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When Force of Will Co announced the release dates of the Reiya cluster starter decks, I was undeniably excited. There was no reason I should not have been. After all, the previous, Lapis, starter decks, while expensive, had generally been extremely good, excluding, perhaps, the abnormality which was Malefic Ice (Sorry, Mercurius), a deck possibly saved by the inclusion of Ancient Knowledge.
Either way, it is hard to deny these decks’ importance. It is entirely thanks to the Lapis Starters that cards such as Sacred Elf, Tama, Familiar of the Holy Wind and Lightning Strike entered the game, alongside Rulers such as Mikage and Fiethsing, both of whom went on to have a significant effect upon the meta game, Feithsing Turbo decks remaining relevant until the introduction of Severing Wind, which served to essentially clip the deck’s wings (and yes, that is a joke at Gwiber’s expense).
Interestingly, while all the Lapis starter decks were good it was, perhaps, the wind starter deck, Swarming Elves, which was the best of them all. It is hard to argue against a deck that provided the game with both Sacred Elf and Tama, cards which have enjoyed play, at some point, in almost every deck imaginable alongside, arguably, the most abusable of all the starter deck rulers, Feithsing herself.
Undeniably, compared to Swarming Elves, Elemental Surge has a tough act to follow. However, while Swarming Elves may have been good, Elemental Surge is perhaps, whisper it, even better. I’m not kidding.
While, in my humble opinion, the last few starter deck reveals have been somewhat disappointing, containing cards which were good enough, and often with intriguing gimmicks, none of them struck me as particularly great out of the box. The amount of generally usable cards fairly low (perhaps reflecting FoW Co’s design choice to build support for rulers over the entire cluster, therefore creating decks that get better with time). Elemental Surge on the other hand is different. From the moment it is released, there are cards in this deck which are going to see extensive play.
I will begin with arguably the most significant card. Anyone who was rejoicing at the impending exit of Seal of Wind and Light please stop reading now. I beg you, go back to your happy lives were the only negation you have to worry about post rotation is Severing Winds and the occasional Millennia Bond. For those of you still reading, let me introduce Vanish, a three-cost wind Quickcast Chant whose effect simply reads ‘Cancel target spell’. Three cheers for more negation! (or boos if you’re of the opposite opinion. I’m expecting to hear quite a bit of both).
While Vanish is, perhaps, not quite as potent as Seal of Wind and Light, that card it will inevitably replace, costing one will more and lacking Seal’s Awakening effect, it remains a genuine threat. A threat, mind you, made arguably more accessible due to its requirement of only one attribute of will, wind, whereas Seal of Wind and Light required, much as its name implies, both wind will and light will. It is also of note that the card is a ‘Spirit Magic’ chant, the significance of which will become clear when I finally discuss Gill//Gill, the Gifted Conjurer, this starter deck’s ruler and driving force (and yes, I know I’m being awkward by not starting with him).
Another chant of note is Winds of Vitality, a one cost Quickcast Chant that boosts target J/resonator by +600/600 until end of turn. Not bad for a single will!
Much like with Vanish, this chant is also a ‘Spirit Magic’ chant and its uses should be immediately obvious (I mean who doesn’t like +600/600 Quickcast effects?).
While Winds of Vitality may lack the Remnant effect of Rapid Growth, which thanks to a Vingolf 3 reprint remains in New Frontiers, I can see the potential of its superior buff causing headaches for the players forced to choose between them.
In a Gill based deck the choice between Winds of Vitality and Rapid Growth is clear. To understand why we must take a look at the ruler himself Gill//Gill, the Gifted Conjurer (yes, I know it’s about time).
First, let us get the basics out of the way. As you can see, Gill possesses the Energize ability native to all rulers since the start of the Lapis cluster. In addition to this, Gill possesses a Judgment cost of three will, two wind will and one void, following the pattern of the earlier rulers revealed in this cluster (with the obvious exception of Pandora). Also, both sides of the card possess a ‘Sealed item’ effect, much like the other rulers seen so far, although it should be noted that, potentially, these effects are not the same, Pandora, the only ruler so far with her Sealed Item effects revealed, possessing different effects on each side of the card.
