This is the sixth and final in my series of card-by-card reviews of Defiance. Here I’ll be tackling the most interesting cards in this three-faction set: the multi-faction cards. You’ll find a lot of the power is concentrated here, as is typical. If you’re looking for an overview before getting started with the format, check out my primer article linked below. You’ll also find links to the first five set reviews.

Defiance Limited Overview

Defiance Limited Review – Fire

Defiance Limited Review – Time

Defiance Limited Review – Justice

Defiance Limited Review – Primal

Defiance Limited Review – Shadow

The format of the reviews will follow LSV’s classic Magic set reviews that I’ve always enjoyed. Each card will be assigned a grade from 0 to 5, based on the scale below:

0.0 – Completely unplayable in a main deck; might have market use if you draft a merchant.

0.5 – Unplayable in a main deck barring some insane circumstance

1.0 – Will always do something, but is generally niche or just plain overcosted.

1.5 – Extremely mediocre filler. Something you’re unhappy to wind up playing, but will sometimes have to.

2.0 – Filler. Your deck will have a few of these, but hopefully not too many.

2.5 – Slightly better filler. These will be the lion’s share of your deck, the “pawns.”

3.0 – Stronger playables. Not enough to perhaps draw you into the faction, but cards you are happy to wind up playing in your final deck.

3.5 – Very strong, efficient playables. You won’t have tons of these, but they represent a strong pull into their faction.

4.0 – Bombs or cards that warp the game around themselves, but are still answerable if your opponent has the right cards.

4.5 – Cards that are nearly impossible to beat if you draw and play them, but that come with some caveat (usually their cost). These almost universally generate card advantage or an absurd tempo advantage, and there’s nothing your opponent can do about it.

5.0 – Cards that are basically impossible for the opponent to answer cleanly, will win the game on their own, and aren’t prohibitive to play in any way. It’s extremely rare for a card to be a 5.0, and that’s a good thing, because they aren’t any fun to play against (looking at you, Pack Rat).

BA – Build-around. These are cards that are clearly meant to be played only when you have the right synergies, and their power level will vary wildly as a result.

Obviously every card can be more or less powerful depending on your archetype (aggro vs. midrange vs. control) or the other cards surrounding it (your 10th 3-drop isn’t going to be that good), so the grades are meant as a guideline, not a hard rule, and you should really be looking at the comments on each card rather than the hard number grade. The fact that we have to adjust our views on cards based on context as the draft progresses is what makes drafting so interesting.

I do want to preface this and all of my set reviews with the fact that I’m a filthy casual. I don’t devote tons of time to grinding card games anymore, but that just means that I try to play at the highest level possible when I do find the time. If I only have an hour to play, I damn sure want to win if I can, or revel in memes if I can’t. That does color my reviews a bit. I may be off on some cards due to lack of experience or desire to meme, though I hope that I at least do a decent job justifying the line of thinking that leads me to particular grades.

Darya, Warrior Poet

Grade: 4.0

This is a lot of abilities. Playing Darya on 4 is going to be tough with limited fixing, but that’s okay, since she’s much better on 6. The amplify effect gives her a pseudo-charge, since you’re often doubling the power of the berserked unit, and deadly means that your now-reckless unit at least will trade instead of getting eaten by something. Slap the deadly onto a quickdraw unit for maximum effect.

Stoneshell Walker

Grade: 3.0

FIRE UP YOUR LENEKTAS!

Your opponent is going to clench their cheeks every time they have to trade with this, as you could have any number of huge bombs to follow up. And they’ll have to trade with it sooner rather than later, since they can’t chump it, and they can’t just eat 5 for too many turns.

Obviously worse on defense, since you’ll most likely lose out on the power, but a 5/5 can stabilize things pretty well in a pinch, and you can at least play a fast spell post-combat. Maybe even an amplified Conflagrate?

Bear Arms

Grade: 2.5

Art: 5.0

This is both a classic pun and a nice way to trigger renown and create some early pressure. The best use for this will be playing it on turn 4, followed by a 2-drop to hopefully snowball your 3-drop out of control. It’s a rancid topdeck later in the game, but it has enough potential to run away with things early on that I’m happy playing a couple.

