Once More onto the Breach
Moyra and her Vargath Vanguard (hereafter known as the Mountain Vanguard because it’s more pleasing) concludes the last of our bottom factions of the Summoner Wars Alliances tournament. Of all the bottom factions, she is perhaps the most interesting one too. I originally predicted the mountain vanguard placing low in my preview article and while the final results are close to my soothsaying, it’s not for the reasons I’d conceived. Truly, and this is perhaps the most surprising result from the tournament, what held the mountain vanguard back was that they are actually the hardest faction to play out of the box.
Weird, I know. You wouldn’t think that looking over their commons. But it’s true. The one faction considered the best for beginning players to learn is also the hardest of the batch to master (or, at the very least, perform well). I think this is because the more “difficult” factions have strong elements that can compensate for not understanding the deck design with the sole exception of the Sand Cloaks. Moyra also goes against the established wisdom of traditional Summoner Wars decks. She needs to be upfront and centre, the lynchpin of her forces and the pivot around which everything else turns. Every other summoner wants to hide in his back lines, goading his opponents to cross the threshold or extending his powers across the board. Not Moyra. She has an incredibly limiting two space range on near all her abilities. This is similar to the vargath design and I held that this would be Moyra’s downfall.
And for the first half of the tournament, it was. Sundervered demonstrated that a forward summoner is inherently weak since it pushes the player into disadvantaged positions and taking wounds on their leader which draws defeat ever closer. And unlike the vargath, Moyra has no way to extract herself from a terrible situation. She’s committed to the noble leader role or else her forces crumble despite inheriting the vanguard’s durability. In fact, for being a vargarth vanguard alliance, there’s very little vanguard in the force. Perhaps this is due to the fact that the parent factions share so much in common in the first place but the one distinguishing ability of the vanguard–their healing–is found on only one card in the entire deck. And this healing is very directed, denying most of Moyra’s forces its benefits.
That said, I suspect if we were to do the tournament over again, Moyra would wrestle a top position and have the potential to even rise into the finals. She accumulated her three wins all in the last three rounds with the first representing a significant turning point in her development.
For on the fourth round I had discovered the secret to Moyra.
My greatest contribution ever to Summoner Wars is this: place one of your die on your draw deck as a reminder to use Moyra’s Divine Presence before you draw. You see, it’s incredibly easy to forget to trigger Moyra’s ability. And we are playing with strict rules in our tournaments. If you miss a play window to perform an ability, then you can not do it. For the first couple of matches, Moyra kept forgetting to inspire her troops and was, essentially, without any ability in those battles. But that die on your draw pile prevents you from picking up your cards for the next round before you give the bonus attack and movement for your unit. And I think part of Moyra’s balance is insuring that you trigger that ability before you know what you can play.
And while the consistent bonus attack no doubt contributed to her sudden win rate, I think it also pushed us into a more tactical mindset. Moyra, above all others, is the queen of board positioning. She must own the centre of the table or else she will fail. However, conquering that important space is her specialty. She’s meant to march like a roman phalanx across the enemy lines, forcing them to throw up walls and units in inefficient positions to stop the juggernaut. All the while, her commons crowd around her, making Moyra impenetrable as a great wall of defenders and crusaders survive round after round of abuse. Cheribum weave in and out, laying down covering fire, removing key targets and being generally enormous nettling threats. Once a path is cleared, the little children flutter forth with their bows of light striking crippling shots into the summoner. And most will fall to three attacks from the little angels.
But the best part is, if no opening is afforded, Moyra is alright with that as well. She has the sustainability to win a long slug fest. Walls aren’t a true hinderance as she can easily crowd them and bring them down in a few rounds. Holes in her ranks are easily filled and if you manage to strike numerous wounds upon her, she is guaranteed to heal back up–fresh as ever–in the late game with the ever guiding hand of Father Benjamin. And the much improved event suite over Sundervered’s is important. Change Form is the only one that saw minimal use in our games but everything else had a significant role to play. Divine Intervention keeps the all important cherubims fluttering, blinding light makes reinforcement turns possible or sustains a wild charge forward. And Lightning Strike insures that either one wall or one champion is rendered wasteful. Two automatic wounds will make Turt and Bauble hesitate. It will set up the Cave Filth’s cheap champions for destruction on your attack phase. And even if there’s no champion on the board, it will wreck walls or Hogar’s foolishly enchanted ice golems.
