – 1 Bear Book, 1 Gilder Book, 1 Chant of Revenge, 1 Expand Energy, 1 Exhausted Bear, 1 Life)

    Joshua opens up by summoning a Gilder to kill my Stormwind. He uses Screams of the Departed to ping me for one but spends a charm [[charm]] die doing it. It would have probably been better for him to spend a different mana color because I was trying to play around Redirect. At this point my lead is probably too big for it to matter, but forcing me to exhaust two charm [[charm]] dice would be more difficult for me because it forces me to use my only two illusion [[illusion]] dice which locks me out of playing Stormwind Sniper if I don’t have a [[Rin’s Fury]] or Hidden Power in hand. I meditate to prep my Illusion [[illusion]] dice for exhaustion and summon my third HK. Joshua responds by using Fear on my HK and uses Screams of the Departed to get those Blood Points in. I side [[side]] action exhaust his last Charm [[charm]] die then play Stormwind Sniper to ping him directly for the win.

  • Reflecting on the first Ashes 500 Slam Jam - A Reposting 0

    On the 17/02/2020, the website strangecopy.com 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.

    Elliot Kramer April 8, 2017

    The first 500 Slam Jam was an overwhelming success. Here are some stats that make me believe this:

    (Angus note: I have removed an image showing a set of images of the phoenixborn. The breakdown is as follows:
    3x victoria glassfire
    2x brennan blackcloud
    1x noah redmoon
    1x aradel summergaard
    3x maeoni viper
    3x rin northfell
    1x dimona odinstar
    1x orrick gilstream
    2x jessa na ni
    2x leo sunshadow
    1x saria guideman
    1x lulu firststone
    And a single image of coal roarkwin with a red cross over it, signifying that he wasn't used in the tournament.)

    - 21 people competed in the Slam Jam.
    ***The previous high was 16 – from the very first Slam Jam
    - 12 out of 13 Phoenixborn were played
    ***This as many as we saw over the entire course of first four Slam Jam, which had 50 total players combined.
    - No Phoenixborn was played by more than 3 players.
    - The top 3 decks had ten different conjurations between them.
    - Only 12 cards were not played in the entire tournament.
    ***That means over 88% of all printed cards were played.
    ***This is better coverage than all previous Slam Jam’s combined, despite there being under half as many decks.
    ***Many of the unplayed cards clearly have a place in the format, so hope is high that the potential is even greater.
    ***Guess the 12 in the comment for a chance to win the adoration of your peers!

    Overall, the meta was extremely diverse. While some cards were more popular than others, we saw all sorts of cards and strategies succeeding. There are a lot of topics I could jump into, but the one thing I want to talk about today is color balance.

    Color Balance
    Here is a graph showing two things: the breakdown of dice by which decks were playing them (overall, t8, and t4), and the breakdown of dice by the amount we saw (overall, t8, t4).

    https://photos.google.com/search/_tra_/photo/AF1QipOB91m60vWBmtfsLYS3fC-m7R9TddKDPvtZkSc

    (Angus note: In true angus fashion, i have just figured out how to insert images into ashes.live. As such, I will retroactively insert any images that I have not inserted before. Please forgive me, as this may take some time.)

    At first, looking at dice numbers concerned me. Charm had a great showing (far better than standard Slam Jams) in the overall field, but for raw dice counts, Illusion and Nature performed much better. However, looking at the deck breakdowns, things look much healthier. I think this highlights something important – the Illusion and Nature dice powers are much more powerful and flexible to have excess of. Because of this, it’s harder to be successful with dice spreads that are heavy into Charm or Ceremonial.

    That being said, I don’t think this is a problem. As long as the individual cards are all playable, and each color feels balanced as a whole, I think it’s partly the nature of the game if it’s easier to make a 7 Nature deck (which there was one in the top 4) or a 9 Illusion deck (which won the tournament) than it is to make a 7+ Charm/Ceremonial deck. As long as Charm and Ceremonial themselves feel unoppressed and there exists strong strategies playing 5 dice of either type, I am not going to try to make adjustments to specifically address the dice counts. The ubiquity of the Nature and Illusion dice powers will inherently lend themselves to being a primary color in a format where dice powers are even more important due to their increased relative power.

    For players, this should be a lesson – playing 7+ Charm is inherently hard. Not because the cards themselves are necessarily bad, but because in close games, there are more likely to be turns where you have trouble getting optimal use out of your Charm dice powers and your opponent is virtually guaranteed targets with their Nature and Illusion powers. Be wary of this weakness when building; not because I’m telling you to not play heavy Charm, but because understanding your deck’s weaknesses can help you cover them.

    The Decklists
    The full lists are available here (Angus note: I was an idiot and forgot to save these. please forgive me). Please note, that these may not be the actual dice spreads used. We did not collect dice spreads, and instead I filled in what I would find an appropriate spread given the decks. This means the stats above may also not be perfect; but I feel they are a very strong approximation.

    Take a look at them and draw some inspiration, though know that the point totals are from the current tournament and not accurate after price adjustment (which will be coming in the next few days).

    Here are some of my favorite lists*, in order of how they placed:

    Kaile’s Surprise Attack Noah
    Widows and Wolves to attack on turns when you thought nothing was coming, Dread Wraiths or Mist Spirits to thwart off different types of attacks or provide their own pressure, and Chant of Revenge to help Noah get the final bits of damage in.

