Thursday, November 15, 2018

Eternal Analysis 008—Nightfall

Nightfall is a different kind of Eternal keyword: It's not a skill, modifying how a card works, but an event (or a keyword action in Magic terms). When night falls, it lasts through the next round, and when your turn begins at night, you take 1 damage and draw a card.

Since I met Seizan, Perverter of Truth—my favorite Magic card ever—I've felt a deep fondness for symmetrical card draw, especially when paired with a motivator to use those cards. I wrote about learn a lesson yesterday for context. Night does exactly that and I'd like to examine how it plays. Night falls exclusively on Time, Shadow, and Primal cards. Most of the time, a card causes night to fall and then just does its normal thing, but there are a bunch that care about night:

Lunar Magus, Darkveil Agent, and Twilight Hermit, reward you for starting the turn at night. Darkbolt deals more damage during night, and Duskwalker increases your power. Winter's Grasp only stuns then and Nocturnal Observer can only be activated during night. Dangerous Bargain steals a unit until night ends. Moonlight Huntress is bigger at night, and Darkclaw Ravager can be. Shadowstalker is unblockable at night, Moonlit Gargoyle flies, Agile Deathjaw has ambush, and Rindra gets lifesteal and overwhelm.  Lastlight Druid activates at the end of a night turn, giving you an immediate use, and I think a second next turn.

Fire has the one card that ends night prematurely: Purge the Darkness. This should be a fast spell so you can end night before your turn begins when you're at 1. Justice has a card that protects you from night's damage, and another that can't be played at night, but neither are playable in Constructed. Miris Nightshade can curse the opponent with Nyctophobia, making night deal more damage. Encroaching Darkness prevents night from ever ending and sloughs off your damage to your enemy.

Night was introduced in set 3, and got a bunch more support in set 4. Obviously I love how night keep games moving, having made learn a lesson, but what really seals the deal is the flavor and the many thematic opportunities to interact with night. Most all the effects are sneaky or creepy, and that's really satisfying. Night ends naturally after your next turn, giving you a chance to follow up with another nightfall card, extending it further to keep your night effects at full power: I've praised the Dire Wolf design team for this use of flow in their game before, and it's clear they greatly appreciate the value of giving players surfboard to see how long they can ride the waves of Combo Island.

You may wonder if the 1 damage is relevant. It is. I've lost a handful of games where I blocked my opponent's attack so I'm left with 1, only to lose at the start of my turn because I forget it was night. More often, though, that unblockable point of damage is just enough to destroy that Auric Runehammer your opponent was going to beat you over the head with. And even though we start with 25, it goes fast when you're fighting an aggro deck that's not running out of gas thanks to night.

Ooh. I was just thinking how the slower decks are disadvantaged by the faster card flow because even though they're playing power every turn, it takes them longer to reach the point where they're casting multiple cards. That got me thinking about a nightfall deck using Combrei Emissary, a card whose full value has eluded me to this point. When you play the variant game (in Campaign, Gauntlet, or a recent Versus event) where everyone can play two power per turn, it usually only matters on turn 1, or maybe 2. If I kept my card flow up, I could keep taking advantage and really pull ahead.

Night's cool. I wouldn't change it. (Check out how Baying Serasaur doesn't explicitly name night—apart from causing it to fall—but benefits from night's extra card draw. Smooth.) It's a bit of a shame your opponent gets to draw for night before you, but they also take that damage first. I also just discovered that damage from nightfall isn't prevented by aegis and won't break an aegis shield: Hrm.

That first list pretty well covered the best ways to iterate on night cards, so I don't see a ton of ways to evolve it: A relic/unit that improves the quality of your draws at night; A unit that causes night to fall when it attacks; A weapon that's bigger at night; A relic weapon that comes back if you lose it to night damage. You could trigger off nightfall itself—that would only suck with Encroaching Darkness, which I've never actually seen anyone play. Even without doing something new, the deep well of flavor and the simplicity of the mechanic leave night ripe for more cards.


  1. Night reads badly, but plays well. Sneaking it onto cards it blends in and almost becomes flavor text, I just have an extra card later, and so does my opponent, and I usually don't even notice. How often do I miss lethal because I fail to take into account the damage my opponent will take from Nightfall? More often than I should.

    I really like Nightfall in games vs the AI as well, because I can leverage my (I hope) significant skill advantage over the AI opponent by mitigating flood and screw, resulting in fewer losses. In ranked I tend to think Night hurts me more than helps because usually my opponent is playing a good deck, and I'm playing a deck that runs Caiphus (and probably even worse, cards to support Caiphus).

    1. Agreed.
      I haven't seen any Night decks in the Ranked room.

    2. There is a deck based on playing all nightfall cards and then hitting the enemy with maul for a ton of damage that sees some ranked play.

    3. That's hilarious. And cheap!
      Maul is such a beating.

  2. Night is more like Howling Mine than lesson. Lesson gives you the cards immediately, which incentivizes storm-style gameplay, especially if you can kill your opponent before they get to use any of the cards they drew. Night rewards holding back some cards so you can keep the combo chain going, since multiple Nightfalls on the same turn are wasted, and "being Night" bonuses are a huge component in making the Night decks want to play as many Nightfall cards as they do.

    Eternal also has a lot more direct player damage than Magic: in addition to relic weapons, Fire has a lot of burn and Primal/Shadow each have a decent amount. The only place it feels really weird is Time, and I don't see a lot of Time Nightfall in Constructed.

    1. Good point. Lesson gets none of night's pacing.