Empires of the Ascended: Jarvan & Taliyah Early Impressions
For the King!
The prince of Demacia has a unique ability, the only Champion able to be played at Burst speed, allowing us to summon him while open attacking. This is a huge strength akin to Risen Mists and will make Turn 6 and 7 scary for anyone facing a Jarvan IV deck. In terms of stats, Jarvan IV is very much on the weaker side and vulnerable to damage-based removal, however his barrier allows him to take down the strongest unit and trade favourably, at which point he is likely to level up if he wasn't already. Jarvan IV has a lot of potential and will be a force to be reckoned with for Scouts and Elite decks alike.
Jarvan IV's Cataclysm
At first glance this may just look like an overpriced and slow Single Combat, however the free attack part is key as it will trigger Attack effect as well as Scout which will grant a new attack token. With this in mind, Cataclysm has a lot of potential uses like leveling up Miss Fortune or serving as a "better" Relentless Pursuit if used on an ally Scout, or even pushing damage via Overwhelm. However, a big drawback of the card compared to Pursuit is that it can fizzle, though it remains to be seen if it fizzles on either target's removal or only the attacker. Still, Jarvan IV should make good use of his champion spell and it may find marginal use in Scouts decks as well.
King Jarvan III
I was sort of hyped for the old king at first. Give challenger and Scout to the whole board, what's not to like? Well, the problem is that it needs Jarvan IV to already be there which may prove clunky or even unrealistic most of the time, as well as requiring an attack token to get any value out of this effect. The problem I see with this card is that it conflicts somewhat with Jarvan IV himself. Let's say we attack on Turn 6 with Jarvan IV. He survives and levels up, and on turn 7 we play his dad, the King, into Cataclysm to rally. That's incredibly powerful and most likely game winning! However it requires the stars to align in a certain way and is not going to work in most cases. Jarvan IV may die, we may have to wait a turn before playing the King to regain the attack token, Cataclysm may be fizzled... Regardless, even beyond that issue, his stats are weak for his cost. Most impressively, he dies to Culling Strike but also is just not that impressive with such low attack. Tough helps, but at this stage of the game is mostly irrelevant. The only other "Boat" (follower that tutor a champion) which saw any consistent play is The Leviathan because the effect coupled with Swain can completely stun-lock a board. Compared to that game-ending effect, King Jarvan III is just an old man in armor. Time to retire.
Relevant stats for its cost, and a powerful effect reminiscent of Remembrance which lets us "cheat" a unit on a turn where they normally cannot be played. Most importantly, we need a reliable source of Challenger for this follower which are relatively few. The Grand Plaza, Cataclysm, and Tattered Banner seem like the only real options in Demacia considering the mediocrity of other challenger-granting cards. Using Vulnerable instead is perfectly viable as well and should be a powerful combination. Gallant Rider should be a good addition to Plaza or Elite decks and will only get better as viable Challenger options are unveiled.
A new Rally effect for Demacia, this one is unlikely to see play with Scouts, however it should prove a better choice than Relentless Pursuit in Fiora/Shen decks. It also benefits from an interesting interaction with Taric supporting an ally, as it would allow for the Rally effect to be duplicated on attack. A card to keep an eye on.
With vanilla stats for a 2-drop, Honored Lord is poised to take advantage of the new Challenger effects that came alongside Jarvan IV. Tattered Banner, The Grand Plaza, and Cataclysm are all powerful propositions for Honored Lord to create favourable trades.
Better value than Radiant Strike but Slow speed and low value will keep this card from seeing any play apart from buff decks centered around Fiora or Taric where it will still remain a fringe option.
With proper stats for its cost but lacking the Elite tag, unlike Cithria of Cloudfield, Penitent Squire is a powerful enabler for the whole Elite archetype. Doubly so when the newly revealed Elites benefit so much from being granted Challenger, but even the old ones like Garen would greatly benefit from it. Tattered Banner is an incredibly powerful new tool for the archetype and will play a large part in revitalizing it.
Taliyah represents a whole new archetype revolving around landmarks, exciting stuff! Her base form is extremely weak for her cost, though creating an allied landmark should in most cases generate enough value that it makes up for it. Weak in tempo, but great in value. Because she relies on landmarks for her Play effect and level-up, she will require a solid landmark foundation to be succesful. Once flipped, she turns into a rock-slinging machine granting her pseudo-overwhelm. She can definitely comes down already leveled on Turn 5 and immediately start dishing out the pain. I have great hope for Taliyah, though her archetype will likely be weak to aggro as her main issue is a lack of good tempo options, as Countdown landmarks are inherently slow.
Interesting card, though I have little hope for it. The created landmarks are limited by our max mana and can reach into any region, preventing us from better controling its variance. It may work fine alongside Taliyah, but I'm doubtful it'll see too much play outside of that archetype when landmarks tend to be heavily specialized and can end up becoming dead draws.
