Eternal Archive #189 - A Year in Review
1 April 2021
1 April 2021
Hello everyone, and welcome again to this edition of Eternal Archive, the second best blog for your reading pleasure, hosted on the greatest deckbuilding website! I am, of course, your curator of the infinite, Sagius, the Hidden. I have been playing this game since the late 90's, and I use this platform to expound, exposit and elucidate on the history of this wonderful game for those who have never had the chance to experience it for themselves. I encourage discussion as long as it is civil. No rude people here!
Today, I will be doing a retrospective on the past year with the major sets released, and then talk about the one major event that shook our world. I'll break things down chronologically, and build up from there. So, for now, let's do this! BEHOLD!
First, came Escape from Theros - or just Escape as we called it. This set showcased the destruction of the Necrovault of Theros, the place where the dead would go to stay dead for the most part, a prison for anyone from the lowliest of Units to mighty Generals and Warlords.
In this set, we follow the exploits of Elspeth, Defiler of the Crystal as she builds a team of the dead and dying to escape the Necrovault after being unjustly imprisoned by Helios, Crystal-Crowned. Her efforts are countered by Ashiok, Weaver of the DarkCold, and so begins their game of cat and mouse to try and be the one to escape, all while avoiding the gaze of Calix, Warden of the Vault.
It was an amazing nail-biter of a story, let me tell you. And I don't regret staying up till 2AM for a couple days straight reading that book.
Anyway, mechanically, this set was quite conservative. It had a heavy emphasis on Augments, including the traditional Augment Units that Theros is known for. But the Augment - Memory cards first introduced in Weatherlight Arising (that set that was the grand and glorious return the the Battlesystem of our youth, Dominia) came back with joy from the player base. This subset of Augments replays a memory of events gone by, and cycle by cycle, performs actions until the memory is done. Memories were proven to be a powerful and useful tool, and no one is sad to see them again, that's for sure.
But the real surprise was the Escape Mechanic. For a cost, a card of any type - Unit, Tactic, Strategy, Augment, Device, Resource or General - could Teleport from the Vault back into the Warzone. The costs varied in terms of Resources required, and each Escape attempt send cards from the Vault into the Void in the process.
Climax of Escape from Theros! Show
This Escape Mechanic was pretty solid, as your Vault is a limited resource for the most part, though some Psi-colours can better fill it than others. Thus, expending it as a resource seemed to be a natural evolution of previous mechanics, like Snapback, which simply Voided the card at the end of the Cycle.
It created the vaunted "Prison Escape" deck, where you got more value Escaping cards than by normally Teleporting them in, but only as long as you had things in the Vault to Void in the process. I tried it myself, and while it didn't feel right in my hands, I in no way disrespected the mechanic. TechnoWizards has done a wonderful job of balancing the use of the Vault as a resource and has a dumping ground for years now, and Escape keeps up the trend.
Our second set of the year was Ikoria, World of Titans. In this set, Warlord Vivien, Champion of the Ark travels to the world of Ikoria to examine its rapidly mutating creatures in hopes of taming this process to recreate the contents of her Ark. For those of you who missed it two years ago, The Mad Warlord tried to murder as many Warlords as possible to acquire their power and ascend to the rank of Demiurge, the first since Quaree. In doing so, the Mad Warlord murdered the populations of worlds to seek out more information and power, including Vivien's homeworld. Now she travels the galaxy looking for a way to restore what was lost.
However, upon reaching that world, she realizes that another Warlord, Lucca of the Copper has been experimenting with the local units, forcing them to evolve and mutate at an alarming rate, something that the Xeno-bioconservative Warlord Vivien cannot stand and so they go to war. Narset, Anachronotic Observer takes careful notes of these battles, making sure that the worse excesses are neutralized before they threaten what the two Warlords are fighting over.
I won't spoil the plot any more. ;) Rather, let's talk about the two big mechanics that were introduced into the set. First was the Adjunct Mechanic. This was a special Unit that started the game in the Void, and could be Teleported to the Battle by paying an extra cost, determined on a case-by-case basis. Each of the Adjuncts could be in your normal Archive, and could be teleported without paying the case. Adjuncts were something that Techno-Wizards was wary of, and carefully kept an eye on the game as there was only so much they could do in playtesting. They were worried that something would break when these Distinguished Units reached the players, but their fears were unfounded. Of the ten Adjuncts, the most popular is still Keruga, Sage of the Macrocosmos. This Distinguished Unit - Tyrant Aquadriot requires that all non-Resource cards you control have a Psi-Cost of or more before he can be Teleported in from the Void. When he reaches the Warzone, you can draw from your Archive cards equal to the cards you control with a Psi-Cost of or more. It proved to be quite popular in decks running both Xeno and Cryo, and while Techno-Wizards has stated that they are not willing to make more Adjuncts yet, they aren't saying that they won't either. For they fully admit that a single badly written Adjunct could poison the whole mechanic.
