Monday, December 18, 2017

This Wine Is Vintage!

Fancy a drink? Careful there!
Wine of Eternity (Forgotten Realms chase, 21/25) is a great card for eliminating enemy champions. Unlike Takhisis's Mirror of Life Trapping (Dragonlance chase, 14/25), a champion "put to sleep" by Wine of Eternity can't be freed by a mere Dispel Magic. No, to get your champion back you must draw and discard a card at the beginning of each turn, hoping its last digit is equal to or greater than the affected champion's base level. That's a heavy price to pay, because whatever that card was - Menzo, your Wish, your Dreaded Ghost - it's gone. 

Another primo use of the Wine is against avatars. No drawing and discarding there - if Wine of Eterinity is successfully used against an avatar, that card is out of play until the Wine itself is canceled somehow. All avatars are higher than level 10, so no last digit can free them. I've used this card to rid myself (at least for awhile) of Istus, Kiri-Jolith, and countless other problematic avatars.

So if you're looking for a card that can put enemy champions on ice for awhile, and also cost your opponent a (possibly awesome) card each turn, crack open a bottle and pour a glass of this vintage!

Next: The top 5 magic items for TAV.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

German TAV Tournament Crowns New Champ!

On October 29, 2017, the German Spellfire league held a TAV tournament. Eight top contenders battled it out for German Spellfire supremacy in Frankfurt!

The tournament was double-elimination format, with some unique house rules. Firstly, only cards from Third Edition and earlier are allowed. Secondly, realms could only be defended by champions of the same world. Besides these tweaks, the tourney followed official TAV rules.

Here are the results:

8th place - Thomas
7th place - Lukas
6th place - Red
5th place - Alex M.
4th place - Heribert
3rd place - Andi B.
2nd place - Alex P.

and the winner of the tournament...
1st place - Gib Ogni

The champion and second place participant each received fan-created promo cards as prizes. Some of these German promo cards are depicted below.

All participants had a ball and I have it on good authority that they plan to run a TAV tournament again next year. In 2018 they are planning to allow the Ruins & Runes booster set to be used in deck construction for the first time.

Here is the winning deck, constructed by Gib Ogni:

Ally (1):
    RL/079 Loup-Garou, (+2)

Artifacts (5):
    1st/218 Johydee's Mask, (GH)
    3rd/157 Orb of Dragonkind, (GH/+4)
    3rd/199 Ren's Crystal Ball, (GH)
    AR/001 Wand of Orcus, (AD&D/+9)
    FR/061 The Ring of Winter, (FR)

Cleric Spells (2):
    3rd/358 Dispel Magic
    FRc/01 Thrice Hearty Cup of Balder the Red

Events (10):
    3rd/099 Cataclysm!
    3rd/202 Slave Revolt!
    3rd/312 Treasure
    3rd/400 Calm
    AR/054 Deflection
    DLc/14 Takhisis's Mirror of Life Trapping
    FR/004 Curse of Azure Bonds
    FRc/02 Cold Cup of Calamity
    GEP/007 The Great Transformation, (AD&D)
    UD/022 Memory Moss

Magical Items (6):
    1st/412 Scroll of 7 Leagues, (+7)
    AR/020 Winged Boots, (+2)
    AR/025 Rod of 7 Parts, Part 5, (+5)
    FR/056 Vorpal Blade, (+3)
    GEP/011 Potion of Grender Toughness, (AD&D)
    UD/033 Helmet of Selnor

Realms (14):
    1st/136 Irongate, (GH)
    3rd/002 Menzoberranzan, (FR)
    3rd/003 Ruins of Zhentil Keep, (FR/5)
    3rd/117 The Horned Society, (GH)
    3rd/122 Furyondy, (GH)
    3rd/124 Temple of Elemental Evil, (GH)
    3rd/135 The Scarlet Brotherhood, (GH)
    3rd/136 Iron Hills, (GH)
    3rd/139 Duchy of Tenh, (GH)
    AR/092 Ancient Kalidnay, (DS)
    AR/095 The Forest Ridge, (DS)
    FR/017 Raurin, (FR)
    GEP/001 Berlin, (AD&D)
    UD/006 The Tripolar Triumvirate, (AD&D)

