Star Wars: Unlimited Shadows of the Galaxy


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Mathing Out the Shift Mechanic in Lorcana


As with many of my ideas for articles, this one came from a conversation with card pals of mine. The conversation became the classic argument over the risk of a "2 for 1". What does this mean? If you are newer to TCGs, the idea of the 2 for 1 stems from classic Magic. In the early days of MTG there were many tempting Creature Enchantments (now called Auras) that you wanted to use. The problem was your opponent could just play a normal removal spell and both your creature and the attached enchantment were gone, hence the phrase 2 for 1. You would lose two cards while your opponent only spent one. In fact, it's the primary reason MTG devised Equipment and I could rant how adding types to the game only causes more crazy issues (i.e. Skullclamp).

How does this relate to Lorcana? Well, that answer is simple, Shift. The Shift mechanic is an inherent 2 for 1 just like the Auras are in MTG. When you shift in a character you automatically lose the original card you shifted up. So, if your opponent has something that can get rid of your new card it's the classic 2 for 1. Imagine this scenario; turn one- you play The Queen - Regal Monarch, Opponent plays Diablo - Maleficent's Spy; turn two- you Shift in The Queen - Commanding Presence, feeling good about your game state until everything shatters as you opponent plays the underappreciated Bounce. Classic 2 for 1. Ironically your opponent could have discarded the Bounce to Shift his own Diablo - Devoted Herald but chose not to.

Of course, this is just an example of the bad stuff that could happen. You could have just as easily played The Queen - Regal Monarch and had multiple turns of turning your opponent's dudes into 0 strength while bashing their heads in with an Orville - Ace Pilot or some other nonaggressive character. So, the question is the value of worth. Is it worth it to get this character in the game early by automatically losing half of the 2 for 1? To help decide this we need to establish a baseline value. I am using the following formula, Lore + Strength + Willpower. I will then generate this number for each "vanilla" card at each ink level. For example, Owl - Logical Lecturer, he has 1 Lore + 2 Strength + 2 Willpower for a result of 5. Other cards with no abilities or drawbacks work to the same result. Leading us to this table.

1 Ink = 5

2 Ink = 6

3 Ink = 8

4 Ink = 9 (getting harder to find Vanilla cards)

5 Ink = 12

6 Ink = 14 (mostly) a few with extra Lore go down to 13

7 Ink = 16 (small Majority) but check out King Louie - Bandleader

8 Ink = 19

9+ ink = 23 (Goofy - Knight for a Day)

Now we choose a Shift card and compare its shift cost to a Vanilla of the same ink to see what we get extra for losing a companion card. Let's go to the aforementioned The Queen - Commanding Presence. She is Shift 2 so we'll start the comparison of L+S+W with Ink 2.

She comes in at a score of 9 so she is 3 points ahead BEFORE we consider her ability. To value an ability, you hope there is a comparable Action card. For the plus Strength we find Vicious Betrayal at +2 and 1 Ink so we'll compare that to +4 being 2 Ink. We'll use the same ratio with Control Your Temper! for the minus. Adding 4 Ink worth of ability now moves her to a score of 13. Very impressive on turn two but only slightly ahead of vanilla when played without the Shift.

This leads us to the second consideration of whether to play a Shift card in your deck. How good is it without the Shift. If you couldn't Shift for some reason, most likely you didn't draw the early ink version, would the card be worth the effort? For this example, let's look at Aladdin - Brave Rescuer. First, look at his Shift self. He doesn't really fit the table above since the cost to Shift isn't an Ink value. So, the question becomes do you want to commit to a 3 for 1? Well, his chart value comes in at 7 before taking in the ability. The ability cost is easy since we have Actions that have the same effect. Has Set My Heaaaaaaart... and Break both register in at two Ink. This would move Aladdin to a score of 9 which is the same as a 4 Ink vanilla. Combine that with the fact that Wildcat - Mechanic has the same Ink cost and adds Evasion in trade for gaining Lore while knocking out items and you end up with a card you do not want to Shift. Don't get me wrong, you need Item removal in your deck and if you are in Steel Aladdin good enough to play straight but not really a shiftable card in my opinion.

The next thing we need to consider is survivability. In other words, after I commit to the possible 2 for 1 how easily can my opponent pull off the 1 side of the equation? Let's use as an example a card that is WAY past my normal budget. Diablo - Devoted Herald. Starting score of 5 in the 3 Ink isn't impressive but in the 0 Ink/3 for 1 category it's a tough call. Add the Evasive in (normally worth 2) we move up to 7. His draw ability is interesting. Being only done on your opponent's turn it's a bit weaker than an extra draw on your turn. Normal draw in Action cards cost 1 (rounded). If we count it as a one-time effect like we did above he nets an 8. By my numbers he is equivalent to his 3 Ink vanilla friends. The big problem is he isn't much tougher than many 1 Inks and because his ability can repeat trigger, he is very valuable but he is also a lightning rod. I think every player with any experience would Ba-Boom this guy in an instant. Of course, if you are Shifting him, you will know most of your opponent's hand due to his 1 Ink self's ability and play accordingly. Be that as it may, Diablo doesn't survive against good play. I still consider him worth the risk because even if he is shot down right away, at least he drew out the removal, allowing another card to survive. Also, if you find yourself in a multiplayer game, having triggers from every opponent's turn is kind of powerful.

(Side note: I once had an opponent play A Whole New World with an exerted Diablo on my field. That's right, 14 cards. They didn't stand a chance after that. That's not a brag, just pointing out a bad play.)

My last consideration is the Shift differential compared to normal play and the minimum cost of the base card. When spoilers first started coming out for Ursula's Return, I got some bad information. I saw a Mulan - Elite Archer BUT it had the shift cost at 3. Most Shifts are 2 cheaper than their regular ink so 3 is a big deal. I immediately went to find the base Mulan. It was Mulan - Free Spirit also costing 3. Not much of a deal but the ability was pretty cool. Now we have the correct info, and the shift is 5 with many new Mulans that register for less Ink. But going only one turn faster isn't shift worthy. That's why she gets the cool benefit of acting like a 5/6 for that one turn. Meanwhile, Donald Duck - Perfect Gentleman will basically never be shifted by anyone wanting to compete. His Shift is only 1 faster and his base cost at least 2 (in Ruby or use Morph - Space Goo in his own color). Not worth it.

That's my ramblings on Shift. In my final opinion, I would say it's a good mechanic because it causes fun wrinkles in the game without being crazy. With that being said, I would not build for it to happen repeatedly in the same deck. There just aren't enough cards in a deck to have too many 2 for 1's. Maybe two favorite pairings max and of course if you are in Emerald I would strongly suggest adding Morph for his versatility.

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