This article is the third installment in my series of first impressions of the new cards in the new set, Fates Voyage: Onward.
Let's assess and comment on each card from Volibear's new package of cards, and the new Explorer card package as well. We'll grade them from ★☆☆☆☆ (One Star) to ★★★★★ (Five Stars), considering that:
★★★★★ = Very strong card, which can appear in many different decks, and define the metagame.
★★★★☆ = Strong card, which can appear frequently in meta decks.
★★★☆☆ = Good card, which can complement a list well, and show up in certain meta decks.
★★☆☆☆ = Bad card, which can perform badly in meta decks, and should appear only in very specific lists.
★☆☆☆☆ = Very bad card. This card doesn't make any sense in any deck, and can even make a list worse in case it is included in an archetype.
Remember that my review is based on my 3-year experience competing and casting LoR grassroots tournaments and official Riot tournaments.
About the New Cards
Before we begin, let's discuss the new mechanics that have come along with Volibear's new package of cards: "Titanic Units", and the "Explorer Spells".
Explorer Spells = This is a package of spells, all 2 cost spells, created specifically by some of the new cards, which we'll discuss throughout the article.
These spells are:
Volibear's Package of Cards
Volibear - ★★★★★
A lot was discussed regarding Volibear, and what he would bring to Freljord. One of the most common bets among community players was that he would be a champion with a bit more reach. Indeed, Volibear came with a lot of reach.
That means he can actively interact with the enemy board, dealing direct damage to enemy units. Besides having stats worthy of a finisher unit, level 2 Volibear shares Overwhelm with his allies, reinforcing even more the finisher theme with this champion.
Volibear's interaction with Elemental skills and spells is quite clear, and this synergy can be explored in many ways. But the strength of this champion's archetype is based on the new "mana acceleration" mechanic from Volibear's support units, which we'll see later on.
Volibear decks will be lists that really resemble Midrange decks, but with expensive units and spells, which will be played at a discounted cost due to the set's new mechanics. It is very likely that Volibear is a competitive champion, considering it is quite clear how his followers interact with him, and as it is relatively easy to fit him into a deck.
Stormbringer - ★★★☆☆
This is Volibear's signature spell. Despite being an Elemental spell, and really matching this champion's archetype, I don't believe it is a resource strong enough to bring three copies of in your Volibear lists. It is possible that this spell is just too slow, and will rarely give you any value in case the meta is full of big units. However, it can also be very efficient as a board clear, in case you're against more aggressive lists with small units.
Stormbringer comes in the category of resources in the game which really swing in quality depending on the meta, and, as a result, nothing is fairer than giving this card a mid-grade.
Flamecaller Caprine - ★★★★☆
Tough units can be extremely strong in the next meta, as we know most new spells that promote removals are direct damage spells.
Added to the snowball ability this unit can have, this follower might find its place in interesting places in the meta. The downside is that Flamecaller Caprine will always be a unit stuck to the Elemental archetype, and that can really reduce this card's play rate if those archetypes are bad. As everything points to Elemental being quite strong, however, this card will most likely be too.
Sky Splitter - ★★★★★
This card is extremely strong, and I feel safe stating this spell matches 100% of Freljord decks, both new archetypes and old ones.
Clash of Giants - ★★★★☆
This spell is a bit hard to evaluate, as its impact in the game is very dependent on which Titanic units it summons. But considering Elemental spells are quite numerous and strong, it is safe to say it is likely that this card is played at its minimum cost, 6 mana, quite frequently. If you manage your spell mana well, it is possible to easily prepare your board to play a Clash of Giants relatively early.
The 4-star grade is fair, as playing two big units, even if random, from 6 to 8 cost, will always be a strong play. Not to mention, many of these units might offer you strong resources which weren't present in your deck before.
Sigil of the Storm - ★★★★★
This card is Freljord's new face, and can carry the next meta on its back. Right below, we'll see cards which summon and have synergy with this landmark.
