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"Ancient Bonds": Card Ratings and Thoughts

MYW / March 18, 2017

Myw here, doing a early set review. I'll share my observations on cards after my Two-ish days of testing, and will give them each a subjective grade based on current and potential power. I hope you enjoy my opinions.

Lyonar


Warblade is Warsurge on a 1/4 body. While 1/4 bodies usually aren't much to write home about, Lyonar is the best faction to make a 1/4 body work because Roar exists, and Sol Pontiff's buff will also often apply. Seems to be a pretty easy include in a Golem Lyonar deck. The likely best part of using it will be playing it along with one other early golem right after your opening turn for great early value, which can often snowball into consistently having control of the game. Later in the game gaining +1/1 is less useful, but it's still a body in Lyonar. It is solid, but not quite the main reason you'll play the deck. B+


Many people consider Gold Vitriol to be strong, but I don't quite agree. At the very least, it doesn't slot in easily to the Healyonar decks that currently exist. Heal procs in Healyonar are not as free as they might appear from the opposing side, and generally require decent mana/card investment. Currently, Ziran grows strong enough to consistently trade well and then snowballs out of control valuewise. A passive artifact like this does not fit in with that plan. It's not quite easy enough to Heal proc to get significant value out of this and get Ziran as strong as you want her. Plus, trading with your general will break this artifact. That could be a good thing to force you opponent to hit you, but that's an inconsistent and frankly insubstantial usecase. If, in the future, Ziran gains the ability to heal obcene amounts like Abyssian with Kelaino, this card might be strong. Otherwise, it seems like a tech to play so that your heals do something when you don't draw Sunforge Lancer. C+


Sol Pontiff is probably the reason you're playing Golyonar. +2 attack is a huge deal as anyone who has been salty about Roar can attest, and sticking it on multiple small bodies like Warblade, Celebrant and Golem Metallurgist is huge-er still. If you have played Razorback, this can pull off similar damage for less, and the strength is still persistent. The "Sol" reason to play Golyonar.  (Not really, Warblade is good too. The pun was too easy to resist) A+


Life Coil is esentially pointless on anything other than Ironcliffe Guardian. On essentially every other unit, it's at max +5 HP for 3 mana, terrible by 3 mana buff standards. Even on Ironcliffe, 20 health is probably pointless. It can of course be comboed with Divine Bond, but you'd just be better off playing 2 Divine Bonds instead. For competitive purposes, I can only see 1-2 copies as extra "Divine Bonds" for a deck that wants to win purely with 20+ damage double Divine Bond plays. C-


Peacekeeper is frankly lacking. Best case scenario, it is a 6 mana card with Metallurgist, which competes with Elyx. Both will basically kill the opponent, both are hard to kill. The main difference is that Peacekeeper can be airdropped and if not immediately removed, it can easily clear nearby threats. These benefits come at the cost of being much easier to beat with dispel. Assuming it costed 6, it's already debatable which one you'd rather play, and this card actually still costs 7. It's not a bad card, but it's competing with an already questionable card. C

Overall Thoughts

Lyonar got a golem deck out of the expansion. However, it functions fairly similiarly to the usual Lyonar decks, so it's hard to say if this makes much a difference on Lyonar's factional power level. otherwise, Lyonar didn't really get much to play with, outside of Vitriol, which I don't believe does much. 

Songhai


I get naming a "fun" card after yourself, but why a card not even Timmy would play? You're paying 1 mana to get negative card advantage. Timmy might want to have fun, but usually that involves the remote chance to win. F


Sparrowhawk is difficult for me to evaluate without bias, as 80% of my play with it was getting it off of Blue Conjuror and teleporting that goat thing in for massive damage. In actual Songhai practice- getting an Arcanyst to stick on curve is a pain, and rarely happens, because every single player knows bad things happen when Chakri Avatar is left alive. It's best use is midgame when you've managed to get you 4 drop Arcanyst of choice to stick, ideally Owlbeast. With Owlbeast, you can turn this thing into more than just 3 damage + Mist Dragon Seal. Otherwise, well, that's all it is. C


This card is an interesting addition to the Songhai arsenal. There's a new version of Jankyhai (Jay Cranky) brewing, and it looks absolutely awful to play against. If you don't know it, it's a psuedo one-man-army version of Songhai that efficiently maintains clear board while running away and attacking your face. That Jay and Cranky like it alone gives this card a high rating. Otherwise, this card has other fun usages, like with Obscuring Blow from the last mini-expansion, and winning the Amazing Race (Hosted by Zoochz on 3/19, make sure to watch it!) A


I initially underestimated this card. While it does just look like a big version of Chakri Avatar, starting +2/3 ahead is incredible for it's survivability and dodge-plasma-ability. That you can use inner Focus on it as well is another huge bonus. (Inner focus isn't dead, guys. It's likely still good.) There's not too much else to say about it because it's simple, but sometimes simple is what does the job. A-


Many Songhai players have stated that they don't think this card is great, and that is a fair opinion. This card is definitely too slow to fit into the average high level Songhai build that exist. It is a comparatively slow card. However, it's a strong slow card, and helps validate slower builds of Songhai that retain hand barfing potential. In that scenario, drawing 3 cards is massive amounts of steam. While they are random, the ratio to good spells and bad spells is positive. There are far more good options than bad options. With your replace too, Calligrapher will almost always get you something useful. The rest of the card is useful too- 3/7 is not an easy body to answer, and it must be answered or else it will draw 3 more cards. The draw, board prescence, and slight removal/damage potential of this card make it fantastic in my eyes. This is also a case of me getting it off of Blue Conjuror more often than not and having a blast, so I may be biased/somewhat wrong. A

Overall thoughts

A lot of Songhai players were disappointed here, and I can sorta see why. The most viable cards are much slower than the average Songhai deck, or used in a completely different build. Plus, Joseki is completely pointless. Still, Songhai got tools to use in non-standard builds, which feels valuable for faction diversity.

