Lady Eldwin,General Samuel Farthen was successful in his quest and now wields another Stone in the name of righteousness. He has sworn to use this mighty tool in your services, and will stop at nothing to ensure the defeat of the numerous enemies of the Vanguards. His vigor and his dedication are unmatched, and he will eagerly wade into battle to lead the charge. The enemies of the Vanguards will have much to fear at his hands, and with the new recruits he brings into the fray I believe our own forces can be more effectively stewarded. Woe to all those who threaten the light!
Second Summoner Overview
The most common comparison to Samuel is the Mountain Vargath Summoner, Sunderved. Both are brawny, hard-hitting leaders who augment their nearby Commons into more effective combat, and emphasize formations and martial discipline. While Sunderved strives to give an offensive boost to his troops and is one of the hardest hitting Units on the field, Samuel prefers to boost the defensive capabilities of his troops and protect both himself and his loyal troops in the heat of battle. Samuel shares the focus on the sacredness of life with his predecessor, Sera Eldwyn, but uses his Stone for the protective aspect of the Vanguards rather than on their healing Abilities. The result is that he plays much more aggressively than the very defensive Sera, and seeks to overrun and overwhelm his enemies with superior and long-lived Units. His Events serve to sustain this push and catch his enemies off-guard, and he often loves to deliver the coup de grace to the enemy Summoner himself, leading his victorious army for the glory of the Vanguard force, or else die trying.
Samuel Farthen - Samuel is the highest Life Summoner to date in the Summoner Wars, with impressive 2/8 stats and a variety of tools to help protect both himself and his other Units. He shares the same SHIELD OF LIGHT Ability that Colleen Brighton possesses, giving nearby friendly Commons a fair amount more longevity. For reference, the ubiquitous 2 Life Commons that the Vanguards specialize in take an average of 4 AV to bring down while protected by SHIELD OF LIGHT, as opposed to the 3 AV that will normally fell them. The Honor Guard, and other 3 Life Commons, take 6 AV on average to drop, as opposed to the 4.5 AV that will normally take them out, so the differences can be substantial. Colleen can be difficult to get working well since the starting Commons are usually dead by the time she is Summoned. Samuel, on the other hand, starts on the field and will be protecting his Commons throughout the game as long as they’re near him. Successful Samuel play typically involves using tight formations and aggressive tactics, overwhelming the enemy with Samuel heading the charge. Particularly given the high cost of his base deck, it is rare to summon many Champions with him, so instead focus on using his Commons effectively with Champion support as needed. Note that, unlike the similarly aggressive Sunderved, Samuel has no easy way to retreat once he gets badly wounded, so always exercise care to keep him protected and be aware that assassination is the way that Samuel most frequently loses games. If he does get heavily wounded, Honor Guards or Guardian Knights can help keep him alive as he either falls back to safety or pushes onward to win before his own impending doom.
Master Bullock - With 3R/5/7 stats, Master Bullock looks extremely similar to Jacob Eldwyn in that respect. The key difference comes in their Abilities; while Jacob has a small Area of Effect attack, Master Bullock synergizes with the Woeful Brothers by giving them range via MYSTIC ARTS. The AOE for this Ability is a massive 4 spaces in any direction, and turns the Woeful Brothers into 2R/2/2 Units with a handy Ability as well, making them very useful as assassins. Bullock’s hefty 3 Ranged AV should be used to take down big targets from afar, but be careful with him as 5 Life can disappear quickly if he gets flanked and 7 Magic is a lot to waste if he immediately dies. The choice to take Master Bullock or Jacob in your deck is dependent in large part on whether you’re bringing along Woeful Brothers; Cory does a great job of leading a large corps of his Brothers, whereas Jacob is more effective solo since his Ability can occasionally be quite handy and can hit through Walls. It is certainly viable to bring both Master Bullock and Jacob along in a single deck, because they will do a ton of damage from afar in exchange for their sizable cost.
