As a quick reference again so that you don’t always need to go back to the previous articles, 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
One big question before we even get to quadrants: are you playing enough artifacts to make this worthwhile? A quick probability table gives you an idea of how often you will just flat out miss and get nothing for your two shards:
For something like Oakhenge Ceremony, we can assume that 15 troops is on the low end of a limited deck, but it would be quite a feat to have that many artifacts in your deck every draft. If you think in terms of expected value, at even 9 artifacts in your deck you are trading 2 resources and a card for 3/4s of a card, so whatever it is you are searching also needs to be very important to your strategy such that when you “hit” you are actually gaining value.
In terms of our actual quadrants, that means that in Development we have a big problem in that even ignoring that we aren’t affecting the board on turn 2, we need to have an artifact in our deck that we are actively searching for that will affect our early development. As most of the artifacts in HEX currently lean towards being more of long-game cards (barring quick Pterobots and the like), that isn’t likely going to be the case. The best case likely comes in Parity, where the card selection might be what helps you find those game-breaking artifacts and the cost of 2 resources probably also isn’t the highest. When ahead, you likely aren’t shutting things down unless you find a bomb Volcannon or the like—but those odds aren’t in your favor unless your deck is totally stacked in the first place. Finally, when behind the last thing we likely want is to have resource-inefficient moves that don’t even help get us back into the board state.
Cavern Guard is a mixed bag in Development, and really its application will be greatly variable depending upon your matchups. If you are trying to survive to play some flight troops and bash over against a bunch of cheap troops, Cavern Guard can act as psuedo-removal for small ground troops. On the other hand, if you are the one trying to attack then barring an Incite Fury (which is actually pretty sweet on the Guard) you won’t be getting anything from this one-drop. It all adds up to a giant “It Depends…”, so likely Cavern Guard will end up as a card that sees most of its action coming in from reserves. As far a Parity goes, you get pretty close to nothing out of Cavern Guard; the board is already clogged and an 0/4 is doing nothing to help that. Likewise, not many bigger blanks when ahead than an 0/4. However, being so incredibly cheap while providing a solid backend for blocking does mean that Cavern Guard can be one of the cards you are praying to pull off the top to play on the same turn as another card to get back into the game.
|Cerulean Mirror Magi|
If your opening hand has Mirror Magi and a troop it can inspire, you likely are going to have some issues getting up to playing them as that means either you are going to need to draw some shards in time or you are going to have some open spots on your curve that will leave you vulnerable to getting run over. What Mirror Magi is really built for is being an okay troop for long, grindy games in which who can stick the biggest fatty wins. If Mirror Magi is one of your only 5+ cost troops and all you get is the 2/3 body, then you are getting a pretty terrible deal. That really transitions well into our ahead and behind ratings, as at those points what we really care about isn’t inspire synergies but rather bottom-corner stats that will immediately impact the game.
Crackling Wit will be a great barometer to use for how valuable a charge really is. Crackling Rot and Crackling Bolt are both cards you would happily play without the charge, so the charge is really a rider to the main course removal spell. Crackling Boon is a card you would never play without the charge, and barring a draft of nothing but Reactor Bots you still aren’t going to be playing it. Crackling Sprout is interesting for different reasons we will get to in its review, but where Crackling Wit shines is that it is respectable but not really maindeckable without the charge while turning into a cantripping charge provider with it. While you can certainly just play it to cycle into another card while accelerating towards your Champion power (as turn 3 Zared or turn 5 Tetzot activations are both attractive), the real game here is to find cards that activate off of gaining charges to try and gain real two-for-ones with them. Aforementioned Reactor Bots will go swimmingly, but as the opening line stated I believe that how common it is for people to gain sizeable advantages with Crackling Wit will be one of the best ways to gauge how deep the charge mechanic is being pushed in Shattered Destiny.
That being said, we have to judge cards now and not in the future so back to our quadrants we go. In Development, you are probably going to get a mixed bag with some hands where you have some charge enabler to combine with, others where you are happy to quickly get to your champion power, and others where the charge ability is rather blank and you feel like you have wasted your time turning Crackling Wit into another card. In Parity, you normally have some of that time to waste so with the emphasis on spending your resources efficiently reduced you are left with more of the upside situations for Crackling Wit coming to light. Likewise when Ahead, that charge might go with an Arena Regular or the like to help finish the game but you also might just be spending two to try and dig one card deeper—and while that might seem like no big deal you only have so many slots in your deck, and instead of spending two resources and then playing something that matters you could have instead just played something that mattered to begin with. Finally, when Behind, Crackling Wit’s resource inefficiency is likely going to be what comes back to bite it, as you are certainly going to be in situations where you need to spend those resources on affecting the board but instead are stuck spending them to hopefully convert Crackling Wit into an answer.
The thing that makes Dementia Daises so hard to rate is because of how good they can be as a linear. One Dementia Daises in your control deck might be okay as an early game blocker and present a long-shot secondary path to victory in Parity. Four Dementia Daisies suddenly can mean your deck can actually use the flowers as a primary win condition—one that actually kills quite quickly considering how you get double duty as 0/4 blockers. Getting your deck removed was a fairly rare occurrence in Shards of Fate, but between Daisies and Murmurs there is enough bury firepower that you certainly have the tools available at common to put together a “mill” deck even in 2-2-1 drafts.