I love that the art manages to subvert comical expectations, depicting not some shamanic ritual that half turns you into a bear, but literally just manufactured sleeves that give you giant claws (complete with a neat hat). A+

Highland Sharpshooter

Grade: 4.0

Like Hojan, this is another insane rare 2-drop that can just take over a game on its own. I have absolutely zero qualms about slamming something like Barrel Through on her on turn 3 and giving the top unit of my deck +6/+5. That kind of beef is going to be hard to overcome, combined with the pressure of an aggressive 2-drop.

Do note the mechanical oddity here that she must attack after triggering her renown ability–it won’t work if you play a trick mid-combat (and it will eat her renown, so don’t do this!).

Red Canyon Smuggler

Grade: 4.0

As noted in the overview article, pretty much every market in draft is a Black Market, with the exception of sigils. Merchants were already great in draft, as even cashing in a late-game power for an overcosted dummy is a great way to pull ahead in topdeck wars. This one takes things a step further with an incredible body to go with the merchanting. Double damage is especially potent in the pump-spell-and-weapon factions, and you can even throw a very over-costed pump effect into the market to self-enable.

Eaton, Seditious Noble

Grade: 4.0

Eaton is powerful enough that it’s worth taking early, despite the ambitious faction requirements and the fact that he doesn’t do anything on his own. If you get even a single trigger, he becomes very powerful, and anything more than that and he graduates to truly absurd territory.

Ijin’s Workshop

 

Grade: 3.5

This is on the weaker side of sites, mostly because none of the three agenda spells do anything at all to defend it or generate card advantage. The value here is entirely dependent on whether you can make it to Ijin. That doesn’t make it bad, however; you should absolutely be playing it. If you can set up a board that defends it, Mithril Armors will quickly overwhelm your opponents. Notably it does have 4 health, so it won’t always die if played on curve, even if you’re not able to block everything.

Deadeye

Grade: 2.0

This is fine, but it take some work to get there, and you can’t run too many 6s. It doesn’t do anything super special, and it’s conditional, so I’d be on the lookout for something more consistent, and I wouldn’t hesitate to pledge it if given the opportunity.

Mighty Strikes

Grade: 3.5

This is a mighty grade for a combat trick, but the card-advantage and kill-ya potential of this makes me want as many of them as I can get my hands on, both in the beatdown-centric Honor faction and in the Instinct decks packing big boom-booms that can take advantage of the overwhelm. On turn 5 you can use it to win a pair of combats, and on turn 8 you can just murder your opponent with 6 points of surprise burn.

When playing against FP, be very keenly aware of this on turns 5-7, since it is a common. If they send two things into what looks like trades or good blocks for you, maybe just block one, if your life total can take the hit. You’ll take a bunch of damage, but at least you’ll deny them the card advantage if they have it.

Howling Peak Smuggler

Grade: 3.5

Merchants are great, but this one is a far cry below Red Canyon Smuggler. Spell damage isn’t great in limited, since you’ll probably have very few spells running around, and a 2/2 for 3 doesn’t brawl well enough on its own. Still, it’s a merchant, and I’m in for that alone.

Iceberg Shineefinder

Grade: 2.5

If you do manage to snipe something with this on 5, good on you, but I would most often just treat it as a medium 3-drop with the upside of fixing on turn 1. The flexibility is nice, though, and sometimes you’ll topdeck this late in the game and get something real.

I’m curious on the flavor here: Is the yeti throwing the shinees at people? Is he getting mad at people trying to take his shinees? We must know.

Chunk Chunk

Grade: 3.5

Jarrall’s Frostkin is the obvious comparison here. This is much, much harder to play on time, but there are quite a few upsides. Pledge makes this into an early fixer, and one I’m okay with pledging, as it does a lot but nothing game-breaking. The renown ability is a decent bonus, especially if you can leverage it into winning multiple combats.

Burn them All (if “all” equals two)

Grade: 3.5

You’ll pretty much never get more than two things with this, but that’s fine. Even if you removed the amplify text, this would be a great card because it goes upstairs, but the ability to hit two targets late in the game really puts icing on the cake.

