Re-Constructed Decks - Sembali
What Lies Beyond The Gates
Welcome back, Ashes players, to another installment of Re-Constructed. I just want to take this moment to say thank you for all the positive reception the community has given with the Re-Con series. It’s wonderful to know that players are enjoying them. Speaking of community, today’s Phoenixborn is just as much a community effort as a developer one: Sembali Grimtongue
By this point, you should already know the deck building restrictions we’re working with, and with these divine magic and sympathy magic decks you’ll also need “The Law of Lions” or “The Song of Soaksend” accordingly. Today’s re-con will be a little different; since we’re covering a Phoenixborn originally driven by community input, I figured we should have a re-con that reflects that.
The Quintessence of Memoria (Re-Sembali)
Re-constructed by Andrew DiLullo
5 Divine, 5 Illusion // Required Sets: Masters of Gravity, Duchess of Deception
1x Shifting Mists
3x Light Swordsman
2x Chained Creations
2x Celestial Knight
1x Summon Spectral Assassin
2x Shadow Guard
3x Shepherd of Lost Souls
1x Power Through
2x Figures in the Fog
So, right away you’re going to notice that this deck is only 20 cards, and we’ll get to that, but let’s take a trip down memory lane first. Sembali was originally announced as the recipient of the biggest Ashes event in the original game’s lifespan: The War Within. Players could participate in events at their local stores in an attempt to sway the allegiance of an upcoming Phoenixborn. Rather than steer her down a dark path, the community had her embrace the light, and the result was a fleet of unique and interesting cards that see play in all manner of decks to this day. Most of our re-cons using either divine or illusion magic have probably used at least one card from Sembali’s card pool, and that’s purely because her cards are that applicable on a wide scale. Our divine magic re-con decks are no strangers to Chained Creations, Admonishers, Law of Grace, and Shepherd of Lost Souls. Victoria’s re-con also allowed us to showcase the explosive potential of Gates Thrown Open and the sneaky Shadow Guard. So, by the time we’ve arrived here, the only new cards to us are Celestial Knight, Angelic Rescue, and Summon Spectral Assassin, each of which fills some particularly niche gaps for particularly niche decks. On the whole, Sembali’s Reborn deck is loaded with creative cards that help provide decks with personality.
They maybe have a little too much personality because some of these cards don’t play nicely with each other. Admonishers are fantastic in a long term game (as we saw with Astrea), but Law of Grace also prevents much of the damage you’re doing with that strategy. Gates Thrown Open is a powerhouse spellboard enabler, but the only card it affects here is Admonisher. Probably the biggest funk factor comes from Sembali herself with an ability that promotes bigger allies, but a special card (Purify) that encourages cheaper allies with enter play abilities. Still, despite a little creative jostling, the gears all generally turn in the same direction leaving us with a deck packed with removal for roughly any situation. That versatility is what I chose to focus on with the re-Con.
While there have been a few number tweaks, there is one crucial new addition that perfectly takes advantage of everything Sembali has to offer: Light Swordsman. She’s arguably one of the best allies in the game to use with Purify; while there are other 1-cost allies with the benefit of enter play triggers (Anchornaut, Swift Messenger, etc.), Light Swordsman has the advantage of being a side action summon, meaning you can play Light Swordsman and Purify with her in the same turn. Additionally, she’s incredible with Sembali’s Gift of Wings since Quick Strike easily enables one-sided takedowns. Normally, Gift of Wings is something you save for larger allies since you usually want your ally to survive the attack, but Quick Strike works around that problem and allows us to have a perfectly effective ally swing without the low health being an issue. The heavy inclusion of Light Swordsman is also why we’re running a single Shifting Mists, to help us reach those much coveted Power Symbols without needing to meditate too aggressively over the course of the game.
Now, let’s address the 20 card deck size. To keep Sembali in the spirit of community input, I’ve created a special system for this re-con called “The Gates”. Memoria is a hub connected to realms beyond, each gate leading to new worlds and new possibilities, so for this re-con you will decide how it plays. All you have to do is take the 20-card hub I’ve provided, and combine it with any of the 10-card gates we’re about to dive into, or maybe just open a gate of your own construction. Despite each of these “decks'' having the same ? worth of structure, I think you’ll find they play completely differently from one another. And, for the sake of simplicity, all of my gates will still use the same two expansions as the core shell.