Vetruvian


The card that validates Golem Vetruvian. A body for Sirocco and 2 cards is ridiculously good. 2 mana draw two cards was nerfed for a reason. A+


Wind Striker is an interesting card. The effects are good and allow the General to make important trades early on, but the body will often be pointless as Vetruvian has no efficient way to buff attack. I surmise that this card was created to help Vetruvian fight Songhai. The artifact helps Vetruvian race the Songhai player, and the body seems to be built specifically to beat up Heartseekers. Outside of that matchup, it can definitely help in giving you a wider selection of positioning patterns when summoning your later units, but ideally you want to give this thing attack somehow, so think on that while deck building. I definitely think this card can be very useful despite the less than stellar body, but it will require different builds and possibly future cards. Flying is a pretty strong cardtext, all it needs is the power to make it worthwhile. B (B+ potential)


This card revives tokens, fun fact. The first of it's kind I believe. Anyway, this card is incredibly situational and only works with another artifact equipped, or Falcius of course. When it does work, though, the swings are huge. It's hard for me to evaluate the true power of this card, but I believe ultimately it won't see that much play due to it's conditional nature. B-(?)


When Sirocco was first revealed, there was a lot of mean things said about it's power level. Ultimately however, I think Sirocco has proven it's worth. (Although it's probably being carried by Dreamshaper) While AOE answers this card, AOE is the only "True" answer, and if it isn't Tempest the "answer" is of mana parity. When not answered, the value generated can be absurd. The synergy with Inner Oasis is also absurd, leaving you with a board that is actually almost unanswerable, and doubly absurd value. If you pull this combo off and the opponent doesn't have plasma storm, they will never have true control of the game again. A-


The card Vetruvian has been waiting for- the answer to all your Bloodmoon Priestess related ills. It is actually a very strong removal, and useful in most matchups, even the Songhai one due to the potential to remove two dangerous units. This card validates the old "Good stuff" Vet decks again, since it won't automatically lose to certain cards. A (A+ for how much Vet needed it.)

Overall Thoughts

Vetruvian likely made out the best this expansion, getting a fully formed Golem deck and the ability to not automatically lose to a backrow card. The latter point is more important than it seems, since that issue crippled a large amount of builds.

Abyssian


This card is a fantastic design, and possibly validates Abyssian Arcanyst decks alone by being the only 2 drop Arcanyst that at least trades with Tiger. This innately combos with a lot of easy value cards like Sphere of Darkness and Both general BBS'. However, it is probably better for Cass decks, as it is difficult to use creep without building your deck around they synergy with it. Even in Cass decks, the use of a few stray 1/1s is also not that much to speak of. While this card is well designed, it doesn't do all that much for either general at the moment. B- (B+ potential, probably)


This is the card you wanted consuming rebirth to be. It works with Reaper of Nine Moons! However, due to how slow this card is functionally, it's competing heavily with the powerfurl Nether Summoning. There aren'tquite enough cheap/valuable dying wish minions to really make this worth it for the most part. But, there is one shining beacon- Sarlac the Immortal. This card doubles the amount of Sarlacs on your board, leading to cheesy/ridiculous board states that will make some of you glad EMP exists. While this combo is fun when it works, it's not quite worthwhile yet, as the entire power of the deck relies on drawing Sarlac. This card will continually get stronger with more Dying Wish cards introduced, though- so it has a future. C+ (unknown future potential)


I don't understand this card at all. Functionally it's very unique, but the payoff is very weak for the cost. For 2 more mana, you can do the same thing instantly with a 3/4 to boot. I'm guessing this was a 2 mana card in testing but it was found to be bad for the game somehow? Either way, it sucks. F


Nightshroud does not combo with Death Knell properly. Death Knell has a random summoning order, making this card's value inconsistent. Because of this, and because the body is mostly worthless, this card unfortunately gets a low rating. You need at least 4 Arcanysts on the board to really justify playing this, and that's incredibly hard to pull off. Could potentially get better with more Arcanysts, but probably not. D


This card is strong, obviously. However, is it stronger than just winning with Spectral Revenant as your top end? No. Your best bet is playing it along with 3 Revenants like most obliterate decks do. It's possible, but it's inevitably slower and likely weaker. Revenant will always be in the way of these lategame options being particularly worthwhile. Still, it's strong, and I'm not grading card based on how redundant they are. It's the reason you'll play Arcanysts in Abyssian at all, so it better be strong. Also, the sprite kinda looks like it's wearing a vest and a tie, so it gets style points. A-

Overall Thoughts

Abyssian didn't get all that much this time, but it certainly got interesting and diverse cards (some of which are hot garbage, but still). Abyss will probably go back to playing Creep decks at a high level, with possibly the odd Nocturne here and there.  The future potential is there, though.

Magmar


When CPG give streamers cards to reveal, they usually want something that WOWs the players and the streamer talking about it. But sometimes, they give people boring cards. That confuses me, because they have stuff like Godhammer lying around. This card is amazing for A)Grow Synergy B)New Magmar play patterns C)Giving starhorn something he might use better than Vaath. The Synergy with Moloki Huntress is fun, Magmar sitting back trying to keep their artifact alive is completely different from usual Magmar play, and Starhorn might be able to pump out more minions to buff and doesn't have anti synergy with this card, anyway. Vaath still might actually be better at using this though, since in order to remove it the Opponent needs to actually hit Vaath. Probably not though, based on the same logic I used on Golden Vitriol. A- (I'm probably biased due to how much I like this card. A potential)


FYI, this allows you to summon a minion on any space around the unit Destroyed. The card text is not clear at all, CPG. Anyway, this card is also fun. The RNG doesn't greatly influence this card's powerlevel either. The best usecases are evolving 4->5, 5->6, or 6->7(and 7->8, but that seems like overkill), so it's best in heavier decks. You'll mainly want to use this on card with extremely strong opening gambits like Keeper of the Vale or Sunset Paragon, or big minions that took hits and still survived like Golems. Technically this has egg synergy, but frankly it's not all that valuable evolving either of the two good egg minions due to the potential medicore/bad 3 and 4 drops Magmar has. Still, the options are there. B+


This card really does it all- healing, a golem, and a resiliant minion in one package, and possibly making egg decks almost usable (at least Morin-Khur, I dunno about the rest.) Outside of Golem decks, it's a good card. Inside golem decks, it's a disgusting card to ramp out early, and is easily too difficult to answer forcing the opponent on the backfoot. Even later in the game the rebirth makes it a pain to deal with, and the heal is obviously valuable. A, A+ with Golems.


