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Tuesday, August 1, 2017

MKM Series Prague - Vintage Main Event

MKM Series Prague was an event I was looking forward to participating in since last year. Also after MKM Series Frankfurt that was rather a failure this year for me I needed another event that I could enjoy (3-3 in Vintage, 3-3 drop in Legacy).

A week before the event though I started to have a fever and I spent days shivering with cold while the temperature outside was over 30 degrees Celsius. It didn't look good. During the weekend I stayed in bed and hoped to be fine next week. On Monday I started feeling even worse and I took vacation for the rest of the week. On Friday I woke up with a body temperature that was around 37 degrees of Celsius. That was a huge improvement from the past days and I decided to risk going to MKM Series Prague.

Since I was sick prior to MKM Series and it was possible I wouldn't even be able to participate I didn't really care much about deck choice. I'd simply sleeve something up and try my luck. I created a poll on Twitter asking what deck I should play because there were 3 decks I was considering. Esper Mentor is the deck that got the most votes so I sleeved that up.

Equipped with this deck I headed to MKM Series venue to loan decks, cards and play some friendly games of Vintage with Tom De Decker. He tried putting together a Paradoxical Outcome Mentor deck and I was trying to play with a classic 'Gush' Mentor. I didn't have much experience with my deck apart a Vintage Challenge and Vintage Daily events so I wasn't really sure how the paper event would go (it was a total failure). During the Online events I realized that I lack counterspells and cantrips. I just couldn't figure out what cards to play to fix this. When playing with Tom I realized that some cards weren't doing much good in the deck - Snapcaster Mage, Merchant Scroll, Flusterstorm. I really wanted to replace the cards but I didn't know with what. Later I asked S4mmich about it. He showed me his version of the deck and told me that he feels that it is the counterspell resource that is needed the most and that is why he put Mana Drain in his deck and tried to fit another one main deck. I cut Merchant Scroll and Snapcaster Mage for Mana Drain and replaced Flusterstorm with Night's Whisper.

I also new that my deck configuration was the only problem. I felt that I'm not a good Mentor pilot. I didn't know how reactively or proactively I should play and that was my downfall during the previous events. I figured this out though during the MKM Series event, but at a cost - it cost me few games. It looks like the deck is a classic critical mass control. One needs to get the game into a certain point, have the resources needed and then play Mentor and beat the opponent with it and its tokens.

In the meantime I shared my Paradoxical Outcome Esper Mentor observation with Tom and told him what cards he should play. He was glad for this and changed the deck accordingly and later thanked me for all this. It helped him to win the event and I'm very happy about all that. When looking at his deck laid out in front of him I started to wonder if I shouldn't take out PO and Tendrils of Agony from my binder and play it as well. It was obvious after our conversation that I have way more experience with Tom's deck than mine. Thanks to S4mmich though I ended up with a deck I was content with. The two Vintage Challenges I played with Mentor were a torture and I really did not want MKM Series to be like that.

Round 1 - White Eldrazi

I kept a hand with several cantrips and lands. This is usually enough when playing against something blue which isn't a dedicated combo deck. Combo decks lately though disappeared from the Magic Online metagame. At MKM Series though I could possibly play against anything. My opponent started with Ancient Tomb and Null Rod which suggested an Eldrazi deck. One of the cards in my hand was Gitaxian Probe, so I played it to see my opponent's hand with Vryn Wingmare, Spirit of the Labyrinth, Strip Mine, Thought-Knot Seer and Eldrazi Temple. It took me a while to realize that my opponent is missing a white source. I didn't draw any good card and let my opponent play. As expected he played Thought-Knot Seer removing one of my cantrips from the game. Later I managed to draw Strip Mine and I use it to destroy Ancient Tomb so I wouldn't need to face Reality Smasher. When being down to 8 life I finally managed to find Swords to Plowshares to get rid of TKS and I drew Mentor out of it. During all the time my opponent didn't manage to draw a white source and thus I managed to win the game.

Game 2 didn't look good at all. My hand contained two counterspells and land. This hand would have been good in the previous game but not in this one. My opponent played uncounterable Thalia turn 1 which was very annoying for my deck. Even though I had Swords to Plowshares in my hand I was saving it for Reality Smasher. My opponent wasn't really playing anything so I expected him to have few of those in his hand. When he drew a fifth source he played uncounterable Reality Smasher. I played my Swords targeting Reality Smasher and at this point I was glad I wasn't playing an event on Magic Online where the card is bugged and where my spell would get countered no matter if I discarded a card or not. I drew Monastery Mentor and played it which was possibly a mistake. I realized that there was a slight chance that my opponent boarded in some spot removal and I didn't have mana to counter it due to Thalia. My opponent destroyed one of his lands fetching Plains with Ghost Quarter and plowed my Mentor. Next turn he played another Reality Smasher that I dealt with but a duo of Vryn Wingmare and Thalia killed me.

