Saturday, January 31, 2009

Some corrections posted

So I'm posting those Critiques in the order that they were on my website when what do I get to? A list of corrections!


Anyway, I've fixed those posts instead of making a separate list of corrections. It isn't like anyone noticed anyway. (Or if they had, no one said anything to me.)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Creature Class Critique #22: Dragons

"Here there be dragons . . ." or something like that. "Drakes, freshness you can taste."

I'm falling behind, so I'm throwing this one up here unedited. I hope to have time to fix it later. Enjoy.

There, deep in the heart of the mountain, at the bottom of a cavernous maze, lay the end of the quest and lair of the dragon. Do you have the wherewithal to enter?

Why not? In Guardians, dragons would hardly be found in the bottom of mountains. Most of them take to the air and of the two that don't, one prefers the water.

There are six Dragons (aka Drakes) in Guardians and, for the most part, they're BIG. Like the creatures of myth, they're fond of the fair maidens, but they'll settle for the tramps that are featured on the Babes card. And big as they are, you can channel to most of them, which makes half of them Guardian killers.

Common Threads: Five are Large and the same five are bribable by Babes. Four of them them fly (including the Medium one). Four of the large ones can receive channeling and one of those can channel a whole one point (oh, boy, wow!). Three of them have AOEs -- hey, what's a dragon without dragon breath? Several of them seem to like devouring low vitality creatures. (Hmmm, where's that Tookle fairy deck?)

None has a ranged attack.

Worst common thread -- all but one is Rare and the other is Uncommon. That will make a big problem collecting these into a cohesive deck.

From Smallest to Biggest:

Bantam Drake - Vitality 8, Medium flyer, Gold bribable. +7 Vitality vs flying creatures (although the picture looks more like it should have a bonus against non-flyers, but it guess it likes to strike really high up.) The Bantam Drake is the one guy that really won't help against a Fairy deck.

Hal, a Toasis Dragon - Vitality 9, OCB 1, Large flyer, Babe and Beer bribable, channel receiver. Command: if your primary attackers lose by less than 5, both creatures are destroyed. That'll help against those little guy decks. Hal is also one of the worst puns in the game. (I really have to put together a concordance of jokes in this game....) Oddly enough, despite the joke, Hal doesn't have an AOE breath weapon, but his ability is better than that.

Vesuvious Rex - Vitality 13, Large flyer, Babes bribable, channel receiver. Rex is immune to secondary attackers with Base Vitality 5 or less. So they can forget about that bonus for those Goldthwaite Jumpers and Buzzards (but watch out for those Devil Dogs!).

Lake Serpent - Vitality 17, Large, Babes bribable, channel receiver, +3 Vitality in Rivers and Lakes. The Serpent is the only Dragon with a terrain bonus, and it gets a fire AOE, too.

Land Drake - Vitality 18, OCB 5, Large, Babes bribable, 3 point fire AOE. It doesn't receive channeling but it gets an OCB. For some reason, when I hear the name, I keep thinking of Chevy Chase in that sketch, "Land Shark".

Dragon Wing Lord - Vitality 19, Large flyer, Babes and Beer bribable, channel receiver, CMP 1. Five point AOE fire breath. The baddest unmodified AOE in the game. I wouldn't waste it for the CMP 1, personally.

And a bonus:

Kikijub - Vitality 14, OCB 2, Large. +9 Vitality in Mountains. Kikijub isn't a Dragon -- it isn't anything. But it looks like it could be. Maybe. Sort of. What the hey -- it's big and nasty.

What to Do With Them?

First off, don't put a Dragon Wing Lord and a Vesuvious Rex in the same shield (along with a Rye Beaner or Scamp Jones). That sort of defeats the purpose Rex's purpose, doesn't it?

You can't make them the primary focus of your deck. Why? Because they're too big! How do you stack seventeens and nineteens?? Rookie mistake. You need some low number creatures to balance it out. Bugs, Varmits, Gnomes, Barnyard Animals, maybe even Chaks, but something.

(The three Chaks complement some Dragon abilities: Greenback Chaks destroy Small creatures -- three Dragons have AOEs that will burn away low vitality creatures, so there's an overlap there. Fatback Chaks is immune to secondary attackers (however, you can't make any either!), V. Rex is immune if they're Vitality less than 5. And the Slackback Chak must be beaten by 3 or more or its a push, but with Hal, he must be beaten by more than 5 or both are destroyed!)

However, how small depends upon which creature you're using. If you're using Hal, you don't want your supporting players to be so small that Hal's ability won't ever kick in. And you'd probably want them to be big enough to win occassionally to avoid destruction.

(Remember, destroyed creatures can't be revived on the Altar of Takuli.) Here's where sneaky bonuses come in handy -- like Bulbous Clamjacks in Swamps or Sales Weasels. And Schneebles and Snoots can be especially effective.

Your best bet will be to get one Dragon into every Shield that you send out, so your opponent will have something to fear, and so that you'll have room in the shield for some backups!

Secondary Classes

Frankly, the Dragons *are* the secondary class. You may want to build around them, but they are too big to have too many in one deck. You need some help.

Flyers are good. Things with extra AOEs are always helpful. After all, how many can your opponent bribe or dispel or burn a stone to prevent (Hescox 25 standard bearer)?

And don't forget Rye Beaner and Scamp Jones! You need the extra room.


If you want a theme going, there are two Dragon standard bearers, but neither are particularly helpful for this deck. One is a penalty for ranged attacks on both sides and the other changes border color. You don't have any ranged attacks among the Dragons, so that might be okay (but there are better defensive standard bearers, IMHO) and changing border color won't do much for you either, except perhaps to protect you from those nasty Sun Spirits and their ilk.

DO NOT use Shield/Terrain. (Duh!)

Anything Else?

Yes, Ugly Wart Fiends and Shadow Panty Raids. You don't want to lose 19 points of a 30 point Shield to a silly bribery card. Sure, you're creature will come back, but you'll likely lose a Shield in the process!

Cards to Watch Out For

Babes cards. And Super Models. And there isn't much worse than having your 5 point AOE taken out of the round by a stupid Major Party Animal (though a Dispel will take care of him).

Old Nick. It's the only thing bigger than your guys. There are a few other bigger things, but they don't receive channeling (and they're Mortal, so you may have a bonus to beat them).

And all the usual stuff that any deck has to watch out for.

Which Guardian to Use?

Rak Nam will give you the raw power that the Dragons need, so he's an obvious first choice. After that, it depends upon personal preference, planned strategy and your choice of supporting cards.

Summary: I don't know how cohesive a Dragon deck would be, but Dragons are great disruptive cards when played at the right time. Sprinkled liberally into another deck, they can swing a game around. They're great for repeatedly pounding low-vitality creature decks, but have to be careful not to get beaten by those nasty secondary attackers.

C. J. Burke
Keeper of the Flame

Daffy Drake: External, Vitality 11, OCB 0 Large Flying Dragon, Babes, CMP 0, green bar.
5 point ranged attack.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Creature Class Critique #21: Elements

"Elementary, my dear Watson . . ."

Tired of Tookle and thinking Small. Then think Big, think Large, or at least think Medium. Think Elements. Not Elementals, mind you. Just "Elements".

There are 17 Elements in the game: 10 from Limited, 1 from Dagger Isle, and 6 from Drifters Nexus. (Necropolis Park was full of Saurians and Traithes.) An astounding 14 of them are Large, and the other 3 are Medium. There are no Small Elements. Hey, would you expect something that's akin to controlling the forces of nature to be Small? (Except, of course, that they aren't "Forces"; those were done in Critter Critique #10!)

Five of these guys can fly. Six are bribable by Beer (which, after all, is one of the most important Elements in the game). Four are channelable (including one that's got unlimited channel receiving ability) and one with CMP 2. Four have terrain bonuses and six can change the terrain. (The Overlords are Elements, don't you know.)
One has a ranged attack. Eight are command cards (seven of which can be useful).

