If the words “Welcome Back” don’t mean anything to you, take a quick detour over to the initial Shattered Destiny Blood review HERE as well as the original Quadrant Theory article for the basics for what Quadrant Theory is and how it pertains to our evaluations of card in a limited format are explained.
As a quick reference so that you don’t always need to go back to the previous article, the scale we will be using for this review is:
10 – This is the best possible card for this situation I could imagine
9 – Having this card in this situation will make me very likely to win the game by itself
8 – Having this card in this situation will definitely help me win the game
7 – This card will almost always be good in this situation (>90% of the time)
6 – This card will be good in this situation most of the time (>50% of the time)
5 – This card will be okay in this situation on average, but rarely will it be very good or very bad
4 – This card will be poor in this situation most of the time (>50% of the time)
3 – This card will almost always be poor in this situation (>90% of the time)
2 – This card is equivalent to a blank card in this situation
1 – Playing this card in this situation will actively cause me to lose the game
Ambling Bluff is rarely a card to be excited about drafting, but it certainly is a card you should be evaluating every time you head to your reserves. If your opponent is trying to curve you out with 2/2s then Bluff is a very poor card as it will be hard to ever really gain an advantage from it. On the other hand, if your opponent is the one trying to stall into some Wild fatties then having a 4 attack troop for trading duties is probably going to make the cut. Its stats are normally going to be good enough when you are trying to curve out, but it won’t be doing much at all to help you break a Parity situation that arises. When you get a bit ahead, the bluff’s large attack should help finish out the game (with a nod to the fact that Bluff “turns on” other potential outs for the opponent as they likely have many potential draws that could trade with him), and having a high attack/low defense is better than being medium in both for most situations when you are behind as it presents the ability to trade with more serious threats. Not to be rambling too much, but while Steadfast might seem totally irrelevant you should keep a watch out that if you can get some Seapriests (seen below) then suddenly the Bluff can become a real problem for your opponent.
One thing you need to identify very quickly about Augmented Awakening: Normally, the big problem with permanent buff cards is that you are spending a full card to get their effect, so if the opponent finds a way to then spend a single card to remove the troop you have buffed then suddenly you are at card disadvantage. Augmented Awakening doesn’t get that same clause, you exchange it for a card in your graveyard and then the+2/+2 just slides right on top as a sweet bonus for overpaying just a bit for the pleasure of returning a troop. What does this all mean to us in Quadrant land? Well in Development, we actually have a bit of a quagmire as Awakening doesn’t actually function like a pump spell to help us develop the board unless we can convince the opponent to trade with our early troop anyway. Even if that happens, paying 3 resources to bring it back to our hand and then paying for the troop again is likely going to play out in a very clunky fashion prior to turn 5 or so, and by then we exiting the Development stage of the game anyway. Of course, this all additionally assumes we have a troop to begin with; you can’t fill your deck with nothing but Augmented Awakenings of course.
Once we get to Parity where being a bit clunky starts to matter less we should be able to find our best spot to land a devastating Awakening. Your opponent likely has tried to remove your best troops first anyway—after all, they like winning too—so planting your buff on top of them and getting them back all in one action is going to be groan-inducing from the other side of the screen. As far as our bottom quadrants go, the only real issue with being Ahead and drawing an Awakening is that you might not have any decent targets (or any targets at all) that you can also afford to re-play immediately, putting the finishing pressure on the board. Having dead troops is a little bit more likely when Behind, and also the pump is likely to be even more important as you likely need something to get big to stop the bleeding from your side. Awakening won’t always bring you right back in (it still can be clunky to accomplish everything you want with it costing 3 and all) but it normally can be one of those cards that at least gives you a shot of bringing back your important troop and stabilizing the board when you need it.
|Bastion of Adamanth|
You don’t always want to see 5-drops in your opening hand, but Bastion at least provides the knowledge that you might want to hold back on trading your troops for theirs on turn 3 and 4 as you have a guy coming that should clear the way for a big pocket of damage. From there, Bastion is just about one of the best things you could expect from a common; exhausting an opposing troop for your next two turns is pretty much the same as removal if you have the damage on board to end the game, and defensively you can prevent damage for a turn while also dropping a 4/4 for 5 (which would be a totally playable card even if Bastion’s text box was blank). Like Buccaneer, Bastion provides a significant tempo swing that leads to it being good in pretty much any stage of the game—and while exhausting for 2 turns isn’t always the same as bouncing a troop I would much prefer having a 4/4 for 5 over a 2/2 for 3.
|Chimera Guard Officer|
As a baseline, a 1/1 for 1 needs to have something very sweet in its text box to make you want to play it. In development, it might get in for 2-3 damage and then sit around if you are on the attack. Defensively, a 1/1 can be a situational card that comes in with the intended purpose of just trading with an X/1 from the opponent, but the real reason you want to be playing the Officer is if you feel that the health gain will be relevant and the game will be sitting at Parity for a long enough time to gather a considerable advantage from it. Those matches won’t be every game, but do take care to try and identify when that might be the case and bring in the Officer where appropriate. And for why a 1/1 for 1 is pretty much never considered worthwhile, think about how it feels to draw when you are ahead or behind. The extra 1 attack each turn will rarely make the difference between winning and losing while the extra-small body means that it will typically be just resigned to chump-blocking duty when you need to get back into the game.
