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One Card at a Time - Ritual of Summoning (TCG)

04-27-2009 (Mon), 18:00

Blood of Gladiators added a new option to the mix that is just on the verge of tournament viability, and we might see a resurgence in this deck as a result. That card is Ritual of Summoning.

By Glenn Jones

What keeps you from playing nothing but 60 of your favorite cards in the World of Warcraft TCG? If you're like me, there's one foul and prohibitive little number on every card that causes me to either love it or hate it with a single glance: the resource cost. The sheer number of resources most cards cost, relative to their stats and powers, means it's hard to justify playing them. This is one reason cards like Marksman Glous have been so popular: her power lets you effectively cheat the resource commitment that you have to make on a turn-by-turn basis.

Well, that's thinking pretty small. Making 4 resources worth of plays for only 3 is decent, sure, but the toughest cards cost a lot more than that. I'm talking about the 10-drops, the 12-drops—the BIG guns. How do we play them on the cheap? Just running a few in our decks requires great sacrifice. If we draw them before turn 5, we're usually obligated to place them in the resource row because there's just nothing else to do with such a huge cost card at that point in the game. Struggling to dig them out of the deck in the late game might mean you don't find one in time. What's an ambitious spell-slinger to do?

Ripped through the Portal gave Warlocks some cute combo-play in this regard, but you could still suffer from drawing a few too many big men and too few ways to stick them into play. Blood of Gladiators added a new option to the mix that is just on the verge of tournament viability, and we might see a resurgence in this deck as a result. That card is Ritual of Summoning.

In the MMO, Ritual of Summoning mimics a Meeting Stone, and it does pretty much the exact same thing in the TCG universe. There aren't as many tricks in the cardboard world, but look at the obstacles and convolutions players were going through to Rip an Azaloth. Having two guys in play on turn 8 or so seems far simpler than finding, discarding, and removing a 50/50 from the game, and you'll never have to worry about drawing that big ally at the wrong time—just the 8-drop ability that fetches him.

easiest way by far is token generation. Cards that create multiple allies aren't prolific in the Warlock world, but a fair few options exist nonetheless, each of which will enable your Ritual. If you lack the Ritual, then the token generating cards function just fine as allies in the meantime and can trade with opposing drops to keep the game going as long as possible. Most of them are allies, and a couple have already hit the big time. Weldon Barov can hit the ground running and protect himself for a turn or two while you set up the Summoning. Then on your own turn, after the “at end of turn” trigger has resolved but without passing priority, you can summon the biggest beater you've got! Of course, his brother Alexi Barov functions pretty close to the same way, except that you need fewer timing tricks to make the magic. These are both among the better token generators available to the respective factions.

Traitor seems like a decent choice for your hero because it will give you access to the Marlowe the Felsworn combo-kill in addition to a variety of other tasty treats like Doom Blossom. If you end up going that route, Coilskar General brings a body and a lot of friends to the table. You can tack on some Ripped through the Portal shenanigans if you want, but the bottom line is big men for the win. I'd probably go Alliance, either way. Sure, you can kick it old school with Mya, Dragonling Wrangler, but the biggest reasons are Weldon and the plethora of elusive and untargetable allies. These allies have a much higher chance of living through multiple turns, which will in turn help you land a successful Summoning.

If you would rather not rely exclusively on allies for your token-generating needs, a few options fit nicely into your resource row. Halaa should prove simple enough to trigger if you are focused on generating oodles of men, and it makes a solid four fellows. The Circle of Blood has been picking up steam on the Darkmoon Faire tournament circuit as an addition to aggressive Kil'zin of the Bloodscalp decks, but Warlocks can use it too! While you might have the Storm Shocks and Perdition's Blades of the Shaman, a good affliction Warlock will not find it difficult to deal damage in several small packets. You'll have to choose between these two locations, and it all depends on what your deck's goal is. One thing that doesn't vary is how solid Are We There Yeti? will be in this deck. Using it during the opponent's end step on turn 7 will give you an easy few allies to fire a simple Summoning on your next turn and offers only a small window for the opponent to kill your guys. I've always loved this card, and while it's been in the dark for a while, it remains one of the better token-generating quests because it is one of the few you can use on the opponent's turn.

Turning towards equipment, there's not much—but there's one old classic. Ancient Cornerstone Grimoire was the first treasure pack card to hit it big, and it's always good for an ally or two. This is another card that improves when you learn your timing triggers, but that's motivation to improve on your rules knowledge, not a disadvantage! Both Grimore and Barov Peasant Caller, for example, can be used to make tokens during the opponent's end of turn step, and the token will live until your end of turn step because the check for “at end of turn” triggers has already passed. Of course, you could go big with Lady Vashj and just make way more guys than they'll ever be able to handle—that's another solution!

Now, what exactly is it you'd like to Summon? Given that the card can fetch anything, it seems like a silly question, but we have some rules limitations. In casual play, your entire binder, box, or Grandmother's jewelry box is up for grabs, but that's not how cards like this work in Constructed tournaments. Just like Illidan Stormrage, in a tournament you will only be allowed access to the allies in your side deck. Because you only have ten slots, making room for a whole toolbox won't work very well; you won't have enough room to include standard hate cards that improve your other matchups.

I can make a few recommendations. I'd want one combo-kill available, and of the available picks I think that [Footsteps of Illidan] plus Xi'ri is probably the best we've got. Managing Marlowe and Azaloth is fair, but I prefer to gain the diversity in my choice of hero. Besides, Xi'ri can kill multiple people if you're in a multiplayer game! I'd probably use one slot for an A'dal, just because some decks simply fail to answer it. A Lokholar the Ice Lord might work similarly if you're a Horde Warlock, but merits to running both would remain.

Other personal favorites could be Doom Lord Kazzak or Doomwalker (man, these guys do not sound happy!) but the basic goal of any Ritual of Summoning deck is this: pay 8, play your favorite fat man, and win the game shortly thereafter. Even the “usual” cast of 9-drops like Prince Kael’thas Sunstrider or King Magni Bronzebeard are available; I just like to take advantage of the less-played giants because Ritual will really let them shine.

It's worth noting a few other things about the Ritual. As I'm sure you've noticed, I'm talking about the card mostly like it's a single-use ability, when it's actually an ongoing ability. There are a few reasons for that. The first is that using it just once should often be enough to win the game. Any ally—any ally at that size at least—is tough to beat. The second is that the opponent will often be able to remove the Ritual, meaning you will only get one use anyway! After all, if they don't, then the avalanche of allies that follows should easily bury them, and it won't really matter anyway.

As always, card advantage will be key to success—decks that need to lay a resource every single turn should play a lot of draw. Even the old Markoff Life Tap might be worth consideration! Be careful of your natural enemies, the control decks. The Rogue disruption builds can be beaten by running an abundance of quests, but Mage will be tougher. In a world of Nether Fractures and Mystic Denials, Ritual of Summoning has some work cut out for it. A few playable defenses exist, such as Eye of Kilrogg and Retainer Marcus. These will defend against interrupts if the opponent has them, while remaining diverse enough to work well against a variety of other decks. Eye of Kilrogg has always been my personal favorite card in the repertoire of the Warlock class for just this reason: it makes it a lot easier to plan and play your game if you know what's coming and can remove your opponent’s best defense.

If you're tired of Bloodsoul and Marksman Glous and would rather not wait until turn 11 to start going aggro, Ritual of Summoning might be just what you're looking for. Give it a spin—go big!

-Glenn Jones

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