Let's kill the suspense and bring out our Elements:

Air, Earth, Fire and ... Whoops, forgot one:
- Earth Elemental, V18 OCB 9 Large, +2 in the Dry Heaps.
- Fire Elemental, V14 Medium Flying, +2 in the Woods and 4-pt fire AOE.
- Greater Air Elemental, V16 Large Flying, +6 vs flying creatures.

Air+Water, Water+Earth, Water+Earth (again), Earth+Fire:
- Vapor Elemental, V11 Large Flying Channel receiving. When played in a match-up, opponent must discard any Items in Combat hand.
- Mud Elemental, V8 OCB 2 Medium, +4 in Swamps.
- Ice Elemental, V15 OCB 6 Medium, +4 in Mountains.
- Magma Elemental, V9 Large, 4 point ranged-attack.

(No Fire+Air. That would be Smoke, but we have a Smoke Spirit already.)

Light, Dark and Energy:
- Light Elemental, V13 OCB 2 Large Flying Channel Receiving, Destroys Darkness Elemental.
- Darkness Elemental, V13 OCB 3 Large, Command: Opponent must reveal his Combat Hand. You may choose to retreat before melee, but discard the Darkness Elemental to do so.
- Greater Energy Elemental, V12 Large Flying Unlimited Channel Receiving! CMP 2.

Overlords: All are Large Beer drinkers. Command cards, for the duration of combat, the disputed land space being fought upon is considered to be ...
Rey, Overlord of Trees, V4 OCB 2 ... to be Woods. No ranged attacks.
Gnorg, Overlord of Swamps, V6 OCB 1 ... to be Swamps
Ix, Overlord of the Waters, V5 OCB 1 ... to be Rivers and Lakes.
Uras, Overlord of Mountains, V2 OCB 2 Channel Receiver, ... to be Mountains.
Slor, Overlord of the Wastes, V5 OCB 2 ... to be Dry Heaps
Baezhu, Overlord of Twisted Ways, V2 OCB 2 ... to be Spires

Vensuni Inferno Swarm, V6(stacks 14) OCB 4, Command: 11-pt AOE fire attack, discard entire combat hand

Personal Perferences

Vensuni Inferno Swarm is a great card to root out and destroy a bunch of weenie creatures as long as they aren't immune to fire or have a Iron Crag Baggler handy (or Hescox 25 Egyptian motif standard bearer).

The Greater Energy Elemental can kill Guardians single-handedly (but I only have one and I haven't actually used it.)

The Light Elemental is a big flying channel receiver. It's only flaw is the useless "Destroys Darkness Elemental", which is nice, except that there is little reason for someone to play a Darkness Elemental and more reason for someone to play a Golden Fleecer. (Ouch.)

The Overlords have their uses. People love 'em or hate em. Gnorgg is a little expensive for a Swamp deck, but he's a nice surprise if you're packing Clamjacks (particularly Odious ones). Uras teams up nicely with Festus (and when beaten in combat, your opponent gets to say, "Ha! I beat 'Ur-as'!")

Vapor Elementals are just fun and cool. Why? I don't know, I just like them. Three of them and Scamp Jones (get him to fly if you can!) make One Nice Shield.

Earth Elemental pounds nearly every Undead in the game.

I like them all, in fact. EXCEPT! Except for the Darkness Elemental, which has a really silly command ability. First of all, why spend 13 points of your hand just to see what's in your opponent's hand? That leaves you with only 17 points. Press Leak give you the same ability except that it lasts for the entire round! The only difference is that you can retreat under cover of Darkness ... but you have to destroy the Darkness Elemental. D'oh! Of course, I'm going to retreat. I just wasted 13 points on a command card!

There's only one reason to use this card, and that's the rare Drifters Nexus Card, Standard of the Elements. This Magic Item becomes a ranged attack, the strength of which is equal to the Vitality of your Element (not Elemental!) command card. That means the card is worth 2, 4, 5, 6 or 13 points. Even in this case, a Thunder Hawk is a better choice.

Other Cards

Other than Standard of the Elements, the only card to use is Energy Well, which channels 3 points to all Elementals. That includes five of your cards. After that, you need cards to capitalize on your Overlords abilities or some other fliers or cards that support whatever strategy you see here.

Fiends won't help you. All your Beer bribables are command cards.

Secondary Classes

Thematically, the best fits are Forces and Spirits because it's sometimes difficult to see why something fits into one group or another. For instance, there's no Water Elemental, but there's a Water Spout (force). There's no Smoke Elemental, but there's a Smoke Spirit. There's both an Ice Spirit and Ice Elemental (with totally different vitalities and abilities).

Realistically, those would be poor choices anyway. Although some forces and spirits might complement particular cards, you need something to protect you from Mortal (particularly Knight, Pirates and Giants, with their big off color bonuses).

Likewise, Elemental Lord looks good, but isn't. Besides being the same color, these guys are just too big! You need some smaller guys to fill out the Shields.

Frankly, I'm at a loss. Undead are good, but they're good by themselves. Fairies would round things out and the Woods help your Fire Elemental, but they're good by themselves, too. Pixies, Titans (nah, too big), Fungus and Mold? Experiment.

Cards to Watch Out For

Great Ba'te - Immune to secondary attacks from Elementals.
Nob, Rapacious Gob - Kills Elementals as secondary attacker.
Orella of the Mist - Has a 1 in 3 chance of destroying Elementals.
River Giant - Immune to Elementals in Rivers and Lakes.

Which Guardian to Use?

Rak Nam - Leader of the Mighty. Simple and straigtforward. Nine points of channeling makes your Vapor Elementals 20 for one stone. Add in a Gift of Isis, add it's double at 22 for one stone. And you need raw power to pump up that Greater Energy Elemental.

Do NOT use Harkin with Greater Energy Elemental!

Gaar isn't much good either. These are Big Boys. Five points for two stones is nothing. Get some Power Lunches or add Rik' Sook instead.

Summary: Raw power and control of the very terrain you're playing on. But having never tried a deck of this type I can't say that it will work. I can only say that I'd like to make a deck work. However, in general, Elements individually seem to help other decks better than working as a cohesive deck on their own. There are no special abilities that link all the cards together, nor do their special abilities focus in any particular direction. But that also means that they will usually be some condition where some of the cards can prosper against any opponent.

C. J. Burke
Keeper of the Flame

ObSigcard: I owe you one. That's because I have sooooooo many ideas from typing this one up that I might do an entire list of them. All of the Elements are swirling around me, force to be reckoned with, attacking my Spirit. My head is spinning -- 360 degrees around.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Creature Class Critique #20: Knights

"We're Knight of the Round Table! We fight when e'er we're able! ...."

Okay, let's kick some butt! That's what Knight do and they do it very well. And they do it anywhere. Not just in the Woods, not just in Swamps or Rivers & Lakes, but everywhere. And especially in Spirit Mountain.

There are eleven Knights: eight in Limited/Revised, 2 in Drifters Nexus and 1 in Necropolis Park. (Dagger Isle had too many Pirates to fit any Knights). And all of them will fight for you -- for a price.

That's right -- they have a price. They can all be bought by booze, gold or women, except the shining Paladin who sets a virtuous example that isn't followed by anyone. Unfortunately, that means that your soldiers are free to fight for whatever side pays the best (the way mercenaries have been fighting for ages!). Protect yourself.

Kicking Elemental Butt: Seven of the eleven have substantial off-color bonuses against elementals. The others have less of a bonus because of their special abilities. This means Spirit decks will tremble at the sight of your flashing blades -- but Undead decks will get ready to dine on your innards. Your main advantage is negated against Mortals and Externals -- worse yet, Externals have a nasty advantage over you!

Quick rundown of the creatures in this class:

The Swordsman is V6, O3.
The Axeman is V7, O4.
The Corporal is V8, O4, immune to fear.
The Captain is V10, O5, immune to fear.
The Marshal is V11, O4, with a bonus to fellow Knights.
The Paladin is V14, O2, with a bonus to fellow knights and immunity to fear to all Mortals.
The Lancer is V10, O4 and gores mammoth creatures, but has trouble stabbing those little buggers.
The Archer is V6, with a 3-point ranged attack.
The Prince of the Lost is V16, O8 with +2 in the Dry Heaps, making him the King of Kickass.
Arnath, Lord of the Skies if V6, flies and destroys flying creatures.
And Kurgan, Blademaster of the Exiled is V5, O1, gains a bonus if he's the first Knight ,and he is the only Knight that is doubly bribable.