Howling Peak

Grade: 5.0

If you’re a constructed player, you’re well familiar with Howling Peak, and it lives up to the hype in limited, too. It immediately Guns Down a large unit for only a single extra power, then further helps you defend it by creating a second copy of your best unit (with +3 health when it blocks). Or you can do those things in reverse order if you’re ahead to slam the door on the game. With 5 health, the Peak can take a few hits from random dorks, meaning you don’t even need to reach full parity for it to generate value. All-in-all this is just an absurd card that puts your opponent into no-win situations. Even if they can kill it, they’re likely going to have to send the whole team to do it, meaning you can take good blocks and earn some value that way before cracking back.

Clan Huntcaller

Grade: 3.0

This card is a prime example of why understanding the texture of the format is important to evaluating cards. In a vacuum, this card looks like a 3.5 or better. If you put this in any of the other draft formats we’ve had, it would be a windmill-slam. Curving 1-2-3-Huntcaller in your standard Stonescar beatdown deck would be game over in most cases. In Set 1, I’d have taken this very early and planned to draft around it.

Defiance is a little different, however. For one, three-faction powerbases will mean that you won’t curve out as often as you might like. Two, the Stonescar faction pairing shows up only in the Ambition wedge. Ambition isn’t really a beatdown deck by default; more of a midrange grind-you-down kind of deck, where this card would not be at its best. Still a fine card, mind you, but not living up to its full potential, and you don’t want to commit to it too early, since it leaves you fewer audible options if powerful three-faction cards come around later.

There will be decks where this is bananas, but they will be rarer than you might think. Were this in set 1, I would happily take this early and know that I’m going to be able to get a serviceable beatdown deck. In Defiance, you will sometimes be able to get a good number of aggressively-slanted FJS cards to really capitalize on this, but that is much less of a guarantee. It’s for that reason that I’ve docked some points from the rating, but the ceiling on this card is very high. It’s still an early pick, but not as early as it otherwise would be.

Syl, Hand of the Cabal

Grade: 4.0

Were Syl just an unblockable 4/5 for 5, she would be quite good. The bonus text can help you slam even bigger threats, or simply double-spell to catch up if you’re behind. The steep influence requirements aren’t irrelevant, and you certainly should pledge this sometimes, but it’s going to be hard to avoid the greed–perfect flavor for the Cabal.

Penitent Bull

Grade: BA

This only really goes in the Vision ramp deck, and even then you need some very good reasons to want to invest two full turns in ramping to 8 or 9. If you have those reasons, this is very strong, but if you lack the payoffs, don’t subject yourself to this punishment.

Serene Meditant

Grade: 3.5

This thing hits like a truck, which is basically all Vision wants to be doing. In this set, however, this is deceptively medium. There are a lot of units that get huge pumps off Empower even lower on the curve (and lower on influence requirements). If you want that kind of effect, you can get it there. Don’t get me wrong–this card is powerful, but it’s not really a unique effect, just an upgraded version of cards that are plentiful in the set. You definitely should be playing it, but it’s not a crazy-valuable card to have.

Honeypot

Grade: BA/2.5

I wonder how much the Ark of the Covenant cost?

This is an interesting card: a build-around removal spell. There are plenty of relics in the set that cost around 2, so I am going to give this a baseline grade as if it deals 3 most of the time, then dock it a little for being bad if you don’t draw your relic. However, if you have a few ways to pump this up even further, it gets very strong very quickly.

Torgov’s Trading Post

Grade: 4.0

Yes, none of these generate card advantage on their own, but this card is still very strong. Call the Ancients is a card that’s tough to evaluate, but my experience with it has been quite good. A 6/6 with aegis and endurance is hard to cleanly answer, so if you draw even one at any point in the game, you’ve done well, and two is absurd. The Trading Post is worth it for that spell alone, so the rest is just gravy. Weather the Storm is weird, since it’s only good for an attack, but at least Ask for Directions helps dig you closer to a Titan.

If you manage to land this on turn 2, it’s a real possibility you’ll get to protect it long enough to get your free Torgov, but I’ll play it even if I can’t defend it, just for the Call.

Great Valley Smuggler

Grade: 4.0

Given that there are so many relics in the set, you’re very likely to have at least one to turn on your other cards already. Even if you don’t, you can throw a mediocre one into your market to ensure you can enable this and your other relic-matters cards. Even failing that, this is still a 3/3 for 3 and a merchant, so take it highly.