Versatility is the name of the game with Field Tactician. Your limited deck can almost never have too many two-drops, and Field Tactician especially can be great in early game at helping get in an extra attack should the opponent stumble or make a risky attack with one of their other troops. Not to mention that, defensively, a Field Tactician should either be able to trade with something its cost or above while also providing a temporary tempo hurdle for the opponent. While the 2/1 body isn’t going to be relevant in most late game topdeck wars, the exhaust ability is at least marginal at either getting in an attack or providing a deterrent to the opponent to attempt an alpha strike. The tempo swing from exhausting a troop when you want to is also reason to give it high marks for both the Ahead and Behind quadrant; either way you get a low-resource yet cost-effective body that is attached to an ability that should give you almost the equivalent of an extra turn (whether that means an extra turn of attacking or an extra turn of surviving).
One big thing to remember is that you don’t have to use the one-shot right away. In fact, it can be even scarier for the opponent if it is just sitting in play as it can be stressful to calculate how best they want to try and coordinate their attacks when they know that you have an ability that very easily can translate into an alpha strike back to kill them.
Reversion was a fringe-maindeckable card in Shards of Fate that really relied upon the huge amount of actions that left a permanent effect to be effective. Between the 5 Aura cards with one in each shard and playable removal like Inner Conflict and Mesmerize, there were plentiful targets to be had that would have an impact upon the game. So moving to 2-2-1 drafts with Fish Hands we have a couple things to compare. First, being 2-cost instead of 1 is a big hit but not a deal-breaking one. 1-cost Quick Actions are gold because they fit so easily into any given turn, while 2-cost ones frequently are much more difficult to do so with. Still, you should be able to play Fish Hands alongside another card in a single turn later in the game. Next, we get the -1/+2 effect, which certainly gears us towards playing a defensive deck where it both acts as a better trick for us (since we are likely trying to save our troops instead of pushing damage with them) and also works better when using it against opposing troops since we don’t care as much about suddenly making one of their troops into an X/4 or larger. However, the biggest impact to Fish Hands’ playability comes back to what we are trying to use it to stop. With 2 less packs of Auras and premium removal that a reversion effect can fight against, reversion is a much weaker effect as it is going to be slightly harder to get a whole card of value out of it.
Really, Fish Hands is a less-playable Reversion is the takeaway. You still should be cognizant of when it would be good based upon the cards your opponent played in game 1 as there will definitely be matchups where it is correct to bring them in, but there will likely be less decks where it is correct to start Fish Hands than you would have done so with Reversion.
Launchpad Specialist is definitely a card you need to be aware of, as I am sure more than one person in the first month of Shattered Destiny will attack with a flyer they didn’t need to only to have the opponent un-tunnel a Specialist to send something flying for the victory. Our Development score for Specialist comes entirely from its tunneling ability, as the six-drop side of the card isn’t exciting anybody by itself in an opening hand. Like all tunnel cards, we pay a temporary opportunity cost when we tunnel the card on turn 2 as while we have expended our resources we have not actively impacted the board yet. In Specialist’s case, we aren’t doing anything until turn 5—and one key argument against him in already aggressive decks is that you pretty much have to tunnel the Specialist on turn 2 or else it risks coming down too late to matter. This prevents some common aggressive openings that like to dump multiple two-cost cards into play as early as turn 4, as a Specialist coming down on turn 7 is decidedly less exciting.
Parity is where Specialist really shines, and more importantly, being able to break it with whatever troop you have around while still maintaining a moderate body on the ground. While a 2/3 is sure to be outclassed by this point in the game, if you are already in a board state where no one is attacking then using Specialist to start making the first attacks is likely going to start a race you are favored to win. Likewise when ahead, giving your biggest threat flight means the opponent is reduced even further by the options that they have to draw out of the situation. This all sounds great so far, but Specialist’s biggest failing hasn’t really been addressed yet—he’s still a 2/3 for 6. If you aren’t getting a great use out of the +1/+1 and flight, then you are getting a terrible deal. Unfortunately, that’s the situation you are likely looking at if you are behind as you probably don’t have great targets and the overall +3 attack and +4 defense you are adding the board at a maximum isn’t a whole lot for your 6 resources
We expect to pay 2 resources to play a 2/2, so paying three for Mindcaller means we expect something in return for our extra investment. Mindcaller promises to pay us back the extra resource we paid him, but we don’t get back the opportunity cost associated with spending our turn 3 on a 2/2 instead of something potentially more relevant. All in all, that’s not a great deal. Your Mindcaller gets to be outclassed by the opponent’s three-drop and unless you happen to hit your five-drop with the ability then you are going to continue to be behind the curve—and scarier still is that you might end up with the most worthy card of cost reduction in your hand is a four-drop you were going to play anyway next turn, meaning you technically still lose that extra resource. That all translates to a poor showing across the board. The one saving grace for Mindcaller is likely that he probably can be very very good if your deck is extremely heavy into the Inspire mechanic (as reducing the cost on an Inspire troop is worth that investment), but your deck is likely very good anyway if you can get multiple Sea Priests and Pyromancers so that makes more of a niche calling for this card.
|Murmurs from the Void|
A surefire sign of a Sapphire design, Murmurs is both flexible and powerful with the only real disadvantage being that it can be a rather expensive way to deal with opposing cards. The standard mode for Murmurs will be as a 6-cost removal card that also happens to bury the other top 4 cards of your opponent’s deck. That alone is a pretty strong card to have at common in Sapphire, as we’ve already seen in this set that even Blood has to settle for conditional removal like Feeding the Young Ones. The second option for Murmurs is to use it as a virtual extra turn—if you are ahead and the opponent has an unimportant troop on the board then Murmurs can be used to steal the opponents next draw.
