Our final stop: Multifaction and factionless cards! The order of cards will be how they appear in the card collection, with the exception of the cyle of Tokens, Cargo, and Merchants, which get to start our review.
This is my rating scale. It is highly similar to other set reviews from other card games, with considerations for Eternal. Note that cards intended mostly for market usage see a rating comparable to normal cards due to how frequently Markets are accessed in normal games. For the constructed review, I won’t talk about cards that are obviously bad for constructed, meaning no draft cards. Lastly, number ratings don’t give the full picture. Be sure to read the full explanation for the rating.
Card Rating Scale
5.0: Format warping card. The most powerful cards in the game. (Valkyrie Enforcer. Torch. Merchants.)
4.0: Powerful cards used in multiple decks that often enable or define archetypes. (Haunting Scream. Cauldron Cookbook. )
3.0: Good cards that will show up in many decks or be very powerful in a few. (Sherriff Marley. Dusk Raider. Shakedown.)
2.5: Roleplayers that help certain decks but aren’t quite mainstays. (Quarry. Nocturnal Observer.)
2.0: Niche or fringe playable card, especially in the Market, or generally just a “maybe”. (Cloud of Ash. Back-Alley Delinquent. Unstable Form.)
1.0: Extremely narrow usage. (Back in Set 2, I played a Magma Javelin in my Skycrag sideboard specifically to hit a Silverwing Familiar as I otherwise had no reasonable way to kill it if I was on the draw and it got a weapon played on it, and Charchain Flail had just gotten nerfed. I still stand by my decision.)
I have a feeling Seek Powers, Cargo (see below), and Crests will do just fine assembling all the needed power, but the versatility of the tokens shouldn’t be undervalued. Better to cast your spells slowly than not at all.
All the Cargo
If you are playing any 3 faction combination that has Cargo, they will often just replace your Seek Powers (any additional fixing can then be used by a few Seek Powers.) They aren’t always a straight replacement though, as there will be times where you’d rather just draw a seek power in the midgame if you just want to hit 7+ power. For that reason, I’d only start with 4 for various shades of midrange and then think carefully before going further in any sort of control shell. Don’t be confused by the “random card” part—most of the time, when you’re flooding, a random card will be much better than a power. At worst, it becomes something for you to throw in the market.
All the Merchants
All of the first Merchants ended up at 5.0 despite clear differences in power between them, and I think both of those things will be true for these, as well. The most important part of merchants is just accessing the Market. The Smugglers trade some level of deck consistency (i.e. grabbing your 4th copy of an important card from your Market with them) by allowing you two factions, which is incredibly powerful. You can now get Bore without Ixtun Merchant, Mirror Image (or perhaps Sudden Schism) without Jennev Merchant, and so on. They’re also, on the whole, slightly better units, but there are a few cases where that isn’t strictly true. Some will be used more than others, but they will all see a tremendous amount of play and all be considered in basically any deck based on their factions.
On the whole, I predict that Smugglers will probably be best in decks that want to use their Market as a toolbox with situational threats and answers. Any deck trying to churn out a combination as consistently as possible will want to stick to the normal Merchants. However, there might be cases where the Smugglers do just as much “combo” work as the normal merchants, as there are many combos that involve two factions (meaning the smugglers could access both pieces) and many cards which are functionally the same, such as Mirror Image and Sudden Schism. Finally, it’s worth knowing that you can have both the normal Merchants and Smugglers in the same deck: as long as your Market qualifies as a Black Market, normal Merchants can access it, too.
Daraya, Warrior Poet
Though deadly units are always better than they seem, I’m not actually sure how impactful Darya will be. At 6 she can be a great hit if you are developing, but at 4 and 8 I think there are better things you can be doing (and 8 assumes you have two other units to buff.) The dual faction Pledge, though very nice, might not be worth the card in this place. I think Darya has a chance to be a roleplayer in Praxis-based midrange decks, but must be surrounded by many other units in order to get anything out of her.
Rakano has really gone downhill in the 2-drop slot as time has gone on, so getting another option is more than welcome. The lack of battle skills really hurts but is probably made up by how scary a unit gets with one renown trigger (triggering it with a Finest Hour, for example, would give your top unit +6/+5.) Transfering Battleskills is also great in the few cases you can get it, and makes Flametail Whip (a card I didn’t rate particularly high) look playable when placed alongside her. The jury is still out on the longterm viability of linear aggro, but perhaps our Sharpshooting friend can be a part of it.
We’re only at this rating for two reasons: this is an okay combat trick in a faction combination that has really bad combat tricks, and it can pump 2 (or more) units. Of note, Skycrag has very few options to give it’s units extra health, so +2/+2 is quite nice compared to the +3/+1 of Rampage. All of that said, see the comments I made above on linear aggro and apply them to Mighty Strikes.
