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Top 5 Defining Sympathy Cards

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!


Comments

  • I would put River Skald among the top 2 cards. He does not even deal damage, he places wounds and he is absurd with gravity training and seeds of agression in terms of trading.

    I Love Night song crickets and the effect they have is very sympathy like, but man does it increase game length. Not always because you dont know what you give your opponent or because they need to think but because there is also always the question of what you could get back if you do things in another order.
    If you play without a timer it can be nightmare. I would not put it on this list.
    I would rather include Essence Druid because of calm the beast and the way that interacts with elephants.

    I would also not include changing winds. Its a good card but if you want to find spell books you can just meditate 5+ cards and get it with Essence Druid or know that it would not have been in your next hand either. Drawing Cards outside of Hidden Power or Books is not a great thing in ashes.
    Its just some trigger for a few sympathy cards but a pretty replaceable one. Could as easily read 'whenever you use a dice power' or 'whenever you activate your phoenixborns ability'.
    Its a great card for consistency but i think not top 5 worthy. I actually put it in decks to power them down for casual play.

    Crecendo is probably the other card that i would put into the first 2. I dont like it in first place but techinically it is way more universal than River Skald.

    New Ideas is also a very defining card but i agree that it does not really count.
    If it was worded like Mass Heal and needed you to actually use Sympathy Dice to get the Blue Text activated it should probably be on the list. Not sure of the position.
    In general i find the order for the top cards tougher for this dice type than the others.
    What does a top 5 list say if the cards in slot 3 to maybe 10 are all almost equally notable.

    All in all Sympathy is clearly my favorite Dice Type in the game because it has the most shenanigans to offer.

  • I am curious as to why raptor herder made the natural [[natural]] list, but it didn't make it onto sympathy [[sympathy]]?

  • Couple reasons:

    Nature has far fewer relevant cards. So, I think it's easier for the raptor herder to make that list.

    I tried to focus on cards that drove there direction of your deck. I don't think raptor herder really is essential to any deck. It's best use is probably as a mount target, but I don't think it's a necessary part of those decks. So, kind of similar to why I left fire archer off the ceremonial list. It's a really good card, but doesn't have a huge game impact when played and doesn't drive deck construction that much.

    I'm surprised that you're so high on River Skald @cronos. I thought I was overrating it because I don't see it played that often. But I agree it can be so impactful. Especially if you can trigger it the same turn you play it

  • River Skald has only 3 HP which is too low for a competetive card. If is easily removed and you paying 3 dice and might hold dependant cards in your hand.
    Its very close to competetive though, and because it needs triggers etc. i think it is very structure giving.

    For Raptor Herder, i think it is actually quite relevant to deckbuilding. You want to have 3 attacking Units at some point and there are a lot of setups that cant support that. The mount thing might be relevant in practive or in your playgroup but design wise i think its secondary.
    An Aggro Deck in Ashes mostly can be pure burn deck or a deck with a wide battlefield. For the Latter your standard starting points seem to be Raptor Herder and Summon Fallen.

  • I tried to focus on cards that drove there direction of your deck. I don't think raptor herder really is essential to any deck.

    I think that argument should also apply to raptor herder on the nature list, especially when you consider that something like massive growth, while niche, was still a wincon (and as such, drove the direction of the deck) in at least one well known deck (grow finch).

    Your first point about a lack of many choices is a good point in the context of mono colour cards, though.

  • River Skald has only 3 HP which is too low for a competetive card.

    So does Hammer Knight. Just saying. ;-)

  • I know but already write way too much text so i left out a lot of arguments about the difference between the two.

  • I think that argument should also apply to raptor herder on the nature list, especially when you consider that something like massive growth, while niche, was still a wincon (and as such, drove the direction of the deck) in at least one well known deck (grow finch).

    Fair point on this. Most of my thoughts are based on playing games on TTS over the past few years during which I very rarely saw Massive Growth, so it was a bit too much of an edge case for me to include. But, I can see an argument to include this over Raptor Herder in this list.

    River Skald has only 3 HP which is too low for a competetive card. If is easily removed and you paying 3 dice and might hold dependant cards in your hand.

    It is awkward to play around. You can First Five the River Skald and a card draw. But, if your opponent only plays cheap units, its value drops drastically. Now you have 2 suboptimal cards in your First Five. If you plan to draw into the River Skald, you probably want Change Winds or some side action draw to be able to trigger it on demand. But then you need enough dice to make the extra card draw worth it, etc.

    But, the fact that it can snipe a Hammer Knight or any other 3 health unit seems like it really should be super strong.