A third game was similarly bad. My opponent started with Thorn of Amethyst that I decided to counter. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben was the follow up though. Next turn I stared at uncounterable Thought-Knot Seer. Swords to Plowshares that was currently in my hand, I had to play on TKS in order not to lose it. I drew a cantrip that my opponent decided to remove from the game with TKS. TKS was joined by Reality Smasher and another Reality Smasher. I was lucky to actually have another Sword in my hand at that point and I top decked a third one. Unfortunately, due to my mistake, I did not have a card to discard so I had to take some damage. I drew Jace, Vryn's Prodigy that could finally deal with Thalia unless my opponent would have also played Karakas. JVP dealt with Thalia and later I played Mentor and won the game with it.

Round 2 - URw Delver

I lost the die roll and my opponent surprised me by playing Volcanic Island and Delver of Secrets. I tried to counter it but Delver resolved. My hand was pretty useless and Delver was a problem. I played Gitaxian Probe to see Young Pyromancer, Dig Through Time, Scalding Tarn and Mystical Tutor and I drew Ponder off it. I found Strip Mine which seemed as a really good chance not to face Young Pyromancer next turn since Delver decks are light on fast mana and colored mana producing lands. I destroyed my opponent's Volcanic Island and hoped to find something next turn to deal with Pyromancer. Unfortunately for me my opponent drew a fast mana source and played the Young Pyromancer. The game did not end well for me...

The second game was a total mess but in the end it was los of fun. My opponent showed me that he's good at missing triggers and he did not even want to kill me when he could. So I managed to miss few triggers too. Mostly it was due to out of order sequencing so after we agreed that the game would proceed with correct sequencing everything was fine. My opponent played Delver of Secrets. It didn't flip and was joined by Young Pyromancer. The next turn Delver still decided to stay 1/1. I hoped that my opponent drew a land but it wasn't a land. The drawn card was Scab-Clan Berserker. I stared at the board in disbelief since I couldn't deal with either of the 3 creatures currently in play and digging for some removal would cost me a lot of life. I took six damage and hoped for a miracle and I drew it. The fortunate top deck was Kambal, Consul of Allocation. I played it and it resolved. I had Mental Misstep to deal with Lightning Bolt or Swords to Plowshares. After this we both started playing some cantrips to find a way how to deal with the damage dealing creatures. Mine was more efficient since it actually drains life instead of just dealing 2 damage. That was something I really needed. This card was capable of getting me back to 20 life even though Delver finally flipped and started dealing more damage. I drew Swords to Plowshares and got rid of Young Pyromancer since I felt safe with Kambal in play (it was unlikely I'd die to the Berserker + Delver). The next creature I drew was Jace, Vryn's Prodigy which was all I needed to deal with both Scab-Clan Berserker and Delver of Secrets. Later I drew Monastery Mentor and won few turns later.

In game 3 I hoped not to die to Sulfur Elemental or Sudden Shock. I drew Kambal early in the game. The card resolved and eventual killed my opponent who certainly wasn't happy about seeing that card killing him.

Round 3 - BUG Fish

After yet another 50 minute battle I was totally exhausted and round 3 did not even start yet. Thanks to Matous Trajhan and Tom De Decker both on Paradoxical Outcome decks trying to kill each other after time was called I could sit down for a while and take a break.

After this unexpected and much appreciated break I played against the Mentor enemy number one. My opponent played an Island and let me play. I played Monastery Mentor and ran right into Daze. I guess my facial expression wasn't really nice to look at. I drew another Mentor though, slammed it and won later. Judging from my opponent's cards he played - Daze, Island and Preordain - I expected some kind of a BUG Fish deck. I was actually right and boarded correctly.

In game 2 I decided to try to kill my opponent as soon as possibly since I had 2 Monastery Mentors in my hand and I did not expect my opponent to have two Abrupt Decays in his hand. Unfortunately for me my opponent simply had all he needed and in the end I died to a resolved Leovold that I couldn't deal with.

