Another Premature Rise of the Bloodborn Review


#1

##Another Premature Rise of the Bloodborn Review

##Introduction

In the spirit of a good ol’ kneejerk I thought I’d waste a whole bunch of my time and sleep write out an impromptu set review for Rise of the Bloodborn that will likely be obsolete within a few days. I have strange hobbies don’t judge me scrubs. I just find this entire expansion endlessly fascinating both in terms of the cards released ánd the design philosophy that seems to underpin it. And that’s not even mentioning the distribution model that I’ll also discuss near the end.
This entire review is from the perspective of a Diamond pauper who hasn’t ever reached S-Rank let alone seriously competed in it, so don’t take any of my 'pinions as something to be taken too seriously in terms of high level competition. If you’re cool with that, do read on.
I’ll just be going over the entire set card by card, concluding each card discussion with a little qualitative five-point rating system for that card that’s scaled on how often I think you’re going to see the card being played. It goes from Never Used to Niche, then to Usable then to Staple and finally to Ubiquitous. Never Used cards are never used in serious decks, Niche cards are ónly playable under very specific conditions or decks, Usable cards can be used in multiple decks but aren’t required picks, Staple cards are required picks for at least one deck archetype and Ubiquitous cards can be used to great effect in many if not all decks more or less regardless of archetype. A little legend to help you remember:

  1. Never Used
  2. Niche
  3. Usable
  4. Staple
  5. Ubiquitous

Anyway, let’s get into the reviews!

##Abyssian

Common Spell - Aphotic Drain

This card looks almost worthless to me; the effect is nice (especially when comboed with Gor, Sarlac or the Deathwatch sisters) but it costs you mana and hand advantage without getting you any momentum in return, in a faction that already has a bunch of ways to restore Health to their General. Not much more to say, I don’t expect it to see ány play and I don’t understand why CPG printed it.
Premature Rating: Never Used

Common *Blood Surge* Minion - Furosa

Furosa is nót designed to be a Turn 1 play despite costing only 1 Mana. Instead you play her on a Shadowspawn turn and combo it with some other source of Wraithlings to get your value. This card seems just slightly too unwieldy to be a top tier threat but is likely going to see play in dedicated Wraithling swarm decks that like to get a lot of value. Combined with Blood Baronette and Grandmaster Variax (more on her later) we might see some players trying to get some kind of Furious Wraithling theme deck going.
Premature Rating: Niche

Rare Minion - Horror Burster

Token Minion - Horror

I like Horror Burster because it’s going to force players into difficult situations that require creative solutions. Accelerating into a 6/6 on the third turn has the potential to really swing momentum your way and gives sacrificial decks a new toy to play with. Even outside dedicated decks the card just seems strong, and not limited to any particular deck type.
Premature Rating: Usable

Rare Spell - Punish

Punish is insanely powerful, especially at its mana cost. Cassyva is likely always going to be running these because of the synergy with Abyssal Scar and Lilithe is very likely to do the same because she can suicide her Wraithlings for a similar effect. Everyone’s already said it, this card is going to be defining the meta.
Premature Rating: Ubiquitous

Epic Spell - Necrotic Sphere

Necrotic Sphere looks like a great card on paper, but it’s also an expensive card in a game that likes cheap cards and a faction that already has access to Grasp of Agony for alot of its crowd control. I expect some inventive players will try to make this card shine in Deathwatch decks but mostly I expect to see the old Ritual Banishing, Grasp of Agony and the new Punish around, even for those.
Premature Rating: Niche

Legendary *BBS Morph* Minion - Grandmaster Variax

Awesome Abyssal Scar

Token Minion - Fiend

Awesome Shadowspawn

Where to even begin. This card is just an inspired piece of design, and I love it already. The card seems fair but extremely powerful, and at 8 mana it’s going to be ending games. Controlling Lilithe and frustrating Creep spread is going to paramount for anyone looking to win the long game against Abyssian. I haven’t figured out what a ‘Furious’ Wraithling does yet, but I think it’s safe to assume it’ll be on par with Abyssal Scar’s Fiends. I expect to see a 1-of Variax in literally every. single. Abyssian deck.
Premature Rating with Lilithe: Ubiquitous
Premature Rating with Cassyva: Ubiquitous

