Wednesday, September 5, 2012

5 Best Blood Abilities

Blood abilities! The sacred powers of kings, bestowed by the gods through their royal blood! Added to the Spellfire game with the Birthright expansion, these spell-like abilities can be cast by Regents and some other champions. Difficult to counter, but overall pretty tame, here are my picks for the top 5 blood abilities in the game. Please note that all choices were made with the particularities of the Antigonish variant in mind.

#5 (tie) - Melt Bone (Dungeons, 80/100)
This card echoes Loup-Garou with its "play something or else" mechanic. Two problems: firstly, it's an ally, not a magic item, that your opponent needs to play. Allies are much more common than magic items (at least in TAV), so the odds are not as good that your enemy won't have one. Secondly, Melt Bone won't win the combat for you and raze the realm you are attacking. What it will do is send the enemy's champion away, defeated, if he can't play an ally. He can, however, put forward a replacement champion (if he has one) and continue the fight. If he has no other champion, the battle is over and spoils is drawn!

 #5 (tie) - Battlewise (Birthright, 37/100)
Doubling the total level of your champion? Excellent way to win the combat if this card is played late in a level-up war. Only #5 on this list because long, drawn-out level-up wars are more common in standard Spellfire than they are in the Antigonish variant.

#4 - Divine Wrath (Birthright, 39/100)
Divine Wrath discards all allies played in the battle so far, and prevents any new ones from being played. That's a pretty good power, so long as you can slap down the Divine Wrath before the Dreaded Ghost or Loup-Garou ends the combat. But the best part of this card is its second power. Unless dispelled, Divine Wrath stays with your champion until the end of your next turn (provided said champion stays alive), which means on your next turn you can attack again with the champion, who is automatically +6 in level and immune to allies! Good deal.

#3 - Death Touch (Birthright, 43/100)
Instant-kill cheese in the form of a blood ability! Sweet. Death Touch does what Divine Wrath and Melt Bone cannot reliably do - end combat, in a hurry! Draw and discard a card (itself a punishing mechanic - "whoops! there goes my Wish!"), noting the last digit. If it's equal to or greater than the champion's base level, it's lights out and give me my spoils! The best defense against Death Touch (besides a 4th edition Dispel) is a high-base-level champion. But high-base-level champions are very vulnerable to instant-kill cards in TAV. It's a trade-off, and one that makes Death Touch a must-have card for any Regent deck.

#2 - Create Minion (Dungeons, 79/100)
The cards above are very good - but our #2 and #1 blood abilities are primo. Let's start with Create Minion, a card that let's you pull any one champion from your graveyard to your pool. Gibs, avatars - you name it, you can get it. And the best part? You can use Create Minion in phase 3 or phase 5. Either before or after combat, your choice. Awesome. No need to put Hettman Tsurin back in play until phase 5, but you sure want your Living Wall out there during phase 3. Great card, versatile and powerful. The only "downside" to Create Minion is that the champion becomes undead - but this is hardly a big problem.

#1 - Death Field (Dungeons, 81/100)
What, no sticker-set card in one of these "top 5" list posts? Nope, not this time. Death Field takes our #1 spot, and it's not close. Maybe it's just the fact that I've been plagued by avatars like Istus and Kiri many times, but I absolutely love quick and easy removal that can eliminate troublesome avatars. It also works on Bigby, Gib Htimsen, Kronos, the Living Wall, etc. What an awesome card! The only problem with Death Field is that it can't target annoying low-level champions like Erellika, Lyr, Gwenyth, and the Headless Horseman. Still, it's easily the best blood ability ever printed.

Next time: 5 best thief skills.               

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Multiple Attacks In TAV?

One of the main tenets of TAV is that there is only one attack per turn. Either the attacker wins the round of combat, and the defender's realm is razed, or the attacker loses the round, and is discarded.

But certain champions have special powers that allow them to attack multiple times per turn. Such champions are nothing special in standard Spellfire, but become real beasts in the Antigonish variant. Let's take a look at a few of these multiple-attack maniacs.

The first champion I'd like to highlight is Darien Avan (Birthright, 86/100). He has the ability to attack twice, but only under certain specific circumstances. Firstly, he needs to win on his first attack. Secondly, he needs a realm to not have been razed after his win. In TAV this can happen in several ways. Maybe a Spirit of the Land (2nd Edition, 288/400) was played. Maybe Darien just finished attacking Nibenay (2nd Edition, 226/400). In any case, he won but the realm is still sitting there, mocking you. Darien can go ahead and attack again. He may even keep one ally he used in the previous battle. Excellent, re-use that Loup-Garou or Dreaded Ghost! Please note, however, that if Darien wins again and the realm is somehow not razed, he can't try a third time.
Rikus (2nd Edition, 258/400) is better than Darien, since he can attack twice regardless of whether or not a realm is razed by his first attack. Also, Darien can only ever raze one realm per turn, although he gets two cracks at doing so. Rikus, on the other hand, can raze a realm, granting his controller a spoils, then go right back at it and target a new realm! This is attacking multiple times, TAV style. The ability to raze two different realms with attacks in one turn makes champions like Rikus unbelievably primo in this format. Note that, unlike Darien above, Rikus cannot re-use any cards he used in his first battle.

Gorynych (Underdark, 84/100), like Rikus, enables you to target (and raze) two realms in the same turn. One thing that makes him better than Rikus is the fact that he flies. This enables him to attack lands with the movement restriction "can only be attacked by fliers" or realms in back of the formation, protected by more powerful front lands. The other trick this creature has up his sleeve is his wishbone. Yes, you read that right. If Gorynych is attacking for the second time, and a Spirit of the Land or a Pit Trap hits the board, the realm will be automatically razed so long as Gorynych was winning the battle.  Note that Gorynych has to be winning the battle when his wishbone is activated, making him less primo than the Headless Horseman, who can choose to automatically win even when he's losing. Then again, the Horseman can't raze two realms for you in the same turn!      
Here he is, the ultimate "more than one attack" champion. Zaknafein (Underdark, 94/100) is a powerful Drow who has the ability to attack three times per round. He can raze Nibenay and then target a second realm. He can even target three different realms in one turn. Can you imagine three spoils coming your way? This guy can break a TAV game wide open all by himself. Only problem? He can't re-use any cards, so you'd better have a fat hand before contemplating taking three swings at your opponent(s). The other minor flaw is that Zaknafein reduces in level with each attack. He goes from a robust 9 to a mediocre 6 to a wimpy 3 with each swing. A good strategy is to attempt to win the first battle with a level-up war, while saving your instant-kill cheese for the later two fights when Zaknafein is lower in level. 

Be aware that all four of these dangerous champions have no immunities whatsoever, and all of them attract champion-killing cards like magnets. If used well, however, they can really tilt the gaming table in your direction!

Next time: The five best blood abilities.