It’s strong but different and victory hinges on expert placement. As Moyra becomes more knowledgeable of her opponent’s capabilities, she’s able to turn those tools to covering any weaknesses the enemy seeks to exploit while dropping her heavy attacks against their own vulnerabilities. It’s a hammer and anvil style of play and once you grasp it, it is incredibly effective.
Moyra (3M-7W-Divine Presence)
Divine Presence dictates how you will always play Moyra. You must keep her advancing with her armies. This has the downside of making your assaults slower as you must insure she has a front line to stand behind while using up a movement for, generally speaking, taking a position from which she won’t attack. But you need her within two spaces of her forces for that bonus die. That die, however, turns all her units into incredibly cost efficient units. You can get defenders that would cost most summoners two magic for half the cost. The extra movement typically means that reinforcements can catch up or that cherubims can get into position for their soft step into a deadly firing lane. Divine Presence also forces Moyra playing a very common heavy style. Thankfully, all her commons support that style.
Three attack does mean that any assaults which pierce Moyra’s common shield will fall to her counter attack. Seven wounds insures that she won’t balk at the first sign of trouble. Furthermore, her courage is steeled with the knowledge that Father Benjamin is waiting in the wings to splash her with water and pass on a Gatorade. Don’t take these stats for granted, however. She is not meant to be a dominant player in the back and forth combat. She is the final crushing blow, not the starting strike. You must insure that she is covered on all sides. Also, remember that she does not trigger most of her commons abilities either. She does not qualify for Hold the Line (even with a Change Form), though she does strengthen it. She won’t pick up the crusader’s shining aura either if she decides to pretend that she’s a cute little girl archer.
Also, don’t be afraid of divine intervention. It turns all wounds from an attack into one. While no one wants to wound their summoner, you do have a healing option and–if you’re positioning well–these are quite often the only wounds you’ll be taking. Furthermore, pulling a champion’s three hits into one on a target well buried in your phalanx can be game winning. It makes your exchanges incredibly one-sided. It keeps assassinating cherubims in position applying game winning pressure. You do have three of them, however, so don’t worry about hauling them through turns either. You just need one at key moments as a combined Lightning Strike and Divine Intervention will likely allow you to effortlessly remove an expensive enemy champion from the board with minimal losses.
And Moyra has no inherent magic economy so gaining it through combat superiority is her only way to seal victory. Make sure you’re fighting lots but also that you’re winning all those fights. Force enemies to target less key components of your phalanx. Unlike other factions, you’re game plan isn’t to give them no targets but lots of bad targets. Once you start leaving your opponent turns to choose between attacking full health, tough crusaders in the hopes of bringing down the attacks of Father Ben and cherubims, throwing expensive units in solo assaults against your back line artillery or praying to the dice gods they can bring down that entrenched and wounded defender then you know you’re doing your job well. Whatever survives your next turn–and something will–is going to get a free chant of growth anyway and should the unfortunate victim even miss once, you’re going to insure that they get punished for it.
The hardest part of Moyra is remembering to use her presence and it’s key to her success. When playing against Moyra, don’t let them get away with “forgetting” to trigger it especially if the opponent sees their hand. Part of Moyra’s difficulty is keeping track of your casualties and your likely draws so you know which unit can be aggressive and which need protection. That beginning of your turn decision is important so don’t make it flippantly. Once you stop seeing it as simply “one free die” but the wheel which directs your ship you’ll start to really unlock Moyra’s potential.
When I saw this unit, I knew it would be the best. These little guys and gals are the whole reason for this deck. They have slippery swiftness, making sure they can move through your column to get into attacking position. They’re two ranged attack so long as they’re within two spaces of a crusader when they notch their bow. They’re three attack if Moyra inspires them. Truthfully, they’re apt to be pumped more by crusaders than Moyra but that’s still alright. You’ve only paid one magic for them and it’s a steal for everything you get. And when the opponent realizes that their power is being pulled from the crusader, they’ll be tempted to turn their attention away from the little angels and towards the heavily armoured knights. And you want them striking the knights.
Cherubim are one of those units which you’ll play every single one of them and wish your deck had more. Be sure to always keep one in hand, however, for those final turns. It’s amazing how often a summoner will put himself in a bad position in the last moments going for desperate set-ups that can then be perfectly exploited by the hoofed children.
