Hey folks! It’s October, which means the Denizens of Shim’zar expansion set has been out in circulation for a month. How time flies. It seems like just yesterday I was pouring over the spoilers, fidgeting uncontrollably as I waited to crack my newly purchased Shim’zar Orbs like a child on Christmas morning.
Prior to the release, there was a lot of speculation about whether card X or card Y was good or not. After this first month, the meta has shaken out with established archetypes.
I love experimenting, and I’m here to encourage it today—the goal of this article is to kindle some of that pre-Denizens of Shim’zar excitement for Duelyers of the world.
Here’s my list for 7 underplayed cards out of Duelyst’s first expansion. I will highlight one card from each faction along with one neutral.
Honorable Mention: Sphynx
[Note: the “Riddle” placed into your opponent’s hand is a 2-mana spell whose text reads “While you have a Riddle, you cannot replace. Cast to give your opponent a Riddle.”]
Technically, this Penny Arcade Thornwatch themed Sphynx isn’t part of the Denizens of Shim’zar set. But since it was released at the same time, it seems only fair to include it today.
Sphynx is as hilarious as it is powerful. Some of the funniest matches I’ve played have involved this bird-lion hybrid. Riddle me this: What’s the funniest thing you can do on the first turn as player 1? If you answered “Flash Reincarnation out a Sphynx,” you get 500 meme points. I even made a deck to see how many Riddles I could foist on my unwitting opponent through cards like Mindwarper and Alcuin Loremaster. My record was three!
Beyond its mere meme potential (or “memetential”), I was surprised at how good Sphynx actually was in the deck mentioned above. Stepping back, it’s not surprising as to why. At 5/4, its body is respectable albeit not incredible. Like every non-Golem out there though, the question is whether it’s shortcoming in stats are made up by its ability. In this case, it is.
Beyond just slightly neutering scourge of the ladder Inquisitor Kron, the inability to replace is a huge handicap. Imagine going through a game where your opponent was able to throw back a card every turn whereas you couldn’t. Riddling an opponent forces them into an awkward Sophie’s Choice, particularly early on. Do I get rid of this Riddle and risk losing too much tempo and board presence? Or do I just jam what’s in my hand and hope that I’ll have some breathing room a little later on?
Even more than that, Riddle acts as an obnoxious waste of space in an already limited action bar. By itself that’s not terribly problematic. When you start to add up all the ways to abuse that obstruction though, the power is apparent once your opponent winds up with 6 cards in hand. Blaze Hound’s Opening Gambit skyrockets in value, as does Starhorn’s Bloodborn Spell. Hailstone Prison becomes a straight removal spell. Lantern Fox suddenly isn’t offering up Phoenix Fires like it should. The list goes on. Dropping a Sphynx when my opponent had 5 cards in hand was a great feeling. It has incredible synergy with a lot of cards in several factions. My choice of sleeper card of the month.
Every time I see Onyx Jaguar in action I’m blown away by its power. This cat is incredible.
Every time a creature moves, for whatever reason, pump it. Mistdragon Seal now gives +2/+2. Juxtaposition pumps two creatures for 0 mana. Kaleos’s Bloodborn Spell becomes incredibly potent. And those are just the obvious ways to abuse this card! Chaos Elemental, for example, is a huge dude with a “drawback” that happens to synergize with Onyx Jaguar. Even an Inner Focus means that Jaguar can be a 5/5 with Rush the turn you play him (you know, because you’re Blinking him or something like that).
The Jaguar does not demand much out-of-the-box deck building to really shine. The cat hasn’t seen much ladder success yet, but it’s just a matter of time before it does.
The existence of Blistering Skorn has probably kept Void Steal in check, which is a real shame. In any sort of swarm deck, this spell can be an utter blowout.
With the right positioning, you’re able to “steal” a win with this card. Whether it’s moving minions into position or starting your turn with them in place, an extra 3 damage for everything around a particular target adds up fast. It literally quadruples the power of a Wraithling! It’s no exaggeration to say that this card can easily turn the tides on the opponent, and with two in hand and even a few 1/1s on the board, it’s hard to imagine not immediately winning the game.