The other new mechanic was Genegeneering. This was a relatively complex mechanic that caused Ikoria to be delayed in the past, forcing sets to be shuffled around to give it time to mature. This doesn't happen often mind you, and it counterbalances nicely with the relative softness of the the mechanics from Escape from Theros. It was nice and complimentary.
Finally, we had our Core Expansion for the year, Core 2021. This set, as per all Core Sets for the past ten years, have been focusing on a specific Warlord as well as acting as a balancing factor for the current Campaign Format. This past year, we had Teferi, Warlord Eternal as the headliner. This great character has spent a few years out of focus to allow for newer Warlords to take the stage, which is fine by me, and in this set we see part of his origins in the Dominia System, and the World Jamurra. For me, I was already familiar with the story, but it was a good repeat of old continuity that may have been needed for new players.
What did happen though was the Key-wording of a mechanic. Hacking became official! That's right, putting cards right from an Archive right into a Vault is now a proper keyword, rather than being spelled out every time! That's right, Hacking Tablet now reads , : Target player Hacks 2.
It was a simple update, and TechnoWizards has promised a couple more changes over the next year. I look forward to seeing them.
And this year, the Core Set was no different that previous years. Well, yes it was in having new cards and all that, but as a moderating influence in response to the last year as well as the coming sets, it did its job well. Nothing really stood out, but the reprinting of the allied Resource Indexers. Let me tell you, the new art on Crystalized Cryo-Torrent was absolutely beautiful, and I put it into my current Crystal-Cryo General deck without hesitation. Though it was my fifth one pulled from packs over the last six years, so maybe TechnoWizards should reign it in a little?
Moving on, we come to the fourth Campaign set of the year, Zendikar Shattered. For those of you not aware, the last time we were at this world, it was when the Eldrazi Titans broke free from the planet, shattering it despite two of the three dying due to the heroic efforts of the Titanwatch, a group of allied Warlords who seek to cooperate against foes no Warlord can defeat alone. Coming back, we see that the world is still broken, but as we soon discover, The Smith of Worlds is manipulating a pre-sundering device known as the Lithoform Engine to try and restore Zendikar before it is destroyed fully. However, the Smith's progress is hindered by Nizza, the Grower in Blackness, who argues that the Smith's efforts will cause more ruination as they try to force Zendikar back into place, rather than letting is heal naturally.
Look, I like how the story was presented, but for the love of Quaree, can we please stop with having Xeno and Shadow being the heroes? Can we allow Cryo, or Pyre, or heaven forbid, Crystal to be good guys for once? It's getting stale and boring.
Anyway, we got the return of the ever-popular Planetfall Mechanic, a well crafted and well balanced mechanic that rewards a Warlord for gaining a Resource each cycle. It was well received, that's for sure, as the bonuses were not too powerful, but had great utility in boosting ones units, or in the case of a certain Cryo Unit, Hacking an Archive. Ruin Hacker could have stood to be a little stronger, but given how the players can react to overaggressive Hacking in the past, I can understand why they made that Unit the way they did.
But the big thing was the introduction of the Away Team mechanic. Coinciding with the release of Hidden Worlds: Star Trek (which I will get to later on), this mechanic rewarded you for having Units of various types working together. Infantry, Agent, Scientist, and Supplier. These four chosen Unit types would allow you to create larger effects if they were all on the Warzone, though you cold get lesser effects if you didn't have a full Team. And with Core 2022 focusing on the concurrent development of the 'Runners RPG and combining the two, creating a more tactically focused set rather than a broader design.
TechnoWizards haven't failed us yet, and I look forward to this. It's great when Mechanics come back again and again because they just work!
Oh, and the other big thing that was introduced in Breaking was the Double-Faced Cards. While we had them again with the Multi-Form cards from the Dark World of Innistrad, this time the cards could come out as one form or the other. That one side was a Resource while the other was typically a Unit (but there were exceptions) helped people immensely as they could choose what form they entered the battlezone as. Options are good, and this exploration of how cards are presented thanks to advances in printing technology allowing for the same quality of card on the front and the back, we can get these things.
So far they're working, and TechnoWizards has said that they're going to be coming out with more of them until the next Core set.
Honestly though, there's not much to say about this set as it was overshadowed by the Hidden Worlds release and the impending release of the next, far more anticipated set.
Oh boy. When TechnoWizards promised us a set dedicated to the General format, they weren't kidding. This set was chock full of goodies that worked in the singleton format, as well as the Eternal War format. I could gush on and on about Rograkh, Inheriter of the Keep as probably the best General out there, but then it would be competing with The Last Watchman of Rakniva.
There was just so much to enjoy here! No chaff at all, as the set was designed to both work in General with the 100 card Archive, the Commander 60 card Archive that was in that Campaign rotation, as well as the draft format. No, I have no idea how they managed to pull that off either, but given that this set has been in the works for a lot longer than normal, it only stands to reason that TechnoWizards would smooth out the issues and get things to work properly.