Let’s be clear about one thing: if you are ever casting Crackling Boon the “Gain 4 Health” part is the tacked on extra; what you are paying for here is the “Gain a charge” line. Even multiple Righteous Paladins and Paladins of the Necropolis wouldn’t make me want to run a card for just health gain purposes, but there are a huge number of cards in Set 2 that trigger off of gaining a charge. Still, you are probably fist-pumping if you ever get even a single card’s worth of value out of Crackling Boon, and we need to see a much higher upside than that if we are putting such an incredibly situational card into our decks.
|Dragon Guard Stalwart|
6 defense is an incredible amount for a 2-drop. The Stalwart will likely be safe even from 3-drop-plus-pump-spell plays and should easily transition you out of the Development stage into another quadrant if you are looking to stall. Once you get there, the Stalwart will still have some value as opposing troops need to be entering T-Hex range to actually get past him—but it isn’t as if the Stalwart will often be the force that helps push you over the edge in Parity and start winning. When you are ahead, clearly the Stalwart is going to be essentially a blank at trying to win you the game faster; however, it does stand out as an okay option if you find yourself behind since a 2-drop that can blank even large troops gives you some great options if you need to cast multiple cards in a single turn. What all this tells us is that if your deck is currently built to take extreme advantage of a Parity situations (either through flight troops or repeatable activated abilities) then Stalwart might be a fine inclusion to shore up your issues in the Development phase of the game. I expect the Stalwart to be a common staple in D/X flight decks, but likely it will remain a fringe or reserve option for many other archetypes.
A 5-drop has to be pretty powerful for you to want to fill your deck with them, and the Outrider certainly doesn’t fit that description with such a low defense. No one is high-fiving their friends when they draw multiple Outriders in their opening hand, so it is hard to rate it very highly as a Development card. In Parity, it certainly can shine thanks to flight—and Lifedrain can be quite relevant for preventing any alpha strikes as your opponent builds up their ground forces. Three attack is enough to make you fairly happy when drawing Duskwing while you are ahead as it should provide enough push to finish off the opponent, and he actually soars higher than you might think for a five-drop when behind thanks to his attack being high enough to trade with a significant number of threats while also providing a health bump to help carry you to your outs. Outrider will rarely be the card that single-handedly turns the game around for you, but more often than not you will get your card’s worth of value out of him.
When I read the name “Iljuni Mirthkin”, I get a bit excited thinking about how none of those words mean anything to me so there must be something crazy going on. Then it turns out that we have some walking flavor text on a 2/2 for two. Oh well, every set needs some cards that serve as the statistical glue to make our resource curves hum and in Shattered Destiny that means our friend the elephant bear. Quick question—which of these is the more likely to be true statement: “I lost because I had three Mirthkin in my opening hand” or “I lost because my opponent had three Mirthkin in their opening hand”? I’d almost certainly lean towards the latter; curving out just wins games in limited because you are capitalizing upon the Development stage of the game and pushing it into a winning game state before the opponent can exploit a strong stance in the Parity quadrant. The real issue with the kin of Mirth is that if the game stalls out, you aren’t going to be getting much out of him until you draw something else to help break up the stall. Outside of his strength in Development, a 2/2 for two is a little under the power curve for closing out games, but you certainly prefer it to another shard and it can be surprisingly strong to draw when you are behind—just due to being something that is cheap enough to play alongside another troop or action in the same turn.
|Kraken Guard Seapriest|
Our first Inspire card, so I’ll be indulging in a quick tangent about how the mechanic affects the quadrants. Specifically, Inspire is very much a Development-heavy mechanic; drawing your Inspire troop after you have played your other troops provides a large loss of value. For that reason, while Inspire is not a linear mechanic in the typically known sense (meaning that Inspire doesn’t necessarily key off of or benefit other Inspire cards more than a regular card) it tends to play out that as you start filling your deck with Inspire cards you want to start grabbing more of them to push your deck’s advantage in the Development quadrant of the game—thereby increasing the consistency that your deck will perform well in that quadrant. Regarding the Seapriest specifically, the Inspire ability here is quite insane as two extra defense will quickly result in your team being too hard to attack into while also forcing double-blocks by the opponent which can open them up to being blown-out by removal/tricks. For a 2/2 for three, Seapriest actually is quite scary to face down on turn 3 knowing that your opponent now has a deep advantage if you don’t deal with the him or establish pressure quickly. However, drawn later than turn 3 the Seapriest is a bit hampered by the fact that you will mostly be relying upon the printed stats of your Inspire troop—and a 2/2 for three is certainly below the curve as the game progresses. Still, the body is just relevant enough and his potential for huge impact if cast on time makes it easy to justify playing any that you do manage to pick up.
