Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Top 15 Realms In Spellfire


Here we go with my list of the Top 15 Realms in the game! (Note: realms were evaluated for their usefulness and effectiveness in the TAV format, not standard Spellfire - but these are excellent choices in standard as well).


#15 - (Tie) Den of Thieves (Night stalkers chase, 24/25), White Plume Mountain (Runes & Ruins, 4/100), and Sembia (3rd Edition, 6/400).
"Let me relieve you of all your valuables."
What?! I hear you scream. Den of Thieves only tied at #15? Have you gone mad, Marc?! Well, it's great in standard Spellfire, when many champions will be attacking the realm, discarding many of their owner's cards in the process. In TAV, however, there is only one attack per turn. That means only one card will be discarded, unless allies are used (and anyone planning on using allies probably won't be attacking this realm). Which means Den of Thieves is only as good as...


"How about we attack a realm with an active volcano? Sounds like a blast!" (Get it? Sigh.)
...White Plume Mountain, which also causes the attacker to discard one card per round of battle, just like...

Visiting Sembia can be...expensive.
...Sembia, which gives your opponent a tad more leeway - he can choose to discard a card from his pool instead of his hand.

All excellent realms, but nowhere near as good in the Antigonish Variant as they are in standard.

#14 - Haven of the Undead (4th Edition, 71/500).
"Let me use this lantern to show you exactly how doomed you are."
This land is only good in an Undead deck - but in that role it is supremely good. Every undead champion and ally becomes immune to just about everything that can kill the undead easily. Not much explanation needed here. Anyone who has an undead-themed Spellfire deck (TAV or standard) needs to have this realm in there.



 #13 - Furyondy (4th Edition, 16/500).
My favorite way to kill Bigby.
Besides my namesake Gib Cram (Chaos, 5/72), not many champions are immune to realm powers (and no wizard in the game is). That makes Furyondy an excellent way to get rid of powerful wizards that may be vexing you on the Spellfire table. The fact that Furyondy can only target one champion type drops it down my list, but it's still good enough to take the #13 spot.

 #12 - Haunted Hall of Eveningstar (3rd Edition, 28/400).
"Here, have a card."
Spellfire is a game of card advantage. The Haunted Hall gives you an extra card when it's played, and another card every time you flip it over after it was razed. The realm has no other powers, and cannot defend itself as a realm champion, but it doesn't matter. The card-granting ability is so good by itself that the Haunted Hall of Eveningstar takes the #12 spot.


 #11 - Cormyr (3rd Edition, 5/400).
Gives new meaning to the phrase "living off the land"!
The ability to cast wizard spells, without actually having a wizard in your pool, is unbelievably primo. You get Magic: The Gathering-style spell casting abilities, without the bother of having to have a wizard or wizard-spell casting champion under your control. Plus, if you're casting an iffy spell like Wish, there is no chance of the spell backfiring, as Wish cannot affect realms. Cormyr should be in any deck containing wizard spells.


 #10 - Tyr (3rd Edition, 224/400). 
"Here, have a card every turn!"
Tyr can defend itself as a level 5 champion, and allows you to draw four cards per turn instead of the usual three. This card advantage makes the owner of Tyr grow in power each turn until Tyr is razed. The realm attracts land-destruction cards like a magnet, but if you can keep it right-side up, you'll be on the path to victory.


#9 - The Ruins of Iolonia (Dungeons, 32/100).
Not exactly a great place for a picnic.
Only the undead can attack Iolonia. It's one of the best front realms in the game. Yes, if you're facing an undead deck you are in big trouble, but any other opponent is going to find it a chore to attack your formation. Only undead allies can be used as well, which rules out TAV staples like Noble Djinni, Thought Eater, and Loup-Garou.


#8 - (Tie) Solamnia (Dragonlance, 6/100) & Sea Of Dust (4th Edition chase, 504/520).
Spoils? You ain't getting no stinking spoils.
The best front realm is one that your opponents can't attack. The second-best front realm is one your opponents don't want to attack. Solamnia is definitely a land your opponents will seek to avoid. Not only do they have to discard their entire hand if they win and raze it, but they also have to draw and discard their spoils. That really sucks. They do get to draw 5 new cards, but still...it's a steep price to pay, and most people will look elsewhere if they can.


