Elliot Reviews Ashes – Jericho Kill (Part 2)

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.

Battle Mage

Battle mage brings with it the third gimmicky viable but not really explosive kill deck, in the vain of Grow Finch (Glow Finch + alterations) and One Punch Man.  I call the deck, “Oops, all Refreshes”. The general idea goes like this:

Turn One, you start a First Five with something rather innocuous looking like Summon Three Eyed Owl, Summon Gilder, Summon Butterfly Monk, Battle Mage, and… Amplify.  You threaten their hand a little, try to kill some dudes, and just prepare for the next round with an Amplified Battle Mage.

Round 2, you draw an average of 3-4 Refresh effects and start beating face over and over with your 6-10 attack Battle Mage.  With Battle Mage, Refresh/Transfer/Change Psyche/Enlightenment/Chaos Gravity/Flute Mage/Sword of Virtue/Order* all cost an effective single dice.  And you can easily include 12-15 copies of them.  With Amplify, your Battle Mage has a huge recovery to survive to the next round and do it all over again. The deck is fragile as all hell, but man is it fun when it works. Works in Dimona, Odette, or Echo.

Outside of that gimmick, Battle Mage is actually a really solid ally.  An effective 2 dice for a 2/3/1 that can potentially gain you more dice in subsequent rounds is really great value.  The card is an auto-include in any decks trying to gain advantage with Lucky Rabbits or Magical Purity, but it’s also totally viable in general.  In decks making reasonable use of cards like Chaos Gravity or  Sword of Virtue, the ‘one dice refresh’ effect is still a useful trick.  Battle Mage is nothing crazy, but it is efficient.

If your opponent kills the Battle Mage before you attack with it, you generally aren’t super upset.  The best thing they can really do is Molten Gold your Battle Mage, which is a trade that isn’t the worst thing in the world for your 3 basics. If they try to Regress it, the Battle Mage still acts as a pseudo-expand energy for you to make use of. In combination with its gimmick potential, Battle Mage is one of my favorite cards in the new releases.

Predicted Ashes 500 Cost:

12/12/12

Elephant Rider

Now, this is one sneaky assassin.  I had doubts of Jericho’s assassinating abilities, but the Elephant Rider is as sleuthy as they get. I mean, just look at her!  You can barely tell she’s even there, what with the elephant blocking your view!

7 dice is a lot of dice. It’s a whole lot of dice. It’s the kind of dice you spend, feel really satisfied with your awesome threat, and then start to feel really depressed as you watch your opponent do all sorts of things with *their* seven dice. I think Elephant Rider is a really powerful threat for the dice you put into it; but it’s largest problem lies in how easy it is to stop souped-up voltrons.

It’s hard to justify First Fiving a card that costs so much and can easily be countered by a Regress or Fade Away, and I don’t think there will be great strategies that do so.  Elephant Rider will probably best succeed in decks with small Battlefields (like Maeoni or Lulu) that are trying to put powerful threats in each slot.  Drawing into an Elephant Rider in such a deck in the later rounds may prove to be occasionally useful, especially if the meta is such that there aren’t great answers for the card.

Outside of ‘fair’ uses of the card, the most likely place that I foresee Elephant Rider seeing play is as a combo with Redirect and Living Doll.  After pumping up your Living Doll’s toughness with something like Ice Buff + Root Armor, you can send a massive 6 damage to your opponent’s dome by recurring an Elephant Rider and redirecting it to your living doll and on through your opponent’s skull.  I’ve had moderate success doing similar with Hammer Knights in the past, but really this sort of strategy is probably relegated to mediocre at best. I’d feel a lot better if the Elephant Rider cost 6.

Predicted Ashes 500 Cost:

2/2/2

Magical Purity

I’m really not a fan of this card, and in particular I’m not happy with how a lot of people talk about this card. This card is comparable to Expand Energy – it does not ‘reduce the cost’ of your 3 dice colorless cards. Instead, it’s just a conditional Expand Energy that can only bring back dice (but won’t guarantee do so). A discount would apply to each copy made in a turn.

There’s two ways to play this:

  • With a ‘reliable’ conjuration (Seaside Raven or Turtle Guard) that you can make each turn
  • With a large amount of triggering cards you draw into, like Battle Mage or Rayward Knight.

Let’s start by looking at the second way: I don’t think it’s reliable enough.  In particular, in order to reliably trigger this card, you need to include so many 3 drops that your deck becomes unreliable as a result; having clunky draws that you can’t consistently play.  A deck looking to benefit from Magical Purity is either going to be bad, or Expand Energy (an already middling card) is going to be better.

So that leaves us with one viable way of playing Purity: Saria or Turtle Guards (Rhino’s?  I’ve never heard of them).  In such a deck Purity will act as a pseudo-HP/EE hybrid – bringing you an ‘extra’ dice the turn it comes out in addition to each round after that. The biggest issue, however, is that these dice will often require meditations.  The decks that truly benefit from EE like effects, though, want to go long – and meditations are not good for a deck trying to outlast.

