Analysis: Ascension One & Two rune cards

In our last segment in this series, we talked about the overall rune/power balance in Ascension: CotG:

In this segment, we’ll go into a bit more depth on the 1- and 2-rune cards in the set.

The cards are:

0 runes:
Apprentice* (add 1 rune, 0 honour) [factionless]
Militia* (add 1 power, 0 honour) [factionless]

1 rune:
Arha Initiate (draw one card, 1 honour) [Enlightened]
Lifeblood Initiate (add 1 rune and one honour, 1 honour) [Lifebound]
Mechana Initiate (add 1 rune OR 1 power, 1 honour) [Mechana]
Void Initiate (add 1 rune and may banish one card in hand or discard, 1 honour) [Void]

Starting with the 1-rune cards, reading, it says many things I’ve felt for a long time. The four cards here are not very balanced. I would even use stronger language, and say that the void initiate, if acquired early, can decide the game. I generally find that if I have two ‘banishing’ cards acquired early, I can winnow my deck down the just the essentials. This quickly becomes overpowering.

From a math perspective, one could assume the following (with no card drawing cards, assuming purchasing 1 card per hand):

No card banishing:
5,5 ->12 (2 completed turns ends with +2 cards, or 12 total)
5,5,2 ->14 (2 completed turns ends with +2 cards, or 14 total)
3,5,5,1 ->17 (3 completed turns, one carried over, ends with +3 cards, or 17 total)
4,5,5,3 ->20
2,5,5,5,3 ->24
2,5,5,5,5,2 ->29
3 (20 rounds)

With one card banisher in first two turns:
5,5 ->12 (2 completed turns ends with +2 cards, or 12 total)
5,5,2 -> 13 (2 completed turns ends with +2 cards, banish 1 card, for 13 total)
2,5,5,1 -> 15
4,5,5,1 -> 17
4,5,5,3 -> 19
1,5,5,5,4 -> 22
1,5,5 (20 rounds)

With two card banishers in first two turns:
5,5 ->12
5,5,2 ->12
2,5,5 ->13
5,5,3 ->13
2,5,5,1 ->14
4,5,5 ->16 (all Apprentices and Militia are banished now)
5,5,5,1 ->19
4,5 (20 rounds)

(Note that this may somewhat overstate the power of banishment cards, as we’re assuming perfect banishment, and being able to purchase two banishment cards in your first two turns. This has happened to me a number of times, though, so it’s not out of line as an assumption to make the math easier.)

So, with no banishment, you can get through your deck 6 times in 20 rounds. With one banishing card, you can get through it 6.5 times, which can be significant, as the later turns are much enriched in powerful cards, many of which can get you multiple honour points each. This strategy truly shines when you use two banishing cards, however. Note that your deck barely grows in size for the first half of the game. This allows you to go through your deck 7.5 times, being able to use your most powerful cards an extra time *each* more than even the one banishing card player.

With this in mind, barring further math, I’ll make the assumption that a banishing card is worth 1 extra rune for each turn you would have used the card it banished. (This assumes that you replace an apprentice with a mystic, which will probably overstate the banishment power in the early game, but understate it in the later game.)

This means that the Void Initiate gains you 1 + (5+4+3+2+1+0)runes/6** = 1 + 2.5 = 3.5 runes!
Assuming that you can always gain 1 honour (in cards) per two runes, this works out to 1 honour + 1.75 per play!
Working this in to the equations for the other 1-rune cards:

Void Initiate: 1 honour + 1.75 honour per play
Lifeblood Initiate: 1 honour + 1.5 honour per play***
Arha Initiate: 1 honour and -1 card
Mechana Initiate: 1 honour + 0.75 honour per play****

Now, on to the 2-rune cards.

2 runes:
Temple Librarian (discard one card and draw two cards, 1 honour) [Enlightened]
Seer of the Forked Path (draw one card and may banish a card in center row, one honour) [Enlightened]
Spike Vixen (draw one card and gain one power, 1 honour) [Void]

The two Enlightened cards here, in true ‘Blue’ fashion, are starting to show the control aspects of their faction. The Temple Librarian allows you to cycle your deck faster, and the Seer of the Forked path alternately allows you to swap out cards in the center row you don’t want for maybe one that you do, or even perhaps more useful, to get rid of a monster that your opponent will attack you with next turn!

I’ll cover these cards in more depth when I cover drawing cards in more general.

For now, remember that deck winnowing is powerful. My favourite corollary to this is from the board game ‘Age of Renaissance’:, which forces you to keep unplayable cards in your hand as an ‘unplayable misery burden’, which I think aptly describes low value cards in many deckbuilding games.

*I’m including Apprentice and Militia here for comparison for a couple of reasons. The most obvious is the correspondence with ‘Copper’ in Dominion. The second is that colourless cards in Magic: The Gathering are typically (slightly) less powerful than other cards at the same converted mana cost. Apprentice and Militia are listed as ‘0 runes’ because ‘Copper’ also costs 0, and it makes sense intuitively, but they might have slightly different actual ‘costs’, depending on how the math works out in later posts, when we work out how useful cards are, and give them fractional worth/benefit values.

**Yeah, I know. It’s not exact, and it doesn’t take into account the two-Void Initiate case.

***The high apparent value of this card under these assumptions suggests to me that the benefits of banishment are even higher than +1 rune each time a card that has been banished would have been played. Might be partially because +1 rune earlier is more important, as are runes >4-5 per turn…

****Assuming the flexibility is worth 0.5 runes per turn. In actuality, I’ve found that this card is seldom used, never mind used for its flexibility.

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