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Raiders Unchained Previews: Herd Mother and Ordnance Captain

Hey forgeborn, I've got some sweet new cards to share with you today. Not any of those flashy legendaries that drive constructed players wild. Nope, today is about the humble commons, the meat and potatoes of every draft format. The first card is a dino with some fearsome maternal instincts.

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Most of the time she's just your average reptile, hanging with the fam. But when her herd starts raiding, she doesn't sit back, she's leading the charge! 8/8, 13/13, 20/20. Those are some serious stats, usually requiring multiple cards to deal with. If your opponent can't kill it before the end of your next turn, Herd Mother could be around for another raid trigger, growing even more. Of course, this is the ideal situation. Magical Christmas Land, if you will. With these sorts of cards you also have to evaluate what you get without the trigger since it's far from guaranteed. In that case we're in Stag of Lys territory, which is not terrible but decidedly mediocre. Compared to its cousin, Stampeding Mongosaur, Herd Mother will be more reliant on its Raid trigger to be valuable.

One thing I like about Herd Mother is how hitting the first Raid trigger helps you setup future turns. That big body has the potential to stick around for multiple attacks while also gaining you a board advantage. Once you are ahead on board, it should be easier to have multiple attackers on each turn, and make subsequent Herd Mothers or Hive Empresses easier to play.

But the big question behind Raid, which will do a lot in determining how good this card is, is how hard it's going to be to get those valuable triggers. Are we going to be able to build decks that can snowball out of control? Are those same decks going to flop if they can't get their initial Raid set up? Is the better approach to only plan on triggering Raid at the ocassional opportunistic moment? These are questions better answered when the new draft pool arrives.

So that covers the new Raid card. How about some Formation goodness. Check. Out. This. Card.

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At first glance it looks like we're trading off some stats for a board wide attack buff. A 3/6 that gives everything else +2 attack seems reasonable. I mean, Battle Techtician is just a 3/7 at level 1. But Ordnance Captain buffs "each friendly creature", which means that not only is he helping out the troops in his squadron, he's also buffing himself. With Formation, we're looking at a 5/6, 9/10, 13/14 that also buffs your whole board. Not too shabby. Compare this to Oreian Fieldmarshal, which is a 5/3, 9/7, 14/12 and has a similar effect (+1, +3, +5 attack). Ordnance Captain easily outclasses the Fieldmarshal if you can hit the Formation trigger.

But there's the rub. Captain really needs to be in Formation. Without it, you not only lose the attack buff but you've also got a significantly understat'd creature. And while Formation is significantly easier to setup than Raid (you only need one creature on board at the start of your turn compared to three) there are going to be times when you won't be able to trigger it. So how do we maximize our chances to get that sweet, sweet buff.

While Formation was designed with the Onyxium faction pairing in mind, I think Ordnance Captain is going to be a big player in Esperian decks. The synergy with Uterra token makers is undeniable. Formation needs two bodies on the field to trigger, and tokens are significantly more useful with an attack buff. Even if you start the turn with an empty board, a Branchweaver Druid can salvage an otherwise useless Captain and leave you with a decent board (sidenote). Ideally, though, you'd be playing a more aggressive AU deck that can keep multiple bodies on the board throughout the game, taking greater advantage of the board wide buff. I'm thinking of Alpha-Rise style decks with Matrix Warden and Grove Huntress buffing Ionic Warchargers, not the current Tech Explorer based decks. Those decks play their threats aggressively then make combat a nightmare for your opponent with numerous potential cross lane tricks. Between token generators and aggressively placing your creatures you should be almost guaranteed to hit your Formation triggers. We'll see if the rest of the new draft pool has good support for that style of deck, but Ordnance Captain at common is a pretty big step in the right direction.

That's all for today friends. See you in the queues!

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