Return of the Dragon Emperor ~ Preview 8 ~ It's The End

Alas we've arrived at the final preview article for Return of the Dragon Emperor, but oh boy what an article it is! At long last we have the reveal of Gill Alhama'at himself. The mysterious father of Lapis and ruler of the sinister nation of Altea. He's unlike any other Ruler we've seen in the game and I'm sure you're eager to see what he's all about, so let's get right to it!

No titles or fancy epithets on this card, at least not on the Ruler side. Gill Alhama'at, like his Seven Luminaries before him, uses Mana. However he only starts with one mana counter thanks to his Mana 1 ability. However, unlike previous users of mana counters, Gill Alhama'at can remove a mana counter from himself to produce will of any attribute. You'll still only be able to use that will for Ancient Magic cards or effects that count as such, but being able to produce any attribute opens up a lot of possibilities. Not the least of which is, of course, being able to play everyone's favorite card, Black Moonbeam even when you have no magic stones open. Alhama'at also comes equipped with a way to generate mana counters on his own. He's got a Resonance ability that will trigger whenever a light or darkness magic stone enters your field (if the stone is both light and darkness, the ability still only triggers once), upon resolution the ability grants Alhama'at an extra mana counter. So just by calling a magic stone each turn you can get an extra mana counter. And since Gill Alhama'at can use his counters to produce will of any attribute for Ancient Magic cards, you can easily ramp your mana counters using Ancient Heartfelt Fire, without having to actually run any fire magic stones, allowing for greater deck versatility. As you'd expect, being a Light/Darkness J/ruler, Alhama'at comes with an Energize ability that reflects that. So you'll start the game with a coin that can be banished to produce one light will or one darkness will if you aren't the first turn player. Finally let's have a look at Alhama'at's Judgment. It's another zero cost, like Kaguya's was. And like her, it too, has a catch. You'll need to have at least seven mana counters on Alhama'at before you can play his Judgment, which means you'll likely be able to play his Judgment around turn three or possibly turn two if you are extremely lucky with your draw. 

Once Alhama'at's Judgment resolves he enters the field as Ebon Dragon Emperor (title drop!) Gill Alhama'at. He becomes a dragon...obviously, and enters with 1000 ATK and DEF as well as Flying. Not bad considering that his Judgment is relatively free, though we'd still have to forgo calling a stone that turn. Mana counters can help make up for that though, and luckily, Alhama'at retains the ability to remove mana counters on himself to produce will of any attribute that's usable for Ancient Magic cards. This J-ruler also has a Mana 1 ability, which means that when you use your Judgment you'll gain another mana counter, which is certainly a nice little bonus. Alhama'at's mana counter generating Resonance ability gets an upgrade two. It still triggers off of light and darkness magic stones, but now it will give you two mana counters instead of one! With how easy it is to ramp up mana counters with this J/ruler it wouldn't be out of the question to drop Alhama'at on the field as a J-ruler, attack (assuming you've got Laevateinn) for 1200 damage, and then play an awakened Invitation of Disaster for another 2000 damage, leaving your opponent with only a paltry 800 life points! While not the strongest J-ruler in terms of raw damage, Ebon Dragon Emperor, Gill Alhama'at's real streangth is his ability to gain mana counters quickly and use them to play any Ancient Magic card. It's the versatility that truly helps. Oh, and natural Flying helps too of course. But wait...what's this? There appears to be something unusual on this card. Another Judgment ability! The first instance of a J-ruler that is able to do Judgment. It's not cheap though. You'll need to remove twenty mana counters from Gill Alhama'at and remove all other cards you control (including magic stones!) from the game! But when you do...

