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View Full Version : Arcane's complete review of Sins of Betrayal



ArcaneAzmadi
11-02-2014, 09:59 AM
Full review of every card in Sins of Betrayal.

Welcome to my 2nd full set review. Griffin Bane wasn't a bad set, but Sins of Betrayal one-ups it with more consistancy, more variety, and less crap. I know this review is TERRIBLY late (Sins came out weeks ago) but eh, whatever.

THE GOOD:
* For the most part, the stuff the factions get is a lot less single-minded and one-dimensional. In Griffin Bane, almost EVERY card for each faction was bent towards pushing a single theme to the exclusion of everything else- breeder stacks for Inferno, Skeleton stacks for Necropolis, Bloodthirst for Stronghold etc etc. This meant that unless you were building a new deck based around these cards, there wasn't much you could actually use in your existing decks. While Sins of Betrayal still has some strong themes (Spirits and elemental creatures) there are a lot more "general use" cards that don't require you to build an entirely new deck to use them.
* Some GREAT gap filling cards plugging huge holes in the game, most notably Magic Pact (FINALLY a cost-effective, relatively easy-to-play and above all NEUTRAL way of dealing with ongoing spells and fortunes!).
* While there are a lot of good weenies in the set, the devs have been making a serious effort to make some more viable high-cost creatures. Admittedly they're mostly based around "come into play" effects, but it's a start.
* Buildings continue to be more than just a footnote in the game's history with some interesting, strong and cheap ones being added. It may be necessary to make serious consideration for anti-building cards in your deck construction.

THE BAD:
* Unfortunately, while for the MOST part one-dimensional theming has slacked off, Stronghold received the short end of the stick; they haven't been given new cards as much as an entire new deck. EVERY card Stronghold received (except for their Hero Sandor and the lousy Pao Scout) is intended for specific use in a Harpy/Centaur deck and will see little use outside of it if this rather gimmicky deck archetype fails to take off. And I honestly doubt it will. There's a crippling lack of good general-use cards that can be dropped into existing Stronghold decks.
* As has become a depressing trend, Stacking has been dropped without a trace. The ONLY card that has anything to do with Stacking in the set is the traditional "Hero released one set out of sync with the cards they're meant to be used with"- in this case, Anton, the definitive hero for Haven stack decks. Yet another interesting mechanic given a few base cards then discarded without remorse before it could get really interesting, just like Ambush.
* 3 more of the bland, boring "3 spell schools and vanilla stats" heroes. With the balance changes to make Invokers more viable (changing them to an effective 1/2/0) starting with 3 schools and 1/1/1 is no longer ANY kind of advantage. While you can still look for interesting combos to pull off with the spell schools (Sandor is the first Stronghold hero to have Dark magic access, for example) I really have no hesitation in dismissing this "class" of hero as, on average, the weakest and most boring in the game.
* I really think they could do more than 2 new events per set, and these 2 aren't much more interesting than the last 2. They're exclusively meant for themed decks and useless to everyone else.

OK, now for the cards. As before, I'm reviewing them all in the exact order that they appear on MMDoc Tools so you can keep up as you read. Unlike last time, I've traded in the A+ to D- scale for a simpler 1 to 5 star rating of the kind used by Inquest magazine. As usual, keep in mind that I haven't had time to actually TEST most of these cards, these are just my initial impressions from looking at them and theorising.

DISCLAIMER: I know I'm going to get a lot of "OMG you think this card is good, you noob, this card sux!" answers. What can I say, I have a creative mind a generous spirit and a fondness for strategies OTHER than Rush.

SCALE:
***** A must-use or game-breaker
**** Very strong, likely to be a staple
*** Decent, may well find use in certain decks
** Underpowered, only of use in very specific or gimmicky decks
* Crap, a card you'll almost certainly never use

HEROES

Anastasya
Ouch. This girl HURTS. Her stats and spell schools aren't particularly special (although Dark+Primal is always a good combination) but her ability just gives her UNPARALLELED creature control. Being able to drop 2 crippling counters onto any creature at will is usually enough to negate most single creature threats and combined with all the crippling and low-power synergy cards Necropolis got in both this set and Griffin Bane she's going to have a lot of tricks at her disposal. Creature strategies could really spin their wheels in the face of her control. ****

Anton
The "Haven stacking guy". His spell schools are even less original than Anastasya's (the same as Cassandra) but if you're going to make a stack deck, you do it with Anton, simple as that. Haven stacking hasn't had nearly the success of Necropolis stacking since the release of Griffin Bane, but I've seen some decks have some success and Anton looks like he could turn it up. Of course, like Nahla from Griffin Bane and Masfar, Father of Titans from Heart of Nightmares (the "Beastman hero" released in the construct set and the "Construct hero" released in the beastman set) he should have been released last expansion (maybe Slava should have had his ability?) but better late than never. ***

Elisabeth
Blah. While she has the unique spell combination of Earth/Light/Dark, I just don't any point to playing this girl. Academy has had access to all of these schools on varying heroes before, so unless you have some REALLY good cross-school spell combination, I don't see any reason to waste your time. **

Irina
Even worse than Elisabeth. Noboru had Dark/Light, Mukao had Dark/Water and Ishuma had Light/Water. Any of them would be more fun to play than Irina. *

Kiril
NOW we're talking. With the deadly Dark/Fire combination of Kal'Azar, Kiril is set up well to start, but he really comes into his own when you build a themed dark/fire creature deck around him- like Crag Hack only without the requirement to only use lousy creatures. 2/1/0 starting stats make it easier to use this ability sooner to rush out a big fire beastie and start kicking heads in. I see the makings of a POWERFUL rush/swarm strategy here. ****

Sandor
Unlike Elisabeth and Irina, at least Sandor brings something new to Stronghold (Dark magic access). Whether you can make anything of that is up to you, but it's something. He's still boring, though. ***

EVENTS

Week of the Elementals
Elemental creatures have almost always sucked, usually because they're at least 1 or 2 resources more expensive than their stats and abilities justify. Enter Week of the Elementals. While it's still not enough to bring most of the lousy Lesser Elementals down into usable range (even with their reduced resource cost, they still have a higher than necessary might requirement), some of the Greater Elementals may start to find some traction, especially with the other elemental creature and Spirit-buffing cards in this set. While its randomness makes it unreliable even with 4 copies in your deck, there's also the possibility of flipping over a double for -2R costs. A "wait and see" card, but one that has potential. ***

Waning Moon
Ooh, someone on the art team was slacking off- that's a Sellspell Djinn, completely unmodified, superimposed on the moon. Another event for the Spirit decks, this one isn't restricted to Neutral Spirits, but is a bit limited in its use. There aren't that many Spirits with strong come into play effects (although the Dousing Kappa introduced in this set is decent) and while it might be useful just to recall a damaged Spirit to your hand to save it from dying, at 2R it's a bit expensive. Sanctuary decks based around bounce strategies (Shalan, Voice of the Lotus perhaps) might find a good use for it, but it's a very conditional card, really only meant for specific strategies. ***

CREATURES

Ancient Ghost
Another neat 1 drop for Necropolis decks in the wake of Venom Soldier. While it lacks any attack power by itself (and is also a melee, not a flier), it has higher HP than the Lingering Ghost for half the cost, which combined with its Incorporality makes it one of the toughest 1 drops in the game. While the changes to the first turn mean this isn't as good for Fleshbane as it might have been thanks to the 1 Ma requirement (he can only play it on the 1st turn if he's going second), if you drop more Ghosts around it it can potentially buff itself up to a respectable 3 power. That's seriously good value for resource. ***

Embers Elemental
Initially this creature looks incredible and my first impression on seeing it was amazement. Then I thought again, checked my facts, and realised that Academy have NO other Fire or Earth element creatures in their lineup at all- not even one! While it can actually do some pretty mean damage if you can get multiple copies out at once (since even if they don't buff themselves, they SHOULD buff each other) you have to be running Neutral creatures to really justify putting this in your 2 drop slot. It's really only useful in a dedicated Elementals deck, which is hard to run in Academy as anything other than a gimmick. **

Fountain Spirit
Now THIS is a sweet 2 drop! While it lacks Immune to Retaliation (ITR from here on out) like the Kabuki Sentry, the fact that it CANNOT BE TARGETED is extremely powerful. The 1D requirement is practically a triviality and in fact makes this creature a nice addition to Takana Osore or Kenage decks who might be annoyed by the magic requirement on most of their shooters. However, you need to keep in mind that, contrary to what you might expect (and, if I'm being competely honest, contrary to all common sense), this is NOT a Magic creature like pretty much every other Spirit in the game. Still a great option for the 2 drop slot. ****

Lesser Glory
Another Glory for Haven's collection and this one's as sexy as hell. Unfortunately she's not as useful. While a 6 HP flier for 2 is a formidable defence, only 1/1 combat stats limit what she can really accomplish. Haven don't have a great deal of Spirit synergy compared with some of the other factions, while they DO have a surfeit of tough, reliable early defenders. She makes a good addition to Week of Training weenie decks, though, where 1 power is much less of a drawback, even an advantage. In general, though, she's not so much bad as redundant. **

