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Do Vampire Bats make To Shadows worth using?

Okay, but for real, Vampire Bat Swarm with To Shadows is actually kinda horrendous.

If you make the opponent's creature an Illusion for a [[side]], than perform an "Attack a Unit" [[main]] targeting the Illusion creature, there's no good outcome.
- Unit takes the hit and is destroyed due to Illusion ability.
- Phoenixborn guards for unit, triggers "Swarm 2", deals 1 damage to unit which is destroyed by Illusion ability (since it's the result of an attack)

I'm currently working on a decklist for this right now that uses Harold Westraven since Harvest Soul becomes super easy to fulfill and Hunter's Mark addresses the Unit Guard issue, but I'm curious to know what other people think of this cool combo.


  • So i am not sure if it actually counts a damage resulting from an attack. One of the weak points of ashes rules is that we do not have rules to attribute sources of effects.

    One can like you say that is the result of the attack because the ability triggers of the attack and text says "instead deal [...] damage ..." with instead being the operative word here.
    However one might as well take the position that the ability is causing the damage and not the attack.
    Both are perfectly reasonable and we don't have rules to see which is right.

    2 examples we have are Redirect and Power Through + Imperial Ninja.
    I don't have sources but i think there is an official ruling that imperial ninja is counting as dealing damage via an attack and can trigger its ability if it kills a unit.
    There is some things to keep in mind here though :
    Alterations are formulated from the perspective of the unit that carries it Mark Of The Goddess, so the 'you' in Power through is certainly to be understood as the unit dealing the damage.
    In Redirect it specifically says that you deal 'that' damage and not just some damage of the same amount to a unit.

    The Vampire Bat Swarm now does not redirect its damage. It just instead deals other damage.
    That damage is 100% percent to count as being dealt by an ability. The Question is if it also counts as being the result of an attack. Those things don't have to be exclusive but they often are implied to be.

    For the sake of your question though lets look at it as if it works in the way you suggested :

    • 3 Units come to mind that are immune to one part of the combo : Holy Knight, Elephant Rider and Celestial Knight
    • Damage can be prevented with particle shield
    • To Shadows can be redirected with glow finch
    • Units with Spellguard are immune.
    • Golden Veil and Angelic Rescue counter both parts of the combo.
    • Really doesnt change anything if the target already is an illusion or has just 1 Life.
    • Choke counters the ability
    • Regress prevents the trigger for similar abilities so probably for this too.
    • Reflections In The Water removes the ability
    • Redirect can prevent the trigger by choosing another target.
    • Unit Guard will influence your targeting choices.
    • I feel like Vamipre Bat Swarm will often be exhausted as it reduces damage taken and dies at the end of the round.

    If the combo became great there would be sufficient ways to play around it. It is not as binary as described.
    It also costs 3 different colors so i think it actually needs to perform pretty good.
    It also costs 3 Dice and that is a high cost for most things. For example Shatter Pulse is actually cheaper in most senses and is considered too expensive by many players.

  • I'm pretty sure this combo doesn't work for the reason Cronos Genesis#9i6t described (the damage isn't from an attack, it's from an ability that replaced an attack). However, I was unable to find any rulings in the FAQ that imply this strongly enough to argue the point from a rulings standpoint instead of a semantics standpoint. As already mentioned, the closest thing is looking at the Redirect rulings, which explicitly note that the unit is still dealing attack damage, just to a different target. Contrast with the wording of Swarm 2 which is replacing the attack damage with something else.

  • I'm pretty sure it still works if we're just playing it as written. "Receiving damage as a result of an attack or counter" makes its intent pretty clear:
    During the "Receive damage" step, it would check whether or not the source of the damage was caused either by the attack itself or any effect or ability that triggered because of that attack.

    Damage from "Swarm X" originates from an ability that triggers only as the result of dealing damage from an attack to a PB. Illusion's only requirement is that the damage is a result of a unit's attack or counter, I don't think it cares whether you attacked that unit specifically or not.

