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Bottomdecking: Silence

Decision: Should You Play Silence?

Image Blantatly Stolen from Steel City Underworlds

TL;DR:

I think you've probably already got this one figured out, but: no, you shouldn't play Silence.

Factor: Wizards

Wizards in Shadespire are relatively rare, falling nearer to 19th Century Russia than Xanth on the spectrum of wizards-per-peasant.  Of the 70 currently available models, only 7 are wizards, across 5 warbands (out of a total of 14).  A ploy that only works on 10% of models isn't great, especially when it will prove totally worthless against 65% of warbands.  

Let's put that 10% chance into context a bit, shall we?  Imagine the following ploys, and think about whether you would play them:
  • "Drought" - Deal 1 damage to an enemy fighter, if it rained yesterday in Los Angeles
  • "Roland's Loss" - Take one of your opponent's glory points, if they have blue eyes.
  • "Why, though?" - Your opponent discards a power card, if they own a freshwater aquarium.
At the risk of sounding presumptuous, most folks probably wouldn't try to squeeze one of these theoretical cards into their decks - but no doubt someone will try to play Silence, despite it having roughly the same chance of having a useful target.

Factor: Effect


Ploys with less than 100% chance of being effective are nothing new, but they tend to come with overtly powerful effects; think Rebound and Frozen in Time.  For having such a low likelihood of having a useful target, Silence has an extremely underwhelming effect.  

The first thing to note is that Silence won't stop the attack actions on Vortemis or Stormdad, unless your opponent is using a power-step card to make an attack (like Ready for Action) with them.  The same goes for the innate spell ability on the other two Cursebreakers, as well as the spell attacks granted by various upgrades.  That leaves us only with Gambit Spells.

Are there any Gambit Spells worth stopping?  Certainly.  Abasoth's Withering and Unmaking are both common among spellcasting decks, and a few of the damage-dealing spells are worth consideration.  Silence cancels those spells, so it must be good! 

*places hand to earpiece*

I've just been informed that Silence does not cancel those spells, but only delays their casting until the next power step.  An unfortunate misunderstanding.   Playing Silence will cost you a power card, but won't result in any loss of power cards for your opponent.

While there are certainly times when delaying your opponent's actions can be powerful (see: No Time), the limited nature of exactly what can be delayed with Silence severely reduces its usefulness.  Currently there are only 41 Gambit Spells available in the game, with approximately 40% being warband-specific.  It's also worth noting that most spells are bad; UnderworldsDB only lists 2 of the 41 as "hot" at the time of printing - meaning that the other 39 spells don't see much high level tournament play. With toilet trout like Quintok's Gamble and Levitation floating around in the Gambit Spell septic tank, you're unlikely to even find Silence very useful if you do manage to play against someone leaning heavily on Gambit Spells.

Factor: The Specificity Problem

One of the issues that can push a card from good to bad is a level of specificity that is too high.  What do we mean by that?  Well, a card with high specificity requires that multiple independent conditions be met at the same time in order for it to take effect.  For example, Sidestep has a very low specificity - you can use it pretty much any time you want.  On the other hand, Momentary Madness has a very high specificity; in order get any utility out of it:
  1.  An enemy model with an attack action must be in range of another enemy model
  2. You have to roll a hammer or crit on one die
  3. You have to make a successful attack roll with the first model
  4. Your opponent has to fail their defense roll with the second model
Sure, if you can meet all the conditions of Momentary Madness, it provides a very powerful effect - but you most likely won't be able to meet those conditions with any degree of certainty.  

Another way to look at specificity is by examining when you can play a card in relation to the effect it provides.  For example, Twist the Knife is restricted, but Lightning Blow barely gets played at all.  Why?  Because when you play Twist the Knife, you've already succeeded on the attack, so it's useful every time you play it.  Lightning Blow, however, requires you to predict whether your next attack will benefit from an extra damage (and more importantly, predict whether it will succeed).  

Silence, unfortunately for anyone hoping to make use of it, has an extremely high degree of specificity.  In order for it to be useful:
  1. Your opponent must be playing a warband with Wizards
  2. Your opponent must have a Wizard alive
  3. Your opponent must be playing Gambit Spells
  4. You must accurately predict that your opponent wants to play a Spell this power step
  5. The Spell your opponent wants to play must be affected negatively by being delayed until the next step
Again, it's unlikely that all of these conditions are going to stack up at any time, much less when you have Silence in hand and choose to play it during a given power step.  Putting Silence in your deck is like betting "insurance" at blackjack - it's always a bad idea - but in this case there's a roughly 60% chance the dealer doesn't even have any aces in the deck.  Not exactly a move that Bryce Carlson would endorse.

Summary:

Over the course of their production, there have been over 200 colors of Crayola crayons.  Most of them have descriptive names like "Red-Violet" or "Pine Green."  But in 1993, a crayon-ologist somewhere deep in the wax-encrusted bowels of the Crayola company pigment mines decided that it would be a good idea to name a crayon "Mauvelous."  Mauvelous.  And somewhere along the way, a doddering middleman - clutching a swingline stapler and wearing an ink-stained tie he got from Kimberly in accounting at the last white elephant Christmas party - heard the word "Mauvelous" and somehow decided that it was a reasonable thing to put out into the real actual world.

Silence is like that.  Mauvelous.

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