I do think we will see people try to bring Purity into the meta, but it’s gonna take some creative minds to truly make it work.

Predicted Ashes 500 Cost:

0/0/0 (2/2/2 with Seaside Raven or Summon Turtle Guard)

Spear Master

This card is pretty pricey for what it does, which is unfortunate.  Where I would *really* want to use a 3 power battle advantage ally is to counter Hammer Knights, Lions, and Bears (oh my) in first fives.  Unfortunately, the discard cost makes this a highly deeply unattractive first five option for me. You can pay 4 dice with a Hand Tricks first five, but that is now in the realm of too expensive and less consistent (with the random draw you are now getting).

However, a discard is definitely cheaper than a dice – discard costs are one of the reasons I was so high on Crescendo.  Because of that, Spear Master *may* be a viable card to draw into after the first five.  The problem is that the barrier for a 3+ drop is pretty high, and I’m not sure that Spear Master quite meets that.  We haven’t had a super-playable battle advantage unit quite yet; and I don’t think this card is that.  Their biggest problem is that after they attack they are as vulnerable as ever.

The meta and card pool just isn’t ready for this card, and I don’t know if it ever will be.

Predicted Ashes 500 Cost:

1/1/1

Squire

The Squire is pretty elegant; I really like mechanically how it works.  Rather than costing any extra dice, you de-meditate to gain a benefit.

In the right decks (decks with large or disposable battlefields), this is my favorite new answer to Three Eyed Owl.  Rather than pay a power dice to recur an anchornaut, or pay a basic for a hand tricks, you can de-meditate that power dice to get a 1/1 and ‘discard’ the top card of your deck. If your deck isn’t upset about a Mist Spirit on it’s board, this is slightly better than some already viable anti-owl strategies.

Outside of Three Eyed Owl, Squire can be useful in focusing books or finding high-impact cards while adding a small point of damage onto the board.  The decks that will be trying to do all of the above, though, won’t be all.  I foresee this card having the most impact in Jericho, Coal, or Brennen.  Outside of that, the 1/1 actually just usually isn’t worth the battlefield slot.

Predicted Ashes 500 Cost:

1/1/1 (9/9/9 in Jericho, Coal, Brennen)

Hand Tricks

Here it is, the most ubiquitously great card since Enchanted Violinist.  This card should be a 3-of in 95%+ of decks, and I’m here to tell you why!

The first mistake that people make when looking at Hand Tricks is to start by analyzing it in the context of Return 1.  “But you have to mill to return it!” they say.  Ignore that part of the card.  It is purely gravy.  The top card of the card makes it worth playing without ever returning it once.

In Ashes, like any other card game, there is going to be a difference between the best and worst card in your deck.  Games aren’t perfectly balanced, and even if they somehow were, the synergy between cards still makes you want some cards more than others.  As a result, it’s almost always better to run the minimum cards possible in a deck, increasing your median card power and increasing your chances of drawing your most impactful cards.  Hand Tricks lets you play with 27 cards; and that is almost always a good thing.

But that’s not it; Hand Tricks doesn’t just let you draw a card for essentially free, it does it for *better* than free.  Hand Tricks lets you do something I call ‘dice shifting’ – changing one color of dice for another.  Illusion is an extremely powerful boogeyman in the meta right now, and being able to gain an extra dice of a type an illusion player is pressuring can be invaluable. If you have 4 Nature dice, being able to spend one of your charm to get back a nature basic (that can later be meditated into a useful nature type) can be critical on turns that you are being pressured. This flexibility is good in pretty much every deck against a dice type that will be in > 50% of matchups you face.

So Hand Tricks is already amazing, and we haven’t even gotten to the second part of the card. In normal decks, Return 1 is if nothing else an option always available to you. Have an extra dice and trying to hit a win-or-lose card?  Return hand tricks and draw a card.  Really need to get an extra nature dice, and even willing to spend some non-nature to do it?  Return Hand Tricks and convert.  Trying to mitigate the damage of a Three-Eyed Owl?  Return and protect the cards in your hand that you *know* are good.  But what happens when you put Hand Tricks into a shell that actually has synergy with the amazing card?

On top of being an auto-include already, Hand Tricks turns into a gatling gun that can even hit players in Coal.  In Jericho, it provides extra magic ammo and is a great first-five card to store face down. In Namine, milling 1 to draw a card is just fine when Encore can return the milled card anyway.

Overall, I’m happy with the card. Despite being a near auto-include; it’s not oppressive.  Nobody ever feels bad because their opponent plays Hand Tricks against them.  It simply streamlines decks and in doing so weakens the power of the oppressive wolf dice. So… to wrap it up…Play Hand Tricks.  Just play it.

Predicted Ashes 500 Cost:

33/33/33 (50/50/50 in Coal or Jericho)

While this card is an auto-include, it’s power is really revolved around the cards around it.  In a cost-based deck building situation, Hand Tricks alone isn’t always worth spending your points on.  If costs were based purely on power level, Hand Tricks would be at least 50.

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