This card at 5 makes every player think twice when they put a card with 4 HP in their deck. It's simple, effective, efficient, and absolutely stupid if you can ramp it out on turn 2 with golem synergy. It may be a bit unhealthy for the game making 4 HP so undesirable, somewhat like Old Plasma Storm and Tempest. A+ (maybe A++, but the meta will move away from 4 HP minions and it'll be A+ again.)


CPG naming department, there's already a card called Abyssal Juggernaut. Please change one of them. Anyway, this is Slightly-Better-Kyhmera. You didn't want to trade into either, and both could make unreasonable units pop out. The main difference is that this card can get a 1 mana discount, which is pretty huge. The other is that this makes multiple threats instead of just one per damage, which makes Flashing it out that much better. Still, for most factions this isn't that difficult to answer unless you manage to perform the fabled double flash reincarnation. Even so, this card probably is incredibly frustrating (yeah ok) for people lower on the ladder, as lower skill games generally go longer, and cards with specific answers like this are extremely hard to beat. B, B+ in golems

Overall Thoughts

Magmar got a ton of love there. Overall they got the best cards out of any faction, but Vetruvian still made out happiest because their old value decks are finally playable again too. Lavaslasher is worryingly efficient, so hopefully CPG is looking at it very hard as we play it.

Vanar


The ramp card Ramp Vanar has been looking for. This along with Crystal Wisp makes for 6 ramp options, enough to consistently ramp every single game. It can also be played alone, because a ping is never truly bad, and fits into most Vanar decks especially the Arcanyst builds, and more mana is obviously always welcome. A


A well designed card. Has synergy with 3 Vanar cards- Flash Freeze, Frigid Corona, and Icy. This gives Vanar another colorful removal option. However, it's definitely inconsistent, as without those 3 cards, it doesn't do anything at all. 9 possibly combo cards seems like a lot , but it is only enough to support the first Guantlet. The second and third are less useful. Plus, Flash Freeze and Icy are fringe cards that aren't generally consisdered strong enough to play alone, so without this combo they're not impressing. This combo set is a bit too conditional to be explicitly good, but that may be resolved with more freeze synergy in the future. B- (unknown potential)


Circulus has a solid 50 on pre-release voting. In a few weeks, Bagoum will be hosting post-release voting, and I believe this card will have the greatest distance between pre-post ratings (please don't let me overly influence your vote, though.) The question was- "How good is putting an illusion in your hand?" The answer is, very. First, you can replace it. In Duelyst, games generally end with about 20-25 cards left in the deck, so the likelihood of redrawing one illusion is not great. And at that point, you basically just drew a card at the cost of your replace. Replacing more will definitely force you to pick them up later in the game, but those can always be replaced again, or you could just play them, because later in the game 2/1 bodies can be very annoying and there are easy mana gaps to fill with 1 mana cards. This is also one of the best 2 drops you can get in the lategame, for the same reason. In other situations, you can just keep the Illusion, in order to trigger the bonds of you Kindred Hunters and Trinity Wings in the future, as Arcanysts are, for some strange reason, removed all the time. This card is simply flexible and powerful. A


This card is not great. It seems good, but in practice, Your 2 drop Arcanysts are premium removal targets and easy Tiger food. because of that, this card almost never manages to get played on curve. Later in the game, it loses value as 3/3s (or 4/4s) are easy for 4 and 5 drops to trade into, making this card only good at face damage. Plus, it's vulnerable to Makantor, Holy Immolation, and partially weak to all AOE. The one strong point this has is that it is pretty strong against Songhai. In the future, if there is a neutral Arcanyst 1 drop or 2 drop that can actually be expected to survive, (specifically a 1/4. This should be you, Azure Horn Shaman) this card will be good. Until then, C+/B-


This is a great card for Vanar, the Spell-centric faction (Songhai players are complaining, but this is how I feel). It gives Vanar the ability to swing the board using Frostburn with a strong body, as opposed to clear and develop a weak body with the remaining mana. It combos with Circulus and Aspect of mountains, for even stronger swing. And it creates burst on its own with Spirit of the Wild. Plus, it's a mana discount to Winter's Wake. Every single future costly Vanar spell will also combo with this card. A-, only because it's combo dependent. A to A+ when it works.

Overall Thoughts

Vanar got great cards this expansion. They're all pretty well designed and interesting, and open up a lot of new deck design. My favorite set of cards of any faction, and that's not even because I'm a Vanar main.

Neutral


Interesting design. 1 mana ramp for most decks, and even more ramp for golem decks. This card is fun, because many cards have the potential to stealing this generated mana or at least negate it. When it's not stolen, this allows, with the cost of awkward general positioning since you need to walk onto the tile, ramping straight to 5- and the difference between 4 and 5 drops is possibly the largest in the game. This card introduces many creative play patterns, even later in the game, because there are several fun combos that are possible when you have 10 mana- Metamorphosis and Skorn, for example. I still can't properly evaluate this card's true powerlevel, which I suppose makes it good design in a way. It is at least A-.


A lovely card that makes all sorts of strange ideas more playable. Battlepet Songhai, Dervish/Golem Vetruvian, Arcanyst/Vespyr Vanar (probably not lol), and probably more that I can't or haven't thought of. This too is difficult to evaluate, but I believe it is ultimately around a B.


