Along with a bunch of new cards to collect, Raiders Unchained brought with it a couple of new mechanics. One of them is Raid, which is an abillity that triggers when three or more of your creatures attack (take a look at the wiki page for all the gritty details). The ability fits naturally into the Umbruk faction pair and was designed to be a big part of draft as well as constructed.
So what do you get for successfully Raiding your opponent? Well, you might get giant creatures like Herd Mother, significant face damage from Stampeding Mongosaur and Hive Empress, or in the case of Relentless Wanderers the chance to completely overwhelm your opponent with a string of free creatures.
As mentioned above, a Raid is triggered when you have at least three attacking creatures on your turn. It sounds simple, but in a game of Solforge, this can be difficult to consistently pull off. Creatures don't hang around for very long before they die in combat and you have to fight off your opponent's threats while also amassing enough creatures to trigger Raid. But with a properly built deck, Raid creatures can really start to pay off.
To better understand Raid, it helps to look at what the trigger is asking for at a fundamental level. Essentially, Raid gives value to cards that attack more often than the average card, and specifically, cards that attack on your turn. Just as Spring Dryad gives value to cards that produce extra bodies, Raid gives value to cards that give you more attacks. The average creature gets played, attacks on the following turn and dies. It gives you one attack. What kind of cards are above average?
If a card can put multiple creatures in play, those creatures give you multiple attacks. If you play an Ether Wolves, they may both attack and die on the following turn, but you still got two attacks out of one card. These are the types of cards we're looking for. Scatterspore Tiller can give you two bodies and two attacks, but they are split up over separate turns. The weakness of Tiller is that you can't always control where the Seedling lands. If it lands in front of an enemy creature, it probably won't survive to attack on the following turn. Grove Matriarch is a multibody card that is fully in series (one following the other) compared to the parallel Ether Wolves. Again, the Seedling isn't guaranteed to hang around for another attack, depending on how Grove Matriarch traded in combat, but it increases your odds. You could also squeeze Warhound Courser into this category. Another way to look at these cards is that they are giving you extra bodies for free, and that is exactly what you get with Warhound Courser. The fact that is also has Aggressive makes it that much better at triggering Raid (I'll talk about this later).
High Health Creatures
This category requires a little more explanation and it helps to remember our criteria for good Raid support cards, i.e. cards that give you more attacks. Average creatures attack once and die. High health creatures may still have average stats, think 4/7's, but instead of trading in a single attack, they trade over two attack steps. Two attack steps! This is what we're looking for. If your opponent blocks your 4/7's immediately, they will still only get one attack on your turn, which doesn't help Raid. But if they decline the initial block, it is likely to attack once on your turn, once on your opponent's turn (into a blocker) then again on your turn. That last attack could be the difference between triggering and not triggering Raid.
A card like Cloudcleaver Titan is excellent for this sort of role. If your opponent is smart, they will be making that initial block to clear your creatures as soon as possible, but Titan can dodge the first block, allowing it to get in the extra attack. Similarly, Sparktail Manticore gives you the initial attack immeditately then has a big enough butt to survive a block and hang around for a second Raid attack.
Even without other special abilities, high health creatures such as Blizzard Shaman, Deepbranch Prowler, Flowstone Primordial and Chistlehearth Hunter will make it difficult for you opponent to routinely clear your board. None of these cards are guaranteed to give us three attackers when we need it. Games are too unpredictable for that. But they all contribute to raising the average number of attacks we are getting. The higher our average is, the more likley we are to get that game turning Raid trigger.
Technically, Aggressive creatures don't meet our current criteria for Raid support cards. They don't give you more attacks per card. If you play a Gemhide Basher it's likely to attack once then die. But they are still important to the Raid strategy for a different reason. They allow you to modify the timing of your attacks. Even when playing a bunch of creatures that can give you multiple attacks, it's still difficult to consistently hit the three attacker threshold. Aggressive creatures give you a temporary boost that can get you over the hump. Think about it this way. It's better to have three attackers on a turn followed by one attacker than it is to have two attackers all the time. In the first case, you get to trigger Raid at least once. In the second case, you never get there. I've already mentioned two Aggressive cards in the other categories, Warhound Courser and Sparktail Manticore, and the fact that they are filling multiple roles for Raid decks should give you a clue about how good they can be for enabling the strategy.
Most of the cards I've mentioned so far are cards that are already decent draft picks, but what about the more lowly players that might help you trigger Raid. What about Sparkbrand Asir and Scatter the Seeds. While these cards might help you Raid, you have to weigh what you are gaining against what you are losing. For example, if you play a Sparkbrand Asir, you are basically playing half a creature, just based on its stats. Your opponent will usually be able to beat it in combat leaving a partially damaged creature behind. So the Raid trigger you are getting has to be able to make up for the loss of tempo that you suffered by playing the Asir. Relentless Wanderers and Herd Mother might be able to do that but it's close to a wash. I certainly wouldn't want to play it just to get a Stampeding Mongosaur trigger. Likewise, when you are making your draft picks, you have to consider what kind of Raid cards you have in your deck and choose the appropriate support cards for them. The really high reward triggers might warrant picks that sacrifice overall quality for Raid support but, in general, I would try to stick to cards that will still be good on their own.
Just as there are cards that actively help Raid, there are also cards that do little to support it. If we are looking to play cards that give us extra attacks, then the flip side of that is to avoid playing cards that have fewer attacks. Cards with Defender, for example, never actually attack. Avalanche Guardian is quite a nice card, and I like having it in my UT decks. But if I'm drafting a Raid heavy deck I will look to draft regular creatures instead, even if I consider them to be of slightly lower quality.
Another class of cards that don't help trigger Raid is spells. Something like Shatterbolt is a fine tool to have in your deck, but it will never give you an attacking creature. To replace the opportunistic value that spells bring to your deck, you should look to pick creatures that have spell-like abilities. Cards like Firelight Hunter, Warbringer Uranti, and Toorgmai Mender can give you some valuable utility without sacrificing an attack.
Again, I don't think you should completely avoid these types of cards because some of them are still quite good in Raid decks. In draft, it can be dangerous to sacrifice too much card quality in the pursuit of synergy. You don't want to be passing Avalanche Guardian for Riftlasher. But if that Guardian is next to a Chistlehearth Hunter, I would lean towards the creature that is actually going to be attacking.
Here are my two main criteria for good Raid support cards:
- They should give you more attacks than the average card.
- They should give you the opportunity for an immediate attack.
Make sure to keep these things in mind when you are making your picks in draft. There are plenty of good Raid cards that I didn't mention in the article and you can use these criteria to figure out what they are. In the next article, I'll talk more about how to play Raid decks in draft. Afterall, the cards are only half the story, how you play them is just as important.