Also, very niche but something to remember is that you can target your own troops with Murmurs. If you need a second helping of some enters-play ability or want to rebuy a Blaze Elemental then Murmurs can do so at a cost.
|Phoenix Guard Enforcer|
Oftentimes, simple is good. Phoenix Guard Enforcer is very simple to understand—get 3 attack in the air and hit the opponent with it until dead. A Phoenix Guard Enforcer that is blocking is often a sign that something else went wrong somewhere, but the fact that you still get the option of using a 4-cost troop to trade with a number of things while remaining a viable beatstick is still a fine option to have. Being 4-cost, you don’t want to run TOO many Enforcers (and thus it isn’t amazing on our Development scale) but when the board does stall out an Enforcer will make quick work of most opponents.
|Phoenix Guard Messenger|
In contrast to Phoenix Guard Enforcer, the Messenger is rarely a card you will look back on a game and say “that was the card that totally won the game for me”. It is just too much a defensive tool, intended to trade with an early threat if possible to gain some incremental value or to take a strategic chump block after pecking away for a couple turns. In terms of our Development quadrant Messenger is a card that should be good quite often on turn 2, with the ceiling of trading with their two-drop and drawing a card but a still high floor of hitting for a few damage and then turning itself into a bit of health gain and a card. The “chump block and draw” mode is also the reason it will commonly be a card you will be hoping to draw if you need a bit more time, as it is cheap enough to deploy alongside a second card while providing a value roadblock to the opponent’s immediate plans.
We will have to grade Recovery Specialist as if we have drafted at least a fair number of artifacts, if not full-on dwarves. The vanilla 2/4 four-cost body just isn’t impressive enough to warrant interesting discussion—although it is worth pointing out that if your opponent is jamming tons of aggressive troops in your face then a 2/4 out of the reserves can be exactly what you need, even if you have no artifacts to bring back.
As far as thinking about how Recovery Specialist will perform, it can be an interesting thought exercise to try and imagine how effective it will be in various stages. In Development, it actually can contribute to some of your decisions in combat as you can be better informed that it is correct to trade your Robot for their 3-drop if you know that Specialist can bring it back. Still, it won’t grade too highly because outside of Immortal Tears we don’t have any common artifacts that we can recur on time with Specialist so we are unlikely to actually get value out of the dwarf on turn 4 even if it is in our opening hand (other notable exception being the excellent combo of turn 3 Flak Scrapper into turn 4 Specialist to get back what you sacrificed). Parity it scores a bit better, as Specialist gives you the chance to set up trades and get some incremental value to move forward what normally is a very grindy dwarf strategy. You might not even have targets for its ability when you are ahead, but when you are behind you likely do have something in the yard that the opponent forced to be there—so having a solid backend alongside a value play is normally going to be worth the cost you pay.
Subterranean Spy can be one of the more ridiculous of the turn 2 Tunneling troops. Tunneling 2 is really great, as it means you don’t lose a lot of turns impacting the game that otherwise you might be getting no effect from the Spy, so by trading in the ability to do anything on turn 3 your Spy can start attacking right away on turn 4. Then we get the underground ability: knowing what your opponent has at what is basically a free cost thanks to us wanting a 3/2 attacking on turn 4 anyway is enormous. You know all the tricks they have the first turn Spy can go to attack, so that allows you both to plan around what the opponent has and to potentially play some mind games (You know I know you have Preservation, but I am attacking anyway so what are you going to do about it…?) You also can plan out your 3- and 4-drops a bit better as you know better exactly what to expect from the opponent.
Then we get to the downside: Spy sucks if you don’t tunnel him, and more importantly if you don’t tunnel him early. For 5 we are seeing Bastions that swing a game around, but as just a 3/2 Spy just doesn’t have the size to really impact the board in any meaningful way. Not to mention the diminishing returns of knowing what is in your opponents hand as the game progresses to the point where they might not have anything left to hide anyway. This shows heavily in our non-Development rankings, because if Spy doesn’t come early he might as well not come at all.
|To the Skies!|
To the Skies! not only defies autocorrect functions but also the principles of value. Sapphire Aura was constantly used as a poor man’s combat trick and could at least pay for itself that way, but Skies here is a very straightforward card from the name on down. Without being able to affect the board in a hugely meaningful way during development, you end up with a pretty poor rating for a cheap card; you just aren’t getting enough out of the full card investment in this stage of the game. Things can get a bit better in Parity, as you might be able to use To the Skies! as an alpha strike enabler, but even then without a stat boost you might not find any targets worth sending up should the opponent be blocking with Sky’le Griffins and the like. To the Skies! is certainly a fine card to finish most opponents (as flight on two troops when the opponent is having trouble stabilizing anyway is likely going to end the game within a turn or two). Where To the Skies! gets its dealbreaker is from the Behind quadrant. 90% of the time or more if you are behind, To the Skies! is not going to do diddlywhoop in helping bring you back into the game. Sure, you can imagine scenarios in your head (I’m losing to some Phoenix Guard Messengers and thanks to topdeck To the Skies! I sent my Recovery Specialists up to block!) but they won’t be the norm.