Wizard Spells (2):
    FR/043 Limited Wish, (+1)
    FR/046 Wish

Champions (15):
    1stc/10 Delsenora, (AD&D/7)
    1stc/13 Gib Htimsen, (AD&D/9)
    1stc/17 Stryck, (AD&D/7)
    1stc/22 Lovely Colleen, (AD&D/7)
    3rd/167 Iuz the Evil, (GH/8)
    3rd/172 Hettman Tsurin, (GH/2)
    3rd/187 Nenioc, (GH/5)
    3rd/196 Rangers of the Hornwood, (GH/4)
    3rd/258 Rikus, (DS/6)
    AR/081 Erital Kaan-Ipzirel, (GH/7)
    FR/089 Helm, (FR/6)
    PO/009 Davron Parscall, (DS/9)
    PO/023 Lyr of the Mists, (GH/5)
    PO/042 Lady of Fate, Avatar of Istus, (GH/16)
    RL/088 Headless Horseman, (RL/4)

Congratulations to all the Spellfire players in Germany who organized and participated in this hugely successful TAV tournament!

Next time: Pour me some wine!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Top 15 Realms In Spellfire

Here we go with my list of the Top 15 Realms in the game! (Note: realms were evaluated for their usefulness and effectiveness in the TAV format, not standard Spellfire - but these are excellent choices in standard as well).

#15 - (Tie) Den of Thieves (Night stalkers chase, 24/25), White Plume Mountain (Runes & Ruins, 4/100), and Sembia (3rd Edition, 6/400).
"Let me relieve you of all your valuables."
What?! I hear you scream. Den of Thieves only tied at #15? Have you gone mad, Marc?! Well, it's great in standard Spellfire, when many champions will be attacking the realm, discarding many of their owner's cards in the process. In TAV, however, there is only one attack per turn. That means only one card will be discarded, unless allies are used (and anyone planning on using allies probably won't be attacking this realm). Which means Den of Thieves is only as good as...

"How about we attack a realm with an active volcano? Sounds like a blast!" (Get it? Sigh.)
...White Plume Mountain, which also causes the attacker to discard one card per round of battle, just like...

Visiting Sembia can be...expensive.
...Sembia, which gives your opponent a tad more leeway - he can choose to discard a card from his pool instead of his hand.

All excellent realms, but nowhere near as good in the Antigonish Variant as they are in standard.

#14 - Haven of the Undead (4th Edition, 71/500).
"Let me use this lantern to show you exactly how doomed you are."
This land is only good in an Undead deck - but in that role it is supremely good. Every undead champion and ally becomes immune to just about everything that can kill the undead easily. Not much explanation needed here. Anyone who has an undead-themed Spellfire deck (TAV or standard) needs to have this realm in there.

 #13 - Furyondy (4th Edition, 16/500).
My favorite way to kill Bigby.
Besides my namesake Gib Cram (Chaos, 5/72), not many champions are immune to realm powers (and no wizard in the game is). That makes Furyondy an excellent way to get rid of powerful wizards that may be vexing you on the Spellfire table. The fact that Furyondy can only target one champion type drops it down my list, but it's still good enough to take the #13 spot.

 #12 - Haunted Hall of Eveningstar (3rd Edition, 28/400).
"Here, have a card."
Spellfire is a game of card advantage. The Haunted Hall gives you an extra card when it's played, and another card every time you flip it over after it was razed. The realm has no other powers, and cannot defend itself as a realm champion, but it doesn't matter. The card-granting ability is so good by itself that the Haunted Hall of Eveningstar takes the #12 spot.

 #11 - Cormyr (3rd Edition, 5/400).
Gives new meaning to the phrase "living off the land"!
The ability to cast wizard spells, without actually having a wizard in your pool, is unbelievably primo. You get Magic: The Gathering-style spell casting abilities, without the bother of having to have a wizard or wizard-spell casting champion under your control. Plus, if you're casting an iffy spell like Wish, there is no chance of the spell backfiring, as Wish cannot affect realms. Cormyr should be in any deck containing wizard spells.

