Raiders of the Lost Art
Here’s a stroll down memory lane. I’m out of town, visiting a friend and house sitting when my buddy turns to me and asks, “Would you like to play a game?”
From the next room comes the massive box and I’m left wondering what I agreed to as a great board and numerous chits are scattered before me. There’s the frantic scratches of some forgotten general faded beneath the columns of spacious squares. He hands me a deck of cards.
“This is called Summoner Wars.”
I was playing the Sand Goblins, though that didn’t mean anything to me at the time. I can’t remember who he played. I want to say it was the Benders. All I know is that he taught me the game wrong, something I only learned later that night when I went online to check what other factions were in this strange but wonderful game.
I’m pretty sure I lost, by the way.
And I’ve been keeping that tradition strong ever since.
The losing with the Sand Goblins, not the obsessive online researching. Though, hm, maybe I’ve kept up with both.
Anyway, I’ve always liked the little Sand Goblins. This was before I learned they were suppose to be really good. Bolstered by the fact that providence had delivered me a great faction, I pulled them out against hapless victim after victim.
And I got trounced each time.
I don’t know why, but I simply can’t get these critters to do anything. They’re good. I can see that. I look at them and recognize that they’re good. But they just don’t work for me no matter what strategy I try.
My sister was the same way. In our first tournament, the Sand Goblins were second last, just beating the Cloaks but failing to edge out the Mountain Vargath. Our games outside our little tournaments continued this trend. The Sand Goblins just weren’t clicking for whatever reason. Chalk it up to personality differences or something.
Then the Big Ticket Tournament happened. Everything we thought we knew turned out to be wrong. The little goblins that could rose right up to third place, displacing some personal favourites from the tournament. Tacullu and Tundle were just several victims of these desert raiders. Even more shocking was that they rode this wave solely on my sister’s back. I didn’t get a single win with them and kept choosing their opponent expecting their “lucky streak” to break.
Even more baffling is that this faction isn’t well geared for the headlong rushing that my sister adores. I can’t explain it. I wish I could. I can’t tell if this is evidence of my sister’s good fortune or my bad luck. I’m certainly not going to attribute it to Kait’s strategic skill, that’s for sure!
Krusk is, I dare say, pretty average. Baseline statistics, average ability, ranged attack. It’s all nothing extraordinary. His ability is a decent 3 spaces and his events are global, so Krusk is going to skulk his back line just like any other typical summoner. He’s kind of forgettable back there and I certainly have a tendency to neglect his ability during a match.
But let’s talk about sandstorm.
At 2 magic, it’s not the cheapest thing on the block. I complained about Endrich’s geopathic command for costing 1 magic. This is twice as expensive. It’s limited by the same range though Krusk has a bit more health so him being in risk of receiving a hit or two isn’t going to end your game. You can target both enemies and allies, however, and it’s a bit of utility in that it can both move and damage targets. Granted, if you’re using it on your own units, you won’t be too happy about that self-harming bit.
It can get a unit into position or even finish off a trooper to deny your opponent the magic. Best case scenario is shifting an enemy into a firing lane and getting a hit on them but at 2 magic, you’re really not going to use this ability unless it’s going to have a major game effecting play.
Personally, I’m not a huge fan but I can recognize its niche use. It’s fine in the sense that a summoner and his deck don’t rely upon their ability. Endrich proved that.
Krusk’s events are a bit of a mixed bag as well. I resent Shiny. I’ve tried to get some use from it but not only is it hard to set-up but your opponent has full control over whether it can trigger at all or not. But we’ll get into how truly bad Shiny is when we discovered the much maligned scavenger. Suffice to say, it’s a bum event and basically just two magic in the deck.
Duck and Cover is interesting only because it’s so situational. It’s a powerful ability, granting conceal to all your Sand Goblins. However, it means absolutely nothing if you’re not facing an enemy that relies heavily on ranged units. It also does nothing if you’ve mostly got a bunch of javelineers on the field – a rather common occurrence if you’re facing an enemy that relies heavily on ranged units. I can’t recall a single use of it that has ever truly impacted a game. I can’t even recall it every being used to be honest. It’s seemingly a good card that’s kind of bad.
The one of is Mirage and this can be quite a powerful card. Not only does this rescue your summoning points if the game has gone completely sideways but it can also convert an early fortification into an aggressive forward barrier. It’s almost always better later than earlier, however, but we’ve had some game changing mirage plays. It’s also an event that your opponent is apt to forget since moving walls aren’t really a consideration in most match ups.