    Prawnyman’s Four Color Maeoni
    A controlling Maeoni list that protected its board while managing yours. After building up it’s Silver Snake’s that were nigh unkillable with 3 recover backed by Protect, it swung in for massive Hypnotized damage. I myself was victim to a huge 13 damage hit from a single Silver Snake hypno attack.

    Papa Pratt’s High Tech Brennen
    Featuring an astounding 18 different non-Phoenixborn cards, Papa Pratt’s deck has the complexity of a wine way too expensive for Ashes 500. He has a well overclocked spellboard, versatile utility spells, and an overall gameplan of nullifying exactly whatever the opponent is doing so that he can eventually burn them over the top.

    Rococolo’s Flex OM Rin
    This deck can open up with an OM for either Blood Puppets, Nightshade Swallow, Doves, or Owls – giving it a lot of opportunity to flex how it handles matchups in order to control the game. Rin’s Ice Buff synergizes extremely well with many of the units including Nightshade Swallow, Dove, and Anchornaut.

    • Names are descriptive creations from me, not from the creators. Creators, if you have a name you would like to use or a PHG Play page you would like to link to, please reach out to me and I will edit the article.
  • Elliot Reviews Ashes – Law of Sight, Heal, and Shield Mage - A Reposting 0

    On the 17/02/2020, the website strangecopy.com 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.

    this is part 4 of a four part article. the other parts can be found here, here and here

    Elliot Kramer April 17, 2017

    It’s spoiler season! As part of the celebration, I’m going to be posting my own weekly personal thoughts and reviews of all the cards officially previewed throughout week. Where many people may give a grade system from A-F, or 1.0 – 5.0, I’m instead going to be summing up each review with a prediction of where I think the Ashes 500 costs will eventually land. This gives a meaningful metric for how good I think the card is now, as well as provides a personal retrospective grade down the line to see how close I was to how powerful the card truly was in the meta. You can read more about and see the current 500 prices here.

    Please keep in mind that I am looking at things from a competitive meta perspective.

    Law of Sight
    Law of Sight is the first card of its kind and its kind is very cool. For 2 dice [[divine:class]][[basic]], a side [[side]] action, and a spellboard slot, this gives you two cards and protection from Reaction spells for the rest of the round (though you also can’t play your own reaction spells) For the decks that want this, this is well-costed and going to do irreplaceable things for you.

    In order to get full use out of the card, you are going to want to have a high chance of making use of the cards you draw. This means either having lots of dice, lots of cheap focusable spellboard cards, or just cheap draws in general (e.g. Call Upon The Realms). Without making use of the draw, two dice is kind of expensive for the effect of just stopping reactions. Take Orrick, for example – with this card protecting you from Choke and bounty, you have 10 dice left – the same as if you had just not activated bounty. However, if you draw into two usable cards, you can come out a good deal ahead. One way to think about this is that Law of Sight is a Sleight of Hand, but one card you draw is guaranteed to be a Law of Sight put directly on your spellboard. In matches where your opponent can’t have the reactions you care about, it’s vital that playing LoS is still a reasonable option.

    The best uses of this card are going to be protecting units from Ice Trap (Owls, Iron Worker, etc.), ensuring your PB ability resolves (Water Blast, Bounty, etc.), ensuring your damage/removal spells aren’t stopped by a Particle Shield/Golden veil (Fear, summon Gilder, Water Blast again), or ensuring a hypnotized attack gets through (no Choke or Redirect). I do think, however, there will be some decks that play this largely for the draw hoping to just randomly screw their opponents – if you like drawing cards and are not playing reactions, this card is an option. Basically, to want this card in your deck you want:
    - Flexible spellboard room, which likely means at least 4 slots.
    - Divine dice
    - Some strong use-case (defined above)
    - A desire and use for the two cards drawn

    There will definitely be decks that meet this criteria, and you should expect many of them to be throwing in a LoS or two. For players playing reaction spells, there are going to be opponents meeting some of this criteria… are they playing the Law of Sight? The first five mind games are going to be real.

    Predicted Ashes 500 cost:
    6/6/6

    Heal
    Oh man, healing is in the game and is finally giving an avenue besides butterflies or Chant of Protection to protect your life total. Heal is going to be a decent card; it’s good enough to play but I don’t think it’s good enough to be an auto-include in every divine deck. It will likely want similar criteria to Chant of Protection, while being a little more flexible due to the lack of a spellboard slot needed and the ability to heal units. Healing yourself is only good if you have board control or otherwise can find a way to present lethal. If your opponent has board control anyway, face-heals aren’t going to help you take back the game.

    The option to heal units should not be ignored; popping off a particle shield when your opponent tries to Water Blast + Gilder your 3-toughness dude is going to be a haymaker when you follow it up with a Heal. Swinging your bear into theirs, having them counter without freezing expecting to ping yours dead next round is also going to be devastating if you follow it up with a Heal. Unit heal is going to provide occasional ways to maintain board control against an opponent desperately trying to claw it back. This option probably becomes even stronger in combination with things like Ice Buff or Shield Mage, where you will often have units who take an extra turn or action to kill, making it easier to interrupt their moves with a Heal. It should be noted that these opportunities aren’t always available though, I’ve played many games where everything trades cleanly and there is never a living unit with more than 1 damage on it. Sometimes you even want your units dying.