Pao Harpy
On her own, this isn't that great- the extra point of damage she can put down wherever you need it is useful, but not often decisive. However, when taken as part of the series of Harpy and Centaur cards they received in this set, she can prove devastating. Backed up by the likes of Centaur Chieftain, Mother Harpy or Beastman Warcry, she can really put out a lot of economical, safe damage. Without these cards though, which aren't cheap, she's a bit underpowered. A potential staple in the hypothetical Centaur/Harpy deck. **

Dousing Kappa
A neat little toy for Sanctuary. While it lacks the high retaliation of the basic Kappa and has a 2Ma requirement that makes it more difficult, the come into play effect is worth quite a bit, even when it's only 1 damage. Sanctuary suffer from a lack of direct damage dealing, while they excel at bouncing and replaying their own creatures. The extra point against Fire creatures makes it a bit more powerful against Inferno in particular. I can see this being a core creature for Shailan combined with Waning Moon, although it does face some competition in the 3 drop slot. ***

Eternal Disciple
Over the last few sets there has been a huge emphasis for Necropolis on crushing low or 0 power creatures. Eternal Disciple, as well as being a decent 2/1/6 magic melee for 3R, comes with a built in No Mercy For the Meek. While No Mercy isn't used (especially as Cheap Death is so much better), as a free bonus on a well-costed creature it's a great bargain. A decent stand-in for Plague Zombie or Lammasu, its value increases exponentially if you include a lot of Crippling or other power reduction in your deck. Tasty. ***

Eternal Mentor
Ariana and Anastasya are going to love this one. 2/2/5 magic shooter for 3R is a decent start to build on and his ability to get +1 power every time you kill a Crippled creature -not that difficult with all the tools Necropolis get to kill weenies- gives him powerful scaling damage potential. With this guy on the board, Crippled creatures become a lot less expendable for your opponent. Obviously he's not an auto-include in every Necro deck, but if you use enough Crippling then he's the ideal choice for the 3 drop slot, more or less completely obsoleting Skeleton Archer. ****

Juvenile Centaur
A 2/0/4 shooter for 3R isn't a good deal, not even for Stronghold (who never got a Succubus/Neophyte Lich equivalent creature). A 2/0/4 shooter with Attack Anywhere for 3 is much better, but is it enough? Attack Anywhere seems to be being pushed as one of Stronghold's trademark abilities in this set and there are a number of cards that synergise with this creature, but the dependancy on being able to keep another Centaur in play makes it difficult to fully utilise with its otherwise poor stats. Stronghold have quite a few good 3 drop creatures that this has to compete with so I doubt it will see any play outside of the Centaur/Harpy deck. It's alright in a pinch, but nothing to write home about. **

Magma Elemental
Neutral Fire Elementals have had a somewhat disreputable history- remember Burning Sand Elemental, one of the worst cards in Forgotten Wars? Finally they hit it out of the park with a creature that, while still typically understatted for cost, brings a nice unique ability to the table by rendering all your Fire creatures immune to your own Fire damage. While obviously this isn't as good as making them immune to ALL Fire damage, this has a number of tasty applications. In the right deck (typically Inferno) it combines magnificently with the likes of Immolation or Lava Stream as well as letting you Armageddon, The Forbidden Flame, or throw around careless Fireballs at will (sadly not Arkath's Wrath, the meta standard). Perhaps more potently, it's a lethal combo with Hikyu, Chosen of the Flames' passive ability or Ragefire, bypassing the normal drawback of Area Blast (friendly fire damage when attacking melee creatures) letting you abuse them freely. Of course, you shouldn't forget that while its ability has oodles of potential, it IS still an otherwise poor creature, being a 2/2/3 melee for 3R. While it's only really of use in a gimmick deck, it could potentially prove to be quite a deadly gimmick. ***

Pao Scout
It looks pretty good at first glance, until you realise how painfully inferior it is to Inferno's Juggernaut. A 3/1/4 for 3R which gets +1 damage when unblocked, it can do some pretty good damage, but is just too squishy. The Juggernaut's payoff for its low 4 HP is 4 power and 3 retaliation and the Pao Scout just looks weak by comparison. Even compared with other Stronghold creatures, you're better off just running Centaur Archer, which is a 3/2/4 ITR shooter for 3. It really needed 5 HP to be viable. Skip this. *

Surging Djinn
Academy's take on Stronghold's Ancestral Champion from Heart of Nightmares, the Djinn isn't as powerful but considerably tougher (3/2/7 flier compared to 4/2/5 melee). Considering the drawback of these creatures is what happens when they die, that's a good tradeoff. While the drawback IS fairly considerable, you can mitigate it by utilising it in a low-magic Academy deck or simply boosting your magic up higher than you need it to be with spare uses of your hero ability, as it's actually not a bad late-game creature. If you use it carelessly, though, it may be crippling to rush it out early and lose it to a Death Seal or Soulreaver, so exercise caution. ***

Ur-Jubaal's Minion
+1 retaliation on a Succubus isn't a good tradeoff for the +1R cost and +1Ma requirement, especially as this one DOESN'T have ITR. The backlash effect actually makes it a pretty effective blocker as it will win exchanges with other 2 power 4 HP creatures like Neophyte Lich, but it doesn't last long enough to pull this trick off more than once or twice at most and Inferno get better 3 drops. A decent blocker in a pinch, but ultimately a novelty and not a great one. **

Wolf Priest
Oh god this guy is EVIL! This is the new defining creature of the Charity retaliation deck, a miniature version of Wolf Justicar that is also a lethally effective blocker thanks to Preemptive Strike (surprisingly rare even on Haven creatures) and 3 retaliation. And for a mere 3R/2Mi/1Ma he's undercosted as all get out. EXTREMELY hard to deal with in the early game, his ability makes him a powerful late game tool when it comes time to drop Truce of Elrath too. ****

Agyn Mercenary
So apparently the devs are committed to trying to convince us to play with Mercenaries. This guy is just WEIRD. Clearly he's meant to be used with Spoils of War (the ongoing fortune released in Griffin Bane that gives you 2R every time a Mercenary deals combat damage- keeping in mind that Mercenaries have to pay 1R to attack) to build up a large amount of extra resource before using him as the hammer. And to be fair, if the game drags on late enough, this guy could be a holy terror, attacking for 7 or 8 damage per turn. The problem is that I just can't see a Mercenary deck working, no matter how many gimmicky cards they throw at it. Mercenaries are TERRIBLE creatures even before you factor in their attack cost drawback so I can't see any reason you'd want to try and play with this guy except maybe for the lulz. I'm going to be generous because I think it's an amusing idea, but I just don't see it working. **

Arcane Master Djinn
In just about any other CCG, this thing would be awesome. In DoC, it's merely "very good". If you're not attacking with this creature then it's just a wall and if you ARE attacking with it you're asking yourself why you're using a glorified Lesser Air Elemental. The 3Mi/1Ma/2D requirements are a little on the awkward side as well. But the ability to draw an extra card a turn for free is pretty tasty, plus you CAN still attack with it when you need the extra damage more than another draw. Plus, no matter what, it replaces itself in your hand on the turn you play it (since it obviously can't attack that turn) which means it's automatically good card economy. Worth using in any Academy deck that goes to 2D. ****

Blazing Succubus
Now this is a real substitute for the Lilim. Unlike the Embers Elemental, Inferno have quite a few Fire element creatures that can benefit from this hellish little beauty as well as a couple of useful Dark creatures (such as Lurker in the Dark). While she only buffs adjacent creatures (and is a shooter rather than a melee shooter, restricting her deployment) she's also just a good body to have, a 3/2/6 for 4R, not quite as powerful as Lilim but still good enough. They also buff each other when deployed in pairs. Could well be the new standard for Inferno 4 drop shooters, considering Lashing Lilim just isn't cutting it. ****

Blessing Inquisitor
Another elemental buffing creature, the Inquisitor is narrower than the Blazing Succubus but is still a good card. Tougher, with lower power and higher retaliation, a melee shooter without ITR, he can give several of your Glories and Angels a nice power surge while holding off most attackers. Not quite as good as the Succubus due to not filling a gap in the Haven lineup the same way she did for Inferno, but definitely worth looking at. ***

Bursting Fire Elemental
Ah, another crap Neutral Elemental. How nostalgic. Actually, this one isn't QUITE so bad- sure it's badly understatted for its cost (2/0/5 for 4R) and even less damaging than the classic Lesser Fire Elemental, but Area Blast is a fairly useful ability and the 5 toughness makes it a bit more reliable at least. It might have a good place in the hypothetical 'Week of the Elementals deck'. It's still a lousy creature on its own merits, though and you won't have any reason to use it normally. **

