Spoiling Elemental Evil: Curious Commons

With Elemental Evils in final development, (and design beginning on Rage of Demons) it seems a good time to begin spoiling some of the creatures in the E. Evils set. One may find some rather unexpected things in this particular set, which will offer new approaches to warband building. This will open new doors for both competitive and casual play.

This week, we will preview two of the small (one is tiny, in fact) support pieces present in the Elemental Evils set. These two flying creatures act for the most part in different warbands. However, it is possible to find them in the same Good-aligned borderlands warband. Enter the Firebat Flanker and the Pseudodragon Familiar.

As you can see, these are quite different creatures. The Pseudodragon Familiar is very resilient for his points - as long as the enemy doesn't have blindsight. He provides a nice trick, allowing the use of a champion power, even though he is not himself a champion. But he must be in the correct position to pull this off, and that means adjacent to the Champion whose power he wants to copy.

The Firebat Flanker provides her 'target gains vulnerability' trick constantly, but she too must be in the correct position to make this happen - a flank with the ally in question. And that might sometimes be risky, since she is not as robust as the Pseudodragon. However, she is well worth adding to a fire damage warband, for only 8 points. You might even have room to add two.

The next spoiler is due in about a week, and I think we'll focus on two of the cultists. You can cast a vote below in the comments section (as well as leaving other comments!) for which two element cults you would like
to see first.

Comments

John Almack's picture
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I am really looking forward to this.

tried's picture
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I already see a 'possible' error! The vulnerable 10 fire is only for the two enemies flanking. It should say, gains vulnerable 10 fire when attacked by either flanking creature. That said, its probably not too powerful to leave as it is, though it really boosts the potential of a number of warband builds, and allows the potential for firebat swarms to pin people for fireballs...

Justjooaivan's picture
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"When this creature and a Fire ally flank an enemy, that enemy gains Vulnerable 10 fire when attacked by either of the flanking Fire creatures.". As is, it sounds like the effect might trigger if the enemy has a Fire ally and this creature is flanking it with another creature of any type. Gets much longer, though.

Justjooaivan's picture
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Personally I reckon the added bonus is way too situational to gain appeal.

tried's picture
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Really?

There are some red dragons out there that would do massive damage with this - and in addition, if left as is, firebat flankers could be bad news for any creature taking ongoing damage.

Ira's picture
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During development, I felt like Vulnerable 10 Fire (of possible benefit to anyone, not just the flankers) was balanced. Maybe that makes these Fire Bat Flankers overpowered, but even after I think about it more now, it still seems good to me... Remember if a creature has Resist 10 Fire and Vulnerable 10 Fire, and then is hit by an attack that does 10 fire damage, it ends up with 0 damage.

Justjooaivan's picture
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Yes, really. Perhaps I will be corrected, and someone builds a killer band around this, but I don't see it.

tried's picture
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At a minimum, it makes Blaze playable. Suddenly he is breathing for 35 damage and more if you can arrange the ongoing to work. But there are lots of things that do Fire damage in EE.

Ira's picture
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Are you talking about this Blaze? And if so, I think he's already nicely playable. In fact, I did play him at a GenCon 2014 gladiator tournament! Granted, I lost to a Large Gold Dragon warband because of Resist 30 Fire, but I definitely like Blaze. An immediate attack whenever he's damaged is fun, especially since he can avoid being Dazed via an Amulet of the Titans! I think Fire Bat Flanker sweetens the deal, but you still need to get it in position, and once you do, it can be removed easily enough - a simple shift, push, pull, or anything similar, or simply destroying the thing.

Of course, I play more Gladiator and Arena than Assault, so that impacts my personal assessment. I realize if we're talking about Assault games (10 minis), then Blaze might be much less playable.

Justjooaivan's picture
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Extremely tricky to set up the Blaze breath so that you have two Firebats flanking a target and then you try and breathe so that you only hit the enemy and not your bats. Not impossible, but there are waaaaaay easier tricks to use for that extra 10 damage...

Ira's picture
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A few notes:
a) Fire Bat Flanker has Resist 20 Fire, so in this particular situation, Blaze's Forgebreath would only do 5 damage total, and the ongoing fire damage would be ignored.

b) Since Blaze is a Fire creature, Blaze and a single Fire Bat Flanker could flank the target to make the target Vulnerable 10 Fire.

c) Since Forgebreath does 25 fire + 15 ongoing fire, the Vulnerable 10 Fire would trigger once when the attack resolves, and again when the target takes the ongoing fire damage (assuming no one was moved/destroyed in between). So in the case of X fire + X ongoing fire attacks, Fire Flank actually can generate 20 extra damage.

All that said, I still think it's nicely balanced. It can be powerful (for an 8 point creature) in the right scenarios. During design, Tried told me that he wanted this to be in some ways comparable to Wild Elf Warsinger, rewarding proper positioning and particularly being a boon to Fire creatures. I think Fire Bat Flanker still falls short of Wild Elf Warsinger in terms of power level, but it's in the right ballpark.

Justjooaivan's picture
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Ok, more on the situational part.

