Hello everyone, Shpelley here! Welcome to our continuing series of Unleashed Set Reviews. Third in the poll, the next Grand Alliance we’ll cover is… Death! Death awaits all of us, even in this review so be prepare yourself….
Let’s be real here: Death probably got the best Champions of the entire set this go-around. Basically every Champion they got I can picture a deck that they might fit into. The “Big 3” I call them are also great top-ends for (what will become clear) the very pushed Mordant/Vampire deck and Death Act decks, along with great support for Stacking Risen lineups.
- Baroque Skeletal Champion – A decent, low-cost Risen Champion. The trait here is decent, especially on such a low-cost Champion. In a pure Stacking Risen deck, this has the potential to sneak in a few points of damage and is aided by the fact that Risen got some very nice Stackers this set. With a 2 point cost, -1 health modifier it fits nicely with Nagash and Arkhan. It has the standard “low-cost, decent Quest” line of Unit -> Ability -> Damage -> Unit, though both Unit Quests are Risen-specific. This is made pretty irrelevant considering the trait already wants Risen Units anyway. Overall, a decent filler Champion.
- Bloodied Vampire Warlord – This guy is pretty middling. To start, his trait is very niche, and might trigger once or twice a match if you are lucky. There are far too many ways for you to be already dead at 5, and Crypt Haunter Courtier basically does this job but better. 6 points, 0 health modifier is pretty middle of the road, and on the lower end for Vampires. The Quest line isn’t doing many favours though, as Spell -> Unit -> Spell -> Unit is always going to be slow since none of these corners can “overlap” and require a decent amount of both Spell AND Vampire investment. This Champion just doesn’t do anything particularly exciting, except be mid-cost filler in a Vampire Tribal deck.
- Forgotten Hell Knight – The 1st of what I call the “Big 3” of Death’s new Champions. FHK’s Once Per Game is basically deck defining. With the help of the always-stellar Fuel the Gravetide, Vigour Necris and just by playing the game, your Discard pile will eventually get filled with Death Act cards to abuse. Using the Once Per Game is extremely Action efficient, coming in as a 3-for-1 for some already very reasonable effects. It isn’t uncommon to activate this for 3 Rend damage, Shuffling 2 cards from your opponent’s hand back into their deck and bringing back a Unit from the Discard pile.
All of this rests on an extremely reasonable 7 point, +2 health modifier body that leaves plenty of room for Monstrous and Crypt Haunter Courtiers. For as powerful and well-costed as he is, you would expect a difficult Quest, right? Wrong! With a (fully generic) Unit -> Ability -> Damage -> Unit Quest line, this quests rather easily to boot. Personally, I think this Champion might be a touch over-tuned as he has incredibly value for his stats and Quest. I’m genuinely surprised this doesn’t have a Quest line similar to Ancient Dankhold Troggboss to encourage using each different type of Unit that has a Death Act. Overall? A real powerhouse.
- Grave Guard Seneschal – An absolutely stellar low cost Champion. Grave Guard’s Heroic Act is very reasonable, allowing you to recur exactly whichever Risen you need at any given time. Combined with all the Discard shenanigans, between Death Acts and resurrection effects in Death, this effect is very welcome. To go along with it, at 3 points and +1 health mod this Champion slots right in just like Baroque Skeletal Champion with whichever headlining Champion you might want to include.
To cap it off, the Guard Guard also has a stellar Quest line. Risen -> Ability -> Risen -> Damage is very easy to pull off, especially with Vigour Rectis and Boundless Ferocity making Ability -> Unit -> Damage corners really easy to complete with 1 Action over 2 turns. The fact that the Unit corners are Risen only keeps this grounded, but I’m genuinely a fan of this Champion. I expect to see this in any dedicated Risen decks.
- Greth The Decrepit – 2nd member of the “Big 3” and probably the “weakest” of the bunch, though not by much. To start us off, his Heroic Act is a real beating. The ability to rotate a Feasting Vargheist AND a Fearsome Crypt Flayer in the same turn is massive, for the very low cost of 1 damage to yourself. This gives Greth the ability to be very aggressive, depending on what Units you pack with him.