Anyway, the real highlight of the set was the Partner Mechanic, where you could have two Warlords as your General, as long as they met certain mutually inclusive criteria. It was an outgrowth of the Adjunct mechanic at the start of the year, and yes, you can have two Warlords and an Adjunct in your General Zone when playing General. As long as all the conditions are met, and there are a few combinations that simply don't work in order to avoid certain overpowered effects.
But that's enough gushing. Let's talk about the one big shock this year.
Hidden Worlds: Star Trek.
Now, this subject has been covered before in more detail, but when TechnoWizards printed the four great Captains of Star Trek as their own cards, and did so as mechanically unique cards, there was something of an uproar.
OK, we threw a damned riot over that. Space is Space and Trek is Trek! We didn't mind the Godzilla cards in Ikoria because they were a visual shell around pre-existing cards in the set. They were sizzle, not steak.
But with Jean-Luc Picard, Katheryn Janeway, Spock and Christopher Pike, they are all cards that have no mechanical equal in the game so far, and that was cause for problems given the relative scarcity and difficulties in getting them due to being restricted to being online order only.
I'm not going to spend much time on this subject here and now with my review, but I do feel the need to bring it up. That for all of TechnoWizards excellence, they do sometimes make mistakes. Like the next subject.
In a decision that rocked Space's community, Warlord's Gambit was banned earlier this year. For the first time in seven years, a card had to be removed from the Campaign format for being too powerful, too over the top.
TechnoWizards, in their banning announcement, laid out the logic behind the card's creation and the reasonings for the banning, and while I will summarize them here, I encourage you to go the main website and read it for yourself as it's an educational look into the process that the company went through to try and avoid this drastic and nearly unprecedented move.
Regardless, in the end, TechnoWizards admitted to the mistake that led to the card being printed as it was, and how it was before then. The unexpected interaction due to the changing of a single word on the card.
While TechnoWizards did try to fix the card, or rather tried to fix the game around the card as they can't errata things, the efforts involved would have caused too many knock-on effects, and that would have spiraled out of control. So in the end, they had to take the drastic step of banning a single card.
It's easy to claim that Space is a perfect game, but it's not. There are over 20,000 unique cards in the game, and sometimes, a bad interaction falls through the cracks. It's what happened last time as well, and each banning is basically the last-ditch effort by TechnoWizards to prevent a bad format from emerging. We accept this and hopefully something will come out with the next Campaign Rotation to fix the problem, or at least act as a counterbalance to it.
And that has been the year in review for Space: The Convergence. Well, aside from the fact that Mark Rosewater is trying to get the High Fantasy version of the game, called "Magic: The Gathering" out and into print again. I wish him luck, but honestly, there's nothing in the world that can compare to the greatness that is Space!
In addition, having bought out Hasboro, TechnoWizards is developing a proper toy line. I'm looking forward to that as well! There are more sets to come in the year, from the mysterious system on the edge of the Galaxy known as the Winter's Reach, to a set finally taking place on the Eternal Archive itself! There's lots to look forward to this year.
So, what was your favourite thing from the past year in Space? Don't be shy, comment below!
And join me next week when I talk about something new. What, I'm not sure of yet.
Until then please consider donating to my Eternal Archive Patreon. Yeah, I have a job, but more income is always better. I still have plans to do a audio Pattern Recognition at some point, or perhaps a Twitch stream. And you can bribe your way to the front of the line to have your questions, comments and observations answered!
Man, you can really see the power creep within S:tG even within one year when it's laid out like this. I mean, compare any of Theros's cards to the powerhouse that is Warlord's Gambit ! Ridiculous!
April 1, 2021 1:40 p.m.
Oops mistyped. S:tC. Not sure what S:tG would even stand for! Growing? Huh.
April 1, 2021 1:41 p.m.
I was on hiatus for a lot of the year, keeping up when I could, so thanks for laying it out. If Keruga, Sage of the Macrocosmos was the main support for Xeno-Cryo, I'm glad nothing even more pushed came out for that psi pair.
I wish more of the poly-psi Theros Dictators had gotten new cards. Especially Pharika. Also especially since Ikoria had the ability focus; if TechnoWizards had come up with a new way for Pharika to make voidstrike tokens, with Venom Injector and/or Fynn, Silent Chemist , my life would have been just a little bit more complete.
April 1, 2021 2:39 p.m.
legendofa; Hey, not a problem! That's what the year in review is all about. The issue of the lack of the Dictators for Theros was addressed by TechnoWizards, and I have to agree with their logic. Putting the Central Council of five in was acceptable, but putting the Outer Council of the ten poly-Psi Dictators would have taken up too much space in the set. They have plans to put them in the next time we visit Theros, or perhaps in a supplementary set. I hear they're planning a new version of Karona, Psi Singularity that is a bit more friendly to that Unit type, and the missing Dictators would be a shoe-in to support that.
April 2, 2021 12:36 a.m.
Well, I guess that makes sense. Just gotta wait to see if they come up with anything interesting for those.