Elliot Reviews Ashes – Winged Lioness, Law of Assurance, Meteor

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.

Please keep in mind that I am looking at things from a competitive meta perspective.

Summon Winged Lioness
ashes_5_summonlion

This is it.  This is the card that will make people play divine, whether or not other divine cards are good.  This is the best new summon spell.  This is the best summon spell period. Hell, this card alone makes gives the Divine dice power reason in life.

A 2/2/1 for 2 dice is already great value. It’s the stats of an Iron Worker, which is a card occasionally worth playing just for the body.  Lionesses can pump out an Iron Worker of stats each turn and for the same amount of dice.  There’s no initial cost for the book, and even making the lioness takes only a class – meditation will rarely be required. Recover on conjurations is very rare, and it gives them survivability that is a very welcome bonus.

ashes_5_lionessStalk is incredible —  it completely changes the game.  Owls can no longer hide behind Finches, or their pretty little Phoenixborn – if a Lioness sees an Owl in the sky it is taking it down.  As an added bonus, if the owl fights back the damage will even be recovered at the end of the round.  Exhausted units, which in the past may also be protected by Butterfly Monks or the Phoenixborn, are once again easy targets for a Lioness. Normal combat becomes greatly beneficial for the Lioness wielder; and when backed with their own Unit Guard units have a complete upper-hand in ground-combat.

I’m very high on this card and I can’t imagine any divine deck not playing Lionesses during this meta.  It’s the reason to go into divine, and I think the card is so good that it is Hidden Power level – if you are in this color and not playing it, I think you are likely making a mistake.

Predicted Ashes 500 Cost:

100/25/25

Law of Assuranceashes_5_loa

Finally, some illusion protection.  For ~cheaper~ than 0 dice and a spellboard slot, you get protection from the almighty wolf until the end of the round. It’s cheaper than 0 dice because you actually get free meditations on two dice.

The dice-shifting portion of LoA is fairly interesting on its own.  It’s somewhere between a Call Upon The Realms and a Hidden Power in terms of functionality and power level, though definitely much closer to Call Upon The Realms in the power aspect.  The reason that it’s part-Hidden Power at all is the color shifting.  Law of Assurance gives you some light affordance to cheat on dice pools with sketchy dice bases because of how it can smooth out an awkward draw.  Playing Bears with 4 nature dice, and you just drew 2 Molten Gold?  Well, if you also drew LoA, you can cast it all and not have either MG stuck in hand.  This trick will be occasionally useful, but may also potentially be a trap.  If your deck is awkward enough that you want LoA purely for fixing, then your deck will be just as awkward when you don’t draw LoA.  

The illusion protection, however, is real.  Played early in the round, and you can completely shut off your opponents dice power – and if they were planning on using that dice power 2-3 times, this can do more than give you protection: it can hamper their hands efficiency.  The benefit of LoA in the First Five is that you will *know* the other 4 cards in your hand can be cast – your opponent doesn’t know whether they can leave room for the wolf power when picking their First Five. I think we will see lots of decks with powerful first fours + LoA for illusion matchups and more flexible First Fives otherwise.

Outside of the First Five, I think LoA is most beneficial in decks with heavy spellboard costs – ones that try to make Bears, etc.  These decks can be especially punished by illusion decks, as their costs only go up as the game goes on (whereas with things like Illusionary Cycle, the illusion decks ability to constraints goes up).  Having a turn in the mid-game where you can make everything you want to in a matchup against heavy illusion can be enough to turn the tide completely.  

In the end, you do need the spellboard slot for Law of Assurance – and it’s non-protection ability to color fix probably isn’t worth the slot alone.  Even if you are countering Sympathy’s dice-turning in abilities like Shatter Pulse, it’s not worth it. You want the ability to capitalize on 10 dice and the incentive to protect that strategy.  Not all Phoenixborn have large enough Spellboards to casually throw a Law like this in.  Illusion decks, I think, will also be less prevalent. With 6 colors now, an even split means that only ⅓ of 2 color-decks would have illusion in them.  The more popular this card is, the less popular illusion probably is.  Finally, many illusion decks can simply pivot their options in the face of the Law.  If you lock out Victoria’s ability to steal your wolves, she may just make Frogs to help control the battlefield for that round.

Predicted Ashes 500 Cost:

6/6/6

Meteorashes_5_meteor

Meteor is a very exciting card, and it’s effect gives you the sense that even if it’s not played immediately it will find a slot eventually.  There is something slightly awkward about it, however, that makes it unclear where it fits right now.

I think Meteor is going to do best against Owl and Spirit decks, particularly variants of the Shadow Spirit/Owl/Butterfly Monk builds that try to capitalize on a variety of effective 1 dice units.  But timing an effective Meteor can be especially tough – if your opponent sniffs it out, it’s often possible for them to okay around it and support rebuilding their board.  When it’s a surprise, I think Meteor will win more than a few games.  When suspected, it will take a lot more work.  Compare the card to something like Mist Typhoon – Mist Typhoon sees some play, but not an absurd amount; and it’s really best used in decks like Luck 14.  While Mist Typhoon causes less wreckage – it’s much easier to get your opponent to give you value for it because the effect is one-sided.  When you commit units to the board, your opponent has to as well.  You can’t quite do that as simply with Meteor – units you commit are going to be hit just as hard.

How can you best encourage them to commit more of their resources to the board than you, so that Meteor can be worth the symmetrical damage?  This is going to be the question to answer if you want to crack Meteor.  Perhaps Dread Wraiths can do it alone.  Maybe Coal can force units out and use Meteor in a Luck-14-esque way to get fatties through the next turn (after paying the exhaustion tax).  Can Dimona shake off the exhaustion penalty by having her Rayward Knights take a 2nd exhaustion on the chin? If it’s hard to get value these ways or similar, it’s possible Jessa’s ability to cause a cacophony of screams will simply be enough. I think it’s going to be possible to use Meteor to your advantage, but I don’t think finding out how to do it is going to be easy – and I’m not sure that top-decks will figure it out in this first divine Meta.

Predicted Ashes 500 Cost:
6/6/6

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