On a 9 point, +1 health modifier frame this makes him well-costed, but is one of the things making him the “weaker” of the 3. With Forgotten Hell Knight and Vicious Abhorrant Archregant being 7 and 8, respectfully, they can fit the optimal “Quick Quest package” of 2xMonstrous Haunter Courtier and Crypt Haunter Courtier, meaning you have to drop one of them for a replacement.
Quest-wise, he is also a little weaker but not overly so. Unit -> Unit -> Damage -> Ability isn’t “optimal” in Death, but isn’t the worst either. Being able to push forward Units by 1 means he is probably completing that first Unit Quest ahead of schedule, and the rest follows fairly easily from there.
Overall, a powerful effect balanced by some mildly limiting factors which help keep him balanced.
- Grotesque Varghulf Courtier – This guy perplexes me somewhat. Trait-wise, having multiple Spells on the go in very specific locations seems…ambitious. I doubt the trait triggers more than 2-3 times even with a really good mix of Spells and Units in hand. The best part of this Champion probably lies in his cost as a measly 3 point cost, and no health modifier meaning he’s easier to stick in with the higher cost Wizards and Warrior/Wizards of Death.
Disappointingly, this guy’s Quest is also very lackluster. Unit -> Damage -> Unit -> Unit is already quite slow, but they are also all Mordant-specific corners. Unfortunately, Mordant decks don’t really have any synergy with spammy Spell builds so I don’t think this’ll be going anywhere. Probably the worst Champion Death got this set.
- Mannfred, Hate-Filled Hunter / Mannfred, Mortarch of Night – For those guessing that Mannfred was the other member of the “Big 3″…sorry to disappoint. Don’t get me wrong, Mannfred seems good, but we’ll get to that after looking at the Vampire himself.
To start, Mannfred’s trait is “okay.” I believe they have positioned Mannfred as kind of a Tribal Vampire “payoff” card and the #1 thing Vampires are good at in this game is Removing Units. Between that and Death having access to 2 different solid pieces of Ability Removal (Devour and Fuel the Gravetide) I believe that you are intended to see him trigger 4-5 times a game which is pretty reasonable. This strategy definitely has a weakness, however, in that Wizard-focused decks are starting to make an appearance and the Vampires we currently have are ill-suited to deal with this.
Once flipped, this guy becomes a rather potent control Champion. A Purge Heroic Act has lots of potential. Being able to help keep Units off the table entices opponents to put things down in front of him, which sets up Vigour Necris/Boundless Ferocity into Removal Vampire to help quest him out a 2nd time. This effect is actually decent enough that I could see him flip on occasion, depending on how the board/matchup looks which is nice.
Moving on, his costs are in line with the other Unleashed Champions. 12 point cost and +1 health modifier are okay in a vacuum. However, if the goal is for this guy to be a Vampire payoff then there is the serious issue that Mannfred can’t really play well with other Vampires. The only ones you can reasonably play with him (Bloodied Vampire Warlord, Hungering Vampire Lord and Vampire Lord on Nightmare) all compete with Mannfred for Removal corners and are generally rather slow. After that, you are stuck with generics like Brittle Skeletal Champion, Skeletal Champion and lower-cost Champions that require other Unit types.
The Quest line (Ability -> Removal -> Unit -> Removal) is actually fairly reasonable for having 2 Removal corners. Boundless Ferocity or Vigour Necris can go and fetch out a Removal Vampire to complete the first 2 corners. At that point, I suspect the “ideal” last 2 corners are done with Starving Vargheist to help force the last corner without needing the opponent to play across from him. Once flipped (Ability -> Vampire Unit -> Ability -> Vampire Unit) is more of the same with Vigour Necris and Boundless Ferocity playing a starring role in pushing it through.
Overall, I like this Champion but there is a rotting elephant in the room, and its name is Mordants. Right now, Death is heavily incentivized to play predominantly Mordants due to easy of Questing, powerful top-end Champions like the big 3 and just overall quality of Units available. Combined with the fact that Vampires are somewhat specialized as an “anti-Unit” Tag and are generally awkward Questers, it puts Mannfred in an awkward spot.
My only hope right now is that someone finds a good control deck in this format that can make use of the big guy, or Mordants receive some toning down, or he will fade into obscurity.