Captive Djinn
Now this is something Academy were crying out for- a reliable and efficient way of dealing with ongoing spells and fortunes even for heroes without Prime access. The Captive Djinn is a lousy creature for cost, but its come into play effect is outstanding- presumably that's the reason it has Anchored, to prevent you from simply bouncing and replaying it. The fact that it can't deal with unique spells or fortunes is a pretty big drawback, though, considering how powerful some of the epic fortunes from Griffin Bane were (Army of the Dead in particular). But it's a particularly good answer to those lamers in Open who still think sitting on their backsides playing stall card after stall card until they cheap you (or bore you) to death is a good idea- it can BANISH (meaning no recycling) both Altar of Shadows and Stone Shield and Anchored makes it immune to Throne of Renewal and Broken Bridge. Take that, cheeseballs! ****

Centaur Sharpshooter
The second of Stronghold's new surge of Centaur cards for their 'Centaur/Harpy alliance' deck, this girl is understatted but flexible. Her ability to ignore Frozen Touch, Raya, Sibilant Seductress, The Frozen Maze, Altar of Shadows and any other attack-inhibiting effect you may care to name, combined with her Attack Anywhere ability, means the opponent has to deal with her more decisively or pay the price. Again, though, her cost just makes her a bit of a liability outside of her intended deck. Great for laughing at stall decks that think Altar of Shadows will make them invincible, but I think those are on the way out anyway. ***

Cleansing Priestess
This girl's a beauty. Seriously, her art is just stunningly gorgeous. As a card? Not too bad I guess. Because her ability takes effect at end of turn, you can reposition her to make sure she heals the creatures that need it the most, unlike normal Heal creatures who automatically heal whatever they're standing next to at the start of each turn, regardless of what the opponent did on their turn. She can also heal creatures after they take retaliation damage or damage from your spells like Sunburst. But while her ability to remove counters is nice (and something Eleonore, the Voice of Harmony CAN'T do) that's one thing you'd definitely prefer to happen at the START of your turn; removing the Crippling counters AFTER you've lost your chance to attack for the turn isn't much help. Ultimately though, she doesn't really do enough that Haven can't do already- she's only a 2/2/6 melee shooter without ITR for 4R and you're encouraged not to attack with her either to use her ability. Plus she has the same drawback as all Heal creatures (other than Eleonore) in that she doesn't heal herself. Also, don't use her with Holy Light since she doesn't discriminate between negative and positive counters. Beautiful, but not all that useful, sadly. ***

Elder Centaur
ANOTHER 2/2/5 Centaur for 4R/4Mi, this one is pushing its luck a bit too far. It has the same ability as Pao Scout so it can do a bit more damage if unblocked, but even a 3/2/5 for 4 isn't all that special. Magic Resist is a handy bonus, but it's not enough to save this card. MIGHT see some use in the Centaur/Harpy deck I keep talking about, but even that is debatable. *

Eternal Apprentice
The Necropolis entry in the "do something at end of turn if it doesn't attack" series, this one HURTS. Its 2/1/5 stats are poor, but it actually comes with Crippling itself, so it can do more with its optional attack than JUST 2 damage. Plus, like all the creatures in this cycle, its effect triggers on the turn you play it, making it effectively a free mini-Moonsilk Strand (or a limited Moonsilk Fetters). That extra bonus is enough to make it playable, more than making up for the excessive cost. ***

Eternal Scholar
Odd creature. A 3/2/6 shooter with ITR, its stats are good enough to justify its use on its own (better than Archlich, albeit lacking the Life Drain). Its ability to Immobilise any creature with even a single Crippling counter on it, no matter where on the board it is (unlike Hypnotise creatures) can really inhibit your opponent's mobility, especially if you're playing Anastasya. However, it should really just be taken as a bonus feature since Necropolis don't have any particular synergies with Immobilise. Still a very solid creature, if Necropolis didn't have Archlich it would probably be an auto-include, but you might still want to run a copy or two just to mess with your opponent. ***

Shark Bodyguard
Another weird one. Why is a supposed "Bodyguard" damaging enemy creatures for moving rather than protecting your own creatures? Oh well, whatever. A trifle understatted (although the 7 HP is nice), this can really pile on the pain if you use enough Outmaneuver- never mind if you get more than 1 copy into play! Combined with Torii of the Eternal Empress (see below) you'll be able to put out direct damage of the kind Sanctuary players haven't had access to since Ishuma was nerfed. And in Open format, it combos with The Song of the Lost to boardwipe again, similar to Ice Splinters (if slower). Another card you need to build your deck around, he may prove a bit expensive, but will certainly be a lot of fun. ****

Skeleton Servant
This thing looks terrifying- a 5/5/7 for 4. Then you read its text and think "OK, so it just needs a few turns to shift its counters off it onto the enemy". Then you realise your opponent will simply not block it and soak up the 1 damage it can deal per turn while laughing and it doesn't seem so good. But it's not all bad, drop a shooter behind it and it gets a lot harder to ignore. More evilly, take advantage of another one of the otherwise less-useful cards in the set, Ritual of Weakness, to immediately shift all 4 counters onto an enemy creature and unleash the 5/5 fury. The potential is frightening, but it takes a bit more creativity than you might think to get the best out of it. ***

Arcane Eagle
The heart of the hypothetical Spirit deck, this thing simultaneously buffs all your other Spirits up and gets pumped up itself to potentially frightening levels. A bit expensive but that's not so much a problem since these decks (and they ARE the only kind of deck that would run it) utilise Week of the Elementals. What IS a problem is the 4Mi/4Ma requirements. You won't be rushing this out, it'll be more of a finisher. And it's pretty good at that; with as few as 3 other spirits on the board, even cheap ones like Silver Bowl Spirit, you're already looking at a 6/3/6 flier. This is one of the cards that really makes the Spirit deck look like it has the potential to work. ***

Bound Succubus
Another sexy demoness (this one isn't even wearing the traditional metal thong). Inferno's "don't attack for a bonus" creature has probably the most powerful effect, but is also the most expensive. Only 3/2/5 for 5 with difficult requirements, she's broadly outclassed by the Blazing Succubus and her ability seems contradictory- if she's unblocked you'd rather just attack and if there's a creature in front of her you'd normally prefer to try and kill it before it can kill you instead. But considered as a finisher, she's one of the nastiest in the game. The turn you play her gives you an immediate 2 damage to your opponent (which makes up for the 5R cost) and no matter what they throw in front of her, if they can't kill her before the end of your next turn there's another unblockable 2, often enough to help you end a close game. As a Dark creature, she also makes a prime candidate for the Heretic Library (see below), making a mockery of your opponent's defences. Pricey, but when you think about it, VERY nasty. Also... she's going commando! ****

Centaur Chieftain
This is the big guy who makes the Centaur/Harpy deck work (or not, depending on how it pans out). There are a lot of across-the-board buffs in this set and the Chieftain gives his to 5 creatures in this set alone (he automatically meets the Juvenile Centaur's requirement to have Attack Anywhere), with even more if you include ones from older sets. He goes a long way towards redeeming Pao Harpy, Juvenile Centaur and Centaur Sharpshooter's unimpressive stats; sit him on a War Banner and they start to get quite frightening. A 3/2/7 shooter with ITR, he's not a bad body himself either. 5R IS a fair bit to pay, but he may prove worth it, although you probably won't want to be dropping multiple copies of him into play since he chokes the shooter line (and doesn't have Attack Anywhere himself). Finally, although this is more trivia than anything really useful, he turns The Last Stand into a boardwide +1 damage buff for all your creatures. ***

Eternal Archon
FINALLY... a non-unique Vampire cheaper than Vampire Lord with more than 2 power (at least conditionally). Putting the finishing touches on a Sveltana deck, this guy makes the Putrid Dragon looks like the bad joke it is. OK, so he can't get NEARLY as big (since he only gets +1 for each Crippled creature rather than each counter like the Dragon does with Poison) but he's fairly well-priced at 2/3/8 for 5R, has Crippling himself and has no drawbacks (he wont, for example, Cripple himself when he attacks a melee creature). Dropping a Moonsilk Strand or Moonsilk Fetters can give him a sudden and unexpected burst of power and combined with Death Lord he can punch through a weakened defence to lay a serious beatdown on your opponent. You WILL want to combine him with other Vampires like Blood Ritualist or Vampire Connoisseur, though- while he has ITR like all Vampires, he's the only one (other than Vampire Assassin) to lack either Life Drain or an alternate way of healing himself. ***

Greater Kirin
Anyone remember Sacred Kirin? Yeah, now THAT'S a card that saw a lot of play... Greater Kirin is everything Sacred Kirin should have been- same power and retaliation, slightly lower but still impressive HP and a MUCH lower cost (5R/5Mi/1Ma compared to Sacred's ridiculous 8R/6Mi/1Ma). It also exchanges 1 point of Focused Blast for Hypnotise and an upgrade from melee to melee shooter. This is a genuinely powerful Sanctuary beef creature, capable of dishing out serious damage for an affordable price. Someone explain to me why the devs ever thought Sacred Kirin was a playable card again...? ****