##Lyonar

Common Spell - Draining Wave

Here we have an amazing new tool for tempo and self-harm Lyonar decks! Taking 4 damage is a big price to pay (and discourages running it alongside the very popular Arclyte Regalia), but 4 damage for 1(!) mana is an extremely strong payoff as well. In terms of power it seems on the level of Lucent Beam; as long as its played in decks where it belongs. I expect tempo decks might want to run Azure Herald and/or the new Scintilla to try and avoid seppuku as they control the board, but chances are the gains in tempo make this card worth it and Trinity Oath easily mitigates the drawbacks (damage and card advantage) anyway.
Premature Rating: Staple

Common *Blood Surge* Minion - Scintilla

Scintilla is really reall good. Like, Silverguard Knight good. And not just in Healyonar decks. As @mogwai correctly noted in his first set review video: Argeon is really going to like this card to stay alive. The 3/4 body is good for a 3-drop and with Roar you’re likely to make a beneficial trade while keeping Argeon healthy. That said, this card is really going to be rocking Zir’An decks of all kinds. Getting two heal triggers off a single Afterglow is going to enable a metric fuckton of Purity comboes. That, combined with Scintilla’s good stats and beneficial 3-drop status (Healyonar decks don’t have a lot of sensible 3-drop minions) makes it a natural fit. Scintilla is júst shy of Silverguard Knight and Saberspine Tiger in terms of universality though so I don’t think she’ll show up literally everywhere.
Premature Rating: Staple

Rare Spell - Prism Barrier

I’m sorry Prism Barrier, I want to love you, but CPG won’t let me! It’s hard enough getting anything to stick as things are, now you want us to make room in our decks for an effect that’s just begging to get dispelled or hard-removed? Maybe I’m wrong on this one and it’ll see play in some awesome new Celerity deck that finally brings Lysian Brawler and Beast Master into the meta but right now: I don’t see it.
Premature Rating: Niche

Rare *BBS Morph* Minion - Sunbreaker

What a weird card! I love it already. Sunbreaker is anethema to anything we’ve seen for Lyonar until now. A minion that punishes you for having minions in the faction that’s renowned for relying on its minions to be effective? Unheard of! Sunbreaker might turn out to be trash, but I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt for two very specific uses: as a come-back card after a board clear and as a late game finisher for stalled matchups. I can see myself including Sunbreaker as one-of in some of my decks; you never know when it might save your life.
Premature Rating: Niche

Epic Spell - Trinity Oath

This is the card Lyonar players have been dreaming of. One of Lyonar’s big struggles has historically been the risk of emptying out your hand and getting stuck in top-deck hell. Lyonar didn’t have a lot of good options to immediately get back into the game from such a position (Lionheart Blessing, Spelljammer and Solarius all have a delay), but those days are dead and buried now. Trinity Oath is the kind of card tempo decks wanted and zoo decks absolutely need, and that’s kind of a sad thing in a way because Tempo Argeon has already been dominating the higher levels of the meta for a while now. Zir’An decks love the card as well; the heal trigger is just gravy for heal decks. I expect literally every single Lyonar deck to run at least a one-of Trinity Oath in each of their decks. I don’t want to oversell this card because at 4 mana it’s still a big investment that doesn’t supply you with any momentum the way Spelljammer and even Blaze Hound do, but it’s just hard to argue with an immediate draw effect like this one.
Premature Rating: Ubiquitous

Legendary Minion - Excelsious

Healyonar gets its finisher! Finally! Too bad it’s not very good, especially compared to the other Legendaries from this set. Excelsious is such an awesome design but this game is just packed with dispels and spells that make things very difficult for big cards that don’t have an immediate effect. Aegis Barrier seems pretty much a necessity if you want to run the big guy, and even then there are still a bunch of ways to deal with him. That said, I do expect to see Excelsious show up as a 3-of in dedicated control decks that win by stalling and running out the enemy removal until they can get one of them to stick for a big finish (maybe helped along by Magnetize). Probably in the same deck that might consider running Sunbreaker.
Premature Rating: Niche