|Light of Hope|
A good rule for combat tricks is that their effectiveness is oftentimes based upon their cost, with one- and two-cost tricks being considerably better than three- and four-costed ones. Light of Hope certainly does quite a bit for a single resource; it just doesn’t do enough for an entire card to make the cut the majority of the time. It is almost good enough in your opening hand, but at that stage you rarely care about the Lifedrain and +1/+1 will oftentimes not be enough of a boost to generate a 1-for-1 trade against a relevant troop. Similarly in Parity and being Ahead, it might be enough to trade with some card on the board but it rarely will be able to trade with the cards that matter. The one saving grace can occasionally be the Lifedrain component on a cheap action when you are behind, but if you are behind you likely have the smaller troops on the board if you have any at all—in which case you really have no hope of turning your combat trick into a high-impact card.
Meek has two roles to play: you either want to use it to kill an early game troop to buy some tempo or you are bringing in Meek to take out specific utility troops. You are normally fine with seeing a Meek in your opening hand as it means you can probably find at least an even trade to make with it, but later on you might not have relevant targets anymore as—like a two-drop itself—Meek can be irrelevant later on as the game has moved past two-attack troops mattering a whole lot. It can be important to note that there are a number of 2-attack evasive troops and important cards like Queensguard that you can use Meek to take out, so definitely be looking at your reserves hard after your first game to see if Meek matches up well against what the opponent is doing.
How great Preservation ends up being likely functions heavily on how much and how playable the quick speed removal is. Readying a troop, making it permanently bigger, and then using it to block and kill a smaller troop is likely the dream scenario that runs through your head when you first read the card. And yeah, that is going to happen fairly often, as for only two resources it is often difficult to sniff out in game one if the opponent has a Preservation or not. However, with Murder, Burn, Crackling Rot, and a whole list of opposing pump spells that can provide larger buffs you have to be careful about not getting yourself two-for-one’d when you try to pull off the Preservation play.
As for our quadrants, Preservation is cheap enough to fit right in to your curve on turn 4 or 5 alongside another card, and at that point in the game you often will find yourself with a large enough troop that the opponent isn’t willing to block but the board isn’t so clogged and they will want to crack back; that is going to be the prime Preservation spot. Most combat tricks are just “okay” in Parity as you can use them to force the opponent to call you out on them, and Preservation also provides the opportunity to get a bit greedy with your attacks knowing that you can ready an extra blocker if the opponent declines your initial trades and wants to race. While Preservation can certainly be the card that keeps your opponent from trading a topdecked troop with yours when you are ahead, the comparatively small buff to attack and defense makes that not as likely as many other tricks. Finally, when behind the ready ability only matters in corner cases so if you are behind already on the board the +1/+2 is unlikely to be what can bring you back—even with the cheap cost factored in. One more note is to watch for situations where the ready ability could be worth the card. If you see Mesmerizes and Bastions that will be trying to keep your troops exhausted, a surprise Preservation can be worth bringing in to the matchup.
|Prophet of Wren|
As a four drop that doesn’t immediately affect the board outside of its 3/3 body, you aren’t going to be crossing your fingers every game for a hand full of Prophets. Still, being an on-cost troop makes him at least reasonable in Development. Where Prophet really shines is in those long, drawn out games where he can just sit around gaining 2-health chunk after 2-health chunk to raise your health total above anything the opponent can even think about alpha striking down. That doesn’t mean he is unbeatable in a Parity situation as limited is still primarily dominated by board position rather than health totals, but he certainly can provide enough of a health buffer on top of his solid stats to be a strong contributor. When you are Ahead or Behind you will most often just be looking at his stat block and accepting that a 3/3 for 4 is right about average, with a small glance to the fact that you might be behind due to shard flood—in which case knowing that Prophet is in your deck might make you want to hold back some shards so that when you do draw him you can immediately start Propheting.
