The FrostSpark Impact in Versus Arena

The content drought is finally over with the new FrostSpark collection. Everybody is figuring out new ways to introduce these cards in the current constructed metagame, but have you stopped to think about how they are going to impact Versus Arena?

If you are an avid Arena player, you may have noticed that the game mode has gone stale due to a set of different factors, but mainly because of the limited card pool given to us. However, the new set brought some new toys to play and (hopefully) it will give some fresh air to our beloved game.

In this article we briefly analyze each card, pointing out their strengths and weakness considering the Versus Arena environment, including elements like card availability, rarity cap, and color, among other things. While we do our best to point out potential synergies and specific situations, don’t forget that this might be subject to change with future releases.

Piercing Twilight

New Daedra in town! This card suffers the same weakness of Cast Into Time in Arena – the probability of getting multiple copies of a card in this game mode is really low, drastically limiting the card potential. 

When you start a draft, there are cards that you will surely pick more than once if given the option, like a second Clockwork Scorpion or a second Piercing Javelin. Nevertheless, those cases, while joyful, are rare.

Cast Into Time becomes a worse Piercing Javelin with no Prophecy with the chance to trigger its effect. Something similar happens to Piercing Twilight, with a lower probability to activate its full effect, but limiting the effect of cards that revive stuff from the discard pile. A 4/4 body with Guard is what it will become in most matches, which is not that bad, though.

For the above reasons, I consider Piercing Twilight will work as a luxurious blocking body. To be fair, the added effect is a nice bonus, but it will not impact the metagame to a great extent.

Destruction Tutor

To put it simple, I can’t see this card affecting the metagame in a huge extent. It has decent stats that allows it to trade more than one time, but its true potential lies somewhere else.

I think this card allows small defensive tempo plays involving cheap damage dealing actions like Firebolt (for free) or Reverberating Strike (at 1) that helps you clear/contest the board while being able to take/make some trades. Consider that wide damage actions like Crushing Blow or Lighting Bolt are carefully weighed in draft, thus the 2 magicka discount is not even that impactful if you want to go full face.

As a conclusion, I think this card pairs well with the occasional control oriented draft where your main approach will be to make your opponent lose tempo with the mana cheat. Other than that, I don’t expect this card to be a huge threat, especially here where the strong Blue damaging spells are carefully offered.

Harmony

In a world where prophecies are highly valued assets, I think Harmony has a flexible spot here. We all agree that, at first sight, its main purpose is defensive. Nevertheless, my first reaction to this card is that it can work as a “mass Cloudrest Illusionist”. This really impacts the game because in every game, there’s a moment when you enter a “value phase” which involves value trades to gain board control. This particular moment is when Harmony shines.

Regarding potential synergies, I think the outstanding one is when combined with Arrow Storm, based on the rarity of the card and the average attack value of Arena cards (usually lower than 5). Other combos include an occasional Execute and Spiteful Dremora, although less optimal. As a rare card, I expect to see it quite more often than I would prefer.

Based on the last arguments, I think Harmony is a very flexible card that can act as something between “one more turn before dying” and a card that allows comfortable trades, albeit requiring you to have a certain amount of dominance on the board. I think at the end it will become a good staple card in Arena.

Apex Wolf

The card revealed by Team Rankstar! As you know, Arena is mostly played as a Midrange game, where the player who starts and/or ends with greater tempo wins. Apex Wolf was received with mixed opinions in its reveal mainly because of his uncomfortable cost when you think of it from a classic midrange deck structure point of view.

However, the card possesses two key components that makes it a good Arena pick: 1) it behaves as a very specific draw engine allowing you to get the next creature in your deck, and 2) the drain keyword greatly helps your survival rate. Also, the effect of inheriting its keywords is a greatly appreciated perk with such a small deck, although there’s still that random component that “balances” the card.

I don’t see any outstanding (potentially harmful for the Arena environment) synergies considering the limited availability of cards in Arena, so I dare to say that this card will just see play as a dangerous 6 drop with potential to heal yourself, draw another creature, and give you more health in the following turns.

Finally, I don’t like the fact that this card is in Yellow decks, especially because this color has a lot of strong cards that focus on defensive aspects, either with Guard or Drain, and access to a part of the Rally mechanic, although the epic rarity limits its appearance. This card will be the miracle top deck that can change the outcome of any game.

Green Pact Ambusher

The second prophecy card we review has its own merits. This card exploits the mechanic of full lanes in a novel way, avoiding headaches when you manage to draw it. As I said earlier, prophecy cards are a core mechanic in the game, and in Arena they have a major role helping the player to recover the board when you are left behind.

Every time you start draft you don’t know exactly what your deck will look like and how it will behave. If you end up with an aggressive draft, I must say that this card can be a double-edged sword mostly due the Guard keyword – it dies to anything. Keep this in mind when you calculate your chances to close a game as soon as possible.

The stronger point is that its effect relies on a full enemy lane to be triggered, which is often seen in Arena. The way this card will impact the meta is that you will need to play around it, no matter how likely it is to see it in Red decks, thus increasing the “split-push” strategies in the game.

Nevertheless, I believe that this card can work as bait body while being able to push significant amount of damage in little time. Combine it with some of the best Red and Yellow items in the game, this card can bolster your strategy. At the end, in paper, this card has potential to pair with items to augment its survivability, but again, it is hurt by the current Arena card pool.

We have another card that becomes particularly stringer with items, giving classes like Crusader, Redoran, and Hlaalu an amazing new recruit… Classes that are already powerful in Arena.

Sword of the Inferno

You may have witnessed it, but if not, I can tell you that this card is a strong candidate for the “Swiss Army Knife” of the new set thanks to its various ways to combine it with multiple other cards.