##Magmar

Common Spell - Entropic Gaze

I don’t agree with the people who are down on this card. An instant 4 damage is a big deal at that price point and the effect is very likely to help you out way more than most opponents. I expect to only see this card run with Starhorn but with him I think you’ll be milling the opponent way more than players are expecting right now. Between Trinity Oath and Divine Spark (coming up) we’ll be seeing a reduction in difficulties with maintaining card advantage (unless you play Vanar perhaps), and Starhorn’s typical minion picks are going to appreciate the extra boost.
Premature Rating: Staple

Common *Blood Surge* Minion - Thraex

Thraex is likely to be relegated to zoo deck support, and that’s a fine role to play. It seems like just kind of a fair card that’s worth it if you can get its effect on at least one other minion, but might otherwise just struggle competing with all the other Magmar stuff. Nothing special, but a nice and versatile little card, especially for Pet decks.
Premature Rating: Usable

Rare Minion - Rancour

Rancour is pretty sick, and likely to displace something in the 2-slot of many Magmar decks. I don’t want to oversell the it because it’s likely going to die as easily as a Windblade Adept would, but the fact that I’m comparing it to Windblade Adept should tell you something. If you can get this to stick for a turn you’ve likely made a great little-big trader/finisher for yourself. I expect to see Rancour in a great many decks.
Premature Rating: Ubiquitous

Rare Spell - Tectonic Spikes

Just like Entropic Gaze, I don’t know why people are giving this card so much guff. It’s a hard punish for Rite of the Undervault, Trinity Oath, Heaven’s Eclipse and Divine Spark, and it’s even excellent for Rancour, Vindicator and Visionar in the cases where you’re drawing your opponent more cards. Milling enemy threats is a great way to cripple their late game capabilities, and keeping your own card advantage strong is key for a faction that has struggled with that in the past.
Premature Rating: Staple

Epic Spell - Valknu's Seal

Token Minion - Spirit of Valknu

I really respect whoever designed this card for making it and getting it published, but this is likely to be a meme card. All these high-octane cards from RotB are going to push dispel and removal cards to the moon. That egg is not surviving a turn intact, and if it does the big dumb 2/25 is just getting hard removed or even ignored because 2 Attack isn’t that big of a threat. Unless Spirit of Valknu functions the same way Grandmaster Z’ir does I don’t see this card getting any serious play. Not every card has to of course, but it’s kind of a shame because this is a really cool card. At least it’ll be fun when it spawns from a Chrysalis Burst.
Premature Rating: Never Used

Legendary *Blood Surge* Minion - Drogon

Are you kidding me CPG? Drogon is a gigantic threat to the degree that we’ll be seeing players back away from Vaath on turns they can’t completely break a fresh Adamantite Claws because they’ll fear a Turn 3/4 14 damage burst from a single strike. If matches go long you can bet on it that Drogon will be delivering that finishing burst. Even its stats are very decent for a 4-drop! Drogon shines with Vaath and I don’t expect it to see a lot of play in all Starhorn decks but I’m sure there’ll be at least someone who comboes it with Twin Fang for some even bigger blowout plays.
Premature Rating: Staple

##Songhai

Common Spell - Ethereal Blades

I… don’t know? This card doesn’t look all that impressive to me; it’s like a Saberspine Seal that got split in half. The split makes it more conditional (you need an Active minion) but it is slightly more powerful. Saberspine Seal doesn’t see play currently so I don’t expect to see this card around either (as long as Killing Edge is around anyway). I’d be really curious to hear what the devs’ reasoning is for making this one. I don’t see any real potential though, for now.
Premature Rating: Never Used