I have no problem admitting I will likely die to this card at some point during the limited season (it does score decently in a couple quadrants) but I also think this is one of the few cards I just won’t be starting in pretty much any of my Shattered Destiny draft decks. Principles of value and all…
|Verdict of the Ancient Kings|
Verdict is certainly going to be played to some degree in Constructed, and it will be a killer reserves card in your limited deck when you need to stop a certain subset of bombs. However, when you think about how a normal game of limited plays out, Verdict just doesn’t fit in as a great piece to that puzzle. You aren’t normally going to want to hold back from playing troops to sit on your Verdict, as if you don’t cast troops and the opponent does then you aren’t likely to win. So when trying to curve out, Verdict really only fits in decks with a plethora of 2- and 3-drops that don’t mind spending turn 4 or 5 playing a troop and holding back Verdict to stop the opposition’s removal. While that sounds good in theory, the common 4- and 5-drops in HEX are so good that you are both strategically running into the issue that the most common response will just be a big troop coming down from the opponent, and you incur an opportunity cost of not playing your own bigger troop that turn to boot!
Verdict can be okay in Parity and the Ahead board state, as it can trade 1-for-1 with a number of strong cards that would otherwise be problematic for you. The problem, as described earlier, is that in those cases when Verdict is good it normally isn’t insanely good unless you are stopping something on the order of Extinction from blowing you out. When it is bad though, it is a total blank for you. That especially bites you if you are trying to dig out of a hole, as topdecking Verdict when all you needed was a troop can be what ends you.
|Mentor of the Song|
Another Mentor with a relatively weak body as a 2/1 for three definitely isn’t what you are normally looking for in your card. Until Mentor dies, you aren’t gaining any real value so you are stuck in a similar situation to Phoenix Guard Messenger in that the real dream here is to trade with something and then get your Oracle Song. While Mentor can’t freely plink for some early damage like Messenger, you likely can “bluff” some early attacks and propose trades with Mentor of the Song as few opponents will want to trade their 2/2s or risk walking into combat tricks against her. In Parity, Mentor can either work as a great deterrant to the opponent attacking as Oracle Song is one of the best cards you can have in the situation, or if the opponent doesn’t have good attacks anyway you can also swing away with Mentor knowing that the opponent is again presented with bad options: Take 2 damage each turn until they find a way to break parity themselves or let you have an Oracle Song and turn it into actual card advantage. While Mentor doesn’t grade out well when ahead (he’s just a 2/1), it can be just the card you need when behind in a number of late game situations to pull yourself back into contention.
Moonmonk is almost always going to be best utilized with one of the Attack raising gems, either going up to a straight 2/3 with Wild or gaining Rage 1 from Blood. After that, Flight is the next obvious choice outside of strange combo potentials, so for our evaluation purposes we have either a slightly more survivable Thunderbird who can exhaust something or ready your troop to come back on defense or we have an activated Vanguard of Cerulea with the same ability. Either case is pretty amazing for our three resources, so if you are in those shard pairings then Moonmonk is a winner. You likely want to be attacking if you are playing Moonmonk still, as exhausting a defender is normally the best thing to be doing with Moonmonk unless you can fit in Quick (which likely comes at the cost of Flight or being able to deal significant damage). Being a relevant flying body with a strong tempo ability is not something you see very often, so one would imagine that Moonmonk will end up being a fairly high pick normally. The major thing fighting against that possibility is that Sapphire naturally wants to be paired with Ruby and/or Diamond in Shattered Destiny thanks to the many human sub-themes giving benefits to those pairings, but those are also the weakest places for a Moonmonk (it is still playable as a Quick speed exhaust abiliity that leaves behind a flight troop but that isn’t nearly as impressive or worthy of a high pick).
Royal Enforcer is playable if you are in just Ruby/Sapphire, good in Diamond/Sapphire, and amazing if you are in all three. Spellshield is still a great ability, and Enforcers body pretty much trumps everything this side of well-dressed Squirrels. The biggest shortfall is that he’s still just a dude, and a five-drop dude at that so you can’t go filling your deck with nothing but Royal-Enforcer–sized troops and expect to win many games of HEX. As one of your few top end cards or as an answer to opposing removal heavy decks the Enforcer is one of the better options you can be taking for that slot though, so anytime you can fill a spot in your curve with a solid addition you are going to take it.
We currently don’t have any indications that straight Shin’hare is a top draft strategy you must worry about in every draft (in comparison, you normally would expect to have a good chance at facing a Dwarf deck at some point if you wanted to win a Shards of Fate draft). As such, Snare Trapper is likely going to be all about his stats and reserve potential for those times when you do see the bunnies. I probably don’t need to waste too much time telling you that a 2/3 for three is just okay—but go look at Rotting Buffalo if you want to know when you should be trying to actually put a Snare Trapper in your deck for just the body.
I’ve played a couple Determined Zombies in my day, so I’m not too proud to totally ignore a troop just for being a 1/3 for two. Sadly, that might be the most common case for actually wanting a Saboteur. There just aren’t a lot of sweet, defensively-minded Robots that you actually want to be dropping on turns 3 or 4 to catch the opponent off guard. If you wait until later in the game to try and surprise somebody with a Pterobot or a Welding Bot then you have to both have the bigger troop in hand and have an opportune window in which you know the opponent will be attacking with a key troop.
Instead, the actual thing to be focusing on for Saboteur is times when you want an early 1/3 but are also planning on playing some Robots anyway. Surprise blocking an Arena Regular with your Saboteur himself while also playing a SPAM bot can be a great way to steal the Development stage away from your opponent. The major point is that if you are in a matchup where Saboteur’s 1/3 body doesn’t matter then you probably should be bringing in something over him from reserves as your average case just isn’t good enough in those games.
