Sunday, August 3, 2008

Creature Class Critique #9: Fiends

Quick! How many Fiends are there?

If you said three, one for each bribery icon, you're wrong. There are four of them: Mad, Greedy, Ugly Wart and Idiot Fiend. The last guy may not get much play, but he's also a backup card that gets shoved into my deck at the first sign of Tookle. More on that later.

The Fiends are the pawnbrokers of power in the MidRealms, each having carved a nice piece of business for himself. As such, they don't work together very nicely, not even as a secondary class (and with only four of them, they certainly aren't powerful enough to be the main thrust of the deck.

As mentioned in previous critiques, the Fiends are great defensive cards to make up for a weak link in your deck -- namely a bunch of creatures mostly briable by the same thing.

Here are the four Fiends:

Greedy Fiend - a 1 pt creature, bribable by Gold that prevents all Gold bribery (even your own cards) if he isn't bribed away. Useful with Knight decks and decks that use a lot of "female" creatures. Warning: it will not protect you from a Yap Attack.

Mad Fiend - a 1 pt creature, bribable by Beer that prevents all Beer bribery (even your own cards) if he isn't bribed away. Useful with Giant decks and anything with Phil the Bar Fly and Slatch Willer. Warning: it will not protect you from the Major Party Animal or Santa's Beer Sled.

Ugly Wart Fiend - a 1 pt creature, bribable by Babes that prevents all Babes bribery (even your own cards) if he isn't bribed away. Useful with Ogre and Elemental Lord decks and decks with large creatures that tend to be Babes-bribable. Warning: it will not protect you from McHooter's Distraction or Essence of Babeitude.

Idiot Fiend - the only truly offensive Fiend. He's a 6 pt. creature with a +4 bonus if he comes up against a Fairy. Additionaly, he has a 8-point fear AOE (Fairies only) that will take out every Fairy in the game except one. (Mini-quiz: which one? It's an easy one.) Naturally, he goes in my deck when I see Tookle because Tookle is the Guardian of choice for all those small Fairies. (Mini-quiz: Name two medium-size Fairies.)

Suddenly, that Fairy deck of his might add some Goblins to deal with the nasty AOE you keep casting. He'll get tired of playing Gateway to Mystfall to keep getting his creatures back.

Pirates don't gain much from the use of Fiends. Being bribable by everything, you'd need too many Fiends to get any reliable use out of them. And with 1-pt Vitality, they won't hang around very long to be of much protection. Better to have a couple of Shadow cards to steal away the bribery cards (and Cabin Boys, if you like, but let's save the Pirate talk for another day!).

Other Cards to Use:

Simple. There are *no* other cards to use with Fiends. Fiends *are* the other cards.

Actually, there are two Terrain cards that come in handy because your Fiends can't be everywhere and they don't last long. S.S. House of Babes forbids any bribery by Babes and the Iron Crag Mountain Brewery does the same for Beer. These can save you a couple of Ugly Wart and Mad Fiends in your deck. Too bad there isn't a similar card for Gold.

One drawback: don't get too attached to these guys. My first Beer deck didn't need these cards. It had Mad Fiends, but I pulled them out. Why? Because I knew my opponent was playing with them in his deck. Why should I waste the cards when he was doing the dirty work.

Summary: Fiends are great defensive cards, either to protect against your weakness or to attack his strength (if that strength is Fairies). You can't build decks around them, but there are many decks that will definitely benefit from their inclusion.

C. J. Burke
Keeper of the Flame

The Bribery Coast: Location Terrain, up 12.
(pictured: pirates on the beach, burying and digging up various chests.)
Counts as Rivers and Lakes.
No bribery by Gold permitted on this space.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Creature Class Critique #8: The Disciples of Entropy

(Feel fre to elaborate or debate any part of this....)

Hot on the heals of yesterday's little cabal comes another one, found in the MidRealms near the Drifters Nexus: the Disciples of Entropy. The Disciples consist of a loosely knit group of nine Elementals, mostly with low Vitality, but some have stacking penalities. Three can fly, five can receive channeling. One has an AOE and none are command cards. And all of them are illustrated by Keith Parkinson (and very nicely, too). Most are rare.

All are bribable by either Beer or Gold. And by their very entropic nature, they're addicted to randomness.

Randomness usually isn't a good thing when planning strategies, but you can use their randomness to some advantage. So grab your dice and come along. (Note: DON'T forget to bring dice along!)

