As the competitive season comes to a close in the UK and the US for 2018 it’s becoming clear that one card is standing at the forefront of the field as a dominant feature on the top tier teams: the Super Rare ‘ Yuan-Ti Pureblood – Epic Humanoid’.
She’s been sweeping up wins left, right and centre, and is anticipated to feature prominently in the upcoming Central European, Canadian, Mexican and Costa Rican Nats.
Her prevalence across the tournament scene has got the community chatting – is she too powerful? Is she having a negative effect on the game? Have we just not “tech’ed her out” enough? Are we fussing over nothing? Here’s some thoughts…
She’s a Super-Rare and Hard to Find
The rarity distribution of a Super-Rare, low stocking levels of the ‘Tomb of Annihilation’ set, and power game-text has created a situation where the value of SR ‘Yuan-Ti Pureblood’ on the secondary market has created some chatter whether the game is in a “pay to win” state – that those who can afford to buy the best cards are more likely to win.
This is not a problem unique to ‘Yuan-Ti Pureblood’ of course, many of the cards considered “Top Tier’ in the current meta are Super-Rare or high value Rares. (‘Jubilee – Mallrat’, ‘Staff of the Forgotten One’, ‘Ring of Winter’, ‘Norman Osborn – Don’t Call Be Gobby!’, ‘Ring of Winter’, ‘The Collector – Tanleer Tivan’, and the ‘Mighty Thor’ Set energy fixers to name but a few), and this is an issue for the player on a budget who was attracted to the game because of its relative low cost and power-level balance across the rarities.
Competitive rotation next year is highly likely to sort this issue out (it is my strong suspicion that next June all blind product sets will be removed from the Modern format and only the Campaign Box and Team Pack sets will be legal) but this still means we’ve got a year of getting spammed by ‘Yuan-Ti Pureblood’ cheese by those who were lucky enough to pull her blind or can afford to buy her on the secondary market.
It’s In-Game Cost is too Low for its Potency
The potent combo that is proving to be the winner is ‘Yuan-Ti Pureblood – Epic Humanoid’ and ‘Pseudodragon – Paragon Familiar’, both of which have a purchase cost of 2 and relatively low fielding costs.
Not only that, but the trigger for the ‘Yuan-Ti Pureblood’ is both the use AND purchase of Action Dice, of which there is no shortage of 1 or 2 cost candidates to fill your team up with to maximise your damage potential.
And if you wanted to really load up on characters with the ‘Attune’ keyword to do some crazy spam then there’s a handful of characters that come at a 3 cost with the keyword too, which is not a challenge at all.
So… you can get going really, really quick. Too quick some would argue, because in the relative purchase value of Dice Masters cards it seems the most likely counter-strategies are much more expensive. (Like ‘Bishop – Butterfly Effect’ or ‘SP//DR – Arachnid CPD’.)
The counters aren’t really strong enough either because the ‘Attune’ keyword has built into it the option to deal its damage to “target player or character die”, which means those counters can get swatted away as no more than a nuisance. The counters can undoubtedly slow a ‘Yuan-Ti Pureblood’ ‘Attune’ Team down for sure, but not in a way that is proportional to their cost – I once watched my ‘Bishop – Butterfly Effect’ slow things down for about two turns, until it was shot away with far too much ease.
The Damage Trigger is a Fundamental Game Mechanic
One of the reasons ‘Yuan-Ti Pureblood – Epic Humanoid’ is so damaging is that a core, fundamental mechanic in the game – buying dice – has been transformed into a damage dealing machine.
James Blore, during his UK Nats Re-Cap on the “James & Zack Play Dice Masters” Youtube channel, called it out when he said “there’s not an awful lot you can do about your opponent buying dice.”
This has always been a part of the game but has been increasing as of late: elements of play not traditionally used for damage are being weaponised, but many would argue that the difference here is the scope of damage potential ‘Yuan-Ti Pureblood’ brings to the purchasing of Actions. (By traditional I’m referring to damage dealt by ‘when fielded’ effects or combat damage in the Attack Step.)
Plus – often these exceptional, non-traditional damage dealing effects have an element of regulation or reasonable limits that don’t seem to be as much the case with ‘Yuan-Ti Pureblood’ – for example: Common ‘Tabaxi Rogue’ has no ‘Pseudodragon’ to bump up the damage, nor is it entirely in the owner’s control (I use ‘Tabaxi Rogue’ as an example as it weaponises your opponent’s dice draws from their bag) as the receiving player can influence their Ramp to minimise its effect.
Couple that with the aforementioned overall low cost of the ‘Yuan-Ti Pureblood’ combos and… well… you’ve got some horrifying damage potential.
Is it a bit… boring?
It’s been a giggle to see some of the Facebook comments that are a bit frustrated by how “Plug and Play” the ‘Yuan -Ti Pureblood’ combos are, and therefore is a bit… pedestrian, a bit… boring.
Pin down your buying order and you’re away – it’s not really all that interesting to play. It’s got a handful of tricks but, ultimately, it’s just about picking a target and throwing loads of damage across the field. How do you do that damage? By buying dice. Cheap dice.
And, let’s be honest, figuring out that buying order isn’t that much of a challenge overall. It’s repetitive.
US Nats seems to indicate that the best counter is a mirror match – so the team variety is at risk of becoming increasingly boring too. Worried you’ll be facing ‘Yuan-Ti’ teams? Bring your own ‘Yuan-Ti’ (if you’ve got one – I’ll refer you back to the first point) only then might you find a more cut & thrust, strategically engaging game.
This is all a reflection on its efficiency of course, it’s a tournament, you’re there to win and will naturally bring the fastest, most damaging, cheapest build there is.
There we go, dear reader, my gathering of thoughts regarding the ‘Yuan-Ti Pureblood’ meta.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below – am I talking bobbins? Do you agree? Any points you’d like to add? Get typing in the box…