BREACHING THE GATES! HEXBOUND INVASION EXPANSION REVIEW PART 2 – By Just Add Bacon
Howdy y’all, my name is Just Add Bacon, loudly and proudly delivering part two of my expansion review! Last time we discussed some of the overall design goals and trends of Hexbound Invasion, and also the new arrivals to the Strength prism. This one’s a bit more straightforward, as we’ll just be looking over the Agility and Wisdom prisms. So, without further ado, let’s break it down! Tap here to read part 1!
Average Rating: 4.1
Agility received cards of a few different varieties of cards in this expansion. In one category are the new technical options, with cards like Heed the Winds, Vlad’s Command, and Yoink, all of which provide deeper strategy to the aggro prism. Second is further support to board building, coming from strong units like Skyfire Master and Hexed Primalan. Finally, Agility has two new top-end options in Abyss Lion and Soulpyre Titan, both of which are threats to watch out for.
I won’t lie, I’m not big on this card. I’m sure it’ll be good, but the play pattern is a little funky. 1/4 with Dash and Flames is functionally more like a 1/2, but its Fire element means that this can benefit greatly from On the Hunt. Additionally, Dash on a 1-mana unit, as Reckless Racer has shown, means that this is a great target for cards like Glorious Mane or Nurtured Bond. That on its own would be fine, but its Slay effect is less than satisfying. It punishes the opponent for having weak units, which could be fine, but, befitting Agility’s theme of never getting anything without a drawback, Flareboid also has a recoil effect despite being an otherwise average card. Additionally, the punish comes in the form of direct burn damage, whose only counterplay is simply not having units. It’s a good concept, but it’s ultimately best versus other Aggro decks and things that try to have a board. In principle, I don’t like punishing that in this way.
According to others this is very good, but I’m not big on it. Vile Deal also seeks to push Agility’s recoil theme, except this time the idea is that Agility can solve its draw problem by taking excessive amounts of damage. In practice however, I think this is almost exclusively a combo card for either Zoey or Mai. Zoey has a large number of tokens, and can thus usually destroy mostly worthless units to gain the benefits. Mai has access to Electron and Zam, and more dedicated players like Cytus will probably find a way to work this into OTK combos. In either case, the balancing factor is mostly unresolved: Zoey draws a ton by trading off tokens, which also doesn’t even matter too much since Heart already has some great draw. In Mai, the spell is most likely a part of yet another burn combo, so the spell will also have to be balanced around that consideration. Outside of these heroes and roles, better options certainly exist (Fox has Firesight, Tune-Up, and Head in the Clouds, and Iris has Hydrate and Turn the Tide), so this is likely a dead card for most decks.
HEED THE WINDS
A technical card, but very good. On its face, Heed the Winds looks like an automatic addition for Air decks (probably in Zoey, Iris, or Fox), but the wording prevents the choice from being so simple. Heed the Winds shuffles non-air cards in your hand back to your deck, meaning that the card is almost useless if your hand is entirely air. However, since it mulligans your entire hand, it can also be an amazing way to reliably find numerous key cards at the same time. For Air decks this is immensely useful, as it becomes quite easy to find linchpins like Swarmsinger and Head in the Clouds. You’ll need a healthy number of non-Air cards to do this though, making it ideal for a hypothetical dual-element deck that might see an article in the future…
I lied when I said Fox Familiar was 5/5, but I needed y’all to have a sense of scale. This card is beautiful, and has peak Agility design. It’s a slightly over-tuned unit (Shogun seems to be staying at 2/4 for the time being) with a recoil effect to keep it in line with Agility’s design. But! It’s recoil is not merely taxing Agility for the same thing other prisms do. Here it’s much more thoughtful as, If properly managed, the recoil effect can actively become a boon, and there are also ways for skilled players to avoid the recoil entirely.
At base, a 2-mana 2/4 with Wither is just good. It will die to a lot of common removal like Incinerate, Strike Down, and Water Rune, but that’s perfectly fine for a 2-mana unit. More importantly, there’s a lot of cheap removal it will actually avoid, giving Agility something comparably sticky to Strength’s Psyche or Buster, Squire. As for its recoil effect, there are two ways of managing it. First, it is only triggered on Slay, so one can easily avoid it by simply not using the unit to trade. It may be tempting at times to use it as such, but rushing the opponent’s hero can also be an effective strategy when paired with burn damage.
The second way of managing Vulpine’s recoil is a bit more fundamental, and involves controlling the board with the generated zomboids. A 1-mana Zomboid is not bad for aggro, especially if it’s generated for free. Additionally, these all have wither, which can help facilitate further trades. Ultimately, the difference will be if trading with Zomboids and Vulpine ends up preventing more damage than you would’ve taken from leaving that unit alive. I suspect that this will generally be the case, meaning that our fox’s recoil is mitigated by good play.
