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.

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