It’s spoiler season! As part of the celebration, I’m going to be posting my own personal thoughts and reviews of all the cards officially previewed. 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.
As always, let’s look at the stats. A 6/17/4 Phoenixborn, Echo joins the good company of Rin and Namine. A hair easier to kill, but slightly more resilient to clogged battlefields. Since Echo will himself be clogging battlefields, this is definitely good. I think 6 battlefield is the bare minimum for something like Shield Mage to potentially see play; and Echo has a decent case to try her.
This ability is awesome. Adding an exhaustion token for a single dice is definitely an aggressive cost for the ability, beating out any comparable cards (e.g. Change Psyche) in the cost of an exhaustion token. I do think that the cost of adding/removing an exhaustion is closer to 1.5 or 1 than it’s current 2 placement, but Echo’s ability still fits within or under that window.
This ability is going to be brutal against any small battlefield PBs (5 or smaller) and certainly strong against others just for the effect it has on key units. Just because of this ability, Echo will be much more resilient to double-attacks (an attack at the end of the round after clearing followed by an attack with the first player token) than other Phoenixborn.
Increase Gravity, though, is really hard to judge. My gut wants to place it in a stalling control-deck; something like Southern Dandy. But the ability is more flexible than that and can also help you make more favorable attacks by just giving you increased board control over the course of turns. In fact, putting him into a dandy like shell just seems like it would be worse than Leo in most situations.
The new parallel-cost mechanic is really lovely. I love how it allows Echo to be a host for either a Sympathy *or* Divine (or, of course, both). I hope we see more Phoenixborn with this kind of flexibility in the future – to me it is much more interesting than purely basic Phoenixborn or Phoenixborn tied to a single dice type (or worse, a pair).
I’ve seen some people comment that this card is essentially 6 dice of effects (2x Change Psyche + Transfer) for 2 dice. This is hardly true — the named cards themselves aren’t really worth the two dice they ask. Chaos Gravity’s pieces also aren’t perfect replicas of of these cards but rather lightly restricted variants. Even if they were, the difficulty of lining up a useful situation for all 3 effects should also be considered a heavy tax. Each of the effects on Chaos Gravity is probably more appropriately costed between 1 and 1.5 dice; bringing it around 1-2 dice below curve (which is about appropriate for a Unique card).
The good thing about Chaos Gravity is that you can pretty much always find a good situation for one of it’s abilities (in which case it’s fine), *usually* find a use for two of them (where it’s good), and occasionally find a strongly effective use for all three (when this happens, it can be insane). In order for Echo to crack the upper echelon of Phoenixborn, however, he’s going to need to have Chaos Gravity be insane as often as possible.
The key to turning Echo into a powerhouse is to effectively be able to use the ‘transfer’ portion of Chaos Gravity. Being able to exhaust 1-2 of your opponent’s powerful units and unexhaust 1-2 of your own can be a massive tempo swing. Doing this on your side of the board is probably the easiest way to do this; all you need is a low value unit to move an exhaustion to (like a Squire or Shield Mage) and two beaters (or otherwise effective units, like an Owl). Transferring onto Shield Mage has the potential to be great; but do note that it means you have to play Shield Mage. Due to Echo’s tendency to give his guys multiple attacks, however, the extra life from Shield Mage may make him worth playing. On your opponent’s side of the board, it will be slightly trickier to arrange a truly sweet transfer effect. The opportunities will come along, however, and simply having that option will be useful.
Echo has some powerful potential due to a well-costed power, a large battlefield, and a high-ceiling unique. However, he will require a lot of work to make work well and the ‘trickiness’ of his play will make him easier than others to disrupt. I expect him to be a mid-tier Phoenixborn, capable of performing well at tournaments with the right player but not dominating any metas anytime soon.
