It’s spoiler season! As part of the celebration, I’m going to be posting my own weekly personal thoughts and reviews of all the cards officially previewed throughout week. Where many people may give a grade system from A-F, or 1.0 – 5.0, I’m instead going to be summing up each review with a prediction of where I think the Ashes 500 costs will eventually land. This gives a meaningful metric for how good I think the card is now, as well as provides a personal retrospective grade down the line to see how close I was to how powerful the card truly was in the meta. You can read more about and see the current 500 prices here.
Let’s start with the stats. Odette, sitting at 5/17/4, is just 1 health below the “average” Phoenixborn. Not much more to say there. She is going to be a hair easier to kill than average, has a spellboard that’s usually sufficient but not overly flexible, and a battlefield that is again usually sufficient, but occasionally will feel clogged.
Retribution is a very interesting and nuanced ability. We should note off the bat when exactly it triggers – which is only when you receive damage from *guarding* with Odette. This means your opponent has to take an attack a unit action, and Odette has to step in to protect the unit. If your opponent never does that and always attacks Odette directly… well, then the ability will never trigger.
This is going to happen a lot. And people are going to point out that her ability never triggers. They are going to make the mistake of thinking, however, that this means it never does anything. This isn’t really true, though – Retribution’s strength is in the way it makes your opponent change how they attack and the ways you can take advantage of that.
If your opponent only attacks your Phoenixborn directly, it means that all of your units have a sort of pseudo-unit guard. Knowing this, it’s key to include units that benefit from this. If your deck is Gilders and Butterfly Monks, Retribution will never have a meaningful impact. If, however, your battlefield is Nightshade Swallows and Owls, you now have a unit that shines with unit guard (swallows) and a unit worth protecting (owls) that will make your opponent’s decisions cost them. Be careful not to only include units that benefit from unit guard, however. If you have nothing worth guarding, the impact is again removed.
Sword of Virtue
Sword of Virtue is strong, but probably about average when it comes to Phoenixborn uniques. The clear strength of the card comes from the first half – destroying any unit. Wiping a bear, Hammer Knight, or Dread Wraith off the board for 2 dice is a pretty good deal. The flexibility to remove any unit is definitely good, but at 2 dice it’s not insane value. The more big expensive threats that people are playing, the better Sword of Virtue gets.
There will be matches when the ability to kill a unit is a bad deal, if your opponent is Brennen and only packing Gilders, Butterflies, Anchornauts, and Fire Archers… Well, two dice and a card to remove one of them is a bad trade. There are a lot of decks in the current meta where the sword will never trade up.
Because of this, you may build your deck to include ways to benefit from the second half of the card. Being able to freshen up a Hammer Knight or let a Dread Wraith soak up a new slew of damage can give a potentially great alternative use of the card. However, in previous metas, Refresh like cards have not been very strong; and adding a heal on top is nice but may not be enough to push it to unique strength. It may be difficult to get an edge out of the Sword in matches that rely on the shaving edge.
Odettes unique and ability combination could create a powerful Phoenixborn in the right meta, but they lean towards the reactive side and are not proactively powerful. She is probably a lower-middle-tier Phoenixborn that can occasionally perform very well but will not be a perennial top-placer due to her meta dependence. Proving me wrong will require finding a way to heavily punish players with the retribution ability in a way that works against a large of different deck archetypes. Ashes remains a game with incredible parity for the most part, and even though I think she is not top tier, I do think she will be winning tournaments. She’s just probably not going to win GenCon.
Ashes 500 Cost Predictions:
Odette Diamondcrest- 12
Sword of Virtue – 25/25/25
Namine has Rin stats; which basically means she’s about average, a hair easier to kill but will tend to be resilient to clogged battlefields. In general, I think that extra battlefield slot is a little bit better than the single lost life, and her stats are a hair above average.
