The Real Dirty
So, we need to talk. This is a conversation that’s been long overdue. Please, you might want to sit for this.
You see, Summoner Wars, we need to discuss you. Who are you? What are you going for here? I’m not even certain I know you anymore. You’ve got this whole double persona going on. During the day, you’re a friendly, casual board game that’s great for pulling out during a party. You’re simple, straight forward and fun to engage. You bring a smile to player’s faces as they tensely roll for the long shot play.
And then at night you’re a completely different person. You’re this competitive and no nonsense person where everything has to be exacting. Decks must be optimized to a razor edge and you dictate your games must be played beneath the tyranny of managing every last loose scrap of magic. You’re self killing and mean, focusing on denying your opponents instead of engaging them to squeeze every advantage – real or imaginary – as you possibly can.
You’re a bit scattered, Summoner Wars, and I simply don’t know how to deal with you.
Well, actually, that’s a lie. I do know how to deal with you and have been doing so this whole time. But I haven’t actually told you why I’ve been doing this. You’ll notice, when I review you, I take a pretty strict approach. I almost solely only discuss what you offer out of the box. I may make the off handed comment here and there about deck building but, really, you need to stand on your own merits, Summoner Wars.
I like that you blend elements from traditional board gaming and collectible card games. But you’re not Magic: the Gathering or Netrunner. You’re far more board than paper. I think it’s pretty apparent when you look at your very rules. Building a deck is far more involved in an actual collectible or living card game. There’s greater mechanics and far more interactions between the cards. I mean, you can literally throw every single card you own into a deck for Magic (assuming you keep to their four copy rule). Only restrictions you have is that you must have at least sixty cards and you need to follow whatever legacy or card restriction rules your group or tournament holds. That’s it.
Netrunner’s pickier in that you have to follow influence options but, once again, you’re not restricted by a maximum card total but a minimum. You can pull your icebreakers from any faction. Or your economy. Or your hardware. You simply can’t go over the influence limit of your identity. Other than that, you have the entire pool of your identity’s factions cards to pull from including numerous icebreakers, economy and hardware.
Then we have Summoner Wars. What are the deck building options? You can’t have a deck greater than 34 cards. Period. You must have 18 commons and no more than 10 of a single common. You must have 3 champions. And you must have your summoner and the nine events unique to him. Oh, and your walls. You can only tweak your commons and champions and only amongst a very limited number.
I mean, it’s nice that there’s a deck building element but it’s pretty bare bones. Because, ultimately, it’s not an important part of the game. It’s an option, like playing with four players. The game’s design is far closer to that of a board game where you pull out the board and players pick their assigned pieces.
Just to be clear, this isn’t to say one type of game is better than the other. You can have very competitive board games and card games as well as really fun and casual ones as well.
So, while I appreciate the option to further tweak and customize your favourite faction, I only really care about what comes in a deck’s core. I’ve played Summoner Wars in many different settings and, really, whenever it occurs out it’s always someone grabbing the box and us digging in and pulling out some armies to fight. You don’t expect someone to show up with their constructed deck like you would if you were getting together for Magic or Netrunner. And the interest for sorting through each faction’s different options is rarely present when the board is unfolded.
Furthermore, none of my friends have a complete collection which also reduces the prevalence of deck building. While having played everything that’s been released, I myself only own about half the product. Long story short, base decks are the primary method of play and, I feel, it’s the standard the vast majority of players will interact with the game. So while you may pick up the expansions for your favourite faction, you’re not likely to have all the cards that are available.
This is why in my discussion of decks I don’t mention any sort of solutions that a faction may have in their supplementary releases. I don’t think prospective players should have to inform their buying purchases with additional materials. The product should stand on its own. Thus, it doesn’t matter to me how super broken Hogar is if you purchase every single Guild Dwarf and Tundra Orc product and shove their best champions and commons from each into him. He’ll still be treated by the merits of what he came with.
Also, these reviews are long enough without having to take into consideration of every possible permutation of a faction and their opponents. Basically, it should go without saying, that if you replace every bum card in a base deck with a better card in an expansion than the faction will be better.
I bring up this point now because we’re going to talk about a faction that was, essentially, designed to be deck built. Alas, I didn’t purchase their reinforcement deck and when I finally got the Alliances box, they had to face their alliance deck in the tournament so couldn’t deck build.
I am, of course, going to talk about The Filth.
The Demagogue (2R-6W-Mutagist)
Good old Demi managed third in our Master Set Tournament. He then took a shocking thirteenth place in our All In Brawl. Kait and I have always considered the Filth really strong so for them to be eliminated so early was quite the blow. But despite their power, there’s some very specific flaws in the Filth base deck that can be exploited.