Interesting note: All Mortals played *after* the Paladin are immune to fear, but the Paladin himself isn't immune. Call it a false sense of security -- others see the Paladin fighting and that bolsters their courage, but it doesn't stop the Mummy from scaring the begeezus out of Paladin while he dispatches it back to eternal damnation.


There isn't any. Go out there and beat their brains in. Might for right! (And controlling the disputed lands is right in my book!) And if you lose, blow them up and take the other guy out with you!

Okay, okay, there's more to it than that. But your offensive strategy depends entirely on what cards you use to support your Knights.

Fiends: Obviously, a well placed Greedy Fiend will protect most of your men. And use the Shadows, too, to steal your opponent's bribery cards.

Soooooooul Mirror: If you play a Marshal or Paladin first, then all of your creatures, even your non-Knights, will get a bonus. And you can use all of the following cards that apply to Knights. Note: you can play the Paladin first and then play your Greedy Fiend -- he's now a 5-point Knight who's immune to fear and has a decent chance of surviving until the next turn.

Warwick's Conversion
: when you can't spare the command card slot for the Soul Mirror.

Horse: For a three-point command card, you're first Knight gets a +6 vitality bonus. Even the Prince of the Lost (who has a trusty steed) or the Lord of the Skies (who seems better off flying his drake). And you can use Warwick's Conversion for a quick six-point bonus to a non-Knight.

: This one should be obvious. If you have creatures that will beat up on Elementals, then it helps if you know when the Elementals are coming. Gives you a leg up on the competition.

Elandar, Mighty Wizard: This is a great card for a Knight deck -- because many of your creatures will be unaffected! Your opponent loses his special abilities, but you still have your off-color bonuses. Sure, you lose your immunity to fear, but your opponent's attacks are no longer fear-based. This is best used with Swordsmen, not Paladins.

Ranged Attack Platform: Someplace for your Archers to hang out.

St. Ballantine's Evocation: Standard card. If your Knight's going to lose, take the other guy out with you.

Valkyrie Spirit: Knights aren't channel receivers -- unless there's a Valkyrie watching over them. In that case, your Knights (and your fake Knights) can get a 3-point boost!

Archangel Odessa: If you can get your hands on her, she can channel another three points to your Paladin, but your Valkyrie Spirit is a better bet.

40,000 Useless Warhammers: Watch out with this one. Don't use it against an Undead deck. Otherwise, your OCBs should be enough to kill a few creatures. (Watch out for Mules and Lying Scum who can use their text box to win control of the space.)

Brom's Dragon 19: Change creature's border color for a stone. You're not using your stones to channel, so use them to make your opponents Elementals and get an OCB boost.

Spires: You're not flying, you're not getting terrain bonuses. However, if you're opponent is playing Spires for defense, too, he'll probably have Tangle Webs and Sliphs for defense. Careful!

There are others (and please, feel free to add some) but I want to move on. This is getting long.

Secondary Classes

As good as the Knights are, they can use a little help. Unless you have the Dragon working for you (and you're going to need a steady supply of stones to keep that going), you're vulnerable to Fairy and Undead decks (any External deck, in fact) and you won't get any benefit against Ogre, Pirate, Slag Beast and Giant decks.

You need a secondary class, one that's a different color.

Angels are good (see critique #2). Spirits are nice (that Sun Spirit OCB comes to mind immediately and your Knights are unaffected by Stinking Spirits) even if your Valkyrie Spirit isn't one of them.

Check out the first 19 critiques for mentions of Knights.

Cards to Watch Out For

Schneeble, Crook End Snoot and Crook End Snooter: They're little and they strike big against Mortals.

Tookle: Get rid of your Lancers. If a small creature deck is coming at you, it's going to be too much fun. Too many bonuses on his side, too many primary opponents to blow them all up. And there's a better chance at losing the Low Up Card bonus.

Merchants: You've got a lot of Gold-lovers on your side. Super Models are less of a threat. And Major Party Animal doesn't do too much to you at all.

Which Guardian to Use?

Rak Nam is Mighty like your Knights, but he doesn't really have anything to offer them. Your choice of Guardian comes down to personal preference. Sikura to stop spells, Siin to stop channeling, Gaar to gain some channeling . . .

Grazhue works only if you have the Dragon standard bearer or some other outlet for your stones.

Summary: Knights are a natural for a theme deck. They've got power and they've got potential, but they've got problems, too. A few flaws and weaknesses that opponents can exploit if they have the right deck. Unfortunately, they're not as dangerous and exciting as your chivalrous expectations may lead you to believe. They are, after all, mere Mortals. It's a long way from Camelot and and the Crusades and the Holy Grail. But they're still lots of fun.

C. J. Burke
Keeper of the Flame

Fort Knight: Mortal, Vitality 14, OCB 7, Medium, Gold, Babes, Knight, CMP 0, red bar.
All of your creatures are immune to ranged attacks.

(Get it? Fort Knight? Fortnight? Vitality *14*?? Ah, never mind.)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Creature Class Critique #19: Barnyard Animals

Quick! Close the barn door before . . . Oh, never mind.

One of the great nuisance decks around is the Barnyard Animal deck. Unfortunately, the number of ways to neuter it far outweigh the number of strategies for it. Still, but don't let that stop you.

There are six Barnyard Animals (four in Limited/Revised, one in Dagger Isle and one in Drifters Nexus), plus a few supporting cards. There is also an anti-Barnyard Animals card and a few multi-purpose cards that have the effect of being anti-BA.

Though there are only six Barnyard Animals, they can make a cohesive deck based on class, but given their vulnerabilities, you might want a backup class or just a few kick-butt creatures.

And On That Farm He Had A . . .

For those who don't know the cards, here they are:

Cow: a rare card with a 3-point methane attack. Note: methane doesn't kill, it just knocks the other side out for a while. This distinction was left off the Mayor McEvil card (see below) so I'll state it for anyone who hasn't see the Cow. It works like the Major Party Animal or the Stinking Spirit -- they sit on the sidelines and don't fight and don't count for control of the space, but they aren't dead.

Floyd, the Flying Pig: a command card that gives a bonus to all your fighters who dined on a hearty pork breakfast. Floyd is destroyed.

Horse: Another command card. Gives a bonus to Knights.

Mule: So stubborn that they could double (4 instead of 2) for control of the space -- if their 2 point Vitality gets them there.

Buzzard: a small flier that gets +1 Vitality if its a secondary attacker.

Goat: If it wins a primary, your opponent loses a stone (which many times will force your opponet to spend a stone to channel since he'll lose the stone anyway).

Common threads: They're all Mortal, two fly, none have off-color bonuses and -- most important -- none have a vitality of greater than four! What that means is that every BA can be taken out by most of the AOEs in the deck. In fact, your Cow can be "gassed" by your opponent's Cow if he plays it first (this is the only occurrence in Guardians of a creature with an AOE (non-boostable) that's higher than its own Vitality. Protect yourself from AOEs, and remember that Vitales Dark Cloud is not a "creature AOE" so the Necropolis Park standard bearer won't help.

What Cards to Use with them?

There are two approaches, and you can mix and match them, depending upon what cards are available to you.

Farmer Brown: the obvious choice from Dagger Isle. He's an R1 so building a deck around him might take a couple of boxes of boosters. The good farmer has the ability, when used as a command card, to destroy his Barnyard Animals and take their opponents out with them. This sounds great, particularly when you figure that your low vitality creatures probably won't survive anyway.

But the Farmer has a couple of downsides. A well-timed AOE leaves you with only the Farmer. A well-timed Gold bribery card leaves you with only the leaderless herd. Since the cards have to be primary, you lose the Buzzard's special ability and you hope that the Goat will win to drain a stone, not get blown up because it loses. (The silver-lining is that the Goat should be able to achieve one of these objectives.)