- Necromantic Aspirant – This card is neat for a few specific reasons. The trait is…not particularly good. It’s alright in a Risen deck, though Grave Guard does it better. I do actually like the trait however, because it flavourfully matches up with Nagash. Why does that matter? Because this card is a 3 point, -1 health mod Wizard. This means that Necromantic Aspirant can actually play beside the first Necromancer!
More seriously though, just like Viceleader in Chaos, this is a card that is more interesting specifically because he is such a low-costed Wizard. This also means that Death finally gets to live the 4-Wizard lineup dream if they so desire! Quest-wise, this card is pretty meh. Damage -> Spell -> Removal -> Spell isn’t really doing it any favours, and no Ability corner means no “double-Quest” with Forgotten Arts so not likely to Quest over the course of a game.
In the end, I like this card entirely because it opens up a couple new archetypes while it isn’t particularly powerful.
- Vicious Abhorrant Archregent – The last of the “Big 3”, and probably the most powerful. I wasn’t certain how powerful the trait of, basically, +2 cards in the starting hand actually was but after seeing it in action I can safely say that it is busted. The +2 cards basically gives you a free turn, and those 2 cards go a long way in Mordant-focused builds. Thanks to how Card efficient Mordants are now with Boundless Ferocity and Vigour Necris on Monstrous Haunter Courtier, you really feel the impact of those 2 cards and rarely have to take many Actions off to draw up new cards. Personally, I wouldn’t mind if this required both a Mordant and a Vampire Champion adjacent, but personally I think the real issue is that +2 cards is just too powerful of an effect.
Outside of his trait, his cost is the other big thing. 8 points and +1 health modifier are basically perfect, leaving exactly enough room for the QQ trifecta of 2xMonstrous + Crypt Haunter Courtier. 12 points of flex room is pretty easy to flex with, though I doubt anyone will really venture too far outside the trio previously described.
Topping this all off, the Quest isn’t great by any means but it’s not hard, either. Vampire Unit -> Ability -> Removal -> Vampire Unit means investing in some Vampires is required. However, with both Feasting Vargheist and the new Blood-Fuelled Vampire being stellar Units, the slots fill themselves. The Removal corner is the hardest to handle, but Forgotten Arts conveniently handles both the Ability and Removal corner since this is a Warrior/Wizard.
This is the Champion I’m actually least happy with in terms of power level, because I find it far-and-away too over-tuned for the costs associated, especially with the support Mordants already have from every other part of the last 2 sets. I’m hoping something changes here as it quickly pushing out all other Death strategies.
Death’s Blessings are all over the place this one. A couple are dedicated to a new combo deck which is pretty interesting (if not particularly competitive), a few niche Blessings and then one whopper that has the community reeling….
- Death Unabated – Getting right into it, we have the single most controversial Blessing in the game right now I think. Death Unabated is really, really simple: halve your opponents actions for 4 turns (and eventually Draw a card). In a vacuum, this is obviously very powerful. In context, it is oppressive. Death has access to Supernatural Horror, Dormant effects in Fearsome Crypt Flayer, and can even use Expanse of Ghur to help grind the game to a crawl. Even without the rest, being able to do only one thing just isn’t fun and comes out to being much more powerful than gaining an additional Action (which we’ve already discovered previously can be too powerful if too frequent and easily accessed).
Combined with that, Death now has an incredible amount of hand control between Snapping Ghoul, Turmoil of Souls and Twilight's Allure which leads to very bad feeling games of Champions. The effect, I think, is simply too strong to last more than 1-2 turns. Ideally I’d like to see this card reworked to have a similar “control” feel, but as it stands this is just too oppressive and doesn’t produce fun games.
- Ghastly Feast – I was really prepared to dump on this card when I first saw it, but I now appreciate it for what it is: a Chalice of Ushoron-deck enabler. Death has a pretty decent set of cards to fill up its Discard pile so it’ll rarely be going off for no value, and it’s obvious goal is to Purge as much as possible (and try to keep you alive long enough) to activate Chalice for the win. Obviously, “combo decks” with (essentially) “I win” conditions has to be balanced carefully, but as it stands I like this as an enabler of a whacky combo deck. Just don’t use it outside of that context.