I won’t lie, I’ve got no clue how good this is. Basically, this card preserves the status quo, so if that’s good the card is good. If you’re ahead on board this makes it much harder for your opponent to respond to what you have. With even slightly good timing it can turn off specific on-curve A.O.E. spells, making it valuable against control decks. However, if you’re behind on board this is probably pretty worthless, as you’ve spent 3 mana to steal 2. We’ll need to wait and see, but Zoey Dark might be able to find a use for it. I’ve also seen a few burn-focused decks use it, but I’m hopeful that those won’t be relevant.
My favorite of the 5 elemental lords, this guy has a lot happening. Starting with the basics, Skyfire has one of the best Slay abilities an Agility card could wish for. Being able to apply pressure to the enemy hero while trading is handy, and means that this can serve a wallbreaking role similar to cards like Drillbot, just without the Dash.
Skyfire also comes with an attached Supersonic, an alright spell on its own but a very handy spell when attached to a unit. Where it gets really good is when it’s paired with Skyfire’s aura, which grants +1/+1 to each Air and Fire unit you play. Coupled with its 3/3 for 3 statline this can end up generating a rather healthy board for Agility, provided you can trigger its aura.
With these things in mind, where Skyfire gets exciting is in Fox Heatwave (Air and Fire), which I tested extensively in the PTS. Heatwave decks already enjoy the Supersonic + Fox Familiar combo inherent to their elements, so much so that they can easily cut all other 1-mana options without cost. Normally that would appear janky, especially if we’re running 2 copies of supersonic, but Air’s Swarmkeeper gives us a reload, jamming more Yellowjacks into the deck to be summoned. Skyfire can summon a Yellowjack or Fox Familiar for us rather easily and also buff them, providing a surprising amount of damage. And finally, Heed the Winds and Head in the Clouds provide consistency, allowing these neat combos to actually work.
The Agility version of Teleport, but with a higher ceiling. At base, this card is interesting in that it is kinda just fine. +1 mana for Banner is usually a bad trade for a card, but that’s just the failcase. The real question for cards like this is at what breakpoint do they become good and how easy it is to reach that. For Vladd’s Command, I believe the breakpoint is 3 mana, or one external source of Banner.
With one other use of Banner, Vladd’s command summons a unit of cost equal to itself, but with Banner for the rest of the turn. Numerically that has to be viable, as it is literally the cost of the unit + benefits. Additionally, we also know that we’ve hit the double-Banner breakpoint (double-Banner means your hero has 3 power, enough to clear most units) which is also valuable. Finally, Agility has a ton of great cards to dig up for 3 mana, like Hot Dog, Lau Sensei, Songrider, and Swarmsinger. If other prisms are included, cards like Sonic Jammer and Leonitus are also available. Beyond 3 mana, the card just becomes more efficient and undoubtedly better.
It looks weak, but do not overlook this. Hexed Primalan’s aura lets you convert trading units into Songbirds with +1 power, which means that any board Agility makes is immediately more threatening. Stacking Songbirds can get out of hand quickly, as repeated instances of Banner grant your hero ways to cleanly remove threats without expending cards. Thus, boards with just weak units can become dangerous, as any unit can be exchanged for a Songbird, as long as the enemy hero has a unit.
This is only one way to play Primalan though, as it can also be used to ward off A.O.E. spells. I would usually recommend against this, unless you know an A.O.E. is on the way. In general, value now is better than value later, and even if you are blown out with an A.O.E. you’ve still gotten a good bit of use from 4 mana. Aside from that, Primalan is fairly tanky, and won’t be cleanly answered by things like Frigid Blizzard, Burninate, Mass Confuse, or Extinction Event. Thus, it can actually make the best sense to play it and trade a few units for Songbirds, but keep one or two as-is, such that then you recover value against their A.O.E. spell.
Aside from these things, one other thing I should mention (that could end up getting this nerfed) is its interaction with things like Dash units and Yellowjacks. Primalan can convert almost any unit into Songbird, and this of course means it pairs well with cheap things that die easily. Micron-Drones and Yellowjacks can trigger its effect immediately for little cost, and also do good damage, especially when Overdrive is active. Be wary of these setups. Armor units can tank the damage better than most, but the Yellowjack’s Wither can also stop the combo for you. Just have a plan for what to do next, as surviving units can still be transformed if you play an A.O.E. spell. The one exception is Kha’s Wrath, since Dusted units don’t count as having been destroyed.
Evil Mountain Lion is apparently: “I am a fair top end unit not exclusively used for OTK combos.” All kidding aside, this is a cool cat, and a welcome addition to Agility. Playing 2 zomboids with Banner means that we’ll be up to the comically good 4 power on our hero, although we’ll have to be careful in using that at this stage of the game.