Four of the Beer guys work together well -- and, in fact, none of these guys work well by themselves. Mu Kir'Agavati, 2nd Disciple is the only one that's useful alone -- he's a 4 that can receive channeling. He also allows rerolls of dice. That's an ability you'll need a lot of in a Disciple deck.

Next is the Initiate of Entropy, who is a 2 that stacks as a 5 but gets a bonus of 1d6 to vitality in primary attacks. That put you, on average, .5 ahead of the curve. The problem is that you don't get the bonus as a secondary attacker and channeling is limited to 2 points, regardless of the roll of the die. This is why the ability to reroll a low number is important, if only to offset the disadvantages.

Garuda Khan, 1st Disciple is a little better. His stacking penalty is only two points higher, so as long as you have one other Disciple of Entropy out, you'll likely be ahead of the game. And again, you can reroll. But if you have no other Disciples, he's a little useless.

Finally, there is Demorgan the Inciter. He's a 6/11 Vitality, with a bonus of 2d6, but only when he's a primary attacker. He can't receive channeling, but he can fly. He can score anywhere from 8 to 18. Keep an Initiate nearby.

The last Beer drinker is Mendu Sada, the Havoc, who has a 0-5 point fear AOE, determined by die roll, of course.

The four Gold bribable are sort of independent contractors, each with their own purposes. Orella of the Mist is a random destroyer of creatures by border color (you can't plan ahead). Shin Chios (3rd) allows you some flexibility, but it will cost you an extra card. Shin lets you pull another card out of your hand as an Unchallenged card in combat and Shin gains their ability. (This is nice if you have a Merchant and a Super Model in your hand, or a similar combo.) Vikia Tso'Shan'Lu(I call her "Vicky") lets you pull cards from your opponent's combat hand, but she only makes an attempt if she wins (but she takes channeling, so that helps). Finally, there's Xaz, Thief of Twilight, who can steal a text box.

Note: when you steal a text box, you steal it word for word. If you steal "All creatures are immune to Pink Flamingoes", it doesn't become "All creatures are immune to Xax, Thief of Twilight" allowing the Flamignoes to squash her like a bug. Most Guardians cards, however, don't contain "subjects" in their sentences (e.g., "+2 in Swamps", "immune to fire", etc), so these cards would apply to Xax instead.


There are two major cards that you have to watch out for with this deck, one Mortal and one External. Can you guess them?

The External is less likely to show up, but causes much more havoc with this deck: Karnis the Transcender reduces all die rolls to 1. That affects all creatures, except maybe Orella (who would only be able to destroy Elementals). The second one comes right out of the Limited Edition: Major Party Animal. You have a bunch of alcoholics in this deck and the MPA would knock them out of your hand. With you Initiates out of play, you wouldn't be able to reroll on the others.

Cards You Need:

Iron Crag Bagglers: not only to defeat the Major Party Animal, but also for AOE command cards -- your Initiates are easily toasted.

Fiends: Mad and Greedy to protect from Beer and Gold Bribery.

Phil, the Bar Fly: As long as you have the Beer drinkers . . .

The Amazing Cider-Man: As long as you have the Beer drinkers . . .

Energy Wells: It takes 7 points under your stronghold, but it will allow 3 points of channeling to Elementals, which is a nice ratio, almost as good as the Grand Avatar's 6 for 12.

Amulets of Flying: You have three flying creatures (more if you add other creatures), but you need those Initiates and they can't fly. So make them fly.

Shroud of Grahzue: Karnis the Transcender isn't bribable any other way.

Summary: Disciples of Entropy know how to party. And they know how to shoot dice -- by cheating. The more they hang out together, the tougher they can be. Though they mostly get there abilities as primaries and though their bonuses go away for secondary attackers, a handful of these guys lead by Garuda Khan can take down any Guardian without the need for channeling.

Dave Gentzler defended the Disciples when this listing was first published. Dave maintains that, properly played, the Disciples are the most powerful class in the game. As part of the brains behind the game, I wouldn't go against him.

C. J. Burke
Keeper of the Flame

Alodu'Su Tha'Xuiw'Yi: Elemental, Vitality 2/6, OCB 0, Med, Beer, Gold, Disciple of Entropy, CMP 0, Green bar.
When Alodu Tha'Xuiw'Yi wins a primary matchup, roll 1d6. On on 4+, opponent's primary match-up creature is destroyed if opponent cannot pronounce the name of this card.

