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Subject: A journey to fight all 15 Aeon's End Nemeses, part 1: Crooked Mask rss

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Ty Arnold
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With Aeon’s End: Legacy on the distant horizon, I figured that I’d go on my own campaign of sorts: I’m going to fight all 15 Nemeses in the game, and use every one of the 24 Breach Mages at least once in the process. And while I don’t know if I’ll be able to use every card in the game (have you seen how many 5 cost spells there are? Half the setups won’t even let you use them!), I do intend to employ different strategies and cards in each fight. Each of these fights will be solo but two-handed since I’m not a fan of the pure solo game; I’ll play on Increased difficulty if I think a setup looks too easy but otherwise on Normal. Maybe one day I’ll get really good and go back and do it all again on Extinction. I’ll be semi-randomizing my encounters, re-randomizing when a setup is too similar to a previous one, and I’ll tackle all the nemeses in a random order. I’ll also be giving my thoughts on each mage, nemesis, and card in the game; really, this whole campaign log idea is just an excuse for me to talk about these sorts of things.

So, for my first match, we’ve got Adelheim, Nym, Mist, and Xaxos vs. Crooked Mask. I’ll pick Mist and Xaxos as my two mages since I don’t really feel like going for a mill strat in my first game and I just played Adelheim right before I started this log. Plus, it’s kind of fitting to start this series with the two main characters (I assume they are, at least, since they get new versions in the sequel). Random setup gave me Dread Diamond, Alien Element, Scoria Slag, Flexing Dagger, Spectral Echo, Blaze, Planar Insight, Nether Conduit, Reduce to Ash.

Mist: One of the game’s most basic characters, I’m a bit torn on her. Drawing 4 cards is quite nice, but breach space tends to be limited, and she’s probably at her worst in a game with 2 mages since she can only target her one partner and no one else. I also don’t like her starting Gem; it might stop a Persistent trigger from happening maybe once a game, and then it’ll be a glorified Crystal the rest of the time.

Xaxos: Definitely not one of my favorites; he’s got one of the worst starting breach situations in the game (Yan Magda has it worse, you could make an argument for Gex and Indira, but Indira’s… special); his starting spell is a coin toss between a Spark and something actually useful. Still, that ability is pretty fantastic, and giving 4 charges to Mist means he’s probably going to be drawing a ton of cards, so he’s gonna have to carry this team somehow.

Corrupted Mask: One of my less-liked Nemeses. Don’t get me wrong, I think the Corruption cards are really cool; it’s the shuffling that bugs me. To me, the whole appeal of playing the deckbuilder where you don’t have to shuffle your deck gets a bit dampened when you fight the guy who makes you shuffle your deck. My usual strategy is letting one character play the role of designated whipping boy for his Corruptions, so that the rest of the team can actually play the game and get combos going. Tonight, that’ll probably be Mist, since I’d rather draw 4 cards from a stacked deck than a random one. I absolutely will not fight him on Increased difficulty because I’m not suicidal.

Dread Diamond: Not my first choice of 3-cost Gem, but 1 Aether is usually better than 1 damage, especially early on, so you could do a lot worse than tossing a Spark to boost its purchasing power. And this being a Dominion-like game, you take whatever form of Silver you can get; they can’t all be Jades or Frozen Magnetites.

Alien Element: Finally, something I’m happy to see!... even if it is much worse than usual against someone who can force you to shuffle your deck. Being able to play a bunch of spells and gain a bunch of money is a top-tier card in my book, and I’m willing to break from my usual playstyle and open all my breaches if the payoff is this good.