A rare rarity makes the card appearance a little more usual that we would like it to be, but the aspect that worries me is the multiple ways it can synergize in many Red decks. Though not with Red cards specifically, but those in the other color.

Consider first, again, the available card pool in this game mode, so there are fewer possible combinations than in constructed. However, some basic combos with Slay, Lethal, and Drain makes it an auto include in almost every Red deck as it works as a cheap trigger for those effects, and puts some steroids on resilient creatures that surely will  go face.

I fear this card can become a nuisance, especially now where Red has access to some of the best cards in this game mode. While I agree this card is somewhat balanced, we must closely observe how it affects the current metagame.

Shadowmarking

In EndoZoa’s words: “…Shadowmarking is extremely low tempo and its strength lies in quickly digging toward key pieces…”.

Card advantage comes from two sources: card generation, usually random, and draw engines. It is utterly important to understand this concept, especially because TESL’s empty deck mechanic is crushing. When you run out of cards, you lose one rune. Thus, if you have no runes left when you draw your first fatigue card, you instantly lose. Why do I mention this? Draw engines can become a double-edged sword if you abuse them, specially in Arena where deck sizes are smaller. Shadowmarking becomes a useful tool to replenish your hand or dig for that specific card, just be careful to not go overboard with that tempting extra draw.

The aspect of giving cards for free to your opponent is too risky. While it allows you to desperately dig for that specific card you might be looking for, there are few examples of cards you will likely give away to your opponent. Every asset is important. Every piece counts to victory.

While I don’t expect to see this card a lot due the rarity constraint, I think one copy can be useful, just consider the draw issues and the hassle of giving free resources to the other player.

Torval Extortionist

The main issue with this card is the well known weakness of 5-6 cost cards to Yellow hard removal spells that make this type of cards useless unless they instantly impact the board when summoned.

The above mentioned problem is not such a concern in Arena, especially because the efficient removal tools are restricted (but still existent). This makes the big cat a huge threat thanks to its strong stats, but mainly due the insane ability to allow strong tempo turns when you are able to activate its slay ability. Nix-Ox is broken in Arena, what do you expect from this big guy?

There’s no more to say about this card. The ability is simple but extremely punishing if you don’t have the correct answer at the right time. Pick this card when possible.

Karthspire Scout

Another simple card. In a draft, I like to pick some 1 cost cards to help me begin the game if I don’t get the ring in order to get some presence on the field.

This card will become a staple in many Purple decks thanks to that moderate draw and early presence. The Orc tag is a nice bonus, but just don’t dream yourself in an Orcish paradise where you can cheaply activate a Wood Orc Headhunter. 

I expect to see this card a lot. Not broken, but will allow early card advantage (with a slight penalization) if played early in the game. Let’s see how this evolves.

Death Hound

If you have played the Dawnguard DLC, you might recognize this good boy. We have another card with a simple, yet interesting ability that perhaps you have already seen somewhere else. The card has above average stats considering its cost, making it a huge body if you drop it on curve. However, the ability can go in two directions:

When things can go wrong…

This scenario contemplates when Death Hound is damaged by any form, specially damage from hand, making it quite easy to deal with him on board. However, give him Regenerate or heal him and the problem is partially solved.

To be realistic, Regenerate can be given only with Hackwing Feather, and only 4 cards can heal a creature (up to Houses of Morrowind). On the other hand, cards that set a creature’s health to 1 (Weakness, Lay Down Arms) are strong counters to this card and often picked in Arena.

When things can go right…

This case is related to buffing our good boy, making it a card that supports trading with Purple, Red, and Yellow items. Of course, at long term it suffers from the “can go wrong” scenario, but it gives you enough time to abuse his ability and gain board control.

At the end, the good boy serves as a “decent” trade minion and removal/damage bait which can synergize with plenty of items and silence cards. As a Guard creature, it will fulfill the job. Just don’t expect a lot of constant synergies for this card.

Wilds Incarnate

The moose of the new set arrives with style to Legends. To begin, the legendary rarity makes this cards almost a once in a lifetime, and I’m still waiting to see it for the first time in Arena.

When you analyze this card you must consider how the Arena environment has been in the past months. The first thing to ask yourself is how often you decide to go face in a match. From a different perspective, how often do you think the effect of Wilds Incarnate will trigger?

There are two typical cases: the first one ponders the basic goal of every draft mode in every card game – going face to defeat the enemy player. It doesn’t consider any potential threat, prophecy cards, etc. The only thing that matters is to diminish your opponent’s numbers. At some point, the above mentioned value phase will begin, so the player with the best tempo wins. When you reach this point, you will probably have less than 4 runes, not allowing the moose to shine.

The second case is when you detect a deck that can (and will) punish you in the value game, so you will avoid giving him resources for free (rune breaking) so the other player exhaust his hand. That’s the type of decks where Moose will shine.

If you consider the mental game that this card establishes, breaking two runes just in case… I think everyone does that in Arena to end the game as soon as possible until the value phase begins. So, at the end, I consider Wilds Incarnate won’t be a crucial card for the draft metagame.

Closing Thoughts

As you might have noticed, the majority of potential aspects of these cards are limited by one factor – the current card pool in Verus Arena. This issue cripples synergies seen in constructed decks, but enables more “fair” interactions. However, there’s still this “high” variance regarding RNG based outcomes and insane (and possibly recurrent) draft combinations that could enable those constructed combos in Arena, making the experience less enjoyable.

While I admit I’m quite excited to test some of the cards discussed, there are others that I think will become problematic given the variance factor of given cards. How often do we see an Ice Storm? How often do we pick more than two Clockwork Scorpions? It is way more than we would like to admit, but at the end the player with the greater mind shall prevail.

I hope you enjoyed reading this brief article. If you have any comment or suggestion, please let me know in the comment section or feel free to contact me in my social media.

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