Feralu might as well be a Vetruvian card, as the ability to make Sirocco's swarm survive most AOE is extremely worthwhile, along with the innate dervish synergy. It may be too fragile to be played in optimized decks due to 3 health being Phoenix Fire bait, but I cannot say for certain. It will depend on how Golem Vet matches up against Songhai. In other factions, there's not much reason to use this- depends on if other tribes get more swarm support. B (B- if the Songhai weakness is too much)


This Drill is only Ok. 5/5 for 5 is fine, but not much to write home about. The effect is also not much to write home about.Golems are already good at trading well. Because of this, when you play against golems, you try to make sure they don't trade into your minions by playing defensively if they have any you can't remove. If you can't do that, you're likely in a losing situation. In that scenario, this card is amazing- but that's the definition of a Winmore. Still, it's only a 5 mana Winmore, so that's not the worst card to play. B-


This is a great card that I underestimated until I started playing it. At 4/6, it's a sold 5 drop body. While you can potentially generate a ridiculous amount of cards with this, even just one is enough to be good, likely on 6 mana on a BBS turn. It is a infinite value card, perfect for someone who really enjoys playing Pandora (like me) but wants it playable earlier in the game. Also, this card (in my opinion) is fun RNG, since the cards still need to be paid for, and the card is inherently slow so the payoff on the RNG is earned. I suppose getting Calligrapher or god forbid, Death Knell can feel pretty unfair, though. Still, I'm a fan. A


I thought this card was trash, but several very good players swear by it. They show me confusing builds with 7 minions that I don't even know how to begin playing. To all players expecting accurate ratings from me, I'm going to fail you here. Sorry. Rating: ???


This card is a lot less good than it looks/feels. Just like with Kindred Hunter, Arcanyst Bond conditions are INCREDIBLY difficult to meet. In order to get full value out of this, you'll need a pretty small hand or a lot of mana, or else you'll overdraw. These two points make playing this card a struggle. In addition, there's not that much point to giving your general +1 attack at the point of the game this card will come down, so that spell is a bit crappy. The other two are both very valuable, but they're more or less still worth the 1 mana they cost. When added up, Trinity Wing is a 8 mana 4/4 with flying, that does the 3 effects. I don't think anyone would play that card. Obviously Trinity Wing is slightly better because it's flexible, but still, the raw value is not strong. Also, remember when I said Lavaslasher helped make 4 HP minions a little more questionable? Trinity Wing also falls under that category. Ultimately, for the payoff card for Arcanyst Bonds, this card doesn't do enough to justify the synergy required. It's waaaay too early to call for buffs, but in my opinion if you want this card to be worth it, the body needs to be better, or more interestingly, the spells generated should be undercosted (cost 0). That way, the raw value is at least respectable, and the Bond becomes worthwhile. Until then, C+
I have been since notified that Trinity Wing has been seeing tourney success, so while I stand by my opinion, I am going through the VODs for potential reevaluation.


Is this card named Grimes because playing it makes you feel grimey? CPG, I understand the Appeal of RNG, I really do (See what I said about Blue Conjurer) but it's an incredibly low percentage of the population who enjoys cards with this huge a RNG swing. Complaints aside, this card actually has about 3 + 3 + 3 average value. I'm not saying 9, because Duelyst does not scale linearly- if it did, Ashy Meypht would be overpowered. It's not overly strong, but it can be strong enough to be played, unfortunately. F(for bad design)


The most divisive card in the set, because unlike Grimes, some people actually like EMP. The Global Dispel is strong, and people call it antifun, but ultimately it's only a new form of AOE. Difference is, it's stapled to a giant body. If there was anything questionable, it would be how massive this body is. Regardless, the primary use for this card is to turn off decks that are trying to win on passive backrow value, cards like Kelaino, 4 Winds Magi, and the like. Otherwise, its just a fat body. It won't prevent you from losing to pressure, and it's still easy to remove with any single target removal. Offensively, you'd probably rather have most other 7 drops. It's not stellar outside of defeating passive value decks, but the flexability of this card will definitely allow it to see play even when it's not the best option in most situations. A-(mostly for questionably large amounts of stats)

Overall Thoughts

Pretty good set of neutrals, several cards that scream "Build around me." A few of them are a bit boring and could have done more, but that's fine. Not too much else to say about them.

Final Thoughts

This is a pretty good mini expansion to improve archetypes, something that many players have said was lacking. I personally am not the biggest fan of new Golems as they tend to be uninteresting, but we still got fun stuff like Celebrant out of that half. The Arcanysts here are almost all interesting, if a bit on the weak side, and Bond is a good keyword, laying the foundation for future cards. My average rating of these cards this time around is probably higher than Rise of the Bloodborn, but don't mark that as powercreep- Most of the strongest cards are restricted to archetype support, and often need to be strong to make those archetypes worth running.

There is a lot of talk about how Duelyst cards could be more interesting, and more based on the board as opposed to internal/global effects, and I mostly agree. But, don't hold that against Ancient Bonds. It wouldn't particularly suit a tribe based expansion to overly influence game mechanics. I'm happy with most cards in this expansion, and several of them like Celebrant do actually stress the positioning skills. Considering the last real expansion created Battlepets, which are strictly based on controlling board position, I'm not too afraid of CPG not innovating- but the outcry must certainly hammer that message through. Until then, enjoy experimenting with Ancient Bonds. There are a huge amount of cards worth building around this set, and more that validate almost-competitive cards from previous sets, and I'm having a lot of fun so far.

FULL-PAGE ARTICLE

The Pathetic Cards of Duelyst-- Part 1

MYW / February 23, 2017

In this segment, we'll go over cards that can be buffed, and review some ideas on how that should be done. Before we get into it, let's talk a bit about buffing.

BUFFS: Why Not?

It may seem reasonable to just buff weak cards whenever, and then fix them if they are too strong, but in a game where less rich players need to carefully pick their crafting priorities, changing the game over and over isn't the best of ideas- especially when just ONE card being on the strong can end up warp the entire game. In fact, the devs talked about this in their recent devtalk. The easiest example is the case of Dioltas. If you were around for the time period, Dioltas' buff was one of the main culprits of the "Zen'rui" meta, which was generally considered unfun. Anyway, those days are behind us now, and while the problems were mostly Zen'rui's fault, it doesn't change the fact that it was Dioltas who opened the gates for Zen'rui to dominate and stale the game. Because of happenings like this, buffs are incredibly dangerous for a metagame. CPG says they aren't particularly interested in buffing, and it is a reasonable opinion- especially in a volatile game like Duelyst.

I mostly agree with that. So why does this article exist? Because while I agree it is dangerous to buff, there is a clear distinction between buffing something, and buffing it into a metagame staple. There is a "safe" bound for buffing, where cards see play in silver and gold on the fringe, which broadly affects what is playable, but does not have a great influence on the "meta." For example, more decks in Bagoum's C and lower B tier would likely not cause great upheaval. While this bound is not always easy to stay within, it is worth the risk for the sake of a larger functional cardpool, and more and better options for people with incomplete collections who make up the vast majority of the game's players. More bang for their buck makes for happier customers, which likely leads to better retention. Think about it CPG!

