I Made A Thing Part 2
So last week I showed off the second summoner for my custom Summoner Wars faction: the Sylvan Vargath. There were several design goals I hoped to achieve with this deck. I wanted to make a melee focused force that were hyper aggressive but did not rely on free units to score an economy advantage over their opponents. Instead, I wanted to try and create a more expensive troupe that was too tough to kill before they got across the board. Furthermore, I wanted them to balance on a very thin edge by getting a number of bonuses for being wounded even though that brought them closer to death. My final challenge was to wrap all these mechanics in a flavour that gave a wild and dark impression as though the force were fashioned from the rejects and outcasts of a fantasy society.
Andrasteia and her events represented the hard to arrange but powerful if you did concept. A number of her events require very specific triggers before they can occur with, perhaps, the Child of Nyx stealing the show as a powerful one attack, four wound conjuration that has the potential to do up to three wounds every Sylvan Vargath round.
Now we’ll cover the forces that work beneath Andrasteia. Here, the concept of fringe society is really pushed to its limits. And we’ll see the question brought up again and again: what is the price one is willing to pay for power?
Barbaros (1M-2W-2M-Untamed Heart) – 6
Untamed Hearth – When moving this Barbaros, you may move up to 1 additional space. If this Barbaros moved through 3 different spaces this turn, increase its Attack Value by 1.
Ah, the Barbaros. I thought this guy was going to be super underwhelming. It almost falls into the Plaid Hat “one card must be trash in every deck” design. However, the first game my sister played with the Sylvan Vargath abused the hell out of these guys. They are designed to be a 2 melee, 2 wound common for 2 magic. At six in a deck, you’ll be able to reliably find them in any decent amount of draws. But in order for them to be worth their price, these guys have to run otherwise you’re overspending two magic for some rather lackluster stats. In comparison, the Shadow Elf Swordsman is a 2 melee, 1 wound for one magic that can move an additional space. So how are these guys suppose to be any good?
Well, for one you will make them run and having multiple three space moving units hitting for two melee can get bewildering. They can block lanes or threaten summoners are just a slightly larger range. Most importantly, they’re fantastic targets for Andrasteia’s Shroud of the Mother since this can increase their movement by a really impossible to predict amount. Best case scenario is you summon a fresh Barbaros, play Shroud to hop that Barbaros to a unit two spaces in front of a mid-board Andrasteia then run him three more spaces to strike some backliner–preferably the opponent’s summoner. That’s five plus squares that can be achieved by as many Barbaros which qualify for the maneuver.
While I was rather unimpressed with them when creating them, I don’t think I would buff the Barbaros either. Sure, you have to work in order to make him not be an overpriced Guardian Knight but his unassuming stats make him easy for the enemy to ignore. He also needs, on average, three dice to statistically bring down and if you leave him wounded he can threaten a Retribution on his turn before running off and punching some sucker or a wall in the face. Or blocking for Andrasteia and turning into a Child.
Vates (1M-3W-2M-Blasphemous Rites) – 7
Blasphemous Rites – This Vates may move through other Units but must end its turn on an unoccupied space. If wounded, move 1 extra space and roll a die every time this Vates moves through a unit. On a result of 3 or higher, place 1 wound on the passed unit. Otherwise, place 1 wound on this Vates.
Yerp, that’s movement. Here’s two commons at two magic for one attack. But both focus on turning out extra dice through other means. I like the Vates myself, though they have a tendency for blowing themselves up on me than actually throwing out three wounds. Truthfully, it took a long time to create this common and it wasn’t until I decided that I wanted a deck that turned on abilities as its units drew closer to death that I settled on this design. The moving through units was important so a defensive player couldn’t easily block off their summoner from the Sylvan Vargath charge. At three movement, you have to stack your defenders quite deep to keep them out.
It wasn’t until I settled on the design I realized I’d just created a common Satara. And I love Satara and think she’s bonkers. So I added the self wounding for the failed attacks they get when they pass through units. It’s a gamble but one that can be quite painful if you’re lucky. Since the majority of units in Andrasteia’s army are melee, it means that the opponent generally gets to focus their attention at killing each unit one by one and the Vates being incredibly unthreatening without wounds makes them perfect targets for a Child’s range attack. Their three health makes them far harder to focus down in one turn if they’re fresh too. With seven in the deck, they’re kind of the bread and butter of Andrasteia’s forces though, despite my love for them, I find I don’t summon that many in a game.