Royal Herald is one of the sweeter two-drops for players that like having consistent decks, even if that means that the actual power level isn’t really off-the-charts in any given quadrant. Royal Herald very obviously encourages us to be drafting the tri-shard D/R/S humans, but even if you are in just two of those shards you still get a very viable threshold fixer stapled onto a playable card. And if you don’t need an extra threshold of one of your two shards? Unlike Lixil or Shards of Fate, you can just go right ahead and grab the threshold that isn’t even in your deck leading into the bluff that you have something sweet coming from that third shard. Besides helping to support a number of human cards that care about the thresholds you have in Parity, Royal Herald otherwise acts very similarly to Mirthkin or another 2-power two-drop in the remainder of the quadrants.
|Vanguard of Cerulea|
Cerulea’s contribution to the multi-threshold troops in Diamond is a good one. Before we get to that, let’s get it out of the way that you aren’t playing this card without being in both Sapphire and Diamond to a fairly significant degree. The fact that you can play it before you have Sapphire is a nice consolation for those corner-case scenarios where you get threshold screwed, but the body just isn’t enough to ever want to be playing a 1/2 for three without a way to get that extra boost reliably. So how good is a 2/3 with Flight? That extra defense over what you might normally expect for a three-drop flight troop is pretty key at making VoC a viable defensive asset in games where otherwise you wouldn’t get that option. Still, what we are primarily buying here is the two attack worth of flight that should be able to plink away at our opponent throughout the game. Mystic of the Tranquil Dream was a fairly high pick already from Shards of Fate, so making it cheaper while maintaining defensive relevance is awesome (as many things in HEX jump from 2 power mattering to 4+ power mattering fairly quickly).
|Vanguard of Gawaine|
Gawaine’s Vanguard might not seem like a big boost from something like a Quick Strider (who wasn’t tearing up the format by any means), but the jump from 2 to 3 attack is actually quite large. On offense, Quick Strider was rarely that efficient as it just took too long to accumulate enough damage to matter to the opponent. On the other hand, hitting someone for 3 damage for more than a couple turns is going to quickly put them into finisher range even without additional support. On defense, VoG is still the stud that Quick Strider was but now gains a whole new class of troops which it remains relevant against (especially considering how good Wreckasaur is). There just aren’t a lot of situations where a cheap 3-attack troop with swiftstrike isn’t going to make an impact, so while it might seem like the card is just stats and a keyword the combination of factors turns Vanguard of Gawaine into one of the more flexible commons in Shattered Destiny.
It is pretty easy to treat Ashen Watcher as a value two-for-one. You get a 3/5 flyer and the opponent has to spend their turn re-drawing their most important troop instead of drawing whatever they normally would have. You’ll hate to see 7-drops in your Development stage but after that it is hard to be disappointed with Ashen Watcher’s abilities. Of note is how incredibly sweet Ashen Watcher can be when you are Behind at pulling you back into the game; if the opponent has two troops that could get through Ashen Watcher then you probably won’t be winning anyway but the more realistic case is that you will send back a threat and everything else likely will have trouble swinging next turn without losing their second best troop to the Watcher.
Exalted Victory obviously is not a card you put into every deck; you won’t always be able to draft around the humans. That being said, Exalted Victory is strong enough that you should be taking it and then looking to BE the human drafter (whether that is D/S, D/R, or D/R/S). Adding Swiftstrike and Steadfast to the +2/+0 is a world of difference, as now your alpha strike leaves no good blocks and no chance of attacking back at you the next turn. While you will almost never actually cast this card in Development, having one in your opening hand will drastically shape how you play the game: you will be looking to trade any non-humans for as much early damage as possible and then hopefully craft a board state where your force can threaten a lethal attack if the opponent doesn’t throw 2+ troops into chump-block mode. In Parity with humans, it becomes a stall-breaker and can represent so many points of damage that it can decimate your opponent’s board. Obviously it is simply amazing if you are ahead; you will just cast it and likely win the game even if you don’t have many humans. The only real drawback from our quadrants perspective is that it is pretty much a total blank when drawn if you are behind. Basic action speed and your board deficit means you are probably not even casting it in that situation and just hoping to keep drawing into something else that is live.
As unconditional removal, Immortal Decree will always be pretty sweet… if you can play it. Quadrant theory puts that thought to the test and it is pretty easy to figure out what Decree’s weakness is: you don’t want 6s in your opening hand. If the format ends up being very fast and you must therefore increase the weight you put upon your cards in the Development phase, Immortal Decree could potentially sink to an unplayable state. However, going by Shards of Fate speed we likely will get to play in Parity for a sizeable chunk of the game—and point-click-gone is always going to be a contributor in those situations. It also serves its role well when Ahead or Behind—either to remove whatever barrier the opponent finally finds or to stop the largest problem you might be dealing with. In fact, the only thing keeping it from reaching a higher rating when Behind is due to the cost being so high that if you were behind because of resource issues this may not be the saving card.
|Mentor of the Wind|
Mentor of the Wind will likely get a terrible rap because Soothing Breeze is historically not a high-performing card. However, that isn’t entirely fair to the card to judge it based upon what it transforms into. If you can get a trade with it or hold off 2/1s for an elongated period of time then the Soothing Breeze effect is just gravy on top of your 1/3 potatoes. A 1/3 for two by itself isn’t all that bad in Development; it isn’t going to beat down very hard but it also is going to keep you from being hit in the early game by the majority of common two-drops. Where the Diamond mentor fails is in Parity and Ahead, where you don’t get much out of a 1/3—especially one that probably isn’t doing any trading at those points in the game. Mentor will vary in quality when you are behind, but there will be times where the exact sequence of draws you need to get back WILL involve needing to draw a Mentor to trade and gain a bit of health in order to stabilize before a top-deck comeback. So don’t totally discount a tacked on Soothing Breeze when it might be what saves your bacon.