Keep a Shadow Bank Job handy. You'll need it. And Dispel Magics are mandatory.

Mayor McGreed: If you don't have the Farmers, go with the Mayor. Sure, your creatures are weak, but how would you like to add a 7-point ranged attack for the price of a Gold card. Don't leave home without it. If you're going the ranged-attack route, keep Eyes of Missile Mayhem about (yes, they work on them) and Shadow Bank Jobs (to protect your Mayor -- and to use against your opponent!). Nubian Slave Girls won't hurt either (but they only get back Gold from *previous* combats, not the current one). Jambo Slick, Smuggler might help, but it's another command card, so you can't use him and the Mayor in the same combat.

Holy Grail: One way or another, you're going to lose a lot of your flock. You need to get them back as quickly as possible.

Warwick's Conversion: You need Barnyard Animals. Make some. And you can start with creatures that are bigger than 4 points of Vitality. This is one of the reasons to have a secondary class. And Farmer Brown makes Warwick's Conversion the equivalent of a St. Ballantine's Evocation.

Rooster: Hey, it's a theme deck, isn't it? Besides, you're not likely to have the high Up card often, so include a couple for those turns when you absolutely have to go first (like when you need to re-inforce that shield that blew up five of your opponent's creatures!)

Champs, the Wonder Dog: You need that Holy Grail back. Really.

Oscar, the Wonder Chimp: If you can get a hold of an Oscar (as so few in Hollywood manage to do), he's the same as an extra Warwick or Dispel. He could come in handy. And if you have both Champs and Oscar, well, go crazy.

Super Model: A lot of big AOE creatures are bribeable by Babes. Kill two birds with one stone.

Not Worth Using

Mayor McEvil: A 2-point methane attack (note that methane doesn't kill creatures even though this rule isn't written on the card, treat it like a Cow or a one-sided Stinking Spirit) that gets boosted by discarding Barnyard Animals. Two problems. First, if you discard a handful of Barnyard Animals, what are you going to attack his creatures with (assuming that you gassed them all and he can't fight)? Second, if a Spell that requires a stone to cast still costs you the stone even if the Spell is dispelled (and this is the case) then you still have to discard the B.A.s even if your opponent decides to dispel the AOE!

Because bribery takes place before command cards, I would say that you don't lose anything if bribed because the spell was never cast and, therefore, costs you nothing. Yes, I consider spells that are dispelled to have been cast, just not cast successfully.

The only sneaky trick I can see for McEvil is if you play him as a command card and your opponent plays a Vitales Dark Cloud that you can't get rid of, you can dump all your Barnyard Animals into one big AOE because you're going to lose them anyway. Do it quickly, though, so you can (unconvincely, I'm sure) argue that you were going to do that anyway.

Cards to Watch Out For

AOEs -- obviously. I've said it a bunch of times.

Mayor McFood: There are only six BAs, and yet there's an anti-BA card. Mayor McFood is a Major Party Animal for BAs. Since his ability is so limited, you're not likely to see much of him, but if you play a BA deck routinely, he'll likely make an appearance (except for the fact that he's a Necropolis Park rare, so your opponent may not own one).

Stinking Spirit: The stinker is, in effect, a really big Cow, except that he effects both sides and he doesn't say that he's an AOE, so there is no protection except to bribe or dispel it. Instead of killing the creatures, your hand is simply exposed and your opponent can pick off the creatures he likes at his leisure. Keep some Beer

Spires: You only have two fliers, but, yes, you may need to sacrifice a Shield to gain a terrain advantage, even if it's temporary. Spires actually work against you.

Smoke Spirits: If you're going with Mayor McGreed, your whole shtick will go up in Smoke.

Tookle: If a small creature deck is coming at you, it's going to be too much fun. Too many bonuses on his side, too many primary opponents to blow them all up. And there's a better chance at losing the Low Up Card bonus.

Which Guardian to Use?

You need cards. Your main advantage is to overpower your opponent with vast numbers. And you don't want a Guardian that doesn't give you a Low Up Card bonus because you can expect to have the low Up often.

Finn's a possibility if you can fly out and take an early advantage, but you can't afford to spread a BA deck too thinly. Gaar is just silly -- for two stones, Floyd can have a Vitality of FOUR! (If this is want you want, add a Power Lunch or two instead.) Harkin is a possiblity if you have something else to do with those stones because you're not channeling and when you do channel, it won't be more than six points. Tookle is useless. Tes Let lets you discard, but you want to add. Rak Nam is hard to kill, but Shield-kill losses are a bigger problem for this type of deck. P'Tal I just don't care for.

I like Thak with his never less than 3 draw, but don't get too comfortable with it -- if you only have two lands, and your opponent has four, he's probably still outdrawing you. Sikura to stop spells and Siin to stop channeling are possibility. Grazhue won't help (you're not very bribable and, like with Harkin, you must find something to do with those stones).

Vek-Nadra gets bonus cards from the Shield in the disputed lands, and, unlike Finn, doesn't have a LDL penalty. But it doesn't get the LUC bonus either. It shouldn't be too hard to grab four cards per turn, but you should be able to grab that with Thak or one of the others, either. But later in the game, if you have a fair amount of creatures for some hearty shields, you may be able to pull five cards safely while holding your opponent to three or two.

K'Hutek is a risky proposition: you get an extra draw card for each Shield that you've lost (to a maximum of four, naturally). You should never be too happy to lose a shield, but in a BA deck, when things go wrong, they go disastrously wrong and losing the shield is a distinct possibility. Given that, you might as well get the bonus for it.

Eisnmir is a drawing machine, but only if your opponent is nuts about Hand Magic Items -- and you may not like the effects of the Item he uses before you draw the card. (Is that next card worth a Hammer of Doom? Or that Head of Gudea -- waitaminute ... uh, hmmmm?? Never mind -- you will forget that I ever mentioned this. Understand. Forget. You are getting sleepy....) Naturally, if you play against Kevincron, you'll have your entire deck in your hands before your third turn.

Giving Those Animals a Little More Class

So which class do you combine them with? Two spring to mind.

Knights, of course, because of the Horses and the aforementioned Farmer + Conversion = Ballantine's. Likewise, the conversion works both ways. If you play the Horse, you can change a BA to a Knight to get the bonus. Additionally, Sir Billy of the Goat can receive channeling from a Valkyrie Spirit and martyr himself to St. Ballantine. Besides, some enlisted men think their Captain is a pig, now he can be!

Goblins are another good choice, though it doesn't seem as likely. Two reasons: Haba Naba Daba's anti-AOE ability is extremely useful, and Snibs Bony Ridged can channel to Haba Naba Baa Baa. There is an anti-Goblin Goblin to watch for (Bungee Bony Ridged, which forces the discard of Goblins and Idiots), but like Mayor McFood, it isn't likely to make an appearance unless you play the same deck a few times.

Elemental Lords are a third choice for some extra oomph as detailed in critique #18. You already have the Warwick's Conversion, so why not.

Fairies are another choice. There are a bunch of them that are low vitality, so you don't sacrifice your chances for the Low Up Card, and you can use the Winterseed Maiden and Mistress to pump up creatures. (Yes, there's a pattern here -- pick channelers that can channel to members of their own class that can't normally receive channelling.) Naturally, Fairies are a decent class by themselves, so it may seem odd to make them the backup class.

Should I Go On?

I probably could go on, but I've gone on longer than I have for any other class yet. So please, continue this discussion amongst yourselves and bring up any suggestions and cautions that I've omitted for space reasons.

Summary: Barnyard Animals can be fun to play if you like to strategize and tactically move about the playing area and generally drive your opponent nuts. However, if you're fond of winning more than just playing a good game, steer clear of them. It is next to impossible to win with them. They can be powerful, but their weaknesses will bring them quickly to slaughter. And that's no bull.

C. J. Burke
Keeper of the Flame

Closing the Barn Door: Spell 1
Play during the Movement Phase during turning any Shields.
For the rest of the turn, none of your Barnyard Animals may be bribed or sent back to the Creature Pen (this overrides any Spell that says they can be).