You've heard the saying "there are a lot of fish in the sea"? Not here.
The Sea of Dust discourages attackers in another way. If you raze it, its owner gets to raze one of your lands. Or, in multiplayer games, one other realm anywhere in play. It also has a secondary power, to discard a swimming champion if it's hit by a Creeping Doom or a Raze. Interesting, but that primary power is the one to watch out for. How badly do you really want that spoils? :)

#7 - Ruins of Zhentil Keep (3rd Edition, 3/400).
"We need a cleric over here! Any clerics in the house?!"
Zhentil Keep can only be attacked by clerics. That's an amazing power that makes it a great front realm. No one wants to risk their Goldmoon, Delsenora, or Nenioc in battle, especially when the realm can also defend itself as a level 5 champion. This land can give you turns of peace as your enemies are unable or unwilling to attack you.


#6 - (Tie) Mithas (Dragonlance, 1/100) & Dementlieu (Ravenloft, 11/100)
"Okay, we've finally razed Mithas, and...what the heck?!"
Normally, you need to discard 3 cards to unraze a realm. Mithas unrazes itself automatically. That is incredibly primo. Also, you can lay down a new realm and unflip Mithas. You can go from 4 unrazed to 6, and win the game. Mithas belongs in just about every Spellfire deck in existence.


"But I don't want to attack with my Arch-Druid!"
Dementlieu is another candidate for best front realm in Spellfire. After your opponent indicates their desire to attack you, *you* pick which of his champions he pushes forward. Maybe he doesn't want to risk his Helm, Hettman Tsurin, or Gwenyth the Bard. Just the sight of Dementlieu might discourage an attack, but if your opponent goes through with it, at least you get to pick your poison.

#5 - Avanil (Birthright, 5/100).
'Funrazed'?
Five cards for the price of one realm being discarded? Sign me up. I have an Avanil in every one of my decks. The only downside is that Avanil can be easily attacked. It's best used in the rear of your formation, protected by powerful realms at the front and saved to use when you really need to restock your hand.

#4 - The Scarlet Brotherhood (3rd Edition, 135/400).
"Hey, where'd our Living Wall go?"
Flip over The Scarlet Brotherhood, and your biggest headache disappears. Sounds like a good deal to me. Even better, you can discard three cards next turn and rebuild the Brotherhood. Once it's flipped right-side up again, you can use its special power to eliminate a second enemy champion, and so on. One of the best realms in the game.

#3 - Temple Of Elemental Evil (3rd Edition, 124/400).
Sometimes, it's good to be bad.
This card is so amazing, how can it not be #1 on this list? Well, the two remaining realms are even better. Don't get me wrong though - the Temple of Elemental Evil is still fantastic. It has no special powers beyond giving you three cards, but getting to draw three cards just by playing a land is freaking unbelievable. Another realm that belongs in any Spellfire deck.


#2 - Menzoberranzan (3rd Edition, 2/400).
Every Spellfire deck has one of these.
Menzo comes flying down a few times per game at nearly every Spellfire table. Due to the Rule of the Cosmos, only one player can have Menzoberranzan in play (razed or unrazed) at a time. Therefore whoever draws it first, plays it first. It also has a decent special power: flying champions and allies can't attack it. Keep those Cataclysms and Disintegrates handy.


#1 - Ancient Kalidnay (Artifacts, 92/100).
Not exactly a great tourism poster.
Here it is, the best realm card ever printed in Spellfire. Why is it so good? Well, I've already written about Ancient Kalidnay here, but it bears repeating. The ability to take another turn is just about as powerful an ability as I can think of. You get three more cards. You get to try for another spoils. You get to attempt to raze another of your opponets' realms. The only downside to Kalidnay is that you can only use the extra turn ability once per game, even if you unraze it later. Let's face it, though...that's a really small downside. You need one of these in just about every deck you own. Ancient Kalidnay takes the #1 spot, and it's not close.

Next time: Magic items!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A dream for you...a nightmare for your opponent!

Wait...am I dreaming or awake?!
Dark Dreams (Nightstalkers chase, 6/25) is a card I do not own, but it's near the top of my want list! It's an awesome card even in standard Spellfire, but it in the Antigonish variant it's uber primo. 