- Halls of the Dead – This card is…okay. It is a decent “grind” card, giving damage, life and (importantly) card Draw. Once again, I think it serves best in a Chalice-focused deck looking to Purge as much as possible out of the Discard pile before going for the combo win. I think in most decks this isn’t impactful enough, preferring either a more passive damage blessing or a more potent control element like Supernatural Horror. In the Chalice deck, it gives you a little bit of damage if you need an alternate win, and helps keep you alive and dig for your “combo pieces”. Once again, kind of specialized but not unplayable.
- Nagash's Fury – This is pretty suboptimal overall. Just like I said about Deathly Descent in my Order Set Review, I’m not a fan of a pure-Removal-based Blessing. Worse, this Blessing can potentially only hit 2 lanes depending on where it ends up being placed. The upside for hitting is “okay” and definitely represents some potential card advantage, but it’s far too situational and has the potential to do actually nothing under some circumstances. Probably my least favourite new Blessing for Death.
- Reckoning of the Damned – Another “meh” Blessing. Reckoning is at least a little easier to make sure it wouldn’t be dead, but in the end the effect just isn’t worth setting up. Being able to search for and Deploy 2 Units could be especially powerful…or it could be dead if the cards you want to Deploy are the ones in your hand! I’m not sure why this doesn’t just let you search up 2 Spirit/Risen Units then Deploy 2 Spirit/Risen Units. Just doesn’t do enough in the face of better options in my opinion.
- Vampiric Descent – This is a slightly-slower Cruisin' for a Bruisin' for Vampires (and inexplicably, Mordants). That 1 extra corner makes a lot of difference, as this means that at least 3 Units need to hit the bin and Death doesn’t have a Gordrakk to power this out near instantly. Greth does a good job at speeding this up, but 4 corners might just take too long. I do like the idea that this is a good “long game” payoff card. What I don’t understand is the inclusion of Mordants in the design, other than as a concession that Mordant Units are just generally superior to Vampire Units in many situations. I don’t think this is very good, but 12 damage is always something to keep on your radar.
Just like with the Champions (and most of the rest of Death this set), almost every one of these Units is great or can find a home somewhere. With every card falling into one of two mechanics (outside of one miscellaneous, and one that overlaps!), Death Units feels laser focused and strong this set.
- Blood-Fuelled Vampire – A card that could have been very hit or miss depending on the other Death Acts available, this card ended up performing WELL above expectations. As weird as an “X/X” card is, triggering a Death Act upon coming into play means you are still getting an Action’s worth of an effect, and it’s flexible depending on whats in your bin. It’s own Death Act allows it to resurrect any Unit, and it is this effect that I think needs to be tamped down some. Right now, this is an easy way to abuse Thorns of the Briar Queen, an already extremely powerful card in its own right. If this limited its scope on what it could bring back in some way to avoid that interaction, I think it’d be more well balanced.
NOTE: I think this card originally only brought back Risen Units, as that ties into the Lore better AND would explain the presence of Stacking on the card.
- Grim Crypt Flayer – A solid Mordant Unit (a theme we will continue to see throughout this review). 1/1/2 damage is about average at 4 damage over 3 corners, and having damage on the first corner is especially important with potential Royal Hunt interactions and handling Damage corners. The Death Act is quite variable, doing anywhere from 0 – 4 damage depending on the board state. On the other hand, Death Acts are hard to counteract and being able to loom ever-present is pretty strong in itself. Not super exciting, but a solid addition.
- Hungering Crypt Haunter – Another good Mordant Unit (shock!) At 1/1/1 Rend damage, this basically trims 1 damage off Grim Crypt Flayer for having access to Rend (which is gaining more relevance as time goes on). It also mirrors the Grim Crypt Flayer as having a very solid 3 Rend damage Death Act (basically Piercing Shot), making it more consistent than the above and being essentially unpreventable. A great card to Boundless Ferocity into OR trigger with a Blood-Fuelled Vampire/Forgotten Hell Knight. Balancing on the edge of being too good.
- Necromantic Vampire – I guess the theme with the Death Act Vampires is recursion. This is pretty much the definition of filler: X/2/2 damage is about as stock as they come. As for the Death Act, putting cards back in the deck is slightly more relevant for Death if the game goes long due to Fuel the Gravetide mainly, but it’s still a pretty mopey effect in general. I think the main consideration here was just to get another decently-damaging Vampire filler Unit in the set to help fill that archetype out some. I doubt it’ll see much play in anything other than meme-y Vampire Tribal decks.