    The Phoenixborn healing portion is also very useful. It’s not as large of a swing as the Chant of Protection, but it’s much easier to cast. Often decks rely on meditating part of their spellboard in order to go into chanting mode – Heal will never ask that of you. You can continue threatening with your full force and still regain a few health; because it’s a side action you don’t even need to lose tempo. If you were going to start taking draw damage, Heal saves you just as much health as a Chant of Protection, as the discarded card is equitable to a point of life. Finally, this also protects you from wounds – if your opponent is threatening Molten Gold and you are at 3 life, you will feel much better with Heal instead of Chant. Overall, one of the big pluses for this card is that it presents two modes that are both fairly priced, giving it flexibility to more often do something useful.
    The extra point of life from Chant is not insignificant however. Many of the matches where extra life matters, every point counts. I don’t think it will be a given that divine decks play Heal over Chant, and some of them may even play both. The amount of resiliency against bursty decks you get by playing both is huge and if your game plan vs slow decks is solid you can hedge your bets with little risk.

    Predicted Ashes 500 cost:
    9/9/9

    Shield Mage
    Let’s take a look at what the Shield Mage can provide. Right now, in many situations, I’m comparing this card to Golden Veil. If your opponent wants to Ice Trap or Water Blast one of your other units, they are probably going to have to do it to this girl first or pay a long-term tax. You don’t get the tempo benefits in those situations, but one dice for a deal like that is much more affordable. With high priority units like an Owl, requiring an extra point of damage for them to be dealt with can be backbreaking, these are units that you just want to survive until the next turn so you can at least get a use out of them; afterwards if your opponent kills them you are still up in value.

    Many other units gain extreme benefit by having an extra toughness, painting a target on the Shield Mages back lest she taxes your opponent too much. Orchid Doves become painfully efficient taxing machines. Iron Worker becomes just a hair harder to get rid of giving him a lot more potential to give you repeated advantage. Sometimes, an Ice Buff in stats is all that’s needed to gain an edge. And if your opponent kills the Mage, she’s extremely cheap to get back with a Ceremonial [[ceremonial]] dice if you are playing them.

    On the other hand, let’s look at some of the difficulties in using her. She takes a battlefield slot; something that’s not always easy to come by. When you play the shield mage you are turning BF 5 Phoenixborn into Lulu, who we all know has a very constraining battlefield. She takes a main and side action to activate, which will be a tempo hit for whatever you are trying to do. She presents what I refer to as the Anchornaut blocking problem: outside of Odette, she presents a constant consequence free attack target that you have to let die or take on the chin. Finally, for the targets she buffs, she does not help with their recovery. If you have a bunch of Sleeping Widows and Masked Wolves with one damage on them, those units are going to die at the beginning of the next round. It may be worth the initial tempo gain for them to survive the first ping, but units with Recover will see the most game-long gain from the Mage.

    All in all, the Shield Mage can definitely prevent the value for her cost. The tempo costs and battlefield restriction however will make you think twice before throwing her down – you need units that want to be protected. She can thrive with a huge amount of existing known Phoenixborn, including Leo, Rin, Aradel, and Namine, and provides some great benefit to even more units, some of which are Owls, Anchornaut, Iron Worker, and Butterfly Monk.

    Oh, and if she ever starts getting too popular, just start playing Blood Puppets.

    Predicted Ashes 500 Cost:
    12/12/12

  • Elliot Reviews Ashes – Shatter Pulse, Guilt Link, String Mage - A Reposting 0

    On the 17/02/2020, the website strangecopy.com 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.

    this is part 4 of a 4 part article. thee other parts can be found here, here and here

    Elliot Kramer April 20, 2017

    It’s spoiler season! As part of the celebration, I’m going to be posting my own weekly personal thoughts and reviews of all the cards officially previewed throughout the week. Where many people may give a grade system from A-F, or 1.0 – 5.0, I’m instead going to be summing up each review with a prediction of where I think the Ashes 500 costs will eventually land. This gives a meaningful metric for how good I think the card is now, as well as provides a personal retrospective grade down the line to see how close I was to how powerful the card truly was in the meta. You can read more about and see the current 500 prices here.

    Please keep in mind that I am looking at things from a competitive meta perspective.

    Shatter Pulse
    Shatter Pulse is probably about half a dice too expensive. People are happy to pay two dice to handle a unit – Regress let’s you answer a small subset, Molten Gold let’s you answer a subset… Shatter Pulse let’s you answer them all, and get a bonus on top of it. Destroying that cleanly costs about 2 as a Phoenixborn Unique in Sword of Virtue, so it’s reasonable that outside of a unique it costs around 1 more.

    However, that extra dice turns out to be a lot. There are very few things this even trades evenly with, and more often not than you’d like there will be nothing on the other side of the board worth paying the cost to Pulse. Pulse may see some play, but I think it’s just too expensive to be consistent enough. The double Sympathy [[sympathy]] in the cost does not help.

    Predicted Ashes 500 Cost:
    1/1/1

    Guilt Link
    The immediate comparison for Guilt Link is Chant of Revenge, a very powerful card that has seen play in all metas since it’s release. The conditionality of Guilt Link will ensure that Link is never as powerful of a card as Chant, but I do think it has the ability to be powerful in it’s own right.