In order to execute this 2x bat + Blaze attack, you need 3 turns (really, turns, this still irks me, surely there are more words in the dictionary).

So, since a player only normally gets 2 creatures turns on his turn, this move, in turn, requires 2 player turns to activate. (Just twis... no, turning the knife in the wound.) So, in order to foil ths rather obvious play, the opposition needs to be able to

a) move the target piece 1 square
b) move either of the bats one square
c) immobilize either of the bats before they can move
d) make either of the bats inactive via stun, helpless
e) kill either one of the bats
f) ... I'm sure there are more

If a player is unable to do any of the above to help a critical piece in his party, I think he may have lost the game even without the added situational help of the bats on opposing side.

I'm sure there are more. And now, to setup this perfect storm (max 20 extra damage) you have to expose two rather easy to kill fodder pieces and waste an entire turn. This is what I call situational.

And now it seems like I'm out to diss a new piece. Not my intention. I just fail to see "it" here.

tried's picture
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Joost - you don't need two firebats to pull it off. Only one,- and any other fire creature. Like, for example, a red dragon. And there are ways to do the blast with a large so that you don't even touch your own bat.

Justjooaivan's picture
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Yes, you could pull off the breath without hitting either one of your bats, just like I said. Tricky, but not impossible. Easier with Bat plus dragon alone, but that of course often leaves your Dragon rather vulnerable. Did we have other Red Dragons besides Blaze and the Belcher that have the keyword Fire? And from the non Dragon fire creatures maybe 4 (I feel generous here) are strong enough to play competitively? Of course, any bonus to these underperformers is good from my point of view.

And this is Ville, not Joost. Joost's mother made things confusing when she named her son so confusingly similar to my callsign. Wink

Moraturi's picture
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I like the bat as is (no need to have only the flankers get the benefit is fine I think, and not over powered).
I think it is a playable, but not overpowered creature.

On a different subject, Blaze is easily playable in either Gladiator (200) or Arena (200), and can be quite strong in those formats.

I am more concerned about the Pseudo dragon. I like the idea, but at this point there is only a very short list of Arcane allies that can benefit (i.e. Champions). 6 creatures from the Warband tool (I will have to check other, more recent, creatures) fit either Borderlands or Wild and usable with good:
Spellweaver, Bladesinger, Ghaele Eladrin, Storm Silverhand, Kenku Wing Mage, and Snaketongue Cultist

Not sure if any of them would make a good option paired with the dragon. Maybe Storm. For the points, you might as well run a 2nd Cultist. I don't think the others are competitive. I might be wrong of course.

I am looking forward to new creatures, any way they appear.

tried's picture
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The Human Red Wizard could be added to that list, as well as the Rashemi witch, as could anyone Storm brings into wild with Warband Building. Probably one more from Rage of Demons. Its a small group, but not bad. Perhaps not a super choice for sealed.
/dgs

.

Moraturi's picture
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I had not considered Storm's warband building, but it is still a very short list, adding only 2 more creatures. Not that it is a bad thing, just not as versatile as it could be. If the Pseudo dragon could add a use of a checkbox power (from an Arcane, say something like the Stored Spell from the Shield Guardian) instead of a Champion power, that would really open it up.

Can't add Red Wizard from Archfiend's (Evil)
Can add Human Red Wizard from Tyranny of Dragons
Can add Eliminster, but that puts you at 171 points with Elm, Storm and Pseudo. Not much left to work with.
Can't add Rashemi Witch. Well you could, but she has no Champ powers to key off of the Pseudo.
Can add Epic Rashemi Witch, but only in 500 pt play as the epic version is 160 points by herself, so she is not legal in 200 (75% rule).

Ira's picture
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Moraturi wrote:
For the points, you might as well run a 2nd Cultist. I don't think the others are competitive.

It's an interesting choice with the Pseudodragon vs. Cultist. As you can tell from my avatar, I think the Snaketongue Cultist is a very strong piece for the points. But, I think saving 3 points for Pseudodragon isn't nothing, and the Conceal 11 + Flight 7 can be very good for grabbing VPs. Often an opponent will avoid attacking the Pseudodragon at all because there is a 50% chance of missing.

Moraturi's picture
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The Conceal 11 and F7 are certainly very solid, but using the Pseudo dragon as a VP grabber would be at cross purposes to running it for the extra Champ power. I think that the main reason for the Pseudo Dragon is the extra power use. There are better and cheaper VP grabbers.
There are easily around 40 creatures in Wild alone that have Speed 7 or higher for 14 points or less.
Probably the closest approximations in points are the Air Mephit (13 points, Conceal 6, and F9) or the Ethereal Marauder (14 points, limited Phasing/insubstantial, speed 7)

Mr Tulip's picture
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I like fire bat flanker...

"Gains" feels slightly awkward to me - I keep looking for the explicit repo clause when the gained thing expires.
Would "has" do? Commentary seems to indicate this vulnerability is intended to be situational and not a gained persistent hindrance?