Game 3 was very similar to game 2 with the exception that it actually seemed more likely that I would be the winner. My Monastery Mentors though got Abrupt Decay'ed right away and my lone tokens died similarly fast. I managed to get rid of my opponent's Deathrite Shamans, Dark Confidant and Leovold but my hand at that point looked bad. I had 3 lands and a Mox in it. I drew Force of Will, Mental Misstep and Mana Drain which seemed fine but then I tapped out because of something and couldn't Mana Drain. This way I tried to force Leovold but the card resolved. I was clutching Library of Alexandria for quite a long time (my opponent had Strip Mine and Wasteland in play) and hoped to get back to 7 cards in hand and draw a card at least but this exchange of cards totally ruined my plans. My opponent then decided to blew some of my lands which meant I could play the Library but I couldn't draw cards with it yet. Few turns later I managed to draw cards I could play after I'd resolve Monastery Mentor. I luckily drew the card, played it and then played a Mox. My opponent though played Abrupt Decay and I knew I was doomed. My token died to Snapcaster Mage -> Abrupt Decay and since I was down to 4 life I scooped. I was very sad about the outcome of this game. A pity because I really got the chance to win this really bad matchup.

Round 4 - Dredge

My opponent took a mulligan and his decision was so quick that I suspected a Dredge deck. He kept his next hand though so I wasn't so sure. My hand wasn't particularly anti-dredge since I had no fast mana, no Mentor and not even Mental Misstep. My opponent won the die roll so he was on play and the card he played was Bazaar of Baghdad. The cards he discarded were Golgari Grave-Troll, Golgari Grave-Troll and Bridge from Below. It didn't look good. I got the most lucky top deck though, I drew Strip Mine. I destroyed the Bazaar and hoped that my opponent would hit zero dredgers. I knew the chances were slim. To my surprise though the first six cards didn't reveal a single dredger. The other six cards were also a strange mix not containing a dredger. My opponent during that time did not draw either Bazaar of Baghdad nor Petrified Field and I had the chance to look for some mana sources and Mentor. My opponent then played Mana Confluence and Cabal Therapy that I quickly countered since I didn't want the Trolls to hit the graveyard. I countered 4 Therapies till one finally resolved and I had one turn to create enough tokens and overrun some Zombies that I faced at that point. I managed that and was glad that I would get two chances at winning another game.

I kept a hand with Containment Priest, Mental Misstep, Force of Will, Gitaxian Probe and some mana sources. My opponent dredged once (meaning 3 times) before I managed to play my Containment Priest. Later, he played Bloodghast from his hand and Cabal Therapy which I decided to counter so I wouldn't lose my counterspell. My opponent named Monastery Mentor for the flashbacked Cabal Therapy and missed. Next turn my opponent dredged with Stinkweed Imp which was rather fishy since there were some Trolls in the graveyard. It meant I would most probably need to deal with Contagion that I could counter. Since my opponent actually went for it though, it was clear that a second spell would be played dealing with my Containment Priest in play. I countered the first spell and failed to counter the second one. In that one turn my opponent could do whatever he wanted, he put three Bridges into his graveyard, played a land to get 4 Bloodghasts into play and at that moment I scooped since I didn't need to see the rest of the game.

In game 3 I decided to keep a hand with Grafdigger's Cage, a counterspell and Swords to Plowshares. With a little bit of luck I could possibly find another counterspell, Cage or Priest and win. My opponent was faster in finding two Ingot Chewers than me finding another counterspell and I lost.

Round 5 - Painter's Stone

Round 5 started sooner than I expected and I did not get enough time to get mentally ready for another match. I was hungry since the last time I ate something was like 6 hours ago. We were playing for 8th and 9th place but I wasn't aware of that. If I would have I'd probably just signed our result slip and went to eat something instead. The match was a very quick one though.

In game one my opponent played Painter's Servant that I managed to counter. My opponent didn't have red mana available but just a blue mana left. With that he played Grindstone. That was better than Painter in play. I tried to find a Sword, Fragmentize or a counterspell. I found a counterspell but that one alone was not enough to deal with Yawgmoth's Will and Painter's Servant and thus my library got milled.

Game 2 I'd rather not comment because I colossally screwed up but I took a picture so you can see what happened on turn 1.

After I lost the final match I went upstairs to finally get something to eat. Tom whom I helped with his deck came to thank me for my help and told me that they took an ID. He bought me a drink to cheer me up a bit after my last match and we talked a bit about Magic and the event. When top 8 started I went downstairs again to talk to Mark Poole which was one of the things I really wanted to do that day as well.

I asked him about why he decided to come here since he could have been in Kyoto at that time. He told me that he always wanted to come here one day so he could go see the Slav Epic by Alphonse Mucha. Unfortunately though, the paintings were in Japan!

After we talked a bit more I wanted to get a card signed. I wasn't sure which one though. My old Balance is too nice for that and my Library of Alexandria as well. Ancestral Recall though is in a rather desolate condition and I decided that this card will most likely be the best candidate. It would remind me this day and Mark Poole. He is a really cool person and I wish I could talk to him more.

