Potential Aember and Exalting: Or why I don’t like Saurians
I finally figured out why I dislike Saurians, and it has to do with a broader topic. I have listened to Brad Andres talk on several podcasts about the design philosophy behind Saurians. Paraphrasing, the idea behind Exalting is Hubris, and they didn’t want Exalting to be a trap, so they made all common cards with Exalt almost always worth Exalting.
To which I say, if it’s almost always the right choice, how is it Hubris?
When you pass the turn to your opponent, you have a rough idea of how much Æmber they are likely to generate. For example, they could reap with each creature from a house, and get 1-3 Æmber pips out of hand (depending on the type of deck they’re running). Even if you don’t do any counting, you have a rough idea of how much Æmber your opponent could gain at any given turn.
As a prelude to this article, I wrote about Æmber Per Turn which is the average Æmber a deck might generate every turn. While Potential Aember is a similar concept, it is more grounded when actually playing a game. If your opponent has 4 creatures on the board from a single house, you know their potential Æmber is at least 4. Depending on when the last time they called that house, you can estimate how much more Æmber they might generate from hand.
Aember on Creatures
Whether you Captured the Æmber, Exalted, or it got there by some other means, Æmber on your creatures increases your opponent’s potential Æmber. If you have 3 Æmber on one creature, and they have a bunch of single target removal in their deck, you can consider their potential Æmber +3 from whatever it would normally be.
If that Æmber is spread among 3 creatures and they don’t have any board clears, then their potential Æmber doesn’t grow as much, since they aren’t likely to use one card to kill all three. If they do have board clears, their potential Æmber is again +3.
Since creatures can reap, a creature with a single Æmber on it doesn’t always increase their potential Æmber. They could use a creature to fight and kill yours to get the Æmber back, but they could just as well reap. Sometimes killing the creature is still correct, especially if it is a repeatable steal like Sequis, but their potential Æmber still didn’t grow.
In theory, Exalting should increase your opponent’s potential Æmber. You should be making some kind of calculation regarding whether that increase in potential Æmber is worth the benefit you’re getting.
In the case of Questor Jarta, is giving them +1 potential Æmber worth an Æmber in your pool? If you’re ahead that is almost always a yes, while if they are ahead it might be a more nuanced proposition. It is also worth thinking about how Jarta might be removed; If it is by fighting, then you haven’t really increased their potential Æmber, especially since it has Elusive and might require two fights. You could Exalt Jarta twice and if they fight into it to kill it, you haven’t actually increased their potential Æmber at all as they foregone two reaps.
Phalanx Strike has similar math, as killing an opponent’s creature reduces their potential Æmber, so it keeps it in balance. If their creature is threatening enough, it’s definitely the right call.
Rhetor Gallim is quite tricky. If you can get them to pay +3 for their key it’s very likely worth it, but if you’re stopping their forge, that is an entirely different situation. How much is stopping a key worth? Well if it’s the third key, it’s worth everything, while if it’s the first key it probably isn’t.
I could go on and analyze each and every exalt ability, but I think I gave a good basis for you to think about it and analyze it yourself. If you’re unsure about a card, feel free to drop me a message and I’ll give you my thoughts.
exaggerated pride or self-confidence
To me it would seem that for Exalt to represent Hubris the Exalting should be risky. A choice that isn’t always useful and if you just do it left and right all day long, you’ll get punished. How often have you played against Saurians (Specifically in Archon) and they chose not to Exalt Senator Shrix? I mean, it happens for sure, but usually it will be Exalted and you’ll have to spend considerable resources to mitigate the advantage it gave them.
With warding and cards like Scutum and Ludo, the risk in any competitive Saurian deck is reduced to nothing. More often than not, having Æmber on your own Saurians is actually an advantage. Not the ability you gained from Exalting, but the actual Æmber itself.
A while back, Scuzzy Gruen of HFFS Podcast asked which Saurian card most needs a nerf? Giving Axiom of Grist, Tribute and The Golden Spiral as options. I responded with “none”, and we had a very civil debate on the subject. I still think none of those need a nerf for being too powerful, and I don’t think Saurians are an issue in competitive play.
However, the card I would like to see nerfed is Senator Shrix. Not because it is too powerful, but because it goes against what I think the design should have been. The idea that a common card can allow you to benefit from having Æmber goes against the philosophy of Hubris. There is no Hubris in putting Æmber on a Senator Shrix with a Scutum on it. Sure, some effects in the game can still get the Æmber back, but they are too few to be reliable.
Senator Bracchus and Imperial Forge are of course in a similar space, but at least they’re rares.
Contact and afterward
I don’t feel very strongly about a supposed nerf to Saurians. I have no problem playing in a meta where Saurians exist. My main dislike will be sealed, but since I don’t intend to go to any events before worlds, I’m not likely to be playing WC sealed.
I also started streaming on twitch. I am still learning the ropes and I have a lot of dead air time. But I think I provide some useful commentary on the game and my decision making.