I see this card being most useful in a Zoey Dark deck for several reasons. First, at the time of writing, before any expansion things have come out, I’ve been working on a Zoey Dark deck that I’ve been playing in Grandweaver, and actually staying in Grandweaver with it too. That deck uses Anoint in Flame and Raze the Banners with 18 Dark cards to kill almost anything the opponent plays, and this fits in nicely to that type of tempo-control shell. Secondly, while Slay is not the best on an 8-mana unit that will usually die, Zoey has access to great enablers like Rise from Scrap and Wildlands Biker (who the deck can actually make use of due to its Fate and reliance on options like Maw Worm). Finally, this is a fantastic summon for Undragon. At 13 mana, it’s rather expensive, but it’s one card to fill your board, and will require a powerful A.O.E. like Mass Confuse to fully answer. Keep an eye on this pretty kitty.
This one is going to do something special, I can feel it. Because of its admittedly weird combination of effects, I think it’s better to take the card piecemeal.
At best, this costs 0 mana, which requires us to take 20 damage, normally reducing us to 12 health, but a 7/7 with Dash should also be good at 6 or 7 mana, which is closer to 18 Health and pretty manageable. Taking damage has always been Agility’s strong suit, although I suspect that this will actually work best in decks that also have some cheap healing options like Nefurti or Avatar of Light; the more health you have, the easier it is to trade it. Strength, which greatly enjoys fire synergies, also has a few healing options, but they aren’t the most reliable, so players will need to be creative.
Burn Out is an overlooked card, but by no means bad. Since it’s attached to a unit like this, we’re thankfully insulated from it being drawn by Hot Dog and we also have a towering removal-stick to go along with it. Due to its wording, Burn Out will actually draw before dusting, which also means that you can play it with no downside if there’s only 4 cards left in your deck. Altogether then, it’s usually cheap removal with a draw and a big body, so I wouldn’t be surprised if this makes it into numerous decks.
Average Rating: 3
In Hexbound Invasion Wisdom takes a slight turn from its usual design focus, gaining two new subthemes in Blight and a focus on Health. Blight is mathematically interesting as the conditions under which it’s worthwhile are rather hard to pry out, while its health cards are much more straightforward (and much more likely to be busted).
It’s balanced, but nothing exceptional. This will be handy for control-heavy metas, as control mirrors are usually decided by ramping, but against Aggro it’s a more volatile option. 1 mana doesn’t seem like a lot, but at early stages in the game, it represents a rather large increase in resources, so games against aggro can be won or lost depending on if this is played and answered. Its best home is probably an Aggro deck like Titus or Iris who are already playing a lot of cheap units and can make this hard to address.
One of many Shield Bash enthusiasts in the expansion, Blightcrafter introduces us to a new token called Blight, which is currently a Wisdom exclusive. Blight is rather complicated to model, since the decisions players can make around it (to spend the mana and play it or not) are multifaceted. However, we can evaluate each Blight card as being either card denial or damage, and then look at the point at which Blight first becomes good in each scenario to determine its floor.
Card advantage is usually much better than health advantage, and also easier for us to determine, so we will start there. If our opponent draws one Blight and never plays it, we can match their value with the Blightcrafter we played. Essentially it would be a 3-mana 1-for-1, which is not a terrible play. If they draw two Blights and play neither it’s 2for-1, so we’re also quite happy. However, bear in mind that this is value delayed, and that will almost always be less valuable than the immediate loss of Blightcrafter (assuming it gets traded for free, which isn’t unlikely with its 1/6 statline). At 3 unplayed Blights the play is probably good for us, so we’ll assign our cutoff here.
On the damage side things are a bit trickier, as the value of health is dynamic throughout a match. The only hitpoint that decides the game is the last, but the amount of available health, and the burn damage a player expects from their opponent, can effectively make that “last” hitpoint come much sooner. Wisdom lacks burn options though, so we’ll generally have to rely on Blights to get that pressure. For Blight damage, there are two ways of evaluating things, and it also all depends on how rapidly the opponent plays their cards. The first is simply adding the Blight damage up over time, while also keeping in mind that the greater instances of damage are usually discounted to a degree due to the delay. In slow games this discount is almost nonexistent, but in faster games the later rewards may not arrive until a player is dead.
The more complicated way of figuring out Blight’s damage is by starting with a known number of Blights and finding the breakpoint at which 1 card is not worth the mana and damage of Blight. From there we’ll need to add 3 more Blights to the opponent’s hand, and they will then be in a very bad position. Again, health’s value generally changes throughout a match, but with Vile Vial as a comparison I don’t think Blights are massively disruptive until they are dealing 4 or 5 damage. This is a fair bit of time and will also take numerous turns to establish since Blights can’t draw themselves. In an ideal case, Wisdom’s overdraw cards can add Blights to the opponent’s hand, speeding up the process, but Blights aren’t usually added to the opponent’s deck until the late-game, as that’s when most of the good Blight cards come online.