As discussed fire flanking is a mere curiosity if benefit is limited to attacks by the bat and flanking fire creatures.
If left as it is there are some tricks that won't make the bat a superpiece but can make it somewhat Favored One...

alepulp's picture
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This definitely adds some variety for Blaze to consider. I suspect I have another combo that would work OK

Flaviomds's picture
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Very nice miniatures stats with a lot of potential. Thanks!

tried's picture
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" would has do.....?"

You are exactly correct.
Normally, I won't change anything once something is released, but this is errata already.

skyscraper's picture
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The fun of evaluating new minis Smile

Personally I agree with Justjooaivan : the firebat flanker is too situational and restrictive for my taste. Maybe some players can pull off this kind of stunt regularly, but I see better use of those 8 points in bordelands with a merchant guard for example, than hoping to flank an enemy with a fire ally, so that this ally can get off an attack that deals fire damage. Plus, I don't think I'll build a warband with fire creatures in them, that otherwise wouldn't make the cut, counting on an 8-point firebat that might make that creature's fire attacks stronger. I might use this mini if I wanted to make a themed warband, but again in Bordelands the problem is that all creatures in that point range suffer from the comparison with the merchant guard. Perhaps in Underdark it could see use?

One creature I would compare this creature to, is the Hellhound that appears in both Borderlands and Underdark. The latter is worth slightly more (10 pts) but deals automatic 5 fire damage to adajacent creatures. No situational restriction here. I played it a couple times, and in my experience it got to use its power, say, twice in a game, as far as I recall, i.e. even with no restrictions on use, it's not obvious to get to use the power before that weak creature is killed. I haven't used it a lot because of that.

Will the Firebat Flanker be better? At first glance, I'm not tempted to try it.

For the pseudodragon familiar, I would look in Wild and Borderlands at the existing Free League Ranger for comparison. The latter also provides an additional use of a CP, albeit with different restrictions, with essentially the same result. But the Free League Ranger is actually a pretty useful mini on the battlemap with its 20 Basic Melee Attack damage and 15 Ranged Attack sight damage, +5 vs Civilisation targets. He costs much more (25 pts vs 14 pts), but quickly, if I was looking to increase CP use, I'd be more inclined to try to fit the ranger into my warband than the pseudodragon whose only use is that one-shot power that allows use of a CP.

The restriction of the ally champion needing to be an arcane ally will restrict consideration of the pseudodragon to very rare arcane champion warbands, but once it's in, that restriction becomes irrelevant.

The requirement that the arcane ally needs to be adjacent is also insignificant in practice IMO, because honestly once you manage to use that one-shot power, the pseudodragon becomes dead wood (sure, sure, flanking, VP grabber, etc..). So you can fly the pseudodragon even into perilous situations for using its power, minding very little if it dies immediately afterwards. Because it's there for that one-shot power.

The Delver Sergeant in Underdark would be an interesting comparison, although they won't compete for warband space due to faction restrictions: it provides essentially the same benefit of an additional CP usage, it's worth as much (15 pts vs 14 pts), it has more HPs (45 vs 30) but no conceal, it deals as little damage (10), but it has Illuminator, an interesting ability that can often see some use IMO, making the Delver Sereant useful even after it's single CP has been used.

So is that one-shot power worth 14 points for the pseudodragon? I don't think so. If the pseudodragon had something that could be used beyond that one CP use, such as another ability that protects an adjacent arcane champion or the like, I think it would benefit from additional consideration.

All this said, theoretical analysis sometimes flies in the face of cold hard factual play, like bone splinters under the blow of the sword. So we'll have to live and see, or die in ignorance Smile

Ira's picture
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My thoughts in response to skyscraper, possibly repeating myself:

Pseudodragon: perhaps with currently released minis there isn't a perfect fit, but this is a mini to watch in the future as more arcane champions get released. Also, I think Conceal 11 shouldn't be underestimated.

Fire Bat Flanker: Remember that its base attack does fire damage, so if another Fire ally gets into position, this creature can charge into flanking position for 20 damage. With it's high movement and flight, it can likely move as needed to get into position for the charge.

I don't think either of these minis are so overpowered they are must-plays (which would be a design failure, actually), but I think they are balanced and will be competitive in the right warbands.

skyscraper's picture
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Re: firebat flanker, I agree that its own improved damage makes it somewhat interesting, I had indeed overlooked this aspect. Still very (too?) stituational. +9 to hit - not bad for that point range, but can still only hope to hit low ACs, which means you need to set up a flank against a low-AC opponent, which seems counter-intuitive, we shouldn't need to rely on flanking to hit those presumably low-cost opponents. But then, maybe it can get a valuable hit at one point agaisnt a medium-AC opponent.

Re: pseudodragon. It has conceal 11 for... what? Having it survive for the entire battle gains little, since once it has used that one-shot power, I don't see it as a threat, its use then being limited to a flanker or VP grabber. A quality one for sure, but then you usually pay much less than 14 points for those creatures.

I'm looking forward to being proven wrong on the pseudodragon however. Especially now that we've discussed (or are discussing) it! Smile