6 is a lot to pay for any card, and especially an action that doesn’t necessarily gain you any card advantage and in fact on its surface is really just a trade of Time Wave for some tempo. Thankfully for Time Wave, the amount of tempo it can create is huge. Returning two troops at quick speed already provides some interesting flexibility. In some Parity situations, you will be able to return two troops, swing in for damage and likely still get in for more the next turn as the cost increase should prevent your opponent from just replaying them both. In other, more complex situations you can just sit on Time Wave and treat it as a removal-protection card with some upside. They might think they can get a Terrible Transfer in, but you can save your troop while setting them back a turn as well in the process (granted this isn’t the best use of Time Wave, but the point is that the floor of Time Wave in Parity should still be that it is worth a card. When you are ahead, Time Wave should slam that door shut as bouncing two troops is just as good as killing two troops when you only need a turn or two to turn that into victory. Time Wave’s expensive cost reduces its viability somewhat when you are behind (as you might not make it past 5 in every game), but returning two troops and increasing the cost by enough that they shouldn’t both be able to come back down immediately will often buy you a turn.
A 2/3 for three isn’t necessarily bad to start with. You wouldn’t be pleased about the double-sapphire threshold (especially if you are shooting for Tri-Shard humans) but you are probably on the fence about Magistrate being in your deck before you even get to his One-Shot. The problem is that there aren’t a lot of great common combos with Magistrate, with really the obvious Inspire troops and Sly Huntress as the barely standout ones. Things get a lot better with some of the Uncommons and Rares (Royal Den Mother and Falconer, as well as things like Town Crier all can be bombtastic to hit) so often you will know ahead of time if Timestep Magistrate is a card you want to pick early for your deck. For your run of the mill Humans deck in 2-2-1 however, you likely won’t be getting a great deal of value out of the ability.
Even if you are light on Humans, Town Crier is going to likely be a fine addition to your deck as a late game play. Being able to turn two shards into potentially two card draws if the Crier has at least one buddy is pretty sweet, and obviously once you start actually gaining card advantage from Crier it can range from a simple value play up to a game-burying amount of cards. As far as translating that into Development though, we still are stuck with a 2/2 for 4 that isn’t likely to be actually gaining us cards on turn 4 without a perfect draw anyway. We do gain a bit of important information (don’t trade your humans if possible), but even decks heavy on Humans will have hands where just playing the Crier out on curve will actually result in a loss of a card (or cards if, heaven forbid, the opponent kills the Crier with the trigger on the stack—hint: if you are the opponent and see a Crier try to do that in the future).
Parity is where Town Crier is likely to be a world-beating stud. You probably have a couple humans or more and suddenly you are both gaining card advantage and filtering chaff out of your hand in one huge burst. It isn’t going to automatically end the game (you still have to draw something else in your deck that is worthwhile) but it should help you jump comfortably ahead in the near future. Speaking of which, if you are ahead then you probably also are in a position to gain some sweet sweet card advantage off the Crier, and toss in that even a 2/2 is likely somewhat relevant when you just want bodies to swarm across and you have a sure-bet winner. Behind is a totally different story though, as you might be thankful if all you get is a 4 cost 2/2 and don’t have to actually toss away real cards in your hand just to survive. Normally a card like Oracle Song at least propels you towards getting back into the game if things aren’t too out of hand, but a Town Crier might not even be a positive play in those situations.
The key to Typhoon Galleon is to remember that Nin exists. While with Nin we still only get a flying Rotting Buffalo on turn 5 for blocking purposes, that quickly becomes 4 and then likely at least 6 points of attack in the air. If you have any business milling a person anyway then Typhoon Galleon is likely going to be a beast of a card for you.
That being said, you shouldn’t have any business milling people in Shattered Destiny limited outside of some strange draft or crazy streaming purposes. So what we have in your average Sapphire deck here is an 0/3 waiting for a few cards to die so that it can live the dream of being a Vanguard of Cerulea. Typhoon Galleon just isn’t enough of a body or effect to be the card you are looking for on turn 5 for sure. In Parity, maybe those situations come up a bit more often where the opponent plays an action then you make a trade and suddently you have a semi-relevant troop—so if you foresee a very long grindy game then a natural Typhoon Galleon might have merit. When we come back to the Ahead and Behind quadrants though, we remember that your printed stats are normally what matter most and the Galleon just doesn’t have enough of anything to be the right vessel to sail you towards victory.
|Agent of M.O.L.E.|
You might think that at worst Agent is an improved Sabotage, but really the problem is that at worst Agent is a 1/3 that you have to play to keep up with your opponent’s board position. That mission will self destruct, guaranteed. If you do manage to tunnel the Agent early, you probably can shape the board to get in an open attack most of the time, and if you are allowed to swing twice with Agent you should have enough Booby Traps in the opponents deck at that point to get them in most games. Even still, we sure used a lot of “most oftens” in that sentence, so by opening our plans up to failure at multiple points in the process we end up with a pretty significant risk that the Agent of MOLE isn’t going to do enough to actually help us win the game even when we successfully tunnel him on turn 2, and things only get worse from there if we are counting on his 1/3 frame to do anything for us otherwise.
Sorceress is an extremely hard card to nail down for her most effective use case—primarily because tacking those gem slots onto Inspire opens a huge world of possibilities for what to do. DRS Humans commonly will go with the Ruby Damage + Diamond Lifedrain gem combo that can make short work out of opponents without ever even entering the attack step, but that doesn’t mean that combinations like Flight + Card Draw or +1/+1 and –X/-0 won’t be game busting in their own ways. Personally, I am going to be constantly looking to combine Sorceress with the Major gem “enters play” series of gems as that set of abilities has frequently a higher floor for what you can expect with the card. Flight + Card Draw can win a game all by itself, but when you need to stop an opposing troop or slow down the game then –X/-0 will be the effect you need while still be highly relevant when you could have been drawing extra cards anyway.