Mark has really beautiful artwork from my point of view and can work in many different styles. While admiring some of his prints and playmats I found an illustration that I didn't see before. I suspected that to be Library of Alexandria but I had to ask about it. Mark affirmed that it is a Library of Alexandria, reimagined. I'd fancy such a Library on Magic Online. I bought Drew Baker one that I do not really like it (even though Drew Baker is one of my favorite illustrators, look for non-Magic illustrations though). Poole's Library would fit the digital Ancestral Recall and Time Walk very well.

After this I left the site to attend an Anime convention that was taking place nearby. It was quite a shock since the difference of the two venues was huge. I left a very luxurious venue and entered one that was very far from that. I had lots of fun at the con though and I'm very glad I decided to go there. A funny thing happened there and that is also one of the reasons why my weekend was one of the best I can remember.

A local Magic player that I ran into in Rhythm Games room asked me if I do not have two decks on me. I told him that we can play some Vintage if he likes. So we went to a Shogi/Go room and asked if we can play some Magic there. I wasn't afraid of playing Vintage there since I didn't expect anyone to know the value of the cards. One con participant came there to watch us play though. When he saw what we are actually playing he froze and stared at us with a blank stare. It was clear that this person actually knew what is going on or at least heard of Moxen and Black Lotus. After he de-froze he asked us if by a chance we don't have a Modern deck around. Well, I had one so I let my former opponent play a game and I took a break. I was too exhausted to play Magic. A friend of his came and we decided to hang out more during the weekend and it's been really wonderful!

On Saturday I came to MKM Series finding out that even if you win a trial you need to register for the event. This kind of makes sense but it didn't come to my mind. The registration was closed for Legacy so I couldn't participate. I asked if I can claim my free entry (and playmat) and the answer was positive. I got my voucher, playmat and went to buy some Japanese cards. I spent some time with Old School Vintage players, played a little bit of Legacy and then decided to go back to the Anime convention.

MKM Series in Prague was a really cool event for me since I got to meet very nice players and Mark Poole. I even managed to have lots of fun with Esper Mentor which was a surprise to me (a good one after my failures on Magic Online). The only sad thing about MKM Series was that there wasn't enough space for all the players and I couldn't play the Legacy Main Event. Otherwise everything was really good. Thanks everyone involved and see you in Hamburg or next year in Frankfurt!

Thank you for reading
S'Tsung (stsung on MODO, stsungjp on Twitter)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Final Fantasy TCG Type-0 Starter Deck

type-0.jpg

With OPUS III a new Final Fantasy TCG expansion set we can also buy two different FFTCG Starter decks. There is a Final Fantasy Type 0 Starter deck which is a Lightning/Wind aggro deck and Final Fantasy IX Starter deck which is a Water/Fire control deck. All decks contain cards from OPUS I, OPUS II, OPUS III, some of the cards can only be obtained by getting the Starter decks (or can still be opened as premium foil in OPUS III packs, but that's pretty rare). Some of the OPUS III cards have an alternate image (at least Rem looking like a peaceful student and Amarant going berserk) which can't be obtained in booster packs. Each deck also contains quick rules sheet, paper game mat, decklists of the five Starter decks and strategy guide for the OPUS III starter decks.

If you've never heard of Final Fantasy TCG I wrote an introductory article some time ago. You can find the article on my blog as well Final Fantasy Trading Card Game. It is a certainly good card game with nice mechanics and I'd recommend you to try it out if you get the chance. The following review if for those that already have some knowledge of the game.

Final Fantasy Type-0

FF Type-0 starter deck is a tribal deck. Many of the Characters in the deck have a job "Class Zero Cadet". The cards then have effects that either check for the job or their abilities are dependant on the number of job Class Zero Cadets etc. For example one card pumps a Forward by 1000 for each Class Zero Cadet under your control.

The decklist is as follows

3 Ace 3-153-S Light Forward
3 Queen 3-151-S Lightning Forward
3 Nine 3-113-R Lightning Forward
2 Chocobo 1-075-C Wind Forward
2 Chocobo 1-076-C Wind Forward
2 Ninja 1-078-C Wind Forward
2 Dragoon 1-148-C Lightning Forward
2 Dragoon 2-148-C Lightning Forward
2 Seven 3-148-C Wind Forward
2 Eight 3-051-R Wind Forward
2 Sice 3-109-C Lightning Forward
3 Rem 3-072-R Wind Backup
3 Moogle (Class Zero) 3-150-S Wind Backup
3 Arecia Al-Rashia 3-097-R Lightning Backup
2 Evoker 1-068-C Wind Backup
2 Black Mage 1-130-C Lightning Backup
2 Summoner 1-138-C Lightning Backup
2 Ninja 2-115-C Lightning Backup
2 Deuce 3-062 Wind Backup
2 Ramuh 1-143-C Lightning Summon
2 Cyclops 2-107-C Lightning Summon
2 Diablos 3-061-R Wind Summon

 

Type-0 deck is a fast aggro deck of a swarm type. The last damage point or points it is capable to deal through either certain special abilities or Forwards with Haste. This deck features some good backups with good abilities. Moogle Class 0 is actually a good backup in this deck. It pumps all your Job Class Zero Cadet Forwards by 1000 which is a very strong effect in this deck. I'm not a fan of this kind of effects in general, but this deck really needs it and makes it way more powerful.