Common *Blood Surge* Minion - Whiplash

Spellhai decks, meet your new bread and butter 3-drop. This, alongside Lantern Fox is going to try and finally make that Eight Gates deck work through some additional pings on a minion with a decent body. Whiplash is likely to be saved until later in the game, or comboed with Cryptographer, but when it can get 2 or more Blood Surges in its player will be very happy. This seems like a card you’d run with Reva or after Geomancer did its thing (see below), but for dedicated decks Whiplash looks fine to me. Not essential, mind you, just a good option; setting those Surges up can turn out to be more trouble than they’re worth, especially when Four Winds Magi exists.
Premature Rating: Niche

Rare *BBS Morph* Minion - Geomancer

Toot toot! All aboard for the Eight Gates express! I’m not sure if this card is good enough to carry the deck, but if anything’s going to make a true ‘spell damage’ deck work it has to be Geomancer. As a slower play itself you’re going to want to craft a control deck (perhaps even using Storm Kage) to start hurling out thunderbolts and fireballs around the 8-mana mark. For those decks, a one-of Geomancer looks like a fun, fair, strong card.
Premature Rating: Staple

Rare Spell - Obscuring Blow

Like Ethereal Blades I’d really like to know what reasoning went into making this card. I can see it working in tandem with Killing Edge for the draw, and maybe with Twilight Fox for an instant benefit but I’m not sure if this card can cut the mustard. Maybe CPG’s testing suggested that Kaleos needed just this kind of push to get Backstabhai where it needed to be? I’m willing to give this one more of a chance than I did Ethereal Blades though; a deck running Heaven’s Eclipse to compensate for the card disadvantage might work out fine.
Premature Rating: Niche

Epic Spell - Cobra Strike

It’s like Phoenix Fire and Twin Strike made sweet, sweet love and gave birth to this little gem. You get the target control of Phoenix Fire but lose Twin Strike’s cantrip to get a nice two-in one card that benefits nicely from Eight Gates and Crescent Spear. Looks like a fair card that’s going to see a lot of play in Spellhai decks; pulling double duty as a control ánd a face card is likely to make this a popular pick.
Premature Rating: Staple

Legendary *Blood Surge* Minion - Twilight Fox

I have no idea how to evaluate this minion, let me be up front about that. It looks like garbage to me because of the randomness of the effect, but maybe I’m just not seeing the potential because this card’s effectiveness is just so hard to conceptualize. Assassinating single targets coúld potentially be good and its cost and stats are okay-ish, so I’ll give this a big fat “Maybe???” Regardless, if it’s good anywhere it’s going to be in a dedicated Backstabhai deck.
Premature Rating: Niche/Staple?

##Vanar

Common Spell - Frigid Corona

Why would any Vanar player run this 2-mana card over Flash Freeze; a card that is free, deals damage and already sees very little play? Well, redundancy and that sweet cantrip of course. Vanar is now the only one of the six Factions without a dedicated draw card, and after Cryogenesis got nerfed to 4 mana it can be difficult to maintain hand size (especially after playing all the new goodies). A cantrip can be a godsend and it might, potentially, maybe be good enough to see play over Flash Freeze–that is to say, I don’t expect it to see play either. What deck would benefit especially from a Stun effect however? Not one I’ve seen played as of yet. RotB seems like it wants to push for a Solo General archetype for Vanar though, maybe things will become clear over time.
Premature Rating: Never Used

Common *Blood Surge* Minion - Myriad

Booo. Uninspiring stats, double-random effect, unreliable value proposition. It’s a Vespyr so that counts for something, but very likely not near-enough.
Premature Rating: Never Used

Rare Spell - Concealing Shroud

What a game changer this is: Concealing Shroud is absolutely meta-defining. General immunity from damage for two turns (your own and the opponent’s) is a ridiculous and Faction-warping effect. We’ll be seeing this card all over the place, frustrating everyone. The only thing keeping this card from being game-breaking is that it costs you card advantage, but even that might not be enough to keep it away from a banhammer somewhere down the line. Both as an offensive and as a defensive card, this thing is amazing. Its effect seems to be dispel-able, so don’t get careless assuming you’re 100% immortal though.
Premature Rating: Ubiquitous