Predicted Ashes 500 cost:
Echo – 25
Change Gravity – 25/25/25
Spellboard slots are always hard to dedicate board slots too; the cards have to be good. A spellboard slot is capable of providing you some huge value, either by being a continuous source of good units or some other advantage (like damage from Chant of Revenge). Gravity Training asks a fair amount of you in order for it to provide enough advantage.
What I like about Gravity Training:
- The cost to activate it is flexible
- It’s free to put down
- 1 dice for +1/+1 is a relatively fair cost
- It counters Blood Chains
What I dislike about Gravity Training
- It feels very mediocre
- It’s “bonus” doesn’t come into play until the turn after you activate it, each turn (putting you perpetually behind a turn in value)
What I hate about Gravity Training
- There are only 3 Enhanced Strengths. Ugh.
Overall, the delayed gratitude of the effect and the limited ceiling (with only 3 conjurations) make me very low on the card. In the future, if we see more effects that allow us to double-exhaust our dudes to great benefit become more prevalent (e.g. attacking with River Skald and exhausting him mid-combat for his effect with Secret Door, dealing out 4 wounds and connecting for another 4), then the stock for this card goes up. As it is, it’s too hard to really make gains from the card for me to love it.
Predicted Ashes 500 cost:
2/0/0 (WIth only 3 conjurations, excess copies can very easily have no value).
Raccoon Doge Mirror Spirit
It’s hard to talk about Mirror Spirit without talking about the art. It’s really a fantastic advancement of technology that Plaid Hat Games is showing off here. What they’ve done is put a real-world mirror into your actual soul. Many of us are good bois, and thus see good little doggies when we look at the card. Others, however, are more sinister. I’ll let you ask your friends to find what other creatures they see when they take a look within.
As to the actual mechanics of the card, they are one of the more interesting designs we’ve seen on a conjuration. Oddly enough, they remind me of Silver Snakes… on one hand, they can perform the role of a finisher; threatening large attack power to deal massive blows to the opponent. On the other hand, they can slow down your opponent’s own progression (in this case, by exhausting their units as opposed to presenting a large health/recovery blocker).
My highest hopes for Galaxy Camels come as some sort of surprise finisher for decks. Any deck with sympathy can threaten these out of hand and make your opponent wary of making a large unit like a 5/2 for only 2 dice if they don’t watch what they are doing. During the early game (e.g. as part of the first five), I think these guys are way too slow to be worth playing. But sneaking in at the end? That’s where I can see them earning a spot in a deck. The biggest downside here, though, is that your opponent will always know they could be coming due to the odd effect on your conjuration count.
There’s a lot that I wish was slightly changed about the Donut pups, though. Two dice for 2 toughness rarely feels good. 3 conjurations is highly limiting. The focus ability inherently clogs your battlefield. With some minor changes, I feel like you could really see them shine. As is, I think they will fall a hair too short.
Some things that I think are worth trying with the card:
- Use Odette to force your opponent to kill off your ‘drained’ mirror spirits (or face retribution)
- Combine String Mage and Gilder to stock up status tokens on a large spirit
- Use them as a 1-2 of to be drawn into to threaten large damage in the late game.
Predicted Ashes 500 cost
I really love this card; it’s a powerful effect that warrants its spot on the spellboard but it is also a unique enough effect that not every deck will want it. In the right decks, this card will be a game changer – and yet not every sympathy deck will want this.
On the round it comes out, Changing Winds will allow you to see as many cards as Sleight of Hand does. For decks that have considered Sleight of Hand in the past (often Focus book decks), this will often seem like a huge upgrade. Not only do you see 3 cards the first turn, but you continue to see extra cards each turn after that.
On top of that, you are getting a free meditation each turn. Considering that the most powerful focus book cards (Butterfly Monk and Shadow Spirit) are both power hungry, the inherent synergy is just delicious. We will see Victoria and Namine decks Changing the shit out of some winds in the coming months. The card will likely replace Shifting Mist/Magic Syphon in focus book lists, while also filling the role of Abundance in some others.
Predicted Ashes 500 cost
50/25/25 with same penalties as Shifting Mist