Unearthed Prophecy, the game’s fourth expansion, came out earlier this week and after spending several hours fiddling around with the latest cards, I’m already in love with it.
Duelyst is a collectible card game that deviates from other heavy-weights in the genre by borrowing the grid-based elements of a strategy RPG. Instead of dropping minions into the vague battlefield of a Hearthstone or The Elder Scrolls: Legends, Duelyst has you control a General unit inside a 9×5 grid with the minions you play occupying space and moving in limited ways just like pieces on a chessboard. While this emphasis on positioning has always helped set the game apart in an otherwise crowded field, Unearthed Prophecy doubles-down on its importance with a number of new cards whose abilities are triggered or augmented by shifting formations.
Take Flamewreath for example, a minion that deals two damage to anything on an adjacent square every time it’s moved. In Duelyst, as in Hearthstone and Magic the Gathering, the default is to not let minions move or attack the same turn they are played. Minions who do have abilities like Haste or Charge which lets them act early, usually have some other draw back as a result, like a higher cost to play or less health. Flamewreath doesn’t have a similar ability, so even though it deals damage every time it moves, it can’t move on the same turn it’s played.
But Flamewreath is part of the Songhai Empire, a faction in Duelyst that’s all about teleporting stuff. It’s main general, Kaleos Xaan, has a cool down ability that can move a friendly minion up to two spaces from where it is. In addition, cards like Mist Dragon Seal let you teleport a friendly minion anywhere on the board as well as buff it, all for only one mana. Together, that means you can deal a massive amount of damage to the heart of an opponent’s attack for only six mana. A big part of what makes card games fun is surprising whoever you’re playing against with a slick combo that completely flips the table on who’s winning, and Flamewreath is perfect for that.
But it also benefits from playing off how Duelyst uses space to create friction between players. Minions can be used defensively to protect the player’s general or be placed in the rear so they aren’t killed before they have a chance to move, attack, and/or trigger their ability. And the Songhai faction specifically has an ability, Backstab, where minions do extra damage when they attack an enemy from…