To attempt to stay within that bound, my buffs will be tamer than most, and if they are a bit wild, they are in design space that is generally weak with hopefully not too much degenerate potential (degenerate referring to things like the Triple Elucidator combo).

Now, onto cards that chould be buffed. The list of weak cards is surprisingly low, because even some cards that don't see a lot of play have fairly high potential in this game. For example, I wouldn't buff White Widow, despite it being rare to see, because it has a powerful effect on the gamestate that most cards in the same slot cannot replicate. It may be a bit luck based, but it has the potential to be strong. I primarily intend to touch cards that I believe would never be strong. I will take card theme into account, because I think flavor is important. I also won't try to give something a completely new effect, as a rework is basically a new card, and the goal isn't to make new cards: it's to fix old ones. Cards like Lysian Brawler, Deepfire Devourer and Black Locust-- high risk, high reward cards-- probably won't show up on my list either. Lastly, I won't touch most of the "for fun" cards, like Mind Steal and Ghost Lynx. With those conditions, the list of potential-less cards is...

  • -Sky Burial
  • -Honorable Mention: Auryn Nexus, Silverguard Squire, Sunstone Templar, True Strike, Excelsious
  • -Mana Vortex
  • -Mist Walking
  • -Ace
  • -Honorable Mentions: Artifact Deflier, Mask of Shadows
  • -Orb Weaver
  • -Fountain of Youth
  • -Stone to Spears
  • -Honorable Mentions: Siphon Energy, Astral Phasing, Rae, Portal Guardian, Blind Scorch, Pantheran
  • -Echoing Shriek
  • -Aphotic Drain
  • -Honorable Mentions: Horn of the Forsaken, Dark Seed, Consuming Rebirth
  • -Phalanxar
  • -Veteran Silithar
  • -Honorable Mentions: Dreadnaught, Dance of Dreams, Unstable Leviathan, Dampening wave, Tremor
  • -Wolfraven
  • -Mesmerize
  • -Myriad
  • -Honorable Mentions: Frostiva, Altered Beast
  • -Komodo Charger
  • -Planar Scout
  • -Piercing Mantis
  • -Fire Spitter
  • -FireBlazer
  • -Rogue Warden
  • -Serpenti
  • -Storm Aratha
  • -Whistling Blade
  • -Ion
  • -Hydrax
  • -Astral Crusader
  • -Honorable Mentions: Putrid Dreadflayer, Mindwarper, The High Hand, Saphire Seer, E'xun, Alter Rexx, Envybaer, Calculator, Silverbeak, Ironclad, Rook

So. 25 Bad cards, and 34 Honorable Mentions. With a card pool of what, over 400 now? That's not too bad at all. I might have missed a few, but still. Not bad.

Lyonar

Sky Burial is garbage. The reasons for this is that it has the exact same conditions as the far superior and already fringe card Decimate, meaning people will play around it while trying to play around something else-- on top of that, it only costs one less, making it even more rarely worthwhile, especially compared to the other 3 cost, targeted removal.

The thematically correct change, considering that a sky burial is a funeral where you feed the entire corpse to birds, is to change Sky Burial to dispel its target as well. This is a minimalistic change that allows it to compete better with Martyrdom and Decimate. Alternatively, the cost could be lowered to 2, which would ultimately be a stronger change but may be too strong for class identity.  (I'm assuming Lyonar isn't supposed to efficiently remove things at a distance.)

Lyonar- Honorable Mentions

Auryn Nexus is truly weak, giving only 3 stat points, which is fairly shabby compared to Magmar's Greater Fortitude and Amplification. However, this card has the barest of value in that it can be used to make Divine Bonds even stronger, and it's theoretically an OK guantlet pick. A possible change would be +4 health, but that change is likely too influential.

Silverguard Squire isn't much to write home about, but it did see a little play in Zoo Argeon decks due to it's tempo. Plus, roaring it makes it suddenly a respectable minion for technically 2 mana.

Sunstone Templar is incredibly slow, somehow needing to be proactive and reactive at once, but no other card in the game can dispel twice. It also seems better in light of the recent-ish Shroud nerf. It may someday see play if the future metas are filled to the brim with snowchasers. The only buff that doesn't seem oppressive is adjusting the stats to 2/3, but dispel that is too abundant is bad for the game.

True Strike is hot garbage, but I can't say it's 100% bad because Lyonar's Sister Sterope draws these for free. Still, it's incredibly low impact even with the dream combos. Sterope may someday see more play, and with her, so will this thing. The most obvious buff is allowing it to hit face, but that has obvious degenerate potential with Sterope.

Songhai

Mana Vortex is a hot topic, and the jury was probably right: this card is currently dead. Just gaining 1 mana for spells is too little to bother with, especially in Duelyst where handsize is only 6 and combos are difficult to put together already. The best option would be to make this give spells a 2 mana discount. What that would do is promote its usage in slower Songhai decks looking to prioritize the larger spells, instead of the 0 and 1 drop spell fiesta that Songhai usually is. If that would be too strong, considering Flash Reincarnation is one of the stronger cards in the game, making it also deal one or two damage to the general would likely be acceptable, which would weaken the card's artifact synergy. However, iIt's possible that this buff would be too strong with Killing Edge. It is difficult to judge the power of "mana cheating". Other changes might be safer, but would end up being reworks.

Mist Walking is... barely a spell. It often can't even move you out of provoke range. Increasing the distance to 3 would greatly increase the viability of this card, as well as give Mask of Shadows possibly playability. However, if that mobility would be too annoying to the playerbase with Bloodrage Mask and Cyclone Mask, another possible solution is for it to have the "end of turn draw a card" effect, and increase the spell cost to 1, allowing the card to be a tempo-y utility card, which suits the idea of a "Ninja" disappearing to regroup.

Ace is bad, but that's the pet mechanic's fault. If that mechanic stays the same, the best hope is that it gains an extra attack point so it feels remotely useful for it's brief lifespan, and not completely outclassed by heartseekers.

