SPOILER SEASON HYPE!!!!
It is finally here! Omens of the Past previews start this week, and we here at RNG Eternal get to kick things off with not only a new card, but a new mechanic! Let’s cut to the chase, and take a look at Bloodcall Invoker and his buddy Restless Radiant.
There are a few things to unpack here before we talk about the playability of this card, so lets start off with our newest mechanic, Lifeforce!
May the (Life)Force Be With You
“Lifeforce” appears on cards that care about when you gain health. In the case of Bloodcall Invoker, he checks the total amount of health you’ve gained during your turn, and then makes a single Restless Radiant based on that number. Lifeforce has a range of effects related to gaining life; some of them are once per turn and some of them will occur with each instance of gained life.
As many of you will have already guessed, Lifeforce is the Xenan mechanic. It appears on Shadow and Time cards, as well as multifaction cards. Many anticipated that a “life gain matters” mechanic would be coming in Omens of the Past, the only question was whether this landed in Xenan or Argenport, but now we have our answer!
Before we move on to the tactical/strategic/deckbuilding conversation, I want to give my understanding of the mechanics of how Bloodcall Invoker works. This card is actually mighty complicated for an uncommon, so lets work through some scenarios.
Gain 3 health > Play Invoker > End the Turn > Get a 3/3
Invoker checks how much life you gained at the end of your turn, and it should not matter if he was around to “see” this life gain.
Gain 3 health > Play Invoker > Gain 3 again > End the Turn > Get a 6/6
The card spells this out fairly explicitly, but multiple instances of life gain should add up to one Restless Radiant. If you have multiple Invokers in play they will each generate Radiants separately, so if you had 2 Invokers in the above scenario you get 2 6/6s rather than a single 12/12.
Gain 3 health > Play Invoker > End the Turn > Get a 3/3 > Opponent can now cast Deathstrike targeting Invoker
Other “end of turn” effects occur before your opponent get a chance to cast fast spells. I doubt there is even a response window while the Radiant is being summoned. There are some particularly rare rules interactions that could come up here, but I won’t worry about that now.
Opponent’s turn and you have Invoker in play > block with Lifesteal unit > Opponent ends the turn > No Radiant.
The card specifies that it only works on your turn. I doubt this is the case with all Lifeforce cards, but you should watch for this.
Have Invoker in play > Gain 3 health> Invoker dies in combat > End the Turn > No Radiant.
Invoker needs to be around for his effect to occur. It is best to just think of him as having no text until the end of turn “check” for life gain. If he does not survive to that check then his text does not matter.
Have Invoker in play > Gain 3 health> Invoker is silenced in combat> End the Turn > No Radiant.
Same reasoning as above.
Have Invoker in play > Gain 3 health> Lose 3 health (play Knifejack + Impending Doom) > End the turn > Get a 3/3 Radiant.
I would expect that the ability only tracks instances of health gain, and does not do some “net health gain” calculation.
Have Invoker in play with a full board > Gain 3 health > End the turn > No Radiant.
This is the same way that many “token” producing effects work. Marisen the Eldest is the best example. You do not have the opportunity to place such units on a full board.
Get a Life(force)
With an understanding of the Lifeforce mechanic as well as Bloodcall Invoker specifically, lets talk ranked! I think this gentleman has a real shot of making it into top tier constructed play. 3/5 for 5 does not even approach exciting, but it is probably better than it sounds. Bloodcall Invoker dodges a lot of removal. Annihilate? Nope. Vanquish? No dice. Torch? Sorry. Sword of Icaria or Runehammer? Still nothing. Even the new Xenan removal spell Banish misses it. Suffocate is obviously a beating, but that card is less common than the others cited. It also dies to Obliterate, but that is not a horrible exchange.
Now 3/5 may be a great defensive stat line, but you are not exactly seeing people line up to play Jotun Warrior in Ranked. We need a little more from our 5-drop than this. To evaluate Bloodcall Invoker’s ability lets preform an exercise – lets imagine we turned Invoker’s ability into a simple summon effect. What stats would the Restless Radiant need to be for you to be satisfied? Marisen’s Disciple is a 2/2 and a 3/3 for 4T, so 2/2 and a 3/5 for 5TS seems a little bit underwhelming. I think a 3/3 would be about right. I expect a properly constructed deck should have very little trouble getting at least one 3/3 within the first couple turns Invoker is in play. That seems totally possible just with the cards we have already, but it will only get better in Set 2! Since Lifeforce is a key mechanic of Omens of the Past I expect a number of efficient enablers will be released in addition to what we already have. The specifics of these cards will really define the success of a card like Invoker. Let’s take an extreme example:
Now, it is obvious that DWD would never release such an overstated 4-drop with 2 relevant abilities. This is clearly overpowered and no card should ever be made that remotely resembles this! Bear with me for the sake of the thought experiment! Let’s say you attack with Lifestorm Titan on turn 5. It doesn’t matter if your opponent blocks or not, you will be gaining 5 life. Now you can drop the Invoker post-Combat and get a 5/5! 3 or 4-drop health gain enablers will be critical for pairing with Invoker (maybe the Xenan Champion?).