    Normally this isn't applicable because "Aftershock X", which would normally be the go-to effect for hitting multiple targets on the attack, places wound tokens instead of dealing damage.

    Regarding the counterplay:
    - Yeah, Holy Knight, Elephant Rider, Celestial Knight, Particle Shield and even Reflections in the Water all counter the strategy to a degree, and that's alright. No strategy is completely without counterplay in Ashes, so if you see a bunch of [[Divine:Power]] dice on your opponent's side, keep that in mind. (Although, I honestly think [[Divine:power]]'s card pool is generally overtuned for this game.)
    - Units with Magic Guard are indeed safe, which is a total of...Seaside Raven. Well, that only matters against Saria, and only like half the Saria players I've seen even run it, so I'm not too worried.
    - Unit Guard makes this stuff harder, I agree. That's why I'm building this with Harold Westraven to specifically address the Unit Guard issue. One way you can take advantage of the Bats to address Unit Guard is Blood Chains to heavily exhaust them and help open up future turns a bit.
    - Golden Veil and Angelic Rescue are decent against To Shadows, but I feel like that exchange goes in your favor. You pay [[illusion:class]], they pay [[illusion:power]] or two dice, and then you just decide not to swing, which is fine. If they play one of those cards or Choke to cancel the Swarm trigger instead, at least you're still dealing 2 damage to the PB on the attack. So I file those cards as "annoying" but not absolute hard counters.
    - Surprisingly, Redirect doesn't work against this. Both effects trigger when the PB "would be dealt damage", and active player makes those decisions first. So when the Bats would deal damage, you may instead choose to spread it with Swarm. Your opponent only has the opportunity to Redirect when you specifically choose not to activate Swarm.
    - You don't care about Regress. If your opponent drops a Regress on a Bat Swarm, that's almost definitely a win for you long term. Biggest hurdle with Regress is trying to figure out how to get rid of your stumped units to clear up your battlefield, but Bats clears out automatically. It also makes a great blocker since it takes exactly 3 sources of damage to kill it.
    - I don't really understand that last bit about exhausting the Bat Swarm. I mean, yeah, when you attack with it, it's exhausted. Kinda like every other unit in the game. If he takes an attack though, it's probably gonna be better not to counter unless it kills something on the counter.

    And yeah, I know the three colors thing makes it more difficult, but most of the decks that I see these days are already playing three colors. It's very common in this game to run 2-4 different dice types, so I don't see it as a massive hindrance.

    Though admittedly 3 dice is still a pretty steep price. I do think it's overall more usable than Shatter Pulse since you don't always need to have the resources up at all times and can space it out over multiple turns. To me, the best remedy is to play cards that allow you to take extra advantage of your combo pieces to increase their value. Vampire Bat Swarm is real great with Blood Chains and Dark Reaping once it's exhausted, and Illusion makes it even easier to trigger Harvest Soul or Master Vampire's ability.

  • I don't really understand that last bit about exhausting the Bat Swarm. I mean, yeah, when you attack with it, it's exhausted.

    Was talking about exhaustion from effects before it does something.
    Since you invest ressources into this unit and put To Shadows in your deck i imagine you would want it to do its thing.
    But this specific unit does not really unexhaust in the unsual way since it has fleeting.

  • During the "Receive damage" step, it would check whether or not the source of the damage was caused either by the attack itself or any effect or ability that triggered because of that attack.

    This is a dangerous rabbit hole to go down. At what point does damage cease to be "caused by an attack"? One effect away? Two? Ten?

