Written By: Just Add Bacon
Editing By: Alpha Sapphire
Howdy y’all, my name is Just Add Bacon, spamming guard while I deliver y’all the latest expansion review! Hexbound Invasion is finally upon us, and between authoritarian larpers, lovecraftian horrors, and wimdy foxes there is simply a lot to talk about. Therefore, let me keep it short and just say this: it’s good. Really good. And, while we may not know how the meta is going to shape up just yet, I’m confident that the next few months will be some of the best we’ve seen yet.
Oh, also, one more thing. This review has a rating system of 0 to 5, with 5 being the rating of Fox Familiar and 0 being the rating of Gato. This system is entirely subjective and based on my own personal views on the cards’ mechanics, art, lore, and overall design. Secondly, because this review is an absolute juggernaut (the draft google doc managed to hit almost 50 pages) it’ll be going up in three parts. The first will be a discussion of design themes and the Strength prism, followed up part two with an analysis of Agility and Wisdom. Last will be Heart and Intellect, and also some concluding remarks. This approach is designed to hopefully ensure quality of the individual articles, allow me to be more focused in each of them, and also afford more time for the later ones, in case surprise developments occur. I hope you all enjoy.
Hexbound Invasion is Skyweaver’s most ambitious expansion yet, introducing the new mechanic Slay and new subthemes for each prism. Aside from these, Hexbound Invasion also features a renewed focus on building boards and engaging in unit combat, two areas of the game that some felt were previously lacking. In my opinion, the expansion addresses these issues quite well. Units across prisms are generally bulky (Bulwark of Armis, Hexed Vulpine, Scarred Servitor, Humungoshroom, Spellbreaker), new removal spells are specialized tools and aren’t generally powerful, and new inevitability options like Armis Guards and Breach the Gates allow prisms like Strength and Heart greater lategame depth than they previously had.
Additionally, Hexbound invasion introduces numerous new design trends for Skyweaver that I’d like to highlight. Most important of these is the further implementation of global passive effects. While these originated with Clash of Inventors cards like Overdrive and Mechshroom, the design team has quite fully realized these in Armis and Zomboid support cards. Frankly, I love these types of effects, and look forward to seeing more of them in the future.
Another important design trend in Hexbound Invasion is the improvement of finishers in the game. Armis and Zomboid decks both grant Strength and Heart new routes of inevitability, but durable, expensive, and competitively viable units are also beginning to populate many prisms. Options like Bulwark of Armis, Abyss Lion, Soulpyre Titan, and Spellbreaker are the kind of powerful finisher units that the game has arguably been missing, and provide unique options for multiple prisms and archetypes. Aside from units, spells like Empty the Undercroft and Tentacle Eruption also provide massive swings of board control for Heart and Intellect, two prisms which have previously lacked useful finishers.
Finally, perhaps the most developed design trend in Hexbound Invasion is a renewed emphasis on unit-combat and developing board. Again, these design trends are shown quite clearly in the Armis and Zomboid support, as well as the new mechanic Slay, but these trends are also highlighted quite cleanly in the new Command series of cards, including Titanic’s Command, Warden’s Command, Vlad’s Command, Pharonis’ Command, and Mootichi’s Command. Each of these spells provide unique ways to play specific units from the deck, and I expect at least a few of them to become mainstays in future metas.
Average Rating: 4/5
In Hexbound Invasion, the primary design goals of the lead game designer, Coulter, was incentivizing ways for players to build and maintain board, while also adding new routes of inevitability to the game. In the Strength prism, this was accomplished quite well with the introduction of the Armis archetype. Armis cards center around the use of a token called Armis Guard, a 1-mana 1/1 unit with Guard and Armor. On its own it’s not a lot, but many new cards will permanently buff your Armis Guards for the rest of the game. Aside from Armis, Strength also gained some handy targeted searchers with Stand as One and Howling Horn.
Take notes, this card will be important. Armis Medic is one of the new cards supporting the Armis archetype pushed in Hexbound Invasion. As a 2/1 with Armor, it’s not immune to being removed with Banner, but it is immune to being chipped down. At 2 mana, this is pretty nice, since it then becomes a fairly safe opening play. Lifesteal also helps the card a fair bit, as the board focused Strength prism tends to be vulnerable to burn.
