The Arrival and Departure of Black Moonbeam
So with the coming of the new Reiya cluster starter decks, we’ll soon be seeing Alice Cluster rotate out of New Frontier. For those not in the know, New Frontier is the typical format most people play in Force of Will, which always involves the two most recent clusters. In this case, Reiya Cluster is coming in with the five new starter decks, everything from Lapis Cluster is sticking around, and Alice Cluster is heading out.
But with that aside, every rotation is impacted not just by the new cards but also by the cards that leave, some of which are incredibly defining to how the game is played. Among the many important cards that came out in Alice Cluster, one of the biggest is Black Moonbeam, both in the direction it pushed the game when it arrived on scene and what will happen to the game now that it’s heading out. I’d like to talk about both of those events.
The Waxing of the Black Moon
In Battle for Attoractia, a new, game changing card was released: Black Moonbeam. Black Moonbeam is a very simple but dramatically powerful card for the sole reason that it can single handedly set back or take down an entire chunk of the game, J-Rulers. See, unlike any card before it, it was able to destroy J-Rulers at any time instead of just during your own main phase, meaning that swiftness on J-Rulers was no longer a reliable to getting through damage as a good control deck could just sit back hold up this card to shut down most aggression.
In addition to that, it has the “can’t be chased” clause, which essentially means that players cannot do anything in response to this card. No playing quickcast cards in response, no playing activated abilities in response. If Black Moonbeam was played, it was probably going to resolve. There were a few exceptions to this, the biggest of which was Wind-Secluded Refuge, which got around that issue by automatically canceling the spell. However, that still served to force J-Ruler decks into wind and dramatically slowed down the game plan by forcing them to dig around the deck for a copy of Wind-Secluded Refuge and play it down first before going to judgment.
The effect it had the game was dramatic to say the least. Alice Cluster had been primarily focused on building up J-Rulers as powerful, game ending threats that could be powered up further with the use of regalia and that came to a shattering end as games were slowed way down by a single card that you had to play around or lose to. Suddenly J-Rulers were far and few in between in the game, with strategies shifting towards using the front sides of Rulers to avoid simply outright losing to Black Moonbeam.
The Waning of the Black Moon
That said, strategies did eventually adjust around Black Moonbeam. New decks sprang up with the coming of Lapis Cluster, still largely focusing on the front sides of Rulers. Fiethsing was likely the most notable, playing the Turbo Gwiber deck that managed to menace tournaments for a long while with her efficient 1200/1200 fliers while never bothering with flipping over. However, other options also crept up, such as Mikage, who dealt with Black Moonbeam by still largely focusing on using his front side to build up blood counters and then flipping over to deal 4000 damage in a single go. Notably, he had imperishable, which also kept Black Moonbeam from permanently killing him.
Other major rulers to pop up included Lilias Petal, Lumia, Gill Alhama’at, Pricia, and Yggdrasil. Out of the five of them, Lumia, Gill Alhama’at, and Yggdrasil all either constantly stayed on their front side or only had a front side, thereby avoiding the whole issue of Black Moonbeam altogether. Lilias Petal was unique in that his backside had the text, “This card cannot be destroyed.” Thus getting around the whole Black Moonbeam issue all together. The one card to buck the trend of Black Moonbeam immunity was Pricia, who instead offered the far more extreme solution of being able to judgment and win before Black Moonbeam was ever a threat by using Laevateinn and her God’s Art ability to attack twice in a turn. For better or worse, Black Moonbeam had the trait “Ancient Magic”, meaning that Alhama’at was still able to keep up with her pace by using his mana counters to play it whenever he chose.
Regardless, you’re seeing the pattern here, despite Black Moonbeam’s usefulness dropping off overtime, it was still a major shadow upon the game, forcing many out of a large number of strategies that required relying on your J-Ruler staying alive. Now with Alice Cluster rotating out and Black Moonbeam going with it, let’s have a look at some of the J-Rulers from Lapis cluster that may not have had a chance to shine until now.
The New Faces
Faria, by far, has the most to gain out of Black Moonbeam sliding on out. From the get go, it was obvious she was weakened by the card. The card encourages you to get to the J-Ruler side quickly by giving you a stone when you judgment her and even has ways to protect herself with her God’s Art that gives her barrier for free. Sadly, due to the “can’t be chased” clause on Black Moonbeam, the God’s Art was useless against it. Now though, she takes at least two cards to kill and is surprisingly durable in combat due to her ability to use inheritance for free, essentially giving her free stat boosts.