Gust Harpy
Yet another understatted, overcosted creature which attempts to make up for it with an array of abilities. Stronghold haven't received a Quick Attack creature in a while and the Gust Harpy does something new- while it's not a shooter (obviously because all Harpies are, by definition, fliers) it comes with Attack Anywhere, letting it hit the back line out of nowhere while also remaining safe from counterattacks (if not actual retaliation). While it may be a lot easier to do this with Surprise Attack or even Fire Bolt, being a creature he still sticks around afterwards, which is more than you can say for a Fire Bolt, while he also benefits from things like Centaur Chieftain. Problem is that while the Centaur Chiftain can justify his high cost with his decent stat line, 2/2/5 is pushing it a bit too far for 5R. I'm willing to cut versatile creatures a fair bit of slack when it comes to cost, but this is too much. **

Mother Harpy
Hubba hubba! If the Centaur Chieftain is the king of the Centaur/Harpy deck, this is the sexy queen. 3/2/6 Attack Anywhere makes the 5R cost worth it and she has a surprisingly low 4 Mi requirement. More importantly, she drastically improves the flexibility of your Harpies, allowing you to let your Attack Anywhere ones dodge away from danger while still attacking and letting the basic Ranaar Harpy get to where it's needed. Also keep in mind that, unlike a lot of the other mass creature buffing creatures in this set, she DOES affect herself, making herself a 3/2/6 Attack Anywhere with Swift for 5R even if you don't have any other Harpies in play. I think this is the first time in a while that a non-Inferno card has taken the prize for "Sexiest Card Art in the Set" too... ***

Time-Bender Djinn
Another odd creature. A formidable 4/3/7 flier for 5, you actually aren't that likely to trigger its main ability very often- even though the Djinn counts as 1 Prime creature itself, you need to have 4 others in play at once and get them to live through the enemy's turn. The fact that the Djinn sacrifices itself to give you the Time Jump is also somewhat of a drawback, especially as it happens at the start of the first turn, meaning you don't have access to its power on EITHER of your two turns. However, what puts it well above Time Jump (aside from the lower cost and magic requirements) is the fact that not only do you not have to spend any resource on the turn it triggers (Time Jump's 6R cost has always been a major drawback) it doesn't prevent your resource from refreshing on the 2nd turn the same way Time Jump does either! The turn Time-Bender Djinn triggers (or the one you get after it) is quite likely to be the turn you win the game- especially as you already have at least 4 other creatures in play. Just watch out for inconvenient 'until your next turn' effects like Altar of Shadows or (god forbid) Prison- if the opponent drops one on their turn between you setting up the Djinn and it triggering, you may find yourself unable to fully capitalise on your bonus turns, with no way of preventing the Djinn from wasting itself. Still a potentially devastating card. *****

Warding Inquisitor
Simply awesome. A full turn of Enemy Spell Ward on all your creatures at once can be the difference between winning and losing in the magic-heavy meta and that's exactly what this guy gives you for a mere 5R. That'd be pretty good for a 1-shot fortune; getting it on a creature that you can even bounce back to your hand and play again is ABSURD. His body isn't anything special, a 2/2/7 ITR shooter, but his requirements (3Mi/2Ma) are surprisingly low, making him easy to include in most Haven decks. This could really turn the tide against spell-heavy decks. *****

Executioner Succubus
The worst case of butterface this side of Mileena, what this, uh, girl boils down to is a beefier but more restricted Inferno Banshee- same cost, same requirements, same Dark element, higher power, retaliation and HP, no Incorporeal but can only kill damaged creatures. That's actually a considerably worse drawback than it initially seems- if the opponent drops a big creature on the board, you want to be able to deal with it NOW. The Banshee can do that with no questions asked, the Succubus needs another card to set it up for her first. Since you're not buying her for her body (no innuendo intended, although she's not that bad looking below the neck) that drawback REALLY makes it hard to justify her 6R price point. **

Shogun
So what makes Shogun worth using where Executioner Succubus isn't, especially considering his arguably weaker CIP effect? Simple: faction synergy. Sanctuary are in a far better position to take advantage of bounce strategies with the Shogun, with the cards like Shailan, Voice of the Lotus, Sayama Warden and Truce just for starters. Also, while the pocket Magma Burst the Shogun brings isn't as deadly as the Succubus' instant kill ability, it's far less restricted. You'll need to keep in mind, though, that it's still magic water damage (since the Shogun is a magic creature) so Magic Resist creatures will still take half damage from it, although it does bypass Enemy Spell Ward. The lower Ma requirement relative to the Executioner Succubus is also nice. Not necessarily a staple creature, but very useful. ***

Spell Stealer Heretic
EDIT: Even after the (much needed) nerfs, she's still a heavyweight contender for the position of BEST CIP creature in the set (only challenged by the next entry). While her 3/1/6 magic melee for 6R stats aren't the greatest, her ability is just fantastic (and was even more so before the nerfs). While she's restricted to only replaying your Dark and Fire spells, she casts the spell for free (unlike Gazal, Herald of the Void) which makes her value range from "meh" (if you replay a Fire Bolt) to "UNBELIEVABLE" (of you replay an Arkath's Wrath). The most obvious candidates in Standard are Arkath's Wrath and Soulreaver, but when played in Open she's even more devastating, able to replay Shadow Image, Puppet Master, Fireball, Curse of the Netherworld, Mass Inner Fire and even Armageddon! Since the spell is free to play no matter how much it costs, her 6R price point becomes a bargain the likes of which few cards can match. *****

Ariana, Chosen of the Void
Well this was unexpected! The previous Chosen were all the unique faction creatures from Forgotten Wars, but this marks the first time a HERO has entered the battlefield as a creature. Ariana has unquestionably THE most powerful CIP effect of any creature in the entire game- it's Void Ripple, pure and simple, the most effective "single target kill" card ever released. You pay for it in two big ways though- firstly her extremely high 7R cost and secondly her AWFUL 2/1/7 stats. This makes Ariana different from most of the other CIP creatures in this set, who are mostly a body with a bonus spell tacked on- you are playing Ariana exclusively for her CIP effect. And while it IS a remarkable CIP effect, there's one thing you need to keep in mind- since Ariana is a Neutral Prime-aligned creature she's not actually giving you anything you didn't already have, since she can only be used by heroes who could already just use Void Ripple. That said, there are two big advantages to Ariana. Firstly, while her resource cost is even higher than Void Ripple, her requirements (3Mi, 4Ma) are MUCH lower, making her much easier to include in almost any Prime deck. Secondly, as a creature (specifically a PRIME creature), she can be easily bounced and played again (this is definitely the best thing to do with her, since as a body she's barely worth it). If you're playing in Open, you can even combine her with Rewind to keep playing her over and over until the enemy can finally kill her- not necessarily that easy with 7 HP. Expensive as hell, but if you can set it up it's practically an assured win. Not QUITE the game-shaker she could have been, but still a must-have for Prime magic players. *****

CONTINUED BELOW.

ArcaneAzmadi
11-02-2014, 10:01 AM
PART 2

SPELLS

Fire Splash
Fire really is trying to cover all the bases to make up for the removal of Fireball, but this is just too small to be worth bothering with. The 2 damage from Magma Burst can easily be enough to make a big difference on the battlefield; a mere 1 damage, on the other hand, is much less influential. The real killer, though, is the magic requirement- compared with Heat Wave from Herald of the Void, it's impossible to see why this spell needs a 2Ma requirement. Simply not worth the deck space. *

Ice Spear
EDIT: While I badly underrated this card initially (it should have been a 5-star rather than a 3) the nerf to its cost brought it down to balanced. Unlike Fire Splash, this is an example of a spell which earns the extra magic requirement. A remade version of Refreshing Spring, Ice Spear will (as long as you don't clumsily get its target creature killed by retaliation damage) always be in your hand whenever you need an extra point of damage- you don't have to worry about whether you might be better off saving it for another time. With the (long overdue) nerf to Chain Casting, there's no need to worry about it being abused by OTK decks either. The nerfed cost makes it much less economical, but it's still a handy spell to have around- not necessarily game-winning, but in the right place at the right time it may still be game-changing. I can't tell you how many times a single point of damage has been the difference between victory and defeat. ****

Dissolve
Completing the set with Counterspell and Spell Block, Dissolve provides something rather different. While a lot, probably more than half of all decks use spells, not every deck does (fortune decks for example) and not even every magic deck uses either ongoing spells or instant spells, which Spell Block and Counterspell each specialise in respectively. However most decks DO use magic creatures- in fact, many EXCLUSIVELY use them (Academy are particularly prone to this), meaning that on average, Dissolve will be more likely to find a target than either of the other 2 countermagic cards. On the other hand, this doesn't really fill a niche the way the others do- while Spell Block is the ONLY way to prevent your opponent from casting that Soulreaver you're dreading now that Wasteland is out of Standard (as well as being much easier to use even in Open), the cards that Dissolve negates (creatures) aren't actually that hard to deal with already. Even so, it's still an absurdly cost-efficient way of negating an enemy creature- for only 2R/2Ma you can just drop it any time you know you're not going to want to play a magic creature of your own and your opponent will have to either waste a dispel on it or waste at least 1 magic creature, which can hurt rather badly if they don't have any expendable ones in their deck. It's hard to truly evaluate the potential of this card, but it will probably be controlled by the meta. **

