Too Many Words about Mage Knight (Part IV — Artifacts)
Aah artifacts. Even the ‘basic’ action is usually great … and nary a mana to be spent. A dungeon near the portal is always a welcoming site — with a decent hand and non-abysmal luck you level up and likely get an artifact. A fair price for a few wounds.
And early on, any artifact is good. Later on you may get unlucky and draw two artifacts that are both mediocre or affect areas you can’t use much of. But even in the mid game an artifact is not to be shunned lightly. The two points for the artifact is the least important part of it. You can make your destiny without breaking a few artifacts, but its much easier if you do.
A Sidebar — The Power of Doubling
I mentioned the Disease spell’s power derived from the fact it turned Block into Block + Attack. In effect, it doubles what you’ve got. Geometric progressions grow so much faster than arithmetic. These are combos to look out for. Successful ranged attacks effectively double, counting as attack + block (since they kill the target before you have to block).
So, if I say something “Doubles” in value I may not mean it literally, but that the effect grows quickly.
All four rings either gain you token plus a crystal and 1 fame, or you destroy it for infinite tokens of the appropriate color (and black!) and +1 fame per spell of the matching color. Black man on demand means that selecting a ring is always a reasonable choice. You can power 2+ spells (even if they don’t match the rings color, you’ll probably have a few crystals by the second night, when you might reasonably break a ring).
If you happen to have spells of the right color, that’s a bonus, but I don’t worry too much about it.
Mid-late game, you may know that the ring isn’t that great if you lack spells and are mana rich. In that case you’ll snatch the other card, but first day? A ring is a safe choice. (Maybe not the top choice, but good). You’ll earn 5-6 fame, load up on crystals, and some spare mana. I don’t worry if I waste the token the turn I play the ring, although of course its nice to get full use. Early on, a ring is a B+ grab. Maybe A-.
I consider the Endless Gem Pouch a psuedo-ring; not quite as good, decent. You’ll get less fame, but you keep everything you can’t use right away. If you break the bag, you’ll get 5 tokens (one of each), which gives you a single black (assuming you break it at night) plus a variety. When you roll gold you’ll get the crystal you want most, and when you roll black you’ll get fame. So — More variety, two crystals a round (instead of a crystal + a token), less fame, no infinite black. Call it a B-.
To make this category a card should be generally useful and/or have a huge upside.
The Horn of Wrath is great in conquest. Siege attack five can usually pierce out a cities minor unit, and if you break it you can take out a non-resistant major unit. Sure, you may eat a few wounds, but you probably would have anyway. Even when facing Volkare (where you’d prefer ranged) the horn works fine. You get a free Concentration + Swiftness that you always draw together (and a bonus card). If you always took the Horn you’d be wrong some small percentage of the time. A+
The Banner of Fear has a place in my heart. Drafted early, give it to your peasants (whoever) to wave at your enemies. Then (before the second night) you shuffle it back in and during your first city siege you cancel three units. (If you don’t need to do that, then congrats! You’ve got a great game). This lets you hit your first city taking almost no wounds (assuming you hold a heaping helping of Murder, which you should because you just cancelled three units for one card). The time/wounds you save will pay you back. Sure, this is only a one-use card, but what a use. A+
The Bow of Stardawn shines against Volkare (who tends to not be fortified) but the ability to break it to turn ranged into seige is also good, or doubling seige to ranged is going. Its either a literal or figurative doubling, and also great early (when tramping down into dungeons, etc). A- only because you need a few combos with it in solo conquest.
The Sword of Justice is a literal doubling when you break it — you double your physical attacks and remove physical resistance (from the non-magically resistant). So — a sometimes quadrupling. You can’t save attack from phase to phase, so you can’t play your attacks prior to block, lose your hand, and then do this, but you can still break it prior to losing your hand, then double your followers/skills/etc. A-
The Amulet of Darkness is a stretch for this category, because you don’t always have spells. But when you do — man, playing an advanced spell during a daytime round can be huge. B+ in general, but in the right deck this is an A+ card.
The Circlet of Protection (aka the “Chiclet” of protection. I don’t know why I started this). I rarely own the Chiclet, I just rent it by breaking this the following turn. Skills are great; taking a skill — even one someone passed on as the weaker of the two — rocks. Keeping the circlet provides flexibility (maybe you want one skill this round, and a different one next round) and using a skill twice during a battle can be amazing. But not breaking this risks the timing, and usually the flexibility isn’t worth it. So — as I said — I typically posses this for one turn. This goes up a fair amount as you add players, because the number of skills to choose from grows.
The Golden Grail. You say you have no wounds so you shouldn’t draft this? I say go forth and attack your closest enemy then (airquote) block (airquote) it for free and earn two bonus points to boot. If you draw it with wounds its obviously valuable. And if you have too many wounds.
Because it’s useful with a wound free deck, the grail is actually weakest when you have a medium number of wounds. Enough that you might draw it with a single wound and not be willing to take one more. This also gains value the earlier you draw it (like a ring). Solid A- on day 1 (especially as you are almost certainly staring at 2-4 wounds from earning it) and drops a half grade (or more) each round. It can also be a late game life saver, letting you flush out wounds redraw and attack right away.
