September 28, 2015

[Review] IOUF - Eagle Wardens

Immovable Object, Unstoppable Force brought some major changes to the meta. I've been playing new factions for a couple months now, and today I'll tell you everything that I've learned about the Eagle Wardens.

The main theme of the new faction seems to be Shamans and Spirits, yet the outfit doesn't have anything to do with that whatsoever. What it suggests is that you go and camp in the town square, just like The Sloane Gang and Oddities of Nature. Unlike those two, it actually gives you tools to defend the town square. Well, it gives you tools to do all kind of stuff really - more actions to outshoot your opponent, more deeds to outslide them, and easier access to specific cards you need in that particular situation (read: Kidnappin' against Clowns).

When the faction pack was just spoiled and we started building our first Shaman decks, I remember someone saying something along these lines: "Naturally you cannot expect to use the outfit ability in the early game, but once you build up and force your opponent to spread his dudes, it'll become quite useful." Well, that's pretty much what I thought too. Shamans are spellcasters, and so they need to learn some spells before they're ready to put up a fight, right? Well, not quite so.

"Card advantage is a thing", said gozik, and he was damn right. You take a couple studs, go to the town square first thing in the morning, use the outfit ability, and suddenly your hand is full of all kinds of nasty surprises. Sure, Des.Row, come get some! I have a lot to spare. I might not even need Spirits.

But two studs cost a lost of money, both up-front and in terms of upkeep, right? Not quite. Jacqueline Isham and John "Aces" Redcliffe don't ask for much, and although their studliness is conditional, in this deck they are exactly what you need. Once you have activated the outfit ability, you have more cards in hand than the opponent for sure, and then you don't really need to attack them - you're perfectly fine just sitting there drawing cards and playing deeds.

Another interesting aspect of the outfit ability is the option to ace a card from your hand. This doesn't seem like much of an advantage at first glance, but in truth it might be pretty big. The card pool is close to the point when degenerating your deck structure into Straight Flush or Dead Man's Hand stops being a fantasy and gets rather close to reality. With this outfit, Gomorra Parish, and Buried Treasure, you can ace enough off-value cards over the course of several turns so that once you shuffle your discard pile into your deck, the prospect of drawing DMH becomes quite real.

And then there's the Undertaker, which triggers off any dude card being aced, not just dudes in play. You can make tons of money acing Pagliaccios, then bring them back with Soul Cage. I'm not kidding, this actually works! Check the end of this review for some example decks.

This outfit opens up so many lines of play, it's like a faction of its own. The only question is, which 2-influence dude are you going to boot in the town square? Oh, but the new faction comes with a built-it perfect answer for that!

Marcia Ridge

Marcia is sooo good! Once she enters the town square, your opponent has to think twice before playing Baird's Build and LoanGeneral Store, or The Pharmacy. And what Marcia can do with Charlie's Place or Carter's Bounties is outright hilarious! In fact, her effect is so strong that you're not likely to actually use it all that often - experienced opponents will hold their deeds in hand until they can scare her off the town square, or they'll try to minimize her impact in some other way - but it'll still hurt them, even if you don't see it right away! I've had numerous games when I didn't get to use her ability a single time, but after the game was over my opponent would tell me that Marcia actually gave him more pain than my outfit! Truly, these two cards are enough to make a huge impact on the meta on their own, without any Shamans or Spirits. Speaking of which...

This is not your vanilla Travis Moone, this is Travis Moone with flavor! As usual, the flavor comes at +1 gr extra charge, and with a skill keyword to justify it. This particular flavor reminds me of all the times when I cursed Travis for convincing me to mulligan an okay-ish hand into a terrible one. Butch won't let you make the same mistake: if you don't like your new hand, you can keep the old one. The only condition is that you play lots of Spirits and/or Attire in your deck, which shouldn't be a problem for a dedicated Shaman deck. I wonder what new attire we'll see released soon, some fancy headdresses with eagle feathers I presume.