While there are a lot of lingering questions about the rest of the format, it isn’t too soon to sketch out some Bloodcall Invoker lists! Let’s start out with a straight-forward Xenan deck.
This is sort of a blend of the Xenan killers and Xenan control lists we have seen in the past. If you are interested in going down this path I would encourage you to push a little harder in just one direction, but I just wanted to include some cards that are interesting. Lumen Defender and Umbren Reaper (which I just noticed are kinda mirrors of each other) both give you 5/5s off Invoker. Healer’s Cloak specifically is a card that I am interested in. Many of the cards in the deck have big fat butts, so turning Cloak into a 4 power 7/7 that gains 7 seems pretty crippling a lot of match ups. Lethrai Falchion is also unbelievable in the right games. We are also rocking a full play set of Amethyst Monument. This card is generally a bit behind Amber Monument, but the 3/3 Lifesteal is worth playing with the Invoker synergies. You probably noticed that there is some incidental life gain elsewhere in the deck like Vara’s Favor and Devour. Clearly we are not playing Invoker for the purpose of just generating a couple 1/1s and 2/2s, but they are basically free, so lets not look a gift horse in the mouth.
Although the straight Xenan options are a logical place to start, there is no reason we need to stick to 2 factions. Lets take a look at a TPS Invoker Control!
We got some sweet combos in this list. One of the first cards I thought of when I saw Bloodcall Invoker was Black Sky Harbinger. Curving those two together will be just backbreaking in certain match ups. Another combo that I know LocoPojo is a fan of is Lifedrinker + Lightning Storm. For those that don’t know, Lifedrinker gives all your spells lifesteal for the turn, so you can gain big doses of life if you cast storm. This combo is crippling against aggressive decks, but with Invoker you can leverage it against midrange or control as well. I would also like to note that this deck really benefits from the addition of Banish. Relics like Crystalline Chalice, Xenan Obelisk, and Auric Runehammer have always been an issue for Feln-based control, and Banish gives a flexible way to fight back! I particularly like the combo of Withering Witch and Banishing a Xenan Obelisk (it kills everything). We can even include a Feln Cauldron to recycle some unneeded cards while generating some 1/1s with Bloodcall Invoker!
Control is not the only archetype that can use this card; let’s take a look at this TSP Haunting Scream.
The Haunting Scream archetype offers lots of incidental life gain. Vara’s Favor, Devour, and Gorgon Fanatic are just a few examples. It is also neat that this deck gives us an excuse to run Ghostform, a card that has always been slightly underpowered, but can really surprise someone. Midnight Gale is an extremely potent combo with Invoker. If you play Gale on 3, infiltrate on 4, then on turn 5 you can attack, gain 4 and play the Bloodcall Invoker to get a 4/4! Obviously the influence is a little sketchy, but it should be powerful if it works. Accelerated Evolution is probably a fun addition to the deck as it gives a cheap method for getting units to infiltrate. This deck is probably not the right place for Bloodcall Invoker specifically, but I am very interested to see if another Lifeforce card can find a place in this style of deck. You should look particularly for mono-Shadow cards that become more dangerous with each instance of health gain.
A final archetype that I could have legs is some variant of TJS Obelisk. Though the archetype gets a nerf-by-proxy via the release of Banish, I doubt the density will be high enough to actually warrant abandoning the powerful Relic. Check it out!
There are a whole list of lifesteal cards that are all just a shade behind what you want, but the combination of Xenan Obelisk, Oathbreaker and Bloodcall Invoker may set them over the top. Unlike some of the decks like the Xenan and TPS control that I showed earlier that are attempting to produce a couple large Radiants, this deck should be effective at gaining a couple health almost every turn to generate some smaller tokens. Although the 1/1s and 2/2s are not exactly exciting, they become much more intimidating when generate a small army that are all getting +2/+2 or +4/+4 from Xenan Obelisks. Though this deck may look a touch underpowered, I wouldn’t be surprised if it actually over-preformed in practice, as cards like Karmic Guardian are probably better than you expect.
Given that this card is an uncommon, I feel like it is worth considering what it might mean for draft. As of this writing we still don’t know the mechanism by which Omens of the Past will be drafted, but if you are seeing multiple packs of Set 2, there are going to be a good number of Xenan decks with one or more copies of Bloodcall Invoker. So, how does he measure up? 3/5 for 5 is unexciting but acceptable stats. Jotun Warrior is not a card people enjoy playing, but it is a shade above the “embarrassing” category in my experience. Even if you have no life gain in your deck Bloodcall Invoker is still better than Jotun Warrior simply on the basis of potential value. If you have a Deathstrike in hand you would very rarely consider spending it on a turn 5 Jotun Warrior, but Invoker could be a real threat going long.