    Effects that give your opponent a choice are historically, in card games, very often on the weaker side. When you really need one option of a card, it’s killer to have your opponent be able to blockade the card and never allow that option to take effect. Guilt Link is no different, but in terms of Ashes cards the options are closer on the spectrum to Anguish than to something like Memory theft. Often, I think, you will be able to trigger Guilt Link in a way that provides your opponent with a lose-lose situation.

    Early on, I think, you have to use Guilt Link to gain board control. Every single trigger of it must target an opposing unit. In this way, you force the opponent to sacrifice board position no matter what they choose. Combined with other unit damaging effects, and you can ensure the wound from the link alone is capable of eliminating units. If your opponent hits you with a Shadow Spirit round one, it’s an awesome board gain to be able to kill that spirit dead no matter what option they take. This is something Chant of Revenge can’t offer – in some way you have to sacrifice board positions in order to use it; chant of revenge let’s you trade life for control. In combination with cards like Heal, you may be able to make a lot of trades.

    If you ever lose board control in a Guilt Link deck, the card is never going to help you go over the top. Unlike Chant of Revenge, the opponent can always sacrifice the weakest part of their board to stay alive. This reach that Chant of Revenge provides is a huge part of why it is so good; as a game comes to it’s end, Chant provides inevitability your opponent cannot escape. It’s this lack of reach that makes me question the link. There are some unit compositions that your opponent will have that make Guilt Link just not worth the card. In those matchups, Guilt Link is just too narrow.

    Predicted Ashes 500 Cost:
    3/3/3

    String Mage
    Alright, some people may not agree with me – it’s a strong statement… but I think this is probably one of the two strongest Allies in the game. String Mage has the ability to take over games when abused, and has extremely reasonable defensive stats to back it up in normal use. I’m very high on String Mage, and time will tell if it can show it’s strength.

    A 1/3/2 unit for 2 is a great deal, and it blocks very well. Not only is it difficult to kill without spending equal resources, it can be brought back with a Ceremonial [[ceremonial]] dice power for minimal pain. Any blows that don’t kill it, it doesn’t only shrug off, it throws back at your opponents side of the board. If your opponent isn’t prepared to deal with it, the String Mage can be both a brick wall and a typhoon.

    It combos with Small Sacrifice to turn the card into a spellboard-based Water Blast. It steals Iron Worker tokens and shrinks Silver Snakes. It heals your units on the brink of death. It foils your opponents plans to kill off their beautiful Blood Puppets (why are they trying to kill them?! They were a gift!). It gives your opponent very difficult choices in how to attack with their weenies against Odette. It has so many flexible uses and ability to win an attrition war, and dice-wise it’s very well costed for all of them.

    The only strike I have against the card is the double Sympathy [[sympathy]]. Double-colored costs on units have proven to be a real hamstring on otherwise powerful units. With the Sympathy [[sympathy]] dice power being on the weaker side of dice powers (no board impact), this may be highlighted for String Mage. He wants to be in a deck playing a reasonable amount of Sympathy [[sympathy]] dice, no less than 3 but probably at least 4. The only thing keeping this card between a cost of 50 or higher is changing a class to a basic.

    Predicted Ashes 500 Cost:
    33/33/33

  • Elliot Reviews Ashes – Winged Lioness, Law of Assurance, Meteor - A Reposting 1

    On the 17/02/2020, the website strangecopy.com 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.

    this is the second of a 4 part article. the first can be found here

    Elliot Kramer April 24, 2017
    It’s spoiler season! As part of the celebration, I’m going to be posting my own weekly personal thoughts and reviews of all the cards officially previewed throughout week. Where many people may give a grade system from A-F, or 1.0 – 5.0, I’m instead going to be summing up each review with a prediction of where I think the Ashes 500 costs will eventually land. This gives a meaningful metric for how good I think the card is now, as well as provides a personal retrospective grade down the line to see how close I was to how powerful the card truly was in the meta. You can read more about and see the current 500 prices here.

    Please keep in mind that I am looking at things from a competitive meta perspective.

    Summon Winged Lioness
    This is it. This is the card that will make people play divine, whether or not other divine cards are good. This is the best new summon spell. This is the best summon spell period. Hell, this card alone makes gives the Divine dice power reason in life.

    A 2/2/1 for 2 dice is already great value. It’s the stats of an Iron Worker, which is a card occasionally worth playing just for the body. Winged Lionesses can pump out an Iron Worker of stats each turn and for the same amount of dice. There’s no initial cost for the book, and even making the lioness takes only a class – meditation will rarely be required. Recover on conjurations is very rare, and it gives them survivability that is a very welcome bonus.

    Stalk is incredible — it completely changes the game. Owls can no longer hide behind Finches, or their pretty little Phoenixborn – if a Lioness sees an Owl in the sky it is taking it down. As an added bonus, if the owl fights back the damage will even be recovered at the end of the round. Exhausted units, which in the past may also be protected by Butterfly Monks or the Phoenixborn, are once again easy targets for a Lioness. Normal combat becomes greatly beneficial for the Lioness wielder; and when backed with their own Unit Guard units have a complete upper-hand in ground-combat.

