Happy Friday everyone!
Today I wanted to spend some time talking about one of my favorite factions from the master set, the Shadow Elves. I do have to admit, every elf faction Plaid Hat Games has produced, I've enjoyed playing. The Shadow Elves was easily the race I was most excited about in the master set. They are also a throwback faction, meaning they play more like the original factions than the later factions. They are an extended threat zone faction, meaning they are skilled at setting large areas of control due to their swordsman's high movement and the potential of the rangers to teleport into the place of the common they just killed, then take another shot.
Who Should (and Shouldn't) Play the Shadow Elves?
People who like fast, rushdown style play with some evil events will really enjoy the Shadow Elves. When used properly, they are also rewarding to people who like to prepare traps. People who like sturdy factions will be frustrated by the Shadow Elves, a stiff breeze will kill almost all of your units.
Basic Play: Commons
The most important thing to understand about the Shadow Elves is they are a glass cannon faction, with one exception, but we'll get to that later. All of their commons only have one toughness, so you don't want to go toe to toe with other enemy commons. You have to be very careful with Shadow Elves to never have more than three or four commons on the field. If you have more than that, you're just going to feed your opponent free magic. This is a bad idea for all factions, but Shadow Elves will suffer particularly badly if you make that mistake.
The big star of this faction's commons is the humble Swordsman. The two attacks for one magic is always a nice deal for any faction, but the ability to move three spaces is the real winner about this unit. These guys are great for blocking off paths, or for charging in for a suicide run on a champion or a summoner. Their movement speed is easy to underestimate and very exploitable with good positioning.
Make sure you don't get too greedy with any of the Shadow Elf common units. This means don't just place them far forward and hope your opponent won't kill them. Remember, your opponent sees all of your commons as easy magic. Your commons will not be ignored. If you can get a potshot in on the enemy summoner, you should almost always take it. In fact, you should work to set those up for your commons. The rangers can be a lot of fun, and they can be perfect for potshots. Try to take out shielding commons of the enemy summoner, then teleport in and take a quick shot at him. Remember, just the threat of a potshot can also change how your opponent plays. With a little ingenuity, you can trick him into playing more conservatively than he ought to, or keep him from getting better positions because he's paranoid about a swordsmen rushing in and getting a cheap hit on the summoner.
Advanced Play: Events
When setting up your suicide runs for swordsmen and rangers, it's ideal if you can have the Shadows event card ready to deny your opponent the magic for killing your troops. You should never discard this event, it will always be better to play, especially since at any given turn, you will probably lose a unit.
The best event combo I've found for the Shadow elves is Into the Darkness+Stalking Advance. While you can always use Into the Darkness as a mere catch up event, it's even better if you can use it to suddenly remove a summoner's guard and then charge in to get multiple hits, especially with a champion. Stalking advance helps you keep out of your enemy's reach, and allows you to pull this off as a surprise tactic.
Summon the Night is almost an inverse of stalking advance. This can let you set up a big turn by denying the opponent mobility. This one is a little more situational, and I don't mind occasionally burning it for magic, but don't underestimate it.
Advanced Play: Champions
The first simple rule: don't waste your time with Malidala. I almost always burn her for magic. She is too expensive and not tough enough. Ignoring one dice sounds good, and makes her relatively immune to a number of commons, but she just doesn't provide enough oomph or staying power to make her worth 5 magic.
The second simple rule: Xaserbane is an ambush champion. Do not go toe to toe with other champions, weaken them with commons and then summon Xaserbane to finish them. He's perfect for summoner ambushes. I've had great results from a forward wall summoning, stalking advance, then charge in to whack that summoner. 3 attacks for four magic? He's a bargain. Just watch out for, well, other units. Yes. All of them. Four health doesn't last long, but while it does, he's lots of fun. I almost always lose him, but not before taking an enemy summoner down to around half health.
The third simple rule: Play the Hydra. This unit is the exception to the glass cannon rule for this faction. The hydra kills things, champions, commons, walls, everything. It's tough to kill, has a great attack, and can attack all enemy units (not walls) next to it. This guy pretty much single-handedly accounts for giving the Shadow Elves a dangerous end game. Combo him with stalking advance and into the darkness to surprise your enemy's summoner and bite his head off. It's good times. Well, for your hydra at least. Not so much for their summoner.