A big note with Humans and Sorceress is how the majority of the good humans are three-drops. I would happily play a Mindcaller or two if I had an Azurefate Sorceress as tacking her ability onto your Vanguards can be a big difference maker (and once you’ve Mindcaller’d the Sorceress, your next Mindcallers normally will be great anyway thanks to her Inspire).
I say this with most gem cards but it bears repeating until everyone has it as a muscle memory for their brain about it: CHECK YOUR GEMS DURING RESERVES! You might be starting Lifedrain against a mill deck or Flight + Card Draw against a DS Skies deck, so making slight adjustments to what you slot into Azurefate will make a big difference in games 2 and 3.
First, the standard Inspire talk: in Development, Inspire is sweet because you can count on sequencing your troops how you want to and get the bonus. In stages where you are more than likely topdecking then Inspire becomes a bit more unreliable as you might not draw another troop anytime soon to gain the advantage with and thus rely much more heavily upon the body of the troop. As a 1/2 for two that means we aren’t very excited at all about seeing the Exalted one suddenly staring at us on turn 12…
For Development evaluation then, what the heck can we get exactly from Colin when we do drop him on turn 2?
Cerulean Mirror Knight
Jags the Blademaster
Cerulean Mirror Magi
Mirror Knight, Mentalist and Jags are all pretty firmly atop the “Best Inspire Dudes” list anyway, and any of those effects is fairly game-breaking to have on a two-drop. Mirror Magi is especially dumb here—as you can imagine dropping the requirements for Spellshield from 5 to 2 suddenly paints a humongous target right on Colin’s head.
Kraken Guard Seapriest
Any of the big stat buff Inspires are going to make you fist-pump when you see them on your two-drop. One huge thing that you might otherwise overlook is how important three-drops look to be to more archetypes, so being able to get these buffs started immediately will swing the game hard in your direction.
Lord Alexander, the Courageous
Phoenix Guard Trainer
You’ll almost never complain about getting these Inspire effects, as the keywords all range from solid to insane in different situations. Sword Trainer is basically Ruby Pyromancer for most purposes, but you’ll see Giles enough in decks that are happy running Magus that the interaction is at least worth pointing out to take advantage of.
Cerulean Grand Strategist
Kraken Guard Mariner
Strategist Inspire will occasionally be very good, but you also have a lot of games where it just doesn’t do anything due to the matchup involved (i.e. you might be trying to win with flight troops while your opponent is beating down with 3-attack Orcs or 4- and 5-attack Wild troops). Shield Trainer is at least normally annoying for some decks to deal with (namely Zared who especially hates that it can’t even now charge power kill your Inspire provider) but Mariner might be one of the worst to get typically as most decks just aren’t built to take advantage of Steadfast all that often.
Gotta Be a Bug Tier
Our highly scientific average leads us to believe that your typical Highlands Magus trigger will be somewhere squarely between “Good” and “Great”. If that’s not enough for you, I just dare you to stare into those eyes and tell Colin he’s your 24th card. I sure can’t…
Construction Plans away! Make special note about the “your turn” clause (don’t try to go for the double Construction Plans from a single troop on your opponents end step like you might be used to), but otherwise Engineer’s best job in limited is to hyperpower your various Construction Plans and other power artifacts (like Volcannon…). The pseudo-Steadfast ability is also useful, but primarily on the bigger Robots like Pterobot and Excavation Hulk that already can hold the ground otherwise and this way get to make more calculated attacks than normal. If your plan is to Reactor Bot into Armitron then Engineer isn’t giving you the best value.
If you aren’t making special use of Engineer in a Dwarf deck and your aren’t combining him with some of the larger Robots in the format then you are left looking at yet another 2/3 for three in the format. We’ve discussed constantly in these reviews that isn’t special, but at least there is still a role for such a thing.
|Mass Polymorph: Dingler|
Eight is where the normal format starts to separate between “Cards you reasonably will cast every game” and “Cards you won’t reasonably cast every game”. It isn’t just getting to turn 8, but rather getting to the point where your 17 or 18 shard deck will draw 8 of them. So an 8-cost card has to say essentially “Win the game” to make you interested. Thankfully, Mass Polymorph is pretty darn close to that. Your opponent likely won’t have too much in their hand left by that point to hit but even just neutralizing your opponent’s entire team should frequently result in immediately chump blocking following by scooping after they fail to draw their own insane bomb. We still don’t want to rate Mass Polymorph too highly as 8 is a ton of resources to work up to (so if you are behind because you have been missing shard drops then this is the blankest of blanks) and it also can be a bit deck and matchup dependant as decks that want to trade constantly aren’t going to result in good value for the card (turning one opposing troop into a Dingler and then swinging with your one troop is not great for the cost, while turning 4 opposing troops into Dinglers and then swinging with your four troops is game ending).
|Ogth, Greatspawn of Othuyeg|
Defensive is a big drawback, but just dare your opponent to swing into an Ogth and I’ll bet they chicken out. The thing with Ogth is you have to decide if you are going to slot him in as a win condition in a dedicated mill deck next to Daisies and Murmurs, or are you bringing him as a defensive card for your control deck that is just happy to have a 6/7 flyer that can block pretty much anything in the format efficiently at five cost. In the former, Ogth is a bomb as it doesn’t take many Daisy and Nin activations before your opponent is nearing 20 cards buried anyway, so getting Spawns from Ogth will make quick work of your opponent and go the rest of the way easily. In a dedicated control deck, you are likely looking to be going at least 12+ turns after playing Ogth before you will start making Spawns to finish the game, so it is unlikely that the game hasn’t been decided one way or another by that point. That isn’t a totally knock against Ogth, if your deck just wants to survive to drop Grand Squirrel Titans or to start synergizing some Dwarves then Ogth has a role to play and does well at his job—just don’t expect Ogth to ever be the one doing the heavy lifting, even in stalled out Parity situations.