What makes Medic uniquely good is its Sunset effect. If Medic had a Summon effect and only added a generic 1/1 armor guard to your hand, it would be good. However, Medic does several things beyond this. First off, because Medic’s effect is a Sunset, and because it has Armor, it pairs incredibly well with buff options. Easy options include things like Jungle Guide and Glorious Mane, but cards like Stone Fist can also be good for allowing Medic to set up early. If Medic is not immediately answered, which is difficult when it is buffed, it can continue generating value across multiple turns, adding more free value to your hand. Additionally, if it’s already buffed, its Armor makes it a great tool for trading through weak units, further complementing its value.
But wait, there’s more! Medic does not simply generate any generic unit. Medic generates Armis Guards, and also gives them lifesteal. Guard, Armor, and Lifesteal is a powerful combination, as it means that the unit is reliably healing you. Again, for Strength, a prism perennially weak to burn, this is very good. Additionally, many other cards we’ll be discussing will also grant static buffs to Armis Guards, further enhancing their usefulness. Medic is good on its own without those cards, and those cards are also good enough on their own, so expect to see splashes of Armis synergy in various decks.
Before moving on, I should mention that Horik Dig likely gets the biggest benefits from Armis. Fox makes great use of Armis cards as well, but Horik has many issues fixed by Armis. Medic is a useful enough revival target for Ancients Rise, but the addition of Armis Guards (and them being good) also allows Undergrowth to be run, which also improves the efficiency of Ancients Rise. I can’t say if Dig will be relevant post expansion, but if it is it will be running Armis.
A slightly less powerful Armis option, but still handy. While Medic has a Sunset effect, Sentinel has a less reliable Death effect, although it does have the benefit of immediately summoning the Armis. This, in my opinion, makes the card a good inclusion for Fox Metal for a number of reasons. Fox Metal employs lots of strong buff spells in its deck, like Buster, Squire’s Dawn Blade, Righteous’ Wind Sword, Glorious Mane, and Nurtured Bond. Many of Fox’s units are already sticky, but Sentinel providing yet another reliable buff target is certainly handy. A death effect is less than ideal, but the fact that it provides an Armis Guard is good enough to outweigh the downside.
Our first “elemental lord”, Oreheart Brawler enhances Strength’s synergy with Earth and Metal units, providing a buff to their stats upon their summon. As a 3/5 for 4 mana, Brawler is a fine option (Death’s King has a comparable statline), but it likely won’t be buffing any units on the turn it’s played due to its cost. With Twisted Metal, it’s probably going to be able to trigger its Slay effect, but buffing off of Slay likely won’t offset the damage. Keep an eye on it, but I don’t expect it to be exceptional. It will be better if the recent buffs to Strength’s Earth cards end up being relevant.
BLADE OF ARMIS
Better than in looks, but still needs a little help. At 5 mana, a 3/2 with Armor and Dash isn’t spectacular, but Blade’s Metal element means that it is easy for it to pick up buffs. At 7 mana, with its Wind Sword played on itself, it is a 5/3 Armor with Dash and Shroud, which is a better but fairly expensive. Discounting Blade is difficult, but its statline is such that its health hits a breakpoint after a single +1 buff, positioning it well for Fox Metal (and probably Mira Metal as well). Similar to Medic, Blade also adds Armis Guards to your hand, although it only grants them +1 power. Handy, especially with Lifesteal, but not the strongest of buffs.
In the context of Horik Dig, Blade is a bit weird, but maybe good. It doesn’t pick up buffs like it does in Fox or Mira, but Blade can benefit immensely from revival effects like Second Chance or Ancients Rise. How reliable this is can’t immediately be said, and revival effects may be better used elsewhere, but Blade is certainly a choosable card for Horik. Whether or not it will be worth the deck space is another question entirely.
Blade but better. Execute is tied with Medic for best buff to Armis Guards, although it is best to run both together. 4 damage is enough to kill the majority of units in the game, and summoning a 2/2 Armor Guard is nice. At 5 mana, the card is comparable to Enfuego, a unit that isn’t crazy but is also quite reliable. Execute really takes off after a single buff to Armored Guards, being either from Medic, Blade, Sentinel, or Bulwark. Run this if you are running other Armis things, but probably don’t if it would be your only one.