Holy Sacrifice
At first glance it looks like a discount version of Martyr. But when you think about it a bit, there are major differences that make it both weaker and potentially stronger than the original. Firstly, it simply doesn't do the same thing- Martyr made all your creatures completely invulnerable to all damage for 1 turn then killed its target at the end of it. Holy Sacrifice doesn't do anything so definite. On the negative side, it only affects combat damage and it only lasts until enough damage has been redirected to its target to kill it. On the positive side, this means that death is NOT guaranteed- while a Martyr would die if it prevented so much as a single point of damage, if you can find a tough enough creature (or one with the right resistances) then it will keep soaking up the damage indefinitely. Consider, for example, a high HP Haven creature like Angel Commander, or the Earth spells Sand Shield, Sylanna's Embrace or the next card on this list, Nature's Fortitude. Put it on Shantiri Titan. You could even do something as simple as putting it on Void Wraith. While it still has the basic drawback of all auras, its cost (2R/2Ma) is quite reasonable. Potentially quite useful if you keep an open mind. **

Nature's Fortitude
+4 HP is quite a boost to any creature's survivability and a 2R/2Ma cost is quite affordable (certainly better than Five Towers' lousy rare Symbiotic Barkskin). The problem remains that high HP has never been a guarantee of survival, not with all the things that completely ignore HP, and if the creature dies you've just lost double the tempo. Another card that struggles to justify the deck space it consumes. **

Vine Trap
Lethally efficient at what it does -2R, 2Ma, kill a flier, no questions asked- but does it do enough? Because melee, shooter, melee shooter and flier are hard-coded into every creature's design (unlike in games like Magic where Flying is an ability that any creature can have) there are no shortcuts to expanding the usability of Vine Trap, so its usefulness is SOLELY dependant on how many fliers your enemy uses. And with one faction that has very few decent fliers (Inferno, with 5) and one that has absolutely none at all (Sanctuary) this just has too much chance of being a dead card and there's nothing that hurts a card more than that. Another fine example of how DoC could benefit from sideboarding. **

Alone in the Dark
My initial impression of this card wasn't too great- what, ANOTHER inferior substitute for Soulreaver? But then I saw it in use and reconsidered radically. There's a world of difference between a 4R/4Ma spell and a 3R/3Ma one and, despite being unable to kill a creature adjacent to another one and having to pick its target randomly, these drawback of Alone in the Dark can be instantly ignored simply by playing it when the opponent has only a single creature for a 100% guaranteed kill. Additionally, the fact that it picks its own target when cast means it can even kill creatures that are untargetable such as the Fountain Spirit (although thankfully it can't bypass Dark Ward or Enemy Spell Ward- or at least it shouldn't be able to). What this adds up to is a viable alternative to Soulreaver that requires a bit more thought to use in exchange for much better economy and a neat little bonus. I'll take it. ****

Blast of Wind
And here we are with the traditional crappy rare spells. Surprise surprise, it's Air magic. How unexpected. Blast of Wind is actually not all THAT bad, being able to shut down a cross of creatures for a turn for the modest cost of 3R/3Ma. The problem is, wouldn't you rather kill them? While it gives Air a utility it has previously lacked, very few Heroes rely purely on Air magic anyway and one of its common companions schools, Water, is far better equipped to punish enemies in this formation. The real question is, though, why is such a basic card considered worthy of being a rare anyway? Pass. **

Holy Light
Interesting. Between this and Blessing Inquisitor, a Glory deck is starting to look like quite an amusing option. On the one hand it can't be dispelled, but on the other hand it doesn't do anything for creatures you play after it's resolved. 3R may be a bit much for that, but if you build the right kind of deck it can add up to quite a lot of power. Just keep in mind what I said about not leaving your Light creatures next to Cleansing Priestess, OK? ***

Storm Rage
Now this is an interesting little nuke spell. You can either wrap the damage around a corner or fire it straight down a line depending on the circumstances, without running the risk of hitting your own melee line. COnsidering how rarely you'll get the chance to hit 4 targets with a cross nuke like Magma Blast (and Air has a tendancy to miss the middle square) this actually fills a pretty neat gap in Air's lineup. Not top notch, but useful. Nice art too. ***

Wind Arrows
Interesting. Shockwave isn't like Area Blast, it's an ability you choose when to use and when not to, and it's countered by putting your creatures adjacent to each other rather than staggering them. Like all the elemental creature buff spells it's made for use by a specific faction and in this case it's Stronghold. It's quite handy to combine with Blackskull Shredder or Gust Harpy (or in open even Sahaar Marauder, Jaguar Warrior or Sahaar Harpy) but in general there really aren't enough creatures available where you'd be willing to give up their normal attack for a Shockwave 2 attack instead (you're certainly not going to do it with Raging Smasher). If the effect stacks with multiple copies then you could potentially inflict appalling amounts of damage, but that's gimmicky and unreliable and there still just aren't enough creatures to make effective use of it. **

Darkness Curse
Simply not very good. 4R is too much to pay for something that cripples your own creatures as well (even Necropolis, the only faction that would even THINK of running this, don't have all that many Dark creatures) and if the opponent has enough creatures on the board for it to be cost-effective, a single Crippling counter each won't be enough to bail you out of trouble. MAYBE a Lich/Wizard-themed Ariana deck might run it, but nothing else will. *

Fire Rain
A rather decent substitute for Fireball, albeit harder to keep from nuking your own creatures. Basically a double Sunburst, a potential maximum 12 damage can punish your opponent for lane stacking pretty hard. The aforementioned Magma Elemental goes a fair way towards making this easier to use (for Inferno at least) and if you can keep your creatures out of it then it can do a fair job of board wiping, like a Forked Firebolt on steroids. ***

Flaring Rage
Very strange. 2 kinds of creatures benefit from this- weenies who cover the entire board so you gain more total power per turn than your opponent, or big creatures that are too hard to kill off until eventually they can't be stopped any more. Like Windborn Speed from Griffin Bane, it's a global buff which benefits both players equally, so to use it you need to ensure you can use your benefit more effectively than them, to get ahead and stay ahead. I could see it potentially being the lynchpin of a couple of decks, but the effectiveness of these is quesitonable. Still, worth experimenting with. ***

Ice Curse
Why are so many of the spells in this expansion so weird? This is basically a creature enchantment version of Immolation which does Water rather than Fire damage. Whereas Immolation expires when there are no more creatures on the board, Ice Curse vanishes once it's killed its own creature (or the creature is killed from under it). Since decks that used Immolation were based on creatures that weren't bothered by 1 point of magic damage per turn (usually Asalah decks with Spell Resist and Magic Guard creatures) Ice Curse can be used simply to supplement Immolation in these decks. That said, considering the fact that it's a creature enchantment rather than a global one is fundamentally a drawback rather than a benefit, it's questionable why it has the same 4R/4Ma requirements as Immolation. Note, though, that you CAN play it on an ENEMY creature, to discourage the opponent from removing the spell from play by the simple expediment of killing its target. **

Illusionary Nightmare
Better than it seems at first glance. Most cards that punish creatures for not being adjacent to each other tend to suck because they're not cost effective, usually due to being instant or temporary. Illusionary Nightmare bucks this trend by being a permanent ongoing spell. While it may not seem like much, -2 power is a major reduction in damage which can severly inhibit your opponent's offence. And while you may think it's easy enough to bypass simply by dropping an adjacent creature, the fact that it's permanent (unlike, say, Intimidation) means that it'll be restricting your opponent's positioning for potentially the entire game if they can't remove it. If they need to space their blockers out across the rows (say, because one is melee and another is a shooter) then the power penalty can be unavoidable. And if you stack it, you can potentially completely hamstring your opponent's offence! A card that is more rewarding if you can keep your opponent's creatures down, this could be either a minor annoyance or a game-winning roadblock if used correctly. ***

Magic Steal
Much how Dissolve completed the "counterspell" set with Counterspell and Spell Block, Magic Steal completes the, er, "magic steal" set with Spell Steal and Fate Twister. And like Dissolve, it is, on average, far more likely to find a useful target. The other two are not only inhibited by whether or not the opponent is respectively playing with spells or fortunes, but also whether or not the spells or fortunes they may be holding can actually be played at the time. Creatures don't have this drawback and, as long as your lines aren't too clogged to deploy them, you can ALWAYS deploy a magic creature you find in their hand. To balance this, Magic Steal costs more than Spell Steal with a higher Ma requirement. It's still a gamble to play as it still may end up a wasted card if you can't check out your opponent's hand before using it, but it might bring great rewards. ***

Sunrise
Probably the least-interesting spell in the set, Sunrise is just a slightly cheaper, more limited and easier to play version of Resurrection (the only spell in the game with a Might requirement). Resurrection wasn't reprinted in Base Set 2, further reducing the number of graveyard recovery options available to factions other than Necropolis. Sunrise is limited to only reviving Light creatures, but they're one of the most common creature elements, with 25 in the game (all but 2 of them belonging to Haven). Of course, this means it's exclusively for Haven's use (while Resurrection could be used by ANY Light-wielding hero) but being able to get back an Angel Protector, Angel Commander, Warding Inquisitor, Angel of Salvation or Immaculate Glory for only 4R/3Ma is still pretty sweet. ***