It is criminally easy to activate a Queensguard. Normally 1/1s for one are only good in Development as trade fodder or temporary beatdown, but for Queensguard that is the floor that you are often hoping to avoid. Instead, it is very easy to have a 4/4 or larger during Parity out of your original one-cost troop, which is an insane bargain that you would expect to come with significant downside. In reality, the only downside is that you have to run tri-shard DRS, but that is pushed in Shattered Destiny to the point where that is a feature you are happy with anyway. When you have a Queensguard in your deck, you do still need to be aware of it and try to hold back your Shards when possible; hopefully between Queensguard and the charge effect cycle that is a lesson that everyone is able to pick up quickly. By doing so, even the Behind stage will become not such a bad deal since immediately turning Queensguard into a 2/2 for a single resource will frequently allow you to do important things with the remainder of your resources and get back into the thick of things.
Our double-minor-socketed uncommon in Diamond comes with Steadfast already attached, which implies that we are going to want to build a troop that has enough beef to hold the board on both sides of attacking and blocking if we are to fully exploit what we are given. Because of this, both the DW option that makes a 4/5 Spellshield and the BD Rage 1 Swiftstrike can be highly effective and both play heavily into Diamond’s plethora of combat tricks in Shattered Destiny—since the opponent’s response will typically be to attempt a profitable double- or triple-block for your troop. All that being said, while Spellshield could provide the highest upside depending upon what else you can Voltron onto the Diplomat, the option I think I will most often default to and that I am grading the Diplomat upon is the Sapphire-enabled combination of Flight with Lifedrain. The 3/4 body combined with Lifedrain should be enough to either hold off the majority of your opponent’s team or at least provide enough health return from its attacks to race many board states all by itself. While it might not be the strongest Development play, it shines in every other facet of the game with “just enough” of every key stat and the combination of Flight and Lifedrain that can pull you out of many situations while also being the evasive threat you need to shut the door on your opponent’s plans.
Naturally we will be grading Royal Valkyr as if you are at least splashing for the third shard needed to turn on his ability. As a 6-drop we probably don’t want to flood our opening hand with them, but few cards are on the same raw power scale as Royal Valkyr can be. A 3/4 flight might be enough to win many Parity states by itself, but potentially killing a relevant troop while also drawing a card is stupidly high on the value scale. A three-for-one isn’t just slightly better than a two-for-one—in fact it is actually twice as good! I have to cast two Oracle Songs to get up to +2 in card advantage, and Royal Valkyr gets the same rate but on just a single card AND has an impact on the board. Even if it didn’t draw a card, Valkyr would rate extremely high on the Parity and Behind scale because as long as you aren’t losing because of a 6/6 or something huge then Valkyr immediately puts you in the driver’s seat. If you are just Diamond or don’t have the option to play all three required shards then a 3/4 flight for 6 is still borderline playable but it loses significant value (especially in Parity and when Behind).
The only real dig on Spirit Hound is the double threshold; there will certainly be a non-zero number of games where you see your opening hand and—instead of the Hound being your reliable two-drop—he sits in your hand turn after turn until he comes down when his size is not quite relevant to the shape of the game. Thankfully for this dog, his ability should have enough relevance in any given game of HEX that even when drawn late or cast later than anticipated you should be able to get value out of him, whether that is killing Rock Elementals or negating a combat trick. All of this means he is a little worse in Development than your typical single-threshold two-drop but quite better in a Parity situation. Even decks where you aren’t going to be casting Spirit Hound reliably on turn 2, his ability is just strong enough that you will likely find a place for him.
Don’t be fooled by the tribe listed here; Starfire Totemist is a shin’hare card through and through. When you exhaust a single Queensguard or War Hero you are getting an okay deal, but when you turn 3+ Battle Hoppers sideways and dump a quick-speed 4/5 out to block that is when you are doing things right with the Totemist. You will rarely be tossing it out on turn 2, although if you do get the chance to eat a 2/2 you’ll likely take it every time. In reality, Totemist is cheap because it allows your opponent to think around turn 4 or later that you haven’t used your resources efficiently when in reality you are setting a trap for them to walk into.
The downside to Totemist is obvious: if you don’t have any 1-cost troops then you are suddenly paying a full card for a 1/2—and that almost certainly isn’t going to be helping you win anything. There will be many decks where Totemist is just unplayable, so take this rating under the assumption that you are drafting with some way to produce shin’hare or Worker Bots to power her up. Just hope you aren’t drawing it when the game is getting out of hand, because if you can’t power it up when you are Behind then you are going to keep falling back.