The 'main Forward' of the deck is 6CP Light Ace. I was very surprised by what the card does because it just seemed too good to be true. "When Ace enters the field, you may play 1 Job Class Zero Cadet Forward from your hand onto the field. When Ace is put from the field into the Break Zone, choose 1 Job Class Zero Cadet Forward other than Card Name Ace from your Break Zone. Add it to your hand." Ace may be a high cost card but in reality your paying for two cards instead of one which can create a huge tempo swing (especially if the other card is Nine). When Ace dies, you can return a Job Class Zero Cadet Forward to your hand which means that Ace doesn't really cost anything. These are both very strong effects in any TCG or CCG so the card can't be bad.

3-113-r.jpg

Nine is the primery beater in this deck. It is a Lightning Forward for 4 CP with Power 8000. When Nine attacks it can make a Forward bigger by 1000 Power for each Job Class Cadet Forward under your control which makes him either very big and hard to block or can make on of the 'small' Forwards relatively big. This card reminds me of Wakka rrom the Final Fantasy X starter deck but the card doesn't seem to be that powerful (maybe also because there is no Minwu in these colors which make Wakka invincible, at least what concerns combat damage). Nine's special ability can win a stalled game out of nowhere (SLLLL: All Forwards cannot block this turn) but so far I haven't had the chance to use it yet.

3-057-r.jpg

Seven is a very interesting card, because it has two very strong abilities attached to it. Type 0 is a tribal swarm deck and this means that it can die to global removal effects like Shantotto for example. There's not so many cards like this yet but they mean GG for this deck. Seven's ability can counter a Special or auto-ability. Her static ability says that all Forwards under your control cannot be blocked by Forwards with cost 4 or more. The majority of relevant (see good) Forwards (unless they are Warrior of Light or Zidane) have the cost 4 (or more). This deck doesn't really have strong Forwards this a pretty good ability and your opponent won't be happy to see Seven in play unless they are also on some kind of a Swarm deck.

3-109-c.jpg

Sice seems to be a good constructed card in theory so I will have to try playing with it more. Sice needs some support though in the form of either abilities on Characters or Summons. The Starter deck has Ramuh as one of the possible support cards and Diablos which is actually an overpowered card (at least seems so!). Sice costs 2CP and has Power of 5000. Whenever she attacks, she lowers the power of an opposing Forward by 1000 for each Job Class Cadet under your control. Thanks to her, you can deal with big Forwards like Amarant for example (during the turn it can't still use it's ability)

3-061-r.jpg

Diablos is a Summon which always reminds me one epic battle I had the opportunity to experience in one of the Final Fantasy games. Its Gravity ability, other forbidden magic and regeneration always made all the battles quite difficult for me. Diablos Summon battles are the ones I remember the most. I hoped that Diablos in FFTCG would be some awesome card. When I read the card I was like "WHAT? I can play this card for free?". Yes, under some conditions this card doesn't cost anything. It is also a removal spell which makes it a future staple in my eyes. It deals damage to a Forward based on the number of Characters under your control. If you have a Job Class Zero Cadet Forward under your control you can activate up to 3 backups making it 'cost' 0. This card just seems to be pretty insane.

3-062-c.jpg

Deuce is a Backup for 2CP. I find 2CP backups very important and ones that have a good ability are even stellar. Deuce certainly falls into this category. This Class Zero Cadet can ping an attacking Forward for 2000 damage or she can also double as a one time removal. It's the best Type-0 tribal Backup and you certainly want to play 3 of it. Rem is similar to Lightning backup Sage which certainly showed up to be good. This one's ability is actually an EX burst one!

If you'd be thinking about upgrading this deck, you should get rid of the basic cards like Summoner, Evoker, Ninja, Dragoons, Chocobos etc. Instead you can put in Red Mage that gives Haste for L and Maria that pumps all your Forwards for 1000. And of course add a third Deuce.