Gate of the Conqueror
"I give the gift of wings, so none may rise against you."
(+1 Divine, -1 Illusion)
1x Summon Winged Lioness
1x Gravity Training
1x Holy Knight
2x Polarity Mage
2x Power Through (3 total)
1x Angelic Rescue
2x Holy Relics
The Gate of the Conqueror focuses on Sembali’s ability to hunt down specific units without dealing with your opponent’s guards. We’ll be pressuring our opponent’s board with Winged Lioness and Light Swordsman, while building them up to egregious power levels via Gravity Training and Holy Relics. Power Through will help us pressure opponents with lots of chump blockers, while Polarity Mage will ensure we never run out of alterations (especially combined with Purify and Shepherd).
Your opening hand is Lioness, Gravity Training, Shifting Mists, and your choice of 1 ally and 1 alteration. Keep in mind that if you start with a Knight and Holy Relics, your opening hand will be too expensive to do everything you might want. I prefer Light Swordsman and Holy Relics here, but it’s pretty flexible. You could potentially go with Light Swordsman and Purify if you want extra removal for 3-cost conjurations.
Gate of the Solipsist
"Each realm is merely a dream. May you find meaning, then, in sleep."
(+1 Illusion, -1 Divine)
1x Summon False Demon
1x Secret Door
2x Rose Fire Dancer
1x Shadow Guard (3 total)
1x Summon Spectral Assassin (2 total)
2x To Shadows
1x Figures in the Fog (3 total)
The Gate of the Solipsist focuses on the utility and removal potential of Purify, and creates some interesting venues of control for it. Rose Fire Dancer is doing a lot of work in this version, combining with Purify for some nasty lockdown combos (Distract, Purify, Distract again), and acting as a powerful vessel for Secret Door. Given the sheer amount of exhaustion tools this deck contains, the inclusion of False Demon shouldn’t be too much of a surprise here, providing a decent body and almost always inflicting extra damage on our opponent’s units. Additionally, exhausted units are easy pickings with Gift of Wings on basically any of our allies (outside of Anchornaut)
Your opening hand is False Demon, Shifting Mists, Purify, and at least 1 ally. Rose Fire Dancer can provide a ton of utility in the first round with Purify, though you might be able to achieve a similar effect with Anchornaut. Light Swordsman can be brutal against an opponent trying to be economical with their guards. If you want to be a little cheeky, you can also run Summon Shadow Assassin in your opener to get even more value out of exhausting your units. With this deck, you want to keep your opponent on the backfoot as much as possible. Finally, you probably shouldn’t start with Secret Door since that card is more of an over-the-top finisher, but it could be solid against overly defensive setups.
Gate of the Reckoner
"If oblivion is all this realm wishes, then oblivion I shall deliver."
(+1 Divine, -1 Illusion)
2x Summon Admonisher
1x Shifting Mists (2 total)
1x Celestial Knight (3 total)
1x Polarity Mage
2x Fade Away
The Gate of the Reckoner is a path carved through pure destruction. Shifting Mists is going to be used here mostly to set up massive Meteors, with Celestial Knight being our primary board presence. Because Meteor’s damage is dealt in two increments, Armored 1 will always protect Celestial Knight from 2 damage per Meteor, making it nearly indestructible. Additionally, we’re packing Purify, Chained Creations and Fade Away to help address singular threats (and Fade Away manages to get rid of allies permanently). Adding a single Polarity Mage also gives us a way to retrieve our Fade Aways from the discard pile, giving us upwards of ten Fade Aways in one game (with Purify, Shepherds, and Shadow Assassin added).
Your opening hand is Admonisher, Shifting Mists, Celestial Knight, Meteor, and one flex card. If you’re facing an opponent with a smaller battlefield, you can replace Meteor with Figures in the Fog or possibly Fade Away with a Polarity Mage in hand. Chained Creations could also be quite choice against charm or natural magic. I usually prefer Shadow Guard in the flex slot, with a plan to Meteor before playing them or not at all if I don’t have to. You need to be really responsive with this deck, and be okay with taking your time.