Songhai- Honorable Mentions

Artifact Defiler is terribly specific, but in the extreme case that it would put in work, it will put in work. In my opinion it would be best to change this card completely somehow, but if it had to do what it does, perhaps it could be allowed to cantrip. A two mana cantrip is bad, but it would be less overly specific.

Mask of Shadows is not completely bad- it basically doesn't see play because its best usage is almost always in combination with Juxtaposition. Otherwise, it does almost nothing without extreme patience and a careless enemy. If at least one other good card could give this card some utility, say for example a buffed M ist Walking, this card could combo semi-consistently and pontentially see fringe play. Twilight Fox exists, but it is weak and can't function independently, which makes it difficult to play regardless. There aren't a lot of possible buffs that make much sense, but seeing as Obscuring Blow exists and essentially outclasses this card, perhaps a blanket +1 attack and -1 backstab damage would allow this card into playable space. 

Vetruvian

Orb Weaver is a mostly outclassed card whose main selling point is being a Dervish. The main issues with it are that it has no survivability, and very little threatening potential. It especially looks bad next to Pax and Zyx. However, despite the flaws, it has some potential simply by being a dervish. 2 2/2s isn't much but 2 3/2's is somewhat respectable. Of all cards I consider "bad," this is probably the strongest one. A fair change in my opinion would be to adjust it's stats to 2/3 or 3/2. There is already precedent for dervishes without exactly 2/2 stats, so continuing to diversify would not be awful. Either stat change would allow it to become useful defensively or offensively, hopefully without making it overbearing.There was a suggestion in the "buff this stuff" threads on reddit, which was "OG: at the end of turn, create a copy of this card" which allows it to double buff, which is also a good option.

Fountain of Youth just sucks-- I don't think it was ever good. This is a card I would prefer to see reworked than anything else, but if this was to simply change, I'd like to see it reduced in cost to 1 so that it could theoretically compete with Sundrop Elixir.

Stone to Spears is extremely situational 3 damage for 1 mana. It is almost never rewarding, especially when using it effectively involves damaging your Obelysks, which gain value from being alive (even if dispelled). If it is to remain as situational as it is, it should be more rewarding, the same way Amplification is. Possible options: The obelysk does not take damage for the turn, or have greater attack power.

Vetruvian- Honorable Mentions

Siphon Energy is mediocre more than anything else, but it will probably never see play because it has the same threat area as Falcius, Entropic Decay, and Dominate Will- all better cards that opponents try to play around anyway. However, I have a feeling there will be a Vetruvian card that extends the range of Siphon, Decay, and Dominate will coming soon, so there is some hope. (Fun fact: I wrote this before Rise of the Bloodborn came out. Incinera happened. Unfortunately, Incinera isn't inherently good enough to also improve other cards. I have hope for future cards too.)

Astral Phasing is low impact, yet the raw stats added aren't bad at all. The issue is that Flying and Health are both primarily defensive buffs that don't do much synergy wise, and that Vetruvian has basically no cards that really want to take advantage of this heightened defense and chase down ability outside of maybe Pyromancer and Portal Guardian. If we see more cards that can take advantage of this card's unique advantages, or if displacement becomes extremely popular in the metagame, it may see play in the future.

Rae doesn't do much and is very easy to play around. It's primary value comes from the 0 cost like the much more successful Slo. It's hard to say exactly what type of cards could bring out the most of it's potential, but buffing it is difficult when the theoretical potential of 0 cost is as high as it is.

Portal Guardian is slow and cumbersome. It wants to be up in the opponent's face, but it also doesn't want to take much damage as it is rather slow to get started. Giving it one extra health to better play ahead makes it far, far stronger as a looming threat as odd numbers of health are generally large breakpoints. Giving it the dervish text makes for utterly disgusting 3rd wish plays. I am unsure if either of those changes would be fair at all. Perhaps the safest option would be giving it one attack by default, but that too would be a massive improvement.

Blindscorch is a card that saw play when Zen'rui was stronger, and sees a lot less play now. THe reason is that it  isn't worth playing without Zen'rui's absurdity. It has almost no synergy with any other Vetruvian card, and more or less acts as single target stall. While the ability to neutralize a minion's damage is good, it also falls into the same category of "cards in vet that are best against units within hitting distance", like Siphon energy. Still, compared to Dampening Wave (another weak card) it's about just as fairly costed. It is weak, but in a way that is difficult to improve upon. Perhaps changing it to cost 0 could be fair.

In theory this card is fine, but the way the wishes are designed, this will never have purpose. Second wish and Third wish are both face damage cards. It's illogical to play a minion dependent on other cards being played in an aggressively focused deck, because dependent cards are slow.

That's all for this article. Next time, we'll cover the rest of the cards. Bye!

FULL-PAGE ARTICLE

Starhorn Burst, A Tale of Evolution: In-depth Deck Guide

Thunder_God / January 30, 2017

Are you looking for a deck that allows for longer games, countering the opponent’s over the top damaging moves, while tactically encroaching on them? Well, then this isn’t the list for you, and instead you should consider my Heal Zir’An list, and the guides for it by PandaJJ (written guide, video guide).

No, this list is here in case you want to burst your opponents down with a combo-burn list, fast games, and to enjoy the feeling of power introduced in the Rise of the Bloodborn experience. First, the list:

Here's a video of me playing the list to fatigue versus Heal Zir'An, without analysis.

Before I move to how we got to this list and more importantly, why, a couple of words on its performance: I’ve been playing this list exclusively since Diamond 3 with 0 stars, and over the past 55 games have gone 41-13 with it, which amounts to nearly 76% win-rate. I’ve hit S-rank with it around the 14th of the month due to being busy with real life, and kept at it since. I’ve peaked with the list at S-rank #18, and my last 11 games had 10 wins and 1 draw, so it could probably get higher if I kept at it.

Paidamion has been using this list to hit S-rank #33, with a record of 41-19 (68.33%), with 9 wins in a row, so he too could probably keep climbing with the list.