Bazaar Stampede

Grade: 1.5

This one is a little bazaar for my tastes. While the bonus is permanent, the more relics you have, the fewer cards you have left to spend on units. The more units you have, the fewer relics you’ll have. If everything lines up right, this can pull a lot of weight, but I’d rather not lean too heavily on such a swingy card.

Colossal Pteriax

Grade: 4.0

Shadowlands Bonepicker was always a very strong power sink-type card, and this one is even better, thanks to the evasion and cheaper activation. This will run away with things quickly in a stalled game, and even if you’ve got other things to do with your power, a 4/4 flyer is a big deal.

Tunneling Gargantua

Grade: 2.5

Best friends with Eternity Core, this is a big payoff for the ramp decks. Even if you somehow manage to whiff on relics by 8, this will still kill something and stick around. But if you have any old relic, this will just eat their best unit and then start chunking them. It’s not quite build-around territory, since if you are in Elysian in this format, you should be ramping and playing relics already.

Lethrai Courtier

Grade: 2.5

From his expression, I get the impression that Lethrai Court is not a nice place.

This guy has actually impressed me quite a lot. He blunts some early aggression while drawing you cards–what’s not to love? Once again, I’m not giving the BA grade here, since it’s kind of expected that you’ll have some random relics, and that’s all this needs to shine.

Ebon Dune Smuggler

Grade: 3.5

Like Howling Peak Smuggler, this merchant’s body falls a bit short, but ambush opens up interesting possibilities, such as swapping for situational combat tricks and eating something in combat. As I said before, even failing all that, this is still a merchant, and merchants are still powerful.

Sadistic Ritualist

Grade: 1.0

I’d say you’re more of a masochist if you try to make this work. This just asks so much of you that the text box might as well be blank before turn 10, and even then you’re going to have a hard time getting ahead by sacrificing units. I guess this might be a rat payoff? But paying 2, exhausting a good blocker, AND sacrificing a unit just to draw a card is a major, major tempo cost. You’re going to be dead before you can leverage those cards, and there are better ways to grind out advantage in longer games.

Dread

Grade: 1.5

I definitely dread drawing this as my 4-drop when I’m trying to curve out, as the sacrifice is mandatory even if the stars align and you have TTSS on turn 4. I’ll almost always pledge this because that’s about the most value I expect out of it. If your opponent wants to deny you the unit from your void, they can trade an idiot for this. If you don’t have anything good in the bin, they can just eat the damage and you’ve paid 4 to redraw a mediocre unit.

Xenan Temple

Grade: 4.0

This doesn’t have a ton of health, and Xenan Initiation isn’t the best at defending the site, since it trades a blocker for a unit. Still, a 5-power Xenan Initiation is far from the worst card ever printed, and that’s the floor for this card. The ceiling, obviously, is much higher. If it does stick around, you get card advantage on the second use, and Worldjoiner is a hell of a unit if the game gets that far, though I’d expect a concession before she comes down in a lot of cases.

Blistersting Claws

Grade: 0.5

Ironically, it’ll sting most if you have to play this without a Deadly unit. Really, even if you do get there, this is a pretty mediocre card because you want deadly to kill bigger things, but those bigger things are probably going to smash through your 4 armor on their way out, so this is essentially a slow Cut Ties that you have to jump through major hoops to even enable.

Meme Bounty: Show me a situation where you have Claws, a Deadly unit, and a damage-based sweeper (Cirso’s Choice, Lightning Storm, etc.) that will give you at least +2 card advantage when you play it. ($10)

Aniyah, Arctic Sheriff

Grade: 4.5

Are Sheriffs just a badass babe club? Rakano Sheriff, Marley, and now Aniyah. She certainly lives up to the bomb status of her predecessors. The fact that she’s slightly vulnerable for a turn if played on curve is a minor drawback, but if you can get some 1-power tricks, she’s just as good on 6. Don’t wait forever to deploy her, but don’t rush it if you’re not forced to, as it’ll be really hard for them to come back if you can stun something AND blow out a removal spell.

Pledge, dying before I’d do that, and so forth.

Gate Guardian

Grade: 2.0

This is a great follow-up to the Bear Arms joke. Okay, we want to make the bear fly, and we have these valkyrie wings that are prominent in our world. We already made artificial Bear Arms, so why not strap some Valkyrie wings onto the bear?