- Skeletal Recruiter – Probably the weakest of the new Death Act Units and our only Risen Death Act card. X/Gain 1 Life/X/Draw 2 is quite slow and low impact, basically a weaker Feasting Vargheist in a faction that already has access to Feasting Vargheist. The Death Act is also one of the weakest, as gaining 3 Health is significantly less helpful if it isn’t able to complete a Quest corner. Considering how much extra support Death Act has in the set (and all of the others being Mordant + 1 Vampire), this is likely the first cut in any Death Act-focused deck.
- Snapping Ghoul – A very powerful defensive Mordant (surprise!) Unit. 1/1 Cone-shaped “prevent corner damage” card isn’t anything to write home about, but is handy in a pinch and gets out of the lane quickly enough to not stagnate Questing too badly. The real star of the show here is the Death Act. Being able to rip 2 Cards out of an opponent’s hand is basically equivalent to the opponent losing out on a turn’s worth of Actions.
Even more abusively, if the opponent is forced to draw up to 1-2 cards, you can essentially force the opponent to skip a turn. Having multiple in a row is a recipe for burying them in an unsurmountable tempo advantage. The effect here might be too good with the likes of Twilight’s Allure and Frightful Strike being strong includes as-is. Personally, I’d tone this down so that it could only be activated if the opponent had 4 or more cards in hand. This would make it very effective alongside other Discard effects, but wouldn’t be able to single-handedly force a “skipped turn.”
- Confused Zombie – I’m not sure if this guy is “good” but I like him regardless. X/2/2 damage is a reasonable base Unit, though not particularly aggressive. The ability to convert this into an X/2/2 health Unit is probably not where a lot of aggressive decks WANT to be, but it does make for some grinding potential in particularly close games. Not really powerful enough to see much competitive play (especially when compared to something like Ancient Skeleton), but “Cute.”
- Ravenous Zombies – A really awesome Risen Stacker. 1/1/3 is a great base Unit, dealing with Unit and Damage corners easily. With Support 2, this also acts as a decent hoser against Death Acts and other recursion strategies: basically an anti-Death Death card. I especially like that the Unit itself is solid so you are more likely to want to run it in a main deck, thus meaning you’ll run into opportunities to use its secondary effect more often, especially with digital currently being Best of 1.
- Rotting Zombies – This guy feels just a smidge too weak. 0/1/1 is a really weak Unit to have in any deck. The issue here is that it is also limited by its highlights. If this acted as a blanket buff effect, it’d be really good because you could be very opportunistic with it, and if it effected itself, it would be a more reasonably powerful on its own. As it stands now, you have to very explicitly go out of your way to make sure it effects 2 other Units in specific spots. If it only effects 1 Unit, you need Support 2 to provide more damage than just putting Ancient Skeleton on top of the stack (X/2/3 for 5 damage versus X/1/1 and X/+2/+2 for 6 total damage). I doubt this one will see much competitive play, as there are better cards that need less work, especially in Death.
- Skeletal Horde – Skeletal Horde is a great example of a tempo card, and is a great design for Stacking cards in general. As a base Unit, you can do worse than 1/1/1. As it Stacks on top, while its damage doesn’t improve, it becomes more and more of a tempo swing. Being able to (pretty easily) Dormant 1-2 lanes worth of Units for 3 turns is a strong effect. Being able to do that AND Dormant 2 Champions can swing a game. This is a great example of how you do Stacking without just making it be extra damage. I expect to see this guy see plenty of play in any deck with some Stacking elements.
- Morbid Crypt Haunter – Only 1 Unit doesn’t fit into one of the two above categories, and it is another strong Mordant Unit. While X/2/1 damage at a base isn’t anything to be excited about, this guy punches way above his weight class due to his traits. Mordants especially, and Death in general, have a lot of ways to make stuff Dormant. Being able to Draw a card off a Unit coming into play compounds the tempo. Doing bonus damage while stuff remains Dormant, upgrading it to an X/3/2? That makes for a very powerful Unit. As strong as it is, I actually think this isn’t overpowered, but it is definitely at the top of the power-curve in general. I think it could stand to not trigger off Dormant Champions from something like Expanse of Ghur, but that is a pretty small tweak in general. Expect to see a lot of this guy, assuming the Death Act decks have room for him.