Imagine you have a good troop, and now imagine that you’ve hit the opponent with it. Now you have hit the ideal use case for making a replica with this card. You also are likely in a situation where you are sitting pretty anyway and just about any follow up card is going to be good because you are Ahead. That isn’t to say that you can’t make a Replica of some great evasive troop to good effect, but rather that normally if you can cast a Replicator’s then you aren’t worrying about casting a Replicator’s. If you can’t even hit the opponent for whatever reason (clogged up board or *gulp* no troops) then you can’t even cast the card. With such a low ceiling and low floor for the card it is going to be hard to justify it in the vast majority of decks.
|Reese the Crustcrawler|
When you first pick a Reese (because you shouldn’t be second picking him often) you very clearly want to start pushing towards a Dwarf archetype if possible to maximize Bertram’s synergy with him. Even if you must drift off to another Sapphire archetype, the combination is so powerful that it often is worth running Bertram just for Reese. Tunneling Reese on turn 2 is about the best thing you can do in the format on that turn, even if it doesn’t affect the board immediately. Once Reese comes up, barring quick speed removal you are getting a 4/4 plus a random Robot, with then a random Robot each turn plus the upgrade to Bertram from making defensive 1/1s into making relevant troops. It is going to be hard to lose those games, and Reese is large enough to do work both on offense and defense safely.
So if tunneling Reese is the ceiling, then just playing him for 5 is then the floor. Even that is a high floor—you are already happy with a 4/4 for five in most decks but you get a bonus tacked on of making a Worker Bot every turn to boot (including the one when Reese comes down). That means Reese has enough attack to be relevant on offense but he also provides the perfect storm of size from Reese combined with an extra chump blocking body to be one of the biggest outs to situations that are going poorly for you. All in all, Reese is just one of the best limited cards you can draft.
Like Chimes of the Zodiac in Shards of Fate, Robotic Rapture has just enough potential and slots into a type of deck that is just almost good enough anyway that you can probably find a way to convice yourself to try it once or twice. The premise of cycling your Immortal Tears and Vitaes away, chump blocking with some Worker Bots and launching stuff with a Flak Scrapper only to turn around and do it all again for a single card is incredibly promising. While even getting back two worthwhile artifacts will likely be a positive exchange, you really want to be setting yourself up for ways to get back 3+ artifacts or you will find yourself all too often with blank Raptures in your hand.
Speaking of blank cards, that is fairly close to what Robotic Rapture is in your opening hand. The small consolation is knowing that you can indeed sacrifice those Worker Bots in whatever manner you choose, but a turn 4 Rapture is almost never going to be the right play to make. Parity, and more specifically Parity in a long game is where Rapture wants to shine. Sit back, make what looks like a pseudo-alpha strike with some Robots with the intention only to trade with a few pieces of the opponents, then bring back the team for more damage. Even then, Rapture can only bring back what you’ve lost in the first place, so if your artifact menagerie doesn’t expand beyond 1/1s and Immortal Tears then you likely still aren’t breaking Parity but are rather just trying to be cute for card advantages sake—don’t fall into this trap! When Ahead, you are probably even less likely to have targets, especially worthwhile ones. Finally when you need to get back into the game, Robotic Rapture has both some positives and some negatives. Few cards can provide the influx of pure gas like Robotic Rapture has the potential to—and given that you likely have Worker Bots alongside a Rapture deck you should at least be able to hold off the opponent temporarily until you can start playing big guns you get back if you are behind after a long attrition-based game. However, if you simply got tempo’d out in the early turns and are behind due to not making significant board plays then Robotic Rapture will do nothing but continue you down that path.
Do you remember Thunderbird in Shards of Fate limited before everyone realized that Zared and Bombsmith were key pillars of the format? He was close to unstoppable, and Salt Harpy tried to bring back those feelings at the rare slot with a huge 3 butt that shrugs off pretty much all the non-premium removal in the game. When you turn 3 a Salt Harpy, you still need to play an action in the next turn or two in order to get any realistic offense out of the Harpy, but in most decks that won’t be a huge problem during Development as you should have something worthwhile to do in that line of play anyway. The times you quickly get Harpy up to 2 or 3 rage will probably be even less frequent than the times she sits with zero attack for a couple turns, but they also will have an even bigger impact on the game as a Harpy does have the potential to single-handedly kill an opponent in very short order.
Parity is an oddball. One one hand, you have an evasive threat with a large defense that has a huge potential attack. On the other hand, you likely have already played a couple of your important actions and might not have anything to actually turn on the Harpy in time for it to matter, leaving you with just an 0/3 for 3. Granted, Loregoyle wasn’t the worst card but ‘goyle also had an individual way to help out by himself in those long games while Salt Harpy needs a little more help. The threat of Salt Harpy will always be there for the opponent though, so if nothing else they at least will need to respect that you are a cantrip away from suddenly hitting for a reasonable chunk and threatening a quick end to the game.