NOPE, this bear just has spirit wings because why not?

As for the card itself, it’s a great way to finish a game in Honor. A 5+ power flyer closes things very quickly, but you do need to do some work to get it there, and there are plenty of other 6s to go around.

Lost Scroll

Grade: 1.5

2-power ramp in a faction outside Time is quite interesting, and 2-power ramp spells in general are powerful. Unlike things like Initiate of Sands and Trail Maker, your opponent has no recourse to deny your ramp, so they have no choice but to brace themselves for early fatties.

That would be all well and good, but this is no Rampant Growth. It won’t fix very well, since you already had J and S if you played it. Furthermore, it won’t come down on curve very often because of its influence cost. It will be difficult to build a deck that leans hard on this as a 2-drop, which kind of defeats the purpose of 2-cost ramp. It does synergize well with the beefy Empower cards in the set, which means it may be a role-player in that kind of deck, or if you really, desperately need some way to bridge the gap to your more expensive plays.

Back for More

Grade: 1.0-ish

If you can hit the influence requirements, this is potentially very powerful. If you have very good targets for it, it’s obviously much better (hence the “ish”). Even if you don’t, it could still do work, but it’s very situational, so I’d hesitate to play it. Note that, unlike Sleeping Draught that we’ve seen previously, this does not exhaust the unit that comes back. If your opponent tries to press an attack by killing your big blocker, you can get ’em with this.

Hidden Road Smuggler

Grade: 4.0

There’s not much to say here that hasn’t been said about the other merchants. Lifesteal is quite nice, especially if you pack an overcosted weapon (Aerialist’s Khopesh or similar) in the market.

Resilient Wagoneer

Grade: 1.0/3.5

I’m giving this a split grade because it’s very bad in slower decks, but if you are the beatdown JSx deck, this thing can hit like a truck. If you aren’t in a beatdown deck, this drops off a cliff because he’s not so resilient on defense.

Howling Kurtarr

Grade: 4.0

Holy keywords Bat Direbeastman! The Kurtarr is guaranteed to trade with something, and attacking for 5 in the air is no joke on top. Not much more needs to be said. Don’t be afraid to pledge it if you are missing a lot of influence toward it. Even if you eventually get there, it’s a lot worse on turn 8 with no power to follow-up.

Regent’s Tomb

Grade: 2.0

I’m actually not feeling this one. Even if you stapled all three of the agenda cards together, it would be merely decent for 4 power. 2 health means you must block every single unit that attacks the Tomb, and none of the agenda do anything at all to protect the Tomb. If by some miracle you manage to get it to stick, Elias is a crazy-good unit, but I don’t see it happening very often in limited.

Lethrai Hideaway

Grade: 3.0

There’s very little risk here, as the floor is a 2-power 2/1. That’s not great, obviously, but it’s a fine on-curve play. You’re likely to have some other incidental elves if you’re in the Feln factions, so this can stick around even after your 2/1 trades and provide some value later. The Hideaway is a really nice combo with Heirloom Seeker, and I expect a lot of games to get decided by a 4-power unblockable elf.

Zende, the Heart-Binder

Grade: 4.0/2.5

This is a solid 4 if you have more than a couple elves to reliably get one or two back. It’s more like a 2.5 if you only have 1 or 2 other elves, as sometimes it will just be a 4/4 flyer that’s hard to play, which is an unexciting 6-drop. It’s not quite a build-around because the floor is still a 4/4 flyer.

Carnivorous Sauropod

Grade: 3.5

This is a pretty big payoff for ramping in Instinct, and the fail case of a 3/3 isn’t too bad. The bonus is permanent, even if the Sauropod dies, so the best use of this is slapping the buff onto a flyer and trading off the Sauropod itself, which will often be enough to win a race. At common, you can load up on these, and I’d be happy doing so.

Display of Instinct

Grade: 4.0

My instinct is that this is insane. All three modes are absolute gas in limited, and the flexibility of the card pushes it over the top in terms of premium uncommons. It kills something, goes upstairs, protects your units from removal spells and can even defend them from things like relic weapons and summon effects through the use of the middle mode. There are just so many ways to blow your opponent out with this card.