 #10 - Tyr (3rd Edition, 224/400). 
"Here, have a card every turn!"
Tyr can defend itself as a level 5 champion, and allows you to draw four cards per turn instead of the usual three. This card advantage makes the owner of Tyr grow in power each turn until Tyr is razed. The realm attracts land-destruction cards like a magnet, but if you can keep it right-side up, you'll be on the path to victory.

#9 - The Ruins of Iolonia (Dungeons, 32/100).
Not exactly a great place for a picnic.
Only the undead can attack Iolonia. It's one of the best front realms in the game. Yes, if you're facing an undead deck you are in big trouble, but any other opponent is going to find it a chore to attack your formation. Only undead allies can be used as well, which rules out TAV staples like Noble Djinni, Thought Eater, and Loup-Garou.

#8 - (Tie) Solamnia (Dragonlance, 6/100) & Sea Of Dust (4th Edition chase, 504/520).
Spoils? You ain't getting no stinking spoils.
The best front realm is one that your opponents can't attack. The second-best front realm is one your opponents don't want to attack. Solamnia is definitely a land your opponents will seek to avoid. Not only do they have to discard their entire hand if they win and raze it, but they also have to draw and discard their spoils. That really sucks. They do get to draw 5 new cards, but's a steep price to pay, and most people will look elsewhere if they can.

You've heard the saying "there are a lot of fish in the sea"? Not here.
The Sea of Dust discourages attackers in another way. If you raze it, its owner gets to raze one of your lands. Or, in multiplayer games, one other realm anywhere in play. It also has a secondary power, to discard a swimming champion if it's hit by a Creeping Doom or a Raze. Interesting, but that primary power is the one to watch out for. How badly do you really want that spoils? :)

#7 - Ruins of Zhentil Keep (3rd Edition, 3/400).
"We need a cleric over here! Any clerics in the house?!"
Zhentil Keep can only be attacked by clerics. That's an amazing power that makes it a great front realm. No one wants to risk their Goldmoon, Delsenora, or Nenioc in battle, especially when the realm can also defend itself as a level 5 champion. This land can give you turns of peace as your enemies are unable or unwilling to attack you.

#6 - (Tie) Mithas (Dragonlance, 1/100) & Dementlieu (Ravenloft, 11/100)
"Okay, we've finally razed Mithas, and...what the heck?!"
Normally, you need to discard 3 cards to unraze a realm. Mithas unrazes itself automatically. That is incredibly primo. Also, you can lay down a new realm and unflip Mithas. You can go from 4 unrazed to 6, and win the game. Mithas belongs in just about every Spellfire deck in existence.

"But I don't want to attack with my Arch-Druid!"
Dementlieu is another candidate for best front realm in Spellfire. After your opponent indicates their desire to attack you, *you* pick which of his champions he pushes forward. Maybe he doesn't want to risk his Helm, Hettman Tsurin, or Gwenyth the Bard. Just the sight of Dementlieu might discourage an attack, but if your opponent goes through with it, at least you get to pick your poison.

#5 - Avanil (Birthright, 5/100).
Five cards for the price of one realm being discarded? Sign me up. I have an Avanil in every one of my decks. The only downside is that Avanil can be easily attacked. It's best used in the rear of your formation, protected by powerful realms at the front and saved to use when you really need to restock your hand.

#4 - The Scarlet Brotherhood (3rd Edition, 135/400).
"Hey, where'd our Living Wall go?"
Flip over The Scarlet Brotherhood, and your biggest headache disappears. Sounds like a good deal to me. Even better, you can discard three cards next turn and rebuild the Brotherhood. Once it's flipped right-side up again, you can use its special power to eliminate a second enemy champion, and so on. One of the best realms in the game.

#3 - Temple Of Elemental Evil (3rd Edition, 124/400).
Sometimes, it's good to be bad.
This card is so amazing, how can it not be #1 on this list? Well, the two remaining realms are even better. Don't get me wrong though - the Temple of Elemental Evil is still fantastic. It has no special powers beyond giving you three cards, but getting to draw three cards just by playing a land is freaking unbelievable. Another realm that belongs in any Spellfire deck.