Concerning Forwards. I'd think about adding Amon and any all jobs Bartz. This deck needs to go through at a certain point and Nine's ability is not something that I was able to use. I'd fancy a good tap effect or more hasty but reasonable Forwards. Amon is an idea card because it has a decent body and it taps when it enters play AND when you need it later. Unlike Queen it can be played or used anytime you want. The other possibility in which direction this deck could go is by being able to deal the remaining damage and dependent more on Sice. This would mean playing Forwards like Rygdea from FFXIII Starter Deck or Onion Knight (1-125-R) but I'm not honestly really a fan of that. Lightning/Ice tempo decks never needed to kill often, usually just once per game (in the later stage of the game). The deck could possibly use more Forwards with the Haste ability but thanks to Red Mage you don't really need to specifically look for such Forwards. It is a nice thing to have a few so you can produce two hasty Forwards in one turn and thus deal the remaining damage. I'd even play Queen from OPUS III if I would have difficulties finding better Forwards to play. She's more expensive than the Starter deck one with Power 7000, usually has First Strike (so good with some ping abilities) and her Special ability allows to deal 1 unblockable damage. 3CP and 4CP 'vanilla' Bartz is also a Job Class Zero Cadet which means that it can suddenly be a very powerful card for low cost.

As for Summons. I wasn't fan of Ramuh. It always messed up my sources and it didn't usually kill anything. Diablos is an auto-include. You want 3. Cyclops is good with the bunch of low power Forwards. This also can turn Sice into a Forward killer. As noted above this is also the kind of a deck that sometimes needs to kill something. In this case you don't need to worry about really big Forwards usually but you need to deal with some costing 4 (or less). For that we have Odin (1-123-R). If you'd be going for cards like Rygdea you certainly do not need to run the card Ramuh.

I'd say that Type-0 starter deck is the best of the five. It seems that with little bit of tweaking this can become a tournament deck. I don't know what will change with OPUS III cards but in the earlier metagame Lightning was well positioned. The Lightning part either supported by Wind or Water can be very efficient.

Happy tweaking!

S'Tsung

Friday, July 14, 2017

Ascension War of Shadows

A year ago more or less at Origins Stone Blade Entertainment released Ascension X: War of Shadows. I knew that it would come out one day but I had no idea when that would be available here (and so far still hasn't seem a copy of the game). There is also a way how to play the game online and since the iOS version is way better than the Steam version I tried to run that one.

Ascension the game

If you are unfamiliar with Ascension the game here is a description I wrote for my review of one earlier Ascension games.

Ascension has a very simple rules and can be setup really fast. Each player gets a starting deck containing ten cards. There is a central row which contains a pool of cards from which you either buy cards or defeat monsters. After a card is bought or destroyed a new card fills the vacant slot. To buy a card you need a certain amount of Runes. To defeat a monster you need Power. Your starting deck contains 8 Apprentices (Runes) and 2 Militia (Power). You start the game with five cards.

On your turn you can buy anything as long as you have runes and you can also defeat monsters as long as you have Power. At the end of each turn you discard the remaining cards you did not use and draw 5 new cards.

In the center row there are three types of cards - Heroes, Constructs and Monsters. Constructs, after being played, stay in play. Monsters can be defeated in order to gain a reward. Heroes are one time effects that can be used on the turn they are played.

Each player has access to some common cards - Mystics, Heavy Infantry and Cultist. The first two are unaligned Hero type cards that give you Runes (Mystic) or Power (Infantry). Cultist is a monster that can be defeated if you have at least two power (you gain one honor when you defeat him).

The game ends when a pool (depends on the number of players) of Honor points is depleted.

When the game ends each player counts the number of honor points they have (cards in your deck have them and you also get them after defeating a monster).The player who gets the most points wins the game.

Ascension: War of Shadows - Components

  • Cards (177)
  • 50 Honor tokens
  • Game board
  • Rules

Ascension X: War of Shadows

Ascension: War of Shadows is the tenth game in the series suited for 1 to 4 players. Each new set brings new mechanics and this one is not an exception. There are two new things - Day and Night mechanic and dual-cost of heroes/constructs.

Day and Night mechanic

The cards in the center deck are either Day cards or Night cards. Day cards have a white/gold border with an icon of a sun on them, night cards have black/silverish border with a crescent moon icon. Some of the cards have different effects during the Day and Night. There are three states though (not just two) - Day, neither Day or Night, Night. If there is more Day cards in the center row, it is Day and you can use the Day effects. If there is more Night cards it is Night and thus can use the Night effects. If the number is the same, it's neither and none of the Night or Day effects can be used.

If one starts to buy control cards for a construct base deck, they need Day to make the constructs work. If this is achieved this deck can't be stopped by any means. Other decks do not rely on Day or Night that much and thus one can look at it Night and Day effects as nice bonuses. These don't usually turn the game around unless something like this happens (that was my turn 1). There are two cards (one for Day and one for Night) in the set that can be acquired/defeated using alternate cost. Ta'hyr the Sun can be acquired for free when all cards in the center row are Day cards.