Why? Well the devil is in the details, as they say. A quick read of the card might not let the incredible-ness of this event totally sink in. You may have to read it over a few times, ruminate on the text, and allow the full ramifications of its abilities to percolate into your forebrain. Or, you can just keep reading, and I'll lay it all out.

In TAV, each round of combat is life or death. Unlike standard Spellfire, you can't just let an attacker win. Well, you can, but you are getting one of your realms razed if you do. Because of this, each round of combat is much more significant than in standard. Unless you have a Dark Dreams in your hand, that is!

Once combat is over and you've lost - perhaps because you got killed by a piece of nasty cheese like Noble Djinni, Intellect Devourer, or Vorpal Blade - slap this baby down on the table. Surprise! You haven't lost at all. In fact, the round of combat that just ended didn't even happen. It was a mirage, a bad dream. Unfortunately for your opponent, his champion discards all attachments (like the Vorpal Blade he just used to kill you) while you get to keep yours.

Now combat re-starts, with your opponent having a drained hand while you strut back into battle with all your attachments. Looks like a big, fat loss for him.

In such a situation, the only way for your opponent to wake up from the nightmare that is Dark Dreams is by using a well-timed Intercession, Limited Wish, or EDT. If not...let the night terrors begin!

Next time: The top 15 realms in Spellfire!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Weasel out of this!

Eaten by weasels - not a good way to go.

Ah yes, Weasel Attack (3rd edition chase, 428/440). That most sublime of events. A true powerhouse, and one of the few cards that is amazingly primo no matter what version of Spellfire is being played, standard or TAV. This thing attracts event-canceling cards like a magnet, and with good reason.

Imagine, attacking an opponent's realm and then slapping this down on the table. First of all, your attacking champion can relax. He goes back to your pool and chills. Next, you choose one of the champions in the defender's pool - he must use that champion to attack his own realm! Not only that, but he must fight himself with his own cards. If he wins, his realm is razed and both players draw spoils. If he loses, his realm is still razed, his champion is discarded, and only the player of Weasel Attack draws a spoils. So either way:

-His realm is going to get razed.
-The player of Weasel Attack is getting a spoils.

Not to mention the huge waste of cards if he decides to fight this. No wonder this card brings out Intercessions, Limited Wishes, Enter Darkness Togethers, etc.

Great photo art, super cool mechanism, and just an all-around-awesome event card. I only own one of these, but if I had six they would all be in decks. It's just that damn good!

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Best Millennium Cards


Let's count down the seven best cards from the Millennium sticker set. As always, cards were judged by their usefulness and power in Spellfire: TAV.

7 - Dispel Evil (43/99)
This card causes any one monster in play to be discarded. No matter its immunities. The ability to get rid of a Gib Lhadsemlo, a Gorgon, a Living Wall, or a Kronos the Titan is absolutely primo. Dispel Evil can be cast before combat or during combat, which makes it even more versatile. Good removal is hard to find, and Dispel Evil snags the #7 spot on this list with ease.

6 - Sacred Flame (37/99)
Slightly better than the ability to remove one monster is the ability to remove any attachment from any champion. Get rid of the Ring of Winter. Remove a Divine Wrath. Strip off a Star Gem of Martek. Trash a Pseudodragon. The possibilities are endless. Solid, solid card which should be in just about every deck that contains clerics.

5 - Stunning Fist (98/99)
At #5 we find this awesome instant-kill unarmed combat card. After Stunning Fist is played, count up the levels of your champion and the opposing champion. If yours is winning by 8 or more, the opponent's champion is discarded immediately and you get a spoils. If not? Well....you've just gained 10 levels, which is nothing to sneeze at.

4 - The Forgotten Idol (34/99)
I may be a bit biased, since I designed this card, but I think it deserves the #4 spot. Actually, it could be ranked even higher. What's so good about the Idol? Well, let's say your opponent has one of those annoying champions entrenched in his pool - non-attacking champions who vex you with their special powers. Hettman Tsurin. Jella. Gwenyth. Cyric. Helm. You want these guys dead, but you don't want to waste Wishes and Death Spells. Here's where the Forgotten Idol comes in. Attach this baby to a champion and attack. Then switch your attacker with any champion from any opponent's pool! No matter what happens, the enemy champion (and the Idol) are discarded at the end of combat. Bye-bye!