(Anyone have a suggestion for an anti-AOE BA-theme card? Or even just an anti-fire AOE BA-theme card?)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Creature Class Critique #18: Elemental Lords

You have all those Elements and all those Elementals, but who's running the show? The Elemental Lords, of course.

There are only three of them, so they can't hold down a deck by themselves. But they have enough oomph to protect your primary class and to cause some damage of their own. As a class, they were limited but useful -- before Necropolis Park changed the complexion of -- and their standing in -- the game.

The three Elemental Lords are the Iron Lord, Sand Lord and Rock Lord. They have Vitalities of 10, 11 and 12, respectively, and medium-sized, non-flying Babe lovers. The Sand Lord is a kickass creature in Dry Heaps with a +6 bonus (a 55% increase) but has a weakness for Woods (-6 Vitality, a 55% decrease!). But the other Lords are the real story.

Both the Iron and Rock Lords have 3-pt fear AOE attacks, but it doesn't end there. They get bonuses to the AOE for each different Elemental Lord in play. TAKE NOTE! There is one important RESTRICTION and one important OMISSION in that ability.

The restriction is *different* -- you can't pack three Iron Lords together for a 9-pt AOE. They're the same Lord. Each one gets only their own 3-pt AOE but after the first one, the others are useless.

The omission is the words "you have" before in play. In other words as long as someone plays one, it adds to you AOE. So if your opponent plays a Sand Lord in one matchup, then in the next matchup (or any after) you may play a Rock or Iron Lord for a 6 point AOE. (Important strategy note: if you have a Dry Heaps deck, don't play the Sand Lord first in combat.)

The problem, of course, is how do you get that coveted 9-point AOE attack? I mean, sure, six points is good, but nine point in phenomonal. Add 10, 11, and 12 and you get 33. Oops, you're over. At least, before Necropolis Park, you were over. Now you can get 33 points in your Shield easily with the help of the Locals: Rye Beaner
and Scamp Jones. Scamp will get the three Lords into a single Shield. Now you're ready to scare the bejeezers out of your opponents.

But that's not the end of it, either.

Okay, sure, you can fit all three into one Shield, but can you get all three into one Shield? Do you think that the four cards will be nice enough to show up and the same time as the Shield so you can use them? Not likely. You need a little help. And it's there, and it's common.

Warwick's Conversion is a must -- but let me warn you now. This is a surprise tactic that will only work the first time. Your opponent will either curse or give you a devious smile (and *then* curse). But after that, the surprise factor will be gone and your opponent will be out for blood whenever he sees this card. Sidetrack ended.

Here's what you do -- play any card, say, Ugly Wart Fiend (another good card to have). Next, cast Warwick's Conversion. Your opponent may wonder why (unless they've read this!) but once it goes through, you announce that your Fiend is now an "Elemental Lord". Pause a moment to allow this to sink in with your opponent as he searches through his Fairies for any cards that might survive the onslaught of what's obviously the next creature.

You now have plenty of room to fit two extra Elemental Lords.

Now, we can argue over when you have to announce what you're changing a creature's class to and whether that comes before or after you ask your opponent if he wants to dispel it. The card doesn't mention it, and we played that you didn't. It also helped that I played it in the middle of my Barnyard Animal/Knight deck. The sneaky part came in that I had a Horse as my command card. My first Barnyard Animal lost and I cast Warwick's Conversion. My opponent had the choice of spending two stones to dispel it (he had Sikura) and save a little creature or lose the creature to Sir Floyd the Smelly. He chose the latter figuring that I'd burn off the Horse bonus, and he'd save a later, bigger creature of his because of that.

After he said, "Nah, I'm not spending the stones", I replied, "Okay, it's an Elemental Lord." And I save my Horse bonus for my Knight, in case he had a big creature that would survive the 6-pt scare.

(And if you want to argue that I should have announced first, well, it's his fault for making the Knight assumption!)

Hmmm, suddenly these Elemental Lords are looking better, aren't they?

Other Cards to Use

Reverend Smilin' Jack: A less controversial way to get an extra Elemental Lord in your Shield. Place the Lord as terrain and then fight there. Watch out for that Hammer of Doom (but a Hammer trade for a Sand Lord isn't so bad in my book.)

Primary Class

So if the Elemental Lords make a nice secondary class, who should be the primary? Any of them, but confusion always helps the first time around.

Knights and Horses: You don't need the Barnyard Animals, but the Horse does add to the surprise. Also if you're going to lose your Elemental Lords in a fight, you can at least blow up its opponent with a combo Warwick's Conversion/St. Ballentine's Evocation. (Or channel to it with a Valkyrie Spirit.)

Pirates: Okay, let's get silly. You can change Captain Red Nose into an Elemental Lord. Then you can change your Rock Lord into a Pirate. Lots of bonuses. (Requires lots of Spells, though.)

Undead: The Chief Lector Priest of Sethos changes the class of your Undead to any other class -- and it does it for free! Drop some Dead Cats, maybe a Vampire Mosquito and then hit 'em with the Iron Lord. No Spells or stones required! (I've never done this because my opponent had an Undead deck and two Undead decks going head-to-head would be as boring as the two Great Balderoon decks that went head-to-head.)

Summary: At first glance, the Elemental Lords don't have much going for them. Their bonus requires odd stacking creatures or that your opponent be playing the same creatures that you are. But when you start getting sneaky, you can blow away a small creature shield as easily as a Vensuni Inferno Swarm while holding on to a strong, high-Vitality shield. And sneaky is definitely the way to go so that you aren't defused before you can kill at least one shield. The three Lords are easy to add to any deck, though smaller creatures make for a better complement to a Shield. Just so long as the rest of the cards are winners, too. You probably won't get more than one or two shield kills this way, but you'll be off to a great start.

C. J. Burke
Keeper of the Flame

Mud Elemental Lord: External, Vitality 13, OCB 3, Medium, Babes, Elemental Lord, CMP 0, red bar.
+7 Vitality in Swamps, -7 in Spires.
All your Mud Elementals are +2 Vitality while Mud Elemental Lord is in play.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Creature Class Critique #17: Slag Beasts

If there is one kickass terrain deck, it's the Slag Beasts-Dry Heaps deck. No other creature class gets the number of terrain bonuses that Slag Beasts get, none get the sheer size of bonuses, and none have them all dedicated to a single terrain. None are better.

Like Clamjacks, Slag Beasts are originals of Guardians. You won't find them in any other card game. And that's almost a shame, because they're so much fun.

Common Threads

There are a dozen Slag Beasts scattered throughout the expansions. All but three are unbribable (the other three are bribable by Gold). Six of them have bonuses in the Dry Heaps -- all at least 1/3 of Vitality and one that's 1/2 of Vitality! Of those terrain boosters, only one is bribable. And of those terrain boosters, all have off-color bonuses. (Oddly enough, of the six that do not have terrain bonuses, only one has an OCB.)

On top of the generic terrain bonus, there are three creature class connectors. Gringe Commander is a command card that gives +3 Vitality to all of your Slags and CANNOT be dispelled. (These work great with a stack of Groaties. In fact, it's the only thing that makes a Groatie decent, but I'll get back to that.) Ploogak the Conquerer (or Couqueror, on some cards) gives a Vitality bonus to your Slags when determining the control of the space. Ishtar, Queen of the Heaps, channels to your Slag Beasts -- all of them. And Slag Bunny is a Slag healer.

Those three make a Slag Beast deck cohesive and fierce.

A quick run down of the other cards:

Crackhatch at Large - Immune to ranged-attacks is nice, but I think it mostly protects him from Djinn, Schneebolt, Longshot Louie and Drizzle Bone the Hack more than anything else. But the +8 vs Externals is interesting -- it gives Crackhatch the ability to take down Titans. Sadly, the one time I played him against a ranged-attack deck, he was taken down by numerous secondary attackers instead.

Na 'Boob - In addition to being the Internet handle of a Guardians player in France (Hi, Herve), Na Boob has two abilities. First, his terrain bonus brings him from 12 to 14 (17 against Elementals). Second, he's immune to small creatures. Yes, that goes away during secondary attacks, but against Tookle decks, it's usually a free kill in round one. And it will take out Sun Spirits.