RARES / LEGENDARIES
Alwyn will draw some immediate comparisons to a number of other Inspire cards. “Sword Trainer 2.0”, “Elite Pyromancer plus Kraken Sea Priest”, and “Double Clergyman” all are somewhat valid comparisons. At the same time, Alwyn’s unique combination of all those factors goes way over the rest if the game progresses to the point of allowing you to play multiple troops after your Alwyn comes down. The normal case at least in Development should be that you get to play Alwyn and then a 5-drop of some sort that then gets at least a +2/+2—so if you are getting a total of 4 attack and 4 defense out of your four-drop you are almost always going to walk away satisfied. Things get out of control if you can start stacking buffs on Alwyn, preferably either by being inspired by Pyromancers or the Sea Priest or by gaining some charge power buffs like Palamedes—all of which allow you to get right to the important part of Alwyn and playing your 5-drops to get super buffed as soon as possible. The other way Alwyn turns into an all-star is if the game goes long and you can get more and more troops inspired by him. If you are starting to get 6/6 and 8/8 worth of attack and defense out of your four drop then that is an insane deal you can’t pass up. The only real downside to Alwyn is the same as all other Inspire cards: if you draw him very late when the game is heavily swung one way or another you normally are just buying the stat blocks, which in this case a 2/2 for four is not where we want to be at all.
I would play a Canyon Scout even if his text box was totally blank. 3/5 for four is more than fine for defensive-minded decks and even passes as acceptable filler for aggressive decks. Throwing in Quick on a body you would already play is ludicrous—and as a rare you should be able to frequently sell the “Whelp, no four-drop so go ahead and OH YOU ATTACKED OM NOM NOM”. Seeing underground troops is interesting and certainly helpful to have but it isn’t going to come up as a major shift in evaluating Canyon Scout’s abilities; still, that’s okay because when your normal case in Development is eating a relevant attacker and then being a sizeable body who’s capable of swinging back next turn then you are doing alright in my book. Things get a little more rational in Parity, as you are less likely to be able to guarantee that the opponent will waltz right into your trap when the board is clogged up anyway—and holding up four resources for multiple turns at the expense of continuing to develop your board can lead to lost games. Don’t just keep holding back for a sick Canyon Scout play if that means letting your opponent build their position at the expense of yours. Quick starts to matter much much less when Ahead, but thankfully we can fall back on how a 3/5 for four is fine here anyway. When Behind, that is when you are most likely to catch the opponent’s troops for a tasty card advantage snack as they are very likely to be attacking anyway and not factoring in a topdecked Canyon Scout into their plans. The only real problems are (A) They might not care if you eat a troop as they are focused on pushing through damage to win now anyway, and (B) Canyon Scout still isn’t stopping evasive troops—but for a four-drop you can’t get everything so you’ll be more happy than not with drawing Canyon Scout in most situations.
Cerebral Domination is a very easy card to grade in Limited; it just doesn’t make itself worth a card in your average game. Most abilities and Quick Actions can still be used effectively on your opponent’s turn, so if you can’t at least gain your card back then you have to question what you are doing to make Cerebral Domination worth the card slot in your deck. That being said, I can certainly understand times when you would bring in Domination (You’ve seen your D/S opponent play Repel, Wind Whisperer, and Countermagic) but those will be the niche situations where it still often will just be worth a card as opposed to a blowout.
|Citadel of Adamanth|
Seven-drops shouldn’t be good in Development. You aren’t playing it anytime soon, and it is just wasting a spot for multiple turns when instead you could have played a cheaper card in your deck and given yourself more options during the Development stage of the game. Citadel turns that around slightly because of its incredible power level in the Limited format. When you cast Citadel, you are pretty much always going to just win no matter what the board currently looks like—so seeing Citadel in your opening hand confirms to you that this game isn’t necessarily about applying pressure and the normal tension of a game of Limited; this game is all about surviving until you can cast a Citadel. Having that knowledge confirmed (you obviously know it is in your deck but you can’t play like you will draw it every game) can shape how you choose to play your cards in Development as you know that making trades is more valuable for you than normal since you have the trump card to any board-position battle waiting in the wings.
While it is tempting to go full LightReaper and get your free Major/Minor 2/2, in Limited it normally is going to be good enough to just have a three-cost 2/2 with those double sockets. I’ve graded Monarch based upon the Ruby/Diamond and Sapphire/Diamond pairings as those should be similar and also some of the most common, but all shards provide unique and powerful options. In Ruby or Sapphire, the key is to pair the evasive gems (Ruby of Flames or Sapphire Flight gem) with some Major gems that trigger on hitting the opponent (notably either drawing a card or giving your team +1/+1); these all reduce the problem of playing a 2/2 for three by giving you a very powerful package that can steal games by itself. Monarch is a very different card in the other shards, as Blood most likely wants to use the powerful –X/-0 gem to have Monarch act as two-for-one removal that leaves behind a Quick Strider. On the contrary, Wild likely will just make Monarch into a beefy dude. Doubling up on the +1/+1 gem gives you the ability to play a 4/4 on turn 3, which should be an absolutely dominating play (and it’s not like 4/4s for 3 suddenly become bad as the game progresses).