To understand these flaws we must first look at the Demagogue’s mutagist ability and what the faction is all about. Mutagist is one of the strongest summoner abilities in the game. It’s a built in card tutor that lets the Demagogue search either his deck or his discard for a mutation and put it in his hand. It does cost an attack so not only does this mean that the Filth player will only have two attacks that turn but you can’t use that mutation that turn. But this doesn’t prevent the Filth from building that mutation for magic. And if you just pulled it from your discard than that’s creating a point of magic that didn’t exist in the game!
I’ve mentioned before how tight economy is in Summoner Wars. Since your cards act as both army and economy and your deck is constrained by an exact number of cards, it means there’s only so much magic to go around. Being able to break that limit is power. As such, most summoners that can squeeze extra magic from the game must do so with a cost. The Demagogue’s is less strict than the other summoner in this tournament who can do this but the Demagogue’s is trickier to use. To generate magic, he must have mutations in his discard. To get them there, they have to be spent from his magic pile. The Filth have to spend money to get money in this game as there is no other way for him to get his mutations into the discard from hand.
Wait… what are mutations?
Mutations are the Filth. They’re the core of the deck serving as magic (mentioned above) and army. See, they’re a common that follows their own rules. First, you can’t summon them directly to the field. They must grow from a target, bursting forth from their hapless victim in as gruesome a manner as possible. This doesn’t remove the poor soul, however, who must remain tortured and broken beneath the mutation. In game terms, this means that every mutation on the field rewards two magic when its dies. But to compensate for its downside and requirement, the mutations are stronger than typical commons. They’re more like mini-champions. Which reflects their nature in deck building.
See, I was getting around to that.
Mutations can occupy either a common or champion slot in your deck. For the Demagogue, this means he only has one champion in his entire deck. Personally, I’d rather there weren’t any. But there’s certainly a lot of variation available to the Demagogue should he ever want to tweak his deck.
Alright, so he has a good ability that makes magic. Oh, and it also gives him flexibility in that he can pull out whatever mutation he needs in his next turn. Sure, this makes him pretty reactionary but being able to get the cards you need is always a strong power. But how do his events look?
Well, they look pretty damn good.
One other downside with mutations is that they cost a decent chunk of magic. Sure, they’re cheaper for their stats and abilities than if any other faction had them but they still average about three magic. Don’t worry, you have Channel Corruption to make up for that. There’s not much to say about this event because it’s good and obviously so. I mean, I guess it’s a combo card which is a bit problematic but since you can use mutagist to pull the mutation you want so long as it’s not locked in your magic pile it’s not much of an issue.
Then there’s Heretic’s Rebuke. Which is also fantastic. Granted, it’s not saving you money but it does something even better: it kills an enemy common and gives you a mutation target. This is pretty big since the Demagogue is weakest at the start. Invariably, when the enemy comes knocking, Heretic’s Rebuke will be turning their dangerous units into your little monsters. It can also be used to peel defenders and get your mutations in forward positions if you have the upper hand. And you can use it to eliminate costly commons like savagers for nothing. Yeah, it’s good.
Possessed Wall is the Filth’s worst event but it’s sort of like a less interesting magic drain. It’s really draw dependent, needing you to pick them up before your opponent can get his walls out to ignore it. Even if you do block his wall, however, it’s not difficult to remove it. It can be discarded at any time and the opponent will be drawing before they want to summon. It’s a speed bump and a minor one but it costs you a card and little effort.
Shield of the Hopeful is incredibly important and, appropriately, you have three of them. Your mutations mean nothing if you don’t have anything to mutate and while you’re building your economy you’ll be relying on your non-mutation commons to protect the Demagogue in the early stages. Shield of the Hopeful will see your little cthulu cultists stick around for their otherworldly blessings. It’s also helpful to keep a target breathing when you mutagist a needed mutation and have to wait your turn to play it. Requiring your opponent to spend more attacks killing your cultists can throw a real wrench in their plans. And if your opponent is trying to play around Shield, doubling up their attacks on pathetic cultists then they’re using their units inefficiently and, well, that’s a victory too.
Cultist (1R-1W-0M-Hex Thrower)
One of the two Filth commons, the cultist is your range devotee to the cause. Since your mutations are all good, your commons are bad. Or, at least, they’re suppose to be. In any other faction you’d likely be unimpressed (though a 0 cost ranged unit is actually pretty good in-of-itself). But the idea isn’t that you’re keeping your cultists around for long. As a unit to thwart and annoy your enemy, they’re good.
As they’re ranged they’re a little harder for the enemy to eliminate. They’re a thing. Oh, I should mention they can’t attack things beside them because that’s bad.
So this is your melee version of your cultist. It can’t attack walls. So don’t expect to be able to apply a lot of pressure with him.
Like I said, these guys are basically here to slow the enemy down and give you something to mutate. So let me talk about an issue with the deck. There’s just way too many of these guys. It’s a funny thing that the Demagogue has a decently strong economy engine but all his little weenie units cost nothing. As I mentioned earlier, you need to spend money (mutations) with the Filth in order to make money (pull those mutations from the discard). Your cultists don’t help with this. So you want to use your first few mutations as magic fuel in your recurring engine but in order to get that engine going you need to spend it on mutations.
