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?)
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