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.
Hey everyone, today we’re going to talk about two oft-overlooked cards and how they can combine with the illusion dice power to take over a game.
Enchanted Violinist used to be a must-include staple before it was errata’d from a overpowered card to the much more reasonable form it is in today. Still, the card remains a powerful ally that can help fill in multiple spaces in the right deck. In the largest tournament following its change, Shi Ma included it in his 2nd place Gen Con Leo deck.
One of the best things about Enchanted Violinist is that it has a perfectly reasonable floor, in terms of impact. A 1/2 body for 1 is decent value that will often be useful. It’s not cheap to get rid of and its ally quality means you get it out quickly when you need it to stand in front of a larger threat (like a Hammer Knight). That means that you can include it in your first five and usually get it on board to stop a big ally hit (even if you go second, something Summon spells can’t give you).
Enchanted Violinist’s stats, though efficient, aren’t what are exciting. Where the violinist’s real power comes in is her ability and the pressure that it can put on when amped up through the power of synergy. At a high level, the Violinist gives you a way to control units on the board in decks that otherwise would not have easy access to it. Left un-checked, and given the opportunity to trigger, “EV” can rack up endless amounts of wounds. The key is in the balance of finding ways trigger EV and, supplementally, having spare dice with which to abuse the ability.
The most obvious ways to activate EV are with cards and abilities that directly “mill” cards off of your opponent’s deck. At the moment, these cards include Purge, Glow Finch, Saria’s ability Heart’s Pull, Remorse, and focused Summon Nightshade Swallows. Heart’s Pull is perhaps the most synergistic way to use EV - you can place a violinist and in the same turn use your side action for a guaranteed wound. This allows you to create a large swing in board-position in one turn, removing one of their units while adding one of your own. With focused Purge, you can use each main action to thin their deck and their battlefield. Note that this can get expensive - if you want to do this, you should look for ways to get extra dice (perhaps by playing Expand Energy, Rin’s Fury, Orrick, or Victoria). Lastly, finch both protects EV and feeds its ability.
Directly triggering Songs of Sorrow, however, is only my second favorite way to use her. Rather than spending more of your resources on something not directly beneficial to the present round (milling), I like to force my opponent to trigger EV for me. The way that I do that is with the illusion dice power.
The “wolves” have a great way of forcing your opponent to play in certain ways. When you are showing wolves, your opponent has to make tough decisions about how they meditate. Where they might normally meditate at the start of a round for all the power they expect to need, this can be dangerous against an illusion opponent that is looking to eat those dice. This forces you to meditate more, which thins your deck and hurts you in a long game. So, instead, people often defend against the “milling” aspect of the wolves by only meditating on the turn they plan on spending the dice. You can condition your opponent into doing this by punishing them early - if they meditate heavy early on, let your wolves feast on their dice to teach them the lesson. Then, when they start stuttering their meditations, play out the Enchanted Violinist. Now, the opponent is put into an awkward position. When they meditate all at once, they will inevitably have to “over-meditate”, shortening the clock they have until they are out of cards. If they stutter their meditation, you can push a dice advantage and turn it into a board advantage where you clean out their units with the Enchanted Gatling Gun.
One last note - don’t forget that Songs of Sorrow puts on wounds, not damage. This means it can’t be stopped by cards like Protect or Particle Shield. If you suspect your opponent is holding the shields, you can get one damage on a 2 health target first, and then set up the dreaded violinist play to finish the job in a way that can’t be prevented.
Mind Probe is a delightful card that is a little more niche. The caveat with Mind Probe is that it doesn’t impact the current round at all. In order to get maximum use out of it, you have to be able to maintain a stable board state with your other cards. When you use it, you are looking to have awesome turns in the future, not right now. It’s important to mention that in some matchups (where you are slower, and they are lightning quick), this simply won’t feel possible - Mind Probe will be too slow, and you will have wanted something else.
When your opponent is playing a slower deck, however, Mind Probe can have an absolutely critical impact on the overall game. Because of its bad matchups, I think often you will find that you only want to include 1 or 2 copies (instead of the full play-set) - in that way you can seek advantage from it when needed, but lessen the blow of drawing it in a matchup where you need to affect the board state. That being said, in metas where you face lots of slow decks (perhaps ones that want to focus things like Butterfly Monks or Abundance), Probe can be an effective tool.
One of the cool things that Mind Probe can do is take multiple cards out of the opponent’s next 5. By stacking the cards so that the next card drawn is also one you don’t want to see, you can use any of the tricks that EV also uses (Heart’s Pull, illusion dice, etc.) to mark that one off of the list as well. When you do this, if you want to take an ally and non-ally, always prioritize allies with Mind Probe (which removes them permanently), otherwise you may see them come back with the Ceremonial dice power or Bound Soul.
Mind Probe, though, is perfectly capable of warping the next turn in a beneficial way without taking multiple cards. In fact, consider any of the following examples when looking at their next hand and think about what suits the situation:
- If your opponent is only playing 4 nature dice, but has Nature summons (like Butterfly Monk and Frostback Bear), you can remove non-nature options from your opponent’s hand and leave them stranded with otherwise powerful cards like Molten Gold (that are just too awkward for them to cast that turn, if they want to keep building their board). Use illusion dice to further pressure that color.
- If the next hand has a lot of powerful but expensive cards, get rid of the cheap one (like Particle Shield). Limit their dice with illusion dice the next turn and leave them stranded with unplayable cards.
- If the next hand has lots of cheap spells, get rid of the expensive one (like Hammer Knight), and leave them with a hand that is just not very impactful. Use your dice to push out your own units or control the board, and press your advantage.
- Remove cards that will win your opponent the game, either in the short (e.g. Molten Gold) or long (Abundance, Chant of Revenge) term. Think about what you can handle, and what it’s going to take you to win.
- Leave your opponent with reactive spells that you can play around when you know they have them (e.g. Choke, or Vanish).
The great thing about Mind Probe is that it not only lets you see what your opponent is capable of doing the next turn, but lets you create a puzzle that you can solve by removing the most problematic piece of the hand. Never forget that your opponent can meditate some cards away, so put the cards you most want to see in their hand furthest from the top.
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
Week 8: Amplify and Blood Archer
Week 9: Dread Wraith and Three-Eyed Owl
Week 10: Iron Worker and Coal Roarkwin
Week 11: Seal and Reflections in the Water
Week 12: Blood Puppet and Root Armor
Week 13: Massive Growth and Dispel
Week 14: Gilder and Cut the Strings
Week 15: Small Sacrifice and Leech Warrior
Written by Elliot Kramer.
Elliot Kramer is a top Ashes competitive player.