Unlike some other faction-spicific grifters, Butch's skill of 0 is not too bad. In a deck built around 10+ values (and packing Spirit Dance off-value), his skill is enough to reliably cast any spell. The only issue is that his influence of 0 doesn't let him attach Totems to your opponent's deeds on his own. Of course, he can ask an Ancestor Spirit for help, but then again, you probably don't want to attach spells to him if you have any other choice - he'll go down first, hopefully Takin' someone with him. Overall, a solid starter for a dedicated Shaman deck.

Now this guy, he's really good. He basically says: "Hey, I'm not asking that you play lots of spells, just take 4x Spirit Trail and watch how I drive your opponent crazy!" And he will. You can play a Spirit-heavy deck, or just take those Trails for mobility and not bother with any other Shamans, but you'll always get some value out of Mazatl. You can even use the outfit ability to draw extra cards and then run away home! Sure, it's not as effective as booting a 2-influence dude, but it's safe! Well, safer, if you're running away from a fight, then your opponent is likely to take hold of the town sqaure. But you can always just boot Mazatl to move him to some deed, lure an opposing dude there, then run away home. For the price of 3 ghost rock, he's amazing value!

This is another option for a 2-influence body to boot in the town square for the outfit ability. 2 influence with no upkeep is always great, but at cost 5, I'd rather play Marcia instead. Unless, of course, I was building a Spirit-heavy deck and needed as many upkeep-less Shamans as I could get. This makes three of them, and they pretty much cover all your spellcasting needs, should you decide to focus on spells. As for her ability, I didn't find it to be of much use - most Spirits you'd rather actually cast, and booting a dude is something we all try to avoid. Sure, it's nice to have that pseudo-Arnold ability around, but unlike that clown Lydia needs to be in the shootout herself, and have a spell attached... Well, I guess Arnold with a skill would be too much to ask for.

That's as plain vanilla as they come, but hey, have you seen 3 influence with 0 upkeep, like, ever? A starter option if you plan to pair him with Sarah Meoquanee, but I think that he's just outclassed by Marcia. I like to keep him in my deck even off-value though, as you never know when you might need a big chunk of raw influence to keep you from losing the game.

Huh. 1-stud 1-influence for 4-1 is a good enough start, just give him a gun and a useful ability, like that of Nathan Shane or Jack O'Hara... Well, Jackson's ability is not bad, not bad at all... But it's rather wasted in a faction that has easy access to Spirit Trail. Oh and did I mention a gun? You're probably not playing any in a Shaman deck. Maybe a Rapier, but still, I'd rather start Jacqueline or John Radcliffe instead. Jackson's value of 7 also makes him an unlikely filler, at least for now. We'll see, maybe his time is yet to come. Oh, and in case you were wondering, this is not the owner of Jackson's Strike.

Raise your hands everybody, it DJ Black Elk! Hehe, how do you like that, skill 3 and high value for a modest price of 3 gr - can easily compete with the likes of Kyle Wagner and Rev. Perry Inbody. The thing is, you don't really need a skill that high in the current card pool - as I said above, if you build a deck around 10+ values and take 4x Spirit Dance off-value, you'll be just fine with the skill of 0, which three of your dudes already have. If you want to build around 8's then of course Black Elk is your go-to starter Shaman. You'll have a hard time if he gets Kidnapped, but then again, this only means that you didn't lose a dude with influence. And your backup Shamans can still cast most spells reliably. Me, I just didn't find building around 8's all that critical (I know, I know, it sounds weird). His odd value also makes him an unlikely filler, but I did go as far as to start him in a deck that had no spells whatsoever - but packed my favourite card of all time, Hot Lead Flyin' ;)

Now we get to the filler dudes. Most of them are Shamans and/or studs. Bloody Teeth here is both, and Harrowed to boot. Not much of a starter honestly, just a decent body to put on the board later on.

She's the heavy hitter. Looks similar to Clyde Owens, but that guy has a built-in callout enforcement mechanism, while this gal here, um, can make some more use out of Scoop Hound? And she's also a Shaman, so maybe you should play Spirit Trail instead... I'm confused. Anyway, you're not going to start her, so she's just a 3-stud 2-influence bomb that you want to drop at some point in the late game. And just as Butch suggests that we'll see a new piece of Attire soon, so does Hawk seem to herald the coming of new Shaman-related Sidekicks in near future - exciting!

