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Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn» Forums » General

Subject: Let's talk about Empower. rss

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Luke deWaal
Canada
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Things have been pretty quiet in here this week, so here's a topic to get the juices flowing.

Empower seems to be one of the least popular cards in both my local meta and the community at large right now.I know I've never seen it outside Maeoni precon. Perhaps it's overlooked simply because Mae, with her 3 Battlefield, is a less popular PB for people to look at, but still, Gilders, Molten Gold, and Open Memories all see play, so I think there has to be something more to it. Maybe (like the first time I played Mae) most players only glance at the card and fail to recognize that the "After a player has declared attackers" trigger can be activated with their own attack, or maybe there's just too many words on the card. More likely though, I think, is that it has a somewhat unfavorable comparison to Strengthen.
Strengthen also costs 2 mana to play to your spellboard, but after that, it's free. Strengthen also adds 2 to a target unit's attack, not 1. Plus, it can get focused up to +3 attack. This is, of course, huge. +3 attack turns an Anchornaut into a beast, and a Hammer Knight into a nightmare. So with all that considered, why am I suggesting Empower is an overlooked card? Strengthen seems to put it to bed effortlessly. I'm glad you asked, hypothetical reader- here's why I think Empower needs another look, and why I'm starting to think about decks it could fit in.
First, Empower does cost 2 mana to get into play, like Strengthen. However, it only costs a single mana type to put in play, which allows for a much more flexible deck building strategy. You need only be committed to a single school of magic (natural) rather than two to give it a deck slot. Second, it does cost a single basic to activate after being played, which I imagine is the biggest turnoff to Strengthen players. However, with focusing it winds up being more or less mana-neutral, and while it won't necessarily give you numerical dice advantage, the reroll you get has the possibility of upgrading one of the basics you played this turn into something more effective. I don't think the reroll thing should be enough to change anyone's mind about the card, but it's a neat feature that it may possibly end up saving you a meditation, or could even be used to get a different mana type out of your exhausted pool if you've played too many of it this turn. Third, and here's where I think we're starting to get into the strategic meat of the card, it doesn't cost an action to activate. Strengthen costs you a side action. That means you can't use it on the same turn you use a dice ability, meditate, or play anything else requiring a side action. Empower leaves you free to explore some more versatile uses of your side actions before swinging in with that attack. But more importantly, Empower is a big threat, because it can be played defensively. That means, should you choose to counter an opponent's attack, you can make it a lot more punishing by turning one of your chump blockers into a less-chumpy blocker. Finally, Empower gives you the option of drawing a card and then discarding a card. Like the focus effect, this ability won't give you a numerical advantage. Instead, it will give you a better look at your deck. Because the decks are so small in Ashes, and because your first five is chosen by you, and because you always draw up to five, getting screwed by bad draws doesn't happen with even a fraction of the frequency that it does in other, similar games. Nonetheless, because Ashes rewards skilled, strategic play, there are going to be times where the cards in your hand aren't the ones you want to play at this moment. You know there's a card that would be just perfect sitting in your carefully crafted deck somewhere, you just need to get it out-and in the middle of a round in Ashes, this isn't the simplest thing to do. Empower gives you a chance at finding that card mid-round, possibly even on your opponent's turn, giving you more options than you had a moment ago, and changing the momentum of the game for you. And if the card you draw isn't what you're looking for? Then, it's one less card you need to get from on top of that ideal card.

So there's a quick argument in favor of a card that I personally never see played, but I think really ought to be. Now tell me that I'm crazy and let's have a good old-fashioned round of internet fisticuffs.

Apologies in advance for any spelling errors. I wrote this whole essay on my phone.
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Skaak
United States
Seattle
Washington
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LukeAriel wrote:
But more importantly, Empower is a big threat, because it can be played defensively.


Note, however, that playing Empower defensively is a deterrent at best and a waste of a die at worst because it triggers prior to the attacking player declaring the target of their attack:

- Attacking player declares which units of theirs are attacking
- Empower triggers
- Attacking player declares what's getting attacked
 
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Luke deWaal
Canada
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Excellent point. If your blocker has unit guard, however, it's still applicable.
 
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Marc Bennett
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Illinois
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LukeAriel wrote:
Third, and here's where I think we're starting to get into the strategic meat of the card, it doesn't cost an action to activate. Strengthen costs you a side action.


this is very important to using this card. potentially all 3 can be activated in a single attack. its great for decks where you attack fewer times for a bigger punch (like maeoni) or when you sneak in an extra attack after your opponent is exhausted. also sees a lot of use in battlefield advantage decks.
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Everett
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Presque Isle
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The biggest issue with Empower is the tempo hit. While it is an overlooked card (don't think I've ever used it in constructed, except maybe once with a hypno deck), It needs that focus 1 to really be worth it. That's where things get tricky.
 
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Michael Pittman
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Toenail21 wrote:
The biggest issue with Empower is the tempo hit. While it is an overlooked card (don't think I've ever used it in constructed, except maybe once with a hypno deck), It needs that focus 1 to really be worth it. That's where things get tricky.


Agree that the cost (and subsequent tempo hit) are the main reasons I pass over Empower.

Additionally, Ashes decks are TIGHT and it would be hard to find a slot for it even if it wasn't for the cost issue.
 
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Luke deWaal
Canada
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Sure, but I don't think that Empower is any more of a tempo hit than many other non-summon ready spells. All ready spells are going to cost you a bit of tempo early in the game. Perhaps if the only style deck you play is the win-2nd-round style aggro deck, I can see it. But there are still lots of deck styles, especially control, where you don't need to worry about that to the same degree. I regularly play Expand Energy, which I would argue is just as bad a tempo hit, but still ultimately provides a definite advantage if you've designed your deck well. I've also noticed that at least when I play, I'm not afraid of taking an early pass on a main action in a round, even if I have tons of available plays, just to see how my opponent is going to play. I can see a person who plays like that having no difficulty finding the window to play out a few ready spells which will strengthen their position in the long run.
 
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Chris Hewlett
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The tempo hit still hurts. And if you take this tempo hit, you cannot take the hit from other spells so cards like Expand Energy and Chant of Revenge. And once we get into those comparisons, Empower drops off pretty quick.

I think it only really shines once it is focused, which requires you to either use open memories (giving up on even more dice) or wait until you draw a second copy which can be too late in the game to matter.

And finally, Charm dice (boost one attack) and Natural Dice (1 ping damage) will be able to do the job instead of Empower (in some cases), which further reduces it usefulness.

Love the card, and I use it in my casual decks (mostly to counter heavy illusion decks by allowing me to swap magic types). If I were truly playing competitive I probably would not use it.
 
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