    I’m very high on this card and I can’t imagine any divine deck not playing Lionesses during this meta. It’s the reason to go into divine, and I think the card is so good that it is Hidden Power level – if you are in this color and not playing it, I think you are likely making a mistake.

    Predicted Ashes 500 Cost:
    100/25/25

    Law of Assurance
    Finally, some illusion protection. For ~cheaper~ than 0 dice and a spellboard slot, you get protection from the almighty wolf until the end of the round. It’s cheaper than 0 dice because you actually get free meditations on two dice.

    The dice-shifting portion of LoA is fairly interesting on its own. It’s somewhere between a Call Upon The Realms and a Hidden Power in terms of functionality and power level, though definitely much closer to Call Upon The Realms in the power aspect. The reason that it’s part-Hidden Power at all is the color shifting. Law of Assurance gives you some light affordance to cheat on dice pools with sketchy dice bases because of how it can smooth out an awkward draw. Playing Bears with 4 nature dice, and you just drew 2 Molten Gold? Well, if you also drew LoA, you can cast it all and not have either MG stuck in hand. This trick will be occasionally useful, but may also potentially be a trap. If your deck is awkward enough that you want LoA purely for fixing, then your deck will be just as awkward when you don’t draw LoA.

    The illusion [[illusion]] protection, however, is real. Played early in the round, and you can completely shut off your opponents dice power – and if they were planning on using that dice power 2-3 times, this can do more than give you protection: it can hamper their hands efficiency. The benefit of LoA in the First Five is that you will know the other 4 cards in your hand can be cast – your opponent doesn’t know whether they can leave room for the wolf power when picking their First Five. I think we will see lots of decks with powerful first fours + LoA for illusion matchups and more flexible First Fives otherwise.

    Outside of the First Five, I think LoA is most beneficial in decks with heavy spellboard costs – ones that try to make Bears, etc. These decks can be especially punished by illusion decks, as their costs only go up as the game goes on (whereas with things like Illusionary Cycle, the illusion decks ability to constraints goes up). Having a turn in the mid-game where you can make everything you want to in a matchup against heavy illusion can be enough to turn the tide completely.

    In the end, you do need the spellboard slot for Law of Assurance – and it’s non-protection ability to color fix probably isn’t worth the slot alone. Even if you are countering Sympathy’s [[sympathy]] dice-turning in abilities like Shatter Pulse, it’s not worth it. You want the ability to capitalize on 10 dice and the incentive to protect that strategy. Not all Phoenixborn have large enough Spellboards to casually throw a Law like this in. Illusion decks, I think, will also be less prevalent. With 6 colors now, an even split means that only ⅓ of 2 color-decks would have illusion in them. The more popular this card is, the less popular illusion probably is. Finally, many illusion decks can simply pivot their options in the face of the Law. If you lock out Victoria’s ability to steal your wolves, she may just make Frogs to help control the battlefield for that round.

    Predicted Ashes 500 Cost:
    6/6/6

    Meteor
    Meteor is a very exciting card, and it’s effect gives you the sense that even if it’s not played immediately it will find a slot eventually. There is something slightly awkward about it, however, that makes it unclear where it fits right now.

    I think Meteor is going to do best against Owl and Spirit decks, particularly variants of the Shadow Spirit/three eyed Owl/Butterfly Monk builds that try to capitalize on a variety of effective 1 dice units. But timing an effective Meteor can be especially tough – if your opponent sniffs it out, it’s often possible for them to okay around it and support rebuilding their board. When it’s a surprise, I think Meteor will win more than a few games. When suspected, it will take a lot more work. Compare the card to something like Mist TyphoonMist Typhoon sees some play, but not an absurd amount; and it’s really best used in decks like Luck 14. While Mist Typhoon causes less wreckage – it’s much easier to get your opponent to give you value for it because the effect is one-sided. When you commit units to the board, your opponent has to as well. You can’t quite do that as simply with Meteor – units you commit are going to be hit just as hard.

    How can you best encourage them to commit more of their resources to the board than you, so that Meteor can be worth the symmetrical damage? This is going to be the question to answer if you want to crack Meteor. Perhaps Dread Wraiths can do it alone. Maybe Coal can force units out and use Meteor in a Luck-14-esque way to get fatties through the next turn (after paying the exhaustion tax). Can Dimona shake off the exhaustion penalty by having her Rayward Knights take a 2nd exhaustion on the chin? If it’s hard to get value these ways or similar, it’s possible that Jessa’s ability to cause a cacophony of screams will simply be enough. I think it’s going to be possible to use Meteor to your advantage, but I don’t think finding out how to do it is going to be easy – and I’m not sure that top-decks will figure it out in this first divine Meta.

    Predicted Ashes 500 Cost:
    6/6/6

  • Elliot Reviews Ashes – Summon Salamander Monk, Flute Mage, Magic Syphon - A Reposting 1

    On the 17/02/2020, the website strangecopy.com 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.

    this is part 3 of a 4 part article. the other parts can be found here and here

    Elliot Kramer April 27, 2017

    It’s spoiler season! As part of the celebration, I’m going to be posting my own weekly personal thoughts and reviews of all the cards officially previewed throughout the week. Where many people may give a grade system from A-F, or 1.0 – 5.0, I’m instead going to be summing up each review with a prediction of where I think the Ashes 500 costs will eventually land. This gives a meaningful metric for how good I think the card is now, as well as provides a personal retrospective grade down the line to see how close I was to how powerful the card truly was in the meta. You can read more about and see the current 500 prices here.

