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.

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