Stun on summon is great. Dual faction Pledge is great. Snowfort is great when it’s free, as it’s actually a highly desirable effect for Skycrag units given that it puts most of them up to 4 health. As long as your deck wants to attack early and often, Chunk Chunk is a great inclusion. He is a fantastic follow-up to Crunch, the Hoarder, stunning a unit to help him connect. Lastly, our Chunky friend is an incredible target for copy effects, as it triggers Renown and makes another Chunk Chunk, which then stuns another unit. I wasn’t originally excited by this card when it was first spoiled but have been very surprised by how strong it has been.
Burn Them All
Name Rating: 5.0
Though it is one damage weaker than Obliterate and lacks Overwhelm, it has three major advantages: It’s Fast speed, it can hit Sites, and it can hit two (or more) things with extra power. I think those are all significant and make it a pretty decent card. I have a feeling that Sites are going to be a lot stronger as time goes on and decks are better tuned, and so I’m giving this card a 3.0 on the expectation that it’s going to be more useful then. We no longer live in a world where killing Sandstorm Titan is the benchmark for decks, so if you’re in Skycrag, start swapping out those Obliterates and get ready to Burn Them All.
Howling Peak ranks among the best Sites for me. All three of the spells here are good, it protects itself nicely, and the static health effect ends up mattering a lot when you consider that you’ll be copying a card with Mirror Image. With Gun Down, Mirror Image, and 5 Durability, it will be very hard for them to actually kill your Howling Peak most of the time, allowing it to consistently make it through all its spells and produce Kaleb. That’s a lot of value, and that’s exactly what you want out of a Site.
Syl, Hand of the Cabal
A 5-cost with no immediate impact and no protection makes Syl a hard sell. The real appeal is dual-faction Pledge, as she can be used primarily as a power to smooth out your opening hands and be an average unit everywhere else. I’m not sure that makes her worth the slot, but we’ll probably need a while to test Pledge to see how important it actually is.
Torgov’s Trading Post
Did Arcanum Hourglass and all the other “play power from your void” cards just become playable? That effect and the low cost of 2 are the real reasons to play this card, as all three spells are otherwise pretty bad. I’m not sure that is worth all the trouble, but it is certainly worth trying out.
This card doesn’t look like it belongs in any deck with a fair gameplan, so let’s assume we’re going to be doing some void shenanigans with Dread. The most immediate thought is Haunting Scream, as it costs 4 and very nicely brings back targets you’ve already granted Flying and Charge to. It also pairs very nicely with Piercing Grief and other cards with Destiny that have gotten dumped into the void. Lifesteal means it also works well with Mask of Torment. Perhaps I am wrong though, and it might be fine in a deck with a straightforward gameplan as a card Primarily used for Pledge. I think it’s going to take some brewing to figure out where exactly to use this card, but it certainly seems good enough to be used somewhere.
This is in many ways as good as or better than Praxis Arcanum but suffers from the same issue of demanding units on the board in order to really get the most out of it. While Dizo’s Office or Howling Peak can immediately protect themselves without units, both of these feature Xenan Initation, which requires not only a unit, but a decent unit in order to clear the way and protect the Temple. Provided you can maintain a board, Xenan Temple does provide a ton of value between disrupting void-based strategies (or enhancing your own) and ending up with Worldjoiner if you make it that far.
Aniyah, Arctic Sherriff
Aniyah strikes me as a high risk, high reward card—a style I’m quite fond of. If you can get her to stick, she ranks up there as one of the best copy-targets in the game. The same discussion on the previous dual-faction Pledge cards applies here, too. I think her power level is a little too weak overall, but in a deck featuring plenty of copy effects (which seems like the type of thing a lot of Primal decks should be doing now), I could see her as a powerful Market option to lockdown opposing midrange decks.
This completely changes the dynamic for decks with Argenport colors. This is much better than Powerstone for ramping at 2, guaranteeing influence and triggering Empower. In addition to jumping right to 4 power, you can now afford to play several higher cost cards. It won’t replace Seek Power unless you’re in pure Argenport, but alongside it, it is going to be a quiet workhorse that allows JSx decks to cast much bigger things.
Back for More
I think most of the time it’s going to be too narrow to make good use of, but bringing a unit back and giving it Aegis is some pretty sweet card advantage. If you’re expecting control, this can help you establish a board that Argenport often struggles to achieve. It also pairs quite nicely with Dark Return.
The static ability is pretty weak and it has no removal attached. The only time I’d want to use it is against control, where Sabotage and Swear Vengence become appealing. Start with it in your Market and make sure you have a proactive gameplan as it looks like it will be hard to get any value out of it otherwise.
Zende, the Heart-binder
When I first saw this, I imagined we’d get a lot crazier elves. We didn’t, and we didn’t exactly have the most powerful selection to begin with. I think Zende one is worth passing on.