Zal Chi, Herald of War

Grade: 4.5

Ruin Stalkers are fitting here because Zal Chi is going to leave your opponent in ruins if you can meet his steep influence requirements. 7 damage out of nowhere is sometimes good enough to win on its own, and even if they manage to trade for him, they have to deal with another set of major threats. If they don’t have an immediate silence, the game is probably over.

Display of Honor

Grade: 3.5

I never knew that turning something into a goat was a way to show off how honorable I am. Most of the time you’ll be using the first mode to win a combat and pull way ahead in the race, but the other modes provide a nice bit of flexibility when you don’t need combat tricks. Hitting an attacking flyer with the goat mode can lead to major blowouts. The draw-two-weapons mode is a great fallback to ensure your power isn’t wasted at the end of their turn if they don’t play into this. All in all, it combines to make this a very powerful utility spell.

Kosul Beastmaster

Grade: 3.5

I love that this badass warrior has not a pet bear or wolf or mountain lion, but a little flying squirrel. The base rate on this card is fine, if unexciting, but the renown allows you to fight on two fronts by getting busy with a big ground-pounder and having a decent flying threat left in reserve.

Quinn, Lone Wanderer

Grade: 4.5

This narrowly misses the 5.0 mark because you do need to put in some work to make sure you can hit the influence requirements, but if you get there, Quinn represents a ton of inevitability for your typical renown-based honor deck. Don’t pass this.

Display of Ambition

Grade: 3.0

This Display is much more conditional than the previous two, but still potentially powerful. The first mode is highly situational and irrelevant unless you’re winning this very turn, which knocks it a bit. The removal option is less proactive than it could be, although blowing out a weapon or combat trick is still a nice ability to have in your back pocket. I think the draw-two-units mode will be the most often used mode as it’s card advantage without requiring too much work. Despite its ambitions falling a little short, this is still a very good card.

Blaze

Grade: 1.5

Flavor: 0.0

For a 3-faction removal spell, this isn’t so hot. It’ll usually kill something, but not always the thing you want. I want a high number of 2-drop units before putting this in my deck, as it’s going to be a rough game if you only play units on 3 and 4 before leaning on this as your 5-drop. It’s not even fast!

Flavor-wise, why does having more units make your fire spell do more damage, and why on Myria does slinging fire give you armor?

Brel, Solist Apostate

Grade: 4.0

Icaria this is not, but Brel does a decent impression. The major knock on this card is that neither half deals with a 5/5 on its own, and if you’re playing a 7-drop, chances are your opponent will be playing larger units of their own. If you can work around that drawback with other cards, then you should come up smelling like (burning) roses.

Bleak Basin Guide

Grade: 3.0/1.0

This is another swingy empower card. If you are the beatdown, this is great, but it starts to look bleak if you need to block.

Display of Vision

Grade: 3.0

Fast-speed Plague is no joke, and the ability to trigger things like Bleak Basin Guide on blocks means that the ramp ability starts to look a little better. The attachment-killing mode is more relevant than ever with relic-matters cards in the format and is a nice situational upside to an already serviceable card. This is the least flashy of the Display cycle, but it’s still very good.

Grinva, Breaker of Will

Grade: 4.5

Cowards can’t block Gunslinger Minotaurs (or anything for that matter). The ability to bring you back from the brink of death thanks to her lifesteal is what solidifies this as a great card. If she gets going, endurance makes her nearly impossible to race. It’s hard to set up to block her, and you’ll be able to tell if they have a trick based on the number of things they leave back.

Display of Knowledge

Grade: 3.5

Removal, tutor, combat trick; the only thing Knowledge isn’t is power. Jokes aside, this is primarily a defensive removal spell for clunky relic-based decks, with the second mode of finding said relics if they don’t play into the removal option. If you have something really powerful like Improvised Club to get in the late-game, this really shines, but a removal spell that denies entomb is a pretty good card by itself. The last mode will be the least used, but it’s good that the card can be used in a proactive way if you’re ahead, which really wraps up the package neatly.

