The Alliance of the Century Part 2
So, I may have gone overboard with my prior post and ended up writing way too much about something that I haven’t even gotten my grubby hands on. So, instead of editing it down like a reasonable person, I split it into two parts. I’ll repeat my warning in the last post, just in case people forgot it. This is all purely speculation based on the cards revealed during the sneak preview on Plaid Hat Games website. I have no great insight into the game beyond what I’ve learned through playing with my kin. That said, my judgments are still good, damn it!
5. Fallen Phoenixes
I don’t care for the undead. I don’t really care for haughty elves either but at least they have the decency to look pretty. Unless they’re the Phoenix Elves. Then they have nothing going for them.
The Fallen Phoenix faction is… interesting. The Phoenixes trick was that they alleviated the inherent randomness of Summoner Wars by making many of their units hit for their strength in damage without needing to roll. The Fallen Phoenix take this idea and balance it. Now they have “precision” only when Immortal Elien spends magic to increase their die roll. So, you can still be screwed by bad rolling but if you’re David Windrim and rolling in the money, you can just throw enough magic at it to make the problem go away.
The biggest downside to the faction, however, is that they are costly. Not only do you want a large pool of magic of Immortal Elien’s “cheating” but all three of his common units cost 2 magic. He wants lots of magic to kill things and he needs to kill things in order to have lots of magic. There’s a slight way for the Fallen Phoenixes to skirt around this. A few of their events have adopted the Fallen Kingdom’s raising of the dead though the triggers for these abilities are often rather specific and finicky. Karthus can pull your units but only from your enemy’s discard pile and if you pay for them. From the Ashes can pull them from your own discard but only if they’ve been killed by your units (and only those associated with the fire elves).
They’re strong but pricey and require just the right set-ups in order to excel. On the plus side, they have better all around options and Forced Conversions and Purge can really open up an opponent’s defence to let you break through and strike with those unerring Phoenix attacks.
6. Vargath Vanguard
Revenge of the ugly goats.
I like the idea behind the Vargath Vanguard but I can’t help but feel they’re a faction designed to make their parent factions better than to actually offer a good deck on its own. Moyra is a poor man’s Sunderverd. Seriously. Her special ability lets her grant 1 strength and 1 extra movement to a single common each turn within two spaces of her. Sunderverd gives all your commons 1 strength when close to him. The question here is whether 1 extra move is worth 2 overall strength.
Nay, I say. The Vargath Vanguard are all about positioning with all of their units getting stronger the closer you bunch up all your guys. But this sacrifices board control in order to make your units more powerful. Unfortunately, Moyra doesn’t really offer her units that much in terms of events or even her presence. Throw all her troops into Sunderverd and you’d have a much stronger deck. He allows repositioning with Muster and Fall Back. Greater Command lets him extend his influence to four spaces. Sure Superior Planning and Toradin’s Advance are dud events and while Moyra’s are stronger I just don’t think they’re strong enough to lose what Sunderverd offers.
And that is three cherubim attacking for 3 strength each turn. The largest failing for the goats was that in order to succeed they had to march themselves and their summoner across the board into enemy territory. Unfortunately, walls make it effortless to raise an overpowering defence that will chase them away. Now, Sunderverd can create a Roman Phalanx of impenetrable troops which loose endless volleys upon their enemies. Two cherubim sandwiching a defender gives both of them the Shield of Light power. Stick a crusader behind one and they’re under constant Blinding Light. Yes, both of these can be mimicked or played by Moyra but these effects don’t stack and are easily replicated by commons alone.
That is kind of Moyra’s problem. Her strength is solely in her exportable cards. Her event suite isn’t terrible. It’s just unfocused. Lightning Strike is great but you only have one. Change Form is wonderful but incredibly time limited (to a single turn and thus very susceptible to Mimic as you must hold on to the event until the proper turn). Divine Intervention is not something you want to play if you’re planning on running Moyra in with Change Form and there situations where you want to trade summoner health for common health is pretty limited. Even more disastrous, her only healing option is Father Benny which, thankfully for Sunderverd, can also be carried out from her deck.
The Vanguard Vargath are interesting but ultimately underwhelming in all but the cards which will be poached by the Vanguard and Mountain Vargath.
7. Deep Benders
If Moyra was suffering from burglarizing then it’s an absolute epidemic of Endrich. The Deep Benders seem to have the opposite problem. They weren’t designed to make the Deep Dwarves or Benders better but to not be obsoleted by their powerful constituents. The Deep Benders offer an interesting mechanic with Boost but, unfortunately, the execution leaves something to be desired.
The general idea is that Deep Bender commons is kind of the inverse of Filth mutations. You can summon them on the cheap in order to get a mediocre unit or you can pump them up to make them really strong. Of course, you’re investing magic either way but you’re deciding at the point of summoning whether they are cheap or powerful.