Scoria Slag: Probably the single most “boring, but practical” card in the entire game, there’s not much to say about it. It costs 4, it gets you 3 for the great majority of the game, it’s good, you buy a bunch of it. Definitely an interesting decision between it and Alien Element though, I’d be inclined to go with the Slag for this matchup if it wasn’t for…

Flexing Dagger: Oh baby. Imagine if this was a 2 cost gem that says you gain 3 Aether. Obviously insane, right? This might not be that good, but it’s not so far off. With a card like this, even Xaxos might actually open all of his breaches in this game. It even trashes itself when it’s not needed anymore! This card is so strong that they made a nerfed version in War Eternal that only focuses your lowest-cost breach, and costs 4 instead of 2. This thing is insane.

Spectral Echo: And with this, all my worries go away. If I were to name the single most powerful spell in the game, it’d either be this or Conjure Familiar. Conjure has the higher ceiling of what it can do, but this one’s always fantastic. I’d willingly pay 3 just to do 2 damage even with no other effect, easy, and I get a trash effect, too? Yeah, after I’ve finished wiping the floor with Masky here, I’ll go ahead and ban this from my campaign. Now watch me somehow lose.

Blaze: Definitely a weird one. I don’t think it’s very good; in order to be above par you need to have 3 of them prepped, which is a pretty tall order. Being able to buy it for another player does make it a real consideration in this fight, though: if Mist’s deck is being shuffled all the time, she’d probably rather buy a spell for someone else who could use it consistently.

Planar Insight: A bad card by the standards of what you can get for 6, but sometimes it’s what you want for sheer damage. Utility is overrated, just open your breaches and smash face. I might actually grab a copy or two here, especially with Flexing Dagger in the mix.

Nether Conduit: Very flexible for a 7-drop; you can use it for purchasing power or for high damage, and if you’re skillful enough you can get both once or twice. It costs 7, though, so I don’t know if I’m likely to get it.

Reduce to Ash: That pesky “during the Casting Phase” clause means you have to plan 10-15 cards ahead in order to consistently burn Crystals with this thing. Probably not going to use it this game, we already have Spectral Echo as a much cheaper trashing option and it’s even less consistent if you’ve got a Nemesis shuffling your deck. You can get cheeky by using it to burn Corruptions, though, so there’s always a chance…

On with the game!

First couple turns give me a brief heart attack right in the beginning, as a Catacomb Drone decides to show up on the second Nemesis turn. Still, a lucky Flare from Xaxos followed by breaking a Flexing Dagger stops any potentially devastating shenangians before any Unleashes happen. No Unleashing happens during the first phase, but at the tail end the Corrupter finally shows up. That guy is definitely a pain to deal with when all you have are Sparks and Spectral Echoes, and I have to seriously consider how much I want to deal with him. I mean, 1 damage a turn isn’t ~that~ much, right? Then I snap out of my haze and remember that Crooked Mask does a lot of damage to Gravehold, and there’s going to be a lot of nemesis turns in the future, and Xaxos deals with it in one turn using a Breach-powered Spectral Echo and another lucky Flare. As if to confirm I made the right choice, Needlemaw shows up the next turn. Definitely a good thing we stopped that Corrupter.

With the second phase underway, our Scoria Slags powered up, we manage to stop the Mask from Unleashing for quite a few turns. He’s still handing out Corruptions a-plenty, and still doing a bit of a number on Gravehold, but he’s not doing too much. He does, however, play an early Vex, making it clear that this game will go to Tier 3; the only question is how deep he’ll get. Xaxos is playing a lot of Spectral Echoes and slowly refining his deck into one that does tons of damage through Echoes and Insights, while Mist has the more economy-heavy strategy. Thanks to Mist, Power cards aren’t getting through, and no shuffling has occurred yet. Mask also manages to play Twisting Madness right when Xaxos has a 5 Crystal hand, which makes his offer less tempting than it otherwise would be. Eventually, though, we see a Mutilate, the Mask finally unleashes, and Mist ends up shuffling; having a larger deck means it’ll be less likely for her to draw those Corruptions. Right after that, we hit Tier 3, which legitimately blindsides me; I’d forgotten how fast Mask gets there. Probably on account of me not fighting him often. At this point, he still has 50 health, Xaxos and Mist are on about half life, and Gravehold’s sitting pretty at 21.

