Figures in the Fog Review: Transmutation

Hail and well met! We are the Figures in the Fog and today we’ll be reviewing the new cards for Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn, added in The Demons of Darmas. This is the second entry in the series. If you haven’t read the other article in this series you can find it here:  We have 3 new cards to review today, including 2 new Units and 1 new Action spell. We are very excited to finally see what tricks Harold has up his sleeve.

And his first trick is an Ally called Beast Warrior. On the surface this Ally looks quite disappointing, it costs your full turn to play, a Main Action AND a Side Action and a Sympathy class die for a Unit with 1 Attack, 1 Life, and 0 Recover. But much like Harold, this Unit isn’t all that it appears on the surface. This werewolf introduces a new inexhaustible Transform ability. Transform 1 increases this Unit’s Attack, Life, and Recover values by 1, when his controller doesn’t have the First Player Token. This means that every other round, this Unit is a 2 Attack, 2 Life, and 1 Recover, for only a class die! And if that wasn’t enough this, Ally also has another ability called Group Tactics 1. With Group Tactics, when his controller declares an Attack action with 3 or more Units, his Attack increases by 1 more.

Beast Warrior

This Ally has a very interesting design. The obvious weakness of the card is that every other turn it’s reduced to a 1/1, making it very easy to remove. As a result, the best time to play it is when the opponent has the First Player Token. Unfortunately, this really undermines the classic strategy of cheap aggressive Units like this. Typically when a player wants to go wide with cheap aggressive Units, they tend to use most of their dice clearing their opponent’s board, and then drop their cheap Units. Allowing them to swing in at the end of a round, let the round flip, and then swing in again. So this Unit’s inherit weakness after the round flip, is a bit of an anti-synergy with where similar cards fit. That being said, this card could offer a Sympathy spread a kind of budget Shadow Spirit, especially if they have Ceremonial dice and recur this Ally for only 1 Life.

X:I’m not really impressed with this Ally. It’s a fairly sizeable tempo hit, due to taking your whole turn to play, even for a 2/2/1. In theory, you might still be able to get extra value out of it with Group Tactics, but that has its own host of problems. Firstly, attacking with multiple Units only has value when you are attacking an enemy Phoenixborn, not an enemy Unit. Attacking an enemy Phoenixborn allows them to choose how they block, making it very hard for the Beast Warrior to trade up. The other limitation of this ability is that it requires keeping 2 more Units unexhausted Units on the Battlefield. In a Meteor and Kneel meta, I just don’t see very many reasons to use this card.

N: I like this little guy. As with all Sympathy cards, it requires carefully timing to get a good payoff, but a 3-2 for a single Sympathy class is great value. I don’t think he’s an auto-include by any means. But definitely an interesting option in something like an Aradel swarm style deck.

The second Ally Harold is bringing with him is another werewolf called Beast Mage. This Ally costs a Main Action, 2 Sympathy class dice, and 1 basic die for a Unit with only 2 Attack, 2 Life, and 0 Recover. But like the Beast Warrior, it’s packing 2 abilities including Transform 2 and a new Ability called Terrifying 1. With Transform 2, on turns where his opponent has the First Player Token, he becomes a 4 Attack, 4 Life, and 2 Recover Unit. And while that’s certainly impressive, the Terrifying 1 is the real game changer for this Unit. Terrifying 1 says that when this Unit attacks, it cannot be blocked or guarded against by any Units with 1 Attack or less.

Beast Mage

Since the beginning of the game, Hammer Knight has been a staple of any deck that wanted to put pressure on board. Beast Mage is slightly cheaper and less restrictive than Hammer Knight, that sometimes has better stats. Despite the stats, where this Unit really shines is the use of Terrifying. Nearly all of the best defensive Units in the game have 1 Attack or less including Butterfly Monks, Gilders, Glow Finch, Three-eyed Owls, and Turtle Guards. This makes Beast Mage an amazing anti-control card, able to bypass his opponent’s best defenses and deal them 4 damage. Another big boon for this card is that it has 4 Life, meaning outside of Fear and Shadow Counter his opponent can’t destroy it with a single card.