When Ahead, the 0/3 with a reliance upon other cards to become an offensive threat just isn’t what you are looking for—even a basic 2/2 is probably going to be more important for helping just finish the game now than Salt Harpy will be. Likewise, when behind you find the same problem all other Rage troops do in that there is a conflict of needing to attack to gain attack while also needing to stay on defense despite not providing enough attack to adequately trade.
It is highly unlikely that you have anything so valuable to the overall game that you need to go down a card and a couple resources to try and get some extra copies in your deck. Minus one card might not sound like a whole lot, but when you consider we are fighting tooth and nail to gain cards with Oracle Songs and the like then it just doesn’t make sense to counteract that with a card like Scheme. The lone exception might be the occasional Sealed matchup where the game goes so long and bombs are so important that making extra Vampire Kings or Dragons can be the difference, but don’t expect that to be the normal stance to take on Scheme even if you have it and Dragons in your Sealed pool (because if the opponent comes out with a grindy removal deck anyway then that extra card is likely more valuable than even some of the non-Uruunaz dragons).
IF Scheme is acceptable to be played in your deck, then it is likely best played early in the game to help with the time you need to draw those extra copies. That doesn’t mean it is good in development though—it still doesn’t affect the board in any way.
Storm Cloud has a pretty awesome “push your luck” mechanic that is hidden beneath the surface. Do you pop a Cloud with one or two charges on it from the early game for a moderate advantage or keep going with the hopes that the opponent won’t kill it and you can clean up with a pile of Stormlings? Your average opponent is going to kill the Cloud on sight unless they are maximizing their curve for playing troops early, so the answer is always going to remain “It depends” with a slight nod towards popping early against most aggressive opponents in hopes of getting a 2-damage Stormling before the opponent can do something about it. In your average case though, Storm Cloud either demands removal early in the game or will generate enough counters to let you create a flurry of card draw and damage against the opponent.
The problems can arise when you don’t have Cloud on turn 2 or 3 (with the common play of Cloud before your third shard drop), as you have likely played out most of your shards if you topdeck a Cloud later in the game. Newsflash, as just an 0/2 Storm Cloud isn’t scaring anybody on turn 10. The best you can normally hope for at that stage of the game is that the board stalls out and you can produce a couple draw or damage Stormlings, but if the game is looking out of hand for either side then just the body itself isn’t going to be enough to help out.
I hate writing about Dragons, because there is so little analysis to really delve into. It’s cute that Zeedu can combo with things like Dwarven Ballistics Training, but in reality you are playing a 5/5 flight troop for 6 in every deck you ever draft if given the chance. The only slight knock against Zeedu might be that one of the best Sapphire archetypes (Tri-Shard humans) might have difficulty with the triple Sapphire threshold, but you will frequently know if Zeedu is in your deck by either the 1st or the 16th pick out of 45 cards, so you should be able to accommodate your Sapphire overlord.
Three cards is an awful lot, but the thing that really sells Zodiac Divination is the cost reduction. Considering the average cost of a limited card is normally in the 3ish range for most decks, the cost reduction commonly means that you will spend one turn casting the Divination and then the next turn you can typically deploy most of the cards in rapid fire. As you can imagine, the trick then is getting that turn of doing nothing to the board out of the way. In formats where Parity matters a lot that isn’t a big price to pay, but if Shattered Destiny ends up being a format where people are commonly killing each other on turn 6 and 7 then losing an entire turn for card advantage can be the difference between victory and defeat. Zodiac Divination will still be good sometimes when you are behind, you just need to already have 7 to 8 resources out as then it will be fairly common to be able to cast Divination and then one of the now cost-reduced cards in the same turn.
One thing that people commonly overlook about cards like Zodiac Divination is that when drafting we evaluate them based upon the average case, but when actually playing their value is dependent upon our specific matchup. You might wheel a Zodiac Divination and put it in the reserves of your aggressive Sapphire deck only to come up against a very slow and grindy Blood control deck where it can come in and be an all-star. The reverse is also true: you might slam an early Divination into your control deck only to come up against a ruthless Orc aggro deck where just buying time until turn 6 is the key as opposed to card advantage. While Zodiac can still be a useful “finisher” type card even in those matchups, you can’t fill your deck with nothing but finishers against a bunch of 3-attack cheap troops and expect to win many games.
Top Shattered Destiny Sapphire Commons
1) Field Tactician – 5.95
2) Dementia Daisies – 5.85
3) Phoenix Guard Enforcer – 5.8
4) Murmurs from the Void – 5.65
5) Phoenix Guard Messenger – 5.6
Sapphire lacks a true “premium” common, but in light of having something easily splashable by the other shards instead it brings a solid core of troops and a slightly expensive yet powerful removal card. While Field Tactician tops this list that we have rated in a vacuum, note that it doesn’t exactly synergize extremely well with the remaining cards on this list, as Tactician gets a significant downgrade if you can’t use it on the offensive. That means we will likely be happy to scoop up Tacticians in aggressive Tri-Shard human decks but the more dedicated Sapphire heavy decks will likely be looking towards flyers or mill as their strategy.
Average Sapphire Rating – 4.64
Average Weighted Sapphire Rating – 4.62
With no true must-draft cards at common and a host of clunkers at the bottom, Sapphire naturally ends up fairing poorly in our ratings. While on one hand that means Sapphire should be drafted slightly less than average, it also means if you feel yourself fighting hard for Sapphire early in a draft that it might not be able to support everyone.