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Special: Shadespire S1 Rotation

Special: Shadespire S1 Rotation

TL;DR:

Some cards got rotated out.  Most cards didn't.  A few cards got significantly better or worse because of the changed meta.  Most cards didn't.

Prelude: The Gestalt

Yeah, I know, it's Gestahl, but we're going for a theme here.  All FF art by Yoshitaka Amano.

Let's start by addressing the elephant in the room:  the rotation as a whole is a very good thing (TM).  It lowers the entry barrier to playing the game, keeps the meta fresh, removes a number of problematic cards, reduces the need for errata/FAQ based on poorly templated S1 cards, and establishes a pattern for future releases.  We understand some people don't like it - but overall it improves the game in measurable and significant ways.  

Of 1106 unique cards currently available in Shadespire, 236 cards will be leaving competitive play.  This represents roughly 21% of the currently available card-stock leaving play.  However, it's worth noting that many - many - of those cards were glorified coasters.  The vast majority of the cards leaving the tournament sphere never saw the light of day in competitive play.  A more realistic view of what's "lost" during the rotation would be looking at those cards that see heavy tournament play.  According to UnderworldsDB, the rotation will remove 47 "hot" cards - or just about 4% of the current card pool.  Conversely, those 47 cards represent about 30% of the total pool of "hot" cards; meaning that the rotation effectively cleans out a large section of the current meta with a minimal loss of total options. 

Now, on to the meat of the article: reexamining every Cardiology/Bottom Decking article we've put out in the past year to see how the rotation affects those cards.  Obviously, we don't know what's going to be reprinted, or what new chaos will emerge with Beastgrave, but these are our best guesses on cards we already know quite well. 

 [Author's note: I had originally intended to link every card in this article to the original evaluation of that card here on Call it Shadespire.  I got frustrated with that very quickly, so please see this page for relevant links.]

The Dead


Many of the cards we've reviewed over the past year will be leaving the competitive environment.  Rather than opine endlessly (as we are wont to do) minutiae, we'll just drop a list of these dead cards here:
  • Awakened Weapon
  • Coordinated Attack
  • Curious Inversion
  • Distraction
  • Ethereal Shield
  • Great Concussion
  • Healing Potion
  • Light Armour
  • Masterstroke
  • Miraculous Escape
  • Momentary Madness
  • No Time
  • Quick Thinker
  • Shardgale
  • Well Guarded
  • Flickering Step
  • Great Cunning
Of these, the greatest loss is probably Distraction - currently, there is no universal card that pushes opponent's models without restriction, leaving a significant strategic gap and potentially strengthening the hold-objective style of play if Beastgrave doesn't provide a suitable replacement.  Of the remaining cards, most are niche players - Healing Potion in Ylthari's Guardians, for example - but their rotation may cause some ripple effects in the meta as well.

The Good




Many cards previously reviewed here will see improvement with the rotation.  For the majority of these cards, the improvement is relative - they get better because the number of alternatives shrinks.  We could theorize that all of the cards that remain legal will see this kind of improvement, but for the purposes of this article, we'll be looking at cards that get significantly better with the rotation. 
  • Great Gains/Solid Gains - these two glory multipliers, along with similar cards, probably get the biggest boost from the rotation, as they will likely see an increase in use as other Objective options disappear.  They benefit from being scoreable in almost any deck, and just about everyone will be looking to replace Escalation with something.  While in no way as good as Escalation, subbing in one of these two is a solid choice for those warbands that don't have a good in-faction option.  Additionally, Surge-heavy decks (might as well pick up that new lingo now) that are reliant on the Victory After Victory/Combination Strike/Superior Tactician trinity will need two easy-to-score glory bumps, and Great Gains will likely end up filling at least one of those slots.
  • Aggressive Defense - My Turn and Ready for Action are going out, so cards that grant extra attacks will likely go up in value.  It's unlikely even GW will make the mistake of reprinting Ready for Action.
  • Upper Hand - Pretty much every competitive deck will be freeing up one restricted ploy with the release of Beastgrave as they set metaphorical fire to Ready for Action.  The choice, then, will be what to slot into that coveted restricted sleeve; our bet is on Upper Hand.  The best accuracy boost in the game just got a lot better, thanks to not having to compete with the (former) best ploy in the game.
  • Obliterated/Steady Aim - Easy-to-score, faction-locked objectives will likely get a boost from the rotation as several high-quality universal objectives leave the scene.  These two have Surge to boot, making them extra desirable in an unstable meta.
  • Curse of the Dwinding - Cruel Taunt, Frozen in Time, Rebound, and Last Chance are all going the way of the tree, so you'd better figure out some kind of answer to Mollog.  Ylthari, luckily, already has one.

