Advanced Ashes is a weekly series covering advanced Ashes strategies. Each week, a different Ashes player will showcase two cards, exploring their strengths and synergies. Visit the PlaidHatGames.com Ashes store, as well as the online Ashes deckbuilder.
If you love big buffed units, allow me to commend the Charm die to your Ashes arsenal.
The charm die’s power itself is a unit buffer. Spend a and you get to place it on a target unit giving a +1 to both its attack and life value. The charm die is a flexible, positive alteration that doesn’t take up a card slot in your deck.
I’ll be the first to admit that the charm die is not the most efficient die power in Ashes. Its biggest drawback is that it’s temporary - that bonus goes away at the end of the round when dice get re-rolled.
For this reason, units with Recover values are good targets for Charm dice since they’ll be more likely to benefit from the die long-term, healing before the life bonus goes away. But in order to get the absolute most out of a Charm die, you’ll want to amplify its effects.
This alteration adds 1 life, 1 attack, and 1 recover per charm die on the unit it’s attached to. So 1 charm die plus 1 Amplify on a unit offers a +2/+2/+1 bonus total. Right off the bat, this does two things for you: First, it provides the valuable Recover bonus to a unit whose life is saved by having the life bonus, helping that unit survive past the end of the round. And second, if the unit does indeed survive to the next round, when you add a new charm die to it, that 1-die investment is giving you the +2/+2/+1 bonus instead of the +1/+1/+0 bonus.
But the fun hasn't even started! Because Amplify's power grows with more charm dice, if you add more charm dice or more Amplify alterations to the same unit, the buffs begin to literally multiply:
|# of Amplify on unit|
|# of dice on unit||0||1||2||3|
I did my best to keep this table reasonable - you could conceivably have up to 10 dice on a unit in 1 round, which would lead to the insane +40/+40/+30 stat. But in an actual competitive game, even 4 dice on a unit would be extremely rare. At the very least, though, it would force your opponent to do math, which they'll hate!
Where I usually end up during a round is 4/4/2 (1 Amplify, 2 dice), 3/3/2 (2 Amplify, 1 die), or in an ideal situation, 6/6/4 (2 Amplify, 2 dice). 6/6/4 is bonkers, and in most situations anything else is superfluous. But it's not hard to achieve - simply get 2 Amplifys on 1 unit (not hard to do thanks to its modest Respark cost) and charge it up with 2 dice. If you're just not drawing that second Amplify, 1 Amplify and 3 dice can get the job done (6/6/3).
Since Amplify itself costs a charm die, this card is certainly heavy on the charm dice costs. Luckily, a lot of the cards that support this strategy are also in the charm realm. Hypnotize allows your big unit to get through to the Phoenixborn. Refresh and its cousins allow you to get more than 1 use out of your big unit. Undying Heart pumps up that Recover value even more to make your units seemingly impossible to kill. Redirect allows you to throw damage onto your buffed target that can shrug it off. So usually Amplify decks will have a ton of Charm dice and will not be rainbow decks.
So, which units are ideal for Amplify? High life and a built-in recover is good, to help the unit survive between rounds and during your opponent's first turn of a round. It helps if the unit costs charm dice too to fit in with how your die pool is shaping up.
Some great Amplify targets include Dread Wraith (probably the #1 unit with Amplify), Living Doll, Beast Tamer, and Leech Warrior. Of course the all-around-great units like Frostback Bear and Hammer Knight work well too, although Charm and Natural aren't as synergistic as Charm and Ceremonial.
But I'd like to highlight a unit that you don't see in competitive play much that works great with Amplify: The Blood Archer.
A Blood Archer is expensive: 4 dice!! That's why you don't see it on its own a whole lot, especially because Blood Oath 2 is a hard ability to use - it puts your archer near death, and you have to be on the attack to use it. But with an Amplified Blood Archer, the extra life makes Blood Oath 2 viable again, and your opponent becomes incentivized to attack in order to avoid an 11-damage onslaught from one unit.
When your Blood Archer has something like 9 total life due to being Amplified, your opponent is in a double bind. Try to chip away? If they do that, you can shrewdly trade damage between your Phoenixborn and Blood Archer, not harming either too much and not countering, waiting until you can get a clear shot at their big monster or their Phoenixborn. But if they try to do a bunch of damage with multiple units at once attacking the Archer - more than you want to take on your Phoenixborn - the Blood Archer can counter, killing multiple units at once and not taking any damage in the process thanks to Battle Advantage (take that, Bears!!).
So, chip away? I can take it. Make a big attack? You die, and I don't even take wounds. Sit back and do nothing? My attack value gets even higher when I Blood Oath you.
Here's my best Amplify deck, which summons a Dread Wraith the first round and looks for Blood Archers starting in round 2. This deck is fun fun fun. And I'm not even doing the Hypnotize thing which is a whole other way to go with Amplify.
Amplify takes all of Blood Archer's advantages and turns up their reliability and impact to 11. A 9/9/6 Blood Archer just sits on the battlefield aiming his arrow across the landscape, waiting for the right moment while small, cheap units like Anchornauts, Owls, Swallows and Doves occupy and harass your opponent's other smaller stuff. He waits, and watches, and doesn't take a shot before the time is right. And when that arrow is finally shot, and hits, it is oh so satisfying.
Next week: Existential dread...
Previous Advanced Ashes Articles
Week 1: Blood Chains and Butterfly Monk
Week 2: Frost Bite and Ice Trap
Week 3: Anchornaut and Summon Sleeping Widows
Week 4: To Shadows and Body Inversion
Week 5: Regress and Poison
Week 6: Abundance and Summon Orchid Dove
Week 7: Jessa and Chant of Revenge