Constantly checking the Night/Day can be straining at first because one needs to get used to it. Using Day/Night to your advantage and using it to make things worse for your opponent is quite tactical and the timing of playing cards and acquiring cards is important. Sometimes it is better to risk to gain the effect of a card later (keep it in hand) and sometimes it is better to play safe and play the card. This depends on the overall power level of the cards having Night/Day effect.

Dual-cost
Next new change is that some cards have a cost that requires the player to spend both Runes and Power to acquire a card. This is a feature I liked since it makes Heavy Infantries more relevant early game and not just for mid- to lategame. This creates a different balance between the Rune heavy decks, usually control decks and Power heavy decks that were fast aggro decks. The balance of Runes/Power in each set is different. In the first game it was the Power deck in favor, in Storm of Souls there was a good balance. In this game the balance is taken to a different level but is more dependent on the actual cards and their power level (or how they were acquired).

1 Power Monster
This isn't a new feature like the dual-cost or Day/Night but is notable change. This is one thing that the previous Ascensions really lacked. The cheapest Monster was Cultist but for that one needs 2 Power. This way the singleton Militia that ends up in your hand can be used. In this set it's not that relevant since there you have more use for Power than in the previous sets. I find the addition of this Monster a good thing though and hope there will be more of these in the future.

My experience

The changes done in this version are nice and I like them. Tracking of Night/Day in paper means either moving Day cards little but up and Night cards down (as drawn on the game board) or just looking at it and figuring it out without any help. Both of this can make the game a bit longer than usual game of Ascension.

Dual-cost cards make you, the player, count more. For people like me who have problems with basic numbers it can become a problem. Keeping track of one number is easy and natural, but keeping track of two numbers can be difficult at some point when you need to sequence acquiring certain cards and defeating certain monsters. For me playing Ascension is already tiring and this makes it exhausting sometimes (this is a hyperbole but both of these things are to be considered depending on how good you/your group are at these things, not usual 'skills' needed)

As for deckbuilding. I probably still haven't explored everything. The set seems to be limited in cards (even though it's a big one). So during a relatively short games you end up seeing the same cards over and over unlike in some of the bigger sets when this doesn't necessarily happen. This also means that the number of combinations is limited and the fact that some cards are seriously over powered doesn't help this because they get the priority to be acquired/defeated because they are a win condition on their own (Legion of Aklys, Vyrak, the First). These cards still require a certain strategy used or deck tweaked but it is a relatively simple thing to do, compared to a whole deck built.

When I first played the game I tended to play a heavy construct deck because it seemed the best way to win the game. The deck would then either try to buy Night cards in order to keep Day 'online' or acquired Shade Converter that allowed its controller if they had 3 or more constructs in play to treat their turn as Day. The players I played against just got terribly crushed by his strategy and that wasn't a good sign because it was suggesting the game is unbalanced. For that when I started to play with my flatmate that tends to play these kind of decks I tried to beat him with a different kind of a deck (aggro). I had no idea how the deck should look like though. Usually Lifebound/Void combination was good at this, sometimes Enlightened cards were capable of accelerating such a deck. In this set though Lifebound/Void is not fast enough and does not generate bigger amounts of honor points constantly nor it is capable of producing a lot of honor in the last few turns (not even with Deadeye Assassin in a the deck). Enlightenment on the other hand can really be the fastest deck.

I wasn't really successful with my strategies fighting against good players who played this kind of a control deck so I started to play against the AI on iOS version of the game to explore more decks. Usually I won by 5-10 points which wasn't a result I wanted to see because this could easily mean I'd lose to a random Day/Night effect for example or just the fact that someone ended the game a turn sooner (against human players I mean). When I played my first few games against the AI I was surprised to actually lose (doesn't happen in other sets). This suggested that my understanding of the set is either wrong or the set is truly unbalanced (note I was pushing non-Mechana strategies). In the end I tried a different strategy that I avoided right from the beginning because I didn't like it. I started with getting few Heavy Infantries and cards like Bringer of Hope and Shrine Attendant (Arha Historian and Searing Askara are cards I instantly liked but Bringer of Hope didn't seem good to me at all, I didn't realize the tempo swing though). I added some Void cards to the mix and occasional Lifebound card like Marsh Ranger and finally started winning by 50-70 points. It didn't make much sense to me because in my eyes this was not supposed to work but it did. This was a good wake up call to go back and review the set and see if I can't find other strategies I dismissed because they couldn't possibly keep up with Mechana control.