And that’s not all: The -3 power on the attack is quite good in itself. The effect is permanent, so ignoring the now-neutered minion is perfectly reasonable. Notably you’re assured to be able to destroy whatever creature you cast it on with your newly beefed up minions. Two Wraithlings can now take down a Primus Shieldmaster and live to tell the tale. Lastly, Void Steal has indirectly buffed criminally underplayed Abyssian minion Nightsorrow Assassin. As a one-two punch, these cards can take down just about any threat—Inquisitor Kron, Grandmaster Z’ir, Komoda Charger, etc.
Of all the cards mentioned here, Astral Flood requires the most convincing. Astral Flood has two things going for it though.
First, it offers up in-faction battle pets. This means you can get Pax which is anything but underwhelming. If Astral Flood said “Put three Pax in your action bar,” it would definitely be a card worth playing!
Second, Duelyst has the replace mechanic. Instead of seeing your hand fill with Battle Pets, read Astral Flood as more of a three-mana “draw 3 cards slowly” card. If you’re ever hurting to refuel late game as Vetruvian, you could do a lot worse than Triple Yellow Waterfall, especially if you can draw out the game a bit.
It’s incredible how impactful a one-point boost in health can be. After all, that’s why there’s such a stark contrast between the playability of two-health and three-health minions. While subtle, Fighting Spirit has really grown on me for this reason.
In any sort of swarmy Lyonar deck, Fighting Spirit goes a long way toward making sure your minions don’t die while also making sure your hand stays stacked. Like Astral Flood, Fighting Spirit’s Battle Pet should be looked at more as “Draw a card” rather than merely sticking you with a Battle Pet. That said, if you’re playing a swarmy Lyonar deck, having an overstated 1-drop is probably precisely what you’re in the market for.
There are a ton of Magmar cards that I personally like—Thumping Wave, Gro, and Mandrake. All of them are awesome and see play.
Today, I’m giving a shout out to Nature’s Confluence. If your opponent doesn’t have a proper board or follow up, these little friends can wreak a lot of havoc. It’s also worth noting that the spell essentially also has Airdrop, allowing you to deploy minions across the field if you so choose.
The randomness is sort of feast or famine though. A bunch of Fogs or Oni aren’t nearly as impressive as a pack of Dex are, and a 2×2 square of Rok really needs proper placement to be effective. For 5 mana you’ve got a spell that objectively puts a ton of health and attack on the board, which your opponent will certainly need to address.
I’d also highlight Razor Skin—it’s worth a second look.
How is Lightning Blitz not played more? I don’t know if I’ve ever seen this cast by an opponent before, and yet every time I’ve cast it it’s felt like an utter blow out. If your opponent is in the middle of their side of the board, your minions are all but guaranteed to be able to hit, plus they all get +1/+1, plus they all gain their infiltrate abilities. Thank goodness that Spirit of the Wild was nerfed ever so slightly because it feels like this combo would be downright infuriating.
Lightning Blitz does suffer from one main issue: what happens when you opponent is so callous as to not be on their side of the board within striking range?
There are two ways to solve this problem: First, play ranged minions. With a couple of ranged units, a Lightningg Blitz does double duty by not only pumping them but also removing them from the approaching enemy general (presuming, of course, that they’re on your starting side of the board). This line works great with Jax, a Vanar staple already, and can be supplemented by under-appreciated ranged combo card Mark of Solitude.
Second, you can punish your opponent with Avalanche. The “combo” of Avalanche and Blitz seems like it could put your opponent in a “damned if I do, damned if I don’t” scenario. Blitz also conveniently removes any errant minions from your side of the board. In an aggressive deck, I could see this card putting a lot of pressure on your opponent.
Last but not least, the Calculator. Okay, I confess. Calculator isn’t really a hidden gem, but my options were few and far between. What was I going to highlight? Inquisitor Kron?
Still, have you ever actually cast Calculator though? It doesn’t take many Yun or Rawr to make him a comically large threat. Heck, with those two as your only Battle Pets in hand he’s a 9/12 for 5 mana. That is insanity. In fact, the times when I’ve cast him—which are sadly the only times I’ve ever seen him on the battlefield, his power has always been upwards of 15 attack.
There’s one gaping flaw about Calculator besides needing to jam your deck with Battle Pets: Dispel is a real downer here. No one likes a 5-mana 1/1, and unfortunately that’s what happens to him a large majority of the time he hits play. Still, if you’re looking to revitalize your meme game and add more sweet meme points to your total, Calculator equals fun.
That’s it! What’s your favorite underused Denizen of Shim’zar card? Sound off in the comments.