3 - Insanely Good Fortune (47/99)
I designed this card as well (along with Hayden), but before you accuse me of stacking this list with my own creations, read it carefully. It negates any helpful event - like Caravan, Good Fortune, and Calm. These are events in almost every deck, and ones you definitely want to stop if possible. The secondary power is only a bonus. If someone is trying to use an Unusually Good Fortune (a popular chase event that definitely sees a lot of play), they are going to have a very bad day. Good enough for #3 on this list.

2 - Whirling Dervish (99/99)
I love this card. When I attack, I want the realm razed with the least amount of fuss. Instant-kill cards thrown down by a low-level defender are fuss. Major fuss. Luckily, this card eliminates any of those shenanigans. You can attach the Dervish during combat to eliminate your opponent's ability to use his cheese, or (even better) you can wait until he tries throwing down the Loup-Garou, Use Poison, Melt Bone, Noble Djinn, Vorpal Blade, or whatever else the sneaky jerk has saved up for you. Once he has tipped his hand, slap down your Whirling Dervish and counter the instant-kill effect. Bam.

1 - Kronos the Titan (62/99)
Not much to write here. The best monster champion in Spellfire is also the best card in the Millennium sticker set. Just read him. Imagine what you could do with him in your pool. Imagine what he could do to your opponent's pool. Champions just don't get better than this guy. Print one, and put him in your deck today.

Next: Weasel out of this, pal!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Out of the REALM of possibility!


One quirk of Spellfire: TAV is the variant's treatment of Realm (Conquest, 66/81). For some reason now lost to the mists of time, this sticker-set card has always been treated like Shaqat Beetles (4th edition, 234/500). That is to say, any number of Realms are allowed per deck, to the limit of 15 realms as indicated in both the standard rules and TAV rules.


Look at this annoying thing.
Because of this odd quirk, which may have been due to a misinterpretation of the Realm card text long ago, things like this have been legal in TAV for over 15 years:


"Cool, I win! Oh, wait..."
Another great reason to play TAV - you just can't do this sort of thing in standard Spellfire. :)

You can call it a house rule or an optional rule or whatever you like, but trust me: letting Realm be used this way adds to the fun of the game. Give it a try, and you may find that the only thing that beats winning a game of Spellfire by completing a formation of six realms is winning by completing a formation of six REALMS!

Next: The best cards in the Millennium sticker set.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Worst Millennium Cards


The Millennium sticker set was the first "official" set released after Spellfire's termination at the hands of those scallywags at Wizards of the Coast. The cards making up this set were fan-designed and approved by the Spellfire "council" in 2000. Some of the Millennium cards were amazing, others were dire misfires. Today we'll focus on the misfires. Without further ado, here are the 8 worst Spellfire cards from the historic Millennium set.

#8 - The Wealthy Oriental Vassal (Millennium, 8/72).


This card is banned in Spellfire: TAV. Not much to say here...a continuation of the idiocy that was the Poor Oriental Lord (Dungeons chase, 20/25). Cards that make you check the edition of all other cards in play are lame. Plus both of these awful champions need specially-constructed decks in order to not ruin your own game. Just bad.


#7 - Rigged Dice (Millennium, 22/99).


The entire dice mechanic that was shoe-horned into Spellfire in this set was a bad idea. With hindsight, it's clear this cringe-worthy scheme should have been shot down at the earliest stages - but it wasn't. So we get cards like this, which I picked for number 7 because it exemplifies the shocking wrong-headedness of rolling dice to determine Spellfire effects. Repeat after me, everyone: "Draw and discard".

#6 - Cannibalize (Millennium, 68/99).


Sigh. At #6 we have this thing. So in my deck, I'm supposed to waste one precious card slot for a psionic power that subtracts 2 from each of my own champions (killing any/all of the following: my Erellika, my Gatekeeper, my Crawling Claws, my Living Scroll, my Hettman Tsurin, my Cistern Fiend, my Julio, etc.)...and the plus side is a +6 or maybe a +8 ally? Possibly, at the outside, a +10 or +12 ally with no other powers? This card is like shooting yourself in the arm and hoping the bullet goes right through and kills the enemy next to you. Plus we have to look at that awful vampire-crying-his-eyes-out artwork. Maybe he's crying because he just tried to use this card in an actual game of Spellfire and the other players are still laughing at him?