Sybil Swancott - Sybil’s rather bizarre stat line of 4R/3/8 makes her have the biggest base Ranged attack to date in the game, and the least amount of Life by far for an 8 Cost Unit. Her Ability is seemingly a +2 by SSCF. In reality, her SYBIL’S SPIRIT Ability doubles her average life, so she’s more like a 4R/6/8 and thus compares quite favorably cost-wise to Master Bullock and Jacob Eldwyn’s 3R/5/7. The problem, of course, is that her Ability can be very unreliable, and it’s possible that she dies to the first 3 Wounds she’s dealt or survives indefinitely thanks to her Ability’s protection. If you lose your 8 Cost Champion on the first turn she’s Summoned because of this unreliability, you’ll be A) very sad and B) likely about to lose the game. Another way to conceptualize her Ability is that it’s usually mathematically equivalent to her only getting Wounds on 5+. It’s always a good idea to keep her protected in case her SPIRIT fails her, but use that massive 4 AV Ranged to hammer enemy Champions, Walls, or Summoners from afar and quickly fell whatever stands against her. She’s particularly effective when combined with Guardian Knights to keep her safe from Melee enemies; she’s also quite useful in Sera Eldwyn’s deck, and although HEALING/GREATER HEALING may be blocked by her SPIRIT, she is the best target for Intercession in the game and can be a nasty surprise when brought out from a fresh Wall via Sera’s Summoning Surge. Sybil will die extremely quickly if her Ability is negated by things such as Chant of Negation or the Mountain Vargath Luka, so be aware of these potential dangers when you decide to Summon her. She is often well worth the cost and can single-handedly win games, but always use care that Granny has a chance to lay the beatdown on those enemy whippersnappers instead of letting the Grim Reaper finally catch up with her.
Valentina Stoutheart - Rounding out Samuel’s tableau of high cost, high power Champions is the virtually unkillable Valentina. With 2/9/8 stats, she ties Krung, the new FK Corpse Wyrm, and Walls for most Life in the game, although her towering vitality is due to battle prowess and endurance rather than lumbering mass. Her VALIANT DEFENDER Ability is a handy mixture of a VG Guardian Knight and a GD Defender, but is only directed toward Commons. It forces the enemy Commons to engage her in combat, and waste attacks trying to deal with her monstrous health rather than taking down more valuable targets. Note that Guardian Knights’ PROTECTOR trumps her Ability, so GKs can be used to protect her if she becomes heavily Wounded. Her 2 AV Melee is pretty unimpressive for her high cost, so she is most effective as a mobile Wall to protect a valuable flank rather than as a one-woman wrecking ball. With support from a Priest’s HEALING or Sera’s GREATER HEALING, she can be extremely difficult to kill, but she lacks the offensive firepower of other VG Champions such as Kalon Lightbringer to single-handedly win games in most situations. She brings a powerful combatant to the Vanguard ranks, and works very well both in Samuel’s Common friendly army and with Sera’s healing-focused stratagems, but with her extremely high cost she should be well utilized to maintain a battle advantage rather than be a huge resource sink.
Honor Guard - Honor Guards and their 1/3/2 stat line bring two things that the Vanguard’s desperately needed; a more mobile form of protection for their valuable Champions and battle-tested Summoners via ESCORT, and an in-faction 3 Life Common that Sera can efficiently heal using her GREATER HEALING or Divine Strength Event. They are tough to bring down, particularly when backed up by aforementioned healing methods or by Samuel’s SHIELD OF LIGHT or Divine Protection. Samuel loves these Units in particular because he often is pushing hard into enemy territory and needs his flanks protected, so there’s a ton of synergy there. Sera can use them to keep her and her favorite Champion safe while following said Champion into battle to spam GREATER HEALING. The one thing they lack is much firepower, in comparison to the 2 AV Woeful Brothers and Warrior Angels. Since all 3 of Samuel’s Commons are 2 Cost Units that are +0 by the SSCF, they gain an edge with the extra Life and mobility that really can help Samuel sustain a push. Honor Guards can also do lots of fun tricks when combined with highly mobile Champions such as Archangel or Duggle, and the fact that they can move on their own before or after using ESCORT, or can ESCORT multiple Units in a single turn, gives them a huge amount of flexibility. Since they survive longer than most VG Commons, it’s often not worth putting too many in your deck, but they are an excellent addition to pretty much any Vanguard deck as a highly mobile, tough-to-kill protector for those valuable Champions and hard-charging Summoners.