The Banner of Command works great because its a one time Call to Glory. Typically there will be an early city unit you’d like to recruit before you conquer the city, and breaking this gets you the unit (and the two fame you’d lose by breaking it!). If you get to use it for influence a time or two prior to breaking, that’s a bonus. In contrast, the ability to have an extra unit is sometimes amazing, but typically the units run low fast. But sometimes you get hosed in the unit draw (particularly solo). B
Book of Wisdom — As an early pick, this can really make for a monstrous deck. In many ways, its nice to trim your deck out as you improve it. Just grabbing a bunch of new cards (with Blood of the Ancients, or Learning, or buying everything when there are multiple monasteries) can get you a theoretically awesome but practically too-variable deck. Using Book of Wisdom to toss base movement for advanced movement (like Steady Tempo or Pathfinding) and Rage for better attack isn’t flashy, but its solid. And if you find you no longer need influence, you can turn those cards into something better. B
[TaoLing particularly enjoys cards that net more advanced actions and often drafts them. Sometimes this works spectacularly, but I’ve seen him struggle with bloated decks increased variability. He draws no movement or all movement no attack and then flounder the final day or two. It’s a grueling way to lose].
Tome of All Spells –Any spell can huge, and I’ve already sung the praises of casting an advanced spell during the day (with the mana paid for). Still … the tome is an anti-hand size combo in that you are giving up two cards (and one must be the right color) for a spell. If you have hand-size-boosting, that won’t be a problem. But a knight with six hand size (and say, a wound) will find this dead weight from time to time. B
Druidic Staff — The nice thing about the staff: flexibility. You get what you need (at the cost of a card). But typically I use it for the white (move up to 2 revealed spaces) ability. The staff is the only movement-granting artifact, but it’s good. Readying a single unit can help take out a dragon, crystals are nice and healing is nice. But nothing is great, although the advanced ability can often prepare an assault by teleporting to the right place and giving you some crystals. B because its usually useful.
The Amulet of the Sun doesn’t have near the power of amulet of darkness, but its minor powers are good. Using a gold at night can really reset the mana pool, forests are much more common than deserts and two move is not to be scoffed at, and revealing garrisons is great. B
Look, the Bag of Infinite Gold gives you fame and influence. What it doesn’t give you is time. I’d much rather have less fame and some mana (like say, a ring). Repeated four influence is nice, but you can only recruit so often, and by comparison the Banner of Command just lets you nab that great unit (without requiring an action or being in the right place). B-
Soul Harvester — Attack 3 and gain a crystal. Nothing wrong, but not sexy. The advanced ability (attack 8 and one crystal per defeated unit in the phase) can actually gain you more points than you lose from breaking it in the right situation, but the Soul Harvester is purely additive. Even the (terrible) banners may have a right situation come up where they are game changers. With Altem Mages or some other combo you could gain massive crystals with this, but that makes the Harvester icing on an already delicious cake. C+
Shield of the Fallen Kings — Block improved in Lost Legion, but this isn’t enough block to shine. Block six with no special powers is just barely better than determination, although you have the option to block four twice. If the shield doubled against swiftness that would be something, but “one point better than a powered card you start with” isn’t much to write home about. Breaking this isn’t great either (Cold Fire Block 8 or three cold fire block fours). C
Most Banners grade poorly because they require a parlay. You need units that match the banner. (The Banners of Command and Fear are great because they don’t require units. Command gets you units, and Fear stops enemies). That’s why most of them are listed here.
The Banner of Protection grants Armor +1 and all resistances. This (typically) turns one unit into a tank, able to bounce 1-2 wounds a round. (An Utem Guardsman works well with the Banner). The advanced ability (“Throw away all wounds you received this turn”) is ok; but hard to time. Typically that means you throw away five wounds, and if you had it in your hand, you could have used it to bounce some wounds. C+
Banner of Fortitude is here because ignoring one wound a round isn’t bad, but it’s no Grail. If you have it you can end a round (the second night, say) by assaulting a city/volkare and wounding every unit, then reshuffle it and break it the next day to heal them all your units. Particularly against the green city (which poisons) that can be huge. But … still a parlay. C-
The Banner of Courage lets you ready a unit (except during combat) or ready all units. The advanced action can be great, attack a city (etc) and discharge a massive volley, trash the Banner, repeat. But …. You have to have enough units to be worthwhile, and either be weak enough to not take out your target the first time, or have another target(s) that really need the units the second time. And you have to get the Banner at the right time. It clogs your hand. But if you get an Altem Mages (etc) good. C
The Banner of Glory (Armor/Attack/Block + 1 and +1 fame per attack or block) is a minor boost, really only efficient on a resistant unit (to boost the repeated block) and a small fame bump. If you’ve got a Guardian Golem, it’s fine (if you get them both really early, especially) but the number of times its fine is way too low. If you quickly get a healers + a unit, you can pop this for 2 fame a round, and I’ve done that, and I’m still underwhelmed. C