Remember Radiant Strike? Yeah, no one else either, and Shaped Stone blows it out of the water. This spell is incredible value within any deck that can satisfy its landmark condition. That means it may not be a staple of the region but will still see a great amount of use. Sun Disc decks will include it for example, as well as Taliyah centric ones, and more.
She bridges the gap between the Predict archetype and Landmark archetype, possibly having a place in both. Her statline is average, though if granted elusive should be able to be a powerful defensive unit against other elusive threats. Not horrible, but far from a staple either.
This landmark is massive value for its cost. A 2 mana "do nothing" card is not so problematic at such a low cost, though will still be bad answer against aggro decks. With Taliyah there's a possibility for even more value, though again having to wait 3 turns for it to take effect is going to be an issue. Overall, will require buildaround and its weakness to aggro will definitely hold it back.
2/4 is not a powerful statline on turn 4 and can easily be outright ignored or trade unfavourably. Desert Naturalist's power comes from her ability to destroy landmarks and the flexibility to use it on your own to create value instead. A fine option for decks which include landmark and perhaps as a tech option against specific landmarks.
Similar to Hibernating Rockbear but with higher value. Salt spire suffers from the same tempo issue, however its payoff is much greater and the lower Countdown makes the wait more bearable. Still, 4 mana is quite the investment so Salt Spire will require some support to actually produce the value it promises, and right now is simply a worse version of Hibernating Rockbear which is already mediocre.
With a brittle statline such as this the attached effect needs to be powerful enough to offset it. Happily for Rock Hopper, Roilings Sands appears to be quite the obnoxious effect, working as a delayed Hired Gun and in itself has enough power to take care of most units that would come down on the same or subsequent turn. The weak health could definitely be a problem, though the disruption to the enemy's gameplan could be decisive. A decent choice.
Roiling Sands can be a problem to play around for the enemy, but in many cases it feels like a small hurdle rather than an actual problem to deal with. The spell does benefit Taliyah's level up, and since it can replace itself we're only potentially losing tempo instead of card advantage. This card will likely see play in certain archetypes but will not be a staple of Shurima.
The best for last! Ancient Hourglass is a great tool to dodge removal on a powerful unit. Its also a fun combo with Taliyah to use her Play effect on and generate 3 copies of herself on board for the following turn! While its effect can be likened to protection like Nopeify! or Bastion, Ancient Hourglass is better used on value engines, though its effect remains highly versatile and should become a staple of Shurima.
The Predict keyword is an interesting and likely powerful deck manipulation mechanic. In the case of Ancient Preparations, while it only gives a body two turns later, Predict increases the odds that our next draw will be the correct one. Its value in the late game obviously largely decreases, though can still be used to dig deeper into our deck to find a specific answer. Ancient Preparations is not very impressive. Its efficacy will largely revolve around Predict payoff and how integral it is to leveling Taliyah.
Aspiring Chronomancer passes the vanilla test with a sturdy statline able to trade well into a wide array of units, with the one notable downsideside that it is weak to Fearsome. It should become a staple of any deck that aims to leverage the power of Predict.
Buffing units in our deck is good but we still need to draw them later, in which case Predict and rapid card draw like Pick a Card will come in handy in order to thin our deck and get to our prized units. For such a payoff the cost is not terribly heavy as Xenotype Researchers' stats are average, and the deckbuilding opportunity cost will likely be compensated by the gained power. If nothing else, this card opens up interesting deckbuilding opportunities and should see quite a lot of experimentation before eventually finding a deck which can leverage its effect optimally. And think of the Babbling Bjerg synergy!
Khahiri the Student
Khahiri has a lot to learn yet it seems. Earning his bonus stats shouldn't prove to be a problem, however if we compare Khahiri to Loyal Badgerbear who barely saw any play of his own, we can see that such a statline is not as strong as it may seem. The added one attack power is only rarely that useful when most Turn 3 or Turn 4 creatures do not actually reach 4 health value. Just like his Demacian counterpart, I doubt Khahiri the Student will see any play.
Khahiri the Returned
All grown up, Khahiri the Returned has a much more interesting effect than his younger self. Much like Xenotype Researchers, his power will shift depending on the viability of Predict and card draw options present in the game, even more so since Khahiri the Returned comes out so weak on first play. It is hard to accurately predict his power level considering the high build around that this card requires, but I'm willing to bet that it will see play in archetypes focused on using Predict to full effect. Now will that archetype be good? Probably not.
Though it is delayed, Preservarium is effectively a 2-cost "Draw 2" cards effect. The delay effectively acts as the downside but is in line with similar effects such as Glimpse Beyond. Preservarium is a solid option for slower value decks who do not mind the waiting time to actually find full value.
Looking at the Countdown landmarks we know, this effect is clearly overpriced. The cost is so high because of its potential to become too good if certain landmarks exist in the game. So far, using it on a Statis Statue seems like the best bang for your buck and may very well be a good combo, though we would want other possibilities viable within the deck to ever include this spell. Promising Future indeed.
Card game enthusiast since childhood, and Top Master player for LoR, 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 by competing 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.