Now this! - this is much more interesting than a regular 6-7 cost filler. You might actually want to start Sarah as a very cheap 3-stud protector for your Shamans, and she's much more likely to hit the board in the mid-game. One good thing about her ability is that she can come into the shootout unbooted, which is pretty good for Point Blank (Make 'Em Sweat and Pistol Whip too, if you're into low values). One bad thing about her ability is that it's only usable once per turn, and in a competitive game of Doomtown, you're likely to get involved into several minor shootouts rather than a grand wall-on-wall gunfight... Oh wait, that's in general, but if we're talking about the "camp in the town square & abuse the outfit" game plan, then one big shootout is exactly what you want! :) In my opinion, she's outclassed as a starter by the Marcia + Jacqueline + John Radcliffe trio, but as more diverse strategies develop, she'll probably find home in more starting posses. In any case, she's a very good filler if you're playing Spirits, or starting a dude with 3+ influence (I'm looking at you Lillian Morgan). Oh, and her ability references Spirit spells, not tokens.

A solid dude. A high value stud with influence and no upkeep - what else is there to ask for? Well, maybe more bullets for the above-average cost of 6 ghost rock - but you do get more bullets with his ability! And discarding a card is not so much a cost but rather an extra benefit when we're talking about the faction that draws two extra cards every turn - discarding more cards would help you to cycle through your deck faster if you're looking for some particular card, and there's always something to discard in a hand of 7 cards. Smiling Frog is a very good filler, but you might actually want to start him if you find John Radcliffe's lack of influence disturbing.

Laughing Crow

This lady is kinda weird - and it's not just because of her strange jokes. 3 influence and Shaman 4 is very good for the price of 5 gr, but her upkeep of 3 gr hurts a lot. You don't really need Shaman 4 with the present card pool, as there are no Spirits similar to Soul Blast or Paralysis Mark that could abuse very high pulls. You could play Spirit Guidance and Spirit Dance on-value and cast them reliably, I guess, if that's what you really want to do... Still, if you need lots of influence you'd be better off with Richard Faulkner, and DJ Black Elk can cover all your spellcasting needs. Sure, that's two dudes and they cost almost twice as much together - but hey, they have no upkeep!

Now, her ability. It's kinda strong. Card advantage, plus you get to attach revealed spells General Store-style - even to booted Shamans and in locations you don't control. Pretty cool, even though it doesn't work with Totems this way.

The combination of 3 influence, Shaman 4, and this strong ability might be well worth 3 upkeep. Looks like a very potent filler that will make a lot of impact once she hits the board in the late game. I don't quite see her as a starter though, at least not at present - it might seem like you could really abuse her ability from the start, but almost all Spirit spells cost money, and you probably won't have much ghost rock, considering her upkeep. Maybe in the future, when we get more free spells that would make Shaman 4 actually useful.

Chief Stephen Seven-Eagles

Ooooh, here comes the Chief! Impressive, isn't he? Only Max Baine and Lillian Morgan have that much influence, and only Sloane and The Fixer have so many bullets. Although, what to do with 4 bronze bullets? Everything that turns a draw dude into a stud is either a Gadget, a Miracle, or has low value and fails spell pulls. The only exception is No Turning Back, which actually works wonders in token-filled decks. And the great Chief is a Shaman himself, so he can summon a spirit, then sacrifice it to turn himself into a 6-stud - niiice! Hopefully we'll get some more ways to paint his bullets silver.

But of course, his 4 bullets are not his defining feature. It's the ability to gain extra control points. When I first saw the two new Kings, I though that T'ou Chi Chow was a universally strong late game dude, while Chief required building a deck around him. And I did build a deck, filling it with all available Totems and Improvement Gadgets, combining Shamanism and Mad Science in hopes to gain 10 control points with one boot of a card. It didn't work, mainly because I couldn't defend my deeds, or the town square. Now I think that his main use might be to hit the board in late game and gain around 3 control points - should be enough to close the game. Still, play him if you're playing Totems, not the other way around.