Warrior Angels - The 2/2/2 Warrior Angels have a lot of similar Units in the Vanguards, in both the 1/2/1 Angels, the 2/2/2 Woeful Brothers, and the 2/2/2 Cavalry Knights. However, the particular combination of the 2/2/2 stat line with the FLIGHT Ability makes them a versatile, hard-hitting, and highly mobile Unit in a way that no other Vanguard Common can single-handedly replicate. They are particular useful for sustaining a push; their ability to jump over friendly or enemy Units allows tactically superior positioning and can be crucial in both Sera and Samuel’s deck, while the 2 AV they bring to bear can put some serious hurt on Units that otherwise would be unreachable. This combination of strength and mobility makes them an invaluable tool for the Vanguards, but they should not be thrown away casually as the total of 3 Magic cost per Warrior Angel can quickly add up. Keeping them within Samuel’s SHIELD OF LIGHT range or knowing when to use Divine Protection can greatly assist with this longevity. As food for thought, the cost of Summoning (instead of building as Magic) 2 Warrior Angels is the same as 3 normal Angels, so the former should be used when trying to efficiently attack and the latter should be used when cheap, mobile blockers are needed. Warrior Angels are definitely a Unit that may look weak on paper since there are so many similar Units in the Vanguards, but they well warrant usage as their unique strengths can best be experienced firsthand on the battlefield.
Woeful Brothers - The Woeful Brothers have the same 2/2/2 stat lines as the Warrior Angels and the Cavalry Knights, but their SWIFT MANEUVER is an extremely unique and potentially deadly Ability. Anyone who has experienced firsthand the massive potential of the Sand Goblin Champion Silts should know the raw potential of having 2 Units exchange places, particularly if one of those Units is an enemy. Woeful Brothers can use this power both offensively and defensively, moving key targets out of (or into) harm’s way, or swiftly infilitrating enemy lines to get at a cloistered enemy Summoner. While the trigger of taking 0 Wounds from an enemy attack is extremely specific, the presence of SHIEL D OF LIGHT increases the chances of this occurring naturally, and DIVINE PROTECTION allows Samuel to make it happen even if the dice don’t cooperate. Of course, you still can’t trigger SWIFT MANEUVER if the enemy refuses to attack your Woeful Brothers, but this can be a huge advantage to you tactically and I’ve actually won games where fear of a SWIFT MANEUVERed assassin kept my Woeful Brothers unchallenged for several turns. This is far less effective against Ranged attacks, so bear that in mind as well and try to position your Units to maximize options for SWIFT MANEUVERs. Woeful Brothers, of course, synergize extremely well with their leader, Master Bullock, and while it can be expensive to get him and several Brothers down at once, they can deliver a righteous kung fu monk-beating from afar once you’ve got them out.
Abolish (x2) - Abolish can often be the strongest card in Samuel’s deck, depending on when you draw it and what you Abolish with it. Its power is equal to robbing your opponent of their best two Events if you can pull both Abolishes off with maximum efficiency, which can be truly game changing when blocking Events such as Magic Drain, the Sand Goblin’s Mirage or Taunt, the Shadow Elves’ Into Darkness, the Mercenaries’ Fury of Godshome, and countless others. The two Abolishes are the cards that I will always try to avoid building as Magic unless I’m really desperate, as the utility of blocking those key enemy Events is often much larger than a single Magic for you and it can really help keep your precious Commons safe from many nasty tricks. The flip side of this, of course, is that you have to have Abolish in your hand at the right time in order to use it, which requires both drawing it beforehand and holding onto it for the key moment. Having your hand clogged with multiple Abolishes, Champions, or Divine Protections can really hurt Samuel’s momentum as he usually seeks to overwhelm the opponent with a sustained push. For this reason, it may be worth Abolishing a strong enemy Event even if you know it’s not their strongest, to unclog your hand. At other times, you may be better off to build some Champions or other Events as Magic, as you rarely will play all 3 or even 2 Champions with Samuel and thus you should plan on negating your enemy’s best plans. Keep in mind that the fear of Abolish can be enough to seriously affect your opponent’s game plan, so sometimes you can let a minor Event go by if you suspect they’re baiting Abolish to hit you with the real power Event. The threat of Abolish can actually wind up clogging both player’s hands, so try and use this to your advantage rather than your detriment.
