Shadowmarking – Uses and Synergies
Shadowmarking, is the next card in the Frostspark Collection that was revealed today by Aquaman88 on his Twitch channel (in Russian). The 3-cost action allows you to look at the top three card of your deck – you then have to choose one card to put into your opponent’s hand and you will draw the other two.
Card Art and Lore
Just look at the card art – I find it simply amazing. It is worth spending some time to admire the card art and I can only imagine how the Shadowmark will be animated on the premium version of the card.
In The Elder Scrolls Legends, Shadowmarks are used by the Thieves Guild, so that buildings across Skyrim can be identified easily as to their potential usage for Thieves Guild Members. These symbols are usually carved next to the doorway of the building. The symbol that is being carved on the Shadowmark action cards in Legends stands for danger: “If you see this shadowmark, head the other way or take your life into your own hands. It means there is something ahead or beyond that door that wants to turn you inside-out” (from: the Shadowmarks book in Skyrim).
Let’s first use Quadrant Theory to evaluate the card and let’s look at synergies later – because there are a few really cool ones!
The ability to draw three cards is a big thing in The Elder Scrolls Legends. It has the potential to make Shadowmarking one of the most powerful tools to cycle through your deck, e.g. when you are looking for the pieces of a combo, or just want to get through your deck as quickly as possible. There is already a good number of card drawing options in the green Agility attribute, but other than Cornerclub Gambler, Shadowmarking cannot be interrupted by your opponent. On the downside, however, the new Frostspark card also forces you to give one card from your hand to your opponent. This can cause some tough decisions, but might also provide for some interesting options.
Shadowmarking may, however, not be the best option if you are looking to get card advantage: while you play one card to draw two, your opponent also gets an additional card. Hence, playing Shadowmarking on turn 3 may actually not be the best use of the card. I would therefore consider it okay, but not great when looking at it’s value in the opening phase of the game. I believe the card will have it’s strength more in the later phases of the game.
At parity, depending on the matchup, Shadowmarking can provide a strong advantage if you are able to give your opponent a card that is much less valuable in the next few turns than the cards you get to keep. Let’s say it is turn 7 and you draw (in Control Archer) an Unstoppable Rage, Child of Hircine and a small creature – that would be your dream come true, right? However, (in Control Scout) if you drew a Hallowed Deathpriest, Almalexia and Nahagliiv, the decision is a little bit more difficult, isn’t it?
Assuming your deck is a control deck, the likelihood of drawing two powerful and one not so powerful card is not as bad.
If you are running Shadowmarking in a Goblin Archer Aggro deck, Shadowmarking will also likely have a positive effect as you might get your Murkwater Skirmisher or your Goblins faster, and this would enable you to give your opponent a non-Goblin card.
So, at Parity, a little bit further in the game – maybe at 6-7 magicka, the action may actually be servicing you pretty pretty well.
At turn three, if you are Winning (=ending the game in three more turns), Shadowmarking will potentially be costing you tempo and allow your opponent to regain board control. Thus, including the card in an aggro deck where your aim is to Dominate the opponent, Shadowmarking might likely distract you from your beatdown objective. The card will be much more suitable if you are running a Disrupt strategy, as you will more likely draw a suitable card to keep disrupting your opponent’s game plan (e.g. when you are looking to get a Silence effect or a support removal card).
Overall, I would give Shadowmarking an “okay” rating for it’s use in the Winning quadrant.
When you are losing and looking for a turnaround, a card that helps you dig through your deck is a good tool. For a cost of three magicka, it does not provide an immediate effect, unless you get to draw the two cards in a way that let’s you play one more card on the very same turn.
To summarize – the card is good in three of the four quadrants (Parity, Winning, Losing). if your deck is slower, maybe aims at disturbing your opponent and does not follow a Dominate beatdown strategy. I believe it is a very powerful card that has the potential to influence the meta game. So, let’s look at some of the potential synergies to see which deck types it might run well with.
One of the most obvious synergies is with the disruptive cards that Agility and Willpower have to offer.
Disruption Monk (Stealer Monk)
In Disruption Monk, you would be aiming to interfere with your opponent’s game plan. You are looking to disrupt his plays, e.g. when he plays a creature with Lethal and Guard, you would run cards that would let you steal the keywords or the entire card. Hence, you could use Shadowmarking to give a card to your opponent, that you would later steal from them, i.e. you regain the card advantage, because he spends the magicka to play the card, while you get it’s positive effects. For example, Shadowmarking draws you an item and you would give your opponent that item. So he spends the magicka to equip it to one of his creatures, and you later play the Arenthia Swindler to steal the item back from him.
If you had Jim Stacey in hand, and played Shadowmarking at 10 magicka, you would potentially be able to get your opponent to return the third card you gave to him (if he has no cards in hand). Trickery, trickery, trick!
Certainly, similar synergies can be achieved with Miraak, Chodala’s Treachery, Arrest, Ahnassi and Mecinar’s Will. The tricky piece will be to draw a non-disruptive card from your deck and to hand that to your opponent.
It might be worth noting, that Shadowmarking will also help other Disrupt-type decks, e.g. those that rely on Shackle, Silencing and Removal effects, as it allows you to dig for those disruptive cards. Instead of Disruption Monk a Disruption Assassin or Disruption Scout might also be envisioned.
Hand Manipulation and Card Cycling Synergy
Another opportunity for Shadowmarking sits with card cycling decks, relying on the deck being cycled almost completely in a short amount of time. Thieves Guild Fence, Disciple of Namira and Necromancer’s Amulet are some of the cards to consider in this case. More details on the card cycling strategy can be found in Card Draw #9: Card Draw-Engines.
Maybe even Arcaneum Librarian could be persuaded into looking at the Shadowmarking – assume you would find a Studium Headmaster and an Insightful Scholar at the same time?! Sounds like fun times to me… Could only be topped by a Thief of Dreams or a Caius Cosades with magical predictive capabilities…
Night Mother & Mass-Removal
A more far-fledged option for a meme-deck might be to include Shadowmarking into a deck that is using Night Mother as it’s win condition. When you then give your opponent a low-cost card that summons two or four tokens (Illusory Defenses, Marked Man, Scouting Patrol, Crassius’ Favor ) and you have a mass removal card in hand (Ice Storm, Dawn’s Wrath) that might be a neat trick. Probably not a very viable option, but maybe someone is courageous enough to give it a go…
If you like Slay Control decks, Shadowmarking might be a good opportunity to dig for your Slay creatures, while handing your opponent an easy-to-slay target (e.g. a creature with Guard and a power of zero could be ideal). You would hope that he plays that card…
Jiub and Cliff Racers
Okay, I admit, this is a personal obsession, but having Jiub in play, hidden behind a Guard and using Shadowmarking to hand over some Cliff Racers to your opponent is just a new mission for me, personally. Just forget, that you read this paragraph…. 😉
Well, the card has endless possibilities, and the ideas outlined in this article are only a first grasp at what might be possible. It is certainly a RNG effect, but also a potentially powerful card draw effect in midrange or control decks. What I like personally, is that Shadowmarking invites the player base to find interesting uses, and while some are definitely meme-yish and totally nonviable, others might be turned into a decent strategy against the current meta, that is so heavily dominated by Dominate Aggro (Siege Warrior, Siege Scout, Redoran or Hlaalu Aggro). If we assume that Conscription decks are mitigated by Piercing Twilight to some degree, then this card might well have some potential to counter some of the Dominate Aggro decks.