    This mostly hasn't come up before now because there aren't a lot of effects that deal damage as a result of attack damage, but consider the following:

    My opponent has a Celestial Knight and a low-health unit in play. I attack their Phoenixborn my Elephant Rider and a high-health Illusion unit. They block the high health unit with the Celestial Knight, and the Elephant Rider with the low-health unit. Elephant Rider kills the low-health unit, triggering Overkill. 2 damage is dealt to the Phoenixborn (is the Overkill damage "the result of an attack"? Now we're one step away). They play Redirect, moving the Overkill damage onto their Celestial Knight. Does the redirected damage trigger Spiked Skin (the Elephant Rider is technically an attacking unit, and it is dealing damage to the Celestial Knight now; but at this point we're two steps away from actual attack damage)? If Spiked Skin does trigger, then the high-health unit being blocked by Celestial Knight takes damage. Is that damage the result of an attack (three steps away)? If so, then the unit dies to Illusion right now.

    This sort of thing is over-complicated for no good reason, which is why I'm against trying to track antecedents for effects. Either damage is the direct result of a unit attacking and dealing attack damage, or it is the result of an effect (regardless of whether that effect was triggered due to attacking/attack damage).

  • Things that trigger off of attack damage only count the damage that comes from the unit's attack value. Anything ability related does not trigger these affects. There was a pretty clear ruling on something recently, that basically solves this, but I can't, for the life of me, remember what exactly the ruling was on.

  • There's a lot of conjecture floating around, but not a lot of hard definitive answers, which means that for now I'm gonna keep assuming it works. Might message Plaid Hat though.

    To weigh in on Skaak#1st!'s scenario, I'm pretty sure everything you described would indeed happen. ER blows up small unit, Overkill deals 2 damage to PB which is redirected to CK. Because the Overkill damage was a direct result of ER's attack, it would trigger Spiked Skin, which would deal 2 damage to the illusion unit, which would kill it because Spiked Skin's damage is still technically "the result of an attack or counter".

    Also you're not wrong, it is kind of over-complicated for no reason, but I'm pretty sure that's also how it works. Things get complicated, but they also resolve in an orderly manner.

    If they wanted to remove ambiguity and have it maybe make more sense, the wording on Illusion would likely be "When this unit receives damage directly from a unit's attack or counter, destroy it" I believe the wording they use makes it possible for Bats to kill Illusion creatures on the attack via Swarm since all the wording supports it.

  • I dug a bit deeper into this and i found no example that implies that being the result of something is not transitive (A causes B, B causes C so we say A causes C).

    The reason for this is, that it never really becomes relevant as there are always additional conditions.
    Take this chain of events :
    We want to check if the enemy phoenixborn is dealt damage as the result of an attack by an Imperial Ninja.
    The Ninja attacks a mist spirit which is killed. In Response a chant of the dead is triggered to deal damage to your PB and then Guilt link is used to deal damage to the opponents PB.

    Maybe the damage is "the result of an attack" but the Imperial ninja is not dealing the last damage. No matter why exactly the ability of the ninja wont trigger.

    All examples that i could find had this structure.
    I think i changed my mind : probably works, but i also might add that i do not like it - the wording, not the combo.

  • I step in but I actually didn't read eveything which was said. For me abilities like Overkill 2 are, well...abilities... So they should not be considered as attack damages but like abilities damages, therefore not triggering effects triggered by attack damages.

    In what situations exactly abilities damages would be considered as attack damages anyway? And where could you find a justification for that in rules / FaQ ?

  • The root issue is the wording of the Illusion ability:

    Illusion: If this unit receives damage as a result of a unit's attack or counter, destroy this unit.

    You can interpret this narrowly to mean "When this unit receives attack or countering damage". (This is my preferred interpretation.)

    But you can also interpret it more broadly to mean "When this unit receives damage that is ultimately caused by an attack." (In which case, Illusion triggers off Vampire Bat Swarm's Swarm 2 ability, or arguably things like damage chains started by Overkill.)

    This isn't covered by the FAQ, because the FAQ doesn't define what is considered the "result" of an attack or counter (hasn't come up until now).

    Edit: forgot to mention that if Illusion specifically said something like "When this unit receives attack damage" it would be a non-issue, because Swarm 2 and Overkill 2 are both clearly damage from abilities, not an attack.