Re-Constructed Deck - The Queen of En-lightning
Welcome back, Ashes players, to another installment of Re-Constructed. Tonight, we’re going to war with over twelve of our finest allies and the ferocity of a lightning storm.
Hopefully, you’re already aware of the deck building restrictions we’re working with; if not, read the last Re-Con article (or any of the previous ones). For all the Time Phoenixborn, we’re also assuming you have The Breaker of Fates, as time dice will obviously be required to play them. Though, awkwardly, it’s not so much time but divine magic that will be pushed to a new limit. This deck is all about pushing forward and lighting up the battlefield in your wake.
The Queen of En-lightning (Re-Dimona)
6x Divine, 4x Time
1x Summon Cloudburst Gryphon
3x Piercing Light
3x Blessing of Lightning
1x Adept Duelist
2x Crystal Archer
2x Light Swordsman
3x Rayward Knight
3x Rayward Recruit
1x Shepherd of Lost Souls
2x Crystal Armor
1x Holy Relics
1x Angelic Rescue
The biggest recurring trend we’ve had with divine magic decks so far is directness. Every deck that dons divine magic as a coat of arms tends to fight with one weapon. Way back in the Odette article, we talked about “order” and how most divine magic “tends to play a very steady, methodical game of certainties and eventualities”. We’ve seen a wide variety of strategies on this front, from Odette’s taxing laws supporting her straightforward midrange, to Echo’s hardcore exhaustion manipulation, to Xander’s “just blast everything” recklessness and thick skin. These Phoenixborn have consistently inhabited a design space of harsh fighting conditions that punish all but the “blessed”, and Dimona is no exception. Though, similar to our other divine decks so far, she’s going to be doing it in a unique way.
The divine dice power is a strong if somewhat unassuming buff that can push the power of units just high enough to be a total menace. In a game where both attack and life totals rarely exceed 4, every +1 goes a tremendous distance for the same reasons that charm’s dice power is so strong in reverse. But we’re not here for a light skirmish, we’re driving our blades deep. Dimona’s deck comes equipped with a few rather dangerous additions to the divine catalog, including Piercing Light, a spellboard card that grants Overkill 1 to all units you control with divine dice on them. It should be noted, that’s Overkill +1 for each copy of Piercing Light. Imagine a 1 attack unit threatening 3 damage to the Phoenixborn if it kills the opponent’s Mist Spirit. Furthering this line of play are some new enablers in the form of Rayward Recruit and Blessing of Lightning, cards that specifically fetch discarded divine dice and repurpose them for disastrous attacks later in the round. It’s fairly normal to have anywhere from 1-3 divine dice on your units at the end of every single round with this deck.
As for the rest of our forces, we’re filled to the brim with the finest Rayward has to offer. Rayward Recruits find strong partners in Adept Duelist, Crystal Archer, and the ever prominent Rayward Knight, all units that apply nasty amounts of pressure in a variety of styles. Duelist’s side action play into main action attack gives him a devastating surprise factor, given extra utility when piled with the cheeky Disengage. Crystal Archer is out here doing their best Emberroot Lizard impersonation, but also manages the shot on defense in addition to attacks. Rayward Knight is a unique standout though, able to attack units at side action speed, a strange ability that pairs perfectly with Dimona’s Promote ability, and when combined with Disengage makes Rayward Knight the only unit in the game that can technically attack twice per round. Rounding out the mix are Crystal Armors which are literally just half a Holy Relics sporting a slick reactive play feature, Summon Cloudburst Gryphon to help give us a fairly reliable attacker every round, and the rather unique ready spell Reinforce, a spell with so much utility we’re going to spend the next forever talking about it. Key among the qualities many of our allies share in this deck is the ability to exhaust with a degree of certainty; Adept Duelists get to pick their fights, Crystal Archers get to manipulate the odds, and Rayward Knights threaten promotion on the attacking turn. For the most part, Dimona’s deck design is already very clean, direct and overbearing in the way that divine magic decks tend to be. For today’s re-con, we’re not looking to remove any of these interactions, but we do want to sharpen the blade with some new tools.
For starters, we’re going to add a variable of inevitability to the mix. Normally one of the weaknesses of ally-based decks is that they run out of gas over a longer game. This time though, we’ve come equipped with some serious reserves. Reinforce and Rayward Knight already have an appalling degree of synergy; Knight shuffles allies back into your deck for Reinforce to find, and Reinforce can allow you to play Knights out of your deck and immediately attack with them via the Charge ability. But for this re-con, we’re adding a much vaunted third dimension with Shepherd of Lost Souls. Shepherd is friendly with Rayward Knight since they protect each other nicely; one always fetches the other. Shepherd is also a strong pull off Reinforce since you get to forgo both of Shepherd’s action costs and leave it at a singular divine class. And of course, the whole cycle in tandem is difficult to beat since Shepherds fetch Knights, which then shuffle Shepherds back into the deck, which make them increasingly common for Reinforce fetches, which let us bypass the tough action costs and revive even more Rayward Knights! I sure hope you’re not getting tired over there, we can do this all day.
