Call of the Mountain: Trundle | Early Impressions Part 3
Here we are for Part 3 of Early Impressions, where I give my humble take on the third Call of the Mountain set of reveals!
This time, we go on a retreat with the quaint Troll Tribes of the Freljord, so prepare your fur coats and try to not get clubbed by random trolls while climbing the snowy peaks.
A Troll with a Plan
King of Trolls coming through! Trundle is one beefy troll, and though his statline ends up average at 10 total, the higher health is important, as the large majority of 5-drops can only deal up to 5 damage. Exceptions include Stormclaw Ursine, Tarkaz the Tribeless, and Trifarian Shieldbreaker, which all see limited to no use in Constructed. His healthy statline coupled with his Regeneration give Trundle the ability to become a Turn 5 wall to drastically slow down the game, which is exactly what the rest of this reveal is about! The created Ice pillar does several things. First, it is a pseudo-free blocker after Turn 8, and is a simple level up condition for Trundle, though ensures that Trundle will only level-up quite late in the game. It activates the high mana cost Behold condition, and can also pull a vulnerable unit out of the way on attack turns, and the longer it stays on the board, the easier the enemy board is going to be to deal with thanks to the applied Vulnerable. On level up, Trundle gains Overwhelm and an attack buff. Realistically, the attack buff is unlikely to be more than +5 and that much is already a big ask, as adding too many high cost cards in your deck is not a viable option, however a 5 mana 7/7 with Overwhelm and Regeneration should already be a powerhouse. On his own, Trundle seems like a fine enough unit, however he wants to be included in a deck with a heavy top-end, and that is always a risky proposition. Are Trundle and his 8 mana followers worth the cost of a weak early game? I would say that they are, at least when the meta does not favour outright aggro.
An expensive spell perfectly on brand with Avalanche, Icequake incurs a heavy cost and at first glance seems like too slow of a card for the effect.
Comparing it to The Ruination is natural, and it pales in comparison to Shadow Isles’ assured destruction. However, complete destruction is not the purpose of Icequake, instead aiming to kill smaller units while preserving the Freljord army, allowing for later Regeneration. It can also be used as a stalling tool thanks to its attack debuff, and is unlikely to be used as a board wipe during an attack turn since the debuff also affects our own units. Finally, the card’s cost makes it function as a Behold trigger and ensures several copies of Trundle in your hand will still be valuable to the Troll King. In the end, Icequake wants to be a powerful mass removal or stalling option, however the fact that it damages and debuffs our own units is bound to be clunky, and severely crippling an attack after clearing the board is problematic to say the least. Icequake seems overpriced for what it actually does, and would likely be easier to include if the cost was lower and the attack debuff removed. Since the attack debuff is unlikely to be relevant on enemies, we instead have a +1 damage Avalanche that costs 4 more mana, a bad deal all around.
Augur of the Old Ones
At 6 mana, a 5/5 statline is weak as many 5-drops can dispatch them. The Regeneration is nice as is the Overwhelm, however the interesting part is the Play effect, though it feels incredibly slow to me. While the granted keywords are both high value and flexible, they are unlikely to fit the Trundle gameplan of slowing the game down to open up powerful 8+ mana plays. Overall, Augur of the Old Ones appears like a valuable unit but the granted keywords don’t fit in the control approach of Beholding several 8+ mana cards and using those as win conditions. I can see Augur seeing play, however the last problem I worry about is how they fit in the curve, as Augur is played on Turn 6, and would then have no great options on who to bestow their keywords onto, since we’d rather be granting Overwhelm and Regeneration to a powerful, sturdy unit. If we instead decide to play Augur later on, she becomes a large mana investment that can be punished by spot or mass removal, and is of course not a great play on an empty board. Despite all this, Augur of the Old Ones could still become a decent option as an enabler for 5-drops like Swain or Vi, and could also be a great value play in many a midrange deck.