Slag Bunny - The Slag Beast Healer is also immune to creatures that are bribable by Babes. She trounces all over Pirate decks, but she needs a little help dealing with Lawyers. Combine the Slag Bunny with Ploogak and you get around Burke's Healing Paradox. (The Healing Paradox is that usually the creature that dies that you need to heal is either the one that does the healing or a creature that's so big that losing it causes you to lose the space entirely. Either one prevents you from healing.)

Squibby - When he's your Up-card, you can immediately put him under a shield in the disputed lands, provided that it's on Dry Heaps terrain and there's room under the Shield. That means if you are lucky enough to get this card as your Up-card and lucky enough to have a Shield of yours sitting out in the disputed lands and it's sitting on Dry Heaps, and it isn't up to full strength, possibly because it needs reinforcements, if all of this happens, Squibby is of some use. Otherwise, it's a waste of a card. Maybe this is an overreaction, but you expect more from a rare card, don't you? Maybe if you have a Gringe Commander working, than having Squibby might mean something, but otherwise, it's just a 3-point creature with no off-color bonus or immunity or ability worth anything.

Groatie - I said I'd mention it later, so I will. This is another card that was tough for me to get and when I did -- well, I wasn't overjoyed by it. But it's a decent enough card I guess. Again, to appreciate, you need the Gringe Commander. Ploogak won't really help because you wonder if the Groatie will survive that long.

Grilbus - Grilbus is just your standard terrain bonus card. Why do I give him a special mention? The artwork is cool. I think this is in my Top 5 favorite non-babe cards. (Of course, given the tendency toward cheesecake in Guardians, there really aren't too many 'non-babe cards', are there?) A St. Bernard with a metal helmet and huge fists (holding a club, no less). I just like it. (Sloarch is cute, too, but not as good.)

What Cards to Use With Them?

First you have to decide on Terrain. Seriously. You have a few choices. You have Dry Heaps (naturally). But there's also Maitz Motel if you want to cast Spells (luckily the Gringe CAN'T be dispelled anyway). And there's also Rocks of Rhuadan, which is Dry Heaps and Mountains, and limits channeling. Since you can't channel to Slags (except through Power Lunches and Ishtar) this might be a good way to go.

(Additionally, if you use Rocks, you can sneak in a few Giants, Ogres, Snow Daughters or even a Kikijub.)

Then you can get on to the supporting cards, such as:

Slor, Overlord of the Wastes: You don't have enough Heaps, make some. However, the use of Slor prevents Gringe and Ploogak from getting out.

Tanniker Smith: Vitality 7 with +5 in the Dry Heaps. You can't beat that kind of bonus.

Rachur, Field Marshal: A Saurian who helps the Slags. It hands out terrain bonuses regardless of what Terrain you're in. The best friend that a terrain-based deck ever had (and he's not even a command card!). Even better than that is that you can combine creatures with bonuses in whatever terrain you want, not just Dry Heaps.

Rogue and Rouge Spectres: They get the OCB and terrain bonus of the previous card. Play it after your Sloarch. Bam!

Sand Lords: Stay out of the Woods. Otherwise, they kick butt.

Iron Lords: Well, if you have the Sand Lord, you might want to try for the Sand & Iron combo for the 6-pt AOE. Worth a shot. (I might even list "Elemental Lords" as a good secondary class for Slag Beast decks.)

Warwick's Conversion: Has two purposes. First, it changes your non-Slags into Slag Beasts for the Gringe bonus or the channeling. (I'd have to see the wording of the card, but I doubt it works for the Slag Bunny and it probably doesn't work for Ploogak either.) Second, if you took the previous two tips (and this is the answer to a mini-quiz I asked a long time ago), you can turn one of your Slag Beasts into an Elemental Lord! Drop Squibby, change him to a Lord and drop the Iron Lord. Freak them out (get it, "freak" -- "fear AOE" -- uh, never mind.) Gee, aren't you glad you used those Maitz Motels?

40,000 Useless Warhammers: Everyone has zero Vitality, but your Sloarch is +7 in Dry Heaps, and Tanniker Smith is +5. This should allow you to kill a few opponents easily. Beware of Off-color bonuses and only use it with creatures that have some bonuses working for them.

Desert Giant: As long as your in Dry Heaps, what the hey.

Iron Crag Bagglers: You never know when you'll need to dispel your opponent's command card on a Maitz Motel.

What to Watch Out For

Slag Beasts have no natural enemies. Most are unbribable and Shroud of Grazhue isn't easily found. They get bigger bonuses from terrain than from off-color bonuses so even though they're at a disadvantage against Externals, they aren't necessarily in the tank. They're immune to Major Party Animal and McHooter's Distraction.

Four of them have Vitality 4 or less, so AOE attacks can be dangerous. Keep a Dispel Magic handy. Oooh, maybe Maitz Motel isn't so good.

Pesky Varmits and Jalupee Lobo: Most of your creatures are Medium. It's easy to guess and Varmits get a bonus. And if you tell Lobo "NO", it's easier to guess what's left if you know your Slags.

Mocodabi: One of my favorite cards -- as long as I'm not playing Tookle. Forces the discard of one medium card, but you get to choose which one. Luckily, there are Medium-size Slags that are smaller in Vitality than Mocodabi, so you might not be out too much.

Summary: Slag Beasts are cool, even without Ishtar, Queen of the Heaps. They band together the best of any class and their focus in one terrain only helps them out. Location terrains only add to the flexibility, and their Vitality boosters can kick butt with or without the aid of channeling. They might have a problem with External decks, but they'd still be in it for the long haul.

C. J. Burke
Keeper of the Flame

Snogwhistle Grilbluee: External, Vitality 4, OCB 0, Small, Gold, Wanderer, CMP 0, red bar.
+2 Vitality to all your creatures with a Dry Heaps bonus.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Creature Class Critique #16: Demons & Devils

Okay, it's about time these "critter" critiques got on to serious business, and you can't get more serious than Demons and Devils. Before Necropolis Park, D&D weighed in as the heavyweights of Guardians. After it, Undead got much stronger, but D&D are still no slouches.

Devils have a lot of things going for them, not the least of which is that their biggest enemy are a few pitiful Angels, not something that a deck is likely to be built around. But let's take a look at what Demons and Devils can do.

Guardian Killers: There are two creatures (1 Demon and 1 Devil) that can single-handedly kill any Guardian by accepting channeling. And one of them flies!

Fliers: There are eight of them, including the Big Daddy of em all, Old Nick (a 20-point channel receiver flier, Ugh!).

Immunity: Toiling around in the underworld as they do tends to make these guys immune to fire. Eight Demons and Devils have this immunity. There are at least five creatures with fire-based attacks, and at least six creatures with fire-based AOEs. Immunity to fire can come in handy.

Vitality Boosters: Yandrax gives bonuses to all Demons and Devils. Chephros gets a bonus for each Demon or Devil beaten so far. Devil Dog gets +3 if its a secondary. Doogop the Greedy gives bonuses to creatures for each of their bribery icons -- and all but four of them have at least one. And the Succubus will take down just a good chunk of the creatures that are bribable by Babes.

Lawyers: Sure, it's only a 7 Vitality, but he'll count for 21 when it comes time to see who wins. Tricky little devil, isn't he? Make sure he wins or pushes (Djinn, anyone?) and hope the other guy doesn't get any secondaries in.

Healing: Demon Hordes of Kabod. If you get a dream Shield of five of these, it'll be hard to ever kill that Shield. Luckily for everyone else, there aren't any other Demon healers.

Destruction: Drizzle Bone the Hack has a ranged attack that will destroy the primary match-up opponent (if the opposing creature loses). Play one on the Lawyer's opponent after the Lawyer wins -- it will make seconday attacks that much harder and preserve your bonus.

Spells: Summons Gate. Re-inforce Demons and Devils from your Creature Pen to anywhere in the playing area. He bribed them away? Put them back. He was going to attack your "weakened" shield again? Forget about it.