The bonus text is much harder to evaluate without the context of the rest of the format, as this is obviously a synergistic card. Invoker wants a lot of health gain, especially in big increments coming from Common and Uncommon cards. That being said, there are already some great combos! Turning Lumen Defender into a 1/5 + a 5/5 sounds nasty, and Healer’s Cloak is just game over. Xenan Destroyer feels like it has a moderate dis-synergy with Bloodcall Invoker in terms of game plan, but he will do in many cases. Invoker may look like a relatively slow defensive card, but the health gain pairs well with this, since it helps undo damage you took in the early game while generating board advantage for the mid and late game.
It is way too soon to predict exactly how good Invoker is since the volume of health gain in the set will determine his playability, but it is easy for me to image a world where Bloodcall Invoker on 5 will feel like Pillar of Amar on 8. I should also note that Bloodcall Invoker’s splashability is particularly valuable in draft. We don’t know anything about fixing in Omens of the Past, but if it’s similar to The Empty Throne this guy would fit very well with Combrei cards like Brightmace Paladin, Combrei Healer and Karmic Guardian. I am particularly curious about whether “Lifeforce decks” are possible in draft. It is a more synergistic mechanic than most we have in the game currently, so it will require a different approach to draft than just assembling a curve of efficient cards. The value of a whole range of Set 1 cards change depending on how many Lifeforce cards you have. The best drafters will be able to figure out what mix of health gain and Lifeforce cards you want in your average deck and will have an advantage over the field as a result.
So those are my thoughts on Lifeforce and Bloodcall Invoker! Really interesting card, and although there are some neat combos already, I am really anxious to see the enablers from Omens of the Past. There is certainly a lot of interesting design space here that I am curious about exploring. Thanks to Dire Wolf Digital for letting RNG Eternal spoil such a sweet mechanic, and an exciting new card! Next week I will be writing about spoiler cards, and starting giving some predictions on what will be good in the Omens of the Past metagame. Until then enjoy spoiler season!
Roundtable: RNG’s Thoughts
Bloodcall Invoker is our second proper Xenan unit, the first being the much-maligned Azindel. As a base body, a 3/5 for 5 is unexciting but not unplayable – it will brawl with some things, and it’s not particularly weak to removal, Suffocate being the only spell that gets ya. The effect is the main draw towards the unit, and it does have some good things going for it – it can activate the turn you play it, giving you instant value, and it will keep activating as the game goes on. Not bad for an uncommon!
However, the card does have some flaws. You need a reliable source of lifegain in order to make it do anything at all, and it can’t be minor – pumping out 1/1s probably isn’t going to cut it. Additionally, you want the lifegain to happen the turn you play the Invoker, so it needs to be set up the turn before. 4 points of health is probably the point at which you’re getting a good deal – 3/5 + 3/3 is 6/8 worth of vanilla stats for 5, which is in line with the rarely played Reality Warden.
Current enablers don’t meet any of the criteria to really make Bloodcall Invoker a great card, but if an easy way to gain 4+ health the turn it comes down gets released the card gets far more interesting. In draft this is a sweet card, and it has a better than average chance of seeing constructed play. All in all, not a bad starting point for Xenan!
One of the interesting things about Lifeforce is that it creates a distinguishing line between two different health resources – Armor and Health gain. Cards like Throne Warden (which are very powerful right now) won’t interact with Lifeforce, while cards like Healer’s Cloak (which is a little on the weak side) are powerfully positioned to take advantage of it. Stronghold Visage gains two health, but only generates a 1/1 with Invoker. However, as armor is more useful for relic weapons, this creates a striking balance between the two.
Also, it’s clear that DWD has some good set planning going on here. Strong lifegain cards have been in the original set even though they weren’t widely useable, seeding the way for this design to open up new avenues of play. Some of the cards we saw cut for space in my Friday article, like Forcefield and Cocoon, may return with set Two.
The problems with life gain in cards is that they don’t convert into proactive resources – they don’t influence your position on the battlefield. Gaining life is satisfying and fun, but often not good. With Lifeforce and Armor, Omens of the Past and the Empty Throne have solved this problem twice, making the experience of generating huge amounts of life both fun and strategically good.
It also generates good interactivity questions. With Lifeforce it’s important to kill the unit (which, considering it’s body, is not an easy task). However, if you’re generating that amount of life, your opponent must also be mindful of the thresholds at which you can no longer be burned down, and, entertainingly, the threshold at which Hall of Lost Kings can be cast. Can you afford to spend your Obliterate to kill your opponents source of Radiants, knowing that the potential for 50 points worth of stats might lie in your opponents hand? These are big decisions, and the wrong answer leads to big dudes on either end. Knowing how to beat down and when to play control is more important than ever.