Here's our first Spirit spell, and it's... kinda odd. Cycling cards is certainly useful, as evidenced by The Fourth Ring outfit and Philip Swinford. If I were to build a deck around 6's, I'd be quite happy to take some goods that cycle cards (and do not boot my dude -- looking at you here, Whiskey Flask). However!..

The difficulty of the first ability is higher than the spell's own value. That means that in order to reliably cast it I either have to start a Shaman with a skill of more than 0, or put this spell in my deck off-value. As I said above, it is currently quite easy to start three Shaman 0 dudes and build a deck around 10+ values (with 4x Spirit Dance off-value), so that they won't fail (m)any pulls. Do I want to build a deck around 6's and start Black Elk just for the sake of Spirit Guidance? Mmmm not really. And Black Elk would still fail Spirit Dance upon pulling a 6.

Maybe the answer is to start Laughing Crow, build the deck around 6's and 8's, and cast both Spirit Dance and Spirit Guidance's second ability reliably? Well, it doesn't seem like it's worth it for me, but for the sake of the experiment I'll try that.

So then, what about playing Spirit Guidance off-value in a 10+ value deck (or a 8+ values deck starting Black Elk) - would that be optimal? I dunno guys, I'd take Soul Blast or Puppet or Spirit Dance off-value and risk failing pulls, but cycling cards... it doesn't seem worth it, especially considering that the outfit ability already gives you extra deck-digging power. I just don't know what I'd want to dig half my deck looking for.

Now this - this is a spell I'd be willing to put into my deck off-value, or build around 8's and start Black Elk. You get a free stud that can shoot someone at Point Blank, plus a body to soak casualties or be sacrificed to No Turning Back and trigger the Undertaker. It's like a Bounty Hunter, minus the forced callout part - every turn! Pretty much the only thing that can ruin your day is Unprepared, but hey - them's the breaks, as they say. Engaging into shootouts becomes much safer with this spell around, and enables all kinds of nasty lose2win tactics. It doesn't come cheap, but it's well worth the cost - this spell is the heart of Shaman decks.

Spirit Trail

I like how Design can think of so many different ways to introduce a movement-based effect for every skill in the game - they all feel different, they're all good at what they do, and I just can't say which one is the best (obviously I'm not talking about Teleportation Device here =_=). This spell is bound to one location, and you need a Shaman there to cast it, but you can send any of your dudes from there to anywhere - including booted dudes. What's more, if you attach one Spirit Trail to your home and another one to any deed (including your opponent's, even out-of-town), these two locations become adjacent, and any of your dudes - not just Shamans! - can move from home to that deed without booting! This can become a headache for your opponent, who'll have to spread his dudes around town, and be at a disadvantage at the meneuvering game, whether it involves shootouts of not. Basically, even if you don't want to focus your deck on Shamans and Spirits and restrict in only to high values, you can just start Mazatl and pack a set of Spirit Trails, and it'll be a very useful asset. Of course, all of this applies only if your strategy involves going into the late game - if you plan to finish the match within the first two turns, you shouldn't bother with this card and take something more shooty.

This spell is kinda tricky, you need a strong board position and the ability to outmaneuver your opponent to make good use of the tokens, and preferrably something like No Turning Back to abuse them during shootouts. If you just plan to go to the town square and shoot things, you'd do better with something else, like a Rapier. If, on the other hand, you count on moving your dudes around town with Spirit Trails and planting The Pack Awakens here and there, engage in minor shootouts and let your tokens eat lead while your Shaman escapes unharmed, then this might be just what you need.

While it's clear that a 0-stud token contributes 1 silver bullet during shootouts and can soak a couple casualties, it's much more intersting what you can do with his 1 influence. Obviously, you cannot use it to deny income from your opponent's deeds. You can, however, use it to control deeds during Sundown to win the game, and that extra influence also keeps you from losing. There are some more devious ways to abuse the token: boot it in the town square to activate the outfit ability, start a job, play This Is A Holdup, or even give control points to Nicodemus Whateley!

This card is good in a deck that tries to outmaneuver the opponent, not just outshoot him in a wall-to-wall fight. And really, you should try playing this kind of deck in order to experience and enjoy the most out of the new factions - and heck, the game itself!