The Bad

 A few cards will get significantly worse with the rotation, primarily those that depended heavily on other Season 1 universals in order to be good.  
  • Peerless Fighter - Between upgrades and ploys, this seemingly random Objective could actually be scored pretty reliably.  However, some key tools in that toolbox are going away, most notably Fueled by Fury.  Coordinated Attack and Unparalleled Strike - two convenient ways to "cheat" Peerless Fighter - are also leaving, making scoring it almost totally reliant on rolling extra dice.  It's probably not worth considering any more.
  • Volley Caller - Volley Caller actually doesn't lose much from the rotation.  Goblins are still in, as are Warning Shot and Keep Them Guessing, two of the main reasons to even consider it.  However, we're sticking it in here as more of a retraction.  We initially thought it had a place in aggressive Gerblin decks, but Gloryseeker and Figher's Ferocity are probably better choices for doing what Volley Caller does.  
  • Paradox Armour - Paradox Armour makes you pay a glory to make your fighter mathematically worse in every way.  Still, a longshot justification existed for playing it if you were already playing Light Armour.  Well, Light Armour is gone now, so Paradox Armour can officially take the place of Great Cunning as the worst card in the game.

The Ugly


The unfortunate truth of the matter is that most of the "maybe-zone" cards in Shadespire will remain in that zone post-rotation.  They may see small increases or decreases in usefulness, but they're unlikely to rocket up into "every-deck" status or find their way permanently into binders.  Similarly, the terrible cards we've reviewed in Bottomdecking articles are likely to remain garbage-tier bookmarks.  Let's take a quick look at the one's we've already seen here on Call it Shadespire:
  • Abasoth's Withering/Unfocused Blast - Since spell cards (and cards that specifically interact with wizards and spells) weren't released until Nightvault, these spells are unlikely to change significantly in value with the loss of Season 1 universals.
  •  Branching Fate/One Fate - These Objectives lose Fueled by Fury, but get a boost from the phasing out of several good universal objectives.  It's probably a wash overall.
  • Champions of Sigmar - It's still an intensely cool idea, but it's still outclassed by even the most generic of accuracy upgrades.
  • Fated Blade - Despite an initial infatuation with this card in the tournament community, it doesn't see much serious play.  The loss of Shadeglass weapons might have pushed Fated Blade to the forefront, if the best Shadeglass options weren't already restricted.  (Side note to those warbands without ranged attacks: you're losing Shadeglass Darts and Dark Darts.  Sorry.)
  • Grievous Riposte - It's still too restrictive and unreliable to merit serious consideration, though it may get a slight boost from the disappearance of several good defensive reactions.
  •  Horrifying Armour - It's still bad.  A decent universal +1 defense boost upgrade that works for Block defenders would be a nice thing to see come out of Beastgrave, as long as its restriction doesn't involve losing wounds.
  • Potion of Constitution - Great Fortitude, Tome of Vitality, and all of the warband-specific toughness boosters are staying in, so Potion of Constitution remains the bottom tier selection for increasing wounds.
  • Prized Vendetta - Accuracy boosters are still really good.  Haymaker, Upper Hand, and Determined Effort are all still in, so Prized Vendetta probably won't see a big increase in utility.  It's still a very solid choice.
  • Seized Trophy - Godsworn are still bad (the $50:$1 cash Godsworn Bet is still available to anyone willing to take us up on it).  Even though some solid upgrades will be leaving the environment, they aren't the kind you'd likely replace with Trophy.  
  • Warning Shot - It's still really good; restricted for a reason.
  • Fusillade - Since Keep Them Chopping is staying in for now (and will always be legal as long as Fusillade is legal), Fusillade remains a strictly worse version of a not-very-good-to-begin-with Objective.  It's the trash even raccoons won't eat. 
  • Jabbertoad - It's a laughably bad upgrade that has zero synergy with the warband it is restricted to.  Tome Mollog might see some increased play as it's not hurt as badly by the loss of Rebound and Last Chance as most Tome decks are, but even in a strictly defensive deck, Jabbertoad isn't worth including.  It's a mysteriously wet paper towel that you accidentally sit on at a baseball game.
  • Master of Mayhem - For the same reasons as spells, scatter cards likely won't see a lot of change with the coming of Beastgrave.  Even in the best deck for it (Gerblins), it isn't worth playing.  It's the musty smell of 1960's mens-only military barracks in Anniston, Alabama. 
  • Seize the Initiative - Since there are literally zero cards that interact beneficially with Seize the Initiative, losing a bunch of universals doesn't really make it any better or worse.  Depending on rolling crits to win a game is a bad strategy.  It's a Geocities website from 1997,  designed by a 14 year old,  about which of the original Power Rangers would win in a skateboard competition.
  • Silence - Spells and wizards remain largely unchanged by the rotation, so Silence still sucks every bit as bad as it did before.  It's the Sound of Silence as sung by Carrot Top and accompanied by a deaf violinist playing a double contrabass flute.

Summary:


The introduction of Season 3 - and the concomitant cycling out of Season 1 - will likely be the biggest meta change the game has seen yet.  That said, by and large, the valuation of individual cards won't change a whole lot.  With a few exceptions, great cards remain great, mediocre cards remain mediocre, and bad cards remain GW's forte.  

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