The crusader is your most important piece of your phalanx but also the one which you need to field the least. Most of these guys will be built for magic. Their two cost is generally more than you’ll want to swallow. For the most part, you want to keep them decently protected. They’re support units all the way. They’re there to make cherubim hit harder and defenders defender better. They’re the perfect personal guard for Moyra as their three health will keep them around far longer than the opponent will want. They’re also apt to have a natural Lumbering like defence thanks to Moyra and a forward defender. They’re funny in that you don’t want them dead but you kind of want them attacked sporadically to ease pressure on your other forces. Play them as though they’re your favourite child but simply shrug if they fall. When battles start going sideways, they’re likely going to be Moyra’s target and a two attack, three health is decent enough.
There’s not much strategy to them. Keep them close, keep them safe and let them just make everything better.
I was rather flippant of these guys but I love them. It’s true that you’ll get them up to needing five or higher dice rolls to kill and still watch them fall to a single two ranged attack. However, they’re equally likely to survive three rounds of attacks and that’s an incredibly demoralizing result for your opponent. And if you get two of them beside each other, they both feed off the other’s abilities and gain toughness. They are your front line and they’re incredibly effective at it. Keep pumping them with Moyra and their attacks will wear your opposition down. This is your anvil. Defenders have a tendency of being tougher than they have any right and being dirt cheap to boot. Be quick with your reinforcements when they fall and you’ll find that they’ll keep your phalanx going indefinitely.
Keep in mind, however, that they can not cover summoners or champions. They do nothing by themselves when beside Moyra or Qayla. A solitary defender is a sad defender. These units do, however, improve the line. Your defenders are the pieces which determine your column’s shape. Angle it so the opponent’s attack options are positioned against units boosted by the most units. You want the closest or only target to be beside two or three mountain vanguard and one of those has to be a defender. This will give your commons persistent Blinding Light. For the most part, you want these two front liners to be defenders but in practice this won’t always hold. Ultimately, your goal is to force your opponent to go after these guys to soften up the rest of your forces. Every time your enemy has to attack a target they don’t want in order to get at the target they do pulls you ever closer to victory.
Daddy B himself. This is your best champion even though he’s expensive as all get out. He’s inherently one more magic than his stats are worth. His ability then requires you to spend even more magic in order to trigger. It’s a bitter pill you simply have to swallow because what he brings to the table is too vital to pass. Big Daddy B is your answer to the late game, a surprise collapse of a phalanx or persistent bad luck that’s dragging you down. You’ll almost always toss him on the bottom of your deck to insure he comes at the end when you won’t be stressing over how to spend your magic. Don’t worry about the trigger for his ability. While needing him to die (and thus giving your opponent the power to determine its trigger) by the enemy’s hand would be a huge negative, in practice, Daddy B will get himself killed every game. He’s funny because, while you spend most of your game trying to keep all your forces staying well past their welcome, Daddy B is pulled to the field specifically to push daisies. Get him near a crusader and your enemy will go for him every time. They have to! Three ranged attack is not something anyone can truly ignore. Four health is too tempting to pass up. He’s the old man with a death wish and that’s precisely why he’s the champion you always want to make sure you afford. But keep in mind that he’s effectively a seven to nine cost champion (making him one of the most expensive in the game) and don’t ever put him on the field without making sure you have enough magic to heal when he does collapse.
Korbolden is the hideous growth on an otherwise extremely attractive woman. It’s the blemish that you keep telling yourself not to stare at but you can’t politely ignore. Korbolden is bad. Nah, Korbolden is one of the worst champions in the game. I literally lost a match because I put him to the table. Never, and I repeat this, NEVER play Korbolden. Build him for magic. He’s Tundra Guild Balanced and yet another reminder that Plaid Hat’s design is all across the board. I would have railed against Father Benjamin’s prohibitive costs more and how it seems mindlessly high for what it accomplishes had Father Benjamin not served a necessity that you will begrudgingly pay every time.
Korbolden has no such purpose. Korbolden is just pure, unadulterated shit. Let’s look at him. According to the SSCF, he is priced at 9 magic. His stats are 1 attack plus 1 ranged plus six health for a whopping 8 magic worth. Out the gate, Korbolden costs you one more magic than what you’d expect. Thus, he must have an ability that is worth this extra cost.