Divine Protection (x2) - The “Deus Ex Machina” Event allows you to protect an otherwise doomed Common Unit and have him/her escape unscathed. This effect requires you to spend a Magic as well as the Event card, so it’s a net cost of 2 Magic and hence is the same cost as Summoning a fresh 1-cost Unit and cheaper than summoning a 2 (or higher)-cost Unit. Additionally, you’re denying your opponent 1 Magic when doing this, so it becomes an even better deal and it’s typically a good idea to play both Divine Protections if possible. If the Unit you are saving will get attacked again this turn, it may not be worth saving them if you’re going to immediately lose that Common anyway, so be aware of the remaining potential attacks. Divine Protection combos extremely well with the Woeful Brother’s SWIFT MANEUVER, so try and set yourself up for some strong maneuvers if you have Divine Protection in hand. Divine Protection can also be a great choice to use for keeping an assassin Common alive for an extra turn and finishing off the opposing Summoner. Note that it works on Mercenary Commons (as does Samuel’s SHIELD OF LIGHT), so Mercenary Commons such as Demon Hands and Time Mages can help round out Samuel’s Common lineup for various effects. Make sure to budget well, so that paying for Divine Protection doesn’t leave you short on Magic when it’s time to Summon Units in the following round. As with Abolish, be wary of hand cloggage hurting your ability to sustain a push, and it may be better to use a suboptimal Divine Protection than to sit on it for several turns and have your momentum and card flow grind to a halt.
Strong Spirits (x2) - Strong Spirits is one of those rare Events that’s specifically keyed to a particular Common, in this case the Woeful Brothers. At first glance, this Event can provide you a huge infusion of Magic if you’ve been summoning lots of Woeful Brothers all game, and potentially fully fund one of Samuel’s 7 or 8 cost Champions. Of course, in order to do this you would have had to Summon those Woeful Brothers earlier (3 Magic each if not Building them), let them die to give Magic to your opponent (1 Magic each to your opponent), and wait for your opponent to spend those Magic so that they’re waiting in the enemy Discard pile. Thus, you’re getting a small (and often extremely delayed) rebate for each Woeful Brother you’ve used earlier. Since Woeful Brothers are solid Units and Samuel tends to play very Common-heavy, it can be viable to use mostly WBs and use Strong Spirits to effectively drop their rebated Summon Cost to 1 Magic rather than 2 Magic each, particularly in conjunction with Master Bullock. With 2 copies of Strong Spirits, it is typically more Magic efficient to build one as Magic and play the other when you know no further Woeful Brothers will be entering the opponent’s Discard Pile, although there can be exceptions. Since Samuel starts with 1 Woeful Brother on the board, this Event will almost always be worth at least 1 Magic, although if that’s the only Woeful Brother in your deck you may as well build both of these Events for 2 Magic. A fun counter to Magic Drain if you can’t or don’t Abolish it is to try and ensure that the cards stolen as Magic are Woeful Brothers, so that you can eventually Strong Spirits those Brothers back for free Magic without even having to Summon them initially.
Transformation (x3) - With these 3 extremely potent Events, Samuel becomes a hefty 4-AV beast and gains the ULTIMATE SHIELD OF LIGHT, granting his Ability to himself, his Champions, and his Commons, regardless of where they are on the battlefield. The best time to use this is often when you suspect Samuel or one of his Champions is about to suffer a beating, and if you can use the attack boost to deliver a preemptive strike, so much the better. Samuel under Transformation takes a ludicrous 16 dice on average to kill, so proper timing of this Event can be the key to his success. It also can help sustain a push, protecting those Commons that aren’t within Samuel’s normal SHIELD OF LIGHT radius as well as his Champions. Enemy Summoners and even Champions often will flee from Samuel in fear of this awesome Event, so use that to your advantage. Note that sometimes Samuel will get heavily wounded and have to retreat; this can help protect his loyal Units even if he’s had to flee the front lines, so use it well. While it’s best to maximize both the offensive and defensive aspects of this Event, it is still well worth playing if you’re only really using one side or the other. With 3 of them total, you’ll want to optimally time these to really keep Samuel’s momentum going and to transform a dastardly defeat into a valiant victory.