    Please keep in mind that I am looking at things from a competitive meta perspective.

    Summon Salamander Monk
    Man these guys are cute. Hard to find a place for, but cute. This card is hard to evaluate. Up front, I’m going to say that they are better than Mist Spirits and in some ways comparable, but it’s not clear by how much. In general, they are going to give you “asterisked” 2/2 for 1 dice – which is a great deal. Being able to trade pieces of that for triggers or things like Spirit burn is also nice. However, the asterisk attached to getting full values out of these guys is what is going to give them trouble and why it will be hard to make good use out of them.

    Here are some ways to get good value out of these guys:
    Make a Salamander Monk, attack. If they block and counter, you did 1 damage, exhausted a guy, and made a 1/1 monk spirit for 1 dice. That’s decent value already. If they don’t block…
    - Use Small Sacrifice to convert the monk and deal another damage.
    - Use Spirit Burn to convert the monk and deal 2 damage.
    - Use Redirect to convert the monk and save yourself some life.

    I think all of these (and more) represent an above average value for the 1 dice spent on the original monk.

    Once you have the Salamander Monk Spirit out, it’s something like a Mist Spirit. It’s inability to block is a liability, but it’s inability to be targeted by attacks means that you when you attack with it you have no risk of it being targeted for consequence free attacks. A real drawback of attacking with 1/1s is that they can swing their own 1 attack dudes back into them with no risk. The drawback of not being able to block is definitely a bigger drawback than the gain you get from not being targetable, but it’s not a pure drawback.

    There are three major drawbacks to these guys however that I think are going to make it difficult to find the right place for them. Firstly, it’s not always easy to get good value out of them. Brennen is the best positioned, and if we see them working I expect it to happen with her. Outside of her, I think there will often be awkward decisions or games where you can’t quite make them work.

    Second, the conjuration counts can also put you into awkward situations. Having only 2 of the Monks and 3 of the Spirits means that sometimes your opponent can exploit these counts to force you into winless decisions. It’s not going to be a good feeling having 2 Monks out and knowing you can’t make a monk until you clear one out, and it’s going to be an even worse feeling when a monk dies and you don’t get the spirit because you haven’t managed to cycle your other 3 yet. It’s hard to imagine playing more than 1 book because of how awkward it is to make multiples.

    Finally, these guys kind of want a large battlefield. That is, you either want to reliable clear (e.g. Brennen) or you want to have at least 6 battlefield. You want the opportunity to put out the full threat of the units and I don’t think a deck can easily thrive with these as the only unit – so you want extra room. This limits the places the Salamanders can be seen.

    Ashes 500 Cost Prediction:
    3/0/0

    Flute Mage
    And here we have our fourth variant of Refresh. The first 3, all charm, are Refresh, Change Psyche, and Transfer. Each has little benefits over each other, each is probably fringe playable, none really see play. Flute Mage, I think, is a level above the rest and sure to see at least some play.

    The best way to think of Flute Mage is as an unexhaust effect with a body that has to be answered. If you begin the next round with Flute Mage on the battlefield, unexhausting a unit for no dice cost can be extremely powerful. Swinging at an enemy with your Hammer Knight and immediately having it back at the ready is suddenly very value heavy if you can do it two rounds in a row (for 2 dice total). When the Flute Mage is out, it’s easy to craft situations where your opponent either has to answer the rest of your board, or they have to answer the Flute Mage.

    It is fairly easy to answer the Flute Mage. For 2 dice, there are a few options that trade up against it, and plenty that will trade evenly (dice-wise) with the unit. That being said, unexhausting a unit and exhausting some of those options (e.g. dice and water blast) from your opponents side seems very worth the cost of two dice if you’ve got a good refresh target.

    All in all, the biggest issue with the card will be finding places for it that have targets worth unexhausting. Not every deck has those and the room for Flute in deck and on board. Luckily though, it’s stats aren’t totally unreasonable and the payoff/punishment can be big.

    Predicted Ashes 500 cost:
    9/9/9

    Magic Syphon
    Strictly better is a magic concept that refers to a card that either does the exact same thing as another card for a cheaper price, or something that is purely beneficial over another card for the same price, or both. Moltener Gold, a Molten Gold for one nature [[natural]] power dice is strictly better than Molten Gold. Molten Lead, a card that deals 3 damage for one nature [[natural]] power dice, is not. While the card may be better, the damage vs wounds distinction is meaningful and prevents the card from being strictly better.

    Magic Syphon is also not strictly better than Shifting Mists: the difference in magic type requirements is meaningful. The card is sweet, and once on the board, is unquestionably better than Shifting Mist. It can perform the exact same action as shifting, but also gives you the opportunity to instead meditate one of your opponents dice. But because it’s not strictly better, we will still see some people occasionally opting for Shifting over Super shifting.

