Ruunin’s Presence (Event: 6 faeria, 2 forest, put a random green creature into your hand. It gains +6/+6) looks like a poor investment for a card slot in any deck archetype. It is too slow for those seeking to rush down their opponent. It is too random for those who want to play a control style (not to mention it has no immediate effect on the board). And for combo decks, it is a combination of the above two problems. So why talk about it, write up data charts that analyze it, or suggest people test this out in Ranked play?
For me, Ruunin’s Presence is the perfect example of a card too quickly dismissed because it looks overly complicated. I want to look at it not to convince the Faeria community that it should be an auto-include in the most competitive decks, but to help people understand how to go about evaluating cards in general, and how to build a deck that incorporates the strengths of any given card. Doing so establishes objective criteria when attempting to adapt a deck to the needs of the present – it is the instinct that suggests X card as an addition to a given deck based on the synergy of card effects. Top players in this game are constantly tweaking even well-used decks, and tournament environments provide opportunity to consider a select number of cards in a sideboard. How do we decide what to include?
Let’s unpack what Ruunin’s Presence offers. It is both an Event and a Creature sandwiched into 1 card. As an event it offers synergy with all Faeries (chance to proc the Faerie on draw), with previous OTK cards (Snowstorm Lancer, Windstorm Charger, Windstorm Archer), and with cards like Aurora’s Disciple (whenever you play an Event, +1/+1), Windstorm Colossus or Dark Stalker. As a creature it interacts with effects like Oakling (+4/+4 buff), Spirit of Rebirth. Both work with discount effects, such as Bargainers, Ogre Dance, Dream, Thulgar, etc… We could break it down as follows:
Event: Give a minion +6/+6
Creature: Draw a random Green Creature from your library.
Now we have left out the negative parts of the card (we will get there in a minute). For now, notice that in 1 card we find the following features:
-Card Draw from your library, not deck total.
-Gift Attack/HP buff
You get all of these features for the fantastic low price of 6 faeria (kidding of course, that is hefty!). However, this weighs in at 3 Ruunin’s Commands (6 faeria, 3 cards) on the buff portion, so we are +2 cards in that department. It also draws for us (draw is worth +1 faeria on the wheel roughly speaking), so it is effectively 5 faeria for the spell portion; however, in this case the draw comes from our library so it doesn’t count toward our total deck size. Therefore it also increases deck size by 1 (c.f. Spellwhirl which increases deck size by 2). More than this though, it is guaranteed to draw us a creature. This is a neutral point since it depends on our goals in deck design whether we will be in the habit of looking for creatures to play on board or would rather have pure events.
Part of the reason for breaking the card down like this is to show how dense it is. Ruunin’s Presence is trying to do a lot of work at the same time. It is no wonder no one likes to play it! It is trying to hog the show, and strut its stuff! Moreover, it is trying to do the work most commonly associated with Events (buff/alter creatures) alongside making an entirely new creature. When we consider the data associated with the creatures Presence might draw for us, one of the better comparisons for the card is the 4 dragons in the game. The average all in cost for Presence + Minion is about 11 Faeria. Dragons come in at 10. The average body size is 8/10. Dragons are 6/6. So we get +2/+4 stats (3 Faeria Elderwood Embrace) but we get a random assortment of special abilities to go with that body. On just the body count, the average Presence will be 2 faeria more efficient than a Dragon. Put another way, it will always be able to trade and survive against a Dragon, pound for pound.
So, to this point, what we know is that, if we are able to cast Ruunin’s Presence and the creature it spawns on the same turn, we can expect it to have a roughly equivalent impact to the board as a Dragon…
Not so fast. Presence has some significant drawbacks or unknowns. Because it is a kitchen-sink type of card that spits out a heavy creature at the other end, it leans very close to the value danger zone, and often sits smack dab in the middle of it. Here is what I mean.
Much like Windfall, Presence can sit in your hand as a dead card. In Faeria, the majority of Events occupy a space of immediate usefulness. Buffs like Ruunin’s Presence and removal like Last Nightmare are almost universally run because they offer instantaneous effects on the board. Spending 10 faeria to gain 3 more is certainly a value play, but Windfall cannot help your present state (what we call the Tempo of the game) if you do not meet the imposing threshold. Presence is like this. If you need to kill a creature for lethal and you had the choice between Presence and Nightmare in some GY brew, obviously Nightmare is much more valuable. Similarly if you need to kill off an enemy minion to survive one more turn. Therefore, Nightmare is much more readily placed in a variety of decks, whereas Windfall needs a theme of card-cost reduction, or huge faeria plays to shine. Presence shares this type of tempo loss mechanic. We could say instead that part of the cost of Ruunin’s Presence is TEMPO. If you have tempo to spend, it gains a lot of value. If you don’t, it is a dead card. Last Nightmare cannot spend your built up tempo; you have to wait until your opponent plays something to utilize it.
A tempo play is one that puts the balance of board control into your hands. This is most often accomplished by events that remove or buff, haste creatures, or taunt mechanics which limit your opponent. It is also effected (particularly early in the game) by simply playing far more minions than your opponent in positions where they can collect more faeria (c.f. Battle Toads). Ruunin’s Presence is anti-Tempo on two levels. First, it costs 6 for the event portion. Second, the creature cost is not reduced, and in Green the chances of drawing a creature that provides tempo is ~20%. Moreover the potential tempo provided is likely going to be the weakest kind (Taunt), with an 8% chance to get a targetable buff (Tiki Caretaker, Tiki Piper, and Tethra). Oh yeah, and you still have to pay for it…
Much of the Faeria community enjoys this game because RNG has such a limited place of power. I am in that camp. I believe when RNG rules any game, it gets old very fast. But let us consider what we mean by this, and what Ruunin’s Presence has to do with it. RNG, like Tempo, is another hidden resource within card/board games. It introduces a layer of uncertainty such that, in games with a lot of it, skill and card quality can suddenly be ignored by sheer luck. But RNG is an audience favourite, and keeps players sharp calculating potential plays. It is absolutely necessary to have some RNG when the game design pits non-equivalent resources/cards against eachother. In chess, everything is equal, and every player can potentially calculate the plays on the board. But when you cannot see your opponent’s hand, and you have completely different tools, inherent randomness develops.
