Alliances Mega #3: Sandy Graves
In Summoner Wars: Alliances, this battle has been brewing for a while now — two battles, actually, now that I think about it. Sure, it’s the fight between the Deep Benders, which I suspect is a sort of yoga squat, and the Sand Cloaks, which sounds bonkers itchy. Just shake them out, y’know? And stop tracking all that sand all over the carpet.
More importantly, it’s the fight between Somerset and Dan. A fight that will leave only one of us left standing. Or at least a fight that will break our stalemate.
Life is good when you’re a Sand Cloak. Everything is an opportunity. You’ve got a deck full of “Event Abilities,” which slide under your soldiers and give them extra powers, not to mention a summoner named Marek who likes to share whichever ability you’ve given her. You’ve also got some cool troops out there — a Tinkerer who cancels enemy tricks, a pair of goblin Scholars who can juggle those Event Abilities of yours, and a Hunter who shares his abilities with everyone else in his pack… though since there’s only one Hunter, it’s not much of a pack. Not yet.
Across the field stand the Deep Benders, doing their pre-battle calisthenics. Mostly squats, some crunches. Other than Endrich behind his Wall, they’ve got two pairs of the same thing: a Gem Priestess and a Geopath, the latter of which I’m fairly sure is just a magic-based GPS device. Nothing to be afraid of.
Rounds 1-2: Deep Artillery
As the game begins, I learn exactly why Geopaths are something to be afraid of.
It doesn’t seem too bad at first. Geopaths only have one life point, so my Tinkerer can easily saunter over and blast one of them to pieces, his Hunter pal slinking around somewhere behind him. It feels like a solid opening move. Then Somerset goes and plays a card called Unlock, and I almost flip the table.
See, the Deep Benders are not only the best-stretched army in Itharia. They’re also able to “boost” themselves, paying extra when summoned to go from no ability at all to an overwhelmingly powerful ability. In this case, Unlock lets her boost two of her units, the far-northern Gem Priestess and Geopath. The former becomes tougher, but it’s the Geopath’s ability that really frightens me: plus one to his attack and he can attack enemies five spaces away. Which means that a move of a single space puts him within striking distance of the squishy Scholars on my back row.
Now that one of my Scholars has bit the dust, I regroup a bit, but no, that’s just silliness. Because on her turn, Somerset brings out another Geopath, complete with boost, and between both Geopaths and her boosted Gem Priestess, those starting troops I thought were so nifty, the Tinkerer and Hunter, are toast.
Basically, I’m facing an artillery barrage, and I’m still locked up behind my starting Wall. Gulp.
Rounds 3-4: Whiffleball
The only upside is that I’ve been steadily building magic, which I use to summon two Hunters right out front. Their mission, which they have no damn choice but to accept, is to take down that artillery. They’re both within striking distance of those glass cannon Geopaths… and both miss their shots.
Come on, you guys. Everyone said I was wrong to train goblins in finesse and trickery. Don’t prove me wrong.
The Deep Benders do a much better job, lining up their shots carefully. The Gem Priestess pokes my Hunter to death, leaving an opening for a Geopath to blast my terrified Scholar, while my other Hunter also gets vaporized like a mosquito in a bug zapper. Point is, I’ve got four magic to Somerset’s nine, largely thanks to all my tender soldiers going into this battle like it was a game of “Toss the dodgeball at the girl you have a crush on but make sure you slightly miss so you have something to talk about later.” Except in this love story, the girl gets that adorable look of mischief in her eye, right before pulling a crossbow and putting a bolt through your midsection.
It’s just down to Marek, then, hiding behind her Wall. I have nothing to do but build magic, though I like to believe Marek is pretty calm about it, like she’s got a plan, maybe. Meanwhile, Somerset summons two Deep Dragons and plays Unlock again, meaning she’s now used that dang event to gain seven free magic in boosts. This is exceptionally bad news, since a boosted Deep Dragon goes from borderline wimpy to borderline invincible, moving farther and taking three times as much punishment before going down. Which is great for them, since they’re pushing forward and crowding my Wall, blocking all but my rearmost summoning spot.
Rounds 5-6: Retribution?
This entire time, Marek has been carrying around an Event Ability called Retribution. It sounds cool enough to maybe swing this disaster into my favor, and she’s been sharing it with her minions liberally. But since Retribution lets my guys punch back only when an enemy’s adjacent attack misses — and since no adjacent attack has ever missed — it hasn’t happened yet. Now, however, I finally summon a champion. His name is Barston, he’s totally unsuited for this situation (he’s better at commanding common units, but I don’t have the summoning spots for anything else), and he’s really, really into Retribution. He even listed it on his résumé. “Interests: cross-stitchery, retribution, pistol maintenance.”
Other than me scrambling to put up extra Walls to cower behind, Barston goes out to meet the enemy. He wounds a Deep Dragon like the champ he is. When it gets ready to tear his head off, he weathers the attack and punches it back, killing it. Well done, Barston! Unfortunately, those Geopaths are all too happy to hammer him from a distance. Endrich finally reveals how useful his ability is even from the back row, ordering his long-range Geopath to attack a second time and leaving Barston barely clinging to life. As his last act, Barston runs forward and kills the Geopath that just hit him four times, only to die the very next turn.
So much for retribution. At least I got this nice cross-stitch out of hiring that windbag.
Rounds 7-8: Retribution!
The stones of my starting Wall are starting to crumble. The enemy has come around my left flank, blocking my summoning spots and pouring through the gaps in my defenses, putting them within easy striking distance of Marek. I have little choice but to expose my summoner to try and stem the horde.
With the help of a Hunter, it goes pretty well. I shore up the center of my line, sniping with a Hunter and using Marek to blast the (thankfully unboosted) Gem Priestess. Somerset has enough magic to do whatever she wants by this point, so paying a couple mana-bucks to put a brand new boosted Geopath within striking distance is hardly a problem. Meanwhile, her Deep Dragon closes the gap and also beats on Marek, though at least her Retribution ability lets her smack it in reply.
Next round, it feels like we’re turning the tide. Another Hunter appears, this time wearing camouflage to avoid those punk Geopaths while he happily tosses javelins their way. In a twist that resembles a super wimpy version of Gandalf showing up at Helm’s Deep, a Scholar appears and pokes one of the Geopaths to death before getting turned into stone by a scantily-clad Gorgon. Yeah, it’s weird.
Meanwhile Marek is using Retribution again, killing the Deep Dragon that just chewed on her leg. It’s what you might call a Pyrrhic victory, but at this point we’ll take whatever we can get.
Round 9: Not Enough
A new champion named Bauble decides it’s finally time to help out, and his added Blitz ability turns him into a whirlwind of death, attacking all adjacent enemies. Our forces are finally slaughtering the Deep Bender troops wholesale, but it’s still not enough. There simply aren’t enough troops to close the gap, and Somerset is able to bring out one last boosted Geopath, positioning Endrich to let him attack twice if need be.
Suffice to say, it’s a clever move but an entirely unnecessary one. The first blast finishes off Marek and ends the battle.
Lesson learned: stupid goblins don’t know the first dang thing about scholarly rigor.