Magic Items: Vestibule of Kabod. You can stash away one Small Demon or Devil in the Vestibule and it won't count toward the 30 point-limit. That means if you can get your hands on a Drizzle Bone the Hack, you can get a 38-point shield. Add in Rye Beaner (ooh, watch out for that self-immolating FIRE AOE. Oh, wait a minute...), and you effectively have 43 points!

Command Cards: There are three. Yandrax gives a Vitality bonus. Baleful Eye is a Demon Seer (not channeling, though), not really that great, but good if you've seen his Shield before and he's not playing Tookle. But my favorite is Kazarian Squawker which attacks his command card if its a creature and before it goes into effect. Warning: Don't play it against a Local! And it can't beat Handles O'Rourke, who is likely to have a handful of ranged-attacks to help him out.

And there's one more thing that they have over Undead. Off-color bonus. Ten D&D have an OCB of 1 or better. Undead get no off-color bonus against D&D (not even "Buzz" the Mortal Undead). The only thing that they have is Old Gumper (which is a great way to save themselves from Sun Spirits to boot, but more about that when I do Fairies or Undead.)

The question with the Demons and Devils isn't "Can you make a deck?", but "Which deck do you want to make?" There is just so much at your disposal. Concentrate on fliers? Fly in with your Guardian killers? Use your Lawyers to take and keep disputed land spaces? Wow. What Other Cards Could You Possibly Need?

A few, actually.

Djinn -- as mentioned above, to keep your Lawyer around. Djinns are always a good card to have, but this combo has a specific reason.

Ugly Wart Fiend -- the biggest, baddest Demons and Devils are bribable by Babes. SS House of Babes is good to have, too.

Eye of Missile Mayhem -- for that 6-point Doomwing ranged-attack and the Drizzle Bone destruction.

Ice Storm -- Interesting card for creatures immune to fire, but yes, it's a good card to have because you can knock out some of those Angels and Cherubs that have nasty bonuses against you. Just be careful when you use it -- you have a few vulnerable fliers as well. But remember, all Angels fly, less than half of all D&D fly, so the odds are in your favor.

Flame Cannon
-- Well, come on. If you're going into battle counting on all the powers of the unholy fires of hell, you got a theme going. Take a Flame Cannon along for the ride. Make it nice and hot.

Energy Well -- for seven points of stacking under your stronghold, you can channel 3 points to any elemental that can accept channeling (and a bunch of your guys can).

Arcane Infusion -- Was there ever a card more apt for a Devil deck? Fly out into an opponent's terrain. If necessary, fight your way through. Just make sure you still have either Old Nick or Bealzebub and one other card. Arcane Infusion, drop the other card and go on in. Blam!

What to Look Out For?

Angels, naturally.

White Unicorns. One of the most destructive creatures in the game. It destroys Demons, Devils and Undead. (It also kills Black Unicorns specifically, even if you could change your creature into something else.)

Great Ba'Te. If you can't kill him on the primary, you can't get him in the secondary round. If it squashes more than 6 points of yours on the primary, you'll have a problem getting the space. (This was a great card to have when I played against a Spirit Deck. Oooh, he hated me.) Note, the Great Ba'Te has a 6-point OCB, making it a 30 against your deck!

River Giants. They're immune to you in Rivers and Lakes. Stay out of them. Unless you really need those SS House of Babes. (Damned if you don't and damned if you do...)

Knights and Giants: They have off-color bonuses that'll kick demonic butt through all nine layers of hell.

Summary: If any class was kickass before Necropolis Park, it was the Demon and Devil dual-class. Sheer numbers will do it, but the variety of their powers is cream on the coffee. After Necropolis Park, the Undead got a big lift, but Demons and Devils can still give them a run for their money. The two flying Guardian killers are just the beginning. Round them out with vitality boosters to claim spaces or flyers to get you into your opponent's stronghold. I'm convinced. I'm putting one together to beat up that Undead deck I play against.

C. J. Burke
Keeper of the Flame

Damned If You Don't, Damned If You Do: Spell 19
C: Any creature that loses a primary match-up to one of your Demons or Devils is destroyed. Channeling against your Demons and Devils costs 1 stone more than usual. Costs 1 stone to play.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Creature Class Critique #15: Clamjacks

A Guardians original, and one of the reasons I started playing the game, are the Clamjacks. I remember seeing a Drooling Clamjack and thinking what a silly name that was as well as thinking that it looked liked something that might have appeared on an old science fiction pulp magazine cover.

There aren't that many Clamjacks -- there are only five. But with the proper support, they can be so much more than they are.

Common links: Four are Beer bribable, one is Gold. The Beer guys are also small (the other is medium). Four of them are connected to Swamps. None give bonuses to the others directly.

Here's how they work: The Bulbous Clamjack has Vitality 5, but you need Vitality 10 to beat it in Swamps; otherwise, it's a push. (And you can win pushes with Standard bearers or Embryonic Witches. (hint hint!) The Clamjack Bomber is Vitality 4 with a 3-point ranged attack, but only in Swamps (that's a 75% ranged-attack, which is great). The Speckled Clamjack gets a 3-point bonus in Swamps. And the Odious Clamjack has an AOE that increases with each Swamp in play (all of them, not just yours!)

See the theme? Outside of Swamps, they're toast. Or they're Clamjack on toast. But put them in Swamps and protect your land, and they are nasty.

The fifth member of the Clamjack family is the Bulbous Clamjack. It gives a boast to your secondary if it loses. I'm not thrilled about creatures that you *want* to be killed. They're of a one-shot usefulness. But it's better than getting no bonus at all, I suppose.

Card to Use With Them

Swamps, of course.

Embryonic Witches
, naturally.

Mad Fiend, because of all that Beer, and maybe Phil, the Bar Fly and the Amazing Cider Man for the same reason.

Finn, not it's not obvious. In fact, it might not even be a good thing. Would you believe that Tookle might give you a better boost? I've even tried Thak and Tes Let, trying to find the best fit. I still haven't yet. (Note: and since I don't get to play much at all, I still haven't all these years later.)

Gnorgg, Overlord of the Swamps is a possibility, but you give up six points of your shield to play it. Make sure you'll make that much back with your bonuses. Also, unless you have a standard bearer, your
Embryonic Witch is much more important than the Overlord.

Judge Dredge. Nah, skip him. I pulled him fast. What are you using that stone for? Are there easier ways to get stones? Probably.

May the Force Be With You: If you don't go the Tookle route, then consider adding Energy Toad, Mist Veilers and Primordial Goo. Good in Swamps and they have secondary abilities (respectively, no channeling against, no seconary attacks against, nasty OCB for externals).

Mud Elemental: What's the difference between a Force and an Element? I don't know, but the Mud Elemental is even better than Primary Goo.

Green Missy: She's an external Speckled Clamjack, bribable by Gold instead of Beer, with an extra point of OCB (toward Mortals, instead of Externals). Her Swamp bonus is what makes a Fairy-Clamjack deck start to look attractive. (Too bad she's Medium, which doesn't sit as well with Tookle.)

Summon Entropy Storm: Most of your Clamjacks are Small. Most of them are going to lose because they are low Vitality. The storm gives them a 50% chance of winning -- and a 50% chance that your creature will be destroyed (but if it's going to die anyway . . . )

Dork Age: I never used this card -- until I had it used on me. If you are playing with low Vitality creatures, you can take down a Watcher, Eternal Witch Lord, various Giants or anything else in a big creature deck. Throw down a couple of Bulbouses and see what gets squashed and by how much.


Okay, I couldn't get away with my Finn comment without explanation. I think Finn's limitations are prohibitive. You're more open to disaster (and in my opinion *bigger* disaster) if you get a bad draw. If you can't put two Swamps down immediately, you'll be at a disadvantage and you won't be able to recover easily.

Thak, on the other hand, gives you a minimum number of cards that you will get per turn. Tookle will give you a bonus if you stick to majority Small creatures (e.g. Clamjack/Fairies). Tes Let doesn't give you any card advantage, but allows you to toss cards you don't need if they're sitting on top. And Tes gives you the advantage of secrecy -- your opponent doesn't know *any* of the cards you've picked up. But which is the best Guardian is an entirey different thread. I'll start that another time, unless someone wants to start one sooner.