This is the game's new mana acceleration mechanic. It will enable many combos and interactions which before weren't possible, and which have also been lost to Standard, as most mana acceleration cards were rotated to Eternal.
This landmark can return to the competitive radar cards such as Aurelion Sol, and other expensive followers with strong effects. Remember that Sigil of the Storm copies stack like Kegs, and, as a result, your board won't be full of landmarks.
Invocation of Thunder - ★★★★☆
This spell is the new Wyrding Stones. You'll be able to play it even on turn 2, in case you don't do anything on turn 1.
Invocation of Thunder's versatility is incredible. This card is only 4 stars as it is a resource which is strongly tied to one archetype alone, but it can be even the most important card in Volibear lists. Even if you play Invocation of Thunder in late turns in the game, you can still take advantage of this spell's card draw effect. I'd say this card carries the entire game style identity in Volibear's archetype, outside the champion itself, honestly.
Valhir's Prophet - ★★★☆☆
Despite this card really matching the new mana acceleration mechanic, it is the worst in the new package of resources which summon a Sigil of the Storm. This card isn't bad, and it will still be present in meta decks, but due to its low stats, it might be an investment which is just a bit too expensive for the turn it is played, which is usually when your opponent is starting to make their deck's main strategy work.
Berserker Ursine - ★★★★★
Don't be fooled by this unit's low number of health points. The fact this follower allows an interaction with burst spells also makes it able to summon a Sigil of the Storm at burst speed. This way, some possible combos with this unit are clear, even with existing spells, such as: Elixir of Iron, Brittle Steel, Catch!, and other spells in the Elemental package listed above, such as Sky Splitter.
In Eternal, we have the interaction with Troll Chant. Anyway, there are many Freljord spells which match this card. You can even count the spells from the other region you're pairing your Volibear deck with as well. In Targon alone, we can already think of Targonian Tellstones, so imagine with other regions.
Rhond, The Magma Serpent - ★★★★☆
As it is a Titanic unit, and as it summons a Sigil of the Storm, I believe this follower is strong, as much as I know most people in the community are likely to disagree.
It is a unit which will probably go on board with a discounted mana cost, already discounting 3 mana from the next Titanic unit played. Many think this card is too slow, but I remain faithfully defending Rhond, The Magma Serpent. This unit might be a solid mana acceleration engine for Volibear lists.
Herald of Celestial Convergence - ★★★☆☆
Considering the meta will likely be formed by decks which play bigger units, such as Titanic units, and Warden of the Tribes lists, it is likely that Herald of Celestial Convergence will see play. This follower can serve as a "reactivator" to The Winding Light, or Leona, and be one extra finisher alternative in that deck.
Seismic Shard - ★★★★☆
This spell promotes the pairing of Targon with Volibear archetypes, which makes sense, as Targon is the region in which you'll find most of the Titanic units. 7 points of damage for 4 mana is quite a lot, and this amount of damage might be necessary in the next meta if we have an excessive amount of big units on board.
Explorer Package Cards
Explorers are 5 multiregional followers which manifest the Explorer Spells, already mentioned at the beginning of this article. These followers have, each, different stats, and different keywords, even if all have the same effect.
I believe they are all ★★★★☆ (Four Star) units.
After a thorough analysis, it is possible to conclude that the resources created by Explorers are extremely valuable, and even if each presents different stats and keywords, it is possible to identify that there is, indeed, a concise balance among them, and among the possible decks they might play in.
Even if Portal Pioneer is the Explorer which got the worst grade among community players, I disagree, and I believe it can, indeed, have its space in slow lists which bring Ionia or Bandle City. I also believe that the rest of the Explorers can find a purpose in meta decks.
What leads me to believe that all of these units share the same strength is that the spells they create are very useful and consistent, as the text suggests you'll be able to choose any spell you want out of the selection. This way, landmark removal, healing, disabling keywords and weapon removal, are resources which now any deck can have.
If you read this far, now you know everything about my first impressions of Volibear's package of cards, and the Explorer package of cards.
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