This ability is sweet, and in some matchups incredibly powerful. The best comparison is Saria’s Hearts Pull. Hearts Pull’s strength primarily lies in it’s ability to draw a card, and as an added bonus you marginally push forward a mill win-con (or give yourself a chance to punish focus book strategies common in Phoenixborn like Victoria). Hearts Pull is a decent ability and the best part about it is the draw. Contrary to Saria, the card draw for Namine is the worst part of Calming Melody. In exchange for the option to occasionally mill, you get the option of occasionally shutting off your opponents Phoenixborn every other turn. Thats not to say that Hearts Pull is just a worse Calming Melody, simply that Calming Melody has the potential to be devastating in multiple types of matchups, whereas the mill portion of Hearts Pull thrives mostly in control mirror matchups.
Some Phoenixborn rely heavily on their abilities to get advantage. If you can shut off Leo, Noah, or Brennen’s ability for 2 out of the first 3 turns, you will likely be able to find a way to turn that into an insurmountable advantage. Some, maybe most, Phoenixborn sacrifice raw deck quality in order to gain advantage with that ability. Rather than just play good stuff, they make synergistic choices that overall function better because of their ability. Brennen plays cheap units to sacrifice and cards that trigger off them. Victoria cheats on dice counts by having lower non-illusion dice knowing she can rely on a Hidden Power each turn. Coal draws extra cards (often at a low rate with cards like Most Typhoon) and relies on being able to not only pitch them with Slash but use that slashing to clear the board. Calming Melody can hamstring these abilities and consistently stop them from being used for 2 out of the first 3 turns. At that point, it’s your deck (designed to play a normal game) versus theirs (designed to play a different game than the one you are now).
Winning the game from that point is partly going to rely on how good your unique is versus them. Luckily for Namine, Encore is pretty darn good. Now you’re going to be tempted to do some silly things like use Open Memories to double focus books out round 1, and I understand that temptation. But stop. It’s not that good. And Encore is great without it.
Without going for anything gimmicky, Encore is a fantastic tool to get you whatever you need in the moment. At its worst, Encore is as good as the best non-unique in your deck. And there are some good non-uniques: to start with, Hidden Power is more powerful than many unique spells (and pretty much always castable, to boot). You can fairly reliably have Encore be Hidden Power 4-6. And that is it’s floor. It’s ceiling is the copy of Shadow Spirit that you accidentally meditated. Or the 4th Molten Gold that you need to win the game. Or copies 2-4 of the singleton Choke that happens to be critical in the matchup despite you only running one. It’s whatever is best.
The thing is, Encore is sort of like a free Open Memories. In a few ways it’s worse (e.g. it’s not good at focusing books Round 1), but in many ways it’s better. Getting additional copies of cards already used is something OM cannot do. OMing outside of the first round for random cards is rarely seen, but part of that is the Open Memories 2 dice cost. When you can do it for free, tutoring can be very powerful. In a pinch, you can even meditate until you see the card you need and follow it up with a main action Encore.
Namine is top-tier is a flexible Phoenixborn that will only get better with time. Her ability will shut down any new powerful Phoenixborn ability, and her unique will only get more targets. When more cards are released and you can run a toolbox of powerful 1-ofs that thrive in certain matchups, Namine is going to shine with the ability to “duplicate” those 1-offs. The only limiting factor to Namine is how good Sympathy is right now. Because she wants to play a “fair” game, she needs powerful Sympathy cards to support her generically powerful ability and unique. If she doesn’t get them now, she likely will eventually, and I suspect we will be hearing Namine singing her tune for the long haul.
Ashes 500 Cost Predictions*:
Namine Hymntide – 50
Encore – 33/33/33
* I think Namine will be a tough nut to crack. Like Victoria in the last meta, people won’t figure out how to play her to her best strengths initially. I predict though that that nut will be cracked before the subsequent expansions come out and she will eventually reach this level.
Thoughts? Questions? Want to say where you think the cards should be priced? Let me know in the comments, or start a discussion on the Ashes slack chat.