Mist finds out that the Corruption she got from that Mutilate was a Dire Wisdom, which spells bad news for the team. Starting to wish that she’d invested in Reduce to Ash instead of the Nether Conduit that she’d bought. On the bright side, Xaxos finally gets to use his Ability. In the absence of any immediate threat, he puts a Nemesis card on top, then lets Mist use her Ability to let him draw a bunch of cards, then gets to take his turn right after. Ruin Priest shows up next and I realize that I really needed to get aggressive much sooner. We do manage to kill it thanks to Xaxos’s deck-stacking, and at that point things start looking up… except that Mist’s triple corruption draw, courtesy of Dire Wisdom, put her at 2 life. And than a Gallowskulk shows up, and we have a decision to make. Xaxos could set up a lethal attack on the Mask by attacking directly, putting him on a low enough life total that if Xaxos gets a turn before the Mask does, we win. However, if the Mask goes first, Gallowskulk kills Mist, we deal with a double unleash and Xaxos is forced to discard his two most expensive prepped spells; the pair of lethal Planar Insights, thanks to a Withering Beam on the table. If I do damage to the Gallowskulk, though, I don’t set up lethal, but I at least raise my chances of keeping Mist alive since she can take the Skulk out with a Planar Insight of her own. Then I realize: I can do both of these things at the same time, because Mist has her Garnet Shard in hand. I told you, it comes in handy exactly once a game. Xaxos sets up his lethal attack, the turn order deck shuffles, and the first card drawn…

Xaxos’s card. A furious burst of double Planar Insight, Spectral Echo, and a 1 damage Flare for exactly the 17 damage that the Mask had left, and it’s over. The Mask falls. One down, fourteen more to go.

So, the obvious MVP of the fight was Spectral Echo, followed by Flexing Dagger. Those cards were absurd; Flexing Dagger took Xaxos’s sorry opening breach situation and let him open all four breaches with little trouble, and then Spectral Echo molded his deck into an engine of destruction that could do consistent double digit damage every turn. The Crooked Mask started the third phase with 50 health, and only got to play 4 cards before it ended, and it’s pretty much thanks to the Echo/Dagger combination that it worked.

Other overperformers were Planar Insight and Dread Diamond. While Planar Insight might not look like much, 6 damage (7 on breaches 3 and 4) is a lot for one card, and it was the game’s big payoff card. Would Scrying Bolt have been better in most circumstances? Probably. But the Insights put in a lot of work. Meanwhile, I feel that Dread Diamond is a very underrated card. That 1 damage you lose from discarding a Spark is nothing compared to the efficiency increase you can get from buying a 6 cost card over a 4 cost (since there were no 5’s in this setup), and there were multiple instances where that extra 1 Aether was the difference between discarding a critical Power card and dying horribly.

I never did buy an Alien Element. I imagine it would’ve been pretty good for Xaxos by the end, so it was more negligence on my part than anything. Nether Conduit saw some play, but it was only used as a bad Planar Insight, and Reduce to Ash was never bought, either.

Anyhow, Xaxos was the team carry, but that doesn’t mean I had to like it. In two separate instances I had to hit a 3 damage Flare with a 66% chance of success or pay serious consequences, and while I got lucky in both of those instances, it was very stressful. If either of them hadn’t gone my way, I likely would’ve lost, and I don’t like having to deal with that kind of RNG in a game that’s otherwise pretty light on the randomness scale. Mist was fine; she did her job of eating a bunch of corruptions and lived to tell the tale. Garnet Shard’s added security is clutch once in a blue moon, but I’d still rather play someone who started with a real gem.

