Advanced Ashes

Advanced Ashes is a weekly series covering advanced Ashes strategies. Each week, a different Ashes player will showcase two cards, exploring their strengths and synergies. Visit the PlaidHatGames.com Ashes store, as well as the online Ashes deckbuilder.

Howdy Folks!

I’m EpicGollum1499, and today I’m here to share with you two of my favorite cards, explain why tempo isn’t just for musicians, and tell you about the single worst mistake a new player can make when building an Ashes deck. I am not an expert, nor do I play one on TV, but I have been a playtester since the beginning and I’m super passionate about this wonderful game. I’ve even been accused of deckbuilding on the toilet once or twice. (Don’t judge, we all do it from time to time.) So let’s get cracking!

I once heard on the Main Action Podcast that if you lose in Ashes, it’s your fault. Whoever said that was right! Deck-building will only get you so far.  This game is all about staying one step ahead of your opponents, anticipating their next move, and aligning your strategy to counter it. Essentially, Ashes is a game about tempo. In music, that word refers to timing, when to play the right note, but in games, it can also refer to board control. In Ashes, because of the back and forth nature of play, you have to pay attention to both!

When you wind up an old-fashioned watch, it takes time to get it running, and when you get to the end of a day, it starts to slow down. Ashes is a an old-fashioned watch. At the beginning of the game, it’s a race to get your machine running, and at the end, the tempo of the game slows down as you try to squeeze out those last few remaining life points on your opponent. While this first card gives a tempo boost at any point in the game, I’ve found it to be particularly effective right at the beginning: Ice Trap!

Ice Trap
Known affectionately (or unaffectionately) to some as "Ice Crap!" this card is one of my favorites. It’s beneficial in SO many ways. With the Enchanted Violinist adjustment, there’s no two life unit that’s free, so you are basically guaranteed a return on your investment whenever you play it. It can be a big boost to your economy, especially when used against the expensive but fragile two life units, like Ice Golem or Flash Archer. Time is money, so any card that saves money AND time is a win in my book.

But wait, it’s also a reaction spell! It can be played ANY TIME a unit with two or less life comes out. That gives it amazing versatility. Plus, as most two life units require a main action to put out, in addition to spending equal or less dice than your opponent to counter his move, you are destroying his unit, AND his main action, AND you have a whole ‘nother action to spend on your turn!

Here are my favorite situations in which to use this card:

  • When building up a battlefield, to prevent a blocker from being summoned.
  • On the first turn to totally screw with your opponent’s plan (and gain major tempo).
  • Against expensive units.
  • Against those gosh darn Blue Jaguars.
  • Against allies! (Or at least against allies that you don’t mind ending up in the discard.)

Here are my least favorite situations in which to use this card:

  • When your opponent uses Summon Sleeping Widows immediately after your Ice Trap.
  • On any conjuration with 2 more summon spells sitting at the ready.  It’s still useful in this situation...just less so.
  • Against cheap 1 life units like Mist Spirits.
  • When your opponent literally doesn’t have any two life or less units at all…

So that’s that.

Next up, let’s sink our teeth into Frost Bite!

Frost Bite

While Ice Trap is most effective turn 1, Frost Bite is most effective as a late game finisher. Normally 1 die for 1 damage plus a main action and a spellboard slot is not the best exchange. There are better ways to deal damage, but Frost Bite is one of the only ready spells in the game that can deal damage straight to the phoenixborn. You can use it EVERY round. That’s why there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing the look on your opponent’s face when they realize you’re going to kill them with Frost Bite one turn before they would have won! It’s the best for speeding up the late game tempo.

Normally by the time the late game rolls around, either somebody’s already won, or you’re locked in this weird sort of death-grip battle of attrition, trying to gain the advantage after everyone’s already taken a ton of hits. Frost Bite can give you this advantage, and that’s why I like it so much.

Here are my favorite times to use Frost Bite:

  • End of the game.
  • Dealing damage to activate a combo.
  • Dealing that one last damage to finish a unit or a phoenixborn off.
  • End of a round, when you have dice left that you don’t care about and can’t use.

Here are my least Favorite time to use Frost Bite:

  • At the beginning of the game.
  • Against units with massive life and recover.
  • When there’s a better way to spend your dice that could potentially deal more damage than the number of dice spent to produce it.
  • Mondays.

This is why Rin is one of my favorite base decks to play in Ashes. He’s got both these cards for double the tempo and double the fun! Even if you don’t play Rin, these cards are great to have in your deck. They don’t combo with each other directly, but they often combo with the other tricks you have in your deck. It’s okay to throw a single Ice Trap in your deck to put in your first five, but be careful if you decide to include less than three Frost Bite spells. They’re not that useful early game, but if you don’t put it in your first five, it’ll be easy to accidentally meditate it away.

And finally, you know what the single worst mistake a player can make when building an Ashes deck is? Giving it a terrible name! Throwing out something stupid like AradelDeck37 makes me wanna slap ya upside the head. C’mon dog! I wanna look at your deck name and get so stoked I freakin’ burst into flame! It’s also good if the name gives you an idea of the deck’s main strategy or theme. “I don’t name decks 14” might be anti-establishment, but it doesn’t help any would-be deck shoppers.

Here are some examples of good deck names:

  • Blockers? I don’t need no stinkin’ blockers!
  • Insta-grow snake farm
  • Orrick’s Menagerie of All the Cool - looking Things in the World
  • Freaking Musical Blood Transfusions All the Time Everywhere
  • Fiery Chant of the Siren Chick
  • Coal's Slash a Bang Whizzcracker
  • The Divine Mystery
  • RRRAAAAAAAAWRRR!!!!!!

Anyways, I hope you enjoyed! If you liked this, follow me on twitter @EpicGollum1499. And remember: The harder you fall, the higher you bounce. Catch ya on the flip side!

Next week: They were asleep inside...

Visit the PlaidHatGames.com Ashes store, as well as the online Ashes deckbuilder.

Previous Advanced Ashes Articles
Week 1: Blood Chains and Butterfly Monk


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