#2 - Menzoberranzan (3rd Edition, 2/400).
Every Spellfire deck has one of these.
Menzo comes flying down a few times per game at nearly every Spellfire table. Due to the Rule of the Cosmos, only one player can have Menzoberranzan in play (razed or unrazed) at a time. Therefore whoever draws it first, plays it first. It also has a decent special power: flying champions and allies can't attack it. Keep those Cataclysms and Disintegrates handy.

#1 - Ancient Kalidnay (Artifacts, 92/100).
Not exactly a great tourism poster.
Here it is, the best realm card ever printed in Spellfire. Why is it so good? Well, I've already written about Ancient Kalidnay here, but it bears repeating. The ability to take another turn is just about as powerful an ability as I can think of. You get three more cards. You get to try for another spoils. You get to attempt to raze another of your opponets' realms. The only downside to Kalidnay is that you can only use the extra turn ability once per game, even if you unraze it later. Let's face it, though...that's a really small downside. You need one of these in just about every deck you own. Ancient Kalidnay takes the #1 spot, and it's not close.

Next time: Magic items!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A dream for you...a nightmare for your opponent! I dreaming or awake?!
Dark Dreams (Nightstalkers chase, 6/25) is a card I do not own, but it's near the top of my want list! It's an awesome card even in standard Spellfire, but it in the Antigonish variant it's uber primo. 

Why? Well the devil is in the details, as they say. A quick read of the card might not let the incredible-ness of this event totally sink in. You may have to read it over a few times, ruminate on the text, and allow the full ramifications of its abilities to percolate into your forebrain. Or, you can just keep reading, and I'll lay it all out.

In TAV, each round of combat is life or death. Unlike standard Spellfire, you can't just let an attacker win. Well, you can, but you are getting one of your realms razed if you do. Because of this, each round of combat is much more significant than in standard. Unless you have a Dark Dreams in your hand, that is!

Once combat is over and you've lost - perhaps because you got killed by a piece of nasty cheese like Noble Djinni, Intellect Devourer, or Vorpal Blade - slap this baby down on the table. Surprise! You haven't lost at all. In fact, the round of combat that just ended didn't even happen. It was a mirage, a bad dream. Unfortunately for your opponent, his champion discards all attachments (like the Vorpal Blade he just used to kill you) while you get to keep yours.

Now combat re-starts, with your opponent having a drained hand while you strut back into battle with all your attachments. Looks like a big, fat loss for him.

In such a situation, the only way for your opponent to wake up from the nightmare that is Dark Dreams is by using a well-timed Intercession, Limited Wish, or EDT. If not...let the night terrors begin!

Next time: The top 15 realms in Spellfire!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Weasel out of this!

Eaten by weasels - not a good way to go.

Ah yes, Weasel Attack (3rd edition chase, 428/440). That most sublime of events. A true powerhouse, and one of the few cards that is amazingly primo no matter what version of Spellfire is being played, standard or TAV. This thing attracts event-canceling cards like a magnet, and with good reason.

Imagine, attacking an opponent's realm and then slapping this down on the table. First of all, your attacking champion can relax. He goes back to your pool and chills. Next, you choose one of the champions in the defender's pool - he must use that champion to attack his own realm! Not only that, but he must fight himself with his own cards. If he wins, his realm is razed and both players draw spoils. If he loses, his realm is still razed, his champion is discarded, and only the player of Weasel Attack draws a spoils. So either way:

-His realm is going to get razed.
-The player of Weasel Attack is getting a spoils.

Not to mention the huge waste of cards if he decides to fight this. No wonder this card brings out Intercessions, Limited Wishes, Enter Darkness Togethers, etc.

Great photo art, super cool mechanism, and just an all-around-awesome event card. I only own one of these, but if I had six they would all be in decks. It's just that damn good!

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Best Millennium Cards

Let's count down the seven best cards from the Millennium sticker set. As always, cards were judged by their usefulness and power in Spellfire: TAV.