I won’t lie, this one is a little weird. If its effect triggers it’s certainly good, even if it only buffs its summons, but the question is what deck would want this. Titus Zoo probably doesn’t run this as it enjoys its aggressively low curve, but Titus decks focusing on B.F.R. and Dracoimpact combos may get good use from this. Horik Dig could potentially also use this, although at 6 mana it’s probably too slow to be useful. I could see Horik Zoo decks potentially using this, but I will leave that at speculation.
The first of our command series, Titanic’s Command collects an easy 5/5 for featuring three dino’s. As a buff option, it’s also fairly handy, remedying one of the common flaws of buff options by immediately generating value on board. As a 6 mana spell, I wager that Command is probably strong enough to be viable if it summons two 3-mana units. Thus, the more important question is how reliable that is.
While I doubt it will fit into many decks, Command is likely a strong addition to Fox decks focusing on Metal units or Armis combos. The decks already run a high number of cheap units and great 3-mana targets (Cyber Archer, Sonic Jammer, Griff Scout), and have already shown to be good at setting up buff options. With the addition of Armis cards to the mix, the deck has even more units to pull from, and powerful value generation in options like Medic and Execute, making a curve into Command reliable. Most impressively, Fox already buffs his units a ton with things like Glorious Mane and Jungle Guide. With Titanic’s Command these buffs can carry over, potentially allowing the spell to even summon two 4-mana units.
Finally, before anyone asks, if you want to play this with Titanic, you most likely want to be in Titus. While Kha Meht should likely already be in the deck, options like Fatcat Banker and Libra can be easily excluded, leaving them for good OOD summons from Command. El Monstro and Mothermander are also present and are fine pulls, but the other two are preferable. Titus also has access to great discounting and ramping, allowing this to actually be done in a match.
STAND AS ONE
If power metal was a card, this would be it. Simply put, this card is great if you can run it. Just summoning a 1-mana, 2-mana, and 3-mana unit all at once is worth around 6 mana on its own, and this also thins your deck and is an immediate +2. On top of that, Stand as One buffs its units if you have no other units on the board. For Stand as One this is uniquely good, as low-cost units tend to already have slightly better stats for their spots on the curve. Additionally, because their stats are also relatively low, the +1/+1 increase tends to be a disproportionate buff for the units, pushing them beyond the normal breakpoints of 2 power and 3 health.
For quick reference, here’s a list of some handy targets at each cost:
1 Mana: Amalgam, Fox Familiar, Hax, Lapin Microneer, Mecharai, Scooter, Speedster
2 Mana: Armis Medic, Buster, Squire, Ether Lemure, Gus, Halcyon, Sidekick, Xavi
3 Mana: Bolt, Chester, Cyber Sniper, Leonitus, Old Fogey, Pokey, Mailpig, Scarabot, Sonic Jammer,
BULWARK OF ARMIS
Despite being a 3/6 for 8 mana, this is a fantastic card. Dash, Armor, and Guard all mean that this is applying immediate board pressure, and it won’t be broken down by trading into weak targets. This all synergizes with its Slay ability, which both summons an Armis Guard and gives all of them +1/+1 for the rest of the game. This Slay is incredible, as it means that Bulwark is summoning at worst a 2/2 with Armor and Guard. With effects of cards like Medic or Execute active, Bulwark’s Summon is just wild, and can settle games.
Beyond that, Bulwark also has a few other great use cases. It pairs extremely well with Chromeosaur, making it a good unit for both Titus and Horik. Horik especially gets great use out of Bulwark, as revival cards like Second Chance and Jar of Souls allow Horik to easily reuse his effect, which quickly gets out of hand with multiple triggers.
Closing out the Strength prism is Howling Horn, one of two new 8-mana spells with dynamic cost. Attacking is hardly a condition at all, but the 3-mana specificity makes this just a tad weaker than your average Cast in Chrome. However, Howling Horn has two unique advantages. First, since it attaches Anima to the unit, it can pair very well with options like Hot Dog, Lau Sensi, and Amaruaths Will. Additionally, even if it doesn’t immediately trigger, Anima is a great defensive enchantment, making units more resistant to common debuff options like Dazed, Roots, and Frostbite. Overall, it’s a good card, but needs a special deck to make use of it.