You basically win. While it's certainly difficult, if you manage to use your second Judgment and get Gill Alhama'at, He Who Grasps All onto your field, there's little left your opponent can do. He's got 2000 ATK and DEF as well as Barrier, Swiftness, Precision, Flying, and First Strike. So the second he hits the field you can slam your opponent for 2000 damage. Barrier keeps him from being stopped by Black Moonbeam or anything else your opponent might try, and First Strike makes it almost impossible to kill this J-ruler via blocking. While you have to give up everything on your field to play him, Alhama'at gives every chant in your hand the Ancient Magic trait and makes all cards with Ancient Magic playable for free. So basically all chant cards are now free to play, just in case a nearly unstoppable 2000/2000 wasn't enough. You might be wondering how this card works, after all it's a "3 sided card", which has never been done in Force of Will before. take a look at the image below for an idea;
The Ruler and first J-ruler form are normal sized and on opposite sides of each other when the card is folded up, so it looks like a normal J-ruler. The card then unfolds to form the colossal final form J-ruler! As this is the first J-ruler with Judgment that also creates the possibility of a few new interactions regarding what would happen if the J-ruler is destroyed while it's Judgment is still on the chase. Allow me to detail the two possible scenarios for you. If you play Ebon Dragon Emperor, Gill Alhama'at's Judgment and your opponent chases with a card that ends up destroying your Ebon Dragon Emperor, Gill Alhama'at, and your Ebon Dragon Emperor, Gill Alhama'at did NOT have Imperishable, it returns to the ruler area as a ruler. The Judgment then resolves and attempts to flip your Ruler back to it's first form J-ruler again. However, since your J-ruler was destroyed, it has lost it's Judgment ability. As defined by the Comprehensive Rules, if a Ruler without Judgment would be put into the field as a J-ruler it does not move. So basically, if you use Ebon Dragon Emperor, Gill Alhama'at's Judgment without Imperishable and your opponent chases to it and destroys your J-ruler, it returns to the Gill Alhama'at ruler side and loses Judgment, and that's all. If you use Ebon Dragon Emperor, Gill Alhama'at's Judgment and your opponent chases and destroys it while it had Imperishable, the exact same thing happens, except that Gill Alhama'at does not lose his Judgment abilities. Even if it was destroyed with Imperishable, when the Judgment resolves it will not change the ruler Gill Alhama'at back into Ebon Dragon Emperor, Gill Alhama'at.

And of course we'd be remiss to not mention that the big man himself comes with his very own special magic stone. Ancient Magic Stone is mostly what you'd expect by now. It enters the field rested unless you've got Alhama'at as your J/ruler (note that the final J-ruler name is not on it, but if you've reached that point it's unlikely you'll be calling magic stones anyway) or you can pay 300 life if you aren't using Alhama'at. The card is treated as both a light magic stone and darkness magic stone, making it perfect for Alhama'at's resonance abilities. It can, obviously, be rested to produce either light or darkness will. However, most interestingly, the stone can be rested to produce one will of any attribute. You'll have to remove a mana counter from your J/ruler though. So essentially, this stone removes the "spend this will only to play Ancient Magic" caveat of Mana abilities. You'll only be able to use the effect four times per turn at maximum though (barring stone recovery of course) as this is still a special magic stone and you can only have four copies of it in your deck. Even so it's a feature that can make Alhama'at even more versatile and flexible with attributes than he already is, it even helps open up some possibilities for Sol, Mercurius, and Mars!

Okay let's get into some supporting cards. Feels like we've been talking about Alhama'at himself forever. First up is a resonator, Viola, Obsidian Dragon Princess. She's an Ancient/Dragonoid resonator for a total cost of two and enters the field with 500 ATK and DEF. Not exciting on its own, but she's got an ability where you can pay one darkness will and give her +100/+100 and Flying until the end of the turn. You can even use mana counters to pay for this ability! So as you can imagine, she can get pretty big, though it may not always be the best idea to spend your mana counters on her as you'll need them for Alhama'at's Judgment costs. She's also got an Inheritance ability that can be used to give your J-ruler Imperishable. It's got a total cost of two, which seems alright, but if you're targeting Ebon Dragon Emperor, Gill Alhama'at with this ability, the Inheritance cost is free! Aside from having to discard Viola from your hand of course. Viola is an interesting resonator. She can be instrumental in protecting Alhama'at and even be a source of game winning damage in a pinch. Even so she's not one you'll want four copies of, at least with Alhama'at, as you'll likely want to focus most of your deck on building mana counters.

