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 Squall Stallion
The Stallion is an interesting card. It has the potential for some explosive finishes. People will experience games where 3 of them are swinging for a total of 21+ damage all at once. It also has the potential to go games where the Stallions are overpriced duds. At the price of a bear, you get to draw a card and make a ~1/3. It’s definitely more than 1/3, but you really do have to put work into it into making it more effective than a bear. On defense, especially, it’s going to be hard to make this more than a 1/3 for 2+ dice.
Empower is the spiciest combo with the stallion. This formerly useless spellboard gets new life with the stallions – in combination the cards actually form a powerful combo. Empower not only gives you a way to turn the stallions into powerful offensive threats, and even eliminates their defensive liability by turning them from 1/3s into 4/3s when activated. With multiple Empower’s on the board, it becomes easy to have single alpha strikes with an army of high attack horses. The trouble with this combo is the dice requirement – double Sympathy and double Nature limits what you can do. With pieces picked apart – e.g. your stallions killed, you are not in a great place. Further, there is a lot of up front cost to getting these pieces out. In a long game, you may be able to have some explosive units, but it takes a lot of setup time and a lot of dice. Secret door is another option for potentially triggering large amounts of times, but even harder to make use of.
In “fair” decks, making use of the Stallion will generally require spending about 1 dice to draw a card with a side-action. You can use Namine, Saria, or the Sympathy dice power – and with an Iron Worker you can do this multiple times in a turn. Activating these once per round should not be a problem in decks designed to. Activating them twice will likely be slightly more awkward, which means you will have to consistently swing with all of your horses at once or take the value hit. If you could consistently count on the ponies having +2 attack, they would be fine. A unit that is only conditionally a 3/3 for the price of a bear, however, isn’t the best deal on its own.
The card draw attached is a nice bonus; and making use of that is going to be key to making the stallions work. If you can find value out of the draw attached to breeding a stallion, you will have success with them. If you can’t, the Stallions are going to be likely best summarized as a gimmick – occasionally capable of explosive games, but too hard to pull off to be a consistent threat.
Predicted Ashes 500 Cost:
Crescenbro has arrived. This little bard will come into the board and threaten to kill opposing enemies of equal size and still leave behind it’s exhausted body. The ability to control things on the board is very real, and a Melody Knight that lasts more than one round can end up being very cost effective in removing targets. This card will see play, but I think that there are a few caveats that bring it down in value from where people may initially have it.
- It costs double Sympathy.
- Double class costs on allies is historically very hard to get past. Beast Tamer and Crimson Bomber or both very reasonable units that have seen much more limited play than expected due to the dice pool building constraints they impose.
- It costs 3 dice
- The answers for units like River Skald are all cheaper than 3; and so when answered will often give your opponent a dice advantage.
- The skalds ability to slay the turn it comes down helps limit this. If you kill a Hammer Knight or a Bear, you don’t care how your opponent handles your Skald, you’re probably ahead. But if you face against cheaper costing unit spreads, it may be easier for your opponent to get the upper hand.
- Triggering it isn’t free in opportunity cost or dice.
- It’s pretty much going to cost you a dice and side action to trigger this. It won’t always be convenient, and doing it in the first round means your spending 4 dice. Again, if that’s on a big fatty, you are ahead. If it’s on an owl, not as much.
- It’s a utility unit weak to the same things combat units are weak too
- In particular, regress shuts it down.
All in all, the card is very powerful but the above caveats make me reconsider including it as often as I might. It’s strong; I’m just scarred by Beast Tamer and can’t trust Power/Class/Basic 3/3/2s any more. It just brings up too many bad memories.
Predicted Ashes 500 Cost:
Damn, this card is sweet. 3 damage for 1 dice is incredible value, and though it has other costs associated with it to gain that extra power, trading one resource for another can be a very broken thing.
For 3 damage, you can clear off some of the most potent threats we’ve seen yet. Hammer Knight, Frostback Bear, and more all die for one class dice. And while we’ve seen this cost for removal in the past, cards like Fade Away and Poison required you to let the offending unit get an attack in before it died. Crescendo gives them no warning; when it is fired off it threatens to remove the unit immediately.
The tempo gain of such a move is real. You don’t have to take a turn off removing the unit; you can sequence a threatening attack on the same turn that you removed your target. With Phoenixborn like Aradel or Brennen, you can get rid of *5* toughness of blockers on the same turn you attack. This leaves then no opportunity to play defending units to protect themselves in the mean time. That being said, Crescendo *does* ask that you attack. That means it’s better placed in decks that want to do so; if most of your dudes prefer to stay back and protect your helm, making the Crescendo play is going to be more awkward. You want to benefit from the tempo it provides, not be a victim to the requirement of attacking.
Overall, the card is easy to cast and splash – at one class dice, it’s easy to reliably play in builds running as few as 2 sympathy dice. Discarding a card is less of a cost in the later game; especially if you are aiming to end the game sooner rather than later and don’t mind sacrificing resources to do it. However, it can be awkward if you draw multiples of these. I still think it’s worth playing 3-of, but you may want either card draw or be willing to hold some Crescendos off until later rounds. Finally, the 1 damage is negligible but may be an annoyance at times. Sometimes, it will be easy to put on a regressed or blood chains target, or even clear off an already exhausted Shadow Spirit to give you more board room. With String Mage, the damage is easily turned into a bonus. Rarely, however, your units will be valuable and weakened already, and placing that damage is going to be very difficult.
Despite the discard and damage requirements, I think Crescendo’s payoff is high enough to make it a staple of whatever else Sympathy has to offer.
Predicted Ashes 500 Cost: