As today is Thanksgiving, I thought I would take the time to talk about the Birds in Set 1: Shards of Fate. It’s an oddball subtype of creatures that’s obviously dominated by the Sapphire threshold. Now I am talking about strictly birds here—not mythical creatures like griffins or harpies, nor mounts for the Phoenix Guard.
Flock of Seagulls
While not the most appetizing on the list, the Flock of Seagulls are near the top of the most annoying. Their penchant for absorbing combat damage makes them a fantastic stall option in Limited play. While easily removed through non-combat means, the Flock of Seagulls are a flying wall that just sits back and laughs at all your incoming damage. And before you start thinking that Crush will get around the birds’ measly 1 Defense, HEX doesn’t work like that. Flock of Seagulls prevents ALL combat damage, so all the Crush damage is dissipated as well.
One of the better 2-drops in Limited play, the Thunderbird quickly becomes a “must deal with” threat as his (or her?) Rage 1 starts ramping up the damage from the get go. Of course—as a bird—Thunderbird comes with Flight standard, so this card is swinging over those grounded early drops on the other side of the board and pumping that Attack power as early as turn 3. Now remember: Thunderbird has a 2 Sapphire threshold and a 2 cost, so if you have a lot in your deck—but none in your hand just yet—you may want to play a Sapphire on turn 1 to ensure you can cast a turn 2 Thunderbird should you draw it. You want this card out early to start the pump going; once you get into the late game there are usually some beefier fliers on the other side of the board and Thunderbird loses a lot of its appeal.
One of the two non-Sapphire bird troops in HEX, the Zombie Vulture is an expensive 5-drop flier with a strong attack but a very frail defense. At first glance this seems like a terrible card. Playing a 1-Defense troop on turn 5 seems like suicide, but there is some inherent defense in the Flight keyword as well as this card will be evading all of your opponent’s ground-bound defenses. Swinging for 4 is a stiff punch in the nose as well, and Zombie Vultures make great defenders against pesky fliers like gem-laden Mystic of the Tranquil Dream. In addition, by the time you get to 5 your opponent just may have already exhausted all the Burns and Sorrows they drew in their opening hand, making the 1 Defense a lot less crippling than it looks.
Bird o’ Plenty
Finally we get to a bird that has some use in a constructed deck. Mantic’s famous “Firebird” deck centered around dealing Ruby-based direct damage to your own Bird o’ Plenty to draw cards out of your deck in an effort to find and cast your win-condition. In limited, Bird o’ Plenty has all the advantages of Flock of Seagulls but fewer disadvantages. It’s not Defensive, so if you can get some buffs on it you have a hard-to-kill damage source that draws cards as it’s blocked. In addition, it’s not just combat damage that triggers the card’s effect, but all damage. While Zared Venomscorn and any other negative modifier to Defense outright kill this troop, it’s very hard to bring down any other way. Just hope that you can hold out to 6 resources to get this card out.
On this Thanksgiving Day, I figured I’d end the article talking about the most delicious of birds in Hex: the Wild shard’s Succulent Roostasaur. This bird is one of the more complicated cards to play, so I am going to take some time to go over its abilities so you know what you can do with it.
It’s the only bird on this list without Flight, but it has Crush to make up for that. Both of its effects are quick action speed and neither require exhausting the Roostasaur itself, so they can be used as soon as the Roostasaur comes into play. Many people forget this fact, as they are used to being unable to use the text on a troop until their next turn has begun.
You can block with all the troops on your board and then exhaust the other blockers to pump up the Roostasaur to deal back lethal damage to the attacker he took on. In addition, if the Roostasaur can’t survive the attack for any reason, you can sacrifice him for a health boost. Remember, this doesn’t require exhausting so you can do it right after he’s cast! One last tip: on-hit abilities like Lifedrain must actually deal their damage to trigger. If you block them with the Roostasaur and then sacrifice it, they won’t deal their damage but are still blocked and won’t inflict their damage on the Champion either.
So there you have it: the five birds of Shards of Fate (well, I did skip over pets like Silver Talon Senator and Royal Falcon). Obviously being birds, these troops are mostly fliers and so they always have some value in Limited play, meaning most drafters and sealed deck players are pretty familiar with their capabilities already. I’m curious to know if any of you think they can assemble a good Constructed deck using any of the cards I talked about today. You can think forward to Set 2 as well and include cards we’ve had spoiled from there.
Now if you don’t mind, I’m hungry and this pumpkin pie isn’t going to eat itself.