Summary: Clamjacks are versitile. Clamjacks can play either the primary class in a Clamjack Swamp deck with the appropriate backup, or they can serve as the backup to another class such as Fairies. Unfortunately, there is no one primary class that benefits the "most" from Clamjacks nor are there any that bestow the "most" benefits onto Clamjacks, so it's a mixed bag whatever you get. Basically, you just get the surprised look on your opponent's face. Like the one he gets when you play Gnorgg on a non-Swamp with two other Swamps in play and he suddenly realizes, "Uh-oh, that's going to be a *five* point AOE!"

C. J. Burke
Keeper of the Flame

You Don't Know Clamjack: Spell, Up 6
Play after one of your Clamjacks is beaten in a primary matchup. Your Clamjack and its opponent are destroyed.
(Artwork: similar to the Odious Clamjack. Very round. With a fuse.)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Creature Class Critique #14: Goblins

The creepy, crawling creatures that are staples in every fantasy roleplaying game are also a creepy creature class in everyone's favorite collectible card game. Of course, I'm referring to Goblins.

There are seven creatures and one shield set that have the name "Goblin" though that shield set might not be the most appropriate for the class. They're are small, non-flying Mortals, bribable by Gold and only one can receive channeling. (That same one can channel two points to all Goblins as well.) And none have any terrain bonuses (which is why the Goblin Shield set isn't a good match).

The text boxes are what make Goblins into a nasty set of creatures. Since there are only seven, I'll describe them all.

Haba Naba Daba: Cancels its opponents AOE. HELLO! Can you think of a better card to have in a weenie deck? The only way to get rid of a non-command, non-spell AOE is to bribe it away -- or have one of these in your combat hand. And considering that your opponent's AOE will usually be the first card he plays, you know when to play the Daba.

Haba Naba Kaba: Your opponent can't use any ranged attacks this turn. It's like being in the Woods without being in the Woods. Except that you can still use your ranged attacks.

Brown Backs: +4 vs. Large creatures, which is respectable. However, going from 3 to 7 isn't going to help a primary attacker much. It's great for a secondary attacker when you know what you're going up against, but unless you have ranged-attack hanging around, 7 isn't going to beat too many Large creatures.

Brap Backs: another anti-Large-creature creature, it prevents your opponent's match-up creature from counting for control of the Space. Sorry about that Black Unicorn, buddy. For four points on your side, your oponent could be down 20 points when calculating who won the battle.

Urufa, Queen of Goblins: A three-point command card, it gives the effect of a 4-point boost to your Goblins' vitalities. Your opponent has to win by five or the match-up is a push. Given the low Vitalities of your combat hand, this is a must have card before even considering a Goblin deck. (Note: since this is a command card, Embyonic Witch doesn't help you. However, Warhola's Snakes 6 will!)

Snibs Bony Ridged: A 3-point Vitality creature that can channel 2 points or 67% of its of Vitality. That's great. Sure, it can only help Goblins, but that's the majority of your deck. (And it can help other creatures, too. See below.) You can hold all of these back to channel to the grunts, or you can send one out if you want to channel from your Guardian for some reason (like your opponent's Magic Feedback).

Bungee Bony Ridged: The odd-Goblin out of the bunch. It forces your opponent to discard all Goblins and Idiots. Or your opponent could use it to force you to discard all of yours (which might be your entire Combat Hand!). One thing to remind yourself is that this card is a Goblin, so if you play it first, your opponent must discard his. Frankly, there isn't much reason for your opponent to have one. (I haven't seen one outside of starter decks.) More likely he'll have an Idiot.

Shields to use: I already mentioned one above (Warhola's Snakes 6). Here are some others.

Brom's Demonic: Up 4 makes your opponent tell you the size of the first creature (and if it's large that may be a good thing); Up 19 gives you +2 when attacking. This could be good when your Vitalities are so low.

Maitz' Dark: Up 16 means no Bribery (all your Goblins are bribable); Up
14 gives you +3 Vitality when attacking (you can use the help).

Warhola's Snakes: Up 17 says +2 when channeling. (I have to find the text of the actual card. This is what my spoiler says.) If this applies to your Snibs, that's great! It means it can channel more than its Vitality.

Other Cards to Use

Shadow Bank Job: Every Goblin is bribable by Gold and only Gold. 'Nuff said.

Greedy Fiend: See above. Remember there is no terrain that prevents Gold bribery. There are no Lost Cities of Gold, Treasure Islands or Dwarven Mining Companies.

Lizards of the Toast: Do you see a pattern developing? Actually, this is also good because this card allows you to see all your opponent's double-border cards. Very helpful.

Shin Chios, Third Disciple: Believe it or not, this Disciple of Entropy fits perfectly with the Goblins. Those little guys have great abilities, but how do you know which to play when? Play Shin Chois, which can take its ability from an Unchallenged Creature that you play *AFTER* you see what your opponent played. He played a Great Fanged Ogre (or a Watcher or Heaven help us Pink Flamingoes!), hit him with Brap Backs. He played an Ice Spirit or Flame Geyser, hit him with Brown Backs. And if it's an AOE? Then you play . . . . right, you're getting the hang of this, play Haba Naba Daba. And the best part is, she's bribable by Gold!

Xaz, Thief of Twilight: Same purpose as Shin -- prevent your opponent from getting his text box, especially if it will be harmful to you.

Warwick's Conversion: Suppose you play Shin Chois and she needs a little help, but you can only help out Goblins for whatever reason. Poof!
She's now a Goblin and you can use Snibs to channel or Urufa for the push bonus. Soooooooul Mirror is only good if you have a lot of non-Goblins and want to channel a lot, but it's a command card, so it can't be combined with Urufa.

Super Model: She only serves one purpose -- self-destruct along with the Merchant should your opponent have one. (He's a definite danger to this deck). And, like most of the others above, she's bribable by Gold.

Cards to Watch Out For

Merchants (destroy your Gold bribable guys), Icky Bugs (they're Vitality 6 against Gold-bribable guys), any AOEs (nasty), Yap Attacks (exposes
your hand and bribes one of your creatures), Bungee Bony Ridged (discard your cards!).

Guardians to Use

Tookle is the obivous choice since all your creatures are Small. It's less of a benefit if you pick a secondary class that isn't Small. Also Tookle has 7 stones of 5 points each. None of the Goblins are bigger than 5 points of Vitality. (But you'll need a Power Lunch to use them.)

Harkin: Starts with 10 stones worth 6 points. You can't channel more than once, but you'll never need to channel more than once. (Again, you might want to add Rik Sook to your deck before Harkin.)

Sikura: You won't be channeling much, so having a special ability is good, and Sikura's ability is among the best.

Secondary Classes

Do you want just a little bit more? Just a little more protection?

Try Spirits: There are five Spirits that are small (three of which fly). And the Sun Spirit has a 6-point OCB against externals.

Demon and Devils: There are seven small Demons and Devils. Add in a Vestibule of Kabod, and it doesn't count against your Shield's vitality limit. The Baleful Eye will tell you what size your opponent's creature is. Kazarian Squawker can attack his command cards (particularly the
command AOEs that Haba Naba Daba can't stop!).

Gnomes: They're small and bribable by Gold. Actually, the best one to use is Gn'Olegable Gnomes for the bonus. Gn'obby doesn't help much and the Gn'Omish are only okay unless in the Woods. The other problem is
that they're also Mortals. A secondary class of Elementals or Externals would be better.

Bugs: Small and annoying, just like Goblins. But also Mortals.

Summary: Six or seven Goblins can take down many Shields that contain a Large creature or two. That makes them threatening. They are lacking in a class bonus creature (which could seriously aid them) but their remaining abilities almost make up for it. Worth an attempt at a deck.

C. J. Burke
Keeper of the Flame

Haba Naba Raba: Mortal, Vitality 3, OCB 2, Small, Goblin, Gold, CMP 0 Red.
Immune to flying creatures.
(Imagine artwork of a slimy critter that hard to be seen from the air.)