While Sadistic Castigator’s ability is more powerful than Guardian Angel’s, the difference between being a 3/4 and a 4/5 is even larger than the gap between their abilities. While costing six means that you can’t count on Guardian Angel to do much from your opening hand, once the game progresses you will be hard pressed to find a better way to spend 6 resources than a 4/5 flight troop—let alone one that will likely be gaining you a significant chunk of health. While all draw actions become more powerful with Guardian Angel, it is especially nice to point out how well she works with Wyatt and Kranok for immediate health gain before the opponent can play whatever response they might have sandbagged for your 4/5 (which, to be honest, is a very small subset of cards).
|Her Majesty, Queen Grace|
Barring drafting some royalty alongside Her Majesty, you likely are only getting use out of the Human cost reduction ability. A 1/3 for two isn’t especially impressive, but it certainly helps Grace survive a bit longer than other resource-generating troops do. In Development, her ability can range for decent to downright busted if you are using her to bring a 6+ cost Human down on turn 4 or so. The only thing really holding her back from an insane rating is that she needs other Humans worth playing in your hand to be totally bonkers (while, comparatively, a Howling Brave just needs non-shard cards to give you a boost); though, when you do go Human heavy she will easily be one of the best cards in your deck. In Parity, you likely care less about getting your troops out early but care more about any Inspire synergies that might pop up (and additionally any subtle combos like Adamanthian Scriviner and Devoted Emissary). Her small petite body also means that she isn’t what you are looking for when the game is starting to slide one way or another as you won’t likely get many (if any) meaningful activations out of her at that point.
Beating a turn-2 Shinobi is no easy feat. Not only does your opponent have a 2/2 swiftstrike (which, by itself, is above the curve for expected power level) but they also can continually exhaust whatever your key blocker is and try to put you into a race situation—and with a troop above the curve in terms of abilities you can probably guess who is favored the majority of the time in that situations. Shinobi maintains relevance through all stages of the game thanks to his “Chargefall” ability and even when behind the fact that he brings swiftstrike to the table on such a cheap body makes him more than serviceable at slowing down the opposition.
Even without its ability, a 3/3 for 3 in Diamond isn’t something we’ve come to expect everyday, so Hopeheart’s upside is certainly great to see. You probably won’t see many opening hands where you think “This hand is alright, but I wish that Hopeheart Unicorn was something else”, and whether ahead or behind you will find that the serviceable body is certainly worth the slot in your deck. Where Hopeheart can really come into its own is in the number of Parity situations that can arise where you can take the ability and run it anywhere from use to abuse. Likely, your deck either has a couple better troops than Hopeheart in it or it has a bunch of durdles that you are trying to sneak through 20 damage with; Hopeheart is okay with either of those situations. When your strategy is “Protect the Queen” and you just need to keep your Cloud Titan alive and you’ll win, your opponent suddenly needs to double up on actual removal cards to deal with your more threatening card. When your strategy instead is to try and synergize and win through combat attrition, Hopeheart takes those stalled up board positions and makes it very difficult for the opponent to find an attacking or blocking situation in which they don’t end up trading two of their cards for Hopeheart once you give your team Invincibility.
Costing 8 is so so much more than costing 7. We often think of it in terms of being just one more resource, but hitting your eighth resource normally takes way more than a turn after hitting your 7th—so Lady Shimmer is behind the 8-ball to do something insane already. In Parity, you likely have at least one Inspire troop sitting around so you should at least be getting two 5/5s out of the deal – which for the cost is likely a fine finisher if you can survive long enough to play her. Things get a little more dicey when you aren’t sitting in Parity, as you might not have the Inspire troop sitting around if you are behind anyway and if you are paying 8 resources you darn well expect to be paid better than getting just a 5/5. Having a poor showing in a situation that honestly doesn’t sound all that far fetched keeps Lady Shimmer from being a true “bomb”, but that doesn’t mean that she still isn’t an acceptable finisher for more grindy and controlling Shattered Destiny limited decks.