Spells this set for Death have proven to probably be their weakest addition. I really love Chalice and its accompanying cards, but the rest feel kind of mediocre in general or just missing the pizazz of the rest of the set. Honestly, with everything else Death has though, I’m not sure that’s a bad thing.
- Amaranthine Orb – Reviewing this card is weird. In a vacuum, this card is awful. Purging your own stuff for 3 turns before drawing 4 cards means it’ll likely get Removed before it can draw you those cards, and even then it’s barely even card Advantage at that point. The thing is, in the 1 deck archetype that wants it, its an auto-3-of. This is a Chalice of Ushoran enabler and nothing more or less than that. You either are playing that archetype, and you use it, or you aren’t and you avoid it like the plague.
- Bone Storm – Not a fan of this one. An X/X/5 is already pretty underwhelming, as I much prefer Spells that do something before their 3rd corner. Restarting this one is easy, and can even be a little synergistic with what Death is doing, but that also prevents you from Questing the Champion that this is Deployed on. I think there just isn’t enough upside to run this one competitively, but it’s far from the worst card you could run.
- Chalice of Ushoran – I love this card. This card is an archetype all in itself, and is the first “true” combo card for Champions. The work required to get this card to do its thing requires a deck built around it. The amount of tools required to get it to work also means you can’t just run pure stall, and it hinges off a fragile card. Ideally, you run it with Deathly Resolve to help spin it after a turn. Do I think this deck is tier 1? Not in the slightest. Do I think it’s good to have something off-beat like this in the game? Absolutely.
- Deranged Transformation – When I first saw this, I was sure this would be an amazing card, but the more I’ve looked at it, the less impressive it is. In the end, this card doesn’t really do much of anything. While it certainly has to be taken into consideration when evaluating some Wizards, the fact of the matter is that Questing for Questing’s sake has to be immediate, and come at low opportunity cost. Forgotten Arts is powerful in that it can immediately complete 1-2 Quests AND it replaces itself with a card. In small, 30 card decks, your cards just need to do more than this I think.
- Ferocious Hunger – A slow Spell with a potentially big impact. X/X/2/3 is pretty slow, and my distaste for cards that don’t do anything for 3 turns is well known at this point so let’s push past that. If this card does get to do its thing, it likely pushes out a ton of damage. My primary issue though is that this just feels like a worse Black Hunger for the sake of it buffing Vampires. The thing is, outside of Murderous Vargheist and Necromantic Vampire, there aren’t really many aggressively-minded Vampires to pair it with. Interesting when paired with Greth, though.
In my opinion? If you want this effect, just stick to Mordants and use Black Hunger instead.
- Ghoulish Feast – This one I could see having applications in an Immortal Death/stall deck. X/2/2 healing isn’t the worst, and Death has the easiest access to good Removal to trigger this a couple times potentially. Especially good if you want to use a different Realm than Ghyran in your slow control deck.
- Monstrous Vigour – Another kind of narrow card. This is another 3 corner Spell that only does something on its final corner. The real issue is that this card doesn’t do anything without Mordants/Vampires to back it up. 3 corners also makes it kind of awkward to line things up properly. Deathly Resolve could allow this to be an “on-demand” reset, but I’m not a huge fan of putting in other niche cards just to make your weak card better. Don’t think this makes the cut in any reasonable deck, and is probably the least useful Spell Death got.
- Spectral Host – This card is kinda weird. On paper, this card actually has a decent amount going for it. Over the 3 turns, this basically gives you +2 Actions if you make use of both Deploys, and moving Units around can help with your Questing in a lot of situations. I don’t understand why the Move isn’t a “may” which can definitely interfere somewhat. On the plus side, this card can benefit from the same rules interaction as War Chant allowing for double-activations of the first corner if the Unit is Deployed to the right of the Spell (double-activating Morghast Harbinger in a stacking Risen deck seems fun!).
I don’t think I’ve seen this card used in any competitive decks thus far, but I’d be willing to bet that there are some fun brews which can make use of this.