And speaking of which, say hello to Viola's Machinations. Because there certainly weren't enough discard cards already. This is a total cost one Ancient Magic card, though you probably will want to pay it with regular will under normal circumstances. This chant will force your opponent to discard a card of their choosing. Now at first that doesn't sound all that great compared to Scorn of Dark Alice or The Nameless Mist, but here's the kicker, the chant also puts a mana counter on your J/ruler if it has Mana. This makes it a great opening play for Alhama'at or a good play on pretty much any turn you find yourself with one open will as it nets you another mana counter will also playing a little defense by forcing your opponent to give something up. Outside of decks using J/rulers with Mana though, players will likely opt for Scorn of Dark Alice or The Nameless Mist instead.

Well hey there Rachel! You're looking...different. Alhama'at's advisor takes on a new resonator form, becoming a total cost three Ancient/Angel/Demon resonator with 700 ATK and DEF. As you'd expect from an Angel she enters with Flying, but that's not all. Despite being a light attribute resonator, she's got a Resonance ability that triggers whenever a Darkness Magic Stone enters your field, making her a good fit for Alhama'at or Zero. When it resolves, her Resonance ability will allow you to destroy a resonator with a total cost of two or less. If you do you'll be able to put a mana counter on your J/ruler if it has Mana. But wait! You say to your computer screen. In order to trigger her Resonance ability on the turn I play her, I'd need to pay three will and then call a magic stone afterwards. Without any ramp that'd mean I'd have to play her on my fourth turn! Well you'd think so, except...Rachel's got one more ability.  When she enters the field you'll be able to put a Demon resonator with total cost one from your graveyard right into your field. Scratching your head trying to think of Demon resonators with total cost one? Well the only two legal in New Frontiers are Barust and Familiar of Primogenitor, which won't be doing us much help here. No the real key target of this ability is...

This little guy right here, Demon Orderly. He's a total cost one demon resonator with 300 ATK and DEF. The real key is his ability though. He's got a continuous ability that treats him as a darkness magic stone. Remember, this does NOT mean that he is a "Magic Stone". He cannot be rested to produce will, he can't be put in your magic stone deck, he doesn't gain barrier from Grusbalesta. Only abilities that specifically refer to the phrase "Darkness Magic Stone" like Alhama'at or Rachel's Resonance abilities will interact with this card. And that's exactly what this little guy is for. You can play this guy on your first turn to get an extra magic stone from Alhama'at, and then let him bite the dust by blocking or by our old friend Adombrali. Later on, drop Rachel, resurrect Demon Orderly and set off both Alhama'at's Resonance ability, netting you another mana counter and Rachel's ability, destroying a resonator with total cost two or less and getting you yet another mana counter!

Last for today is another Ancient Magic chant card, Alhama'at's  Purge. This chant allows you to banish any number of resonators and then gain X mana counters where X is the combined total cost of all the resonators you banished. Remember, you can only banish resonators you control, that's the inherent nature of 'banish'. You can banish some resonators you don't need of course, but wouldn't it be better if we could use this card to get rid of one of our opponent's resonators? Well, with a little trickery, we can! Enter Triton, Emperor of the Seven Seas. Drop this total cost two resonator to gain temporary control of your opponent's highest costing resonator, then play Alhama'at's Purge to banish both Triton and the stolen resonator for a big boost in mana counters! Since this card is an Ancient Magic you can easily play it even if you spend all your stones playing Triton on your second turn. As long as you banish resonators with a combined total cost of three or more, it's still a net gain in mana counters, plus you've managed to remove an opponent's resonator from the field! Similarly, you can use Possessor Princess of Love, Valentina. Play her and then banish her with Alhama'at's Purge to immediately steal control of a powerful resonator!

That's all for the Return of the Dragon Emperor previews! Don't forget to look for Return of the Dragon Emperor in stores, March 10th, 2017! And be sure to head over to your local hobby store this weekend for their pre-release events!

3rd Set「Return of the Dragon Emperor」