Zaltessa vs Helena
Ambush Party Rating
Always Acceptable –
If you are going tokens, particularly human tokens, this card can be quite strong. Not only does it threaten 9 damage by itself and draw a card (the addition of a card draw is a huge deal), but it can also combo with other champions you have in play. Like Secret Legion, it gives all humans blitz meaning you can play Courageous Soul first, then play this to give it blitz and attack for 21. (Scarred Cultist appreciates this card too). This card is everything the human token deck wants (except unbreakable tokens).
Off-turn though, this is generally a worse Urgent Messengers. It sacrifices 1 card for 1 token and a frequently irrelevant +2 offense buff. However, it can allow you to trigger the expend abilities of Murderous Necromancer and Gladius the Defender early.
Outside of a human token deck, 9 blitzing damage with a card draw is a reasonable gold punisher, although it is weak to Flash Fire/Wither, and 3 chump blockers off turn with a card draw isn’t terrible either. While a significant portion of the time I’d rather have the extra card from a draw 2, if your opponent can’t answer the tokens, you can get multiple blocks or multiple attacks through.
Cast Out Rating
Always First Pickable
Yes, that is me in the art. No, that is not John Tatian. And yes, this card is actually incredibly powerful.
The ability to banish a champion, namely Muse as depicted in the art, (or Thought Plucker/Mist Guide Herald/Necromancer Lord [preventing Final Task], Bodyguard [preventing it from being recalled], Dark Knight [getting around unbreakable], Warrior Golem [preventing the recycle], Spore Beast, Courageous Soul, Fire Shaman, Guilt Demon, etc.) without any other help is insane. Getting 2 humans while doing that also makes this a threat/gives you chump blockers.
Where this gets even crazier though is when you have other human champions in play, not just human tokens (Citadel Scholar, Scarred Cultist, Master Zo, etc.). With just one extra human in play, this can banish champions like Juggernaut, Pyrosaur, Shadow Imp, Cave Troll, Winged Death, and Winter Fairy. Play Insurgency first and then you can banish a 6 defense champion. (I believe Hampus Eriksson banished my Gold Dragon with this card in constructed.)
Ignoring all of that, this is also one of only three 0-cost Good cards with an or draw 2 option (Revolt and Angeline’s Favor being the other 2). Like Raxxa’s Curse, this is an incredibly high pick for me, regardless of what else I’ve drafted.
Other 2 Defense Champions
Dark Assassin, Mystic Researcher, Citadel Scholar, Fairy Entrancer, Forcemage Apprentice, Alchemist Assassin, Necromancer Apprentice, The Gudgeon, Corpse Taker, Rybas Canopy Sniper, Faithful Pegasus, Priestess of Angeline, Wolf/Zombie/Human tokens
Other 3 Defense Champions (one other human in play)
Other 4 Defense Champions (2 other humans in play)
Keira Wolf Caller, Little Devil, Zealous Necromancer, Paros Rebel Leader, Knight of Shadows, Spawning Demon, Temporal Enforcer, Blue Dragon, Drinker of Blood, Memory Spirit, Priest of Kalnor, Time Bender, Demon token, and even Dark Leader!
Helena’s Chosen Rating
I am a fan of Tribute -> Draw a card. In addition, putting that on a champion that needs to be removed otherwise it will generate two 3/1 tokens every turn is quite a real threat. However, the loyalty ability is tied to Good which remains the worst overall Dark Draft faction, since it relies so much on specific synergies which are hard to come by in limited. In addition, the 5 defense means 0-cost cards can remove it, like Lightning Strike (but not Spike Trap since this usually won’t attack).
Generally, if I’m already in Good, I’ll take this, otherwise I’ll pick it over 1-cost cards that don’t have ambush, draw a card, blitz, or untargetable.
Alchemist Assassin Rating
Frequently Desirable –
0-cost blitz champions are strong. Play this while your gold is up and attack. If they spend their gold, you spend yours. Otherwise you probably get 3 unblockable damage through and pass. The 1 defense makes it so everything breaks it, which makes it worse than some other 0-cost blitzers, but unblockable is a big bonus.
This can also be strong with unbreakable effects such as Brave Squire, Force Lance, or Mighty Blow. If your opponent’s gold is down, and you have an unbreakable effect, or possibly just a defense buff like Go Wild, the gold ability can be relevant. Otherwise, I wouldn’t use it unless you’ve seen every card in your opponent’s deck, and you know they won’t have a way to remove this after you pump it; Spending a gold to pump this just for it to get removed by Lash, Wolf’s Bite, or Cast Out would be a huge loss and could easily cost you the game.
Gareth’s Will Rating
Always Acceptable +
As I explained in my first Pantheon review, I don’t value the Will effect highly in Dark Draft. I also delved into this card’s potential, with a comparison of it to Vanishing, in my visual spoiler for it.