The Pack Awakens

It ain't easy to figure out how to use this spell properly. Many games of Doomtown are decided by a major shootout in the town square, and this applies to Eagle Wardens quite well, since one of their preferred playstyles is to camp there and abuse the outfit ability. But you cannot attach Totems to the town sqaure, not even with General Store or Laughing Crow. Well, there are ways...

Harry Highbinder allows you to control the town square, and attach any Totems you like to it. This is a bit tricky, as he's a Sloaner, so you either need to bring him on the board later in the game (and pay 5 upkeep!), or start him in a Sloane deck and play some Shamans later on (there are currently no drifter Shamans available, hopefully we'll get some soon).

You can also attach several Totems to your home and keep a Shaman there equipped with Buffalo Rifle. He can join a shootout that takes place in the town square while physically remaining at home, and thus able to cast Totems. Just don't rely on that setup too much, a single Pistol Whip or Unprepared can ruin your day.

Now, if we forfeit the idea to cheat tokens into a shootout in town sqaure, what else can we do with The Pack Awakens?

First, if you attach it to your home, it'll help you fight off Bounty Hunters and Kidnappin' attempts.

Second, if you play the chess game with your opponent, moving around town but still willing to engage into minor one-on-one shootouts, then this card makes Mazatl quite able to fend off any of the contested deed's defenders.

Third, it does a good job of helping you protect a certain important deed - a Bunkhouse in a Nicodemus deck, or a ranch with several Auto Cattle-Feeders and Fate Dispensers in a Chief Seven-Eagles deck (see below for examples).

Overall, I like how well-designed this card is: it's not very useful for some of the more popular strategies, but it really helps with the 'aggressive chess' playstyle.

Idol of Tlazolteotl

First, let's get a rules question out of the way: "attach legally" means attach it the same way as if you were playing it from your hand. For Totems this means that you need to control the deed and have an unbooted Shaman there, while Improvements usually have some restriction written on them (attach only to a Ranch, or to an in-town deed, or an unbooted deed). You need to meet all these requirements in order to re-attach a card.

Note that while a card can be originally attached to any location, you can only re-attach it to a deed you control. This means that you cannot re-attach a Spirit Trail to your opponent's deed where none of your dudes are present, and then use Mazatl's ability to move him there.

Incidentally, Chief Seven-Eagles gets a discount for every card attached to any location, but only gets control points for cards attached to deeds you control. So the Idol lets you plant your Totems as would be most convenient at the moment, withot having to worry about whether they'll contribute to Chief's control points.

+2 influence during upkeep will help you control deeds to (re)attach Totems to them, and also to use these deeds' abilities (although Marcia is so much better in this regard), but it won't give you control points or deny upkeep to your opponent.

Overall I'd say it's nice that this card exists, it does untie your hands when you're planting Totems around town. But its effect is rather minor, and the competition at J♥ is pretty strong (Many Speak as One and Rapier), so I don't think I'd put more than one copy of it in my deck.

Alright, we're done with the card, now to see some examples of what you can do with them!

Example Decks

  • Shaman Slide (original idea of running around town and planting Totems)

  • Wardens of the Balance (gozik's idea to start aggressively camping in the town square)

  • Shamans DMH (dropping spells and going the Sloane way)

  • The Undertaken II (gozik's idea to abuse Soul Cage + Undertaker)

  • Eagle Wardens DMH + Recursion (combination of the previous two with Swider's idea to degenerate the deck structure into pure DMH)

  • Totemus Whateley (gozik's further development of the Nic + Bunkhouse theme)

  • Chief of Improvements (trying to abuse Chief Seven-Eagles with Improvement Gadgets)


    gozik said...

    Great review, I appriciate such kind of cards analisys that made after continious testiting but initial thoughts on spoilers. Thanks for it.

    As per wardens I only want to say that they are really well desighned, they favor location control stile, and it is really one of the most intresting aspects of doomtown.

    Wardens are intresting to play (and to play against), meanwhile they are well balanced vs rest of archetypes. And that's great thing!

    mohamed ali said...

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