So what do I think then? Well, I like Blights a lot more than something like MixWish or pure Exhaustion, although it’s not yet that good. I don’t think any of its cards should be changed yet though, as we’re almost certainly getting another option or two in a future mini expansion.
Sorry, I hate this. Wisdom already has a lot of volatile options like Dreamcalling and Cloudsloth, and this card simply piles on to that design trend. In Titus, Shields Up can draw a 22 health Nightmare on turn 3, play it on turn 4, and also nerf your entire board on turn 5 with its attached Bad Dreams. Of course, it can be answered by a wide range of Wisdom and Intellect cards like Eradicate, Germinate, Deactivate, Judgement, and Waterline, but I don’t like designs that essentially reduce to “have hard removal by turn 4 or I win.” Aside from it being very luck-dependent on if you have that hard removal (since we’re in such an early stage of the game the choice of holding a card for later can’t reliably appear), if a player is forced by the meta to take hard removal in the opening hand the game will be slower, since a player has less generally usable cards. Such a situation also reduces player agency, by generally reducing the choices available to them.
Aside from Nightmare and its jank, the other options aren’t too much better. Kha Meht will still be invalidated by Ensnare, but at 18 it’s just not going to be removable with damage. Cloud Sloth is another dangerous one, since its effect generates tempo like crazy. It also has Shroud, meaning that only the Wisdom spell Judgment can really answer this well. Oliphant is also volatile and silly if it works. And while all of these are pretty easily Withered down to 0 power, Shield Bash means that the whole unit must be dealt with, and that leaving one alive can become a death-sentence. This card will most likely be nerfed eventually, it’ll just be too frustrating to play against if it’s ever relevant.
It looks too good, but I think it may actually be fine. 2 power on Dash is actually not a ton (see Shady Dealer), and its effect specifically draws a card of the slain unit’s element. This specificity can be quite helpful in some instances (enemy Earth units are tools to draw ramp spells), but it can also be unfortunate in others, reducing guide’s draw to an OOD with variable value. Guide also enjoys Shield Bash immensely, but I also think that card is too good and should be nerfed.
Cool, but probably gets played in some wack deck with Desire and Mercurial Mimic. The Roots will be handy as a limiting factor, but don’t expect that to be a saving grace if you are playing aggro. If it copies something like a Cloud Sloth buffed from Shields Up send me a dm and I’ll grieve with you.
A cool but terrifying Wisdom unit. Scarred Servitor adds a unique spin to the game, as its aura allows your units to attack with their health instead of their power. As what is basically a 5-mana 6/6 with Stealth, this is great, and its attached Sanctuary also allows it to handle chip-damage well, which is important since all damage to this unit essentially has Wither. When paired with a preexisting board containing things like Nefurti, Jakintsu, or Pokey, Mailping, this can also quickly reverse a board state, as suddenly ignorable units become explosive sources of damage.
My only concern with this card is that this may actually make Wisdom’s units too threatening. Generally speaking, Wisdom units have disproportionate health, making them far more difficult to remove than your average unit. In a game of aggro versus Wisdom-based control, the aggro player is generally expected to get around this by ignoring their units as much as possible. This is reinforced by prisms like Agility and Strength having access to great burn options like Kha’s Wrath, Chomp, Card Sling, Drillbot, and Buster, Squire, but having few strong midrange options. However, this approach crumbles if Wisdom units are too dangerous to ignore, as it is presently also too costly for aggro to address them. This concern probably won’t come to fruition, but if it does it will be a big issue for aggressive decks.
The best Blight card we have so far. 6 mana for a 4/7 with Guard and Wither is usable, but the real reason anyone will care about this is the Blights. It generates two every turn it survives, which isn’t great for locking down the opponent but is alright if you’re ahead on board somehow. It’s a decent target for Undragon to resummon, it enjoys Shield Bash and Shields Up, and works best if you get just a little lucky.
Another one that’s just too volatile to really tell. I think it’s too expensive to be useful, but if Cytus breaks it I’ll let y’all know.
Flashy and exciting, but rather slow. For best results you’ll probably want to pair this with Thanite, but that’ll also increase the cost to 10 mana for a combo that doesn’t pay off fully until much later. Good luck with this.
2/5Also not really a fan of this one. It’s interesting, but feels like an awkward grab-bag of buffs without having much identity. As a general rule, I also dislike Wisdom, the premier defensive prism, having powerful and volatile buff options like these, which further decrease the predictability of the Wisdom player’s deck, something I consider unfair when the other heroes are generally much more predictable.