Naturally, Gill’s J-Ruler side is also worth a mention, possessing decent stats for its cost with 1100/1100 and Barrier, which is fairly potent, stronger than the normative 1000/1000 of J-Rulers. So far Gill appears to be a decent, if unspectacular, ruler. However, it is the remaining effects of the cards that make it especially interesting…
As you will have doubtless noticed, both the ruler and J-Ruler sides of the card possess an interesting activate ability, the ability to produce one wind will in exchange for removing an ‘Elemental’ in the graveyard from the game.
While this ability is hindered by a variety of factors including; the need for an Elemental in graveyard (don’t worry, I’ll cover those shortly), the fact the effect is only once per turn (which is probably just as well), and the fact that the will produced can only be spent for the costs of ‘Spirit Magic’ chants, this is, undeniably, an abusable ability. Remember Winds of Vitality? As a ‘Spirit Magic’ card, it can essentially be cast for free. Remember Vanish? It can now be cast for a far more reasonable two will. It is clear that Gill can be easily abused.
Furthermore, Gill’s ruler side has one more ability. By resting the card, you can search your deck for a card named ‘Gentle Breeze Elemental’ and add it to your hand. As you likely guess this card is the first of the Elementals I will cover. Interestingly, it is also the last of the ‘Spirit Magic’ chants.
Much like Winds of Vitality, Gentle Breeze Elemental is a cost one Quickcast chant and therefore one that can be, with Gill’s help, essentially be cast for free. This is neat as, not only does the card’s effect provide you with a draw, which is nice in itself, the card then subsequently becomes removal fodder for Gill’s effect, providing you with a card to banish for will during the next player’s turn. Naturally, it is possible to abuse this card, alongside Gill, to net free draws during your opponent’s turn, if the extra will Gill can produce is otherwise unneeded. However, while Gentle Breeze Elemental is undeniably an interesting card, it is hardly the only elemental in the deck.
Much like Gentle Breeze Elemental, Leaf Fighter is, you guessed it, an Elemental. Except, this time, the elemental in question is a resonator, not a chant. In terms of Leaf Fighter, there isn’t much to say. 400/400 is decent stats for a one cost resonator. However, it is likely mainly to be run as fodder for Gill’s effect until Ancient Nights or a later set in the Reiya cluster reveals a superior elemental to run.
The next resonator is Leaf Magician, the third elemental card in the starter deck.
At a cost of three will, Leaf Magician’s stats of 700/700 are a little on the low side and its effect, while decent, is nothing too special. It is essentially an expendable body. That said, the graveyard is where you want this card to go and a draw is always nice. As with Leaf Fighter, this card’s primary function is to facilitate Gill and the card offers little on its own terms.
However, that is not to say that all resonators in Elemental Surge are like that. Travelling Trader, a one cost resonator with decent stats is a card that could well, in the correct deck, see play.
Possessing a body of 300/400, Travelling Trader is a respectable first turn drop. However, it is its effect that makes the card significant. When Travelling Trader enters the field its controller gets to draw a card, then discard a card. To most decks this makes the card inferior to Tama, Familiar of the Holy Wind, despite its sturdier body. While Travelling Trader nets you no card advantage, Tama, allowing its owner a draw without the necessary discard and possessing a useful secondary effect, would seem the better choice of the two. Both cards share the same weakness, that their enter abilities are negated by the presence of Abdul Alhazred, Poet of Madness.
However, that is not to say that these cards are bad or that Tama completely out performs Travelling Trader. In fact, in decks such as this one, or in any deck which wishes to abuse the graveyard, this card can easily outperform Tama, allowing the development of resources in the hand while preparing the graveyard with useful cards, cards which here serve to facilitate the use of Gill’s effect.
That said, Travelling Trader isn’t the only card in this starter deck to set up the graveyard. Another resonator, Tree Root Sprite, also helps in achieving this end.
While sadly not an Elemental, Tree Root Sprite remains an extremely useful card for Gill decks, allowing you to send an elemental card from your deck to the graveyard when it enters the field. Unfortunately, as with Travelling Trader, this is an effect that can be negated by the presence of Abdul, however, that should not put Gill decks off using it. Sadly, it should also be noted that this card, much like with Travelling Trader, does not cause the effect of Leaf Magician to trigger, Leaf Magician needs to be sent from the field to the graveyard to net its controller a draw.
