Mass Mutation Review: Shadows
Welcome to my house-by-house review of the cards in Mass Mutation! I want to thank Alex’s Worlds Collide previews for being the inspiration for these. In an effort to not fix what isn’t broken, I am mostly going to keep Alex’s format, and his rating scale. Here is the scale:
5 – All-Star. This card gets it game on and go plays. It’s great in any deck it’s in.
4 – Great. Just like Philip Hamilton, this card is pretty great. It works in most decks.
3 – Average. This card’s favorite color is grey. It’s squarely in the middle, meaning that it provides either low value or inconsistent high value.
2 – Situational. This card is waiting tables, waiting for its big break. It will shine if the stars line up perfectly, but most of the time it isn’t very good.
1 – Trash card. This card is roommates with a certain Muppet grouch. You almost never want it in your decks.
Shadows was the dominant house in COTA, but they were significantly scaled back in AOA and WC. In fact, I think most would have ranked them among the bottom three houses in WC. They seem to have gotten some of their mojo back in MM with a lot more unrestricted steal than they have had in a while. There’s no pre-nerf Bait and Switch or Relentless Whispers here, but there are some solid steal cards. Let’s see how Shadows shapes up.
The Thief Creatures – 2
As is the general practice by now, I am just going to lump all these together. The only reason that these creatures don’t get a 1 is because they get some good abilities from the other houses (especially the Daemo-Thief and the Techno-Thief). However, they’re pretty bad as a whole, because Elusive just isn’t a great keyword. The Xeno-Thief is especially bad, as it’s a 3-power creature that depends on its fight ability.
Bo Nithing – 4
This card has a huge impact late game, where stealing two Æmber can easily make the difference between winning and losing the game. It’s amazing if it’s paired with Safe House and it can keep recurring turn after turn. Remember, Swindle was a steal three card, and it was the only thing you could do on your turn. Bo Nithing can steal two, still let you play your Shadows turn, and then do it again next turn.
There’s been a big debate as to which of Rad Penny or Bo Nithing is better. If Bo Nithing comes down early in the game, he’s essentially Bo Nothing (credit for that pun to Blake from HFFS), whereas Rad Penny is impactful at any point in the game. However, Bo has better steal late game. Thus, I consider their steal to be about a wash, and I think Rad Penny is slightly better because of how easy it is to recur her, even without a Safe House. As an aside, is Bo Nithing the kid from Shadow Self? Looks like he might be.
Dark Wave – 2
It’s a slightly better Poison Wave, although it’s annoying that it can’t kill your Rad Pennys to recur them. Still, if you are playing against other sets, it is much more likely to hurt your opponent’s creatures than yours.
Francis the “Economist” – 3
This guy is much better than he looks. At first the symmetrical effect seems like a real disadvantage, but when you consider that you’re playing Shadows, that disadvantage can easily be turned into an advantage with your steal. Let’s say your opponent has zero Æmber and you have Look Over There! in hand. Swing Francis into something, and then use Look Over There! to steal the Æmber you just generously gave your opponent.
Look Over There! – 3
Steal is steal. Yes, it’s a far cry from the glory days of Nerve Blast and Relentless Whispers, but it’s still two damage and a steal. In some ways, it’s actually better than Nerve Blast, because it can kill that annoying Ember Imp on your opponent’s side of the board even if they have no Æmber to steal.
Mutant Cutpurse – 1
Unless I have some serious mutant synergy going on in my deck, I am never happy to see this guy on my list. Yes, he does offer damage pips, but those are the worst of the bonus icons, and other than that he is a 3-power vanilla creature.
Opportunist – 3
I really like this card. I almost thought about putting it at 4. It offers so much utility. It gives you an Æmber, it offers Æmber control, and it gives one of your creatures elusive. I personally like to put it on a Shoulder Id to make the Id even harder to get rid of. Obviously, it also goes well on any other type of creature you want to keep alive, like a Fandangle, although it makes it even more of a target than it already was.
Rad Penny – 4
Here’s an analogy for you. Rad Penny is to good card as Bad Penny is a bad card. Rad Penny is fantastic, and even better when she shows up in multiples or gets enhanced (especially with draw or Æmber). I played against a player recently who had a deck with a Rad Penny with double draw and another Rad Penny with double capture (and a Q-Mechs with a couple bonus icons). Those were the best enhancements I have seen in a deck yet. Rad Penny combos really well with Seeker Needle, as it sends her right back into deck with the bonus of getting an Æmber. She also combos really well with Safe House for the same reason as Bo Nithing above, but probably my favorite combo with her is Pincerator. Drop a couple Rad Pennys on the flanks and let the Pincerator send them right back into deck for you.