An interesting spell with clear downsides that can be directly compared to Ritual of Renewal. Ritual sees almost no play aside from Flash of Brilliance shenanigans for simple reasons, and it boils down to the effect being overcosted compared to the net gain. Nexus healing can be useful when attached to a cheap body in the case of Kindly Tavernkeeper but does push cards into the unwieldy territory, with Grasp of the Undying being a good example of that. Healing on its own, especially large amounts, has little value as in most cases the enemy can simply keep pummeling on our nexus since we used our turn healing instead of developing a board, which only stems the bleeding as opposed to stopping it. While it has its uses, healing is better when flexible and low cost, and Revitalizing Roar is neither of those. Now, the spell is different from its Ionian counterpart, as it possesses the potential to heal more, and that value could rise with handbuff strategies. The important part is the pseudo-free nature of the spell once Enlightened, as it would allow us to both heal our Nexus and develop a semblance of a board in a single turn, a normally major downside of expensive healing effects. Additionally, the cost discount could unlock some one-turn combo, though it currently seems too slow to be of any consistent use. Revitalizing Roar should find a place in a Ramp archetype, especially when dealing with midrange decks that aim to finish the game with burn spells designed to ignore an unfavourable board state, but otherwise will struggle to find a home. It suffers from much the same downside as Ritual of Renewal, only unlocking its potential once Enlightened, which will prove to be much too late in a majority of cases.
More units from Mount Targon! Right off the bat, Broadbacked Protector appears weak. 2/7 is an awkward statline at 4 mana since 2 power will not threaten the large majority of his 4-drop counterparts, and his self-damaging effect means it will only fight once before dying in many cases. To his defense, his healing effect can be quite potent in the long run, and he can be backbreaking for aggro decks that lack the tools to deal with him. While healing is normally limited, we already know that Targon can generate many Gems that I’m sure will come very handy to keep Broadbacked Protector going and growing. Additionally, he can become stronger as damage and healing synergies are introduced. For example currently, its self-inflicted damage should power Swain’s level up. Finally, despite an awkward statline, Broadbacked Protector should see play as a defensive tool that also synergises well with damage and healing triggers. Soraka hype?
Stellacorn’s statline îs weaker than other units of its cost but has reasonable health. Its healing effect synergises very well with Broadbacked Protector, potentially allowing for 9 Nexus healing over 2 turns! This flying unicorn, while not a powerhouse, opens an option for decent healing at a medium cost, and is at least a consideration for control decks set in Targon. If ever a champion is released that requires healing to level up, Stellacorn will indeed be resplendent in their company.
Faces of the Old Ones
A strange card that mirrors Wyrding Stones's effect. It is functionally the same, though it costs less and has less health, plus requires to Behold an 8+ cost card. It allows ramping to 4 mana on turn 3, and so is technically faster than Wyrding Stones, though it is unlikely that both Faces of the Old Ones and Wyrding Stones will be included in a single deck, as that would increase the dead draw chances later on. Just like Wyrding Stones, I doubt this card will be seen much unless a Ramp archetype becomes prevalent.
Meet Schrödinger's Troll, simultaneously the strongest and weakest 2-drop in the game. While a 1/3 for 2 mana is pitiful, if the Behold condition is met Troll Scavenger becomes a beast thanks to its 4/3 statline. Compared to Trifarian Hopeful, 3 health means a great deal and is much more costly to remove in the early game. There's an issue of opportunity cost when including this card in our deck however, as making this interaction consistent requires an unhealthy amount of top end cards. Realistically, Troll Scavenger is not going to be playable as a 4/3 on turn 2 every game, and just like every other Behold card that requires an 8+ mana cost card in hand to trigger their effect, they are only attractive options when these costly cards are powerful enough to be played in great number in the first place.