    The illusion [[illusion]] dice has two major benefits over sympathy [[sympathy]] for effects like this. Firstly, and most importantly, it has the best dice power in the game. By playing sympathy[[sympathy]]-less illusion [[illusion]], you are giving yourself more opportunities to break apart your opponents game plan with the almighty wolf dice. Secondly, illusion [[illusion]] has already shown itself to have multiple powerful conjurations that act as meditation sinks over the course of the game. Shadow Spirit and Shadow Hound both benefit strongly from free meditations, and are already in the same color as Shifting. By playing Shifting with these cards, you allow yourself to have a more consistent dice pool. The second point may change if we see powerful Sympathy [[sympathy]] conjurations previewed or released in the future, but the first will probably always remain true.

    I wanted to get that out of the way so it’s clear why shifting still has a place in the game. Now on to Super Shifting. The card is clearly very powerful. Shifting was already a card shown to be a great tool of control type decks, giving them inevitability towards the end-game by not making them mill themselves. Super Shifting does exactly that, but also gives you opportunities to force your opponent to meditate by changing their critical dice. We will definitely be seeing Super Shifting on the spellboard. Also, with just a single class dice cost, Super Shifting is easy to splash. Victoria can fairly reliably play just one Sympathy dice, if she wanted, in order to support Magic Syphon instead of Shifting Mists.

    Like Shifting Mist, Magic Syphon is going to be used predominantly in control decks or in decks trying to shore up control matchups. Preventing your own meditation or forcing your opponent to meditate does next to nothing in a game that doesn’t end up with a player milled out (see Papa Pratt’s must-read article on Aggressive Meditation). Super Shifting can force your opponent into awkward turns where they planned on using their dice power and now have to meditate, but those won’t be strong enough to include the card in aggressive decks.

    A note on balance:. Sympathy [[sympathy]] is allowed to have better dice manipulation than illusion [[illusion]] because that’s simply one of it’s strengths. Yes, dice manipulation is also a strength of illusion [[illusion]], but illusion [[illusion]] has some strengths not available to Sympathy [[sympathy]], like dice advantage (Hidden Power) or and an oppressive dice power. In a game with 6+ dice types, there is going to be some overlap in capabilities. Ceremonial [[ceremonial]] can’t be the only type with strong allies, and Nature [[natural]] can’t be the only type with strong conjurations.

    Predicted Ashes 500 cost:
    50/12/12 – with same penalties as Shifting Mist

  • Elliot Reviews Ashes – Summon Emperor Lion, Holy Knight, Power Through - A Reposting 1

    On the 17/02/2020, the website strangecopy.com 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.

    this is part 3 of a four part article. the other parts can be found here and here

    Elliot Kramer May 1, 2017

    It’s spoiler season! As part of the celebration, I’m going to be posting my own weekly personal thoughts and reviews of all the cards officially previewed throughout the week. Where many people may give a grade system from A-F, or 1.0 – 5.0, I’m instead going to be summing up each review with a prediction of where I think the Ashes 500 costs will eventually land. This gives a meaningful metric for how good I think the card is now, as well as provides a personal retrospective grade down the line to see how close I was to how powerful the card truly was in the meta. You can read more about and see the current 500 prices here.

    Please keep in mind that I am looking at things from a competitive meta perspective.

    Summon Emperor Lion
    The lion joins a motley crew of 3-cost conjurations. Compared to its brethren (Ice Golem, Dread Wraith, and Shadow Hound), the Lion may be the best out of the box. All 3 of the prior have seen successful competitive play (with Ice Golem’s case for viability being the most flimsy), but none have risen to the level of a dominant mainstay — while good, you rarely have to think, “Well, how does this deck handle ~” because their presence in decks/the meta is niche and sparing.

    Emperor Lion maybe will be no different, but its well-balanced stats combined with some very relevant bonus abilities make it a threat to be a card more commonly included. It’s worth pointing out that the first lion has the same cost (cheaper, meditation wise) as the first bear – and it is a unit that is definitely better. Let me repeat that again, the first lion you make is at least as good as one of the best conjurations in the game right now. Damn, I’m getting myself excited about this lion.

    Lions hit a Phoenixborn as hard as a Hammer Knight, are just as hard to kill, have the same dice cost, and you can make them each turn. Healing Aura randomly makes your opponent plays inefficient. If you can turn an aura into a heal at the end of the round, that’s about a dice worth of value for each damage. Combined with cards like Particle Shield it may be very possible to turn this into a gamelong advantage. Because it’s inexhaustible, it means that even if your opponent Steady Gazes it the lion can continue to provide value. The whole package of the Lion is good, they didn’t skimp this time around and I think PHG is really learning what kind of value you can put into 3 dice.

    This all sounds awesome; why wouldn’t this be a a dominant mainstay? A few things make cards like this hard to play or risky moves. Putting 3 dice into a unit gives your opponent a lot of ways to gain a value advantage: Regress, Molten Gold, Sword of Virtue and more are all great deals, dice-wise, for your opponent. When you pump this much into something, your opponent can turn the tempo of such a trade to their advantage.

    Secondly, a double-color cost can make your dice or turns awkward. The Divine dice ability is on the weaker side, and so having heavy Divine dice spreads is a little harder to support. The lion can’t go in every deck and succeed, especially with wolf [[illusion]] dice running around. Though the lion beats the bear in value round 1, bears are easier to summon and present less of a deficit in subsequent rounds when answered. Overall though, when the card works it is definitely going to be worth it.