Rare Minion - Sleet Dasher

Sleet Dasher has some nice stats and a nice, unique, effect. It’s good for ‘dashing’ through enemy hordes and is likely to frustrate some swarm players. On the whole though, I don’t see a place for it in existing Vanar decks; especially because the way more reliable Frostburn exists.
Premature Rating: Never Used

Epic Spell - Enfeeble

CPG’s really been releasing a lot of insanely strong spells in RotB, and Enfeeble is definitely one of them. It’s better than any other mass ‘transform’ card we’ve seen (Metamorphosis and Panddomonium) but in kind of a weird way. It really punishes big minions, but it doesn’t touch minions that rely on their effects to be threats. Enfeeble is likely to become a core Vanar card but it’s not an unbeatable one.
Premature Rating: Ubiquitous

Legendary Minion - Grandmaster Embla

And finally for Vanar, Grandmaster Embla does Wall decks proud. Kara is going to be happy playing this with her BBS at 9 Mana and Embla’s effect is very likely to be worth the effort. There isn’t a lot that can deal with up to eight random (buffed) walls and a 5/5 (6/6) so it’s often going to turn into a GG. Embla players should still dread dispel effects so remember that overconfidence is a slow and insidious killer. But honestly, at least a one-of Embla seems sensible almost anywhere.
Premature Rating: Ubiquitous

##Vetuvian

Common Spell - Divine Spark

A refuel card for Vetruvian, yay! While it doesn’t solve all of the Faction’s problems (a lack of speed), it does ameliorate the recurring issue of maintaining card advantage. Vetruvian decks need to maintain a decent hand size so they have access to all their very-specific answers, and Divine Spark helps that happen. It’s a 3 mana card though, so hopefully players are frugal enough to nót need this card until they have about 7 mana available to them. While I don’t see this card showing up everywhere, it’s probably really good and universally benefiical.
Premature Rating: Usable

Common *Blood Surge* Minion - Zephyr

Here we have Falcius’ little brother! Falcius is the better card, but Zephyr does fill a niche that quite a few Sajj decks will appreciate getting filled. Wildfire Ankh is great, but it only hits things in a straight line and many players get wise to that fact rather quickly. In swoops Zephyr to let her do some weed-whacking! Zephyr fulfills a purpose at a good price for a very specific deck, and that’s fine.
Premature Rating: Niche

Rare Minion - Incinera

More Sajj love in the form of a nice, bulky minion that can do work both as a beat stick and as an effect bearer. That effect is rather good for Sajj for both aggressive and defensive purposes. Keep Sajj alive by moving her back, do the same to set up for a nice Ankh blast, or move her forward for a nice Falcius of Zephyr attack (or something else of course). I expect this to see some decent play for Artifact decks in general actually, we’ll see if it can eke out a spot in players’ hearts alongside Scarab and Nimbus.
Premature Rating: Staple

Rare Spell - Stone to Spears

Stone to Spears gets points for being a very original design, but is unlikely to see any serious play in my estimation. I love Obelysk decks, but it’s difficult enough to get an Obelysk to stick around let alone maintain the card advantage needed to operate it! I don’t think a modest and temporary effect like this has almost no chance of competing with Whisper of the Sands and Rasha’s Curse, even now that Divine Spark exists.
Premature Rating: Never Used

Epic Spell - Autarch's Gifts

This is an interesting one. I feel bad for Oserix, but this card might actually get some play! Vetruvian has access to 4 good Artifacts and you’re getting two of them using only one card, saving you deck space to boot! Worst case scenario: you get two Wildfire Ankh. Most of the time though you’re getting a huge boost from two Artifacts for one card. You pay a price in the form of consistency, but I expect this to be easily worth the payoff. Another amazing Artifact deck card.
Premature Rating: Staple