Finally, there is Taunt. I suspect this is the key to Kait’s success. I could never really get a good taunt off. Mostly because whenever I’m playing the goblins, all Kait’s commons are already adjacent to my units. Shuffling them around never seems like a necessary action. However, Kait always seems to taunt my boosted geopaths or controllers into the midst of her ranks to murder them wholesale.
The ability to move enemies and move them quite a distance is really strong and is hands down Krusk’s best event. You’ll likely be playing both of these even as the rest of your events go to the garbage. They alone are the reason I won’t say his suite is bad even if the others don’t pull their weight.
So, this is a common.
What’s there to say about Javelineers? I suppose we can start off with how 1 range attack is pretty poor. I mean, that’s the same damage as a Gunner. And those girls are awful. Oh, but the Javelineer is 2 health so they would win an exchange with a gunner. Oh, and the gunner can’t attack them in the first place without giving up their ranged attack because of camouflage.
Oh. These guys are actually pretty awesome.
They basically shut out all ranged commons single handedly. And they’re cheap, cheap, cheap. Two health on a range unit is rare and you won’t be finding it on a 1 magic unit anywhere else. The idea is that ranged units are more fragile since they get to make the first attack against their opponent. Granted, these guys do nothing against melee units but their high health can make exchanges possible against your cheap attackers. Do keep in mind that a 1 magic melee unit is likely to have the same stats.
Only downside is that one attack is abysmal against melee champions that’ll just eat these guys for breakfast. But, I mean, they’re a freaking 1 magic common!
These are the guys that made me originally comment on Plaid Hat creating all their decks with an unplayable unit who exists solely for magic fuel. I mean, I can see what they’re going for but the little jerks certainly do not do what they’re suppose to do.
So, see, it’s clear that scavengers were meant to be the core unit of a Sand Goblin army. The idea would be that they’d run around “scavenging” (please, Plaid Hat, hire a creative designer) and build up a bunch of shields to make them tanky. Then, Krusk would play Shiny and now you’ve got a bunch of 3 attack units that can’t be hurt smashing in your face.
But what do scavengers actually do?
Well, first, you aren’t going to be getting an army of them because they stifle your economy. You aren’t just killing enemy units to clear them off the board, you’re killing them because they give you a magic to use for summoning. Ever piece of “whatever” a scavenger scavenges is a point of magic that you can’t use to summon more scavengers, javelineers or shamans.
Second, these guys are natively one attack. So unless they’re facing the Cloaks, chances are they’re going to need other units to soften their target up for them to try and get their kill. They’re certainly not going to be eliminating the enemy’s forces without the use of shiny but they need to kill things in order for shiny to work. So you need the magic they’re denying in order to play the units that will let them kill the units that let them shiny and kill the enemy’s units.
Third, you get no benefit from shiny until after an enemy’s turn has passed. Unfortunately, there is no “may” in the scavenge ability. Whenever the enemy would place one or more wounds on your scavenger you must discard his scavenged shield. So this ability isn’t even making the guys particularly durable since the enemy can first attack with a low attack unit to peel off the shiny then attack with the high attack unit to kill the scavenger. Or, you know, he can just hit the scavenger once and remove the scavenged shield thus making your shiny in hand completely useless.
It’s incredibly easy to tell when Krusk is attempting to set up a shiny turn and trivially easily to stop it. Either Krusk can stuff his hand with the shiny hoping to pull it off eventually or give up on the attempt that’s already burning him potential magic with the kills he’s been setting up with the scavengers. Oh, and scavengers don’t even get a choice of whether they scavenge or not so whenever you play them to the field you’re running the risk of losing that kill’s magic.
Build them for magic and complain to Plaid Hat about how bad they are. Even a simple “may” in their ability would do wonders for them though I don’t even know I’d still play them in that circumstance (wherever they place that may in the ability).
Shamans rock. There’s not much else to say.
Alright, I’ll say a little more. But it should be evident to anyone that’s read a prior review. Though, really, at this point it should be evident even if you’ve only read this review. Two range attack for one magic is very, very good. And the shaman isn’t even burdened with a negative ability to get this very, very good stat line. Granted, if you start using escape then you’re not really getting that cost discount but you aren’t forced to use it and it can be helpful to block or clear lanes. Remember, the Cloaks are spending an extra magic to get this ability on one of their champions.
Granted, buying cost effective stats isn’t particularly sexy so I can understand why no one would be getting excited over them. But wowie, are these guys silly good.
Every now and then I’ll mention a deck’s theme. Often this was an overarching design philosophy that shaped the design of the cards. It’s a central idea which each individual piece taps into in some way. The Mountain Vargath were herbivorous bruisers – hard hitting, aggressive bullies who herded together to make themselves stronger. Deep Benders were a fusion of Deep Dwarf economic efficiency with the Bender’s trick of mimicry.