What’s even better is that her strategy has improved over the course of Lapis Cluster. What was originally just a deck focused on pushing Faria through can now invest in a variety of tools to push damage through your opponent’s defenses. One of the most unassuming ones was Light Dragon’s Egg. It fits the bill perfectly, it’s a resonator so it can be found using Faria’s Summon and its inheritance ability puts a flying resonator on the field. This is important since it lets Faria put an evasive resonator on the field on the opponent’s turn for free and then attack with it next turn, complete with boosted stats from another inheritance resonator.
Add in cards like Divine Bird of Attoractia, which can be used as a cheap inheritance for cards like Divine Beast of Attoractia, evasive and efficient attackers that can be boosted, or just a simple blocker that can draw a card means that Faria’s no longer going to have to worry as much about sliding through the opponent’s defense. Granted, she’s still able muscle that push through regardless.
Another big winner has been Gill Lapis. In his standard attributes, fire and darkness, there’s no card he can rely upon to protect him from Black Moonbeam aside from discard and even that won’t help against drawing it or even searching it out with a card like Rune of Sol. Despite this, much of what Gill Lapis does relies on him surviving on his J-Ruler side to reap the benefits of the many cards he’s removed from the game up to that point.
As a result, the deck had to rely on using light a lot of the time as not only did that give him access to Barrier Seal, which helped keep the opponent’s pile of removed from game cards large, it also gave him access to cards like Ryula, Alabaster Dragon Princess, which could bring him back if Black Moonbeam hit him. Unfortunately, Lapis’s biggest weakness is still his lack of draw as all of the attributes that give a lot of draw are out of his realm, meaning grabbing Ryula’s not always possible.
Fortunately, he doesn’t have to worry about Black Moonbeam anymore. Unfortunately, there’s still other cards to worry about, such as Erasure and Lumia’s Purification. Fortunately again, thanks to Gill Lapis, Usurper of Maddening Power, he can now easily pick up cards like Magic Sweets to keep himself alive and able to keep reaping those removed from game cards.
Of course, several of the new rulers from Echoes of the New World come with their own ways to survive. Flute’s arguably the most straightforward, just pay three will to return her back to her front side, thereby keeping her safe from any sort of J-Ruler removal. This wasn’t possible with Black Moonbeam, again, due to the “can’t be chased” clause but now there’s an emphasis on when it’s safe to judgment her and how much will to have available in case of problems. It essentially encourages thinking more economically instead of just waiting for a Wind-Secluded Refuge to show up.
Adelbert’s a tad more complicated but so long as you have a quickcast wind resonator on hand, you can save him from just about any kind of incoming removal by granting him barrier. The most obvious pick is Schehezarde, Speaker of Yet Unknown Truths due to her race as a Wanderer fitting in with Adelbert’s theme. Less wind will intensive though are cards like Fiethsing, the Fate Spinning Winds and Sorceress of Heavenly Wind, Melfee. Unlike with Flute, Adelbert encourages more of a board building strategy where you steadily accrue not just a powerful J-Ruler but many resonators at the same time, avoiding the usual pitfall of using just your J-Ruler and getting blocked out every turn.
Diversity is Good
Those are just some notable examples. There’s plenty of other rulers that would love to judgment in Lapis cluster, such as Fiethsing, Master Magus of Holy Wind with the stat boosts she gives her elves, Zero, Master of the Magic Saber who no longer needs to focus her entire game plan on keeping her Familiar alive, or even Mars, Dark Commander of Fire who can now flip, deal 2000 damage using Invitation of Disaster and stay pushing the offensive without worrying about getting randomly killed off without any fanfare.
I don’t doubt in my mind that there will be plenty more cards in the game that will be designed to fight back against J-Ruler oriented strategies, after all, every strategy needs counter strategies, but without Black Moonbeam around, there’s a whole dimension to the game back involving choosing when to push your J-Ruler into the fray. Even that has consequences to it, including the simple fact of having to decide to attack or call stones and the more choices players have, the better. This opens up so many different ways of dealing with threats to J-Rulers without forcing everyone to run a single card like Wind-Secluded Refuge.
In short, having threats to J-Rulers that can be chased is a good thing, as that means more opportunities for interactions between players and, more importantly, letting people play their J-Rulers and keep them on the field for an extended period of time. And if nothing else, J-Rulers are one of the most defining aspects of this game.
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