Display of Instinct
I’ve actually fallen a bit on this. This set had a lot less trifaction support than what I expected, and while I think that’s probably better overall, it does mean that you still have to give up some things to make a 3-faction deck. Jennev factions (FTP) still don’t have much of an identity outside of Moment of Creation and Display of Instinct doesn’t really help solidify it. That doesn’t stop Display of Instinct from having three insane modes, but I think this card is going to end up more as a reason to play Jennev as opposed to an easy slot in any strategy. The modes also work best in a more aggressively inclined shell, so you will get the most out of it if you commit yourself to some sort of attacking.
Zal Chi, Herald of War
Well, I suppose attacking with 7-drops is “some sort of attacking.” Zal looks best in the Market as a finisher to push through control decks or seal the game against a midrange deck. His vulnerability Silence and his inability to play defense effectively makes it hard to suggest him too highly though, and I don’t see him as a strong enough game plan in the same way that other 7-drops like Telut are.
Display of Honor
Ixtun (FJP) looks like it has a much more clear deckbuilding direction than Jennev, and Display of Honor helps you accomplish it. Fast speed Goatymorph might quietly be the best part of this card—I know many players (such as myself) have long wished for Polymorph to be Fast speed, and we more or less have the option right here. In addition to any sort of Ixtun Renown-style deck, the last two modes also work very well for an “Icaria Blue” style Relic Weapon control deck, and might even be strong enough to make the deck worth playing again. After seeing the whole set, I think this is actually the best Display.
Quinn, Lone Wanderer
I’m a big fan of any card that replaces itself, but this seems really slow and doesn’t seem to actually support a Renown gameplan that much. You don’t want to start with cards like Quinn when building your deck, and instead of adding her as one of your additional units to support your shell, I think you’re much better off putting in copy effects like Sudden Schism.
Display of Ambition
This looks like the worst of the Displays overall. Drawing two units is nice value, but it’s narrow. Unless you’re in a tokens shell, the top mode is pretty underwhelming. That leaves the bottom mode, which will probably be a bit more restrictive than a Fast speed Vanquish. That’s great, but not strong enough to instantly include itself in FJS (which has a million reasons to be played that don’t seem to revolve around this card.)
Speaking of going wide, have you ever wanted to deal 12 and gain 12 for the low cost of 5? If there is a FJS Tokens deck, I think this is probably one of the reasons to play it, because unlike Praxis tokens, you won’t need to wait for the one-turn lethal with Rally and Obelisk—just fill up your board, cast two of these, and win the game! It also is much better removal than anything Praxis Tokens has.
Brel, Solist Apostate
Not just the Armory card we needed, but the Armory card we deserved. Playing a Runehammer or Molten Fist on 6 and following it up with Brel on 7 should give you an insane weapon that will only get better as you recur it. That also assumes only one Brel—playing back-to-back Brel’s on the same weapon is downright heinous and probably illegal in several states. Welcome back, Relic Weapons.
Display of Vision
Fashion rating: 5.0
This gets an extra boost due to how relevant destroying relics is starting to look. I’d only start with this in a deck that otherwise would want something like Secret Pages and build from there. With all the new spicy Empower and expensive cards, that isn’t asking much.
Grinva, Breaker of Will
Can we take a moment to appreciate that a Minotaur plays cowardice on enemy units?
Jokes aside, our new Movie Poster Grinva looks absolutely frightening for aggro decks and fairly underwhelming for everything else. Her Empower ability can also force some combat kills and break Aegis’s, but doesn’t seem like an enticing enough reason to the card. I think you’re best off using her as a Market card for that reason, as otherwise, you’re paying 6 for a unit that won’t do enough vs. midrange and control strategies.
Display of Knowledge
Tucking units to the bottom of the deck is probably the strongest form of removal, and if that were the only mode on this card it’d deserve a high rating. Add in that it can fetch up some Relics or give that Jotun Feastcaller quickdraw and you have a very strong card.
I see zero current uses for this card and predict it will stay that way, but draw 7 for 7 always has the potential to be a key player in a combo deck that involves drawing and playing a lot of cards. It seems very unlikely we’ll ever have a real deck that can do that in Eternal, but if this card is in the game, there is always a chance.
What a set! Defiance has a lot of things going on, and it’s definitely hard to know where to start. The obvious starting point is starting to flesh out some of these three faction combinations more, but between Relic-based shells, a handful of aggro cards, “Reanimator” enablers and payoffs, powerful Primal cards, and a plethora of good control cards, there are many ways to start brewing. I think the last category is probably the ripest for exploration, as the Fall of Argenport metagame became quickly devoid of control strategies once Icaria and Channel the Tempest were nerfed. Don’t forget dual faction decks either, which can play out cards much faster and with higher single-faction influence than three faction decks (I’m looking at you, Clutch of Talons.) Unless I have misevaluated some cards, this is also the first set without several heavily-pushed lifesteal cards, and I hope that has an impact on the state of aggressive decks.
Fall of Argenport had a very long shelf life, and on paper, Defiance looks like it will have the same. Stay tuned for the Draft set review!