So what’s the Sand Goblins shtick? Well, I think they were meant to follow some sort of racial profile. The Cave Goblins are all about a tide of cheap bodies that rush their opponent. The Sand Goblins seem to forego the rushing element and decide to supplement their strategy with toughness but they seem to still tap into that goblin characteristic of being priced well below their peers.
So… yeah. Look at Biter. He is a whole 2 magic cheaper than you’d expect a champion with 3 melee and 6 health. He’s actually the same price as the Swamp Orc savager and Jungle Elf jungle guard who have 3 melee/3 health and 1 range/4 health respectively. That’s bananas.
To offset this discount, Biter does come with a negative ability. Crazed means that every enemy unit has a free engaged ability. It’s going to be hard wiggling this bloodthirsty goblin onto the enemy summoner as he stops to stab everything that he passes on the way. A wily summoner can keep him at bay, chipping through that health pool to bring him down. A wily Krusk has to play around his disadvantage to wield this powerhouse to his advantage. This is where that sandstorm comes in. You can clear the way for Biter with that two magic discount and get him after the enemy summoner. Even if he ends up dying on an opponent’s champion, chances are you’ll be able to take out his opponent as well and its likely that you got the better deal in that economic exchange.
Yeah, Biter is great. It’s hard to not make a deck without him. A common with a literal stat line of a champion is well worth the negative he comes with. Biter is awesome.
The Sand Goblins have two Biters in their deck?! How is that fair?
It’s not. This is why the Sand Goblins are pretty good. Their commons are cheap and powerful, allowing you to apply pressure with marginal tax on your economy. Then, when you draw your champions, you can throw them to the field to wreck faces. It’s a wonder that I don’t ever win with them.
I mean, four magic for a champion means that you can have the magic to play him in your first draw even as you pick him up!
That said, Kreep isn’t as good as Biter. Whereas Biter’s negative is he gets stuck with any old unit the enemy throws beside him, Kreep gets skittish if he’s left staring in an enemy’s eyes. Sure, it’s only a 1 in 3 chance that he’ll run off but there’s no worse feeling than rolling a pair of misses on a two health common then rolling a 2 on Kreep’s morale check and watching your fresh 4/6 champion scamper off to your discard pile.
Kreep is also significantly worse against champions than Biter. Those beefy targets can trigger morale checks multiple times. It’s also much harder to protect Kreep since your options to pull him away from opponents after his attacks are extremely limited. You really need to count on Kreep not missing whenever he steps up to the plate.
He’s ok and as a duo with Biter he’s fantastic. But he’s the kind of champion that you often want to ensure that he has backup. It’s a fantastic marriage of mechanics and theme, I’ll give them that.
Last but not least is Silts. Silts almost makes up for the discount on Kreep and Biter. Almost. His stats are actually less than you’d expect for a 6 magic champion and he costs one more. That said, his ability is definitely worth 2 magic.
Cunning has a rare trigger, letting you exchange places with a target whenever you want during your turn. And this is literally at any time. You can move one space, exchange and keep moving. You can attack with a shaman, exchange places between Silts and the enemy and let even more of your ranged army hit the poor victim.
Hell, you can make an exchange before you draw cards if you so desired, you maverick you.
And Silts can move any unit. Conjurations, summoners, champions, commons: it doesn’t matter, Silts will move with them all. This can pull Biter from some blocking weenies. This can yank Kreep away from a terrifying cowardice check. Silts can open lanes, block lanes, expose flanks and generally sow confusion and discord wherever he goes.
That said, 7 magic is a steep cost and 6 health doesn’t hold up well. Cunning protects him from reprisal with clever swaps, though, so if you’re clever you can get a lot of mileage out of this little goblin. But expect a lot of hate to come his way. He’s a more situational summon and though his ability is fantastic, it is hardly necessary. You can build him out for other options and not feel like you’re cutting off your arm in the process.
So, yeah. Here we are with the third worst of the Master Set group and the deck isn’t really that bad at all. There’s a lot of powerful cards in here, a fact my sister proved when she took the Sand Goblins to third place in the major showdown. They’ve got some tricks to them and some strong answers to things that are thrown their way.
That said, their path to victory isn’t assured and it feels like you have to play this weird back and forth game with the Sand Goblins. You’re looking to coerce the opponent into having to spend their magic inefficiently, using double or more their resources to take out your more cost effective options. They don’t have a lot of answers if someone puts them on the defensive, however. Nor are they particularly great at rushing an enemy so if the opponent has a better late game, it’s going to be tricky breaking those defences.
And though they rarely seem to co-operate with me, I still look on them fondly as the plucky little desert weirdos that got me into this strange game.