Unfortunately for Endrich, he is entirely replaceable. His unique ability is a worse version of Sorgwen. Yes, you can combine the two to get a bonus two extra attacks after the attack phase. Unfortunately, Endrich has to be close to his target, they have to be boosted (thus restricting him to just the three commons in his deck) and you have to pay for it! Course, Endrich starts on the board but that’s less of a problem when you are Tacullu and can just search for Sorgwen with an Hero is Born event. Not to mention that Endrich can’t use his ability until he starts getting boosted units so he can’t double attack out the gate either (which would require building a magic pool as well anyway).
Nearly everything about the Deep Benders feels “balanced for Deep Dwarves and Benders.” The Owl Gryphon has lots of exacting requirements so he doesn’t combine with Tundle’s meditate. Which is irrelevant since Tacullu is going to be the one to grab the Gryphon in order to make him one of the top decks. The actual interacting with boost tokens is mostly in the commons themselves, which is Moyra’s issue. Endrich has a couple of interesting economy cards to try and play with the boost mechanic but it ends up being irrelevant because Tundle can meditate for his economy and Tacullu can grab the Owl Gryphon for his (on top of both generally playing incredibly defensive). Endrich, on the other hand, loses if he attempts to play defensive even with the Owl Gryphon being overpriced and useless on his arm.
Basically, the stars need to align in order for the Deep Benders to win. They need to establish an economy advantage with opportune plays of Unlock and Reclaim then push that advantage with a fast assault from their Deep Dragons, Geopaths and Keodel. Course, this opens them up to the age old problems of turtling play. Magic Drain will cripple him and Endrich relies on his units for board control and economic tempo. Any event that outright murders his boosted commons will swipe what economic advantage he can wrangle with his boost tokens. And, ironically, Tacullu can just mind control his units if they try to assault him for a truly crippling economic swing that Endrich can’t respond.
Oddly enough, the overbalancing of the Deep Benders was directed at the summoner and his events when it should have been focused more on his units. It’s incredibly odd how poorly designed the Deep Benders appear especially since the route to take was done on the Cave Filth and Sand Cloaks above. Make them based around their Boost mechanic and the commons will be less valuable for the parent factions. Give Endrich lots of advantages for using boosted units to discourage him from poaching the super strong commons from the Deep Dwarves and Benders. Then you would have differentiated summoners without potentially unbalancing the game.
Instead, we have a summoner that looks underwhelming but brings lots of incredibly powerful tools to the factions that already held most of the good tools in the first place.
8. Jungle Shadow
Well, someone had to be on the bottom.
If Endrich and Moyra’s issues were lackluster abilities and events, Melundak’s is exactly what I rambled about in their entries. The Jungle Shadow have, by my estimation, the worst suite of units in the Alliance box. Granted, they don’t have the worst card, that still belongs to the Tundra Guild scribes, but their shadows, stalkers and shamans are certainly vying for that position.
The biggest issue with Melundak’s army is that they’re money pits. All three commons require extra expenditure of magic. To haste, spend 1 magic. Want to make your stalkers 2 strength? Spend 1 magic. Trying to maintain board presence with your shadow? Yup, spend another magic. And yet, Melundak has absolutely nothing to help generate magic for all these effects. Even worse, he has one of the best summoner abilities and nothing to use it on. Shadow Weave lets you treat any unit as a wall for a common once a turn. Hogar has to enchant his stupid golems to get that. Rallul needs to use an event. Glurblurgderp needs to cultivate his horticulture. Melundak, on the other hand, just wills someone to pop out of a furry.
But two thirds of his army are ranged with 1 health so want to come from his back walls anyway. It would be really good if he could extend his power to champions but all three of his champions come with extra mobility anyway so it’s irrelevant. Furthermore, Melundak’s events give bonuses to sneak attacks and greater movement which is wasted on his army composition. His deck is geared all around getting all up in his enemy’s face but its used on a force that wants to anything but that.
Melundak is the one summoner who just screams to be deck built. Almost any Jungle Elf unit in his deck is terrifying. The Shadow Elf champions are clawing to emerge from Melundak’s walls to rampage across the board. There’s an absolutely monstrous unit pool waiting just beyond Melundak’s grip and he was offered the possibly worst dregs of an alliance between his two factions. He’s the unwanted third child with nothing but raggedy hand-me downs while he gapes enviously at the sparkling toys in his siblings’ grasps.
And his units wouldn’t be too bad if they were lent to the Jungle or Shadow elves either (seriously, stalkers with Abua Shi are like lioneers that can be chant hasted). Together, they’re a horrible combination but I can see them being useful in separated pieces amongst the rest.
Barring shadows, of course. I still don’t see how they’re anything but a gimmick.