I had to reevaluate all the cards in the set in context and forget about past experience gained. For example Inspired Templar effect was very solid in the previous Ascension games but not in this one. Banishing cards which was often stellar or very much needed feels totally different. There is only one deck that really needs it and often having 3 cards that can banish other cards is too many. In many games I nervously stare at my deck because I know there is too few of them (in what other Ascension did this ever happen, in none). Ironically in this set 'the more cards you can get' is actually often better. I mean the original 'the more cards the more diluted deck' is still valid but we can experience huge swings that are often the result of acquiring a bigger amount of cards in one turn and being able to play them.

Searing Askara is by far my favorite card. It is one of the true control cards while gaining value which seems to be a very good card and it turned out to be even better than in the previous sets. The reason is that the dual-cost cards create a certain imbalance. If you are a Magic player and ever cast Bust with Goblin Dark-Dwellers or via Brain in a Jar you probably can see what I mean. The problem with this was that cards asking for a mana cost could check one half of a split card while playing the other half. This way Goblin Dark-Dwellers could play Bust which is way stronger effect than destroying a target land (2 lands) vs all lands. Similarly in Ascension the dual-cost cards with rune cost being 3 and lower are checked as cost 3 and lower. This means that a card like Isha, the Pursuer can be acquired with Searing Askara. That is a hell of a value compared to let's say Mystic. I also find Marsh Ranger to be a very solid card that should cost 6 and certainly shouldn't be allowed to be acquired with Searing Askara.

Verdict

So far I still can't make up my mind about this version. While I knew instantly I wouldn't be a fan of Rise of Vigil, I can't make up my mind about this one. I liked the game when I played it the first time, liked it even after long hours of our trip to a Grand Prix far away and I still enjoyed the games I played with my flatmate. There were times of frustration I didn't experience in the previous versions, not even in Rise of Vigil (I don't like it because I find it too swingy). I have difficulties evaluating the power of cards and seeing a good deck, or rather the deck that I expected to be broken, actually is. This makes it less enjoyable for me because I don't feel like picking cards at random or facing the same deck all the time. I'm usually very good at seeing the whole picture and knowing what to play. From those possibilities I chose the ones I like usually and play those. War of Shadows though doesn't give me that much of a freedom to choose something I like in this case and for that I will have to give the game a rating of 3 out of 5. The game is still solid, offers a nice change and offers enough depth and complexity to keep a player interested. I find this set rather unbalanced primarily due to the dual-costed cards and some cards that really stand out with their effects.

It is the most unique Ascension game out there but its uniqueness alone doesn't make it the best game which could possibly result in the love or hate scenarios. I'm torn somewhere in between. Due to its uniqueness and difficulty of tracking other stuff (runes/power/day/night) I wouldn't recommend it to new Ascension players. If you are considering trying out Ascension the game it's always the best to start with the base set - Ascension: Chronicle of the God. The following block (Storm of Souls, Immortal Heroes) is very good. The complexity is already very high but the game is still very similar to the first block (Chronicle of the God, Return of the Fallen). If you want to play a more unique version of Ascension and you are not familiar that much with Ascension I'd go for Dreamscape which is easy to play but has a lot of depth on various levels (and if needed these can be omitted, not playing on a higher level won't punish the player and has quite high variance). War of Shadows is way more compact and everything is more entwined. This means that a new player trying to figure out one aspect of the game won't be able to concentrate on another aspect that is needed in conjunction to the first one. I don't really know how to describe this but it is something that is certainly not beginner friendly, it requires a quite vast understanding of how this deckbuilding game works and seeing many things at once. The games are fast (in terms of turns) and solid plan has to be executed right from the beginning and requires a different skill set. There is no 1-3 turn set up to start doing something like in the previous games. One could say the games are more intense (or condensed?). A player can get punished for his misplays in this game (if you are wondering how a player can misplay in the first place don't attempt playing this before you get familiar with the first 4 Ascensions at least, or just don't play with players that have years of experience). Ironically this version of the game seems to have less depth than Dreamscape though due to this. It is a very good base for an expansion that can quite easily make this version a way better one though. On the other hand I do not see this version mix well with other sets even though there are cards I'd happily put in my cube (that I can hardly fit in the box it is in now).

Rating: 3/5

Vintage Challenge July 8th Report from a non-Shops player perspective

My not particularly positive feelings about Mentor made me snap and I entered Vintage Challenge on the last minute with Ravager Shops instead of a blue deck. I was suddenly in a totally different world trying to find ways how to win and not utterly die. In an incomprehensible way I ended up in the top 8.


http://puremtgo.com/articles/vintage-challenge-july-8th-report-ravager-shops-change-perspective