How We Got Here:

Back when Rise of the Bloodborn had come out, everyone expected Starhorn to be very strong, and it was. Seeing as everyone played greedy and unrefined lists, aggro decks ran amuck, as they usually do in unrefined fields. Then everyone started teching anti-aggro decks, and the sea of Aggro was washed away. Seeing that aggro was vanquished, everyone once more returned to being greedy, removing all the anti-aggro tools out, and aggro flourished once more. Finally, we reached a point of equilibrium, where decks got more refined, and as part of that remembered that you should always contain anti-aggro tools.

This is the Starhorn list I ran at the time:

The problem with this list was that if the opponent ran even 5-6 points of healing, you often just died, because they won the race with all the self-damage you inflicted. And if they managed to stall the game out, you usually lost to their superior damage. This was even before the rise of Zir’An’s popularity, which didn’t help matters. You also ran into issues with decks swarming you and a single Kelaino often meant game-over. That was not a good place to be, and the above list was an aggro list. It went for the jugular, and either burned the opponent down, or burned out. I have never liked coin-flippy lists, and wanted more consistency in my lists. I mean, I treat decks with sub-65% win-rate as “bad”, so consistency was desired.

The direction I went in was “Anti-anti aggro”, where the first thing that had to be done was lowering the amount of self-harm inflicted, and putting in some healing. This let you actually “Heal Race” the opponent and not drop so low that you can’t kill them or are rushed down and killed. Flameblood Warlock is also not a good meta inclusion right now due to the prevalence of Bloodtear Alchemists, Skorn, and Tempest. I find that a 2/3 minion ends up dealing more damage than a Flameblood, in the current meta.

The deck slowed down, which meant we needed some removal, to help us actually make do in the longer game, and Ephemeral Shroud also became necessary to counter Faie’s Concealing Shroud.

Since the list now usually wins on 7 mana, a third Makantor might be a good inclusion. Potential removals are one of the 2 drops or a Bloodtear Alchemist, but I think the list works fine as is.

Playing The List:

The list might seem like a flat-out aggro list, but it isn’t. It’s a combo-burn list that usually wins around 6-7 mana. Decisions whether to go face or not actually matter. Early on in the game, you seek to drop your minions, and control the board, so your minions will deal more damage and forcing the opponent to not hit you in the face. Should the opponent aim to race you, you should usually come out ahead.

The main skill required in playing this list is “playing to your outs”. You must set up 2-3 turn lethals without actually having the lethal-giving cards in hand. You must constantly think of what damage thresholds you have at what mana points, and try to get your opponent down to said thresholds at said time. It helps to slowly get their health down lower early on, so when the time comes for burst you can just kill them, but at other times trading is to be recommended, specifically when it’s going to protect more damage for next turn. If my opponent has a 4/4 minion and I have an Elucidator, I’d usually go face and hope they have to use their 4/4 on my Elucidator, but if their 4/4 is a value-generator such as Decimus or 4 Winds Magi, the decision becomes much harder.

Speaking of thresholds, here are the thresholds to keep in mind:

Saberspine Tiger + Thumping Wave = 8 damage for 6 mana.

Saberspine Tiger + 2x Thumping Wave = 13 damage, 9 mana.

Elucidator + Thumping Wave = 10 damage for 7 mana, and 4 HP. Flash can reduce this combo by 2 mana.

Elucidator + Flash Reincarnation + 2x Thumping Wave = 15 damage, 8 mana.

And the combos we all came here for:

Decimus + Tectonic Spikes = 9 damage, 7 mana, 3 self-damage. Flash Reincarnation allows this to come down on 5 mana, which is 4 mana + Manaspring Tile.

Decimus + Tectonic Spikes + Entropic Gaze = 15 damage, 9 mana, 3 self damage. This combo very notably comes out on 7 mana with Flash Reincarnation.

Let’s look at the last combo in particular, Decimus very often does not survive an extra turn on board, meaning you have to actually get use out of it the turn you drop it. Your hand has Decimus, Tectonic Spikes, and Flash Reincarnation,you have 7 mana, what do you do? At this point in the game if you don’t win this turn, you might not win at all, or it’d be an uphill battle. Assuming the opponent is at 15 HP, in the above scenario, I’d Flash out the Decimus, Tectonic Spikes, and hope to get an Entropic Gaze for lethal. Even if I don’t get the Gaze, I’m likely to get a 2-drop or a Bloodtear Alchemist to make use of some of the mana I have left.

You constantly have to think of what you can draw, especially because you are going to draw plenty of cards, so you have to set up lethal, by lowering your opponent down to a specific threshold, then keep in the relevant distance from them. Knowing when you have to hit your opponent with your face to bring them down to a point where you have more outs, and how far from their general you have to be is the main skill piloting this deck requires, beyond the general skills of replacing. If you end up too far from your opponent, the number of outs you have falls down drastically as your rush minions are unlikely to reach them. The list does have more than enough burn to win the game while each side is on opposite sides of the board, but you have to know when it is alright to retreat and fish for these combos, and when close-distance pressure is to be preferred.

Since Decimus needs to get value when dropped, I almost never drop him without at least getting the BBS off. BBS + Decimus is fine, since they still need to deal with it, which is often via dispel which gives me a 4/4 on the board. Entropic Gaze is used when it fits my curve, since it doesn’t gain as much when comboed with Decimus (1 damage per 1 mana, and 50% damage increase total), while Tectonic Spikes is to be comboed with Decimus when possible (200% damage increase, 2 damage per 1 mana). I see many people holding onto Gazes, but I use them or replace them, mostly.

Rancour is a 2-drop. Most people seem to try and get too much value out of Rancour, same as with Chakri Avatar, and thus end up getting not enough. I place Rancour as aggressively as possible without it being killed immediately. A 2 drop dealing a total of ~8 damage on average is more than good enough. It also pressures the opponent into a corner, which can be game-winning on its own, as it limits the opponent’s choices.

Replacing, Mulliganing, and Match-ups.

Though this is naturally part of playing the list, this is one of the biggest decision-points of Duelyst, so I want to spend more time on it.