Pushing us even further into enemy territory is the often overlooked Enlightenment. This card has the benefit of refreshing our units in a very midrange-friendly fashion, but this deck also features some more creative benefits. Pair it with Rayward Knight for an unexpected Charge, or with Reinforce to mobilize an even wider board state, or with any unit suited up with Crystal Armor or Holy Relics. If you really want to flex, there’s always the super expensive option of refreshing Dimona herself, allowing her to mount a second Empyrean for a round. Because we’re presenting a few overall large threats, we should try to make the most of them when we can, and Enlightenment is a good way to make that happen.
In addition to these welcome additions, we’ve added a small array of other useful units and spells. Light Swordsman is great in this deck for a lot of the same reasons as Adept Duelist (especially in terms of exhausting safely), Holy Relics functions roughly as a 4th Crystal Armor that works harder with Enlightenment, and Angelic Rescue can do a surprising amount of work against opponents that like to poke the last point or two of health out of a Rayward Knight or Empyrean Mount since abilities like Battlemaster and Charge give us tons of control over their health values. Rather than drastically change her gameplay, these additions are here to encourage and empower an already sturdy plan.
Dimona is incredibly threatening when assembling her army; our first five can pull as many as five units onto the battlefield. Well, four and a promotion. We always start with Summon Cloudburst Gryphon, Reinforce, Crystal Archer, and Rayward Knight. That’s a guaranteed three units per turn, or four with promotion, and you’re very likely to draw into another unit with Reinforce. Granted, the Reinforce hit needs to be 1-cost to be playable in round 1 with all the other things, otherwise you may need to compensate somewhere else. If you don’t want to rely on Reinforce hits on the first round, you can replace Crystal Armor with Light Swordsman or Rayward Recruit to guarantee it. If you think you’ll be playing against a more defensive deck, swap the Crystal Armor out for Piercing Light; you’ll need a way to force chip damage through earlier.
As far as general play goes, Dimona aims for ruthlessness and punishes cowardice. When you play your allies, you generally want to be aggressive with them and force immediate responses. Since every exhausted ally on your side is a potential Empyrean Mount, the onus is on your opponent to oust any outstanding units or be overwhelmed. You also shouldn’t fear your units dying too much, as we have plenty of recursion and opportunity available between Shepherd and Knight (and dying Empyreans give your units back). A trademark specialty of this particular deck is targeted unit attacking; our units are either very accurate (Charge, Stalk, Battlemaster) or very dangerous (Quick Strike, Overkill). Part of why we prioritize attacking units is also because it’s the best way for us to maintain a lead, which is especially crucial for Dimona. Because all of our unit’s abilities only trigger while attacking, we tend to do much worse when put on the backfoot. You’ll want to be aware of nasty board clears like Meteor and Survival of the Fittest, and even Nature’s Wrath and Mist Typhoon when arranging your battlefield and timing your attacks. You luckily won’t need to worry about Kneel as much since Promote and Enlightenment are natural counters…as long as you have them ready.
Bringing up the Rear Guard:
I like the rewards of playing Enlightenment, and really dig the sustainability offered by Shepherd of Lost Souls, but I don’t think I’d call either of their decks absolutely essential for Dimona’s re-con. You can very easily bulk up on existing units like Adept Duelist, Rayward Recruit, and Crystal Archer without too much hassle, and may consider some alternatives like Standard Bearer or Holy Knight. Enlightenment doesn’t really have a replacement in these dice types, but it doesn’t necessarily need one either. Heal is a fairly versatile card overall and does well with Rayward Knight and Empyrean Mount, and Call Upon The Realms is rather effective at fetching those divine power symbols and preserving your number of side actions later in the round.
Taking it further:
When it comes to building with Dimona, there’s not really a wrong direction per say, so long as you’re pursuing overall aggression and/or playing the battlefield. I usually like to start by looking at allies. Dimona’s ability to promote is generally good with all allies, but it’s much better with those that can survive long enough to become exhausted. We’ve been doing that in the re-con with allies that can safely attack (thanks Quick Strike), but there’s also plentiful options in the form of ability-based allies. Rose Fire Dancer’s Distract and Flute Mage’s Enliven are solid side actions that leave your ally primed for promotion. Hunt Master probably isn’t worth promoting immediately, but she can both do so safely and has the benefit of returning to your hand after the mount dies, effectively reloading her. Probably the funniest promotional target is Sleeping Bear, a unit that comes in pre-exhausted and is often too big for your opponent to simply take out, but jokes aside I think you can do better.
The next place I look is unit interaction spells. Empyrean Mount is such a powerful unit, I’m often looking for a way to utilize it to the fullest. I like fighting spells like Seeds of Aggression and Law of Domination, and also enjoy refresh mechanics like Flute Mage, Adrenaline Rush and Change Psyche. It’s not surprising then that I usually find myself dipping into charm and/or sympathy magic quite often with this character. Royal Charm can also be beneficial if you’re looking to push the overall value of Piercing Light, and especially so if you also want to splash charm magic. Refreshing a single unit with a divine die and attacking with it multiple times gets pretty scary awfully fast.
That’s all for this week. Next time, we’re invading the realm of dreams with tricky shadows and a complete disdain for any dice face other than “basic”.
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.