Hamadryas (3M-3W-4M-Deep Roots) – 5
Deep Roots – Abilities and Events may not exchange or place this Hamadryas or enemy Units adjacent to this Hamadryas. When moving adjacent enemy units, they must move at least 2 clear straight line spaces away from this Hamadryas or they may not move.
This is the reason you don’t see many Vates. There is but one other common with the same stat and that’s the Swamp Orc Savager. Which is a pity because I really like the three attack, three wound line. It makes them hit hard but fall fast. Hamadryas having a confusing ability (sorry about that) which is designed specifically to feed of Andrasteia’s Inescapable Night. So what does it mean? Any enemy beside a Hamadryas gets caught in the tree spirit’s entangling clutches and must spend all of their movement escaping them or face that terrible three melee attack. These are the bodyguards for Andrasteia. Enemy forces trying to skirt around your army to strike your summoner get stuck against these tree spirits and in order to break free have to move out of position from hitting Andrasteia. Even worse, if they’re on the wrong side of the Hamadryas and within Andrasteia’s Night they can’t move at all because they lack the number of movement points to run away.
And this triggers on enemy units. That includes conjurations and summoners! Yes, Andrasteia can lock down an enemy summoner with a Hamadryas and Night. This doesn’t happen that frequently, that 3 wound stat coming in strong here. But given that these spirits are almost always beside Andrasteia, they’re the motivation the Sylvan Vargath outcast needs in order to have souls to entice those Children onto the field. A Hamadryas at one health is still a terrible foe and obstacle and your opponent will rather have the Child flinging wounds on the board than deal with this very effective blocker.
So what’s the downside? Hamadryas can not move with Shroud. Which is for the best as they could have had some crazy combo turns if I had not put this restriction in. However, it’s also a boon as it prevents tricky plays through Silts Cunning, Woeful Brother’s Swift Maneuver or anything else that shifts opponents. However, not all is lost as Hamadryas can be moved by Controllers, Brutes and the like. So Andrasteia has to be mindful that her defence isn’t impenetrable. It’s just very tough. And kind of scary.
Lycaon (3M-6W-8M-Cursed Blood) – 1
Cursed Blood – Once per turn, after attacking with Lycaon you may place 2 wounds on an adjacent Sylvan Vargath Unit you control and immediately attack with Lycaon one additional time.
So… yeah. This is a thing.
One of the original weaknesses of the Sylvan Vargath was I intentionally designed them to be poor against enemy champions. The first summoner produced so many wounds against commons that they could cleave through other common focused forces with great ease but a strong, tanky champion like Gror or Krung could really do some damage. I didn’t want to create a silver bullet with the second summoner but since Andrasteia doesn’t create nearly the same attack bonuses as the original summoner, I felt like there should be an option to deal with a single, massive target.
Lycaon is that answer. Six attack is pretty unprecedented. Lycaon can, with some luck, one shot the majority of the game’s summoners. But to do this, you have to maim a unit. Also, eight magic is a massive sink on par with the aforementioned Krung. Only Hellfire Drake is more expensive but there’s no way to reduce the cost of champions in the Sylvan Vargath like there are in the Fallen Kingdom. And you’re only getting six health for that investment as well. He’s probably the most fragile of the highest priced champions. I feel like he’d be rarely played and often for Hail Mary situations.
The other thing to keep in mind is that nothing in this deck is cheap. All the commons cost two or more magic and now they have one of the most expensive champions? There’s some tough magic management built into the Sylvan Vargath which adds an extra layer of complexity to an already complex faction. This is not a beginner deck and Lycaon is perhaps the most straightforward of the three champions.
Still… you can one shot summoners…
Diactoros (1M-6W-6M-Tranquil Envoy) – 1
Tranquil Envoy – When Diactoros is not adjacent to any Unit you control, reduce the Attack Value of all enemy Commons and Champions within 2 spaces of Diactoros by 1. A Unit’s Attack Value may not go below 0 from this ability.