What the Demagogue wants is a common he can spend money on. But without further purchases, you’re going to hope that you get a few mutations in your early draws and hope you don’t draw too many cultists that you might have to throw out for magic just so you can draw more cards on your next turn.
Long story short, you can get very screwed by your draws in the first couple of turns. And if the opponent is rushing into your face you kind of need to throw your cultists to the field to protect yourself. But if you end up throwing too many cultists in an early defence, you could run out of targets to mutate once you’ve established a large economic advantage to afford an army of gibbering mutants.
And the great unspeakable ones forbid that you don’t manage to draw any walls to defend yourself in that early rush.
So, to summarize the mutations really quickly, they’re all good. Some let you be an aggressive bruiser. Some can easily let you go for an assassination. Some let you just smash face real good.
What I want to talk about instead is the weaknesses of mutations. And yes, they have them. Mainly, you only have eight of them. And if these things end up in your opponent’s discard pile, you’re stuffed. Losing mutations, especially key ones, can be crippling to the Filth game. It’s why even the mewling Cloaks can be a threat if they’re floating an Assassinate event to murder your horror mutant. And if you’re trying to use them for your economy, you’re kind of cutting into how many you can be throwing to the field.
So there’s this weird game of who gets the last whack on your mutant moles. While most factions will often try and kamikaze their high attack value injured units to maximize damage, the Filth kind of rush to get the last kill so they can grab that mutation from their discard again. And if you go in for assassination attempts and lose the mutation, it is a rather troubling loss. That said, you can swap mutations during your summoning phase, so rescuing an important mutation is easy if it survives the enemy’s turn. And if you use a lower health mutation you can even get the magic for the death when the wounds transfer.
So you need to kind of baby these little guys. Not too much, though, because they are monsters. But don’t get lulled into a false sense of invulnerability if you manage to get four or so of these guys on the board at once.
Anyway, the bestial mutant is good for rushing into an enemy’s face but isn’t so valuable that you’re sad to lose him.
This guy is your answer to champions. Because, you know, you’re not really running them yourself. And he’ll straight up murder them. He can be used for money if your opponent is only going commons on you. If they decide to switch gears later, just yank him from the discard and you’re good to go.
I use this guy to get my economy going. He’s decent as a roadblock early on not a terrible loss if he goes into the enemy’s magic pile. I never get ignore pain to do anything for me but my sister manages to eat tons of wounds with him.
Another excellent engine starter. I get that he’s meant to assist your mutant assault by taking wounds off your guys but I find that it’s rare to have him around by then. He’s good at blocking lanes and delaying the game with that six health for three magic. I mostly use him for magic, though.
Horror mutant is a terror (har har) for melee factions and a very strong attacker. Three attack at 3 magic is a good price point and her wonderful face will limit the number of people that can beat her up. If you do have an edible mutant out, you want him on her coat tails to keep the horror mutant going as long as possible. Take note that she scares everyone including summoners which can be legitimately terrifying for your enemy. Try not to lose her even though the enemy will be putting everything into killing her.
Spewie is pretty good, especially if you need a strong defender. Her stomach acid works on walls too if you really want to try and bust them. There’s not a long of range option in the mutation pile which makes her stand out.
I actually really love the tentacle. It can reach anywhere and gets into the most difficult spots. And he’s just the right fit too.
I find that’s he’s one of the best early defensive options. You can plop the tentacle behind the wall and keep attackers from hurting your summoning point. He’s a threat behind shielded cultists and zealots. And he costs next to nothing so you can afford him nearly from the get go. Honestly, if I don’t draw him in my opening hand (or if I’m going first because the enemy is a jerk), I’ll usually mutagist him out. He doesn’t have a lot of use late game either, so losing him isn’t terrible.
This is probably my favourite mutation. Wingie wins games. She’s hard to hide from and she hits like a twenty pound gorilla truck. This is the mutation you want to save as much as possible. Though, it’ll be hard because she’s apt to fly over several walls and be on her own.
So, yeah. As you can see, the Filth are really strong. They’re also really fun. Both of us love playing the demon cult even if they have such a profound effect on the game. They do kind of force your opponent into being aggressive, allowing you to leverage that sweet, sweet defender advantage. But when you get a bestial, winged and horror mutant bearing down on their screaming, trembling, and pant-wetting summoner, it’s hard to not have a crazed grin on your face.
Also, can I just take a moment to say how much I love the art? I normally do nothing but rag on it but whoever directed this faction was really, really good. Using the cultist and zealot as bases for the mutation and also keeping their designs distinct and interesting was just brilliant. And some of those mutations are quite horrifying, lending a very strong visual representation for that delightfully wicked theme.
Oh, am I forgetting something? Do we really have to talk about it?
The Abomination (0M-7W-8M-Writhing Spawn)
He truly is an abomination. Play this guy only if you really want to throw your game.