Frozen Wave
Right on the hells of Ice Meteor, here comes ANOTHER devastating Water nuke spell. 4 damage to all non-fliers is hardly Tsunami, but it makes up for it by preventing any survivors from doing more than huddling down and shivering. Being an ongoing spell means that your opponent CAN dispel it to attack immediately, but it's less likely to wipe out all your own creatures than Tsunami while still preventing the opponent from attacking on their turn and the reduced cost and Ma requirement is very nice. Still expensive, but worth considering for any magic-heavy Water deck, especially those with plenty of fliers of their own. ***

Nature's Wrath
Another really weird spell. The Nature Elementals aren't the most terrifying creatures on their own merits (they're basically melee shooter Plague Zombies), but getting 2 of them for a mere 5R (and more importantly, only a single card) is great value. It's a good thing it's a 4Ma spell too because 5Ma would probably be too much. The Elementals can do some pretty decent damage thanks to their point of Infect and, it's worth noting, can be slipped out past a Wasteland set to Creatures or an Avalanche. Hardly total devastation, but good value. ****

Prime Shield
Of all the elemental creature buff spells, this is by FAR the most powerful. Unlike the other spells, this one can be used by no less than THREE factions as Prime is the most common creature element of all, being available to Necropolis (Ghosts), Academy (Djinn and Constructs) and Inferno (Fate Bender, Chaos Seer, Caller of the Void and Void Arbiter). And its bonus is EASILY one of the best- flat-out Magic Resist. Not Spell Resist, MAGIC Resist. That's devastating, particularly for Necropolis (Incorporal creatures with Magic Resist? Can I go home now please?). Of course, as the most powerful elemental buff it's also the most expensive at 5R/5Ma, but in this case you really are paying for what you get. Decks reliant on magic damage can be completely hamstrung by this card. The fact that it's only an uncommon is quite alarming in light of its power. ****

FORTUNES

Supply Caravan
"Oh not ANOTHER crappy Haven resource card!" Hang on a second there pal, this is no Inexhaustible Mine or Stockpile! For one thing, it's FREE. Even Gold Pile got changed from being a free +1R to a 1R cost +2R, so as soon as you have even a single Building in play it's free gold. In the unlikely but not impossible event you get a building in every square, you can get a free +8R from it. And unlike a lot of interesting but ultimately lousy fortunes, it has a Destiny requirement of only 2D, perfectly affordable. Sure, it'll really only have any value in the likes of a Stacking Soldiers deck or a Charity retaliation deck, but in those decks it's an engine. Limited, but potentially powerful. ***

Ritual of Weakness
Gimmicky card. It can be kind of useful to move Crippling counters off an enemy creature before you kill it anyway (assuming you weren't relying on the Crippling counters to kill it with Cheap Death) preventing them from going to waste, or for removing Crippling counters from your own creatures (something that often happens in clashes between Necro players) but these aren't really enough to justify including it. However, there IS one particularly gimmicky use for it- Skeleton Servant. This cheap little combo is SO powerful that if you can try it, you really should- drop that 4R 1/1/7 into play on your 4th turn, then next turn play Ritual of Weakness, slam 4 Crippling counters onto your opponent's biggest creature and wail on him with the newly refreshed 5/5/7. That combo is so nasty that it's single-handedly enough to bump the Ritual from 1 star up to 3. ***

Void Trap
This is about as cheap as card drawing gets- 2 cards for 1R with only 1Ma/1D requirements. Unfortunately you can only use it in decks constructed with enough Prime cards to fuel it, preferably decks that DON'T want to be retrieving those cards, which somewhat limits it a bit. It also runs directly counter to another Academy fortune you'll be seeing 2 cards down, Shifting Fates. Still, if you decide to use it and get the cards in your graveyard which aren't doing anything else, it's good value. ***

Magic Interdiction
With Wasteland and Avalanche removed from Standard meta, Magic Interdiction sees direct inhibition tentatively creeping back into the game. The Interdiction is narrowly targetted but can still really hurt your opponent if done at the right time- while every non-Champion Hero has at least 2 spell schools (and several have 3) there's generally 1 school you need to fear at a time. If you just dropped a big creature, block off Dark or Air as appropriate. If you rushed out a swarm of weenies, block Fire or Earth. Also, the card's real saving grace it that it isn't purely a counter card against magic decks as it prevents the opponent from playing CARDS of the chosen element, not SPELLS. So against Inferno you can name Fire, against Academy you can name Prime, Haven you can name Light etc even if the Hero doesn't HAVE that school (the Champions, for example) and you'll still be blocking out a considerable range of their creatures, especially with the emphasis elemental creatures have been getting in this set and Griffin Bane. The 3D requirement is a nuisance, but frankly a necessity to prevent this sleeper card from being abused too harshly. ***

Shifting Fates
Finally Academy get a way to recover and replay their creatures (apart from Solder, which sucks as much as Construct decks do). And 2 Prime creatures for 2R with only 1Ma/2D requirements and no drawbacks is VERY good value. Prime creatures include basically all Djinn, almost all Constructs (strangely not including the Surging Titan) and even a fair number of their human Wizards so most Academy decks will be able to use this if they choose to go to 2D. I'd consider it an excellent choice. ****

Beastman Warcry
EXCLUSIVELY for the Centaur/Harpy deck. The requirement to have both a Centaur AND a Harpy in play at the same time to even use it is a real nuisance and the cost and requirements are hardly economical considering how limited in scope it is, but +4 power from 1 card isn't bad. Still, I don't think it's very good. If the devs really want the Centaur/Harpy deck to be viable, they need to give them cards that are not only custom-made for the theme, but GOOD when they fit it. **

Construction
Man, they're really pushing the Haven Building strategy hard, aren't they? Massively superior to Architect's Wonder (which nobody uses anyway) if you're using Haven buildings and go to 3D this is worth running (the cost restriction is quite literally meaningless as no Haven building costs more than 3R anyway). Arguably the most efficient deck search card in the game, it's still somewhat limited in application as, no matter how hard the devs push Haven buildings, they're not really a reliable "strategy" as such. Still worth considering. ***

Magic Deal
They finally did it. They finally, FINALLY printed the card I've been waiting 4 expansions for- an affordable, accessible, efficient way of dealing with ongoing spells AND fortunes that's available to effectively ALL decks! Previous efforts like The Price of the Void or Calculated Sacrifice were held back by absurd stat requirements (3Ma/3D), resource costs (6), or deployment penalties (using The Price of the Void to get rid of the Wasteland that was locking out your creatures would cost you 1/4 of your maximum life!) making them absurdly impractical. Now Magic Deal finally fills the gaping hole with the affordable cost of 3R, the easily attainable requirements of 1Ma/2D and the modest drawback of requiring you to sacrifice a magic creature. OK so it's still not perfect (it can't deal with that aforementioned Wasteland, for example) but it's not hard for ANY faction, with the possible exception of Stronghold, to come up with a cheap and expendable magic creature to chuck for it (Stronghold's only 1-2R magic creature is Bloodscar Ritualist). Every other faction has at least a couple of expendable 2-drops and Necropolis and Sanctuary can even spare a 1-drop or two to meet the requirement. The time where an ongoing spell or fortune (Mass Rage, Altar of Shadows, Immolation, Army of the Dead, Titan Workforce) can completely mess up your game is OVER and frankly I couldn't be happier. I wouldn't normally rate a pure counter-card this highly, but this has been so long coming that I'd personally rate it my #1 card in the entire set- certainly not the most POWERFUL, but by FAR the most important! *****

Ritual of the Dark Flame
Dicey. This calls to mind Sacred Venom Fumes from Heart of Nightmares, a card that saw virtually no play due to being exclusively for Vampire decks, which effectively NEVER went to its 3D requirement. The Ritual is less restricted, having no negative effect on your own creatures while buffing ALL Of them, but has requirements that can either reduce its usefulness or even render it a dead card. Mind you, it's not THAT bad- I've seen more than a few Inferno fortune decks that still splash in 1Ma spells like Cheap Death or Fire Bolt. And you don't even necessarily NEED to be playing spells to meet its requirements as a Fire or Dark element creature like Chaos Lacerator or Lurker in the Dark would fit the bill quite nicely. +1/+1 to all of your creatures is a modest little buff for 3R -on par with Mass Inner Flame- and the -1/-1 penalty to your opponent's creatures can severely restrict his ability to retaliate. The question is still whether the card and resource would be better spent on something else more damaging. I think it might have a chance if you build your deck right so I'm inclined to be generous. ***

