by Terence Jason Dorman
To build the hype for the upcoming release of Seed Three: Fall of Marmothoa, I thought I'd analyze one of the cards that has been spoiled so far.
All of you have probably seen this card before as it was one of the earliest previews, but if you happened to miss it, then you are in for a treat.
Today's article highlights Ensmallment Ray, a Gearsmith Item. While Gearsmith isn't my favorite trade, I tend to find myself coming up with Gearsmith ideas as their cards are very versatile and lend themselves to being utility or combo cards in a lot of decks.
This card is no exception and will certainly provide a lot of deck builders with new and creative ideas.
Name, Art, and Flavor
This is one of those cards where all three pieces come together beautifully. The name of the card accurately depicts what the card does while the art reflects its role in the Spoils lore. The art, done by Christopher Nico, beautifully shows a trio of mischievous 31v35 torturing a fourth, all with a vast array of colors and a detailed Gearsmith background. Add in two clever pieces of flavor text that flow with the artwork and you have a card that ties its name, art, and flavor together in a wonderful manner.
This card will be found in Seed Three, which as I'm sure you already know, is a fixed set. As such, every purchase of Seed Three will come with a copy of Ensmallment Ray, so if you are dying to get your hands on this card, you don't have to worry about cracking packs.
Trade, Card Type, and Subtypes
As an Item, this card falls well within the realm of the Gearsmith trade as they have the most interaction with items. Also, as I mentioned above, the flavor of this card is deeply Gearsmith, so any other trade having a card like this would have felt weird. Plus, the effect of the card (which will be discussed later) really screams Gearsmith as the other trades really don't have access to cost reduction like Gearsmith does.
As an Item that isn't a gear, this card has no subtypes to talk about. We won't hold that against it, though.
Threshold, Cost, and Additional Costs
The threshold of this card is three, which I consider the start of “high” threshold with two being average and one being cheap or “splashable.” Three threshold generally means that you have to put some effort into making this card playable as there is currently no way to start the game with three threshold. As such, this card is clearly designed for decks full of Gearsmith threshold, whether that be through resources, double threshold resources, or Crests.
The card has a cost of four which I consider average. It is a little high for an item, but that is balanced by the fact that Gearsmith has ways to reduce item costs. The cost of the card is balanced further by the first line its effect, but I will cover that later.
With no additional costs present this card comes is, in my opinion, perfect when it comes to cost versus value. Had this card been more expensive, or had higher threshold, and I could see arguments for it being overpriced. Anything cheaper, or lower threshold, and the card would be too good and too easily splashable.
No keywords to be found on Ensmallment Ray. Similar to its lack of subtypes, though, we won't hold this against the card.
As I mentioned above, the Effect of this card shines because it gives incredible value in relation to its cost. The first line of text on this card, “When this card enters play, draw a card,” immediately pushes the math in favor of this card. If we value drawing a card at three resources (because this is how much it costs to draw a card via the Faction), this card has an “effective” cost of one. This doesn't even consider the added value of this card keeping your handsize the same after playing it.
With this in mind we, theoretically, gain the rest of this card's Effect for a cost of one. The middle line of text, “Reduce the numeric cost of characters you play by 2, to a minimum of 1,” continues to add to the value. If you play just ONE character for cheaper due to the effect of this card then Ensmallment Ray has paid for itself. Any character past the first one is effectively giving you resources as the Ensmallment Ray can, at this point, be considered free.
Now let's take a look at what that line of text does outside of resource value. To put it simply, it makes characters cheaper! Gearsmith is already the trade of choice for cost reduction and this just puts them over the edge. I certainly like the idea of playing Guardforce Alpha Prime H4x0r for three instead of five. Heck, a Gigamajig costs four instead of six!
Diving into the other trades, just think of what powerhouse characters you can make cheaper with this card: Martial Artist, Dragon Archer, Fired Hand, Union Leader, Rosy Palmer, and her Five Friends, The Billionaire, Athalamund Mangod, the Iron Fist, Deadly Striker, and my personal favorite, Sneaky Mansion. Plus, I'm sure there will be some exciting Seed Three cards that will want to cost two less as well!
Of course, all of this excitement has to be brought down a little bit. The downer comes in the form of this card's third line of text, “All your characters lose 1 strength and 1 life.” This can be a hefty downside if the deck builder doesn't take this into consideration appropriately, especially since a lot of Gearsmith characters (including majigs) only have one life.
The downside kind of fixes itself, however, as the theme of the card lends itself to being in decks that contain higher cost characters. Higher cost characters, generally, have bigger stats, so the one less strength and one less life shouldn't be a huge detriment.
The first combo that screams to mind when I see this card is a first turn 1337! + Ensmallment Ray. This gets the Ray out on turn one AND keeps your handsize exactly how it started before playing both cards. Having the Ray out on turn one also allows you to start dropping bombs on turn two, which could come in the form of any of the following combinations: four three-cost cards, two four-cost cards, one three-cost card and one five-cost card, a four-cost card and two three-cost cards, or one six cost card. That is a lot of interesting options.
Another option is to combo the Ray with cards characters that can attack the turn they come into play. Gearsmith currently has five cards that can attack in this manner, all of which cost four or more and require a maximum of three Gearsmith threshold, the same as the Ray. This could create an extremely devastating turn, especially since Guardforce Morphmajig gets bigger for each character you play after it, which could be quite a few due to the cost reduction effect of the Ray.
In my opinion, Ensmallment Ray is one of those cards that deck builders are going to have a lot of fun with. While the downside seems huge, the potential this card creates should certainly outweigh its negative effects. Add in the fact that this card can only get better with the release of more characters and I imagine that we will be seeing this card in competitive decks for quite some time.