Troll Ravager is a simple card that suffers from the same opportunity cost pitfall as its Behold brethrens. As a 4-drop it serves the same function as Level 1 Trundle, a wall that opponents must deal with through combat tricks, spot removal, or better units. On paper, that seems all well and good, however it is very reminiscent of Scarmaiden Reaver which is of a similar statline for its cost while also benefitting from Overwhelm. With these facts in mind, I have trouble seeing how Troll Ravager can outperform his 5 mana counterpart who, it must be said, has not been relevant whatsoever in Constructed for as far as I can remember. Now this is not completely fair since 5-drops have a wealth of sturdy units compared to 4-drops, and Troll Ravager fills that niche quite well. Additionally, 5 health on a 4-drop is rare and usually is compensated with a drawback which is not the case here, making Troll Ravager an attractive pick in decks that require a sturdy 4-drop in order to stall towards the late game but is unlikely to be of much use beyond that.
Uzgar the Ancient
Uzgar is indeed Ancient, in fact probably too old to fight any longer. At 8 mana, the statline is average and Challenger should prove useful, however Regeneration at this stage of the game is unlikely to yield much value. Compare him to other 8 mana cards from other regions who actually act as win conditions: Captain Farron, Riptide Rex, Terror of the Tides, The Leviathan... It is clear to me that Uzgar the Ancient, despite his normally high-value keywords, is too easy to remove with combat tricks or spot removal to be of any consistent value, and even if he were to stick to the board, he still would not threaten to end the game right then and there like his counterparts do. It simply comes down to the fact that investing 8 mana into a unit that does nothing upon being played and can result in an unrecoverable loss of tempo has no place in a competitive deck. It doesn't mean that this is the end for Uzgar, as he could perhaps see play in some version of the Warmother's Call archetype, but I am not holding my breath for Constructed viability.
What is this? The first undeniably good card of the Freljord reveal! It turns out that the "Behold my big units" archetype is being dwarfed by a 2 mana combat trick, and what a trick! By savagely chanting at the top of your lungs, you gain the ability to swing up to two combat trades in your favour, something that typically only higher costed cards like Harsh Winds and Back to Back could achieve. It's flexible, can be used to survive damage-based removal, and can even enable Culling Strike or Reckoning! For 2 mana! The one pain point is that it may not be usable if no enemy is present in play, though that has not been confirmed. Regardless, it is a powerful combat trick that is going to make people sweat when attacking into Freljord.
Call the Wild
Ah. The mandatory Freljord meme dream card. A neat support card for decks attempting to play into the tribes. To be of average value, this card needs to draw at least draw two from your deck, which now begs the question, how do we make sure that the top of our deck contains a Elnuks, Yetis, or Poros? For Elnuks and Poros, there are no decent ways to achieve this aside from trying way too hard with Counterfeit Copies or Parade Electrorig and at this point I've already thrown in the towel. Now for Yetis, both Avarosan Trapper and Tall Tales create Yetis on top of our deck, which is at least a step in the right direction. So for now, unless Yetis or Poros get a boost of usability as a singular archetype, stay away from this card at all costs.
I am sad. I like Freljord, and I like Ramp, but this isn't it. While I think Trundle and his Ice Pillar are interesting propositions, the rest of the cards surrounding the Behold 8+ mana cost cards mechanic seem average or niche at best. I hope I'm wrong, I truly do, though funnily enough Troll Chant is a great tool for midrange decks to drive home their advantage, as if Ashe/Sejuani needed the help. The two Targon units, Broadbacked Protector and Resplendent Stellacorn at least give me hope for a healing based archetype coming in later reveals.
Card game enthusiast since childhood, Asher has played as many CCGs as he could lay his hands on which kickstarted his competitive streak. Achieving high ranks in Hearthstone, Duelyst, and TES: Legends, his goal is now to do the same in Legends of Runeterra where he's achieved consistent top Master rankings, and compete in all possible tournaments. With a drive to always improve, Asher is looking to brew the best decks and help new and experienced players alike.
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