Scarification
Wow. Just... wow. I know card drawing isn't as big a thing in DoC as it is in Magic due to the common Hero ability that allows EVERY player to draw up to 2 cards per turn with relative ease, but still... this is like Infernal Contract (a powerful drawing tool from Magic) on steroids! 5 life is a lot to lose, especially for Inferno who still have absolutely NO way of recovering it, but 5 cards? And for a miserly 3R? That's INSANE. That's an entire new hand. While not every Inferno deck will instantly be adding it (it's still 3D, which is a long way out of your way to go if you don't naturally go above 1D on your Hero) I suspect every Inferno deck that goes to at least 2D will be willing to stretch the extra point for this level of card advantage- you could spend 1R and use your Hero ability to draw 1 card, or you could use your Hero ability to boost yourself 1 extra Destiny point and spend 3R to draw FIVE CARDS. The life cost is practically a non-issue- as long as you're above 1 life you're not out of the game and with 5 extra cards to play with you should have a MASSIVE advantage over your opponent to make him pay. The best card drawing tool in the game. *****

The Shadow of Death
Oh dear, here we go again... look devs, the reason Cheap Death is played and No Mercy for the Meek never was is largely down to the fact that there's a world of difference between a 1 power creature and a 0 power creature. Very few players naturally run 0 power creatures (I think Tithe Collector, Silver Bowl Spirit, Crusader Watchman, Gargoyle, Hangman Tree and Shark Protector are the only ones that commonly see play) so you generally have to Cripple the enemy down to 0 power yourself. The thing is, a 0 power creature can simply be ignored, unlike a 1 power creature- in fact, it can often be an inconvenience to your opponent as they find their useless creature clogging up their lines, good for nothing but block fodder. So in general, you're not really going to find a lot of use for The Shadow of Death. If the opponent IS relying on cheap 0 power blockers then they may be in for a nasty surprise, but more often than not this card will struggle to do more than off a single creature (maybe 2 at best) that wasn't bothering you any more anyway. Maybe it would combo nicely with Illusionary Nightmare (if the opponent isn't bothered by their creature having 0 power on your turn and are planning on negative the Nightmare on their own turn) but it's still too much to ask when Necropolis have a lot of better ways of doing the same thing. For 3R/3D you need more. **

Typhoon
Again, 3R/3D really is the breaking point for Fortunes. Putting a single point into your Hero's Destiny to play a 2D Fortune is no problem for most Heroes, going to 3 is much more of a stretch, so it had better be worth it. Typhoon, on the whole, is not. Sanctuary don't have any particular synergies to punish your opponent for low-power creatures like Necropolis do, so this is purely a stall card, which isn't Sanctuary's hat. At 2R/2D or even 3R/2D it might be playable, but for this cost it's not. *

Foreknowledge
Now this is a bit more like it. Sadly not as efficient as Scarification, what Foreknowledge boils down to is effectively a more efficient version of Stone of Knowledge- same cost, same Destiny requirement, same total cards gained, but you get to pick 3 of your next 5 cards instead. Unfortunately, there's really not that much Sanctuary can do to play off the 2 you're forced to discard instead since graveyard manipulation generally isn't their thing- about the best you can generally hope for is to either discard a Tea Ceremony or 2 (unlikely since no-one uses Team Ceremony) or discard a Sanctuary fortune and retrieve it with Kabuki Infiltrator. Ideally this card should have only a 3D requirement -especially as it's a rare- and with a 4D requirement it probably won't see a lot of use. Sanctuary already have a lot of deck control and this just doesn't really distinguish itself compared to amazingly efficient cards like Battle Trance. ***

Frozen Fists
This is probably the card that ensures that, if Spirit decks become a thing, they'll be Sanctuary. Actually, this isn't a bad card even if you're NOT running a gimmicky spirit deck with the likes of Week of the Elementals and Spirit Eagle since Sanctuary already have a large pool of rather efficient Spirit creatures to draw from. As a permanent ongoing fortune, Frozen Fists is difficult to remove and a +1 power buff per copy to all your Spirits (from Spring Spirit and White Fox all the way to Mizu Kami and Greater Kirin) can make a HUGE difference. The real kicker? Despite a 4R cost (pricey but fair) it only has a Destiny requirement of 2. As I pointed out above, 3D is the breaking point for fortunes and Frozen Fists sidesteps that nicely, being relatively easy to include in most Sanctuary decks if you so desire. A real sleeper, but potentially the core of a really strong deck, especially considering it's only a common. ****

Overwhelming Forces
Ye gods, MORE gimmicky cards for a hypothetical "Mercenary deck"! The devs don't seem to understand that if they want people to play with Mercenaries, they actually need to release some decent Mercenaries, not just throw supporting cards at them. While the potential power of this card is hypothetically, well, overwhelming (in the almost impossible circumstance of you getting 8 Mercenaries on the board, each one of them will get +7 power!) the fatal drawback is that, well, it's Mercenaries. There's only a single non-melee Mercenary in the game (the rubbish Mercenary Archer) so filling out your board to actually get anything from this card will be rather difficult. Making a mass attack with Mercenaries also means you MUST have Spoils of War in play already or you may find your massively buffed Mercenary army won't actually be able to even attack since you can't pay their attack costs. The Mercenary deck is one with an array of potentially lethal gimmicks and comboes that could potentially crush people, brought down by the single flaw that it's based entirely around a small number of extremely rubbish creatures, like a massive, impregnable fortress built on a huge pool of quicksand. Even a potentially devastating card like Overwhelming Forces is rendered basically useless by this. *

BUILDINGS

Chapel of Elrath
The devs are really starting to get the hang of making decent buildings. Like the better buildings from Griffin Bane (Vampire Ritual Altar and Bloodpact Crucible), Chapel of Elrath is quite decently playable through the simple expediment of being extremely cheap, having very simple requirements, and doing something simple and useful. Tough creatures like Angel Commander deployed on the Chapel can be extremely hard to remove without direct non-damage removal as the Chapel gives you a simple and effective bonus from every Light card you play. Simple, efficient and cheap, the Chapel is well worth using if you use tough creatures and enough Light cards (a lot of which ARE tough creatures). ****

Holy Lighthouse
Similar to Chapel of Elrath, this is cheap, simple, and efficient. It'd be utterly invaluable against a lot of Necropolis and Inferno decks and would be very playable- if it wasn't a dedicated hoser card. Holy Lighthouse would be a perfect card to include in your sideboard if it weren't for the fact that there is no sideboard. Damn. Despite being cheap, simple, and efficient, the fact that it's a completely dead card against WAY too many opponents makes it VERY hard to justify including in your deck, especially as, unlike the classic Ward Against Darkness, you'd ideally need to include SEVERAL copies. *

Portal of House Anima
Another very strange card. Still cheap but not as efficient (the 2D requirement is mildly annoying for a lot of decks), this can serve a number of purposes but will require some creativity. If you flip a Djinn onto it, it gets bounced to your hand, giving you a considerable resource boost at the same time. At its most basic level, this can allow you to save injured Djinn and use the resources to replay them at full HP again. But you don't have to spend the resource on the bounced creature (unlike the bonuses Sanctuary get from Shalan or Sayama Warden when they bounce a creature) so you can actually throw a cheap Spirit like Djinn Catalyst or Embers Elemental back into your hand to fuel the costs of other, more expensive cards (in fact, this may FINALLY give Academy the resouce power they need to be able to use Masfar the way he was intended, throwing out early Generator Titans and Sentinels of the Ages). Additionally, there's no cost to using the Portal so you can potentially pull SEVERAL Spirits back to your hand at once to avoid something like an Insect Swarm or Arkath's Wrath then play them again once it's safe to come out. Finally, you can use it with something like Djinn Mentor to generate as much extra (and cheap) Magic as you want. It does have a few drawbacks you have to remember- it renders the square you play it on inaccessible for any Spirits you deploy onto other squares. While you can deploy a Spirit DIRECTLY onto the Portal without it bouncing (otherwise you could just drop a 2R Spirit onto it for an infinite Resource generation loop), you better not need to move a Spirit across to this square as an emergency blocker or you may have a problem. Also, this is one of the few buildings which only works when it's intentionally left empty, so you may be limiting your movement and deployment if you don't want it to go to waste. And beware Sanctuary and their Outmaneuver, or you may find your creatures being bounced to your hand (and the resource going to waste) more often than you'd like! Still, this building has SERIOUS potential and the creative player may be able to turn it into quite a little engine. ****

Free Mage Altar
Another card you need to build your deck around to get the best from it, the Altar may be Neutral but is really only workable for 1 or 2 factions- namely Academy and Inferno. Simply playing a Darkflame Fanatic or Embers Elemental (both dual element creatures) will give the creature at the Altar +2 power; drop in one of either faction's multiple Prime creatures and this gets even higher and that's BEFORE you start using Neutral creatures like the Chosen. Of course, this would also be a key card if you were trying the gimmicky Neutral Elemental deck as well (get enough Elementals into play and it's giving up to +7 power!). For 2R/2Mi/2Ma, that's really quite a lot of very simple power, as long as you can keep your elemental creatures on the table. ***

Heretic Library
At this stage I'm starting to think they might be going a bit over the top with the amount of direct damage Inferno players are getting. Any Dark creature (such as Lurker in the Dark, Bound Succubus, or Spell Stealer Heretic) you drop on this sweet little building effectively gains the power of a Caller of the Void, putting your opponent on a countdown to destruction. And there's no drawback. 2R/2D is perfectly affordable for a building of this class and it has no drawbacks such as damaging the creature, requiring it to not do anything else, or in fact do ANYTHING other than survive to the beginning of your turn. Nasty. ****