Alright, I really struggled with pricing this champion. His wording is designed specifically so he doesn’t make the first Sylvan Vargath summoner stupid broken. But since Andrasteia has a bunch of single units running all across the board on their own, keeping them away from the Envoy is pretty easy. So what does Diactoros do? He adds toughness to your army without actually adding health to your units. He shuts down sections of the board, stripping units of their ability to wound your forces.
I won’t lie, I have no idea of this guy is incredibly broken or not. He has a big question mark over him in terms of balance. He almost all but shuts down common play where I feel the majority only have one attack value. At six health, he’s incredibly difficult to bring down as well. The only saving grace is that he has but one attack value so if he does get into a fight with a tough opponent, he’ll probably fold… eventually. The range on his ability is also very strict because, once again, I’m unsure if it is even suitable for Summoner Wars or not. I think he hit the table once during our few playtests which is why I’m so unsure of him.
I do like the theme I built around him, however. He’s like the Sylvan Vargath peace ambassador that just happens to be bombing around the area when Andrasteia attacks. He’s not really part of her forces (he loses his ability if beside an ally) but all he wants to do is spread peace and tranquility so he doesn’t really interfere either. Just another outcast of society trying to change the world the best he can.
The Horned Priest (2M-4W-4M-Presence of Cernunnos) – 1
Presence of Cernunnos – Instead of attacking with The Horned Priest you may target an adjacent wounded Common Sylvan Vargath Unit you control. The target Unit may move up to 2 spaces and attack with an additional 1 Attack Value. If it fails to kill an enemy unit, place 1 wound on it.
So we’ve gone from one of the most expensive champions to one of the cheapest. This is my idea of a hard “support” champion. Despite being a champion, The Horned Priest has statistics akin to a common unit. So what does he offer?
Well quite a bit, actually. And that’s partly because I discovered he was super over-priced the first iteration I did. Originally, he just let another common attack a second time with a free move but to give up his attack to do this proved to be incredibly useless. But with the additional 1 to the attack value, things get more interesting. First, he can push those Barbaros into their Untamed Heart territory through that extra movement. They can then be three attacks at over five spaces! He can make those Hamadryas suddenly hit for four dice. Wounded Vates can pass through even more enemies. He does something for every single common that he shouldn’t ever be a bad choice no matter what your board state is. Furthermore, he can hang in the back, constantly propelling units forward with two additional movement, encouraging them again and again to draw more and more blood for his mysterious unspoken deity.
Oh, and did I mention that he turns Vates Rites on if they fail to get kills so even if your target whiffs you’re still getting a bonus? And he opens up that boosted Barbaros or Hamadryas for a Retribution if they’re not killed on the opponent’s turn?
Suddenly, spending the four magic on him doesn’t seem so bad.
The one downside is that he only triggers adjacent enemies so placement does get tricky. But you aren’t forced to move his target so Vates and Barbaros can still hit for a decent two attack and protect the priest at the same time. And he turns Hamadryas bodyguards into little murder machines. He’s not really a game changer like most champions are, however, but I feel that plays better into a common focused deck. Your commons are suppose to steal the show and the Horned Priest gives them all the spotlight to shine.
And this is why I’m reluctant to improve the Barbaros even further. The deck really needs to take together all its pieces and, while on a card-to-card basis it may be weaker to similar offerings in other factions, as a whole it brings a whole lot more to the table. I think this is the direction to design a faction. Fill it with pieces that all work together so that a player is reluctant to deck build them out. While I have a reinforcement pack designed, I don’t know what I would replace. I would certainly experiment with some of the new pieces but it does leave a difficult question of what I remove for the new toys. This is in stark contrast to other factions like the Sand Goblins where you’re more than happy to drop all those useless Scavengers from your list as soon as possible.
So how does this deck fare? Honestly, it has lost more games in testing than it’s won. Granted, it has a small sample size and, more importantly, its facing decks that we’re far more familiar playing. It has a rather high skill ceiling for the game, however. More importantly, it’s fun and I can’t help but grin every time I pull off a new trick even if it doesn’t win me the match.