Nope, he has an ability that costs extra magic. Thus, he will forever be at best overpriced by one magic (and taking the hit in his attack value too which is the last thing you want to lower). Hilariously, though, it gets worse. In order to trigger his ability, you have to be adjacent to your target and, thusly, negate the ranged bonus for which you paid extra. Alright, so even making the foolish choice to try and us his ability now makes the champion overpriced by two magic. And we haven’t even started electrocuting yet!
Electrocute itself is a poor ability. In effect, it costs one magic. But, unlike every other card ability that costs one magic, this one adds the double whammy of never being fueled by your opponent’s units. Thus, it always costs you a card from your deck to pull off. Why is this bad? He is an early game champion but with a mid to late game cost. Korbolden is useless the moment you deck yourself. He forces you to stuff your hand on the assumption you’re going to hit (and if you don’t, you’ve now not summoned or played an event because you assumed you’d be spending it). If you have intentions of using him again, you’ll be holding onto extra cards and not building them for magic otherwise you run the risk of getting a hand of necessary cards and having nothing to fuel his ability (thus leaving him exposed and weakened). And, of course, there’s the further weakness that you can’t rely on his ability since he does crap all if he misses (especially since that means he did no damage). He’s designed to take on champions with the potential for auto-wounding and he gets destroyed by all of them by trying to man fight while falling victim to any abilities that make his opponents tougher (like Lumbering). On top of it all, if you do pull it off, he’s now overpriced by three (naturally overpriced, not actually ranged and now you’ve spent a magic to use him). Each turn you do succeed with him drives his cost up further and further.
There is nothing good about this card. Hilariously, I assume the designer thought he was balanced because he’s priced as a two ranged, six health champion even though his ability lets him be a three ranged one instead! No doubt this was considered a one magic saving! In practice, he’s an incredibly swingy one wound or three wound champion who is never worth the price of putting him on the table. There is no situation where you wouldn’t be better served by playing one of Moyra’s commons. They’re one sixth (or one third) the price, they hit harder with Moyra’s presence and they can get improved by crusaders and/or defenders. All of these bonuses come for free and you can get up to six more for the cost of this useless goat.
Don’t ever play Korbolden.
Alas, wherein Moyra’s commons are steals in terms of value, all her champions are not. But unlike Father Ben, neither Korbolden or Qayla require you to play them. Qayla has the distinction of not being utter rubbish, however she’s not someone you’ll see often either. At seven magic, she’s one magic more than her stats are worth but Form Rank isn’t that powerful to really compensate for that price. It’s good and I won’t argue otherwise. Simply put, it’s not necessary. And the seven needed for her can be banked up for Father Ben instead. You’ll only really see Qayla when you’re ahead in the game and she basically keeps Moyra’s advantage rolling instead of turning the tables. Forming rank lets you reinforce an assault incredibly easily and three attack on her means you’ll have the luxury of doing two pronged assaults. But if you’re under pressure or you draw her early, there’s no point even debating whether to try and get her out.
She’s ok but she simply does not offer enough that spending her magic on more commons wouldn’t give. If I were deck building, I’d probably cut her simply because the times you really want champions are the times when you wouldn’t select Qayla. While she cements a lead, I’d rather have something that can pull me back from being on the back foot. For that, I need something either with a killer ability that isn’t offered anywhere else (Father Ben) or some cheap, hard units that can do more than what my commons would do. Since Moyra is all about super powered commons, there are very few candidates that fulfill those requirements. Varn gives you more power for less magic, Leah can use a great Father Ben reserve while utilizing your crusaders and Coleen can make your phalanx really impregnable (and gets boosted by crusaders yet again but crusaders were essentially designed to make bad Vanguard champions not suck).
Moyra is perhaps the best example of the Alliances shift of focus from champion gameplay to common units. I’m curious to see how these decks will measure up against the older factions which have a number of events that hate against commons. The large amount of units needed for Moyra to form her phalanx will open her up to reinforcements, magic drain and into shadows that could prove to be problematic for her style. That said, outside of her problematic champions, Moyra is a well constructed deck who I’m excited to see played more as her style gets refined. But unlike the last couple of factions, there’s lots of strength in her composition demonstrated in her abilities to take down the higher performing factions once we wrapped our heads around her mechanics.
So don’t let her seemingly simplistic cards fool you. Moyra is a complicated but powerful summoner prepared to take on any comers. She focuses on a tactic that has been absent from the game for so long I’m not even certain what would make a good counter to her. But if she’s a herald for a new era of Summoner Wars strategy, then I welcome her with open arms.