Legendary Minion - Grandmaster Nosh-Rak

Nosh-Rak is the third of the new Grandmasters that can pretty much be splashed into any Vetruvian deck. Its effect is game-ending if you have a board/Artifacts established, and it’s still a strong minion in its own right when you don’t. It’s vulnerable to dispel and removal which keeps it out of broken territory, but unless you’re trying to recover from an empty board Nosh-Rak is going to be winning games. I expect to see this turn up in quite a few decks as a one-of finisher card.
Premature Rating: Ubiquitous

##Neutral

Common Minion - Cryptographer

It’s an obvious design with a very clear purpose, and it fulfills that purpose. I expect to see Cryptographer in decks that rely on their BBS (of course) but mainly just with Generals that have very strong BBS or that synergize especially strong with them. Double War Bird with Faie seems very strong and so do the potential Spellhai comboes. Getting a pretty weak minion for 2 mana isn’t great, but I expect to see this card around to a reasonable degree. I’m already looking forward to seeing this combined with Drogon for some very tilting OTK plays.
Premature Rating: Usable

Rare Minion - Sanguinar

Sanguinar is a pretty good card, but not one I expect to see around a lot because this game already has so many other good cards. I expect to see it relegated to a dedicated Blood Surge theme deck (likely a Spellhai deck if I had to guess), but not in general. It’s kind of like a 3 mana 5/4 because you get the (basic) BBS for free on the turn you play it but I don’t know if that’s enough to push it.
Premature Rating: Usable

Legendary Minion - Meltdown

Meltdown has some real potential and I’m curious to see if it has what it takes. It seems like the kind of card that requires a slow deck with a lot of crowd control options, and I’m not sure if it has what it takes to see real play. I find it hard to pin this one down, but I’m going to call it as a niche card for specific decks for now.
Premature Rating: Niche


#2

##Distribution System & Value Proposition

Before we get to the conclusion I’d like to dedicate a few words to the distribution method for this expansion. In short: I think it’s genius, and something that CPG should consider doing again in the future for mini-sets like this one. It encourages players to spend money because of its price point and the guarantee of getting every single card in the set while allowing dedicated F2P’ers to save their Gold to get the cards the ‘normal’ way. At $20 this expansion is pretty damn affordable (in F2P-game terms anyway) and you don’t have to worry about drop rates after dropping the cash. It’s just a feel-good system all around that I really want to commend CPG for trying out. I like the traditional Orbs just fine, and I accept them as the standard for this industry. But you get a lot of good will from someone like me every time you splurge on a consumer-friendly system like this one.
Rise of the Bloodborn seems to offer a good value proposition to me and I don’t expect dedicated Duelyst players will regret spending some money supporting the game further. The new cards are impactful, many are splashable and you know exactly what you’re getting. Saving the needed 3900 Gold to get the whole set is also likely to make players happy they spent the effort getting all the cards, in my estimation.

##Conclusion

If there’s any fault to be found in RotB it’s that several of the cards seem quite a bit too pushed, to a degree that they might be pushing out established cards (power creep) and turning Duelyst even more into an ‘answer or die’ kind of game; punishing any deck that doesn’t alway pack an immediate way to counter every inexorably snow-balling threat their opponent sends their way. This is likely a conscious design decision, but one that has already ruffled feathers among gamers–like myself–who enjoy fast action, but who also enjoy building things up over a turn or two every once in a while. Giving almost every Faction easily accessible refuel options discourages defensive play styles that wear the opponent down over time, printing new (and keeping old) unconditional removal cards punishes cards that build their effectiveness over time and necessitates the printing of ever móre and móre cards with immediate effects to garner player interest, pushing slower cards and play styles into the realms of fiction.
That said, I’m overall very happy with the expansion. I believe the cards that seem game-breaking will turn out to be more manageable than they first seem, and I don’t mind games ending due to the impact of big cards like the new Grandmasters. It might seem harsh to have these insanely powerful big threats but I don’t think Duelyst matches should be going on significantly longer than the first 9-mana Turn anyway. I’m happier losing to a Fiend swarm than to a P1T4 Mirror Meld blowout is what I’m saying. But maybe that’s just me.

That’s me done with these huge slabs of text; I hope you enjoyed it at least a little bit.

Cheers, and happy gaming!


#3

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