7 - Dispel Evil (43/99)
This card causes any one monster in play to be discarded. No matter its immunities. The ability to get rid of a Gib Lhadsemlo, a Gorgon, a Living Wall, or a Kronos the Titan is absolutely primo. Dispel Evil can be cast before combat or during combat, which makes it even more versatile. Good removal is hard to find, and Dispel Evil snags the #7 spot on this list with ease.

6 - Sacred Flame (37/99)
Slightly better than the ability to remove one monster is the ability to remove any attachment from any champion. Get rid of the Ring of Winter. Remove a Divine Wrath. Strip off a Star Gem of Martek. Trash a Pseudodragon. The possibilities are endless. Solid, solid card which should be in just about every deck that contains clerics.

5 - Stunning Fist (98/99)
At #5 we find this awesome instant-kill unarmed combat card. After Stunning Fist is played, count up the levels of your champion and the opposing champion. If yours is winning by 8 or more, the opponent's champion is discarded immediately and you get a spoils. If not?'ve just gained 10 levels, which is nothing to sneeze at.

4 - The Forgotten Idol (34/99)
I may be a bit biased, since I designed this card, but I think it deserves the #4 spot. Actually, it could be ranked even higher. What's so good about the Idol? Well, let's say your opponent has one of those annoying champions entrenched in his pool - non-attacking champions who vex you with their special powers. Hettman Tsurin. Jella. Gwenyth. Cyric. Helm. You want these guys dead, but you don't want to waste Wishes and Death Spells. Here's where the Forgotten Idol comes in. Attach this baby to a champion and attack. Then switch your attacker with any champion from any opponent's pool! No matter what happens, the enemy champion (and the Idol) are discarded at the end of combat. Bye-bye!

3 - Insanely Good Fortune (47/99)
I designed this card as well (along with Hayden), but before you accuse me of stacking this list with my own creations, read it carefully. It negates any helpful event - like Caravan, Good Fortune, and Calm. These are events in almost every deck, and ones you definitely want to stop if possible. The secondary power is only a bonus. If someone is trying to use an Unusually Good Fortune (a popular chase event that definitely sees a lot of play), they are going to have a very bad day. Good enough for #3 on this list.

2 - Whirling Dervish (99/99)
I love this card. When I attack, I want the realm razed with the least amount of fuss. Instant-kill cards thrown down by a low-level defender are fuss. Major fuss. Luckily, this card eliminates any of those shenanigans. You can attach the Dervish during combat to eliminate your opponent's ability to use his cheese, or (even better) you can wait until he tries throwing down the Loup-Garou, Use Poison, Melt Bone, Noble Djinn, Vorpal Blade, or whatever else the sneaky jerk has saved up for you. Once he has tipped his hand, slap down your Whirling Dervish and counter the instant-kill effect. Bam.

1 - Kronos the Titan (62/99)
Not much to write here. The best monster champion in Spellfire is also the best card in the Millennium sticker set. Just read him. Imagine what you could do with him in your pool. Imagine what he could do to your opponent's pool. Champions just don't get better than this guy. Print one, and put him in your deck today.

Next: Weasel out of this, pal!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Out of the REALM of possibility!

One quirk of Spellfire: TAV is the variant's treatment of Realm (Conquest, 66/81). For some reason now lost to the mists of time, this sticker-set card has always been treated like Shaqat Beetles (4th edition, 234/500). That is to say, any number of Realms are allowed per deck, to the limit of 15 realms as indicated in both the standard rules and TAV rules.

Look at this annoying thing.
Because of this odd quirk, which may have been due to a misinterpretation of the Realm card text long ago, things like this have been legal in TAV for over 15 years:

"Cool, I win! Oh, wait..."
Another great reason to play TAV - you just can't do this sort of thing in standard Spellfire. :)

You can call it a house rule or an optional rule or whatever you like, but trust me: letting Realm be used this way adds to the fun of the game. Give it a try, and you may find that the only thing that beats winning a game of Spellfire by completing a formation of six realms is winning by completing a formation of six REALMS!

Next: The best cards in the Millennium sticker set.