Shoulder Id – 3
It’s a Taunter, which is fine. Its effect can make it a little hard to get rid of, though it usually just gets pounded with Skirmish and random damage. When you’re counting Æmber control in your decks, don’t count it, as it will very rarely get to steal. That said, once in a blue moon you just have to get rid of it, so it will get hit by a Sinder and steal one. The best in-house targets for its protection tend to be things like Reckless Rizzo, Boss Zarek, Macis Asp, and Old Bruno.
Subtle Otto – 2
Tempting Offer – 2
Maybe the most situational card in Shadows, it’s pretty bad most of the time, and really bad when compared to the far superior Lights Out, which is also in set. That said, there are times when you simply need to bounce an enemy dino to get all that Æmber back, and it will do the job. It’s worth noting that the opponent doesn’t get the Æmber if the bounce effect isn’t completed, so it can be valuable to use Tempting Offer simply to break a ward. The capture icon is a nice little bonus, potentially giving your deck a little bit of extra Æmber control.
Vandalize – 3
I didn’t like this card much at first, but I have had it wreck me enough times to respect it. It devastates combo decks, and it can remove your answers before you can get them. If it hits your artifact control, or a key artifact like Dark Aember Vault or Etan’s Jar, it can absolutely swing a game. It’s not quite as good as Borr Nit’s Touch was, but it’s still good.
“Borrow” – 4
This is one of those cards that can decide a game. If you Borrow an Auto-Encoder or Dark Aember Vault, that can often mean game. Nothing is crazier than Borrowing an Auto-Encoder when your deck already has one. Borrow is even better than Sneklifter was, because it turns the artifact into a Shadows artifact even if it’s of a house you have, so that it can be used immediately regardless. It’s not quite hard artifact control, but it’s not soft artifact control either. It’s somewhere in between.
Boss Zarek – 3
This is one of those creatures that gives enhance pips and a good static effect. First of all, three capture pips is a lot, and can be really valuable Æmber control if they land in a house like Untamed that has very little Æmber control of its own. Even more to the point, though, giving creatures with Æmber on them elusive makes them very hard to take off the board to get the Æmber back. This is a creature that isn’t quite a witch-level threat, but it’s probably best to remove is sooner rather than later.
Lucky Dice – 2
Following in the footsteps of cards like Stealth Mode, Scrambler Storm, and Lifeward, this is one of those cards that causes fits on TCO when someone misses the trigger. I haven’t found it to be an especially valuable card, but it does have some value in keeping a recently played Reckless Rizzo alive so that it can use its effect on the next turn.
Miasma Bomb – 3
Miasma is a great card, and the Miasma Bomb has the advantage of not clogging up your hand while you are waiting to use it. However, it does have a couple of disadvantages as compared to the original Miasma. First of all, it lacks the Æmber pip, and the enhance damage is not a fair trade for that. Second, it loses the advantage of surprise, and allows your opponent to play around it. Third, it’s vulnerable to soft artifact control like Nexus or Remote Access, and that can allow your opponent to turn the tables on you with it. It’s still a solid card, but I slightly prefer the original Miasma.
Ransack – 3
As I said before, steal is steal. It generally only steals one in my experience, but that’s still solid. The unfortunate part about it is that when it does discard a Shadows card, it seems to always be Rad Penny that it hits, and it hurts a lot to see your Rad Penny sitting in the discard pile with your opponent about to bring down Infurnace.
Reckless Rizzo – 2
As I said above, it combos well with Lucky Dice. However, most of the time it’s just going to die to a random damage pip or a Twin Bolt Emission. The fact that it loses elusive after it uses its ability is almost meaningless, because if you get its ability off once, you have to be extremely happy with that.
Safe House – 5
Maybe the best Shadows card in the set, this card has a ton of utility. It can recur your good Shadows creatures like Bo Nithing, Rad Penny, and even Subtle Otto. However, it can also recur a creature with a lot of enhancements, or a valuable off-house creature like Infurnace or Subject Kirby. It might actually be better than Transporter Platform because of its ability to work off house. It’s definitely one of those cards you’re really looking for in a Shadows list, and that’s even more true if Bo is in the list.