- Vile Transference – An interesting card that feels more useful as a sideboard option. Vile Transference relies basically on the opponent having bigger, swingier effects to be particularly good. Against an offensive Spell deck for instance, this card can be an absolute house. Against a deck with a bunch of small Units that relies more on synergy for damage than anything, the card is pretty mediocre. This card has high highs and low lows, and I think whether it becomes “good tech” will depend largely on how the meta shapes up. Definitely one to watch for as time goes on, though!
All but one of these cards is pretty great or at least have reasonable places in certain decks. Along with that, the first one we’ll review is subtly (or not so subtly) one that tips the rest of what Death is doing off the deep-end.
- Boundless Ferocity – One of the most powerful cards Death got this set and the one causing the most issues right now in my opinion. In Unit-centric decks, this is incredibly likely to hit since it has no restrictions outside of “Unit” meaning it can go in any deck. The real kicker is that, in a deck with 2 Monstrous Haunter Courtier it is immensely efficient. Alongside Vigour Necris, the Action efficiency and speed Mordants can operate on is a little unreal. This latest set also gave that deck Vicious Abhorrant Archregent, making it ever more likely that you’ll have one of the two in your opener.
Personally, this effect is just far too efficient for the game right now. Even Bloodreaver Chieftain is a 3-Action Quest, and doesn’t flow nearly as well as Boundless Ferocity does in Mordants. I’d love to see this card toned down, either by putting the card in hand or some other effect. As it stands, probably one of the strongest additions to Death in Unleashed.
- Feed on Dark Magic – This is actually a pretty good one. FoDM is basically the most on-demand source of Purge you can hope for. In an All-Wizard or Warrior/Wizard-centric deck, this doesn’t really have much downside at all as Death is uniquely prepared to make use of the Discard pile. Probably a staple in any Wizard decks to come for Death!
- Pestilential Breath – This card is another one that pretty much exists to help push Chalice, and helps give the deck an alternate win condition (straight damage) if nothing else. Purging cards from hand is pretty hefty for any deck not making use of Purge, since Death can actually use the Discard pile pretty efficiently. If you are running a Chalice deck, you are probably running this or maybe an old-school style Death Burn strategy, but probably not otherwise.
- Twilight's Allure – A solid 1-for-1 in terms of cards in hand with an upside. Gaining 3 life isn’t too bad on its own, and being able to Purge something out of someone’s hand is pretty strong if they are low on cards. It really shines when combined with Snapping Ghoul and Turmoil of Souls though to just completely strip an opponents hand. In a control deck, this probably becomes a commonly-seen staple.
- Victory Feast – Last, and sadly least, is Victory Feast. This card just is too conditional for what you want. While Death has plenty of Removal on hand, gaining a bit of life at the cost of an Action on the same turn as the Removal is a little much to ask. Even in stall decks, I think you have better options for life gain both with Spells and other Abilities which will help progress the game as opposed to just gaining a bit of conditional life. I’d take a pass on this one for any competitive decks.
I’m actually kind of conflicted here. I actually really like how well-designed a lot of Death is this set. The tight focus on the new mechanic (Death Acts) and support for a popular but underpowered archetype (Risen Stacking) are really good and what I wish we saw in Order. Chalice and its supporting cards open up entirely new avenues for deckbuilding and introduce the possibility of “true” combo decks which is great. Control elements got pushed so hopefully we’ll see more less-aggressive decks take centerstage for a while or at least show up more commonly in competitive play.
On the other hand, some of these cards are just over-tuned and gives a bad taste in my mouth. Mordants are probably the single worst offender in this regard, as they have just become more and more efficient over time. Quietly one of the best decks last season, they got an infusion of strength they really didn’t need. Between the extremely strong top-end Champions leaving plenty of room for Quick Quest options, efficient Quest-lines thanks to cards like Boundless Ferocity/Vigour Necris and punishing grind games with Death Unabated, they crowd out diversity similar to Chaos aggro.
The thing is though that outside of a few problem cards, I really like the way Death was setup. Tight focus and clear identity is something Order and even some of Slaanesh were missing that I hope improves over time. Sticking with central themes and building on them has been great the last few sets for Death. Powerful, flavourful Champions that feel worth the cost are great to be able to run. Just…they need to be toned down in power-level just a smidge to not crowd out the rest.
What do you think?