#5 - Amish Nick (Millennium 41/99).


Another very bad idea: let's make a Spellfire card that will be useful only to the most nerdy of players. A card that is only remotely effective if its owner understands the order in which Spellfire expansions were released! People who aren't founts of information about Spellfire history are either incapable of using Amish Nick, or, worse, can be hoodwinked by those who are. Terrible idea, terrible card. Let's move on.


#4 - A Horrible Mistake.


Yes, it certainly was a horrible mistake. An event that is only useful when your opponent copies another card. What, doesn't everyone at every Spellfire table have a mitt full of Bell of Mights and Egg of Emulations? No? So this card is rarely useful? And it takes up one of your precious 10 event slots? Boy, I'm glad I have this event in my deck instead of a Caravan, or a Dodge, or a Cataclysm, or a Black Bess, or a Trasure Fleet, or a Good Fortune, or a Wine of Eternity, or a Bronze Dragons, or a Calm, or...


#3 - Dark Cloud (Millennium, 83/99).


A realm whose only power is to cancel the power of three specific other cards. Two of which no one ever plays with. A card even Spellfire novices would turn their noses up at. Printing this card is a literal waste of paper.

#2 - Headbutt (Millennium, 95/99).
 

Roll some dice and add the total to your champion. Then roll some more dice and add that total to your opponent's champion. So long as it isn't a monster (because that makes sense). Also, spells and psionics can't be used and...did a 10-year-old make up this card? Probably. Yeah, this crap is #2 on the list. Even the fact that the two people in the card photo are friends of mine can't save this clunker.

And now...the worst card of the Millennium set...

#1 - Madame Griselda's Tarroka Deck (Millennium, 32/99).



Just read it. Who okayed this?

Ugh...I can't handle any more of these awful cards from the Millennium set. Before I go insane let's look at the opposite end of the spectrum. Here's a really great card from the same set.


The Forgotten Idol (Millennium, 34/99).



Awesome art, useful power, just a primo card. Designer must be a genius or something. Ahem. :) 


Next time: The worst of the Inquisition set, perhaps?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Kalidnay and Kalid-na



Let's take a look at two cards featuring the same horrible monster - Ancient Kalidnay (Artifacts, 92/100) and Kalid-na (4th edition, 279/500).

Ancient Kalidnay is one of the best realms in Spellfire. When you first drop it, it's placed in the vertical orientation, and is considered both a Dark Sun and a Ravenloft realm. At the end of your turn, you may choose to voluntarily raze it. If you do, you take another turn. That's primo. If you choose to save the extra turn for later, you can take that risk - although Kalidnay has no movement restriction and no power that is useful in battle. I always use my Kalidnay immediately, because it's just too difficult to keep it alive and unrazed (unless it's buried deep in your formation somewhere, protected by other realms). 

Unrazing Kalidnay results in it being shifted to a horizontal orientation, which serves as a reminder that its special power has already been used. It's a one-shot deal, you can't take repeated extra turns. I rarely unraze Kalidnay, but I usually don't replace it with another realm right away, either. Why not? Because once your Kalidnay is in the discard pile, your opponent is free to play his own. Just about every deck will contain a Kalidnay, you can bet on that!

Which brings us to Kalid-na, the hideous creature who in the D&D mythos comes from Ancient Kalidnay. In Spellfire, especially in The Antigonish Variant, Kalid-na is a great choice for any deck containing wizard spells. He is high level, can use psionic powers, and stops anyone from playing Kalidnay. Assuming you don't run Kalidnay yourself (whoops!), this is a primo power. Not only are you removing your opponent's access to one of his realms, you are in effect stripping away one of his turns - the extra one Kalidnay would have given. The only downside is that said opponent is coming after your Kalid-na with every champion-killing card at his disposal!

Next time: The worst Millennium (sticker set) cards! Yup, I'm going there.