Even so, Tree Root Sprite does allow you to filter out cards from your deck you may no longer wish to play as the game progresses, such as Leaf Fighter, as well as helping prepare the graveyard for cards to use with Gill’s effect. Its stats of 800/800 are also decent, slightly better than the deck’s other three cost resonator, Leaf Magician.
Also, it should be noted that this is not Tree Root Sprite’s only effect. Instead of using Tree Sprite to send an Elemental to the graveyard, you can take advantage of its other effect to destroy a non-magic stone, non-J/resonator entity, such as an addition or regalia. While this effect is, perhaps, the less useful in terms of a Gill deck’s game plan, it remains a useful ability for the deck to have access to, allowing the removal of problem cards if the situation requires it.
Although we are approaching the end of the list, that is not all the resonators in Elemental Surge. There are three more, and good news Elf fans! They are dragons! (I’m kidding, they’re elves. Put down your torches and pitchforks guys!).
As you can see the first two Elf resonators are rather straightforward. Both are cost two cards with 600/600 attack and defense (although it should be noted that the will requirements for each are slightly different).
To begin with Elven Guide, this is another card that, here, helps to send Elementals to the graveyard, its effect allowing you to inspect the top three cards of your deck, before sending one of those cards to the graveyard and returning the other two to the bottom of the deck in any order. While it is a card that will work fine in Gill decks it is a little disappointing to only see limited utility for it in Elf Swarm decks built around Feithsing. It is also a little frustrating to see that its effect is, once again, an enter effect. If a player wished to build a deck around this starter deck (which does sound kind of fun) they would at least have to prepare some answers to Abdul, the card essentially having the power to halt the deck’s game plan on its own.
The second of these 600/600 elves is Guardian of the Portal. Unlike Elven Guide, her effect does not concern sending cards to the graveyard, instead boosting her own attack and defense by 100/100 through resting a recovered resonator besides herself. This makes her rather an unusual resonator in this deck as her effects do not serve to enable this deck’s strategy.
However, it must be said, that she can become a surprisingly effective powerhouse. While the buffs she can grant herself seem far too low to make her a viable threat, it is possible to make her stats more respectable by resting all available recovered resonators with her effect before the recovery phase, allowing you to produce a powerful resonator for no real cost.
The final resonator in the deck is Cecil Letoliel, Elven Prince, a five-cost resonator and this deck’s highest cost card.
Now, five-cost may sound steep, but don’t worry, Cecil’s cost reduces by one void will for every elemental card in your graveyard, meaning that, with three or more Elementals in your graveyard, Cecil can be summoned for a mere two wind will. Not bad for a 1000/1000 resonator. Especially as Cecil grants all Elemental Resonators +200/+200, transforming Leaf Fighter and Leaf Magician into 600/600 and 900/900 bodies respectively. It’s worth noting that the effects of Cecil stack, so get two Cecil’s or more out and you can get some seriously big elemental resonators. Big resonators you can buff further with Winds of Vitality, that you can cast once for free. You can see why I like this deck.
The final card in this deck of note is its special magic stone (I imagine you don’t need me to mention that normal wind magic stone. If you do, it’s a Wind Magic Stone and it has a fairy on its illustration).
Continuing the positive theme of this deck, Spirit Stone is actually rather good. Its presence isn’t essential, you could easily justify running another magic stone instead, but the ability to banish it for a free draw isn’t bad and could be useful if you were short on cards and relatively rich in Magic Stones. Equally, Gill’s effect could help soften the burden of any necessary magic stone banishing.
To summarize my final thoughts on this starter deck, I’m really very impressed. As I said earlier I was hardly that blown away by the previous reveals for this cluster, but this starter deck is different. The deck has a clearly defined game plan and the cards to achieve it, even if the Elemental resonators at this point are somewhat lacking. In fact, Gill looks like it could well be a fun deck to play.
Rather importantly, the deck also contains cards such as Winds of Vitality and Vanish which I can see getting considerable play beyond Gill decks. Equally, Travelling Trader and Gentle Breeze Elemental may find homes beyond this deck.
Of the decks revealed so far, this deck is easily my favourite and it is going to take some work for the remaining deck Children of the Night to knock it off its perch.
With any luck, I’ll be back next week to review that deck too.
Until next time!