Friday, April 13, 2012

Shadow Era: Power of the 187

187 is a little-known slang term for murder, originating from California's penal code. it's also a game term in Magic: the Gathering that only the oldest gaming veterans will pick up.

What does that have to do with Shadow Era? Is it when an Ogloth eats seven opposing allies? No, stupid hypothetical person that asks obvious questions. I'm getting to it.
"187 may be good, but I was hoping for 169."
In Magic, the prime example of a 187 creature is Nekrataal. He comes down and immediately kills an enemy creature, generating board, card, and tempo advantages all at the same time. A 187 effect is one in which you play a creature with an enters-the-battlefield trigger that kills an opposing creature. Since this maneuver generates so many different kinds of advantage all at the same time, it's the benchmark technique of many a strong control deck throughout Magic history.

Now, how does this apply to Shadow Era? The only card that even slightly resembles Nekrataal is Death Mage Thaddeus, but Thaddeus kills nothing bigger than a Blake Windrunner. Right?


Dead wrong.

You see, Shadow Era is a bit different than Magic in how combat operates. In Magic, the defending player chooses who fights what, and then combat damage for both sides is (usually) dealt at the same time.

However, in Shadow Era, the attacker gets to pick who fights what, and also attackers who can one-shot their targets won't take any backlash for their aggression.

Because of this, there are plenty of ways other than enters-play effects that do the same thing as Magic's 187 play: run out an ally, kill an enemy ally. One card generates card AND board advantage, and since one action causes multiple things to swing in your favor, it's a huge tempo boost as well (which mitigates first turn advantage). Four ways, in fact.

1. On summon effects. These are the original technique from Magic, covered above. As of Call of the Crystals, the only ally with an on summon trigger that affects the board is DMT, but I'm sure more are on the way as the game expands.

2. Hasty beats. Because attackers can strike before being struck and also get to choose their targets, Allies with haste in Shadow Era are effectively 187 cards. Anyone who's played this game long enough knows what it feels like to lose your Kristoffer Wyld to an enemy Kris. It's simply a blowout.
"I'm my own worst enemy."
Effects that grant haste, although sacrificing one of the 187's advantages, still can generate similarly powerful plays. Lance's shadow ability may come at a high price, but easily generates the 187 effect with say Raven Wildheart. In fact, allies that have board control abilities and are hasted with Lance, such as Jasmine Rosecult or Marshland Sentinel, can effectively take out two birds with one stone, by far making up for the drain in your energy. Portal, while failing to generate both card advantage AND tempo when first played, allows plenty of 187 uses in a row if uncontested. It may be a risk, but the reward of so many consecutive murders has won countless games.

3. Weapons. Not necessarily allies, weapons in Shadow Era are still hasty beats that establish board dominance nonetheless, the most iconic of which being the utility Jeweler's Dream, devastating Anklebreaker, purely frustrating Dagger of Unmaking and infinitely huge What Big Teeth. While some of them struggle to kill allies all by themselves, when they do you've accomplished everything that a 187 would normally accomplish.

4. Allies that buff allies. Yes, this means you, Aldon the Brave. This is a little more convoluted than the others, so I'll provide an example.

Say you're playing a mirror match and both of you throw down that second turn Puwen. Neither of these 2/3s can do anything about each other, and whichever attacks first will also be the one to die first.

You play Aldon the Brave.
What the card art doesn't show is Chuck Norris taking off his Aldon the Brave mask.
Suddenly, your 2/3 can beat up their 2/3, and it does.

What just happened? You played a threat, an opponent's threat dies, and the game immediately swings in your favor. This is the EXACT definition of a 187. Hellsteed is another ally that accomplishes this, as well as Pack Wolf and Spark.

Now, you may be asking yourself, why is he explaining all this? So there's a name for all forms of hasty beats. Why does it matter?

Take a good look at every deck archetype in the history of Shadow Era that's ever seen a modicum of success. Every single one of them will have at least one of these four effects inside. Probably more. Control of the board and optimal tempo are the two largest deciding factors in the game, and 187s accomplish both of these in strides, plus an occasional boost in card advantage as well.

Identifying and being able to abuse these effects is a sure sign of a good list. Never underestimate them, both while building decks and playing games. Ever. And when deciding what deck to play, always look at their ability to generate 187s first and foremost. Just a quick look at the current tier list will show that it's a pretty damn good indication of the power and consistency of a deck. From Achilles' Lance to Majiya Portal decks, the peak of Shadow Era perfection is swarming with wannabe Nekrataals.

Previously, the Shadow Era community has had no general term for all these different methods of reclaiming a board by playing threats that immediately have an impact on the game. Now it does.

You're welcome.

Boweh out.

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