(Note: this one was a JOKE. Someone originally thought I was serious about making a card like this.)

Friday, August 1, 2008

Creature Class Critique #7: The Shadow Brotherhood

One of the more interesting little cabals sneaking about the MidRealms in the Shadown Brotherhood. A loosely knit organization of six creatures and a handful of supporting spells, they have the ability to strike your opponent before your opponent even gets out of the gate. And they provide something that is missing for the most part from Guardians: Denial.

The six Brotherhood members are: Agent of Shadow, Knife of Shadow, Red Master of Shadow, Shadow Spy, Shadow Warrior and Thief of Shadow. There is also Shadow of Ashes, if you have a thing for the word "Shadow", but it isn't a member of the clan.

Spellwise, they get support from: Assassin of Shadow and Shadow Strike. Plus, sharing the theme are Phase Assassin, Curse of the Betrayed and Spectre's Ward. (Okay, maybe the last two are a stretch, but Brom has that way with the disturbing artwork and they seem somehow connected . . .).

And then there's Helm of the Brotherhood, which also fits into the theme.

Looking at their abilities:

Shadow Spy -- a Vitality 3 command card that allows you to randomly pick your opponent's combat creatures -- a big advantage against all but a dedicated ranged-attack deck.

Knife of Shadow -- a Vitality 5 command card that allows you to pull a creature from your opponent's combat hand and destroy it if it's a higher Vitality than the Up-Card -- great when there's an Idiot or Rye Beaner face up. (The downside to this card is that there is no clue what to do if the card isn't destroyed. Is it put back in the hand or is it Unchallenged? Play it safe and put it back in your hand. That makes the Knife of Shadow like a Pauly, Official Parrot "Plus".) The Knife is the only Shadow Brotherhood member that has any off-color bonus.

Thief of Shadow -- costs your opponent 2 Power Stones with a win over his stronghold.

Red Master of Shadow -- like the Thief, but it costs him 2 cards from his Creature Pen, assuming that he has some there. (This is a good time to have Bribery cards ready!)

Agent of Shadow -- a command card that moves the combat onto the attacker's space. You can take over a terrain space by defending a different one! In any case, your opponent will be off balance.

Shadow Warrior -- a 9-pt command card can be a risky proposition. BUT you get to attack your opponent's Up-card creature with a +2. If your opponent isn't playing ranged attacks, you can be pretty sure whether or not you'll kill it or not. Also, if you kill it, you deny your opponent an Up card.

And a quicker rundown of the Spells: Shadow Strike (discard Up-cards), Spectre's Ward (double border cards cost stones), Curse of the Betrayed (deny use of specific spell), Phase Assassin (deny draw cards), Assassin of Shadow (removes a card from Draw deck -- and you can look through his deck!) and Helm of the Brotherhood (rearrange and deny cards). Notice the number of times I used the word "deny".

Now comes the tricky part. What do you do with these guys? They all have sneaky abilities and lurk well in the shadows on the edge of society. But someone actually has to do the attacking! They're nasty on Strongholds, but first they have to get there. The command cards attacks the Up-Cards and random combat cards, which is great, but what is going to attack his creatures head on. Granted, two of these guys can take channeling and one has an OCB, but overall, they're weak in combat -- they need help.

As mentioned in an earlier critique, Giants are one choice, with their Stronghold smashing abilities. Spirits are another choice if you want a non-Mortal class that's primarily nonbribable (and Rock Spirits will help in Strongholds). Undead is another mostly non-bribable non-Mortal class, if you want to play with two different colors.

Other cards to have: Potion of Movement Essence (to get them over to the stronghold quickly, in a surprising way) and Anvil of Heaviness to help destroy defenders over there.

Summary: The Shadow Brotherhood is a strange animal. They make up the main thrust of the deck in terms of strategy, but they're the secondary class in terms of fighting ability. That in itself is sneaky by nature, and fits in well with the theme of the deck.

C. J. Burke
Keeper of the Flame

Shadow Giant: Mortal, Vitality 20, OCB 10, Large, Beer, Giant/Shadow Brotherhood, CMP 0, Red bar.
+10 Vitality attacking non-rubbled Strongholds.
If it wins primary match-up, opponent discards 2 random double-bordered cards.