There are 36 potential creatures for Ruunin’s Presence to draw. 8% are multi-colour creatures which might be completely unplayable. Some are far too expensive to be serviceable in the average game (Tarum, Relentless). One is counter-productive (Seedling). You can’t count on the special card effect being particularly applicable (if, for instance you don’t need healing). More than this, because Ruunin’s Presence has an opportunity cost of both Tempo (as discussed above) and on average 10 faeria, the additional cost of randomness means whatever you play will be a massive target for removal. If we evaluate the tempo cost at roughly 6 Faeria (since we expect a similar result as 2 significant impact events, Last Nightmare and Firestorm, but Presence automatically pushes that impact forward), together with the average total cost to get the creature out and on the board, you are looking at a tempo cost (think acceleration in a vehicle; the number per creature demand) 4 faeria/turn until you play the minion in your hand. So the random minion has to gain 4 faeria in value by soaking lots of removal, or trading with a bunch of minions, etc for every turn you don’t play it.
Say you play an 8/9 Wood Elemental (10 total cost). That Elemental would need to soak up approximately 10 faeria in value while it is on the field (Last Nightmare is 6 faeria recall), or a couple of cards But if you wait one turn, the tempo cost increases, so you should expect to gain 14 faeria worth of value to break even. Now these things are approximate because you can gain tempo via board position – not merely card quality – but the general principle remains. Because of the unpredictable nature of Ruunin’s Presence, the RNG factor is a serious detractor. You can’t be sure if you will get full value out of the card, or get something absolutely unplayable. If you can’t play it immediately you fall further and further behind since you can’t use it to contribute to your tempo.
Given the significant challenges Ruunin’s Presence poses for any deck, let’s consider a couple of similar effects on a smaller scale in order to suggest a workable design. First up is Court Jester, which is an 0/2 taunt for 3 that gives a minion in your hand +2/+2. This card is Presence on a small scale because part of the tempo of the card is tied up in what comes next. Likewise, Oakling, a 1/4 creature for 4 that gives +4/+4 to a minion in hand. The tempo invested for both of these is much smaller, and therefore so is the risk. Additionally, both Jester and Oakling contest the board immediately, so they do not produce a tempo loss.
Connecting cards like this with mechanics that accelerate tempo (i.e. Haste creatures) means you not only offset the tempo you invested in your hand, but allow it to explode out and gain back far more. This is the reason Freedom Fighter (5 faeria, 3/3 Haste) works so well in Green, and why Jester offers a good deal to Yellow and Blue.
Unfortunately for Presence, the effect cannot hit a card like Freedom Fighter. So the deck design must compliment a card that boasts both a high faeria cost and a large tempo loss. We must be able to either float both of those conditions safely, or accelerate/minimize the significance of one or the other. Here is some of what each colour offers to Ruunin’s Presence.
Green: Feed the Forest mana ramp; healing/taunt
Yellow: Sacrifice mechanics and cheap minions overall.
Blue: Mana Ramp via Windfall/Stormspawn, etc…
Red: Card Cost reduction via Bold Bargainer, Ogre Dance.
Because Presence has a 2 forest threshold, and there is a small chance of getting multi-colour creatures, it is in an ideal position for multi-colour decks. Multi-colour decks seek to utilize the best quality/value cards from different colours, sacrificing some early tempo (to build all the lands) with the knowledge that card quality will be much higher than if they only had access to one colour. A few synergistic options present themselves:
BG Faeries. Utilizing 6 low cost faeries as the work horses of the deck, Presence allows you to fill a solid big body slot while remaining a spell, increasing the chance your faeries will proc on any given draw. You get access to the control side of blue, additional deck density with cards like Spellwhirl, and all the buffs/taunts in Green.
BG Dream. Somewhat more unpredictable, Presence gives a BG Dream deck a lot more options. The engine of this deck is Windfall/Feed the Forest + Stormspawn, which gives you more than enough mana to counteract the heavy cost of Ruunin’s Presence.
YG Sacrifice. Utilizing Oakling and Feed the Forest alongside sacrifice options like Deathwalker, Oath to Oblivion and Faeries helps keep costs down and threats high. Presence offers a trump card in a huge minion that also helps Faeries be more consistent.
RG Bargain. At 6 mana, Presence is an ideal card to hit with a Bold Bargainer, shaving off the first part of the card’s cost, and pushing Bargain red (which already stacks comeback mechanics in Garudan, Firestorm) into very strong swing turns.
RG Faeries. Similar to BG, but with the removal of Red. Though often thought to be one of the weaker faeries, the red faerie still benefits from the Event side of Presence. Moreover, the RG combination boasts the most powerful creature buffs in the game.
Ruunin’s Presence is unlikely to show up in top-rated deck lists, but it is a great example of a complex card that works when we understand the synergy it provides. Additionally, hopefully the information and analysis gives everyone a better understanding of the potential of this card in Pandora mode, which is soon to be released.