Overall, the only-on-your-turn (fast-combat) bounce effect isn’t quite worth a gold, particularly when compared to Erase, Temporal Shift, or even Helion’s Fury (not to mention Sea Titan and Velden). However, Sage does have great on-turn gold punishers that this can bait your opponent into playing into, such as Velden, Steel Golem, War Machine, etc.
In general, I’d rather draft something that is always strong even if I don’t have another worthwhile Sage 1-cost effect in hand, but if I’m in Sage or there aren’t any better draw 2s in the pack, I’ll draft this.
Mystic Researcher Rating
This just seems like a worse, Sage-Loyalty dependent Winter Fairy. If in Sage, it draws 2 cards immediately, then threatens to draw an extra card each turn. Hmmmm, getting a guaranteed 2 cards does make this better against removal effects, particularly bounce and banish, but it doesn’t threaten 4 airborne damage each turn.
In general, this card is pretty awful to play when behind because it doesn’t do anything to impact the board by itself; however, with a lot of 0-cost cards in your deck, since this is Dark Draft, it could draw you into some reasonable plays…It is quite strong to play when your opponent’s gold is down when you are either at parity or ahead though.
I need to experiment more with this card, but only when I’m in Sage. (A slow 3/2 champion that draws 1 card and doesn’t threaten to do anything else until your next turn is terrible.)
Bruger, the Pathfinder Rating
Always Acceptable –
Ambush, unblockable, 6 defense, reasonable off-turn gold-punisher. If you can play this when your opponent’s gold is down on their turn, they need to spend a gold, Smash and Burn, or multiple cards to remove it (since it survives Spike Trap, Lightning Strike, etc.). In addition, the turn you play it, it is an 8/9 body, so it can block some non-airborne champions favorably. Aside from that, I don’t see the tribute/when this damages an opponent effect being too relevant, unless you have the highly valuable card Hunting Pack and/or Den Mother.
I’d generally rather have my 1-cost cards affect the board and/or draw me cards, but off-turn gold-punishers are important too.
Herald of Lashnok Rating
Best Herald (so far), but I’m still not a huge fan of them in Dark Draft. If you have a high density of Wild cards (I’d personally want around 19 others for this card), this can be an establishing/gold-punishing on-turn blitzer, similar to Juggernaut. Without a buff, this runs the risk of hitting an ambushed Lurking Giant (or even Bruger) if used as an establishing blitzer though. Otherwise, it forces your opponent to have an immediate answer or take up to 8 breakthrough damage (since you wouldn’t play and attack with this if your opponent already had a way to effectively block it in play). Also, unlike Juggernaut, it isn’t easily breakable off-turn with its 6 defense.
Still though, I don’t see myself being happy about drafting a herald in Dark Draft often. (Great in Pluck You’s constructed deck at Worlds though.)
Hunting Pterosaur Rating
Always First Pickable
Dirge of Scara Rating
Always Acceptable +
In Dark Draft you generally need to spend a gold to draw 2 multiple times. With this, you eventually get a demon too. I’ll take a free demon with an effect I wanted anyway. It can also be recalled to get another draw 2 to hand, in addition to the demon.
Necromancer Apprentice Rating
0-cost cards are important, and this card has been surprisingly effective for me. Getting a free chump blocker every turn, while whittling away my opponent’s discard pile, has given me the time to get back into games I might have lost otherwise.
Steed of Zaltessa Rating
6/7 airborne blitz is a strong on-turn gold-punisher stat line. At 7 defense it generally requires a gold to remove, and 6 airborne offense is a real threat. If in Evil, an extra 5 damage can be pretty devastating too, especially since 11 damage can be quite unexpected from an Evil deck. The ability to turn off health gain doesn’t seem that great, but if you do end up playing this while the opponent’s gold is up, at least they can’t gain health in response, requiring them to block/remove this or take 6 more damage. Also, if they bounce it, you can replay it for 5 more damage later. It’s even a demon for Raxxa’s Displeasure.
This is the pack to get if you want to play human tokens. Cast Out is insane and the best card in the pack. For Dark Draft, Hunting Pterosaur is a close second. The weakest card is Bruger, the Pathfinder.
Aside from human token constructed decks, Dirge of Scara will be a staple in Evil non-aggro decks as it is one of Evil’s few draw 2+ cards. I’m even experimenting with a sub 30 draw-effects constructed deck due to this and Forbidden Research. Herald of Lashnok is another solid threat/establishing champion for the Wild arsenal. Gareth’s Will is an incredibly intriguing card because it allows interesting Master Forcemage shenanigans, but I haven’t found a Sage deck for it yet that can compete with either the Wild or Evil Worlds decks.
Only 1 final pack to review. I plan to get it up before I head out on Friday.