X: I don’t quite know how to feel about this card. On the one hand a 4/4/2 for 3 dice is great value. On the other hand, a 4/4/2 that turn will eventually turn into a 2/2/0, feels bad. If a deck can protect the Beast Mage in its weakened state, maybe using Koji and Protect, it could be good. My personal favorite use of this card is to use it as an answer to a turn one Holy Knight.

N: I really like Terrifying as an ability. It’s great against decks running lots of Doves/Owls/Turtles. It’s the 2/2/0 part about this that is pretty bad. On the other hand, it will definitely draw the attention of your opponent, who will need to spend resources in removing it. Even something like Particle Shield, just to forces them into investing a bit more in its destruction is advantageous. Please avoid playing this when you have the first player token and the opponent is showing a nature class.

The first Action Spell Harold is bringing is a card call Transmute Magic. This Action Spell uses a Side Action a Sympathy class die and X (any number) of basic dice. In exchange, the player gets to select X dice is in his or her Exhausted Pool and place them in his or her Active Pool on any side! And then the player may change an additional 2 dice in a target player’s Active Pool to a side to any side.

Transmute Magic

Woah! That’s a really powerful effect for just a single side action. This is effectively a super Call Upon the Realms and will likely replace that card in any deck using a couple of Sympathy dice. Some people have compared this to another dice fixing Sympathy card, Magic Syphon, but that’s not really a good comparison. Magic Syphon is still the go to card in any Sympathy deck that wants to avoid meditating cards. While this card performs a similar function, this card only provides the benefit for a single round. This is great for any deck that wants to play multiple cards requiring power symbols in a single round like Final Cry, Hammer Knight, and Molten Gold or Meteor and Holy Knight. It’s also worth noting that because of the way this card is costed, if the player spends at least 3 additional dice it can trigger Magic Purity, or at least 2 additional dice it can trigger Lucky Rabbit’s Luck Stream. That means the player could spend all of his or her dice, trigger Magic Purity or Luck Stream, target his or her own Active Pool, and have 10 power dice for the round. However, because this card does target a player’s Active Pool it is vulnerable to Vanish and Veil of Reversal, which could be disastrous.  As a result, like Rin’s Fury, it may be prudent to target one’s own Active Pool rather than the opponents.

X: This card is awesome! It’s low cost, flexible, and can be nicely fit into a variety of different decks. It has a several synergies with several pre-existing cards. And while it certainly hurts Call Upon the Realms competitive viability, because it’s tied to Sympathy it doesn’t completely destroy it. I also really like how this card adds a new wrinkle to the dice economy, especially against Illusion. I mean when are you playing a heavy Illusion deck, typically Vicky, and you don’t have the necessary power dice, you’re put in an awkward spot. Do you only meditate once, and clearly signal what dice you are planning on using? Or do you meditate more than once, spending valuable cards from your deck, in an attempt to disguise your actual intentions? With this card you can only spend 1 card and make all of your dice power dice. Now you can play the cards you want to play without telegraphing your plans to your opponent.

N: This card is really, really flashy, and I like it. It’s not as game breaking as it first appears, simply because most decks don’t have a use for all the power symbols and any they do need can be gained by careful meditation. I think it’s great against Illusion, and I love the ability to disguise the Call to Action or Final Cry you have in hand. Not an auto-include, but definitely a fantastic card.

Thanks for joining us today as we reviewed the new cards from The Demons of Darmas. Plaid Hat previewed some new cards today (Tuesday) so check them out now, and we will have a new article shortly afterwards. So while we wait, why don’t you tell us what you think? What do you think of the new Allies, Beast Warrior and Beast Mage? Do you like the Transform mechanic? What about the new Action Spell, Transmute Magic? Are any of these going to break the meta and revolutionize the game? Tell us about in the comments below. The spirits are calling us and we must Fade Away again, but the Figures in the Fog will return!

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