This week we’re going to take a look at another presently underplayed card that’s just oozing with possibility. It may not have a home yet, but its potential is too great to ignore.
Dark Portal has an extremely potent effect on the game because it breaks a number of fundamental tactical rules. One thing that makes parties like Corle and Corey’s Azarak/Azarak/Morganis party powerful is that they force the opposing player to come to them to fight. With no reason to approach the middle of the board, the AMA player can make the VP area dangerous for you to be near and force you to walk through a hailstorm of shots just to get to them and fight.
The most punishing aspect of the long walk to battle is not that you have to do it once, but that you have to do it again and again each time you die. Every time you are forced to respawn, in the Hunter match, or for that matter in any match, you often aren’t respawning right back into the fight, or even anywhere near it. What this means is that every time you die, the penalty is not just 2 ticks for dying, it is also the number of ticks it will take to get your character back into the action. The closer the fighting is occurring to your opponent’s spawn point, the greater the functional penalty there is for death.
Dark Portal is a card that can greatly increase your total number of attacks per game. This is similar to the benefits offered by Ice Barrier as explained in my earlier article; more time in play means more attacks per game, and that means more total kills. Dark Portal, unlike Ice Barrier, can give this benefit to your entire team. The ability to respawn closer to the fight can allow you to play more close-combat based characters without being punished by your opponent’s greater access to ranged attacks.
It is important to remember that the Portal can be killed, but in doing so, your opponent is likely ticking a figure up at least 2 ticks which is what you paid to play the portal. Your opponent is probably going to try and kill it after a few spawns, but hopefully you got some use out of it!
Beyond just allowing you to spawn closer to the fight, Dark Portal can allow you to spawn where you are needed. As the game progresses and you put down more Dark Portals, your opponent is forced to either waste time dealing with them or allow you unfettered, instantaneous access to wherever on the board you need to be. A single Dark Portal is very useful, but your opponent will have difficulty hiding their more vulnerable characters from you once you have several. You will quickly gain a significant edge being able to spawn next to damaged characters and immediately knock them off.
The other obvious use of Dark Portal is to allow you to spawn on terrain or adjacent to VP points. Rerolls are very powerful in World of Warcraft Minis, and always respawning on and firing from a hill can easily give you the benefit of several additional dice per game while also nabbing VPs.
Dark Portal also has a powerful function in the very first turns of the game. If the first character you spawn is a Demon, you can move it up two spaces, drop Dark Portal, and then spawn your remaining two characters from that spot. This essentially grants you two free moves and allows you to get up into the action more quickly. Combined with cards like Charge or Sprint, melee characters can reach the enemy on some maps as early as tick one . . . This aggro start allows you to apply pressure very quickly and keep the pressure on by continuing to spawn in your opponent’s face. The early push should also leave your Dark Portal unmolested as your opponent struggles to stay in the game following your unexpected rush.
Dark Portal also has early game defensive applications. Lets say you need time to spawn pets, but the size of the map or your opponent’s ranged figures won’t let that occur. You can move away from the center of the board and spawn your remaining two figures far out of your opponent’s reach. This may lead to some early VP losses, but it could well be worth it if it lets you consolidate and implement your strategy.
Presently the only Demon seeing tournament play (and thus capable of bringing the Portal to the party) is Bleakheart Hellcaller which had good results in the privately organized Rochester, NY tournament and finished second at Darkmoon Faire San Francisco. Bleakheart likes getting into the center and ticking up his foes, but he’s typically way more evasive in the early game, taking time to set up and protect Santuria. Luckily, a new Demon has just been previewed who may be able to take advantage of the Portal’s more aggressive capabilities:
Ah, now here’s a Demon who likes to attack early and often! Felguard Legionnaire seems like an excellent candidate for utilizing the Portal. With a great stat line and Taunt to protect the Portal in the early game, the Legionnaire can really bring the fight to the heart of the board. With his ability to deal damage only increasing as he is injured and Dark Portal dropping him right back into the fray, I anticipate that these two cards may well be good friends in the near future.
Until next time: bash early, bash often!