Ashes Organized Play and FAQ Update v5!
Just in time for AshCon 5
Welcome Ashes players, to a new Organized Play update! You can download the latest file here.
Chained List Updates
As the Ashes metagame evolves, so does my understanding of the First Five mechanic. After assessing the meta and testing various chain updates, I have the following updates to the Chained List, effective for AshCon5 on February 5th 2024.
Chained: Golden Veil and Hypnotize
This powerful reaction spell has been a dominant force in Ashes since Reborn. For the cost of 1 die, Golden Veil is able to ‘trade up’ against some of the very best cards in the game, such as Phoenixborn unique removal spells like Sword of Virtue and Tsunami Shot. This ability to threaten not only protection from your opponent’s removal plan in Round 1, paired with its lower cost than a wide spread of removal spells, makes this a card best removed from the First Five. My reasoning for this is that I’ve found Round 1 gameplay to be a lot more dynamic when both players have to dance around each other’s expected threats and removals, with no blanket answer to all of them. Removal effects tend to trade up against their expected targets, but there is inherent risk in First Fiving them, as there is no guarantee that your opponent will bring a unit that is a good target for your removal threat. Do you bring a heavy exhaust card like Steady Gaze to lock down a target that is resistant to damage? Or do you plan to get a clean trade on a smaller unit with Ice Trap? Do you risk bringing a Cloudburst Gryphon against a deck using Natural dice? The list of questions is endless, and Golden Veil provides a low effort, low risk catch-all answer to these interesting questions. Since Golden Veil is a catch-all cancel effect to all types of removal, be it damage, exhaustion, hard destruction, or even discard, this leaves virtually no room to design other removal and cancel effects that have unique flavors and interactions with other cards. On top of this, Golden Veil provides essential protection for explosive Round 1 combos, the exact type of strategies I prefer inhibiting with the Chained List. Strategies like repeated attacks with a buffed Realm Walker often rely on the assurance of Golden Veil to create a massive Round 1 advantage, one that many players do not enjoy being demanded of a solution for. The fewer Round 1 dominance First Fives that can be generated, the more room there is for both players to express their deck’s goals and interact on a more even level when assessing the risks the opponent can create.
I do not expect this chain to be a perfect solution to some meta frustrations; in fact other issues may arise from such a chain. The dominance of powerful removal spells like the aforementioned Tsunami Shot will give Tristan and the like much more assurance that their most powerful card will land to good effect. I think this is a more appropriate result, given they are Phoenixborn unique spells, and yet still offer room for other reaction spells and defensive tools like Particle Shield or Root Armor to partially interact with the expected value of a card like Tsunami Shot. I will be keeping a pulse on the meta after this significant chain, and I hope you find enjoyment in the enhanced question/answer dynamic of threats vs removal in Round 1.
There has been some disdain expressed in the ‘just play units’ style of FFing that Ashes has settled into, and I contribute a big part of this to Golden Veil punishing the FFing of removal. As stated earlier, removal effects are designed to trade up against threats, but are not a guarantee the same way you can always summon a Knight. Golden Veil took this dynamic and further punished FFing removal by trading up against the opponent’s attempt to trade up. Thus, the natural solution is to simply deploy more threats and not attempt to gain an edge through removal. With more safety in bringing removal, but no guarantee it will be the right removal tool needed, I hope to strike a nice balance of threats and removal in Round 1, instead of ‘just playing units’.
Hypnotize is also receiving a Chain on a bit more of a philosophical ground. There still does exist potential for top of Round 2 blowouts with certain bypass combinations. Though they are quite vulnerable, especially with Golden Veil chained, I find it best to dissuade their use through chaining Hypnotize. This is a rather innocuous chain, as Hypnotize’s only use in Round 1 would be for the very strategies the Chained List inhibits. The one exception being decks that set up Hypnotize Round 1 to use for later in the game, such as a Maeoni Silver Snake deck. However, I think there is more interest in the Maeoni player having to find Hypnotize later in the game to execute their lethal strike, giving some uncertainty on both ends as to when this combo may happen.
Unchained: Massive Growth, Exhortation, and Summon Sleeping Widows
One of the advantages of chaining Golden Veil and Hypnotize is that I’ve found there to be more room to allow for previously-chained aggressive options to re-enter the First Five. Massive Growth and Exhortation are high-ceiling buff cards that can capitalize on the vulnerability of Round 1, and when backed up by Golden Veil, can create punishing results. With the feasibility of bringing removal or disruptions spells like Farewell or Glaciate back into the First Five without fear of a blowout Golden Veil, players are now again able to attempt these exciting Round 1 aggressive strategies. On a somewhat related note, I am reintroducing Summon Sleeping Widows to Round 1. With the Brennen Blackcloud errata, and some aggressive Hope Everthron builds explored, I feel willing to unchain this card in a new meta. The release of The Blight of Neverset brings with it some very robust late game tools, and I want to also make sure players have options for aggressive starts in the event these new charm cards become overrepresented. The Chained List can be flexible, and this feels like the right time to explore lightening some restrictions.
In addition to the Chained List, I have also updated the AOP rules to better serve the communities playing Ashes in online settings and in-person events. Most notably, the inclusion of chess timers is now an option for TOs to use in their events. This is partially an exploratory update to see how the community responds to this new timing method of events. The goal here is to find a tiebreaking solution that is more fair for both players, rewards skill, promotes action versus inaction, and concludes games in a more defined timeframe. All of these benefits should serve the game better for players, assuming the transition to a chess timer is smooth enough for most.
Check out the latest FAQ update as well for answers to your questions on sets up through The Blight of Neverset!
Thank you for taking the time to read this big Ashes update, and for continuing to enjoy and support the game! I’ll see you for AshCon5!