    Predicted Ashes 500 Cost:
    33/2/2

    Holy Knight
    I’m going to go ahead and start by saying that 3 of any dice type is a lot. It’s very restrictive. There’s barely any playable cards that require 2 of a dice type right now; and they are often early cuts in decks trying to be flexible with their dice pool. Even Molten Gold gets cut because 2 Nature [[natural]] is a lot to throw down. Holy Knight asks for 3 Divine [[divine]] dice for each one you play with. And that’s a lot.

    Consider that if Holy Knight isn’t the best Divine divien card, you probably want other Divine [[divine]] cards. Something to give you a consistent use, like Lioness, is going to push you to four divine dice on the turns you want to play him. Even if youre hoping to also draw into Law of Assurances on the same turn, you really gotta have at least 5 Divine [[divine]] dice to feel semi-comfortable supporting a deck like that. This itself is very restrictive. And even with 5 dice, your placing yourself at risk of some very awkward turns. Such a Divine [[divine]] heavy non-summon card ensures that you will have hands drawn that either can’t be supported by your dice, or leave you with an excess of Divine [[divine]] dice – which does not have a particularly flexible dice power. In order to support Holy Knight, you’re probably going to need dice help: meaning Rin (rins fury), Expand Energy, Victoria, or Orrick. The latter two, however, seem more like less than ideal fits.

    So what do you get for fitting to this restrictive cost? A 5/3/2 unit that is resistant to just about everything. No Fear. No Regress. No Molten Gold. Not even non-spell based tricks. Fire archer + Water Blast? Pffft. Anchornaut + Spirit Burn? Yeah, right! None of it touches the Holy Knight.

    Until it exhausts. Then it’s all free-game. And that’s kind of the problem; you can get a single attack or counter in, but then your opponent gets to use whatever spell they normally would have on your Knight. If your attack is wasted on a Gilder or Butterfly Monk, you didn’t get a lot of value on that attack. Your best case scenario is dropping the Holy Knight in the first five to an unprepared opponent, and getting 5 in because they had no allies to drop and protect. Getting 5 in and then forcing them to remove a 3 toughness unit is pretty good value for 4 dice.

    But the other cases are much less appealing. The thing is, this Knight is just really bad at fighting. It trades with a lot of 3 cost dudes, and once exhausted can easily be extinguished by any multitude of weenies + ping effects. He’s just not great when he has to fight other units. There are ways to unexhaust him before he falls victim to your opponents abilities, but they are either expensive and awkward (Dimona) or in colors that are probably hard to currently support with Holy Knight (Flute Mage). One of the best ways to deal with a Holy Knight is just going to be attacking into it and leaving something up to block.

    I know some good players that are really high on Holy Knight, so you should maybe take my opinion with a grain of salt… but if you can’t tell, I’m low on Holy Knight. And I’m glad I am. Invulnerable effects and similar are incredibly dangerous; if they get too good – they let you do broken things. I don’t think Holy Knight is one of those cards though; it’s just too awkward.

    Predicted Ashes 500 Cost:
    2/2/2

    Power Through
    Offensive alterations are often very tricky to get right. Because they inherently pour your resources into a single unit, they open yourself up to trades that are beneficial for the opponent instead of you. In general, one big threatening unit is harder to make use of then an army of less threatening but still effective units. Many alterations tend to have multiple of the following common problems:
    - No element of surprise. It doubles down on a threat and says “Can you deal with this?”, and then it gives them a chance to deal with it.
    - Easy to avoid or chump. You make one big attack dude, but it’s completely negated by a Butterfly Monk; or one bad-ass blocker that your opponent just doesn’t attack into.
    It opens yourself up to 2-for-1s. You give your dude +3 attack, and when they
    - Fear or Molten Gold it, they just used 1 card to get rid of both your unit and alteration.
    - They have overcosted or no respark cost at all, an ability which can help make up some of these other weaknesses.
    - They are overcosted for their stats.

    Power through shakes off a lot of these weaknesses. It’s side-action cost + offensive ability means that it does have the element of surprise – you can often guarantee at least one hit with it before your opponent can react. Chumping does very little; as the real benefit is the overkill ability punishing their chumping. It does get 2-for-1d, but it’s respark costs no dice at all, making it much easier to play again if that’s what you want to do. Any card in your hand is another Power Through.

    So what about cost? It’s hard to say without getting a lot of play in, but I think Power Through is fairly costed for it’s ability. It’s certainly not vastly overcosted – I can say with some certainty that 1 dice for the effect would be unfairly good. On Lionesses, Power Through is an absolute house. Guaranteed kills overflow into Phoenixborn damage, advancing your win condition and controlling the board. On Shadow Spirits, you threaten 3 damage to the dome or 2 + a likely dead unit. There are a lot of ways to get reasonable use for the cost out of Power Through.

    To me, the key word is reasonable – outside of Lionesses hunting it’s preferred prey (e.g. Owls), many uses are not anything crazy. And they still require 2 dice and 2 “cards”. I really think it’s going to take the meta shaking out to see if this card is worth it. It’s the best offensive alteration we’ve seen yet though, and I have high hopes for it. The fact that it brushes off a lot of traditional downsides for alterations give it a ton of promise.

    Predicted Ashes 500 cost:
    16/16/16