Mercenary Hill Fort
OK, this is starting to get ridiculous... Yes, I admit it- IF you can get your Mercenary deck perfectly set up, with multiple copies of Spoils of War, Rogue Mercenaries and Sellsword Thugs backed up by Mercenary Archers occupying Mercenary Hill Forts with an Agyn Mercenary on hand to capitalise and Overwhelming Forces at the ready, you probably WILL blow your opponent away. Unfortunately, I suspect your opponent might have a few things to say about that, such as "how about no?". As usual, this is COMPLETELY dependant on you having Spoils of War in play because otherwise being able to Double Attack with a MERCENARY is hardly an advantage. So as usual, it's completely brought down by the simple fact that there aren't enough decent Mercenaries to make a Mercenary DECK. If we ever actually SEE a few more passable Mercenaries this card may shoot up to OP levels, but until then it's effectively useless. *

Shalassa's Temple
While not a terrible card, the Temple is edged out by simple fact that Sanctuary generally have better buildings to use. While most of them are Destiny-based rather than Magic like the Temple, the one other Sanctuary building with Magic requirements (see below) completely blows it out of the water for utility, especially as the Temple ONLY affects Water creatures. While Sanctuary does have quite a few Water creatures which can take advantage of it, you're almost universally better off with the Torii. **

Statue of the Spider Goddess
This card is quite honestly mystifying. Are the devs trying to make Namtarus a "thing" for Necropolis now they've finished with Vampires and Skeletons? Because if they are, they DO remember that there are only 4 Namtarus in the game, don't they? 1 of those (the Fate Weaver) is absurdly overpriced to the extent that no-one ever plays it and another (the Fate Sealer) is both overpriced AND no longer available in Standard. So that's Fate Spinner and Namtaru Channeller left to use this building. Clearly it's meant to work with the Channeler, allowing you to recycle your Earth or Water magic creature auras to boost its power up- but this is an extremely limited use. Additionally, it has the considerable drawback of preventing you from taking advantage of the array of useful hexes available to Dark magic, including Wither, Death Seal, Cursed Bound, or Enthrall- unless you want to waste these cursing your own creature. The random factor is also a nuisance, since you can't guarantee you'll get the aura you need to fit the circumstances. While it's relatively cheap and easy to play, I can only see it being used in the most gimmicky of gimmick decks (probably Mother Namtaru, Asha's Nightmare with 4 Namtaru Channelers and as many buff spells as you can cram into it). Release some more Namtarus, devs! *

Altar of Elemental Affinity
This is a seriously powerful little building- IF you play your cards right. While it's Academy rather than Neutral like the Free Mage Altar, you can still drop an Embers Elemental onto it to get -1 off the cost of all your Earth and Fire spells (unfortunately Academy inexplicably lack a Hero with both elements) or any of your dozens of Prime creatures to do the same for Prime. More importantly, as with Magic Interdiction earlier, this affects CARDS not just spells, so dropping a cheap Djinn or Construct onto the Altar will reduce the cost of all your other Prime creatures (21 in Standard, 30 in Open). While its cost of 3R may sting a bit early, it'll save you FAR more than that in the long run as long as you can keep an elemental creature on it and if you can drop multiple copies it'll render deploying creatures a breeze! ***

Angel's Temple
Simply put, the best building in the set. Similar to the Blessed Lake Spirit Sanctuary received in Griffin Bane, this allows you to protect your creatures from damage spells by sacrificing a single one in their place. Since I haven't used it yet I'm not sure whether it redirects the TOTAL damage done by a spell hitting multiple targets, or merely reissues to your sacrifice the damage that would be dealt to a single target (the wording is somewhat ambiguous), but whether you're negating an Insect Swarm or just redirecting a Fire Bolt, being able to control which creature you lose is a massively useful ability. Note, sadly, that you can't absorb the damage by putting a creature with Spell or Elemental Ward on it, as rather than redirecting the damage, the Temple completely PREVENTS it then deals damage to the creature itself. Also keep in mind that, unlike Blessed Lake Spirit, the Temple will even prevent damage done by the enemy to their OWN creatures, so spells like Tsunami and so on won't become one-sided, nor will it prevent additional effects like the Cannot Attack of Frozen Wave. Still, with it being cheap and easy to play, there's little reason NOT to include a copy in your Haven deck. *****

Crimson Tower
While this is a very restricted-use card, Nahla decks will welcome it. While it costs more than both Arcane Orb and Elemental Nexus and only gives Spell Resist, it does away with the irritating Destiny requirement of Arcane Orb (the 1Mi requirement is literally meaningless now that even Invokers start with 1Mi), not to mention the irritating "destroy if creature dies in combat" drawback, and will also protect your creature from Prime, Light and Dark damage spells, if not creatures. The +1R IS a considerable drawback, but comparisons with Arcane Orb and Elemental Nexus are fairly meaningless anyway since the Spell Resist is just a side bonus to its real purpose- a permanent Crimson Link. With the Spell Resist making the Wizard you put in the tower that much harder to kill, Nahla's Beastmen will become even more of a pain to deal with than they already were- plus on the off chance you need to target one of your Rakshasa's with something, you can simply move the Wizard off the tower to temporarily deactivate the effect. It won't see use by any other Hero, but Nahla is going to THOROUGHLY enjoy using this. ***

Torii of the Eternal Empress
Sanctuary are going to be all over this one, which drives their Outmaneuver ability through the roof. In short, EVERY creature deployed on the Torii effectively gains Outmaneuver (or, if they already have it, DOUBLE Outmaneuver). For a 3-drop building with only a 2Ma requirement, that's excellent value. Combined with the new Shark Bodyguard you'll be doing direct damage to creatures like it's going out of style. Powerful. ****

Walls of Destruction
Hardly the most creative building (it does literally exactly the same thing for an Inferno player as the Tower of the Inventor would, for the same cost, only with more annoying requirements) this is irritating but not terribly useful unless you're working on a defence-heavy Inferno deck. I mean, how many times did you put Tower of the Inventor into your Inferno deck already? Right. Having to compete with Hall of Nightmares, Sacrificial Pit, Heretic Library, Spawning Chamber, Hall of Agony and most especially the new Throne of Ahribban, how is this supposed to find a place? **

Jungle Outpost
The last of the far-too-few support cards for the heavily-pushed Centaur/Harpy deck, the Outpost is overpriced and honestly not all that great. When designing the Centaur/Harpy deck that would be the overriding theme for Stronghold this set, the devs don't seem to have realised that if you're going to make cards exclusively for use in a gimmick deck, those cards need to be POWERFUL- at least a notch above cards that can be used by any deck. Giving a Centaur Double Attack wouldn't necessarily be too much to ask, especially for a 4R building with 3Mi/2D requirements. As it is, merely giving it 2 attacks if the first attack hits a creature? Not worth the cost (and certainly not worth the rare slot). You should still probably use it if you ARE committing to a Centaur/Harpy deck, but it's not a great card by any means. As this is the last Stronghold card from the set it would be a good time for me to assess whether I think the Centaur/Harpy deck that has been effectively their ONLY gain from Sins of Betrayal will work out and justify the cards they received. In a nutshell? I honestly don't think so. This hasn't been a good expansion for Stronghold. *

Throne of Ahribban
You know what I said about Jungle Outpost, about how gimmicky, restricted cards need to be powerful? This is a good example of how powerful they should be and it's not even gimmicky! Attack Anywhere is an extremely powerful ability on any creature- when combined with Sweep Attack it's potentially devastating. Ideal Fire creatures to put on it include the Tormentor/Lacerator (which not only double up the carnage with their Area Blast, but will no longer be forced to self-destruct if they have a melee creature planted in front of them), the Blazing Succubus (Immune to Retaliation, even if it Sweeps 3 creatures), Chaos Sorceress (the best of both) and Hikyu, Chosen of the Flames (PAIN!). 4R may seem a bit on the pricey side, but with the right creature this will give you CONTROL! And 2Mi/2Ma requirements are perfectly affordable for most decks, so there's no reason for complaint there either. ****

Warding Pillars
A bit expensive for what it does, but this building probably gives better protection than almost any other in the game. Spell Resist AND untargetability? A creature here is EXTREMELY hard to kill off with non-combat effects- only non-targetted removal like Broken Bridge or Alone in the Dark or EXTREMELY high damage global spells like Armageddon can penetrate this kind of defence. You ever have that one key creature you just NEED to protect like an Angel of Salvation, Eleonore, the Voice of Harmony, Raya, Sibilant Seductress, Enraged Cyclops, or Sentinel of the Ages? The beauty of Warding Pillars is that you can have it down even an entire turn BEFORE you play it and then the creature is already protected as soon as it comes into play. Neutral and with modest requirements (2Mi/2Ma again) this isn't for every deck but might often prove its worth. ***

The Final Rider
01-21-2015, 02:19 AM
Amazing review and great read!!!! Thanks!!!!