So I must grade Noble Heart with the thought that it will only be used in mono-Diamond decks; as described in previous articles having four or more threshold symbols on your limited cards currently indicates that you are only realistically playing it in mono-decks (even with three or more of the uncommon dual shards, you just can’t reliably do it). That being said, again we see that this card probably isn’t being used as a Limited strategy intended to push the occasional deck into mono-Diamond. You likely aren’t getting to use this before turn 5, so even with its one-resource cost it doesn’t really look that appealing in your opener. It also isn’t that great when Ahead as Invincible might not buy you much to kill the opponent—and when you are Behind you might not even have an appropriate troop to put it on. It can be pretty good in Parity, however, as you can initially use it as a combat trick but then the troop gets to stay around and truly become the immovable object. That still is a fairly narrow case, so even in mono-Diamond you’re not getting a bomb with Noble Heart so much as a solid role-player.
|Royal Den Mother|
Note to readers: if CZE puts the word “Royal” in the card title of a rare you probably want to be using it. Much like the Falconer before her, Royal Den Mother gives us an insane Attack/Defense value for your card—a total of 4/4 for just 3 resources! With the only downside being that it is spread across multiple troops (not always a downside in Limited), you can see why Royal Den Mother is such a solid card in your opening hand as there just aren’t many better things you can do on turn 3 than cast one of these. Being cost-efficient and spread across multiple troops is also the primary driver behind being such a great card when the game is lopsided one way or the other; either you have more troops in which case you just care about the 4 attack for 3 resources, or you have less troops in which case being potentially able to trade and chump or even trade with two opposing troops makes Royal Den Mother a fantastic “out” to many common situations. There are certainly times when Royal Den Mother isn’t the best thing possible, most often if the board is already stalled out or the game has progressed to larger troops leaving her somewhat outclassed. Still, I’ll gladly take as many Den Mothers as possible in all my Diamond decks.
Stonetusk is a card that is hard to fit in our evaluation box we have created, and that’s okay as long as we stop to think about why. The thing about Stonetusk is that while we are considering the average case, Stonetusk rarely has an “average” day as he is either going to be outright amazing or he is going to die a horrible death and be a complete blank for you. The “average” of all the times he is amazing and all the times he is worthless is probably somewhere right around an average card, but you have to accept that you are going to have high variance situations when you play with him (and against him, so please don’t rage on the opponent when their Stonetusk kills you; take it in stride and understand that for every time you die to a Stonetusk you are probably just as likely for the opponent to be stuck all game holding a worthless Stonetusk in their hand the entire time). The stage that probably deserves the most comment with Stonetusk is Ahead, as if you are Ahead when you play Stonetusk then the odds are very good that he will slam the door shut completely on any plans the opponent might have of coming back. If you can exploit that by trying to play decks that are already high in the Development quadrant (i.e. – aggressive tempo based decks that create situations where they can frequently get ahead) then it is totally reasonable to treat Stonetusk as your finisher in the same way that an Exalted Victory might work.
In an average game of HEX, you should be able to get to 6 and you should be able to swing with a 5/5 flight troop without it dying in combat—thus you should be able to start triggering Tiaanost’s ability which will likely cascade into an overwhelming advantage for you. You expect a lot out of a named Dragon, and Diamond’s version certainly delivers as it is pretty hard to ever imagine hitting with this and then losing the game somehow. The only “downside” is that unlike Uruunaz or cards like Royal Falconer you don’t get any enters play effects to will give you a consistent advantage for those times when the opponent does have Murder or some other removal for your Dragon—but that is pretty nitpicky as it will take a pretty insane uncommon to even come into consideration with the Diamond Dragon.
War Prodigy is an odd one to try and assign a rating to, so I won’t be surprised if I miss on it one way or the other. At worst, you are getting a Rotting Buffalo that should at least scare the opponent and attract removal. At best, you have a 4/5 for three that turns your entire human team into monsters that will make short work of the opponent. The most likely cases where that will happen in obviously when the board is stalling out and you have time to find your shards and fix your resources to get the Prodigy online.
For fun I ran some quick numbers on how likely you would be to activate War Prodigy on a given turn in a deck with 6 of each Diamond/Ruby/Sapphire shard and a single Royal Herald:
Obviously War Prodigy isn’t going to reliably activate early unless you are picking dual shards, Royal Heralds and other fixers high enough to stuff your deck full of them. Still, if games last a long time in Shattered Destiny limited then War Prodigy probably can start to become a reliable bomb commanding respect.
Top 5 Diamond Commons:
1) Bastion of Adamanth – 6.60
2) Vanguard of Gawaine – 6.25
3) Vanguard of Cerulea – 6.10
4) Kraken Guard Seapriest – 5.30
5) Royal Herald – 5.10
Bastion of Adamanth is one of the premium commons in the set, and after that we have a host of three-drops following it that are all about providing solid and efficient bodies to the cause. Much like Shards of Fate, Diamond is where you want to be to build a troop base for your deck as it is both deep with playables and flexible in how you want to play them.
Average Diamond Common – 4.84
Weighted Average Diamond Common – 4.9
We’ll get into some advanced statistics and analysis on these numbers next week, but for now at a high level it looks like Diamond is pretty much right about where you would expect a shard to be for limited. In reality, it is dragged down somewhat by clunkers like Crackling Boon as Diamond is pretty deep in playable troops.