Elliot Reviews Ashes – Summon Emperor Lion, Holy Knight, Power Through

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 Emperor LionAshesLion

The lion joins a motley crew of 3-cost conjurations.  Compared to its brethren (Ice Golem, Dread Wraith, and Shadow Hound), the Lion may be the best out of the box.  All 3 of the prior have seen successful competitive play (with Ice Golem’s case for viability being the most flimsy), but none have risen to the level of a dominant mainstay — while good, you rarely have to think, “Well, how does this deck handle ~” because their presence in decks/the meta is niche and sparing.  

Emperor Lion maybe will be no different, but its well-balanced stats combined with some very relevant bonus abilities make it a threat to be a card more commonly included. It’s worth pointing out that the first lion has the same cost (cheaper, meditation wise) as the first bear – and it is a unit that is definitely better.  Let me repeat that again, the first lion you make is AshesLion2at least as good as one of the best conjurations in the game right now.  Damn, I’m getting myself excited about this lion.

Lions hit a Phoenixborn as hard as a Hammer Knight, are just as hard to kill, have the same dice cost, and you can make them *each* turn.  Healing Aura randomly makes your opponent plays inefficient.  If you can turn an aura into a heal at the end of the round, that’s about a dice worth of value for each damage.  Combined with cards like Particle Shield it may be very possible to turn this into a gamelong advantage.  Because it’s inexhaustible, it means that even if your opponent Steady Gazes it the lion can continue to provide value. The whole package of the Lion is good, they didn’t skimp this time around and I think PHG is really learning what kind of value you can put into 3 dice.

This all sounds awesome; why wouldn’t this be a a dominant mainstay?  A few things make cards like this hard to play or risky moves.  Putting 3 dice into a unit gives your opponent a lot of ways to gain a value advantage: Regress, Molten Gold, Sword of Virtue and more are all great deals, dice-wise, for your opponent.  When you pump this much into something, your opponent can turn the tempo of such a trade to their advantage.

Secondly, a double-color cost can make your dice or turns awkward.  The Divine dice ability is on the weaker side, and so having heavy Divine dice spreads is a little harder to support. The lion can’t go in every deck and succeed, especially with wolf dice running around. Though the lion beats the bear in value round 1, bears are easier to summon and present less of a deficit in subsequent rounds when answered. Overall though, when the card works it is definitely going to be worth it.

Predicted Ashes 500 Cost:

33/2/2

Holy KnightAshesHolyKnight

I’m going to go ahead and start by saying that 3 of any dice type is a lot.  It’s very restrictive.  There’s barely any playable cards that require 2 of a dice type right now; and they are often early cuts in decks trying to be flexible with their dice pool.  Even Molten Gold gets cut because 2 Nature is a lot to throw down.  Holy Knight asks for 3 Divine dice for each one you play with.  And that’s a lot.  

Consider that if Holy Knight isn’t the best Divine card, you probably want other Divine cards.  Something to give you a consistent use, like Lioness, is going to push you to four divine dice on the turns you want to play him.  Even if youre hoping to also draw into Law of Assurances on the same turn, you really gotta have at least 5 Divine dice to feel semi-comfortable supporting a deck like that. This itself is very restrictive.  And even with 5 dice, your placing yourself at risk of some very awkward turns.  Such a Divine heavy non-summon card ensures that you will have hands drawn that either can’t be supported by your dice, or leave you with an excess of Divine dice – which does not have a particularly flexible dice power.  In order to support Holy Knight, you’re probably going to need dice help: meaning Rin, Expand Energy, Victoria, or Orrick.  The latter two, however, seem more like less than ideal fits.

So what do you get for fitting to this restrictive cost?  A 5/3/2 unit that is resistant to just about *everything*.  No Fear.  No Regress.  No Molten Gold.  Not even non-spell based tricks. Fire archer + Water Blast?  Pffft.  Anchornaut + Spirit Burn?  Yeah, right!  None of it touches the Holy Knight.

Until it exhausts.  Then it’s all free-game.  And that’s kind of the problem; you can get a single attack or counter in, but then your opponent gets to use whatever spell they normally would have on your Knight.  If your attack is wasted on a Gilder or Butterfly Monk, you didn’t get a lot of value on that attack.  Your best case scenario is dropping the Holy Knight in the first five to an unprepared opponent, and getting 5 in because they had no allies to drop and protect.  Getting 5 in and then forcing them to remove a 3 toughness unit is pretty good value for 4 dice.

But the other cases are much less appealing.  The thing is, this Knight is just really bad at fighting.  It trades with a lot of 3 cost dudes, and once exhausted can easily be extinguished by any multitude of weenies + ping effects.  He’s just not great when he has to fight other units.  There are ways to unexhaust him before he falls victim to your opponents abilities, but they are either expensive and awkward (Dimona) or in colors that are probably hard to currently support with Holy Knight (Flute Mage).  One of the best ways to deal with a Holy Knight is just going to be attacking into it and leaving something up to block.

I know some good players that are really high on Holy Knight, so you should maybe take my opinion with a grain of salt… but if you can’t tell, I’m low on Holy Knight.  And I’m glad I am.  Invulnerable effects and similar are incredibly dangerous; if they get too good – they let you do broken things.  I don’t think Holy Knight is one of those cards though; it’s just too awkward.

Predicted Ashes 500 Cost:

2/2/2

Power ThroughAshesPower

Offensive alterations are often very tricky to get right.  Because they inherently pour your resources into a single unit, they open yourself up to trades that are beneficial for the opponent instead of you.  In general, one big threatening unit is harder to make use of then an army of less threatening but still effective units.  Many alterations tend to have multiple of the following common problems:

  • No element of surprise.  It doubles down on a threat and says “Can you deal with this?”, and then it gives them a chance to deal with it.
  • Easy to avoid or chump.  You make one big attack dude, but it’s completely negated by a Butterfly Monk; or one bad-ass blocker that your opponent just doesn’t attack into.
  • It opens yourself up to 2-for-1s.  You give your dude +3 attack, and when they Fear or Molten Gold it, they just used 1 card to get rid of both your unit and alteration.
  • They have overcosted or no respark cost at all, an ability which can help make up some of these other weaknesses.
  • They are overcosted for their stats.

Power through shakes off a lot of these weaknesses.  It’s side-action cost + offensive ability means that it *does* have the element of surprise – you can often guarantee at least one hit with it before your opponent can react.  Chumping does very little; as the real benefit is the overkill ability punishing their chumping.  It does get 2-for-1d, but it’s respark costs *no* dice at all, making it much easier to play again if that’s what you want to do.  Any card in your hand is another Power Through.

So what about cost?  It’s hard to say without getting a lot of play in, but I think Power Through is fairly costed for it’s ability. It’s certainly not vastly overcosted – I can say with some certainty that 1 dice for the effect would be unfairly good.  On Lionesses, Power Through is an absolute house.  Guaranteed kills overflow into Phoenixborn damage, advancing your win condition and controlling the board.  On Shadow Spirits, you threaten 3 damage to the dome or 2 + a likely dead unit.  There are a lot of ways to get reasonable use for the cost out of Power Through.  

To me, the key word is reasonable – outside of Lionesses hunting it’s preferred prey (e.g. Owls), many uses are not anything crazy.  And they still require 2 dice and 2 “cards”. I really think it’s going to take the meta shaking out to see if this card is worth it.  It’s the best offensive alteration we’ve seen yet though, and I have high hopes for it.  The fact that it brushes off a lot of traditional downsides for alterations give it a ton of promise.

Predicted Ashes 500 cost:

16/16/16

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