Tumbling Sloth

Grade: 3.0

Flavor: 5.0

It has ambush because it’s falling off of whatever big thing you’ve built. Poor guy was just looking for a tree…

This adorable creature is no joke in combat, and a 3/4 on curve will do some serious work buying you time to set up. The typical “decent playable” 3-drop is a 3/3, so this is a great trump to that. If you do manage to set up the ambush clause, you can eat some real units. Storm Lynx was always a huge groan when you got got by one, and this will be similar, if a little more obvious. I still expect plenty of people to walk into it, though. If you’re on the other side of the table, be very wary of both this and Display of Vision if your opponent passes with 3TPS.

Talir’s Unwinding

Grade: -0.5

I just…why? Seven? SEVENAnd we have to sacrifice something? The other members of the AABBCC legendary cycle were all so amazingly powerful, but this just doesn’t do anything but give your opponent first crack at seven fresh cards. It’s already hard to set up situations where draw-7s are good, but you have to put yourself further behind on the board by sacrificing a unit in addition to spending all your power. If this reset our power somehow (come on; power shenanigans are Talir’s thing!), I could see it being good, but oof.

Meme Bounty: $10 if you can show me a situation where this card actually looks good (to play, not to market or discard), then show me the victory screen from the same game where you played it. It must actually be a good card to play when you won despite the Unraveling, but because of it. I expect this one to go unclaimed.

The Tokens

Grade: 2.5

These are serviceable fixers, but they do put you a turn behind the curve. You will almost always want some number of these, but don’t overload on them unless you have some very good catch-up tools.

The Cargo/Contraband Cycle

Grade: 3.0

There are five of these, one for each of the five faction wedges featured in Defiance. The front half is basically a Token (or a Seek Power, same thing essentially), but the bonus Contraband half is quite strong in the late-game. The card you get is random, so you won’t always get something too useful, but turning a late-game power topdeck into a functional card is nothing to sneeze at, and the opportunity cost of doing so is very low. In constructed, these can power-screw you because you run so many dual-faction powers that you might have AABBCC on turn 4, but in limited, this will rarely be a Contraband when you need a Cargo. By the time you transmute it, you should have almost all the power you need, so it’s almost a universal upside.

Astromancer’s Compass

Grade: 0.5

I…I have some questions. One: How is this round, ringed thing with a ball inside it a compass? Two: How does a compass pump my unit? Three: Why would an astromancer create a compass that did this instead of something, like, useful to an astromancer?

In terms of the card itself, it just wants too much investment for too little payoff. Note this doesn’t even trigger renown, and the cost of the relic is low as well, which matters for some of the cards that care about relics.

Bannerman

Grade: 2.5

Flavor: 0.0

Come on, how do you use up this name on a card that doesn’t say “Summon: Play the banner of your choice.”

This card is the anti-stranger. Like some kind of loyal friend. One that you can call to your side to fight for you. Kind of like a…well, okay. Fine.

This is an unexciting, if useful enabler for multifaction decks. The ability to hit your influence requirements while not falling too far behind is pretty key, especially with the removal of strangers from the curated packs.

Iron Hook

Grade: 1.0

This is just a worse Alchemical Blast in most situations. Warcry pumps it, I guess, but it’s not a good enabler for relic synergies, since it’s likely to just die.

Makeshift Barrier

Grade: 2.0

This might sneakily be better than it looks in some decks. Blocking well in the early turns, combined with the ability to go to the air later in the game, whilst still blocking on the ground, is a useful way to spend your power later in the game. Weapons make this even better, so don’t sleep on it, even if it looks rather innocuous.

Replicator Engine

Grade: 1.0

This isn’t impactful enough, even if you get to go off with a bunch of them. A single shpear 3/3 would brick your entire engine, which isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement. It’s too bad they didn’t give this the Assembly-Worker treatment from Magic, where it could get an Engine (i.e., a Makeshift Barrier or Rumbling Contraption) instead of just another 2/1.

Rumbling Contraption

Grade: 0.5

This is just too expensive, and if I’m spending 7 power, I at least want the stupid thing to block. Stay away.

Wrap-up

Phew. That was a long one. Who knew three-faction sets had so many multifaction cards?! This concludes the individual reviews for Defiance. It was quite a project to get through, so mad respect to LSV and others who do this on a regular basis (and quickly, too). I plan to write another article about the notable cards (and absent cards) from the curated packs, in the context of Defiance’s themes. Stay tuned for that, if you’re interested.