The Shadowsmith – 2
It can be good in a deck with important mutants you want to protect like Fandangle, but most of the time it’s a pretty “meh” card. It’s a symmetrical effect, so it can also backfire if your opponent has more mutants than you.
Doom Sigil – 2
This is definitely one of those skill intensive cards. It turns your small Shadows creatures into creatures that can do a lot of work clearing the board. It’s especially good with creatures like Rad Penny and Subtle Otto, given that you really don’t care about them after they resolve their Play effects anyway. It feels really good to swing an Otto into a Deusillus and kill it. All that said, it’s a symmetrical effect, so you have to be careful about that. It is also typically pretty bad against Sanctum, as their armor makes it hard to kill them with poison.
Johnny Longfingers – 4
This is another card that goes right in that same power category with Bo Nithing and Rad Penny. It’s slower than those other cards, but its effect is potentially a lot bigger. It’s especially awesome in combination with the Rad Penny + Seeker Needle combo. Drop the Rad Penny, steal one, kill the Rad Penny with Seeker Needle, gain one and steal one. Your opponent is going to want to get this off the board as soon as possible, so it’s usually going to steal at least one. Just make sure it doesn’t get Cyber-Cloned.
Liam Say – 3
This is one of those cards that has a lot of utility. At worst, Liam Say just pings a random damage around the board onto some random creature like an Eyegor. However, it can also pop a ward, send a Rad Penny back into deck, or kill an opponent’s Duskwitch or Reckless Rizzo. And the best part is that it’s a static effect, so it doesn’t need to be a Shadows turn to make it happen. This is a card I always stick behind a Taunter to make sure its very useful ability sticks around.
Mastermindy – 3
This card is surprisingly effective. Elusive 2-power creatures aren’t especially easy to get rid of, so there’s a good chance that it will stick around to get its ability off at least once. Don’t get greedy with it, though. Try to get value from it as soon as is practical.
Mole – 2
Mole is definitely a contender for the best flavor text in the set, showing the sort of cheeky humor that makes Keyforge such a fun experience beyond just the gameplay. The actual power of the card isn’t great. Most of the time it’s just an Æmber pip, though against Sanctum or Saurian it can be more effective. I think its best use is against COTA cards like Charette or Drumble that might not have ways to mitigate it. It can be a good card to drop on a Saurian creature to force them to try to remove the Æmber before you benefit from it. Mole is definitely one of those cards that is only good in narrow situations, but it can shine in those circumstances.
Pincerator – 2
This card is fantastic with Rad Penny, Q-Mechs, or Sanctum creatures. It’s really bad when your opponent has Rad Penny, Q-Mechs, or Sanctum creatures. In one of my first games of Mass Mutation, I was losing the game when my opponent played this card against my double Rad Penny deck, and that swung the game. This is a card that can easily backfire and will need to be discarded in those situations.
Shadowsaurus – 2
This card’s primary value seems to be that it’s a relatively large creature in Shadows, which is rare. Its actual ability is pretty lackluster. You generally don’t want to give your opponent Æmber, so it would have to be a pretty good creature to make that trade worth it. It’s also quite situational because it can’t take a creature unless that creature has Æmber on it, and that limits its usefulness. This is definitely nowhere near as scary as a card like Lord Invidius.
Splinter – 2
It’s better than Mutant Cutpurse, anyway. I will happily trade two power for three extra damage pips. It’s still not a great creature, and it’s about as useless as Gloriana’s Attendant when it hits the field, but at least it gives a substantial number of bonus icons for your trouble.
Final Rating – 3
In Mass Mutation, Shadows is a middle of the pack house. I think most competitive MM decks will have Logos and Dis combined with either Shadows, Saurian, or Untamed. Shadows and Untamed are really the only two houses that offer reliable artifact control to deal with things like Auto-Encoder and Dark Aember Vault (Gorm of Omm is too slow to be effective). Shadows has some quality steal cards with Bo Nithing, Rad Penny, Ransack, Johnny Longfingers, and even Look Over There!, so it can be a quality Æmber control house. Shadows really needs Safe House, though. Shadows in MM is better than it was in WC, but nowhere near as good as it was in its heyday during COTA.
If you have any comments, feel free to reach out to me on most Keyforge Discords (such as Sanctumonius) as jfkziegler or on TCO as SecondAct.