If I have enough 2 and 4 drops in hand, then I replace Entropic Gaze. I almost always replace Tectonic Spikes, unless I have Decimus in hand. Decimus in hand is the most common reason for me to keep Flash Reincarnation or Tectonic Spikes, if I don’t have Decimus, I tend to replace those cards in hope to get more proactive plays earlier and try to draw into those later. This deck has a lot of draw, so I tend to replace cards I’ll want later on with the assumption I’ll usually draw into them. Replacing Entropic Gazes back into the deck is also one of the reasons that Flash Decimus into Tectonic Spikes on 7 mana is so likely to yield an Entropic Gaze back, or how Entropic Gaze can keep drawing you more damage.

I do keep Gaze in hand when lacking a solid turn 1 play, because while far from amazing, it’s something, and you really need to be doing something every turn with this list. While Makantor is a very strong play, I tend to replace it against non-swarm lists, because again, I’d rather get more proactive plays early on, and an early Makantor is more of a get out of jail card than a winning play.

This also feeds into why a card such as Plasma Storm is alright as a one-of, with all the cycle in the list, you stand a good chance of drawing into it by the time you need it.

Versus Faie, I try to get a Shroud and keep it when I get it, since you don’t know when you’ll see it next. Most Faies who use Concealing Shroud tend to place themselves in a situation where it being dispelled kills them, or nearly so. Get the card, and the match-up is basically a free win. The list deals too much damage for Faie to deal with otherwise.

Reva is the list’s hardest matchup, as she can use all the cards you give her to burn you out. Knowing how far of a distance to keep from Reva, when you can let her draw, and when you have to use your rush minions on her minions rather than going face is the key decision-point here. I’d hold onto and hard replace for Earth Sphere in this match-up, as it’s likely to be the card that wins you the game. I’d be fine holding onto it all game long from turn 1 and never casting it, but having the assurance of having it in hand when necessary.

Cassyva used to be this list’s second-worst matchup due to her healing and big minions that could out-pressure you, but cutting out on self-damaging effects and adding removal, all of which can kill off Kelaino had made this matchup much more comfortable. Lilithe can be hard for the same reason, as this list doesn’t deal too well with getting swarmed, which can also block rush minions, and wraithlings block off Natural Selection. In this matchup aside from Plasma Storm, try to make use of your rush minions as much as possible before the Wraithling wall goes online, then retreat to not get blown up by a Deathfire Crescendo or Soul Grimwar, while using out of hand burst to win the game. I’ve won versus a turn 2 Variax who then had a complete hand refill courtesy of a Tectonic Spikes with this list, you just have to go aggressive.

Aside from that, the list just sort of wins versus the rest of the crowd. I find most Vaaths have moved to playing weaker versions of Starhorn Decimus Burn lists, rather than their Drogon and Sunsteel Defender pressure lists which are superior. No other matchup really stands out, but it’s still important to pace yourself according to your opponent: Mech? Try to burn them out before they kill you. Slower lists? Chip them down, establish board dominance, and then use one of your combos to win after they fall below a threshold. You have the time to assemble a Flash Decimus Tectonic Spikes combo versus slower lists, so do so. You can aggro, but you can also burn them out. You gotta know when to use which.

Specific Card Choices:

  • Rancour - Rancour is a 3-of, no questions, as far as I’m concerned. Don’t play it so it can be traded into, but I usually play it as close to the opponent as I can without. Will I play it in their face if they have no minions and I can hit something so it’d be at least a 3/3? Probably. 3/3 for 2 mana is fine. And next turn, if it lives, it would quite possibly be 5/1 or better. This card can exert pressure, but it doesn’t pay to bank too hard on it, as the game will end before you can cash it in or the opponent will draw some AoE to deal with it.

  • Young Silithar and Gro - The idea for Gro came from Kolos the Dragon’s list. It puts out quite a bit of pressure, but is weaker later in the game, as well as not being a reliable ramp card. Young Silithar messes up Natural Selection, but is great for ramping. I can’t pick which one I like more, so I run two of each. I do recommend sometimes suiciding Young Silithar so the opponent has to stay in range of everything else to clear it and to enable Natural Selection later in the game.

  • Thumping Wave - Replaced early against factions other than Magmar and Lyonar, there it's a bit harder to decide. The card is used almost solely as removal, the list uses it for damage almost only as a closer, where you want to draw into it later. As removal, it's more necessary than as a damage dealer, being your only unconditional rearline removal.

  • Plasma Storm - Good against various zoo strategies, which can out-pressure and out-board control you, with Lilithe still being quite prevalent I like having one of. Also good versus Lyonar, specifically Zir’An. Not consistent or necessary enough to run more than one copy of, especially with all the draw the list has.

  • Earth Sphere - This card wins games. This card allows you to get to 7+ mana to assemble a combo, and then another one. It allows you to win against other aggro decks that burn out before you do, and allows you to use your self-hurt cards. The deck will lose many more games without, espcially to lists such as Tempo Argeon and Cassyva, who can mix both healing and early pressure.

  • Makantor - Borderline too slow, but much better now that the list aimes to win by 6-7 mana. A third copy would be nice, but I’m not sure it’d be better than everything else in the list.

  • Bloodtear Alchemist - Mostly used for board domination. Removing a 2/1 minion from the opponent can mean your own 2/1 minion will deal two more damage, and so will the BTA. You want to limit the opponent’s choices.

Limiting Options:

Regarding Bloodtear Alchemist, here is an important lesson regarding the game, and this deck in particular: There are three ways to limit an opponent’s options in this game. The first is to deprive them of cards. This deck doesn’t do that, quite the opposite, so how can it still contend with opponents, after it paid mana to give them more options? The second option is to limit their space on the board, Bloodtear Alchemist and early minions do that. The third option which is where this list specializes is through taking away their general’s health.

A general’s health is a “time” resource. You can trade it for more time or board control. When you face lethal the next turn, you can’t play anything that won’t stop it, and that’s one of the issues Variax lists face, that the tempo-loss of playing it might be insurmountable. This list focuses on early board domination, which translates into lowering the opponent’s health quickly, at which point most of the cards you draw them can’t actually be used.

In closing, this list is very strong, and is massively underrepresented on ladder, as well as the Starhorn lists I commonly see being less than great in the current meta - adapt, or die out. And sometimes adapting means taking an aggro-burn list and tuning it to be more of a burn-combo list. It’s not a very complicated list, but it’s also not as simple as it seems. May you have success on ladder, and fast wins and easy climbing.