Gate of the Patron
"At the crossroad of realities, there is no lack of resplendence."
(+1 Illusion, -1 Divine)
3x Summon Shadow Spirit
1x Summon Mist Spirit
1x Shield Mage
2x Gates Thrown Open
The Gate of the Patron is built very similarly to our Victoria re-con, but with a twinge of other magics at hand. The same gameplan exists: use Abundance to find and assemble a fuller spellboard, and use Gates Thrown Open to push them to the limit. However, unlike Victoria where we’re looking to abuse absurdly low costs, we’re using Abundance more as a way to find answers to a quickly evolving board state. Our opponents will almost certainly get access to additional spellboard cards, but they may do little good against Chained Creations and Purify, and may find trouble against our wall of spirits holding the fort.
Your opening hand is Abundance, Shadow Spirit, Shifting Mists, and two flexes. The all-in approach involves Mist Spirit and Gates Thrown Open for a potential six-summon first round with four extra draws. I prefer Celestial Knight or Light Swordsman in the opener to have a vessel for Gift of Wings. Gate of the Patron is probably the hardest deck in the list to do well with, but it can definitely slam a few matchups and your opponent probably won’t see it coming given your dice arrangement and PB selection.
Voted in, or out?
Given how much I value Light Swordsman in Sembali, I can’t see this deck working without the Masters of Gravity, and there are some other excellent pulls from that deck with Polarity Mage and even Enlightenment if you want to mess around. The Duchess of Deception is also pretty crucial as Figures in the Fog is one of the most effective methods to protect our exhausted allies while we prep a Gift of Wings play. I think you’ll ultimately find these expansions more or less crucial depending on which gate you choose to open, with the divine magic routes favoring Masters of Gravity and the illusion magic routes favoring Duchess of Deception. Whichever one you don’t pick, you can definitely find a way to replace as needed. Light Swordsman has at least basic competition with Anchornaut, and Figures in the Fog could be exchanged with Shadow Strike, for example.
Taking it further:
It’s hard to offer suggestions here since we already have four decks to mess with and I don’t have time to really pick apart each of them, so I’ll focus on a couple things. Light Swordsman has so many good qualities with Sembali, but Battle Seer also has Quick Strike making her one of the best 3-cost allies for this kind of Phoenixborn. There are also several good 1-cost allies to use with Purify, including Raptor Herder (for raptors), Swift Messenger (for draw), and Psychic Vampire (for annoyance). Psychic Vampire is actually pretty solid here since the opponent doesn’t usually want to kill him until he’s exhausted, and if you can protect him and go for a Gift of Wings play, you might achieve a similar effect to Quick Strike if your opponent lets the vampire get the kill for free.
Although if there’s one element all these decks are severely lacking, it’s unit guard. Sembali usually wants to get a regular swing with your primary ally before you refresh it with Gift of Wings, but that means there’s a window where your ally is often exhausted and vulnerable. While you can protect it with a Phoenixborn guard, doing so repeatedly will quickly deplete your life total, so having a thick unit guard can go a long way. Turtle Guard is remarkably cheap for its statline, and Pale Steed Mount has decent synergy with a deck full of cheap repeated ally plays. Steadfast Guardian isn’t quite as good in this deck (though Alert is valuable against smaller units), but for all of these choices the sheer amount of health makes it harder for your opponent to punish your exhausted allies.
That’s all we’ve got for this article. Next time, we’re back to more normal articles about reasonable things like giant men riding dinosaurs.
Andrew DiLullo is an animator, a game designer, and luckily also a writer. Having first discovered Ashes at the tail end of the first round of expansions in 2016, he’s been playing ever since and currently heads the Bay Area Ashes group in California. He was especially active in several community projects after Ashes was canceled the first time, and now puts his attention to Reborn as the game starts anew. He’s currently designing a board game in his spare time, and occasionally writes on his online journal: The Lighthouse Library.