Corrupted Mask, meanwhile, was a lot more fun to fight than I remembered him being. He only Unleashed once in that game, and that was pretty fortunate, but I feel like it really isn’t so bad as long as you have a designated player to take all of the Unleashes in a game. Once you’ve shuffled once, it’s not so bad to shuffle again, and it’s even somewhat liberating to not have to count cards to figure out what your future hands will look like. It’s probably miserable to face him 1v1, though, and I don’t ever want to fight him on Increased. Overall, thanks to a favorable market, and a bit of luck, I was able to pull out a win, and I’m looking forward to continuing my journey.

Until then, buy more Planar Insights. They’re pretty good.
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Brian M
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Good luck fighting through all the Nemeseses...Nemesi...bad nasty things!

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Dana Olson
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Interesting read! I just tried my first [true] solo game, using 3 player turn order cards and I beat Rageborne with a huge thanks to Planar Insight. I had bought all but one of them over the course of the game (yay for chaining Diamond Clusters!). I was using Kadir, whose ability triggered twice in the game, and came in pretty handy.
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Crazed Survivor
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I love how you all underestimate Blaze when it can make you consistently deal 20+ damage
This coupled with Alien Element and Flexing Dagger means you had an incredible market. Add Mist to make Xaxos draw like crazy and your battle plan was all lined out for you.

I had Scoria Slag and Alien Element in my previous game and while I like AE, SS was more consistent and gave the same amount of aether for 1 less. Totally more interesting.

Also, I don't think Spectral Echo is OP. It destroys from the hand and that's annoying. I'd rather have a Molten Hammer or a Bottled Vortex, or a I don't remember the name but destroy two cards in hand and deal 3 damage for each card destroyed that way.

Oh, and Yan Magda's breach set up is actually ideal with her starter cards, you can deal 12 damage from opening breaches alone

Congrats on the win!
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Ty Arnold
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Razoupaf wrote:
I love how you all underestimate Blaze when it can make you consistently deal 20+ damage
This coupled with Alien Element and Flexing Dagger means you had an incredible market. Add Mist to make Xaxos draw like crazy and your battle plan was all lined out for you.

I had Scoria Slag and Alien Element in my previous game and while I like AE, SS was more consistent and gave the same amount of aether for 1 less. Totally more interesting.

Also, I don't think Spectral Echo is OP. It destroys from the hand and that's annoying. I'd rather have a Molten Hammer or a Bottled Vortex, or a I don't remember the name but destroy two cards in hand and deal 3 damage for each card destroyed that way.

Oh, and Yan Magda's breach set up is actually ideal with her starter cards, you can deal 12 damage from opening breaches alone

Congrats on the win!


Forgot to mention that I never used Blaze that game. It could've been good, don't get me wrong, but Planar Insight was what carried the day.

Scoria Slag is very good, and I never bought Element in that game, so I can't argue with Slag's consistency. It just isn't as interesting to set up combos with as Diamond Cluster or Alien Element.

Thing about Spectral Echo compared to all the other trashing options is that Molten Hammer costs more and doesn't deal damage, Bottled Vortex only gives you one shot, and Consuming Vortex costs 7 and gets awkward when you start running out of bad cards; Spectral Echo still works even when you decide to stop trashing things.

Problem I have with Magda is that her starting spell gives her damage for opening breaches, but if you don't get a setup that makes it easier to open those breaches, she's going to be really slow. She would've been fantastic in this setup, definitely.

Thanks!
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MegiDolaDyne wrote:
Problem I have with Magda is that her starting spell gives her damage for opening breaches, but if you don't get a setup that makes it easier to open those breaches, she's going to be really slow. She would've been fantastic in this setup, definitely.


I see her as a control character and it works really well
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Ty Arnold
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Razoupaf wrote:
MegiDolaDyne wrote:
Problem I have with Magda is that her starting spell gives her damage for opening breaches, but if you don't get a setup that makes it easier to open those breaches, she's going to be really slow. She would've been fantastic in this setup, definitely.


I see her as a control character and it works really well


We'll see. I rolled up the next fight and it just so happens to include Yan Magda, so I guess she'll get a chance to prove herself soon.
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